Monday, April 22, 2013

Boston on my Mind

Boston is really on my mind.

And not just because it is has been front page news this past week, but because of the impact of disasters, both natural and man-made, on the people connected to it.

We were just there.  My husband and our two daughters and I just walked those tidy streets and met those friendly people.  Bostonians opened their arms to the World Championships of Irish Dance, and we flooded their hotels with wigs and sparkled dresses and tapping feet.  We spent ten days in the Boston area, and we had an amazing time.

My travel blog was about to be posted on Patriots Day. I held back for a week, and now feel the best thing is to celebrate everything good about Boston.  And encourage families to visit.  We share your pain, applaud your strength, and admire your fortitude.

Our family joined friends, and we signed up for the "Hop On Hop Off" Bus, and took advantage of the included admission to the "Boston Tea Party" exhibit.  Our kids ages 9-15 learned the history of the beginnings of the American Revolution, and the role Bostonians played in the birth of the United States as an independent country.  The interactive play was both entertaining and educational, letting the kids act out characters, yell out encouragement in a big "Hazzah!" and throw the tea bales off the ships into the sea (earning souvenir feathers for their attempts).  We got to experience the interior of a pilgrim's ship, and feel connected to the 17th century players.  It was a highlight of the trip.

Another must-do (for Mom and Dad, anyway) was a quick lunch at the Cheers bar.  Iconic from the 80's sitcom, the small downstairs pub on Beacon Hill delivered with simple pub fare and good cold brew... Samuel Adam's just to be local.

The excursion to the New England State would not have been complete without taking in a Boston Bruins game.  In fact, our Dance Dad would have probably called the trip a miss if it had not have been happening in the home venue of his all-time favourite hockey team, with a chance to visit the Boston Gardens.  As luck would have it, with the NHL strike over and a condensed season in progress, we had a choice of three possible games that week, tickets bought online.  Hubby picked the Original Six classic: Bruins versus the Habs.  Complete with the rivalry chants, the crowds celebrated in full style both pre-game at the neighbouring Hurricane O'Reilly's and post-game as well.  Families were welcomed into the pubs (YES!), so if a father-son game is on the itinerary, hockey in Boston is a must.

You can't predict the future.  Or guarantee that you won't be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  If you are familiar with our story, you already know that we experienced several instances of near-miss events, where a major tragedy occurred within weeks of our visit or immediately prior to our arrival.

Our hearts go out to all those affected by the horrible life-changing events in Boston last week.  How easy it could have been our family, our event sabotaged by the twisted actions of others.  But if we give power to those people, by living scared or intimidated, we give them more than they are worth.

Go hug your kids, your parents, those who are your world.  And then go out and explore it. Together.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Cape Cod, a perfect off-season retreat

Our girls are both competitive Irish dancers.

Their sport started modestly, with local classes from the age of 3, through the ranks of beginners and novice, prizewinners and Championships.  The exchange for the hundreds of hours of practice and training has been the opportunity to compete on a World Stage - and this year, the 43rd annual "Olympics" of Irish Dance was held in Boston, USA.

We arrived in Boston a few days early, and headed south to Cape Cod.  Since it was our first adventure to the New England States, we hoped to explore a bit of coastline and sample the local seafood and chowder.  Provincetown was still very quiet (end of March is early in the season), but still eclectic and colourful under the grey skies.

We had a wonderful cozy night at the Provincetown Inn, excellent off-season value including breakfast for 4, under $100/night.  Our amazing oceanfront view was transformed to a winter wonderland with a heavy dump of wet snow while we slept.

Dinner was recommended at a local eatery called Napi's, and was artfully prepared with fresh ingredients then served by a friendly hostess.  Our daughters enjoyed the collection of seafaring treasures displayed on the walls and shelves, and had a rousing game of "I Spy" while we waited for our meals.

The hotel featured a turn-of-the-century fireplace with sofas pulled close, and the quiet of the building created a perfect refuge from the storm.  The next morning, we headed for a quiet seaside hike across snow-covered paths to the water's edge, where only a few gulls braved the chill.

Travel doesn't have to mean going full speed ahead.  Sometimes the best part is allowing yourself some down time, without over-scheduling your family into every possible activity to see and to do.  Kids need to learn to sit and engage in thoughtful conversation.  They need to be given time to rest and focus, especially if their daily life is hectic.  We all need balance.

This quiet, reflective time, especially before a major competition with its accompanying stress and pressure and physical demands, allowed our family to "refuel".  Cape Cod in March.  Ideal!