Sometimes, on holiday, you don’t want to venture off the beaten path. You don’t want to discover any hidden gems, or expose the latest underground scene. Sometimes, you just want to be a tourist — camera, city map, bewildered expression and all.
On a recent weekend trip to Boston, the boyfriend and I were eager to embrace all the cliches that the city had to offer, starting with that quintessential Boston accent. As soon as our plane landed, we were ready, straining to eavesdrop on locals’ conversations just to hear a couple of choice words. We didn’t have to wait long. A group of burly airport guys strolled by, chatting, and there it was — just so perfectly Baawston. We looked excitedly at each other, whispering, “Did you hear that? Oh my god, so cool!” Nerding out to a couple of thick Boston accents, we knew we were off to a good start.
And it never got old. For the four days we were there, we smiled every time we heard it. The best might have been the train driver on our subway ride to Harvard (incidentally, I do feel smarter now, just for being there), announcing in the strongest accent yet, “Next stop, Haahvahd. Daaws open on the right side.” We tried our best brainiac poses for photos in front of Harvard banners, while actual students sprawled on the grass in study groups, oblivious to the hoards of tourists around them.
The rest of our itinerary was similarly predictable. Boston Common: check. Museums: check. Quincy Market: check. Freedom Trail: oh you betcha. The lady at the Visitor’s Centre may have given us a dirty look when we cheaped out and bought the $3 Freedom Trail brochure, instead of splurging on her recommended $15 guided tour, but we felt justified as we followed the literal red brick line that leads all around the trail’s highlights — so simple even the most confused tourist couldn’t get lost.
One day we ventured off the trail and stumbled onto the set of a Hollywood blockbuster. Another afternoon we detoured past a Boston firefighter and his bride, having their wedding party photos in the park. It seemed that even the unexpected turned into the perfect Boston story.
Our B&B was plonked right in the middle of Boston University, so every day when we left to explore we’d run into countless students. Or, more accurately, they’d run into us. Perky student joggers were everywhere, bounding around and past us in their uni sweats. We’d count them as we walked each morning. “Eight, nine, no, ten now.” Seriously, I thought, shouldn’t you guys be recovering from a big night of boozing or something? You’re students! We’d seen the frat houses round the corner, after all.
But it turns out Boston kids are a health-conscious bunch. In fact, I’m guessing the whole city is. Of course, living in a place that hosts one of the most famous marathons in the world is likely to have some effect on even the laziest of residents. I know I started to feel a strange urge after a few days of witnessing so much activity … could my feet do what theirs did? I realise now, as I’m back home planted firmly on the couch, that no, they could not. But I have Boston to thank for injecting me with a momentary bout of motivation.
As we headed back on our last day out, strolling through the pretty, brownstone-lined streets, we began to notice that many of the intersections were blocked off with barricades. Peering curiously into the distance we spotted an advancing crowd — of runners. Within minutes we were swept onto the sidewalk by a mass of women pounding past us in a 10km run.
But of course! A mini-marathon to see us off. How kind of you, Boston! And such an appropriate ending to our weekend tour. The only way it could’ve been a more perfect Boston trip was if Ben and Casey had invited us back to try some of their ma’s clam chowder. But I hate clam chowder so never mind.