Goodbye, 70/70A

This week was Unofficial Moving Day in Boston and like many others, I have moved. Moving means a lot of things and one of them is changing your commuter route. Sadly, I am no longer taking the 70 bus to and from work. While this is generally a good thing (goodbye Western Ave construction!), there will be some characters on the bus I will miss.

 

 busJuice Box Girl– Always looking ready with her music note bookbag and Apple and Eve juice box, you can tell this one is always prepared for a day at work. She was the one I saw most often outside of the bus (Whole Foods, the JFK Library). She also had a surprising temper as I remember several times where she yelled ferociously at the bus driver for skipping her stop (the bus was too full) after she had waited 20 minutes for the bus in the first place.

Loud Girl– Friends (and possible co-workers?) with Juice Box Girl. She seemed nice enough but her voice was a few decibels too loud for a morning bus ride.

Crazy Prof– I think this guy taught at Brandeis but I was never able to find out for sure. Definitely the professor type with seriously thin and crazy hair, glasses, disheveled clothing, and always a physics or math paper in hand. I also saw him once in the red line at the Central Square stop but he was headed toward Harvard when I was heading downtown.

Fashionable Guy and Girl– Not everyone in Boston has awesome style but this two had IT. They were unrelated to each other but when I saw either of them I couldn’t wait to see what they were wearing! Fashionable Guy always got off at my stop and he wore slim-cut suits and carried a very smart briefcase. Fashionable girl made rain gear and lunch bags look like the hottest things off the runway. Seriously, one day she was wearing impeccably perfect ankle Hunter rainboots with a classic Kate Spade bag. She carried a just-the-right-size umbrella and even her lunch bag looked designer and desirable. Her lines are clean and modern and her hair was coiffed to match. I’ll miss those two fashion plates.

Buttermilk– Boston’s scariest bus driver. He typically drove the 7:45 route to Waltham and made sure he had a breakfast -of -champions carton of fresh buttermilk with him in the morning. Yes, folks, straight buttermilk from the carton. Lips to cardboard while putting the pedal to the metal and make you go flying at every stop. Ah, Buttermilk.

I can’t wait to see what crazy characters will be on my next route!

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The Hidden Gems of a Hidden Gem

Many people consider Central Square a hidden gem in and of itself.  While many who visit Boston go to the Harborside, Public Garden, or Harvard Square, many miss another lively part of Cambridge, Central Square.  And even for those “in the know”, there are plenty of places to visit there that you might not think of.  Check it out…

Instead of getting sweaty at Prana Power Yoga, swim some laps at the public pool of Cambridgeport

poolNestled right on the Charles River, not many people know about this lovely freebie.  On a hot day, find yourself across the street from the Trader Joe’s/Starbuck’s/Microcenter plaza and take a dip!  Open from 11-7 during the high summer months (read: late June to early September) the public pool is a refreshing and relaxing way to spend a day.

Instead of taking dance class at the Dance Complex, head over to Green Street Studios

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As I mentioned in an earlier post, I really enjoy classes at GSS.  The studios are large and the price is right ($15 for 2 hours of quality jazz instruction!).  The Dance Complex has some great things going for it but I say Green Street Studios is not to be missed if you enjoy a sweaty dance class!

Instead of spending your night at Phoenix Landing, pick up a lobster and cook it yourself at Alive and Kickin’ Lobsters

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Sure, a night out is in the cards every now and then but if you really want to get fancy, pick up a fresh lobster in this tiny neighborhood seafood store.  They sell lobsters year round and learning how to make one should be a “must” for any New England resident. 

Finally, the neighborhood of Cambridgeport in Central Square is also worth a stroll one afternoon or evening.  Crazy vine-covered houses are mixed with updated two-deckers and tucked away parks that make you long to be a kid again.  What hidden gems will you find? 

Scents and the City

Cue theme music: dat dat da da da da dum

Sorry, readers, this post isn’t about those types of adventures!  No, we’re talking scents and the city.

A trip to France will delight the senses for sure and Paris especially is full of smells to make your nostrils tingle.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Diptyque (34 boulevard saint germain)

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Diptyque is the Louis Vuitton of candles.  My favorite- feu de bois.  This candle smells exactly as the name suggests, like a smokey, woody evening.  This candle perfectly evokes those evenings in the fall when your neighbors are burning their logs and you’re outside in your snuggly sweatshirt.  Although some candles come off a bit too sweet, this one is 100% sugar-free.  On your next trip, you must stop by 34 boulevard saint germain to visit the original location and learn to smell the candles comme il faut    (dump the candle onto a stiff mini pillow and smell the bottom of the container).

Smoke

smoke

Yes, going to Paris requires inhaling smoke.  When I’m in the US, there seems to be two types of cigarette smoke- the kind that reminds me of waiting in line at Geagua Lake amusement park circa 1993 and the kind that reminds me of France.  Which do you think I prefer?

 

Preservation

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Preservation exists in the museums that house ancient sculptures and works of art.  It exists in 12th century churches that make you wonder, humans made this?  It’s a cool smell, a mix of musk and new house.  It’s the reason Americans are in awe of the European countryside, so thick with history.  The scent of preservation is subtle but it’s yet another way to delight in the City of Lights.

Degustation de croissant

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Hello, Readers!

I know I have been absent for awhile but the Duchess is back and has some very special posts coming to your way.  I just spent a few weeks in France and I’d like to share some of my experiences across the pond with you.

First, how can one go to France and NOT post about food?!  One of my favorite words in French is degustation and it means tasting.  A lot of times you hear it in reference to wine (degustation de vin) but I’d like to present you with my degustation de croissant.

A few months ago in the Wall Street Journal there was a special section on “Top Spots for Croissants in Paris”.  Anticipating my trip, I decided to hang on to the article and try a few places out.  Well, a few places turned into just one due to summer holiday hours (!!) but it was still a great experience.

Croissant from Sebastien Gaudard

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The day started by getting off at the metro stop Trinite.  My tasting partner (the Vicomte de Smithfield!) and I arrived in the 9th arrondisement rested and ready for some petit dej’.  Learning that the boulangerie was closed until 10, we decided to stop for a cafe and the at a local tabac.  This proved to be an excellent stop as we stood at the bar with our drinks, watching the Asian Parisian buy his lottery tickets and the old men with their dogs browse casually through the newspaper (unfortunately reading about the disgusting rat infestation at the Louvre!).  I made a pit stop in the bathroom, and while this detail is usually TMI, let me tell you, this bathroom, although tiny,  was surprisingly immaculate!  Clean and modern with grey slate walls, finding a bathroom like this in Paris is no easy feat!

We then purchased our two croissants at Sebastien Gaudard and proceeded up rue des Martyrs to find a bench to enjoy them.  Walking up the rue des Martyrs was a treat in and of itself!  Boulangerie after boulangerie, patisserie after patisserie, looking into the windows of these perfect confections (strawberries inside their tart, strawberries outside their tart!), I felt I had discovered a culinary rue de Montaigne.

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So what did the croissants taste like?! 

Well, according to the Wall Street Journal:

“Mr. Gaudard’s croissants have a glossamer glaze of sugar that brightens the taste of the butter in the pastry.  [His] are the ones that end p on my own breakfast table the most often.”

According to the Duchess:

“The croissant was very sticky and stuck to my teeth making me think this is not a good croissant to enjoy with others.  The croissant was good but there were no long lasting smells or tastes to make you go mmmmm”

And according to the harsher Vicomte:

“Not too much taste; close to the factory-made croissants”

So there you have it.  Although the croissant itself perhaps wasn’t worth another euro (these were 1,30) the experience itself certainly made this degustation worth it.  And that is what a good degustation is all about.  It’s not just the food- it’s also the experience surrounding the food.

Dialogue with The Duchess

Welcome, readers, to another new segment, Dialogue with the Duchess.  I’ll be interviewing various Bostonians about their thoughts on the city and its surrounding areas. 

This week we’re sitting down with local musician and quote king extraordinairre Matt Ashwood.  Matt came to Boston 8 years ago to attend grad school at Emerson and has stayed ever since.  My favorite place to find Matt is when he’s singing with his guitar and harmonica in the Boston Common or at an open mic but I love hearing what he has to say about his adopted hometown!

Dunkin Donuts

Dunkin Donuts

Lobster Roll

Lobster Roll

Clam Chowder

Clam Chowder

The Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics

Fenway Park

Fenway Park

 

 1. Where’s your favorite place to go for a cup of Joe?  What’s your order?

I tend to frequent Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks, for convenience. After all, they are everywhere! Did you know there is a place in Government Center where you can see two different Dunks at the same time? Ridiculous. However, I feel like this question really wants to know where I would take something to read for a bit on a Saturday morning. The answer is: Cafénation in Brighton Center. As for the coffee, always hot and black. No frills. I’m a real man.   

2. What’s your favorite museum?

I enjoy the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston’s Seaport district. I have an affinity for street art and I found both the Barry McGee and Shepard Fairey exhibits at the ICA to be very impressive and thought provoking. The building itself is artfully designed, incorporating a lot of glass surfaces and spectacular views of the harbor and city. It’s always fun to be on the water, especially in the summer. If you like seafood, head down the street to the Barking Crab after you check out the ICA.

3. You need to get out of Boston for the weekend. Where do you go?

There are a lot of great places to visit just outside of Boston. I’ve had a lot of fun in Newport, RI and in the Easthampton area in western MA. If you need to escape not just Boston, but city life in general, and you’re up for a 4-5 hour drive, I recommend visiting Acadia National Park in Maine. Set up camp for a few days and check out Cadillac Mountain. When you reach the summit, you’ll be at the highest point within 25 miles of North America’s eastern shoreline. Needless to say, the views are spectacular. You can actually drive your car up to the top, or you can drink some hot, black coffee and hoof it up there on foot.

4. Favorite Boston sports team?

I am a native Clevelander and, as I rule, I have stayed true to my hometown allegiances and do not root for Boston sports teams. With that said, basketball is my favorite sport and I was fortunate enough to live in Boston for one of the Celtics many championships. Kevin Garnett and Paul Peirce have a passion for the game that demands respect and Coach Rivers is a true professional. Of course, none of the aforementioned people are with the Celtics anymore, but I grew fond of the team when they were, and I find myself still rooting for them.

 5.What’s one “Bostonian” thing you would like to do but have still not done?

I am ashamed to admit I have lived in Boston for over seven years now and have still never been to the Top of the Hub restaurant to see the amazing view from atop the Prudential Tower. What can I say? I have no excuse. I have failed… 

 6.You’re headed out on a Saturday night.  Where do you go?

Hmm. Maybe I should go to the Top of the Hub this Saturday…

Actually, it all depends what I’m in the mood for. For a casual night close to home (in live in Brighton) I’ll drink some beers and crush some tunes on the jukebox at Porter Belly’s in Brighton Center. If the plans involve food, I like to grab margaritas and dinner at Border Café in Harvard Square. Try the empanadas! I love music, so I may be checking out a concert on a Saturday night. My favorite venues include: The Paradise Rock Club on Comm. Ave. near BU, The Sinclair, which is conveniently right next to Border Café in Harvard, and Bank of America Pavilion in the Seaport district. If I’m going out dancing I just let The Duchess of Cambridge lead the way because that’s not really my scene, but I still have fun every time : )

7. Lobster roll or clam chowda?

I have kindly answered every question put to me in great detail. Well, I’m skirting out of this one, Duchess. I can’t decide. I love seafood. I’ll have the lobster roll and the clam chowder, and let’s throw in some crab legs. You’re buying, right?

8. What’s one touristy place you take all your out-of-town visitors?

You may have guessed from question four that I am a pretty big sports fan, as are a lot of my friends. If I have visitors in town who are even mildly interested in baseball, I like to take them to Fenway Park. If it’s summer, I’ll try to get tickets to a game, but if the Sox are out of town, or it’s off-season, the tour of the park is actually pretty cool too. If you have any romantic feelings about baseball whatsoever, you really need to see Fenway. It’s the oldest baseball stadium in America and along with being steeped in such a rich history, it’s also incredibly unique. They really don’t make them like that any more.

9. If you could live in any Boston neighborhood, which one would it be? 

It’s no secret that Boston is a pricey town. There are definitely areas where I’d like to live, but where paying my rent would keep me from doing pretty much anything listed above. If money were no object though, I’d love to have a spacious place in Back Bay. It’d be a nice bonus if it were on a high enough floor to have a nice view of the river too. There’s a lot of great stuff going on in Back Bay and it’s also close to everywhere else I’d want to go.

Saturday Snap

Saturday Snap

Readers- Please enjoy my newest segment, Saturday Snap. This Saturday I’m sharing a photo of a late winter coffee shop moment in Worcester, MA.

Love in New England

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Since I’ve been a bit cranky lately and since Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, I thought I would post about what I love about living in New England.  Even sans cheri I have always enjoyed Valentine’s Day because it is just so cozy in the middle of winter.  Here are some things that might warm your hearts!

5) Ocean Drive in Newport, RI

If you are ever feeling stressed or just want beautiful scenery to quaff like a tall glass of lemonade on a sticky August day, take a drive down Ocean Drive.  Not only are the houses impossibly enormous but the views of the ocean are so calming.  We’re not talking a California Coastal Highway type view but a more approachable one.  It has become a must-do whenever I have the occasion to visit Newport, 

4) Picco in Boston’s South End

It’s too bad that I don’t live closer to the South End so I can visit one of my favorite Boston restaurants more.  Just give me a margherita pizza, a glass of Malbec, and some homemade cinnamon ice cream and I’m set!  I also love how the menu will change slightly each season.  So many tempting items to choose from!  Make sure you go in off hours or endure the long wait. 

3) The Adult Non-Professional Dance Scene

Boston does a great job of providing opportunities for adults who have danced all of (or most of) their lives to continue performing even if they did not choose dance as a professional career.  From Urbanity to Jeannette Neill to DanceWorks to OnStage and so many studios in between, there really are many more options that a lot of major US cities. 

2) The Number 1 Bus

While I have a love/hate relationship with the MBTA, the number 1 bus is quite the gem.  It can take a person all the way from Harvard Square, down Mass Ave to Central Square, across the bridge into Boston, with stops in Back Bay for walking, Newbury Street for shopping, the Boston Symphony Orchestra for some culture, and the South End for some eating and strolling.  Yes it gets crowded at Hynes Convention Center but really, this bus has such a diversity of stops and riders, it can keep you entertained for hours!

1) All my friends and mon cheri

Of course I have to be mushy here and say how much I enjoy the people of New England most of all!  Even though most of them aren’t even from NE, we still enjoy living and working in this little section of the country.  Whether supporting our friend at open mic night at the Lizard Lounge, taking a coffee break at the Newton Corner Starbucks, or watching Juan Pablo as the Bachelor, we always have a good time.  And how else would I get to know the lovely little town of Smithfield, RI? ; )