A Sense of Place

The smells

Email|Print| Text size + By Jeff Gilbride
Globe Correspondent / August 28, 2003

Fenway Park

Many if not most Bostonians can say they've shared in the sights, sounds, and smells of Fenway Park at least once. During Sox season, distinctive aromas mingle on the open grills of Yawkey Way. Game in and game out, the open market, lined with sports fans, souvenir shops and food stands, boasts the blended scents of nuts, sausages, peppers, and burgers. Scarf down a bag of cashews, throw back a Coors or two, and then visit the most infamous conjurer of ballpark smells, David Littlefield. He's known as the sausage guy to most people. ``The smell of Yawkey Way is indicative of the very heritage of Fenway Park,'' says Littlefield. ``It just wouldn't be the same without it.'' Those sweet sausages have earned him international acclaim and are even available at

The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University

Looking for peace of mind? Leave your city woes behind and head for Jamaica Plain. Take a stroll around the pond and then get back to nature in the scenic vistas of the Arnold Arboretum. Here flora and fauna harmonize in 265 acres of summer-time heaven.

Wander through the rose gardens and revel in the scents and sights down each thorny path. There you will find the cultivated Carefree Beauty or just plain Rosa to her flowered family. `Beauty's' thick pink clusters and soothing odor can't be missed at the far end of Rehder Pond. Another highlight of the late summer season is the shrub Sea Foam, with double white blossoms and dark green, glossy foliage. Flowering freely through out their respective seasons, both Carefree Beauty and Sea Foam are expected to be around until the first frost. For more information, visit

Newbury Street

If you want to give your nose a taste before your mouth takes over, the outdoor restaurant patios on Newbury are a great preview.

Heading down the street from Mass. Ave., the first thing that catches my attention is the Sonsie Restaurant on the left. The fishy whiff of spiral-cut salmon combined with a zesty tang of loin chops starts the salivating process a flowing. If that's not your thing, you've got your choice of 18 other patios. ``I love the chicken kebabs, it's definitely one of the best smells here,'' says 22-year-old Jessica Meiners, a hostess at Marcello's.

Right before the public gardens, enjoy a massage at 30 Newbury Spa. Karen Waldron, a massage therapist, practices aromatherapy. ``What I use are essential oils, which are the pure extracts of a plant or flower and massage them into the skin,'' says Waldron. ``Lavender is very calming. It's a chemical reaction that occurs when you smell lavender. Your brain releases neuro-chemicals that calm you down.''

The North End

Coming out of Haymarket Station on a hot summer Saturday, you are first hit by a ripe waft of the fruit market. Next escape down Salem Street, where wooden restaurant signs, windy streets, and open terraces evoke a small Italian town. The aroma comes in waves on Hanover Street: garlic first, then baking breads, followed by coffee and pastries. On the corner of Prince and Hanover, a vague scent of the China House restaurant seems misplaced among the rich aromas of such restaurants as Giancomosri and the Strega & Italiana.

Before you leave the North End make sure to stop at Caffe Graffiti for cappuccino and cannoli - a tasty treat for mind, body, and nose.

Franklin Park Zoo

Finally, what better way to overload your olfactories than a trip to the zoo? In the animal kingdom, smell is one of the most important aspects of identification and survival for predators and prey. The graceful Grevy's zebras often do a nose to nose touch and sniff, as a greeting tactic in the Giraffe Savannah exhibit. When the females are in heat, they give off fragrances undetectable to humans, but quite appealing to potential suitors.

In the rainforest exhibit, the muggy atmosphere overwhelms your senses. Primates have strong odors in general, but mixing gorilla funk with wart hogs and hippopotamuses, can be a little potent to the uninitiated.

What's the most distinct smell at the zoo? ``I would have to say that of zebra urine,'' says zookeeper Katie Roberts. ``For some it's a bit rancid but occasionally we collect it'' to help other animals brush up on their tracking skills.

On the other hand what smells good to us does not always apply to the animals here. Beau and Jana, two young Masai giraffes can't stand flowery perfumes.

Franklin Park is featuring its Butterfly Landing Pavilion where the scent of fresh flowers lulls zoogoers along with the sight of 1,000 butterflies in flight.

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