Thursday, November 13, 2014

Exploring Boston

This week was a "significant" birthday for me, but I'm trying not to dwell on it.  (If I'm honest, I was more upset about turning 20 than I was about this birthday).  It helped that hubby treated me to a fantastic weekend in Boston.  When we moved here to Pennsylvania, we agreed that this was an ideal opportunity to explore the USA and go to places we'd never ordinarily have the chance to visit.  Boston has always been somewhere I've wanted to go  - not really sure why, other than a sort of vague curiosity about "old" America.

So on Thursday evening, a short 2 1/2 hour flight from nearby Harrisburg found us in Boston.  Without wishing to give a history lesson, Boston was founded almost 400 years ago in 1630 by Puritans from England who named the town after Boston in Lincolnshire.  The city played a key role in the Revolution, and was a major seaport and trade centre in early America.

It's a strange mix of "old" historical buildings and shiny skyscrapers, with some lovely parks and open spaces.  Quite incongruent at times, but makes for an interesting experience as you walk around, as you're never quite sure what's round the corner.

The best thing about Boston is that you can walk almost everywhere - good for the not-yet-fully-confident-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-road-drivers like me!   (And being able to walk is quite refreshing - there are no pavements in the estate where we've moved to, so if you were brave enough to walk anywhere you'd take your life in your hands (it seems road lines are not strictly followed by drivers here, who seem to meander across all lanes, including the hard shoulder, at will).  We miss this ability to walk everywhere, having previously lived on the very edge of the Taff Trail in Cardiff.)

The Freedom Trail was our obvious starting point - a (mostly) red-bricked walking trail about 2 1/2 miles long through some key historical sites, from the Boston Massacre to Paul Revere's house and the Old North Church (where the two famous lanterns warned Revere that the British were coming by sea, starting his journey to warn local militia and effectively starting the American Revolution).

Faneuil Hall and Quincy's Market were full of market stalls (both tacky and lovely) and what seemed like hundreds of food stalls with every kind of gastronomic delight imaginable.  Even though we were technically out-of-season, it was still heaving with people grabbing their lunch.  We found a nearby restaurant and sampled the famous New England clam chowder which was delicious.

We made it was far as USS Constitution - the oldest commissioned warship afloat, launched in 1797 (ok, I admit to being a Pompey girl, who grew up with the Mary Rose, Victory and Warrior).  We caught the shuttle boat back to Boston Harbour (tired legs by that stage), getting some prime views of the Boston skyline, and again the mix of old and new buildings.

We found ourselves back in the Harbour the following day for a whale-watching trip.  Initially dubious (both our parents have previously been and not seen a thing), we were amazingly lucky and met with 30-40 humpback whales.  Even the boat crew were getting excitable!  It was an amazing experience to see them all around the boat.

On our final day, we made the most of the chilly but fine weather, and took an autumnal stroll through Boston Common and Public Garden, intrigued by the activities of what seemed like hundreds of squirrels scurrying around (somehow they seem much bigger over here!).  I dragged hubby to see the duck sculpture "Make Way for Ducklings", based on a children's book, and then we took in the remnants of the autumn colours on the trees (we were a few weeks too late for the stunning leaf displays in October).

For a few hours of fun we also took in New England Aquarium - stroking cow-nose rays, watching ponderous sea turtles in the giant tank, and enjoying the antics of the penguins at feeding time.

We were sad to leave Boston early on Monday morning, but there's so much we more we could have done, I have a feeling we may be back again!

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