Occasionally, and for no defensible reason, I will reject a touristy activity out of hand, look askance at it, and keep walking with a grinchy pucker on my face. This usually occurs when a long line and a phalanx of crying kids in strollers are staring me down. And I'm embarrassed to admit that is the reason I haven't been on the swan boats before this. But today being a sunny, beautiful day, one of the last of summer, I decided now was the time to investigate. Walking through the commons, I stopped at my favorite fountain.
And sure enough, waiting for me at the swan hut was the expected sea of tourists and baby strollers. But I decided to ignore the impulse to flee, on the off chance that I'd been missing something wonderful for all these years.
I waited in line for about twenty minutes, paid three dollars for my place on the swan boat, and found that as I sat on the old-fashioned wood bench, Mr. Swan peeking over my shoulder, a sense of peace and relaxation was imminent. Perhaps it is the fact that the swan boats do not have motors; they are powered by one person pedaling at the rear of the boat. The effect is quiet floating around a shallow pond that affords lovely views of water, trees, and the Boston skyline beyond that.
You will float by a myriad of ducks, including a little island where they roost. As I began to actually relax with the sparkly water and the blue sky and the sensation of having nothing much to do except watch the gardens go by, I wished that 1. I had an icy beverage in my hand. and 2. that I'd done this years ago. The swan boats really do have a unique feel of being longtime residents of the gardens, and having been there for 130 years, they count as tradition. As long as you are spry enough on your feet to walk from the pier onto the boat, and have three dollars to spare, I highly recommend the swan boats.
Having had my happy Boston sight-seeing moment, I headed down Newbury Street, stopping in oh-so-briefly for a mind-blowing banana split cupcake at Georgetown Cupcakes.
But I saved enough room for coffee. Because Sofa Cafe has opened on Newbury, and I'd heard that their coffee is a religious experience.
This little subterranean cafe is the flagship American version of a cafe that has done really well in Brazil. There is a sofa, pretty purple walls, and a retro spaceship of coffee making at the counter.
They have drinks like the Cult, comprised of espresso, milk, Nutella, and baileys creamer, or the Ventura, which is an iced coffee with a twist of lime. But I settled on the affogato, a scoop of ice cream (vanilla or chocolate) covered with a shot of espresso, topped with whipped cream.
It was made with care by the barista, accompanied by a little heart cookie and a small shot glass of bubbly water to wash it all down with. It was one of those embarrassing moments when I find myself making little lip-smacking noises in public. The ice cream melts into the strong espresso, creating a foamy cup of delish...and with the whipped cream and cookie, it felt like I'd ordered a gourmet dessert rather than a drink. I'll grant you, this could easily have gone wrong if it wasn't done with care and good ingredients. But trust me, you want one of these for your afternoon coffee break. The display case of edibles was modest, and is stocked by the Danish Pastry House. As far as I'm concerned, it's the beverages that should take center stage here.
Note: The swan boats are generally very stable, but I noticed that as we disembarked, it got a little wobbly from everyone standing up at once. If you're bringing small kids, make sure you hold hands for that part.