11 and 12 October 2014
The busy and vibrant Quincy’s Market in Boston
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Another 8am start for our two day coach tour to Boston and Rhode Island. The morning was cooler with drizzling rain that continued as we drove from New York State, through Connecticut and then through the Massachusett Turnpike, and Boston. I don’t think the coach driver turned off the windscreen wipers for most of the trip, and for a start the traffic was extremely heavy, but it didn’t spoil the wonderful views we had of the autumn trees that continuously lined the road, and the hills beyond. The leaves ranged from the palest yellow to gold, burgundy to russet, contrasting beautifully with the varying hues of the evergreens, and presenting autumn in all its glory.
As we approached our first destination the rain started to ease as the famous Quincy’s Market came into sight. This was to be our lunch stop, having made a restroom stop along the way allowing us to buy some snacks and coffees. The Markets were very crowded, the food hall was difficult to manouvre our way through let alone find a table. The number of food stalls and choices of food was daunting but we finally decided on a warm beef sandwich. It was actually nothing like our beef sandwich with thinly sliced beef – the meat is placed into a machine that does not slice the meat, but shreds it. The meat is then rolled into a ball and plonked into the middle of the lettuce on the sandwich, any other accompaniments such as tomato, sauce, mayonnaise etc is added, so the finished sandwich was about 2 inches high in the middle! I’m not used to eating so much food and could manage about a quarter of the sandwich before the rest was in the bin! We need to get used to the way food is served here, and how to order what we want!
Another of the Quincy market buildings (left), and one of several colourful flower pots
We had the opportunity to wander through the markets where there were so many items for sale – souvenirs, clothing, jewellery, food, food and more food! There are atleast three large buildings that comprise the markets, together with numerous outdoor stalls.
Our tour guide then rounded us up for our cruise around Boston Harbour, which was great. The weather had cleared, and we had glorious views of the Boston skyline. After the cruise finished we were able to meander through the city which has wonderful parks and gardens and fountains.
The city of Boston, Massachusetts from Back Bay
Boston is the capital and largest city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The largest city in New England, the city had an estimated population of 645,966 in 2014, making it the 24th largest city in the United States. The city is the anchor of a substantially larger metropolitan area called Greater Boston, home to 4.5 million people. Greater Boston as a commuting region is home to 7.6 million people, making it the sixth largest Combined Statistical Area in the USA.
One of the oldest cities in the United States, Boston was founded on the Shawmut Peninsula in 1630 by Puritan colonists from England. It was the scene of several key events of the American Revolution, such as the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, the Battle of Bunker Hill, and the Siege of Boston. Upon American independence from Great Britain, the city continued to be an important port and manufacturing hub, as well as a centre for education and culture. Through land reclamation and municipal annexation, Boston has expanded beyond the original peninsula. Its rich history helps attract many tourists, with Faneuil Hall (part of the Quincy Markets) alone attracting over 20 million visitors. Boston’s many “firsts” include the United States’ first public school, Boston Latin School (1635), and first subway system (1897).
Beautiful fountain in a park in Boston, Massachussetts
Our next stop was Harvard University, a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge Massachusetts, established 1636. Its history, influence and wealth have made it one of the most prestigious universities in the world. I loved all the old buildings and feeling the history of a university that has been in existence for so long. After about an hour exploring, we moved on to see the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) a private research university in Cambridge, founded in 1861 in response to the increasing industrialisation of the United States. Today, the Institute comprises various academic departments with a strong emphasis on scientific, engineering, and technological education and research. MIT is considered one of the world’s leading institutions for the study and research of the physical sciences, mathematics, and engineering.
The sedate Widener Memorial Library in the grounds of Harvard University
The grand entrance to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the campus buildings opposite
Nearing the end of the day we were pleased to hear that our tour guide had organised a Chinese banquet for us including a lobster each. The meal was very good, but I had difficulty in pulling apart a rather large lobster, and only managed to extract the tasty meat from the tail. Another long day and we were pleased to get settled in the hotel, excited about our trip to Newport Rhode Island tomorrow to see The Breakers Mansion formerly owned by the Vanderbilt family.
Some of the delicious Chinese banquet including the lobster
We stayed overnight at the Quality Inn Sturbridge, and were up with the birds (again!) for the day’s attractions. The morning was cool and crisp, and it was quite misty so early in the morning. As we approached Rhode Island we could see that a marathon was in progress so some of the streets had been closed off for the runners, and our bus driver had to find alternate routes. Eventually we arrived at the car park that accommodates the numerous tourist buses and visitors’ cars that come to see the massive Breakers mansion, the Rhode Island summer residence of the Vanderbilt family.
The Breakers is the grandest of Newport’s summer “cottages” and a symbol of the Vanderbilt family’s social and financial preeminence in turn of the century America. Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877) established the family fortune in steamships and later in the New York Central Railroad, which was a pivotal development in the industrial growth of the nation during the late 19th century.
The Commodore’s grandson, Cornelius Vanderbilt II, became Chairman and President of the New York Central Railroad system in 1885, and purchased a wooden house called The Breakers in Newport during that same year. In 1893, he commissioned architect Richard Morris Hunt to design a villa to replace the earlier wood-framed house which was destroyed by fire the previous year. Hunt directed an international team of craftsmen and artisans to create a 70 room Italian Renaissance- style palazzo inspired by the 16th century palaces of Genoa and Turin. Allard and Sons of Paris assisted Hunt with furnishings and fixtures, Austro-American sculptor Karl Bitter designed relief sculpture, and Boston architect Ogden Codman decorated the family quarters.
The Vanderbilts had seven children. Their youngest daughter, Gladys, who married Count Laszlo Szechenyi of Hungary, inherited the house on her mother’s death in 1934. An ardent supporter of The Preservation Society of Newport County, she opened The Breakers in 1948 to raise funds for the Society. In 1972, the Preservation Society purchased the house from her heirs. Today, the house is designated a National Historic Landmark. No photographs are permitted inside the house, which is absolutely breathtaking in its design and lavish interior.
The rear of the house and the wide plaza that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and beyond. It was the crashing of the waves on the cliffs below the house that gave it its name of “The Breakers”
I really loved the other beautiful houses that we saw around Newport, and would have loved to wander around the streets to see more, however we must keep to the itinerary so I had to be content in snapping some photographs from the bus windows, not always successfully!
It was time to leave the beautiful Rhode Island and return to the mainland to visit our next attraction, the Mystic Aquarium, renowned for its three white Beluga whales. They are beautiful animals who performed well for the audience, especially swimming right up to the glass of the underground pool and getting up close – the kids love it! There are other marine animals such as penguins, seals and sea lions to name a few. We had over an hour to explore, and we took some time to have lunch and rest in the aquarium cafe.
The white Beluga whale, and the friendly penguins who always put on a good show
After lunch we were all rounded up by our efficient tour guide to board the coach as we headed for Yale University, a private Ivy League research university in New Haven Connecticut. Founded in 1701 as the “Collegiate School” by a group of Congregationalist ministers and chartered by the Colony of Connecticut , the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States In 1718, the school was renamed “Yale College” in recognition of a gift from Elihu Yale, a governor of the British East India Company. Established to train Connecticut ministers in theology and sacred languages, by 1777 the school’s curriculum began to incorporate humanities and sciences. During the 19th century Yale gradually incorporated graduate and professional instruction, awarding the first Ph.D. in the United States in 1861 and organizing as a university in 1887.
Again I loved the old buildings and spending time in a place that had been in existence for so many years, so the camera was clicking madly!
Part of the student dormitories at Yale University
Some of the beautiful old buildings at Yale, and our university tour guide under the statue of the founder, Elihu Yale
It was then time to head for New York and our hotel, the Holiday Inn at Soho. The coach stopped for us to have a meal and it was dark as we entered the city. I attempted to take some photos of the city lights which were not very successful from the bus, however I will share with you the best one. Tomorrow we have another early start as we commence our four day coach tour to Niagara Falls and Canada – very excited!
Some of the city lights of New York from the Manhattan Bridge