1. My wife and I were in Boston recently for just three days in early April, Friday through Sunday, to see our son perform in a tournament for college a cappella, put on at Northeastern University. He is a first year student at the University of Chicago and his group is called Voices in Your Head, whom you see here. We went to performances Friday and Saturday nights and then did some sightseeing during the day time. We had both been to the Boston area several times, but it had been a long time, so we saw some of the main tourist sites with fresh eyes.
2. Since we wanted to be in easy walking distance to the Northeastern campus, we chose to stay at Midtown Hotel, which is right across from the Christian Science Center. Founded by Mary Baker Eddy in the late 1800s, it is still the world headquarters for the denomination. In warmer months, there would be a fountain going here. ... The Midtown Hotel worked out well for us. It was just a block away from a convenient subway stop, Symphony, on one of the green lines. The Midtown is on the western edge of the Back Bay/South End area of Boston. It was quiet, with a grocery within a five minute walk, and was relatively low cost compared to other nearby downtown hotels.
3. On Sunday morning, I wandered into the Christian Science church just to take a look as they were ready to begin their 10:00 service. The greeters were very welcoming to me, even when I made it clear I just wanted to take a look around. I stayed long enough to hear this magnificent organ - one of the largest in the world - play a few songs before their service began.
4. My wife likes to sleep in longer than I do and then have a more leisurely start to her day. So all three days, I did some sightseeing in the mornings and then joined her for lunch later on, before we did things together in the afternoon. Having such easy access to "the T," the subway system, made such planning easy. One morning, I walked to the Prudential building. For $15, you can go up 50 stories to see Boston from high up. This is definitely worth a half hour of your time if you want to get a feel for how the city is laid out. This is looking west. The Museum of Fine Arts is to the left of the open grassy area you see here in the center. If we had a fourth day, this is where we would likely have spent some time. ... You can see Fenway Park to the far right.
5. And here's a closeup of Fenway, where the Red Sox play. I saw a game there long ago - it was fun to see the oldest major league stadium and its legendary "green monster" left field fence. You can do tours of Fenway, without reservations necessary - they're done daily, on the hour.
6. We thought "the T," the subway system, was easy to use, relatively clean, and safe. The many lines made it easy to zip around quickly. We are from the Chicago suburbs - and wish the city of Chicago had such an easy way to get around. We ended up paying $18 for a week long pass, which is really quite a bargain for as often as we used it. I think it's $2.50 for a one time use, but you can hop from one line to another without an additional charge.
7. At the Copley T station is Trinity Church, which you see here. I had never been inside before, so this was a priority for me. It's a relatively small church, but, wow, it is stunning inside! I highly recommend doing their hour long tour if you love architecture.
8. This church is routinely voted as one of America's most beautiful buildings and once inside, you can easily see why. This Episcopal church was built in the 1870s and was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson. The interior is just so very different than most church interiors - instead of light colored marble, it uses a rich mix of darker earth tones to create an entirely different feel. I loved it - it's the most beautiful American church I have ever seen.
9. I don't know too much about stained glass, but our guide said that people come from all over the world to study the various motifs represented by the styles used. I could definitely see that the styles were unique, like the use of the green leaves you see here in this set of panels.
10. The same morning I toured Trinity Church, I took a brief stroll through the Boston Public Library, which is right across the street. It was the first free public library in the United States. You can see the Prudential building behind the library, which I mentioned earlier for their 50th floor observatory.
11. The interior of the library has all sorts of architectural wonders, including the abundant marble you see here. There are also many painted murals, most of which tell biblical stories.
12. Bates Hall and its high barrel-vaulted ceiling is such an inviting place to do some reading. I lingered in this room for quite a while, just soaking up its ambience.
13. In one of the rooms in the Boston library, there are many old maps on display - most of them show Boston over various time periods. But this globe from the late 1400s - the oldest surviving example of a terrestrial globe, called the "earth apple" by its designer, Martin Behaim of Germany - certainly caught my eye. It shows that not everybody back then thought that the earth was flat.
14. One of the things that makes walking tours of Boston so very scenic is the ever present juxtaposition of old buildings and newer skyscrapers. This is the steeple of First Baptist church, still within Back Bay, just a couple blocks away from Trinity Church.
15. This is taken from the Prudential building, looking toward the Old Boston area. You can see the Public Garden with its lagoon and the Boston Common, right next to it, with its expansive open space. The capitol building and its gold dome can be seen to the left.
16. The many willow trees in the Public Garden were just beginning to leaf out. The Lagoon Bridge can be see to the right in the background. In warmer months, you can ride on the famous swan boats - they have been in operation since the 1870s.
17. Right next to the lagoon are these ducks, based on "Make Way for Ducklings," the children's book by Robert McCloskey. We were there just a week after Easter and somebody had decorated them accordingly. ... Looks to me like the mom is quite proud of her babies!
18. Boston Common is an expansive area right in the heart of Boston where people can just hang out, soak up the sun, and in our case that day, hope for warmer weather! It was pretty nippy while we were there, with highs struggling to make it out of the 40s.
19. A group of college-aged kids were playing quidditch, a popular sport showcased in the Harry Potter books and movies. I had never seen this before, so I lingered for a bit, trying to figure out what rules they might be applying. Not having read the books (I know, I'm probably the last remaining American to be able to say that), I couldn't really figure out what they were trying to accomplish, but they seemed to be enjoying the game immensely.
20. This is the Massachusetts State House, the capitol. I really wanted to peek inside, but I got there too late on Friday and it wasn't open on weekend days. Arggghh .... next time, I guess.
21. Right at the edge of the Boston Common, across the street from the State House is this Shaw Memorial, which memorializes the Mass. 54th infantry - made up all black troops during the Civil War. If you have seen the movie "Glory," you'll have an appreciation for what all these men sacrificed.
22. This is Old South Meeting House, one of many stops my wife and I did on the Freedom Trail. It's in the heart of the modern city - as you can see here - which is true of many of the Revolutionary War period stops.
23. Old South Meeting House was the site for many fiery speeches in the 1770s protesting British taxation. There are historical displays along the perimeter. Like many of the Freedom Trail buildings, there is a small charge to enter. Most are in the $5-8 range. You can also buy a combination ticket if you know you are going to be doing most of the buildings.
24. We didn't make it into King's Chapel on this trip, but we wandered around the connected Burying Ground. It's the oldest cemetery in Boston. My wife and I both enjoy perusing the gravestones of old burial sites, gleaning clues about what life was like hundreds of years ago ... and comparing impressions of the symbolism used on gravestones. Here's a link to the meaning of gravestone inscriptions ...
25. Here's Old State House, a must see if you're doing the Freedom Trail. It's just a few blocks away from Quincy Market, so you easily walk there after enjoying a snack or lunch. I truly enjoy just walking around in Boston ... so much American history carefully preserved. Kudos to the legions of people from Boston who have dedicated so much of their lives to making these important places widely accessible to the public!
26. The Boston Massacre happened near this spot in 1770, where British troops fired into an angry group of Bostonians, killing five. It was one of the key events leading up to the Revolutionary War. John Adams represented the British military in the ensuing trial. ... My wife and I did the hour long tour, given that day by the young lady you see here to the right, who did a very nice job of bringing the key events to life. If you're going to just have time for one Freedom Trail building or tour, I would recommend this one.
27. A closeup of the facade from Old State House, showing off British symbols - the lion and the unicorn. The originals were burned in the 1770s by angry patriots, but these replicas were put back later on. The British government used the Old State House as the center of its Massachusetts presence for many years. The building has had quite a variety of uses since then. A very interesting place!
28. Faneuil Hall is famous for being the "Cradle of Liberty," a gathering place in the 1760s and later. Samuel Adams once gave a fiery speech there, urging Americans to rebel against oppressive British rule. ... Now, the first floor is set up with retail shops. We didn't do it this time, but the second floor has rangers available who do a presentation on the history of Faneuil Hall.
29. Here's Samuel Adams, in front of Faneuil Hall.
30. Quincy Market is right next to Faneuil Hall. It has dozens of eateries, arranged in a long row, sort of like a permanent "taste of Boston."
31. Quincy Market draws close to 15 million people a year, and it seems that all of them showed up the day we were there! It was quite crowded ... and one vender said it gets FAR more crowded during the summer time. But I wouldn't let that stop you. Walking up and down the long corridor is a feast for the senses - wonderful smells and carefully displayed foods.
32. There is seating in the center - on two levels - but it was tough to find a seat. Nevertheless, with so many eating options all under one roof, if you're with a larger group, everybody will find something delicious to eat there.
33. Quincy Market is off to the right in this photo, with Faneuil Hall - and its golden dome - in the center right background. There are many shops on either side of Quincy Market, with the inevitable street performers. The juggler you see here in the center was just getting started ... and was quite entertaining. This is a great place for a family to just hang out for a few hours, with the diversity of eating opportunities and shopping all in such a central place, with many interesting diversions within easy walking distance.
34. Just a quick stroll east of Quincy Market gets you to Boston Harbor. You're certainly not going to get sandy beaches or waves here, but it still makes for an interesting walk. You can also schedule harbor cruises here or book a whale watch. We have done several whale watches before in various locales. The ones that go out from Boston take about three hours and it takes about an hour ride out on the ocean to get to where the humpbacks are ... and cost about $40-50 per person. If you have never done a whale watch before, I highly recommend it. We didn't have time on this trip, but with another day, we likely would have scheduled one.
35. I have been to the New England Aquarium three times over various time periods of my life ... and I never tire of it. The central tank is currently being renovated, so there's some construction going on inside - thus, the admission is currently discounted slightly. But the exhibits that spiral upward around the perimeter of the central tank are just wonderful. I am a high school biology teacher in Chicago's western suburbs, and I adore aquariums. The aquarium is a short stroll down from the Quincy Market area, so it's not the least bit difficult to get to. ... This touch tank is always popular with children.
36. A sea horse, always fun to see!
37. And who isn't mesmerized by jellies' graceful movements?!
38. ... OK, back to the Freedom Trail, now in the North End of Boston - about a ten minute walk from Quincy Market. It's in an area rich with Italian restaurants and interesting shops. It's worth a stroll, even if you're not particularly into American history. ... This is Paul Revere's house, which was originally built almost three hundred years ago. You can tour the interior, which gives a nice look at what life was like in 1700s Boston.
39. Here's Paul Revere Mall and Old North church in the background. Quintessential Boston!
40. Old North Church ... free admission (with donation hoped for) and a very informative eight minute history given every half hour or so. The church is famous for its part in Paul Revere's midnight ride, where he had arranged for the steeple to show either one or two lanterns, depending on how the British would be moving toward the countryside toward Lexington and Concord. The pew boxes you see here - common in many local historical churches - housed a particular family. Each family rented the pew box on an annual basis and they could decorate them as they pleased. The boxes held a heated rock or brick, since the church had no central heating and the box's walls prevented drafts from carrying your heat away.
41. Just a block away from Old North Church is Copp's Hill Burying Ground, another very old cemetery (by American standards, anyway!) ... a great place to stroll and contemplate what life might have been like several hundred years ago. ... Be sure to look across the street for the thinnest house you could imagine! Legend has it that the house was built (shortly after the civil war) with the main purpose of one brother trying to block the sunlight and view of a hated brother who he felt had built his house in a way that left him only a tiny shred of property, not enough to build on. He did anyway, just to upset his brother! It's only about ten feet wide at the most. Pretty amazing to see ... for some reason that I cannot fathom, I did not take a photo of it that day, although both my wife and I commented on it. Do a Google images search, using "Boston skinny house," and you'll see images of it.
42. You can continue walking in the North End area back toward North Station - in the same building where the Celtics and Bruins play. On the way, you will get this close up view of the Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge.
43. I am a Chicago Bulls fan, so it felt a bit like stepping into enemy territory to enter the Boston Garden, where the Celtics (and Bruins) play. You can arrange for tours of the stadium itself if you are a Celtics or Bruins fan - it was closed while I was there. When I was in my 20s, back in the 1980s, I was a huge Larry Bird fan, so I just wanted to take a peek inside to reminisce a bit about his basketball wizardry.
44. OK, time to continue our walking tour. This shot was taken from the Prudential building. You can see the suspension bridge from two images ago in the upper center. From there, we walked back toward the Boston Common, going through the Beacon Hill neighborhood, delighting in its gentle hills and cobbled streets. Then we walked westward through the Back Bay area, down the boulevard you can see in the center of the photo, angled toward the lower left corner. It's just so interesting to see the historic row houses.
45. Here's Louisburg Square - in Beacon Hill - built in the 1840s, once Boston's most desirable address. John Kerry lives in this square.
46. I am a fairly serious gardener, so it's always interesting to me to see how people in urban areas, like here in Back Bay, use limited space to express themselves and carve out tiny spaces of tranquility.
47. Also in Back Bay ... With our three days in Boston being in early April, a few trees were just beginning to leaf out ... and some daffodils were in bloom.
48. Here's a look at Back Bay's Commonwealth Avenue (shot from the Prudential building), with its wide boulevard ...
49. ... Makes for a very pleasant stroll, with some interesting statues to ponder along the way.
50. I just marvel at the wealth of top colleges and universities in the Boston area. Among others, are: Harvard, MIT, Tufts, Boston University, Boston College, Radcliffe, Northeastern ... and several top tier music schools, such as Berklee School of Music, just a short walk from our hotel. Berklee is noted for its jazz studies.
51. I went for a solo Sunday morning stroll toward the Charles River, just to see what might delight my camera (by the way, I use a digital SLR, a Nikon D7000 ... all these shots were taken with an 18-135mm lens and processed once home with a program called Aperture, much like Photoshop). There was a fundraiser walk going on for a local rape crisis center. These walkers were about to head over the Massachusetts Ave. Bridge (which leads into Cambridge from Boston).
52. I had been to Boston enough times in the past to know that there would likely be rowers out on a spring Sunday morning ... and I was happy to see right away that they were indeed, there. That's part of the MIT campus in the background, along the Cambridge shore of the Charles River.
53. It's interesting to hang out on the Mass. Ave. bridge and watch the rowers move underneath. It was pretty cool that morning, but they looked like they were working up a good sweat.
54. To my pleasant surprise, there were also quite a few sailboats out that Sunday morning, as well.
55. Our son's music commitments were done by Saturday night, so he spent much of Sunday strolling around with us, before we all flew back to Chicago that evening. He really wanted to visit Harvard, so we spent a few hours in Cambridge (easily accessed via the T, on the red line). This is the well known John Harvard statue (the university's founder) in the center of Harvard Yard.
56. Here's Harvard's Memorial Church, as seen from the steps of Widener Library.
57. ... And the ever present buskers of Harvard Square. These guys were playing folk music and I thought they were quite good.
58. Harvard's main bookstore, the Coop. With the chilly early April air, it was great to hang out inside just browsing and trying desperately to keep my bad habit of buying too many books (more than I could ever possibly read!) in check. I was proud of myself - I only bought one book.
59. Well, this was a great little three day getaway for my wife and me! It was wonderful to reconnect with some of our favorite Boston sights and see our son's a cappella group perform.
60. Both Friday and Saturday, professional a cappella groups performed. This is a group called House Jacks. After four years of watching high school a cappella and now a year of collegiate a cappella, it was definitely fun for my wife and me to see what professional musicians do with the genre. ... Well, this image completes this short set of photos. On earlier visits, we have enjoyed the JFK library, a visit to Lexington and Concord, the witches museum at Salem, and a day spent at Martha's Vineyard. ... If you have any questions about what we saw or did, please fire questions at me within the link that got you to this album ... or post a question within this album if you are logged in as a Picasa user. I will try my best to answer your query within a day or two. ... Happy travels! Mike