Putting on a travel writer hat. It feels good.

Just what is the Back Bay?

If you have a few days to enjoy Boston, think about the Back Bay neighborhood. Reclaimed from a bay in the late 19thcentury, it’s now an affluent neighborhood of charming Victorian brownstones, historical churches, museums and great places to eat.


Our room on the 31st  floor of the Westin Copley Place hotel on Huntington Ave. offered a beautiful view of the Charles River and is within walking distance to – well, just about anywhere in Back Bay. Mother Nature cooperated for the three days we were there in mid-August. We had sunny days with cool breezes. Back Bay folks apologized for the heat. “No problem, we’re from Arizona.”

Places that inspired us

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, a half-hour walk from our hotel, designed after a Venetian palace and built by Isabella in 1903 to house her extensive European, Asian, and American art collection- paintings, tapestries, furniture, and decorative arts. She had inherited $1.75 million from her father so she had a bit of spending money! You can take an audio tour on your phone or browse through each room and use the large print (thank you) cards describing each piece on the N, S, E, and W walls in every room – three floors chockfull of art.

The Museum of Fine Arts is within walking distance of the Gardner Museum. We didn’t go in but the artwork around the grounds is … interesting.

Heading back to our hotel, we stopped in at the Shops in the Prudential Center on Huntington – found a Lord & Taylor store! Then took a ramble to see the shoppes on Newberry Street, ranging from elegant to trendy to funky.

We stepped back in time to visit the Trinity Church and the Boston Public Library, the Public Gardens with the famous Make Way for Ducklings area on Charles St., and the Copley Square Market.

Of course we needed sustenance

We enjoyed breakfast in our hotel before each day’s outing, a dinner at the Summer Shack– very casual and delicious fish. A great lunch with clean and colorful food prepared fresh daily and organic coffee at PRÊT a Manger on Boylston- with a nice patio, and just across the street from the Boston Legal “building.” A surprise find was a French restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, the Bar Boulud on Boylston Street – French cuisine with Boston dishes and American burgers. Take your pick.

A sunset walk along the Charles River ended with the pleasant discovery of The Met Back Bay Café on the corner of Newbery and Dartmouth with supper on the outside patio.

Just for fun and an interesting overview was the Duck Tour around Boston. 90 minutes past just about every top spot in Boston with an outstanding narration. An hour on land and half hour on the Charles River gave us great ideas of places we’ll visit when we return to Boston.

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s been immersed in writing for over 30 years, teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. Ethel is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. She also enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Tucson Tellers of Tales, and just about anywhere there’s a mic.