Our daughter is way into penguins. What began as a childhood fascination is gradually evolving into a deeper interest including discussions of possible career paths. From a book about Jane Goodall, she learned the word ethologist: one who studies animal behavior in the subject's natural environment. It is now a life goal to see penguins in the wild.
Alas, there are no wild penguins in Vermont, though they're not as far away as I'd have thought before my daughter's interest emerged. Nearly all penguins live in the southern hemisphere but there is one species that hangs out around the equator in the Galapagos Islands. Still, that trip's way beyond the current family budget so it'll have to remain in the long-term plan for now.
Fortunately, there are penguins relatively nearby in captivity, including three different species at the New England Aquarium in Boston. We've lived in New England for twelve years yet we've spent little time in the region's largest city. The penguins were as good an excuse as any! Combining the penguin quest with a visit to see dear friends in Worcester made for a most enjoyable, eastern Massachusetts weekend.
The Boston excursion did not go quite as planned. We thought we were being clever by parking at the Alewife station then taking the subway into the city. Alas, construction along the red line meant we had to first take a shuttle bus - free, thankfully - to Harvard before continuing our adventures by rail. It was not exactly a banner day for Boston's ever-disastrous infrastructure.
That said, the aquarium was amazing. The penguins dominate the ground floor display space: southern rockhoppers, African penguins and, the smallest species in the world, the little blue penguins. Interestingly, none of the three is native to Antarctica. The little blues are in pretty good shape ecologically but the rockhoppers are classified as vulnerable and the Africans are endangered. All three are adorable and the girl was most impressed. There's plenty more to see, including an enormous octopus, a sea turtle that's over 85 years old and California sea lions. We were there for around three hours total, I think: plenty of time to see everything. Great facility - I'd definitely go again.
Otherwise, I'd have to say Boston was a bit of a disappointment. I'm not a big fan of cities in general - too many people, too much asphalt and concrete - and Boston is unusually confusing with its crazy street layout. Even with our public transit fiasco, it was better than trying to drive. I will concede, the average person you run into is pretty friendly, especially when compared to their counterparts in New York or Washington. I'm sure I would learn my way around with time and patience and it's totally unfair to judge a city by such a short visit but we didn't leave keen to come back. Montreal is more my speed - closer to us, too.
For the record, the aquarium was definitely worth the effort. Plus, I got to sing the following on our way out of town. My poor, suffering wife...
I can now relate to feeling trapped on the Boston transit system.