Boston:

A nice old city which we really enjoyed, although poor weather really prevented us from

seeing as much as we would have liked to.  What a change in climate!  We went from

about 85 degrees in NYC to low 50s here, accompanied by thunderstorms and rain.

The first day we drove out to the coast at Rockport.  Very scenic, typically New England

seaside towns along the way.  Couldn't stay long though as there was a biting wind with

driving rain and it was most unpleasant weather.  A bit like Canberra on the worst winter days.

Now we know why our hotel's outdoor pool is still closed, despite it being Memorial Day

next weekend which marks the unofficial start of summer here!  At least they have an indoor

one as well...

 

We also visited the ‘Witch Museum’ at Salem – not bad, reminded me of having studied

‘The Crucible’ in high school.

 

The American institution of the graduation season was in full swing, which meant we had to

stay further out than we had planned.  This was one of those variables which we had failed

to take into account in leaving the booking of accommodation in Boston until the last minute.

Boston is one of the great centres of higher education in the ‘States, and you can imagine how

many people must descend on Boston at this time of year.

 

By the way, when we were in Washington earlier, the graduation season was also upon us,

and we observed big parties in restaurants, as well as smaller family groups out celebrating.

When we went to the White House to get some photos, it was very crowded with graduates

in their hats etc, and their families, getting their photos taken in front of the White House. 

I assume this must be something of a tradition in DC, a town which hosts George Washington

University along with many others.
 
Anyway, we found somewhere decent at Danvers, MA, although we had to drive to the

subway station (Wonderland, I think) to get into the city of Boston.

 

We walked the 'Freedom Trail', basically a red line on the sidewalk or a line of special

paving bricks in the road which leads visitors between the historic sights in Boston relating to the

Revolutionary War.  We visited Paul Revere's house, the church from which he hung the famous

lanterns to warn of the British advance on Concord, the site of the Boston Tea Party and the

hall outside which the Boston Massacre took place and from the balcony of which the Declaration

of Independence was later read out.  Also various old graveyards, with some graves dating back

as far as the late 1600s.  As we have commented earlier, it’s quite touching how the Americans

seem to treasure their heritage much more than Australians do. As you’ll see in the photos, people

had placed little US flags next to the graves of famous revolutionary war heroes such as Paul Revere,

Samuel Adams and others.


Later, on the way out of town we drove through the Cambridge area in which Harvard is located.
 
Boston is being disrupted at present by the 'Big Dig', the largest civil engineering project in the

US, at $12B.  It involves building another tunnel under the harbour to the airport, and is something

like the Sydney cross-city tunnel, but on a much larger scale.

 

 

Salem Witch Museum

 

1688 Grave, Boston

 

‘Old South’ Church, Boston

 

Paul Revere's Grave, Boston

 

Paul Revere's House, Boston

 

Samuel Adams' Grave, Boston

 

 

Fanueuil Hall, Boston

 

Boston Street Scene

 

USS Constitution

 

Ben Franklin Memorial, Boston

 

Plymouth, MA – Wearing a very unpopular Yankees hat –

(The old Red Sox/Yankees thing)

 

 

At Plymouth Rock.  Where it all started in 1620. Another friendly

American who offered to take a photo with all of us in it.  Only thing

was he pretended to be stealing our camera and started to run off –

he had us going there for a few seconds!

 

 

The actual Plymouth Rock, so they say...

 

Cape Cod:
 
A lovely place, although it took us forever to drive it from Boston (terrible weather at the time).

It is much further than it looks on maps, especially when you consider the small roads that

you must drive on up to the Cape. We had extremely bad weather, but eventually made it all

the way to Provincetown, at the tip of Cape Cod.  P-Town, as they call it, is possibly the

gayest small town in North America, notwithstanding some stiff (sorry) competition from the

likes of Key West, Florida.

You might have read of the controversy over here about gay marriage.  P-Town is at the

centre of this issue, as it has seen an influx of gay couples from all over North America

seeking to marry, since a local court decided it was legal to do so.  Just in the last few weeks

(May, 2004) I think, the Massachusetts Supreme Court has officially allowed gay marriage,

although the different localities have brought in a rule that they will only do it for Massachusetts

residents, thus preventing a flood of couples from interstate and possibly heading off federal

intervention, given the Bush Administration's fierce opposition to the concept.

P-Town is a typical very pretty New England seaside town, with architecture to suit, although

as I say had something of the atmosphere of a Byron Bay or Nimbin.  Places like jewellers

and cake shops were openly advertising to the gay community, with one ad showing a man on

bended knee proposing to another man.  Very left-wing in its politics - anti Bush T-shirts and

trinkets ridiculing and attacking him are in every shop window.  Bush is widely disliked in the gay

community for his attempts to prevent them being able to marry. He is trying to promote an

amendment to the Constitution to define marriage as being between a man and a woman.

Amending the US constitution is no easy matter, and some think he is raising this more

as a political tactic to energize his base among the ‘religious right-wing’ than with any real hope

of getting the amendment through.

Anyway, it was interesting as an Australian to drive into towns that were founded in 1650 - no big

deal to a European, perhaps, but considerably more ancient than our country.
 

 

The Gay Marriage Capital of the USA – Provincetown, MA

 

 

 

 

Main Street, Provincetown MA (Cape Cod)

 

More Provincetown

 

Kite Shop on Beach, Cape Cod

 

Montreal :
 
Je dois dire que les Quebecois ont vraiment gagné leur lutte pour la langue Francais en

Quebec. Un grand change depuis '77, je pense...Tout le monde peut parler bien Anglais

aussi Francais.  C'est le meme chose avec les gens des autre pays, pour example les

Chinoises et divers immigrants.

Anyway, very poor French, I am sure, but Montreal was an interesting place.  It is

much more French than I remembered it from our year there in 1976-77.  We were told

by an Anglophone shop owner in the Old City, who had grown up in NDG near where

we lived, that it was impossible for anyone now to work in Montreal, at any level from

garbageman to doctor, without being able to speak French.  She approved of this, and

was proud that her daughters spoke much better French than she did.  I reminisced with

her about how hostile many of my classmates were to learning French in the mid-70s –

an amazing attitude given the realities of life in Quebec – hard to believe it was an optional

subject then!  She recalled this also and was pleased that such shortsighted views had

since fallen by the wayside.

It's certainly very bilingual. I noticed even the teenagers who appeared to be Asian

immigrants would be speaking French with their friends when out on the town.

That law they passed when we were there in the ‘70s which makes immigrant parents

send their kids to French school appears to have worked very well from their perspective.

Having said that, I think that Montreal also particularly attracts immigrants who

are Francophone, from places like Haiti and other French speaking parts of the

Caribbean.  The troubles in Haiti were a big story when we were there (May 2004),

as they were later in New York.

The girls at the hotels initially greet guests by saying 'Bonjour-Hi', until they work out

which language you speak.  I must say we were surprised by the number of bums and

panhandlers in the old city - given that the Canadians pride themselves on their superior

welfare state, we were not expecting this – it was at least as bad and probably worse

than most US cities we have visited, with the exception of San Francisco and LA.

We stayed in Centre-Ville, at a hotel in the Chinatown district (Viger & Saint Urbain). 

Dorchester Street has been renamed ‘Boulevard Rene Levesque’ since his death a

few years ago.

I got to practice my very rusty French a little bit whilst in Montreal.  The kids were most

amused by this – one time I asked a guy to fill the car at a gas station by saying

'plein, sil vous plait'  I think they had heard me tell them when we bought milk that

morning that it was called 'lait', and were sure I'd asked him to fill the tank with milk! 

He then asked me which grade I wanted (ordinaire ou superieure, I think) which confused

me initially. I don't think either Narrelle or the kids quite believed that I could read the signs

and understand them, almost always anyway.

 

Surprising how it comes back though - give me six months there and I'm sure I'd be

pretty fluent.  The opportunities to speak French were a bit limited as they could tell we

were Anglophone and would switch straight to English – the Pennsylvania plates on the

rental car probably didn't help either...

One thing we noticed is that there are very many fewer obese people in Montreal. Actually,

the whole North East region of North America (NYC, Boston etc) seems markedly less obese

than the South.  Time magazine had a big feature article on 'Obesity in America', including a

color-coded map showing which regions had the most overweight people.  This aligned

exactly with our observations; the poorer areas of the South (particularly Mississippi)

were the most obese by far.
 
The same applies to the cars – it’s a lot less common to see an outrageously fat-assed SUV

on the road in Quebec or the North-East generally.  When you do see one it is generally being

used for some purpose, like as a tradesman's vehicle or towing a horse-float, as opposed to

being simply used as a family car (mom's taxi).  Quite a contrast to Texas, where at one stage

we counted about 80 % of vehicles along the Galveston waterfront as being either SUVs or

some form of light truck.

They are having an election in Canada later in June 2004 - the issues seem very familiar

to an Australian, like how to maintain the health system they are so proud of (one of the

main things they see as differentiating them from the US).  Much like ours, the system is

stretched and involves really long waiting times for various procedures.  I think they have

gone much further than we ever did in marginalizing private insurance and relying almost

entirely on the government as the sole payer.  Now there is talk of tweaking the system

somewhat, while still keeping the principle of universal coverage.  The public would strongly

resist any change that was seen as moving towards the US health insurance model.

Quebec ’Separatism‘ seems to have subsided as an issue, but the usual questions of Canadian

identity are still there.  It is a bit sad, although quite understandable, that they sometimes

seem to define themselves more in the negative (i.e. we are not Americans) than in a positive way,

in terms of what they are.

 

We watched the hockey a little bit while in Canada.  The Calgary Flames were in a very

close best-of-seven games playoff against the Tampa Lightning (God knows how Tampa,

Florida gets to be a centre of ice-hockey – go figure!)  We'd left Canada by the time it was

all over, but they must be heartbroken in Calgary to lose the series in the final game.

Apparently no Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup in decades.  Having said that, many of

the players, in whatever NHL team, are Canadian, often Quebecois, with Russians and other East

Europeans prominent also.



Our Montréal house from 1977

 

 

Montréal House again (it’s for sale)

 

 

Burning building, near Buffalo, NY

 

Niagara Falls:


Another of North America's natural wonders.  Well worth the trip – very spectacular. 

We almost didn't go as it is pretty much out of our way, but we're glad we did.  We did

the boat trip (on the ‘Maid of the Mist’) that takes you out almost to the bottom of the

Horseshoe (Canadian) Falls.  You get very close to the falls and get very wet indeed.

They give you plastic ponchos to wear.  We also did a brief bus trip along the river from

which they point out various interesting sites.  The Falls are lit up with colored spotlights

at night, and they have fireworks every Friday and Sunday through the summer months,

as well as for special days like Memorial Day, Canada Day (July 1) and the Fourth of July.

They cancelled the fireworks the Sunday we were there due to high winds, but ran them

on Monday as it was the Memorial Day holiday, and they were very good.  We stayed on

the Canadian side at Clifton Hill, which has numerous attractions that are fun for the kids.

We crossed the international border twice in a day - Ontario into NY State on the way from

Montreal at Thousand Islands (very beautiful – wish we’d known about it before), where Lake

Ontario ends and flows into the St Lawrence River.  Apparently this is the place the salad

dressing is named after.  We then crossed again from Niagara Falls, NY to Niagara Falls,

Ontario the same afternoon.

 

No hassle really, except it was the Memorial Day long weekend so lots of traffic crossing

over from the US side. They don't even stamp your passport most times – US and Canadian citizens

have in the past needed only photo ID such as a driver's licence to cross, although I think it has

tightened up in recent years and they might need proof of citizenship as well these days. 

    

Horseshoe (Canadian) Falls, Niagara Falls Ontario

 

 

American Falls, Niagara

 

American Falls, from tower

 

On 'Maid of the Mist' boat, Niagara

 

Family on 'Maid of the Mist' cruise, Niagara Falls

 

American Falls (from 'Maid of the Mist')

 

Dom - Clifton Hill, Niagara Falls

 

Kids - Guinness World Records Museum – Clifton Hill, Niagara Falls Ontario

 

Amish Country, Pennsylvania:
 
We visited Lancaster County to see the Amish area there.  It was very interesting – took

a tour of a working Amish farm, and were taken through a typical Amish home and told

about their customs and traditions.


There are many horse-drawn buggies on the back-roads and you learn how to tell the

Amish farms from their 'English' neighbors.  The presence of a buggy in the garage instead

of a huge pickup is an obvious sign, but there are other more subtle indications as well,

such as the green blinds they tend to have in the windows.

 

Their faith seems in many ways quite enlightened and reasonable, not at all a fanatical sect

as some might imagine.  For example, the kids are given a period in their late teens of five

years or so in which they may live as ordinary Americans (dating, driving cars, etc), before

making an irrevocable commitment to their faith by becoming baptized, or alternatively

leaving the fold.
 
The Amish still teach their kids the German dialect of their forefathers who originated

from Germany or Switzerland. Many Amish are highly-skilled craftsmen, but there is no such

thing as an Amish doctor or engineer, as university studies are incompatible with their religion,

which it was said, values 'faith above knowledge'. An Amish person who had obtained

professional qualifications would be one who had elected as a young person not to become

baptized and had thereby excluded themselves from the community.
 
They seem to be reasonably flexible in their rules. For example, a few years ago there was

a terrible storm that knocked over the corn at just the worst time, when it was about to be

harvested.  The Amish bishops got together and issued a ruling that the people could, on this

special occasion, bring in the high-tech farm machinery used by their non-Amish neighbors

which was capable of harvesting the corn quickly enough to save most of the crop.  They

decided that bending the rule about the use of modern technology was the lesser of two evils,

compared to the loss of the entire crop for the year.

 

It’s well known that the Amish do not use electricity, phones and such modern technology.

Apparently this has more to do with the fact that these things require a physical connection

from the home to the outside world than with any intrinsic opposition to the technologies

themselves.  For example, we were told that they might have a phone in the barn or shed outside,

as this did not violate the rules against having the house connected to the outside world.

Using the same logic, they might use a generator, but not mains electricity.  Apparently some

Amish are now using mobile phones, since unlike ‘land-lines’ there is no physical connection

such as a cable required.  We gathered this is considered by the Amish authorities to be

stretching the rules quite a bit!

 

 

At Amish Farm, near Lancaster, PA

 

Amish Farm, Pennsylvania

 

Our Buick LeSabre, Somerset, NJ