COLIN WINDELL explores the learned city
Boston, arguably, the cleverest city in the world, is home to Harvard, MIT and Boston University to name but a few of its institutions of learning. Surrounded on three sides by water, it is an historic place – the Boston Massacre and all that – featuring graceful homes alongside tree-lined streets, most just a hop, skip and jump from the nearest leafy parkland.
In the gloriously warm summer when Boston Crab and Maine Lobster head for the shorelines in droves to be gulped down by Bostonians and tourists alike as a staple food to be every which way – steamed, boiled, on bread – except for the good old South African grilled crayfish style.
It is all reachable by the excellent public transport system of buses and underground rail. Arriving in Boston at Logan Airport gets you a ride on the Silver Line bus from the airport to a main subway station and then to your destination at no charge. Thereafter you do pay, but it really is (even in Rand terms) pretty cheap.
Possibly the most complex thing about Boston is actually understanding a Bostonian. For starters, the word ‘very’ will earn you a ‘skeef’ look if used. Bostonians replaced it with the word ‘wicked’ as in “It’s wicked hot today” or “I’m wicked tired”. The second thing is the accent. Comedian Bill Cosby summed it up when he said it was only place where people die from ‘hat attacks’!
If you say ‘hat’ for ‘heart’ you’ve roughly mastered the Boston accent – same goes for the pronunciation of anything with the second letter ‘a’.
Boston touring caters for every taste from the academic through the historic to the whistle-stop package – probably the best of these being the Duck Tour comprising about 80 minutes driving around in a replica of a World War II amphibious landing craft. It includes a short cruise on the Charles River.
It is the ideal first day tour to get you acquainted with the city and its environs and orientated enough to confidently head back to places you really want to absorb in detail. The summer is great and the city provides a variety of free concerts in the parks, serious Shakespeare in the sunshine (also free) or free access to many exhibitions in, or out of, the myriad galleries.
Tourists still wait patiently every day for the famous Cheers pub to open – sometimes wicked shocked when they discover the actual bar was merely a model for use in a television series shot in Los Angeles! But, let not that deter you, it is still worth the visit – the beer is cold and the food wicked good.
An ideally located central hotel is Boston Park Plaza. It started life as the Statler Hotel and claims to have been home to every US President since Truman. However, be warned – the petite room (that’s what they call it) may be cheaper but it is miniscule to the point of uncomfortable after a few days
There are hundreds of good restaurants in Boston but you cannot go wrong in North End – no chain or franchise restaurants are allowed, each is privately owned and independent. Take time to visit the Old North Church and look at the dog tags that once belonged to soldiers killed in Afghanistan – it’s a sobering moment and a reminder of just how ugly this world can be sometimes.
Serious. Boston is a wicked wonderful place and well worth a visit – allow at least three days to absorb it all.