It was about 12 years since my first trip to Boston. Being an East Coaster, I always wanted to head back to Massachusetts. After going full throttle at work for the past six months I decided with a few days off. I took a long weekend and headed to Bean town before Thanksgiving break. Traveling solo was a perfect reset before heading into the start of the holiday season with family and it might be a tradition from here on out!
I knew I didn’t want to deal with airports so I booked a train ride from the brand-new Moynihan Hall in New York to South Station in Boston. The business class on the Northeast Regional train was spacious, clean and one of the easiest travel experiences I’ve ever had. (I actually preferred this train over the Acela which I took on my way back). “It’s like the Bellagio,” said the passenger in front of me, to his wife. And I couldn’t agree with him more.
Day 1: Perfect Location, Farmer’s Market & Moroccan Food in the North End
I stayed at the Battery Wharf Hotel, located on the North End steps from the Paul Revere statue, right on the water. The hotel room was clean and spacious and the people were attentive and refreshed my room daily. It was quiet, private, and a really great stay.
I was steps away from the North End and decided to explore. I came across a Farmer’s Market (Fahmah’s Mahkit in Bostonian). The bustling market has all kinds of fresh produce and seafood. I ended up snagging a bag of Anjou pears and crunchy red grapes for a total of just $4 bucks (a purchase that would last me the entirety of my trip!).
Nearby is the Boston Public Market which has a variety of vendors inside. The scent of warm apple cider donuts draws you in as soon as you step inside. But I opted for Union Square Donuts instead, and couldn’t pass up their Vietnamese coffee donut to enjoy for breakfast the next day! They even have a holiday menu to pre-order from which offers everything from brioche rolls, cinnamon rolls and a variety of vegan treats too!
My stomach howled at the sights and smells of food. I settled on Mo’Rockin Fusion. I got the hearty Prince bowl which included soft yellow rice, well-seasoned chicken thighs chopped up, jalapeño covered chickpeas, covered in delicious spicy harissa and garlicky white sauce. It was fulfilling and quite an end to a great first day.
Day 2: Fanueil Hall, Shopping & Lobstah
I decided to walk around the waterfront and check out some of Boston’s landmarks. There were lots of shops and Quincy Market bustled with people and a wide variety of food vendors. But I can’t say I had an appetite after being in the vicinity of Faneuil Hall.
Faneuil Hall is one of Boston’s most popular attractions and a complicated one that I felt conflicted visiting. While it was a meeting place for revolutionaries like Frederick Douglass who spoke there. It’s also a relic of the slave trade in Boston.
Peter Faneuil was a merchant who made money off slavery and owned slaves himself. Slaves were bought and sold right next to what is now Faneuil Hall. It’s now a place where people can pose for selfies and shop. It’s a bit of a weird and uncomfortable spot to be in, especially knowing profits from the slave trade helped fund the landmark.
So, I kept walking. I took in the beautiful waterfront scenes nearby. Christopher Columbus (another divisive figure) Waterfront Park is undeniable in its design and incredible views of the water.
Eventually, I hit the shopping area on Washington Street. There were many big-name stores and it reminded me of a smaller version of 34th street in NYC (except much cleaner and quieter). After hours of going into stores and getting lost downtown, I certainly shopped up an appetite. For dinner, I decided on Luke’s Lobster where I scarfed the Spicy Honey Butter Lobster Roll and a large lobster bisque soup which was needed on this chilly day.
Day 3: Cinnamon Maple Latte Dreams and Spirituality In Salem
I decided to head right downstairs to Café Amalfi which was convenient for a caffeine pick-me-up. I had a flavorful iced Cinnamon Maple Latte that provided the jolt I needed for a long outing. I also devoured their soft chive biscuit sandwich with bacon, eggs, cheese and spinach.
In high school I took a gothic fiction class, it’s still one of the best times I’ve ever had in my educational life (Thanks Ms. Mabli!). We went on a class trip to Salem and I just had to go back, this time around. It was only a half-hour train ride on the commuter rail at North Station and $8 bucks each way!
I got some fun souvenirs walking down Essex Street at the novelty witchy shops. I was also on the hunt to get some sweet treats to take back. I just had to go to the Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie in Salem.
This candy shop is the flagship of America’s oldest candy company, over 200 years old. Known for old candies like Gibralters rock candy and chewy Blackjacks. I opted to get a small box of freshly made turtles, a few of milk chocolate with cashews and dark chocolate with pecans for the chocoholics back home.
The shop was also in the middle of the Maritime District which was magical to walk around. Surrounded by views of the water, history was pulsing throughout the streets. Many homes had plaques dedicated to shipbuilders. Salem Maritime was the first park to be preserved as a national historic site. The nine-acre park has ten historic buildings, archeological sites, four historic wharves, and a historic light station that dates between 1675 and 1944.
For dinner, I stopped off at the very hip and artsy Gulu-Gulu Café. I got the delicious Barcelona sandwich with turkey, cheddar, apple butter, dijon, and arugula pressed on crispy sourdough. It was a perfect prequel to Thanksgiving. This artisan sandwich shop is a really quaint eatery within Salem’s shopping area.
I couldn’t leave without getting a tarot reading, could I? The very sweet and kind Jess from New Jersey did a really fun and in-depth tarot reading at Hermetic Arts. With the High Priestess and The Empress cards on my side, I left the charming city of Salem with a more magical swag as I headed back to Boston.
Day 4: Reiki Awakening, A Café Mocha I Still Think About & The Hunt For Italian Treats
Inspired by my whimsical time in Salem, I decided to book some self-care at Exhale Spa right across the street affiliated with the Battery Wharf hotel. It was my first time at a spa and even though I like the thought of spa spaces I don’t enjoy being half-naked with a stranger pushing my pudge around. So I didn’t opt for a traditional massage.
Instead, I booked an hour-long reiki session with a very Zen being named Charles. Reiki is a Japanese form of energy healing. I know…it sounds like crap. But I got a random, free reiki session about five years ago and the experience stayed with me ever since. With calm instrumental flutes, it was part meditation and deep breathing with my practitioner Charles.
At the end of the session, Charles said, “Take it easy today, don’t go running around like an ant.” (How did he know me so well?) I did not listen to him. With my chakras aligned and limbs feeling looser than al dente spaghetti, I was on the hunt for Italian treats.
I walked to the notable Mike’s Bakery and Modern Bakery on Hanover but when I popped in Bova’s I knew this was where I needed to get the goods. Bova’s Bakery is open every single day, 24 hours a day. Along with a variety of sweets, they also baked their own bread, varieties of calzones and arancini!
On my walk back to the hotel I stopped at the very charming Lil Italy Café for what was probably one of the best warm café mochas I’ve ever had. As caffeinated as I was, the big lesson of the day was to never doubt your reiki practitioner. Charles was right, I was exhausted and napped until dinner.
There’s no way I could leave Boston, while staying in the North End, without indulging in hearty pasta. There are dozens of Italian restaurants lining Hanover Street but I decided on Dino’s based on a recommendation from a lovely woman at Bova’s. I got the baked fettuccini with grilled chicken and mushrooms. It was rich, tasty and could feed at least four people. The lobster ravioli was also recommended and seemed very popular!
Day 5: Bringing Rainbow Cookies Back To New York In Tact
I probably should have planned my travels better since I was leaving to head back to New York the day before Thanksgiving, one of the busiest travel days of the year. But my last morning in Boston revolved around getting those fresh Italian cookies for neighbors, family and friends!
I headed back to Bova’s in the morning, which was packed. It was a 30-minute wait filled with comradery in the tiny bakery. I snagged a half pound of rainbow cookies and two packages of their mixed cookies (my favorite was the freshly made Milanos!). Many Bostonians snagged pies for their own Thanksgiving feasts. I noticed the chocolate ricotta pie was a go-to!
For breakfast, I made one last stop to Amalfi for a ham and cheese croissant and a warm cinnamon maple latte. I packed up my last pear from the first day into my backpack before heading back to NYC. I went into the holidays with fresh cookies and a fresh mindset.
I’m a huge fan of traveling solo, there’s additional freedom and resourcefulness that you have when exploring alone. It was refreshing and much-needed and Boston had so much history and fun to offer. A peaceful getaway doesn’t need to be in Bali or far away, it could be on the same coast or even a staycation in the same city!