We have come nearly full circle. After our morning at Harvard we were collected by Adrian and Peg and taken to their home in North Andover.
We were instantly into shopping for the wedding mode, with stop-offs at malls to buy balloons, electrical shops for microphones, etc.
In the evening Naomi and I had some time together by the lake at the back of the house.
Our last morning in Boston before heading off to Andover we took a taxi to Harvard, just out of curiosity. It is green and spacious, and there is some varied architecture to admire.
One of the most extraordinary buildings is the ornate red brick Sever Hall. I guess it’s pronounced as in “sever an artery”. Anyone know?
This Chinese turtle surmounted by a stele, just outside Boylston Hall, was strangely reminiscent of the giant stone tortoise we had seen the year before at the Sacred Way by the Ming Tombs near Beijing. Some background to this strange sculpture is included here.
This is University Hall. In front of it is the famous statue of John Harvard with its “lucky” left toe-cap. The toe has been worn pale because everyone has their picture taken while holding onto it, myself included.
Memorial Church …
… and Memorial Hall:
Right next to Memorial Hall is a rather imposing Fire Station.
It was the middle of the day but the moon was in the sky.
That evening we dined at the highly rated Dante restaurant at our hotel, the Royal Sonesta, on Cambridge Parkway. We took an outside table with views across the Charles River to Boston.
As the sun set I took this picture of the buildings on the Boston side of the river. Well, I had already captured the sunrise.
I’ve used this picture for the banner of my new photography blog, exposures.
Looking West along the Charles River towards Harvard. The “broken Toblerone” building on the far bank is the Hyatt Regency Hotel.
Looking back towards the East, the Hatch Shell open air music venue is central in this picture, about two thirds down from the top.
My eye was drawn to a very bright glint. It turned out to be the sun catching the cars in the car park towards the top right of this “urban abstract”. Sadly the limited dynamic range of a digital photo can’t capture the effect.
Straight across the Charles River to Cambridge.
From the Prudential Tower there is a good view of Logan Airport, with a Delta Airlines flight coming in to land.
Lunch at Abe & Louie’s on Boylston Street, with all the businessmen doing their deals. Then shopping at the Prudential Center, mainly after some Uggs for Esther. While there we took the opportunity to go to the top of the Prudential Tower. Not quite as tall as Hancock Place but at least you can go to the observatory at the top.
This is the dome atop 111 Huntington Avenue, looming disturbingly close.
The Boston Red Sox stadium, Fenway Park.
Looking up the Charles River towards our hotel, the Royal Sonesta (name on blue sign atop the hotel). Longfellow Bridge is in the foreground.
Copley Square, with Hancock Place towering over 500 Boylston Street, with Trinity Church nestled at the foot of the latter. The angular building partially obscuring the Hancock Tower is the Westin hotel.
Focusing in on Trinity Church with 500 Boylston Street behind.
The municipal library is housed in an imposing building (the McKim Building) so we took a look inside. Apparently it is the largest municipal public library in the USA, and I wouldn’t dream of doubting it. It was handy too – we needed the Internet for some domestic business and the library provides public access, although the computers were rather old and the connection speed was slow.
While at Copley Square we had a look inside the venerable Trinity Church. Having established that photography was allowed inside the church I proceeded to take some photos, as best I could in the very limited light.
The first one was taken looking straight up at the ceiling. Not sure if the resemblance to a draughts board is intentional.
Having woken to the extraordinary sight of the John Hancock Tower (officially Hancock Place) at dawn, we decided to go get a closer look. Back on the T, then, this time as far as Copley Square. This is Trinity Church and its reflection in the John Hancock Tower alongside.
There was some building work going on just off the square. This view takes in part of the Public Library, the Prudential Tower and 111 Huntington Avenue.
The tortoise, the hare and the Naomi.
As promised, the hotel found us a room with a view for the second night. It was just as well. Naomi was having trouble adjusting to the change in time zone and woke up at a quarter to 5 in the morning. She looked out the window and saw the dawn cityscape, with the first light of day caught only by the John Hancock building and reflected in the Charles River. I was dragged out of bed, befuddled and half asleep, and instructed to capture the scene photographically.
My camera, bless it, doesn’t do too well in low light. Images get very “noisy”, particularly if you turn up the sensor sensitivity (ISO setting). And I didn’t have a tripod or anything sensible to secure the camera onto, so I ended up taking these shots hand held and hoping for the best.
We managed a bit more sleep and I took this at around 8:30am.
In the early evening we met up with Adrian who took us on a little tour around the harbour area.
We went to the New England Aquarium. Not inside, but the sealion tank is viewable from outside the attraction. This and the following pictures were taken on my HTC XDA Stellar phone.
We went over to Rowes Wharf where you can eat a meal while overlooking the harbour and listening to the band on the Blues Barge. Actually, we couldn’t because they were booked up till late.
We went further afield but couldn’t find anywhere that could offer us a table for three without a long wait. Adrian gave up and left us to it. Naomi and I took our chances at the Barking Crab on Fort Point Landing.
From the restaurant, there are amazing views across the harbour.
We visited the Old North Church and the Copp’s Hill Burying Ground before heading towards the Charlestown bridge to cross the river. The guide book suggested the Freedom Trail was 2.5 miles. It was now early afternoon and we felt like we had walked 25 miles. It was very hot now and we were into a relatively deserted part of town, near the river. A restaurant had a load of water bottles to help yourself to, on trust you would leave the right money. We grabbed a couple and I went in to leave the cash on the counter then we set off across the bridge.
Still religiously following the red line on the ground we made it to the USS Constitution, after a brief stop for Naomi to phone Pauline.
There was a strange flag related ceremony on deck.
The Boston citiscape across the river from the quayside. The Custom House Tower is on the left and the white spire of the Old North Church further towards the centre.
Had we had the stamina we would have gone on to the Bunker Hill Monument to complete the freedom trail. We could see it in the distance but were tired out and it was nearly time to meet up with Adrian so took a cab back to the hotel.
When we arrived at the Paul Revere house the naval cadets were encamped in the courtyard across the street with their guide, a young woman, who was explaining the history of the house. It seems that once a year they do a guided tour along the Freedom Trail en masse, and at every historic site they sing their special song, “Anchors Aweigh” or something like that.
We rushed to pay the admission and get in, making it just before the cadets finished their lecture and followed us into the house.
Further along the trail, up Hanover Street to the Paul Revere Mall with its statue of Paul Revere on horseback and the Old North Church behind.
There was some sort of quasi military event going on in the square between the back of Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market. Like a passing out parade with lots of young people in uniform milling around with proud glowing parents in tow. It seemed to have something to do with the Navy because a squad of navy cadets assembled and embarked on a march down the side of Quincy Market, away from Faneuil Hall. It turns out they were attached to the USS Constitution, an attraction we come to later on the Freedom Trail. We kept running into them again and again. There was no escaping them.
We did have a wander through Quincy Market. It seemed to be mainly souvenir tee-shirts and snack bars.
We succeeded in exiting the State House by a side entrance near a large square and it took us a while to work our way back to Beacon Street. We headed off down Park Street and onto Tremont Street (opposite side of Boston Common to the State House) in search of lunch.
We alighted on Finagle A Bagel, because we were after something light. We placed our orders for lox bagels at the far end of the counter (furthest from the door to the street). The staff drop bagels of the right specification onto a conveyor belt that runs along the front of the counter, behind glass. The belt takes each bagel to a rotating blade which slices it in two, after which it hurtles past the blade at double the speed to a collector area where it is picked up by the sandwich maker staff who assemble it with fillings and bag it up.
There’s a YouTube video here which shows the blade in action.
We had our lunch in the park then picked up the Freedom Trail again. We looked in briefly on Park Street church and the Granary Burying Ground. Then onto King’s Chapel on the corner of Tremont St and School St. There was a service in progress so we did not go in.
Down School St and left on Washington St to the Old State House, the seat of the Massachusetts state government prior to its move to the present Massachusetts State House in 1798.
This is the east side balcony from which the Declaration of Independence was proclaimed in 1776 by Col. Thomas Crafts.
Looking down State St to the Custom House Tower, now a Marriott Hotel.
We again picked up the red line on the ground that marks the route of the Freedom Trail and followed it along Congress St to the delightfully unpronounceable Faneuil Hall. I think it’s usually pronounced “fannel” to rhyme with flannel or “fanniel” to rhyme with Daniel. Or maybe something else. “Fanooey” to rhyme with gooey?
This is our final port of call in the Massachusetts State House tour, the House of Representatives. It is home to the Sacred Cod, the aquatic beast which prompted the Senate to enlist the services of a brass mackerel just to even things up. Note that the cod has, since 1974, been the “offishal” state fish.
The House reminds me of a very posh schoolroom. Don’t the desks look rather like old style schooldesks? I wonder if there are any lady representatives who get their tresses dipped in inkwells by gentlemen representatives behind them.
And here is the aforementioned scale-adorned aquatic creature itself:
Another grainy picture, after my camera had a further metering mindstorm.
I included it all the same because of the plaque on the rostrum. I hadn’t read it while I was physically there, and neither can you without reference to the full resolution image, but the title reads:
“JOHN F. KENNEDY SPOKE FROM THIS ROSTRUM TO THE MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL COURT ON JANUARY 9 1961″
The rest of the plaque contains key extracts from the speech JFK gave on that day. I found a transcript of the whole address (and audio recording) here.
Kennedy was then President-elect, just as the US now has President-elect Obama, as of earlier this week. Maybe he’ll find time to visit Boston and try to improve on JFK’s address. He stands a far better chance than his predecessor.
Some of the executive offices were open for public viewing. And very nice offices they are too. I can’t remember who’s office this is, except that it was across the corridor from the Senate chamber.
This statue is in honour of former Governor Wolcott.
The Senate Reception Room.
And into the Senate chamber itself.
And finally the Senate chamber chandelier surmounted by the legendary Holy Mackerel.
Naomi noticed the fish above the chandelier just as we were about to leave the room. I asked the guard stationed outside the room about it. He told me it was the “Holy Mackerel”. And Batman nowhere in sight. I thought he was joking with me but he was totally serious, and there is a story to this unlikely brass fish. It seems the Senate had it put there (light heartedly) to compete with the Sacred Cod in the House of Representatives. We’ll catch up with the latter piscine specimen later in our tour.
The picture of the chandelier is rather grainy because the original was underexposed by at least 4 F-stops, and I had to use the full power of Adobe’s “Lightroom” software to extract a usable picture from the RAW image. My camera has many virtues but the metering system sometimes gets confused by bright light sources near the centre of the frame. I only took one shot of the fish, almost as an afterthought on the way out, in response to Naomi’s observation, and failed to check it was properly exposed. A case of badly undercooked RAW fish. Maybe they should rename it the Holy Sashimi.
Room 341 on the third floor is the Reading Room of the State Library, also known as the George Fingold Library.
The Great Hall of Flags comes as a stark change from most of the rest of the building. It is effectively the large inner courtyard of a more recent extension, with a marble floor and glass roof. As its name suggests it is ornamented with a dazzling array of flags.
The chandelier-style clock is so Jules Verne, don’t you think? And if you’re wondering how those flags are put in place or removed …
… an elevated platform comes in handy. A Skyjack SJIII 3226 no less!
Back inside the more traditional part of the building, I couldn’t help but see something of Hogwarts in the criss-crossing staircases.
We crossed Beacon Street to the Massachusetts State House and found it was open to visitors, so decided to take a look around. We spent more time there than we’d expected, but there was a lot to see. There is tight security on the way in, but from then on visitors can pretty much wander round as they please.
This is the Memorial Hall:
The Hall has a remarkable huge stained glass skylight window.
This is the hall outside the office of Timothy P Cahill, Treasurer and Receiver General. Tim didn’t appear to be in.
Having told the pictorial story of Adrian & Peg’s wedding on 24 August, we are going back in time a few days.
Before travelling north for the wedding we spent a few days sightseeing in Boston, staying at the Royal Sonesta hotel in Cambridge, with views of Boston across the Charles River. The first room they gave us, in the East tower, was too low and the view was restricted. Fine if you like admiring other people’s yachts. The hotel was full on the first night so couldn’t move us, but promised to try for the next day.
On the morning of Wednesday 20th August, Naomi and I set off to explore Boston. Having no better ideas, we decided to follow the Freedom Trail on the grounds that it took in the key historical sights and would cover a variety of districts in central Boston. To get across the river we took the green line of the “T”, Boston’s underground rail system. We called it the Green T. It was a few minutes’ walk from the hotel to Lechmere station. We bought our “Charlie Tickets” and rode the T to Park Street station which is just on Boston Common.
This import from London, used now for sightseeing tours, was just across the street from the hotel as we set off for Lechmere.
The Freedom Trail starts at the Boston Common visitor centre, with guides in historical garb. We eschewed the services of the guides, preferring to follow our own schedule. There are many sights in the park and we could have spent hours there, but instead headed off towards Beacon Street and the Massachusetts State House.