Spending any time in Boston was not part of our original Cape Cod vacation plan, but neither were Lucia and Felicia. Life and travel share many of the same principles, two being the ability to be flexible and the ability to adapt. So when Felicia and Mom expressed how badly they wanted to spend some time in Boston, I had to fight my initial reaction of “no”, and listen to their proposal. And it’s not that I don’t or didn’t want to see Boston; I figured since there is so much to see and do in that city, it warrants a trip of its own. I didn’t want to be rushed and forced to hit all the highlights in a short period of time. Furthermore, I had a hard time justifying any one of us paying for a hotel room on top of what I’d already paid for the condo in Provincetown. Alas, I’ll do anything for my family, so they were able to talk me into leaving Provincetown a day early and spending our last day and a half in Boston.
Felicia offered to pay for a hotel room for the night and found an affordable rate at a Comfort Inn in Woburn, just minutes outside Boston. The woman working the reception desk at the hotel was extremely friendly and helpful, and was able to direct us to inexpensive parking in Boston (we still had the rental car and public parking can be expensive in Boston, just as in Chicago). We parked in a public lot off Seaport Boulevard, near the World Trade Center, for $12. Yes, $12 for the entire day. That’s a steal. Once we parked, though, we honestly had no idea where we were going, so we just started walking. And we walked.
At the top of our “must see” list was Boston’s North End, that city’s own Little Italy neighborhood. All we had was the tourist map given to us by the hotel employee in Woburn. We were able to plot our route but the scale of the map was distorted so we weren’t sure of the distance. Turns out, it’s about two miles from where we started to the North End, but it was an enjoyable walk and didn’t seem to be that far. The route took us through what seemed to be Boston’s financial district, which is dotted with historical markers, so we stopped a few times for pictures and history lessons. When we finally did make it to Hanover Street, the North End’s main drag, I felt as though I were taken back in time. It looked and felt a lot like my neighborhood in Chicago’s Little Italy when I was growing up. The first person we encountered on Hanover Street – this cute, little Italian man – greeted us with a “buon giorno”. I was so happy that I almost cried.
Our first stop was Modern Pastry for some sfogliatelle – yum! Afterward, we weaved our way up and down Hanover Street, stopping in the various shops, talking to some of the locals. The North End also is home to some historical markers, stops on Boston’s Freedom Trail, so we had to take those in. Another highlight was St. Leonard Roman Catholic Church. It looks a lot like my parish church, The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii; it really took me back. We lit some candles and “talked” a bit to Santa Lucia (after whom my daughter is named), and made our way down to Caffe dello Sport for an Aperol spritz.
We could have spent the rest of the day and the entire evening in the North End, but there was so much more to be seen. We turned our focus, and Lucia’s stroller, toward Beacon Street. Our main destination was the Cheers bar, of 1980s-1990s television fame, but the highlight for me was Beacon Street itself: a busy, wide thoroughfare, lined with federal-style rowhouses on one side, and Boston Common and the Boston Public Garden on the other. We stopped in at Cheers, had a decent meal and some beers (no beer for Lucia, though), took the requisite tourist photos, and hopped across the street to the Public Garden.
None of us were prepared for the hilarity about to ensue when we entered the Boston Public Garden. There is a popular children’s book from the 1940s called “Make Way For Ducklings”, wherein a family of ducks makes the Public Garden its home. There now is a statue (or statues) in the Public Garden commemorating the book and the author; it consists of nine bronze statues, one of the mother duck (Mrs. Mallard), followed by a line of her eight ducklings. I was familiar with the book, and I knew the statues were there, but Lucia had never been exposed to the story or the book at all. So when she completely lost her mind upon seeing those statues, we were all shocked into hysterical laughter! Lucia spotted the statues from several feet away. She raised one arm, pointed in the direction of the statues, and began yelling, “Oooooh! Ooooh!” As we got closer to the ducks, she was fighting to get out of her stroller; I couldn’t undo the latches quickly enough! Once she escaped the confines of the stroller, she ran as fast as her chubby little legs would allow over to the statues, where she proceeded to walk up and down in a line and count each duck over and over and over again. After about thirty minutes, when it started getting dark, I said to Lucia, “Ok, it’s time to say goodnight to the ducks.” Without any further prompting, Lucia gave each individual duck a hug. I thought she was finished, but then she looped back around, and again walked up to each duck to give them a kiss! I couldn’t take it – definitely cuteness overload! It was dark, we were tired, so we flagged down a taxi on Beacon Street to take us back to the car.
We were due to fly back home to Chicago the following day (Saturday) but we still had time to kill. Being huge baseball fans, we knew we had to at least SEE Fenway Park. The Red Sox were out of town that weekend so there was no chance to go to a game. It worked out well, though, because traffic around the park was lighter and we were able to find street parking. We walked around the perimeter of the park and checked out all the flags and statues. Of course the experience would have been much more fruitful if we’d been able to go inside Fenway, but it was neat to still be that close to it.
Our time to head to the airport arrived; we bid adieu to Fenway and to Boston, each of us knowing full well that we would be back one day. I thank my mother and my sister for talking me into spending that time in Boston, and for a wonderful vacation. Lucia had a great time, too. She’s my perfect little travel buddy!