My wife and I recently made plans to attend a concert in Faneuil Hall, right smack in the middle of Boston's Quincy Market. This was our first trip to the area in several years and much has changed. Friends gave us directions and our route into town took us up Atlantic Avenue. On our left, we got a good look at the newest addition to Boston's city center, the Rose Kennedy Greenway.
The Greenway replaces the old elevated highway known as the expressway, which got torn down about 8 years ago once the "Big Dig" finished up and highway traffic got re-routed underground. The Greenway begins just after South Station and includes lots of green lawn, flower gardens and pedestrian walkways. We kept going and eventually got close enough to the Quincy Market area to start looking for a parking garage. After parking, we got up to ground level and started walking, reaching the market area after a couple of blocks. We asked one of the other visitors where Faneuil Hall was and they didn't know. Turns out it was the brick building directly in front of us, but it was disguised due to some exterior construction work. We walked to the front of the building and found the entrance to the hall. Inside, we walked up a stairway and voila -- the real Faneuil Hall. It looks like this. Just imagine people like Sam Adams, John Adams and John Hancock having debates about the best way to move the revolution forward. And they did it right here.
On this day, the only revolutions afoot were of the musical variety. Every hour, a different local musical group played as the cream of the crop of Boston area wind ensembles and community bands strutted their stuff. My favorites were the Metropolitan Wind Symphony and The Concord Band. We saw the MWS when we first arrived and were very impressed by their high calibre of musicianship. We knew several of the musicians from their other affiliations, which include leading several other local concert bands and leading local secondary school music programs.
After the first couple of groups, I stepped outside into the courtyard and went hunting for lunch. Quincy Market was just footsteps away. It's an enclosed marketplace with a vast array of possibilities. I eventually found a Greek takeout place and placed my order for a lamb kebab rollup. I found a stone slab to sit on outside. My sandwich was messy, but tasted just fine. I nibbled away while watching an incredibly diverse group of people walking by. Just imagine any skin hue or age group; it seemed like they all were represented among the people roving through the plaza on this cool late spring day. After lunch, I returned to the concert hall and sat down in time to hear the performance of the Sharon Concert Band, for which my wife plays clarinet. This band is well schooled and played at a variety of different tempos, with dynamics that ranged from very quiet to loud rousing passages, often featuring a strong brass section.
Next up was The Concord Band, one of the senior groups in the area. The musicians were all dressed formally - tuxes for men and concert black for the women -- and they just had the look of a band that would play excellent music. In this case, perception matched the reality. The band director, James O'Dell is very tall and has an elegant look reminiscent of an actor like the late Peter Graves.
The band itself immediately took command and played some of the most exciting music we'd heard all day. Unlike most of the other bands, much of the music had been composed recently and the quality of the compositions was outstanding. The music included lyrical melodies, attractive harmonic counterpoints and a dash of percussion. Even better, two of the composers were in attendance and stood to accept our applause after the songs had been played.
After a busy afternoon, we were hungry. We walked away from the Quincy Market area, crossed Atlantic Avenue and wound our way into the North End. This little stretch has not been transformed like the rest of the greenway, but the real destination treat was ahead. My wife and I had promised each other a dinner in the North End many years back and we finally got there.
We poked our heads into the alcoves and read menus. As we looked at about the fourth place, we were teetering, so when the hostess invited us in, we went for it. This restaurant is called L'Osteria Ristorante. It was already filled up, but we got one of the few vacant tables and got a chance to get off our our feet after a seven block walk. We started with glasses of Barbera D'Alba, a dry red wine with a hint of fruit. Our waitress was friendly, but kept very busy servicing many tables near us. We started with salads, plus a basket of warm bread, which nicely complemented the wine. Later our entrees arrived. We each had variants on seafood plus pasta -- the portions were sufficient, but left us enough room so we thought about where we'd stop on our way back. Just a couple of blocks away, we found a dessert to take home with us at the Modern Pastry Shop. There was a line, which we joined, but it moved along at a reasonable pace and gave us a chance to browse.
We decided to get cannolis, a light cookie flavored with anise and a couple of other treats. After that, we made one more notable stop, at the Salumeria Italiano, an Italian grocery store. The goods looked wonderful, but pricey, so we settled for half a Tuscan loaf of bread.
By now, the weather had cooled, but we were sated and had goodies to share back home. We'll look forward to our next chance to hang out on the Greenway and sneak off to the North End.