Tuesday, May 31, 2016

USA & Canada 2016 - Exploring West Massachusetts

We drove West from Boston along one of the smaller highways. For a lot of our day that meant driving past scenes like this.

One of the reasons we went on a road less travelled was because we wanted to visit Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. Seeing the Loggerheads on the sign of this junk shop made me feel at home.

The welcoming sign about parking would have gone down a treat in the original Shropshire as well.

Like the original Shrewsbury, the Massachusetts version has some historical old buildings.

And a historical past, commemorated on various plaques.

The final place we stopped in Shrewsbury was a mall down the road that had an International House of Pancakes (IHOP). I have a lot of fondness for IHOP but didn't really like the look of their new pancakes.

Further on from Shrewsbury is Northampton, where we had arranged to visit the studio of one of our favouritre cartoonists, Hilary Price. (We had met her back in April when she visited Shrewsbury UK for the cartoon festival.)

As we left I took a pic of this panel from one of her cartoons about relationships. This is me and Cathy. I often seem to be grabbed to look at 'bugs' or whatever.

We then went South to Springfield. One the way we stopped at the Dinosaur Footprints park, which is just off the road. I am being a dinosaur in this picture. (That's our hire car behind us)

My hand in a dino footprint. Dinosaur footprints are the state fossil of Masschusetts.

One of Springfield's claims to fame is that it is where Dr Seuss, author of The Cat and the Hat and many other books, grew up. We went to the Dr Seuss Memorial Garden to see the bronze statues of many of his most famous characters. We met The Cat in the Hat...

...the Lorax...

Horton, who famously heard a Who (this picture id just his trunk!)...

...and several other characters.

We then drove along Mulberry Street, where Dr Seuss's grandparents lived and the name of the street on which he set his very first book.

The final stop on our mini tour of the area was The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Eric Carle is the author of The Hungry Caterpillar, and several other picture books. I have to admit I gained a new appreciation for his work from our visit to 'The Carle' as they call it. It was a fab museum and we could have spent a lot longer there.

Outside, Cathy saw a bug (not an iridescent one, but close!)

Inside there are some bespoke huge colour pieces by Eric Carle.

And some great exhibitions.

We then went to a nearby farmers deli for lunch. We had spicy dill pickle flavour potato chips. They were indeed spicy!

And then we moved on, leaving Massachusetts and entering New York State, making our way towards a site of pilgrimage for hundreds of thousands of people.

Monday, May 30, 2016

USA & Canada 2016 - More bits from Boston

You can't really do a city in an extended weekend and Boston is several pretty big places rolled into one. But we did manage to do more than the Freedom Trail and watching the Red Sox. Here are 5 more things we experienced.

1) The Mapparium at the Mary Baker Eddy Library. This was unique and very cool. In the 1930s the Christian Science church erected a hollow stained glass globe that you can walk through. It's several metres across. Illuminated from the outside you can see all the continents, even if the old colonial and communist borders no longer exist. Well worth a visit.

The big Christian Science church on the plaza is the epicentre for the organisation as well. It's an impressive building.

2) Harvard. We went for a wander around the famous university campus.

But the main reason we went all the way out there was to visit the Curious George Shop on Harvard Square. It was something Cathy had wanted to do since seeing it on her first trip to Boston 11 years previously. So we ticked that off the list!

3) Went to a Vegan Diner. Walking away from Harvard on Massachusetts Avenue we went to Veggie Galaxy.

We got talking to the waitress there who described it as a "diner for fat vegans." Here's one of them waiting for his vegan pancakes.

4) "Let's go to the mall!" It was raining one day so we went for a drive to an out of town mall in Braintree, to the South of Boston. It had a Lego Shop. It would have been rude not to go in.

Big shout out to Dave who works there, who was ace (I should have got a photo with him!). He hooked us up with some Lego Store passports. These are only used in North America and are supposed to be for kids.

5) Ate some crazy food. One evening we went to Trident Booksellers on Newbury Street. We had fried pickles as a starter...

... and then for a "main" I had the lemon riccotta stuffed french toast off the breakfast menu. It was basically a main course of cake.

I should add a picture of where we stayed. It was the Beech Tree Inn in Brookline. A lovely B&B!

When we arrived on our very first day we spotted a chipmunk as we pulled up and parked. Before we even checked in we'd wandered around half of the exterior of the Inn trying to get a photo of him.

There's a whole load more I could say about Boston, but after some jam-packed days we were heading West to new adventures.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

USA & Canada 2016 - Watching the Boston Red Sox on Star Wars night

One of the things on my list of things I wanted to do before we set off on our trip was go to Fenway Park and see the Boston Red Sox play. When we started looking at tickets we realised we could go on Star Wars night. Well, naturally, that had to be done! (Plus they were playing the Oakland Athletics, who pioneered 'Moneyball' ten years ago, so they were worth seeing.)

We took a tour of Fenway Park in the afternoon. It took about an hour and I would very much recommend it as something to do in Boston. Although our guide told us it was much better in the sunshine we had, than in the rain the visitors had the day before.

One of the first stops on the tour was the area we were going to be sitting in that night. Our friendly tour guide told us they were the original vintage 1932 wooden seats from when that stand was built. Decent view, though.

Speaking of our tour guide, I'm embarrassed to say I've forgotten his name, but he was great. As you would expect he seemed to know everything you could possibly know about the ball park.

Fenway Park has a high wall on one side of the outfield known as the Green Monster after it was painted green to mute glare from the floodlights. There are seats on top of it.

The Red Sox's mascot is called Wally. He's a Green Monster too.

The lone red seat you can just about make out here marks the home run that has been hit the furthest distance and stayed inside the ball park. Apparently it brained the guy who was sitting there when it was whacked several decades ago. (Click on the photo to make it larger!)

It being Star Wars night, there were plenty of people dressed up to bring a bit of a galaxy far, far away home to Boston. We had to pose with these two. Cathy insisted.

Remember Wally the Green Monster? He was up for the occasion too, dressing up as a Jedi.

And picking a fight with Darth Vader and his evil henchmen.

It's well worth just wondering around Fenway Park. There's tons to see. Like an array of old logos on one wall. I wonder why they didn't keep the batting sock?

There was also a baseball shaped golf cart to play on.

One of the the big things about baseball is the amount and variety of stadium food you can buy, brought direct to your seat by vendors. But this was the first time I've seen a food vendor carrying round clam chowder.

We had a pretty good view of the action when the game started.

The Athletics raced into an early lead, but a disastrous fourth inning saw them start with a 4-1 lead and end with a 7-4 deficit. The final score was 14-7 to the Red Sox. The crowd emptied out as the scoreboard proclaimed the win.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

USA & Canada 2016 - First day in Boston

I'm going to do a few retrospective blog posts about the trip Cathy and have just come home from. Here are some photos from our first full day in Boston.

We were staying in Brookline, East of Boston. About a twenty minute train ride from the centre.

We got off to visit Boston Common - the oldest city park in the USA - and the statue commemorating 'Make Way for Ducklings', a famous children's book. Cathy posed with Momma Duck for a photo.

Boston Common is right next to the bar that the sitcom Cheers was based on.

We walked across the Common to start the Freedom Trail that takes you round the key historical sites in the centre of Boston. This is where the Revolution kicked off, after all.

We took a detour to visit Bromfield Street!

It's very different to our Bromfield Street.

We managed about half the tour, ending at the Faneuil Hall, which is now a market, and the Quincy Market, which has the most amazing array of food vendors imaginable. It's also crowded to near impossible to take photos inside. Pretty grand exterior, though.

I will be posting a few photo updates. Stay tuned.