Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Boston - April 2015

Take one girl. Stuff her full of American TV Shows and Films. Watch as she becomes obsessed with America. Allow a decade to pass. Give her the ideal opportunity to visit America. Observe as she almost dies with excitement.
This is me. As if you haven't guessed already. Although actually I think this could describe quite a large number of my friends.

America is always portrayed to us British as very much like us but bigger and better and with a cooler accent. Add to that, the number of American TV shows that we get over here - New Girl, Friends, The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, 90210, Gilmore Girls, Gossip Girl...I will stop there or this post will just be a list of American television. And don't even get me started on the films. American culture is fast becoming intermingled with our own. Which makes America seem tantalisingly close yet just beyond our reach. We know the culture well, yet we haven't seen it in the flesh. Do you know how ridiculously frustrating that is???

Anyway, at the beginning of this month I was finally able to visit my own personal Mecca. And when I say I nearly died of excitement, I am not exaggerating. I was a nightmare for weeks, it was all I could talk about. And as I was flying out to visit my American friend Laney, who is ridiculously clever and doing a Masters in Boston, I had no one to share my excitement with, in the lead up. Therefore I just kind of spewed America thoughts and facts and worries and excitement at anyone in my vicinity. I am so sorry, my UK friends (particularly my housemates) I know I was a nightmare. And I love you all for putting up with me.

Then again, if I didn't die from excitement, there was a faint possibility I would die from worry. This was the first time I was flying alone. And I realise that, aged 22, this is faintly pathetic but I am sorry if I have a lot of friends who want to travel with me. I am not a great flyer at the best of times. I am fine when I get up there but leading up to it I am so worried about everything. Whether I have got everything, whether I am going to arrive on time, whether I am going to be arrested at security, whether I am going to find the gate, whether they will make an announcement when I am peeing that the plane is actually going to leave an hour earlier than originally planned. Always a possibility. So I turned up three hours early, and, of course, got through bag drop and security ridiculously quickly. Within about half an hour I would say. Which meant I had a long time to kill.

A very long time it turns out as my plane ended up being delayed by three hours. I have never ever been on a delayed flight before. But I have to rack up that particular first when I am alone. When we'd eventually sat down on the plane, they admitted to us that the reason for the delay was due to a technical fault. Really? That's what you are going to tell 200 people shortly before you take them thousands of feet up in the air? You couldn't think of anything else to make up? But luckily we did get there safe and sound and I stepped out for the first time on to American soil.

Ahhhhhh is what I thought - I had made it across the pond. Oddly enough I felt faintly proud of myself even though it wasn't me that had got me there.

What followed were two weeks of thorough exploration. I really thought that was ample time to fully get to know the city. Because honestly it isn't that big. And I instantly felt very at home in it.

In some ways it IS very like England. Boston Garden/Common reminded me very strongly of Hyde Park while Quincy Market was very similar to Covent Garden. And these were my two favourite places in Boston so I think I am very much a home girl.

Saying that it does have its own charm, that's completely different to anything you would find in England. And there is absolutely tonnes of history. History I knew nothing about which is just ridiculous considering it is as much our history as theirs. Boston was such an important seat for the American revolution and on my wanderings I found the grave of Samuel Adams (who signed the declaration of Independence, essentially making America a country in it's own right) and I visited the house of Paul Revere and saw the USS constitution. None of these words would necessarily mean anything to you, but they are all important points in America's history where they broke away from the English and gained their independence.

There was a walk around the town called the Freedom Trail which was just a red brick line working it's way through the entirety of Boston (and dipping into Charlestown, across the river) linking all the important landmarks that were part of the American Revolution. In an effort to learn more about this fascinating history, I walked the entire thing in one day. Let me tell you that was a mistake. It's around 3 miles long. But I did learn a lot more about the revolution. And what I notice is just how much historical Boston, is still part of today's Boston. They are not only proud of their history, but modern Boston, grew up around these important monuments. Fanueil Hall is still being used as a concert location, education centre and it includes shops. And I just love how you can be walking along, surrounded by skyscrapers and then you blink and there is a little historical building that is hundreds of years old. Such a good representation of what America is.

I did a LOT of walking when I was there. And what I enjoyed was - it was homely enough that I was able to do this. It was small enough that I could walk everywhere without it being a problem. I overestimated my walking abilities occasionally though. One of these points was when I decided to walk to Harvard, which was in the neighbouring town of Cambridge across the river. About three miles away. Why did I think that was a good idea? It was a lovely walk down the river though. But what surprised me is just how many universities are in Boston. I walked past four to get to Harvard - Simmons College, Emmerson College, Boston University and then another of Harvard's campuses. On top of that there was the University of Massachussetts on the other side of town, MIT, Northeastern University and the Berklee School of Music all within easy walking distance. That's 8!! In one town. When in England we normally have 2. That's crazy.

Harvard was absolutely beautiful, as I expected. I loved exploring the university and seeing just how different it was to the UK universities. It was so picturesque but actually a lot smaller than I thought it would be. The campus universities within the UK are kind of like mini towns in themselves with shops and cafes and bars being as much a part of the uni as the academic buildings. But Harvard was very much a place of learning with only the academic buildings. Obviously there wouldn't be a bar on campus as that would encourage underage drinking but they didn't have a café or anything. I found it very odd.

It turned out to be a very educational trip because I spent a huge amount of time in the Museum of Fine Arts too. I realise art is not everyone's thing but I love it. And there was a ridiculously huge range in here. I actually went there on two separate occasions because I had missed a whole wing which included several galleries that I really wanted to see. But that's how big it was. I got ridiculously lost more than once, and finding certain galleries and exhibitions was proving pretty impossible. A real test of my intelligence. I saw some wonderful art though including some beautiful American impressionism which really gave me an idea of what American life was like. And there was some Monet and some Pollock and some Renoir, all of whom I love. And finally some really exciting modern pieces. Even some die hard art fans don't always like modern art. Like anything, there are good and bad bits to it. But I just love the way it is such a direct comment on the modern society in which we live and it really makes me think.

Obviously one of the best things about visiting Boston was hanging out with Laney and I send out so much love to her for putting up with me for two weeks. I first met her a few years ago when she joined my uni on a study abroad programme. We have kept in touch since she has been back in the US but I hadn't seen her in person for almost two years.

And it was a joy to spend some proper time with her, discussing books and visiting book shops - she took me to Braddle which is the BEST second hand book shop I have ever been to. Seriously it's amazing. She showed me around the bars in Boston, and I loved the sports bars, where I could watch live baseball for the first time. I had a proper American style burger and fries which was AMAZING, I tried their incredible lobster rolls in Quincy Market, I had a very unhealthy yet very American breakfast of pancakes and we had takeaways of greek food which isn't common in the UK (she laughed at me a lot for pronouncing gyro wrong and to be honest, I still can't say it. I don't even know if I am spelling it right). And finally we visited The Cheesecake factory - which is genuinely one of the best restaurants I have ever been to. Cheesecake was one of my favourite desserts and this was just so BEAUTIFUL.

This trip was perfect. I was feeling incredibly restless as I hadn't been out of the UK in around 6 months. So it was good to breathe some different air and experience a place which was brand new. I could barely believe I was actually in a different continent. And my first real taste of America has proved to be totally addictive - I loved every second. When can I take a second bite?

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