the last time i took out a roommate was back in july: "susan" and i arrived and left boston via public transportation, but we made the rest of our trip by foot. the idea of doing a bicycle tour was always there but never realized because up until now i only had one bicycle. but with pau's access to his friend's bike, we could finally try it out. the advantage of being on bikes meant we could cover more ground. the disadvantages are it's impossible to take photos while riding a bike and traveling through the busier streets of boston can be a risky proposition.
we headed into boston under a clear blue sky. it was a little bit chilly this morning, but warm in the sun, and downright hot after several minutes of pedaling. we reached the longfellow bridge in about 20 minutes. we leaned our bikes against the metal barricade next to the narrow bike lane and hopped over the railing to check out the view of boston. pau didn't need any prompting to take out his camera and begin shooting. in the water were sailboats, practicing crewmen (head of the charles in just a few weeks), and the ubiquitous duck tour boats. along the walkway joggers ran past us.
we also wandered a bit through boston common, and by coincidence ran into a noisy march protesting child trafficking. occasionally we saw walking tour groups led by historical re-enactors.
our next stop was the massachusetts state house, where we locked our bikes to the iron-wrought fence across the street by boston common. we went through parts of beacon hill. pau correctly guessed the function of those boot scrapers and said the houses there looked european. i worried if he was properly impressed or noticed the "as seen in europe" theme throughout much of our landmarks. at the state house, he was especially bemused by the "general hooker entrance" signs adorning the gates. he tried to get a photo of just the state house but a bus load of tourists wandered into the shot and he gave up.
pau is actually the first of my foreign roommates who know about cheers, that legendary boston-based sitcom (1982-1993). it was one of the few boston places he visited when he first got here, before moving into my place. we passed by the famous exterior location on our way to the next destination: copley square. we got there by riding down the central commonwealth boulevard and then cutting to copley from clarendon street.
at around 11:30 the sun was behind the hancock tower, leaving nearby trinity church in the shadows. despite not getting good lighting for his photos, pau seemed genuinely impressed by the church. it wasn't in an architectural style he recognized, but seemed to be mixture of different styles, all to make the church look much older than it really is (133 years young; and it's built in the american style of richardsonian romanesque).
when i told him the story of how the john hancock tower came to be, he asked if we could go up. i told him it's been closed since 9/11, but the nearby prudential observatory is still in business, although at an outrageously expensive admission price. he seriously wanted to go high to get a panoramic view of the city. the perfect weather spurred him even more, not knowing when it'll be this good again. i managed to talk him out of it when i told him there'd be plenty more of days like this and that he might want to get a wide angled lens beforehand.
the boston public library was the next stop. it's a good place to bring tourists because 1) it's free, 2) the interior architecture is very impressive, and 3) the clean bathrooms. china roommates get a kick out of seeing all the banned chinese language books they could never find back at home; pau was impressed by the architecture and the maps of old boston before the marsh lands were filled in to create modern boston.
we biked down clarendon through the south end, then up tremont to herald street, to the former super 88 supermarket at the corner of washington. despite having been to taiwan before, it still seemed like a culture clash for pau, who said he felt like he was in another country being the only non-asian in the store. i picked up some chili paste and then waited in line to pay.
from there we went across the mass turnpike into chinatown proper. we parked the bikes and walked around a bit. pau was thinking about lunch (it was 1:00 by then) but i told him we didn't have time, since we wanted to leave boston by 2:00. there was bunch of taiwanese flags adorning the area. i suddenly remembered it was chinese independence day. but the actual date of chinese independence and which flag is flown is hotly contested. for the republic of china (taiwan) that date is 10/10, the start of a 1911 uprising that led to the overthrow of the last emperor. for the people's republic of china (mainland china) that date is 10/1, the day chiang kai-shek's nationalist army were driven out to taiwan and mao zedong proclaimed a new people's republic. the fact that chinatown was covered with nationalist china (taiwan) flags is sort of a dig against communist china.
cutting across the empty financial district gave us a brief moment of reprieve where we didn't have to dodge car traffic. the area was a virtual ghost town and we could ride in the middle of the street. we locked our bikes close to quincy market, and backtracked a little bit so i could point out the old (british) state house.
from there we walked to city hall. just our luck, there was some kind of american hot rod exhibit, featuring dozens of the most beautiful cars i've ever seen in my life. i only got a few photos, wish i took more, because there was mechanical eye candy everywhere. i don't know too much about cars, but pau seems to be a car guy, so it was a real treat for him. but with only 30 minutes left before 2:00, i reluctantly told him we had to keep moving. we went to nearby haymarket where i picked up a few things (cilantro, scallions, beets). pau didn't buy anything, i get the feeling he's not that much too vegetables (not with a freezer stocked with meats). we then went through the gauntlet of food stalls known as quincy market. we stopped by regina's to get a few slices of pizza (at the tourist price of $4 a slice) and kept on walking as we ate. we made it back to the bikes by 2:00 and began to head home.
instead of riding back the way we came, i took pau on the scenic route following the charles river. while the original route would've taken us 20 minutes, the scenic is more like 40 minutes. we made it back home with less than 15 minutes to spare. after grabbing his laptop, pau was back out the door again, racing to the office via bike.
as for me, i left for belmont via motorcycle. nobody was home since my parents were helping my sister with her hand-made jewelry sales. when they came back in the late afternoon, it was after stopping off at the korean supermarket in burlington.
by the time i returned home, the temperature was in the 50's. my hooded sweatshirt was no match against the winds. it wasn't painfully cold yet (it's not even winter yet) but it was definitely uncomfortable. looks like it's time to switch to my winter riding jacket.
pau was back, but in the bathroom taking a shower. he said he was meeting friends at central square at a blues club and asked me if i wanted to go. i declined the offer. he said he thought i liked that sort of music. i said i did, just not live.