The first public park, the first public secondary school, the first public library, the first State Constitution, the first regularly issued American newspaper… the first windmill, the first chocolate factory, and the first pub in the country… it will take a while to list all the firsts that belong to Boston.
The first public anti-smoking law (that too, in 1632!) was passed in Boston… the first woman in the United States to earn a Ph.D. did so from the Boston University… the list seems unending.
Founded in 1630 by a group of Puritans, Boston is one of the oldest cities of the United States. Puritans were English colonists who arrived in the 16th and 17th centuries in America, dissatisfied with the church of England over the church’s tolerance of practices aligned with the catholic tradition. Boston played a key role in the American Revolution, being the scene of events like the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party.
In addition to being an important port and center of trade and manufacturing, Boston is well known for its educational and cultural institutions. Above all it is an architecturally beautiful city. So when I got a chance to do a quick trip to Boston one of these recent weekends, I jumped at the chance.
The first place we stopped at was the Harvard University campus. Did I tell you that it is the country’s first college? The spacious campus with brown stone buildings impart a sense of peace and calm.
The statue of John Harvard on the campus gets constant attention from visitors, particularly young ones. They are posing one after the other for photos with the statue that it is hard to get a click in without someone clinging to the statue’s foot.
Did you notice how shiny it is? It is believed that touching the statue’s foot brings good luck. And what happens there at night? Read for yourself here.
By the way, this statue is commonly called, ‘The Statue of Three Lies’, in the sense that contrary to what is said on the base of the statue, it is not John Harvard, John Harvard is not the founder of Harvard University, and Harvard University was not founded in 1638. Read all about it in the Harvard Summer Blog.
That day, the weather had some harsh treatment in store for us… it rained for the better part of the day! Despite the rain, we managed to visit some real interesting places.
Established in 1837, the garden has an area of 24 acres, with beautiful paths and formal flower beds. The lake in the garden apparently, always have two resident swans.
A 15 minute ride on the swan boats – a special attraction of Boston – takes you around the 4-acre lake in the garden for an utterly peaceful time with picturesque views.
Though we wanted to, we did not have sufficient time to visit all the stops on the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile, brick-lined route that leads through 16 historically significant sites associated with the American revolution.
The whole trail is marked by a red and gray brick path.
Any visit to Boston will not be complete without a look at the Boston Harbour, the scene of the Boston tea party, an event on December 16, 1773 where a group of patriots boarded a ship of the East India Company and threw chests of tea into the harbour, in protest against the Tea Act of May 1773. They were protesting – contrary to what many people understand today – not against taxation, but taxation without representation as the American colonies did not have a representative in the British parliament.
The dark look of the sky that day somehow suited the memories of that historical day.
Boston has so many firsts to its credit, but I want to give it a ‘best’ on my personal account. The best clam chowder – ever! It was so great I have decided to look on my bookshelves for my historic Boston cookbook, handwritten no less, to find a traditional recipe to follow.
And do you know who this is? Yes, Sam Adams, exactly like he is on the bottle! 🙂
Boston has so many things to boast of, if it wanted to, but it will never do so because then it will have to change its spelling to ‘Boaston’! Yep, that deserves all the groans that it will garner, but couldn’t help it! 😉
And much to the chagrin of Bostonians, Forbes magazine rated Boston as the 9th ‘Coolest City’ in the country! Yeah, it’s hard when you are accustomed to being first and then have to put up with being 9th!
08 Aug 2014
Stamford, Connecticut… where the rich and famous live… so you must surely be one of them… that is how I used to tease my friend Archana (of The Perfect Zest), who lives there. Though I have visited her many times, never really found the time to explore the town. So when she invited me to spend a weekend at her place, with a promise to show me around, I jumped at the chance.
The town of Stamford was founded in the year 1641. Originally called Rippowam, after the local river, by the natives as well as the settlers, the name was later changed to Stamford – meaning stony ford – after a town in Lincolnshire, England. At that time, the settlement measured 128 square miles, though the area of Stamford at present has come down to 40 square miles.
In the early years, the town’s economy was based on agriculture, facilitated primarily by the New York City markets. After two centuries, the agri-economy slowly gave way as manufacturing picked up in the 1840s and Stamford became an industrial center. Today, Stamford is home to major corporations, financial institutions and capital market players.
Downtown Stamford is quite impressive, in a charming and bit quaint way. And colourful… especially with all those benches, part of an outdoor sculpture exhibition consisting of 40 originally designed and painted wooden benches. These benches are placed throughout Stamford downtown and at the Stamford Town Center.
Also, on Bedford Street in downtown, you will see a replica of the famous Wall Street Bull, created by the same artist.
The afternoon saw us heading to the Cove Island Park for a well deserved relaxing time, tired after a long lunch downtown. The park is right on the shore, with extensive walks and sandy beaches.
Sitting under the trees on a bluff overlooking the Long Island Sound, with the breeze wafting softly over the water, New York city and its salt mines where I toil every day seemed far away!
Cove Island Park offers several facilities like walking trails and cycling paths, we were too lazy to even consider any of those. Except walk a bit along the rocky shoreline, watching the avid fishers – human as well as birds – in action.
If anything could get up out of the lethargy, it was the thought of the beer and burger picnic we had planned. What a wonderful evening indeed!
Next morning, we went for a walk in the Mianus River Park… yes, I said that with a straight face. 🙂
The park is located between Stamford and Greenwich, Connecticut, and has several trails of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty. At this season, everything is green, and so many shades of green too!
50 Shades of Green!
The park extends to an area of 220 acres and consists of different terrains like low lying wetlands – with tiny brooks crossing the trails – and stony steep hillsides.
It was pure pleasure walking the trails. One interesting feature of this park is the many rock outcroppings along the trails. Among the old growth trees reaching up to great heights, they really paint a fantastic picture.
Like all weekends do, this one too flew away like in a daze. And to think that summer is on the wane… still there is time, and a heap of things to do!
22 Jul 2014
It is not that common for the July 4th holiday to fall on a Monday or Friday, presenting us a long weekend, like it does this year. The last time this happened, in 2011, we decided to do a road trip to New England, despite the threat of heavy traffic on the roads. And boy, what a fabulous trip it was!
Plymouth and Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, Sebago Lake State Park, Bailey’s Island, Acadia National Park, Sand Beach, Cadillac Mountain, and Bar Harbor in Maine… that was our travel plan. We were four of us on the trip, all walking enthusiasts, of course some more so than others.
Plymouth town is named after Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts, the first New England settlement by the immigrants from England who sailed on the ship Mayflower. Several prominent citizens of the 18th and 19th centuries are associated with this town.
At 6,288 ft Mount Washington is the highest peak in the north eastern United States. Can you believe, Giovanni da Verrazzano – of the Verrazzano Narrows fame – noticed the mountain from the Atlantic Ocean in 1524 and wrote about it?
Intending travellers are warned of the tricky climb up the mountain at the beginning of the road.
The views from the car windows are awesome to say the least. As the road goes up, layer upon layer of mountain ranges unfold beneath. And the vegetation grows scantier, ending in miniature plants and evergreens. As you reach the top, the only vegetation to be seen are the lichen clinging to the rocks.
For 76 years till 2010, Mt. Washington held the record for the highest wind gust directly measured at the Earth’s surface, at 231 miles per hour, recorded by the weather observatory at the top, on April 12, 1934.
The Mount Washington Cog Railway, the world’s first mountain-climbing cog railway, is still in operation, though we did not have the time to ride on it! 🙁
Also, several hiking trails go up the mountain. These trails provide spectacular views of the surrounding ravines and mountains. Plans for another day!
The Lakes Region of Maine consists of more than 50 lakes, of which Sebago Lake is the largest. The lake has several beaches suitable for activities like boating and camping. Also, the Sebago Lake State Park has hiking and biking facilities as well.
As our plan was focused more on sightseeing than activities on this trip, we continued on to Bailey Island, which is located at the end of one of those finger like protrusions into the Casco Bay to the south of Maine.
The drive to Bailey Island, along the Harpswell Island Road, is one of the most beautiful ones I have ever been on… the two-lane road passes over beautiful bridges and presents a view of the water at all times, sometimes on both sides of the road.
The shores are rocky, with spreading green meadows and lawns going up the shore line. And houses like picture post cards!
No trip to Maine is complete without at least one encounter with the lobster! And the lobster did not disappoint… I do believe there is something really special about eating a lobster in Maine!
We drove till the end of Bailey Island, which spot offers a wide view of the waters and some of the surrounding islands.
To be continued…
27 Jun 2014