10 Sep Our First impressions of America and Exploring Boston
Since we arrived in New York a week ago I’ve lost count of the number of times Andrew and I have said to each other: “This is just so… American!” From the hordes of Red Sox fans in their baseball caps and shirts to the giant pretzels sold on street corners and wooden-clad houses with huge porches and flags flying from the windows, America is just how I imagined it would be. Somehow it’s oddly satisfying to see many of my expectations about America come to life; perhaps visitors to the UK get the same kind of thrill out of seeing regular British people drinking tea, eating fish and chips and playing football?
Seriously though, our first impressions of America have been extremely good. The cities are clean, beautiful and easy to get around and people have been very open and friendly with us; when we first arrived in Boston we took a walk around the suburb we’re staying in and we were a little shocked by how many neighbours called out to us in greeting. We’ve also been pleasantly surprised at the cost of living; public transport is cheaper than in the UK, as is eating out. Even though we’ve had to get our heads around adding tax and tips to our bills, we’ve found that we can easily get a great meal for less than $20 and because the portion sizes are large, we can share too.
After a hectic start to our trip in New York we made our way by bus to Boston, where we’ve been for the last week. Without knowing it, our first weekend in America coincided with the Labor Day holiday. On the Saturday we wandered through the public gardens and across the common before stumbling upon Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, which we instantly loved. With its cobbled paths, market stalls and street performers the area reminded me vaguely of Covent Garden in London, but the lobster-themed gifts, bowls of clam chowder and racks of Harvard jumpers and Red Sox caps made it unmistakably Bostonian.
Grabbing a huge, cheap plate of falafel and salad, we made our way to Christopher Columbus Park and the harbour. As we sat and ate I watched the last of the day’s sun shimmer off the water and the rows of pristine white boats bob up and down, it looked and felt just as I’d hoped New England would, only better. As darkness fell the crowds thickened and we all craned our necks upward towards the sky to watch the Labor Day fireworks display – I felt so happy to be there.
Generally, we’ve just been exhausting ourselves exploring Boston by foot, walking miles around its amazing parks and historic streets. We’ve eaten bagels and strolled along the harbourside and we even went to a Red Sox baseball game; even though I’m not much of a sports fan, I revelled in the chance to watch the crowd in their crimson hats chatting and cheering, eating hotdogs and drinking beer.
There’s so much history here in Boston and we’ve yet to delve into it all. We have taken a walk along the Freedom Trail though, which takes in many of the famous sites where important events occurred during the American Revolution. These include the site of the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party protests and Bunker Hill, where one of the most famous and important battles of the American Revolution took place.
We took informative free tours of the city and the State House, which brought all of this history and the people involved in it, to life. As a British traveller, I find it important – if uneasy and slightly embarrassing – to learn about colonialism and the role my country played in shaping the history of other countries. I’ve felt this same unease in other places we’ve travelled to in Asia, such as Burma.
For this trip we’ve purposefully chosen to travel slowly and stay in each place for almost a week to avoid travel burn-out, something we suffered from often during our first, fast-paced stint of travel. This strategy is working well for us so far, rather than rushing out sightseeing all day we’ve been exploring slowly, spreading out activities and taking time to just sit and absorb the atmosphere of the city. As a result we’re having a great time, even if we are struggling with the searing heat-wave we’re experiencing at the moment and we find ourselves collapsing into bed each night with aching feet.
There’s still so much left to see in Boston; we want to walk the Black Heritage Trail, visit more museums, take a sunset harbour cruise and visit Harvard. Luckily we still have a couple more days here before we pick up our rental car and move on, we’ll also be back in Boston for another week in November, so there’s plenty of time to explore this incredible city.
Next stop – New Hampshire! *Update: you can read our complete 2016 New England Fall Foliage Guide here. This includes tips on where on when to see the best foliage, what to eat, which festivals to visit, how much our fall trip to New England cost and our favourite destinations in New England.*
Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)Posted at 20:21h, 10 September
So glad your visit to the U.S. has started so positively. I know America often gets a bum rap abroad, but for all it’s flaws, you only need to visit it to realize why it is one of the world’s great nations and why so many people dream of living there. I am always so impressed when I visit the States with how clean it is, how friendly the people are (I just had the same two thoughts while in California!), and how affordable it can be (Canada has many of the same perks, but I think it is a much more expensive country to live in if you want a similar quality of life). And yes, the portions ARE huge—on my most recent trip, I was really sad that I was traveling by myself whenever I went out to eat, because I could never finish anything on my own!
I’ve never actually been to Boston, but it looks like a really interesting city with plenty to keep you busy. Can’t wait to see what New Hampshire has in store for you.
AmyPosted at 22:31h, 10 September
Hi Steph, we’re excited for New Hampshire too, we also can’t wait for the autumnal weather to kick in so we can experience the famous foliage. We are also so excited to experience an American Halloween – something we don’t really celebrate in the UK. We are loving it here so far 🙂
Chanel | Cultural XplorerPosted at 11:58h, 11 September
I really like the city of Boston and haven’t been in a while, so I definitely need to get back soon 😀
AmyPosted at 15:20h, 11 September
Hi Chanel, thanks for reading and commenting, we love Boston so far!
Gilda BaxterPosted at 21:07h, 11 September
Sounds like you are living the American dream and getting a real taste of this great nation, slow travel is definitely the way to do it. I loved that you went to see the Red Sox game…when in Rome…great post, I can’t wait for the next one.
AmyPosted at 02:06h, 12 September
Slow travel is definitely working out well for us at the moment, although we still need to get used to walking around and exploring so much again after a fairly lazy summer!
PattiPosted at 03:23h, 12 September
Welcome to the U.S. Amy and Andrew! Boston is a great city to explore and you’ve picked a wonderful time of year to visit. The weather will start to cool soon and the fall colors will be beautiful. Have fun!
AmyPosted at 14:49h, 12 September
Thanks Patti, we can’t wait to see the leaves change and experience a New England fall.
MattPosted at 14:44h, 12 September
Yay slow travel! Sounds like a great trip so far. I know exactly what you mean with America constantly seeming so…American (I always say that when I’m there). My theory is that a lot of tv and movies are obviously american made or at least heavily influenced so they are pretty accurate at depicting life in America and a lot of those cliches are true in real life. When an American movie is made featuring any other country or even people from a country outside America that accuracy goes down a lot. So america matches our expectations from movies and tv whereas everything else ends up totally different to what it is like in real life. Happy driving to New Hampshire!
AmyPosted at 14:51h, 12 September
Interesting theory Matt, I definitely think that holds true for us as well. We were brought up on a diet of American films, TV and for me, Stephen King books, and this definitely formed firm expectations in our minds about what America would be like.
Louisa KlimentosPosted at 15:21h, 14 September
You are better to do slow travel because if you rush your visit ,you may not absorb the beauty of the place.Taking time to see a place will make you discover wonderful things.For example,when I first visited New York ,i didn,t seem to take to it too well,but as i started to get to know this bustling city,i discoverred wonderful things about it.Sometimes a city has to grow on you.Boston looks like a pretty neat city.have a great time love louisa
AmyPosted at 14:03h, 15 September
I definitely agree Lousia, I can especially see how that would work with New York.
JeniaPosted at 15:22h, 15 September
We’ve been exploring the US for the past year and it’s been amazing 🙂 Having lived here for well over half of our lifetimes, we sometimes forget how many places and spaces there are to explore in the USA. I am so excited for your roadtrip — I think the best, and most iconic, way to explore the US. You have to do this once: go to Wendy’s drive through and get junior bacon cheeseburgers. Just for the experience (Sergey says go to McDonald;s and get a big mac, but I disagree!).
AndrewPosted at 01:03h, 16 September
Thanks for the tip Jenia! We did go to McDonald’s the other day while driving back, sadly it was a bit of a let down; Amy got a green egg and my chicken burger wasn’t as good as what I’ve had in the UK. We’ll have to check out Wendy’s one day soon; do they have veggie options for Amy? We’re loving the scenery at the moment, it’s amazing!:-)
Louisa KlimentosPosted at 07:34h, 18 September
Look for a raw vegan vegetarian cafe.They started up in Los Angelos and I am sure that you will find them in Boston.My daughter has a gluten and dairy intollerance ,so we decided to visit Newtown ,in Sydney.The suburb has old style buildings but has fantastic gluten free organic cafes.It is a funky trendy place.So me and my daughter ate at a cafe on Enmore road called Sahanna kitchen.We both had gluten free falaffel and organic salad then a vegan dessert called waggen wheel.We loved our meal and the cafe had a beautiful vibe with nice chillout music .If Amy would like a veggie burger,see if you can find a raw vegan vegetarian cafe.If you do i hope you will like it.Best of luck ,love louisa
AmyPosted at 15:53h, 18 September
Sounds like an amazing cafe, I’m definitely on the look out for things like that wherever we travel 🙂
RhondaPosted at 21:29h, 16 September
Welcome! Glad you’re having a wonderful time to start off your trip on US soil 🙂 I am glad you’re taking your time, it’s an enormous country, and incredibly diverse. I don’t remember reading how long you’ll be here but I hope you get to enjoy several different regions along the way.
AmyPosted at 02:07h, 17 September
Thanks Rhonda, we will be here until the end of November although we are mostly focusing on New England on this trip. We will also be heading to Philly and DC before we leave; there are many more parts of the country we would love to visit so return trips will be necessary!
Victoria@ The British BerlinerPosted at 06:05h, 18 September
I’m so pleased that your first visit to the US was a success! And the bright lights of New York and the autumn colours of Boston in New England. Yes, please! That’s one place that I would really like to visit. They say it’s quite “Englishy.” Would you agree?
I’ve only been to the US once and I was pleasantly surprised as I really wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did. As a fellow British person, I had my pre-concieved expectations LOL!
We went to the west-coast and took a road trip through California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah. EVERYONE was utterly friendly and open. The amount of people that would come up to me and say “Are you European?” was quite amusing and when I asked why they thought so BEFORE they heard me talk, they told me it was because of my clothes, my hair style and the way I walked!
Americans love British accents and I have quite a posh teacher’s voice so whenever I spoke you would have a queue of people all making wonderful comments about my accent. Coupled with the German husband in tow and the half British-half German son, we made quite an impression I think.
I can’t wait to go back to the US of A!
AmyPosted at 15:53h, 18 September
Yes, you could say it’s quite “Englishy” here in some ways, the scenery, countryside and seaside towns feel familiar but everything is somehow bigger and more impressive; it also has an unmistakable American feel to it. No one has really commenting on our accents yet, although we do have to repeat ourselves sometimes because people are thrown by it or don’t understand us!