Where everybody knows your name

So today we have made it to Boston which, I have to say, is the first place in America that I could actually see myself living in permanently.  It has a very British feel to it (not surprisingly, I suppose, given its history) and a lot of the time you can easily imagine yourself being in the centre of London.  When you reach the harbour it feels a little more like Cardiff.  Then you find yourself in Chinatown and see the manhole covers with steam rising out of them and feel like maybe you might actually be in New York.  It’s an incredibly compact city; usually when you look on a map and the distance you want to cover is about an inch wide, it actually turns out to be about seven miles.  In Boston it really is an inch.

There’s an excellent shuttle service from the airport to the city; it must be the cheapest (it’s free) and fastest (it has its own dedicated lane all the way in) method of transport.  We were greeted on arrival at our hotel with warm chocolate chip cookies – always the way to make me happy.  Our first stop from there was Boston Public Gardens and the Make Way for Ducklings statue – apparently it’s a really famous children’s book.   Either it didn’t make it out of America or I led a very sheltered upbringing, but I’ve never heard of it.  However the bronze statues of a duck and her line of ducklings is absolutely adorable.

From there, we had to pay a visit to the Cheers Bar.  There are actually two of them; one is a full-on replica of the TV set.  We chose to visit the one which inspired the TV series and which is in fact an original English pub that was shipped over to the US many years ago.  After more than a year, at last I managed to get a proper beer in a proper glass in a proper pub.  It even had hooks under the bar for hanging up your coat – always a true sign of a decent drinking establishment, in my humble opinion.

We finally had to tear ourselves away and embark on the Freedom Trail, which is a kind of potted history and self-guided walk of Boston following a red line around the city.  Easier said than done when you have already been hanging out with Sam, Norm, Cliff, Woody, Frasier and the rest.  There’s an amazing amount of history in Boston and a heck of a lot of lovely old architectural gems sandwiched in between some spectacular modern skyscrapers. Somehow it all works.  The highlight was the Bunker Hill Monument, which bears more than a passing resemblance to the Washington Monument but is less than half as tall (although, by the time I’d made my way to the top, it certainly didn’t feel that short).  The views were definitely worth it, especially being able to look down on some spectacular roof terraces (which aren’t really so spectacular if you are overlooked daily by nosey tourists at the top of the monument).  If anybody feels like buying me a house on the edge of Bunker Hill, don’t let me stop you.  I’ll also settle for a place in the North End if you prefer, although the fact that it is full of Italian restaurants and shops would probably be the death of me.

The trail ended at the Navy Yard (which rather made me feel I’d just arrived back in Portsmouth) and at the USS Constitution.  By this point our little tootsies had become hooves of fire so we jumped  (well, limped) on the ferry across the harbour for an alternative view of the city on our way back to the hotel.  We’d had high hopes of returning to the North End in the evening for a lovely meal, but by this point we were getting so tired that the hotel carpets were starting to look like magic eye puzzles (something to do with a late night and only about four hours sleep, I suspect) so we opted for a quick bite at the lovely and reliable Panera across the street.  Time now to rest, ready for tomorrow’s expedition.

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