Boston

Boston Harbor

Boston Harbor

Boston

Boston

Boston was the site of the 2009 Asian American Journalists Association Convention, so I was there in August with my husband and mom in tow for some sightseeing as well. We stayed at the waterfront Seaport Hotel at the World Trade Center, where the convention was held.

History all around you
The neat thing that sets Boston apart from most other American cities is the sheer amount of history you can see and touch all around you. So many significant events happened there that shaped this country. So that’s the positive side of an old city. The negative side is that many building facades are worn and ugly, and the subways are creepy and depressing. But overall, the greater Boston area was quite charming and scenic.

Boston Harbor near downtown

Boston Harbor near downtown

Seafood
I was unimpressed by the seafood I ate, even though it was at popular joints recommended by locals. It’s no better than fresh seafood I’ve had elsewhere, including my hometown of Houston, which sits near the Gulf Coast. Alaska’s fish is still the best I’ve ever had.

Chinatown
Boston’s Chinatown is similar to Chicago’s in that it’s old and it’s a walking Chinatown. Several blocks shoot off the main street, and you can walk the sidewalks to get to restaurants, bakeries, and other stores. Residential units sit above the ground-floor storefronts. It’s unlike Houston’s or Los Angeles’ more modern, sprawling Chinatowns that are best traveled by car to each shopping center. Like other Chinatowns, Boston’s boasts good food at dirt-cheap prices. An 80-cent slice of cake, anyone? You’ll find it at Great Taste Bakery & Restaurant. We also ate at Gourmet Dumpling House — a popular, crowded eatery open late at night.

Boston Common

Boston Common

MUST-SEES

Freedom Trail

Freedom Trail

1. Freedom Trail. The Freedom Trail encompasses most of Boston’s famous historic sites. Boston Common is believed to be America’s first public park, and it’s a scenic one. From there, you can cross the street to see the Massachusetts State House with a gold dome (made of real gold). Then you pass historic churches and meeting houses along the trail, which is delineated by a continuous thin strip of red brick on the ground. It’s especially chilling to go past the site of the Boston Massacre. On a more positive note, Faneuil Hall Marketplace is a fun shopping and dining complex, which includes Quincy Market. But again, like almost everything else in Boston, it’s got that old-world charm. Freedom Trail wraps up with the USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”), Charlestown Navy Yard, and Bunker Hill Monument.
2. Harvard University & Harvard Square in Cambridge. People definitely look intelligent on the campus of America’s top-ranked Ivy League school, Harvard. The campus itself looks as old as it is. Minus the passed-out drunks on outdoor benches, Harvard Square is a delightful nearby shopping district of cafes and boutiques. I had the best salmon sandwich at Crema Cafe.

Harvard Square

Harvard Square

3. MIT. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It looked like one: very institutional and geeky. (I can say that because I went to a brainy university myself, but Rice has beautiful Mediterranean architecture. MIT looks like the rest of Boston: old and a little depressing. Sorry, I like contemporary style!)
4. Boston Harbor. Waterfront dining and shopping opportunities are abundant, as well as just places to sit and enjoy the view of sailboats on the famed Boston Harbor.
5. Beacon Hill. A charming, wealthy neighborhood where gaslights line the street and stay lit all day and night, Beacon Hill has been home to famous figures both historical and current. Even the 7-Eleven is classy.
6. Newbury Street, Back Bay, Copley Place, The Shops at Prudential Center. All are a shopper’s heaven. Newbury Street is like the Rodeo Drive of Boston. Filene’s Basement, which is famous for its annual Running of the Brides, during which brides-to-be rush into the store to grab deeply discounted bridal gowns, is a bargain-hunter’s paradise for everyday items you’d find in a department store. Back Bay and Copley Place are also nice shopping destinations not far from Newbury Street. And Prudential Center is an office building with a floor of department stores, restaurants, shops, and a food court — just like a mall.

Boston Harbor

Boston Harbor

We took the Boston Duck Tours to see most of the main attractions. The tour guide took us around the Boston area in a World War II amphibious landing vehicle that starts on land, then drives into the Charles River and functions much like a boat for us to see the city from the water.

Boston Duck Tour in Charles River

Boston Duck Tour in Charles River

U.S. Virgin Islands

Charlotte Amalie Harbor

Charlotte Amalie Harbor

A true “getaway” — far from the continental United States, the Virgin Islands is the complete opposite of Hong Kong. You won’t find crowds, skyscrapers, and vehicles jam packing the streets. This is a place you go to to disconnect from and forget about the hustle and bustle of everyday life and work.

our hotel

view of the beach from our hotel

St. Thomas
My husband and I spent a week in fall 2007 on two islands, mostly St. Thomas. We stayed at Marriott’s Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Resort, which captured the island spirit and provided enough amenities, recreation, and relaxation to entertain us for most of the time. The sound of a man playing a steel drum on the backdrop of a Caribbean beach sunset during happy hour, a swim-up bar next to a waterfall, the wind blowing through the lobby because there are no doors — paradise. Actor Matthew Perry of Friends TV-show fame ate at one of the hotel restaurants the same night we ate there.

iguanas

iguanas

And iguanas appeared in our path around every corner. I was a little afraid of them because some of the locals said the strange-looking creatures bite… and they run fast. Sometimes I’d take a detour to avoid walking too close to them.

St. John
We took a ferry and spent a day in St. John, where shopping in the cute island shops right near the port was abundant and fun. We took the multi-row, open-air taxis around both islands. The weather was perfect. It didn’t rain until the last day of our trip.

MUST-SEE

Click on image to see full size.

Saqib at Marriott Frenchman's Reef & Morning Star Resort

1. Beach. It’s pretty obvious the reason to go to an island is for the water, and water is my favorite part of nature. We went sailing out into the harbor, then snorkeling among sting rays, jellyfish, and other sea creatures. The beautiful, blue-green water and white sand were idyllic.
2. Downtown shopping. Lined with quaint shops selling all sorts of souvenirs and restaurants serving fresh seafood, it’s hardly downtown in a big-city sense. It’s just nice to walk around stone paths, view antiques, and see how many gold jewelry stores you can count within one block.

 

aboard Caribe Time ferry

aboard Caribe Time ferry