2012: New England


Oct. 11


I decided I was finally brave enough to travel again after our disastrous scuba trip to the Cayman Islands in 2011. But this trip would definitely be ON and OVER dry land. I've been wanting to take Mike to New York City ever since my multiple visits there in 2008. And because the timing was right for an autumn trip , it only made sense to combine NYC with New England and its brilliant fall foliage. I planned for early October, not too cold yet but heading for winter, hoping for good weather and good leaf peeping. Yes, that's what they call it. Leaf.Peeping.

We started off in Boston. I had picked the luxurious Back Bay Hotel partly because it was historic -- the building is Boston's former police headquarters -- but also because of its location only blocks away from the start of the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile route in downtown Boston which leads past many historic sites. With only one day to spend here, I figured this would be a way to hit the high points.

Walking one block along Boston city streets brought us past two classic New England steepled churches. You can't throw a rock -- or even a feather -- in New England without hitting one of these vintage American structures.

Our first stop: the Boston Public Garden, not officially part of the Freedom Trail, but adjacent to the historic Boston Common and definitely worth a visit. Like Central Park, this is a gorgeous and peaceful oasis in an otherwise-bustling city. We were too late in the season for the famous swan boats, but the garden's central lagoon was probably more beautiful without them, especially since there are actual swans in the lagoon.

A shady path. Suspension bridge. Having fun yet? Beautiful lagoon. No boat, the real thing.
Me 'n George. All-weather ducklings.

The garden has a number of statues, including a well-known one of George Washington on a horse.

Almost as well-known, and considerably more amusing, are the duckling statues inspired by the popular children's book "Make Way for Ducklings".

Classic buildings.   Massachusetts State House.

I loved the classic architecture in Boston; we have nothing to compare in California, except possibly the Victorians of San Francisco. A particularly impressive building is the Massachusetts State House with its gold-leaf dome.

The Granary Burying Ground is most notable as the resting place of Paul Revere and the five Boston Massacre victims.

The guy in the powdered wig was still alive, as far as I could tell.

The Old State House.

The Old State House was built in 1713 and served as the home of the Massachusetts legislature until 1798. I'd love to see the forefathers' expressions if they could see their dignified old place dwarfed by multi-story office buildings and surrounded by hordes of tourists from all over the globe. I wonder if they would feel vindication or dismay?

We had only covered about half the Freedom Trail and were already tired. After an unfulfilling lunch downtown, we decided to forego the rest of the trail in favor of a trip to the John F. Kennedy Library.


Visiting the JFK would require navigating the local subway system. These days, it's called the MBTA, but I retain fond memories of its older moniker; I must have listened to the Kingston Trio sing "M.T.A" several hundred times, and as a youngster I knew all the words to all the verses.

So imagine my delight when I located a signboard inside the station recounting the history of the song, and discovered that you buy a "CharlieCard" to board the trains.

I found the JFK library interesting mostly for its Sixties' attitude and style. After all, that was the time of my youth. The history was also interesting, but it would have helped to have more visuals. Many of the small rooms and alcoves had nothing but plaques covered in text, detailing the events of the time.

Remember this stuff? 1960 TV studio replica. TV camera, election results. Library hallway. Kennedy's desk.

I was surprised at how few of Jacqueline Kennedy's famous fashions were on display. Maybe they're all at the Smithsonian. Anyway, she wore the pink coat and hat at left on arrival at New Delhi's airport in 1962, where she was greeted by Prime Minister Nehru and his daughter, Indira Gandhi.

The gown at right was worn during the Kennedys' first state visit after his inauguration, a trip to France in June 1961, where JFK met with President Charles de Gaulle.

Freedom 7 capsule. Berlin wall.

On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American in space, riding in the Mercury capsule he named Freedom 7 (left). Three weeks after he splashed down, JFK announced his goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade. That dream was realized in July 1969, although Kennedy didn't live to see it.

In 1990, the German government donated to the library a section of the Berlin Wall (right). It serves as a remembrance of Kennedy's 1963 speech where he famously said, "Ich bin ein Berliner".

There was one more notable display at the library, a famous Picasso painting on loan from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. "The Rape of the Sabine Women" was Picasso's last major work, painted when he was 82 (in 1963). It depicts the horrors of war and was loaned to the JFK to mark the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis. They wouldn't allow any photography of the painting, so I just stole the picture at left off the internet.

We'd done more walking and standing in one day than my tired old bones were accustomed to, so we followed our bread crumbs back to the MBTA and rode to the stop closest to our hotel. We spent a very restful night at the Back Bay; I was glad I'd paid the high price for it.