Posts Tagged With: Boston

Uncle Sam

Well, this is a first.  As I write this, we are hurtling along the interstate.  I should point out that, a) I am not the one driving and, b) I’m only writing it offline, being an out and proud Luddite who does not believe in smartphones and all that malarkey.  By the time I publish this, I should be in the comfort of tonight’s hotel room in Vermont.

So, for our last morning in Boston we had an appointment with Mr Samuel Adams for a tour of his brewery.  For a 15 minute subway ride out of town and a donation of $2 to local charities we got a souvenir glass and three beer tastings (a total of about one English pint).  And of course you get educated in the beermaking process and that is why we all really want to visit the brewery, isn’t it?  We also found ourselves sitting next to two people from the town in Cornwall that we used to live in and one of whom worked at the same place as the husband.  Walt Disney was right.  It’s a small world after all.

I had to buy subway tickets from the vending machine (bear with me, it gets more interesting) and for my change I received one dollar coins.  COINS!!  I’d heard rumours of their existence but I have never seen dollar coins before.  I was beyond excited.  Okay, it didn’t get more interesting for you to read, but it was quite a moment for me.

Blinking in the sunshine as we left the brewery into nearly 100F heat (wasn’t summer supposed to have finished last week?), we made our way by very circuitous route back to the airport via the Clover Food Truck, which is positively the best food I have had since moving to this country over a year ago.  And, unlike the Cheers Bar, they actually do know your name and call it out when your food’s ready.  Satisfying on every level.

At the airport we called into the USO to a warm and friendly welcome as always.  After a nice recharge we grabbed the hire car and set off to Vermont.  We’ve just made it over the state line and have about 30 miles to go.  The weather has just changed from 90F down to 70F and I just got the sunroof closed in time before the rain started.  We now have an immense storm going on around us.  So maybe summer is over after all!

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This part is being written (and uploaded, as predicted) from the comfort of one of the two double beds in our Vermont hotel room.  After today’s brilliant lunch, I had the other best meal of the last twelve months for dinner tonight.  We arrived in this tiny little village and it is just like Cicely, Alaska in Northern Exposure (one of my all time favourite TV shows).  It has one little main street (called, er, Main Street) with just the one general store, one church, one doctor etc.  It seemed to be totally dead but I’d heard rumours of a half-decent restaurant so we sought it out and found it down a little staircase at the side of a building.  As we opened the door we found that the entire population of the village must be in there, hidden away from the quiet street.  For once, I had a choice of about three excellent dishes, none of which were veggie lasagne.  I plumped for a stir fry with the most amazing orange and ginger sauce.  We also had a homemade mini loaf of honey wheat bread with maple butter.  Wowee.  Why can I not find a restaurant like this within twenty miles of my home?

Taking a moment to review my life from the comfort of this hotel room, I would surmise that realistic career options now appear to be Park Ranger, Undergraduate Admissions Officer at Harvard, or Beer Tour Guide at Sam Adams Brewery.  I have extensive experience in at least two of these fields.  Tomorrow may bring another potential career, I’m fairly sure.

We have ended the evening in our hotel room cracking open one of the three special beers that we purchased earlier today.  They are all about 10% strength and we started with the cherry one which was most agreeable.  Tomorrow I may embark on the chocolate and coffee one.  In the meantime, I’m off to starfish in my own gigantic bed.  Thank you Sam.

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Boston – More Than a Feeling

Day 2 in this fabulous city started with a visit to the Tortoise & Hare statues in Copley Square, where the Boston Marathon ends each year.  I crossed the finish line (thankfully without having to run the preceding 26.2 miles) before wandering around behind the Fox News people doing a live story about military weddings (I’ve since reviewed the footage online and I haven’t managed to spot myself, sadly).

We then dropped by Boston Public Library, which is the kind of library I would love to have at home if I had the money or the space, and an even more understanding husband than I already have.  It starts with spectacular marble lion statues and sweeping staircases leading up to several vast spaces filled with books, right up to the hidden, dark sections of rare manuscripts.  Then you peek out of a high window in the centre of the building and discover a hidden courtyard far below with a delicate fountain as its crowning glory.  Then you tumble back out into the hustle and bustle of the city centre streets and marvel at how quiet and removed it felt to be back in that courtyard.  Sigh.

From there, we took another perspective on the city as we ventured up to the Skywalk Observatory, fifty floors in the air.  Even better, we were granted free admission, thank you very much.  We spent an hour wandering around the observation deck, which has a 360 degree view of the city accompanied by an audio tour.  Halfway round, the husband swapped to the children’s tour and declared it to be far superior.  As with the views from Bunker Hill yesterday, we saw some breathtaking vistas and some great alternative angles of buildings.  Well worth the price of admission!

Leaving the Skywalk, we pottered past the Four Seasons Hotel where, a couple of hours earlier, we had seen the ESPN News people making a live report (another shot for which we were loitering in the background).  This time, there was a police barrier set up with a range of seemingly random sports fans eagerly awaiting someone’s exit from the building.  I still have no idea who it was and I haven’t found any pointers on t’interweb either.  It didn’t help that all the onlookers were wearing different sports shirts so I couldn’t even identify the sport.  I certainly wasn’t going to do anything logical like ask anybody what was going on.

We spent the afternoon in Harvard, trying to look edjumacated.  It doesn’t have quite the grandeur of the UK Cambridge (Harvard is situated in Cambridge, Massachusetts) but is pretty impressive all the same, being, of course, one of the oldest institutions in the country.  Feeling suitably educationally improved, we returned to the North End and had a lovely meal in one of the many yummy Italian restaurants that crowd the adorable winding streets there.  The geography of the city is already becoming very familiar, which always seems to be the case when you’re about to leave somewhere.  Also, today I learned that Benjamin Franklin was a high school dropout, and all the ducklings statues that we saw yesterday have names.  So I did get myself an edjumacation after all.

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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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