Back to Boston

Baggage drop, passport control, security check, boarding time…. They mean one thing: travelling.

It takes 2.5 hours to fly to Keflavik (Iceland) from Glasgow (Scotland) and another 5.5 hours from Keflavik to Boston (Massachusetts, USA). Then I am in Boston.

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I am staying with a friend who lives nearby but I am going to spend few days in the city. Last year when I visited Boston for the first time I did not have much time to explore the city. However, it already feels somewhat familiar. I recognize the holocaust memorial. That is the Faneuil hall. Last time I found tourist information there. That is where I will get a map! That is where they have free toilets!

With a map, it is easy to get around. Boston area is huge but the centre area is not that big. One hot and sunny day I walk from Mid-Cambridge to MIT campus, over the bridge to Copley Square and Boston Common and all the way back to Harvard. It is a lot of walking but totally possible.

Last year I walked the freedom trail (which is marked on the pavement with red and white tiles so it is easy to follow), so I am skipping it this time. But I think it is a good way to start the visit and see the centre, North End and East Boston.

I find some great used bookstores from Harvard as well as right next to the financial centre in the downtown. Those quiet but relaxed bookstores are a good way to escape the noisy streets. Of course, there are shops like H&M and Primark as well if they sound more interesting (I visited them because of the toilets).

Even though I sometimes find it hard to find nice cafes (Dunkin Donuts is not a nice cafe) from big cities in the US they do exist. Tatte’s bakery (there are few of them located around the city) has amazing pistachio croissants, as well as tons of other delicious looking things, and fine cold brew coffee. Sadly, the coffee, just like in every other American cafe, is served in a plastic cup. It makes me feel that I am not invited to sit down but should take my coffee and get lost. Rude.

Despite my fondness of walking, the next day I take a subway to Harvard from the city centre. I want to roam around that area a little bit more but I want to save my feet as well. Harvard is nice: low buildings, gorgeous wooden houses and little shops. The university is obviously the main place to visit in Harvard. There is no more teaching this spring. Therefore, there are not many students on campus but it is still fairly busy: the tourists have taken over. I merge into a campus tour that is led by a Harvardian. The tour is quite pricy (10$) but at least I learn some historical information alongside the student jokes as I walk between the red brick buildings.

I’m sure that visiting Harvard and MIT campuses and spending hours in Boston Public Library (which has a beautiful great hall and offers a free architectural tour) increases intelligence. That is where the successful people like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, F.D. Roosevelt, Henry Kissinger, Natalia Portman, (etc.) come from and all the knowledge is stored. I am hopeful that some of that wisdom might have leaked out and stuck to my brain. So perhaps this is an educational holiday?

Windy Linlithgow and its Cool Palace

My hair flutters around my face, sneaks into my mouth and tangles in my neck when I reach out of a window. The wind blows from the loch where a group of brave fishermen hunch in their small boats. It blows over the green neatly cut grassy fields pushing and pulling the dog walkers and making the tourists quiver. I retrieve from the window and move to the cover of the big stone walls. The stones are cold and the room I stand in provides no warmth as the fire that used to light the fireplaces has burned dead years ago. There is an interesting looking passage on the right corner: narrow corridor with low ceiling leads to darkness. Maybe that will take me to the cellars or maybe I’ll find another kitchen from the other end. A pigeon flies past me and somewhere in the darkness its friend calls after him.

The ruin of the Linlithgow Palace is an interesting and fun day trip destination. The admission is not as painfully high as for Edinburgh or Stirling castle: only £5.50. The Royal Palace is, of course, a ruin so it does not have as much to offer as the big castles, but here you can wander around freely without having to stand in line or steer through annoying crowds. My friend and I explored the rooms, corridors and stairways like little children (I think kids will like this place even more than I did), dark cellars, small corners, and he great hall were all accessible. The lady at the entrance advised us to tour the ruins in chronological order starting from the oldest part of the palace, which was built in the 1400s, following the information signs and ending our visit to the newer parts and then climbing up to the tower with a view over the town. We got astray from that route after the second room. But that is the beauty of the palace. No “wrong ways” and no “keep out” signs or “do not lean” commands.

Had the day been a bit sunnier it would have been lovely to go to the park next to the Palace and have a little picnic on the grass. Unfortunately, it was insanely windy and rather cold, so we decided to visit Linlithgow’s shops and cafes. We got rid of chills and cold fingers with hot tea and sweet cakes at Vintage Tearoom. Even though the town is small it has nice cafes and we found some strange shops full of random stuff. We also got a glimpse of a wedding party that was celebrating a spring wedding at the St Michael’s Paris Church. Cherry blossoms, bagpiper and dressy people. Quite a nice place.