A walking tour of Boston

Onto the next trip! New England. After a short visit home to work a few hours and see my boys, I was on a flight back to Boston to spend a week with my friend Katie. We met when she lived in Utah for a couple years and moved back east a year ago. I haven’t been to New England in recent memory so a trip out for a visit seemed a solid plan.

So day 1: Scenes from Boston. I flew Boston as Jet blue had RT tickets for only $200 direct from SLC. I did have an overnight flight so I got in bright and early on a Sunday morning ready to explore Boston. Katie picked me up from the airport and we headed over to the Boston Commons area.

Pro tip: Sunday it is free parking at metered spots in Boston! And there were definitely plenty to choose from at 7 in the morning. Boston apparently sleeps in quite late on Sundays.

Now I hadn’t been to Boston since my sophmore year of highschool 10 years ago and I don’t think I even did the entire freedom trail then! So for all intents and purposes, that was a major game plan.

We grabbed some breakfast sandwiches as Thinking Cup. (If you look at their website it says they have the best hot chocolate. Friends it’s Starbucks like hot chocolate: bitter. Be warned before you spend 5 dollars on 12 oz of it) And we headed over to the state house for the 2nd stop. (the beautiful gold dome you saw first) Then it was onto the Park Street Church and Granary burying ground (where notable figues such as Mary Goose, the original Mother Goose is buried) Oh also Benjamin Franklin as you can see the giant Obelisk erected as a memorial to him. Although if you actually tried to find anyone else, the head stones are all so old it is hard to make out any of the writing.

Next we’ve got the Old South Meeting House where the Boston Tea Party was born. The building was built in 1729 and is marked as being the first successful preservation effort in New England. (Also the church were Benjamin Franklin was born)

Next stop: probably my favorite building on the entire trail, the Old State House. Why do I love it so much? Because it is the oldest building in Boston, built in 1713 and it has it’s sitting smack in the middle of the sidewalk. From all angles with the sky scrapers rising about it, it just looks crazy cool.
(also there’s a museum in it which was closed at 8 in the morning, not surprised, and a subway station below it!)

Then it’s onto Faneuil Hall (which I hope someday to be able to pronounce) and the Quincy market. Again closed at 8:30 in the morning but I love how there were zero people around and the light coming behind the buildings.

From here we deviated from the trail a bit to walk out to the Aquarium and historic North End. We didn’t actual go into the aquarium (as that is one of the things I definitely remember doing when I was here 10 years ago, HELLOOO Penguin island) but we did stop to check out the seals playing in the outside exhibit. We also just enjoyed some of the parks and piers before making our way back to freedom.

Really cool (but random) merry go round. It had grasshoppers, fowl, fish, foxes, lobsters, butterflies, bunnies, and probably a few other animal families I can’t remember at the moment. One of the first things we came across that we’d really wished was open. haha 

The cutest little Duck house off the pier

Another view of my favorite building. Check out the old meeting house peaking out from the middle of this picture. 

After we finished checking out the North end, we were back on the freedom trail but it wasn’t long before we had another slight deviation and I highly recommend everyone check out this Holocaust memorial as it is just off the freedom trail in front of the Boston City Hall. It was built in 1995 and consists of six glass towers symbolize a different major extermination camp (Majdanek, Chełmno, Sobibor, Treblinka, Bełżec, and Auschwitz-Birkenau) Engraved on the outside walls of each tower are groups of numbers representing the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust (1 million on each tower). Inscribed on the inner walls are quotes from survivors of each camp. Underneath the towers, steam rises up through metal grates from a dark floor with twinkling lights on it to represent gas chambers. It is incredibly haunting and solemn to walk through each column.

Soon you will leave the sky scrapers behind and experience a different, quainter side of Boston.
This time we got to Paul Revere’s house just in time for opening at 9:30. Admission is $5 per person and allows you to walk through the old home, a small gallery, and gift shop with restrooms. Well worth it to us as in each of the rooms of the house they have a guide who explains different parts of the room, the history of the house, and also some information on Paul Revere and the “midnight ride.”

My favorite thing I learned/ saw was that Paul Revere was a silver smith and in the gallery they have silver pieces crafted by him with the name Revere inscribed in them.

The man himself 
And the church itself (you know 1 if by land, 2 if by sea…) 

And it just keeps getting better. Check out the freedom trail red paint that takes you across this super cool bridge into yet another vibey part of Boston. At this point we were finally starting to see some life in Boston. (and loads of dogs!)

The trail splits and kind of ends at 2 different locations. We ended up at the Bunker Hill monument first which the hill itself has some nice views and an even cooler statue of William Prescott. But you can actually climb the tower for free for some even more amazing views of Boston. You do need to get a ticket (don’t worry free) from the museum that is across the street where there are also restrooms, a water fountain, and a small museum.

The climb itself will take some work as the tower is 221 feet tall and it’s a total of 294 stairs to the top with little ventilation within the tower and a constant spiral of steps to go up. The obelisk was created to commemorate the Battle of Bunker Hill (one of the first major battles in the American Revolution) and was erected between 1825 and 1843. Needless to say, we had a nice sit on a bench out front once we got down.

William Prescott’s statue looking out to the rest of Boston. The museum (where you get tickets) is that brick building on the right. Hours of operation is 9-5 daily. 
Views from the top of the monument. 
Standing on the grate in the center looking all the way down to the bottom

After the Bunker Hill we doubled back to the USS Constitution national monument and museum. Let me tell you, I get VERY excited about going on boats now. (which is interesting since I’m sure my parents can tell you stories of me complaining their ears off about being dragged on boat tours) but I LOVE them. So going on this ancient war ship that was active during the American Revolution was definitely a cool experience for me.
The area has both a museum and the ship you can go on for totally free! (They do have suggested donations of 5 pp for adults though)
The museum did NOT have air conditioning and I was losing some steam at this point with walking so we skipped out on that and went straight for the boat. Be aware you go through metal detector security and adults will need a license to get on.

Most of the ship is just bare bones but they do have some wonderful guides again stationed throughout the ship to tell cool stories about the ship.
For example: the story we overheard down in the hull was how the ship excaped 5 British naval ships with NO wind in the sales by A. Lightening the boat… standard procedure of throwing all your fresh water overboard. B. attempting to TOW the boat with people paddling in smaller boats haha C. People rowing out and dropping the anchors out and then essentially “crawling” the boat along the ocean floor. D. The thing that finally worked was after 3 DAYS of being in a tight pinch with the British on their tale, a Squall rolled in so they headed for that, opened the sales without tying them down, THUS escaping the British.

We LUCKED out because as it turns out the Destroyer ship USS Cassin Young was also open and ALSO free to board and explore around a bit. This ship was built and commissioned in 1943 and served in the Pacific during WWII. You were a little limited in where you could go but they did let you go below deck to the mess halls and cabin quarters. (Although I would’ve really loved to see the engine rooms.)

Welcome Aboard the USS CASSIN YOUNG Destroyer
The view from the Naval Yard ain’t have bad either

After the Naval Yard and climbing the stairs up the Bunker Hill Monument (plus a red eye flight) it’s safe to say I was pretty tuckered out so (I’m ashamed to say) we took the easy way out by taking the train back to the commons. We did go over a different bridge when walking to the train station though which was a pedestrian bridge over a series of lock systems. I wish I’d gotten a photo of it because it was really pretty cool.

Back in the Boston commons, we realized we were starving to death and that lunch time was overdue. LUCKILY we were less than a half mile from the original Cheers. So time to be a tourist .

It was a really cool joint I’m not gonna lie and the burger I got was so delicious! 

After lunch we walked off some of our heavy lunch and checked out the beautiful parks. Seriously with the sun shining and the live music within the park, it was the perfect end to a wonderful adventure around Boston.

Onto Connecticut for some more New England experiences. 
Cost breakdown:
JetBlue flights direct from SLC to Boston- $200 RT
Thinking Cup breakfast: $10 for a coffee/hot chocolate and a breakfast sandwich
Paul Revere home: $5 admission for adults
Train ticket (charliecard)- $2.75
Lunch at Cheers: burgers start around $15 
RT back to Connecticut: Priceless as Katie is the best and picked me up
Dinner: again priceless because yay for friends that a great cooks!
Total cost for day: Roughly $33

A walking tour of Ancient Athens

Greece- As many of my friends and family know I’ve booked A LOT of trips this year! And I’m so stoked for all of them! But many people have wondered A. how the crap can you take so much time off? and B. how do you afford them? So I’ll try to include my budgets/ spending habits for my trips starting this year! (I do have… a tad of back posting to do: Havasupai from last year, Zion National Park/ Kolob Canyon/ Las Vegas from this year, and also a 2nd road trip to Bryce Canyon & Capitol Reef National Parks to post about. I Will get to those but first… I’m too excited to post about my Greece trip so doing that first.

 First off: FLIGHT. I have an amazing friend who watches flight deals (particularly out of SLC or nearby airports) and posts them to Facebook. So last Thanksgiving when all the airlines were throwing fare wars, we booked a trip to Athens for mid May at a cost of $450 RT from SLC with Delta airlines. Now Delta tried to change our itenerary about 39499834 times BUT we called them up and ended up with a quick flight with 1 layover in JFK. AWESOME.
So we flew out bright and early at 8:50 on a Thursday morning and overnight from JFK and arrived in Athens shortly before 11 AM on Friday the 12th. It was pretty easy to buy metro tickets from the Athens airport into the city (although it only runs on the half hour so we had to wait for the 11:30 train) and cost was 8pp with the 3 person deal. Normally 10 pp to Athens.
We checked into our airbnb around 1, changed and off we went! First stop: The Temple of Zeus.
Left: main gate for temple with the Acropolis hill in the background.

 Our Airbnb was awesome! A small apartment in the city (about at 15 min walk to the Acropolis) and only cost $60 which we split between 3 people so $20 pp. The walk to the Temple of Zeus was crazy! You just round a bend and these huge columns just rise out of no where!
Plus you get stellar views of the South slopes of Acropolis Hill and the Parthenon!!!!

 Pro tip: The pass to visit all ancient sites is only $30 and will save you a lot of time standing in line, particularly at the Acropolis. If you visit all of the sites on it, it will also save you a few bucks! We visited 4 of out of the 7 places and it was awesome to skip all the lines.
The Temple of Zeus is just a 5-10 min walk to the Acropolis entrance and is an easy do before hand!

  We decided to visit the New Acropolis Museum next. It is not included in the pass but is only $5. sooo worth it for the incredible art work, history, and air conditioning!!!! The set up is really cool as it is built directly over archaeological digs of ancient Athens so there’s glass floors everywhere to allow you to look down on the ancient city.

The museum is however SUPER picky about taking photos and although there are NO SIGNS ANYWHERE, there are several employees who will tell you no photos. Luckily they do allow you to take photos with the ORIGINAL Caryatids (although you cannot use flash) from the Temple of  Erechtheion on the Acropolis hill.

 We had decided to save the Acropolis for last so after an hour or so in the museum, we strolled through the Plaka markets to find some lunch. Ended up spending around 3 euros on a cheese sandwich and continued to the Roman Agora on the North side of the Acropolis. This site is relatively small in comparison to the Ancient Agora but still a great place to visit and is one of the few that actually gives you an informational pamphlet at the entrance to learn about what you are seeing.

 So quick history lesson: An Agora is essentially a large public open space for meetings and markets. Highlights of the Roman agora include the Wind Tower (pictured behind me in the above picture) and the Gate of Athena Archegetis. The Tower of the Winds is essentially a giant time piece and featured a combination of sundials, a water clock, and a wind vane. (although now it is more of an empty tower but still cool to imagine) It was actually constructed prior the the other parts of the Agora.

 After the Roman Agora, it is a quick walk to the Ancient Agora which seems to be at least 4-5 times the size with incredible views and statues!
The Ancient Agora includes tons of different archealoical sites but my favorites (pictured below) are the the Stoa of Attalos, Palace of the Giants, and Temple of  Hephaestus.

The first thing you see as you enter the Ancient Agora complex are the statues from the Palace of the Giants and the North slopes of the Acropolis. We immediately headed to the Stoa of Attalos which is on the West side (and by far one of my favorite places in Athens) 
A Stoa is essentially a covered walk way or portico and this one was reconstructed (so def not the original but impressive all the same!) 

The giant Stoa of Attalos 

This stunning building was beautiful to photograph from just about every angle. On the first level it houses the museum of the Ancient Agora (included in entrance fee)  which is largely a collection of bronze statues and various pottery. My favorite is the massive bronze shield that was used by the Spartans.
On the second level is a collection of statues.

 2nd level of the Stoa of Attalos looking over at the Temple of Hephaestus. 

 The view of the temple as you approach. (not too many stairs here and this view makes it appear MUCH smaller than it is… see below)

 I really loved this temple because A: it’s huge and B. unlike the Parthenon it is not covered in scaffolding, the frieze along the ceiling was all beautifully in tact, and I loved the effect of seeing all the growth of grass and wild flowers within.

 The view of the Acropolis hill from the North side
 Me standing along the side of the Temple of Hephaestus. 
 Front view of the Temple of Hephaestu. (You can catch a glipse of the inner frieze in this photo) 
 Side view where you can see some of the outer frieze. 

Now it was time to backtrack through the plaka to go up the south slopes of the Acropolis for some sunset views! It’s ordinarily about a 20 minute walk back (made longer by some stops for souvenirs along the way) We tried to visit Hadrian’s Library (which is in the same area and also included in our ancient sites pass) but it appeared the entrance was closed and we couldn’t find any other way to get in. So we viewed it from the fence and carried on our merry way.

 The Odeon of Herodes Atticus Theater on the south slopes as you climb the Acropolis. 
 View of south Athens (and the sea) as you climb. 

 It’s a bit of a climb (especially if you have already been walking all day) but the Parthenon really is incredible. It is HUGE and I can’t wait for them to finish with the restoration projects. The bonus of going later in the day was that we largely had the place to ourselves so we had a rest and enjoyed the view.

Looking back at the Parthenon with the Greek flag blowing in the wind. 
 View of the Erechtheion with the porch and Caryatids statues on the side. 
 The Caryatids up close. These statues were easily one of the things I was most excited about seeing in Athens. 

There are 6 caryatids that support the porch of the Erechtheion temple which was dedicated to both the gods Athena and Poseidon. 

Fun facts: I was actually thrown off as to how much smaller the porch was than the rest of the temple. I learned that the porch was actually constructed to conceal the giant 15-ft beam needed to support the southwest corner after the building was drastically reduced in size and budget following the onset of the Peloponnesian war. 

 The Propylaea/ Monumental Gate or in other words the Entrance to the Acropolis. 
 View North from Acropolis hill of Athens. 
 A cute cat we passed by on our way out. 
We finished around 6:30/ 7 (with plenty of time to spare as most of the ancient sites are open until 7:30 or 8 this time of year) and grabbed some souvenirs from the plaka shops closest to the Acropolis entrance. (I find shopping for birthday/ Christmas to be easier on trips.) So in a mere matter of 5.5-6 hours we saw the  4 main ancient sites and most of central Athens.  The we headed back to the Airbnb. I’d gotten zero sleep on the plane and had actually worked the night before flying out so by 8 Friday I had officially been awake for 48 hours so I pretty much showered and passed out within an hour of being close to a bed. 
Total cost on day 1: $30 ancient site pass that got us in everywhere except the Acropolis museum
$5 entrance fee to the New Acropolis Museum
$3 cheese roll for lunch
$8 Metro pass from airport to city center 
$20 Airbnb cost 
Souvenirs: Let’s not talk about that. haha I also had a water bottle on me that I would fill up/ top off whenever we came across one (museums) so I didn’t have to buy water! I also had brought some snacks with me from home for the plane ride left over that I munched on for a light dinner before passing out. Breakfast was served on the plane. 
Total cost day 1: $66