Roses are red, T rides are blue

by Beacon Staff • April 8, 2009

In so many ways, the Blue Line is a weird place. Sometimes it ends at Government Center, because Bowdoin station keeps strange hours. (Has anyone ever even been there?) The last stop on the other end is Wonderland, which sounds much more exciting than it really is. Sure there's an "Airport" stop, but taking the Silver Line Waterfront from South Station is a much more popular and convenient way to navigate Logan's terminals. But along the way from City Hall Plaza to Wonderland parking lot, the Blue Line can take you to some little-visited locations-culturally inclusive dining adventures, warm-weather beach getaways and the only place in the world where a subway crosses under the ocean. (Plus the MBTA just added shiny new cars with blue interior and clean seats.)

The elusive bBowdoin/b (pronounced BO-din) is only open select hours: Monday through Friday, 5:15 a.m. - 6:30 p.m., no weekends and no holidays, because it's close enough to Government Center that you can just walk there instead-which might leave you wondering why they don't do that with some of the Green Line stops (Boston University East, Central, West, enough already). According to a 2006 article in iThe Beacon Hill Times/i, the MBTA plans on closing the station after the renovation of Government Center is complete, with a new headhouse for more convenient Beacon Hill access on Cambridge Street.

bGovernment Center/b is probably the most touristy stop of all the stops. Out-of-towners flock to this place by the thousands with its access to Faneuil Hall, City Hall Plaza and Quincy Market, as well as warmer-weather events aplenty (Harborfest, Chowderfest, concerts and various Red Sox celebrations). Knockoff designer purses and cheap sunglasses are always hanging out by the station's main entrance, and even though Faneuil Hall is generally an enraging mess of tourists, as soon as the sun comes out, the cream puffs at Beard Papa's and clam chowder at just about any of the kiosks are worth the trip.

bState/b, perhaps the sketchiest looking station, serves as a connection to both the Orange Line and some of Boston's earliest history. With an entrance built into the basement of the Old Massachusetts State House (which is the oldest standing public building in the city, according to the Boston Hisorical Society), the station is just steps away from the historical site of the infamous Boston Massacre, and the Declaration of Independence was presented to the city's residents from its balconies.

bAquarium/b may be self-explanatory, but here goes. Admittedly a little overrated (and definitely overpriced), the New England Aquarium is one of those things that you might want to do before you leave Boston. According to the Aquarium's Web site, the huge tank in the middle is a 23-foot deep, 40-foot wide structure holding 200,000 gallons of perfect 74-degree salt water, and is home to over 600 animals. The most entertaining of all, Myrtle the Turtle, has inhabited the Aquarium since it opened in 1969. Nemo's dad was right-those dudes live forever. Though the tiger sharks, stingrays and tropical fish are dazzling to watch, the enormous coral structures are all a fraud-they have all been made and painted by artists at the Aquarium to look like the real thing.

Delicious Latin American food could lure many a hungry stomach anywhere on any line in the city, and the pickings at bMaverick/b are perfect examples. A quick walk into Maverick Square brings you to Taco Mex (65 Maverick Square), a tasty little establishment with a slightly misleading name. The cuisine isn't solely Mexican, although the burrito and taco plate selection is impressive. A huge menu offers traditional Latin American options like tostones, empanadas, arroz con pollo and doughy pupusas. You can sit down and enjoy a 40 oz. bottle of beer and a carne asada plate while the huge plasma TVs play Spanish-language programming. Skip their dessert menu and head around the corner to La Sultana (40 Maverick Square) bakery instead, where you can pick up homemade treats that will satisfy your sweet tooth and go easy on your wallet. Try the jelly rolls, buntilde;eulos or pastelito de guayaba, and grab an empanada for lunch the next day while you're at it.

The best kept secret of beaching in Boston can be found at bOrient Heights/b. You've been to Revere Beach, you've dealt with the families and the screaming children and the over-populated sand and crowded eateries. For a quieter but just as sunny summer experience, get off here and walk three minutes to Constitution Beach. Watch the planes take off from Logan and take in the rays, undisturbed by the thousands of people that are at that other shore. There is a small playground for kids, but there are not usually a ton of young ones running around. There isn't much excitement by way of amusements, just a few small pizza and sandwich shops dotting the main street, but the waves are waves and it's an all around more relaxing experience. If you're hungry, check out El Paisa (1012 Bennington Street), an amazingly authentic Colombian restaurant down Bennington Street. Like Taco Mex, El Paisa has a huge menu catering to all kinds of tastes. This local favorite is one of the few places you can find aguardiente, a strong Colombian liquor. The portions are generous, the prices reasonable, and the bilingual waitstaff always pleasant.

bSuffolk Downs/b fields a lot of traffic from both tourists and regular residents, some of whom gamble their paychecks away. The massive Suffolk Downs race track opened up in 1935, and has hosted several speedy celebrities, including the feisty Seabiscuit. In June of 1966, the Beatles performed a concert on its grounds, and exactly 40 years later, local music artists gathered there once again for a tribute concert for deceased Boston lead singer Brad Delp. While racing animals in Massachusetts was a hotly-debated issue on the last ballot, Suffolk Downs has tried to make their establishment more animal- and activist-friendly. In 2008, the track instituted a zero-tolerance policy regarding the slaughter of horses who train and race at the facility.

Expensive condominiums have long replaced the rides of the amusement park of the bRevere Beach/b of old, but the sandy spot still has its redeeming qualities. According to its Web site, the first public beach in the United States drew a crowd of over 45,000 people on its opening day in 1896 and was named a National Historic Landmark in 2004. The infamous blizzard of '78 ruined most of the beachfront property and basically murdered its glory days, but as long as Kelly's Roast Beef is still standing, take little issue. Revere Beach is Kelly's original location, which opened in 1951 and has served as a local mecca of beef ever since. The originators of the roast beef sandwich have four other Massachusetts locations (Danvers, Saugus, Natick and Medford), and pieces from the original amusement park, such as carousel horses and funhouse clown faces are sprinkled in as part of the decor. Onion rings, lobster rolls and roast beef are all pretty basic menu items at any beachside eatery, but Kelly's is a "Masshole institution," not to be missed. It's a bit of a walk and may be closer to the Wonderland T stop, but the fabulous food goes hand in hand with a trip to the beach.

And, finally, we've reached bWonderland/b. No, it's not a magical oasis of roller coasters and sandy beaches. Alice does not live here and there are no white rabbits to tell you the time. It was home to an impressive amusement par

k-in the early 1900s. What's left out there is a heavily-scrutinized greyhound racing track and that big parking lot. A let down indeed. With the passage of Question 3, or the Greyhound Protection Act, the track must close by Jan. 1, 2010 according to protectdogs.org. Animal rights activists rejoice. All else need not visit this end of the line.,Kasey Fielding, iBeacon/i explorer