It was the type of Sunday you could do your washing on, hot and and sunny with a welcome breeze. I’m not usually one to talk about the weather but on our first day in Boston it was particularly pleasant and certainly worth mentioning. I’m also not usually one for big cities, I’m a local guy, I like to know the postman’s name, but on an American road trip the lure of Boston is to strong to simply pass it by.
Within 30 minutes of checking in to our Hostel in the Everett area of the city, we had been informed of a religious festival taking place in the North End of the city. The North End is home to Boston’s Italian community and walking through the cobbled streets on this mild Sunday evening it was immediately obvious just how strong this community is. The streets were lined with extravagantly decorated stalls selling local food and drinks. Incredible smells drifted through the narrow streets, sizzling herby sausages and freshly cooked clams were prepared in front of the crowds who eagerly licked there lips. Families sat together on their doorsteps, beautiful italian women sipped aromatic red wines from large glasses and traditional music echoed through the streets making it feel like a busy alley in southern Sicily. It was interesting to see how Italian culture was thriving so much in what is a very American city. I think what makes the city so profoundly American is its ability to act as a melting pot of cultures. Leaving the North End we took a short walk to an area teaming with Irish Bars, yet another culture intrinsically linked with Boston. This area is Bohemian, dark cobbled streets and buildings made from wood and iron. Irish music erupted from the doorways and each bar had a swinging sign which hung loosely above the entrance. We drank, danced and sang the night away in O’riely’s bar and thanked our lucky stars that the Irish invaded Boston.
Next morning we were up with the sun for our first full day in Boston, dragging our aching heads down to Quincy Market in the city centre. Quincy Market is home to a host of cool high street shops and quirky market stalls selling everything from clothes to Boston merchandise and trinkets. It was cool to browse the little stalls but for me the real attraction was Fanniel Hall. A building of real historical significance in Boston which once hosted the town meetings during a time of civil unrest in Boston just before the revolution. It now plays host to a food market selling everything from Indian curries to sushi and pizza. We walked the length of the narrow bustling market twice trying to decide what to eat. The smells of the freshly cooked food were incredible but in the end it had to been Boston’s signature dish, clam chowder. Served inside a big crusty bread roll, the chowder is thick, creamy and incredibly tasty, it can only be described as heaven in a bread bowl. We chatted to the chef as he watched our faces light up as we tucked in. The beauty of being a chef must be watching your customers melt as they taste your creations.
After chowing down the Chowder we booked ourselves on a freedom trail tour of Boston. Many seemingly ordinary streets and buildings in Boston are actually extremely significant historical spots which in many cases helped shape the way America is today. We discovered that the building where we had just eaten housed the meetings were Samuel Adams would plant the seed for the American Revolution and ultimately independence from the crown. Just across the road was the spot where British soldiers shot down 5 innocent protesters during riots against British rule and the road itself lead directly to the dock we’re British ships had landed to assert their authority over the Americans. It was Interesting to learn that events at these locations, which are now very much part of modern Boston, actually helped to shape the nation. Today the historical street corners merge perfectly in to everyday life but Boston and its people don’t forget the catalyst that they became. We visited the waterfront which was gleaming in the afternoon sunlight. The dock was busy with tourist eager to board their boat trips. For me it was nice to just take a moment to watch the world go by. With our fill of culture for the day we headed to find a bar to watch some football. In Boston, with all it’s Irish bars, this wasn’t difficult and we spent the next few hours watching the game with beers and hot wings.
Our next adventure in Boston came early next morning as I set off to explore Harvard with Ste and Brooke. We took a short bus ride from Wellington station directly in to Harvard. As we approached, the scene from the window altered from wooden buildings on run down streets to red brick buildings and briefcase carrying tweed wearers. There was a certain air of greatness about the place but if I’m completely honest I was a tad underwhelmed by America’s premier educational establishment. I was sort of expecting Hogwarts but saw nothing magical about it. The buildings, although traditional, were nothing to write home about and the town itself was like any other. The highlight of my Harvard experience was without doubt ‘Coops’, Harvard’s grand old bookstore. It was wall to wall, floor to floor books of every genre. I spent a good hour rummaging through bookcases before I managed to drag myself away.
We raced back from Harvard in the late afternoon to meet the lads for the Red Sox game. Despite baseball being a god awful game to watch, It is a huge spectacle out in the states and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to experience Fenway Park, especially with the Liverpool connection. We joined the hoards of fans on the train to Kenmore, it wasn’t the same carnival atmosphere you feel when travelling with football fans but i can’t deny there was a sense of excitement for the game ahead. We headed to the box office in hope of there being some cheap standing tickets left, we were in luck. However poor rock, paper, scissors skills meant that me and Paddy had to wait in line for them while the rest headed to the bar. As the first pitch arrived most of the fans headed in to the stadium, we decided, as the dedicated fans we are, to let the queue’s die down first and had another beer. So twenty minutes in to the game we made our move across the road and in to gate E. Having no idea were to go we headed to the nearest stand and stood there dumbstruck obstructing the view of countless fans behind us. Like a bunch of Japanese tourists in London we took out our cameras and snapped away until a now very angry fan told us to shift. Fenway park is a brilliant Stadium, unlike our traditional football stadiums it isn’t very symmetrical but it’s odd and unique shape gives it individuality. At night the stadium, it’s turf and the lights make for an awesome scene. Our seats, it turned out were up in the gods with an awful view of a rather awful game. Paddy spied a line of five seats right down on one of the lower stands with an unbelievable view. We cheekily helped ourselves and no one batted and eyelid. Shane Victorino smashed a home run out of the park just as we sat down, I’d like to think that he was saving that until we had a good view. However that was about as exciting as the game got, as awesome as the stadium is to look at the atmosphere just isn’t the same as a football game and we quickly became board. After an hour we decided to head back to the bar, but not until we’d annoyed more fans with our snapshot behaviour. Bloody tourists.
We found ourselves, once again, in an Irish bar, the Lansdown. The evening is a pleasant blur of beer, dancing and a distinct memory of Ste busking outside at 4am.
I left Boston the next morning with a hangover. But more importantly i left with amazing memories of a city perfect for travellers looking to experience modern American culture. A creative concoction of italian flavours, irish beer, american spirit and an unforgettable accent. Boston oozes cool, it’s exploding with history and overflowing with beautiful architecture. It’s people are friendly, interesting and desperate to share their city with you. It’s the city that helped to shape America and now it’s a shining example of what America has become.
Photo Credit to Ste Lane