Since I moved to the city at the age of four, I have never spent more than two weeks at a time away from Ottawa. On January 2nd, 2019, I moved to Boston to begin a four month internship with TripAdvisor at their headquarters. Needless to say, this is a pretty big step for me, and writing about my impressions and experiences in depth will give me the opportunity to reflect on the changes I will have gone through, both as a person and as a developer. Thus, to start this off, I want to compare and contrast Ottawa and Boston (from my first impressions).
City Streets and Architecture
The first thing I noticed as my dad and I drove into the city was the geometry of the streets. Being a city with a long history, old cow paths were paved over to make way for automobiles. Only some streets conform to the cross-hatch grid that many of us from Ottawa are used to. Instead, roads intersect at acute angles, there are lots of concrete overpasses and bridges, and navigation can be a bit confusing. Apparently, this was done on purpose. According to one of my roommates, the roads were made to be disorienting so that attackers would get lost and go in circles, allowing them to be picked off by the considerably more oriented defenders (I haven’t bothered to look up the truthfulness of that claim, but it seems legitimate and I’m lazy so it stays). Thank goodness for Google Maps!
However, the unique street arrangements make for some very interesting buildings. For example, there is a street intersection about five minutes from my apartment where the two roads meet at somewhere around a 45° angle, such that the building on the corner is shaped like a triangle with windows facing outwards from the apex. In addition, since it is such an old city, the architecture is quite beautiful. As my dad and I drove around running errands, we were able to pass by some neighbourhoods with massive Victorian-looking houses touting ornate designs. The other day I toured Boston Symphony Hall, which opened in 1900 featuring a performance hall constructed with ancient Greek and Roman amphitheatres in mind.
There are a lot of sights to behold in Boston. Regardless, I would hate to own a car in this city simply due to the difficulty of navigation, which leads me to my next musing.
It’s a very new experience for me to live in a city with a functioning metro system. I picked up a CharlieCard (which is the Boston equivalent of the tap-to-ride Presto pass) and rode down to the Quincy market in a matter of minutes. The interconnected public transit system entirely makes up for the navigation difficulties I mentioned earlier. Getting around by bus feels no more difficult than doing so in Ottawa, and riding the subway only improves the experience (not to say that the subway is perfect - it’s dirty and noisy and stinks a bit, as one would expect). All in all, the public transportation system here in Boston makes me appreciate what we are missing in Ottawa (and what we will soon be getting, in the form of the light rail system).
Food and Culture
As the city is right on the water, there is a lot of seafood to be had in Boston, something that I as a vegetarian cannot take advantage of for the most part. However, there are still a plethora of excellent restaurants, bars, and more to experience while I’m here. My first night, I had the pleasure of visiting a restaurant called The Mad Monkfish (formerly Thelonious Monkfish), named after the well-known jazz pianist Thelonius Monk. The sushi and Asian fusion restaurant features live jazz every few days, and all of the dishes and drinks on the menu are named after not just famous jazz standards and musicians, but also Disney princesses, Harry Potter characters, and more. On night number two, I visited the Quincy market and (after playing on the public piano in the cafeteria area for a few minutes) dined at Cheers. Maybe not as exciting as the sushi restaurant from the night before, but being right in the middle of the market was a really cool experience. The whole place was bustling with people moving from shop to shop, restaurant to restaurant, and there were street performers busking outside. It felt like the Byward market back home but taken up a notch. I’ll definitely be looking forward to trying more of what Boston has to offer over the next few months.
This post is starting to get a bit long, so I’ll have to hold some of my thoughts for another day. I can honestly say I’m looking forward to starting up tomorrow morning with TripAdvisor once again, this time as an iOS developer. I hope that my time in Boston will be a stepping stone for me on my journey to further my career, meet interesting people, break out of my comfort zone, and grow as a person.