At last, we arrived in the United States of America at Boston, Massachusetts at 6am.
When I visited Boston 50 years ago it struck me as having a very English feel about it. Of course, it is where the first English settlers arrived in 1620 and the whole area, including the states of Vermont, Rhode Island, Maine and Massachusetts, is known as New England.
Our ship berthed on time and all non-US passengers had to go through the Immigration process. Although passengers had been given a time to go to the lounge where the Immigration Officers were, many simply went when it was convenient to themselves with the result that queues were far longer than they should have been. Anyway, we had no problem and had our passports stamped and we left the ship. What did surprise me was that at no point did we have our luggage checked by the US Customs. We had been told that as we were due to arrive on September 11 (9/11) we could expect security to be really tight. Maybe they trusted the ship’s security sufficiently that they felt it unnecessary to have this process.
Note: whenever a passenger leaves or embarks at a port on the cruise he/she goes through a full security check, including scanning.
Our first hurdle was to get a taxi to our hotel. I had uploaded the Uber App on to my phone but here, as had happened in Copenhagen, it could not find the required information for us to order an Uber taxi so we had to use a regular metered one. When making the booking for our hotel I had not checked thoroughly and did not realise that it was in the town of Quincy which is almost part of Boston. There is no clear dividing line between the 2 but it was a distance from the airport. We arrived at the hotel at 11am, much too early to book in so we left our luggage at the hotel and then walked the kilometre to the train station. One thing we learnt on this journey is that one has to be self-sufficient and digitally literate in today’s ways of travel.
Our hotel gazebo on the Neponset River
As was the case in Lisbon, we got to the top of the stairs at the station to find a ticket machine standing menacingly in front of us. Asking other train users for assistance is not always a pleasant experience. Most of them are shocked that you don’t know how to use this machine and, anyway, are in too much of a hurry to help a pair of oldies like us. We were fortunate that there was one very nice employee on duty who helped us get new tickets which could be topped up as required. He also told us where to go to get the tickets validated for Senior Citizens giving a fairly good saving.
The ride into town was about 20mins taking us to South Station and we easily found the office where our tickets were validated. From there we went out into one of the busiest streets we had seen in a long time. South Station is in the very centre of Boston with more than 20 000 passengers moving through it every day. It took us a while to decide which way to go but, being lunchtime, we just turned left and enjoyed getting a feeling of the city. We walked through an arcade where found a lovely food court which offered food from all corners of the globe and got ourselves some lunch and made our way up to the park we could see at the end of the arcade.
The ‘park’ turned out to be a 50acre open space known as the Boston Common and what a wonderful place it was. We spent the afternoon there walking and looking and taking photographs. As we arrived at the Common we were met by the ubiquitous flock of pigeons looking for any scraps they could find and as there were a number of food stands in the area they were not going hungry. We found a shady spot to sit and eat our lunch and watch all the activity taking place. As it was lunchtime there seemed to be many out and about jogging, walking and eating but it did not feel at all crowded.
Plaque confirming the handover of the 50acres
Map of the Common
Our Welcome Committee
The Common was donated to the City in 1634 to be a common public grazing ground for animals. It has gradually evolved over the years into a beautiful and well planned town centre attraction for all ages. We walked around the whole Common discovering statues, sculptures and memorials in every corner. The Visitors’ Centre was at the South end of the Common so we went in and purchased our usual hop on/hop off bus tickets to use the next day.
Memorial to 5 men who died in the Boston Massacre, March 1770
Memorial to those who died in the Korean War
One can also purchase tickets for Walking Tours of the Freedom Trail through the city at the Visitors’ Centre. A gentleman dressed in period dress stands outside the Centre as a Town Crier and announces the times of the tours. These are organised by the Freedom Trail Foundation and include museums, a ship, burial grounds, churches, secret meeting places and other historical sites which date from the American Revolution and beyond. Unfortunately, the tour takes 1.5hrs and it was not something that I could contemplate so soon after back surgery.
Not far from there was a small man-made lake called Frogs’ Pond and there are statues of frogs all around it. The lake is used for swimming in Summer and as a skating rink in Winter when it freezes over. Besides being used just for fun skating lessons are offered there. Across from the Frogs’ Pond is Tadpole Playground for children under 5 and it was not too busy while we were there.
The Frog Pond
Frogs – one fishing and one thinking
At the Northern end of the Common were some stairs up to the road above and as one approached members of a group called “What Really Happened on 9/11” were handing out flyers to anyone who would take one. There seem to be a number of conspiracy theories such as the Israelis being involved to forcing Regime Change in the US and many in between.
9/11 group with State Legislature Building
Directly across the road was the State Legislature and next to it the Congregational Church with its address shown as 0 Church Street. At 1pm the bells rang out with the music of 5 or 6 hymns. It was quite beautiful.
From that vantage point we made our way back to South Station, purchasing a light supper on the way, and took the train back to Quincy.