Boston is a multi-faceted city in the midst of an identity crisis. As soon as one stereotype diminishes, a new one always seems to emerge shortly thereafter. Boston’s heard them all—sometimes it’s a city of pretentious, uppity Anglo-Saxons; other times it’s full of boisterous Italians; yet other times the city is simply swarming with cavalier, free-spirited bohemians. So, what is Boston exactly? And what exactly constitutes a Bostonian?
The solution is easy…there isn’t one. Boston has always kind of done its own thing. It has long been the vanguard to America’s past and future, simultaneously. This progressive, modern, forward-thinking metropolis also harbors an impressive array of past historical junctures.
Throughout my Bostonian jaunt, I discovered that within the heart and soul of the city lies a treasure trove of ethereal eccentricities.
“…within the heart and soul of the city lies a treasure trove of ethereal eccentricities.”
Navigating the strabismic jumble of Boston’s criss-crossed cow path roads for a kid used to the grid-patterned streets of the West was befuddling, to be sure. Perhaps that is the true beauty of Boston, though. It doesn’t really matter if you do get lost. The city is oozing in saturated history—so it’s hard not to find something of interest down every cobblestone-encrusted lane.
I spent the day dawdling from one side of the city to the other and en route encountered such noteworthy novelties as Paul Revere’s crumbling headstone, the Old North Church, and of course the Cheers bar. In the process, my mind began to wander. As I stumbled along the convoluted walkways of the North End’s teeming streets, a rogue thought abruptly entered my psyche. It came from presumably nowhere, and yet, I’m sure there was some sort of neurologically sound reasoning behind it.
Here I was in a city surrounded by thousands of people on the opposite end of the country. I didn’t know a single one of them. Boston was about as different from my hometown as anyplace in the United States I could think of.
So, what was I doing there?
What is it about this innate, primal desire within a human being that makes us so very determined to seek new vistas, experiences, and ways of life?
I’m by no means a philosopher (I still get anxiety attacks thinking about my college philosophy 101 class). Yet, I have a few of my own ideas on the matter.
“It doesn’t really matter if you do get lost. The city is oozing in saturated history—so it’s hard not to find something of interest down every cobblestone-encrusted lane.”
I believe that travel is a safety valve, of sorts. That is, it alleviates an instinctive, restless desire festering in each one of us to get out and experience something new—something exciting—something that frees us from the mundane tasks of everyday life. The visceral thrill of experiencing a new place could stem back to man’s primeval migratory tendencies…or maybe we just get bored of looking out at our own backyards from time to time.
Whatever the reason may be, I love to travel. It’s not easy to explain why. Even as I wandered through the frenzied crowd of Boston’s Little Italy in the midst of a grandiose festival for St. Augustine, I felt in my element. Sure, I didn’t know anybody around me. And I didn’t know where I was. And I didn’t know what time it was. And I didn’t understand the purpose of the festival. And I didn’t know how to get back to where I’d come from. But as the sun began to set on the sanguine festivities, I felt content. A golden filter cast a placatory glow on the bricks of the ruddy buildings. I took a seat on a vacant bench and saw a sign displaying itself from within a pizzeria across the street. It seemed targeted directly at me, and I must say, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. As a tribute to the Saint to whom this festival was dedicated, the sign quoted St. Augustine who said, “The world is a book, and those who don’t travel read only a page.” Maybe that explained why I was here. I was trying to read an entire book, one page at a time. It was a truly illuminating experience.
Perhaps my manifestation did not result in a massive revolution as was the case in 1775, but I still credit Boston with being my inspiration for such an epiphany. After all, it has led the nation in many other pursuits throughout history—so why not this one, as well?
Places to Stay
The Back Bay Hotel
350 Stuart Street
Boston, MA 02116
“Located in the former headquarters of the Boston Police Department, it is now an even more arresting proposition after a stunning renovation program that has created a modern-day landmark in this magnificent city. The stylish interior of The Back Bay Hotel offers vibrancy and warmth unique to this luxury Boston hotel and our team complements that warmth with a highly engaging and personal form of service that makes your stay a genuinely luxurious experience. We're equally well located for exploring the tourist riches of Boston or doing business in this strategically important business capital. The Back Bay Hotel Boston, by the Charles River, is the perfect base from which to explore or exploit this compact and beautiful city. But whatever your purpose for visiting Boston, your stay will be infinitely more memorable if it includes a visit to The Back Bay Hotel, one of the finest hotels in Boston.”
677 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02118
”CAJ House is proud to offer some of the best furnished apartments in Boston. Our locations are in the trendiest area of the city: the South End. In the South End neighborhood, you will find wonderful restaurants, theaters, cafes and artist lofts. Our short term and extended stay apartments are very clean and we make sure they offer the latest in designer layouts: hardwood floors, Wireless Dsl, Cable TV, flat screen in most apartments, washer and dryer, cookware, cotton linens.”
26 Chandler Street
Boston, MA 02116
“The Chandler Inn is a boutique hotel in Boston's hip and historic South End. Located on a pretty tree-lined street, The Chandler Inn Hotel is unique from other area boutique hotels and offers visitors a blend of European charm, South End personality, and downtown Boston convenience. Whether your visit to Boston is for business or pleasure, The Chandler Inn Hotel will make you feel at home. Considered one of the prettiest neighborhoods in Boston, the South End is filled with great restaurants, shops, art galleries, historic townhouses, brick sidewalks and tree lined streets. The Chandler Inn Hotel is just 2.5 blocks from the Back Bay “T” stop and a short walk to Newbury Street, the Hynes Convention Center, Copley Place Mall, the Prudential Center, Beacon Hill, the Back Bay and the Public Garden. Friendly and welcoming, the Chandler Inn Hotel is the perfect choice for comfortable, affordably priced boutique hotel accommodations in Boston. We look forward to the opportunity of welcoming you Boston, Massachusetts the gateway to all of New England.”
Things to Do
Faneuil Hall Marketplace
Boston, MA 02109
Termed the “The Cradle of Liberty,” Faneuil Hall was once, as the name suggests, not only a marketplace of foodstuffs, but ideas as well. Several monumental speeches were delivered here by such illustrious folks as Samuel Adams. Now, however, it’s less a philosophical purlieu of mutinous scheming and more a stop-off for blistered tourists roaming the Freedom Trail. The food here is superb, though, and definitely worth sampling. Grab a bowl of clam chowder (or “chowdah” if you want to blend in with the locals) or something a bit more exotic like Indian saag paneer—or anything in between, for that matter. This market’s got it all.
4 Yawkey Way
Boston, MA 02215
If Boston is known for one thing, it’d have to be the Red Sox. Revered with a near-sanctified veneration by Bostonians and interlopers alike, Fenway is the quintessential destination for sports aficionados. Even those with a blasé attitude toward America’s pastime can’t seem to shake away the fervent feelings associated with Fenway. If you’re in Boston and the Red Sox aren’t playing, you can still check out the ballpark. Tours run hourly between 9 AM and 4 PM each day. Winter tours and tours on game days have slightly different hours.
1350 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
Soak up some intellectual insight as you meander through the grounds of this posh Ivy League school renowned the world over for its ceremoniously cerebral reputation. The oldest institute for higher learning in the United States, Harvard is synonymous with poise, prestige, and power.
Tours for general visitors are available Monday through Saturday. Choose between a self-tour or a student-led tour in, around, and through the campus.