Brits...don't say 'cheers'...

Trip Start Aug 28, 2009
Trip End Feb 25, 2011

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Where I stayed
Nico's apartment

Flag of United States  , Massachusetts
Sunday, August 30, 2009

First leg - Boston, 10 minutes walk from Washington Square station.
Ok I realise that some people write a blog entry for each day, and perhaps I shall move in that direction, but for now I prefer to get busy livin' in the day and get busy drinkin' at night (Alcoholism beckons if I proceed unchecked...) while I find my feet (which zig-zag after about 9:30 p.m.), so for now I will err on the side of writing fewer entries, but hopefully make them more interesting.
This is my first experience of jetlag actually - before this trip i have only been as far as Tenerife, which from the UK is not exactly jetlag territory. So, as far as I can tell (and bearing in mind that jetlag is said to effect you far less when you travel west as opposed to east) it mainly involves feeling like it is the time that it is at home, when its not (e.g. waking up at 9:00a.m. Boston time feeling like you slept until 2:00p.m UK time, and hence feeling rather groggy, etc.). Ok I am sure we“re all different, but that“s how it affects me anyway. 'They' say drink water to ease the suffering, and I have done that, but I“ve also been drinking excessive amounts of alcohol...every night actually!! Call it holiday spirit...but actually its probably just...being English...ok that's a poor excuse - it's just being me.
First three days I have spent getting the feel of the city (no, not rubbing myself erotically against tall buildings...), which I am told is smaller than your typical American city, the 20th largest they say.
I started on the Freedom Trail (near Park Street station), a walk which is very conveniently marked out with a painted red line, and which starts in Boston Common and travels through many of the cities landmarks. Nice idea that, and a nice, easy way to start learning your way around Boston then (Ironically, however, the freedom trail walking tour is not free - $12.60 at the time of writing!!! So my advice is to walk yourself, and don“t stand near crowds listening to anybody dressed in Victorian-esque attire or they may try to charge you!...If you like, shout "You can take our money, but you'll never take...our Freedom Trail!!!" ok don't)
The Freedom Trail starts in Boston Common, which is a bloomin nice park, and I wish I could find something funny to write about it, but the thing with beauty is that it steals your comedy thunder!!! It's just amazing, and I honestly think that spending considerable days there would increase your lifespan. You can see the smiles on peoples faces as they walk around, smiling for no good reason other than being alive and walking through the common (and seeing me half naked).
The Freedom Trail takes you past numerous graveyards, the sight of the Boston Massacre (where some British soldiers blew away five townspeople...ok I wouldn't personally term that a massacre), Quincy Market, and Bunker Hill (go up in the memorial (free) for some top-notch views of the skyline) to name a few sites. Bascially it is the best way to get ya Boston bearings on foot.
The duck tours are also good - travel around on an amphibious vehicle for 80 minutes and receive a comedic talk about many of Bostons landmarks. The 'duck' hits the water toward the end of the tour, and allows you some quality photoshooting of the Boston skyline as you travel down the river. If you don't like the idea of going on water, take the trolley tour instead, which is...a bus.
The transport method of choice is the T train, which is like our London underground, and easy to use. Get a 7 day pass for $15 and you can hop on and off wherever you like for a week, and you can also use buses at stops marked with the 'T' sign. The pass is called a Charlie pass, so it's best not to ask for a weeks supply of charlie...
Well, it has been interesting observing the little differences from an Englishmans point of view, I must say! Allow me to enlighten...
Firstly, to dispel some myths that we English possess, food is not cheaper here - food in restaurants is about the same (ok not everywhere), and food in supermarkets is at least as expensive. Ok I only speak from experience of Boston of course, not the whole of America (and Boston in September 2009, I hasten to add) - and granted - the credit crunch (depression) has probably had a significant effect on all this, but I can confirm that here at least, the food is the same price or more! The range of food is of course massive, and you can get all kinds of quirky stuff, like squeezy cheese, and a carton (!). The rumour is, however, that almost any American will agree that their food is generally way too full of processed crap. Mind you, so is most of ours!
Booze is also a similar price situation (yes I would get to that, wouldn“t I? Well I am English...) - supermarket booze is about the same price as in the UK (four pack of Guiness, for example is $7.78, which works out as £4.71), and in bars it is more expensive, and ridiculous that you have to tip for every drink you receive - I mean seriously, how much training is required to pull a pint? If you have to spend 4 years in university doing an advanced course in drink-serving, I would understand the justification for requiring such a cash boost, but for the simple act of serving me a drink (which is A. your job, for which you are paid anyway, and B. facilitated by a machine that does the pouring for you), I mean please?? A pint may set you back $5, but then a $1 tip per drink is pretty standard (I think you can opt for $1 for two drinks if you're feeling tight), so thats $6 or £3.63 with current conversion.
Tipping in general has gone a little mad here actually - it wouldn't surprise me if they soon request that we tip our tips, as a tip tipping service. That might just tip us all over the edge...
The selection of beers (and drinks in general) however is very impressive - one place we went in had about 200 beers to choose from, and it was a food place! I recommend the '60 minute' beer (left in hops for 60 minutes) - very tasty! They also have some very potent beers - IPA, for example, is not the same as it is in the UK - it is pretty bloody strong stuff! You can get beers with 12.5% strength on tap - phew! If you like your beers, you'll love it here basically, but will probably spend as much as you would in Las Vegas!
Bars tend to centre around food, since that is where the money is made, and few places have the classic bar - dance floor arrangement that is familiar to us Englishmen. It is much more of a bar - restaurant theme, or just a narrow strip of bar. For a taste of home you could go into an Irish pub, which should not be too hard to find in Boston, as it has a large Irish population.
In fact, being closest to England and Europe has given Boston a large mix of people from Ireland, Italy, Southeast name it! If I am right Boston is the most multi-cultural city in America, and also the most European in its style.
I dunno how many of you share this mythical view with me, but McDonalds does not serve you a meal with a house-sized burger and 9 billion fries as wide as your arm for $1! The burgers are the same size (ok they have just released a 1/3 pound burger, but that will probably make it over to the UK soon), and the meals are only a tiny bit cheaper. Where the difference lies is in the size of the coke you get with it. Jesus, they may aswell serve it in a bucket!
Another common misconception (well, as far as I know) is that in terms of products, America has everything we have and more. Again I remind you that I speak from Boston experience only, but take the example of rolling tobacco - you can get about three brands here in most 'convenience stores', and they are all sh*t, so bring your own. Or better still - give up smoking, of course (still trying, me). OH, and asking for rolling tobacco filters is like walking into a shop naked and speaking to the attendant in Urdu - they just don“t get it (cos they don“t sell them). There is the odd very rare shop that does do them (and a bigger range of tobacco), but they are the size of tampons!
Americans of course drive on the right, and I embarassingly discovered that the same rule applies to revolving doors. My intention was to walk into a gym and see if they allowed a single day of entry, but what actually happened was I walked into a door that would not budge, then I tried an adjacent (non-revolving) door with the same effect...clonk. So I stood there like George Bush in China, feeling like a bit of a tit as my brain attempted to process this unexpected scenario, and then...hurmph, walked on. Hindsight, it is a bitch.
In Boston they say things are “wicked good“, “wicked bad“ or “wicked smart“ (when describing me, for example). So, unlike us Brits, they don“t use the term “wicked“ on its own. If you say that to a Bostonian they will probably cock their ear and wait for you to say more...
They also don“t get the concept of saying “cheers“ as a thankyou. I“ve had to make considerable effort to stave this, and I still catch myself saying “cheers“ at least twice a day, only now I bolt “thanks“ on the end, which probably sounds really quite (wicked) stupid.
It has been sunny virtually every day here so far, which is, for anybody who has lived in England for the last 4 years, a bit of a shock. Three days of sun in a row, imagine it Brits!!!
A favourite drink here is the blueberry beer - a beer with loads of blueberries in it then! It tastes ok, but its way too weak for us hard old Englishmen, probably about 3% at most RRRARRRR...
There are lots of people jogging in this city, and I can see why. Before this trip I was of the opinion that jogging is rather boring...left leg, right leg, left leg, right leg...(and people have written books on this stuff!), but the weather here is gorgeous at this time of year, the views are wicked (good) and the place has a sweeping big feel to it, begging to be eaten up by foot miles (yes, that is probably like all US cities, but this is my first, remember!).
So yesterday I went jogging in the morning, like a spritely American. Now, I haven“t jogged outside of gym treadmills (arguably even more boring) for many years now, and although my heart and lungs majestically took the beating of a good three mile jog, every conceivable muscle below my knees has completely seized today, and I am walking around like I'm carrying a weeks supply of turd in my pants. DOH! Perhaps I need to ease myself into it more... 
Summary: Boston is a bloomin beauty of a city, I tell ya, and possibly even worthy of rubbing yourself erotically against tall buildings... LOL more on Boston to follow...
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