Thursday, 10 April 2008


I found Boston a rather odd place. It was very quiet, perhaps because we were there over the Easter weekend and many places seemed to be closed as a result. Finding a drink was hard work (and I'm talking about in the late afternoon onwards here, not at breakfast time or anything); I put that down to the city's puritan origins, but I was told that it was more due to the area of town in which we were staying, the Back Bay (which at the time of the AWI really was a bay). Those bars that were open seemed to be obsessed with basketball, which is a game I have never understood - where's the fun/skill in it being played by people of over 6.5 feet in height, who seem to just stroll up to the net and drop the ball in it? Having players of 5 feet and under would make it far more entertaining. I liked the cheerleaders though; demo games at wargames conventions could usefully benefit by having some.

Anyway, the highlight of revolutionary Boston is the Freedom Trail, a gentle, if long, meander through the oldest buildings in the city. We walked the trail on a day that was wonderfully sunny, but which was also the coldest, windiest day in my memory. The Kiwi suffered particularly, as the New Zealand climate simply doesn't reach the kind of wind-chill that we experienced. But as Nelson might have said, the love of history kept us warm and we kept going whilst other Freedom Trail travellers dropped out to spend the afternoon in those faux Irish pubs that New England does so well. I have one tip to pass on to those who visit Bunker Hill in the presence of someone who insists on walking the route that the British advanced up from the beach near Moulton's Hill: leave the Freedom Trail, helpfully marked on the pavement by a wide red line, and you can quite easily find yourself on the "wrong side of the tracks". Standing in down-town Charlestown in a blazer and tweed overcoat, and turning a map every which way to try to work out where one is does not engender feelings of safety. On the plus side, I did begin to get a sense of how men wearing bright scarlet coats must have felt whilst marching through the Massachusetts countryside...

But Boston was a fine place. It has some wonderful sights and Paris-grade shopping. In its restaurants we discovered the American habit of presenting you with your bill (or "check") as soon as you finish eating, which is much appreciated; in the UK you can often ask for it at least 3 times before it is finally brought to you, at close to 11pm. Boston has plenty of world-class restaurants and a major feature of our holiday generally was drinking good American wines (which are very hard to find in the UK); so for those who are interested in such things, wine highlights were: Terra Valentine 2004 Cabernet, Spring Mountain District (Napa); Duckhorn Wines' "Paraduxx" Meritage 2005 (Napa); Silver Oak Cabernet 2003 (Sonoma) and Stag's Leap "Artemis" Cabernet 2005 (Napa).

Photos: above are (1) the Old State House, built in 1713 and the seat of colonial government until the AWI. The Boston Massacre of 5 March 1770 took place just to the left of the photo. (2) and (3) The house of Paul Revere, the original "midnight rider" who rode to Lexington to warn that the regulars were leaving Boston and marching on Concord. In a future post I will have pics of the first house where he arrived with his news. This house dates from 1680. (4) The "Warren Tavern", dating from 1780. This was supposedly one of the first buildings in the rebuilt Charlestown, which had been torched during the battle of Bunker Hill. The tavern was named after General Warren, who died at Bunker Hill. Below are (1) Paul Revere himself (1885), with Old North Church (1723) in the background and (2) the Bunker Hill monument, in front of which is a statue of General Prescott.


Peter M. said...

Great photos. I used to live on Beacon Hill before moving to Nashville,TN. Really warmed the heart to see home again. Glad you enjoyed your stay. Too bad you weren't there last weekend for the Havoc gaming convention!

AKA CorpCommander

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the building photos. Eventually I'll have to try my hane at some 28mm copies.

Funny thing about the restaurant checks. When the wife and I visited London we did not realize it was the British custom not to present the bill until asked. On our first night we sat there for at least half an hour after finishing before my urge to go to sleep overcame my fear of appearing the ugly American. Still, it was nice not to feel like you were being rushed out.


guy said...

v interesting. I can sense a trip to Napa and Sonoma being plotted and planned by you. We visited the vineyards there a few years ago as part of a road trip down the West Coast. We avoided the huge, well known industrial vineyards and concentrated on the smaller ones and had a grand time. My only regret was that girl friend at the time, now wife, wasn't keen on taking a balloon ride.

I also know exactly what mean about wandering off the beaten track. In some large US cities it seems pretty dubious areas are only a block or so away from shops, hotels etc. Like most Brits wanting to go frm A to B we walked in a straight line right into one of what really could only be described as a slum when in reality you should skirt round these areas. Better still, drive as the Americans do. Still, all part of our education as they say.


legatus hedlius said...

Great post. There is a small chance I may have to go to Boston in July so very helpful. I have to say I rarely feel safe walking in American cities. Too many loopy druggies who the locals seem to look right through but they scare the hell out of me!