Boston – My Hometown!

Immediately after our three-night stay at the Smugglers Cove Inn in East Boothbay, Maine, we made our way to Boston – my hometown, for the next four nights!   I’ll try to capture the fun things we did in the city over the course of the four days.  Having grown up in Boston, you see the tourist sites differently and now raising kids away from Boston – it’s so hard to explain to them who these famous statues are and why as I forget many.  They are growing up learning about the world much differently and speaking a different language daily!   Totally different than I did as kid – so local Boston history is not included so I’m doing my best to fill it in.  What they do learn is far more in-depth than I was ever taught – and truthfully I think much better to be the worldly citizens they are becoming.

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As we were looking for a hotel with an outdoor pool (again very important for us) and to be in a good location downtown Boston.  The options were The Colonnade Hotel Back Bay and the Wyndham Boston Beacon Hill.  Based on location, where we used to live (Waterfront & North End) and what parts of Boston we wanted to visit the  most, we decided on the Wyndham Boston Beacon Hill.

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Our hotel had views down Cambridge Street and views of the Charles River and just to the right – Massachusetts General Hospital – where both our kids were conceived and  born.

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We had a great room – two double beds, etc.  no complaints whatsoever!

The pool was great too – our friends came and visited us too – first we swam, had drinks in their bar and then ate in a local Italian Restaurant on Cambridge Street – was great!  In fact the last day, we gave the bellhop all our stuff, expect our bathing suits and we were at the pool until a 1/2 hour before we had to be at the airport.  Turned out our flight was so delayed we didn’t leave til 1:00 am – we could have stayed a the pool for hours longer!  


One day we spend walking around Beacon Hill. I love this area even from a young age – but sadly you either live in a tiny shoe box for an outrageous price or a beautiful home which is way above our price range.


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Located just across the street from the Boston Common and it’s much prettier.  It was America’s first public Botanical gardens – established in 1837.  It is home of the Swan Boats and the Make Way for Duckling Statue.   

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Into the Boston Common by the State House, and Frog Pond.

In 1634, Boston Common was created as America’s first public park. The 44 acres of Boston Commons was sold by the first settle of the area, William Blackstone for 30 pounds to the Puritan Colonists on the condition that it would always remain a free public space.   The common land was used to graze local livestock until 1830.   The park was also a site for Puritanical punishments, home to a whipping post and stocks.

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We then spent a bit of time following the famous Freedom Trail. While the actual Freedom Trail stretches 2.5 miles from Boston Commons to Bunker Hill, we didn’t follow it so seriously with a tour guide but you could – and it would be pretty informative!

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As we walked the Freedom Trail we stopped in the Granyard Burial Ground to see the famous burial site.  It’s Boston’s third-oldest cemetary founded in 1660 – final resting place for Revolutionary War-era patriots including Paul Revere, the five victims of the Boston Massacre, and three signers of the Declaration of IndependenceSamuel AdamsJohn Hancock, and Robert Treat Paine.

We then followed along to King’s Chapel Burial Ground  a historic graveyard on Tremont Street, near its intersection with School Street, in Boston, Massachusetts. It is the oldest graveyard.

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Carrying along the Freedom Trail we visited the Old City Hall of Boston.

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In the courtyard is a donkey signifying the Democratic Party, with two bronze footprints in front of it labeled “stand in opposition” and a plaque explaining the origin of the donkey as the party’s symbol.

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We continued on walking around the Old South Church, Quincy Market a.k.a. Fanieul Hall, etc. taking photos and taking in the sites of Boston.

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The Bell in Hand Tavern is the longest continuously operating tavern in the United States, having been built in 1795 by Boston’s retired Town Crier.  It is also a bar that Nils & I would go to A LOT!

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Next up we visited the North End & Waterfront – where we used to live.   We walked down Commercial Street taking in the sites and seeing what was the same and what changed.  Many of the places we ate and drank are gone, some are still the same.  While it’s not something that we did often when we lived there as it’s quite a touristy thing to do, but heck we were tourists in town right – so I took Soren into the legendary Mike’s Pastry for a world-famous cannoli.   I had a feeling it might be a bit too cheesy for him to enjoy the entire thing – but he liked it a lot.

While I know they were really interested in seeing the statue of Paul Revere and the Old North Church – no one seemed interested in going inside the church with me.  But they did want to visit Paul Revere’s House – which we didn’t end up doing as we didn’t go back that way – we stated to walk the Harborwalk and didn’t get back to tour the house – next time.  Would be fun to do this and perhaps walk around Salem – as we used to live in Beverly!!!

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As we walked the Harborwalk, we pasted Burroughs, Union & Lincoln Wharf, where Nils lived when we met.  The big arch window was the living room.  Funny how 30 years ago, we used to come down here to get our lobsters – it was a totally different place! 

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We popped by the seals outside the New England Aquarium.  We didn’t stop inside this trip – as we did visit it four years ago.

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We thought it would be fun to take the ferry over to the Charlestown Navy Yard to see the USS Constitution.  Considering last time we tried to visit this it was closed – they are closed on Mondays!  It really gives meaning to the old saying, “you should have called before you go”.

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Onboard you can tour around ship and listen to various guides giving historical talks.

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Important:  While it is free to tour, anyone over 18 must pass through security and show a government issued ID to get onboard – so a driving licenses from the USA or Passport from abroad.   The museum has a suggested donation of $10-$15 for adults, $5-$10 for children, and $25-$45 for families.  We did that last time so we skipped it this time plus we were meeting our friends to swim in our pool at 3:00 pm and then dinner nearby the hotel.


It’s from the boat where Soren got very excited about the prospect of going on Codzilla.  we totally planed on doing it on Wednesday our last day in Boston – only we left booking the tickets until too – late.  They were SOLD OUT!  I think a cruise ship came to town as suddenly all tickets were sold out – he was bummed.  So I promised him on a future trip to Boston it’s the first tourist thing we’ll do!

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When we got back from visiting the USS Constitution, we took the T back to State Street.  It’s been nearly 7 years since we have been going around on the MBTA, so it’s quite different now.  Aquarium station has been totally redone and the addition of the Silver Line is new for us.

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One night we met up with friends in Chintatown at Shabu Zen to eat and say goodbye!  This is one meal we really miss in the Netherlands.  Not that long ago we visited a place called Shabu and was very excited to eat it. Only to be told as we went to order they do not have Shabu – they are only called that!  WTF!


We headed down Commonweath Avenue and ate lunch at the Bleacher Bar at Fenway Park.  There were no games going on and we didn’t want to do a tour so this was good enough.  Nils bought himself a hat in the gift shop too as a bonus.

While we didn’t do a tour of Fenway Park nor watch a game (Nils has been to dozens of games in the past) but we did do something we have never done  – ate at the Bleacher Bar and the kids found that cool.  Sure we’ll go back and watch a game in the future – the Red Sox were out of town these days.

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There were so many more places to see and people we wanted to visit while we were on our 4 week vacation but overall we had a great time but were ready to get back home to our beds, our routines, our house and other food options – I know that one is hard to believe but we became sick of eating out and the same things over and over.   We all agree, we miss Boston and New England, family & friends …  it makes it that much extra special to visit when we get ‘home’.




Boston Trip: Boston Marathon & A Walk Around The North End & Waterfront

Before we attended the marathon, we walked around Boston and had lunch at Joe’s American Bar & Grille – Nils & my first meeting spot!  We also viewed special spots like our first apartment together in the North End and The Waterfront of Boston.

Our first apartment together.  76 North Margin Street, North End!



While we were in Boston for the one-year anniversary, we didn’t get a chance to visit the “art display” but did attend the Marathon on Monday, April 21, 2014, which was great.  Such an amazing vibe in Boston that day!

For those who don’t know (which it’s hard not to know) but on April 15, 2013, two bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, transforming the city, its residents, and the runners and visitors participating in this world-famous event.  We glued to our tv from Norfolk, England watching the entire thing transform and even seeing police officers on the SWAT team which I grew up with in Allston.  It was a horrific event and the entire thing is sickening. 

Almost immediately, a makeshift memorial began to take shape, first at the police barricade at the intersection of Boylston and Berkeley Streets and later at Copley Square. People from across the globe left flowers, posters, notes, t-shirts, hats, tokens of all shapes and sizes, and—most significantly—running shoes.

Each of the objects left at the memorial, whether giant banner or tiny scrap of paper, store-bought or handmade, was a message of love and support for grieving families and a grieving city.
They were hoping in material form, symbolizing the human desire to help, comfort, connect and sustain when confronted with great tragedy.

In June 2013, the memorial was dismantled and these thousands of objects were transferred to the Boston City Archives for safekeeping. 

To mark the one year anniversary, a selection of items from the memorial collection will be displayed—in one of Boston’s most important civic buildings—so visitors can once again experience the outpouring of human compassion they represent.   We didn’t make it there to see it … way too busy.

Franklin Park Zoo: Boston, MA

As I picked up Museum pass tickets for either of the Zoo New England Zoos, the kids and I decided to visit the Stone Zoo today.  But a friend told us it was under construction, we headed to Franklin Park Zoo instead.  While it is just a little further away, it is the larger and better of the two zoos – in my opinion having been going to both since I was their age.

In order to get to the Zoo from Winthrop, you have to take the highway underground through the infamous Ted William’s Tunnel – which is was part of the Central Artery/Tunnel Project – aka – The Big Dig.  Adding a serious of tunnels underneath Boston which took way too many years and cost $22 BILLION DOLLARS – the most expensive highway project in the ENTER US.  Complete with loads of corruption and chaos included – just click on the link above to see what a mess it really was.  In each tunnel, Maebh kept saying I love this… and Soren chimed in that it was so cool and a bit like Norwich.  Laughing aloud it was nothing like Norwich more like London – especially during rush hour when it is at a standstill or barely moving.  I do not miss that part at all.

Anyway, when we got to the Franklin Park Zoo, the kids were excited to start off and explore.  Hard to tell which kid’s face is in the hole – they look a lot alike here.

My two “budgies” got a kick out of the fact that (when open) you can feed the budgies.

When I was young, we got to visit this zoo often too and so much of it remains the same.  This same condor bird has been inside this aviary since I was a kid.  I sort of feel bad for the big bird, what a boring, uneventful life.

The part I liked the best was the Gorilla area but at the same time I hated it as I felt that they were trapped and so unhappy looking.  The big one which I think is called “Little Tom” was a bit aggressive towards the window when a man was standing there. I think it was a territorial thing as the female gorilla was near the window when he banged it hard.  Plus just looking at their faces, you can’t help to wonder what they are thinking.

When we walked by the lion, he was sleeping but later in the day when we returned he was awake making loud hooting noises and then turned around and fell back asleep.


One of the new parts of the zoo is the gigantic playgrounds.  Soren has to be cautious so he could only do so much climbing but they had fun.









Soren and Maebh tried to jump as a far a Kangaroo.  Soren was convinced he was able to jump 10 feet!



$10.20 later, we left with three ice creams!


And a few minutes in “the farm” area.


Lonely zeebra as the giraffes couldn’t come out until it was 70 degrees and it was only in the 60’s!


Fun day for the kids at the zoo – and as expected out cold on the way home.


Winthrop, MA: Visiting the Point Shirley & Planes Above

The kids and I took a drive around Winthrop to view our old house down on Point Shirley.  A few more cars on the corner, but not much else has changed.  When Nils is in town, we’ll have to stop over and say hi to Dan and the kids.  We stopped in the playground to see the planes coming overhead.  As Bayside on Point Shirley looks over Logan Airport and Boston skyline behind, it’s a great viewpoint to see the planes.  We’ll walk around Deer Island soon too.  Part of the fun of this time was the planes were flying overhead as they approached the runway on Logan.

The playground is in such a horrible state – I was shocked at how bad it was.  Four years ago it was starting to have broken things, but now it’s just completely ruined. They’d be better off removing all the structures than to leave it as is as it’s really just an accident waiting to happen.  The only thing they could go on was the red tire swing.

If I lived here, I’d be on a mission to do fundraisers to repair it.  I think I saw a sign in the town center with a thermometer reflecting how much money they have raised so far to improve the neighborhood parks.  This one should be top of the list – especially how the field is the main area for the July 4th Horrible’s Parade.

And some high lights of our first couple days in Boston.  The kids saw a Boston Fire Department truck outside Stop & Shop so they had a photo with the truck.


And Maebh had Pez for the first time .


Have a lot of fun with my parents cat, Jack Jack . So much so they want one back in England.

Our rental car for a few days… brand new Nissan Altima, which rides GREAT!

We visited a brand new Savers – the super thrift store where the kids got some :”new toys”.

My mother won $1,000 on a scratch ticket.

me and my mini me!

and Soren with Nils

Our Boston "Bucket List"

The kids and I are heading to Boston for a month on April 6th – Maebh’s 4th birthday!  We’re very excited to head “home” to see our family and friends.  Neither the kids nor I have been back to Boston since we left in September 2012… so we welcome the visit.  Not sure if I’m going to have the urge and desire to move back ASAP or be happy we live in North Norfolk, UK or even move along to Dublin – but I’m pretty sure I’ll want to visit Boston more frequently.

We have some one-off plans to visit with friends and there is an organized party towards the end of our stay, but I’m also coming up with our own “BUCKET LIST” of items to do while in Boston.   Having lived in Boston my entire childhood, we’ve done many of the thing already but I’d like my kids to experience them too.  In fact, Soren and Maebh have done quite a few of these things already but to experience them again at 4 & 6 will be a new adventure for them.

Boston is steeped in history and is full of “first for America”.  First public park (Boston Common 1634), first public library (1653) and first subway system (1897).

It’s no surprise that we’re Red Sox fans, especially Nils, but we have never toured the park.  So I’m going to see if we can do that during our trip.  They offer different level of tours at different price levels, but just the basic one would be prefect for our kids.  At 4 & 6, I’m sure the hour is plenty of time to explore “America’s Most Beloved Ballpark”.

Each year on Patriots Day (the third Monday in April – aka Marathon Monday), 20,000+ runners from around the world compete in the world’s oldest running marathon which started in 1897.   Last year, two horrible men set off pressure cooker bombs, which killed three and injured hundreds – most ended with amputated legs.  A horrible scene and life-changing attack which was really unreal. A friend is running again this year, so the four of us will head down and watch her pass by and cheer on all those who attempt to run the 26.6 miles!  It’s really something to see the Kenyan & Ethiopian elite runners complete the entire race in about 2.5 hours!

Massachusetts has the world’s highest concentration of universities and colleges in any United States city and home to Harvard University, the world-renowned, prominent school with a picturesque grounds and buildings.  It is also a place where we frequented as a kid.  Blogett pool, home to the original Border Cafe – a favorite Mexican restaurant where I got hooked on my favorite drink – frozen margaritas with salt.  Famous from the movie Good Wil Hunting and home to the original Urban Outfitters before it become quite popular and international.  I have great memories of buying my mother $10 worth of “tea” at the tea shop in the Garage – as you can imagine, the tea was cheap and based on weight – so she got a LOT of tea!  It’s also a place where my best friend in 5th grade and I went to and walked around asking people if they knew the time. We were peeing our pants laughing, so hard and while it was nearly 30 years ago, I can still remember it!  It was a place to see “weirdos!” We’ll be sure to stop at Pink Berry for a yummy frozen yogurt.

Located just outside Harvard Square, my father took us to this museum a lot a kids… the giant Kronosaurus – a 42-foot long marine reptile was once so scary looking – plus there was hundreds of taxidermy animals, rare minerals, meteorites.  Some times we thought it was cool but other times we complained when we had to look at the famous exhibit of 3,000 Glass Flowers.  Reminds me of the boy I heard at Sheringham Park Repton Exhibit today telling his Dad that it was “rubish, rubish, rubish despite pleas from that father that it was interesting history.”  I wonder how the kids will get on here. I’ve looked into museum passes, but I just read all Massachusetts residents get in free on Sunday mornings from (9 am to noon).

One of the biggest tourist attractions is the Freedom Trail, which is a 2.5 mile brick lined route which leads you to 16 significant historical sights.  I know we will not do them all, though I know the kids would find following the red line fun.


Here is a map of the route – as you see, Boston is a very walk able city.


As you follow the red bricks, you walk past the famous Paul Revere’s House. It is downtown Boston’s oldest building still in existence.  A little history: Paul Revere purchased it in 1770 when he was 35. And he was living in the house the night he set forth on April 18, 1775 to make his momentous ride to Lexington that would be immortalized by Longfellow’s famous poem Paul Revere’s Ride.   I’ve never been inside, but Nils and I have had breakfast next door with Mario who he nicknamed Mari -slow as he took forever to make it.

Paul Revere’s House


Continuing on the “Freedom Trail” and staying in the “North End” (where Nils was living when I met him) which is Boston’s historical “Little Italy” you come to the Old North Church. It was here where the plan to warn the countryside of the arrival of the British army was created.  Paul Revere would tell how many lanterns to display in the Old North Church’s steeple to signal how the British troops were advancing.  (One if by land, two if by sea…)  It’s currently being used as an Episcopal Church but it’s another place which I’ve never been inside so I hope to pop in during this visit.  And when in the North End, I think a famous canoli at Mike’s Pastry is a must.


Nicknamed “Old Ironsides” she is the world’s oldest commissioned naval vessel afloat.  The USS Constitution is most famous for her actions during the War of 1812 against Great Britain, when she captured numerous merchant ships and defeated five British warships.  Today she is used as a museum and visitors can climb aboard – so we’ll definitely do this.  I remember when I was a kid and on a school visit here, I bought a small white rabbit foot key chain from the gift shop.


Also known as Quincy Market it’s a hot tourist spot packed with tons of tourists with Cheers sweatshirts and performers by day.  At night, the area has a huge nightlight scene for both locals (me included) – so many memories of the Hong Kong, dancing at Sissy K’s or belting out Irish tunes at the Black Rose or Purple Shamrock and our favorite the Bell & Hand – “America’s oldest tavern” which opened in 1796!   Makes me chuckle when we’re at local historical sites here in the UK which date back to 1100’s!!

Boston was one of the first major cities to have amphibious vehicles to take tourists around town and then down the Charles River.  In July of 2012, my parents took me and Soren on a Duck Tour one and he had a great time. We had so many laughs and Soren was even able to drive it thanks to our driver, Boagie Sparks.  Maebh didn’t go as she was still quite young at just over 2 and it would be a tough trip for her.  They did, however, meet us at the Public Garden. It was then when we realized that I had on two different color flip flops – one brown and one black.  While super expensive but was really fun! So having already done it, not sure we’ll do it this time, but there is a deal on Groupon now, which I’ll re-look at, as I know Maebh would love to go on one too.  Then again, might wait and save it for a Viking Splash Tour in Dublin.

The starting point of the “Freedom Trail”, Boston Common is the oldest park in the country. Until 1830, cattle grazed the Common, and until 1817, public hangings took place here. British troops camped on Boston Common prior to the Revolution and left from here to face colonial resistance at Lexington and Concord in April, 1775. Celebrities, including Martin Luther King Jr., Pope John Paul II, and Gloria Steinem (advocate of the feminist revolution), have given speeches at the Common.”   The kids love the brass frogs at the Frog Pond (ice skating in the winter and splashing around in the summer). 

While often paired with the Boston Common as it’s literally a street away from it, it’s not the same with different histories and purposes and styles.  It is also America’s Oldest Botanical Garden which will hopefully be in full bloom while we are there. The Public Gardens is home to the Swan Boats – which we MUST do while there and we’ll take photos with the Duckling statues which are from the children’s book.  


After starting to write out some descriptions of places on our “bucket list” I realized it will take me hours upon hours and I’ve only done things in Boston proper, not including all the great things in the suburbs… so I’ll leave it for now and as we visit, I’ll make posts about each of our visits.


I came across a great posting from another person’s Boston bucket list from when they spent four years in Boston.  He has highlighted some of the same things on our “list” plus additional ones.

I’m also going to see if my parents can stay with the kids while I head into town alone to take tons of photos, on my own time and not having to worry about them all the time.   Just need to find a good day to do that.

I recently found this:  “Things you have to explain to out-of-towners about Boston” and think it’s funny!

Boston Tourists – Duck Tours!

We were thinking about taking Soren on the Codzilla but as my parents were on vacation this week, Pakie suggested we do a Boston Duck Tour instead.  Unfortunately based on a mini Duck Tour in Hyannis this June, we knew Maebh is too young and would never enjoy it yet stay still.  So Nils kept her home and came to the city later to meet up with us. .
In fact he surprised us and came to the entrance where the Ducks enter/exit the water – and there was Maebh and Papa waving.   We then traveled over to the Boston Common Playground – Soren’s favorite as they have a high Fire Pole for him to practice his skills.
Lonnie & Pakie, Soren & I set out on a Duck Tour aboard the OLGA IRONSIDES – piloted by Boagie Sparks!
Olga is named for the U.S.S. Constitution, also known as Old Ironsides. The U.S.S. Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship in the world and is located in the Charlestown Navy Yard. Launched on October 21, 1797, it was the flagship of a young American nation and took over 4 years to build. Some of the hardware was manufactured by one of Boston’s greatest patriots, Paul Revere. In 2004, Olga was christened next to the U.S.S Constitution, by the ship’s commanding officer at the time, Lewin C. Wright.


Boagie Sparks giving us his
Soren got to pilot Olga Ironsides.


Soren & Boagie.
Passing another boat in the Charles River
Lonnie & Pakie ready to go
Fascinated in the lock.
Here we are
View of Boston from Olga Ironsides.
Trinity Church, Old & New John Hancock Buildings.


Salt & Pepper Bridge with golden dome State House in the background.
Famous Citco Sign – which Soren calls “GAS COMPANY”
Back Bay
Peak of the Citgo Sign under the Salt & Pepper Bridge
Museum of Science (with a Duck Tour)
Lock had to open for a couple boats.
And we’re in the water
And we’re out of the water.
Leo Zakim Bridge
Papa & Maebh watching us come out of the water  – a SURPRISE!!
The famous Fire Pole at the Boston Common Playground.


Water play at the Boston Common


Getting wet – oh no, she ran.
Water play at the Boston Common


This is when I realized I had on two different flip flops!!!  OMG


My mother in hysterics and my Dad – well he just thinks “whatever”


Never see her laugh like this.


Water play at the Frog Pond


Water Play


Me and Maebh on the Cat “horse ride”


Me and the kids
Up the hill near the tree.
Running down the hill. (an accident waiting to happen)


And before we head home, an Italian Ice.


Italian Ice


Italian Ice with his new Boston hat


My handsome boy!