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Last week Boston

Time to wrap up my Boston blog. This last week has been exciting. I went to the opening night of the famous Boston Symphony where John Williams conducted a piece he wrote for for the renowned violinist Anna Sophia Mutter. You may know Williams from his Oscar winning scores for movies like Jaws and Star Wars…with 52 Academy Award nominations, he is the second most-nominated individual, after Walt Disney. This 89 year old succeeded Arthur Fiedler as the conductor of the Boston Pops in the 80s and occasionally he still conducts the Boston Symphony. I was so lucky to see him! Anna Sophia Mutter is a German violinist of great acclaim ( often performing with Yo-Yo Ma), so it was a double treat.

I took the T over to the Prudential building before the performance and had a lovely salad and glass of wine pre-show at Terra. Very very noisy but tasty and very convenient.

Walking to the symphony I encountered many people excited to return to live performances. The show ended late and hearing my daughter’s voice in my head, I chose not to walk through the dark Boston Commons park at midnight. Speaking of my daughter, big news! Laura and Mallory are engaged. I was excited to see them in Boston the day after their engagement and to toast their happy news. Look at these two happy faces! Guess what? Mine was equally happy.

On my way to meet my friend Brad for lunch, I spy the Greenway Carousel. This is a unique carousel with hand carved air, sea and land animals native to Massachusetts. Ten years ago at my first Shirleyfest in New York City, I rode the carousel in Central Park to celebrate my birthday. I thought it fitting to jump on the grasshopper at the carousel in Boston to celebrate this one as well.

After the ride I meet Brad at J. Hook for one last bowl of Boston Clam Chowder. I wanted to bring him some apple cider donuts for his kids so I was forced to first sample one at the Boston Public Market. These are addictive.

Brad mentioned that he also liked Row 34’s seafood. That was all I needed to head over there the next day for a local beer and fish tacos.

One other foodie place I need to mention is Coppa. I went there for brunch and had scrambled eggs cacio e pepe which was fantastic. My favorite Italian dish without the added carbs from pasta. Of course there was that burnt tomato toast.

I liked Coppa so much I went back there with my friends Belinda and Kent at the end of the week. This time I did have pasta and also a delicious sea bass.

Enough about food. You must think all I do is eat. You would not be too far wrong. But I also did a harbor walk that last week. Impressive sights all along the harbor.

Near the Seaport is the Contemporary Art Museum. I took one last look around as the exhibits had changed. It is a small museum but really nicely curated.

I head home and up to my wonderful rooftop to say goodbye to Boston.

The sun was just starting to set so I made one last aperol spritz.

And then with a glorious finish the sun set on my lovely Boston Shirleyfest. Goodbye for now and thank you for coming on my journey with me.

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Boston Birthday and more

Shirleyfest has three human components…enjoying visits from family and friends, engaging with new people I meet in my host city, and my solo time. I have lots of fun stories and photos from those first two categories, but first let me comment on the last.

A solo walk at daybreak across the Longfellow bridge allows me time for contemplation and reflection. Shirleyfest allows me the luxury of getting away from my home, to do list, and familiar surroundings to think about what is important to me. It allows me to have intimate moments with my own mind. I am challenged to figure out many new things, overcome obstacles and let my curiosity take me down many paths. All of this leads to personal transformation and growth. I am never the same person when I leave a city that I am when I open that door to my apartment. I learn lessons and I learn new things about myself.

A solo walk around MIT. Adding another chapter to my Tao of Shirleyfest

After Vermont, I was blessed with many friends and family coming to Boston to help me celebrate my birthday. Fortunately there is a very nice hotel, Liberty Hotel, a few minutes walk away and my visitors all chose that destination to stay ( it is a former prison so I don’t know what that says about my friends and family?) My friend Andy arrives and we take to the Charles River for some kayaking

We venture into a part of the river I had missed before— the Charles River Locks.

Now that we have the hang of being on the water, the next day we take the fast ferry to Provincetown.

A 90 minute ferry from Boston straight to the heart of P-town.

After a very nice lunch at Fanzini’s we stroll around the town which is charming. We ferry back and tonight have dinner at Mamma Maria in North Beach. Andy has to work the next day so I enjoy meeting a new neighbor, Mike, for lunch at Harvest in Cambridge.

That night my brother John, sister in law Virginia and sister MJ come into town and we all go to Wood Hill Pier 4 for a meal sourced from their large farm. It is a full moon out and life seems just right sitting outside with people I love.

Andy leaves but the rest of us walk all over Boston the next day. We see a group of ladies dressed in white at Boston Commons. Turns out to be a demonstration against Massachusetts law that has no age requirement for marriage.

We walk through so many neighborhoods today. Louisburg Square, North End, Charlestown. Laughter bounds.

Tonight my friends Dan and Sharon join us and we head to Petit Robert Bistro. It starts with a toast of pink champagne.

The evening was hilarious and the restaurant got into the fun…. sending us complimentary champagne and desserts. I think everyone could tell how happy we were.

Laura and Mallory arrive the next day fresh from Cape Cod.

Oh yes today is my birthday! We open gifts and have lunch at Tatte nearby before exploring the shops on Charles Street. That evening my friends Kent and Belinda join us all at 75 Charles where I have the best birthday dinner dinner a girl could want. Brother John got the entire restaurant to sing me happy birthday!

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So it is a done deal, I’m officially a year older.

More exploring the next day and of course more eating. Tonight the gang walks to Legal Seafood on Long Wharf. The walk there is highlighted by a beautiful sunset.

That night we hang out under the moonlight and have after-dinner drinks at their hotel. Everyone but Sharon and Dan is leaving in the morning and it has been such fun having my gang here to celebrate with me.

Dan, Sharon and I first go out to the Kennedy Presidential Library. I have only been to one other of the 14 Presidential Libraries—LBJ’s in Austin. This one is beautiful and well done.

I am surprised by this map. are you?

Later we head to Cambridge to have dinner at little Donkey, a Spanish tapa style restaurant. We all love it. Then off to the Loeb Theatre to see Chasing Magic. It felt so odd to be back in the theatre. We had to show proof of vaccination and wear masks but it was worth it to finally see live theatre again.

Dan and Sharon leave for Charleston, SC and I have a solo day where first I go to Third Cliff Bakery owned by Meg, the wife of a friend of ours. Delicious!

Then I go to mass at the Cathedral.

A beautiful place and a great homily. The priest tells the story of a boy who is sitting in a low stool looking up at his mother embroidering and sees the underside of what she is working on. He is puzzled because it looks like lots of loose threads and knots, with no rhyme or reason. She then lifts him up to look at the work from the top down and he sees a beautiful orderly design and pattern. That story speaks to me in many ways.

The next day I take the train to Kingston, RI to visit my friend George. I am wowed by Rhode Island’s beauty. We have a fabulous lunch at George’s friend Nancy’s home.

Nancy shows me around her lovingly decorated 1776 home and gardens. George and I hang out at Witch Hill beach with his new dog, Gracie.

George takes me back to the train station for an easy hour ride back to Boston

So much has transpired this week! I’m back in my cozy place with these colorful dahlias from Nancy’s Rhode Island garden to remind me of all the beauty in the world.

Thanks for reading along!

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Oh Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz

Wait…not THAT Woodstock! I’m heading to Woodstock,Vermont where the theme song is the Ballad of the Green Mountain Boys ( really good song actually, link here https://youtu.be/Y4KcJTP8nW8).

I have always wanted to go to Vermont as it is one of the 5 remaining states I have not spent a night in. Mid-Shirleyfest I always take a little side trip, so this is a perfect time to head north. My friends Belinda and Kent pick me up and off we go on a beautiful sunny day. After an organic healthy lunch at Mon Vert in town we arrive at the Woodstock Inn.

It really is so lovely and well maintained. After checking in we walk around town. Bookstores, antique shops, bakeries and gorgeous large homes on the river. I have to say it is the quintessential Northeast village encapsulated by covered bridges and the the Ottauquechee River. I feel like I am in Stars Hollow from the Gilmore Girls.

When confirming my reservation a few days ago, the concierge told me that at the nearby farm they had thousands of sunflowers in bloom and it was quite a site. We head off to see those flowers. Imagine our surprise when we we see a field of dead sunflowers. Well there is one that looks like a sunflower shower so I got a picture with that.

And while the sunflowers were a bust, this butterfly feasting on one is fun to see.

All is not a bust at the farm tho because we do see a calf that has just been born. That night we have dinner at the Red Rooster at the hotel and it was delicious. We start the next day with a hike up the nearby mountain for magnificent views of the valley.

Afterwards we head to Simon Pearce, an amazing shop with beautiful hand blown glass. The many glass blowers are working in the basement and we are mesmerized by their craft.

Outside the shops, the river and a waterfall are beautiful today but we learn that a devastating hurricane in 2011, destroyed much of the shop and the surrounding town. It looks great now!

We realize that we are very close to Dartmouth so we decide to go. The students have just arrived on campus so all is abuzz. We have lunch at Lou’s before heading to the Quechee Gorge. The gorge is 165 feet deep and is the deepest gorge in Vermont. It is known as Vermont’s Grand Canyon. We find a spot on the bridge perfect for viewing.

Back in Woodstock, Belinda discovers a hidden game room complete with pool table, pinball machines and a bar. We have it all to ourselves and enjoy some pre dinner libations before heading upstairs to the Tavern for a delicious dinner.

The next day we head back. I’m sad to leave Woodstock but I spy out the car window a field of leaves turning colors. It’s a sign to come back and see all of Vermont’s changing foliage again someday. Viva Vermont!

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A Boston State of Mind

If I told you I am on the oldest ship in the world still afloat would you know where I am? Hint: its nickname is Old Ironsides.

That’s right, the USS Constitution. Naval crew still serve aboard her. She is one of the six ships constructed after the United States gained independence from the British. Her greatest glory came in the war of 1812 where time after time she defeated the British and earned the nickname Old Ironsides because cannon fire from enemy ships seemed not to be able to penetrate her strong oak hull.

It is an easy walk through the North End to get here. I am surprised how touched I am to see the crew quarters, guns and facilities on the top and also the decks below. My Dad was a gunner in the Navy in WWII and I feel his presence as I walk around the ship and talk to the uniformed crew.

There are great views of Boston from here as well.

After leaving I take a detour to the Mapperium. This is a three story tall inside out stained glass globe that is bisected in the middle by a glass walkway. Once on the walkway I am inside the globe and it is fascinating to see the earth from this perspective. The Mapperium has not changed since 1935 so you can see Siam and a large USSR.

I head back as I am taking the train out to Lynnfield to meet Francie and Bill, long time friends of my neighbor Gale in California. I take the T as far as I can and then buy a ticket on the railroad for the remainder of the trip. I am so excited to see my new friend’s 1720 home. I am greeted by a quartet of wild turkeys on their property.

They have lovingly restored every inch of this gorgeous home and graciously give me both a lovely glass of Sancerre and a house tour. Afterwards we have a beautiful dinner before they drive me back to Boston

Today my friends, Vince and Jim, are arriving from Connecticut for an early birthday celebration, but first I meet Eileen, a friend of my California friend Lila, for a coffee at Tatte. She is so nice and we end up walking over to Louisburg square so she can show me the “purple” window panes on the oldest houses.

Jim and Vince come over from the Liberty Hotel and we go to two rooftop bars before finally deciding on drinks at Wood Hill Pier 4 .

Now we walk along the new dry dock section of the seaport to the wildly popular restaurant Chickadee. We basically order everything on the menu because we can’t decide…and it is all wonderful!

Champagne all round ends a fabulous evening with great friends.

And in case any of you missed it, you can copy this link into your browser to see my inept opening of that champagne

https://share.icloud.com/photos/06NiV3GEPI3yskBuybkg_x9ng#Boston

The next day my friends leave and I decide to go out to the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard, a 281 acre preserve in the heart of Boston. I am truly amazed at the scope of this beautiful place and walk for miles through the paths.

I even come across the set up for a marriage proposal.

All this walking makes me very hungry so I walk into the Jamaica Plain neighborhood to find El Oriental de Cuba reported to have the best Cubano sandwich in the entire city. Oh yes!

I meander home in a food coma but interestingly I am able to go out later to my local Bin 26 Enoteca. I intend to eat outside, but a car accident on the street makes it too crazy to do that so I move inside. I meet a great bartender, Ross and we discuss art and travel and , well given the accident out front, just how bad the drivers are in this area.

I better go home now as tomorrow I leave for Woodstock, Vermont. I’ll be posting about that soon. Hope you can join me on that trip!

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Boston ABCs….Art, Baseball and Charles River.

I’m sitting in my beautiful living room sipping coffee at 8:08 am and I see online that there is a 9:00 am tour of Fenway Ball Park. I throw on my clothes, rush out the door and hop on the T. I buy the ticket on my phone while I’m on the train, power walk 15 minutes from the stop and I’m there with minutes to spare. It’s game day and Boston, who is in the wild card race, is playing the #1 Tampa Bay Rays in a few hours. Fenway is getting ready!

Our energetic tour guide tells us all the lore of this storied baseball park. We see the one red seat in a sea of green where a fan got beaned when Ted Williams hit the longest home run in the park’s history. We see the Green Monster and the seats on it. We sit in the press box.

Can you see the one red seat?

Fenway now even has a farm on the roof which provides produce for the concessions in the park as well as donations to local food banks.

The hour flies by and I couldn’t be happier. Later the Red Sox could be happier as they were beat 11-10 in extra innings.

But I gotta scoot because I’m going kayaking on the Charles River. I walk across the Longfellow Bridge to the other side of the river and find the kayak rental place. With very little info I’m sent off in my kayak and told to bring it back when I feel like it!

Off I go towards the Harvard Bridge. It is so beautiful on the river today. I get out a ways and have the whole Boston skyline behind me.

I could have gone on forever. The day was beautiful and the river calm. It is only because I’m getting hungry that I finally go back. And you know what I want after being on the water? A lobster roll!

I heard of James Hook lobster shack from a local. It is back over on my side of the river and down towards Long Wharf. I order the large lobster roll. Period. That’s all I want. And for $42 with tip that is what I get. Worth every penny

The other local tip I got was that Boston has killer donuts from a place called Kane’s. Fortunately ( or not) Kane’s donuts is just around the corner, so…..

The next day is equally great weather and I hire a local photographer to do a photo walk with me around my Beacon Hill neighborhood. I take a lot of pictures and she points out cool possibilities to me for shots.

This house is charming and begs to have its picture taken with its Red Sox door and Red Sox baseballs gracing all the flower pots. We also go to Acorn Lane, the most photographed street in Boston and where marriage proposals are regularly staged. I thought I got a great shot of this pretty street.

She takes me to Louisburg Square which is right behind my place and where John Kerry lives at #19 and the author Robin Cook lives at #16 (Coma, Contagion, Pandemic, and more). Louisa May Alcott lived here at one time as well. It is apparently the most expensive address in Boston. I love the door knockers.

Which is your favorite?

We also photograph the public gardens and parts of Back Bay. One of my favorite photos is the dog stuck in the Back Bay fence. All in all it’s a fun morning.

But what about the A of the ABCs? Not to worry, that afternoon I went to the special Monet exhibit at the Boston Museum of Fine Art and then topped it off with a visit to the Isabella Gardner Museum. This Isabella Gardner museum was the site of the $500 million, 1990 theft of 13 works of art including Rembrandts and Vermeer. Look at the empty frames still on the walls where the paintings had been.

The best part of the Isabella Gardner Museum is the courtyard garden. it is gorgeous and ever changing. The Museum also has a great restaurant where I had lunch prior to my visit.

So there you have the ABCs of a couple of my Shirleyfest Boston days. Coming up next…the USS Constitution and sunset walking with my Boston Meet Up group. Stay tuned and follow along!

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Beautiful Boston Shirleyfest 2021

I arrive during a rainstorm to my new home for the next month. There is always that moment before I open the door where I wonder what it will look like on the other side. Here’s what I see.

I breath a sigh of relief and an outburst of joy. I’ve rented a beautiful place in the Beacon Hill area of Boston. I will be happy here. My dear friends who live in a nearby suburb kindly whisk me away for a welcoming typical New England dinner of lobster,clam chowder and Boston cream pie.

And so goes my first night in Boston. Early the next day I do a walking tour of the Freedom Trail with Brian, a comedic Bostonian. I see the State House, the Boston Commons, the First Public Schoolhouse, and the site of the Boston Massacre where British soldiers opened fire on a taunting mob in 1770 killing 5 and providing an igniter for Revolutionary activists. I also see the Old Granary Burial Grounds where the gallows humor is you can go to the bar across the street and have a cold Samuel Adams while overlooking a cold Samuel Adams.

After the tour, I head over to the North Church for a quick visit in the Italian area of Boston—North End. I spy Regina’s Pizza which is on my list and choose a yummy pizza.

That evening I stroll through the beautiful Beacon Hill streets and wind up at a local place called 75 Chestnut for dinner. So enjoyable to eat outside on these cobblestone streets. Afterwards I realize I am only a few blocks from Cheers bar so I have a nightcap of a cold one.

The next morning I meet a friend from Palo Alto for coffee and we stroll around Charles street looking at vintage stores and antique shops. In the afternoon I go downtown and get my monthly subway card ( Charlie Card) and head to the Boston Public Library. It is an beautiful building with murals from the painter John Singer Sargent, gorgeous reading rooms and a storied history. It is the first free public library and it is filled with people today taking advantage of all it has to offer.

Tonight I head first to the Contemporary Art Museum via the T and a walk across the river. It is happening! A cool exhibit featuring Virgil Abloh. He is the artistic Director behind the off-white launch in Milan which challenges elite fashion houses long-standing exclusion of Black talent. There is a band playing on the waterfront in front of the museum. So fun! Afterwards I go to Sportello, a Barbara Lynch restaurant nearby.I get suggestions from two regulars and I always listen to regulars. One is to order a whipped housemade ricotta with honey and a homemade warm focaccia and the other the roasted pasta Bolognese tagliatelle.

Now it’s the weekend! My friends and I go to Marblehead and Salem for the day. Marblehead is a coastal town, sometimes referred to as the birthplace of the American Navy. We cross the causeway and walk around this little island and see the lighthouse and all the beautiful homes. You can see Boston in the distance.

Now Salem! What a hoot! Everything is witchcraft this and spooky that. Some people are dressed in costume. We have a great lunch at Finz overlooking the harbor and then we check out the old cemetery.

After all that spooky business we need some drinks. No better place than my rooftop deck when we get home.

I think that is quite enough for my first few days here. Next up at Fenway Park and kayaking the Charles River. I hope you follow along as I explore Boston!