A travel journal
to Boston by Foxboro Marmot
Quote: Guide Sid lives in a Boston suburb and occasionally serves as a volunteer tour guide in Boston. He shares some of his Boston Bests here.
Encore occupies the top floors of an 1860 Victorian brick bowfront townhouse on a leafy side street, around the corner from busier Tremont Street. The B&B underwent extensive renovation and redesign earlier this year under the masterful touch of the owners: Reinhold Mahler, an award-winning architect, and David Miller, an award-winning set designer.
A theatre motif starts at the front door. Above, where a fanlight usually sits, is a stained glass inset featuring the masks of comedy and tragedy. The three guest rooms are decorated with posters and materials from each author's work. David's collection of masks from around the world - Korea, Greece, Italy and elsewhere - hang in the breakfast nook.
Each room is decorated differently in contemporary style - no off-whites or beiges here. Exposed red brick plays against unusual, yet tasteful color combinations: lilac and purple in the Albee, darkish gray with bold color splashes in the Sondheim, and dark green and soft yellow in the Bernstein. Descriptions can't adequately capture the way walls and furnishings work together. See pictures on Encore's web site
The Albee Room gets morning sun, while Sondheim and Bernstein have windows that fill them with afternoon light. Early risers will like the Albee, while guests who sleep-in might appreciate one of the others. Each room has its own bathroom with shower.
The Albee Room is special. Sliders open onto a vest pocket balcony atop the curved bow front. There's only room for a pair of chairs and a few plants, but it's a wonderful spot to relax and look through the trees at the townhouses across the street. In the distance is the mirrored glass Hancock Tower. There's a feeling of being atop a protected castle turret while the world goes about its business below that becomes even more special after dark.
Continental breakfast featuring "strong European coffee" is served buffet style in the breakfast nook each morning. Weak Americans should request a less potent drink in advance. Guests select the night before from a menu listing possibilities - hot drinks, juices, muffins, croissants, yogurt, fruit, granola among others.
Shops on Newbury Street, Copley Place and the South End are within walking distance. Nearby theatres including the Lyric Stage, the Huntington Theatre and the three BCA stages are easy walks as well. Iconic Boston attractions like the John Hancock Tower, Copley Square and Back Bay are convenient, as are the South End's many restaurants and galleries. For further excursions, a subway stop is three blocks away.
Be sure to ask your hosts about theatre. They know what's going on and will gladly guide you to some of Boston''s smaller, more intimate venues.
Visitors looking for a colonial, early American or antique-filled B&B will probably be happier elsewhere.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 26, 2001
Encore Bed and Breakfast
116 West Newton Street
Restaurant | "Warren Tavern"
Warren Tavern occupies one of the oldest existing buildings in Charlestown, constructed in 1780 shortly after the British razed the town as part of the Battle of Bunker Hill. The restaurant is just down the hill from the monument itself. The food is basic local cuisine without pretense - lunch is typically $10-12, dinner is $15-18.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 30, 2001
Warren Tavern Restaurant
2 Pleasant St
Charlestown, Massachusetts 02129
+1 617 241 8142
Start with a drink in the lounge, taking time to see the islands, harbor activity and planes coming into and taking off from Logan Airport as day gradually changes to night. As darkness takes over, the view shifts to city lights below.
The food is American with French tendencies. Most recently we had peanut crusted mahi mahi, an excellent choice, and the filet mignon, served with a rather thick French sauce which made the meal heavier than we would have liked. You should be able to find a current menu at link.
This is definitely a place for a splurge or to impress. And dress up! Jackets and ties for men, with appropriate equivalent for women. A piano or a trio plays soft jazz each evening and there is a small dance floor at one end of the lounge. It's not a place to hang out and dance - not at these prices - but if the mood strikes while you're here by all means go ahead.
Ah yes, the prices. The prices are the sole drawback. Bay Tower Room is at the high end of the scale, with appetizer meal and dessert it will be $40-50 per person. Add drinks and the tab builds. BUT go ahead and splurge... you only do this once, or for very special occasions. You should enjoy it.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 13, 2001
Bay Tower Room
60 State Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02109
Attraction | "Boston Harbor Islands"
Fear not. Sid comes through for you!
Walk down to the Boston Harbor Cruises ticket booth on Long Wharf and buy a ticket ($10, $7 for children under 12, $25 family rate for two adults and two children) to George's Island. Forty-five minutes after boarding you've watched the city recede behind you, cruised around ships and sailboats, threaded between islands and are disembarking at George's Island, the central point of the Boston Harbor Islands national park area.
Stay here awhile and explore Fort Warren, an 1850 fort for the defense of Boston Harbor used as a prison for captured Confederates during the Civil War. Rangers give tours throughout the day, but you can walk around on your own, too. Bring a flashlight if you really plan to explore. There's a snack bar, but avoid it. Plan ahead and pack a lunch - buy only cold drinks here. Be aware: This is the only snack bar on any of the islands. Also - there is no fresh water on any island. Make sure you bring drinking water.
Next take a free shuttle to explore one of the other park area islands. All have rangers, trails and abandoned military structures being absorbed by nature. Take a look at the shuttle timetables and pick an island based on how well the shuttles fit your schedule. Each island has its own character. Most people simply visit George's; if your time is limited, that's fine, but you should hop to one of the quieter, less visited islands if possible.
Swimming is limited, and is restricted on some islands, but it's a non-issue. The water's clean but cold. Stick your feet in the water for more than two minutes and feel your ankles start to go numb. Visitors from Hudson's Bay may consider the water warm enough for swimming. The rest of us simply walk in a bit to cool off.
During the summer, boats leave Boston every hour on the hour from 10 am to 5 pm. One more warning: if you must do this on a Saturday or Sunday, get to the ticket booth well before the first boat leaves. By mid-day on a weekend your wait in line to buy a ticket may be longer than the cruise to George's Island!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 23, 2001
Boston Harbor Cruises
One Long Wharf
Boston, Massachusetts 02110
+1 617 227 4321
Attraction | "The Freedom Trail"
The walk is easy. It's up to you how fast or how slow to go. Some do it in a half-day, walking past sites without more than a glance while others feel compelled to go inside every building on the route and take two days. However, not all sites are created equal. Plan on the better part of a day. Take your time. See what interests you and have lunch somewhere along the route but get a guide book or free brochure (from the National Parks Service, corner of State and Devonshire, next to the Old State House) so you have some idea of what you're looking at!
Sites are in no particular order - they're a jumble covering buildings and events from different times - so your route doesn't matter. Start at the "end" of the trail, at Old Ironsides in the Charlestown Navy Yard. Go on the ship and take a look in the museum - it's free. This end gets crowded as the day goes on, so that's another reason to start here. From downtown, take the water shuttle from Long Wharf, next to the aquarium. It's a great way to start your day of sightseeing - a 10 minute ride through the harbor to the Navy Yard for only $1.25.
After Old Ironsides, follow the red line up to Bunker Hill. Climb the tower if you must (free, but 294 steps). The view must have been better when it was first built, but it's not much these days. Then it's over the bridge to the North End and Old North Church, Copp's Hill Burial Ground and Paul Revere's House. If there's not much of a line, stop in at Old North - a speaker regularly gives a 10 minute summary of the church and its moment in history. Continue on, under the Expressway, to Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall. Find the entrance to Faneuil Hall (it's neither obvious nor inviting) and go up to the second floor. There National Parks Rangers describe the Hall and Boston's role in American revolutionary history in a 15 minute talk. The Hall is air conditioned and it's a great place to rest before moving on.
Grab a snack in Quincy Market, then follow the trail past the Boston Massacre site, Old State House, Old South Meeting House, Old City Hall (do you notice a theme here? This is the old part of town...). Next it's King's Chapel, a couple of burial grounds (gravestone rubbing no longer allowed), Park Street Church, the State House and Boston Common.
I'm tired already and I'm only typing...Enjoy your walk!
15 State Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02109
Attraction | "Boston By Foot Walking Tours"
The two walks I suggest are "Heart of the Freedom Trail" and "Victorian Back Bay." The Freedom Trail is a three mile route through the city, starting on Boston Common and ending across the river in Charlestown, connecting 16 points of historical interest. The Heart of the Freedom Trail tour visits seven of these sites and a few other architecturally significant spots in a compact 1/2 mile loop. Guides stop at and talk about Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, Old State House, Old Corner Bookstore, Old South Meeting House, Old City Hall (do you sense a theme here?), Kings Chapel and City Hall among others. Although all the guides undergo identical training - a mini college course in the spring consisting of classroom lectures, discussion groups, field trips, four written assignments and a final exam - each brings their own interests and enthusiasm to the tour so exactly what gets covered changes from one tour to the next. One guide may stress architecture, another history. The Victorian Back Bay tour is more consistent. Its themes are historical - filling in the Back Bay to produce this land - and architectural. It starts in Copley Square with H.H. Richardson's 1872 masterwork, Trinity Church, then discusses the 1976 Hancock Tower and the 1888 Boston Public Library before moving to the residential section of the Back Bay. Again, this walk is a loop covering about a half mile in 90 minutes.BBF tours start at various locations around the city at various times. Some are given daily, others once a week and still others are specials, just given once a year. Check the BBF website or brochures around town for details. One comment I've heard from people is "We weren't sure where we were supposed to meet you." Although the starting points SEEM perfectly clear to us, visitors don't always know how to get there. If it's not perfectly clear to you, ask someone at your hotel or an information booth for directions.
Current price (2006): $10 Adult; $8 children 6-10.
Boston By Foot
77 North Washington St
Boston, Massachusetts 02114
+1 617 367 2345; +1
That's right. If you have a limited budget and can coordinate your schedule with one of the Art and Architecture tours given at the Boston Public Library's Copley Square library - go! The tour schedule is erratic, currently Monday at 2:30, Tuesday and Thursday at 6 pm, Friday and Saturday at 11 am. There are Sunday tours at 2 pm roughly October through May.
In 1885 Charles Follen McKim modelled this "palace for the people," on an Italian Renaissance pallazo, decorating it with the finest art American artists and sculptors could produce. The exterior was considered plain when first completed, and was compared to a mausoleum, a casket and an oversized cigar box but it was intended to complement rather than compete with other buildings surrounding Copley Square. His choice of materials from around the world - including marble from Italy, the Alps, Africa and 20 other different sources - was selected without worrying about his budget. It's forgotten now, but cost overruns on this project established a local tradition proudly continuing today in Boston's Big Dig.
Restoration work on two of the three major mural sequences in the building started in April 2002 and will continue for 18 months. Don't miss the third floor with John Singer Sargent's "Triumph of Religion," which he viewed as his masterwork, "bringing the Sistine Chapel to America" (a bit inflated opinion of himself, don't you think?). The murals have been difficult to appreciate underneath years of accumulated dirt, dust and grime but it's particularly interesting to compare areas where conservators have worked with unrestored sections.
The library is open most days from 9 am to 9 pm and people are welcome to investigate it on their own - but if at all possible take a tours to insure you don't miss any of the highlights and fully understand what you're seeing.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 8, 2002
Boston Public Library
700 Boylston St
Boston, Massachusetts 02117
+1 617 536 5400
Attraction | "Kennedy Library and Museum"
Sorry. Been watching too much X-Files.
After the film, visitors pass through exhibits covering the campaign and the President's 1000 days in office. There's a lot of video, but the best is from the Kennedy-Nixon debates. While Kennedy comes across as a dynamic presence, notice how Nixon comes across as suspect, particularly in reaction shots as Kennedy is speaking. Nixon faces forward while his eyes slide over to steal sidelong glances of his competitor.
The world was a dangerous place in 1960. Laos, Viet Nam and Berlin were all hot spots, but the Soviet effort to place missiles in Cuba brought the superpowers to the brink of war in October 1962. At home, Kennedy mobilized federal resources to insure civil rights we take for granted today were available to all. Exhibits on the Peace Corps and the space program are included.
There's little on the former First Lady. One disappointed visitor was overhead to say ?They only have TWO of Jackie's dresses? and they're BOTH BEIGE!?
The museum comes across as Smithsonian-like, a sanitized view of Kennedy and his presidency. It studiously avoids any controversy that might reflect poorly on the family. The Kennedy assassination is addressed obliquely by a darkened corridor with television monitors playing scenes from news broadcasts and the funeral.
There's an odd feeling when you stroll through a museum and stop to look at a preserved Time magazine protected under glass... and realize you read it when it first came out. And that's my problem with the Kennedy Library and Museum. People of a certain age will walk through the exhibits, nodding sagely, thinking "Cuba, yep... Peace Corps, yep... Attorney General Bobby, yep...." Locals, who've been inundated with Kennedy political campaigns have their own checklist, "Aunt Gladys had one of those 'Kennedy for Senate' signs on her lawn...." Younger people, say those under 45, can get some insight into a truly turbulent time in American history.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on July 8, 2002
John F. Kennedy Library and Museum
Boston, Massachusetts 02125
Attraction | "John Hancock Tower - update"
Rumor around town is that top executives at Hancock have long coveted the space for their own use and didn't believe that enough sightseeing dollars were coming in to continue its use as a tourist attraction. Vague "security concerns" in the wake of 9/11 allowed Hancock to shut the observatory down and convert the space into an executive dining and reception area. There are no plans to reopen the observatory to the public. That leaves the nearby Prudential Center as the highest viewpoint in Boston.
Member Rating 1 out of 5 on July 24, 2003
200 Clarendon Street