Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The City on a Hill.

Winthrop is named after John Winthrop, the first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who came over on the Arbella in the second wave of Pilgrims in 1630. He's best known for, during an on board sermon, describing his vision and warning for the new settlement: 'a city on a hill - the eyes of all people are upon us.' This puritan idea of the high moral standards and behaviour required to be God's chosen people has remained at the heart of many American dreams. Boston is, after a couple of false starts, where he eventually settled.

We were up early and across the harbour on the Winthrop Ferry, which whisks commuters across the bay to the downtown Rowes wharf. Boston is postage stamp sized and it's quite easy to get anywhere on its knuckle within half an hour. We decided to start at the beginning and headed for the Common, which was the original farm of William Blaxon, a deserter from the Plymouth Colony, who sold the ground to Winthrop and his men. Since that time the common has been the spiritual heart of the city. Home of  executions, picnics, and musters. It's an essential lung, especially on such a hot summer's day.

Today was for the sunbathers. Occasionally a half hearted game of Frisbee would start up, only to collapse under the heat of the afternoon.  A few queued for homemade lemonade, others read in the shade of the trees.

The somnambulant calm was only punctuated by sweaty costume interpreters, dressed in the full eighteenth century regalia of the patriots, animating strange and eventful histories to bemused groups of parasol sheltered tourists.

We'd wanted to follow them along freedom trail, to get our historical and geographical bearings, but realised that in the heat a more relaxed approach might be to get on the Beantown Trolley Bus and get a sense of the town from relative comfort. It was a good move. As soon as we boarded the heavens opened and we were hot by torrential rain. The tour was gentle and after taking us through the Back Bay, circled up through Cambridge, back across the Longfellow Bridge, through the West End to deposit us at the aquarium. The weather was still dodgy as so we hopped off and spent an hour watching sea turtles, barracudas and rays spiral around the giant ocean tank.

By early evening jet lag was beginning to set in and so we headed back to catch the last Winthrop ferry of the day Eastward, back towards the sunset and the homemade cookies that Maggie had left out for us.


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