I traveled to historic Boston last week to take part in the WITS15 conference (Women in Travel Summit) for travelers, travel professionals, and bloggers. It was a time of firsts for me. My first solo trip not knowing a soul and my first trip as a blogger. Not only had it been twenty three years since I had been to the city of Boston, but it was also the first time in two years that I had witnessed and been part of a truly snowy climate. I arrived in historic Boston via Logan International Airport and paid way too much money to take a cab to our host hotel, The Revere, located downtown near the Theatre District and Chinatown.
The Revere Hotel provided us lovely accommodations at a discounted rate and hosted our convention on their stylish sixth floor. Even though I arrived prior to noon, my room was ready and waiting. The spacious room was decorated nicely with modern touches, the beds were ultra comfy, and we had a small balcony that was good for taking panoramic city photographs.
The Revere Hotel has a lovely swimming pool and exercise facility as well as some noteworthy onsite restaurants. The Rustic Kitchen is kitschy and fun, decorated in vibrant colors, and the food from room service is served from here as well. I personally enjoyed a chicken caesar salad and chicken club sandwich from room service which was reasonably priced and delivered promptly.
My first priority after check-in was to find a good lunch. I only had to cross the street to one of Boston’s finest seafood institutions, Legal Sea Foods at the Park Plaza location. There I enjoyed a bowl of soup and salad and my server was friendly and attentive. The Lobster Bisque was creamy and rich with chunky fat lobster pieces peeking out of the center of the bowl and was accompanied by two warm dinner rolls. The Tortilla Salad featured tart green apples, goat cheese, avocado, red peppers, and crunchy tortilla strips and was topped with so much succulent crabmeat that it looked like it had been snowed on. The meal was pricey for lunchtime, $36.22 without tip, but I savored every bite of it.
Next I took a stroll through Boston Commons, the oldest park in the US, located only a block or so away. Boston Commons is comprised of 50 acres and has set the stage for numerous TV shows and movies, and more importantly, many historic events. The architecture along the walk was spectacular.
I signed up for a tour called Bittersweet Boston, in which seven of us ladies, accompanied by our fearless leader Rese, explored Boston in search of chocolate and drinks. We walked across the Commons to the subway station and were afforded a close-up look of the gorgeous Boston State House, which is also the state capitol and houses government offices. The subway ride on the T train seemed complicated and I was glad to have somebody guiding me because I never could have figured out their rail system. We ended up in Somerville for our first stop, the Taza Chocolate Factory.
If Taza Chocolates do not sound familiar, consider that they are sold in many upscale stores as well as in all Fresh Markets across the country so you have probably seen them at least. In addition, they are used in several restaurants. Taza is a custom organic chocolate factory that uses old school vintage equipment and chocolate from Mexico. They use the stone ground method for making chocolate, which founder Alex Whitmore brought back from Oaxaca, Mexico after tasting one bite and falling in love with the rustic process. Taza’s tour costs $6 and lasts 45 minutes. Taza chocolate is unique in many ways and I loved that the chocolates are molded in disc shapes, called Chocolate Mexicano Discs. We were led through the roasting, molding, unmolding, wrapping, and packaging processes, and our groups favorite, the tasting process. My group excelled in that one. We each tried the bits of cacao beans after they were freshly roasted, the chocolate nibs that are melted into the bars, the finished product (or well maybe 3-4 different kinds of finished products), the samples from their factory store, and some kickass hot chocolate. Wow, were they good! If I had to pick, I would say my two favorites were the Chocolate Coconut and Cinnamon. The tour concluded with shopping in the store, then heading out into a treacherous rainstorm to walk to our next stop, Bantam Cider. Note: You can watch the chocolate makers from the viewing window in the Factory Store even if you chose to skip the tour.
We arrived at Bantam Cider, a modern American cider taproom, thoroughly soaked to the bone from the wicked rain and chilled. Bantam is a local company that uses Massachusetts grown apples and quality all-natural ingredients to press and turn out some amazing hard ciders. The result, pure deliciousness and something new I had never experienced, nor was familiar with. We each decided to try a flight of ciders (which cost $10) and were given samples of a few of their most popular items and then could pick the remainder of our five. “Wunderkind”, their flagship cider, has a 6% ABV and is described as “Sparkling wine yeast combined with a touch of flour-blossom honey”. All of us liked this one but the group favorites were “Rojo”, a tart and mildly sour cherry product, and “The Americain”, my favorite, which was an ale finished with rose petals, green cardamom, coriander, clove, and cinnamon. The three mentioned are mainstays on Bantam’s menu and the rest of the flavors are subject to change. Our other options were “Wild One”, a sour, vinegar & mustard cider, “Dry-Hopped”, which nobody in my group tried, and “Sweet & Scrumpy”, which they call a “Farm-stand cider made for adults”. That one landed many compliments as well. Being silly, we dipped the pretzel rods they gave us to snack on into the “Wild One” and decided that some day they should market that mixed with some base ingredients to make party dips.
Bantam’s taproom was busy with guests enjoying a drink after work. All of the workers were uber friendly and knowledgable. Our hostess showed us around the facility and detailed the cider making process. It is a complicated but intriguing process and oh so modern. I was very gracious for the inside information as I feel so “cider versed” now. The taproom has a relaxing atmosphere with a nice choice of music and we really enjoyed our visit.
We concluded our evening at the last stop, “The Independent“, located at 75 Union Square, where we had a nightcap and shared some chips with Gochujang spread. Order two, it is delicious! The “Man Moth”, a cocktail made with Bourbon, Averna, cinnamon, honey, and whiskey barrel-aged bitters, was a bit hit with the group.
The next day in Boston began with a walk through the lovely Theatre District, a new part of the city for me. I enjoyed a coffee and bagel then set out for my tour of the day with On Location Tours,which takes you through the locations of TV shows and movies filmed in the city. Marketing Manager Lauren met us at the hotel and brought us goodie tote bags complete with American Hustle and Good Will Hunting DVD’s (two of Boston’s finest films), chapsticks, candies, and more. We loved the free gifts! Our group was taken on a modern and comfortable bus for three hours through the many districts of Boston while tour guide Javier enthusiastically shared trivia with us regarding films and tv shows that were filmed at the sites.
Our first stop on the tour was to the L Street Tavern, made famous for the bar scene in a little movie you might have seen, Good Will Hunting. Bar owner Susan Woods invited us into her bar and hosted us for a drink while enjoying the film souvenirs. Our bartender Ron so kindly served us his signature drink, “The Currant Affair”, made with Currant Vodka, cranberry and lime juices, and Triple Sec.
On Location Tours took us to North End, Chinatown, South Boston, and nearly everywhere in between. Some movie sites we saw and learned inside secrets about included Glory, Legally Blonde, American Hustle, Ted, Blown Away, and Mystic River, not to mention dozens of others. We made a quick stop by the real “Cheers” bar on Beacon Hill for a photo op and then to the location for one of the most pivotal rooftop scene from the movie “The Departed”. Your trivia for the day is “What film that was set in Boston was the highest grossing film ever?”. Answer, Jaws.
We were all feeling privy when they announced the news that On Location Tours would be merging with Old Town Trolley Tours in Boston for bigger and better tours. A few things we learned should be kept secret in case you readers end up taking the tour some day but two things I will share with you. One is that the Harvard Library is most often filmed at other locations since getting into Harvard is truly very hard. The Social Network was, however, actually filmed at Harvard. Second is that in the film Blown Away, which has a huge oil tanker explosion scene, the force of the explosion was not taken into correct consideration and during the filming, some 8,000 windows were blown out in local surrounding buildings. I highly recommend this tour!
Once our studio tour was over, my friend Sheila and I decided to add some history to the mix for the day and headed to the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum tour, stopping first for a delicious seafood lunch at The Barking Crab. I had the naked lobster roll and my friend Sheila had the crab cake sliders. The lobster roll was simply divine, perfectly poached lobster tossed with drawn butter and complimented with tangy coleslaw. The decor is interesting, beer good and cold, and location perfect for waterfront pictures.
The Boston Tea Party took place at Griffin’s Wharf on December 16, 1773 when the Sons of Liberty dumped 342 East India Company tea chests from three trade ships into the Boston Harbor to protest the British government’s tea tax, which in turn sparked the American Revolution. The cost to tour the replica ships was $25 per person; tours are given every hour. We were taken into the courthouse for the town meeting and given a disguise to wear along with a card showing us our identification for the tea party reenactment. The tea party itself was explained in a fun and lively way and once our revolt was established, we then followed our colonially clad guides into the museum and for a tour onboard the ships. The film we saw was done in an impressive digital format, one that even Walt Disney himself would be impressed with. It was extremely lifelike and the whole tour did a fantastic job of explaining the tea party that in textbook format does not sound nearly as cool. Following the reenactment, we stopped at Abigail’s Tea Room for a coffee and hot apple cider. It is a cute little tea room with tea, coffee, soups, sandwiches, and pastries with colonial costumed ladies walking around. They have a nice selection of Boston Tea Party souvenirs as well.
On the walk home, we decided to take the challenge that many locals have in choosing the best bakery between Modern Pastry and Mike’s Pastry. We came upon Mike’s first and were overwhelmed by all the sensational choices. I opted for the Amaretto cannoli and Sheila chose a vanilla cupcake. The lines were huge and it was very chaotic. We walked in Modern Pastry and although I liked their decor much better than Mike’s, nothing looked appealing to me so I default to Mike’s as the winner. That cannoli did not stand a chance. Cannoli zero, Melody one.
Later that night, we blogger ladies attended the WITS Opening Party at the WeWork South Station. Several local businesses provided wines, beer, and foods for our group. The venue is a coworking office space a professional business address, conference rooms, internet, and kitchens with a fun and festive atmosphere. My favorite offering of the night was the quinoa salad made by Joe’s American Bar & Grill.
The weekend kicked off the festivities for our blogger convention with 2-3 platforms running simultaneously with speakers on blogging, traveling, and other topics of interest. The day was cram packed and between classes were many on-site vendors demonstrating their products, giving mini-manicures, discussing their volunteer opportunities, and more. Our lunch was sponsored by Corning-Gorilla Glass and prepared and served by the hotel. We finished up our day with new found knowledge, friends, and ideas.
Erin, Sheila, and I decided to walk to the North End to have a classic Italian dinner. Grabbing a cab from our hotel was merely $5 tops. We stopped by the famous Paul Revere House, located along the Freedom Trail and downtown Boston’s oldest building, en route to dinner. Silversmith Paul Revere purchased the house in 1770 and lived here with his mother, wife, and five children. Revere became known after his midnight ride to warn that the British Troops were coming to arrest Samuel Adams and John Hancock, and was not particularly well-known until he was immortalized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Poem “The Paul Revere’s Ride”.
The North End, specifically Hanover Street, is nothing short of spectacular for foodies & particularly those who appreciate fine Italian meals. The cobblestone streets and classic restaurants are all appealing and it is very hard selecting just one. We must have read twenty menu’s before making our choice to dine at L’Osteria. Erin ordered the nightly seafood special and Sheila & I chose lasagna. We were all pleased with our dinner; the lasagna was sweet and cheesy with delicate homemade noodles, huge portions, and decent service. The restaurant’s atmosphere was cozy and even better, their prices were affordable. We concluded our night by popping in in the Bean Town Pub and drinking a Samuel Adams while overlooking his grave located across the street. After leaving the pub, we walked to the Granary Burying Ground but the gates are locked at night. It is amazing that so many famous people are buried right here in this part of downtown, including John Hancock and Paul Revere.
The trip concluded for me a day early as I had to leave for a family emergency. I am grateful for the opportunity to have gone back to Boston after so many years, but I still have many things to see and do there. Boston is a history lovers dream destination and the arts, food, shopping, and cultural scene make it quite the perfect vacation. My next visit will begin with a day exploring the cute houses and shops on Back Bay. Other great things worth seeing that I have done in the past, include walking the Freedom Trail, visiting Harvard and MIT campuses, eating your way through Faneuil Hall Marketplace, and shopping on Newbury Street. I will be back Boston!
Trivia: The three ships that were boarded to dump the tea during the Boston Tea Party were the named Eleanor, Dartmouth, and Beaver.