Tuesday, 20 September 2011

USA Today - New England (1)

I find myself having a reverse Kirsty Maccoll moment!

‘I don’t want to change the world
I’m not looking for New England
Are you looking for another girl?’

Actually, I do want to change the world (though I realise 42 might be a bit old to start), I am looking for New England and no, he isn’t looking for another girl – because it’s our honeymoon and that would make him a bit of a git (which he isn’t)! Still, it gives me a sound track so I’m going to go with it!

Day -1. Why is packing such a trauma?

Poor Charley knew something was up. Normally as a cat with a large territory to patrol, we rarely see him. However, the day before we left he was firmly rooted to the bed, watching the rucksacks come down from the attic and our piles of ‘essential stuff to take’ grow. 

Don't leave me.

Regardless of the ‘Charley Rota’ planned with military precision with our neighbours (each issued with their own spreadsheet, with an extra one magnetically attached to the fridge just to be on the safe side), it made us feel like very bad parents.

When I was little, I would insist on taking all my worldly belongings with me on holiday – even my hobby horse. On my first holiday abroad to Kenya in 1991 I followed the same strategy and took all the clothes from my wardrobe (including a polo neck jumper) because I’m a girl that likes to have a choice in the morning – and you never know what the weather is going to be doing!

Basically, my method of packing was – if you have a bag, or two, or three, then they should be filled.

It was only when I went off on my round the world travels that things had to change. I had to decide what I would need for the next seven months, summer in Asia and Canada, autumn in Australia and winter in New Zealand (with a little bit of Fiji beach time thrown in). I needed smart, casual, beach, winter woollies – it was very tricky. When I realised that I physically couldn’t pick my rucksack up I realised that I needed to be a bit more selective.

These days, I know that there is nothing more miserable (or embarrassing) than collapsing under the weight of your luggage. I also know that I’ll only get round to wearing the things I’ve packed near the top, because it’s just too much effort to ‘bran tub’ my way to the bottom. So my packing method now is:

  1. Get out what you think you’ll need.
  2. Put half of it back.
  3. Remember that you’ve forgotten to pack your knickers.
  4. Tell yourself – if you’ve forgotten anything, you’ll buy it. It’s why God created credit cards!
On this occasion I had to be especially selective, because we were taking the tent. Taking the tent also means taking sleeping bags, sleeping mats and assorted plates, bowls and saucepans. Glamping this is not – so I reluctantly removed my Audrey Hepburn skirt and replaced it with an inflatable pillow.

One thing however which was non-negotiable were my hair straighteners (and associated Frizz-Ease). I can let some things go, but not my hair – especially as I finally have some again. I did the same when I went on my round the world travels, but sadly miscalculated Bangkok's voltage and blew up my hot brush on day one. From that point on I was forced to go native. But this time I was it was America and I was determined to achieve an out-doorsy yet glamorous look where onlookers would whisper ‘So well groomed – but yet she sleeps in a tent. How does she do it?!’

After several hours of packing and re-packing I’d finally managed to get everything in my rucksack – and I could still pick it up (16.5 kilo’s). Bonus! I’d just about managed to squeeze in a sink plug (essential gear for washing up in campsites) when Tris came into the bedroom brandishing a pair of trainers. ‘Any space for these?’ he asked optimistically. I’m sad to report that I failed dramatically to fulfil my wedding vows – and was not very patient, honest or kind!

Day 0. We’re off!

Things I must stop doing!

  1. I must stop calling Aer Lingus, Aer Cunni – something much ruder.
  2. I must stop singing ‘Di di diddly diddly diddly diddly diddly diddly diddly diddly diddly diddly diddly diddly diddly diddly diddly di’ in the Aer Lingus check in queue.
  3. I must stop referring to the cabin crew as leprechauns.
  4. I must stop saying ‘Hail Mary’s’ on take-off and saying ‘It’s just like 'Our Lady Air' while our cabin crew Andy and Mary are within earshot.
Alison – act your age!

Di di diddly diddly diddly diddly diddly ........

Instead I decided to distract myself with the Aer Lingus in flight magazine, which had a whole range of very interesting articles on racing, Guinness, Tipperary crystal  and which establishment in Dublin offered the best Riverdance experience. Not a single cliché in sight.

A quick change later in Shannon from our little plane to our big plane, where the only sustenance on offer was potato based and imaginatively called – ‘Tayto’. 

Made from potatoes

And with a new stamp in my passport, we were on our way to the US of A and Boston.

You could tell we were on our way to America – the seat belts were massive. So safely strapped in and after saying my Hail Mary’s I changed my watch to US time and settled down to begin my acclimatization.

I scrolled through the in-flight entertainment and selected an episode of ‘The Kennedy’s’ to start, followed by ‘Father Ted goes to America’, ‘Sex and the City’, finishing with ‘Michelle Obama, First Lady of Fashion’. I felt ready!

Tris on the other hand (quite literally) watched a film about a one armed surfer and then read 15 pages on the history of America. He felt ready too!

Americans love coming home. The only time I’ve been on a plane, when people have burst into a spontaneous round of applause on landing, was when there was serious turbulence, and we all thought that we were going to die. Americans it seems are just overcome with joy to be home. Can the rest of the world really be that bad?

Half an hour later, I was delighted to be re-united at the baggage carousel with my belongings, all in one piece, sleeping bag and carry mat still attached. Like a little pack horse, I was loaded up and then running on adrenaline we set off for the big city.

You can't see it very well - but I'm carrying a REALLY big rucksack.

Ignoring our grumpy shuttle bus driver who asked us where in Australia we came from, we made our way to the ‘T’ station, filled up our Charlie (metro) card, which a nice Chinese woman gave to us and left the airport terminal behind us.

*Initial impression whilst on the train - cream chino’s and blue and white striped shirts appear to be compulsory for men.

Our plan was to spend the first night in Boston, spend the morning exploring and then head back out to the airport to pick up a hire car and head north. Whilst researching places to stay I very quickly realised that booking a hotel in Boston would require a second mortgage. I was on the cusp of resigning myself to spending the first night of my honeymoon in a single sex dormitory in a bunk bed, when I happened upon a company called Airbnb whose business is based on an idea of pure genius. It matches people looking for a room, with people who have a spare room in their house or apartment. When all you need is a bed for the night in a good location, why spend $200 when you can spend $95? 

Just like e-bay, guests give feedback on their hosts and hosts on their guests, so over time you create a bank of recommendation which gives you the reassurance that you aren’t going to stay with a mentalist!

Our host, Brett, lived in North End on Salem Street, the oldest part of Boston in an old brown-stone apartment. 

Salem Street

Not only did he live above an Italian restaurant, he arrived carrying beer which was highly appreciated. We chatted about our travel plans, the London riots (big news in the US) and the hurricane which had turned in land at the last minute, sparing Boston and depositing a year’s worth of rain in Vermont in 20 minutes (or something similarly ridiculous). Boston was absolutely fine, a few power cuts but fine. Phew – hurricanes successfully dodged once more << see link>>.

After apologising for recommending historical buildings that were only 200 years old (‘I always feel bad, for you guys in Europe buildings like that are all around, but to us they are really old’) Brett asked if we were jet lagged and needed to sleep. Hell no – there was a whole city out there to explore, and besides – we had now entered ‘the holiday spreadsheet’ and there were objectives to be achieved. So we dumped our bags and headed off to bring the guide book to life.

The sun was setting by the time we reached the harbour walk and everyone seemed to be out running – really, really fast. If I could use one word to sum up Boston, it would be ‘buff’ – golden, toned and sweat free. The whole place oozed health and education. 
We walked along the harbour front, past historical sites where someone’s army had once crossed a river (can’t quite remember who was fighting who - probably the British), an old fashioned Boston fire fighting boat and lots of wharfs before ending up on Long Wharf by a statue of Christopher Columbus (he gets everywhere). By this time it was dark so we decided to head back. Despite being dark, I can categorically say that we both felt really safe.

Sunset @ Boston Harbour.

Does this need a caption?


Stick-y things.

Floaty things.

Wonderful atmosphere.

We’d hoped to get to a Red Sox baseball game whilst in Boston, but in reality, the only time our schedules crossed was on our first night against the NY Yankees. We thought about giving it a go, but just ran out of steam. So instead we found a restaurant that was showing the game on TV – this wasn’t hard, the whole of Boston seemed to be watching the game. And on our first night in Boston we sat at the bar and ate pizza the size of elephant’s ears and drank Samuel Adams beer, a local Boston brew and talked excitedly about what the next two and a half weeks held in store for us.

The Red Sox lost this and every other game for the next 2 1/2 weeks.

I don’t know whether it was the beer or the jet lag or both, but I had some very strange dreams that night about my dad, Dawn French and a squirrel! Most peculiar.

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