With a huge Irish population and considered THE place to be for St. Patrick's Day, Fiona and I arranged a trip to Boston months in advance. Even then however hostels were booking up fast, plane tickets were higher than the usual extortionate rate and the web was filled with sites dedicated to what to do in Boston over the weekend.
As these things happen, when it came nearer to the weekend Fiona wasn’t able to go herself (much to my dismay!) so myself and Katie, who’s an exchange student from Kings at UNC just for the semester, departed to Boston together. After a fairly straight forward journey, which included a $12 bus ride to a place nowhere near where we needed to be and thus needing to get a taxi for more money than I wanted to spend on transport, we arrived at our motel waaaay out on the outskirts of Boston, at a place called Braintree. The motel itself looked like something straight out of Psycho (ok exaggeration maybe…) but was pretty clean and decent for what it was and, crucially, located right outside a T stop (Boston’s transport service). After dropping our stuff we both headed into town to have a poke around, a journey itself which took around 30mins. But did offer some cracking views of Boston on the way in!
|Me and Katie|
We spent the first evening wandering around the north end of Boston, and found an interesting dive bar, voted the best dive bar in Boston. Not sure how that works but whatever! The end of the UNC game was on too which pleased me no end as I was worried I wouldn’t be able to see any of it. The rest of the evening was spent trying to find another bar in which we could get a drink in the Quincy Market area (after sitting on a tram for hours that is. Long story that one…) but everywhere was being strict with IDs and so had to settle for a coke in Hard Rock café. So hardcore...
The Saturday morning was an early rise, with the plan to meet up with Claire and Maria (two other UNC students in Boston at the same time) at Harvard University. This didn’t happen, so Katie and I wandered around by ourselves instead. Harvard is a beautiful campus, much like Oxford and Cambridge. Except not quite as old. And American. It was also full of tourists like ourselves. Much like Oxford or Cambridge in the UK-funny how old prestigious institutions like these attract those who either can’t or don’t want to actually attend them… From there we headed back into Boston centre, with a plan to just wonder around the Freedom Trail. However we luckily managed to time our wonderings with another group lead by a tour guide, so piggy-backed onto to that. And what a great decision it was too. The tour guide was incredibly good – very funny and enthusiastic about the stories and history he was telling us, leading us around the Freedom Trail and a little more. It really gave an insight to both the history of Boston, but also about the creation and development of the USA as an independent country. Accompanied with rather humorous stories about phallus shaped gravestones, the Queen drinking minging tea and the stupidity of British soldiers. Sort of expected we’d get slated for the benefits of a few American laughs. Its fine, we had the last laugh walking away at the end of the tour having paid about half of the actual tour cost!
|Our Freedom Trail Guide all decked out!|
|The site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence|
|Irish dancing in Quincy Market|
Once the tour ended, we wondered around Quincy Market, which was incredibly green and busy. All the bars were rammed with big queues outside, with music pumping and plenty of drunk Americans running around going “I’m Irish!” No mate, you’re not. Maybe about 7 generations ago you were, but your no more Irish now than I am Viking. But whatever - Americans only the slightest excuse for a party (look at what happened when Bin Laden died!). From there we got the T up towards Boston College to link up with Claire and Marie and some guys that Claire knew from home who were on exchange at Boston College. They were all a friendly bunch of Irish, Scottish, couple of English and American guys and girls and the booze was flowing and games being playing. After a few hours of slowly getting buzzing (including having my first Guinness of the day!) we headed towards the halls at BC where a number of parties were going down, including one by the Irish society (didn’t know there was such a thing…). When we got to the place there was a full on party atmosphere going on, with BBQ’s going (that’s a grill to you Americans, not the food BBQ) and everyone standing around outside drinking beer and chatting away. I threw myself into this situation thinking thank god theres a civil and chilled atmosphere and its drinking outside is tolerated here. How wrong I was. After a while of hanging out and having a good time, the police swung by through the accommodation including one incredibly douche cop on a huge bike (which I wasn’t entirely sure they could do in a pedestrian area, but apparently so…) and told anyone with open containers of alcohol to pour them out there and then, regardless of age and pushing people back inside the apartments. Considering there was nothing bad or even slightly antisocial going on, it’s no wonder the police are seen as absolute douchbags when they react as strongly as they did.
|Clair and Maria. Completely sober of course...|
|Irish Dancing in a VERY small area|
|Me joining the Americans in pretending I'm Irish|
Anyways, the party carried on inside an apartment, with some drunken Irish dancing dance off going on and general revelry to Flogging Molly and The Drop Kick Murphys. As expected however, the party came to an end when one of the guys who lived there got freaked out by the heavy police presence and kicked everyone out. Which lead to a rather long hunt for food by the rest of us, and movement onto a house off campus and another party. This was good fun, with a DJ type set up (ok a laptop plugged into speakers) and a keg in the corner. We stayed there drinking away for a good number of hours until the beer ran out and an argument between a member of our group and some girl who lived there meant we were asked to leave. By this point it was around 11:30 and we’d been drinking for a while. A long old while. And staying on the other side of town meant a fair journey back, having to catch the last T’s all the way. So uncharacteristically for me, being SO knackered from the weekend I wanted to head back to bed.
The next morning I was on my own, as Katie was going to see some family elsewhere in Boston. The St. Patricks Day Parade was being held in town, and so I wanted to go have a look. Being all touristy and that! I got to Broadway (where the parade was being held) waaaaay too early - so early that they hadn’t even finished putting up the railings to keep crowds back – and as such I was incredibly confused as to the route the Parade was going to take. After speaking with an incredibly unhelpful cop (what a surprise not…) I just followed the crowds of people and ended up in quite a good spot. Thankfully! Having to wait a while for the parade (being there so early!) meant I got to chat to a few people, including a couple from Germany (funny that!) and a young family from Boston, whose kids enjoyed jumping all over my daysac I had my stuff in. The parade itself was good, and I had no idea what to expect. It seems however that somewhere over time the Americans have got confused with what Irish things are, as there were a huge amount of bagpipe bands and players. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure bagpipes are Scottish not Irish…. But anyways, there was an interesting mix of music, dancers, formations of vehicles and weird things like Star Wars role players (yeah, my thoughts exactly), Army recruiters, and – bizarre to me - lots of political candidates for various positions using the parade as a advertising opportunity. Don’t think I would ever have seen that in a parade in the UK. But then again I think our political system works slightly different in that respect! I enjoyed the parade however, until realising the time and having to make my way to the airport, fighting massively against the crowd to get to the T stop. Luckily I made it to the airport in time to watch the first half of the UNC game that day. Perfect!
|One of the slightly more bizarre aspects of the parade|
I really enjoyed Boston as a city; a really beautiful place. Very northern though in comparison to other cities such as Atlanta, but a lot more friendly that NYC (in my opinion that is). The atmosphere of St. Paddies day really gave the city a buzz, and it was great to see how other places celebrate St. Paddies day, with Americans going mental for it. Guess should have seen that coming really! Have to say however, I do prefer the South with its warmer weather and more laid back polite ways of life. Just don’t tell those Northern Yankees!