By Jacqui Gray
Sports, mad locals, Danny Crane (Boston Legal), St Patrick’s Day celebrations and Boston Rob from Survivor. That’s it. The total sum of my knowledge about Boston. Let’s face it; I would only have needed an hour in town to quadruple my limited knowledge. Fortunately, I had a few days.
What did I learn about Boston? Well, turns out it isn’t all Ivy League schools and wholesome Cream Pies! The city has a notorious past and penchant for producing serial killers.
Boston Strangler (or silk stockings murder) murdered 13 women in the ’60s. Albert DeSalvo was convicted for this crime – but there is still speculation that it wasn’t him.
Jane Toppan – one of America’s most prolific serial killers, but I had never heard of her. A nurse who went on her quite murderous rampage with morphine and atropine, mixed up in a glass with a splash of mineral water. She took the lives of patients, friends, coworkers, even her own foster sister.
John Frank Hickey or the “Postcard Killer” sent anonymous messages to police detailing his crimes and the locations of his victims’ bodies.
Doctor Death – John White Webster (Harvard professor) chopped up his work colleague and hid bits in the walls of his lab. At his trial precedent was set – The “Webster Charge”
Whitey Bulger – there are so many twists and turns to this story but I think it boiled down to; the FBI thought it was using him when, in fact, the opposite was true. Federal agents dismantled the Italian mob, basically doing Whitey’s dirty work.
The Combat Zone – No I am not making this up! The state government declared this area (close to downtown) as a free for all in adult entertainment. Of course, with this came drugs, prostitution, mayhem and violent crime thrived from the 1960s through until the late 80s.
The Old Boston Prison has been turned into the stunning Liberty Hotel. The lobby area retains a lot of the character from its heyday and is open to the public to check out… and enjoy a cocktail.
Boston Harbor – today a fantastic place to hang out with great bars, restaurants, and attractions, but in the early 80s, it was declared the dirtiest river waterway in the world….. ah well done Boston, Number 1!
This is all without getting into the details of the mobsters – both Irish and Italian. Another confession – I had no idea there was such an Italian influence in Boston and what a pleasant surprise that was for my taste buds.
So onto some of the good stuff – phew.
In Boston’s (Italian) North End, I got to indulge two of my great weakness – strong coffee and great pastries. Tourist all head to Mike’s Pastry BUT locals are just down the street at Modern Pastry. Made full use of my stretchy pants that day!
Boston Cream Pie – if you are going to indulge, do it properly and go with the original at the Omni Hotel. It was my first cream pie and I can assure you it will not be my last!
– With a View; Top of the Hub lounge in Back Bay
– Speakeasy; Yvonne’s is Downtown. Great cocktails, late supper – sexy and cool
– America’s first Tavern – Bell In Hand, North End
– Sports Bar – everywhere in this sports-mad city. Something different: Bleacher Bar has views over Fenway Park
– Live Music: The Beehive. In the South End, has live jazz every night and is just so damned cool!
– Beantown Pub – the only pub in the world where you can drink a cold Sam Adams’ while viewing a cold Sam Adams.
Boston Common – unfortunately, was a disappointment (thankfully massive renovations have just been announced). It is a well-used park by locals but not particularly attractive. However, cross the street into America’s first public botanical garden, Boston Public Garden and you are in a tranquil haven.
From there you cross the street again and take a stroll down fancy Commonwealth Avenue. This green space was introduced by the same planners who established Central Park – well-done chaps! Stroll a bit further on and you come across the majestic Boston library – well worth the visit.
In a city like Boston – a history tour is an absolute must. Boston has been kind enough to set up a History trail – a guided tour can be taken but it is seriously easy to do on your own. Pick up a brochure and follow the red brick road. That’s it!
It always happens to me. Once I visit somewhere, I realize how much more there is that I need to go back and see. Next time in the area:
A tour of Fenway Park and a game
Tour of the Islands in the Bay
And just hanging out and enjoying that Boston accent ☺
RED HOT TIP
100% start your time in Boston with guide Keith – he is the one that put me onto loads of my adventures, places to eat and drink (and he is just such a sweetheart). A couple of hours walking around with him, for $20 – book here – is the best twenty bucks you will part with in Boston. Like me – you will quickly get to know Boston better.