Saturday, July 12, 2014

Boston area recommendations and pics

Boston is such an amazing city with a lot to do. Get your walking shoes on and prepare to hit the pavement!

  • Walk the Freedom Trail
  • The Public Garden and Boston Common
  • Back Bay and Newbury Street
  • South End (lots of great galleries and restaurants)
  • Fanueil Hall
  • North End (italian section. Very quaint and feels like parts of Rome, with some of the most amazing food! Old North Church.)
  • Chinatown (dum sum)
  • Waterfront (fun to walk and see the boats)
  • Beacon Hill (really quaint, old part of the city)
  • Esplanade (path that runs by the river, with Hatch Shell offering live music events)

Areas around Boston:
  • Newport RI (one of my favorites. View the mansions, cliff walk, walk around the quaint seaside town, go on the water boating. There's also a great park at the end of town where people fly hundreds of kites. The shore is rocky and fun to walk)
  • Rockport MA (quaint seaside down with fun shopping, great restaurants, a beautiful rock jetty)
  • I love driving through Manchester, Gloucester, Salem and some of the other sea towns
Areas I didn't hit this trip and love:
  • Newburyport MA
  • Southern Maine: Ogonquit, Kennebunk, York and York Beach and Portland are all fun places and beautiful.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Boston Days 5 & 6 & 7

I am having such a great time here wandering in my old stomping grounds. It's still so strange though, to feel like a visitor even though it all feels so familiar-- like home.

I met my friend from college, Kristin, in Framingham, west of the city. I lived in the next town of Ashland. I walked to the commuter rail, bought a ticket after a few moments of confusion navigating the 'new' way of doing things here, settled on the train and watched the familiar sights go by. I took the train into the city for close to a year. We drove past my old townhouse

We drove down to Newport, one of my 'happy' places when I lived here. Whenever I had something on my mind, or just wanted to be near the ocean, I went there. Newport is an amazing town with a lot to do! You can tour mansions, walk the Cliff Walk that winds along the ocean with spectacular views, walk through the touristy town, eat wonderful seafood, walk through the more residential area sprinkled with lovely inns and B&Bs, and one of my favorite places was at the end of the town where there is a park that people fly kites at. It's all rocky beaches and you can walk out to sit on the rocks with the waves crashing around you and watch sometimes hundreds of kites. Gorgeous.

Today Kristin planned the day, and we grabbed a quick bite at Diegos on Bowen Wharf and got a dish of guacamole with some seafood, and tuna tacos. Yum. The drinks were also amazing.

Kristin got us tickets for a boat cruise. I was expecting one of those mini-yachts, but this was a motorized sailboat! I was so excited! It was really wonderful. We sat listening to the sails flapping in the wind. The boat was quite high on one side due to the breeze and chop of the water. The crew were wonderful and informative and one of the guys knew everything about the houses we saw and their history down to when they were built, last purchased and by what family. Interesting!

Kristin made a reservation for a late lunch at the Mooring, and we got seats overlooking the water. We got some oysters (I think I’m hooked after yesterday’s oysters at the Old Oyster House!) I got a salad with a lobster tail, and she got swordfish tacos. Yum. Double yum!

We walked around the town for a while then drove up by the mansions to the Cliff Walk, and walked a little bit of that. It’s a narrow asphalt path winding on a cliff overlooking the ocean and offers spectacular views of the water and of some of the back of the mansions.

What a fun day! It was a long one but it was so great to catch up with her as I haven’t seen her in a few years now. Newport offers a lot of things to do and is a great place. There are a lot of inns and quaint B&Bs, lots of shopping, the mansions to tour (Vanderbilt and other famous family icons), boat cruises, beaches and rocks to walk on as well as a great park at the end where a ton of people fly kites. It’s fun to see. It’s a typical coastal sea town but really offers a lot in my opinion and is well worth checking out.

On Wednesday I took the train north near where I used to live, to meet another friend. She met me at the train in Beverly, two towns over from where I grew up and a place I went to lots of times. We went straight to Singing Beach, and walked the beach in both directions. It was so beautiful and relaxing. I really missed the ocean! I used to come here when I was a kid so it was a special treat. 

We drove through some of Beverly, which again, looked so familiar but as if I lived here in a past life, wound our way up to Manchester-by-the Sea and to Carolyn's house. It was in the woods through streets lined with beautiful, lush green mature trees. Her house is gorgeous! It's a colonial style well known in this area and she's lived there for 40 years so it's every bit her. We talked and caught up with her husband, soaked in her gorgeous pool. Two of her daughters, their kids and friends came by for a pool party to celebrate one of her grandkid's birthday.

We went to the the Seaport Grill for lunch, overlooking the water in Gloucester. I got my lobster roll-- yum!! We then drove around some of the downtown area of Gloucester, and for a special treat, drove through Rockport. I used to love going to this town to walk around and loved to walk on the long rock jetty entering the ocean. There's a lot of great little shops, and lots of gorgeous sailboats everywhere. This is also where there is a famous picture from of a red house with buoys all covering the side. I tried to get a shot but was unable to.

We wound down the streets overlooking the ocean, saw the twin lighthouses. This area makes my heart happy. Such a quintescential New England town and so representative of the coastal areas. 

I took the train back into the city and met Shona and her friend Melissa for a drink at the Met Bar to watch the world cup. Sadly, Argentina lost, so we left to enjoy tapas again at Bar Lola. We sat outside this time, and they have a large patio (which I missed on the night I got here as it was pouring.) The food here is great, and we again got the lemony artichoke hearts, and also got veggie fritters, garlicky mushrooms and smoked salmon.

We took the green line back out to Coolidge Corner to go to the Theater there to see a movie. It's a large, very old and still independent place with lots of show rooms. Feels like a 1950's place and is so cool! We went home late and were tired and giggly, singing our way back like we did years ago. It's fun to be a kid again.

Today is my last day here. I'm not sure I'll have time to write later, but I'm going to Central Square in Cambridge to meet an old friend from my 20s that I reconnected with on Facebook. She lives in Northern CT and arranged some work here to meet up with me. I'm excited to see her! I'm getting ready, doing laundry and packing now then will head out to walk the square a bit before I see her. I used to volunteer in a homework center for kids in Central Square, and really enjoyed the area. I had hoped to squeeze in a visit to Davis Square, which I'm told is so much fun and more built up now then when I was here. But I won't have time..

I walked with Shona and her pup, Oliver, down Newbury and over to the reflecting pool by the Prudential building. I never knew it was there and it was beautiful!

I really feel I can say I did this town! It's been so incredible to be back, and what an amazing gift to stay right in the city and feel like a local again. I really do love this city. I'm not sure this will help my homesickness, but it sure did my heart and soul good to be here again and reconnect with so many people. I'll leave tired and happy.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Boston Days 3 & 4

We woke up fairly early and headed out for a walk. We decided to drive over to Castle Island, off South Boston, for our walk. It was really beautiful being along the water: the sun beaming down, a light breeze, sound of seagulls scent of the salt water. People were fishing and we could see part of the skyline in the distance over the water. I had never been here before so it was worth seeing.

We went back to lay down for a bit, then headed over to Coolidge Corner in Brookline for some book shopping (the gal whose place I was in asked for a book recommendation. Instead, I decided to buy her some books). We went to Booksmith and stocked up on some reads she will enjoy, then walked around a bit and headed to Temptation Cafe (or something like that!) for a late lunch. Yum! We walked some more then headed back on the T (the subway). I used to ride it every day when I worked in the city.

We took the pup for a walk down Newbury Street, window shopping and people watching, and walked down Boyleston a bit in Copley then back to Comm Ave. I love this tree-lined street with the brownstones. It looks very NYC!

I met my best friend from high school through my 20s, Tom, on Newbury Street for dinner. What a fun time catching up! It's been 3-4 years since I last saw him.

This morning I took a walk then met an elementary school friend, Lori Greenberg! We spent the day together, meeting near the Boston Common (as I got lost going to Faneuil Hall-- ahem!) We went to the North End for coffee, then walked on the waterfront and got a drink at the lovely Seaport Hotel. Then we walked to Chinatown for dim sum-- yum! Then we went to Fanueil Hall to walk around and stopped in the Ice Bar (forget the name, but they give you a parka and gloves and you go into a room where you can see your breath, which is covered in ice.) I went to a similar one in LA years ago. It was fun and a nice way to cool off from the walk! It's very humid today.

We then walked around Fanueil hall for a bit and went to Dick's Last Resort, a place known for the rudest waiters ever. They made people wear paper hats saying things like "I pee when I laugh" and "Showering makes me sneeze." Lori got one that says 'I heart my waiter." It was cute.

We decided to go up to the North Shore where we grew up. It was so strange going back! We went to Salem Willows, which hasn't changed a bit! We walked on the beach for a bit then through the arcades, little restaurants where you can grab and go with chinese, fried dough, salt water taffy and typical fair foods. Then we drove through Peabody where we grew up. We drove past my parent's old house and it hasn't changed much. The two houses next to it were built up and look completely different though!

It was a long day but such a fun walk down memory lane. I haven't seen Lori for 25 years, so it was really amazing to catch up in person!

Time to get some rest as tomorrow will be another fun and long day! Night, all!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Home Sweet Home: Boston

Boston, how I've missed you. With ever fiber of my being.

Being here feels so.. interesting. The sounds, sights, smells are all so familiar, and yet I feel like a visitor. I got in last night, the evening of the 4th to torrential downpours. A category 1 hurricane. I missed the fireworks as they were moved to the 3rd due to the weather. Meh.

I took the bus to the Back Bay part of the city and met my friend and her dog, Oliver, at the Copley stop. I used to work right across the street and really love this part of town. It's so familiar and comfortable. We walked the five minutes to her apartment right on Commonwealth (Comm) Ave. It's two blocks from the Public Garden-- amazing part of town.

A friend of hers in the building is staying in another larger apartment this summer, so her apartment is available. She wants people to stay there, at a cost of a book recommendation. Amazing.

Her place is a very small studio and perfectly laid out to maximize the space. The area is really expensive but being able to walk out to the center of it all is just amazing. She's in a building with 30 apartments, ranging in size but all still quite small.

I found out last night that her friend has a terminal illness. She bought the apartment to be in the city near the hospital where she gets her treatments. I'll meet her at some point on this trip and can't wait to give her a huge hug for making this trip possible. Hotels in this area are quite expensive. It was a dream of mine to stay in the city for this visit, and she gave me the opportunity to. I am so thrilled and grateful.

My friend has the coolest dog, who reminds me so much of my Che in a different package. He's very social and his face is really expressive.

We decided to venture out last night for tapas, and went to a cute place called LolaBar. It was amazing. Just a few blocks from the apartment, with great sangria and the tapas were wonderful. We got this amazing lemony garlicky artichoke heart dish, potatas bravas, a lamb and tomato sauce dish, and shrimp mango dish. Yumm... We then decided to go catch a movie. Shona always knows great places to go, and we went to a little indie theater in Kendall Sq, Cambridge. As she was telling me that she rarely drives and often gets lost, we circled time and time and time and time again proving her point.

We finally made it to the theater parking lot, laughing out butts off. We made it with ten minutes spare which was quite impressive. :) The movie was really great: Obvious Child. We both enjoyed it and headed home in the still pouring rain.

I woke to find my phone doesnt' work in the apartment (thick concrete walls) and I had no internet. Drat. So we planned to walk together in the am, but I had no way of reaching her. I went down to what I thought was her place and knocked then left a note. I tried her several more times, and finally gave up to go downstairs in search of food. I called her then as my phone worked, to find that she had tried to reach me as well! We went for breakfast at a cute little cafe in the South End, then went to the grocery store to pick up some things. I loved feeling like I live here-- even if for a short while.

Today we are going to walk a bit, then go see a show called Ordinary People in the South End, a great area for walking around. There's a lot of mature-tree lined streets, and houses that look like NYC brownstones. It's beautiful! Lots of galleries and restaurants. It was cleaned up and gentrified and is really gorgeous now.
The show was amazing! How I miss Boston. It was really funny and thought-provoking. I'd highly recommend it.

We walked the dog a bit through some of Back Bay, the Public Garden and the Boston Common. The garden looks SO beautiful with all the gorgeous plantings, the little pond with ducks and swans and people everywhere.

Then we met up with a friend and walked over towards the North End for Italian food. We walked back through the garden and common, through the Government Center area, which is under construction, through Haymarket. One of the biggest transformations is there, between Haymarket and the North end where the highway overpass used to be. All of the steel girders were replaced by a gorgeous park with kids playing. Wow. I just stood and stared, it was such a change to take in.

The north end was similar though many restaurants were different. We chose a place that my friend's friend had been to before, put our name in (va bene, we were told) and walked around a few minutes to enjoy the scene before going back and getting seated. It was incredibly crowded as we expected on a Saturday night. The food was amazing. The service great and damned if I can remember the name of the place! Drat. We stopped by Cafe Paradiso for a piece of tiramisu and headed back, walking a slightly different way.

The weather couldn't have been more perfect, around 80 or just over at a high, and in the low 70s as we walked back. Clear skies, a light breeze-- makes me want to move back! I can't wait to see more!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Palm Springs/Joshua Tree Recommendations and Pics

Joshua Tree
The park is great for exploring and hiking. We enjoyed the Ryan Mountain Trail, Hidden Valley, Barker Dam. The Cholla Cactus Garden was nice to see as well.

29 Palms
Harmony Motel was an affordable, cute little place and convenient to access the park

We liked the Palm Kebab House so much for dinner on our first night, that we went again for lunch before we left! Yum!

Palm Springs
Palm Mountain Resort and Spa was a very affordable option right downtown with easy walking to everywhere. The rooms were nothing fancy but comfortable, the bed comfy. LOT of families on the weekend and the spa was closed for renovations.

Gyoro Gyoro- this Japan chain is expanding in the US (LA and now Palm Springs). Just opened and amazing-- good food, good service.

Le Vallauris- amazing french place. Great food, amazing service and nice ambiance. The patio was very pleasant even in the heat with the shade cover and fans. The Price Fix menu was reasonable and food really good!

Cheekys- highly recommended breakfast/lunch place around 5 mins drive from the hotel and really worth it. Interesting eats like jalapeno bacon. yum!

Tuscan Hot Springs and Hotel- AMAZING place and you feel like you step into Tuscany. Beautifully and lovingly created ambiance with three mineral spring pools. Spa treatments were amazing. A 30-minute drive from Palm Springs but well worth the trip.

Palm Springs & Joshua Tree NP