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October 15, 2008

I Had A Blast At BlogHer Boston '08, Part 1

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Boston DowntownYes indeed, I had a blast at BlogHer Boston.  I learned a lot, I recharged my creative batteries and I also got to chat with a diverse group of smart and energetic women.

Though the conference was on Saturday, I'd planned to take Amtrak up early Friday.  The conference was being held at the Burlington Marriott, right outside Boston and since I'd never been to Beantown before, I'd fully expected to get a chance to tour the city.

That didn't happen.

You see, I called the Marriott weeks ago to find out how far it was from central Boston, and was told it was about 9 miles and a $20-$25 cab ride.

Very doable, I thought.

Amtrak's Acela Express rode up the coast of Connecticut, whizzing past fishing boats and sparkling water outside of Mystic and Providence, Rhode Island.  I was pleasantly surprised to see the trees in the midst of changing to their autumn colors and since I had a seat in the Amtrak "Quiet Car" I could enjoy the show in peace.

Boston South Station When I got to South Station in Boston, I approached a guy at the tourist information booth about getting a taxi. Imagine my shock when I found out the ride to the Marriott was 16 miles and the taxi fare was $65. 

I told the guy that wasn't possible, the Marriott had told me something else.  When he gave me a look that said, "Lady, what do you want me to do?" I knew I was stuck.  I briefly thought about renting a car, but knew that was even more financially crazy.

See, whenever I go anywhere and someone says the city is expensive, I'm always like, "I'm from New York.  I know from expensive."  But this time I'd been trumped.   $65 was way beyond anything I'd expected to pay to get to my hotel.

Boston Colors

There I was, stranded in the middle of Boston, with my whole itinerary suddenly thrown into chaos.  The brochure I'd picked out for one of those Hop On/Hop Off trolley car tours crumpled limply in my hands.  Then my inner Brooklyn girl kicked in. 

I got on the phone with a very nice woman at the MBTA and got directions on how to get to the Marriott by subway and then by bus.

Armed with a $5 Charlie Ticket, I hopped the Red Line subway and rode it for 20 minutes to the last stop, Alewife.  I kept pronouncing it All-wife, but it's evidently pronounced All-waif...I think.

My helpful MBTA lady had told me the bus I needed came every 20 minutes, so I sat down to wait.  Somehow I must have just missed a bus 'cause one didn't show up until 35 minutes later.  During that time, I played backgammon on my BlackBerry, checked the distances between Boston and Burlington on my BlackBerry, and looked into taxi services on my BlackBerry.

Finally the bus came and once we got started, the ride through rolling suburban hills was quite pleasant.  I heard authentic Boston accents among the passengers as they sauntered on and off and the bus had a very helpful system that announced each stop.

There was a woman sitting opposite me who had a three o'clock job interview at Nordstroms and she chatted with whoever would listen about the benefits of working at Nordstroms as opposed to Macy's.  The Macy's workers, she said were too "catty."  This was news to me, but she sounded like an expert.  And besides, her Boston accent was kinda cool.

Not long after leaving the Burlington Mall, the one with the Nordstroms, the driver was kind enough to alert me when we got to the Marriott stop.  My MBTA woman came through because as promised, the walk from the bus stop was only half a block.

My trip from South Station had cost only the $5 I'd put on the Charlie Ticket, but it had taken nearly two hours.  Still, that for me was a victory.  I realized my plan to spend Friday afternoon touring around Boston was a big ol' bust 'cause no way was I paying $65 each way to go back.  And I was too tired to do the subway/bus combo again.  Like it or not, I was stuck at the Marriott for the afternoon, the skyline of Boston shining in the distance from the eighth floor of the hotel.

Luckily, the hotel had a pool and a hot tub and I'd smartly packed my bathing suit.  So in no time, I was slipping into the warm, healing waters of the hotel's super large whirlpool.  After about fifteen minutes, my aggravation dissipated as I rested on a nearby lounger.

Now that I'm an experienced Twitterer, I'd been tweeting my progress through the afternoon and by the time I got back to my room, I'd gotten a tweet from Elisa Camahort asking me to join her in the hotel pub, Fitzwilliams. Since I was starving and ready for a good stiff drink, I agreed.

Over the next couple of hours, Fitzwilliams was a de facto BlogHer Boston Headquarters.

Conference Planner extraordinaire, Kristy Sammis was there managing last minute details and trying to straighten out some email problems.  I finally met fellow BlogHer Contributing Editor, Sassymonkey.  We chatted about her drive down from Ottawa and the upcoming Canadian election.  She was accompanied by her very cute boyfriend---it seems they grow 'em nice up there in Canada.  Elisa and I caught up with each other before she got to work on her "Project Runway" recap.

Lauren, our waitress was a doll as she juggled the twenty odd people who buzzed around our table for the next three hours, taking orders every fifteen minutes or so and keeping everything straight.  By nine o'clock, I was beat and slipped off to my room.  It didn't take long for me to crash on the very comfy Marriott mattress with visions of the Boston skyline sending me off to sleep.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of "I Had A Blast At BlogHer Boston," to be posted tomorrow.  But first, some of the fabulous women I met:

Kendra Bracken of Innovate 247

Sandy C. of Momisodes

Dorene Cable of Occasional Rambling

Betsy Cadel of Gray Matter Matters

Maris Callahan of In Good Taste

Megin Hatch of GNM Parents

Christy Matte of About.com's Guide To Family Computing

Audrey McClelland of Mom Generations

Velma Smeddling of A Smeddling Kiss

Marie of Boston Bibliophile

Liz of Inventing My Life


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