Bawston and Hahvahd

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With the jet-lag mostly behind us, we arrived via Amtrak to Boston, Massachusetts and checked in at the hotel around noon. It was a Sunday, which could only mean one thing: football! I was excited to watch some NFL as god intended instead of having to drag myself out of bed in the middle of the night or the early morning (on a friggin’ Monday morning no less!) as is my custom back home in Perth.

Finding it proved less difficult than anticipated.

We looked up the nearest sports bar, The Pour House Bar & Grill, and wandered over for some lunch before the 1pm kickoff(s).

The place filled up fast and we were lucky to get a spot at the bar. Even luckier for us, that spot afforded us a view of the Packers-Vikings game. The place ended up being packed with rowdy, jersey-clad football fans, and not just Patriots fans, but people of all loyalties. It seemed at least half of the teams in the league were represented. Being there with so many games happening simultaneously was awesome. Almost every play there would be cheers or groans, exclamations of joy or expletives and curses. It was great. It’s the kind of atmosphere that’s hard to match. It makes me wish there were more sports bars in Perth.

On the subject of football, Boston is definitely obsessed. Everywhere I looked there were people wearing Patriot hats, jackets or jerseys. There are ads all over the place on billboards and bus stops and trash cans, featuring Tom Brady, Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski. I’m not sure why, but I really enjoyed seeing this.

But enough about football.

Boston was the first new city for me to experience on this trip, and I liked it a lot. To me it seemed like a big city with the feel of a small town; there was a definite sense of community. And in case you can’t tell from the title of this post, I love the accents. Perhaps that puts me in the minority, but I stand by it.

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Where everybody knows your name…

As one of the oldest East coast cities, Boston has a lot to offer in terms of the nation’s history. There are a lot of historical locations worth seeing, many of which can be explored on foot using the ‘Freedom Trail’; a two and a half mile path you can take through the city to see sixteen sites of the American Revolution.

Emma and I didn’t set out to do the trail, but intersected with it at several points. For example, we went to the Massachusetts State House and explored the building. It was a little strange in there, as it was mostly active government offices, but there were also some more museum-like parts to check out. I enjoyed seeing some artifacts and learning more about Paul ‘the British are coming‘ Revere and his epic midnight ride.

One of the highlights of the trail, as simple as it may seem, was The Boston Common. It’s the oldest public park in America and was created in 1634. Even in the cold and wet weather it was picturesque. Definitely a nice place to walk your dog or go for a jog. That was an accidental rhyme I swear.

Photos and more after the jump.

Washington Statue, Boston Common.

City Views, Boston Common.

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Squirrel Tree, Boston Common.

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Lake and Trees, Boston Common.

Fries with that

Yes, I would like fries with that.

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More trees on the lake.

While we were in Boston we also headed over to Cambridge to check out Harvard and take a student-led tour of the campus. For those who don’t know (where have you been living?) Harvard is the oldest college in America, and is of course the most well-known of the Ivy League schools. It was established in 1636.

The only thing I really knew about Harvard going in was that it was named after John Harvard, who donated his private library and half of his estate to the college. Harvard was an Englishman who had studied at the University of Cambridge, and as a result of this, Harvard was based on the Cambridge model in many ways. The town of Cambridge, Massachusetts was in fact named after the English university.

During the tour I learned about the history of the college from its inception to the present day. Some highlights included hearing about the 1764 library fire that wiped out all but one of the 320 books donated by Mr. Harvard. The one that wasn’t destroyed had been illegally removed from the library by a student desperately trying to cram for an exam (books could not be checked out of the library at that time). The student returned the surviving book to the dean who thanked him and then promptly expelled him.

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Memorial Hall / Annenberg Hall.

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Looking in through the gate at one of the buildings.

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Harvard Book Store.

I was a little surprised to learn that it took until the 1970s for Harvard to start to become a fully co-educational school. In 1977, Harvard and Radcliffe College (the sister-school) merged their admissions processes, but it wasn’t until 1999 that the schools formally merged. Prior to that date, female graduates earned a Radcliffe diploma instead of a Harvard one, despite doing the exact same degree as their male counterparts.

And what about more contemporary stuff? Well I learned which dormitory Natalie Portman stayed in while she studied there. I learned how they have not allowed movies to be filmed in Harvard Yard since Love Story (1974). Apparently the director didn’t like the look of the students in the background, so he hired a bunch of extras to play students, and had to section-off a large area which caused major disruptions. As a result of this, movies like The Social Network have had to fake it using other campuses around the country.

The tour was pretty interesting, and it was nice to get the perspective of a student who clearly loves the school. However, I will take some things he said with a grain of salt. He went on about how the school gives equal opportunities to all, and has all sorts of financial aid for students who can’t pay the $40k a year tuition fees. Apparently once you’ve been accepted you can make arrangements tailored for you and your particular economic situation. It sounds great in theory, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the high costs still deter a lot of potential students from accepting a place at Harvard, or even applying for one.

Anyway, it was a beautiful campus, and an interesting tour. I’ll end with a few more photos. And if you’re a Red Sox fan, stay tuned later in the week as I’ll be posting some pics from the tour at Fenway Park.

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Harvard Yard.

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More Harvard Yard views.

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And more again.

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