Dennis Wright's Blog

Boston cityscape at dawn

Posted in Travel, USA by Dennis Wright on November 22, 2008

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.

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The Barking Crab

Posted in Travel, USA by Dennis Wright on November 22, 2008

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.

The USS Constitution

Posted in Travel, USA by Dennis Wright on November 22, 2008

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.

The Paul Revere House

Posted in Travel, USA by Dennis Wright on November 16, 2008

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.

Quincy Market and the Cadets

Posted in Travel, USA by Dennis Wright on November 12, 2008

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.

Along the Freedom Trail to the Old State House

Posted in Travel, USA by Dennis Wright on November 9, 2008

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.

Thanks to Paul Martin (jugglerpm) who placed a photo of the blade on Flickr.

Picture Paul Martin (Flickr & Creative Commons)

Picture Paul Martin (Flickr & Creative Commons)

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?

The State House #5 – The House of Representatives

Posted in Travel, USA by Dennis Wright on November 7, 2008

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.

The State House #4 – Holy Mackerel!

Posted in Travel, USA by Dennis Wright on November 6, 2008

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.

The State House #3 – The George Fingold Library

Posted in Travel, USA by Dennis Wright on November 5, 2008

Room 341 on the third floor is the Reading Room of the State Library, also known as the George Fingold Library.

The State House #2 – The Great Hall of Flags

Posted in Travel, USA by Dennis Wright on November 2, 2008

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.

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