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escape to ■ boston

feeling

More than a

New England’s unofficial capital, Boston, is cosmopolitan, friendly and full of history but, best of all, it is compact and easy to explore. Peter Ellegard takes it all in his stride here’s something very homely, familiar and engaging about Boston. But it’s much more than a feeling. For an American city it has a distinctly European air about it, thanks to architecture which owes much to the Mother Country. OK, so the colonists threw some chests of tea off several British ships into Boston Harbour as a protest against taxes a few years back, helping to precipitate the American Revolution. Not that you would think there had ever been any discord between our nations. After all, what’s a few tea leaves between friends? Indeed, as you walk around Boston, what strikes you most of all is how friendly and helpful the people of this fair city are. On my last visit, while holding a map to work out where I needed to go, I lost count of how many times people stopped to ask

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■ The Boston skyline Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau

Summer 2011

if I needed help. Try that in London. People are friendly because they are not cocooned in their cars on gridlocked streets. In Boston, everyone walks. Everywhere. It is so compact and easy to get around on foot it is known as “America’s Walking City” – one reason why it is so different to other US cities. For the last three years, visitors have been able to step out even more in the city, thanks to the completion of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway (www.rosekennedygreenway.org), known simply as the Greenway. It is a mile-and-a-half corridor of parks and green public spaces through the heart of Boston, created when the crumbling, elevated Interstate 93

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■ Boston skyline from the harbour

■ Swan Boat in Boston Public Garden

freeway was torn down and built underground in the controversial 15-year Big Dig – America’s most expensive highway project, costing $22 billion. The Greenway now lies above it, a tranquil escape from the city hubbub. It also reunited the downtown with Boston’s historic waterfront. So you can enjoy a leisurely amble from the piers, docks and waterside attractions to downtown sights without having to negotiate a cacophonous, concrete and steel barrier, while pausing to relax instead on benches set in peaceful, green oases.

Peter Ellegard

italian-flavoured On one such walk, my friend and I sauntered through Boston’s Italian-flavoured North End, savouring the neighbourhood’s characterful appeal and stopping for lunch at Bella Vista – a traditional little eaterie where the owner, Tony, engaged in friendly chat with his thick Italian-American accent as we ate our pasta surrounded by ceramic handbags and other curios he had brought back from his homeland. Another day, we stopped for a Guinness at a cosy little Irish pub, Durty Nelly’s, next to a street market just off the Greenway, where the barman cheerfully rustled up burgers even though we had missed last orders for meals. Boston and food go together like, well, fish and

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chips. Indeed, seafood is part of the Boston experience. Try New England lobsters or chowder at many places, including Legal Sea Foods (www.legalseafoods.com), a Boston institution (it actually started in neighbouring Cambridge) with several restaurants around the city. We celebrated my birthday at its popular Long Wharf restaurant, close to the Waterfront Park and New England Aquarium. Book ahead to guarantee a table. You’ll want to walk off your meal, of course, and the best way to do so, and acquaint yourself with Boston, is to stroll along the Freedom Trail (www.thefreedomtrail.org). Created in 1958 when demolition threatened several landmark buildings, it stretches for 2.5 miles past 16 nationally-significant historic sites connected with the American Revolution. The trail is like a vast outdoor and indoor museum. It starts at Boston Common, America’s oldest public park, and meanders north through the city, ending at the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown. Along the way it passes iconic sites including the grand State House, Old South Meeting House, Old State House, Faneuil Hall, with its tourist honeypot Faneuil Hall Marketplace, and Paul Revere House, which was the home of the leading revolutionary and is downtown Boston’s oldest building, as well as the

Summer 2011

■ The Greenway

USS Constitution – the oldest commissioned warship afloat and known as “Old Ironsides” – plus several historic churches and burial grounds.

boston tea party All are free except for the Old South Meeting House, where a meeting of over 5,000 colonists led to the Boston Tea Party of 1773, the Old State House and Paul Revere House, from where Revere famously rode out to Lexington in April, 1775, to warn that the British were coming. Allow half a day to walk the entire trail, but even if you don’t want to do that, you will certainly walk some

beyond boston Neighbouring Cambridge is home to Harvard University, America’s oldest, where you can visit the Harvard Art Museums (www.harvardartmuseums.org) and the Harvard Museum of Natural History (www.hmnh.harvard.edu). Browse its many bookshops and relax in a coffee

Summer 2011

■ Harbourfest Redcoats

of it anyway as you explore the city. It is easy to follow, too, with a line of red bricks set into the sidewalk (that’s pavement to us Brits). You can pick up self-guided walking maps from the information booth on Boston Common, take a guided tour or, if you prefer to sit back and relax, join a trolley tour. There are many other places to lose yourself in, either walkable from downtown or via its subway network. One of my favourites is the delightful Public Garden, where you can chill out, pedal a Swan Boat on the lake or listen to buskers on the bridge. Just across busy Beacon Street from the gardens is the Boston Cheers bar (www.cheersboston.com) – formerly the Bull & Finch

shop. I enjoyed a gospel brunch at the original House of Blues in Harvard Square before it closed in 2003 for a bigger venue near Boston’s Fenway Park, but there’s lots of music on the streets of Cambridge. An hour south of Boston is Plymouth, where Plymouth Rock marks where the Pilgrims landed and where replica ship Mayflower II is now anchored, and living history museum Plimoth Plantation

Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau

Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau

Water has played a huge part in Boston’s history and is integral to it today. Hitch a ride on one of the ubiquitous amphibious “Duck” vehicles of Boston Duck Tours (www.bostonducktours.com) for sightseeing on both land and on the Charles River. Take a harbour cruise (www.bostonharborcruises.com) to see the city from the sea, watch the sunset and go whale watching, or sail on one of Boston’s historic tall ships (www.libertyfleet.com). You can also get a fast ferry to Cape Cod’s Provincetown or enjoy a leisurely transfer from and to Logan International Airport from the waterfront. Meanwhile, June 2012 will see the reopening of the totally revamped Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum (www.bostonteapartyship.com), which have been undergoing reconstruction following a devastating fire in 2007.

Peter Ellegard

■ Fenway Park

splash out

■ Little Italy

Peter Ellegard

■ See Boston on a Boston Duck Tour

Peter Ellegard

escape to ■ boston

Peter Ellegard

escape to ■ boston

“In Boston, everyone walks. Everywhere.”

(www.plimoth.org). Further south lies Cape Cod, with its pretty clapboard homes and unspoilt beaches. Historic Salem, to the north, retains its old-world charm with sites including the fascinating Salem Witch Museum (www.salemwitchmuseum.com). And to the west are the towns of Lexington and Concord plus Old Sturbridge Village, re-creating 19th century New England.

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escape to ■ boston

pub, and the setting for the Cheers TV series. Although the series ended in 1993, the bar still attracts fans from around the world and I couldn’t resist popping in for a pint myself. The Harbour Walk is another of Boston’s walking trails, winding 38 miles in all along its waterfront from Chelsea Creek to Dorchester. Then there’s the Irish Heritage Trail (www.irishheritagetrail.com), which stretches three miles through downtown Boston and Back Bay, recounting three centuries of immigration including the Potato Famine exodus. Boston has been a magnet for immigrants from around the world over the years. Its 21 neighbourhoods are a melting pot of cultures and history, and it is fascinating to explore them. They include America’s third-largest Chinatown, Mattapan for its Haitian community and Little Italy in the North End.

boston facts when to go

getting there British Airways (www.ba.com), Virgin Atlantic (www.virginatlantic.com), American Airlines (www.aa.com) and Delta (www.delta.com) fly direct from London to Boston. Icelandair (www.icelandair.co.uk) and Iceland Express (www.icelandexpress.com) fly from London via Reykjavik.

Peter Ellegard

Boston has harsh winters but is perfect to visit from spring through to autumn.

accommodation

Peter Ellegard

culture

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Take your pick from hotels including the Fairmont Copley – 100 years old in 2012 – and recently-opened sibling Fairmont Battery Wharf (both www.fairmont.com), the Boston Harbour Hotel (www.bhh.com), Boston W Hotel (www.whotels.com/boston) or boutique Ames Hotel (www.ameshotel.com) downtown.

tour operators City breaks are offered by operators including America As You Like It (www.americaasyoulikeit.com), North America Travel Service (www.northamericatravelservice.co.uk), Virgin Holidays (www.virginholidays.co.uk), Titan (www.titanhitours.co.uk) and Trailfinders (www.trailfinders.com).

getting around Walking is the best way to see Boston. But it also has an excellent subway system called the “T” plus local buses and railways. The most flexible and cheapest option is to buy a CharlieCard (www.mbta.com). The Boston CityPASS (www.citypass.com) costs $46 for adults and $29 for children and covers five top attractions in the city.

Peter Ellegard

Among neighbourhoods, discover the narrow brick and cobbled streets of 19th century-era Beacon Hill, the eclectic art studios and boutiques of South End and Fenway/Kenmore Square, with its cultural institutions such as the Museum of Fine Arts (www.mfa.org), Symphony Hall (www.bostonsymphonyhall.org) and Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (www.gardnermuseum.org), where a $118 million Renzo Piano-designed extension opens next year, not forgetting legendary Fenway Park – home of Boston’s Red Sox baseball team (www.redsox.com). I once paid a literally flying visit there while in transit to the Midwest with a travel industry group. A stretched limo picked us up from the airport, took us to Fenway to watch a Red Sox game with beer and hot dogs – and a couple of home runs for the victorious home team – then stopped off at an Irish bar before dropping us back in time to catch our onward flight. Culture vultures can also visit institutions such as the John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum (www.jfklibrary.org), the Commonwealth Museum (www.sec.state.ma.us/mus/museum) and Institute of Contemporary Art (www.icaboston.org) before taking in a show in the Theatre District. And don’t forget shopping. Take the subway to Copley for Copley Place mall (www.simon.com) and the Shops at Prudential Centre (www.prudentialcenter.com), where a high-speed elevator whisks you to the top of the 50storey Prudential Tower for a bird’s eye view of Boston from the Skywalk Observatory. My best Boston bargains have always come from Filene’s Basement (www.filenesbasement.com), now in Boylston Street in Back Bay. That reminds me; I need another shopping fix. Guess I should dust down my walking boots and plan a return trip to ■ Paul Revere Statue Boston.

tourist information Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau: www.bostonusa.com Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism: www.massvacation.com

WIN Boston CityPASS tickets We have three pairs of Boston CityPASS ticket booklets to give away, worth $46 each booklet. They give a saving of almost 50% on the combined admission prices to: the New England Aquarium, Museum of Fine Arts, Science Museum, Skywalk Observatory and the Harvard Museum of Natural History or John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Go to www.tlm-magazine.co.uk and click on Competitions. Terms and conditions apply. Closing date August 15, 2011. ● WIN a Boston and Cape Cod holiday worth over £2,000. See page 59.

Summer 2011

escape to boston  

New England’s unofficial capital, Boston, is cosmopolitan, friendly and full of history but, best of all, it is compact and easy to explore....