Christine’s Tea Room

My Christmas Holiday Trip: Boston
by Christine Chen -- January 2nd, 2013

For international students, there are usually two ways to spend their Christmas holidays: going back to their home countries for family reunions or going on a vacation in somewhere else in the United States. I chose the latter one this year, and went on a two-week trip to Boston and New York with my best friends since college. We planned to stay in Boston for 5 days and then come back to New York for 9 days. Cars were not involved in this trip since we were visiting cities, so our transportation for the trip included the airplane, bus, metro, railway, and last but not least, our feet. Here are some pictures of the places we’ve visited in Boston and my reflections on this trip.

Boston Tea Party Museum

 

Salem Witch Museum

It is a sad story.  Twenty innocent victims lost their lives during the Witch Hunt of 1692. Everything started with a lie.

 

The Charles River

Charles River is a cradle for brilliance. On one side of the river, it’s the old town of Boston where the famous Tea Party event happened in 1773. On the other side of the river, there are two prestigious academic institutes: Harvard University and MIT, nourishing younger spirits still today.

MIT, mixture of creativity and technology

 

Harvard University, one of the best universities in the world!

 

Can’t visit Boston without tasting seafood!

 

Exploring the city via trolley is a good idea

Even though the historic sites in the old town of Boston, such as the famous Quincy Market and Freedom Trail, were not far from each other, visiting all of the sites on foot was exhausting. Therefore we chose to buy passes for the Old Town Trolley (www.trolleytours.com/boston) which cost $35, but you can hop on and off any time within 7 successive days (note: it’s a seasonal promotion).  Plus, if, like us, you were interested in learning more about the Boston Tea Party and the pivotal role of Boston in the American Revolution, you should probably plan a visit to the Tea Party Museum.  The trolley ticket includes admission to the Tea Party Museum, which on its own costs $25 (not cheap but I think it’s worth it!).  So it you’re interested in both, it’s a really great deal! 

The end of the paper map era

Because of taking a GIS course this semester, I put more focus on the maps we encountered on this trip.  It struck me that, sadly but honestly, paper maps and tour guides are getting old-fashioned.  I remember back when I was a child, two or three maps on different scales were enough to direct you to the neighborhood or the site you were looking for. You would plan ahead for the sites you wanted to visit and maybe stop by some famous restaurants listed in the tour guide. Everything had to be searched or planned beforehand, because once you were on the road, there was no turning back.  If something wasn’t listed on your maps or tour guides, you had to ask for directions or rely on word of mouth.

But on this trip – which is still ongoing as I write this post – we accidentally lost the document with all of our plans, including detailed maps and information on museums, restaurants and accommodations.  So we relied on what may be the most incredible invention in the history of Homo sapiens – the smart phone. Not sure how to get to the hostel from South Station where the bus dropped you off?  No problem, just open the GPS on the phone and ask Google map to calculate the route for you.  Not sure if walking from MIT’s campus to Harvard’s campus is going to kill your feet because of its distance?  Don’t sweat it: Google Map can tell you precisely how long it takes.  Getting hungry but not yet at the restaurant where you planned to eat?  You can search for the nearest best restaurants by checking out users’ recommendations on websites or apps such as Zagat or Yelp.  The truth is, what was on our paper document could almost all be found through searching the internet, even if it sometimes took a great deal of time to find it, diminishing the time we had to relax on our hotel beds!

With the internet and smart phones at our disposal, the views and reviews of other members of the public have became important sources of travel information.  We no longer have to rely solely on “authorities” such as television shows, magazines and guide books.  This has its pros and cons, as we discovered.  Online reviewers aren’t necessarily travel professional or gourmets, and they can sometimes be biased.   Nonetheless, with so many people now sharing their travel and dining experiences and reviews online, it is possible to find information you need and can trust if you’re willing to search a bit.  There are sites and reviews to satisfy the needs of many different type of travelers: young or old, high-budget or low-budget, loose schedules or tight.  And it’s much easier and less cumbersome to pack a smart phone than to pack a bunch of old-fashioned print maps and travel guides, especially if you need several of them to cover your whole trip.

Other drawbacks (as we discovered) to relying on electronic and mobile information sources are that smart phone batteries can run out during the trip, places for re-charging them can be hard to find, and the cell phone signal sometimes is too weak to work. (If you’re planning a trip to climb mountains or explore aboriginal forests, traditional maps might be the wiser option.)  Still, the trend is clear.  The paper map era is coming to its end.

 

 

1 Comment

  1. Jenny Worthing
    Jan 10, 2013

    What a wonderful trip that must’ve been! I’ve always wanted to get out to Boston but never had the chance. From what I’ve heard it’s a really unique sort of culture.

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