A sense of place

The sights

Email|Print| Text size + By Ashlea Deahl
Globe Correspondent / August 28, 2003

I never painted my toenails until I rode the T. As a rookie to Boston this summer, I was naive to the etiquette of riding the oldest subway system in America.

Squeeze in tight, ignore all ghastly coughs, and above all, look down. It's more acceptable to stare at feet than faces, after all.

Realizing that people were ogling the 10 naked palettes on my unrefined toes, I applied foot pumice and paint brush, making my feet presentable to Boston's commuters. Some days called for classy burgundy - others, electric pink.

There was only one moment of my daily ride on the Red Line - when the train emerged to cross the Charles River - that I felt free from the foot fashion show.

You can see all of Boston in that brief minute before pulling into the Charles/MGH station. It doesn't matter that you're watching from behind smudged windows in a cramped subway car. At the first glimpse of the skyline, heads lift and faces light up.

Most Boston landmarks are obvious to the eye, from the golden dome atop the State House to the Bunker Hill Monument. Some, however, require a second glance.

Rookies to the region should take note of the following local keepsakes to better appreciate the city, because there's more to see than feet.

The Citgo Sign Often compared to Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower, the glowing Citgo sign lures local sports fans to their mecca: Fenway Park, home to the Boston Red Sox.

Built in 1965, the ruby triangle blinks from a few blocks north of Fenway, on Beacon Street, but it's just as much a part of the ballpark as the famed Green Monster.

The looming ad for the Oklahoma-based gasoline company rises above the left field wall and is often used as a guiding point for lost tourists. Ask for directions to Fenway, and you'll probably hear ``Go toward the Citgo sign.''

Harvard Yard You don't have to be a whiz kid to appreciate Harvard's campus in Cambridge.

Harvard Yard, a 22-acre enclave of dorms, museums, and study halls, boasts some of the area's most beautiful structures. Massachusetts Hall, the oldest on campus, was built in 1720 and towers gracefully above students as they gather on grassy fields to study.

Other Harvard must-sees include the John Harvard statue, in front of University Hall; the Wadsworth House; a venerable wooden structure that served as headquarters for General George Washington; and the concrete Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, the only building in North America designed by Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier.

Chinatown Gate The intricate pagoda gate and Chinese lions that guard Chinatown on Beech Street are great eye candy for those who need a break from Boston's standard architectural fare.

Donated by the Taiwanese government in 1982, the gate is inscribed with several Chinese proverbs, one of which roughly translates into ``everything under the sky is for the people.'' Next to the gate is a small park dedicated to the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations in Beijing.

The Downtown Graveyards You haven't lived until you've visited Boston's dead. These folks aren't just dead, they're ancient; and they're resting somewhat peacefully in the heart of downtown Boston.

King's Chapel Burial Ground, the Granary Burying Ground, and Central Burying Ground on Tremont Street add an air of spookiness to a day of shopping or sightseeing.

The grounds date back as far as 1630 and contain headstones for such history makers as John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Elizabeth Foster Vergoose, a.k.a., Mother Goose. For a complete supernatural experience, sign up for a Ghosts and Gravestones trolley tour, which departs nightly from the harbor on Atlantic Avenue.

Swan Boats Don't be surprised by the larger-than-life swans that decorate the Boston Public Garden. Swan Boats, while somewhat touristy, have been a Boston tradition since 1877 and offer something rarely found in most metropolitan cities: serenity.

Maneuvering like a pedal boat, your swan slowly meanders through the lagoon and under the garden's bridge. While the romantic atmosphere is worth a few bills, the ride is a great cheap date at only $2.50 for adults.

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