17 – 23 Sep 2013: Boston – 42 21N 71 02W
Bikes At Last!!
We had decided to take a mooring buoy at the Boston Waterboat Marina during our stay in Boston. The location was magnificent, just 100 metres off Long Wharf, the hub of all waterfront activity in Boston, it couldn’t have been better. But a central location can also have its downsides; plenty of activity with ferries, water taxis and sightseeing cruises but this is not New York, its not that busy and things quieten down at night. However, lurking deep below the surface, hidden from view is the ”T”, Boston's underground commuter rail network and we were right on top of the Blue Line, never before have we laid in bed listening to the rumble of trains under Balvenie!!!
Our first Boston excursion was to go north about 20 miles to Salem. Most tourists take the convenient ferry from Long Wharf to wander round this historical maritime town and soak up its rich seafaring history, others go to follow the Witch Trail and see one of the few places in America where several women were put to death in 1692 accused of witchcraft, – however not us, no history or witch hunts for us, we went to pick up our new bikes from Walmart!!
We caught two buses to get to Walmart, picked up and assembled our new folding bikes (the same bikes that couldn’t be delivered to Rockland for us), had time to grab takeaway coffees – Dunkin Donuts do lattes and they aren’t too bad in an emergency! – then went and awaited the next bus, our gleaming new bikes were eventually placed on the bus bike rack, the bus ride was free because the machine wasn’t excepting notes, and back to Boston we went. Mission accomplished.
Our first cycle ride was from the bus station to the marina, luckily there is a green belt that runs along this waterfront area so we managed to stay “off road” and out of harms way. We made it back to the local bar with 15 minutes to spare before the next round of Americas Cup Racing.
Biking Round Boston
We spent the next 4 days exploring all of what Boston has to offer, there is plenty to see and the weather was superb. We spent one day cycling the Freedom Trail, it is a self guided tour that covers sites involved in the commencement of the American Revolution.
For those of you like me, with a poor memory of history, here’s a snapshot. Boston was settled by the English around 1630. Eventually the early settlers got somewhat tired of being told what to do and with whom they could trade with by the British. There was an uprising which resulted in the 1770 Boston Massacre, England winning and colonists even more disgruntled. Then in 1773 the Brits put a tax on tea, the settlers were not happy and raided three British ships full of tea that were sitting in the harbour – overboard went all the tea and that little event was called The Boston Tea Party! More friction ensued and soon thereafter groups formed to revolt against the British, local man Paul Revere appeared as the leader of the Colonial Militia and on April 18 1775 the American Revolution began.
The rest is history
We visited Shipyard Park and toured the USS Constitution, fondly known as “Old Ironsides” because when she was built in 1797 she was so strong that cannonballs just bounced off her, the British didn’t know what they were up against. Over 400 men sailed her at a time, now that would have been rather snug!
Also docked nearby was the USS Cassin Young, a destroyer from the 2nd World War and the adjacent Naval Museum was also worth the visit. We came back city side and pedalled the streets of ”Little Italy” in the North End, the Italians arrived in the early 20th century and have created a fabulous area overflowing with trattorias, cafes, pizzerias, bakeries, gelatos bars – ah, all those wonderful Italian foodie things that smell and taste oh so wonderful.
Nearby is Faneuil Hall a public marketplace since colonial times this area is now the place to go for outdoor dining and hanging around. Along with adjacent Quincy Market & North and South Market buildings this pedestrian area was buzzing with outdoor street performers, market stalls & food vendors and had a very lively feel and great vibe each time we passed through.
Maximizing our new little bikes we cycled a few miles out to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. This is an outstanding private collection of the Stewart Gardners’ , this couple started collecting pieces of art during extensive worldwide travels in the late 1800’s. After her husbands passing Isabella designed a magnificent Italian inspired 4 storey home ”Fenway Court” and spent years collecting more pieces to furnish the rooms with the view of it becoming a museum. She stipulated that everything must always be displayed as she had laid it out. It is an amazing collection and the building and central courtyard are simply beautiful, the private artwork collection exceptional.
We stopped for a look inside Cheers, the basement bar made famous in the 1980s sitcom series. Avid fans were queuing outside waiting for tables so we just had a wee peak and carried on. We cycled through the upmarket areas of Newbury and Boylston Streets, past row upon row of beautiful Boston Brownstones, meticulously cared for, flower boxes adding colour and street side trees just starting to go golden, a very pleasant area.
Another day we packed a picnic lunch and took the river front cycle route all the way out to Cambridge and onto Harvard.
Cambridge is a very normal town but it was buzzing with thousands of elite students, the creme de la creme, preparing for years of study ahead at this top university. Harvard Village was a cute and compact place, statues of famous Harvard graduates adorned every available spot. And there are many famous graduates as Harvard is Americas first university, opened way back in 1636.
On our way back to town we passed Fenway Park, home to the Boston Red Sox Baseball Team. We had originally planned to go to one of the home games one evening but sadly our early evening moods were somewhat gloomy after watching Team Zealand’s huge lead dwindle away, day by day, in the Americas Cup Racing.
Those That Will Never Be Forgotten
One day we found The New England Holocaust Memorial. 6 towers form an outdoor corridor of granite and glass, commemorating the 6 million Jews killed in the six main concentration camps during the six years, 1939-1945.
Inscribed along the pathway between the towers are factual statements about the Holocaust, and inside the glass walls are quotes from witnesses to the massacre. Also etched on the glass are thousands of numbers representing the numbers tattooed on the prisoners.
This is an outstanding memorial, so simple and subtle but so effective , such a poignant reminder of the atrocities carried out resulting in over 6 million lives so tragically lost.
Will we ever learn from history?
Boston You’re Just Beautiful
We filled our days in this wonderful city effortlessly, we quickly got to know all the bike friendly streets, found the local markets, best Italian bakery, supped on excellent lattes and visited all (well several!) of the Irish Pubs.
The Irish first came in the mid 18th century and there is still a thriving community these days. Unlike the Italians who all seem to be gathered in Little Italy, the Irish just seem to have a corner each all over town, and on that corner is a great atmospheric Irish pub.
We loved Boston, a beautiful city overflowing with history and culture, certainly a favourite for both of us. New England had exceeded our high expectations, by far the most enjoyable area of the USA we have ever visited. Might just have to return one day and spend more time.
Our attention daily was however totally focused on the Americas Cup Yacht Racing every afternoon at 4.15pm, and we made sure we were perched in front of the big screen in plenty of time for the action. As the days passed we sat in disbelief and watched Team New Zealand’s 8-1 lead diminish to 8-6. Two races had been cancelled whilst underway and another while still in the starting sequence, Team New Zealand had been leading in all three races, luck was certainly not with us and Oracle were getting stronger every day.
We had a window to carry on heading south. Watching the live coverage daily of the Cup slipping away, with only one race needed to win it, was more than we could take. Maybe we would have better luck if we couldn’t watch it.