Friday, August 22, 2008

To Boston and Beyond

Into America, friends and family

An easy off to the airport with the Blue Shuttle though we had to pick up people from three other hotels in Paris. This was accomplished in good time and we were able to spend some time in the business lounge having breakfast, though this was a distance from our flight gate. The airplane configuration was not as spacious as Qantas or Cathay but it worked well, with a video system that was removable from a pocket in the seat in front and had lots of videos on demand. The tray system was good too, with the tray from the side arm meeting up with one from the seat, providing lots of space. I saw “The Other Boleyn Girl” and enjoyed rather good food service. The seat configuration was very adjustable too, with a footrest at the end of the bed, making the trip quite comfortable. We were not to have this level of comfort from American Airlines again.

There was a problem with the Skybridge in Boston and we had to be pushed back and then docked at a different gate, which took time. We picked up an Elantra and drove off for Rockport MA. This is a pretty little coast town, a fishing village originally, and a relaxed place to spend a night, even though it is quite touristic. At least they preserve their coast, with no high rises, though the real estate prices and beautiful and expensive houses on the coastline may help pay for this. We drove around and admired the lovely houses and the unspoiled bays and beaches.

Coast houses and lobster floats

Rockport harbour

The evening in Rockport was spent walking up Bearskin Neck and photographing the harbour, then eating on the patio of a pretty restaurant at the end of the point, My Place by the Sea. We did protest though, when they offered duck breast; too much, too often, in France! The B&B, Lantana House, was comfy and offered traditional beds and decoration and a welcome breakfast in the morning.

We drove back to Boston down the coast, looking at the towns and lovely houses and wondering at the development which was so restrained compared with Australian coast. There were gorgeous houses with gorgeous views and gorgeous boats in the yacht harbour. Maybe it is all available only to the very rich!

Into Boston to a cute B&B called the Oasis. Our room on the ground floor as requested and a lovely lounge and kitchen outside the bedroom door make it almost like our own apartment. Relatively close to the rail system, the MBTA, too. Greatly amused at the Charlie ticket which recalls the Kingston Trio song “The Man who never Returned”. Inquiries revealed it really was named after the song. Good to have a council with a sense of humour! Loved the huge organic supermarket down the end of the street, the kids playing in the fountain of the Church of Christ, Scientist and the street music by the students waiting for admission to their classes in the Berklee School of Music.

We visited the El-Greco to Velasquez exhibition at the Museum of Fine Art, which was a real treat: such glorious light in paintings and a lovely curation to show the development of their influence on later works. The Museum is to be redeveloped too and will lose its classical facade. Maybe that doesn’t matter in the drive to provide suitable exhibition space. I was impressed with their exhibits and we spent some time in the American section as we are not very familiar with that aspect of art.

Josiah McElheny’s “Endlessly Repeating Twentieth Century Modernism”

We were in Boston to celebrate the first wedding anniversary of our son, Cameron and his wife, Christine. Their wedding had been fairly quick as he had been allowed into America on a fiancé visa, where he needed to marry within three months. They had not been able to involve all family, especially those on the East coast, in a West coast wedding.

Note the paper hats, Cam's being traditionally Australian

So we had a great evening at the hotel meeting lots of family, wearing paper hats to celebrate the paper anniversary and eating delicious food from a perpetual buffet. We felt really included and met lots of people from Christine’s side. A warm welcome to her family and, as expected, zany and fun.

After a delightful breakfast with Christine’s dad, we wandered the park in Boston, heading for the Boston Ducks, which are tours on water and land in old army ducks. I understand these are modelled on Sydney ducks but this might be fanciful. Unfortunately for us, they were so in demand we couldn’t get a berth. Seeing them driving round the city I can understand why they are so popular; they look at lots of sights and seem to have lots of fun and adventure. Finishing by going along the pretty Charles River is a nice way to end a tour.

Instead, as it was a hot day, we fell back on wandering the nearby shopping centre which was blissfully air-conditioned, checking out the enormous bookshop and eventually making our way back to our accommodation past the First Church of Christ Scientist which is a very large temple, library, reflection pool and water fountain built as the foundation church according to Mary Baker Eddy’s beliefs. It is not a church we hear much of here, but it is still quite large in America (and not to be confused with Scientology). That evening we went to the waterfront and ate at Legal Sea Foods, a very popular spot with delicious, fresh fish. As you can see, Cam and Christine enjoyed themselves.

To Portland the next day, first surviving a full body pat-down and luggage search at the airport. We must have been persons of interest, but I would rather they over-searched than didn’t check anyone. This flight was when we discovered that “First Class” on American airlines means a slightly wider seat and being served food and drink without having to pay extra. No film or video, no sleeper seats, no use of business class lounges. Most disappointing! We flew via Dallas-Fort Worth as that is the hub of American Airlines so we got to see the vast tracts of flat land surrounding that area and later the huge salt lake that gives Salt Lake City its name. We came into Portland past several volcanos and were to see more in the chain later in the holiday. Most interesting geology!

Our B&B, The Lion and Rose, was a beautiful Victorian/Craftsman style house built for a beer baron and his family, now beautifully kept by Steve and Sandy. Breakfast was an adventure, not only for American food but for a different and dramatic table colour scheme each day using pretty table china and linen. I still have some difficulty with the very sweet side of breakfasts, the sweet French toast or baked puddings, alongside savoury offerings but I guess it is just a cultural thing. At least I tried it!

Breakfast room, Lion and Rose

With Cam and Christine, and driving our flash, black Mustang hire car, we visited the Rose Test Gardens, just past their first flush of blooms but still very lovely and one of the reasons Portland is known as the Rose City, then on to the Pittock Mansion with views out to Mt Hood and Mt Adams, had they not been blocked by haze. Again the rose gardens were beautiful. There were several weddings being photographed and a costumed picnic by the local historical society. Quite Jane Austen apart from the cell phones and digital cameras!

Pittock Mansion

That night we caught up with two of my cousins and their families who live in Portland, meeting their daughters for the first time and having a relaxing evening in a pretty garden while feasting on wild salmon, gourmet sausages and the best and biggest blueberries I have ever seen or tasted. This side of the family is an unexpected and most pleasant new chapter in our lives since Cam moved to the USA.

We finished the night at Council Peak, the highest spot in town, in the twilight, catching the best view yet of some of the volcanos.

Mt St Helens in the twilight

Over the next days we did over Macys, visited several parks around the city with glorious redwoods and maple trees, and ate at the Widmer Gasthaus and a place called Lovely Hula Hands. I can never tell how much food will be on my plate. An appetiser was more than enough at the Gasthaus and a main course and dessert was just right at Lovely Hula Hands. Still, that can happen in Australia too, with steaks bigger than a plate or dainty morsels a la cuisine minceur.

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