I expected to love Boston. This is, of course, a dangerous way to approach a city. It is far better to expect little and be pleasantly surprised.
As those opening lines may hint, I didn't love Boston. Neither of us did. I almost hesitate to write this - some of you, I am sure, will be in the Boston loving crowd! - but we can't all love the same things. There was nothing actually wrong with the city, and I am glad that we visited, but I don't have much of a desire to return.
In fairness to Boston, our impressions may have been sullied by our accommodation location, which was on the edge of an industrial area to the south of the city. Boston accommodation is extraordinarily expensive, similar if not worse than New York, and we were in the challenging situation of needing accommodation at a reasonable price plus parking for a car. A Best Western delivered both, and the accommodation itself was great (not least because we were upgraded to a premium suite!) but the area was a little scary.
|The 'living room' of our upgraded hotel suite.|
With just two nights in Boston, our main focus was to walk The Freedom Trail. This 4km (2.5 mile) brick-lined walk traverses 16 historical sites, taking in the people and places central to Boston's role in the American Revolution.
|Massachusetts State House, near the start of The Freedom Trail.|
I should confess that while we knew about The Freedom Trail, and planned to walk it, we weren't familiar with exactly what sites we'd be passing and we didn't obtain a map of the trail ahead of time. In my lofty Boston expectations, I was prepared for signs and information to accompany each site. In fact, the signage was scatty and sometimes non-existent. This seems at odds with the effort taken to maintain a brick trail right through the heart of the city, but perhaps it keeps the guidebook producers in business. We still gleaned lots of history, but our enjoyment might have been a little higher if we'd known more about what we were passing (or bought one of those guidebooks, or downloaded the smart phone app!).
|The site of the Boston Massacre of 1770.|
We did, however, have a lovely day for walking the trail, with cool temperatures offset by blazing sunshine and clear blue skies. When you are walking for several hours with little shelter, the weather really makes a difference and I wouldn't like to do the walk in heavy rain.
|Bunker Hill Monument.|
By the time we reached the Bunker Hill Monument near the end of the trail, we were pleasantly tired. However, there is a cruel twist to the monument and its location at the end of a 3-ish hour walk (or at the start if you do the walk the other way - either would have problems). You can, you see, walk up it. Once you know this, there is a sense of needing to make the climb in order to feel like you really did The Freedom Trail in full.
After walking for 3 hours, 294 steps seems like a lot. In fact, the American man ahead of us struggled to the extent that I seriously worried he might be inducing a heart attack. Fortunately, everyone made it to the top with full health, and the views across Boston offered some reward.
|Boston from atop the Bunker Hill Monument.|
Once we made it back to ground level, we concluded our walk at the USS Constitution at the Charlestown Navy Yard. From there, you can avoid retracing your steps (thank goodness!) by taking a boat back to the city centre, which is how I snapped the photo at the top of this post.
There were some things I liked in Boston. Before starting The Freedom Trail, we explored Beacon Hill, one of Boston's most prestigious historical neighbourhoods. It is a beautiful suburb and if I lived there, I am sure I'd like Boston very much.
I also enjoyed seeing Robert Frost's old house in the Beacon Hill neighbourhood, all the more so for stumbling across it without knowing it would be there (you see -the reverse of dashed expectations).
The 'Make Way for Ducklings' family in the Boston Public Garden is endearing, and when we visited they were dressed in bibs to promote a fundraising walk for cancer.
I'd quite like similar statues in my front garden.
Last but not least, our lunch stop on The Freedom Trail was the Bread + Butter Cafe, which provided a casual mix of indoor and outdoor seating and the appeal of a varied and vegetarian-friendly menu.
|Bread + Butter Cafe|
I had a salad with baby spinach, quinoa and tofu, and it was delightful in the way that good food can be when cooked well and served simply. Mr Bite's tuna salad baguette was also well received.
So, Boston provided us with sunshine, some good views, lots of walking, and enjoyable food. It was worth visiting but it didn't capture my heart, at least on this visit.
Have you been to Boston? What are your thoughts on the city?