24.03.2013 - 28.03.2013 6 °C
Our first day of travel here was a big one. We woke up early and hit the road at 8am leaving the snow behind us. We drove to Albany, returned the car and hung out in a nearby mall till it was time to catch our train. We managed to get a couple of busses to the station which saved us a good $20! A fair bit of stuffing around but worth it in the end. We caught our train at 3pm and Michelle was out like a light. I just sat around and read my book and watched a couple of episodes of The Wire. The train was packed and there were a few people sitting around in their PJs. I guess a few were on their way back from spring break activities. There were so many nerdy students on the train. It was like we caught the 'Harvard/MIT express' to Boston. Hahaha.. Our train arrived at 9pm and we were in our hotel by 9.30pm.
We stayed at the Omni-Parker hotel which is the oldest hotel in Boston and had the likes of Ho Chi Minh and Malcolm X working here. John F Kennedy had his bachelor party here too! The lobby was filled with massive chandelliers and immaculately dressed staff. We normally couldn't afford to stay in a place like this but we ended up getting it with a low ball bid on Priceline. We basically paid 1/3 of the hotel's listed price, which was great. The Boston cream cake apparently originates from the Omni Parker hotel. It was quite yummy- it was more like a custard cream cake. Cost us $8 for a tiny one though.
By the time we checked into the hotel, we were both starving as we'd skipped breakfast and had a pretty basic lunch. The concierge suggested that we try out the oldest restaurant in The USA - Union Oyster House. It turned out to be reasonable food at a reasonable price in a really interesting old building. There was a special JFK booth which was where the former president (a boston local) had dined. That table was unsurprisingly occupied but we got a nice table and a good pint of Sam Adams beer. We also had our first taste of Boston Chowda (yes it's spelt like that!) and some decent seafood.
We woke up after a terrible nights sleep on a really soft double bed. The last few hotels have had King sized beds so we really struggled. Also the bed was quite soft so we both found ourselves rolling into the centre of the bed. We were both a bit tired after a big days travel so we slept in and started our day with a massive lobster roll at a pub near by called Beantown. It was only $13 and absolutely delicious. After a couple of days of lobster roll tasting we decided that we liked the one here the best as it was the least creamy, had the most lobster chunks and was pretty much the cheapest.
After the roll we went straight out to the start of the freedom trail, got a map, and basically just started walking. The freedom trail is a self guided trail that takes people past a lot of Boston's historic attractions. Most of the attractions have a small plaque which describes some of the history but I personally would have preferred more information (I think Michelle would have been happy with less).
The freedom trail started at the state house; it took us to the Old granary burial ground where Benjamin Franklin's parents are buried here; Old city hall which was once a school that was attended by Benjamin Franklin; Town hall; Walked through Quincy market which was like a food court serving chowda, lobster roll, italian food, etc. The trail took us across the Charlestown bridge. Michelle gave up once we crossed the bridge. It was so boring she decided to head back and did some shopping at Macy's. I continued on to see the USS Constitution, its museum and the Bunker hill monument and museum. The museum near Bunker Hill was great but the USS constitution museum was targeted at a younger audience so was a bit dull.
The perks of staying at this hotel for more than 5 nights- we were considered a 'extended' guest. So they gave us a complimentary laundry service which was awesome. Unfortunately wifi was not free in our room. So we chilled out at starbucks down the road to use their internet.
Today we decided to check out Cambridge, the home of Harvard and MIT. We had a quick look around Harvard and decided to put our names down for the free guided gour around campus. The tour guides are all current students and our guide seemed to have a pretty good insight into Harvard itself. One of the most interesting facts was that a year of enrolment including accomodation and food is only $55k per year. Now neither of us have that kind of cash burning a hole in our pockets but we were both surprised that its only something like $20k a year more expensive than uni in Austrailia. I'd always thought that these Ivory league colleges were hundreds of thousands of dollars a year! The guide told us the story of how the Widener library came about. She said that Harry Widener was an avid book collector and had just made the long trip to England to find a book he'd long been searching for. He found the book and in celebration decided to take the classiest route back to America, on the Titanic! The guide said that Harry and his mother and father had made it to a life boat when they realised that they'd left the book behind. Harry and his dad went back aboard to find it and were never again heard from. So his mum donated Harry's collection and $2.5Million for a library at Harvard, where Harry had studied. He must have really loved that book..
The famous Harvard gate; Michelle rubbing the feet of someone who is meant to be Mr Harvard, but apparently it isn't him (supposedly they held a look alike contest); Harvard yard (this is where all the 1st year students live- Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones & Natalie Portman all lived in this accommodation whilst they were studying here); One of the dozens of libraries (this is the Widener library); the graduation ceremony is held outside this building.
After this tour Michelle walked around the shops & checked out Harvard business school which was like across the other side of the river, whilst I went off to see the MIT Museum. The museum was aimed at schoolkids so I didn't really get a lot out of it. There were quite a few interesting robots made by students but I don't think I really got my moneys worth overall. After an hour or so I decided to get the subway back to the hotel. I could not believe it when Michelle called my name out! She was on the same train carriage sitting right next to the door I'd just walked in! Must be a sign (not sure what it means though). Michelle came back from Harvard with a bag full of hoodies and shirts for her brothers and herself.. not sure how we are going to fit it in our bags!!
We had another great sleep in today then walked through Boston Common, on our way to Newbury Street for some sushi. After this, Michelle strolled down Newbury street to find a place to get a haircut. Unfortunately they were all like $50-70 haircut (slightly more than what she was willing to pay). So she ended up at Chinatown with a $30 haircut and came home with really super short hair. Trust the Chinese to give her a cheap haircut. I decided to check out one of Boston's best attractions, the Sam Adams Brewery! I'll just start by saying that this is the best brewery tour I've been on anywhere. For starters its free (optional donations go to charity) and you get 3 small glasses of beer (and get to keep the glass). I arrived about 10 minutes before the tour started, got my ticket and went around to smell the different malts and hops sitting around the room. After that we were led into the operational section of the brewery and schooled on the production of beer. After that we went to the bar. A couple of locals adopted me for the tasting as I told them I felt like a bum drinking by myself... The beer was great but I was back on the subway before I knew it. A good afternoon either way
After spending the morning at Starbucks organising the next part of our trip, we decided to have more lobster rolls and chowda for lunch (since it was our last day in Boston). Blake and I both bought a lobster roll & chowda each from 2 different stalls and compared it. Unfortunately both the lobster rolls didn't quite live up to the standards of the Beantown pub. But the chowdas were definitely close to the best we have tried.
We were pretty worn out after a big couple of days so we just relaxed and took the rest of the day off.
Next stop.. Vegas to catch up with Nathan and Cassie and hopefully win big (or at least lose small)!!