Last Wednesday, Sarah and I woke up at 4:00am PST to catch our first of two flights to New York City. When we decided to go on this trip, we set out to save costs wherever possible (obviously) – and that started with our flight. While it would’ve been easier to fly into Boston, train all the way down to DC and fly home from there, it also would’ve added hundreds of dollars to our total costs. Instead, we opted to fly in and out of New York City, and after redeeming some WestJet dollars + using a $99 companion flight, it only cost us $250 CAD/each (all taxes in).
As soon as we got there, we dropped our bags off at our hotel and walked 20 blocks down to Union Square to meet Shannon for dinner. We filled up on Mexican food then took Sarah into the Strand. If you’re planning a trip to NYC anytime soon, and you love books, the Strand is a must-see. The 18 miles of books will suck you in, and the little odds and ends for sale (like this magnet below) will make you laugh. It’s one of the only stores in which I’ve seriously considered breaking the shopping ban. (The girls can vouch that I did not.)
Sarah and I grabbed ice cream on our way back to the hotel, which ended up being the first of many, many desserts. We passed out early and set our alarms, as we had to get up at 6:00am EST (3:00am PST, eek!) to catch the Amtrak to Boston…
It’s a 4-hour train ride between NYC and Boston – and most of the track ran alongside the ocean. The train was fully wired with Wi-Fi, so we both used the time to tackle some work and plan out the first few days of our trip.
When we got there, we walked up from South Station and were pleasantly surprised to discover that our hotel (Omni Parker House, booked via Hotwire) was centrally located next to Old City Hall, almost kitty-corner to Boston Common.
We were also around the corner from Sam LaGrassa’s, which is a family-run sandwich shop that’s been open since 1968. I demolished this sandwich and could’ve gone back every day for another. (Seriously, I’m practically drooling just looking at this picture again.)
From there, we ventured out on foot to see the city. Altogether, we walked ~10 miles that day. Here are a few of the highlights for me. First, we overheard a tour guide tell people that there was over $300,000 worth of 23K gold on the roof of Massachusetts State House. True story? Wikipedia says it is so!
From there, we stumbled across the Memorial Day flag display in Boston Common, where nearly 37,000 American flags were planted to honour Massachusetts’ fallen heroes from the Civil War to present day; that was a sight I won’t soon forget.
Boston Public Garden was beautiful and I’m so glad we took the time to walk through it. Truthfully, it reminded me of Beacon Hill Park in Victoria (my hometown), especially when we saw people feeding the ducks. I’m also just a sucker for weeping willows.
When we exited the park, we found ourselves at the entrance of Commonwealth Avenue Mall, which is a mile-long path of trees, grass, park benches and statues. We walked the entire length of it, then down a few blocks to the waterfront, which we walked alongside back to the city. (My one regret is that we forgot the public library was close by, so we missed seeing that. Next time, Boston.)
The one thing neither of us could get over was how clean the streets of Boston were. Sure, we may have first noticed this in Beacon Hill (a quintessential Boston neighbourhood) but it seemed to be true everywhere we went. (I will admit, though, that we tripped on the uneven brick a few times.)
We grabbed an afternoon coffee, walked past Boston Common again and over to Fanheuil Hall Marketplace (too busy/touristy for my liking). We did some people-watching there, though, then skipped over to the North End.
And thank goodness for Jeffrey, who told us to pop into Mike’s Pastry. We grabbed one cannoli each + a Boston cream puff to share. Oh… my… goodness, that was heaven in a few bites. (They’re apparently 600 calories each, but who’s counting? Not me.)
On our way back to the hotel, we walked a little bit of the Freedom Trail and really took our time going through the Holocaust Memorial. It didn’t seem right to take any pictures of it (although we saw many people taking selfies there… ick) but it was both beautiful and haunting. A must-see, for sure.
Later that night, we caught the green line out to Brookline (about 30 minutes one-way), so I could finally check out a workshop at the Society of Grownups . I’ve been following what they’re doing for months, so it was great to meet one of their financial planners and get a feel for what they really do.
The Society of Grownups is a place that’s dedicated to fostering financial literacy for adults. When you first walk into the space, it looks like a coffee shop/workspace. But there’s also a small boardroom where classes and events are held, most of which are taught by financial planners. We sat in on a class that helped students understand more about their student loans and how to pay them off, and gave them to a space to ask all their unanswered questions. It wasn’t a subject matter that we needed to know about, necessarily, but I’m still glad we got to sit in on it. (Why don’t we have this in Canada yet?)
After class, we walked another mile down the road to OTTO Pizza. We had fantastic service and the pizza was delicious (as you can see). I would highly recommend that location to anyone who is in the area and in the mood for a good thin crust pizza.
The next morning, we caught the red line and spent the day in Cambridge. Our first (and longest) stop was at Harvard University, which was swarming with grounds workers who were preparing for the 364th commencement that is taking place this week.
My favourite building was Massachusetts Hall, which I later read is the oldest surviving building at Harvard and the second oldest academic building in the United States. (And here I just thought it was beautiful.)
We ate more ice cream in Harvard Yard (big surprise).
Rubbed John Harvard’s shoe for good luck.
And then we picked up one final dessert and brought it over to the Frugalwoods‘ house. Mr. and Mrs. FW treated us to a home-cooked meal (which is always nice, but especially when you’re travelling) and we spent the whole night chatting about our blogs, the differences between our two countries, our plans for the future… and, of course, about Frugal Hound. It was so nice to finally put faces to their names, and to spend an entire evening laughing with new friends. Thank you again, Mr. and Mrs. FW! :)
The next morning, we grabbed a quick bite, then packed our bags and headed down to South Station where we took the Amtrak back to NYC. I’m so grateful to everyone who suggested various activities and restaurants in Boston. We had a blast, and it was a great start to this 10-day adventure!
I’ll fill you in on our weekend in NYC, on Wednesday. As you’re reading this, we’re probably driving (yep, road trip time!) down to Philadelphia… xo