Japan/USA diary, day 14

Sunday, 14 June, 2015. 10:41

We slept in this morning. Although I woke and was restless from about 03:30, I think I must have fallen asleep again around 05:00, because the next thing I knew it was close to 08:30. It took a day of not having to get up early to let me sleep more. It’s a shame today is our last full day in Boston!

We got some change from the front desk for my T ride this morning, as my weekly pass ticket had expired. Then we went to Bruegger’s to get bagels for breakfast again. M. had a pumpernickel with a bit of cream cheese, while I tried the “everything” bagel with smoked salmon cream cheese. It was really good, though a touch salty in places from the salt crystals used as part of the coating.

Boston castle
Castle at Park Plaza, on the walk to the market.

From there we caught the train in to Arlington station, where we exited to walk to the South End Open Market at SoWa (“south of Washington”). This was a fair walk, and the day had begun warm already, but at least it was partly cloudy. This didn’t help much once we arrived, as the stalls were in a very exposed area and the sun beat heavily through gaps in the patchy cloud as we walked around. We ended up a bit reddened by the sun by the end of the day, but fortunately not to the point of painful burns.

South End Open Market
South End Open Market at SoWa.

The markets are split up into three distinct areas by intervening buildings, as the location was clearly not custom built for market stalls, but rather simply a few blocks which happened to have open spaces for parking or other uses, repurposed as temporary markets on Sundays. The first section we came across was at the northern end, and consisted of craft and art stalls, including jewellery, clothing, photography, paintings, ceramics, and so on. We wandered around, with M. looking at various stalls while I mostly tried to use the sparse shade under the stall tents to keep out of the direct sun. Some of the artworks were good, with a photographer selling prints of some very nice photos from European travels, including an unusual black and white photo of Monet’s garden bridge at Giverny in winter, with all the plants bare. There was also an artist with comical cat watercolours, and another with canvases and prints of paintings in a brightly coloured style with heavy black lines tracing the borders of objects. There was a barista stall and I suggested M. get her morning coffee from there, but she decided against it.

The next section of the market was accessed through a short stairway leading through a building to another courtyard area. This section was the farmers’ market, with stalls selling fresh produce, as well as food items like honey, jam, sauces, baked goods, sweets, ice creams, cheeses, and meats. A lot of it looked very good, and many were giving out free samples. It tried a “black lava” sea salt caramel, intrigued by the “black lava” part, which the guy explained just meant that the sea water had been charcoal filtered before evaporating the salt out of it. The caramel was nice, but actually too salty for my liking. M. tried a piece of chocolate something further along, declaring it good.

All of them!
Blackboard at a cafe at the markets.

By this time it was getting pretty hot out in the sun. We went into a cafe next to the stairs and got some cold drinks: an iced coffee for M. and an iced herbal tea for me, which was lemon and ginger mixed with some sort of berry tea. We sat resting in the cool for quite a while, and I refilled my cup of ice with water twice to beat off dehydration. We used the single restroom, which had a bit of a queue when I went, so this took some time too.

(later, no time recorded)

Getting to the final section of the market involved going out to the street and walking half a block or so along the side of a building to another open area, which was full of food trucks. M. said afterwards that she counted thirteen of them. They were circled in a large rectangle around a central area filled with tables and chairs, a few of which had umbrellas to fend off the sun. We arrived here just after 12:00, and the area was full of people eating and queuing up for the various trucks.

Food vans
The food trucks.

After doing a circuit and determining how hungry we were, we got into the queue for The Chubby Chickpea, which had various falafel, shawarma, and chicken kebab wraps and things. The queue had about 20 people in it when we joined, and grew behind us as more people arrived for lunch. I got a falafel wrap and M. asked for a side order of falafels, which turned out to be a plastic tub with four of them and a generous dollop of hummus. The food was good – we ate it standing in the shade of the building.

Chubby Chickpea
The Chubby Chickpea food van.

After eating, we walked back towards the farmers’ market. Along the way we passed a shop in the side of a building which had various interesting homewares and trinkets. One thing grabbed my attention – a large bottle of aftershave. There was a tester open and after one smell I decided I really liked it, even though I almost always use moisturiser rather than traditional aftershave. It smelled strongly of many things: vanilla, cloves, sandalwood, anise, and more. I looked at the price on the bottle and it was $52, but it was a huge bottle and would have lasted years. I was really tempted to buy it, but we are only travelling with carry-on baggage and it wouldn’t be allowed in the cabin. I asked the shop assistant if she knew where I might get some in Australia, but she didn’t know. So I recorded the website of the brand, Fig and Yarrow, to look up later. [After arriving home, I searched online and found an Australian mail order distributor for this brand, and they had one bottle of the aftershave left in stock, so I bought it. It’s awesome!]

Colourful jars at the homeware shop.

From there we did another quick browse of the farmers’ market. One guy from Rolling Rock Farm was selling various salt, pepper, spice, and herb mixes in grinders, with about twenty different combinations of flavours. He packed them locally, and they looked great, so we bought a grinder of the all-purpose “Tony’s Tremendous Topping” seasoning as a gift for my mum. We wanted to use a toilet again, so tried the cafe we were in earlier, but the queue was long and there was a sign saying that there were more toilets in an adjacent building, on floors 2, 3, and 4, which sounded faster so we went across and began climbing stairs. The building was old and had been converted into dozens of artist studios. The level 2 and 3 toilets had queues, so we climbed all the way to 4, where there was only one person waiting.

After refreshing ourselves, we had another look at some of the art stalls. By now the sun had moved and a whole row of stalls was in the shade of the building, so this made it easier. I found a really cool print pattern on a dress and showed M., who also really liked it. However, any decision to buy was pre-empted by a lack of any items in her size. Nearby was a small print shop specialising in wedding stationery. Their sample items were amazingly beautiful and elegant.

Worcester Square
Worcester Square in South End, walking back to our hotel from the market.

We decided to take a long walk all the way back to our hotel. We headed south-west quite a distance them turned slightly north-west, following the pattern of streets. Much of the area we walked through seemed to be run down and poor, but one side street we passed was immaculate looking, lined with huge trees and rows of fancy looking brick houses, and containing a narrow central park in the middle of the street. We also passed what seemed to be three or four different hospitals, or perhaps one huge one.

Further along we hit the Fenway, where there was a sinuous park surrounding long thin lakes framed by trees. This was much more pleasant, until we hit some road construction in the middle of it. Passing this, we soon ended up at St Mary’s Street and the small cluster of shops near that T station.

Inside Tatte
Tatte bakery.

We stopped in at the cafe Tatte, which was a French style bakery with lots of breads, cakes, tarts, and other various treats. They had amazing looking high crusted rectangular tarts filled to overflowing with nuts, among luscious fruit tarts, chocolate cakes, and cheesecakes. We grabbed a seat and M. got an iced latte coffee, while I got a cup of the mint lemonade. M. couldn’t decide which of two good looking things to get, a flaked almond tart or a chocolate and walnut bun, so got both! It was good sitting in and having a cool drink, out of the warmth and the sunlight.

Almond and pecan tarts
Nut tarts at Tatte bakery.

After a leisurely rest there, we walked along Beacon Street back to our hotel to freshen up for dinner. We showered and dressed and then it was soon time to head out to the restaurant True Bistro for dinner with Elena and Lee and their daughter. On the way out, we asked at the front desk if we could have a late check out, and they gave us a 14:00 check out for no additional cost. We caught a train to Park St and changed for the red line train to Davis, where we got out and walked ten minutes or so to the restaurant.

We were greeted outside the front door by an older man who quickly asked us and a couple who arrived right behind us if we had reservations. We answered that we had, and the other couple said they didn’t. The man told them he was sorry but they wouldn’t be able to get a table, as they didn’t have enough chefs and needed to hire more. But we were fine and he showed us to our table in a back corner, a table for four set with an extra place at one end as I’d mentioned a child as our fifth person. The restaurant was not only vegetarian, but fully vegan. The dishes featured lots of mushrooms, tofu, tempeh, and seitan, but they all looked good on the menu.

True Bistro
True Bistro, Somerville.

Elena, Lee, and their daughter arrived a few minutes later, the girl claiming one of the regular seats and leaving Lee on the end of the table, but that seemed okay. The old man came over and said we could move another table adjacent and spread out, but we declined, saying we liked it cosy. We ordered a couple of the salads to share, one with couscous and apricots, and another with roasted beets and smoked tofu. For the main dishes M. chose the ravioli dish, Elena and I had the Thai green curry, Lee had the seitan skewers, and the girl chose one of the smaller dishes which was green beans. She initially asked for fries with it, but then changed her mind and didn’t get the fries. Elena said that they should come to this restaurant every night so that the girl would eat her beans, but she protested that no, she would get sick of them. To drink, M. chose a California Syrah wine, while I picked a Sauvignon Blanc; the others stuck with water. At the end of the meal, Lee and Elena split a banana bread with ice cream for dessert, while I tried the trio of a bourbon ice cream, apricot sorbet, and strawberry sorbet, served in a tuille basket.

Over dinner we discussed various things, with us finding out about Lee’s law studies and him asking questions about Australia. We gave them the animal coasters we’d purchased in South Australia; the girl was fascinated by them and played various guessing games with them.

After dinner, we left and all walked back to Davis station together. The train took us to Park Street, where M. and I left to switch to the green line, while Elena, Lee, and the girl continued on to Downtown Crossing. So we said goodbye and caught our train back to our hotel for our last night in Boston.

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