Two and a half days in Boston

"Beantown" doesn't do this city justice

This one is a bit of a throwback. I visited Boston in late March of last year, while on my way to Iceland. My friend Amy and I had bought a Groupon for a 5 day trip to Iceland, but the flight was from Boston, so we decided to fly there a few days early and make a trip out of it. More on the Groupon to come in my Iceland post.

We took a cheap red eye flight out of Burbank. Well, we actually took an 8:30pm flight from BUR to SFO, and then an 11pm flight from SFO to Boston, arriving bright and early at 7:30am. Not very fun, as you may imagine. Thankfully, our Airbnb host graciously let us check in early. So the first thing we did was head over to the apartment in Cambridge.

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Shoutout to our Airbnb host for the detailed directions from the airport. And brownie points to Boston for having free public transportation into the city. For any other people, the trip would be smooth and easy. But of course for two sleep deprived Angelenos, we struggled a bit. Got on the wrong bus. And then got confused when transferring to the subway. And then looked so lost after resurfacing in Cambridge that a sweet elderly lady came over to ask us if we needed help with directions.

Eventually we made it and were so excited to see a bed that we crashed for a couple hours before hunger got the best of us.

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DAY ONE / HARVARD, ART & TOO MUCH PHO

So we set off to find food. Yelp pointed us toward Harvard Square, so we headed west on Cambridge Street towards the campus. We were the two girls obsessively photographing random buildings on the street. So charming. So quaint.

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We grabbed lunch at Russell House Tavern and then spent some time exploring the campus. Brick buildings aside, it's pretty crazy to think that Hollywood could continuously pass off UCLA as this...collegiate. It was a weird feeling being on a campus as a non-student, and unnerving to think that the geniuses we walked amongst were mostly younger than us. Walking around the surrounding streets just made me miss Westwood more.

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Then, we grabbed mochas at L.A. Burdick Chocolates while we figured out what to do next.

With a tip from Amy's Instagram fam, we grabbed a Lyft to the Institute of Contemporary Art. The museum is free on Thursday nights after 5pm, but wasn't too crowded inside. The best part was the view. Outside the museum there are steps overlooking the harbor. Inside, there is a room with seats facing a glass wall that makes you feel like you're suspended over the water. I think the architecture was my favorite – I'm a sucker for modern geometry silhouettes and expansive use of glass. Plus, it complemented the muted tones of its surroundings in a way that would never work in LA.

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The museum isn't very big. We probably spent under two hours exploring the permanent collection and exhibitions. I appreciated the modern architecture from inside too, especially the huge elevator (basically a glass room that travels up and down the building).

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For dinner, we walked over to Chinatown, which was about a mile away through the financial district. It would have been a nice walk, except for the fact that winds were pushing 40mph and we were practically blown the entire way. We got ridiculously large bowls of pho at New Dong Khanh and boba from Tea Do before calling it a night.

DAY TWO / CHOWDA & A CITY WANDER

We started off the next day attempting to get to Faneuil Hall. Attempting, I say, because our Lyft driver had a bit of trouble getting us there. As in we crossed Bunker Hill Bridge 3 times before finally making it. A 15 minute drive ended up taking closer to an hour, since the map kept rerouting us.

Eventually, we made it and perused Quincy Market for food. Amy got the quintessential lobster roll and chowder combo, while I was boring and opted for falafel (since I'm not a fan of seafood).

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Next, we started walking toward Boston Common. On the way, we unintentionally found ourselves on the Freedom Trail, so we detoured to historical spots like King's Chapel and Granary Burying Ground in a series of flashbacks to APUSH.

It's always a bit of a culture shock to be on the east coast where every other block is a historical church. One thing that really struck me about Boston is the way in which the origins of the US have been integrated into contemporary life. I still felt like I was walking through a history book or documentary, removed from the modern world and borrowing another lifetime. Historical figures who, to me, feel more like characters than reality feel so weirdly present. It reminded me of when I went to Versailles and kept thinking about how kings past walked the same halls.

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Eventually, we found our way through Boston Public Garden (the pond was not quite as inviting in the winter) and continued toward Copley Square and Boston Public Library. The library was an unexpected highlight. Then again, I've always been a sucker for pretty architecture and reading spaces. The courtyard was tranquil, full of natural light, surrounded by inspiring architecture...and had outlets too! Almost made me want to study. Almost.

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By this time, I had fallen in love with the varied historical architecture of the Back Bay. From the Richardsonian Romanesque Trinity Church to the Renaissance library to the streets lined with Victorian brownstone houses. From Copely Square, we walked south toward Columbus. Somewhere around Appleton St, we finally realized why everyone loves Boston so much. The rows of charmingly uniform red brick bow fronts were what won us over.

Once we finally tore ourselves away from the photogenic houses, we continued further into Back Bay to explore the art scene in SoWa. It happened to be First Friday (we got really lucky with art this trip!), so we were able to mingle with artists at the many galleries in the area before winding down with some coffee at Cafe Nero back on Tremont St.

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Of course, being the two Asian girls from LA we are, we got steaming hot soondubu for dinner at Kaju Tofu House back in Cambridge, surrounded by international students and Asian Americans. Felt like we were back at Seoul Tofu in Sawtelle, our favorite stomping ground from school. In other words, we felt right at home.

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Since we were all warmed up from the soondubu, it was only right that we'd finish off the night by grabbing ice cream to go for the walk back to our Airbnb. The seasonal flavors at JP Licks definitely hit the spot.

DAY THREE / BRUNCH, MORE ART & SOONDUBU

On our third and last day in Boston, we had had a red eye flight to catch to Iceland. It was pretty overcast and a little drizzly, so we took an easy day.

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We started with brunch at Five Horses Tavern, where we ordered way too much food. Highly recommend the ginormous cinnamon roll, and the South End Sunrise breakfast pizza.

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Of course then we felt compelled to walk it off. So we shopped our way down Columbus Ave, past Northeastern, and over to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Given that it was the weekend, there was a bit of a wait and once we were inside, it was pretty crowded. Still, it was well worth it. The old-world palace was as beautiful as the artwork it housed, and the small rooms and dim lighting made for an intimate experience. We spent way too much time in the DIY "education studio." The DIY of the day was creating ink prints, which actually made for fun souvenirs.

As for our last meal before heading to the airport? Soondubu round two. We figured we better get filled up on spicy Asian food before we venture off to Iceland. (Little did we know, we'd actually be eating quite a bit of questionable Asian food once there...)


Heading to Boston? Check out my city guide for tips and ideas.