Boston, December 2012
"Farewell to New York City Boys, to Boston and PA..." The Body of an American, The Pogues My recent lack of blog posts is not down to laziness but instead from a visit to the United States of America and in particular Boston and New York.
This was my first time in Boston and was immediately impressed with the city. It might not have the sights and icons of some of its counterparts in the USA, but the city to me felt instantly recognisable from the cities back home. Arriving late, we stopped locallyin Back Bay for a wonderful Mexican in the dark and moody Lolita Cocina. A spicy cucumber margarita and bourbon smash wetted our appetite for a feast of a trio of cerviches, three speciality guacamole (picante, crab and lobster and smoked pork belly), tuna tostada and garlic ribeye tacos. This feast sat aside an amuse-bouche of grapefruit granita set over a bowl of dry ice and laced with a shot of tequiella and sour apple popping candy cotton candy floss to finish.
On our first morning we woke to a light snow fall dusting the city street. We were staying in the Back Bay area of Boston and with our hotel near enough on Copley Square our first stop was the Boston Public Library. The main attraction of the library is the grand marbled entrance hall of the McKim Building leading to the main staircase guarded by by great twin lions, couchant, situated on pedestals on the return of the stairs. The staircase brings you up to the main reading room. Picture a library in your head and the long barrel vaulted reading room in Boston Public Library is what you would see. Members of the public stooped over rows of dark wood tables dimly lit by twin green table top reading lamps and enclosed of all sides by tall shelves of books of all ages.
The other main feature of the library is the courtyard providing a small place of escape from the bustling streets on Back Bay and Copley Square. Black steel table and chairs protected from the elements within an arcaded walkway provide respite to gaze at the plaza and bronze cast fountain statue.
From the warmth of the library back into the snow start exploring the city proper. What was soon to become is apparent is the size of the city. Boston is small compact city and with the sections of the city all within close walking distance. At the opposite end of Copely Square, is the small but pretty Trinity Church and the skyline dominating modern glass structure of the John Hancock Tower. Despite the 100 year difference, the two structures sit side by side in harmony; the blue tinted glass tower blending into the sky and reflecting the facade of the adjacent church.
Not far from Copley Sqaure, is the Boston Public Gardens and Boston Common; the green heart of the city. I first walked through the garden and commons in the snow and then two days later on a mild blue sky day and was presented with a completely different image of the gardens. This is reflected best in the photos below.
Boston Common is also the start of the Freedom Trail, a 2.5 mile walking route around Boston exploring the historical sites and people who shaped the history of Boston and the United States of America. The mid point walking tour is around Faneuil Hall which we decided was a good place to take a break from the tour and grab some lunch. Quincy Market, part of the Faneuil Hall Market Place, was our destination for lunch. A long market hall filled with 36 food vendors you were spoiled for choice. In the end, we decided on the Boston favourite of clam chowder and lobster rolls. I was a little uncertain on the food hall for such famous dishes from the region as it can sometimes be overpriced or lacking in quality. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the combo special (chowder, lobster roll and drink) from the Boston and Maine Fish Co. was of the highest quality and delicious.
Refuelled and a little bit of shopping later, we continued the trail, turning the corner to be faced with 6 glass chimneys. Knowing nothing about the installation and definitely intrigued, I wandered over to find out a bit more. I soon discovered that the installation was a memorial to the holocaust. The six tours are etched with six million numbers representing the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust and symbolising the tattoos the Nazis inflicted on many of the victims. Each tower is inscribed with one of the names of the six primary death camps complete with a metal grate covering a deep pit smoldering with coals. A fine smoke drifts up the grate and continues up the chimney. The most poignant aspect of the memorial is the voice given to the survivors and witnesses of the holocaust. Their words and memories etched into the glass of the towers telling of the horrors of the camps but also of acts of resistance.
Nothing belongs to us anymore. They have taken away our clothes, our shoes, even our hair. If we speak, they will not listen to use. And if they listen, they will not understand. They have even taken away our names. My number is 174517. I will carry the tattoo on my left arm until I die.” Primo Levi Holocaust Survivor - inscription from the New England Holocaust Memorial
The next section of the trail took us up into the north end, home of the Paul Revere House, Copp's Hill Burying Ground and Old North Church. The North End has a strong Italian-American population and is home to the wonderful Italian pastry shop Mike's Pastry. I can strongly recommend the Amaretto cannoli and the Boston Creme Pie - amazing! We were back at the North End later the following day for the freshest platter of clams, oysters and crab at the tiny but atmospheric Neptune Oyster. I washed these down with a fantastic and aptly named 'Whale's Tale Pale Ale' from Cisco Brewers in Nantucket.
Shopping was mainly undertaken on Newbury Street which ranges from your high end boutiques at the Boston Garden end before finishing with small basement cafes and smaller specialist shops. The highlight of Newbury Street is Georgetown Cupcake and particular the coconut topped snowball cupcake.
We spent a total of three nights in Boston which was just about right. We missed a few of the famous sites, but in all we felt ready to continue our journey onto New York. The mode of transport was by train and this took only three hours. I was quite impressed by Amtrak. The seats were big and comfy with plenty of leg room. We were also able to get the train at Back Bay station which was only a 10 minute walk from the hotel The journey itself was picturesque travelling down through the New England countryside and down the coastline. Some colour remained in the leaves on the ground and I can only imagine what this journey must be like in the height of the fall. Next up the Big Apple.