2011 End of Semester Vacation

Longwood Gardens Italian Fountains
The exquisite Italian Fountains at Longwood Gardens.

Longwood Gardens

While driving back up from Maryland, we visited Longwood Gardens. Billed as one of the premier botanical gardens of the United States, Longwood Gardens is 1077 acre collection of gardens, woodland and meadows situated a bit southwest of Philadelphia. It a takes a while to walk around the place due to the size, but Longwoods is a very pretty place. The water fountain gardens were particularly nice, but the crown jewel of the gardens is still the large conservatory. They were doing a lilies exhibit, and the main rooms of the conservatory were decorated with thousands upon thousands of lilies arranged in walls and columns for huge splashes color. It was quite the sight and also scent (oriental lilies have fragrance) to take in. Overall, Longwood Gardens was definitely worth the visit.

Longwood Gardens Conservatory 1
A photo of the beautiful conservatory at Longwood.
Longwood Gardens Conservatory 2
One (or even two) photo just isn't enough for the conservatory, so here is another one featuring more of the lilies on display.


We had a brief stop in Philadelphia, and we just went to the area near Independence Hall to take a look. I don’t know my US history very well, so I suppose this was an opportunity to brush up on the how the good ol’ US of A was founded. Because we arrived later in the afternoon, we couldn’t get in on a tour of Independence Hall as all the tickets were handed out, and due to scheduling we didn’t have time to go to any of the nearby museums either. We did go into the Liberty Bell center and took a picture with the bell, and we walked around Independence Hall a bit, but that was about it. Another thing we didn’t get to try was the famous Philly Cheesesteak sandwich. I’ve had cheesesteaks in other places and I like the taste, but we were informed that the good cheesesteaks are in south Philadelphia. Next time I suppose.

Philadelphia near Independence Hall
A building near Independence Hall, but I don't remember which one it is.


Our final destination on this family trip is Boston. We started our trip to Boston by first going to the nearby Cambridge to visit Harvard University. Harvard is arguably the most famous and best university in the world, and it has a rich history and a rich endowment fund. For such a prestigious place, the campus actually wasn’t as impressive as I thought it would be. There are some buildings such as the Library and Memorial Hall that are grand and elaborate, but most of the buildings don’t stand out much and are close together. There are also quite a few streets that run through the campus which makes the place seem very busy, but that might not be a bad thing.

Harvard University
One of the inner areas inside the Harvard campus.
Harvard Memorial Hall
The impressive Memorial Hall at Harvard

After visiting Harvard, we went to visit the nearby Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which is arguably the best engineering/science university in the world. Unlike Harvard, MIT is mostly composed of big buildings separated by wide walkways. It looks very… “engineering” like for the lack of a better word. I like MIT’s campus better than Harvard’s, but that’s just my personal preference.

MIT Great Dome
The MIT Great Dome. Looks like they were preparing for their commencement/graduation ceremony.
MIT Ray and Maria Stata Center
One of the strangest buildings anywhere: the Ray and Maria Stata Center at MIT.
Boston Chinatown
The gate to the Chinatown in Boston.

The next place we headed to was Boston’s Chinatown. As I said before, most Chinatowns looks more or less the same. The Boston one wasn’t as crowded as the one in New York, but it still had the narrow streets and old buildings. We had dimsum for a late lunch, and I thought the taste was a little better than the dimsum my family had in New York. We also went back there for dinner, and that was quite nice as well. Since we were at Boston, we had to have some lobster. Of course in Chinatown it is prepared Chinese style, and it was delicious.

Boston Quincy Market
The busy Quincy Market at Boston

In between our late lunch and dinner we walked to Quincy Market and to the seaside. The walk took us through Boston’s downtown area, and it was strangely devoid of people. It could be because we went on a holiday, but I’d still expect to see people walking in the streets. The area around Quincy Market was quite busy though, but we just walked through it.

Boston Harbor
A view out into Boston Harbor from near the aquarium.

Once we arrived by the waters, we went into the New England Aquarium. The aquarium building wasn’t that big, but there were a surprising amount of exhibits in the form of “small” fish tanks that line the walkway up the levels. The big central fish tank was quite impressive. I was one of those kids who read animal books a lot, so I enjoyed the checking out all the fishes and other water creatures. I especially enjoyed the shark and ray touch tank where people can put their hands in the water and touch the small skates, rays, and sharks that swim by.

NE Aquarium fish tank
A colorful fish tank at the New England Aquarium.

Overall, this was a nice family vacation. I wished we had a bit more time to explore the cities we went to, but at least now I can say that I’ve been to New York, Boston and such. As for all the places we didn’t get to this time, there is always a next time. Now that my vacation is over, it’s time to go into summer work mode so I can make some progress into the research work and thesis.

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