By Jenny Ba - Career Training USA's Trainee from France
The advantage of living in NYC is the proximity to many famous cities that can be reached within a few hours by train or bus. One of the first open air movies my friends and I watched in NYC was The Town, starring Ben Affleck and shot in Boston. At the end of the screening, we all decided that Boston would be our first out-of-town destination.
As the trip organizer, I went through the Career Training USA InterExchange blog and printed out the 10 Things To Do Under $10 in Boston entry. I compared them to my guide book and decided to go to the places mentioned in both documents: if visitors and information guides list the same places, then it must be a must-do thing.
It was early in October and the four of us hopped on the Boltbus on a Saturday morning for a 4.5-hour ride. As soon as we got out of the bus station, we all noticed the same thing: it is quiet… No noisy traffic, no car honking, no police sirens and no road work. We had not experienced such quietness in the last 2 months. This felt like landing on another planet. We knew from the very first second that it would be a nice and relaxing weekend.
Our first stop was inevitably Harvard University. We had planned on doing a free Harvard Tour of the campus to find out more about the history behind the legendary university. Before starting the tour, we wandered around Harvard Square Station and let ourselves be imprinted with the student spirit. The streets were full of students–we mostly noticed two different groups of people: the 'Nerds' and the 'Sporty ones'. We walked past the Harvard Book Store, which could awake everyone's urge to read just by looking at window. We immediately fell in love with the architecture of the city, the colored houses, the original shop fronts and the cleanliness of the streets. We were impatient to start the tour, and I could not help notice the omnipresence of both the green and burgundy colors that matched the picture I had of Harvard University–red stoned building surrounded by green grass spaces. Our tour guide was a senior Psychology student at Harvard University; she managed to make the tour very entertaining and informative at the same time. While taking us around the campus, she told the group interesting historical stories that happened on campus, enjoyed pointing out the gender inequalities at Harvard University and depicted funny portraits–I particularly liked the tragic but silly story of Harry Widener whose name was given to the huge Library on campus. Widener was safe on a lifeboat while the Titanic was sinking but decided to swim back to the ship to get his collection of books and…unsurprisingly perished. By the end of the tour, I wished I were a student again! The only consolation I got was to buy a burgundy Harvard T-shirt that I know I will never dare wear in public.
My friend and I decided to continue on our historical journey by starting the Freedom Trail, which takes one to 16 historical sites. We took the train to Community College and walked through cute, narrow streets until we reached the Bunker Hill Monument. The monument was impressive. Unfortunately, we arrived too late to get the chance to climb it and enjoy what is meant to be an amazing view. We carried on our walk through the Training Field that hosted the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775 and headed towards the USS Constitution and Charlestown Navy Yard. The warship was astonishing and the couple of Marines wandering around made it even more interesting to look at. The ship was holding a ceremony and was closed to the public as a result but we did not feel the need to get closer given its spectacular size.
We then crossed the Charleston Bridge, which looked like the oldest and most 'unpretty' bridge ever and walked along the Copp's Hill Burying Ground that led us to the Old North Church. Again, we arrived too late to get in but realized to our great surprise that we were in the heart of Little Italy, also home to the Paul Revere House. The area was much more vibrant than any other places we visited earlier during the day: the streets were full of tourists and locals, had dozens of restaurants playing lively Italian music and the air was filled with appetizing smells. By the time we left Little Italy, we were starving and decided to have some sushi near Harvard University. We had a feast and agreed on having a few drinks next to our hostel, located next to the Hynes convention center, before heading to bed.
It was windy and chilly on the following morning, but we were too excited to do the whale watching to care about the weather. We arrived at the Boston Harbour Cruise marina early to wander around and enjoy the calm. The marina was pretty and we enjoyed watching the white seal through the Aquarium glass while waiting for the boat. Though the weather was changing and the sky was getting darker, we finally got on board. The journey was meant to last 2 hours before we could reach the meeting point with the whales. The journey was a painful experience: the weather conditions got worse after the first 30 minutes and the boat was heavily bouncing. I had never felt seasickness before but the waves were was so powerful that my heart would jump off with every bounce and increase my seasickness. After 45 minutes, the boat crew announced that the weather conditions were too difficult to allow us to carry on and that we had to U-turn. We were disappointed but expected this to happen. We went back to the marina and decide to have a lobster roll to cheer us up.
After our little break, we were happily surprised to discover how close we where to Faneuil Hall. I love markets and kept on telling my friends that we had to check it out! The Faneuil Hall Marketplace is part of the Freedom Trail since it 'hosted' the first Sugar Act protestation in 1764 and it was by far my favorite spot. This place was charming; the paved street and the imposing edifice definitely bring back the 18th century. The Faneuil Hall Marketplace was buzzing with people and home to dozens of shops and pushcarts selling countless precious crafted souvenirs. Our favorite shop was the 'Christmas in Boston' shop; we felt like being in a Christmas tale, every single decoration was cute and sparkling. By the time we were finished with our little tour, we started to feel hungry and being right where the Quincy Market Colonnade was turned out to be very convenient. We ventured through the crowd and about 30 vendors, most were 'throwing' samples of diverse food at us. We did not even try to resist and tried everything we could from the famous Boston clam chowder to the pumpkin sea salt candies! Everything was delicious and satisfied our appetite. As we could not leave Boston without having lobster, we all ordered and savored a full lobster in a nice restaurant close to the marina. Before leaving the Faneuil Hall area, we walked through the Holocaust Memorial, which consists of glass towers imprinted with short stories and testimonies of victims of the World War II Holocaust. The 6 glass towers represent each of the death camps. By the end of the walk, we all had tears in our eyes.
We carried on the Freedom Trail by stopping at the Old State House and the Boston Massacre Site. We then headed to Downtown Boston and happened to be in the middle of a movie- shooting scene. And there they were: Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges! We could not help staring and taking pictures for half an hour. This was definitely the pleasant surprise of the day. We tried to focus again and headed to King's Chapel and the Burying Ground. We also traversed the Granary Burying Ground where the three signers of the Declaration of Independence are buried to finally ended our little getaway weekend at the Boston Common, which is the oldest park in the USA and hosts the golden domed-State House. We relaxed in the park for an hour while feeding squirrels before getting ready to get back to busy NYC!