Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Boston post #1: Our first time in America

My girlfriend Emily and I got back from Boston last week, which was our first ever visit to the USA. We went out to visit our friends Phil and Char, who live and work in Boston

Arriving in Americaaaaaaaargh!

We arrived early afternoon on a Thursday, feeling not too sleepy after getting a few hours kip on the plane. We got a free shuttle bus directly from the airport to South Station, where we walked and were able to navigate our way to our friends' apartment in Downtown Boston. We dropped off our bags and excitedly headed out onto the American streets, to go and have a wander around Boston Common. One of the first things we saw on the common was a sea of small American flags. There were 37,000 flags in total, each representing someone linked to Massachusetts who has been killed in military service since the Revolutionary War. The sea of flags was enormous and it was a very lovely and poignant tribute. We continued to explore the common, which has many permanent memorials and statues for important dates and people in American history. I'll be posting a Boston History blog post later this week. 

37,000 flags: a memorial to Massachusetts military

The following day we woke up super early, due to being jet-lagged and headed off to Harvard University for a campus tour. I'll post more about this in the Boston History post later in the week. To continue our academia adventure, we visited the Massachusetts Institute of Tenchnology [M.I.T] Museum, which is near the financial district of Boston. It was surreal walking down the road amongst huge Microsoft, Google and other huge corporate offices, in a very smart area of town. The museum was really interesting, with loads of hands-on exhibits, a lot like the Science Museum in London, but on a much smaller scale. Many of the exhibits are robots that have been made by M.I.T. students as part of their course. There was a special hologram exhibition on, which was a lot more interesting than it sounds! 

Robot at the M.I.T. museum

Emily being scientific at the M.I.T. Museum...

That afternoon we headed to the World famous Fenway Park Baseball Stadium to watch the Boston Red Sox play the Toronto Blue Jays. The Red Sox won the 2013 World Series and Fenway Park is the country's oldest Baseball Stadium. We were recommended a visit here by our good friend Alison and it didn't disappoint. We had been awe-struck by everything American since we arrived in Boston and being here was quite simply about as American as it gets! We managed to get good seats, behind the home-plate for less than £20 each and enjoyed American snacks and drinks, which are sold by lots of enthusiastic staff who run around the stadium with their various wares. The game started at 4pm, which is later than the usual start time of 7pm, to encourage families to come. Sadly the Red Sox lost, but we didn't have a clue what was going on in the game anyway, but we loved it! I bought myself a Red Sox snapback cap as a souvenir. 

We found so many everyday things amazing whilst we were in Boston, as we associated so many things with movies we have seen. We found even the most simple things cool, like fire hydrants, ambulances and railway crossings! We even stopped for a photo outside a local fire station and took a school-bus selfie, as you do! Emily even took a photo of a drain cover at one point, as it said BOSTON DRAIN on it! 

Outside the local fire station, being geeks...

School bus selfie!

At the weekend we went for a lovely brunch with Char and Phil, in the beautiful Beacon Hill area of Boston. This whole area is filled with red-brick buildings and is postcard-perfect and is generally lovely to wander around. We had fancy poached eggs and all the trimmings for brunch and I have to say that they were the best eggs I have ever tasted! 

Whilst on the subject of my enthusiasm for American food, I also had THE best pizza I have ever had whilst in Boston, just from a takeaway! It was delicious and so big that I had enough for two lunches out of it, as well as my dinner! We also went out for food in Chinatown on our last night and I had the biggest portion of noodles served to me that I've ever seen. I hate to leave food on my plate, so gave it a good go, but this was simply too enormous to completely finish! We had so much other lovely food during our week in Boston, including tasty lunches in Bruegger's Bagels and at Falafel King, not to mention good old Dunkin' Donuts too!

Beacon Hill

One of Emily's friends recommended we go on a Samuel Adams Brewery Tour, which was in a residential suburb, quite far out from the centre of Boston. The tour was free, but they ask you to make a suggested $2 donation per person, which all goes to local charities. The tour lasted about an hour, which was hosted by a very knowledgeable chap who explained about how the beer is created. The tour concludes in a large room with a bar, where you try three different beers. One of the beers we tried had only just been put on the tap for the first time that day, so we were the first members of the public to try it! I am not a huge fan of craft beers and Emily generally hates all beer, but we had fun and found the tour really interesting!

Phil and Char, our friends we stayed with in Boston, live in a lovely apartment in Downtown Boston, on the edge of Chinatown. It was the perfect base for our visit and we were very lucky and appreciative to be able to stay with them there. As it was Memorial weekend while we visited, they were allowed to leave work early on the Friday and had the Monday off, so it was great to spend lots of time with them.

The apartment itself was lovely, plus one of the floors of the apartment block is a large social space, including an outdoor swimming pool, gym, pool table, computer workstations and plenty of space to sit and relax. We played more games of pool during the week than I think I've played in the rest of my life combined! It was nice relaxing by the pool over the weekend, with drinks from famous red cups! I'm not sure why red cups have become such an iconic thing, as we have bought them online for using at parties in the UK before, but there is just something about them that is very cool!

Red Cups by the pool

During our week in Boston we also went to Boston Calling Music Festival on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, visited lots of historical sites, including the USS Constitution - the flagship of the US Navy, The Boston Tea Party Museum and the family home of former US president JFK. We also went on a Harvard University Campus tour, as previously mentioned. I'll be posting about the festival and about our historical adventures later this week, in further blog posts about Boston.

Our whole week was incredible and definitely the best holiday I've ever been on. Many of the things we did were free and we didn't spend a huge amount while we were there. Things like alcohol are quite expensive in Boston, but not much different to places like London or Paris. Boston was an amazing first American city to visit and I'm really excited to visit the US again in the future, with New York and San Francisco at the top of my bucket list.

Sunset on the flight home with KLM

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