This week, my boyfriend has shown me his New England: Rhode Island (“Rogue’s Island”-how marvelous a nickname is that?) and Boston. It was an amazing trip. I had never seen New England; my boyfriend grew up there. I had the perfect guide. He promised me four things:
- Delicious Overload
- History Overload
- Beauty Overload
- Quaint Overload
Friends, he delivered:
L. A. Burdick’s on Clarendon Street in Boston makes the most glorious hot chocolate on the planet. It is like silk: mine was called the Brazil, which is served with a shot of espresso, making it the most luxurious legal addictive stimulant in the civilized world. I drank it while wearing a new hat, purchased at a proper hat shop a couple of blocks down the street. I also had a completely sinful slice of cake, a reward after a full day walking The Freedom Trail.
One feels very American in Boston.
I began to write this while sitting in my hotel room Friday afternoon in the marvelous Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel, while my boyfriend and I let our feet recover a bit: we had walked The Freedom Trail from Copley Plaza to Bunker Hill, and back again with a few necessary stops, as well as a bit of unnecessary wanderings on the return. (They say that trail is two-and-a-half miles long, but that can’t be true. My feet are positive it was at least ten, once we made it there and back.)
One additional stop was Cheers, because if you go to Boston and don’t sit at the bar at Cheers, well, there’s just something terribly wrong, and possible un-American, about that. We stopped at the second-oldest firehouse in the country, where the staff was siting outside shooting the bull with the passers-by. He had a marvelous Boston accent, the kind that made me think, “Oh my God, they really do talk like that here!” We also paused for the aforementioned Necessary Chocolate, bought a hat, and even enjoyed a ride in a bicycle taxi, driven by a student who had a double major in Arabic and Criminal Justice.
I ate clam chowder and Boston Creme Pie *in Boston*. We enjoyed a lobster roll, fried clams, and clam cakes all of which I am nearly certain will be on the menu in heaven, if there is one. If it turns out there’s not, just go to Evelyn’s: it’s the next best thing:
We sat on the shores of the Atlantic on a beach my boyfriend knew as a young man. The ocean was a highlight of the trip for me, a marvel of power and beauty and patience and time. It is a gentle raging peace, long-suffering and strong, ever so slowly beating back rough-edged inflexible rock. It appeared eternal, and it affected everything near it: the sky, the land, the air, and me.
While in Rhode Island, my boyfriend and his daughter took me to play duck pin bowling. I didn’t even know there was such a game (it’s a variation of “normal” bowling, with smaller pins and balls), which explains why I was so bad at it. We saw the fascinating modern art wing of the Rhode Island Institute of Design Museum that bears my boyfriend’s mother’s name. We had pizza at Caserta’s and had Del’s Frozen Lemonade, and did not use a straw, because the locals don’t: you lose all the flavor too fast that way. (Oh. My. God. Delish Overload.) And, if you’re not hungry yet, I was served lobster bisque in Faneuil Hall by a Honduran immigrant at the most incredible food court ever on Friday.
We stood in many beautiful dying churches, so many of them key players in our nation’s fight for liberty, including The First Baptist Church in America, located in beautiful Providence, Rhode Island. (I’ll devote another post to the churches; there’s so much to share.)
Our feet walked the entirety of The Freedom Trail and stood in the Old North Church and on the battlefield of Bunker Hill. My boyfriend and I strolled through Newbury Street in Boston, passing history and commerce that mingle together with alarming disregard for the other’s personal space.
Our hotel room has every modern convenience, But the doors were old, heavy and thick with layers of paint, adorned with knobs that looked to be at least 100 years old. I loved that.
As I was writing this on Friday afternoon, outside our room some protesters stood in front of the beautiful Boston Public Library and implored passers by to free Palestine. Boston was very American in its response: street market fruit vendors closed their booths down for the day, and the city headed home for the weekend, occasionally encouraging or antagonizing the protestors.
We had a glorious Italian dinner Friday evening at Ristorante Fiore on the north end of the city, served to us by an Episcopalian priest, and then we smoked an after dinner cigar at Sigari, the only cigar bar in Boston, where we watched the Yankees beat the Red Sox, 5-1. Saturday found us wishing for more time; our trip was over.
How bizarre and wonderful New England is. It’s a time warp, yesterday and today dancing together so closely. New Audis drive carefully down centuries-old cobblestone streets, joggers in state-of-the-art active-wear run through Boston Common so close to the graves of so many of the founders of our country. There is now a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in the Old City Hall Building. Cable vans sit in front of homes that are two hundred years old, their drivers trying, quite literally, to meld modern convenience to our history. A modern monument to today’s fallen warriors stands quietly on the grounds of the Old North Church.
Rhode Island was quirky, set in her ways, deceptively large despite her small size, and, yes, quaint. Boston was loud, chaotic, historic, rebellious still, and free.
New England is America. The Beautiful.