Goodbye LA, Hello Boston

The trolley-car trip round Hollywood was very good and our driver entertained us all with his skill at doing impersonations and different accents. He was also informative and we were treated to all the Hollywood gossip on our trip past Paramount and Raleigh Studios, Capitol Records, Forever Cemetery (Rudolph Valentino is buried there), The Hollywood Bowl, buildings used in ‘Pretty Woman’, ‘The West Wing’ and ‘Independence Day’, The Chinese Theatre (outside are hand and feet imprints with writing from various stars since the 1930s), the pavement stars with famous names on them (they cost $30,000 each) and we saw the famous Hollywood sign in the Hollywood Hills. It was a good day.

The following day was not so good. We made an early morning drive to Long Beach airport to drop the car off to discover there was no free shuttle to John Wayne airport, Santa Ana and we had to fork out another $45 for a shuttle. Our flight to Dallas was delayed, which meant a frantic dash across the airport for our connecting flight to Boston. We were nearly the last on board and there was no overhead space for our ‘carry-on’ luggage so I had to empty the contents of one bag and stuff my camera, laptop, medication and kagoule into odd spaces and my small suitcase under the seat in front of me, with my feet on top. Not a comfortable ride for 3 hours 25 mins but at least we were on the plane.

Landing was fine and we stood in the queue for taxis, noticing that without exception they were all driven by what looked like North Africans who spoke French. I found this quite odd as most taxi ranks I’ve waited at during my lifetime have always had an ethnic mix of drivers, even if they have favoured a particular one. Anyway, our driver took us by a detoured route as one of the tunnels was closed and spoke to a friend on the phone the whole journey.

This was not a good introduction to the city. And our evening got worse when we punched in the code to get into the apartment block to discover there was no room ready for us and no key left. After 3 phones calls Pat finally managed to get hold of the night manager who was on his day off and he immediately came down and sorted us out but by then I was feeling travel sick, tired and grumpy. When we got into an apartment I fell into bed only to wake a couple of hours later freezing cold. The aircon had come on but the temperature was already low in the apartment and I didn’t have a blanket. Needless to say I had very little sleep after that.

Our complete invisibility to the taxi driver was also apparent in stores when we were being served and the staff chattered away to each other in Spanish or French, completely ignoring us. But the worst example was when I went into a bank to change travellers’ cheques and the (white, American) female cashier was ordering onion bagels while she served me, to the point of absolute rudeness. We’d never encountered this before and don’t know if it’s peculiar to Boston, or whether we’ve just been lucky with the ‘How are you ladies today?’ and ‘My name is ….. and I’ll be looking after you’ along with ‘Can I help you?’ by complete strangers on the street when we’ve been looking at a map.

So what do I think of the city after 3 days here? It’s pretty, well designed in terms of green areas, fountains, parks, markets and shopping areas, has some beautiful buildings and lots of varieties of food more in tune with our tastes – Ethiopian, Middle-Eastern, French, Italian, Turkish and Organic with very few burger bars, diners or drive-ins. And before someone stomps all over me and says ‘You’re in America now, eat the food!’ I have to say that this is a very good principle to use when travelling. However, if the food makes you ill then you have to re-think what you can have – being reduced to only being able to stomach a side order of baked potato to get away from all that wheat, fat, red meat and everything slathered in sauces or sugar is not a nice experience.

Today we went to an Italian restaurant on Salem Street that was recommended by a concierge from Santa Monica we met when asking him about buses and they did everything in both wheat and gluten-free options! The food was delicious (we shared a fabulous pizza that we haven’t been able to eat for years as we both have wheat intolerances) and sat downstairs in a huge open window they close in the evenings. I spent the most luxuriously relaxed hour eating since I left home, not having to worry the food will make me ill.

What I’ve noticed walking round is that there are very few obese people to be seen, unlike some States where they are in the majority. The emphasis here seems to be on healthy eating and healthy lifestyles. There are farmers’ organic markets, ethical artisan markets and lots and lots of beautiful flower markets. You see young people out power-walking their dogs, children in pushchairs or just on their own. The streets offer shade that enables people to this and everywhere people are walking, not driving to out-of-town malls and then home again, living in air conditioning because of the heat.

We have loved exploring the streets and tree-lined avenues, at first because museums and tourist attractions are very expensive (at least $28 each) with 1-hour city tours coming in at nearly $60. However, we discovered that everything is close to hand, there is a pavement cafe lifestyle we love but haven’t experienced anywhere else we’ve been in the States, (probably because of the heat again) and the traffic is less than you find in lots of other cities outside the USA. The transport system is easy to follow, within easy reach and runs frequently, the weather has been warm and sunny and we’ve had a brilliant time. Boston, to me, is a city with a soul and whilst I don’t ‘do’ much city travel, preferring raw wildernesses and exotic lands, this is a place I could come back to.

Did I leave anything out?

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