The Boston mar-TEA-ni Party

It’s a Saturday morning in July, my wife Kim and I decided to get out of bed a bit early and take the train into Boston for some relaxed fun without time limitations. We’ve driven into Boston on a Saturday several times before, but it’s always been during the winter. We only knew downtown Boston as a cold, harsh place where the winds could rip through any protective clothing you could throw on. Not only was the season different this time, but so was my understanding of the city, having worked downtown for the past several months. We were going to take the train into North Station and embark on a martini tour on foot.

This would also be the first time Kim would see where I work, and I had ventured far enough away from work during some days to have a pretty good idea as to which direction we needed to head in, also knowing that Boston isn’t that big of a city compared to New York, Chicago, or even Detroit.

We began our adventure having lunch at The Four’s, voted the best sports bar in the country. The Four’s is a half block from where I work. We started out with calamari and burgers helped along with my favorite green apple martini and Kim’s fave, a cosmo. The food and drinks were perfect and we were primed to hit the city on this hot, sun-filled day.

The North End Park (part of the Rose Kennedy Greenway) is a long garden that was once a freeway until this main Boston artery was moved underground as part of Boston’s Big Dig project. The result is a beautiful garden with walkways carved throughout with benches and tables to sit, relax and enjoy lunch. Wide open green spaces are highlighted by a huge pergola and water fountains perfect for cooling off in. Hundreds of kids, adults and dogs were taking advantage of the fountains on this cloudless day. I decided to wait to get soaked until we were on the backside of our day, but it sure was tempting to jump in right then.

We really found out just how small Boston is when we turned around to see we had already reached our first destination, Quincy Market. We’ve been to this touristy place several times before today but this time we got to see what was offered during the summer, and you’d be quite shocked to see the size of the Farmer’s Market! Every possible fruit and vegetable was being offered at ridiculously low prices. Farm-fresh watermelon, cherries, apples, oranges, corn, peppers, squash, every imaginable fruit and vegetable was up for grabs in this three-block stretch of controlled madness. Locals were buying fresh produce for the night’s dinner, tourists were spotting bargains to take back home. It was a classic scene where sellers hocked their goods to a huge, eager crowd where bargaining wasn’t necessary. Quite a site, really.

Quincy Market meant our second bar stop, the Cheers bar. The name Cheers is supposed to conjure up memories of that great old TV series, but in reality, this bar is several city blocks away from the Bullfinch Pub that the series was actually based on. It didn’t matter, though, the green apple martini and cosmo were once again perfect, setting us up for our next jaunt deeper into the market. It was so hot we both had sweat dripping off our faces, but we didn’t care. Drink up, time to continue onward.

Making our way through the huge crowd of people we came upon the usual shops where trinkets are sold. I’ve never bought anything from the venders here but it’s fun to look around for that one unique item you’d like to snag up for your own.

Our next stop was the wharf where you’ll see the playground of the area’s richest. Boats with three stories complete with bars, living rooms, full bedrooms and everything you could think of that gave the comforts of home. Within a short walking distance, Joe’s American Bar and Grill. More martinis!

On our way to Joe’s we walked through more beautiful gardens along the wharf where we stopped to say hello to and pet a wonderful brindle Bullmastiff. He was an awesome dog, friendly as most Bullmastiffs are, and he was solidly built to breed standard perfection. His owner had no need to concern herself with our attention to her dog as she looked the other way, speaking on her cell phone. This brings home another great point about Boston – it is a very dog friendly city and you can bring your pooch with you most anywhere you go as long as you observe the leash law and pick up after it.

Martinis at Joe’s were awesome as we noted how most of the serving staff looked about ready to pass out from the heat. But we knew that we were eventually heading back to the Greenway where the water fountains awaited us. That was our next stop after downing our libations and wishing cooler air ahead for the wait staff. Well, that was our next stop after we walked a bee line to the Hard Rock Café. There the bartender talked way too much and wouldn’t leave us alone, probably because they weren’t very busy inside. We stopped in the gift store and bought some shirts so we could feel like tourists.

We weren’t disappointed with the cooling effects of the fountains at the North End Park – they were just the right temperature to take the heat off. We were surprised they were chlorinated but after a second thought, that made sense seeing they were being used by babies, dogs and everyone else. We soaked ourselves to the skin, got our stuff back together and headed back in the direction of North Station as our 5:30 train departure was approaching.

But the martini tour wasn’t over just yet! The next stop, right across from the TD Bank Garden was The Harp. The air conditioning really cooled us down because our clothes were soaked. This bar was only two blocks from where I work but I hadn’t known this bar existed. This was the only bar we visited all day that wasn’t packed. We slammed our drinks because we knew we had one more stop before hopping on our train home.

Our last bar stop was at the bar inside North Station. It wasn’t very busy, either, and the bartender was somewhat of an idiot. We explained to him that we were concluding our Boston martini tour and he was quick to remind us not to expect much in the way of martinis from a “bar at a train station”. Yet, he surprised us by making a couple of good ones, mine even including a slice of fresh apple. I didn’t get that from any other bar we visited that afternoon – a pleasant surprise.

With a pleasant buzz we boarded our train back to Concord. Just for yucks, half way through the trip back we both put our earpods in and rocked out to our own tunes, just like I do every day going to and from Boston on the train. We got to our stop, exited the train, and we both agreed this was our best trip into Boston ever. I’m sure it makes a big difference when you go in the summer versus the winter. It also made a big difference taking the train as opposed to driving in, driving around forever in circles and then paying out the ass to park for an afternoon. We were able to see a side of Boston neither of us had seen before – the North End Park, the farmer’s market, and the wharf, all on foot at our own pace.

Sometimes I trash the city of Boston and the state of Massachusetts but on this day I learned there is a lot more to Boston than its history. The city has a welcoming appeal and an easy culture that asks you to please stop by again and next time, bring more friends. Boston is truly a city of today even amongst its heralded past. Its streets are safe and clean and it has a pulse that beats today strong as ever.

You can get a damn good martini there, too.

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