September 17th through 21th, 2015 Downtown Boston, last call for family and friend visits, make ready for our journey home

This September, the end of our third year also became the beginning of our fourth. Hind sight brings reflections of each roller coaster experience along our journey and all of the adventures in-between. After three years I was expecting a stronger adjustment to the “rolling” but expectations continue to fall short. Life on the road is not a quiet relaxing retirement and sadly, the work load and repair expenses exceed that of our sticks-n-bricks home.  I rethink this decision daily, rolling on in case it improves with age, either mine or Father Time’s.

Of prime example, this morning I dusted the closet clothing rods. Even with my marginal senior memory, I’m sure I have never dusted off closet rods anywhere we lived, nor have I heard of anyone doing so after they have settled in their home.  I wipe down rods every few months. Our tiny size should equal a reduction in the housework load but it is quite the opposite.

After our “sell all and travel small” 3 year experience, I have a deeper understanding of why my mother, both grandmothers and my mother-in-law stubbornly clung to their homes and households.  It’s the “Scarlett O’Hara” syndrome held by every woman. I shall stay in my home because I feel safe, things are orderly and tomorrow will be another day. Like the country western song warns, don’t blink.

Fortune did come our way with multiple visits to my beloved Boston, three times in the four months we were contracted at Buffumville. The first time I was dizzy from the overabundance of breathing medications and couldn’t walk but we drove to several old haunts. Second time I was still wheezing and on medications so we drove to a few places and I walked a few blocks here and there. The third time was my birthday trip and I was determined to use our Hop-On, Hop-Off tickets and go, without stopping, until I dropped. Nothing would be neglected and seeing everything in my mind’s eye of the Boston I knew years ago was the goal. Armed with a backpack full of anything that may go wrong with my lungs, we parked and hit the ground running…well walking actually, but full speed ahead. Not one section of Boston went unexplored. The city graciously provides rest benches every few blocks so my determination was rewarded with shade tree cooled, gently breezy, rest stops across the entire city.

Parking in a downtown garage and walking past the New England Aquarium to the start of our Hop-On, Hop-Off bus tour, we spotted some rescued seals swimming around in clear tanks at the front of the aquarium. They posed lazily while I and several other tourists took pictures.


This aquarium has an extraordinary story about a seal. John and I had visited Rockport Harbor looking for the statue of Andre, a harbor seal who spent his winters at the New England Aquarium in Boston and his summers in Rockport Harbor. Every spring, for over 20 years, the Seaquarium would release him and Andre would swim north over 150 miles to Rockport. His reappearance was always a highlight for local residents. Elected Honorary Harbor Master, a granite statue of Andre was dedicated at harbor-side in 1978 with Andre unveiling it himself. Andre died in 1986. He became the subject of a 1994 feature film but oddly, they used a sea lion instead of a seal. We never did find the statue but we watched the rescued seals bob, swim and float for a while before moving on to catch the bus. The web had a picture of Andre’s statue, elusive to us when we searched in Rockport.

Andre the Seal

On board and comfortably seated, our first point of interest was the Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge. It is the first and most glaring change we noticed. The Zakim crosses over the Charles River with the “Big Dig” under the water. The Dig was the most expensive highway project in the U.S. and was plagued with scheduling overruns, leaks, design flaws, charges of poor execution, use of substandard materials, criminal arrests and one death. The project was to be completed in 1998 at an estimated cost of $2.8 billion however, the project actually completed in December 2007 at a cost of over $14.6 billion, 190 percent overrun. It is estimated that the project will ultimately cost $22 billion and will not be paid off until 2038. Just a small example of why Massachusetts is also known as “Taxachusetts”.

Zakim Bridge

Each section of Boston was described by the tour bus driver but most of the information, because we lived in town and worked downtown for years, was a refresher course. We lived on Commonwealth Avenue and Newbury Street downtown before moving outside the city proper and into homes. Both of us continued to work downtown so we frequently stayed in town to visit friends. Boston is an easy walk-about city, fun to explore, lots of after work activity.  Some very interesting art work added recently.  One floating net sculpture, spread out between the buildings.

Downtown  Floating Net Sculpture

Hop Off for exploration at the Boston Common, Boston Public Gardens, Newbury Street, the Boston Public Library along with the churches that stretch across blocks of the city on most every street corner.

Church of the Covenant

Our favorite apartment stay, when Boston was our home, was on Newbury Street, now known as the Rodeo Drive of Boston. It is saturated with upscale shops and eateries. Our apartment was on the 6th floor, the tiny two person elevator broke down regularly but with 2 bedrooms, a great location and reasonable cost, it made having to walk up 5 flights of stairs on occasion worthwhile.

Newbury Street

Closing its doors in 2011, Priscilla of Boston, the high-end bridal boutique that began in 1945 and rose to fame after making Grace Kelly’s wedding gown, displayed gorgeous gowns in their windows across from our front window. Although Liz was not even a twinkle in our eyes, I dreamed of having money enough to dress a daughter in one of Priscilla’s gowns.

Back in the day, we parked our Volkswagen Beetle in the alley behind our apartment where the local downtrodden would pull cardboard boxes out of the restaurant trash bins, pull them up to the car engines and sleep underneath for warmth. We made a habit of searching under our car before backing out, just in case someone was still asleep.

On the corner behind our apartment was the Old South Church. Its bells rang out on Sunday inviting the neighborhood to join in their service.

When I would come home early from work and John worked late, I spent time walking around the Boston Public Library in Copley Square, a few yards from our apartment. In my 20’s, I had never seen anything so remarkably grandiose, expansive in size and lavish in décor.

Boston Library

The entrance, polished marble and stone, mosaic tiled, beautiful.

Entrance Ceiling  Assending staircase

The hall leading upstairs, awe inspiring.

Staircase to upper floor  Library hall

The reading room and lecture hall, rich dark woods with beautifully carved details, resembled Hogwarts study.

Upstairs hall  Lecture room

Across the street, Trinity Church, founded in 1733. From the outside you can see the incredible stained-glass windows. The inside holds vintage organs. The church is home to several high-level choirs, including the Trinity Choir and angelic notes float out onto the street during choir practices.

Trinity church

On the sidewalk next to Trinity Church is the Boston Marathon marker.

Boston Marathon

In my younger days, I walked the long stretch of park paths from work, through Boston Common, Boston Public Gardens and on to Newbury Street. On balmy afternoons, floral colors burst from their raised flower beds, giant shade trees and green grass surrounded my pathway, perfect setting to remove the stress and tension from my job and far less cost than a full body massage.

The “new” Massachusetts State House, built in 1798, is located across from Boston Common on top of Beacon Hill.

Massachusetts State House

Boston Common, the oldest city park in the United States, was designed in 1634. It began life as a cow pasture and grew into the city center where the politically verbal and religious zealots stood atop their “soap box” expressing personal opinions to the crowds.

Boston Common, 1634  Boston Common, fountain

The Old Granary Burial Ground is the city of Boston’s third-oldest cemetery. It was founded in 1660 and is the final resting place for many notable Revolutionary War era patriots, including three signers of the Declaration of Independence, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Robert Treat Paine, Paul Revere and the five victims of the Boston Massacre.  The cemetery has 2,345 grave-markers, but historians estimate 5,000 people are buried on the grounds.

Entrance of Granary Burying Ground

The Boston Public Gardens, once a salt marsh, is a 24 acre park built in 1837. It is the home of many statues, the most famous being the entrance statue of George Washing and the bronze ducks from “Make Way For Ducklings”. Floating in the 4 acre pond are the Swan Boats that began operating in 1877 and remain, still powered via foot pedals.

Swan Boats  Boston Public Gardens 1837

No trip to Boston would be complete without an oily smelling, stale air, screechy wheel, hanging-on-for-dear-life ride on the erratically jerking “T”, a.k.a., the underground subways of Boston.  John and my major form of transportation while we lived here, I had to experience it again for old time sake.   Only one thing missing, the suffocating crowds.  Lucky us!

Haymarket Subway

Kings Chapel, an historic Unitarian Christian church founded in 1686 to insure the presence of the church of England in America. King James II ordered an Anglican parish to be built in Boston however none of the colonists were willing to sell suitable land. The King ordered Governor Andros to seize a corner of the burying ground for the Church. The Burying Ground is the oldest in Boston proper. It is the final resting place for many colonists, including John Winthrop, the Colony’s 12 term governor and Mary Chilton, the first woman to step off the Mayflower.

Kings Chapel front Kings Chapel Kings Chapel graveyard

Boston’s Old City Hall was home to its city council from 1865 to 1969. It was one of the first buildings in the French Second Empire style to be built in the United States.

Boston Old City Hall

Across from Kings Chapel, sits the stately and luxurious Omni Parker House Hotel. Opened in 1855 by Harvey D. Parker, its location is not far from the Massachusetts state government and has long been a rendezvous for politicians. The hotel was home to the Saturday Club and included literary celebrities such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson and the senior Oliver Wendell Holmes. Charles Dickens resided in the Parker House for five months in 1867-68 and first recited and performed “A Christmas Carol” for the Saturday Club.

Actor John Wilkes Booth stayed at the Omni April 5th and 6th 1865, ten days before assassinating Abraham Lincoln. It is said that he was in Boston to see his brother, actor Edwin Booth, who was performing at the hotel.

Originator of the Parker House roll and Massachusetts’ state dessert, Boston Cream pie, 2015 marks the 160th anniversary of the 19th century hotel. The original Parker House Hotel opened on this site on October of 1855 but was rebuilt in 1927. It is the longest continuously operating hotel in the United States.

Omni Parker House Hotel

Hop-On again and Off in the historic downtown area. The Old South Meeting House is the building where 5,000 angry colonists gathered in November and December of 1773 to protest the tea tax. Inside, Josiah Quincy cautioned the colonists that protests might stir up a hornet’s nest. Samuel Adams gave his secret signal, sending “Mohawks” to the harbor. John Hancock cried, “Let every man do what is right in his own eyes!” The gate has a fascinating design, most interesting.

Old South Meeting House  Old South Meeting House side gate

The Old State House may be the most photographed building in Boston. Built in 1713, it was the seat of the Massachusetts General Court until 1798. It is one of the oldest public buildings in the United States and the oldest surviving building in Boston. Its museum now contains, for the first time in 250 years, a room as it appeared during the 1760’s, when colonists decided the fate of the British Empire’s involvement in America.

Old State House back

In front of the Old State House, a circle of cobblestones honors those shot down in the Boston Massacre. On March 5, 1770 a minor dispute between a wigmaker’s young apprentice and a British sentry turned ugly. Relief soldiers came to the aid of the British and were met by an angry crowd of colonists. The colonists threw insults and whatever else they could pick up to do damage to the soldiers. The soldiers fired into the crowd and killed five colonists. Samuel Adams and other patriots called the event a “massacre”. Dictionary description of a massacre: an indiscriminate and brutal slaughter of people. The “event” fits Wikipedia’s description of “massacre”.

Old State House front

Hop-On again and Off near Quincy Market. My plan was to get a menu picture of the word New Englanders call a “milk shake”. My reason? When we first moved to Boston, I walked into a Friendly’s, a lunch and ice cream café, and asked for a chocolate milk shake. When she handed me the blended watery drink I asked, where’s the ice cream? Her reply…”you asked for a milk shake…if you wanted ice cream, you should have said Frappe”. In New England, a milk shake is blended milk with flavoring. Another one of the alternative words used to describe the same food or drink in a different part of the country.

Frappes in Quincy Market

Near the waterfront is Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall. Faneuil Hall has been used as a marketplace and meeting hall since 1743. The second floor is a meeting hall where many Boston City debates are held. Speeches by Samuel Adams and other patriots were given at the Hall.  The fourth floor is maintained by the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, the oldest chartered military organization in North America and the third oldest chartered military organization in the world. Its charter was granted in March 1638 by the Great and General Court of Massachusetts Bay and signed by Governor John Winthrop.

Funded by the wealthy merchant Peter Faneuil, he commissioned a local artisan to create the grasshopper weather vane that still sits atop the building’s cupola.   On weekends, Faneuil Hall hosts the Farmers Market offering the purchase of fresh fruits, veggies, fish and meat from stalls lining the street.  The market area abuts the North End and one ingenious soul thought to bronze the abundance of trash on the sidewalks creating an enjoyable art project.

Bronzed trash at Faneuil Market

Quincy Market is an historic marketplace constructed in 1824-26.  Named for Mayor Josiah Quincy, he was responsible for organizing its construction without any tax or debt.

Quincy Market (2)    Inside Quincy Market

Quincy Market is a conglomerate of fast food stalls, taverns, restaurants, upscale shopping, an overabundance of gift carts, a motley crew of street musicians and street performers and crowds of tourists, day and night.   A violin student was selling his CD’s while providing free entertainment to passing tourists.

Classical Music by Quincy Market

No need to Hop-On for our visit to the North End, the Italian section of Boston. Just cross over the bronzed trash cement walkway and you have arrived.  I fell in love with this area on my first visit.  We had put a deposit down on a North End condo in early 1979 but the developer backed out.  Being of Italian decent, mother and father, I have always felt totally at ease here, even with James “Whitey” Bulger, a North End mobster, traipsing around the area killing off 19 of his enemies from 1974 through 1985.

I wanted John to be one of the little old men sitting in chairs framed by store front windows, smoking pipes and cigars, discussing world events.  I wanted to be one of the little old women who hung out a window, multiple stories high, yelling down at my little old man who became “wife deaf” with age.  I wanted the small town in a big city life, shopping on foot, bags laden down with fresh veggies and meats from small local markets, everyone knowing us, our children, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The North End

Religious street festivals are held frequently and to be in attendance is to become momentarily Italian. If you miss all the festival dates, a trip to Mikes Pastry Shop will delight your taste buds with authentic Italian bakery fare or creamy gelato, a heavenly fresh baked fragrance and a place to sit a spell.

Mikes Pastery

Just up the street is Saint Leonard Catholic Church. It was founded in 1873 in the North End and built by Italian immigrants.

St Leonard entrance

In November of 1891 the churches basement opened for public worship. The number of parishioners at that time was near 20,000. In 1910, restoration of the upper church was undertaken.  A stunning small church.

Front view  Back View  Church Ceiling

Hop-On again and Off at Sail Loft Café. For my birthday dinner I requested a glass of Samuel Adams Oktoberfest beer, steamed mussels and a lobster. Not necessarily at one meal, but if it all appeared, I wasn’t turning it down. When we asked our driver where we might find fresh fish, he suggested Boston Sail Loft Café, one stop past the North End. My happy birthday surprise was that this one small dock side restaurant had the ability to provide all three. Their “today only” special included a whole steamed lobster on a bed of steamed mussels.  And more happy birthday news, the Café just received the Samuel Adams Fall brew beer, their creamy smooth Oktoberfest.  Ahhhh…Happy Birthday to me!

Boston Sail Loft Cafe  Happy Birthday Me

Our Hop-On, Hop-Off tour came with a harbor cruise. Boarding next to the Aquarium, the boat was as large as our whale watch cruise but the inside resembled a dining room.  We supposed they offer lunch or dinner sailings.

Boston Bay Cruise

Up to the top deck for a good view, sail boats dotting the waters as we passed the Boston harbor and skyline.

Boston Harbor

Off one of the piers, the bare bone rusting skeleton of Boston’s Premier Seafood Restaurant, Anthony’s Pier 4, sitting deserted on the edge of the dock. John and I had dined multiple times there in the evenings, sitting by the window and gazing out at the twinkling waterfront lights. Sad to see it closed.

Anthony's Pier 4 Restaurant

The tour paused at the docks of the USS Constitution. Although still in dry dock being refurbished, it was available for tours but we passed, having been there and done that several times in years previous.  Returning to the dock, we disembarked for one final stroll around Boston, on foot, before leaving the city.

Walking up the hill and into the downtown area, my old shopping stomping grounds, now disappeared into the past, leaving an empty vacant lot where the renowned Filenes Basement once was located, several floors underground.  Many a lunch hour was spent digging through the gigantic open bins of jumbled together clothes, piled high, my best buddy Patsy and I trying on, in the isles, as many “special finds” as possible before a post-haste mad dash back to work.

A clothing shop window drew my attention as it broadcasted, in an irreverent manner, my name on the front of its t-shirt. So I look a little different, gray haired, older, etc. Want to make something of it skinny beeotch!? The nerve of some inanimate objects!

Oh My God Becky shirt

Catching another Kodak Moment, one of John standing next to Johnston and Murphy shoe store, the store from where he acquired his childhood nickname “Murph”. It is a mystery to him why the nick name stuck but he’s been told that it fits him well.

Johnston and Murphy

Leisurely making our way back to the Aquarium parking garage, paying a preposterous forty dollars for a garage parking space, exhausted but overjoyed with our day’s adventure, an hour drive to Buffumville, off to bed within minutes of arriving home.

Rise and shine early to stock up on groceries for traveling, pick up KatieBug and one last visit for John to Coney Island Hot Dogs, a regular stop on our way home from grocery shopping. Vintage decor, marginally sanitized booths and tables but amazing homemade meat sauce, onions and mustard topped the hot dog that sat snug in a soft white-bread bun. One, once, was enough for my tummy but John bought two each time we were in the area.

Coney Island

One last visit to my amazing little sis Linda and her husband Dave. We will meet up again next year and will arrange our schedules to spend more time together.

Another last visit with Rich and Judi, vowing to return next year and toast to our decades old friendship with a few overnights at their lakeside home.  It will surely include many bottles of fermented grapes and another dining experience at O’Steaks and Seafood, lakeside view, need another creamy bowl of lobster mac and cheese.

Last visit to John’s sister and brother-in-law with a surprise drop-in by our nephew and niece. Hugs all around before we leave Holden and drive back to Buffumville.

My desire to stop at the Charlton Sewing Center finally came to be…it was open early evening. Entering the back door, the basement was nothing special. Climbing up the vintage wooden hand cut staircase and entering the fascinating 110 year old New England church was worth the long awaited visit.

Original stained glass

The owner was easily talked into playing the antique organ for visitors as they browsed through her tremendous assortment of quilting materials.

The pipe organ  Vintage glass windows

Original stained glass windows, beautiful quilts, old sewing machines, miniature sewing machines…many of her vintage sewing items were museum quality.

Stained glass  Amazing hand made quilts

Great old church, pleasant break in our late afternoon drive. Back to LilyPad to finish making the inside “travel ready”. Early to bed and early to rise.

Leaving Buffumville, I dropped off the keys and my extremely explicit written opinion of the working conditions. Never being one to bite my tongue, this time John agreed with what was listed on the paper so we won’t be back unless that shack is replaced with something healthier to sit inside for 12 straight hours. LilyPad fueled up, Ribbits hooked up and we’re off to see the wineries, the wonderful wineries of Watkins Glen.