When I told colleagues, who had also been here, that I was going to be visiting Boston for 6 weeks the usual response was, ‘oh, that’s nice, it’s a nice place, you’ll like it’ Nice! Calling Boston nice is like saying the London Olympics was alright. Boston is awesome and has to be visited.
Early on Saturday morning, fortified with my porridge oats, I headed out to get a feel of and a good look at my neighbourhood. There had been a heavy downpour earlier in the morning but the rain had stopped, the sky was blue and the sun was getting warmer by the minute. Camera in hand and comfy trainers on my feet I set off. Charles Street, where colleagues at the IHI had kindly found me a bedsit is in the heart of Beacon Hill, for the uninitiated Beacon Hill is a historic part of Boston, not only is it historic, it is one of the most desirable addresses in Boston and it is easy to see why, the street and streets surrounding it are quite beautiful. All the signage’s in Charles Street are made of wood, the pavements of cobble stones and the streetlamps look like old Victorian gas lamps, it is classy and elegant. Not only is it beautiful but it struck me how clean it was, no litter, no graffiti. I headed down the road towards Boston Common which is at the junction of Charles Street and Beacon Street. I stopped to get my bearings, people were setting up stalls on the common and it was the national Hemp festival ‘Hemp!’ with a lot of Jamaican paraphernalia on sale. Bob Marley music was blaring out and the people looked like they believed in free love and were going to a peace rally.
I came to a visitors information centre in the park and a lovely American lady behind the counter made me feel as if we were best friends. ‘Where you from M’am?’ she asked. (I love how Americans call me M’am, M’am as in Ham) ‘We have some amazing offers for our visitors today’ you have to hand it to the Americans, when it comes to customer service; they certainly have it going on.
I knew that I wanted a ticket for a city bus tour so asked for the best one. ‘We have several M’am, but the one I’d recommend is the Old Town Trolley tour, you get a boat trip on the bay thrown in, we also give you an extra day to travel, total cost US$46 (£28.35) You can get the bus at the top of the park, enjoy your day m’am, and don’t forget you can get on and off as often as you like’.
The trolley bus tour was a delight, the guide was called Banjo Joe and he was so warm and welcoming, ‘welcome aboard’ he said to everyone,’ watch your step, hold on tight’. Then he started to talk about Boston and its history as we drove through the ‘downtown’ area towards the North End. His knowledge of the area and its history was amazing, not only that, but he was outgoing and funny. He also drove and let people on and off the bus at the designated stops. I learned about Boston’s history and how it is inextricably linked with Britain, how British colonialists founded the place and how they turned against the British when they tried to impose taxes on the colony and threw tea overboard rather than pay taxes; Hence the term the Boston Tea Party. No surprise then that the cap that he kept at the front of the bus for gratuities was overflowing with dollar bills.
I alighted from the tram in the North End district and wandered down to the seafront, it was at this point that I wished I had my husband or children with me. I realised how difficult it is for me to be alone. There were so many things to see and do and I so wanted to share the experiences with my family and friends. As I sat and drank my diet zero on my own I reflected on the fact that thousands of people live alone and for many they do not talk to anyone for days. I must remember to be more empathetic when older people spend ages at checkouts just talking to the cashier.
The North end area is beautiful, the wharfs and boats, restaurants and bars, all very vibrant and lively and in the sunshine I felt I was on holiday. Following the boat ride, where I met a couple from San Diego who took pity on me and included me in their conversations, I went to the famous Faneuil Hall. There were people everywhere and the area reminded me of the South Bank on a Sunday afternoon, performers and musicians surrounded by smiling tourists. The food hall had every kind of food from the four corners of the earth; variety was not a problem, what to choose to eat was! I opted for the health option and had a chicken caesar salad.
I decided to wander around and look at the city on foot for a while and came across a Honduras celebration. I don’t know what the celebration was but joined in the dancing, everyone was in high spirits and it was lovely to see people dressed in their national colours and dancing to music from their homeland.
I returned to Charles Street via the trolley bus, which runs past my apartment and dropped me off at stop 14 on the tour, outside the old meeting hall on Charles another historical building. In the years before theAmerican Civil War, it was a stronghold of the anti-slavery movement, and was the site of notable speeches from anti-slavery activists. How fitting that I should be living on the same street as such a historically relevant building.
It was well worth my coming to Boston on Friday so that I could get my bearings before starting work at the IHI in Cambridge, Massachusetts tomorrow. At least I feel I have more of an understanding of this part of the world. I am looking forward to meeting people tomorrow and getting into my projects but also a bit anxious. The anxiety is about wanting it all to go well. 9am tomorrow morning, my visit to Boston really starts, when I report for work at the IHI.