The draw(l) of Boston.


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North America » United States » Massachusetts » Boston
January 20th 2016
Published: January 21st 2016
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Okay so the dreaded bus journey was nothing short of pleasant. Lots of legroom, plug socket wifi, clean toilets. Its funny really because instead of locals all we could hear across the bus was different accents and languages from around the world. It seems as though while the locals avoid such journeys, tourists and travellers make the most of them. No 'recently released' prisoners making their way home, we think. This was however with the newer bus-line 'Megabus', either way gives us hope for Greyhound.

Boston has so much history to it. We never really knew much about the oldest city in the states or even much about how the US won independence prior to our stay here (we blame school). Only thing we were really aware of was its large Irish community and the popular baseball team - the Red Sox. Sadly that was about it. Luckily the history here is laid out right in front of you (literally) as we soon came to find out.



Boston came highly recommended by a couple of people we'd met during our travels. Intrigued, we firmly placed this city on our itinerary. Booking a place to stay in Boston was pretty stressful for us though. You see, after all that time in Asia our brains were wired to Asian prices. We knew the US would cost us considerably more but we just couldn't get our heads around dorm rooms costing us £50 each, a night to stay downtown. We eventually settled on a hostel (a converted home), just a bus and a subway ride from downtown in the suburbs of Roslindale. Despite being out of the main area and having some bad reviews online, we found the hostel to be quite pleasant, likening it staying at a friend’s house. Walking around the area, it definitely felt like we were in an American TV show; passing yard sales, pastel coloured wooden houses, residents tending to their garden with the highly coveted white picket fences. We fantasized about living here, sat on the porch sipping fresh lemonade and eating home made cookies. The American dream we thought.

Just round the corner we found a Caribbean restaurant decorated for Halloween (it's mid Sept.). We asked if they'd had a party recently, to which the woman replied "no", they just wanted to make the place look "more alive". P ordered the steamed snapper with rice & peas and Chris ordered the same but with jerk chicken. The portions were huge with lots of rice and veg.

We found the best thing to do when we reach a city such as Boston, is to find ourselves a walking tour. We opted for the company 'Free tours by foot' a pay-as-you-like company. We could've done a self-guided tour, as all of towns historic landmarks are linked by a red bricked path built into the pavement that can be followed at your own pace. However we found a guided tour would provide much more info. Our tour guide was definitely a character, providing really good knowledge on the historical landmarks and major players who had a hand in gaining the US its independence. In his Bostonian drawl (one we now never mistake) he comically explained important scenes on how the Boston massacre (where 5 people were killed) happened and also pointed out the oldest hotel in Boston that all US presidents have stayed at and surprisingly where both Malcom X and Ho Chi Minh once worked before becoming the historical figures we know today. One thing we found funny was the Boston tea party incident, Bostonians at the time were unhappy with the high taxes on tea imposed by the British, so emptied the crates of tea into the harbour in protest. We couldn't but think back to what we'd learnt about the opium wars back in Hong Kong (trading opium for tea). It all boils down to tea - excuse the pun. Brits and 'their' tea are nothing but trouble.

We enjoyed the tour but were pretty hungry by the end, luckily it ended just 2mins away from a very popular food hall (Quincy Market Hall). Housed in a modernised old hall, food shops upon food shops next to each other, offering all kinds of cuisines. The choice was almost overwhelming, we eventually settled on a veggie burrito for P and steak, cheese and chips for Chris. Pricey but delicious.

Belly’s full, we walked to the harbour and enjoyed a well-earned rest, watching the many yachts and speed boats go by. As the walking tour only covered 1 mile of the 2.5mile bricked path, we decided to complete the rest ourselves. There were really only 4 more sites to see but they were slightly further out. These included the Towering Bunker hill monument on and the USS constitution. On the way between these landmarks near little Italy, we took a detour to visit a very popular bakery we kept seeing people clutching the boxes of. Being a cake fanatic, Chris was like Charlie in the chocolate factory. Despite being fairly full from lunch, he couldn't pass up the opportunity to try a chocolate fudge cake. The slice was large and the chocolate was rich, there was just no way could he finish it in one sitting. Surprisingly P does not like cake and so looked on as Chris demolished his chocolate cake or as much of it that he could.

The USS constitution also known as 'Old Ironsides' is the oldest commissioned warship still afloat. It was built in 1797 to protect the US from attacks by sea from the British. We were able to walk along the deck of the fully restored boat and also visited the maritime museum next to it. We didn't think we would enjoy the museum but found it quite informative and interactive. We even got to etch our names into a copper plaque that will be placed on the hull of the boat once its filled with names. We felt highly honoured to have our name on a part of history that was pivotal to the future of the new world.

On our way back into town we came across a row of huge glass columns with what looked like random numbers printed on them. As we got closer we realised it was the holocaust memorial. These columns are symbolic of the gas chambers at the death camps, with the streamed lights at night representing the smoke. On each glass column your eyes are drawn to all the numbers and quotes representing the 6 million Jews that were killed in the Holocaust. With the moving quotes left behind by the survivors providing a brief narrative of what they had witnessed all those years ago. As you walked through each glass column you felt the warmer air hit you. This was purposely designed in such a way with the designer of the Columns reportedly saying

“Like human breath as it passes through the glass chimneys to heaven”

Despite being right across the road from a ton of bars and pubs, you felt a sobering presence that drowned
out the nearby sounds as we walked along the short path through the glass columns. After an emotional journey through these glass columns there was a slab of stone with one word ‘Remember’ escribed and a final quote etched on it. One we will never forget…

‘They came for the Communists and I did not speak up because I was not a communist. Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak up because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists but I did not speak up because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics and I did not speak up because I was a protestant. Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up.’

A truly remarkable monument.

The following day we decided to do the shorter African American trail of Boston. This one wasn't a bricked path but it did have sign posts with arrows pointing us in the right direction. The highlight of this was the museum, based in an old school (the first school non segregated school in America), it was more of a gallery but it contained information of how escaped slaves from the south tried to make it to the north via the Underground Railroad and the historical figures who played a part in it. As well as a small documentary room, it had pictures of newspaper articles written by slave owners offering rewards for runaway slaves plus one written by slavery abolitionists warning the free black people of the north to be alert from the danger of unlawful slave catchers. We were also there just in time for a brief talk on the history of the building from a state ranger. Although we got the main gist of it all, for much of the talk we debated whether the ranger was actually speaking English or something else. His drawl was so strong it was real difficult at times to understand him. Either way from the information we were able to absorb, it was enlightening to see how African Americans played a part in the history of a future thinking society, when slavery in the south was a big business.

Not too far from our hostel, there's a growing Dominican community with shops and salons nearby. Both in need of getting our 'hair did' we ventured down the road in search of a shop. Surprisingly for a Saturday, P walked in the first salon and was in the hairdressers chair within 3mins. Chris found a barbers shop a few doors down. Both being Dominican shops, English was very limited in both. P managed to get her hair done as she'd communicated. For Chris he was unfortunate enough to have an inexperienced barber who gave Chris an unnecessarily long and mediocre haircut. To make it worse he ended up cutting Chris's lip during a cut throat shave.

Travelling to the US we were so happy at the thought of not having to haggle for everything. Things will be priced and prices will be clear, we'll know exactly what we're paying for items. We'll be able to budget accordingly before we even enter a transaction.

WRONG!!

Well most things are priced, but what really confused us was the fact that no tax is added to anything. We were paying for things and wondering why it cost us more than we'd calculated. We didn't understand this as obviously in the UK, all prices already include tax. This takes away the guesstimating the cost items. Another difference we picked up on was the price of things like toiletries. The UK supermarkets and shops have random offers on a large number of items so you can get items for cheap from certain shops. As the US has more of a store card/coupon culture, toiletries were costing is a considerable amount more than back home. This surprised us massively. We were stood in shops like "$4.99!?? We can get that for £1 back home on offer".

Note: We did later on find some 99cent stores which were a life saver for us budget travellers.

On our way back into town, we passed through Boston common, the oldest park in Boston. A small festival on was taking place on the green. As we got closer we realised it was a small Indian festival promoting Indian culture. There were Hare Krishna singers, meditation tents and some good old Indian food. We had seen one stall offering a bowl of bombay mix with salad for $5!! We passed through just for a look around and managed to snag ourselves a free plate of rice and chick
pea curry and a quick meditation run through. It was a nice little throwback moment to end our day with on a warm day.

We absolutely loved Boston, we can’t pin point it on anything in particular but we both thoroughly enjoyed our stay here and would certainly return.

Hostel: Global hostel

Transport: Megabus ($30 for 2)

17th September 2015


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Looking up through the memorial 'chimney'

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