Welcome to the second part of Leah’s American adventure! Confused? You can read Part One here.
Monday, 14th December
Today has been a day of travel and no friends. I was a little nervous about today as I know that I can be a bit incompetent when it comes to anything practical. I’m pleased to report that I have managed to make it to Boston in one piece, having navigated the New York subway, an Amtrak train, the T (Boston subway) and my way to my Airbnb, located on the dreamily named Wonderland metro line. Acquiring friends has been less successful: I temporarily befriended a very obese man on the train by delivering his rubbish (trash) to the bin (trash can) on a number of occasions throughout the four hour journey and I have made acquaintances with a Brazilian couple staying at my Airbnb. Having made a token effort to be sociable and in the process forced to watch That 70s Show, I ventured outside to a convenience store where I found some pretty questionable pre packaged baked goods. I had planned to go and eat crabs alone, but I always find venturing out tricky when you arrive in the dark and don’t know the neighbourhood. From my brief trip outside, it did feel pretty safe (it’s an Hispanic neighbourhood in East Boston). I retreated to my room as there was good wifi and I felt like watching a movie and getting an early night to compensate for the work Christmas party/mosquito deficit.
Tuesday, 15th December
Today, I followed the slightly pretentious (and excellent) Wallpaper Guide to Boston almost to the letter. Their 24 Hour sections are usually really good and take away the often debilitating tyranny of touristic choice in a big city. I took the long subway ride to Columbus Avenue, dreaming of eggs over easy in a classic American diner. Unfortunately, the cardboard boxes lining the windows of Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe shattered my breakfast dreams and I walked away, heartbroken and hungry (it did look as though Charlie’s was undergoing a refurb so you should totally check it out if you’re in Boston in 2016)*. Dusting myself off in the beautiful Boston sunshine, I headed to the JFK Presidential Library & Museum, a library visit always guaranteed to enliven the senses. As well as looking spectacular on the outside, the museum was very inspiring and brought to life everyone’s favourite dreamy American president (and Boston native). After seriously considering a career in politics and befriending a German physician who gave me an apple, I headed to Cambridge to visit the MIT Visual Arts Center for some challenging installation art. The current exhibition is Rosa Barba: The Color Out of Space, comprising films, sculptures and text. I was delighted to enter a room filled with mini projectors and multilayered text (mimicking the appearance of a celluloid projector). The showstopper was a series of images of stars and planets projected through coloured glass panels with voice over reflections on the nature of the universe.
The day ended with a stroll through Boston Common, some giant frogs and a walking tour. I was a little dubious as the only tour available had guides dressed in 18th Century garb, but it was actually really good to learn more about Boston life and those awful colonial Brits. At the end of the tour, I went to the Cheers Bar with an Australian girl called Izzy. It was good to visit but a bit of a rip off. All was forgiven when I caught sight of Marky Mark on the TV in the bar. Mark Wahlberg? In Boston? What could be more exciting?! After listening to me drone on about New Kids on the Block/The Funky Bunch/90s pop for some time, amazingly Izzy agreed to accompany me to The Barking Crab (tagline: “We think everyone should have crabs!”) and we donned our super touristy crab bibs and ate crabs and drank rum late into the night. Thanks to Jo (of She & Hem fame) for the crab recommendation. The crab bibs made it feel like I was in a 90s American movie and the location on the beautiful harbourside provided dazzling views of the lights of Beantown. Fun tip: an apple a day keeps the doctor away.
Wednesday, 16th December
I was excited to return to the bright lights of NYC, realising that trip time was slipping away and there was probably enough things on my wish list to take up a few months. I boarded the express train to Washington and marvelled as small town America glided by. We had to change trains due to a power outage so ended up on a slow, local train rerouted to Grand Central Station. Though I arrived later than anticipated, I absolutely love it at Grand Central. It’s so so beautiful and awe inspiring yet similarly busy and stressful, which elicits a strange feeling of serenity coupled with panic. Part of me wanted to stay for hours taking photographs and the other part wanted to get out of there as quickly as humanly possible. Unfortunately the stress of people colliding with me and my heavy suitcase won out and I made a hasty getaway.
I arrived at my home for the night as the sun was setting. As I wheeled my suitcase along the city streets it dawned upon me that I was in New York City, maybe that’s what being in Manhattan does to you. Such a realisation was followed by a sudden pang to get back to Brooklyn (I get attached easily) so I checked in at the Jane Hotel (a former residence for sailors with cabin-like rooms and staff are dressed as bellhops!) and jumped on the L train to Williamsburg, an area scathingly described by my Park Slope residing buddy as “a shanty”.
I went to the achingly cool Nitehawk Cinema where you can order food (themed to the movie, no less) and cocktails right to your cinema seat. The last time I had experienced such a wonder was at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin, Texas. Unfortunately, I was very very “tired and emotional” and was ejected from a screening of The Aristocrats for supplying minors with alcohol (they were only a couple of years younger than me). Anyway, I digress. Though I had a great time, I think I would get very annoyed with all the food/drink serving interruptions if I’d actually cared about the film I was watching. Not that I didn’t enjoy Trumbo (with my Communism 101 Sandwich and The Driver cocktail laced with Gosling’s Rum), but it didn’t set my world on fire. I still wish we had a Nitehawk in Bristol. The bar was also magnificently cool.
To be continued….
….but in the meantime why not follow Leah on Instagram xx
*Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe closed permanently in 2014 after 87 years of sandwich related success. Worst news – Jo