10 Sep Our First impressions of America and Exploring Boston
Since we arrived in New York a week ago I’ve lost count of the number of times Andrew and I have said to each other: “This is just so… American!” From the hordes of Red Sox fans in their baseball caps and shirts to the giant pretzels sold on street corners and wooden-clad houses with huge porches and flags flying from the windows, America is just how I imagined it would be. Somehow it’s oddly satisfying to see many of my expectations about America come to life; perhaps visitors to the UK get the same kind of thrill out of seeing regular British people drinking tea, eating fish and chips and playing football?
Seriously though, our first impressions of America have been extremely good. The cities are clean, beautiful and easy to get around and people have been very open and friendly with us; when we first arrived in Boston we took a walk around the suburb we’re staying in and we were a little shocked by how many neighbours called out to us in greeting. We’ve also been pleasantly surprised at the cost of living; public transport is cheaper than in the UK, as is eating out. Even though we’ve had to get our heads around adding tax and tips to our bills, we’ve found that we can easily get a great meal for less than $20 and because the portion sizes are large, we can share too.
After a hectic start to our trip in New York we made our way by bus to Boston, where we’ve been for the last week. Without knowing it, our first weekend in America coincided with the Labor Day holiday. On the Saturday we wandered through the public gardens and across the common before stumbling upon Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, which we instantly loved. With its cobbled paths, market stalls and street performers the area reminded me vaguely of Covent Garden in London, but the lobster-themed gifts, bowls of clam chowder and racks of Harvard jumpers and Red Sox caps made it unmistakably Bostonian.
Grabbing a huge, cheap plate of falafel and salad, we made our way to Christopher Columbus Park and the harbour. As we sat and ate I watched the last of the day’s sun shimmer off the water and the rows of pristine white boats bob up and down, it looked and felt just as I’d hoped New England would, only better. As darkness fell the crowds thickened and we all craned our necks upward towards the sky to watch the Labor Day fireworks display – I felt so happy to be there.
Generally, we’ve just been exhausting ourselves exploring Boston by foot, walking miles around its amazing parks and historic streets. We’ve eaten bagels and strolled along the harbourside and we even went to a Red Sox baseball game; even though I’m not much of a sports fan, I revelled in the chance to watch the crowd in their crimson hats chatting and cheering, eating hotdogs and drinking beer.
There’s so much history here in Boston and we’ve yet to delve into it all. We have taken a walk along the Freedom Trail though, which takes in many of the famous sites where important events occurred during the American Revolution. These include the site of the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party protests and Bunker Hill, where one of the most famous and important battles of the American Revolution took place.
We took informative free tours of the city and the State House, which brought all of this history and the people involved in it, to life. As a British traveller, I find it important – if uneasy and slightly embarrassing – to learn about colonialism and the role my country played in shaping the history of other countries. I’ve felt this same unease in other places we’ve travelled to in Asia, such as Burma.
For this trip we’ve purposefully chosen to travel slowly and stay in each place for almost a week to avoid travel burn-out, something we suffered from often during our first, fast-paced stint of travel. This strategy is working well for us so far, rather than rushing out sightseeing all day we’ve been exploring slowly, spreading out activities and taking time to just sit and absorb the atmosphere of the city. As a result we’re having a great time, even if we are struggling with the searing heat-wave we’re experiencing at the moment and we find ourselves collapsing into bed each night with aching feet.
There’s still so much left to see in Boston; we want to walk the Black Heritage Trail, visit more museums, take a sunset harbour cruise and visit Harvard. Luckily we still have a couple more days here before we pick up our rental car and move on, we’ll also be back in Boston for another week in November, so there’s plenty of time to explore this incredible city.
Next stop – New Hampshire! *Update: you can read our complete 2016 New England Fall Foliage Guide here. This includes tips on where on when to see the best foliage, what to eat, which festivals to visit, how much our fall trip to New England cost and our favourite destinations in New England.*