My wife and I did the be-a-tourist-in-your-own-state thing again yesterday as part of our “stay-cation” approach this summer. We started and ended our day in Andover, but spent most of the bright blue-sky day in Boston, which looked very good in the parts we visited.
Boston King Coffee on Main Street in Andover was our first stop for something different to begin the day. It’s a fine local eatery with a “Rainbow Scramble” egg dish (diced colored peppers, tomatoes, tofu, and ham) that we highly recommend. The menu lists Richardson’s Ice Cream, so I asked if it was from Richardson’s Dairy in Dracut—it’s from Middleton. The magazines on a side table included several issues of Forbes and a fancy wine publication. Just like the Owl Diner.
We moved right along to Boston after the rush hour and parked at a pricey garage near Faneuil Hall for convenience. We wanted to walk the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greeenway, which has been on our “to do” list. The day was perfect, sunny with a slight breeze off the harbor and powder blue overhead. We traversed the whole string of parks (North End, Wharf District, Fort Point Channel, Dewey Square, and Chinatown).
Web photo by Pennington courtesy of panoramio.com
Along the way we encountered fountains, magnificent flowers of many varieties, a vegetable garden, permanent and temporary sculptures, stretches of thick and well-maintained grass, plenty of benches and individual red steel chairs, swaths of sunflowers and black-eyed Susans, a mass of bamboo and a bold red angular arch referencing the familiar old ornate gateway to Chinatown, an artificial brook, and lots of people of all ages enjoying being outside. The Greenway makes a second Boston Common, only long and narrow. On either side of the Greenway the city presents itself as an attractive, energetic capital. My impression is that Boston post-Big Dig is so much more vivid and so much less gritty and hard-edged. With the ocean and Harbor Islands providing a vista to the east and the greened-up streetscape, recycled seaside commercial buildings, and steel-and-glass towers forming the land’s edge in that district, Boston really feels like a world-class city on the order of London or New York.
We circled back to the Wharf District via an inland path that took us through Downtown Crossing, past the failed huge Borders Bookstore and bronze Irish Famine Memorial, to the North End through Christopher Columbus Park with its own Rose Kennedy tribute rose garden whose caretakers are the Friends of the park. We wound our way through the always interesting North End, stopping at the iconic Paul Revere on horseback statue and stepping into the Old North Church at 193 Salem Street, dating from 1723 (“the oldest standing church building in Boston”). We learned something new: the two lanterns hung from the steeple on April 18, 1775, were displayed to watch guards in Charlestown for “one minute” only, according to the guide in the church. That was enough to foil British plans to disrupt rebel activity in Lexington and Concord.
By 12.30 pm, we were ready to eat again and picked a small pizza place on Salem Street, one whose compact dining room opened onto the street. As of yesterday, it was the best pizza we have tasted—maybe being so hungry helped. The place, whose name I can’t recall, has a white decor with a bar on the left and small kitchen in the back. There are tables for maybe 20 people. On the way to lunch we bought Italian cookies at a tiny bakery, also on Salem St., which we sampled when we sat for a while along the waterfront before retrieving our car.
On the way home we retraced our route through Andover, where we bought a few books and a cool, collectible “On the Road” orange steel water bottle from Penguin Books at the Andover Bookstore (founded in 1809). We walked up and down Main Street, loaded with small businesses that appeared to be doing well enough. We spotted a couple of For Rent signs on side streets, but overall the downtown is lively. Near 4 p.m., we left town to do one last errand.
One local note for my friends at LNHPark. The Harbor Islands National Park info pavilion near the Aquarium was stocked with brochures from every Park in Massachusetts except Lowell and Saugus Iron Works. Either Lowell is popular or they need a supply of the standard brochures down there. The interpretive signage at the pavilion and all over the wharf district is top-notch. Boston collectively has done an excellent job on its public spaces in that part of the city.