Sisters Abroad: Boston

The line outside of MIke's Pastry was around the block the entire afternoon of our visit to Boston.
The line outside of MIke’s Pastry was around the block the entire afternoon of our visit to Boston. When I asked someone if it was worth the wait, I was assured it was.

I consider traveling to be an essential part of my continuing education. Seeing places I’ve never seen are a higher priority for me than having new clothes each season, buying a big car or owning a McMansion. I don’t need to travel first class as long as I get to travel and observe people in different locations and cultures.

Last winter when I sold my condo, I saved back a small portion of the money to go to Ireland. My sister, Claire, and I had traveled to Italy together in 2013, so, we made our plans to travel to Ireland this year. I found a great bargain on a trip to Ireland and we decided to spend a couple of days in Boston on our way over.

I am a grown, some might say aging, adult, but being the youngest child, I left all the planning to my sister, the oldest child in our family. Not only do I trust her, I’m just not very good at doing the research necessary for a successful trip. I wasn’t given the patience and I have chosen not to acquire that particular skill-set. Claire made all the plans and reserved all the rooms for us. In case I forgot to say it earlier: Thanks Claire, for taking all that on.

October seemed forever away when we made our plans last March, but time, as it usually does, flew by. In what seemed like a few weeks after we booked the trip, our travel date came and we left on our trip on October 10th of this year. I’ve tried to figure out how to put almost two weeks of traveling into one post, and I just can’t do it. This post is going to focus on our trip to Boston.

I am amazed that even with the efficiency of modern air travel; it still always takes an entire day for traveling. Our flights went relatively smoothly, but it seems you always have either too much time between flights or you are running at a breakneck speed through the airport to catch your connecting flight. This trip was filled with the latter. It left us exhausted, and we decided to spend our first night in the hotel, recuperating.

On our first full day in Boston, we took the subway train, or “T,” into downtown Boston on what was the first of many beautiful sunny days on this trip. Kansas City does not have a subway, so it was a novel experience for me to be on one. It was interesting to observe where society has gone in regards to mass transit etiquette. I hadn’t been on the train long when I realized that there were lots of young people sitting while blandly looking older men and women in the eye. I am a healthy 57 and it didn’t bother me for myself, but I was appalled that no one offered their seat to some of the older people who were obviously not as firm.

On that same subway car, there was an elderly gentleman in a wheelchair. He was friendly and moved his chair to the end of the train car to be out of everyone’s way. When the train came to the final exit, most of the people were able to leave the car without any problem. However, the last half dozen or so of us all tried to step out of the way so the handicapped gentleman could make his way off the train.  The on-boarding passengers took advantage of that moment of hesitation and started swarming into the train. All of us still on the train started yelling at them to let the gentleman in the wheelchair get off the train. Finally two of us blocked the entrance so no one else could get on, then everyone left in the train car exited after the wheelchair and its occupant had gotten off safely. I gotta tell you, I wasn’t real impressed by that level of discourtesy.

Even though Claire had surgery on her back only six weeks earlier, we are both dedicated walkers, so we spent almost the entire day walking. What we hadn’t thought of when we made our plans was that we would be in Boston on Columbus Day. Living in the Midwest, we are used to Columbus Day just being another day on the calendar with the only real observation being that no mail is delivered. In Boston, especially in the part of town where the Italian immigrants settled, Columbus Day is a huge celebration with a parade that happened to wind through all the parts of town we were walking through. Fortunately, we chose to look at the parade as an opportunity to join in the celebration instead of considering it a hindrance to our agenda.

We saw lots of historical places during our first day, but I was most effected by what we saw when we went to Old North Church. Old North Church is the church immortalized by Henry W. Longfellow, with the phrase “One, if by land, and two, if by sea” in his poem, Paul Revere’s Ride. It was a reference to the secret signal orchestrated by Revere during his historic ride from Boston to Concord on the verge of American Revolutionary War. However, what will always stay with me is the vision of a display outside the church. It was a simple 3-panel display that had hundreds of dog tags of deceased soldiers from Iran and Afghanistan. The dog tags sparkled and danced in the sunshine, but all I could think of was the feel those dog tags against the once warm skin of those now deceased young men. It was chilling.

In the interest of fairness, I do have to report that on the subway back a young woman asked my sister if she’d like her seat. This was the first time on either subway trip that such a simple courtesy had been extended. However, since I had pointed out the absence of courtesy earlier, we confused the young woman by bursting out laughing when she made her very kind offer. Even she shook her head when we explained to her why we were laughing. I understand that the argument could be made that routinely offering a lady a seat went out of style when “women’s lib” took over, but I don’t buy it. Courtesy never goes out of style and I can’t believe the respect for the elderly has so fallen out of grace.

We had a later afternoon flight out of Boston on our last day. We once again went to downtown Boston, but we were both well aware that our hearts and minds were already moving forward to Ireland. After we’d wasted enough time, we went back to the hotel and got ready for the overnight flight to the Emerald Isle.

Next week, there will be more about our trip and the thrills and chills of driving on the “wrong” side of the road. On purpose.


What are your thoughts?