The Quick & Dirty List of All Things Boston

Visiting Boston? Check out the list below for all things Boston related.  I tried to note if my suggestions are pricey or not. (I’m still suffering from sticker shock).

Coffee Shops:

  • Darwins, LTD (Cambridge–two locations: Cambridge St. or St. Auburn St.). Amazing coffee, yummy sandwiches, and delicious Florentine cookies 😉
  • Barismo (Arlington): coffee shop that touts the fact that you won’t need sugar for your coffee because theirs is so good. It’s true.
  • The Thinking Cup (North End, Boston Common, or Newbury St.): coffee shop, small bakery, and light lunch (if I’m remembering correctly). I find it a little over priced, but they have yummy macarons.
  • Crema Cafe (Cambridge): Coffee shop with light lunch. Yummy coffee, grilled cheese wasn’t bad either, but I’d pass on the sweet potato chips
  • Boston Coffee Shop (Theater District): I want to love this place, but I had a vegan chocolate chip cookie and it turned me off completely
  • Tratta (Kendall Square): coffee shop and bakery–SO good
  • Flour (Central Square): coffee shop and bakery–light lunch/dinner/bakery. Owner has a few cookbooks out. It’s good and reasonably priced. I would skip brunch on the weekend–it’s packed.
  • Dunkin’ Donuts (or Dunks to the locals): it’s a national chain but the first one originated here. It’s kind of a thing. The locals would rather have Dunks than Starbucks any day 😉 I’m a fan of an iced coffee with skim and one Splenda. Definitely makes me happy!

Restaurants:

  • Life Alive (Cambridge) is a great vegetarian restaurant (wicked crunchy granola–smells like pachouli and cashiers have dreds, but super yummy) and affordable
  • Christopher’s (Porter Square): their Buffalo Chicken Tofu is the bomb.com–the bar area is good too
  • The Museum of Science: It’s a bar with yummy looking burgers–but they only serve beer and wine. I went there on a date for drinks, so haven’t had a chance to try the food, but I want to.
  • 5 Horses Tavern (Somerville): great bar area, killer brunch and lunch. One of my favorite spots in the ‘Ville. I’ve never had a bad meal there–they have really interesting brunch options (the last time I was there, I had quinoa with pears and apples for breakfast).
  • Pomodoro’s (North End): hands down my favorite restaurant in the North End. A little pricey, but great for a celebratory night out. Only has wine service. Salted cod pasta is ridiculously good. Owner goes across the street to get Mike’s Pastry’s. Not a huge eclair fan, but I love theirs (bonus: she brings over a mini version, so you don’t have to eat a days worth of calories in one treat.)
  • Giacamo’s: People rave about this place. Maybe we got it on a bad night. I got the special, and while it was good, and affordable, it wasn’t anything to write home about. I was also very disappointed when I saw a case of Barilla pasta in the back :\
  • Stephanie’s on Newbury: One of my favorite brunch places…the lobster roll is amazing, as is the clam chowder, and the burger. Decently priced drinks–full bar.
  • Pizza Regina (North End): the best pizza in the city (and reasonably priced). Prepare for a line–we waited 45 min, but it was totally worth it. It’s really cramped, and the service is kind of rude, but it’s worth putting up with.
  • Za’s (Arlington): pizza, salads, etc. Think Mellow Mushroom of New England. I had the mac & cheese pizza–wasn’t my fav–I don’t really like mac & cheese, not really sure why I ordered it, but my friends are obsessed.
  • Tryst (Arlington): LOVE. My favorite brunch spot in my neck of the woods. The steak & eggs is amazing. Reasonably priced too.
  • Max Brenner’s: chocolate everything. And I mean, EVERYTHING. Martini’s, pizza, crepes, you name it.
  • Park (Cambridge): Yummy place for dinner, though a little pricey. Cambridge can be expensive because of the Harvard $$, FYI.
  • Met Bar (Newbury Street): I’ve only been once, but I liked it. They serve lunch (I think), definitely dinner, and have a small bar downstairs. I just liked the vibe. I went around the holidays and had calamari (YUM) and a flight of hot chocolate. Was reasonably priced and a fun/interesting spot.
  • Tavern on the Square (Cambridge): a local chain, food’s OK…sports bar atmosphere
  • Not Your Average Joe’s (multiple locations): a local chain, food is good and reasonably priced

Night Life:

  • Legal Seafood at the Seaport–expensive but you can’t beat the view
  • Sissy K’s–I haven’t been there yet, but I heard it’s great
  • Bell in Hand–fun pub in Fanueil Hall area
  • Science Museum (Porter Square)
  • Joshua Tree (Porter Square)
  • McGoon’s Irish Pub (Tufts)–love their beer selection
  • Mead Hall (Kendall Square)–killer beer selection on tap
  • Toads: good local music–only serve beer and wine
  • Russel House: killer drinks–only went for post-dinner drinks but they were really different and interesting
  • Boston Beer Works

Things To Do:

  • Duck Boat Tour (look for a Groupon–otherwise, can be pricey)–also, you’ll need to schedule this ahead of time
  • Walk the Freedom Trail (Free!)–be sure to check out Bunker Hill–I loved it
  • The JFK Museum-one of my favorite things in the city–it’s $10 to get in, but sometimes you can get reduced passes or free passes at the library
  • Boston Public Library Tour-free on Sundays at 2 PM–so good!! A little long (2 hours ish, I think) but really well done
  • Walden Pond (Concord): Thoreau lived here for a year and wrote Walden Pond–it’s gorgeous and they have a replica of his home as well as the remnants of his original place. You’ll need to Zipcar a car to do this.
  • Orchard House: Louisa May Alcott’s Home: tour is $10 and well worth it. You’ll need to Zipcar a car.
  • American Repertory Theater (ART) (Cambridge)–great local theater
  • Broadway a the Boston Opera House–pricey, but the theater is AMAZING. So gorgeous.
  • Catch a movie (free) at the hatch shell
  • Catch a concert at the Blue Hills Pavilion
  • Fanueil Hall
  • Kayak in the Charles River (can pick this up in Kendall Square)–SO fun!!! We did this on my birthday and it was a blast. I got a Groupon, so you may want to keep your eyes peeled
  • Take the Commuter Rail to Newport and spend the day–get a lobsta roll and chowda at the Brick Alley Pub. Check out the Breakers or the other mansions in the area–Newport is one of my favorite places (it’s about an hour by car), so beautiful and a typical New England city
  • Rent a Zipcar for the day and go hiking in the White Mountains (New Hampshire)–New Hampshire is one of my favorite things about this area
  • Spend a Sunday in the Southend and go to SoWa, a vintage market and farmer’s market–the few times I’ve been, they’ve had fresh homemade donuts, breads, cheeses, and vegetables. Great vintage shopping, if you’re into that sort of thing
  • Rent a paddle boat on Boston Public Garden
  • Sox game! I’m not a huge baseball fan, but the stadium is awesome (the oldest in the country–you can do tours for $14) and the experience is fun (it’s no Swamp, but it’s fun)…one of those things you have to do while you’re here 😉
  • Tour the Boston Science Museum: great for a rainy day. I have a season pass and love taking the twins (my cousins) or friends when their in town
  • Rent a Zipcar and check out the strawberry festival in Concord–was really fun for a Saturday afternoon
  • Tour the Harpoon Brewery
  • The Cider House (Somerville)–just opened, heard it was cool but haven’t been

Enjoy the City,

C

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Trip of A Lifetime: Costa Rica

On the one year anniversary (edit: when I started this post, it was February!) of the “Best Vacation EVER”, I thought it only appropriate to finally blog about my trip. In February of 2012, I set off for Costa Rica with my best friend, a small rolling suitcase, and the unknown. For those of you that don’t know me, I am a Planner with a capital “P”. I’m not really one for “spontaneity”, so this trip was very different from any I’ve taken before. My friend, V, and I chose our route carefully. We also decided that we wanted to see and do as much as we could and we were both up for the travel (it’s so important to be on the same page with your travel buddy–it’s the worst when you don’t want the same things!) I used Trip Advisor  to book all of our accommodations. I had never used this site before but I found it very helpful in the planning process. We decided to stay in a spa/resort in Arenal/La Fortuna, a hostel, Pension Santa Elena, in Monte Verde, and a hotel in Playa Hermosa. (*Just a quick shout out to Pension Santa Elena: I worked with them throughout the planning process and they were WONDERFUL. I highly recommend their hostel and their staff. You’ll see why in a bit ;-))Other than that, we had nothing planned. We weren’t totally sure how we were going to get from place to place, but figured we would “wing it”. As they say in Costa Rica, “Pura Vida!”

After arriving in San Jose, we waited for our “taxi” (a 8 passenger van) at a small hostel near the airport, Restuarante Calalu. This particular hostel only has four rooms and a small porch/picnic area in the back with picnic tables and hammocks. We had a two hour wait before our taxi came, so we ordered food and had a cocktail. Best food EVER. Highly recommend Restaurante Calalu to anyone who is going. We even stopped back in on our way out of town. The food is made by a little old Costa Rican lady and it is delicious. We are talking the BEST Arroz con Pollo ever. The owner was so nice–I was working on my Spanish since I’m a little rusty (haven’t spoken it in almost 10 years), so he was patient while I tried to order. The woman who made our food even came out and chatted with us. We also took the opportunity to speak to the three other travellers waiting for the taxi. One girl had quit her job and was traveling through Costa Rica and Peru on a three week backpacking trip. She was so interesting–she had traveled all over the world, and recently quit her job in DC to work for a non-profit in NYC. The other couple was a young couple from the West Coast, who had traveled a lot as well. We all boarded our taxi and headed off for Arenal/La Fortuna. I am so glad that we booked the taxi/shuttle instead of renting a car. The roads in Costa Rica are not all paved (in fact, the entire time we were there, I think we only hit a short stretch of paved road on the way to the beach) and the road signals and signs are minimal/non-existent. Roads are often rocky and hilly–I had to cover my eyes more than once during a game of “chicken” with an oncoming truck! Riding the taxi also allowed us to take in the beautiful sights. Costa Rica is absolutely gorgeous. Mountains, beautiful trees, and lakes for miles!

It took us four or five hours to get to Arenal/La Fortuna (and we thought it was only going to take us two or so)–so again, glad we weren’t driving. We had chosen to stay at a spa in Arenal, the Hotel Royal Corin, and I’m so glad that we did because we were exhausted by the time we got there, and were immediately able to relax. We pulled in and they had a cocktail waiting for us (yum!), and we immediately scheduled a massage for that night (a wonderful treat after traveling all day.) The next day, we decided to go for a hike up the volcano. It was cold and rainy (surprising since V and I thought it would be hot the whole time we were there but because you’re so high up in the mountains, it’s actually cool most mornings/nights.) Our tour guide, Javi, stopped along the hike to tell us about different vegetation, animals, etc. We had to climb these huge rocks to get the top (I felt like it was a scene from a movie!)–but it was worth it. So breathtakingly beautiful.

View of Lake Arenal from the top of the Volcano

View of Lake Arenal from the top of the Volcano

Panoramic view of the mountains and lake from the top of the mountain.

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Arenal Volcano with a little cloud cover.

After we got back from the hike, we decided to go to the Baldi Hot Springs (just a hop, skip, and jump) away from the hotel we were staying in. They were expensive (there are free ones, but we didn’t know how to find them) but so relaxing! I would definitely recommend it. You can get a locker for all of your things (it’s similar to a theme park here in the states). They also had restaurants, an area with an infinity pool, and numerous springs to relax in (some had swim up bars!).

That night, we went “into town” and grabbed a bite to eat at this little hole in the wall restaurant in town (I wish I could remember the name of it!) I, of course, got Arroz Con Pollo (apparently, it’s the “kids meal” of Costa Rica)–but whatever! It was delicious!

The next day, we had to get up early to catch our jeep/boat/jeep to Monteverde. The boat crosses Lake Arenal and was so gorgeous, the pictures I took, don’t really do it justice. Once we got to Monteverde, we settled into our hostel, Pension Santa Elena, and went and found the strangler fig–so cool to climb!

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Climbing the strangler fig.

The next day, V and I, went to walk the hanging bridges (it was beautiful-even in the rain!)

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Hanging bridges…so cool to walk through the clouds!

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Gorgeous views everywhere we looked!

That night, V and I went on a night hike. The weather had cleared up, and we wanted to see some wildlife. We saw some alright. We saw a bunch of bugs (eww), spiders (double eww), a tarantula (I kid you not. It was as big as my fist and furry. I backpedaled so fast I almost tripped over a tree), and a two toed sloth. The sloth is cute…the tarantula I could live without ever seeing again!

I had been tossing around the idea of going bungee jumping since we left the states. It’s on my bucket list, but I wasn’t sure I had the guts to do it. I’ve skydived twice, but jumping off the highest point in South America with a rubber band strapped to my ankles sounds a little risky, even to me. It also happened to be Leap Day…so I said what the Hell…and I did it. I’m not going to lie, I was scared out of my mind.

Not so sure about jumping...

Not so sure about jumping…

Getting all strapped in!

Getting all strapped in!

It took five “1, 2, 3, BUNGEE!” before I actually did it.

Sometimes, you just gotta JUMP!

Sometimes, you just gotta JUMP!

The Verdict: While it was amazing and the views were incredible, I wouldn’t do it again. Glad I did it, but not worth it. The rush doesn’t last like a skydive one does.

That afternoon, we went canyoning, which is repelling down a waterfall. The views in the forest were so incredible. Absolutely gorgeous. I, of course, always the klutzy one, slipped and went face first into a waterfall and scraped up my shoulder. Not sure I would do it again, slipping and falling was really scary.

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Looking pretty badass if I do say so myself!

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One of the most interesting group of people I have ever met 🙂

So beautiful!

So beautiful!

Our last leg of the trip, we stayed in a little beach hostel in Playa Hermosa. Heads Up: There are THREE Playa Hermosa’s in Costa Rica. Originally, I booked the one three hours from San Jose…oops! We made some phone calls and were able to rebook at the one closest to San Jose. Remember, streets aren’t paved and transit takes twice as long as they say it will. Our hostel was simple, but nice. We took the Costa Rican version of the Greyhound (No AC) and stopped in a little beach town on the way:

So gorgeous!

So gorgeous!

We spent the last few days of the trip, laying on the beach, working on our tans (my kind of perfect!). On our last morning in Costa, we got up early and watched the sun rise. So beautiful and peaceful.

 

V walking along the beach

V walking along the beach

Watching the sun rise <3

Watching the sun rise ❤

 

I still can’t believe we actually went. I had been wanting to go for years. I’m so glad that we did. I couldn’t have asked for a better travel buddy and a more life changing trip. As they say in Costa, Pura Vida ❤

 

<3