Very few towns like British people less than Boston. They have a pretty long history of… It feels wrong to say ‘defying us’ but, well… defying us. Boston was, to generalise massively as is my wont, where the American revolution came from. So, naturally, four Brits drove up there to show them exactly what they were missing.
We went to collect our hire car at stupid o’clock on Saturday morning and were greeted by the single largest ‘small economy’ car you ever did see. Namely, a hug, big-pimpin’ 4×4. This caused a moment of fear for the designated drivers (of which I, on account of my youth, was not one) but they took the bull by the unnecessarily-large horns and were soon rolling down the street, gangsta-stylee, with the music blaring. The music was Celine Dion, but the point still stands and we still looked the shiz. And that’s what’s important, kids. Looks.
We got into Boston in the early afternoon and set about exploring. The city has an extremely useful red line painted on the floor which means that all one has to do is follow it and you get to see every single site in the town where an American has ever humiliated a Brit. I confess it actually took me a very large amount of squinting at my trail map trying to keep track of the line and wandering how my friends could be so confident in a strange town before I realised that the trail I was trying to follow was literally beneath my feet. It’s a great system. Since I saw it I’ve been very vocal in my opinion that we need to get one of those in London. And in other major cities. And also just round places that I visit a lot in my every day life, since I still have trouble sometimes.
We saw all sorts of things on this train – a huge monument dedicated to a battle America didn’t even win, the building where the Declaration of Independence was signed, the place where they buried everyone who signed it (because screw you if you signed it and wanted to be buried with your loved ones)… Even a ship. The USS Constitution was very large, very old, and very impressive, but it has to be said that certain of my travelling companions were more interested in the sailors currenlty crewing it, and what they may or may not have tucked down which leg of their trousers.
Our one defection from the trail was for the best of possible reasons – Cake. Or, to be specific, Cannoli. For the uninitiated, these are Italian pastry tubes filled with sweetened cream cheese and dreams. Mike’s Pastry is famous for them and had been recommended by a friend so, since we could comfortably get there there and keep the red line just about within sight, we stopped in. I went for a caramel pecan cannoli and am now a changed woman. Partially because the level of cholesterol in my blood blood went up ten points, and partially because I think I saw god. Everywhere we went in town with our Mike’s Pastry boxes all tied up with string, people would stop us and ask where they could find the shop and if we could give them an honest review. I have literally never been more hip in my life.
So, to counteract all of this new-found hipness we were experiencing we went and did just about the most stereotypically tourist-y thing it’s possible to do in Boston and went to Cheers. We unashamedly sat next to the entrance – y’know, the entrance – And took photos of ourselves ‘Cheers’ing our Cheers glasses in Cheers until the cows came home. Or at least until our beefburgers arrived. It’s kind of the same.
When I got back to work on Monday morning I told a colleague who used to live in Boston that I’d had dinner at Cheers and got an audible groan. But you know what? It was great. And no, everybody did not know my name.
The next day saw us (after taking “Free all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet” as the challenge everyone knowsit secretly is) heading over to Harvard university to hang with the clever people. It’s a really nice place which, to my eye, isabout the same as your Oxfords and Cambridges. There were parents everywhere taking pictures of their tiny children in the grounds so they could either enjoy the ‘coincidental’ness when they were finally accepted as students, or use them to illustrate the high hopes they used to have.
After we Harvarded ourselves out we drove over to Salem, because it isn’t necessarily somewhere one would think to drive all the way up from New York to visit, but it was kind of on our way.
I’m a big fan of murder, as long as it was hundreds of years ago and in some way sensationalised, or mysterious, or particularly macabre. And walking around a town where numerous people were put to death in a very short space of time for something crazy is exactly the kind of gory history I’m into.
Like any kind of attraction in America, it had been commercialised at every possible opportunity (I’m looking at you, mall at the top of Niagara Falls) so half the village is comprised of really idyllic little cottages which are hundreds of years old, and the other half is made of shops with witch mannequins outside, staffed by people in pointy hats selling everything from healing crystals to copies of the Wicca-rma Sutra. It’s bad on paper, but I don’t know. I kind of enjoy the American obsession with trying to sell something at every opportunity. It induces the kind of chuckle that I imagine ensues when your five-year-old writes on the walls again. It can’t help it, bless it. It’s so young.
The journey home passed without incident. After promising ourselves an essential MacDonalds stop at the next service station we passed, we did not see another one for the next fifty miles. We ended up stopping on the outskirts of our own town, just on principal. But you know what? Principal is important. I stand by it. And I like takeaway grilled cheese.