Saturday, November 2, 2013


Boston also, like Montreal, is a city of charming neighbourhoods - so I made sure I found one on airbnb to stay in.  As usual, my plan to see the city was to get downtown & walk a lot.  The four kilometre Freedom Trail is very well marked (follow the red line on the ground) & starts at the large Boston Common & the Massachusetts State House. 

I got a little distracted & wandered around the Beacon Hill neighbourhood for a while first.  Even out in the suburbs in the dark of the previous night I'd noticed these odd fire call points dotted around - I suppose they're a bit like the police call boxes that were once more common in London.  At over a hundred & sixty years old, it was the first system of the kind in the world - originally linking the various call points to the central Fire Alarm Office by telegraph signals.  Quite ingenious, but I'm surprised it's still going as the call points were far enough apart to not really give any advantage over a phone.

I zigged and zagged a bit at the start of the Freedom Trail (which links sites that are connected to Boston's large role in American independence) as I stumbled across the shorter Walk to the Sea - which provided interesting titbits of Boston maritime history & also took me down to the water's edge. I wandered, soaked in the history & found a jalepeno & cheddar bagel - which I was most pleased with as that was my favourite when I made bagels, although I think I put more peppers in.

Old State House
Old Customs Building
Paul Revere's House
No building in particular
There seemed to be this small baseball event called the World Series in town & Boston was pretty excited about it - with Paul Revere below getting the Red Sox treatment.

The trail ends at the Bunker Hill monument, which was the site of an early battle in the War of Independence. From what I could work out, it's a big monument to what was supposed to a strategically useful, but still big, defeat - the colonials held off the British a lot longer than they were expected to & therefore delayed them reaching some other objective.

Anyway, there are two hundred & ninety-four steps to the top, so I charged up them too quickly & then admired the cloudy view while I caught my breath - there are a lot of roof-top patios in the surrounding area that look fantastic for summer.

It looked like there were sufficient parks & paths to walk most of the way along the north bank of the Charles River to MIT - it also looked a lot shorter distance than it really was. 

I then ended up on the other side of the river in amongst the crowds heading to Fenway Park for the first match of the series against the St Louis Cardinals.  Having the city's Trip Advisor app loaded on your phone is always helpful for finding excellent places to eat - in this case a cafe in a large independent bookshop, the momos (dumplings) were superb.  Dark & a little chilly by now I continued the walking alongside the fens (a type of wetland & that for which Fenway Park is named).  I was rather tired when I got home after walking well over twenty kilometres in all sorts of different parts of Boston.

At breakfast that morning, my host told me that the Samuel Adams brewery tour was not that far away.  Jamaica Plain (where I was staying) used have twenty-odd breweries - few remain.  For some reason, I'd always thought Samuel Adams was brewed by a huge company - but the Boston Brewing Company had quite humble beginnings in the 1980s & might still claim to be a craft brewer, although when you're the (joint) largest American owned brewery it's a little hard to believe.  The Boston site is now mostly R&D, but they do good little free tours.  As far as manufacturing equipment goes, there isn't much to see - but the tasting of barley & hops was interesting to see how different flavours get into beer.  And the last twenty minutes or so is tasting pitcher after pitcher of beer.  Possibly, I should have gone on the tour after lunch - needless to say the rest of the day was quite enjoyable.

More walking that afternoon - more local this time as close by is the Arnold Arboretum (managed by Harvard).  There were lots of trees to see & many nice streets to stroll down to get there.  Although I did cheat a bit & get a Hubway bike (the Boston version of Bixi).  There were a few streets near where I was staying that are still gravelled - very odd in the middle of a big city to find gravel streets.

Lunch was spent in Doyle's Cafe, which has a close association with Samuel Adams (being the first to sell the company's lager).  It's all very old & a favourite haunt of Boston politicians apparently, the Kennedy family used to frequent the place. The kale soup was very good indeed, with a nice kick to it.  So far I haven't mentioned all the Halloween decorations that I'd been seeing almost everywhere, as well the huge stalls selling pumpkins - mostly because I'm not really interested.  But in what may be the best thing as far as I can see about the holiday, craft brewers like to put out a seasonal drink - & pumpkin ale is ridiculously good.

I rode down to the river, crossed it & was wandering through Harvard in the twilight.  Lots of people around & plenty of impressive buildings, but not much to keep me from finding another bike & heading back towards Fenway. 

I wasn't really intending going to see what all the fuss was about at Fenway, rather hoping to spend whatever excess USD funds I had on outdoor gear at REI.  But they were so close to each other, it was worth a look.  Plus there was a Chipotle - always useful.

That was about my time in Boston - I'm glad I finally made it to what is a great city to walk & eat your way around.

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