It’s amazing when all the months of planning and thinking and visualising what things might be like come to fruition on a day like today! Our hotel is fairly basic with no breakfast bar offered so we ventured out a bit and found a lovely café close by called ‘Caffe Bene.’ Filled up for the adventure ahead we caught a cab to Christ Church, North Boston, commonly referred to as the Old North Church. Founded in 1722 (planning on how to celebrate its 300th anniversary soon) it is Boston’s oldest surviving Church building and most visited historical attraction. We went not only for the history but for the worship which was beautiful if more plain than I had thought it might be. It was the first time I had sat in box pews and it felt like you were at the opera as you were literally in a box and could only see from the shoulder’s up of your fellow worshippers. The enduring fame of the Old North began on the evening of 18 April, 1775, when the church sexton, Robert Newman, and Vestryman Capt. John Pulling, Jr. climbed the steeple and held high two lanterns as a signal from Paul Revere that the British were marching to Lexington and Concord by sea across the Charles River and not by land. This fateful event ignited the American Revolution.
Following church and the coffee hour after it we set off on the freedom trail: a red brick marked trail leading around the centre of Boston highlighting important buildings, people and places associated with the start of the war of Independence. While not only enjoying the wonderful autumn (or should that be Fall) weather, and enjoying the sights on the trail – I couldn’t help but notice a lot of beautiful buildings in Boston. It was a delight and pleasure to walk the streets of this city. We stopped for a drink at the Green Dragon Tavern – the watering hole for the patriots and revolutionaries. We passed by the State House, the Park St Church, the Old South Meeting House, Faneuil Hall, the old State House, Paul Revere House, just to name a few. Space doesn’t permit me to give a summary of all but suffice to mention that we finished the middle part of our day at the Boston Common which is overlooked by the State House of Massachusetts. Puritan settlers established the Common in 1634, making it the nation’s oldest public park. Charles Bulfinch designed the State House. Samuel Adams and Paul Revere laid the corner stone in 1795. It is truly a magnificent sight to behold.
Having finished the Freedom Trail, we had one more thing on our agenda for the day and that was making our way to the harbour to enjoy the ‘Boston Tea Party: Ship and Museum – A revolutionary experience.’ We asked for directions and figured out how to use the metro system and soon we were on the harbour. We found ourselves taking part in an interactive hour long exciting ‘re-enactment’ of what happened on that fateful night 16 December 1773. We toured a replica of the trading ship of the day and got a chance to throw a chest of tea into the harbour. It sounds like fun and we suppose the tour was designed with children and school tours in mind; but that said, it still was informative and engaging for us big kids as well. There was some high tech displays and the tour finished with a 12 minute video of what happened after the tea was destroyed. While not condoning violence you do get to feel what the American colonies were up against with the British taxation system. It is no far stretch to see how this act of destroying 300 crates of tea destined to be taxed led to the start of the War of Independence some 16 months later. Ironically, after the tour we were led to the tea house where we enjoyed drinking some fine tea!
Once back at our hotel, we were able to do our laundry, write and post some postcards, write our journal entries and complete this blog. All in all – a fantastic day in Boston. Tomorrow – stay tuned as we hopefully visit the JFK memorial library and the Museum of Fine Arts.
After all the fun of yesterday’s tour of Bangor, Maine and hearing all things Stephen King – today was a travel day to Boston. We had a leisurely breakfast, packed and checked out of the hotel and got them to ring us a cab at 9.15am (our bus is leaving at 11am from the bus depot – about 15 minutes away – I just want to get there early) The cab dispatch operator said it wouldn’t be too long – I bet you can see where this is going – so we sit and wait; and wait; and wait. At 10am I get the hotel staff to ring again and I am informed they will be there in a minute – 10.20am we get our cab and we are at the bus terminal at 10.40am – just really in time to check in and line up to ensure a good seat! It all worked out but still I’m learning after multiple trips overseas that you just gotta roll with the punches and go with the flow. Enough of the minor grips – the weather is glorious – not many people on the coach so I have a spare seat next to me and watch the passing countryside on the 4.5 hour drive to Boston.
We get a cab to our hotel and are checked in by 4pm – we know that we have missed the last hop-on/hop-off tour for the day so decide to walk a few blocks up from our midtown hotel to the Prudential Building (built in 1964 and 230 metres high) which has on the 50th floor a skywalk where you can enjoy tremendous views of Boston and its surrounds. It also has a small theatrette where we watched 4 short films on Boston’s history; it’s immigrant past and people; a beautiful view of the city from above and a lovely piece on the diversity of the children of the city. It truly is a magnificent city. We head down again and have dinner at what I suppose is a Cambodian outlet called Num Pang Kitchen. They have the best spicy lentil soup and a great rice and pork belly dish and a great side of roasted fresh vegetables. While eating we are able to plan tomorrow and write some postcards. Back to our hotel and sort out our laundry and finish up the blog – reset the clocks (end of daylight savings tomorrow) and look forward to a day out in Boston – starting with attending worship at the Old North Church – the very one from which two lanterns were lit in the steeple and Paul Revere took off on his famous ride.
A set of shots from the skywalk observatory – 230 metres above Boston
Friday 1 November was always going to be one of the highlights of our trip. For today was the day we did our Stephen King tour in Bangor, Maine. I apologise to all readers who are not King fans but my Mum and I are serious fans and we were bubbling with excitement as the weather cleared and we waited to be picked up. Our group ended up being 11 plus our driver/MC Jamie – an over-the-top extrovert – a Bangor born and breed local – the son of the owner of SK Tours – the only Stephen King approved tour in Bangor. Our three and a half hour tour took us around the town highlighting places and things mentioned in King’s books and featured in the movie adaptions. Of course the highlight were the stories Jamie told of Stephen and his wife Tabitha and how they rose from being a poor starving struggling family with two infant kids, with Stephen writing in spare hours from being a lowly paid English teacher. His first book, Carrie was the break-through and the rest is history. At the end of the tour we were shown his house -and next door – the guest house purchased. One of his guests was JK Rowling – author of the Harry Potter books – and Jamie reminded us that the two of them – Stephen King and JK Rowling are the most popular living writers on the planet today – Rowling worth over a billion and the King’s half a billion. One of the things pointed out is that the King foundation has sponsored and given a lot to the town of Bangor over nearly forty years. Stephen has a great love of Rock and Roll and has purchased a radio station in Bangor – which is completely DJ run and organised.
We spent time in the 400 acre Bangor cemetery – the place where Stephen King often walked and thought about his stories and where, as we were shown, he often got his character names – including both that of ‘Georgie’ and ‘Carrie’ – familiar to fans of his King’s work.
A lot of the spots shown were in relation to the book and movie ‘It’ – a story about an evil creature living in the sewers of Derry (King’s fictional town based on Bangor) which came out to feed on children every 27 years. The creature takes the form of a clown named Pennywise and we were taken to the street corner where the child Georgie was lured to his death down a storm drain. A photo opportunity was inevitable.
So many stories told by Jamie and even if only half are true they painted a picture of a great American author and his family, who although not perfect, were generous to the town which provided so much of the background to the stories which have entertained so many around the world including my Mum and me.
It’s an interesting fact that many people don’t really think through the itinerary for how it might play out in reality and today is a case in point. We are to fly on a 6am flight (Thursday 31 October – Halloween) from Buffalo to Boston. Sounds reasonable until you realise that you need to be at American airports two hours before hand to allow adequate time for everything in the land of the free and paranoid. So this means we are up at 2.45am – checked out and on a shuttle by 4 and at the airport by 4.15am. Luckily there are not many at this time of the day so we check in our bags in 20 minutes and are through security in 15 minutes. Now we have to sit around for an hour or so – Tim Horton’s (lovely Canadian breakfast chain I have grown to appreciate) to the rescue again as we have breaky and board our flight. A rough flight to Boston and we are early arriving at 7am. We get a cab to the South Station Bus depot where we know we have a 2.15pm bus to Bangor, Maine. We are able to check our luggage into storage and tackle the main agenda item for the day – getting me a replacement jacket as I left my one and only one in a cab at Niagara Falls! There is one Big Men’s store not that far from South Station and so off in a cab we go at 9am thinking it will be open. We get there and realise that no – it doesn’t open for another hour! Have I mentioned that it is now raining and a bit cold and chilly. We find a Starbucks – as you do – and waste a bit of time and see out the window this beautiful building. Upon a closer look it’s the Royal Historical Museum for National History – of course closed but still a beautiful sight. Next to it is a striking Congregationalist church – so we have managed to see a little bit of beauty while we wait.
I get a jacket and back to the Bus Station. It is a lovely building with a domed roof and nice art on the walls as well as the obligatory American flags. By the time of the 4.5 hour bus ride to Maine – we are pretty tired and both fall asleep on the rainy ride to Bangor. Why Bangor you may ask – well it’s Stephen King country and this is the real heart of our trip – our tour tomorrow – Friday – of the sights of Bangor (upon which King’s fictional town of Derry is based) which are mentioned in the films and books of one of our favourite authors.
A quite meal in a chain restaurant near the hotel and we are both ready for bed by 9pm. Another great day in our American saga!
Today, Wednesday 30 October, we had a leisurely sleep in to 7.30am and down for a lovely breaky at 8.30am. Pretty standard fare but the views of the Horseshoe falls to be had made up for it. We check out at 10.30am and get a cab to the Rainbow bridge and walk across from Canada to USA for the princely sum of $1 Canadian dollar to get through the turnstiles. While it was overcast you still get a good view of the falls on the bridge. On the American side we go through customs again and then organise ourselves a cab to our next hotel in Buffalo New York near the airport for our flight to Boston on Thursday. Now I have travelled in Asia and Europe and had some scary rides but this guy had a death wish and I suppose an internal desire to break every speed record on the way. After some close calls we made it safely to our hotel right next to the Buffalo airport – so we can get – wait for it – our 6am flight to Boston on Thursday. This means a 3.30am rise – 4am cab – and the whole check in and security thing again but at an ungodly hour. I am hoping that not many will be there. But as I always say, “If that is the worst thing to happen today – it’s been a good day.”
Bridal falls on the left and the Horseshoe on the right
After 4 hours sleep at our hotel in Toronto we are up, dressed and packed and walking down to Union Station. We stop at Tim Horton’s for breaky and make our way downtown in the early crisp morning air (7am) to the imposing Union Station building next to the CN Tower. We think we are catching a train to Niagara but no – as the theme of changed travel plans continues – we are on a bus due to a new bridge being built somewhere. A lovely hour and 40 minute coach ride in the fog – (if someone asks me what I saw in Toronto – I will say – nothing – it’s dark and foggy!) – we arrive at the depot in Niagara. We decide to stretch our legs and walk the 6 miles into the falls – (mistake!) Most of it was fun – level and eventually a view of the two famous falls – Bridal and Horseshoe – but the last 15 minutes was up a steep slope to our hotel and we collapsed onto our beds for a bit. The falls do not disappoint and we have a great afternoon getting up close and personal. 168,000 cubic metres of water goes over the falls every minute – it may not be the highest or biggest in the world but damn it sure is spectacular! Great day.
Well the adventure has well and truly begun. Mum and I are off on our Canada and American tour. Our first day has been a long one indeed – we started at Melbourne airport at 8.30am on Monday morning 28 October. This is an hour earlier than the needed three hours before our flight at 12.30pm on Virgin to LA but as my father used to say, “I’d rather be an hour early than 2 minutes late.” We are waiting at our gate to be informed the flight is delayed by 2 and 1/2 hours and is now set for 3pm. This means we are going to miss our connecting flight in LA for Toronto so I ring my travel agent and she says that they will rearrange flights for us and she will let the pick up company at Toronto know to expect us at a different time.
On the flight we are informed we have been moved to a flight 4 hours later leaving from LA at 3.40pm rather than 11.40am. So after long 13 hour flight we arrive in LA and like every other tourist – regardless of being in transit or whatever – we have to go through border security check – takes more than an hour and is frustrating but is the price paid by travellers to keep America Safe again. While waiting at our gate we learn that our original flight from LA to Toronto has been cancelled and if we hadn’t been changed to another flight due to a late departure in Melbourne – we would have been staying an extra day in LA because our new flight was fully booked and there were no flights til Tuesday for Toronto!
The only problem with our new flight was we both had to sit in the middle seats. For those of you who know me well I am a large lad so this wasn’t going to be a pleasant 4 and 1/2 hour flight but it turned out ok. We arrive in Toronto at 11.30pm – go through customs by midnight and are in our chauffeur driven car to our hotel in downtown Toronto to check in at 1am local time – 4pm Tuesday Melbourne time – almost 32 hours on the go – but we are here safe and sound if a little weary and leg sore. Off to Niagara Falls on 8.20am train tomorrow.