Even though I’ve lived in Boston about half a year now, I sometimes still feel like a tourist, since I spend so much time in classes. When we first moved here in the summer, we had more free time and did a lot of exploring around, especially when my family came to visit. Here are a few suggestions I would offer to anyone planning a visit to Boston. I am mainly listing the “popular” stuff. I will put a (*) to mark things that are more off-the-beaten-track. This is not a comprehensive list, of course.

Downtown Area

  • Quincy Market/ Faneuil Hall
  • Aquarium/ Long Wharf
  • Italian restaurants in the North End
  • Freedom Trail
  • Bunker Hill
  • USS Constitution
  • Boston Public Gardens
  • Community Sailing*
  • Barking Crab restaurant- good seafood, less expensive than Quincy Market area.
  • Science Center

Back Bay/ Fenway

  • Trinity Church- taking a guided tour is recommended.
  • Duck Tours
  • Boston Public Library
  • Museum of Fine Arts
  • Fenway Park
  • Isabella Steward Gardener Museum*


  • Harvard Square
  • MIT Campus
  • Mt. Auburn Cemetery*- has a cool monument tower you can climb for an excellent view of the city. Also many famous people are buried here.
  • Minuteman Bike Trail*- an old railroad grade extends from Alewife all the way out to Lexington/ Concord

Other Places

  • Pleasure Bay*- it’s fun to watch the tide come in and out, and to see the windsurfers.
  • Arnold Arboretum*- Jamaica Plain neighborhood
  • South End neighborhood*- many interesting townhouses and shady streets
  • Larz Anderson Park*- South Brookline. Has a unique automobile museum and excellent sledding/ kite flying hills.

When I lived in Charlottesville, I used to love exploring around the fringes of the town on the Rivanna Trail. On one occasion I was scouting out my next jogging route and noticed a huge, mysterious house through the woods on top of the hill behind the University of Virginia (UVA) campus. I asked around and no one seemed to know who lived there or whether it had any connection to the rest of the town. Even on Google Maps, it somehow reminded me of the kind of place Scooby Doo and the gang would encounter a spooky monster.

Having moved away from Charlottesville, I forgot about the mysterious house until recently when I had a strange dream about it. This inspired me to do a bit of research. Based on gisweb.albemarle.org, I found out the current owner Lewis Mountain LLC obtained from previous owner Everett Lee Campbell (an MD in TX?) in 2010, who inherited it from Julia Courtenay Campbell. Here is her obituary. It seems their application to have it recognized as a historic landmark was successful. This also shows the house was designed in 1909 and built in 1912. And through that I found a couple of fascinating articles describing the history of the house:

The process of learning more about the idiosyncrasies of our local surroundings is such a delight. It reminds me of William Blake’s poem, “To see a world in a grain of sand…”. I hope the folks living there don’t mind my curiosity. I would not wish for anyone to intrude upon their personal sanctuary. However, such an impressive structure, in such an unusual location, deserves to have its story told.

This weekend I went on an awesome bike ride in Washington, DC through Rock Creek Park and back down to Georgetown via the Capital Crescent Trail. If you’d like to try it, here are some notes I sent to my friend about the ride:

  • I had no trouble parking on Water Street near Jack’s Boathouse even though there were a ton of other people out shopping in Georgetown.If coming across the Key Bridge turn on M Street going east then right on Wisconsin Ave.
  • From there I rode down the street to the Rock Creek trail which basically runs parallel to Rock Creek Parkway. It was narrow and crowded with pedestrians at first but after ~2 miles there wasn’t any problem.
  • Beach Drive through the park is closed on Sundays to cars, so it’s ideal for biking. I followed it all the way to Maryland.
  • Beach Dr turns into Jones Mill Rd. after crossing East West Hwy. I followed it to the intersection with Jones Bridge Rd. and turned left (South/West) onto Georgetown Branch Trail/ Capital Crescent Trail. Up to this point, the trail was paved and relatively flat with a slight uphill trend.
  • The first couple of miles on the Georgetown Branch trial were gravel but posed no threat to my very narrow road bike tires
  • After going through a giant tunnel, it empties out right in the middle of Bethesda row. You have to go across a tricky intersection but then the trail starts up again with pavement and is basically downhill the whole rest of the way.
  • You can then follow the Capital Crescent all the way back to Georgetown. It runs parallel to the C&O for the last several miles.
  • I think the total distance is a little less than 20 miles and it took me about 1.5 hours.
  • You could also do the loop in reverse, in which case it would be a long gradual uphill for the first half and then a slightly hilly flat/downhill the second half.

If you live in or near Charlottesville, come to the Haiti Earthquake Relief concert event this Saturday!

Love 4 Haiti
Saturday January 23, 2010
5pm – midnight

Random Row Books (click for map)
315 W. Main St (Main St and McIntire Rd)
Admission $5

Performers include Taiwanese surf rock band “Dzian!” and a host of others. For more details, see the official press release, or see the facebook event page.

And, if you have doubts about whether this will really make a difference, consider that even critics of long-term foreign aid such as Dr. William Easterly and Dambisa Moyo are advocating for immediate relief (according to the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof). Furthermore, cash makes a bigger impact than donations of physical goods or volunteering in a crisis of this kind.