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Entries in Boston (3)

Tuesday
Feb212017

The People of the North End

The people of the North End in Boston are so unique.  If you get to spend some time here, you will know what I mean.  I took my first solo trip to Boston when I was sixteen years old.  Well, I wasn't exactly solo, Jim was with me.  We came to Boston to see the movie West Side Story.  He was seventeen and driving. That was the beginning of my love affair with the sights, smells and friendly atmosphere that defines the North End. You see those boys in that photo above...they probably meet here a few times a week.  It's there neighborhood. You can always count on the "boys" to be hanging out, smoking a cigar, drinking coffee or a beer on Hanover Street.  The other thing about the boys, they always speak to you.  It's easy and fun in the North End. It's also Italian...very Italian.  That my friends is where the smells come in...

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I know, I know, everyone that comes to the North End usually just walks Hanover Street but people, you need to move down a few side streets.  It's where the locals eat and shop. It where you will learn where these people and their ancestors came from. The side streets are the heartbeat of the North End.  Now take the bakeries for instance.  Everyone raves about Modern and Mikes, and I agree, they are great, but pretty touristy.  It's not where the local shop, get off Hanover and get down to Salem St.  That's where the best smells are coming from.  Bovas bakery, family owned since 1932.  Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The yeast bread gets you when you turn the corner, step inside and the cakes and pies hit your nose as soon as the door opens. The smells are great, but the eye candy in the cooler cases will really get your juices flowing. This is where I come now, I love the people. So friendly and eager to explain their history to you. They also encourage you to try something new.  This day I was buying some chocolate cover pretzels for my Jaxson and Liam.  I told the lady that they were for my Grandsons and she picked up the ones with the most chocolate on them for me to give to "my boys".  That would not have happened at Modern or Mike's...next time your in the North End, give this bakery a try...

The cannoli stuffer at Bovas bakery.  Not hidden away in the back room but right out front where you can watch him work his magic..I was impressed with his ability to hold that big bag of ricotta and squeeze it ever so gently into the tube.  I don't think he would like my work even if I could hold it up.  He was really nice and didn't mind at all that I took his photo. You just have to trust a place that works out in the open...no secrets to hide.  

 

This lovely lady was on her way to go to the market.  This day I was with my friend Dina, who is also Italian..and as we passed this woman, we said hello and asked where she was going with her basket and bags.  Thirty minutes later she and Dina were still talking Italy.  Where their families were from and how did she end up here in the North End.  She told us she came over after she got married at 18 and settled here with her husband.  They bought a house close by and now each one of her three kids has an apartment in that house. I'm thinking to myself that surely she would have a great recommendation for us for an authentic, neighborhood lunch spot.  Not so, she looked at me like I had a screw lose and said, "I dont' go out, I cook. I cook better than any restaurant here"...O.K. I get it...we were on our own.  I was finally able to drag Dina away and we found us a great pizza place not to far away.  I was happy for Dina that she got to talk to someone that was from Italy and I'm pretty sure we were this ladies entertainment for the day.  Sure wished she had invited us up to lunch though...Maybe the next time.

Bello, right.  ah if only I was 50 years younger but I'm not so I'll just have to settle for this beautiful smile that he was so willing to give me. He sure knows how to flip a pizza dough around though.  Probably knows how to snag a few woman with those dreamy eyes also.  He is the man behind the pizza bar at Quattro's. Best pizza anywhere.  I just love that speck of flour on his hand...be still my heart, your to old for him...a but a girl can dream...when the moon hits your eye, like a big pizza pie, that's Amore...

You say, what would this guy be happy about.  Well he is  happy to have a job.  It was a beautiful day.  "You must be tired at the end of the day" I say. Yes, but it's a good tired.  The laundry has to get done and it's my job to deliver it to the cleaners. Table linens for that fancy restaurant.  He was of good cheer though.  It seems everything is done right out in the open in the North End. I like that.  I like how it still holds onto it's old ways.  No pretentious ways here.  No one above another.  All work for the good of local business and each other.  I did notice though, that work stopped for a second so he could enjoy the beautiful lady passing by.  Nice laundry bags also...

I saved the best for last.  This is my friend Bobby.  He owns my favorite tea and spice shop, Polcari's on Salem St.  I know his shirt says coffee but don't let that fool you.  His tea is the very best and at a price you wouldn't believe.  I love a good tea and I like fresh tea, in small amounts so it never dries out.  This is where I come.  I've been visiting Bobby for many years now. Not only does he have the best tea, o.k., he also has the best coffee beans that he grinds for you...smells delicious.  Then he has a few spices.  If you've ever had fresh, you would never go back to buying in a grocery store again..Same with the tea, small amounts and visit frequently. What I love best about him though is his love of the people who shop there.  We have had wonderful conversations over the years about our lives, families, and just life in general.  He feels like a member of my family that I just go and visit every few months.  Christmas time is the best time at his shop. So festive, all the Italian candies and fresh nuts.  Even chestnuts, loose.  I don't like them but I love to see them because when I was a little girl, Chestnut trees lined the street I lived on.  Sadly everyone of those trees are gone now but then there they are at Polcari's.  You see all those jars in the background...tea and coffee. Doesn't get any fresher.  Now if only I could get him to brew some tea while we chatted...I'm pretty sure that is not going to happen though...So when your in the North End...visit Bobby, tell him I sent you. That will get you nothing but it will give Bobby a smile...

So here's the thing, this blog post turned into something entirely different than what is was suppose to be.  I started out just writing about a few things in the North End...I really wanted to tell you all about the side streets and alley ways, and of the course that bakery.  Then I was started thinking about the news that I heard today about 45's new plan to keep immigrants out of our country.  I went back and looked at my photo's of the North End and started to really think about what is so special about this section of Boston.  It didn't take me long to know that my love of this area was about the people.  Their stories of how they got here.  How they stayed together in this new place to feel a bit closer to the homes they had to leave.  How they have made wonderful lives for themselves.  How they serve those of us who were born here.  How they appreciate being here and then I thought of what they give to me.  Without them I would have no knowledge of their history.  They share it with such pride.  I would not have made so many friends and feel so at home here now.  My husband went to school in Boston and lived in the North End.  He always felt safe.  I feel safe even now when I go in with the boys and my girlfriends. These are hard working, everyday people, just like us. I feel such joy when I am around them.  How sad for me and everyone else who visits here if they had been kept out.  How sad for them also..Kindness matters, every day.  Who are we to say that you can't come here. I welcome their diversity, their lessons, their authentic food and their stories.  I'm so glad to have lived in a time when we welcomed our friends from across the water.  I'm sad that 45 feels the need to change this. What I hope for though is that we, as a country will stand strong against his predjuice mind and move forward with compassion for all mankind.  That, my friends, is what I learned by walking the streets of the North End... little Italy.  Now come on in for a cappuccino and some ricotta pie...you won't be disappointed. Also, say hi to the boys if their sitting outside...it will make their day and yours.

 

 

Wednesday
Feb082017

Street Walkers

Yes, my husband and I are street walkers...and fortunately we live in an area that provides some very lovely streets to do our walking...this weekend we, once again decided to do Boston...but with a bit of a twist..

As most of you know, last week I celebrated a HUGE birthday.  Don't ask me how it happened because I have no idea...one day I was a young girl just hanging in my neighborhood and now all of a sudden...like a flash in a pan, I'm 70.  Like Jaxson always says, "your kidding me, right".  Actually no, I'm not kidding you.  So to lift myself up, I took good ole James to Boston for a little get-away.  His birthday is also in January so we always celebrate them together.  He is substantially older than me by a year...but here's the thing, we might be older but we can still find our way around and move.  Boston has been a special place for us since we were young kids dating.  Jim went to Suffolk University and he lived on Commercial Street in the North End.  We had some great times in those days, walking and eating in all the cheap pizza shops.  Our favorite being The European.  Our hearts were broken when they closed for good but it didnt' stop us from still hitting the streets of the North End. There have been lots of changes over the years but one thing is always consistent, Boston is full of excitement, adventures and great food.  It is also a photographers paradise...

 

It was a cloudy, cold day day but we were ready for a break from all the news about Trumpy and just wanted to take our book bags and go.. I got us the sweetest little room on Charles St. at the bottom of Beacon Hill. It was quiet and so close to everything.  We didn't use the car the entire time we were there.  Because we went on Sunday, parking was free over-night.  Bonus. The other bonus was that the Beacon Hill Hotel and Bistro was at the lower end of Charles Street, just two blocks from the Boston Common and the Public Gardens...we checked in and headed out...

Are you kidding me...this is what's happening at the bottom of the hill.  This is what we were running away from.  This is the protest march after Trumpy but the ban on immigrants coming into our country...the energy was electric...and so we joined in for a bit...

A little further up the street we came to the Frog Pond on the Boston Common...now that was exciting also..so many people out just having a good time.  So festive with the blue lights in the trees.  It was just so much fun to watch them gliding along and yes, there were also a few tumbles by the little ones...I remembered the days when we would skate after school and on weekends.  One year for Christmas I got the best gift ever, my blue ice skates with grey fur balls on the shoe string.  I loved them so much.  I'm pretty sure I wore them out.  

Crossing over Beacon Street we headed up to Louisburg Square... I always like to go up there and see how things are decorated and who might be about...This is the classiest part of the Hill.  I was not disappointed..Look at this doorway.  I had to take it for Jenna...she loves Burbury and she gave me the most beautiful Burbury scarf for Christmas.  So elegant...lots of the doorways were still decorated from the holiday season..

Moving on...but I did want to show you how narrow the streets are and that the cobblestones are still in place from the beginning of the hill...some of the sidewalks don't even really qualify as sidewalks but still, so very lovely..

Pinckney Street...we just happened upon it.  It is not very easy to find...but I have read about it.  In the back on the left is a motorcycle.  Honestly, I think that's the only thing that could fit in this driveway.

Another beautiful entrance way.  What I especially loved about this one is the little window to the right with the lamp lit.  I wondered if someone might be sitting in there, on this cold winters day, with a lovely cup of tea and a good book or perhaps some hand work on their lap or maybe they were snuggled in with a nice cashmere throw. 

I wish I had written down the name of this street.  I love the way the trees bend and all the wonderful window boxes.  The deep shadows when the sun did finally come out and the mail man just doing his job. How exhausted he must be at the end of the day climbing up and down that hill, perhaps at the end of the day he might stop at one of the many old pubs that exist in Boston. Fortunately, even though I don't know the name of the street, I do know how to find it again.

 

I came across this man climbing the hill with his bag and cane. We greet each other, him climbing and me resting.  He was on his way to the market stand at the top of the hill...He is stronger than me.  I don't think I could walk the hill and carry anything heavier than my camera...these are neighborhood residents.  They shop like the Europeans, daily in all the little shops.

By this time we were ready for a little rest...so back to the Hotel for a bit and some much needed reading and cup of tea...

Later we went out to dinner a few doors down.  It was o.k. but not great, which was disappointing but do check back in at another time and I'll tell you about the little breakfast place very close to where we stayed. 

I hope you enjoyed seeing parts of Boston that you might not have been to and maybe plan a little trip for yourself in the near future.  Both Jim and I love to travel but this past year has not worked out well for so many reasons.  Here's the thing though, you don't have to go far and you don't have to go for weeks at a time.  Sometimes just one night is all you need to lift your spirits, get a new perspective and know that it not how old you are, it's the the doing that counts.  For me that doing always includes my camera and a few good glasses of wine and a willing partner.  Jim has been that for sure, for a very long time.  


“Each of us is a book waiting to be written, and that book, if written, results in a person explained.” 
― Thomas M. Cirignano

“Just to be in Boston, in Cambridge, on a Monday night was very horrifying to me. It frightens me . . . All the stores closing up by 5 or 6, coffeehouses being open maybe until 11, just the sense that the world shuts down and you're left with yourself.” 
― Ann Douglas 

 

Monday
Dec232013

Creating Christmas Memories


Liam is ready and very excited about going to the Teddy Bear Tea at the Taj Hotel in Boston...It is a very special day..and the look on his face, as we start out, tells me it's going to be a "memory making" day.

The Taj Hotel, formerly the Ritz, is one of the finest hotels in Boston and they really know how to put on a show..this was a kids event but it was very fancy and proper..and so much fun.  Each child was to bring a Teddy Bear to the Tea, which would then be donated to charity...Liam has a mind of his own though.  I took him shopping and he decided that he wanted to bring a Monkey..I like that he knows his own mind and is not afraid to act on it...he took very good care of that monkey until he delivered it to the hotel.   On the way home though, he said he missed the monkey...

First on the list of things to do was for Liam to get that letter to Santa Claus written and mailed...this, my friends, was very serious business.  He drew the photo's on his letter and I did the writing and we got it in the mail just in the nick of time..I assured him that Santa would get his letter in plenty of time to make his wishes come true.

As you can probably guess, the girls far outnumbered the boys...and oh my, it was so much fun just to see the fancy outfits that they were wearing..it's been a long time since I've seen so many girls in real party dresses. They were really cute.  

Tea Time and so many treats...I'm wondering though if it is really a good idea to put a bowl of mini marshmallows in front of a four year old...his lunch consisted of hot chocolate with many, many marshmallows and a quarter of peanut butter sandwich...no fancy sandwiches for this boy...in the meantime Jenna and I devoured our sandwiches, scones with cream and petite sweets...oh yes, and let's not forget the tea.

Oh look who came to visit...Mrs. Claus and one of the Elves...Liam took them very seriously and it was so much fun to see him in awe of Mrs. Claus...after they left..he told his Mom and me that he didn't think the elf was real...to big.  Hmm, he's to smart.

After decorating gingerbread men, wreaths and candy cane cookies, it was story time...I'm not sure Liam was ready to get fully involved...he's just going to check it out first.  Just in case it's not his thing..

He decides it could be fun and he finds a group of boys and then he is "all in"...they had to close their eyes and also cover them while the Big Elf...hid.   It was there job to find the elf and bring him back to Mrs. Claus.  

There were many more things to do...he got his face painted..he had popcorn and colored.  It was a very busy day for this little guy.  His first big Christmas...he really gets it this year.  His excitement is barely containable and he is a joy to be with at this exciting time...Before leaving we got a photo of the three of us with the biggest Teddy Bear there...It was so nice to have time with my daughter and Liam..to celebrate the season. Next year it will be so much fun to add Jaxson to the mix...

While waiting for Liam to gather his things...I looked over and saw Jenna sitting on the windowsill, looking out to the Boston Common...such a poignant photo...reflecting on the beauty of the city, and all that the holiday season brings and requires when you are the Mom of small children...I was glad that she could sit quietly  for a moment...and just be.  She is a sweet and loving Mom..and I am blessed to have her.

What better way to end such a beautiful day than with a lovely glass of wine while we waited for the valet to bring the car...of course, we were in stitches when we found out how much it cost to park the car...whew...but none of that was important at the moment...we all left with such light hearts and visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads...

I believe that Christmas is magic, that Santa Claus is real, that all things are possible, that life is precious, That peace is reasonable, that laughter is special, that blessings are devine, and that love is grand.

Merry Christmas my friends...find the beauty wherever you are.  Enjoy the little things and never let go of the magic of this very special season...wishing you all the most wonderful of year ahead...in 2014.  Thank you for stopping by for tea.  For your Friendship and for your Love...

Several photo's textured with KK_Villa...thanks Kim..