Boston, Massachusetts – Travel Review
Balls, Bayonets and Boiled Treats in Boston
by Richard Jones
There are three things that I love about Boston and Massachusetts – the sport, the history and the food. It is home to some of America’s most successful baseball, football, basketball and hockey teams, there are countless sites of US historical significance and its fresh seafood dishes are unrivalled anywhere around the world.
After visiting Boston, the majority of tourists tend to head south to the honey traps of Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard. However, my wife Rachel and I made a beeline for the lesser-known Cape Ann north of the city, where we found adventure, culture and a few seafood surprises.
New England is just six hours from the UK. Thanks to Norwegian’s low-cost route from Gatwick to Boston Logan, the transatlantic trip can be both inexpensive and comfortable. We arrive in Boston on a steamy Saturday evening, and check into our hotel for the next two nights, the swish Hotel Commonwealth. Proudly boasting to be the Red Sox’s official hotel, the Commonwealth’s beds are the nearest you will find to Fenway Park’s legendary 11m-high wall the Green Monster without actually pitching a tent in its left field.
The next day we explore Boston itself. The best way of getting around the so-called Walking City is via the Freedom Trail – a 2.5 mile-long red brick path that takes in 16 of its major historical sites, including Massachusetts State House, Site of the Boston Massacre and Faneuil Hall. The trail also passes by the front of Union Oyster House – the oldest restaurant in America and a favourite haunt of JFK.
The owner Joseph Milano takes Rachel and I on a short tour before showing us to our seat for lunch – booth No.18, aka The Kennedy Booth, where we gulp down some of his world famous oysters, lobster rolls and clam chowder. Later, after walking back through Boston Common to our hotel, we head out for an evening of food, drinks and banter at Dick’s Last Resort Comedy Club in Quincy Market.
The next day, we pick up our hire car from a Hertz pick-up point and head up the US-1 and MA-128 for Cape Ann.
Our first stop is the magnificent Great House on the Crane Estate in Ipswich which was the summer retreat of Chicago industrialist Richard T Crane Jr and used as the exterior of the Lenox Mansion in 1987 film The Witches of Eastwick.
Cape Ann is made up from five towns, and as we drive through the second, Essex, we stumble upon a seafood surprise. Over 100 years ago, Lawrence ‘Chubby’ Woodman fried up a few clams on the side of the road as a way of making a few cents. New England delicacy the fried clam was born, and now, five generations later, his grandson Steve is still serving up the molluscs and other treats at their restaurant Woodman’s of Essex.
Just down the road from Essex is America’s oldest seaport, Gloucester. The nautical Beauport Hotel, with its wonderful seafront restaurant and pool deck and bar that stays open until late is a perfect base from which to embark on one of the highlights of the trip the next morning – a voyage on board 7 Seas Whale Watch’s Privateer IV boat.
We have already seen cormorants, a harbour seal and a minke whale during our first two hours out in the Atlantic, but we are on tenterhooks waiting for our first glimpse of humpbacks. Then, the captain on board the ship shouts: “Port side, left side of the ship”
Rachel and I rush over and catch our first glimpse of a pair of the mammals, spraying water from their blowholes and turning over, before, with a swish of their massive tail fins, gracefully diving for their next meal into the blue abyss.
Back on dry land, we have a reservation at Gloucester House, and are joined for a quick chat by the restaurant’s owner and raconteur Lenny Linquata. As riveting as Lenny’s tales are, I can’t help but be distracted by what the server places in front of me – a bright orange one-and-a-half-pound boiled lobster.
Lenny then begins his lobster-dissecting tutorial: “Break the claws off… throw that bit away… get stuck right in there, but don’t beat it up”.
During our final our last two days in Massachusetts, we learn even more about the state’s role in American history. In industrial Lowell, we embark on a boat ride in the National Park, before taking a tour of the water-powered Boott Cotton Mill Museum, viewing the displays at The New England Quilt Museum, and meeting Sara Bogosian, President of the Whistler House Museum of Art.
Modern-day Lowell is an artsy and multi-cultural city, with a great array of food and drink from around the world. We have tasty shish kebabs for lunch at the Athenian Corner on Market Street, before heading down to El Potro on Merrimack St for spicy fajitas washed down with cold Coronas.
Our second-to-last hotel for the week is the Stonehedge Inn & Spa on the New Hampshire border which is perfect for a relaxing stopover before our final destination, Lexington, the town some consider as the birthplace of America.
During the hour-long Liberty Ride trolley bus trip with a costumed guide named Pat, we learn about the events of April 19, 1775, when the ‘shot that was heard around the world’ changed everything.
In the afternoon, we visit two very different but equally fascinating houses. Firstly, the home of influential architect Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus design school, and then the Louisa May Alcott Orchard House which was the long-time home of the Little Women author.
With the midsummer Massachusetts heat taking its toll, Rachel and I cool down with a swim in the 102-foot deep glacial kettle-hole Walden Pond. Then, last but certainly not least, we head to The Inn Hastings Park, a boutique property just footsteps away from Lexington’s revered Battle Green. Recently voted one of the top 100 hotels in America, The Inn is something special, as is the delectable cuisine prepared in its elegant restaurant, Artistry on the Green.
It has been a week of amazing seafood, fascinating history and great sporting action – our adopted team, the Red Sox, are on TV in the bar most nights. To top it all off, during our journey to the airport we see signs for the Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. We remember reigning Super Bowl champs the New England Patriots are holding a Training Camp and call in to catch a glimpse of NFL legend Tom Brady and his bunch being put through their pre-season paces.
At the risk of mixing up my baseball and football jargon, I guess you can call that a home run bonus.
Richard Jones and his wife Rachel flew with Norwegian who operate a four times weekly direct service between London Gatwick and Boston Logan International Airport on brand-new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. Economy fares start from £140 one-way/£220 return and £400 one way/£720 return in Premium. Visit norwegian.com/uk
For car hire and inspiration on road trips check out the new Hertz Road Planner destination guide at hertz.co.uk