Journey's End

My goodness those last 8 days have gone quickly, but then they have been very full.
Though I am back in England now, I'd hate to leave this project unfinished, so here is my last blog entry for quite some time, taking in the end of my stay in New York, and 5 days in Boston, interrupted by a conference in Rhode Island (which I have not disucussed, as I was not really a tourist there, though the site was truly stunning and I had a wonderful time)

After a gentle start to my visit to New York, the latter days were spend positively flying around the city, taking in as many sights as possible in so few days. For me, Times Square completely summed up the atmosphere of New York as I experienced it. It is every bit as big and loud as I expected, and as I walked along the centre of the street (pedestrianised), looking upwards at the huge advertisments for Broadway shows, I definitely caught the excitement in the air. In the end, I did not go to see a show; the combination of ticket price, having to go alone, and having to return to the hostel alone late at night just put me off, but I am quite sure I'll be back one day to experience the real magic.
By day, my favourite sight in Times Square was the Toys R Us. It is the most incredible toy shop I have ever visited and as far as I'm concerned should be a model for all toy shops everywhere. The first thing you see when you enter is that the whole centre of the shop, over 4 storeys, is taken up by a huge ferris wheel, each cart decorated with some well-known children's character. A huge corner of the shop devoted to "Wonka" chocolates lurks invitingly on the other side of the ferris wheel, but before you can get there, you can have your photo taken with the huge yellow Toys R Us giraffe! Delve further into the shop, and you'll find a giant moving T-rex groaning and roaring across from a city of lego iconic buildings, as well as a life-size lego Captain Jack. I could go on, but in essence, it was just a ridiculously fun place to be.
Once I had my fill of Times Square, I took a tour bus around the city, which was a good way to see some of the more distant places, such as Chinatown and the old tenements that used to house early immigrants to the city, and SoHo, which is another place I hope I'll get chance to return to one day. My best view of the Empire State building was also on this coach tour, as we rounded a corner and saw it framed by other skyscrapers at the end of the street, and the surprise mingled with the general excitement at seeing it for the first time.
There are so many more famous sights I visited in New York: Macy's, Bloomingdale's, The Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, the triangular bulding used as the offices of the Daily Bugle in Spider-man, and so many others, and for me they were all as big and as exciting as I hoped they would be.

And so to Boston. I had a conference to attend in Rhode Island at the end of my trip, and so I thought I'd stop over in Boston for a few days on the way. And I have to admit I have mixed feelings. My first few days in Boston were in fact spent in the Cambridge area, not far from the river over which lie MIT and Harvard. This area was beautiful; green parks, well-kept buildings and lots of independent boutiques and coffee shops to cater for the huge student population. I met a few people at the hostel and spent a couple of delightful days relaxing after the rush of New York. My favourite spot was a bookshop-come-cafe, which not only served every kind of tea imaginable, but also the most delicious cakes and desserts.
Harvard seemed to me a lot like Oxford, which I suppose is not surprising for a big, old (relatively), prestigious university campus. Though of course the architecture was different, the feeling of being immersed in the university culture was just as strong. Harvard had the most splendid bookshop, with three levels and balconies stretching right round the building.
My first trip into the city was at night, for a scrumptious seafood dinner with a friend from the hostel. We walked from the nearest subway station along the waterfront and ate lobster and scallops and salmon and swordfish and it was all delicious. The skyline looked beautiful all lit up in the dark.
Exploring Boston by day, however, exposed a lot of flaws which weren't so noticeable until you were up close. Boston has a huge historical importance in America, being the place where the Independence movement started and where the Declaration of Independence was first read, so we (myself and some friends from the conference) followed the "Freedom Trail", which takes you on a tour of most of the culturally significant sites. The trail itself was a great idea; we followed red bricks in the pavement and managed to see a lot of important places without paying for a guide. However, for such significant sites as these were, the whole city seemed to be in a state of disrepair. Perhaps it was just a bad time that we visited, but the steets were dug up everywhere, or in dire need of replacing soon, the buildings themselves were crumbly and dirty, and (and this I found hardest to believe) right underneath the building from whose balcony the Declaration was first read a tube station has been built! Given the abundance of patriotism in America (one of the few stereotypes I have found to be wuite accurate), I had expected these buildings to be in much better condition.
Still, I did learn a lot by following the trail, and it was a good way to get a feeling for the city itself. The last evening in Boston was finished off in an Irish Pub, my first in America, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The atmosphere was over-friendly and loud, I heard genuine conversations of people with thick American accents trying to claim Irish roots, and the beer tasted better than any I tasted elsewhere in the US. An added bonus to this pub was in the view from the window, which looked over the Boston skyline, this time towards the harbour, with the moon rising over a huge clock tower. All of this, plus the company of four new friends made for a wonderful last night in America, and despite being ready to come home, I felt that I could happily have stayed longer.
I suppose that is the best way to end a trip.


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