a partly cloudy week: part one

A couple of days ago I began a rather long blog post about my week last week, touring Boston and its environs with the inlaws. I've since broken that post down into sections, separating my wordy recap of the week by days. Here's Monday.


It's officially summer around here. Not in the summer equinox/first-day-of-summer way, but in the sense that both Neal and I are now finished with school for the year. We kicked off our four months (nearly) of freedom with a weeklong visit from Neal's mom and brother, dragging them to local tourist traps and day-tripping up and down the Massachusetts shoreline.

We began our tour on Monday with Boston's Freedom Trail. Neal and I had completed this roughly 2 1/2 mile loop through historic Boston before, when we visited the city as official tourists back in October '03. The costumed man outside the visitor's center, who tried to coax us into paying $12 for the guided version, assured us we still look like tourists. Along the trail I noticed a number of things I seem to have missed the first time, like pretty much all of School Street. A Ruth's Chris steakhouse fills what used to be the original Latin High School, now near the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in the Fenway district. Near where you can now fill your belly with a juicy (and expensive) steak, I took a picture of this bronze statue of the Democratic Donkey:

We stopped for lunch at Faneuil Hall (named after the French-descended wealthy 18th century merchant, Peter Faneuil, the name is now pronounced like "Nathaniel" but without the "Na" and replacing the "th" sound with "f"...not according to French phonetics, which I tried during my first couple of visits...fanoy?). We considered the many marketplace options, but limited seating led us to be suckered in to the restaurant that claims to be a recreation of the "Cheer's" bar (the building that was actually filmed for the exterior shots in the sitcom is closer to where we started our walk in the Boston Commons area). And that's literally all it is. The restaurant is composed of a bunch of generic tables and chairs surrounding a square bar that does indeed resemble the bar in the show...and countless other establishments, I'm sure. On the wall is plenty o' Cheer's paraphernalia and memorabilia and stuff. It's worth one visit for the souvenir mug you can get for ten bucks, with beer, a bit less than what they're charging in the nearby gift store.

I don't know how I missed the impressive and very moving holocaust memorial the first time around. This time we walked through the six towers representing different concentration camps, the glass walls etched with numbers for each of the six million victims. Eerily, steam rises through the glass towers from metal grates in the ground. I have to give Neal credit for this image.

We stopped at Mike's Pastry in the North End, satisfying my weeks-long craving for ice cream, and picked up a half-pound of various Italian cookies for later. The gelato was good but I wasn't terribly impressed with the cookies (or the service, for that matter, but I guess abrasive is what tourists have come to expect and masochistically enjoy here in Boston). I'd go back for the canoli, though. Nearby is this Modern Pastry storefront, which I thought looked out of place amidst the narrow brick buildings and window boxes full of pansies until I learned that the bakery dates back to the 1930s, long before this look became retro.

Near the Old North Church (or was it the New Old North Church? I get confused...) I became fixated on this squirrel, as if I'd never seen one before. I took several pictures of him in this tree behind the gift shop near the church. Likewise, in the Copp's Hill Burying Ground, I must have taken half-a-dozen shots of the pansies growing out of this old fountain, trying to get a glimpse of the waterfront in the background, visible just above the flowers. I think Neal may have actually taken this image, explaining the difference between zoom and just getting real close.

The USS Constitution was closed, something we missed the first time around as well. From the end of the Freedom Trail in Charlestown we took the ferry to the aquarium area (here's Neal on the boat), catching an IMAX presentation of "Wild Safari" before stuffing our bellies at nearby Legal Sea Foods. That night we watched "Proof" on DVD, industriously adding another title to my summer film series. I thought it was pretty good. There were some really odd and quite funny bits near the beginning - little exchanges between Gwyneth Paltrow's character and her sister after their father dies. My attention faded ever so slightly with the unfolding of the proof mystery itself. It's kinda like that other movie Paltrow was in ("Possession," I think it was called), about discovering those old love letters or whatever with Aaron Eckhart - ultimately, even though you know on some level that it's important stuff, to somebody at least, it's hard to really care much about the very specialized topic at the center of the plot. But, you know, Jake Gyllenhall's hot. Hotter, possibly, than Aaron Eckhart.

But I digress...check back later for Tuesday and beyond.

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