By Antonio Malara
The journey to Boston started the morning of my last day in New York. Me and the group had to travel from New York to Boston by bus. The appointment was at around 3 pm, a couple of corners away from our hotel. This is why I had the time to go to see the Flatiron building that morning.
Every time you need to deal with a big group of people is always funny. Who doesn’t know exactly is the place, who doesn’t remember at what time, who get in the wrong place and calls you and when you’re there ready to go there’s always someone that is missing. Later on the bus, the guy who planned the travel, told me that once in Boston I had to share the room with other two people. I had the chance to knew this guys in New York and I took this as an opportunity to know them better.
The landscape outside the bus during the travel didn’t impress me so much, I remember slides of green lands besides the sea that wasn’t actually the ocean. More interesting was all the road we did to leave New York, has been a cool tour through the upper neighborhoods. Step by step we went from skyscrapers to green land.
In the bus I started to wonder about Boston. My godfather (a powerful and respected person) always talked about this city, he told me that Boston was the best city of the United States, because it was the most “European City”, he used to say. I was curious about this but at the same time I was scared that I wouldn’t like Boston right because it was “European”. As I wrote in my New York post here, I was fascinated by tall buildings not by ancient ones.
We spent the time on the bus having conversations and some rest, in the late evening we arrived tin Boston. Even here we wasted a little time to get the rooms but at the end we made it.
We left our bags in the room and we went out to discover the city at night. Our hotel was outside the center but near the metro station. From there we took the metro and we stopped at the “Government Center” station. Here there was an asymmetrical square with a strange building in the middle. It was the new City Hall and actually it was little ugly in my opinion. It was slim at the bottom and bigger at the top but it has nothing special, even the color was ugly, a sand like color. Following some suggestions, we went a little up to a road to see The Massachusetts State House (this is the building that houses the General Court and the Governor of Massachusetts). This was a nice building, on top between the others. On the front there was a gate and behind it a flight of steps to the building. It was a three level construction composed by arches, columns on the first floor and with a dome on the top. It was also cool because it was all lighted up. Of course we only saw it from the outside.
From there we back to where we started because someone knew another must see things. In fact just on the other side of the new City Hall, there was “The New England Holocaust Memorial”. This is a series of squared towers made of glass and steel, pretty high. It is dedicated to the Jews victims of the Nazi. The towers are filled with the serial number that the people had assigned during the deportation. When you see that there are six towers, all covered by numbers you realize how big the mass extermination was. It’s really touching because you can go under the towers and get lost under the numbers printed on the glass, as long as your sight can see, you read white numbers.
By walking we get to the Columbus waterfront park. If you walk along the park straight to sea without looking back, you can see the entire City center in one sight once you turn around when you’re near the sea. Maybe this view is better than looking at the port. In fact there’s all the green park and behind the skyscrapers with the clock building in the center (later I found out that this building is perfect to maintain the orientation in the city). We took lots of photos there because the location was so versatile for many kind of pics. I think I lost fifteen minutes to take the right shoot at the view. It was for me another attempt with a long exposure and at the end I made it. My memory ends there about the first day but I think after a while we returned to the hotel.
The plan for the real first day in Boston was to visit Harvard University and the campus around it. While I was waiting at the hotel, two pictures on the wall of the hall caught my attention. Side by side in one pic there was the Boston downtown in the year 1935 and in the other one the city in the modern time. Looking at the pics, everyone could see how fast growth Boston in around 70 years. From a city with just a couple of tall buildings and nothing around in 1935, till a totally new skyline, a big downtown with the clock building in the middle as the only symbol of the old city. I compared that to my city, destroyed by 7 richter magnitude earthquake in 1911, rebuilt in a decade and still the same after one hundred years. I said to myself that it wasn’t about money that we hadn’t any evolution, it was for a cultural reason.
In front of the entrance at Harvard, everyone was excited. I walked in knowing that it was a privilege to visit that University. I had the worse records at the school, I was popular just to be the best guy to impersonate something like six different teachers, men and women. I never thought that one day I could see such a prestigious University. To be honest I was excited too. We looked around while we was waiting for a girl student who supposed to be our guide for the morning. The University was huge, the sections were separate by beautiful meadows and trees. It was funny to see all the squirrels going up and down from the trees, they had some “mechanical movements”, they were the Kings of the area.
When our guide showed up, she introduced herself and she immediately took us all around. She was so good to explain us everything she knew and patience answering all the questions. We started our tour from “The John Harvard Statue”, this is a big sculpture in bronze, dedicate to John Harvard of course. The singular thing about the statue is that to design the Harvard’s face has been used a student face for inspiration. In fact, till now no one knows how John Harvard looks like. For the rest the place was so touristic, with all the people taking pics, most of time touching Harvard’s foot. We visited together many sections including a library. She also answered to the “forbidden question”, that was “how much does it cost to study there”. Well the cost was like buying an home but beyond the rich people who doesn’t have problems about money, she talked to us about those who can’t afford it. It was impressive to know what kind of sacrifices did those students and their families, they both had big responsibility but at the end they’re going to be payed back of all the efforts. Those who graduates from there are going to be all part of the establishment. Around noon or so her time was up, our guide student had to leave us, after a picture all together we said goodbye. We had lunch there outside the University and I felt like a student who was having his break, like I saw in some movies. Me, the worse student ever, was having lunch at Harvard, how strange life can be sometimes.
For the afternoon the plan was to follow a teacher lesson. That was like back to school, so it was boring. But there’s was a surprise after the lesson when we were going to leave the University. Another student offered to being our guide for another couple of hours, he wanted to show us the MIT which was just a few metro stops from there. I was upset at the beginning but then I found out that I was totally wrong.
We visited the interior of the building of the MIT-School of Architecture and Planning. At the exit of this building across the street there was a park. Here there’s the MIT Chapel and the Kresge Auditorium, beyond, there are several and different fields for sports. After we took a picture all together, we went inside the MIT Chapel. This is an interesting building, it’s a circular structure, not so big. But it’s when you step inside that you immediately notice another great thing. There’s a series of bricks tied together that falling from the skylight right on the altar, simulate something like a cascade (you see that is composed by bricks only when you’re close). What impressed me it was the fact that the Chapel was a place for meditation for all the students, no matter what kind of religion they followed. I think this was the real beautiful thing beyond the architecture.
We crossed all fields to see another building, it was The Simmons Hall. This is a dormitory, it looks like a big LEGO construction, because it is full of squared and colorful windows. The guy told us that the dormitory has been built with the intention to give a better interaction between students. Thanks to a special cut of the sections, the light from the windows is able to reach the spaces where the students use to meet. There was one last building that the guide wanted to show us, even if it was late for him because he had to go back home for the weekend. Walking back beside the sport fields we arrived to our last destination.
The last building was the “Ray and Maria Stata Center” designed by Frank Gehry. Inside there’s the CSAIL (Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory), the LIDS (Laboratory for Information and Decision) and other Laboratory’s. It was for me love at first sight with the building. I didn’t know anything about it but I loved it. I started to take pics at it and then pics of me with the building in the background. The structure was super wired, built in different materials like bricks, aluminum, it was in different colors (orange for the bricks and grey the aluminum part) but there was something else. In fact it was asymmetrical, with some inclined walls. Finally I saw something original, something never seen before. It was cool and It was even better inside. As a building who host Laboratory for research it was full of rooms, most of it with big windows. It has colorful walls, and the most strange things were some floors. As the guy pointed out to us, there was a section which was like a stand alone part. What I mean is that there was a floor that was between one floor and another, incredible! When we get to the terrace, I found out that the building spilts in two. On the terrace I was surrounded by many inclined walls not only one. I spent my time there taking pics to all the details.
I was really happy to have known a designer who was little weird but futuristic, that building was a “rebel”, against the rules, a principle applied to the architecture. For me that architecture was a gate, it was the prove that is possible to do something that is unusual for the majority but regular for the artist.
The last thing we did all together during the day it was the “Duck Tour”. I’m talking about a cool ride with an amphibious vehicle. I think those were former military vehicles, they looks like a tank with wheels, no glass on the windows or stuff like that. They took us around the city with the drivers who was also a comedian (at least our was a funny guy). The best part was when the truck got in the water, it was a cool experience. To be honest at the beginning I underestimated this tour, I thought it was the typical product for tourists. At the end from that truck we had a different view of the city because we were higher than other trucks and because it was amphibious, we had an unusual view of the skyline by the sea.
As you may know I love to walk, so I found in Boston the perfect soulmate for this. The City center can be visited without using transportations. With my sister I went in all the place I already been (like the waterfront) and I also enjoyed new ones. I noticed that in Boston there are lots of modern building besides the old ones. This characteristic thing was present in many parts of the city. Maybe is also for this reason that one of my favorite part of the city was Copley Square and the area around it. In fact there you can find the Boston Public Library, a big mall, and a couple of blocks away there’s Newbury St, which is the shopping street. (this is also a parallel road of Boylston St. which was object of a terrorist attack in 2013). Of course the Trinity Church is near a modern building.
I really loved the Boston Public Garden. This park is big enough to have the feeling that you’re not in a city but no so big to get lost. In the time I visited, it was full of flowers, I also appreciate the big trees and the lake. The garden looked so good, I think they do there a perfect maintenance.
Another place I really liked was the Quincy Market. Mainly because from the outside the construction is inspired by Greek temples with columns. Beyond the food, here you can also find lots of store for souvenirs.
The experience in Boston has been “full” because with part of the group we also got out at night. From restaurants to cafe with live music, disco bar...we had good time. I will never forget the night we returned in Harvard after dinner. We knew that there was a place full of young students, and maybe there was also a night life. Well it was a desert and everything was closed, we just been able to take the last metro to the hotel. Another night we had one the big collective laughing I ever had. The point is that nobody remembers why. I questioned some of the people who were there that night but nothing, it remains a mystery.
Another funny night was when we went to eat the lobster and most of us didn’t know how to do it, or the night when we went in a nightclub and the security thought that our Italian ID were fake...lots of memories till last day.
Some vacations like this in Boston are just perfect, you decide to be part of a group of strangers and then at the end you realize you had one of the best fun and new friends without any plan.
I want to dedicate this post to my godfather, he passed away in the summer of 2016, I never had the chance to talk to him about my trip in Boston but thanks to his input, what was just a curiosity for me, has become a real thing. I found in this City what he described and I added to that unforgettable memories.
Photo: Antonio Malara
Camera: Nikon D70s