Hello, Boston!

Boston was a part of our 2 week road trip of New England and Canada.

We flew to Boston direct on Southwest. Unfortunately, our flight was quite delayed so we didn’t arrive until very late. We were staying with some family friends in Belmont who were very generous to wait up for us.

Napping in the airport during our looong delay. Reclining stroller again to the rescue!

The title of this blog post hearkens to a children’s board book written by Martha Day Zschock. We had purchased this book for Kiddo a couple weeks before our trip and read it often to get him excited. Strangely, it was a great way to plan for the trip. We tried hard to hit all of the sites that were mentioned in the cute rhyming story!

Things We Did

Quincy Market and Fanuiel Hall

We were able to get a ride from our hosts to Alewife Station and then took the T into downtown Boston. We started by grabbing lunch at the iconic Quincy Market. There were an amazing amount of choices for food and it was quite crowded. After a short wait, we were able to grab a seat while Eric enjoyed a clam chowder and Della went for pizza. Kiddo had some munchies and a large glass of milk! We then went across the street to check out Fanuiel Hall. It was under construction from the the outside, so not too interesting to look at. But the inside was beautiful. We enjoyed checking out the hall itself which has held meetings, protests, and debate for 275 years!

 

Freedom Trail

We walked north from Fanueil Hall on the Freedom Trail through the North End. The Freedom Trail is a fun red brick path that you follow through the heart of Boston that takes you to several interesting, historic sites.

The next stop would have been Paul Revere’s house. We were interested to go in, but the line was awfully long and it didn’t look like it would easily accommodate our stroller so we continued on.

Then we were on to the Old North Church of Paul Revere “One if by land, two if by sea” fame. It is also the oldest church building in Boston, built in 1723. There is a lovely shaded park in front of the church that we hung out in for awhile, letting Kiddo run around. He enjoyed splashing in the fountain and then staring in wonder at the statue of Paul Revere.

We decided at this point to turn around and head back south on the Freedom Trail, but first we needed to refresh ourselves with a cannoli from Mike’s Pastry. Delicious!

Next we headed to the Old State House. The Declaration of Independence was read from the balcony in 1776. We enjoyed looking at the lion and unicorn statues on top. These two animals appear on the British Royal Arms. The lion represents England and the unicorn Scotland. We also looked at the monument on the pavement in front of the Old State House to the 5 people who were killed during the Boston Massacre.

We checked out the Old Corner Bookstore which is one of the oldest brick structures in Boston (1712). It is now a Chipotle!

Up next was the Old South Meeting House which is a church where those who planned the Boston Tea Party departed from.

We saw a monument to the Boston Latin school which was the oldest still operating school in America! It was started in 1635! It was no longer at this location, but we enjoyed the monument.

Next, we took a minute to get out of the hot Boston sun by stepping into King’s Church. We enjoyed looking at the enormous pews and reading about various people who had purchased each one.

We walked into the Granary Burial Ground in which many famous people are buried including 3 signers if the Declaration of Independence, Paul Revere, and relatives of Benjamin Franklin.

Finally we were to the Boston Common and the State House. Boston Common is the oldest public park in the US! It was created as a common space for grazing cattle and for people to meet. We mostly just took a little time to rest and do a failed jelfie.

At this point we had completed the majority of the Freedom Trail! Kiddo slept in our new reclining stroller from after we ate cannollis until we arrived at the Boston Common.

Boston Public Garden

Our next stop included a statue of the the ducks from the children’s book Make Way for Ducklings. Kiddo was awake now and ready to enjoy the time in the park. He is a big fan of ducks, though he was a tad scared of the statues. He liked watching the real ducks and seeing the big swan boats go by.

Commonwealth Mall to Copley Square

We next wanted to head to Copley Square where we knew there was a statue of the Turtle and Hare (thanks Hello, Boston book!) We walked through the beautiful Commonwealth Avenue Mall. It is 32 acres designed in the French Boulevard style and it is lovely, shaded, and has many statues lining it. We spent a little time in the sunny, crowded Copley Square checking out the statues before deciding to head back toward our lodging.

Harvard

We stopped at Harvard on our way back out to Belmont. We were a little tired at this point, so we just walked around Harvard Yard and read about some of the buildings. We laughed quite a bit when Kiddo said a huge “Wow!” right as we entered the quad. He doesn’t talk a lot yet, but something about Harvard clearly impressed him!

Boston College

On our second day in Boston, the weather was a tad dreary. We also had a few social activities planned – meeting up with the family of our hosts, and enjoying a lovely lunch with college friends! Our friends work at Boston College and Della’s father attended there, so we decided to do a walkabout on campus. We enjoyed the tour by our college friend and trying to take pictures of things that Della’s dad might remember from his days there. Kiddo napped in our reclining stroller while we enjoyed chatting with our friends!

JFK Library

We had a busy final day in Boston. We met up with different college friends for brunch and then rushed through the JFK Presidential Library before heading back to the airport. We started getting into Presidential Libraries in the last year and were excited to add another one to our growing list. We really wish we had more time as the library was well laid out in a creative way. Unfortunately, kiddo wasn’t really into being in his stroller at the time. We had hoped he would nap, but he never really was able to relax. Therefore, we missed out on most of the videos which would have really enhanced the experience.

Traveling with Kiddo (Lessons Learned)

As mentioned above, using children’s books (even board books) can be a good way to get kiddos excited about travel destinations. They can also be useful in helping you plan out good kid-friendly activities and sights for when you get there!

We’ve mentioned above and in other posts how the reclining stroller is a game changer.

We struggled with which car to rent when traveling with Kiddo. We ultimately booked a compact car which we may have been able to fit in. However, we got upgraded when we picked up to a full-size we think and it was probably much more comfortable. Also- driving in Boston is insane!! Not even just in downtown, but everywhere! The streets make NO sense and have no discernible pattern. We realized quickly that you need a full time navigator AND google maps step-by-step driving instructions to get anywhere.

There is a ton to do in Boston and, like many places we’ve visited, we wish we had more time to explore. We look forward to visiting again when Kiddo is older.

 

Eger, Hungary

We have been looking forward to going to Eger for a long time! We knew that we needed to find time to visit this smaller Hungarian town.

Where We Stayed

Agria Retur Panzio – This nice pension was a little bit far from the train station so we had to lug our bags all the way through Old Town to get there. However, we were glad that we stayed here. We had a pretty sizable room with a private bathroom. There was a shared kitchen and meal area that was quite pleasant. We were only a few minutes walk from Old Town and the town Minaret was practically right outside our door!  The shower was unique though.

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What We Did

Valley of the Beautiful Women – This is why we traveled to Eger! Just over the hill, about a 25 min walk from Old Town, is the Valley of Beautiful Women. We’re not sure why the name, especially because we saw almost no one in our time in the valley. It was a miserably rainy day. However, it was still quite enjoyable because the reason you visit here is because it is full of about 50 wine cellars, all right next to each other. Tastes are free and glasses were as reasonable as 100 forint (about $0.50)! We really enjoyed striking up a conversation with a bored Hungarian working in the first cellar. We chatted about wine, Hungary, language, and her life. We also enjoyed trying the Eger special wine: Egri Bikaver or Bull’s Blood. The wine gets its name because in 1552, the people of Eger withstood a siege by the Ottoman Empire for a month. 2000 men from Eger against 100,000. They held! The king Istvan Dobo helped his troops by giving them wine which stained their beards red. This lead to rumors through the Turkish army that the men of Eger were so strong and vicious because they were drinking the blood of bulls! Every cellar has their own variant of this famous Eger wine. They also will fill up a plastic bottle of wine for cheap prices. We filled our 1 liter nalgene bottle of our favorite wine for only 500 forint (a little over $2.00!!) There are many cellars to try, but the rain and the alcohol caused us to only get to 3. We wish we lived close by cause we would go back regularly!

Eger Castle – As we mentioned, Eger is famous for withstanding a siege from the Turks. The castle is beautiful. There are a lot of things to do in the castle, a few museums, etc. However, we were mostly interested in the views. Also, we only had a small window at the end of a day when it wasn’t pouring. You do have to pay to walk the grounds, so we spent some time exploring the walls and enjoying the views. You can see the ruins of the first cathedral which was built on the same hill around 1000 AD. Eger exists because it grew around this cathedral.

Climb the Minaret
So, we talked about how Eger withstood the siege from the Turks. It was amazing and heroic, and, understandably, Eger is very proud of this point of its history. Unfortunately, the first siege was in 1552. The Turks came back in 1596, and this time Eger did not hold out. Eger was under Turkish rule for about 100 years. The minaret is a remnant from this time. It is an amazingly narrow, tall tower. There is nothing to do but climb the tower. We didn’t count, but our Lonely Planet says that there are 97 stairs in this narrow staircase. It winds up to the top and you almost have to crawl up on your hands and knees to contort your body through the narrow passage. Once on the viewing platform, the only thing you can do is shuffle sideways with your back to the tower. Della couldn’t even fit up there with her backpack. We did have some lovely views of the town and castle. The sun even decided to make an appearance!

Eger Basilica
Eger boasts the 2nd largest Basilica in the country, and it was huge. We chose not to pay for the special, daily organ concert, but we did find time to enter later. It is beautiful!

 

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The Eger Basilica

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Inside the Eger Basilica

 

City Under the City
The other cool thing about the Basilica is that you can enter the City Under the City right outside. This is actually a network of tunnels that functioned as the archbishop’s enormous wine cellar. This was from the days when church taxes were paid in wine! We did a tour here as it is the only way to see them and it was in Hungarian unfortunately. Though they did give us a nice English guide which gave us information about each of the things our guide was talking about. The only thing we missed was understanding the jokes and being able to ask questions.

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An explanation of mold and how it is necessary for wine storage?

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City under the City. Not any real wine.

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Exit Point Game – So, we had heard about these Escape Room games in Budapest. The premise is simple: They lock you in a room and you have 60 min to figure out how to escape. You will use clues within the room, logic, and other tricks to open locks, solve riddles, and unlock doors. It’s basically a chance for you to channel your inner Indiana Jones. We had known that we wanted to try one of these games, but couldn’t quite get around to figuring it out in Budapest. But we were quite excited to see that one of the companies had recently expanded to Eger! We walked by their office in town, which was only a few min away from our pension. We had no trouble scheduling an appointment because they had just opened 2 weeks ago. There is a hint button, which we never used. However, you are on video the entire time so the woman watching us gave us a few unsolicited hints when she could see we were stuck. We got out right before our 60 min were up. However, we do believe that if had a bit longer, we could have figured it out with no hints! It was a blast!

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What We Ate

We found that a lot of places in Eger (also in Budapest) offered a special “daily menu.” This menu normally got you a soup and some sort of meal. We were excited that these typically cost about 900 forint (less than $4.00)! We ate at a couple of different restaurants with this deal. The food wasn’t particularly memorable, but it was tasty!

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Final Thoughts

We were certainly glad that we went a little bit off the main tourist track to visit Eger. It was a beautiful old town. Unfortunately, a bit of the beauty was marred because they were completely redoing the main old town square.  Despite this, there is plenty of things to do to occupy your time for a couple of days. We wish we could have stayed longer. We also wish we could have been more efficient, however, the bad, rainy weather made some of the potential sightseeing unpleasant. Overall, we really enjoyed Eger and wish we could do it again!