Two DECADEs later....I finally got to visit the hometown of New Kids on the Block - the objects of my affection during my middle school years. Gah - that makes me feel all kinds of old. Here's a run-down of our travels.
Last Thursday around 7am, we loaded up the Civic (which averaged about 40 mpg all the way to Boston, TYVM) and headed towards Boston/Cambridge, Massachusetts. We started planning this trip back in May when we decided to go see The Swell Season again. I'd always wanted to go to Boston and this sounded like a great excuse, and a perfect time of year.
We anticipated a 12-hour drive, but with bathroom breaks and traffic in on the George Washington Bridge in NYC and then in Connecticut (for noreasonwhatsoever), it ended up taking about 14 hours to get there. We arrived at our wonderful hotel in Cambridge, The Kendall, around 9pm. On our drive through Cambridge, we noticed tons of college students everywhere. Our hotel was in MIT's backyard, but I wasn't expecting such a lively night-life scene for some reason. It seemed cool - we decided it was like a bigger Chapel Hill but with more history. We checked in and crashed for the night. Long day in the car. Zzzzs came easy.
Friday was the day of The Swell Season show and we weren't planning on wearing ourselves out sight-seeing to the point that we'd be dragging come show time. We opted to check out MIT and Harvard since they are both in Cambridge and we wouldn't have to head in to busy Boston just yet. We went to MIT first since it was right behind our hotel. I was impressed - what a great campus. It had this cozy feel to it and you could feel brainwaves of brilliance smacking you in the face every time someone walked past. For some reason, I expected to see adults everywhere - like 30-somethings as if you can only be smart when you're older - so it was odd to see real live 18-21 year olds running around being all smart and nerdy.
We went to the "dome building" (aka: the Maclaurin Buildings), the Student Center, the chapel, and just meandered around trying not look like the tourists that we were. Classes were obviously in session and we found ourselves getting caught up in the current of students rushing to and from class. It's hard to tour a school - I mean, what's there to see besides the landmarks? - and not every school has a landmark. It was fun, though, and I felt like writing (fake) equations everywhere (as if I know any real equations!). My favorite buildings were the MIT Chapel and the Stata Center (even though a dump truck nearly ran over me at the Stata Center).
We hit the student store for some poser MIT gear and had lunch before we headed to Hahhhhvahd. We took our car to Harvard and parked in a parking deck which thought* had $2.00 parking. *Turns out it cost $14 to park for about 2 hours. Sweet! We parked and start walking. The streets aren't nice little square blocks like in NYC and downtown Raleigh (ha) so we used the GPS on our iPhones to find our way to the campus and then used this ancient device called a "paper map" that was in our hotel room to wind our way around campus, bumping into interesting things here and there. I wanted to find the official sign that said "Harvard University" or something to photograph to show where we were, but we had no way of knowing where that was (if one existed) and again, it ain't easy to tour a school. We walked through some fancy gates and were in the middle of one of 2 quads. It felt like Salem. Cozy and historic and smaller than I'd imagined. There was a group of acapella singers performing at the foot of the steps to the Widener Library so we climbed the steps and listened for a little bit. We went to Memorial Chapel as well, but couldn't go in since a service was in progress. From Harvard's Online virtual tour - looks like we missed seeing a gorgeous church. It's easy to forget what a famous school you're standing in the middle of when you're there - it wasn't intimidating in the least and that surprised me because I get intimidated in front of a 5 year old, nevermind the nation's brightest students.
Another surprise, was how nice everyone seemed in Boston and Cambridge. I sensed the students at MIT and Harvard were polite and nice (even though they weren't talking to us). Both schools were a pleasure to tour and were places I would've been right at home in had I gone to either school. It could have been a combination of the great weather, students throwing frisbees, riding bikes, laying in the grass, and singing that made it seem so pleasant and picturesque, but I think it's the feel of the city as a whole. Boston holds a special place in American history and you can tell people are proud and happy to live there.
Speaking of history, our last touristy stop on Friday was the Bunker Hill Monument (a stop on the Freedom Trail). Saturday, we went in to Boston to walk the rest Freedom Trail (most of it) and go to the Aquarium. We took the "T" into the city and got out at Boston Common. We strolled around there and in the Boston Public Gardens for a bit. There was some sort of weed-worshipping concert event going on there so it was sort of annoying to hear from a distance. We decided to get started on the Freedom Trail which officially begins at Boston Common. The trail is cool - it's marked by a double-row of bricks laid into the sidewalks and streets all throughout the city so you really don't need a map as long as you follow the bricks. We did just that, opting to give ourselves a tour rather than paying to follow a guide around in a big group. NO THANKS. We went to the Massachusetts State House, Park Street Church, Old South Meeting House, and the Old North Church to name a few. I was never into history when it was forced on me in high school and college, so I had to ask Seth about the significance of some of these places. It's too bad I didn't care for this stuff when I was a teenager - wish my current self could've told my young self to "pay attention! you'll care about this someday!"
The New England Aquarium = a big ole thumbs down, $40 waste of time and money! I say that only because the one at Fort Fisher is practically identical if not better, was recently renovated, and FREE! It was feeding time for the penguins when we got there, and that was pretty much the highlight of our visit. The New England Aquarium was dirty, old, dark, and overrun with people and obnoxious kids. We probably should've gone on Friday rather than Saturday. Oopsy. We checked the time when we left - we were in there 30 minutes. So my recommendation is if you ever find yourself in Boston - don't go to the Aquarium unless you're bored out of your skull. It's not worth the entry fee IMO.
Walking the Freedom Trail took up most of our day, but it was fun to walk the city and see these landmarks of American History. We took a couple of trains back to our hotel in Cambridge and rested. Neither of us were starved for dinner, so later on in the evening we decided to head down the street to The Cheesecake Factory to have dessert for dinner. It was delish - Dulce de Leche cheesecake is my fave there. We don't usually go out to some crazy-fancy restaurant when we travel to new cities. We probably should and would if we had more time in these places, but for the most part, it doesn't seem worth it usually.
Sunday, we woke up at 6am to head back to Raleigh. Waking up wasn't so fun - I got out of bed and was immediately dizzy or something. I felt like I was leaning to my right like in those old V-8 commercials. It was terrible but I managed to get a shower and pack the rest of my stuff. We put everything in the car, but I was feeling worse and we went to the hotel lobby to sit down. After a little while, we had to go back up to our room (we hadn't checked out yet) because I needed to lay down. I downed some Pepto to settle my tummy, and after about an hour or so I felt ready to hit the road. After all my anxiety from not feeling well, I really had to pee about an hour into the drive. We were still in Massachusetts and took an exit we thought* said "service station" off the Mass Turnpike. It was SO confusing and we didn't see this supposed service station. I ended up going into a CVS and they let me use their employee bathroom which was behind a combination-locked door. ha.
Our next necessary stop was to get gas in Connecticut. As we're exiting, we see people pulled off on the side of the road outside their cars like they are waiting for something. Then this stream of big rig trucks (most without their cargo box) come rolling down the hill (from a FedEx proccessing center). They starting honking their obnoxiously loud horns and we're looking around like we just drove through wet cement and they're trying to get us to MOOOOVE! We couldn't figure out what the deal was. However, we ignored it, got gas and tried to get back on the interstate. No go. Police had blocked the entrance ramp for whatever these trucks were doing. Using the trusty GPS we navigate through the town to another entrance ramp - which we find ALSO blocked. Travellers are pulled over and getting out like WTF? and this nice lady beside us goes to ask the policeman what's going on and when can we get back on the interstate. By the time she gets back, I had googled "truck convoy connecticut" and determined that this was an annual Make-A-Wish event in which 400 (that's not a typo) trucks convoy up and haul it down the highway. GRR! It was highly annoying, but one of those things you felt like the devil complaining about (it being for MAW and all). Still, I thought it highly irresponsible that they had an event that required them to close off all entrance ramps to this major interstate. Had we not had an iPhone on which to google, we would've never known what the deal was. After about 20 mins, our Policeman took off down the ramp for some reason and everyone made a mad dash to the ramp to get on the highway. I took video of part of the convoy (which I'll post later).
We FINALLY made it home around 9pm or so and went to get Three at my parents house. They were nice
enough to dogsit for us and I think she had a good time. I felt like she was giving me the cold shoulder when we got there, but she's back to being loving and sweet and I can't ask for much more. Great trip, would gladly go again, would happily live there, too!