Rose Island Lighthouse- Where my childhood dream came true

Ever since I was a little girl I’ve wanted to spend a night in a lighthouse. Where this dream came from I’m not entirely sure; I’m assuming it must have been something I saw on TV or read in a book when I was little and for some reason it’s always stuck with me. Years ago I mentioned it in passing to my husband and as my 30th birthday approached he told me that he’d booked me a trip away for my birthday, to a lighthouse in the south of England. I was ecstatic and so touched that he had remembered. However before my 30th came round our lives did a bit of a 180 and we ended up in Canada, so we never made it to the lighthouse. So last summer when I turned 31 I was over the moon to get a voucher for an overnight stay at a lighthouse – this time Rose Island Lighthouse in Newport, Rhode Island.

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So one Friday in November we drove down to Rhode Island and at 10am on the Saturday morning we were waiting at Newport Shipyard for a boat to take us to Rose Island. I’ve been very lucky to have visited some amazing places over the years but for me none of them compare to the night we spent in Rose Island lighthouse. It’s taken me a few months to put this into a blog post as I felt very overwhelmed with how to convey in words my feelings about the island.  It definitely isn’t the most glamorous location we’ve stayed in, it wasn’t the most exotic and undoubtedly not the most exciting but it was certainly the most beautiful, and without a doubt the most special place I have ever had the pleasure of staying.

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The lighthouse is no longer manned, being abandoned in 1970 after the building of the nearby Newport Bridge brought sufficient light to the area to make the lighthouse obsolete. The island and the lighthouse then lay abandoned, falling into disrepair for the next 14 years before being saved by the volunteers of the Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation. Over the coming years they worked tirelessly to restore the lighthouse to it’s former glory and in 1993 the Rose Island light was once again lit and the island has since been used as a hotel and living museum. The downstairs area of the lighthouse is the museum area, having been lovingly restored as to how it looked around the year 1912 with the help of Wanton Chase who back in the early 1900’s was a child living with his grandparents on Rose Island.

I loved hearing the stories behind it’s restoration from Chris, the captain of the boat who very kindly came back later in the morning and gave us a tour of the lighthouse and the island. He didn’t need to do this and we really appreciated him taking the time to fill us in on the island’s history. His stories made the island’s history come to life for us and we were very grateful at having such a gracious host. I would also urge you, if you go, to read the edition of the Rose Island Beacon written by Wanton Chase which is on the bookshelf in the lighthouse, telling stories of what it was like to be a young child growing up on Rose Island.

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The upstairs of the lighthouse where we stayed for the night is the lighthouse keeper’s apartment.

There are also 2 other main rooms for rent – one of which is the old Fog Horn room and the other the Barracks room, part of the old Fort Hamilton barracks. It is also possible to rent the bedrooms within the museum area, the Curt Bunting room and the Wanton Chase room. Other than the lighthouse keeper’s apartment all of these other rooms are open to the public during the day as part of the living museum which is worth keeping in mind when choosing which room you would like to rent.

The Fog Horn room and the Barracks rooms are far more basic than the keepers apartment – no electricity or running water and you need to use an outside bathroom, which in the cold and rain we had that November night I can’t imagine would have been too much fun but they are charming and it would, I’m sure, all be part of the experience in summer. Though I have to say I was glad of my creature comforts – indoor bathroom, electricity and heat.

The lighthouse itself is an Aladdin’s cave of artefacts, some dating back to when the lighthouse was built. The decor is quaint and traditional, and it was clean and tidy. This isn’t no room service and chocolates on your pillow type of place, so if that’s what you’re looking for it isn’t for you. It is basic but it’s ridiculously charming and has everything you could possibly ever need. There is obviously no amenities on the island so you need to take all food and drink (other than drinking water) with you. You’re expected to tidy up after yourself and change the bed and empty the bins when you leave which didn’t bother us. We wanted the next guests to find it in as lovely a condition as we did.

We were particularly fortunate the night we stayed that we had the whole island to ourselves, bar a couple of tour groups who visited during the day; but after 4pm it was just us, no one else was staying on the island that evening, the other rooms were all unusually empty. I can’t even put into words how special it was to have this little piece of paradise all to ourselves. Whoever was looking out for us there, thank you.

The island itself is such a peaceful, idyllic spot. It isn’t quiet per se but the noises that there are, are peaceful ones and vastly different from those we are used to hearing on a daily basis. The waves lapping at the rocks, the tinkling of the bell on the buoy out on the water, the birds chirping and as the fog set in at night the fog horn of another lighthouse sounding across the water were soothing rather than disturbing. It was bliss. There is no wifi on the island, no TV and as we only had Canadian mobile phones, for us we had no phone signal either. To be separated entirely from the outside world, even just for 24 hours, was wonderful.

So with no technological distractions we explored the lighthouse, took a walk around the island, skimmed stones at the beach and by late afternoon I was wrapped up in a blanket on one of the deck chairs overlooking the ocean with my book in one hand and a glass of champagne in the other.

I have watched many beautiful sunsets over the years (my favourite thing to do in life is to watch the sunset) but this one was different. It was special. I truly felt like we were miles from anywhere and anyone (in reality we were only about a 15 minute boat ride away from Newport) but you wouldn’t have known that as it felt like our own little uninterrupted corner of the world.

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As night fell we cosied up in the apartment with the fire lit and champagne flowing. We listened to a country music station on the radio for hours and played monopoly and dominoes from the extensive cupboard of games. It’s been a very long time since I’ve played a board game on a Saturday night, probably the best part of 20 years, but it was one of the best Saturday nights I’ve ever had.

We waited until it was pitch black outside and then we climbed back up to the light. Watching the darkness be illuminated by the light before everything being plunged back into darkness again just seconds later was breathtaking. This was an amazing experience and one that I will never forget.

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There were lots of beautiful little quirky things about Rose Island that helped to make it so special – the log books where you write a little note about your stay, what the weather was like and anything of note that happened while you were there, went back years and I loved looking through these, the sea shells collected from the beach and stored in a cabinet in the lighthouse keeper’s apartment, the rocks placed outside the front door with messages from past visitors are all charming little touches.

We were sure to get involved in all of these traditions, leaving our own little mark on the island.

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Some say the island is haunted but if it is the ghosts were certainly kind to us, though we did hear a dog (not Max) barking outside late at night which we knew was impossible, only we could find a ghost dog!

We were very fortunate in that we got to see Rose Island in all of it’s forms – we arrived to dark,cloudy, moody skies but by lunchtime the clouds had cleared and it was hot and sunny hitting 16 degrees, practically unheard of in November.

As darkness fell the rain started and the island felt even more isolated as we became surrounded by fog, listening to the rain battering off the windows. We were woken the next morning by the sound of high winds which certainly made for an interesting boat journey back to Newport!

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I loved this! It may seem ridiculous but seeing the lighthouse in all weather conditions made it even more wonderful and the island’s beauty shone through in all of these conditions. The only element we didn’t face while on the island was snow, but we drove through a snowstorm in Vermont on our way back to Montreal so we didn’t escape that one entirely.

My lasting memory of Rose Island will be how struck I was by the stillness and by it’s immeasurable beauty. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so relaxed anywhere as I did for those 24 hours. It truly is a magical place.

I cannot urge you enough to visit this tiny little piece of heaven resting in a corner of Rhode Island. I guarantee that you won’t regret it. Staying in a lighthouse may have been an apparently silly notion to take into adulthood with me but I will be forever grateful that I did as the night we spent on Rose Island was one of the most wonderful I have ever spent anywhere. And I am very grateful to my thoughtful husband for making that childhood dream a reality and giving me, if just for 24 hours, my own little piece of heaven. I am also very grateful to Rose Island itself for making the reality of a night in a lighthouse even better than I could ever possibly have imagined.

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If you would like to book a stay at Rose Island Lighthouse or for further information please visit http://www.roseislandlighthouse.org

 

Where is home?

I have had the pleasure over the last few weeks of spending some time back in Scotland. This visit was great and I absolutely loved getting to spend time with our family and friends but it has given me some food for thought in terms of where is now our home? When talking about taking this trip I definitely said, without even thinking about it, that I was going “home” for a few weeks. But when discussing returning to Montreal I also found myself slipping into saying “home” and this made me wonder where really is now home for us. Is it Scotland, where I hung my hat for the best part of 30 years? Or is it Montreal, where I now actually live? It’s hard to know what the answer is.

If you ask my husband where home is he views it much more black and white than I do, “Home is where my dog is and Max is in Montreal”. For me though it’s far more grey. I have spent all of my life in Scotland and I am ridiculously proud to be Scottish. My family are in Scotland, we still own a home there and I do believe that one day we will return there, but yet right now it’s not where my life is. You see I don’t live in my house, someone else does. I no longer work in Scotland, someone else now does my job. And for the last 18 months it’s been Montreal that we have spent all of our time in and it’s here that we have created a life for ourselves. Our worldly belongings are here, as Mark rightly points out our dog is here and it’s here that we go to bed each night and wake each day. Our life is here. Yet a few times when I was back and ‘slipped’ and described Montreal as “home” someone would correct me and say, “It’s not home, this is your home”. But is it? At the time I laughed it off, “Of course this [Scotland] is home” feeling almost guilty that I would feel anything else, but it did make me think, what is it that constitutes “home”?

The dictionary definition states that home is, “the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household”  but reality is more complicated than that. In the last year I have only spent 2 weeks in Scotland and I’m not sure when I’ll next be back but to me Scotland will always be home, regardless of how long I’m gone from it; I will always be proud to say I’m Scottish. But, at the moment I don’t live there and my life is in Montreal. I haven’t grown up here, and I don’t have the same memories here that I do in Scotland but I do live here and I do love it and we have made it our home. So maybe for now I can be greedy and call both Scotland and Canada home? Maybe I don’t have to choose? Montreal is home because I live here, my husband is here, I have great friends here and my life at the moment is here but Scotland will also always be home as my family and oldest friends are there and Scotland will always have my heart. This is both a blessing and a curse, something which I think this quote (Author unknown); one of my favourite quotes, sums up perfectly.

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A Flying Visit To Toronto

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to visit Toronto but until recently the closest I’d gotten was a Tim Horton’s on the outskirts of the city that we stopped at when driving to Niagara Falls. Thankfully this has now been rectified and last month I got to spend a rather lovely, if very brief, couple of days there. The main purpose of our trip was to attend the Beyoncé concert at the Rogers Centre but whilst there we tried to see as much as possible of this beautiful city.

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We booked a very cute and quirky Air B’n’B to stay in, a loft apartment just outside of Chinatown, which worked out much cheaper than the Downtown hotels and was perfect for our very flying one night visit.

We travelled by train, which also worked out a cheaper option, as because we booked in advance we managed to get saver tickets so paid $44 each way/pp. I would highly recommend travelling by train if going from Montreal to Toronto. The journey takes around 4 hours 45 mins- 5 hours 30mins depending on which train you get. It’s straight forward, comfortable, was on time, has excellent wifi and a good and reasonably priced food and drink trolley.(It’s pretty much the polar opposite experience of public transport in the UK)  It also saves the hassle of traffic, which is notoriously bad around Toronto, and finding city centre parking both of which can really eat into both your budget and exploring time in the city.

The Distillery District

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We travelled early on the Wednesday morning and arrived in Toronto around 11am.Our first stop was one which had been recommended to us by a few people, the Distillery District. It took around 30 minutes to walk here from Union station and was a really lovely place to spend a couple of hours wandering around. The former site of the Gooderham &Worts Distillery, it closed; after 153 years of production, in 1990. It then had a ten year spell as the number one film location in Canada (over 1700 films were filmed here) before being lovingly restored and opening again in its new guise in 2003. The exteriors of the buildings have had an authentic restoration to their original state while the interiors have a fully modern feel, hosting a hub of restaurants, shops, galleries and theatres.

 

El Catrin

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We were very fortunate to be given restaurant recommendations by two good friends who previously lived in the city. One of these recommendations was for El Catrin which they advised us was the best Mexican food they had ever had, and since we both love Mexican food we couldn’t pass up trying this so El Catrin became our first food and drink stop of the trip and a highly worthy recommendation it was. It is based in the heart of the Distillery District and has a beautiful outside terrace which thankfully the weather permitted us to try out. I went for a nosey inside and it is just as beautiful inside too, with an exquisitely detailed huge mural on the wall, so somewhere worth a visit come rain or shine.el catrin 2 They state that their speciality  is authentic and modern Mexican cuisine and they are indeed masters at this. Mango Margaritas for me and Cuban Mojitos for my other half went down far too easily. I would highly recommend the guacamole and homemade tortilla chips to start, they make it right in front of you so there’s no doubting it’s freshness. I love guacamole, really love it. I have developed a slight obsession with it over the last few months and few live up to my high expectations but this was absolutely delicious. I then had huevos rancheros and the other half had a combo of a quinoa and smoked corn salad and pork tacos. We were both extremely happy with our dishes and were so full that we actually ended up having to miss our dinner plans that night as we couldn’t fit anything else in even hours later.

We spent the afternoon after our feast at El Catrin wandering around the city and admiring the beautiful architecture and quirky landmarks. The very North American, modern style of downtown Toronto differs greatly from that of Montreal which is much more European in style, and it’s a thriving bustling city so it was nice to just wander around and soak up the atmosphere.

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That evening we ventured to the home of the Toronto Blue Jays, The Rogers Centre to see Beyoncé’s  Formation World Tour. The show was just as you would expect, big, bold and brilliant. Queen Bey is a professional and she certainly knows how to put on a show.

360 restaurant – CN Tower

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The next morning we spent some time shopping before getting caught in a torrential downpour on our way to lunch at the 360 restaurant in the CN Tower. Not the most glamorous of ways to arrive at a nice restaurant, but a quick change of clothes in the toilet and an attempt to dry my hair under the hand drier (not an easy task for the curly haired amongst us) and we were good to sample what one of Toronto’s most famous restaurants had to offer. The 360 restaurant is based just over 350 metres high, at the top of the CN Tower and provides a beautiful 360 degree revolving view of the city of Toronto. It serves what they describe as fresh market Canadian cuisine. It’s a bit pricey, there’s no denying that. The lunch prix fixe menu offers 2 courses for $55 or 3 courses for $69. (and that’s before you buy a drink, pay tax or tip) but as long as you purchase two courses you receive complimentary entry to the observation deck which in itself costs $45 to access so if you look at it like this you’re really getting a two course lunch for around $16 (plus tax) so it suddenly doesn’t seem so bad.

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I also think that the view from the restaurant is even more impressive than the view from the observation deck. When we first took our seats the view was largely clouded over (the aftermath of my soaking earlier) but as we ate and revolved around the tower the clouds cleared and we were lucky enough to get some absolutely beautiful views. It’s a very romantic setting and the restaurant was very quiet whilst we were there which added to the ambience, not sure if it would feel quite as special if it were full. The food was also incredibly good.

I had the vegetarian option, a Manitoba barley and buffalo mozzarella savoy cabbage roll which was delicious and so flavoursome. Mark had the Alberta prime rib of beef with a sour cream and horseradish mash, asparagus and a natural jus and he was extremely pleased with this. For desert I had the dark chocolate lava cake which was the perfect amount of richness and very tasty (though I have to say my Mum’s version of this is better, but she’s hard to beat) and Mark had the strawberry and pistachio pavlova which was also delicious.

We really enjoyed the food, the views and the whole atmosphere of the restaurant. I especially liked the fact that we weren’t rushed at all but even after we’d paid the cheque no one seemed to mind us sitting for a while longer enjoying the beautiful views, again though I cant be sure this would be the case were the restaurant full. We visited the observation deck and the glass floor before making our way out of the tower; stuffed and happy, and heading for the tea time train back to Montreal.

We both thoroughly enjoyed our flying visit to Toronto, though despite not stopping at all whilst we were there we didn’t get through even half of what we wanted to see and do. I guess we’ll just have to make sure we visit again soon (and for longer next time) to tick off the rest of our Toronto to do list. If there’s anything you think we should make sure to check out on our next visit there please make sure to let me know 🙂

 

 

 

 

Home Is Where Your Heart Is

Homesickness, it’s a funny thing. It’s hard to describe exactly what it is. Sometimes it’s a fleeting notion that you wish you were somewhere or were with someone. Other times it’s a physical ache, for a person or a place. Sometimes it lasts just a few seconds, maybe brought on by seeing a Facebook post, a familiar smell, the mention of someone’s name. Other times it can last for days. Homesickness tends to have very negative connotations. It’s something that people are often ashamed of but to be homesick you have to have something, or more likely someone, back home that you love very much, and what’s the shame in that? That makes you very, very lucky.

Before I arrived in Montreal homesickness terrified me. I thought that if there was any reason why this move wouldn’t work out, homesickness would be it. I suspect a few people at home thought the same, ‘They’ll be back in 6 months, she’ll miss her Mum and Dad too much.’ and I can’t blame them, I wondered myself if this would be the case. Yet a year later and we’re still here and yet, yes I do miss them, I miss them terribly. But where I have surprised myself is that for the most part I am able to rationalise my homesickness.

Don’t get me wrong there are days when I find myself in tears, and my poor confused husband asks me what’s wrong, only to be met with a sobbing “I just want to go to my Mum and Dad’s for a cup of tea.” But in spite of these slightly irrational breakdowns I do know that I’m in a wonderful situation and that I’ve been given an amazing opportunity which I shouldn’t waste. I also know that my Mum and Dad are happy to see us happy. That’s a parent’s goal right? I’m not one myself but I think if your kids are happy then you know you’ve done a good job. Mine did a wonderful job, they are amazing parents, hence why I miss them so much. So even though I miss them terribly I do know I’ve done the right thing. I also know that the time I spend with them means so much more to me now. I truly value every minute I have with them, and this can said for my best friends too.

I will never again take for granted a catch up with a friend over a cup of coffee or nipping to my Mum and Dad’s for my dinner. I value every minute of the time I get with them. It might be much less frequent these days but at least it is now quality time. Last summer when my Mum and Dad visited I got to spend two weeks with them, a full two weeks! I would never have had that opportunity were I still back at home. This year when they visit I’m meeting them in Toronto and travelling to Niagara Falls with them, something I would also never have got the opportunity to do if I was still at home. Creating these wonderful memories with them is what gets me through the hard days. Because despite my rationalising, some days are still hard.

What I have found very surprising is that I can be homesick on a good day. Homesickness and happiness are not mutually exclusive and I didn’t expect this. I assumed the days I would be homesick would be the days when I’d had a bad day here  or  when I didn’t have much on but I can have had a lovely day, had great company all day and still have moments of homesickness. Because being homesick does not necessarily mean you’re unhappy. I’m incredibly happy here. I really do love my life here but there are still times when I miss home. When I talk about being homesick I seldom mean the place, I do love Scotland and to me it will always be ‘home’ but I don’t really miss it per se, other than living beside the beach, I do miss the beach, but for me it’s the people that I’m homesick for, my family and best friends.

I realise though how fortunate I am to be living abroad in today’s modern times where technology definitely makes it easier than it would have been, even as little as 5 years ago. It really is an amazing thing that there are now so many ways to keep in touch – WhatsApp, Facebook, Viber, Skype and the person that created FaceTime, well I will always be in their debt. As through FaceTime I was able to meet my best friend’s new baby when she was just a couple of hours old, I’ve watched a friend get married, I’ve been at baby showers, hen weekends and birthdays.  I have however still missed not being physically there for the big things, these important events that, if there wasn’t an ocean separating me, I would never ever miss. But as hard as missing all of these milestones is, they’re other people’s milestones, not ours. Realising this was one of my hardest hurdles to get over to begin with. Although the big things are so important, I also miss the small things. The cuppas with my Mum, the Sunday dinners with my family, the impromptu lunches and drinks and coffees with friends. Moving the year that I and my friends turned 30 probably made things a little harder as well. I missed being there for so many friends birthday celebrations and not having my family or friends here to celebrate with me when I turned 30 was also hard.

Being so far away inevitably forces you to re-evaluate the relationships you have back home and some of our relationships sadly probably won’t survive this move, at least not in the way they once were. But you know as hard as it’s been to realise that, I have accepted it now. This is just the way of the world, people change and people move on and for some people out of sight is out of mind. But those who are meant to be part of our journey for the long term will be and the distance separating us won’t ever change that. Our family will always be our family and our best friends will always be our best friends.

The relationships I have with the little people in my life are also very important to me, my beautiful nieces and nephews, both those that are family and those that aren’t. I love them all and being apart from them brings a different type of homesickness entirely. They change so much every week and the differences in them from one month to another astound me and not being there to see them grow is tough. The fear that they won’t remember me or worse still that the littlest ones will never know me to begin with is hard to take.

When we went home for a visit at Christmas, having been in Canada for seven months at this point I went to visit a very good friend and her two little boys. One of whom I was meeting for the first time as he had been born while I was away but the other is 3 and before I left he lovingly called me Auntie Dawn and was my loyal little playmate. I wondered on the drive over there, with a lump in my throat, if he would even know who I was anymore. After all, 7 months is a long time when you’re 3!  Well thankfully I needn’t have worried as he ran down the stairs and straight into my arms giving me the tightest squeeze of I think anyone I met on my trip home, before proceeding to play as if he’d seen me the day before. The relief I felt that I could pick back up my relationship with this special little man I can’t even describe. But I do know this won’t always be the case. There will be times I’ll visit home and these little people won’t know who I am. I do know though that their wonderful mummies who tirelessly send me photos and videos of them  will make sure they know their Auntie Dawn loves them, even if she doesn’t get to see them as often as she’d like.

Not being there when people need you, whether it’s for good reasons or bad, is the hardest type of homesickness and at these times I can feel every single one of the 3000 miles separating me from them. There’s a part of me that I’m sure will, in a way, never forgive myself for having this adventure and so putting ourselves first –  and in doing so leaving my parents at home, missing special birthdays, friends weddings, babies being born and not being there to support our families and friends when they need us. Because as wonderful as technology is, it can’t let you be a shoulder to cry on, or give someone a hug and there are times when a FaceTime just doesn’t cut it. I’m sure that the thought of having let people down by our selfishness of moving away, is something I won’t easily forget. You see moving away does makes you selfish, just by the act of doing it in the first place, and by knowing that realistically you can’t just hop on a plane whenever someone needs you, despite how much you may want to.

Here again I have to force myself to rationalise or the guilt this brings will eat me alive. I have to hope that all of this is worth it. That one day I’ll be able to tell my grandchildren about when Gran and Papa moved to Canada and all of the adventures we had here. And I hope that they’ll be proud of us, because I’m proud of us. I’m proud of us for trying it and even more so for making it work. I hope that wherever we are in the world by that point, be it Scotland, Canada or somewhere else entirely, that we will have given ourselves and subsequently one day our children, a better life because of the experience we had here and the people we became as a result and so for that I hope that the homesickness and the events and people we miss will have been worth it.

 

 

Easter Weekend In Boston

There’s something about a road trip that really excites me. Getting in a car with someone whose company you enjoy (it goes without saying that this is a prerequisite for a road trip), chatting about life and nonsense, and watching the countryside change as you drive towards a new destination, I have just always found it so enjoyable. So on Easter weekend we (the other half and I) hired a car and set off for Boston, Massachusetts. Boston has always been somewhere I’ve wanted to visit, having heard nothing but positive things about it (and also as a kid being completely in love with the TV show Ally McBeal. In my defence there was a dancing baby, what’s not to love?!) A relatively quick five and a half hours drive (plus an hours wait to cross the Border from Canada into the US) and we arrived in Somerville Massachusetts. Somerville is around two miles from the centre of Boston but definitely easier on the bank balance to stay in. It was around 30 minutes on the T (Boston’s public transport system) from there to Downtown Boston or around $10-$15 in a taxi, so very accessible.

I often find that by not making too many plans when visiting a city and instead just taking a walk and seeing where you end up, going a little off the beaten track or in this case the tourist track, is when you discover the real city. I also have no shame in admitting that ‘people watching’ in a little cafe/bar with a glass of wine is one of my favourite pastimes wherever I am in the world. However, we had waited a long time to visit Boston and as this was our first trip there we did want to hit the tourist spots as well so I figured that this time a little research was called for. So where do you begin? Well, recommendations from friends who have visited previously is always a good start, especially if it’s people who know you well, so you can almost guarantee that you’ll enjoy the things they recommend. So for your recommendations ladies I am very grateful.

We managed to fit a lot into our 4 days in Boston (with an adequate amount of aimless wandering and people watching thrown in) but I won’t bore you with our full itinerary, instead here are the highlights that if you’re visiting I would recommend.

Harpoon Brewery

boston 15 harpoonNow you may have gathered already, I’m no beer drinker. However Harpoon succeeded in doing something my husband has tried for years to do, find a beer I could actually face drinking. Enter the UFO Big Squeeze Shandy – a sweet grapefruit shandy which was more than just drinkable, I actually enjoyed it, which from this beerphobe is high praise. The tour itself (very reasonably priced at $5USD) was informative and interesting, even to a non beer drinker (well until that day) like myself. Though the section at the end of the tour where you can try free samples of all of Harpoon’s beer and cider offerings was definitely the highlight for most. You can’t book tickets for the tour before the day of so I would definitely advise heading there early on. We went to the brewery around an hour after it’s opening time and were able to walk right onto the next tour slot however by the time we had completed the tour and had a beer and a pretzel (an absolute must) in the food hall, the tours for the remainder of the day were all fully booked and there was a long queue outside just to access the food hall and shop.

Quincy Market

Quincy Market, in Downtown Boston was somewhere that came up repeatedly in everyone’s recommendations and rightly so. The building itself, first built in 1824  is just beautiful. In 1976 it was reopened as part of the new Faneuil Hall Marketplace and this is how it remains today, as a bustling market hall full of restaurants and food stalls selling a smorgasbord of tasty treats. We could have eaten at every one of the food stalls, the smells coming from each of them were so magnificent however we  finally settled on sampling pizza from Regina Pizzeria which turned out to be some of the best pizza we have ever tasted. I suspect though we would have been hard pushed to find a bad choice.

 

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Cheers Bar

One section of Quincy Market is dedicated to a replica of the famous set from the TV sitcom Cheers. The place where everybody knows your name. Is it a little cheesy? Yes. Did we care? No. In fact we thoroughly enjoyed a couple of hours one afternoon working our way through the wine and beer offerings. We were fortunate enough to be joined at the bar by three local men whose witty banter could easily have rivalled that of Norm and Cliff, leaving us to wonder if we had indeed walked onto the actual set. Sadly though Sam and Carla were nowhere to be found.

 

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Harvard University

We spent a beautiful sunny Easter Sunday morning wandering around the picturesque campus of Harvard University in the Cambridge area of Massachusetts. The buildings were just as stunning as they appear in the movies (Legally Blonde and Good Will Hunting were both partly filmed there). The main area of the campus covers a whopping 209 acres of land. It has a lovely, laid back, friendly vibe to it, which if I’m honest rather surprised me. The cynic in me wondered if it might be a little pretentious but it was far from it and our morning here ended up being my favourite part of the whole trip. We managed, rather fortunately (and a little cheekily) to join part of a tour of the grounds that was happening for future prospective students and the guide, a student of Harvard herself, was very informative and entertaining. I couldn’t help being a little envious of these future Harvard students. I wonder if it’s too late to go back to university….

Mamma Maria restaurant

boston 6 mamma mariaMamma Maria was a recommendation we received from a friend and with being voted #6 on Trip Advisor’s best restaurants in Boston (at the time of our visit) it was definitely worthy of the recommendation. An authentic Italian delight hidden away in Boston’s North End (literally hidden away, we almost missed our reservation  as we couldn’t find the place). Once we did find the cobblestoned North Square where it resides, it was worth the wait. The restaurant has five private dining rooms, giving it a very intimate atmosphere. Reservations are definitely recommended as there wasn’t a free table on the night we visited. The staff were attentive, the wine was good and the food delicious – three huge ticks from me. I had a mushroom ravioli which practically melted in my mouth. Desert of a super rich chocolate torte with fresh raspberries and cherries was worth every one of the I’m sure thousand calories it cost me and Mark’s caramel apple tart looked equally delicious (and equally calorific, as all the best things in life inevitably are). Although definitely a nice, classy restaurant, (somewhere worthy of  making an effort for) it wasn’t overpriced and we were actually surprised at quite how reasonable the bill was. Within walking distance there are also plenty of lovely cosy wine bars for a few after dinner drinks which was an added bonus.

So, did Boston live up to our [high] expectations? ….Yes, 110%! We both fell completely in love with the city. I use the term city loosely as although it is indeed clearly a city, in fact it’s the largest city in Massachusetts and the 24th largest city in the whole of the US, it didn’t really feel like a city. Much like Montreal there was none of the hustle and bustle you often find in other cities, like New York and London. I wonder if this could be due to the fact that Boston, like Montreal,  is made up of many different individual distinct neighbourhoods. In fact Boston has 23 designated neighbourhoods, all with their own unique selling points. A local taxi driver, very aptly described Boston to us as “the biggest small town in North America” and this seemed to sum it up perfectly – it did feel much more like a small town, which welcomed us, very warmly, with open arms. Until next time Boston.