Story by Barbara Penny Angelakis
Photography by Manos Angelakis; bedroom shot courtesy BHH
Boston Harbor Hotel
Boston, MA 02110
Boston is a city of distinct neighborhoods, each one having its own look, charm, and personality. We began our recent visit to Boston in the Back Bay neighborhood with its fashionable brick semi-detached houses and elegant shopping streets, and moved on to the much newer Waterfront just south of the North End. The North End is unquestionably the oldest settled neighborhood in Boston, 1630 is the date given. Paul Revere lived there and his residence can still be visited in North Square. The adjacent Boston Harbor area is also no newcomer to history as the waterfront was active in shipping as early as 1666, when fortifications called the “Battery” were established to protect the fledgling community. In the early 1740’s John Rowes built his eponymous wharf from where his sailing ships “plied the oceans blue” returning with all manner of luxurious items for the Colonists, until whaling oil and fish, became the major imports for his company. A historical tid-bit is that Rowes was the owner of a tea ship that had its cargo dumped into the harbor during the infamous Tea Party of 1773.
The harbor area declined over the years but was revitalized during the urban renewal campaign of the 1960’s. Rowes Wharf, at the heart of the Waterfront, is currently the location of the Boston Harbor Hotel. The Waterfront as it now stands is a relatively new development of contemporary hotels and office buildings. One side faces the beautiful Boston Harbor Walk, while the other overlooks “the big dig” - a 20-year long project that turned a fading neighborhood into a park and pedestrian walkway called the Rose Kennedy Greenway, with traffic flowing through the underground tunnel.
The Boston Harbor Hotel is actually two identical buildings joined by a beautiful Rotunda from which hangs a mighty American flag. The massive flag cannot help but stir patriotic fervor in anyone who watches the Red, White and Blue, waving in the breeze blowing off of the water. One building is private residences, while the other houses office and meeting spaces below the hotel that begins at the 8th floor, which is where our room facing the harbor was located. The original architectural plan called for a building of condominiums but once built, the concept was modified to a mixed-use facility which accounts for the oversized rooms and suites enjoyed throughout the hotel. In addition to the spacious rooms, other amenities not usually found even in luxury properties are windows that open and the use of an allergy-friendly purification system called PureShield to make the rooms and bedding 99.9% allergen free, an amenity that is appreciated by a allergy sufferer like myself.
We were initially greeted at the entrance to the Boston Harbor Hotel by the ebullient door attendant who explained that there was valet or self-parking and the different prices for each. We chose valet parking, and our bags were taken from the car and brought to our room while we registered. Once registered, we were escorted to our room, which meant passing the rotunda that defines the interior space, and walking the long hallway to the back of the hotel facing the harbor. The walk was definitely worth it for the view was truly lovely. Jennifer Lammers, Leisure and Entertainment Sales Manager, was kind enough to show us around. When she got to the source of our beautiful view, she explained that when the weather turns warm a dock, the Blues Barge, is floated in the marina between the Boston Harbor Walk and the glass and stone gazebo attached to the hotel by a walkway.
Here they hold evening outdoor concerts and show Movies by Moonlight, all open to guests and the public free of charge. Tables are set out on the hotel’s broad patio and along the walkway where meals and drinks are served. And for those wishing to sit on the stone stairway leading to the water and enjoy the free entertainment, pillows are provided. The gazebo is also a perfect setting for events, weddings and celebrations when the nights turn balmy. We were just a few weeks short of enjoying that amenity known as Summer Series but a return visit is always a possibility. A major revamping of their spa is in the planning stages and I hope to be able to return to the Boston Harbor Hotel when it is completed. http://bhh.com/special_summer.htm
The harbor activity proved so successful that its originator, in-house Chef Daniel Bruce, started the Boston Wine Festival, a food and wine event that is now the longest running in the country, having just celebrated its 23rd season. And the festival gave birth to the Meritage Restaurant and their unique concept of offering small plates of any dish on the menu, each paired with distinctive wines suggested by Chef Bruce. The restaurant offers a major wine list setup by general characteristics – Sparklers, Light Whites, Full Bodied Whites, Fruity Reds, Spicy/Earthy Reds and Robust Reds - so that one can choose the wine that appeals by category and price point. http://bostonwinefestival.net/
Manos and I had dinner that evening at the Meritage, situated on the second floor of the hotel overlooking the harbor where the notion for the restaurant was birthed. The menu was arranged according to Chef Bruce’s choice of wine pairings and since all dishes could be ordered as a small or large plate, we had the opportunity of tasting many of the offerings by ordering only small plates. Our absolute favorites were Steamed Maine Lobster Tail on the Half Shell with Buttered Snap Peas and Satsuma Tangerine Essence. The perfectly cooked, succulent lobster meat, took on the flavor of the tangerine essence and I drank-up every drop of the liquid. We paired the dish with Aneri Prosecco, from the Sparklers category. To accompany the Robust Red Wine category (we had a young Tempranillo/Garnacha blend from Rioja) the Pan Roasted Wild Striped Bass with Tomatoes, Zucchini, Caper and Black Olives Provençal with Imperial Black Rice could not have been better. Flawlessly cooked and beautifully presented the fish was wonderful and the vegetable accompaniment was perfectly balanced. Also full flavored and handsomely presented was the Prosciutto Wrapped Venison Loin with Beluga Lentil Ragout, Swiss Chard, French Beans in a Red Wine Sauce. We appreciated the attentive but unrushed service at Meritage, giving us time to rest between courses and linger over the wines we had selected. The wine list, in general, had numerous excellent bottles and all would pair very well with the proposed dishes.
IF YOU GO THERE
The Boston Harbor Hotel offered easy access to the sights of the city. A short walk along the harbor or the Greenway takes you to the Central Wharf and the New England Aquarium.
On entering you are introduced to the African, little blue, and rockhopper penguins… it seems even penguins can have a bad hair day. I had a great time walking the 4-story spiral ramp along the Giant Ocean Tank. All manners of colorful, as well as colorless, fish, both large and small, swam freely in the massive tank. But for me the highlight was meeting several species that were new to me such as the weedy and leafy seadragon fish. The seadragon is related to the seahorse but it is truly one of the strangest looking animals I ever saw. When at rest it looks more like a plant then a fish and even when swimming its hard to tell there is a body under all those seaweed looking appendages. www.newenglandaquarium.org
The Aquarium has a transit stop and so we hopped on to head to the Fenway neighborhood and get some culture at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. The museum has a world-class collection of art from prehistoric times to the modern day and would take more time then we had to cover its many galleries, so we decided to visit the newly opened Art of the Americas Wing designed by I. M. Pei. The new 4-story wing is a museum inside a museum and can be reached by passing through the café’s courtyard with its mighty glass plant-like sculpture by Dale Chihuly. I was most impressed by the John Singer Sargent portraits collection as well and the range of the collection in general. www.mfa.org
Leaving the huge museum and walking around Fens Park brought us to the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum… a museum like no other. In this case we did not have time to explore the new Renzo Piano designed wing and concentrated on visiting the work of art that holds the works of art. The museum was the home of Isabella Gardner and all the paintings, artifacts and decorative arts that currently adorn it were of her choosing and are precisely where she designated they should be displayed. She also had a hand in designing the Italian Renaissance building which has at its center a stunning interior courtyard and garden that can be viewed from any of the three floors of the museum. This museum is a treasure and it was sad to see that much of the artwork is in need of maintenance and in some cases major restoration. www.gardnermuseum.org
From the sublime to the ridiculous! Being in Boston we could not miss the Boston Duck Tours which leaves from behind the Prudential Center. Believe me, it was 80 minutes of fun! We were fortunate to have a beautiful sunny day to do the land-to-water historical tour. But don’t think boring… it was anything but. Our Duck was painted bright purple and our driver began the fun as soon as she took her seat. I’m not sure what her real name was but her sense of humor and ability to make history entertaining was priceless and just when we thought the laughing was over, we turned into a narrow ramp that led into the Charles River. Woo-hoo what a ride! www.bostonducktours.com
Our final destination was in the Prudential Center itself at the Skywalk Observatory, a 360 degree panoramic view of Greater Boston. On a clear day you can see as far as 80 miles beyond the central area so unobstructed is the view. But the Skywalk is more then just a view, it chronicles the 350 years of Boston’s history. From the earliest immigrants experience expressed in tableaus by the people themselves, to the fight for independence, to the home of some of the highest learning institutions in the world, the story of Boston emerges.
© May 2012 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.