Boston ticked all the boxes for our perfect mum and son bonding trip.
Education is a hot topic in our house with the Junior Cert Exam looming for my son next June. I’m a believer that nothing broadens a young mind better than travel and use this mantra to justify taking him away from his books for a few days.
Boston is a city that has grown into itself culturally and aesthetically since the big dig twenty years ago. When the clever city planners decided to put the busy highways in tunnels under the city, they left a beautiful mile-long stretch of parkland running through its heart and dedicated it to Rose Kennedy, the ex-president’s mother. Across from the financial district on what used to be a parking lot is the city’s rejuvenated district and our hotel for the next two nights, the Envoy. A smooth glass exterior surrounds a very cool and hip place to stay, with one of only three roof top bars in the city. Our room is spacious and trendy just like the rest of the hotel and one of my favourite features is the usb charger in the wall! With a huge shower and Netflix on the smart TV my son, Mark, gives the room the thumbs up too. Breakfast in the Envoy is a real treat and we opt for the Lobster Benedict and Maple Pancakes both mornings. See www.theenvoyhotel.com
We spend our first night in Boston at The Charles Theatre to see The Blue Man Group. Each performance involves a variety of media entertainment including art, music and mime. It’s perfect for kids of all ages. The show moves quickly and there isn’t a dull moment, especially at the climactic ending when giant size balloons and confetti fall on to the audience. For more information see www.blueman.com/boston.
We wake early next morning and head for the Boston Tea Party Ship for our first lesson. Our guide, Mr Condy, wears full period costume from this key time in eighteenth century American History that eventually led to the declaration of American Independence. Mark nods nonchalantly as we are invited to partake in a meeting with Samuel Adams who protests about the taxes on tea. “We did this in history a couple of weeks ago,” he says. We move from the museum on to the schooner ‘The Beaver’ where the kids get to throw the box of tea overboard in a re-enactment of the Tea Party which involves shouting ‘huzzah’ and banging our feet on the deck. I hope that this period of American history is now firmly etched in Mark’s memory before his exams next summer. See www.bostonteapartyship.com for more details.
Travelling with a teen I sense it’s time to do something more active. At Urbanadventours on Atlantic Avenue, we are provided with helmets, water and bicycles. Our guide, Greg, takes us in a small group of five around the rim of the North End. We cycle past the new flagship Converse world headquarters, and the TD Gardens where the city’s Basketball and Hockey teams play. Boston is a maritime city and the Charles River meets the Atlantic at a damn which was built to maintain the water level of the river.
It’s lined with an incredible array of trees that turn every colour of yellow, gold, burnt orange and red in the autumn. The pathway is flat making it easy for me to keep up with Mark and bringing us past college boat houses and more reminders of the city’s foundation on education.
As we pull up at Fenway Park, Greg tells us that Baseball is a religion with most Bostonians. The effigies of four famous Red Sox players stand at the stadium gates and I ask Mark if maybe he’s going to be a sports star. He just grunts at me! We set off again along the city’s Emerald Necklace − a green area in the centre of the city where locals tend to their vegetables and sit in private allotments rented from the city.
Before the tour is over we ride past the Museum of Fine Art which houses the largest collection of Impressionist paintings outside of the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. Reluctantly we pass by as Mark didn’t take art as an option but even he’s impressed by the graffiti and street art. In the distance, the John Hancock building is decorated with a gigantic art installation by French artist JR. A man stands on the edge of a pontoon and looks like he is about to jump into the blue skyscraper which amuses passersby,
I’m saddle sore by the time we reach Boston Common but Mark has enjoyed every bit of this excursion. We dine in the North End after returning our bikes and step into little Italy. Antico Forno is a well established restaurant and perfect for kids with everything from pasta, pizza and speciality dishes that include fresh seafood.
Next day we set off on The Freedom Trail, a self guided trek through the city’s historic buildings and sites marked out by red bricks along the footpath, we deviate as we come to Quincy Market food hall. Mark salivates as we pass the food stalls and we settle for a bowl of Boston Chowda − spelt phonetically − this delicacy is a favourite for locals and visitors. Faneuil Hall has been a market and meeting place since the mid 1700’s but these days top brands like Abercrombie and Fitch and Urban Outfitters can be found nearby. The Freedom Trail is a great way to walk through Boston and The Paul Revere house, the oldest in the city, is worth a stop off. Paul Revere was made famous by Longfellow’s poem describing his historic ride from Concord to Boston to warn the revolutionaries that the British troops were coming.
Mark is showing signs of ‘history overload’ so I decide that it’s time to catch up on Science. We take the T, Boston’s over and underground train system to our next stop, The Museum of Science. Currently Disney Pixar are showing a new exhibit that will inspire any young animator or film maker, while a budding meteorologist or pilot will be enthralled in the west wing.
Harvard University is only a fifteen minute ride away and at the risk of being a pushy mum I insist that we take the ‘Hahvad Tour’ (again spelt phonetically), given by current Harvard Students. Our guide tells us secrets about the naughty rites-of-passage carried out by the college fraternities and advises us not to touch the toe of the John Harvard statue which is frequently rubbed for good luck by tourists as it’s more frequently used as a toilet at night. At $9.99 this tour is good value and a great way to walk through the college grounds.
Next day we leave Boston for a short stay in Salem. During the month of October The Haunted Happenings events make it one of the best places to enjoy Halloween. We take the Trolley Tour to get our bearings and pass the House of the Seven Gables, made famous by author Nathaniel Hawthorne. It is impossible to avoid references to the Witch Trials so we go to the Salem Witch Museum to get the full story. Re-enactments of the trials can be seen at the Witch Dungeon and even on the main street. Everything is close by in this pretty town with fine examples of federation houses and brownstones − each labelled with a date and name of the original owner. This is America where the smell of apples and cinnamon resonates through the wooden eaves of the buildings.
Don’t leave Salem without eating in Turner’s restaurant which also has an interesting story and great food.
There is only one more thing to do before we leave this centre of mystic and magic. My son has his palm read and is told to keep up the guitar lessons as they will make him famous some day. Delighted with the news of my son’s impending fortune we return to Dublin with my mind at ease and consider that maybe he isn’t going to need straight A’s in the Junior Cert after all!
Aer Lingus, the smart airline, operates two flights per day from Dublin to Boston with fares starting from €249 each-way including taxes and charges. Flights from Shannon operate daily with fares starting from €209 each-way including taxes and charges. For more information visit aerlingus.com
Tour America 4 nights in Boston from only €599pp. Price Includes: Return flights with all taxes & 4 nights 3* accommodation. Based on 4 sharing. Travel January 2017. Reference 511489. Visit www.touramerica.ie or call 01-8173562. or Cork on 021 242 9222