48 Hours in Nice

Back in March I treated my Mum to a weekend away in Nice – for Mother’s Day – and have finally decided to write a few words about it (committing to the back catalogues of the internet that I did something generous once).

The idea came after reading this Emerald Street newsletter, and quite frankly being seduced by the extraordinary blues and hues of the art deco-esque Villa Otero. Upon discovering that rooms and flights were actually very reasonable (£90 for 2 return flights from London Gatwick with EasyJet), I spontaneously booked the trip and then had a whale of time withholding the secret from Mum.

The journey was really smooth. It was one of the first times I just had carry-on luggage and therefore didn’t have to fuss about at baggage claim (also ideal if you’re operating on 2 hours sleep and a hangover – a 7am flight seemed like a good idea at the time – and waiting around just isn’t in your current lexicon). Buses arrive regularly outside the airport and deliver you to the centre of Nice and the train station, near to where our hotel was situated.

The hotel itself was a delightful mixture of comfort and extravagance. The lobby slash dining area is strikingly decorated, a mixture between Parisian Jazz Age opulence and the alfresco cool of the riviera. And everything is polished to a reflection-spawning sheen. I was immediately won over by the free Nespresso and WiFi (oh to be an over-caffeinated, Instagram-obsessed millennial), and further enticed by the promise of free pastries and sweets in the afternoons.

The rooms are compact but well-equipped, and equally eye-catching in their decor. (The interior designer clearly loves a ‘focus wall’ as much as Anna Ryder Richardson from Changing Rooms, circa 2002). We stayed in the one below. Bonus points for the beds being really comfy, the bathrooms being super clean and modern and the full-length mirror in the hallway area being perfect for taking outfit selfies.

Unfortunately on the Saturday we arrived it was pouring with rain (the kind where you think the clouds are detoxing like Victoria Secret’s models or Brides-to-be, in a bid to get rid of their excess water weight), so our plans to stroll to the Museum of Modern & Contemporary Art were scuppered. Nothing a quick nap and some free coffee couldn’t fix however.

That evening I had pre-booked a table at La Maison de Marie, an upscale restaurant near the Place Massena. The food and drink were divine. I had gnocchi with pesto and something chocolate-y for dessert. I remember feeling very decadent and satisfied.

On Sunday, we kicked off proceedings with a bus tour, which is a convenient way to get yourself to all the town’s exemplary extremities, especially when you’re not there for very long.

At our behest (and according to the route on the map), the bus took us towards Port Lympia and up through the winding hills that offer stunning vistas of pebbled beaches and the azure blue of the Mediterranean SeaWe also passed Le Negresco, a palatial, antiquarian hotel on the Promenade des Anglais, which, if you can’t afford the price of its 5-star rooms or Michelin-starred meals, is thought to be a pleasant spot for an after-dinner tipple. Alas, we didn’t get to sample its sumptuous surroundings, but perhaps one to come back to once I’ve made my millions.

We hopped off the bus near the Ascenseur du Château, a brick and mosaic ensconced ascent to Castle Hill which boasts unfathomably scenic views across Old Town and the Port, as well as a surprise waterfall. It was undoubtably one of my favourite parts of the trip, if just for the sheer gorgeousness of the burnt-orange and terracotta tiled roofs, offset by the gleaming blue sea.

Post park-wandering, we then re-boarded our bus and travelled onwards to the leafy Cimiez quarter, home to the Musée Matisse. The building itself is reminiscent of an Italian holiday home, described by Lonely Planet as “a red-ochre 17th-century Genoese villa in an olive grove”. Inside contains a wonderfully broad retrospective of French artist Henri Matisse’s work, from oil paintings and drawings to sculptures, tapestries and his deceptively simple, riotously colourfully cut-outs. For art-lovers and collage-admirers, this is a definite must-see.

That evening we went for dinner at a recommended Italian restaurant called La Voglia, along an adorable little boulevard called Rue Saint-François de Paule near the Opera House, replete with perfume houses and olive oils shops. En route we strolled along the Promenade just as the sun was setting, which if you don’t do at least once each day, are you really even seeing Nice?

On Monday, we strode purposefully towards Old Town, or Vieux Nice, a sequestered part of the city offering shaded, serpentine alleys, boutiques of leather goods and silken fabrics and delis with mouth-watering delicacies. It was here we tried some fantastically fresh tomates provençale and debated whether they would survive the trip home if we stocked up. (The decision, much to my chagrin, was that they would not).

In the centre of the Old Town is the Cours Saleya market, a swarming hive of activity where traders come to sell fresh produce, fish, flowers and more. I was also delighted to discover that on Mondays, it’s home to a gargantuan flea market, where I spent a good few hours rifling through vintage Parisian posters and postcards. It was utter heaven.

To wrap up our trip, we took a stroll through the Promenade du Paillon, a highly manicured and verdant garden planted with lots of different trees and featuring a gorgeous water mirror in the centre. If you’re looking for a serene way to spend an afternoon after a morning of haggling, then look no further.

Nice is a brilliant place for a city break. With the breeze and beauty of the ocean on one side, and the historic charm of the old town, its pleasingly peachy architecture, quaint, cobbled streets and lively restaurants on the other, you can’t go wrong. Sure, it has its seedy patches (and there was dog poop everywhere), the beach is devoid of sand and with its well-monied clientele its not exactly cheap as frites. But whack on your rose-tinted sunglasses, and behold the jewel in the Riviera’s crown.

Finding peace in Prague

After my brief stopover in Leipzig, I caught the train by way of Dresden, to Prague, the attractive Czech capital just as desirable to holidaying couples as it is to rowdy men on stag dos. Since my return, the go-to question on everyone’s lips is ‘what was your favourite place?’ and it’s hard to single out one city as encompassing everything. But Prague comes closest. It’s easily walkable (you’ve been warned, I’m a reluctant customer of public transport, take easily with a pinch of salt) and feels inherently more ‘manageable’ or at least, negotiable than the vastness of Berlin. It also felt like the most ‘holiday’ destination of the pack, what with the extraordinarily good weather, alfresco dining and majestic ambience of the French riviera. Surrounded by castles, operas and fin de siècle cafes, extravagance turned out to be the name of the game.

On my first night I walked from Můstek, where I was staying (on the cusp of the main high street effectively, the central location comes part-and-parcel with the percussive disquiet of late night revellers and general congregations), along part of the River Vltava and towards Old Town. There were clusters of beer-clutching people sat along the river, feet dangling towards the water that immediately evoked those lazy halcyon summer days that it feels increasingly likely we’re going to miss out on in Britain this year. I made a mental note of my route as I passed the Charles Bridge (along with the Old Town Square, the place you’ll trap the most snap-happy tourists. Selfie sticks galore), which I planned to return to in the morning. From there, with my Vitamin D quota quenched, I relaxed into an outdoor seat at Mistral Café.

20160607_192300This modern, minimalist cafe offers a more refined menu than most of your traditional Czech eateries and I definitely recommend it if you’re in the market for something lighter. I had the tofu in coconut milk, red curry and coriander sauce and with vegetable and jasmine rice, which provided a sublime and gently fragranced respite from the pasta-based vegetarian offerings I had grown accustomed to. With an accompanying glass of wine, a mascarpone dessert and a shot of Baileys for good measure, it was here I discovered what good value Prague is. The meal came to 425czk which I promptly discovered equates to 12 whole British pounds. 12 quid! You’d pay that for an alright burger in London, let alone a fancy pants curry with a side of alcohol and dessert. I was so elated I immediately rang my mother. “I’m going to eat SO well” I declared.

Surrounded by castles, operas and fin de siècle cafes, extravagance turned out to be the name of the game.

I wandered home via Old Town Square, a thriving historical site, deemed to be the heart and soul of the city, whereupon iconic buildings such at St. Nicholas’ Church and monuments such as the Astronomical Clock fringe the cobble-stone interior; a venue for markets circa the middle ages. Milling around the square these days, you’ll find large groups of tourists and holidaymakers, soaking up the sunshine and eclectic architecture whilst sipping on some Pilsner Urquell.

I stayed in an Airbnb not far from the main railway station; a spacious private room that allowed me all the luxuries of living alone (5pm bath-time became a thing) for 4 nights for just £75. Plus (or minus, depending on your taste for risk) the complex where the flat was located had continually rotating lifts – no stopping, no starting, no doors, no floors – just hop in (be quick about it) and hop out at your desired destination. It became a game for me to launch myself into said lift and not wait for the ‘box’ to reach my level. Such are the lengths one has to go to for amusement when travelling by oneself.

My first proper day in Prague consisted of an early start, grabbing a Czech pastry (something in the shape of a stick, with a sweet-cheese filling) and a coffee to go, and walking across the Charles Bridges as the city stretched itself awake. I couldn’t recommend visiting the bridge before the crowds beat you to it enough. It’s distinctly less stressful and allows more time to luxuriate in the staggering views.

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Another advantage to the early start is that hiking up towards Prague castle becomes a much more pleasant endeavour when not done in the heat of the day. Prague Castle is a medieval fortress marketed as the largest in the world and potentially the basis for the Disney logo considering the fairytale comparisons it inspires. It’s no wonder you see handfuls of couples using the backdrop for their wedding photos. A ‘long tour’ ticket will set you back 350czk (a tenner), and includes access to St Vitus’ Cathedral, Old Royal Palace, Story of Prague Castle, Basilica of St George, Powder Tower, Golden Lane and Rosenberg Palace. The gardens were unequivocally my favourite aspect of the vast complex, offering unparalleled views over the city and a tranquil destination for some post-breakfast ponderings.

Once completing the circuit of the castle, I headed up towards the Strahov Monastery, which considering my disinterest in religion might appear a strange choice, but this Premonstratensian abbey also lays claim to a library housing 16k+ books, a stucco-panelled theological hall and generally just some very pristine interiors which deserve appreciation. I was one of about four people wandering around at the time, which made for a serene and slightly uncanny experience.

The other main attraction in Hradčany (the Castle District) is the Petrin Observation Tower, which is purportedly taller than the Eiffel Tower in Paris. You have to pay 100czk and climb 299 steps (up a spiral staircase) for the privilege of panoramic views, but consider it your work-out for the day and it’s also located within a rather charming park, so unless you suffer vertigo, or have an aversion to awe-inspiring scenery, definitely check it out.

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At this point, I was deserving of lunch. I walked back towards Old Town via the Lennon Wall, a bohemian, peace-espousing mural inspired by the famously iconoclastic Beatle, which has become a prime spot for millennials to snap cute Instagram pictures of themselves. It was painted over in 2014, but has since been reborn with another generation of artists, resistant or otherwise, making their mark on the city.

I had lunch at Kafka Snob Food a darkly lit cafe-bistro with turquoise interiors, tan leather booths, eclectically-coloured chairs, exposed steel-ducts and brick walls. It wouldn’t look out of place in Shoreditch. The menu consists of Italian pasta dishes and a delectable array of pastries to satiate the appetite you’ve worked up after some hefty touristing.

Milling around the square these days, you’ll find large groups of tourists and holidaymakers, soaking up the sunshine and eclectic architecture whilst sipping on some Pilsner Urquell.

I then walked back towards Old Town Square and popped into the Prague City Gallery where they were hosting a retrospective of the works of David Cronenberg. Random, perhaps, but a dynamic and insightful overview of the Canadian director’s oeuvre nevertheless. The exhibition also included a cinema where they showed two of his films a day. I caught a middle section of Fast Company, a lovably hokey drag-racing movie that feels more Linklater than Cronenberg. There are plenty of other galleries in Prague to seek out if contemporary art is your thing.

That night I sampled a taste of extravagance at the opera. I booked a last minute ticket to see Mozart’s The Magic Flute at the Estates Theatre or Stavovské divadlo, Prague’s oldest theatre and where Mozart premiered his magnum opus Don Giovanni. The surroundings are plush and as when entering a library you feel compelled to be on your best behaviour; spine straight, shoulders back, no yawning or rustling. Not that distractions or boredom are likely when the entertainment is this extraordinary. Classical music and operatic singing are unfathomable talents; otherworldly and transcendent. Even if I didn’t always understand what was going (a German opera being translated into Czech with additional English subtitles) the music was always there to elevate the simplistic plot – kidnap, love, betrayal e.t.c – into something enchanting. Even though I only forked out for gallery seats, the venue is intimate enough that you don’t require binoculars or too much strenuous craning to appreciate the onstage happenings. It was a pretty magical setting to experience the opera for the first time.

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The next day in Prague I visited Vysehrad, another castle on a hill. If historical buildings and ruins aren’t really your thing, I’d say do Prague castle and maybe skip this one. It’s slightly further out and not quite as extraordinary. That being said, the cemetery and basilica provide a beautiful spot for some vacation-induced contemplation; tackling life’s big existential questions etcetera and because of its subsidiary status in Prague’s castle-off is much more subdued place in which to do so.

Also factor the Dancing House into your strolls. I happened upon it after Vysehrad and it’s contemporary, jutting structures provided a striking contrast to the historical architecture in the city. Its avant-garde, deconstructivist style is the brainchild of local architect Vlado Milunic and US import Frank Gehry. Whilst fairly inconsistent with the rest of the city’s more traditional aesthetic, it makes for a diverting (in a good way) addition.

I then retreated to Cafe Savoy for an afternoon spent perusing English newspapers and reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Housed in a fin de siècle building with tall, light-beckoning windows, reflective chandeliers, and marble-topped tables spanning a fluid split-level seating arrangement, its glittering interior harkens back to the belle epoque. A.k.a. It’s well posh, innit. For food I had the foamy pea soup, a vibrant, almost offensive shade of green, which was divine if a little on the airy side, (and a side of fries) followed up with the guide-book recommended apple strudel (or Štrůdl, as it’s known in Czech), which is so well-renowned it takes pride of place on the counter – freshly baked – and is sliced upon request. Customers frequently popped in just to order that. The waiters were crisply-dressed and suitably attentive and fellow customers gave off an air of rarefied gentry. I felt a bit like Leonardo DiCaprio eating with 1st class guests aboard the Titanic, without the slicked back hair and tailcoat.

 

 

The next day I decided to take a brief respite from the city and catch a tram to Divoká Šárka, a nature reserve on the outskirts of the capital and trekked around the gorge. It was reminiscent of Slovenia, though not quite as breathtaking. Still, the cool air, bird calls and trickle of the stream that runs through the valley was an agreeable divergence from the sonorous city.

It being my last night I decided to sample even more of Prague’s ritzy cuisine and opted for Cafe Slavia, situated opposite the National Opera and overlooking the banks of the river Vlatva. In it’s heyday the cafe was said to the haunt of Kafka and his bohemian cronies, including Václav Havel, a play of who’s (The Garden Party) I was reading during my meal. It was a sprawling, resplendent affair, from the moment I spontaneously splashed out on a bottle of expensive Italian wine all to myself, to the three course extravaganza I proceeded to languidly devour. Considering its 300-seat capacity and penchant for being crammed, it was remarkably quiet, punctuated only by chit-chat and the piano player in the far corner. If good food and a little romance are what you’re after, Cafe Slavia isn’t to be overlooked.

Prague was sort of a like a lavish love affair that wined and dined me, but that I knew wouldn’t last. It was 3.5 days of picturesque idyll and kaleidoscopic sunsets, and Munich was the rainy reality that set in afterwards. However cursory, it became a symbol of my victory over solo travel. I never once thought about the oddness or awkwardness of my self-enforced solitude, I simply luxuriated in it. And for that Prague will be dearly cherished.

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Lost In Boston

Boston, Massachusetts, USA

7 days, 1 city, and countless cups of coffee.

***

Charles River
“The cold never bothered me anyway”. Charles River, partially frozen

      At 21, it felt somewhat momentous to be venturing out to the States for the first time since being bestowed with legality concerning alcohol consumption. And flying solo, no less. Swanning through the airport I felt a certain freedom that accompanied my lack of accompaniment. I could invent a whole new story about who I was, or why I was jetting out to Boston in March. My passport may have encumbered such attempts at reinvention, but the possibility was there no less! This taste of freedom was pleasantly washed down by a Bloody Mary aboard the flight and had it not been for a swift delivery of food alongside the complimentary bottle of wine (a mini-one), I risked resembling Kristen Wiig a la Bridesmaids. But all in all it was a smooth flight tempered by excitement and delusions of maturity.

boarding pass Having visited Boston when I was 18, I felt relatively familiar with it’s terrain.

It appeared to me a serene and languid city, one that rewarded those not in a hurry and whom had the time the soak up the distinctly different vibes of each neighbourhood.

That we were there for a week and not in the peak of tourist season seemed the perfect amount of time to explore without rushing. To revisit favourite cafes and restaurants, and do things off the beaten track.

With that in mind, I have compiled a list of sorts that regales the best bits of my Bostonian experience.

(Photographs are all my own).

Scenery

skyline

As with any city, the skyline is often the place to look for 5 star views and Boston certainly didn’t disappoint. Especially when combined with the series of intense sunsets that took place over the several nights we were there. This is a view into Back Bay from our hostel, overlooking the John Hancock tower.

Harvard Bridge
The Harvard Bridge

   I would recommend walking along the Charles River, from pretty much any angle, for spectacular views across the city. Along the Esplanade (a 3 mile walk next to the River) you have the city behind you (or to the right) whilst surrounded by trees, joggers and pond life which can provide a tranquil respite from the hustle and bustle of taxi horns and shoppers – though this is pretty limited in Boston anyway. However I preferred walking over the Harvard Bridge, because you then end up distancing yourself from the skyline and therefore obtaining a much better perspective of the stunningly integrated architecture. The river itself happened to be partially frozen in spectacular curvatures, which gave a beautiful juxtaposition between the white solidity of the ice and the darker recesses of the flowing river. (See first picture). And it was this monochrome polarity that inspired the mainly black and white photographs I took of the city.

View from Bunker Hill
View from Bunker Hill Monument

Equally impressive – though perhaps harder to achieve – were the views from the top of the Bunker Hill Monument. You have to travel over to Charlestown, which felt more like the sleepy, rural America of the Mid-West and of classic road trip movies, and then up 294 steps. However, it is free (for the view and the workout), and the end result is pretty rewarding. It’s never until you’re elevated above the ground that you realise the expansiveness of the city you’re in and how dense it is. Boston is a strange, but equally attractive, mix of futuristic contemporary architecture with sleek glass exteriors and older architectural styles (definite Georgian and Gothic influences), using red-brick facades and punctuated by columns, domes and lots of stairs.

Other architectural styles present in Boston – which create a lively and sometimes incongruous panorama – include Art Deco, (Paramount theatre), Modernism (John Hancock Tower), and the bizarre postmodern design of the MIT campus…

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Forgive me for lapsing into a bit of motherly-advice, but definitely pack comfortable shoes. Boston is a city that you can easily navigate via foot and it’s the best way to stare up to the skies and absorb your surroundings. 

Shopping

Coming from a person who tends to buy most of their clothes online and finds the process of trying on garments in a boxy room with unflattering lighting both tedious and bothersome, you should take this advice VERY SERIOUSLY. Bring a bit of spending money with you AND some spare suitcase space, because American retailers ARE cheaper and you can get some great finds for a fraction of the price. Sorry for the over-zealous and liberal use of capital letters, but I had to get my point across. American shop assistants are also incredibly friendly and operate like wind-up merchants or the ‘Woody’ Toy Story doll spouting lines on repeat such as ‘How’s it going?’, ‘That is SO cute’, ‘Can I help you with anything at all’, or ‘This would look FABULOUS on you’. At first my aloof and taciturn British self couldn’t handle such unbridled and enthusiastic communication, but you gradually come to embrace it. I was practically BFF’s with a waiter upon my second visit to one particular bookshop.

The ‘Everything is Cheaper’ rule doesn’t just apply to clothes of course. As a literary soul and part-time paperback addict I also splurged on several books (Brattle Street Bookstore and the Raven Bookstore are secondhand favourites, rammed full of romantically antique and rifled through copies of fiction fabulousness). For this kind of a habit though you might need a whole new suitcase; I bought 9 books and was on the verge of a meltdown after repacking my case 4 times to try and fit them all in.

shopping-style-vintage-sowa-vintage-marketThe main shopping district in Boston is Back Bay, with Boylston and Newbury street their version of London’s Oxford. However if you’re looking for a retail experience that doesn’t involve H+M, Urban Outfitters and a Starbucks on every corner, then venturing further out may be required. On our last day in Boston we strolled into South End where a weekly Vintage Market is held. It’s in this strange hermetically sealed enclave, with a boardwalk of boutique shops selling jewelry, hats, beads and fabric, as well as art galleries and furniture stores. At the end is an abandoned warehouse type building where sellers of all things retro gather to entice the nostalgically-inclined. It was a haven. They had pretty much everything from typewriters, cameras and copies of LIFE magazine to suitcases, coats and an enviable range of knitwear. I ended up purchasing some cute $1 postcards (I remind you, this was on the last day and I had very literally taken my advice about bringing some spending money and spending it.) Some of them had actual messages on the back, whilst most just provided an insight into how Boston and America in general used to look. I’ve scanned a couple of the postcards below… The best part of the vintage market experience however was this hilariously entertaining and effervescent black man whom seemed to work there, or was otherwise just wandering about with the sole purpose of making people laugh. Upon entering the warehouse his little face popped into the window of the door we were attempting (and failing) to enter, causing us to scream girlishly. He then reassured us we needn’t be scared, ‘it was only a black man’. Ha. Of course we laughed awkwardly and made sheepish remarks, but to me he summed up the friendliness of the people in Boston. People are not only willing to converse, but seemingly want to. I had a great little chat with a woman whilst watching ‘The Princess Bride’ about how much Claire Underwood has changed. Buttercup got mean!

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Eating

Bring comfy shoes, bring money, but most of all, bring your appetite and do away with any guilt you have about eating more than one indulgent dish in a day.

coffee$ –  We frequented this friendly Irish pub ‘JJ Foleys’ which did standard American food (pizza, burgers, clam chowder, Guinness stew) but in a chilled out and friendly environment. We also came across a glorious coffee-shop-cum-book-store on Newbury Street that ensconces you in volumes of literature as you sip refill house coffee for $1.95. Even better they play movie classics such as ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ and ‘The Princess Bride’ in the background. And even better than that, the menu is amazing. It offers healthier brunch cuisine, with breakfast burritos (avocados, scrambled eggs, mushrooms), fresh fruit and pancakes, alongside soups, quesadillas, tortillas and a variety of puddings. Tuck in.

Another treasure trove of a find was Grendel’s Den near Harvard Square, Cambridge. It caters mainly to the students of the area and does half-price meal deals everyday between 5-7pm. It’s got quite a quaint, cosy, hippie vibe and sort of looks like you wandered into someone’s dining room (in a good way). The staff were very friendly and the cider was delicious. You have to stroll up a few side streets to find it, but it’s well worth scouting out.

$$ – House of Siam did amazing Thai food, which we experienced in true American style by ordering take-out and slobbing about in our pajamas. (A day of walking and book-shpizzaopping can really take it out of you!) We also found this delightfully rustic Italian restaurant called ‘Antico Forno’ in North End (Boston’s Little Italy) which does decent sized pizzas for under $10.

$$$ – Our Saturday night treat was a visit to ‘Stephi’s on Tremont‘, an upmarket American bistro place which had a bustling atmosphere and cocktail bar. It’s menu combined contemporary cuisine with classic comfort-f0od favourites such as ‘Mac and Cheese’. It was definitely on the pricier side, with about $17 your average price for an entree, $9 for a glass of wine and $10 for a pudding, but as a one-off I would definitely recommend. pizza place

la burdickWe also visited ‘L.A. Burdick‘, a gourmet chocolate shop, a bit like ‘Thornton’s but with a cafe attached. Their cake slices are absolutely divine and dainty enough to not make you feel like that fat kid and the gateau in ‘Matilda’ .

Other recommendations: Sonsie, Stephanie’s and Boloco and anywhere that does cheesecake.

 

Thrills

Boston certainly isn’t the ‘Big Apple’ in terms of glitz and glamour, and in fact, most residents resent the comparison. However, something that is fantastically electrifying is the experience of witnessing a baseball game at Fenway Park. This time I went before the season begins, but upon my last visit was fortunate enough to watch the Red Sox play two home games, one against the Indians and the other against the Yankees. Baseball doesn’t reward fidgets, the easily distracted, or those not interested in sport. It’s a slow-burning game of tactics and often a frustrating one. Why on earth have you put this in the ‘thrills’ section I hear you cry?! But once you get into it, the atmosphere at the games is unlike anything I’ve experienced. Between each inning there’s a giant crowd sing-song or Mexican wave, and at the end of the 9th inning at Red Sox home games everyone stands up and belts out ‘Sweet Caroline’. Plus if the Red Sox happen to win, the crowd go absolutely wild. Like batshit crazy mental. In the most endearing way possible. It’s bonkers and a little bit scary, but simultaneously wonderful. And if you actually follow the game at the same time, then even better. Just for god’s sake don’t ask if it’s like rounders.

Chills

Walking alongside Boston Harbour (despite the ferocious wind) made for a glorious sunny morning. You can explore Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market and then cross the road for resplendent views across the ocean. In the summer (when I went last time), the Boston Harbour Hotel does free concerts wherein the entertainment perform on a stage-slash-jetty on the ACTUAL water. You have to book in advance to get a table but once that’s sorted, it’s smooth sailing. (I can only apologise).

There are also a plethora of reasonably priced yoga or pilates classes throughout the city. The Back Bay Yoga studio does $5 community classes that run for an hour and a half and you can just drop into. So if sight-seeing gets a bit strenuous, go and stretch it out.

Culture

There’s more culture in Boston than you can shake a stick at. Being a fairly academic city, with a college on almost every block (forgive the hyperbole), there’s also a great cultural scene for students. The Museum of Fine Arts and Institute of Contemporary Art are free for certain hours during the week, whilst theatrical shows and improv comedy sometimes do student prices.

Our burst of culture came in the form of a trip to ‘Kendall Square Cinema’, an independent cinema in Cambridge near the MIT campus which shows art-house or quirky films. We saw ‘Her’, the latest Spike Jonze and Joaquin Phoenix film about dating in the technological age. Visit my other blog  for a review coming soon!

"All Terrain"There was also a small art gallery near the SoWa vintage market that specialised in Cuban paintings called ‘Galleria Cubana’. At the time they were showcasing the work of Aneet R. Fontes, who depicts the urban landscape of Havana in vividly photographic style using acrylics on canvas.

If that doesn’t satiate your cultural cravings, there are plenty of others art galleries, museums and events going-on throughout the year to explore. The Harvard Bookstore does literary talks and philosophical evenings for instance, and quite a few places I spotted do ‘live jazz’ nights, so it’s definitely worth planning ahead of your trip to see what’s happening!

Random

There are lots of statues, hidden enclaves and enchanting little sidewalks to appease keen photographers and explorers alike. I’d definitely recommend walking through Beacon Hill and Boston Common. Here a few final random photographs that summarise just some of what I saw strolling through this magnificent city.

dog Rust 2 seal Staircase face buoys dog tags USS Constitution