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
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...
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
The Gay Marriage Capital of the USA – Provincetown, MA
Main Street, Provincetown MA (Cape Cod)
Kite Shop on Beach, Cape Cod
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
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
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
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