Travels with myself – 1. New England again

The main problem with these few early holidays is that they were in pre-digital photo days. Being fairly disorganised, I can’t find all my photos and I am certainly missing a whole film’s worth of this holiday. (They kick in within the next day or two).

September 20th 2004 Massachusetts
This morning the tour manager asked the solo travellers to identify themselves and tried to pair everyone up, although some didn’t want to. There was only a handful of us and the one woman I had really thought I might like to be paired with wanted to sit on her own. In my eagerness to be friendly, I said yes and so I spent the rest of the holiday travelling with Mr Le, a Vietnamese American with a very heavy accent and no sense of humour. He was kind and polite, took me to lunch at the end of the holiday and sent me a Christmas card but I wished I had protested and spent my tour with a double seat to myself. As it was, I spent a lot of the time with my head in Hillary Clinton’s autobiography.

We set off for our sail around Hyannis Bay. Luckily, the choppy seas we saw yesterday as we drove along the coast had calmed down and the sail was very smooth. The coast is littered with beautiful buildings, including the famous Kennedy compound, the holiday homes of members of the Kennedy family. I understand that the main house was donated to the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States in 2012.

Back on dry land, we headed for Plymouth (also known as Plimouth). We stopped to view Plymouth Rock, which was just that – an unimpressive lump of rock in a cage – and then onto the Mayflower replica. After a crab sandwich for lunch at the “Lobster Hut” we re-grouped and set off for the site of the original 1620s settlement. (This place is usually referred to as Plimouth as that is the spelling used by William Bradford in his history of
the colony. In the 17th Century, spelling was a lot more fluid than it is today – and nobody cared. Tell that to Ofsted).

People dressed in 17th Century costumes were working in the settlers’ village and in the Native American village. They talked to visitors about what life was like in those days. The weather was improving, so it was very pleasant to wander around for a couple of hours.

It was, though, a bit lonely and gave me time to think about what I’d taken on. The coach was just about full, with people from all over the United States (It’s odd to think that there is such a vast amount of your home country to see, never mind setting off overseas). There were also travellers from Australia, for whom this tour was just a part of their overall expedition, there were travellers from other European countries and, of course, the ones who had been on my incoming flight. There were lovely people, there were miserable people (some of whom often seemed to be sitting behind me complaining) and my kind Mr Le of course, but I hadn’t yet met anyone with whom I could really share the experience.

Finally, it was back on the coach and off to Boston. It was a relief to be staying two nights and I decided to unpack. On my way out to get something to eat, I met Edna and Mary from Bolton and they invited me to join them. It was a lovely evening, so we walked through the centre of Boston past Boston Common and the park and then back to bed! Tonight, I only have one huge bed, not the two I’ve had previous nights.

September 21st 2004 More Massachusetts
The sounds of the Phoenix Nights theme music on my phone woke me up at 4am. There was no-one there when I answered. So annoying! I decided to treat myself to room service for breakfast and I wasn’t disappointed. It was like a full English and then some, with added maple syrup. Not surprisingly, I didn’t eat anything until our meal out in the evening. Today we started with a tour of Boston. It’s a beautiful city, small by the standards of major American cities. With a population of around 685,000 (2017), it is the 21st largest city in the United States. The local guide delivered facts and jokes which you felt he had told a hundred times before. We walked to Old North Church at the highest point in the city. In 1775, when British troops, who were occupying Boston, set off to march against Concord or Lexington, the “Patriots” in Boston signalled from this church to Paul Revere, who made his legendary ride to Lexington to let them know that the British were coming (many years before the claim began to be repeatedly made at the Oscar ceremonies).

We also drove by The USS Constitution, which was named by George Washington and is the oldest US commissioned ship. Launched in 1797, this ship is still active and aims to promote the role of the Navy in war and peace through education.

With an afternoon of shopping and rest, followed by more shopping and more rest, we set off for dinner at the No Name restaurant on the waterfront. I was still feeling the effects of my epic breakfast, so opted for a modest salmon fillet rather than the “top of the bill” lobster and, seeing many of the others struggling with theirs, I was glad that I did. Then we were treated to a magical view of Boston from the 50th floor of the Prudential Center (very modest by today’s standards of skyscraper but then very exciting). There were views right across the city, including, not too far away, a baseball game in progress.

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