As originally posted on my Tumblr site while travelling around the USA in 2011…
After a flight up from Miami with more turbulence than I can remember on any plane, which I found very entertaining and exciting although I don’t think this was shared by most of my fellow travellers, I landed safely in Boston. I’ll say up front that I really liked Boston as a city; I had more than a feeling that this would be the case and it was certainly true. Due to its historic status, it’s often stated that it feels more British/European than other US cities, which makes it much easier to navigate on foot although the street layouts are also more European so it can be harder to know exactly where you are – no grid systems as are more typical in the US.
Of course, Boston is also known for its Irish heritage and community of ex-pats, which means that this is one city that you can visit where going to an Irish pub doesn’t feel like a cop-out, it is actually integral to the place. This certainly helped with my exploring and I did find lots of great places to hang out while doing so.
I could tell for example that I had a good Saturday night when I entered a pub a couple of days later and was greeted by the barmaid there exclaiming fondly “hey, rum and coke guy!”. This took me by surprise but she said I’d definitely been in there on Saturday ordering a few rum and cokes and talking about cricket. I had to admit that this did of course sound like me if you swap rum for vodka and she said, oh yes that’s right. In fairness to me, there was a club bit upstairs too that I’d spent a bit of time at, whereas now this just looked like one of about 20 similar type pubs all located next to each other, so an easy mistake to make. I do concede that my drinking enough to then be nicknamed after a particular spirit by a complete stranger may also have had a part to play with my initial lack of recognition.
Fortunately, I was also able to catch up with a familiar face while in Boston, my friend Jo who’s currently studying at Harvard. It had looked like we wouldn’t be there at the same time but our schedules overlapped for one night so it was great to catch up over dinner and drinks and see a bit of Cambridge, which sits just north of Boston itself and is where Harvard is based. As well as Cambridge, I did get to see quite a few of the different areas around Boston and even took an excursion to Braintree (named after my home town) which was at the end of their tube line; something I am indeed quite used to back in London.
I’d also timed my stay in Boston to coincide with the 4th of July celebrations. There is a big public concert and fireworks hosted by the riverfront, but this seemed like quite a lot of effort to go to, as people queue all day to get good spots to watch so I just hung around downtown really, soaking up the atmosphere. A good idea if only for the fact that in one boozer they were showing on TV the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Competition, an annual event held in front of thousands at Coney Island NYC, which was won this year by somebody eating 62 hot dogs in 10 minutes. Including rolls. This was on their equivalent of Sky Sports and I was watching sat next to a Scottish couple and I think we were all equally impressed, a fitting “only in America” experience for their Independence Day.
On my final night there, I went to a Boston Red Sox baseball game, seeing them beat the Toronto Blue Jays 6-4 at the historic Fenway Park. Although not a huge baseball fan, I’d been watching a fair bit over here anyway as it is pretty inescapable and wanted to see how it measured up live. Have to say I loved it – the game itself actually made more sense in the flesh, the atmosphere was really good and I definitely have more appreciation of the skill involved; seeing a home run is so much more impressive than on TV. What’s equally of note is just how easy and customer friendly it is compared to going to the football or cricket: there are loads of pubs around the ground where you can easily grab a drink or a bite to eat before or after the game (with no 15 minute queues) plus the concourse inside the ground is massive, with a huge range of refreshments again. Plus you can of course have a beer while you watch play unlike football of course. I was mentioning this to some fellow spectators who all unanimously agreed that this “sucked”. I also felt a little bit at home when rain stopped play briefly, one aspect that was certainly like a lifetime of watching cricket.
So, in summary, I’m definitely a big fan of Boston. It is more like a British city and just felt very “liveable” in a way that some of the places I visited down South didn’t: with better public transport, proper city centre etc. Also, it is quite touristy but not overtly so and actually this is really well done mostly; for example, the “freedom trail” which guides you around areas of historical interest by a non-intrusive line on the pavements around town. The architecture also seems very familiar (it is “New England” after all) as do the names of everywhere nearby. As well as the aforementioned Braintree, places in Essex and Suffolk seem to be particularly prevalent. Boston over, next up for me is another British type place name as I’m currently writing this on an Amtrak train bound for New York…
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