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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Boston

April 30th, 2010 · No Comments

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This week I had the chance to come back to one of the few cities that I really like. Mostly I prefer to be out in nature, but as cities go Boston is one of the best. It must be one of the most vibrant cities in the world, full of a quarter million students from the more than 100 colleges and universities in the Greater Boston area.

Boston is loaded with American history and culture too. I especially enjoyed my visit to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

This prominent art museum is on the The Back Bay Fens (most commonly called simply “The Fens”), a wild place in the midst of Boston. The Fens gives its name to Fenway Park, the home of the Boston Red Sox.

At the museum I enjoyed the remarkable collection of classical art. I was also lucky enough to hear a jazz concert in the Tapestry Room, where my favorite classical music podcast originates.

Much sadder was seeing the empty frames that once had held some of the world’s greatest art, but which thieves stole in 1990, as I learned when I saw the documentary film Stolen. Since Ms. Gardner specified in her will that the museum remain exactly as she left it, the museum poignantly abides by her wishes as much as possible. Today, the museum remains exactly as Mrs. Gardner left it except for the loss of the 13 works due to the theft: one by the Vermeer, in my opinion the greatest early artist, five by Degas, three by Rembrandt, one by Manet, and three others. Sadly, the museum has still not recovered these masterpieces.

While the museum doesn’t allow photography, I got this pleasant shot of The Fens as I walked back to my room at the Sheraton Hotel, which is conveniently adjacent to the Hynes Convention Center, where I was working.

The Back Bay Fens

The Back Bay Fens

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Health Central, where I have been a staff writer since 2005, sent me to Boston this year to cover the annual meeting of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. The figurative high point of my trip was hearing and reporting on the keynote address by Dr. Atul Gawande to the group of 1,700 of us at the convention. He is the best medical writer in the world as well as doing a few other little things like teaching at Harvard Medical School and performing surgery at a hospital here.

The literal high point of my visit was the Skywalk Observatory on the 50th floor of the 759-foot Prudential Tower, where I was able to see quite a lot of downtown Boston at sunset on Friday night.

Boston's Hancock Center and the Charles River at Sunset

Boston's Hancock Center and the Charles River at Sunset

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I could also see — in the distance — the Boston Red Socks playing against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park. It was a close game, but Boston won, 4-3. It was the first game that I saw here since 1953, when my dad and I had the pleasure of seeing the great Ted Williams play.

Play Ball!

Play Ball!

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Boston is a compact city. In practice this means that it is a great city for walking. That’s something I did a lot of, simultaneously getting as much daily exercise as I get in the mountains and seeing many places that I had previously known from books.

As an avid reader and user of our great library system I was delighted to see the Boston Public Library, the first publicly supported municipal library and the first large library open to the public in the country — and the first public library to allow people to borrow books and other materials and take them home to read and use. It’s quite near Boston Common, the oldest public park in the United States.

The Carousel on the Commons

The Carousel on the Commons

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I walked through the Commons one evening en route to the world headquarters of my church. The Unitarian Universalist Association on Beacon Street is close to the State House.

Protestors at the State House

Protestors at the State House

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Boston blends the old and the new so well. The John Hancock Tower reaches 60 stories and 790 feet, making it the tallest building in New England. But they closed its observation deck after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Actually, terrorists were never a problem here, but flying glass sure was.

As beautiful as The Hancock is, in the 1970s it was more notorious for its engineering flaws than for its architectural achievement. Its most dangerous and conspicuous flaw was the faulty glass windows that at the same time made it unique. Huge 500-pound slabs of glass crashed to the sidewalks below, and eventually the architects had to replace  all 10,344 window panes.

The Hancock Dwarfs Little Old Trinity Church

The Hancock Dwarfs Little Old Trinity Church

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Unlike Boulder, spring has already arrived in Boston. Flowering trees and tulips seemed to be everywhere.

Tulips on Copley Place

Tulips on Copley Place

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Boston even has wildlife. Certainly it has many birds, but I especially enjoyed this fearless squirrel.

Boston's Wildlife

Boston's Wildlife

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On one of my walks I encountered a man lugging a heavy tripod. As one photographer to another, I stopped to chat with him. I was delighted to see that he was carrying a Hasselblad medium format camera, perhaps the best in the world and one that I had only dreamed of before. Carlton Huckins was especially friendly and imparted some of his photographic knowledge, while I shared some of what I know about diabetes.

He highly recommended that I walk another mile or so so that I could see the Shaw Memorial frieze by Augustus Saint-Gaudens commemorating the Massachusetts Fifty-fourth Regiment, renowned for bravery and sacrifice during the Civil War. The film Glory immortalized their deeds under the leadership of their white colonel, the young Bostonian Robert Gould Shaw.

The Saint Gaudens Frieze

The Saint Gaudens Frieze

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Having finished my work by Saturday afternoon, I had time to go to church this Sunday. I had checked the Internet and found that the nearest Unitarian Universalist Church, of which I am a member in Boulder, was less than a mile from the Sheraton Hotel.

Known as the First Church in Boston, the congregation dates from 1630 — the same year that the Puritans founded the city. Yet the building itself is much more modern than my church in Boulder.

First Church in Boston

First Church in Boston

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The members made me feel welcomed and invited me to join them for lunch. As someone told me, the lunch was a “traditional Chinese takeout.” I checked it out, and I made a fine low-carb meal of it.

As wonderful as Boston is, I am happy to be back home this Sunday evening. After being on the road for two months, I plan to stay in Boulder for a couple of weeks.

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