One of the best seasons to explore northeastern coastal cities of the United States is late autumn before temperatures drop from chilly to frigid. If you need a convenient excuse to travel, ask yourself, “Isn’t there a hobby or work interest that would benefit? A friend or relative I crave to see? A significant project I need to reward myself for finishing? What about my November birthday celebration?” I used all the above as grounds for a five-day swing through historic Boston. Boston, in November, you say? Yes. Yes. Yes. Here’s the first in a five-part digest to suggest ways history buffs and bibliophiles can experience one of our nation’s oldest cities.
Perched on the Atlantic coast’s northeastern shores, Boston bids a welcome call to travelers who revel in American history and literature. The moment you step off the plane, Bean Town’s down-to-earth vibe invites you to make yourself at home, starting with a free ride on the T, the city’s public transportation system. The Silver Line bus from Logan International Airport takes you to South Station, where you can catch a train toward suburbs to the north, south and west of Boston.
Native Bostonians complain about the T’s aging infrastructure, which can slow travel time, especially in the winter. When you live in a Midwestern city with limited access to public transportation, the T still looks like an enviable model. I took the Orange Line to Forest Hills and transferred to Bus 39 toward Back Bay, which dropped me in the heart of Jamaica Plain’s Centre Street, just three blocks from my Airbnb rental. If you’re planning to stay in Boston more than a few days, buy a one-week pass for the T. For $21, you can go anywhere in the city if you’re willing to walk a few blocks on either end of your trip. Even a novice can figure out how to use the T.
Weary travelers who rose at O-Dark Thirty to catch a flight can revive themselves in Jamaica Plain with a sturdy meal at the Galway House on Centre Street, just a few steps from the bus stop. A stalwart watering hole on the JP restaurant scene, Galway House prides itself on fresh seafood. It’s the kind of place that serves a generous glass of drinkable house chardonnay for $5. I had a late lunch of fresh baked Boston haddock, surrounded by a crisp slaw, steamed broccoli and my first mug of creamy clam chowder. It’s a Boston tradition to serve it in a mug.
Jamaica Plain is historical catnip for people with feminist leanings. Strolling toward my room a short walk from Galway House, I passed the home of Ellen Swallow Richards, the first woman to graduate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she earned a degree in chemistry and later joined the faculty. Richards was an ardent feminist who championed women’s causes and advanced their opportunities for education.
One block away from the Richards home is The Eliot School, founded in 1676 as a grammar school. Today it offers advanced training in fine arts and crafts.
After arriving at my small, but cozy Airbnb at nearly 4 p.m., I crashed for an afternoon nap. (Always pick a Superhost when shopping Airbnb. They’re the folks who have a track record of excellent reviews. Thus far, I’ve had 100 percent success when staying with these uber hosts.)
With a hot lunch in your belly, you can skip dinner and use the evening to plan the next day. Curl up afterwards with a good book from one of the area’s literary giants, Louisa May Alcott, Nathanial Hawthorne or Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough. Retire early and be ready to hit the ground early for Day 2 in Boston.