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Barb's in Boston

The flight from Melbourne was uneventful. I was sitting next to a very nice woman whose life was like an episode of Days of Our Lives. She was on her way to Barbados to celebrate her 60th birthday with three girlfriends. Obviously loaded and spending most of her time travelling all over the world. I heard all about her travels, her family problems and her philandering husband who decided to have an affair when he was 70. Better than a movie. So, a woman walks into a cemetery and meets a famous comedienne...but more of that later.

BOSTON - DAY 1 I finally arrived in Boston at 10.00pm last night after a comfortable but very long journey and checked into the Boston Seaport Hotel. The hotel cost a bomb but it is lovely. It overlooks the wharfs which I can see from my window and is a 15 minute walk into the middle of the city. After putting my bags in my room I went in search of some dinner. The hotel has a nice bar where I got talking to Mike, the Irish-Bostonian barman. When he discovered that I was Australian he confessed that he had a poster of Olivia Newton-John on the wall of his home gym and exercised every day to 'Physical'. I told him she still looked great to which he replied 'How come all you Australian women are hot?' Which, to quote my Aunty Lill was 'lovely to hear even if it is bullshit.' After chicken nachos that was roughly the same size and, thanks to the jalapeños, of similar explosive qualities as Mt. Vesuvius, it was time for bed. A good night's sleep and I woke to a gorgeous sunny day (apparently the first in weeks). I took off on my travels and managed to find a coffee shop nearby that makes a pretty good latte. I then walked into the city to catch the Hop-On, Hop-Off Trolley (which was actually a cunningly disguised bus). I hopped on then stayed on for the nearly two hour round trip which gave me a good overall view of the city and allowed me to identify a few places I'd like to explore more fully. Boston is a very beautiful city and the springtime blossom is still out which makes it more so. With a population of 600,000 it is also a manageable city with a surprising lack of skyscapers. The architecture is eclectic and interesting and there is a lot of construction taking place.

Lunch was a lamb kebab on Boston Common then I started out on the Freedom Trail. The Freedom Trail marks 16 sites of historical significance which are linked by a red brick track that you follow from place to place. It starts on Boston Common and I dutifully followed it through a couple of stops before I got to the Granary Burying Ground, the cemetery where Paul Revere, John Hancock and Samuel Adams are buried. As I was leaving I heard a very Australian voice reading from a guide book and when I turned around I realised it was Denise Scott. If I'd been in Melbourne I probably wouldn't have spoken to her but I wasn't in Melbourne so I bowled up and introduced myself. We chatted for a bit then her lovely husband John said, 'You're not interested in coming to the theatre tonight are you?' He'd booked twice by mistake. I thought about it for 30 seconds then thought 'Why not?'. We arranged to meet at the theatre and all hit the trail again. There is only so much history one can take in a day and after another eight sites I was starting to flag. I realised I was close to the harbour so I decided to head back to the hotel. I had read that there is a 47 mile Harbour Walk that goes the entire length of Boston Harbour. I didn't walk the entire 47 on the way back but, after an hour and a half, it felt like it. It was lovely and interesting but it did mean that the nanna nap I was hoping for didn't eventuate. The play we were off to see was in Cambridge so I took the subway to South Station. Strangely, this is a bus that runs through the subway tunnels. Then I caught a train to Harvard. No time for shopping but I might go back if I have time as it looks like a lovely town. I met John and Denise at the theatre. The play we were going to see was In the Body of the World by Eve Ensler who wrote The Vagina Monologues. Denise was keen to see it as she had performed in The Vagina Monologues. It was a one woman show, performed by Ensler, which paralleled her experiences with the women of the Congo with her own battle with uterine cancer. Neither of which were pretty. Maybe it was the effects of yesterday's long trip or too much walking but I just couldn't stay awake. And when I was awake I found the whole thing quite contrived. So, when they invited us to stay to hear the director talk about the play, I bid Denise and John goodnight and ran away. Still, it was an adventure and a great start to my trip.


WEDNESDAY Awoke to an absolutely beautiful morning. Included in the hop-on, hop-off bus ticket was a 45 minute cruise on Boston Harbour so this seemed a perfect time to use it. Our guide, Huw Jones, gave us a really interesting commentary in his lovely Welsh accent on the maritime history of Boston. A great way to start the day. I then headed over to the Museum of Fine Arts but before I went in I wandered around Fen Park, part of the 'Emerald Necklace' of parks and green spaces that encircle the city. The most interesting thing was a series of small public gardens which people can rent. Some are neglected but others are beautifully tended little oases. The next three hours was spent wandering around the Museum. Like The Met you could spend days in there and not see everything but I enjoyed a costume display, the Egyptian Collection, the American Collection and my favouriite, the French impressionists, apparently the largest collection outside of the Louvre. The Monets are really lovely and, while they only have a couple of Degas paintings, I did find The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer, a particular favourite. A brief dash into the city centre for a walk down Newbury Street, supposedly the Rodeo Drive of Boston, for some window shopping and people watching. At the end of the street is the really lovely Public Gardens, a beautifully manicured park planted out in hundreds of tulips with swan boats on the lake. In the evening I went out to dinner with Brian Preston, my only Bostonian friend. I met Brian a few years ago when he came out to direct Joey & Maria's American Italian Wedding, a theatre restaurant I was in. We went down to the North End, the Italian section, and enjoyed a very nice meal of Veal Piccata at La Famiglia Giorgio's. All in all, a busy and interesting day.

THURSDAY Another perfect sunny day. I like the location of my hotel although it's a bit out of the city centre. Each morning I've walked into the city along the harbour, stopping for a coffee along the way. Very late last night I booked a bicycle tour so I made my way there to meet up with my tour group. It was absolutely fantastic. There were 10 of us with two guides and in two and a half hours we rode for about 20 kilometres all over the city. I couldn't leave Boston without trying some of their famous seafood so, on the tour guide's recommendation, I went to Legal Sea Food for a lobster roll. Delicious but very expensive and I suspect that the food would have been the same at the less flash place down the road. My brief visit to Harvard on Monday evening had whetted my appetite to see it more fully so back I went for a brief walk around the shopping centre followed by a walking tour of the main campus which was free and conducted by one of the students. (Thanks for the tip Melanie.) Really interesting and worth doing. On the way back to the hotel I stopped in the city and went to the Boston Library. With its vaulted ceilings and religious artwork, its really more like a church than a library. Very impressive. This evening I went to see a production of the musical Dogfight. Despite the awful name, this is a really nice, funny show with a talented young cast and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

FRIDAY This morning I made a flying visit to the JFK Library. A 20 minute film of his early life didn't leave enough time to fully appreciate the rest of the museum but I did get to see the Ernest Hemingway exhibition which is what attracted me in the first place. Somewhere to visit next time. I loved my brief visit to Boston. A really beautiful city where every one is friendly and helpful. I hope I can return soon.

I'm now on a train heading towards New York. The scenery keeps changing from forests to rivers and the sea with picture perfect townships and seaside villages. Nice.


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