Thursday, July 24, 2008

Old State House restoration

The historic Old State House in Boston has undergone some restoration in the past few months. The Bostonian Society has restored the building's tower, restored masonry in several locations, and repaired or replaced damaged window frames. The dome and weathervane atop the tower were re-gilded, and they have been restored to their 18th-century splendor. Upgrades will continue to make the Old State House handicap-accessible and improve its interpretative displays.

The Boston National Historic Park and The Bostonian Society are celebrating the completion of the recent restoration work with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, July 25 at 11:00 AM. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne and National Park Service Director Mary Bomar will attend the ceremony on the plaza outside the Old State House. The construction project is the first to be completed under the National Park Service Centennial Initiative, which seeks to reinvigorate the country's national parks in time for the centennial of the National Park Service in 2016.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Boston Harbor Islands ferry reservations

While the prices for the ferries to the Boston Harbor Islands have increased this year (understandably, due to the sharp spike in fuel prices), one of the improvements made by park management is to have dedicated ferries that go from Long Wharf in Boston directly to Spectacle Island (as well as ferries that go directly from Boston to Georges Island). In previous years, ferries would stop at Georges Island and then Spectacle Island on the way back to Boston and it would not be uncommon for the boats to not have enough room to accommodate all who were waiting at Spectacle to return back to Boston, which led to delays and sometimes a frustrating first-time visit to the islands. With these dedicated ferries, it eliminates the scenario where a rush of people boarding ferries at Georges Island will impact those at Spectacle Island. From what I've heard, it's made the ferry service operate much more smoothly this year and has been a definite enhancement in service.

Another change this year is that during the peak months when you buy your ferry ticket at Long Wharf, you will also have to make reservations for a specific time out to the islands and also for a time back to Boston. This is to ensure that ferries coming back to Boston late in the afternoon will be facing an unexpected number of passengers that they are unable to accommodate. It means visitors will have to do a little more planning when taking a trip out to the islands in terms of estimating when they will return, but it's another move that will minimize the delays on getting ferries back to Boston (some of which could be 30-45 minutes last year) and provide more certainty to when visitors can get back to Boston. Ferry schedules are available on

One interesting stat I heard on Sunday out on Spectacle Island is that boat traffic in Boston Harbor is down by 40%. Presumably, because the high price of fuel. If that's true, it also means ferries are running into less traffic getting to and from the islands.

Gloucester Cinema

I'm not a big movie person, but I thought I'd give a quick report on a theater that we went to last weekend because the theater turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The Gloucester Cinema doesn't look much from the outside (in fact the marquee along the front advertises for ice cream and an ATM inside) but don't judge this book by its cover. Once you walk through the cramped lobby with a handful of video games and get into the theater (or at least the one of three screens on which we watched a movie this week) you'll get a movie experience on par with the major chains. The seats are comfortable, the screen of sufficient size, and the sound system is top-rate. Concession prices for reasonable--by movie standards, of course ($7.50 for a jumbo popcorn and soda). The best part: movies start at the listed movie times. You're not bombarded by 20 minutes of ads followed by 20 minutes of previews. The Gloucester Cinema is on Route 133 in Gloucester.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Boston 1775 Guest Posts

If you're interested in the history of Boston and America, and particularly if you are a Revolutionary War buff, the Boston 1775 blog is a must-read. The level of detail that J.L. Bell provides is amazing, and many posts are filled with first-hand accounts pulled from diaries and historical documents.

I'm fortunate enough to have some guest posts on Boston 1775 in the coming days on the skirmishes that occurred between the patriots and the British on Little Brewster Island, home to Boston Light, a very strategic target. Here's the first post and look for more in the coming days.

Friday, July 18, 2008

New York Times Quote

Today's issue (July 18, 2008) of The New York Times has an article on the Boston Harbor Islands in the Escapes section. There's a quote from me in the article and a mention of Discovering the Boston Harbor Islands, so check it out.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Waltham Daily News Tribune article

There's an article about Discovering the Boston Harbor Islands in today's edition (July 14, 2008) of The Daily News Tribune (Waltham, Massachusetts). You can check it out here.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Tune into Nautical Talk This Weekend

This Sunday morning (July 13) at 11:00 AM, tune in to the Nautical Talk radio program on 95.9 FM WATD out of Marshfield, Massachusetts. An interview I did with Captain Lou, the host of Nautical Talk, about Discovering the Boston Harbor Islands is scheduled to air during the hour-long program. If you don't get WATD in your area, you can listen online at If you miss it, you can listen to the rebroadcast later in the week at the Nautical Talk web site.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

New England Patriots Training Camp 2008

So is it OK to mention the word "football" around Boston yet? Has time healed any of the wounds? Can Pats fans raise their heads up along with their hopes for the coming season, like a groundhog peaking out of the ground in early Februrary, or should they return to the darkness of their bunkers for six more weeks of a winter, spring, and summer of disappointment?

I seemed to have blacked out the last two minutes of Super Bowl XLII from my memory, which I think is a healthy way to deal with reality. The Red Sox Duck Tour Parade simply leads right into the Celtics Parade in my mind, and that works just fine.

So who's ready for some football? Training camp is right around the corner. The Patriots have just announced on their web site that camp will begin on Thursday, July 24. Rookies are due to report July 21 and veterans on July 23. Here is the TENTATIVE lineup for the first few days:

THURSDAY, JULY 24 8:45 - 10:30 a.m. Morning practice5:30 - 7:30 p.m. Evening practice
FRIDAY, JULY 25 2:30 - 4:30 p.m. Afternoon practice
SATURDAY, JULY 26 Training camp practices are closed to the public due to the New England Country Music Festival.
SUNDAY, JULY 27 8:45 - 10:30 a.m. Morning practice5:30 - 7:30 p.m. Evening practice
MONDAY, JULY 28 2:30 - 4:30 p.m. Afternoon practice

Assuming there are no changes to public access with this year's training camp, most practices should be open to the public through August 14. (Click here for a report from last year's training camp.) Most practices take place on the two practice fields behind the south end zone of Gilette Stadium.

Some days there are a morning and an evening session, and other days there is just a single session, often in the afternoon. The schedule is always tentative based on the desires of the coaching staff and oftentimes the weather. Therefore, if you're interested in going to see practice, by all means check the schedule on the Patriots web site and double-check it by calling the team's hot line at 508-549-0001.

The practice is free to attend, and the parking is free as well. There are concession stands that sell food, drinks, and beer. Be prepared to pay normal stadium prices for food and beverages, however, if you buy it there. In past years parking has been in lot 22 along the west side of the stadium and it's a short walk over to the fields.

Along the west side of the stadium has also been the Patriots Experience, filled with interactive games that allow fans to test their kicking, passing, and tackling skills on a variety of obstacle courses, football tosses, and other similar challenges. It's a popular draw for kids. And while you're in the area, you may also want to check out the stores at the ever-expanding Patriot Place.

There are bleachers along the side of one practice fields on which to sit. Another popular spot is on the hillside that lies behind the end zones of the practice field and in front of the stadium. The players enter and leave the field near that hillside, so it's a good spot to get autographs, and players will often sign along the front row of the bleachers when practice is over. Wherever you sit, you're pretty close to the action. If you have a camera with a good zoom lens, you should get some good shots. With last year's Spygate fiasco, however, maybe you should leave that video camera at home.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Bizarro World

Excuse me, but what bizarro world am I living in that the Tampa Bay Rays lead the Red Sox on July 2 and that we're getting massive thunderstorms every day??? Today we got hail--hail!!!--and tropical storm wind gusts. It sounds like an Olympic ping pong match is being played against my windows, and it looks like winter out there with a coating of white hail on everything. (Oh, and today was supposed to be the one clear day this week.) Did Tampa and Boston get mixed up in some Freaky Friday plot I don't know about?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Merrimack Restaurant, RIP

Sorry to read yesterday in The Boston Globe that the landmark Merrimack Restaurant in Manchester, New Hampshire, is closing its doors. The restaurant was always a popular spot on the campaign trail given its central location on Manchester's main thoroughfare and its working- and middle-class customers who could be counted on to vote in the first-in-the-nation primary.

Here's a picture I took this last January just before the primary of a mural painted along the side of the restaurant. Among the faces are Gary Hart, Steve Forbes, Bill Clinton, Joe Lieberman, and Bob Dole. (Interesting that only Hart and Clinton actually won the primary. And Clinton only won it running for a second term.) Perhaps it was a sign of things to come that the restaurant was closed that day I walked by. No customers inside. Just a camera crew interviewing a focus group of voters. Used to be that the regular customers could be counted on to be the focus group for candidates. No more.