Bye Boston. I’ll be back.

So it’s nearly 8 months down the track and I can finally talk a little bit about leaving Boston.  I went to have a summer and to learn the city a little and I loved it.  I wasn’t at all ready to leave, but the character of the place changes at the end of summer.  Boston was settling back into business time and I didn’t have business to do.  I felt like I was being very gently ushered along my way, as I had nothing to contribute to the city.

I really loved my summer in Boston and I would so have loved to have stayed there longer.  At least another couple of years to well and truly find my niche in the city.  I didn’t look too hard for work while I was there and maybe I should have – but I felt like my time was limited and I know that to apply for the appropriate visas for the USA, I have to be in Australia.  And I was definitely not ready to go home.

Boston in summer is full of interesting things to do and an almost frantic outdoorsiness.  The city and community groups and towns are all constantly organising free events and festivals and reasons to go and be in their spaces.  With all the walking all over town, I also saw a bunch of flyers for all the activities in different neighbourhoods that weren’t easily google-able on a broad “cool free stuff in Boston” search.

I went to salsa, outdoor movies, a tonne of free concerts, including The Lemonheads and Mighty Mighty Bosstones and the 4th of July Boston Pops, a heap of different exercise-y  things.  And mostly got to be in the physical surrounds of Boston – on the rivers  and in the laneways, on the beaches and the islands, in the parks and old buildings and restaurants – anywhere I wanted.

From the moment I first arrived I was comfortable .On the night of my arrival I went out my front door, and laid on the grass outside the Church of Christ Scientist on Mass Ave while eating a kebab.  And other people were doing that too, wearing comfy relaxed clothing, listening to their own music and just watching the world go by.  It was super-pleasant and the perfect introduction to Boston in summer.

I went through quite a few of the neighbourhoods of Boston and they all have their own character.  The beaches and bays of Boston feel like they are a million miles away from anything as ridiculously large as a city, dreamy and slow and surprisingly open.  No-one seemed surprised or concerned about a random woman popping out of the marshlands and strolling across a school campus in the middle of the day.

Even early mornings in the industrial areas along the Chelsea River were entertaining – mostly for the number of dicks drawn in the condensation on car windows, but overall the general lack of suspicion or concern about someone unfamiliar in a strange place at a strange time was almost surprising.   But I guess any big city sees its share of odd and most of the time the odd is harmless. I just was expecting Boston to be a little more paranoid after the bombing, but it really didn’t seem to be.

I need to take another run at Boston.  I liked it too much to be satisfied with only 3 months and only summer.  I liked the people I met, I liked the vibe of the city and I loved, loved, loved the waterfronts – all of the quiet places and all of the loud places.  Going to Boston for 3 months didn’t get it out of my system.

If anything, I just want more.

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Pawtucket

You can catch a commuter train (read, cheap) from Boston to Providence, Rhode lsland.  I cannot even tell you how exciting it is for me to be able to cross state lines on a $10 train fare.  It’s kind of like magic.

I went to Pawtucket twice, both times to see the Pawtucket Red Sox (PawSox).  The first time, I saw very little of Pawtucket or Providence.  It was at the end of my weekend of car rental in which I drove about 500 miles, saw Lowell Spinners, Portland Sea Dogs and the Pawsox and had a daytrip to Mystic, Connecticut and another daytrip to Newport to look at the big houses/Americas Cup stuff/Tennis things.  And also spent every night in Boston.  It was a little tiring.

The second time I got down that way, I attempted to couch surf, but failed to get a response in time and ended up staying at the only nearby hotel in Pawtucket.  It would have been much cheaper to hire a car than train down and stay at a hotel  The train trip was about 1hr30 and the bus trip from Providence to Pawtucket was about 20 minutes.

I caught the third game of Pawtucket’s playoffs.  My buddy Rod was there and he told me all about how awesome it was when the PawSox made it into the finals, with the champagne and the excitement and the wow!  The game I went to was a much quieter team and a much quieter crowd.  Ryan Rowland-Smith got called up into a tricky situation and pitched his way out of it in fine style.

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RRS pitching

James Beresford was on the other team and had a pretty good night, despite his lack of agreement with the ump about the location of the strike zone.

(Relevance of those comments –  both players are Aussies. It was cool to see them playing well.)

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Feeling a little melancholy and quite a lot cold.

I very strongly felt that this was the last piece of my time in Boston.  It was the end of summer and the end of my time in the USA and I felt all out of sorts about it.

I still loved the stadium – this really is a team that has put a lot of effort into celebrating their history and the history of baseball. And it turns out I’m just as much of a sucker for the romance of baseball as anyone else.

After the game, I woke up at the crack of dawn to stream the Perth Thunder semi-final.  I won’t subject you to my 3 hours sleep and insufficent coffee face and that’s only partially because I would like to forget it exists.

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Streaming

In the morning, Pawtucket was throwing itself a party, with the annual Dragon Boat racing festival at one end of town and a huge open day extravaganza throughout the rest of town.  I spent the morning admiring the dragon boats and the Taiwanese cultural groups’ dances.

And boggling at my first ever real live eating competition – we actually ran out of dumplings!  But the prize was a trip for two to Taipei, so some exceptional eating efforts were made.

Then later I listened to jazz, ate a bunch of food van tacos and wandered off to be part of a drumming circle for a while. As you do.

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Some random Pawtucket history for you.

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I particularly liked the Pawtucket tourism office’s giant floor map of cool industrial revolution points of interest on the rivers around Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Then it was on the bus back to Providence and a wander along the canals and feeling sad about missing out on whatever the Fiesta del Fuego was going to be, back on a train to Boston and the end of my last excursion before leaving Boston for the forseeable future.

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Classy, classy hotel view.

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Lion dancing at the Pawtucket Dragonboat Festival

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Boating in Providence. I believe that the piles of wood were due to be lit on fire that evening.

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Providence Parliament building. A bit fancy!

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Champions rise.

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McCoy Stadium history placards. Love them. This one is about the longest recorded game in baseball history.

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McCoy stadium moments

Your regularly scheduled selfie

Your regularly scheduled selfie

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Boston waterfront – along Revere Beach

One of the things that most appealed to me about Boston is the amount of waterfront throughout the city. The coastline is full of gentle bobbles in and out, then there’s the rivers running through the city – the Charles, the Mystic and the smaller Chelsea River, the Emerald Necklace/Muddy River / Fens and the large expanse of the marshlands in the Rumney Marsh and the Belle Isle Marsh.

I love a city with surface water. It’s exciting!

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When in doubt, photosynthesize! At the southern end of Revere Beach (may be called something else by this point).

I’ve poked around the beaches of Revere, Winthrop, South Boston, Dorchester and Quincy. I’ve spent a lot of time riding alongside the Charles, far less time with the Mystic and no time at all with the Chelsea River. Something stung me in the Belle Isle Marsh and I’ve flown into Boston over the Rumney Marsh twice. But I’m pretty sure that doesn’t count.

The shape of Boston has changed substantially over time, so a lot of the beaches and waterfront area that I’ve been through is highly modified. There’s clues all over the city about where things used to be – for example, Charles Street runs along the original southern bank of the Charles River, but mostly you can’t even see the river from it. Walk Boston also provides quite a lot of delicious description of ‘how things used to be’, particularly for the Washington Street walk.

Revere Beach is one of the main ‘town’ beaches just to the north of the city. It’s easily accessible on the blue train and that is how I got there.  I went all the way to the final stop (Wonderland) and then walked along the beach all the way back to Orient Heights train station.

The beach is very wide and the slope into the water is very gentle. There was a reasonable amount of seaweed, pretty much no waves, lifeguards at regular intervals and quite a few people out. The water was astonishingly warm – easily as warm as the water in mid-summer in Perth.

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Revere Beach. Bet you weren’t expecting this, were you Aussies?

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Sandcastle display getting ready. Apologies to this poor woman, whoever she may have been.

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UMBRELLA- ELLA-ELLA-ELLA!

Winthrop is a little peninsula that isn’t served by the MBTA – the private bus company Paul Revere transport runs two loops through the town/suburb and they are both stunning. Probably miserable as heck during the winter, but in summer it felt like a million miles away from the city. I was delighted with how much of Boston-near-the-beach felt like that. Quiet tucked away little communities snoozing in the sunshine.

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At the southern end of Revere Beach.

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Wasn’t really clear from the signage whether the seawall was private property or not. For the sake of not having to walk on the road or on the ridiculous rocky jumble, I chose “public property” and didn’t look into peoples’ backyards too much.

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Planes go directly overhead to land at Boston Logan International airport.

After consulting Google Maps, I also took the opportunity to walk through the Belle Isle Marsh, as a few tracks were visible and I remember reading that Belle Isle Marsh is one of the last remaining intact wetlands in the metropolitan area. I’m not sure if that’s actually true, or if that’s a reflection of the wobbly definitions of metropolitan area.

It was a very different wetland experience to home. Primarily due to the presence of lots of water in the wetlands. What a strange thing for wetlands to contain. Not so much water that any of the perfectly groomed paths were at any risk of getting muddy or damp.  The non-perfectly-groomed paths were unattractive to me due to my extreme lack of forethought, that meant that I was rapidly running out of water and had no food with me.  Oops.

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Looking into the Belle Isle Marsh from a small footbridge.

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Boat storage – main bridge into Winthrop looking into the Belle Isle Marsh.

It was a crazy hot day and I was exhausted when I made it to the train station and pretty damn devastated when I found that Orient Heights was closed for maintenance and that therefore there was no air conditioning in my immediate future.  And also my brain wasn’t functioning too well anymore, so things like figuring out where the replacement bus shuttle was collecting people was all a bit difficult.

It was a gorgeous walk and something that I would highly recommend in milder weather. Beach, seawall, gorgeous houses round the bluff in Winthrop, the stillness of the marshland and then back up through Winthrop to the train line.

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So. Damn. Hot. And also covered in glitter, as my fave Bruins t-shirt was shedding sparkles and they were sticking to my sweaty sunscreen.
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Deer Island Water Treatment Plant

On Tuesday the 8th of August, I had the opportunity to tour the waste water treatment plant on Deer Island.  This is a tour that is available to anyone who wants to go (after a security clearance) and I happened to be lucky enough to join a group put together by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.

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Security checkpoint for entry into the water treatment plant

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Beautiful views back towards Boston from Deer Island.

So warning – this is going to be TLDR for most people.

Continue reading

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Walk Boston

One of the first things I did on arriving in Boston was to acquire a copy of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s ‘Walk Boston’ book. This wasn’t deliberate, it just kind of happened.  I also got the ‘New England Day Trips’ book in the same transaction, but failed to buy shorts, which is what I really wanted on the day.

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It’s a nifty little book, full of 1-4 hour walks around bits of Boston that start and finish at public transport points.  At this point, I’ve done about 6 of the walks and my book is already looking pretty battered. A lot of the pages have got murky marks on them where my sunscreened fingers have held pages open while I read about various churches, hiding places on the underground slave railroad or geological features like kettleholes.

I’m proud of myself for bringing my commuting backpack and bladder, as it has been enormously useful over the very hot part of summer as I have wandered around the city poking my nose into things.

I’ve also walked large chunks of the Boston Harbour Walk and the full stretch plus extras of the Freedom Trail. And I’ve done a huge amount of beach-side wandering in East Boston and Winthrop.

I’ve walked about 5-8km most days I’ve been in Boston. On occasion, I have not planned particularly well and ended up walking significantly further, which has not necessarily been the happiest thing to happen to my Achilles tendons.  I’m still having to do a lot more physio than I really wanted, but I am holding together remarkably well and looking forward to doing a lot more walking before I head out to directions Mexican.

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