“I’m Free To Be Whatever I, Whatever I Choose”

Another day, another train. Our 9th of the America leg. We will shortly be boarding our train at Boston South Station heading for Philadelphia. We’ve had an enjoyable few days in Boston, where it has been very cold (snow completely covering the ground during our first full day), mixing American history with modern American culture. Boston clearly takes pride as much in its history in ensuring the formation of the USA as it does in the success of its ball teams: Boston Red Sox (baseball) and Boston Celtics (basketball), New England Patriots (American football) are also relatively local being only about an hour away and they are playing in the Super Bowl this Sunday. We were able to go to watch the Celtics play against the Toronto raptors in between our exploring of the city which took us to places of significance to the American Revolution as well as the oldest baseball stadium in America where the Red Sox play. 

Snowy Boston Public Gardens

We managed to get hold of a pair of tickets to the basketball at half the face value on Ticketmaster’s resale site about 2 hours before the start, tickets were emailed to our phones and we were able to jump on a metro that took us strait to the arena. Expectedly with the price of the tickets, we were up in the gods but that wasn’t really an issue as it wouldn’t have mattered how close we were we still wouldn’t have quite understood what was going on and we got to witness the whole spectacle up there! It was quite a show, and clearly aimed at everyone and anyone with a big demographical mix amongst the crowd. The whole thing was typically American, with a big light show accompanied by music encouraging the crowd to dance to get on to the big scree. It was a pretty good laugh, but I can’t see it taking off on a cold Wednesday evening in Stoke. Before the game both Canadian (as Toronto were the opponents) and American national anthems were played while everyone stood, surprisingly few people joined in and it didn’t feel anything like the singing of national anthems back home before international sporting matches. Maybe we just caught Boston on a particularly unpatriotic day, what with their political dissatisfaction ‘nall. The game itself was a 2 and a half hour spectacle of back and forth athleticism that created peaks and troughs of crowd enthusiasm and engagement all leading to a great crescendo at the end of the 4th quarter. It was almost as if the first two thirds of the game didn’t matter, particularly when the crowd were more intereted in prizes being thrown into them than the game going on. Toronto had led through most of the game (although both teams scored freely throughout), Boston came good in the last quarter overturning a 10 point deficit to win by 6. It could have been scripted to ensure maximal excitement for the fans (I got a high 5 from the guy in front of me) even if it was, I don’t think anyone would have minded. We left, as new Boston Celtics fan, thoroughly entertained with our matching hats figuratively pinning our colours to the mast.

A Pair of Celtics Fans

Boston’s other big sports team, the Red Sox, are enjoying their close season break. But that didn’t stop us heading over to their stadium to have a look around. It was an impressive theatre with some great statues of past greats outside and an enticing tour on offer, however it was pretty cold and we happened across a bar built below the main stand with a huge window looking up onto the pitch. Who needs a tour when you can sit and drink while looking at the stadium and pitch. Remarkably the bar is open all year (even when games are one) and is first come first served on game day. The three tables infront of the window are rotated every 25 minutes to allow everyone to watch a bit of the action. The owner said it get busier when they stop serving beer in the stands but obviously quieter when they are so, if you time it properly, you can get a good days viewing without buying tickets.

Fenway Park

The morning before the basketball we had explored Boston via the Freedom Trail, a 2.5 mile trail through Boston passing a number of sites that were key in the War of Independence. The trail starts in the centre of downtown Boston, close to Massachusetts state house (the seat of political power in the state), on Boston common. There was an anti-Trump rally going on here, unsurprisingly given its nickname as the cradle of liberty dating back from the revolution, the area is very anti-trump. Locals told us that there had been lots of these types of demonstrations since the inauguration and that they would likely continue. Wheather it’s representative of the whole country who knows, there seems to be lots of misinformation flying around. We headed away from the rally along the trail passing burial grounds where important patriots were buried, churches and town halls where meetings where held denouncing English colonial rule, the site of the Boston massacre to the final stop on the hills above Boston where the battle of bunker hill took place and a memorial now stands. It was quite interesting to see so many significant places crammed into such a small area and to understand how important Boston was to the revolution. We also visited the Boston Tea Party, the site where Bostonians dumped a shipment of tea into the river to protest at the tax placed on it; a significant precursor to the war. There is now a replica ship in the spot on the river where you can do your own dumping, but we decided we were a bit too British for that! 

Bunker Hill Monument

As well as history and sport, Boston is of course also famous for its Academic institutions. I lost count of the number of different Unis we walked past over the last week. Undoubtedly the two most famous are Harvard and MIT based north of the river in the Cambridge area. No coincidence as Harvard was established by Cambridge graduates who settled here early on in America’s “discovery”. Parts of Harvard could be a quintessential British red brick university, with large buildings surrounded by iron gates, however interspersed with other less British looking buildings and obviously the star spangled banner a few times, because they’re important. MIT was a little more modern, as you’d expect from an institute of technology. Although it also had some pretty grand buildings. We didn’t get to go into any of the sites as we missed the student led tours, but it was interesting to see the size of the places and just get a feel for them. Surprisingly couldn’t find the sport science department in either, which is strange because where does their ground braking research take place? 

Harvard University

So Boston ticked off our list, as well as an NBA game. Next stop is Philadelphia, west Philadelphia to be precise, “chillin’ out maxin’ relaxin’ all cool” obviously but hopefully there will be other things to see and do too! 

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