So what do you do when your anniversary falls on a holiday? You celebrate both at once!  What do you do when it happens to also be your fifth anniversary?  You celebrate them in style! It’s for this reason that we find ourselves on our way to Boston on New Year’s Eve.  The first stop on the first part of the first day of our two day adventure begins in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The first place we came to was a tiny little place called Violette’s Bakery.  I’m guessing no one has heard of this place, but, if you do a search for “gluten free” in the Boston area (as you are want to do when you travel with a person who’s tolerance for things containing gluten is zero) it shows up near the top of the list. Their small storefront was filled with a  pretty impressive collection of baked goods, so, we filled a sampler box to bring home and share with my father-in-law, who suffers from the same dietary restrictions as my wife. We barely even made it the five minutes it took to get to the next stop before we dug in. My God, did this bakery deliver.  Like all gluten-free stuff, it’s ridiculously more expensive than things made with traditional flours, but, damn was it worth it. Even though we weren’t smart enough to take a picture of it, we ended up wolfing down most of it as a sugary form of lunch.  So much for sharing with others – I guess my momma didn’t teach me well.  The macarons made here are to die for.  One of these days when I find myself in the area on a swap drive, I’m going to sneak in for a few more.  Shh, don’t tell my wife so that I won’t have to share them with her.

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Our next stop was a mere couple miles away, but first we had to find a place to park. Now, apparently you have to book your parking garage in advance if you want to visit Harvard’s Natural History Museum.  Fortunately, I caught that on the website before our arrival so it was no problem, we had our spot reserved. A short walk through the empty campus of Harvard University and you arrive at the entrance of a very large and very old building.

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The campus may be devoid of frat boys and cheerleaders, but this building is unlocked. It’s okay though, it’s unlocked because for a small fee it is open to the public. Unlike many other places I have seen, once you pay the reasonable entry fee you immediately go up a set of stairs and then enter through the gift shop. Don’t worry, the entrance and the exit are the same place.

We began with a nearby room.  The second most impressive thing about this room is just how many different species of plants are on display.  All of which are in beautiful glass and wood cases and hail from everywhere across the globe.  Each variety not only includes pieces of the plant, leaves and flowers, but also cross sections of the plant’s stems, stamens, and other reproductive bits. How are they able to display such things so that we can see them, you ask? Well, it’s not that they give you a big magnifying glass at the beginning, but it does lead us to the most impressive thing about this collection.  First, however, have a look:

Yep! You guessed it, everything you see in the displays above is made of glass! I imagine this is not a room where the word “oops!” is taken lightly. Also, I am a patient guy, but I’m pretty sure I couldn’t take the amazing amount of time and effort needed to make these. Certainly not without equally large amounts of broken glass and profanity.

Next we had to make a choice of which wing to see first. Our friends Eenie, Menie, Minee, and Moe were thankfully there to help. They told us to go to the right wing first (insert dumb political joke here). In the next big creaky floored room we found a geologists wet dream. So many different examples of stones of all types that I’m not going to bother listing them all. They come from all over too!  Some came to be resting in a display case from local sources such as Orleans, VT. Others were from Arizona, Germany, India and so on. A handful of others even came crashing down from outer space. Seems like a long way to travel to spend your life as a museum piece! While many of the samples aren’t much bigger than the average hand, in the center of the room is an absolutely massive geode. It was too big to fit in my wife’s purse, so the 1,600lb chunk of purple amethyst is still there.

All my anthropologist readers would have enjoyed the next part, despite the fact I didn’t take very many pictures. All kinds of neat artifacts are on display from around the world. South American head masks, Japanese armor, clubs and swords from all over, it’s all here and mixed in with a huge Native-American collection. As a born and raised Vermonter I get a swell of pride any time my home state shows up in places like this – even though it’s just a neighboring state. The big basket below was just such an instance. I know, it’s just a big basket, who cares?  Well, that basket happens to be lined with the Rutland Herald. From 1821. How cool is that!?

Moving along, the next wing is for all of you animal lovers out there, I think. Butterflies, birds, insects all pinned to boards. Canned sea creatures and shaggy, stuffed versions of just about every species you can think of. Hanging from the ceiling above the largest room are three whale skeletons and if you find the dinosaur room you’ll also find a pretty much complete 42-foot long Kronosaurus skeleton that lived 135 million years ago (give or take a year or two for accuracy’s sake). The oceans are much safer without that guy hanging around.

A walk back through the gift shop concluded our visit to the museum, which had a huge amount of information and displays, especially considering the admission was pretty reasonable. Perhaps this explains why it costs as much as a very nice car to attend Harvard every year. This also concluded our visit to Cambridge, MA which is slightly busier than Cambridge, VT but still fun and educational! After this it was off to Boston proper, but to spare your sanity, I’ll save that for another day.

Thank you for reading!

Bill

P.S. I should note that the sense of pride I feel when I find Vermont things around is not the same feeling I get when I turn on the news and my tiny hometown is being discussed because the police raided a meth lab. Different times, I guess. It is, however, the same feeling of pride that I get when another brewery gets added to the great brewery tours of Vermont, even though I can’t stand the taste of any of them!

 

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