Hi everyone! I’m excited to announce my new travel blog, “The Full Itinerary”. You will find all my future travel posts there, http://www.the-full-itinerary.com
See you there!
Hi everyone! I’m excited to announce my new travel blog, “The Full Itinerary”. You will find all my future travel posts there, http://www.the-full-itinerary.com
See you there!
I was full of excitement for my first trip to Boston in over ten years. The first time I had visited was to see the Harvard campus with some friends, wave hello to “Cheers” and head home. Now I was on my way to really exploring Boston for the Labor Day weekend. My friend and I took the Megabus out of New York early on Saturday morning, and by Saturday afternoon we were checked into our AirBnb and on the “T” headed to Fenway Park!
Fenway Park – My friend had a friend who got us tickets in advance for the Philadephia Phillies vs. the Boston Red Sox on Saturday, September 5, 2015. We got to Fenway Park a little late, being new to the “T”, and dragging our feet a bit as we wandered through the stadium, taking pictures outside, finding beer and pretzels to buy, finding our seats. The game was already several innings into it, but we came just as the Phillies were beginning to score. Then the Red Sox beat them solid. The crowd roared. There is nothing like seeing Red Sox fans in Boston, going to the game on the “T” dressed in Red Sox gear, their red baseball caps turned back, accents thick and energy high. Seeing a game at Fenway Park has to be one of the best ways to kick off a trip to Boston.
Copley Square – It is centrally located in Boston’s Back Bay area, and is historic for many reasons. A cultural center, many cultural institutions used to either originally be located there or still are, such as: Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Natural History, New Old South Church, Boston Public Library, etc. The Boston Marathon finishes at Copley Square, and it is now sadly known as the location of the Boston Marathon bombings that happened in April 2013.
I went there to also see Trinity Church which dominates the square, next to the towering, sleek, John Hancock high rise, offering a unique juxtaposition of historic and modern.
Trinity Church – Founded in 1733, the Trinity Church provides Episcopal services, but is open to the public and also provides many community programs and services. I found the architecture a stunning example of Romanesque style, with its clay roof and heavy arches. Inside all the murals were completed by American artists, and the stained glass windows were recently restored. While I did not go inside, I would think this would be an amazing place to experience one of the choir concerts that are given by the several choirs that perform there. For information on upcoming events, visit their website Trinitychurchboston.org
The Boston Common and the Swan Boats – The Boston Common is a large park that is pleasant to stroll through, but for this trip it is the memorable location of my first ride on the Swan Boats. Swanboats.com
Bostonians used to row small boats on the public garden’s lagoon but that was changed in 1970 when Robert Paget decided to introduce a paddle boat which looked like it was being driven by a Swan that could be ridden on for a fee. The idea was based on the romantic German opera Lohengrin, where a knight of the Grail crosses a river in a boat drawn by a Swan to defend the innocence of his heroine, Princess Elsa. Soon, the fleet of Swan boats replaced the row boating on the lagoon, and the Paget family has been operating the fleet ever since. For a small fee, I glided along the surface of the water around the lagoon in the Swan paddle boat. I almost felt as if I were a swan myself gliding along.
The Boston Common is also the location of the start of the Freedom Trail.
The Freedom Trail – This has to be one of the best introductions to Boston one can take, and I’m so glad I did it on my first visit to Boston. It is a 2.5 mile long walk through 16 locations that are significant to the history of Boston. It winds through downtown, up through the North End (a nice place to stop and get something to eat, or an Italian pastry and coffee), crosses the Boston Harbor and ends in Bunker Hill. Following are a few of my favorite spots, but you can also go to their website for a full description of each site and other information Thefreedomtrail.org or download a .pdf map map of the Freedom Trail.
(8) Old South Meeting House – site of the protest that started the Boston Tea Party in 1773.
(9) Old State House – built in 1773, the oldest building in Boston and site of the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.
(11) Faneuil Hall – “cradle of liberty”
(12) Paul Revere House
(13) Old North Church – Where Paul Revere spread the word that the British troops were on their way
John F. Kennedy Museum – Columbia Point, Boston, MA 02125 (617) 514-1600
The JFK library and museum sits on a 10 acre park on the Boston waterfront. To get there take the T Red line to the JFK/UMASS stop. There is a free shuttle from the subway stop to the JFK library and museum. There is plenty to see here. Theatres show films of the story of JFK’s family and rise in politics. As you walk through the museum, the rooms recreate the world of JFK for you, as do the multimedia exhibits. If you need refreshments, there’s a cafe but I enjoyed the bookstore, where I got a copy of John F. Kennedy’s book “A Nation of Immigrants”, and a DVD of Jacqueline Kennedy’s televised tour of the White House.
A large room with floor to ceiling windows looks out onto a lawn where they have tied down a boat that JFK and his family used to sail on. As you gaze out over the water beyond the lawn, you can almost picture yourself a Kennedy running out to take a sail on their boat.
That was the last thing we did, on the morning that we were to later catch the bus back to New York. Even with such a hectic schedule, I left Boston feeling like I had just gotten started getting to know the city. There were neighborhoods I hadn’t even touched. Still, some of the sightseeing was accomplished and I learned just a little bit more about American history and grew more appreciative of it. Thankfully, I do not live too far away, so I am hopeful more exploration of Boston is still to come.
Boston is a great getaway city if you live nearby, like I do, in New York. In May I went with a friend because he was running in the “Run to Remember” half marathon, which honors first responders. It was also the month of my birthday, and we were going to celebrate at a nice restaurant, and spend a pleasant three day weekend. Boston is fun for a quick trip because there are many sites to see and keep you busy, it is historic which offers plenty of opportunities to learn, and it is clean and accessible. Prices in general are rather high, but we economized by travelling there by bus, staying at an AirBnb and curtailing how many restaurants we went to.
The Boston Common – Established since 1634, it is the oldest city park in the United States. A lovely place to stroll through when the weather is nice, it has large grassy green areas, fountains, ponds, and pleasant park seating throughout. The visitors center is located on the Tremont street side of the park.
We stopped here in the early evening after touring Beacon Hill and peeking into the famous Cheers location on Beacon street. It was nice to sit down on a park bench and watch everyone strolling along by. Even as the evening sky darkened, it felt safe in the park. A guitarist was still playing a few tunes across the way. Couples embraced. The park is not so large that it wasn’t crossed easily in about half an hour that evening, as we made our way back to the downtown area where we would catch the “T”, or subway, at Downtown Crossing back to our AirBnb.
The Charles River Esplanade – Another of Boston’s big green spaces, the Esplanade is located along the Charles River in the Back Bay area of Boston. It was created in the early 20th century after that area was filled in with land to make the river more level with the city and less of a liability. There are paths to walk or jog along, grassy areas for picnics and waterfront area where sunbathers stretch out. The Esplanade Association maintains the park. Events and more information on the park, you can go to their website at Esplanade.org
This was just a short detour on our visit to Beacon Hill, a short walk and a few minutes on a park bench looking out at the river and people sunbathing nearby. Still, a very nice park whether for a short breather from city touring, or to spend the day.
Beacon Hill – A protected historic district, Beacon Hill gets its name from the beacon that used to be located on top of the hill to announce invasions to the city. It was home to many famous Americans, including Robert Frost, Sylvia Plath and Louisa May Alcott. Charles Street has antique shops and local restaurants. Acorn street, Boston’s narrowest street, is located here. As it has become the most photographed street in Boston if not the country, please be respectful to residents there and take photos quickly and quietly, if you can find a spot in the crowds.
Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market – Faneuil Hall is named after Peter Faneuil, who after an inheritance became one of the wealthiest merchants of his time in the late 18th century. It was his idea to propose that a central market be built, as one did not exist at the time in Boston. The city’s government accepted the proposal. In 1826, the Quincy Market building, along with the South and North Market buildings alongside, were built to accommodate the overcrowded Faneuil Hall market. The three buildings of Quincy Market is where most of the shops and restaurants are located today. It was named after Mayor Josiah Quincy, in honor of his contributions.
There are so many shops inside and outside Quincy Market, as well as restaurants and a wide variety of food stalls! If you want to get some souvenirs of your trip to Boston, this is the place to go. There are literally dozens of souvenir shops, my favorite being “Best of Boston”. There are name brand shops and even a Cheers themed restaurant. Anything from Mexican food to lobster rolls can be purchased to go from within the market stalls, and there are plenty of dining options in and around the market, from pubs to the spicy Wagamama chain.
75 Chestnut – A charming, cozy restaurant nestled in the Beacon Hill neighborhood, it was perfect for my birthday dinner during this trip. It would also be a great place for a date night or family outing. Once in the restaurant, we were settle in at our table along with complementary cheese and crackers we picked up at the front available to all guests. I enjoyed their grilled pork chop with mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables, something I also noticed many other people in the restaurant ordering. My friend ordered the Nantucket seafood stew which he also enjoyed. A classy and intimate spot for dinner with top notch food and service that I highly recommend.
Most Memorable Moment
Before we went to dinner at 75 Chestnut, we spent about half an hour walking around Beacon Hill. The row houses, with salmon-red colored bricks, white and black wood shutters, flowers in the windows and red doors with bright brass knockers, are charming and worth millions. The signature color of the bricks seems to be “the” red color in New England, you see men and women wearing khakis or baseball caps the color of that signature red from Nantucket to Cape Cod. The cobble-stoned pavement is made of small rounded stones, smooth with a century of wear. The ground is warbled with the years. I was fascinated to come across Acorn street, which apparently is one of the most photographed streets in Boston. It was hard to catch a moment when you had the street to yourself to take a shot. I wanted just as much to take pictures of the cobble stoned ground, imagining what it must have been like a hundred years ago when the paved street was new and carriages wheeled glided over them. It represents Boston well – it captures both its deeply historic American heritage blended seamlessly into the wealth that now resides there.
One of the largest beaches in the NYC, Jones Beach is 17 miles long and is part of Jones Beach State Park. The boardwalk is about a mile long and is where we headed to as our focus was a day on the beach, even though there is a pool, concert halls, fishing and other things to do there. It seemed most people Continue reading
This is one of the easiest beaches to get to using public transportation from Manhattan. It is also a clean beach with a boardwalk and a choice of food places near the train station. If it’s a sunny weekend in New York City and I am craving to lie down on a sandy beach and look out to the ocean, Long Beach is an easy decision to make without a lot of advanced planning.
I came here to support my friend while he ran the Hartford half marathon, and to learn about Hartford. I had never been here before, and the only thing I knew about it was that it was considered the insurance capitol of the country. It was evident as our bus approached Hartford why that might be, as huge signs for “Aetna”, “The Hartford” and others loomed before our view.
We arrived in Hartford just in time for lunch. First we headed Continue reading
After we flew in, the first thing we did after checking into our hotel (Park Central Hotel) is head to Chinatown for lunch, as we were starved after a six hour flight from New York. We ate at the Z & Y restaurant. It’s known for it’s Szechuan delicacies but we opted for more traditional non-spicy food which was also on the menu. President Obama has eaten here and the restaurant has good reviews- the highlight of our meal was ordering the Jasmine tea, you’ll be amazed at how it’s served:
That day a street fair was going on so it was interesting to see all the wares and food, but also crowded. We learned that 100,000 Chinese live in this 12 block area, that’s out of 800,000 total population in San Francisco.
Chinatown leads right into the North Beach neighborhood which is the Italian section. Numerous Italian restaurants, bars and cafes selling gelato dot the neighborhood. As we had just eaten, we walked through it until we got to Washington Square, also the location of Saint Peter and Paul’s Church where Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio got married.
We turned right towards Telegraph Hill to climb to the Coit Tower.
This was the beginning of our climbing adventures that day. San Francisco is known for its rolling hills, and while there are several modes of transportation on our first day it was an experience to trek the hills on foot and feel the swell of the ground underneath our feet.
It was a steep climb to the Coit Tower, then numerous steps to get to its base, but it’s worth it for the stunning 360 degree views of San Francisco. Admission for adults is $9, the wait about 10-20 minutes, then an elevator takes you to the top.
View of Oakland Bay Bridge
View of Alcatraz
Climbing down was easy, so we decided to keep going past Washington Square straight over to the other side of town and climb up Lombard street.
The top of Lombard street is a series of steep curves made famous in the movies. The neighborhood is also one of the most exclusive in San Francisco.
View of the winding curves of Lombard street
You are rewarded at the top with amazing views of the San Francisco streets with Coit Tower in the distance.
The sensible thing to do next is to take an Uber back to your hotel. We, however, were soaking up every minute of the gorgeous views and wanted to keep going ….so we headed towards Grace Cathedral . Our trek turned into a near hour walk up and down some of the steepest hills in San Francisco, located in the affluent neighborhoods of Russian Hill and Nob Hill.
Grace Cathedral is beautiful, built in the image of the Notre Dame in France.
Finally it was time to head back to our hotel and get some much needed rest!
The next day we purchased a 2-day ticket for one of the several hop on and off bus tours that are a great way to get around the city and see the highlights.
Golden Gate Park and the Japanese Tea Gardens
There are several things to do in Golden Gate Park which is bigger even than Central Park in NYC. We chose to see the Japanese Tea Garden, a delightful refuge from a hectic day of touring. Adult admission is $9, and buys you as much time as you would like strolling through the intricate gardens designed to promote a sense of tranquility and zen.
Zen moment: stopping in front of the lush gardens and being still for a moment – absorbing the organic forms of the leaves, grass and bush while hearing the stillness, feeling the damp foggy mist on the face, breathing in deeply the crisp, clean air full of life force.
Zen moment: standing on the curved wooden bridges overlooking the ponds full of Koi fish, watching their smooth, swirling movements ripple the water and at the same time reflect the very movement of the water.
A highlight are the Japanese pergolas nestled among the garden.
After refreshing ourselves with tea and coffee at a nearby snack shop, we walked through the eastern half of the Golden Gate Park towards Haight street, where we caught a guided walking tour that was part of our bus package.
Taking this guided walking tour down Haight street helped me to understand more of what the 1967 Summer of Love was all about, and gave me insight into the culture and historical context of San Francisco itself. During a brief period of less than a year in 1967, thousands came to this area to celebrate love and experiment with drugs that were meant to broaden the mind and increase compassion. When it became more of a drug party, the leaders of the movement called it to a close.
Some of the biggest names in sixties music lived here during that time period, and part of the tour shows you where they lived. Only the house of Jimmy Hendrix has been left in the original condition of what these Victorian style houses would of looked like back then – very run down. Many have since been purchased and restored.
Jimmy Hendrix lived here
Address for Janice Joplin
Evolution Rainbow, the oldest mural in Haight Ashbury
Mural depicting Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead
Where the Grateful Dead lived
Once done with the tour, I recommend heading over to 601 Divisadero Street to the Bean Bag Cafe for lunch. They have crisp and fresh sandwiches, salads, savory and sweet crepes as well as burgers. We seated ourselves by the window and enjoyed people watching as we ate.
The Painted Ladies and Alamo Square
A must see is the row of seven beautifully restored Victorian row houses nicknamed “The Painted Ladies” that can be best viewed from Alamo Square. On a clear, sunny day you can take pictures of the houses with the San Francisco skyline in the background.
One of the best ways to travel up to Fisherman’s Wharf is by Cable Car. We started at the 5th and Powell stop and watched the fascinating way they turn the cable cars around by hand.
The trip up and down the hills is a lot of fun for a $7 one way ticket, and takes about 20 minutes . The best views can be had standing on the sideboard but you have to hold on tight to the rail and no pictures are allowed while in transit.
Fisherman’s Wharf is a little touristy but it is also a good place to get seafood with the number of seafood restaurants and shacks here.
First, you may want to head up Pier 39 to check out the seals basking in the setting sun.
When you’re ready for dinner, a popular stand-by is Alioto’s Restaurant on 8 Fisherman’s Wharf. We purchased gifts at the Safe Harbor gift shop and got a 10% discount for a meal at the nearby Cioppino’s restaurant, so decided to have dinner there.
Alioto’s claims to have invented Cioppino back in the day when fishermen would haul in their catch and whatever would come in that day got thrown into a brothy tomato soup. However, Cioppino’s is a family owned restaurant who has made the dish their namesake, so we ordered that dish, of course. I found it to be a decadent, buttery version of the tomato broth with ample amounts of calamari, clams, shrimp, white fish and luscious chunks of Dungeoness Crab in it. My only complaint is that it was too rich to finish all the delicious broth in the bowl.
Another place to check out while in Fisherman’s Wharf is the Boudin Sourdough Bakery and Cafe near Pier 39. We had a great lunch here eating clam chowder in a hollowed out freshly baked sourdough bowl. They also have a lovely gourmet food gift shop, tours of their bakery, and higher end dining upstairs, where the oyster bar comes highly recommended.
A visit here is not complete without visiting the original Ghirardelli chocolate factory. It has been converted to a cafe where you can enjoy everything from hot chocolate to decadent sundaes and a gift shop alongside.
Golden Gate Bridge
We couldn’t wait to see the Golden Gate Bridge. Part of our bus package included a ride across the Golden Gate Bridge into the town of Sausalito. The weather that day was foggy, cloudy and on the chilly side. The wind gusts as we crossed the bridge sitting on top of the bus were very strong and made us wish we were doing it on a milder day, but we still enjoyed the trip.
We were surprised by the town of Sausalito, a wealthy community of charming houses nestled into the mountain bedrock with amazing views of San Francisco in the distance.
We found the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge when we returned back across the bridge, and got off the bus to take a break at the cafe. They have a outdoor lookout location right there.
A pleasant morning can be spent at the Ferry Terminal with its shops and markets. A farmer’s market is there on Thursdays. Benches line the Harbor and offer pleasant views while eating take out. We got a couple of well made tortas from Mijita along with scratch made chips and salsa.
On our last night we enjoyed a great steak dinner in a comfortable atmosphere at the historic John’s Grill, located near our hotel in the financial district. Established in 1908, it gives you a sense of historical San Francisco with jazz music playing every night.
Zen moment: The next morning we spent a relaxing few hours wandering through the Yerba Buena Gardens. The esplanade offers lovely shaded areas to sit at and ponder your trip. Standing in front of the Martin Luther King memorial and fountain there, I reflected on the inspiring words of one of the driving forces of cultural revolution and change that are so much a part of what San Francisco is.
San Francisco has a lot to explore and we saw a lot in the few days we were here. Yes, we left a little tired and those hills can take a lot out of you, but the memory, beauty and contrasts of the historic city of San Francisco will linger with us for a long time.
The forecast for cloudiness and scattered showers gave way to sunny skies this Labor Day weekend, so we decided to explore Montauk, NY and see if we could do it in one day. Whether you’re getting up at 4am like we were to catch one of the early trains out of Penn Station, or leaving from the city, the three hour train ride along the coast dissuades some from making a trip to Montauk a day trip, but it can be done and it’s well worth the effort! Get the LIRR Montauk train schedule here.
Montauk is the last stop on the LIRR and the end of the Hamptons, at the tip of Long Island, and so is affectionately sometimes referred to as “The End”. The train station is about halfway between Montauk Harbor and the downtown village area. It’s easiest to get around by car or bike, however taxis and other on call car services are readily available. We took a taxi for $20 to the lighthouse and started our day there.
Montauk Point Lighthouse
Gazing out at the view of the pond Desolate (Rybník Pustá) from my window, one would think I’d feel melancholy. It did make me long for a past when I visited the Czech Republic as a child – back then there were less people, zero commercialism and the quiet peacefulness that comes with feeling safe with ones family. I felt some of that here in the Czech town of Blatna, a small town in Southern Bohemia about an hour and a half drive from Prague.
I found a two week stay in Blatna very pleasant. It took me a few days to adjust to the slower pace, and where I stayed helped. The Penzion u Rybníka Pustý (Penzion at Pond Desolate) is a bed and breakfast run by the family Sheinherr. A spacious and immaculately clean three story house with Bohemian architectural touches and views of the water and charming neighboring Czech homes.
Hana will make you tea, coffee or cappuccino as you sit down to the generous breakfast buffet that is offered daily at a modest additional charge. It includes fresh rolls and Czech pastries that Hana picks up each morning from the local bakery, and a selection of sliced ham, cheeses, honey and jams, a plate of sliced cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers, bowls of assorted fruits including ripe plums when in season, cereals and yogurt. While I sip my tea Hana gently asks if I would like a fried egg that day which she will make for you while you wait. There is also lovely outdoor seating.
Well fed you are ready to plan out your day. While it is easy to get bus connections to Prague, and I did so several times, it is a two hour journey each way so exploring in Blatna in between trips to Prague is the perfect way to relax and recover.
The must see attraction in town is Blatna Castle, along with the adjacent grounds which are a combination forest and deer garden.
Admissions is free – the baroness who lives in the centuries old castle asks only that you not walk on the grass, and to make sure to shut the wooden gate to the park behind you as you enter or leave the grounds, so that the deer that roam freely don’t escape.
The Hamptons seem mystical to me. I have visions of the wealthy shopping in pristine villages and frolicking on diamond studded beaches closed to everyone but them. I think of parties, decades of parties, the Great Gatsby. I’ve been almost afraid to go there, keeping the Hamptons and their mystique at a distance.
That changed one summer, when my boyfriend decided to run the Southampton half-marathon, and wanted me to come along and cheer him on. It meant getting up at 3 a.m. to get ready in time to board the Hampton Jitney on 4nd street in Manhattan for the two hour ride that would get us to the start of the race on time. So I did it, sleeping on the bus, at least until dawn broke and you could see more outside the bus window. I am always fascinated by how the scenery changes from dingy city buildings, to cramped suburban duplexes, to breezy, beachy villages as one travels east through Long Island.
We got off the bus at Southampton and walked to the middle school, where he picked up his race number and positioned himself at the starting line. I blew him a kiss good-bye as he started off to run the 12 mile course. Then I had another two and a half hour wait. To pass the time, I head off by myself to find access to the beach somewhere. I always imagined secluded, private beaches one could only gaze at from a distance, if at all. However, maybe as we were near the downtown of Southampton or near the middle school and in a public area, I found it quite easy to head straight down the runner’s path (after the runners of course!) and turn down Old Town Road which led straight to a public entrance to the beach, not more than a 30-40 minute walk away.
The view in the morning light was magnificent. There I was, taking off my sneakers and sinking my toes deep into the soft sand, as I strode down to the shore. The large expanse of clean, powdering sand was marked only by the treads of beach vehicles that had rampaged in the dawn.