Sometimes, memories are cast in a rosy light. But in October 2019, 25 years after I left the city, I found it just as good as I remembered. And the weather was just as terrible as I remembered.
Returning After A Long Absence
Boston has good weather for six months of the year, and nasty weather for the remaining six months. It starts to rain in November, and then it starts to snow, and then it freezes, and then it snows some more. The bitter cold lasts until the end of April.
October is generally beautiful, with crisp days and colorful leaves. I was excited that we would be there for the last week of the month. But November apparently decided to arrive early.
Despite The Weather, We Had A Great Time
Even with not-so-great weather on our visit to Boston, we had a great time. The biggest challenge was that I wanted to show Eric everything I loved about Boston. And there’s just no way to condense a decade of memories into two days.
We started off with a walking tour of Boston with Free Tours by Foot. We’ve enjoyed several of these tours in our travels, including in New Orleans and Chicago. They’re always entertaining, and this one was over-the-top, with a guide that spoke in rapid Bostonese and could have been a stand-up comedian.
Boston is rich in colonial history. But what I’ve always enjoyed most is just wandering and exploring. The city is an intriguing blend of old and new, and it’s compact and very walkable. Which is a good thing, because driving is a nightmare. Trust me, you do not want to drive in Boston.
Random And Interesting Sights In Boston
Culinary Adventures in Boston
The Delightful Surprise Of Salem
Whereas Boston was just as interesting as I had remembered, Salem was far more interesting than I remembered. My memories of a brief visit to Salem many years ago were of a touristy little town with a tacky witch-related theme. (The Salem Witch Trials, however, were undeniably a real tragedy of paranoia and persecution.)
But there we were, parked at Winter Island Park for five nights for our visit to Boston. With downtown Salem only two miles away, we could hardly avoid it. Salem, however, turned out to be a delightful surprise, and we spent two days exploring the town.
There are, of course, still shops that cater to the occult in Salem. And Halloween is a month-long celebration. We happened to be there (by accident) the last week in October. I have no idea how I overlooked the fact that I was booking a campground in Salem during Halloween. We’re lucky we got a campsite (although we did have to move sites, mid-stay).
It turned out to be a very festive Halloween, which I actually managed to post about in October 2020, with many photos of some great costumes.
So Much More Than Witches
Salem is, above all, a town with a rich maritime heritage. Many of the goods for the colonies entered and exited through the port of Salem.
In 1938, the Salem Maritime National Historic Site was the first national historic site established by the National Park Service.
One of the biggest surprises in Salem was the Peabody-Essex Museum. It was established in 1799 and after a major renovation in 2019, is now considered one of the top 10 art museums in North America. It is fabulous, and made me less regretful that we didn’t make it to the Boston Museum of Fine Art.
Culinary Adventures In Salem
I did not think there were culinary adventures to be had in Salem. But there are. We had a delicious lunch at The Tavern in the 1925 Hawthorne Hotel, and surprisingly, afternoon hot chocolate at Kakawa Chocolate House. Why is that surprising? Because the Kakawa we know is in Santa Fe…and we had a strange moment of “Where are we?” We recognized the owner, who told us that he had moved to Salem but still has the shop in Santa Fe.
Where We Stayed
Winter Island Park is owned by the city of Salem, and is just over two miles from town. The park offers 28 water and electric sites, with some on the waterfront and some in a small field. All of the sites are close together, but it’s a great location for visiting both Salem and Boston. We stayed for half of our visit in the field, and the other half on the waterfront. That’s because I didn’t reserve far enough ahead. It was Halloween, the most popular day in Salem!
The Salem commuter rail station is only two miles from the campground, and it’s a 30-minute trip into Boston. Or, you can take the Salem Ferry into Boston, which is just over a mile from the campground (the trip takes an hour). Had the weather had been better, we would have taken the ferry at least once.
I don’t often leave a place feeling regretful. But there was so much more I wanted to do in Boston that we didn’t manage to do. Maybe it’s just that being there brought up so many good memories for me…and I was obviously unrealistic about how much we could do in a brief visit, especially with the added challenge of bad weather and the too-short days of fall.
If we return, you can bet we’ll be walking along the Charles River and crossing the bridge to Cambridge, where we’ll visit Harvard and MIT. We’ll be going to the Boston Museum of Fine Art and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. We’ll go to the aquarium down on the waterfront to see the penguins. And we’ll walk around Jamaica Pond and the Arnold Arboretum, in my old neighborhood. I’m sensing another visit to Boston in our future…