I’ve been a horribly remiss blogger, so I’m going to try to make it up with a spree of ridiculously long posts, which will be more annoying than my lack of updates!  I’m clever that way.

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Boston, though I do wish I’d had more time to explore the city.  I had to work most of the time (go figure!), but I did have one mostly free day in which I walked my feet off in an effort to see as much as possible.

I flew out of Raleigh Tuesday afternoon after a whirlwind morning at work, during which it was discovered that one of the boxes needed for the conference had not, after all, been sent to Boston.  I dragged it along with my luggage and checked the whole shebang, which worked fairly well.  I arrived in Boston and got a cab without any problems, and then I got to see Boston drivers in action.  They call Boston a walking city, which they SAY means that it’s convenient for walkers.  What they really mean is that if you try to drive, you’ll probably die.  Even my tough Bostonian cabby was alarmed when some truck swerved into a tunnel at the very last second, just missing two cars and a concrete divider.  If you walk, you still take your life into your hands, but your odds of survival seem better.

I’m very comfortable with traveling by myself, particularly in airports, but there are a few things that always make me feel like the bumbling country cousin, floundering out of my depth.  I’m really, really bad at fancy hotels.  Give me a Comfort Inn and I have no problem, but I feel like an impostor in anything fancier.  I always end up nearly bumping heads with the bellboy as we both reach for my bags at the same time, and I invariably forget to tip him if he beats me to the luggage.  I always pause before the formidable array of spit-and-polish folks smiling expectantly behind the massive front desk.  I just want to check in.  I don’t actually want restaurant recommendations, coat check, or anything else.  This particular hotel has an automated revolving door with a piece of driftwood in the middle (??) that verbally scolded you (the door, not the driftwood) if you don’t walk fast or slow enough.

I learned on this trip that I’m also really, really bad at massive conference centers.  I managed to get checked in, wiggled past the grouchy automated door with my last-minute box of conference supplies, and set out for the conference center, which I had been told was across the street.  “Across the street” means different things to different people.  In this case it meant “half a mile away across busy streets.”  One successful game of Frogger later, I stood before the gargantuan conference center.  There were 14,000 people attending this sucker, and the center looked like an alien mothership.  It turned out to be about as difficult to navigate as an alien spacecraft, with very tight security.  I dragged my box (by this time getting a little heavy) all around, stumbled through the registration process (not having a clue what I was doing), hiked to Exhibitor Services and the Exhibit Hall (which I couldn’t even see across, it was so big), journeyed back to Exhibitor Services, then back to the Exhibit Hall again, where I finally, at long last, found our booth.  By that time I’d had to ask four or five people for directions, and one of the security guards said in a fantastic Bostonian accent, “You’ve been carrying that box around an awfully long time, little lady.”  Yes sir.  I threw the thing down at the booth, determined all of our other supplies had arrived successfully, and departed before I embarrassed myself further.

Things went much more smoothly after that.  My boss flew in and we went to dinner at Mr. Dooley’s, a great Irish pub.  I heartily recommend the Irish curry fries and the Irish beef stew, if you have a chance to go.  The next morning we set up our booth, but then we had most of the day free.  My boss said he wanted to show me some of the sites, and I confess I felt a twinge of despair.  I desperately wanted to see the USS Constitution, and I really just wanted to ramble the city by myself and go where I pleased.  All turned out well, though, and I had a good time hanging out with my boss.  We went to see the Battle of Bunker Hill Monument, which is actually on Breed’s Hill.  The battle was fought on Breed’s Hill—Bunker Hill is technically about half a mile away—but no one calls it that, for some reason.  The monument is an obelisk like the Washington Monument, and you can climb up inside.  Three hundred steps doesn’t sound like much, but it was definitely a workout; I passed a few people who never made it to the top, and they had buttons mounted on the walls every so often in case of medical emergencies.  We caught our breath and enjoyed the rainy view of Boston from the top before scampering back down and over to the Bunker Hill museum.  From there we walked to Warren Tavern, favorite watering hole of Paul Revere and named after Joseph Warren, one of the heroes of Bunker Hill.  The tavern burned down during the battle in 1775 and was rebuilt in 1780.  It had dark, heavy woodwork and low ceilings, and the food was delicious.

My boss had work to do at that point, so I was set loose on the cloudy, rainy city by myself.  I walked to the USS Constitution and proceeded to have a perfectly glorious time.  I am obsessed with maritime history in general, but I’m head over heels for the Constitution specifically.  It’s one of the original six frigates of the US Navy, launched in 1797, and I’ve read and dreamed about this ship for years.  If I could go back in time and somehow (in spite of my gender) serve aboard any ship in the US Navy, it would be this one.  (While I prefer the British Royal Navy over the US Navy for my time-traveling destinations, I have a soft spot for the American frigates.)  To quote my musty, beloved copy of the Frigates volume of the Seafarers series, “These were the long, swift Yankee frigates, a type of warship that was smaller than a great ship of the line but deadly enough for all that, substituting the speed of a greyhound for the power of  a mastiff.”  The Constitution, known as Old Ironsides because the live oak that made up part of her hull was so hard that cannonballs bounced off, was never captured and never defeated.  Paul Revere himself supplied the copper bolts and sheathing for the ship.  She had a series of feisty American captains quite happy to take on enemies twice the size of their own ship.

Turns out that since the Constitution is still a commissioned vessel, one has to go through security (including metal detector) to go aboard.  My pocket knife caused a brief stir, but it also turns out that blades under 2.5″ are fine and old Bostonian naval officers like long hair, so I came through with my knife and a couple compliments.  Then I climbed aboard the ship, heart fluttering like a little fangirl’s.  I managed to refrain from skipping with glee, informing the tour guide that I knew more about the ship’s history than she did, or climbing the rigging.  But let me tell you, the rigging was tempting.  Being hustled through the ship on the brief tour was nothing short of cruel, when I would have happily camped out on deck for hours and examined every inch of the place by myself.  The experience was still grand, though.  After the tour, during which I did not kiss the cannons or do anything that could be construed as too bizarre, I explored the nearby ship museum and briefly saw the USS Cassin Young.  Now then, if I can just tour the HMS Victory one day, I can die happy.

From there, I struck out on the Freedom Trail, a three-mile red-brick path that winds through the city past 15 historical sites.  I didn’t have time to walk the whole thing, but I did see Copp’s Hill Burial Ground, Old North Church (of “one if by land, two if by sea” fame), the Paul Revere Mall, and the Holocaust Memorial.  The last was one of the most powerful yet subtle memorials I’ve ever seen.  Read up on its design at the website, because I won’t be able to do it justice.  Vents in each glass tower blow steam inside to give the impression of entering a gas chamber.  From a distance, I initially thought that the memorial was perhaps too subtle; with the trees around it, you can’t tell what it is.  I heard one woman say to another, “What is that?”  Her companion replied, “Oh, something to do with the subway, I think.”  Kids were jumping in puddles on the granite walkway as they walked by with their parents, who thought it was just a pretty park.  In retrospect, I think maybe the memorial design is an accurate representation of Holocaust perception itself after all.  For those who care to look closely, the horror is inescapable; for the rest of the world, everything seems normal.  Just a day in the park.

On a much lighter note, I was told by a coworker that I had to check out the famous Mike’s Pastry, and after stopping by, I can conclusively state that their cannoli is superb.  I was running short on time, so I was really hoofing it by that point.  I hopped on the subway to take me part of the way back to the hotel, but had trouble finding the line I needed at the junction, and Summer Street is so beautiful and Bostonian that I just decided to walk from there.  I made it back to the hotel just in time to change, walk the half-mile to the convention center (in high heels, I might add), and stand for two hours exhibiting at the booth before walking back to the hotel that evening.  When I say I walked my feet off that day, I’m not entirely kidding; the bottom layer of skin on my feet actually ended up peeling after all of that.  Very attractive!

The rest of my trip was much less frenetic; for the most part I was kept too busy working at the exhibit hall to exhaust myself with any more adventures (not counting a late dash in the pouring rain to a 7-11 to get some food one evening).  On my last night, I did get a sandwich and gelato at a neat little Italian deli, then walked to Liberty Wharf and ate dinner beside the harbor with a very friendly seagull.  I loved Boston, and I look forward to coming back and exploring more thoroughly.

Advertisements