Boats around Boston

We live right by the train station, so bébé is naturally fascinated by the trains that pass by his window every hour or so (though thankfully not at night since it’s the commuter rail). However last weekend and this weekend we were around boats, so now we’ve added that to the list of things he loves.

My parents were visiting last weekend and the only thing they really wanted to see was the USS Constitution. We got there right as the museum opened and wandered around for a bit before we got in the line to explore the ship. Bébé liked the museum (they have a great kids area with games) but was just a bit too tired to wait in line to go on the “batoo” (bateau). My parents got in a bit later than planned Friday night and he was up much later than his regular bedtime so that we could go out to eat. So my husband took him home for a nap while my parents and I explored the ship.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was really cool. You can go down into it, and there are three lower levels you climb down little stairs to get to, so I felt very sailor-y. My husband didn’t realize it was free (as is the museum, though donations are suggested), so he definitely wants to go back with bébé another weekend and check it out. I think they’ll both love it.

This weekend we went to my colleague’s house on Cape Cod for the day, and he has a (much smaller) boat. There were motor troubles, so it was mostly sitting around on the water for an hour and a half, but it was such a sunny, beautiful day, nobody minded. (Except for my colleague, because he was obviously annoyed that his boat wasn’t working!) For the few minutes that the motor was working, bébé LOVED it. He was leaning over the edge looking at the waves, and giggling as the wind whipped through his hair. I made me think of Ariel in The Little Mermaid when she leans over the carriage to watch the horses legs move. (Bébé has also taken to looking under cars in the parking lot, so I think we may have a very mechanical child on our hands . . .)

Also like Ariel, bébé loves being in the water. He will run towards any large body of water at full speed, no matter the weather or what he’s wearing. We were at Pleasant Bay on Cape Cod, so very calm waters, and nothing scarier than a horseshoe crab. We’ll definitely be making another trip out there this summer, especially since I realized while driving down that there are no tolls! We packed a lunch and had breakfast at my colleague’s house, so we just paid for gas (which we didn’t even use that much of, as we happily discovered that our car gets amazing highway mileage.)

It’s been super sunny and nice lately, so I think we’ll be planning a cruise around Boston harbor to take advantage of the weather and encourage bébé’s love of all things boat and water related. Probably won’t be as cheap as the past few weekends, but his birthday is coming up, and how fun would a birthday boat cruise be?

Exploring Boston for free

We discussed getting out of town for Memorial Day weekend, but in the end, we decided on a staycation and explore Boston more. And as an added bonus, nearly everything was free!

Saturday we headed to Castle Island, to the south. Parking is free, but fills up fast. We ended up parking closer to the long path that curves around the bay (Google maps tells me it’s called the Head Island Causeway), rather than in the lot right at the park.

Castle Island 1

It turned into a hot day, but the morning walk along the water was really nice. I really love the sounds and smells of the sea, but I’m not a fan of sand. So while there were beaches around the bay, being on the island was nice, since it was grassy and you could be by the water without getting sandy.

The island is a great place for kids, with a big playground and lots of green space for kids to run around. The tours of Fort Independence are only in the afternoon, so we didn’t stick around to do it. We have learned it’s just best for everyone to not skip nap time.

Castle Island 2

We brought some food to snack on, but will definitely try out Sullivan’s on our next trip. We also skipped the toll roads, and got a great view of the Boston skyline when driving back along 93.

View of Boston

 

So overall cost for the day was just gas, which, at about 15 miles away, probably comes to about a dollar and a half. Not to bad for a little morning trip to the sea.

On the drive back, we passed a park with a spray deck. I have no idea if these exist in France, or even in other cities. Probably. Hopefully. Because they are awesome. It’s literally just a bunch of sprinklers and shoots of water on a flat area for kids to run around in. Since it got up in the 90s on Saturday afternoon, I thought this would be a fun thing for bébé to try. And he definitely loved it. There are a bunch around that I can’t wait to try out this summer.

Sunday we checked out the Arnold Arboretum, in Jamaica Plain. I feel like pictures really don’t do it justice. It’s like, a very pretty, manicured forest, with super wide paths. Bébé went crazy running all over the place, and laying in the grass, and smelling flowers. Arnold Arboretum

Parking is also free, and harder to find as the day goes on, so at least there’s one advantage to having a toddler who wakes up before 6 most days! Again, gas was probably less than two dollars, maybe even less than one, since it’s only about 10 miles away.

Sunday afternoon I headed to Cambridge to pick up a dining room table I found on Craigslist. It was a new area of Cambridge for me, so that was fun to drive around looking at everything.

I found some chairs on Craigslist as well, and picked them up this morning down the street from the Museum of Fine Arts, which was free today. So bébé and I checked it out while my husband took the chairs home, thus saving me the 25 dollars in parking (though paying tolls twice, so 5 dollars plus gas). The museum was not quite as fun as the island or the arboretum, since bébé could’t touch anything. Still, there were a few pieces you could interact with, and he seemed interested in a few paintings and stained glass windows. Mostly though, he liked climbing on the benches and stairs.

And finally, this afternoon I went to a movie for the first time since Christmas. It was in Lexington, a super cute (and historically important) town only 5 miles away that I’m sure we’ll go visit again and again. There’s a bike trail and ice cream shop and all sorts of stuff for kids this summer. I totally have a crush on this town.  Of course the houses start at like, 1.2 million dollars, so it will have to stay a crush, sigh.

Overall, it was a great weekend getting to know the area a little better. Our exploring actually started last weekend with a visit to Walden Pond (free parking with a library pass!), which will be another nice place for bébé to play in the water this summer. The walk around the pond got us thinking about longer hikes we might try, now that he’s slowly getting used to being in the baby carrier on our backs. A good system seems to be to let him run around for a good half hour before putting him in it, so that he’s tired and doesn’t mind being carried.

I didn’t set out to make this a “no-spend” weekend, but having bought the car a little earlier than planned, it’s interesting to see that it’s actually easier to get to cool free stuff than before. So to help offset the higher transportation costs, I like the idea of sticking to cheap and free family activities on the weekends. And honestly, with bébé’s attention span the way it is, there’s no sense in dropping tons of money on doing something he’ll like for about three minutes.

Right now, what he most seems to enjoy is being outside, running around, chatting up strangers, and if possible, getting wet. There are plenty of cool places to do that for free in the area, and I’m happy we got to visit a few this weekend. At work when people mention things, I can finally start to say “Oh yeah, we’ve been there!” and begin adding things to my list of recommendations for visitors. First up is my parents in a few weeks!

 

 

Exploring Boston and meeting my twin

This week’s adventures included a friend visiting, which was a great excuse to explore Boston. I also met my name twin, which is probably not a big deal if your name is Sara Smith, but mine is a little more unusual. Only around 600 people born in the States in the past 35 years have my first name, according to Social Security data. For comparison, over 20,000 girls were named Emma in 2014. So this was kind of a big deal for me. Also, our last names are super similar, like Smith and Smithson. Add to that a few other weird similarities, like the fact she also just moved to Boston, and I made the joke that I shouldn’t bring bébé, lest he get confused about which of us is his real momma.

In the end, I didn’t bring him in order to have a girls-only afternoon, which included my first ever Thai food (yes I know it’s weird I’ve never had it before) and a walk along Newbury Street, the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, and the Boston Public Garden.

Newbury Street

The afternoon started off a bit dreary, but it ended up being just beautiful weather, perfect for strolling around a new city.

Commonwealth Avenue Mall

It probably seemed like I was super excited about moving Boston, and I was, but now that the initial move is over and things are starting to settle down, I have been feeling a bit more blah about it. Since we do live a bus/train ride away from the center, it’s not like we can get to everything really easily, and with a toddler, long bus rides aren’t that fun. While I am still happy to be mostly car-free for now, working around nap times and train schedules doesn’t make for the most spontaneous weekends. And it really is very different from the environment I’ve been in for the past 8 years, so being back in an American urban aesthetic will take some getting used to.
Boston Public Garden

But making the trip in this weekend and walking around in the sunshine definitely helped me start to like it a lot more. I kept thinking “this will be great to show my mother-in-law” when she visits this fall, since I want her to approve of where we live now more than I’ve ever wanted her approval on anything! I missed out on some of my husband’s initial explorations those few weeks I was working and he wasn’t, so it was nice to discover a few things he hadn’t seen yet and tell him about it (since Boston is small and he’s seen a lot, just Newbury and Thai food).Boston Public Garden

We still had time to explore together, mainly new restaurants in our town, since having friends visit is also a great excuse for exploring local dining options. Walking around with her also helped me feel like this is “my” town now. She’s visited us in every single one of our apartments, so now we just need to plan a trip out West to see her and start exploring the States with bébé!