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22 June 2011

Exploring Cambridge and Boston

Day 27: Thursday, 16 June 2011
Ueli and I slept in a little bit before heading out to explore the city. Jonathan had schoolwork to prepare so he stayed at the apartment. We took the T into the city - we got pretty lucky because the train seemed to wait at the stop for 5 minutes until we boarded. In the city, we decided to keep on going with the train all the way to Cambridge, so that we would get the most of our 1-way ticket. So after navigating the somewhat confusing corridors of the Park St station, we got on the red line, which is more of a subway yet still goes above ground over the Charles River, and soon were in Cambridge. At the station, Harvard Square, there were people soliciting tours and others giving out samples of energy bars. I took a free map from one of the tour people, and we walked into Harvard Yard.

We explored Harvard for a bit, and I was very hungry as we entered the Science Building, so I instantly beelined for the cafeteria and got myself a calzone (which was packed with meat). After eating, we continued walking around and eventually wound our way back to the Harvard COOP, where we browsed books for a while and Ueli ended up buying an American English phrasebook. There was a girl performing on her acoustic guitar outside in the alleyway. We walked all the way along Massachusetts Avenue to MIT, where we rested for a few minutes with some cold drinks from Dunkin' Donuts. It was a warm and sunny day, as pleasant a day as you could wish for. We walked through MIT for a bit, then headed to the Charles River, which we crossed back into Boston. We walked up Beacon Hill then emerged near the Massachusetts State House and Boston Common. There I found the Freedom Trail, a well-marked path that links the major historical sites of interest in central Boston. With tourists and 18th-century dressed tour guides all around, I decided to follow the Freedom Trail and see the major sights.

We first entered a historic cemetery that houses the remains of Paul Revere, John Hancock, the victims of the Boston Massacre, and Benjamin Franklin's parents. We continued along the trail, stopping by a historic church (that Paul Revere attended), the old city hall, and the Irish Famine Memorial, which is in a nice city square with live musicians playing. The trail then led us to the Old State House, past the site of the Boston Massacre, and to Faneuil Hall. There was a street performer drawing quite the crowd. We then walked through Quincy Market and toward the North End, which is Boston's thriving Italian neighborhood. The streets were narrow and filled with small restaurants, cafes, bakeries, and convenience stores - it felt very European. We made our way past Paul Revere's house and then to the Old North Church. It's amazing how much history is contained in such a small walkable distance - this is where the American Revolution was bred and really started!

All the walking got me pretty exhausted, so we headed back over the freeway to the Government Center T stop. We entered and waited for maybe 20-25 minutes before our train arrived (several other trains passed, all going to different destinations). The station was loud (especially when the trains squeaked as they exited the station) and became pretty crowded. Finally our train came, and after a stop or two, it was soon PACKED full of people. I luckily had a seat, but I had no space to even move my legs; Ueli didn't like being crammed in with so many people either. The train then made its way back, and we got off a couple stops early so that I could shop for a potentially new backpack or sleeping bag. I had to ask a dry cleaning store clerk where the sporting goods store was, and she directed us to it. There, at Eastern Mountain Sports, the employees were friendly and helpful, but I really wasn't sure if I wanted what they were selling - I didn't really need new things, and the prices were a little too much for my budget. So I left without getting anything. Then at the liquor store, they refused to sell me alcohol because Ueli didn't have his ID. WTF, I can't believe they're that strict. I was annoyed to say the least. So I just left and powered back to Jonathan's apartment and let myself in. Jonathan returned shortly later from class.

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