03.09.2013 - 06.09.2013 26 °C
There were a couple of reasons that made me a bit nervous leaving Montreal to go to Boston. Firstly, the whole Visa issue from earlier in August created a teeny little doubt whether I'd be let back into the US. Secondly, the drive. I'd driven in Chicago and had my US drivers' license, but this would be the first time that I was renting a car and doing a long trip on highways that I was unfamiliar with. Not to mention the navigation - I have no sense of direction and get lost easily. "Why can't your cousin help?", I hear you ask. Although I am travelling with my cousin, I need to remind you that he is 21 and this is his first time travelling overseas without his parents. I don't think he'd be offended if I said that I have to take the lead a lot. So the drive from Montreal to Boston was pretty much up to me. I'd decided to rent a GPS because maps + driving + me does not call for a good outcome. All I can say is thank goodness for GPS and Garmin. I put all my faith in that little GPS and it served me well. We drove a "highway" which was one lane through some really small towns, which I was really bummed about because I was hoping for a highway rest stop that offered Tim Hortons but there were none in sight (we didn't get a chance to pick up Timbits whilst in Montreal). For what felt like forever we were on a one-lane "highway" going through farmland - Are Canadian highways are different to US highways?
After about an hour or so of uneventful driving since leaving Montreal, we made it to the US border. US Customs at the border took longer (about 30-45 minutes after we made it to the first customs officer) because I told them I was on a tourist visa. My E3 Visa in my passport appeared to be still valid, and even though I explained I had quit my job, this confused them and they pulled us over to ask us more questions. I knew it was going to be hassle. After the same questions from the second customs officer and paying a $14 admin fee, I got an i-94, my passport was stamped and we were allowed back into the US. It was a strange feeling to feel like I was back on "home ground", given this milestone meant I really had no ties with the US any more except as a tourist.
The drive once we entered the US was so pretty. There were lush green trees everywhere. It made me want to see more of the North East of the US. We'd originally had Portland, Maine, on our list, but had to cut it out as we wanted to do more of South America. Next time. After about another 4 hours of driving, we made it to Boston in one piece.
We had booked 40Berkerley Hostel in the South End neighbourhood of Boston. The hostel was more a really low budget hotel - it didn't have the personality that hostels usually have. In hindsight, it wasn't the best location (after walking past the Hostelling International hostel, I think that would have been a better choice had it not have been booked up when we tried to book it).
We were given a map and upon first glance I felt that the 3 nights we had planned was not enough. It seemed that there was so much to see in Boston. But, in the end, we actually felt like the 2 full days was enough. One of my friends from Boston had recommended we do the Boston Duck Tour - so we did that on the first day to get our bearings. It's a fun little tour, with a really eccentric tour guide. It covered most of the main sights in Boston, so gave us a good idea on what we wanted to go back to. The must-do as recommended by most people was the Freedom Trail, which you can walk it yourself easily. We wanted to do a tour to get a bit of the history explained (Vinnie loves history). I had originally wanted to do it as part of a running tour, but that only runs Friday-Sunday, which didn't work with our schedule. So we opted for the one run by the visitor centre which was pretty cheap (~$10). There is so much history in Boston! I'm not usually interested in history, but it was really fascinating to hear about how the US started. The Freedom Trail covers all the main sights, stopping at the historical sights - Boston Common, State House, Granery Burial Ground, Old State House, Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere House, Bunker Hill Monument, USS Constitution, and more. The Boston Public Garden is right next to Boston Common (it's the first public garden in the US). and it was really nice to wander around there.
One part of our sightseeing that really touched me was seeing the Boston Marathon Finish Line and the Boston Marathon prayer ribbons outside the Arlington Street Church. Walking down the street sent chills up my spine. I would love to spectate the Boston Marathon one day.
After doing the Wrigley Field Tour in Chicago (I highly recommend it!), we wanted to do the Fenway Park tour - the oldest ball park in the States (Wrigley being the second oldest). The weather on our first day in Boston was warm and sunny, but it was cold and rainy the day we did the Fenway Park tour. Nonetheless, it was really interesting and well worth the $16. Our guide was a hardcore Red Sox fan and painted a great picture of the park's history.
Aside from the history, friends had recommended a lot of food options in Boston. "Wicked pizza", lobster rolls, pastries, beer - the list went on. Once we arrived in Boston, we were starving and really wanted to try some seafood. On my friend's recommendation, we went to Legal Seafoods and had some clam chowder. The food coma was well worth it - the seafood was full of flavour and so fresh! On our second night we went to Pizzeria Regina in the Italian neighbourhood, based on my friend's instruction to find some "wicked pizza". Pizzeria Regina was recommended by Tripadvisor, and we went for one of their classic pizzas that had pretty much all the toppings - probably one of the best pizzas I've had! Our server was a true Bostonian, and we had to concentrate pretty hard to understand his accent. We completed the touristy meal with a cannoli from Mike's Pastry.
On our second day, Vinnie had gone to see the Harvard and MIT campuses, but unfortunately I couldn't join him because my lack of organization before the trip caught up to me. I realized I'd packed pretty poorly, and it felt like all my things were falling apart on me - the main thing being my phone. Even though I work in the technology industry, I am probably the least technological person there is. My phone was over 3 years old and it wasn't the most reliable at the best of times. I was hoping it would last me through the trip and I'd just get a new one when I got back to Melbs. Unfortunately, it chose to completely die on me in Boston. After some debate on what to do, I decided to buy a new one. On top of that, I hadn't gotten all my vaccinations in Chicago. I had to have a follow up Hep B shot in Boston. All these boring errands were a huge inconvenience, when I really just wanted to be sightseeing, but it had to be done.
When Vinnie went to the colleges, I ventured out to try the lobster roll from James Hook & Co. We'd walked there the day before, but we just missed it as it closes at 5pm. Having to head there a second time, I was really hoping the lobster roll would be worth it. And it was - the roll is huge - they put so much lobster in there, I could have shared it with someone - but it was so fresh and delicious I ate it all. Yum!
By the end of our time in Boston, I felt like I'd walked all of Boston and Cambridge. We'd really made a good effort to see everything in our short time in Boston. On our last night, we were craving some Chinese food so we went to the Boston Chinatown. It's pretty small, as expected. We went to the restaurant that had the most Asians (the only way to pick the best Chinese restaurant), and it seemed Gourmet Dumpling House was the place to go. After a satisfying meal that felt like home, we went back to get ready for our next stop - New York!