Off to Beantown!

Last Saturday afternoon. Birds are chirping while people are passing by or lying on the grass. The sun is not at its full height, but just about right for us to catch some rays as my friend and I are walking around, trying to get to know the area better. We are in Boston, one of the oldest colonial cities on the East Coast, one of the remainders of the first 13 colonies, and filled with monuments, churches, and ruins depicting American history before the Revolution and after.
I just came back from a lovely (albeit too short of a) weekend I spent in Beantown. It was my second time I visited but it will always be worth coming back. The first time I drove up in March of this year: It was still cold but the sun was beaming and I had, aside from having to wear my winter gear, a great time exploring the Commons, the Square, Harvard, Charlestown with the Navy Yard, and the Harbor. Please find some pictures beneath from my first trip.

boston monument
Harvard Comedy Club

boston touristy trolley

I’m not here to bore you about the historical facts and figures you can probably look up on the Internet in a glimpse anyways. So aside from the usual sightseeing tour I had the chance to go out in Cambridge, sleep over in Cambridge (thank you Sophie for being such a great host to Tom and I!), and to check out some other hotspots (not necessarily in Cambridge). My friend and I happened to stop by at another friend’s place and not far from her house there is Massachusetts Avenue close to Central Square which offers great nightlife for young people (but also suits an older crowd, in case you wondered). We ended up standing in line for the Zuzu’s,which turned out to be a really fun dance-bar with great American music. Not the typical Top-100-charts-music, but original, almost forgotten, American oldies from long long ago. The DJ that night mixed these pieces in various styles and everyone seemed to have a great time shaking it off on the dance floor. In case you’re claustrophobic, though, you shouldn’t bother showing up after a certain time, because this hotspot gets PACKED from 12AM on. And when I say packed, I mean crammed-full, body-touchy, dancing-against-strangers packed. Just for your information.

There is another bar right next to it on the right side (right as seen in entering the club, not exiting). This pub was less crowded and offered an entertaining live music band rocking the house. Also, there was no cover charge to get in, whereas Zuzu charges you a fee of $5 (and guys, this is really not a lot; I’m guessing a bunch of spots over there have student-friendly prices!). In case you get hungry, just cross the street and there will be a pizza joint open until everything closes down (which in Boston is, regretfully, an early 2AM. Welcome to the typical States-side closing hours… *grrrr*). Of course nothing compared to Brooklyn pizza, but on the bright side the prices are cheaper.

The next day we went for brunch. In case you didn’t know, brunch is a BIG thing in New York and Boston offers some great deals, too. I’m not so sure about the rest of the States, but I have seen some great offers on the East Coast, at least when you stay in the Northern part. Brunch differs from Germany, as it is from 11 to 4PM (or 3PM in Boston). You don’t usually have an unlimited buffet, but the food is still great and the portions are big. Especially in Boston – I think I just stopped eating after a while with a third of my plate still filled with pancakes and eggs (this rarely happens, I can eat for two if I have to!). We went to Johnny D’s,also in Cambridge, and sometimes it has a live-band playing, or at least music tooteling in the background. It is a bright, open room, very nicely decorated and with many servers bustling around. Make sure you don’t miss out on a parrot-sized drink (a 20 oz cup meant for mimosas or other champagne mixtures).

Parrot-sized Mimosa

Another place to check out just to see what sorts of (sometimes disgustingly greasy) food they have is the most touristy house ever: Quincy Market.
Pretty close to the Boston Commons, and if you come from that direction you might be lucky to catch some street performers and other artists doing a great job in entertaining people in front of the building. We saw two guys who pulled of a brilliant circus show worth the stop!
Also, Little Italy reminds me (sadly to admit) more of Italy than the one in New York. It has more blocks, more room to grow, and is great for stopping by and inhaling Italian flair. Don’t get too caught up by brands or popular restaurants and bakeries, I am not sure the line is really worth the wait. And it was a huge line when we stopped by…
Another great area to visit is…tadaa…. Chinatown. You might happen to walk by if you take the Chinatownbus from New York (a very convenient mean of travel at a reasonable price!). We stopped by at the Hei La Moon, a nice restaurant with HUGE portions of good-tasting chinese food! Really! If you feel like a dessert afterwards, try the 101 Bakery on 56 Beach Street just down the street (past the Arch). And while you’re there, don’t miss out on some honey-cake or the other flavors they offer. I have seldomly tasted pastries as fluffy as there. And I am from Germany (need to say more? haha)…

What I like about Boston is that you can walk to many places, despite some native Bostoners being completely horrified at the thought of this. Yeah, yeah, the goold old car can take you anywhere, or the T (subway), but walking is so much better in catching up the flair of this nice town.

And, to end this description, Harvard is a bit disappointing. I would have expected a bigger campus, a more glorious appearance,more students – in short: a more spectular place. It was surprisingly small but nonetheless definitely worth the visit.

Harvard Campus

So, what I really love about this city is the young student flair you breathe in as soon as you step of the bus and the high amount of toned and fit people you see because of the high density of many big universities in one spot.
Horray for Beantown!

4 thoughts on “Off to Beantown!

  1. I live in Boston but am a die-hard NYC fan! I’m forever annoyed with how small it is (although I know for some people that’s its appeal) and the early closing of the bars (oh and I love Zuzu’s too!). But I agree with you about the North End in Boston…I love it much more than Little Italy in NYC. The North End does boast a number of touristy places but there are some amazing restaurants (Taranta) and shops (Twilight, In-jean-ius). If you come back to Boston, you should also check out Beacon Hill (cobblestone streets and brownstones…beautiful) and the South End which has a vast array of fantastic restaurants (Teranga, Hammersly’s Bistro, Mela) bars (The Beehive) and boutiques.

    Regarding the size of Harvard, Harvard actually has quite a large campus, if you include all of the graduate schools (Harvard Law School, Harvard Kennedy School, etc.) along with Harvard College, where the Yard is. But most of its campus is actually in Boston, not Cambridge, as the Med School, School of Public Health and the Business School (the campus there is gorgeous!) all reside there.

  2. Thanks for your advice! I actually did check out Beacon Hill, just didn’t have room to include it into this post! I loved it, as did my friend, you’re right it is one beautiful cobble-stone street after another. I don’t think I made it to the South End yet, however I was in Charlestown which seems to have basically not much – aside from the monument…
    Oh, and Harvard is bigger than it appears to be at first glance? I really have to check that one out one more time, cannot believe I only got to see one little inch of it. I will give it another chance, thanks for letting me know!
    Maybe you’ll make it to New York one day, as I met many Bostoners who ended up moving here! I’m sure you’ll love it and the weather is much warmer than over there – another big 😦 for Bahstan! Yes, tons of more things to do over here than over there, I agree with you on that!

  3. It’s true that Harvard owns more buildings than just what you see off Harvard Square. But it was built hundreds of years ago by Puritans who valued education but were there to live a simpler life. Maybe that’s why it seemed modest. I lived in Boston for two years, and while it wasn’t my favorite place to live there are some things I miss. If you get back there, try Drink, an excellent bar. And take time to schedule a ferry to the Harbor Islands, some of Boston’s little-known but most excellent attractions.

    • Those Harbor Islands do look temptingly good, I have to say. Maybe I’ll reserve this for a visit during the warm months (uhm, which would be right now). I did go off the beaten path away from Harvard Square and went to the area around the founder’s statue. I’m sure you know what I am talking about. I might have to check out their other campuses, though.
      DRINK it will be, thanks for that, I can always use an insider tip. Do you know Zuzu’s by any chance? I thought that dance bar was amazing music-wise. Of course it could depend on the night. And the line was one hour long, but thanks to the spectacular student crowd we were highly entertained. Half-naked kids driving by on a bike – heck yeah! *hehe*

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