For the last eight or so years, Hunky Hubbie and I have traveled across the country (and once across the pond) watching our kids compete at rowing regattas. One of our favorite races has to be the iconic Head of The Charles held every fall on the Charles River in Boston. “The Charles” is the largest regatta in the world attracting between 8,000-10,000 athletes and over 300,000 spectators. The air is always crisp- sometimes freezing, the crews come from all over the world and the scene is like something out of “The Peppy handbook meets the Great Gatsby.” Brightly colored rowing blazers, smartly dressed moms in Hunter boots and scarves and sponsors from Delta to Brooks Brothers to Aston Martin pack the shores of the Charles for the weekend. The food vendors sell just about anything you could want for a riparian picnic while watching the crews attack the turns of the Elliot bridge.
The first year we attended the Charles, we were chaperones of our youngest daughter’s high school team- Winter Park Crew. We stayed in what I shall fondly recall as a “budget motel” within walking distance of the boat trailers. Hunky Hubbie and I felt we needed a Charles re-do so last year, we were fortunate enough to have two daughters coxing the race and made another trip to Boston.
Having no one to chaperone, we opted to treat ourselves to a weekend at The Taj Hotel overlooking the Public Gardens. We were upgraded to a large newly renovated suite with incredible views of the park.
The lobby of The Taj is chic while retaining the charms of a Grand Hotel without being stuffy. A Tiffany shop is right inside- hold onto your wallets. There is snug little bar, where we had a simple but flavorful New England style dinner one evening. The hotel is within walking distance of fantastic shopping, restaurants and the beautiful Public Gardens.
We chose to take a cab down to the race site but we must have walked over 15 miles over the weekend. The course is over 3 miles long and there are multiple spots to watch, so we did a lot of walking: down to the boat trailers, Elliot Bridge area, team hospitality tents and all around Harvard for dinner with one of our daughters. If you attend The Charles, be sure to wear warm clothes and comfortable walking shoes.
Our second trip last year proved to be much more eventful. Our youngest daughter was coxing the Washington Rowing Men’s V8 and our oldest daughter was coxing her Women’s 4+ from the Narragansett Boat Club. Our oldest, (being social media shy-sorry no photos), won her race and earned a coveted gold medal from The Charles to add to her collection.
Our dining choices ranged from Post 390/ Urban tavern one evening and The Red House in Cambridge to celebrate our daughter’s gold medal . It is a fun pokey little building in the heart of Cambridge with outside dining perfect for a crisp fall evening.
The absolutely best place to watch the racing is on the Elliot Bridge. There is a sharp curve in the river and “nascar style carnage” of boats running into either the bridge pylons or each other is always a possibility. Inexperienced or unlucky coxswains can miss their line and lose valuable time on the many turns and places to overtake crews. Last year the winds seem to pick up the huge eights and push them sideways. Tough conditions were a challenge for many of the Youth 8 boats.
Being a Husky Rowing parent, we were treated to race day hospitality at the large team tent where we had lunch and could escape the brutal winds.
This is my interpretation of New England Clam Chowder. Below is one attempt I made with Salmon- which by now you’ve figured out it is my favorite fish.
If you are in Boston, we highly recommend a stay at the Taj with all its charm. For the perfect post race drink try the Longfellow Bar in Cambridge.