Books I've read

Sandra's book montage

The Catcher in the Rye
The Great Gatsby
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Romeo and Juliet
Lord of the Flies
Little Women
A Tale of Two Cities
Memoirs of a Geisha
The Lovely Bones
The Secret Life of Bees
Under the Tuscan Sun
The Da Vinci Code
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
The Hobbit
The Golden Compass
Pride and Prejudice
The Time Traveler's Wife
Jane Eyre
The Notebook

Sandra's favorite books »

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Of Kennedys and Kings*

*This title is shamelessly stolen from a book by Harris Wofford called, strangely enough, Of Kennedys & Kings: Making Sense of the Sixties.  Wofford was a Special Assistant to JFK on civil rights and went on to work with Martin Luther King.  It's a really good book.

Being a creature of habit I tend to stay in the same hotel every time I visit Boston.  The Fairmont Copley Plaza is really central, a nice size and an awful lot cheaper than the Mandarin Oriental.  I've attached some pictures to give you an idea of how beautiful the public areas are:

And this is the view of my bedroom from the bed - that sofa was very handy for watching television with sore feet up!!  After I unpacked I headed into Copley Place which is a good shopping centre and linked to the Prudential Center.  Copley Place has the posh shops such as Tiffany, Louis Vuitton etc. whilst the Prudential has more down to earth places (generally), a lovely Barnes & Noble book store and a food court.  As I'm addicted to the Boston Chowda Company's lobster bisque I had a small cup of that and felt like I was really back.  I don't know about you but I am terrible with time differences so I headed back to the hotel about 4 p.m. (9 p.m. UK time), although I did have an ulterior motive for this because yes, I had come thousands of miles and my first key objective was to watch football on the TV.  Spain were playing the US in Boston & I had thought about trying to go & if it was in the city I probably would have made more effort.  Luckily for me it was in Foxboro' which is south of Boston and difficult to get to.  So I lay on my lovely sofa and drank cranberry juice (very New England) and watched the 'soccer'.  Now my excuse for this was that so many ex-Liverpool players play for Spain so I was pleased to see Xabi Alonso, Pepe Reina and Alvaro Arbelo play most of the game but those of you who saw me on February 1st this year will be surprised (or not) to learn that I was also willing to cheer on a certain ex-number 9.  (If only he would admit he made a big mistake all could be forgiven!).  Anyway Spain won 4-0 and I managed to stay awake throughout.

Day 2 saw me head off to one of my favourite places in the whole of New England.  The John F Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum it's very easy to get to from central Boston (see below) and is just a great place to visit.

Outside of the JFK Library - designed by I M Pei it's meant to resemble a sail-boat

The permanent exhibition doesn't change much - it's obviously about JFK's Presidency, but I enjoy seeing all the different parts anyway.  The film you see when you first go in is very moving.  JFK narrates his life up to the 1960 convention and then you go through some doors and you're there for the campaign including the TV studio for the debates with Nixon:
and Walter Cronkite reading out the election results:

and then you're at the inaugural where you can, of course, watch Kennedy making the entire speech.  By the way if you're interested in that  there's a great book called Ask Not which analyses both the speech and its effect in depth.  Then you're into the White House itself:
and the various displays on the Kennedy Family, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Going to the Moon, gifts from foreign governments etc. are on the corridors or in 'offices' off them.  I suppose the Oval Office is somewhat of a disappointment because you don't get to see the entire office but half of it set up for JFK's key speech on civil rights but it's OK and you still get to see some of his stuff on the walls including, poignantly, his desk calendar which is standing at November 1963:

Sorry, this is a bit dark but I think you get the idea.  Robert Kennedy's office, from his time as Attorney General, is better and the fact that you can look at the various items on his desk is really interesting:

In addition to the introductory film about JFK they have now added a film once a day about Robert Kennedy.  I hadn't seen this and as RFK is my favourite Kennedy I stayed around to watch.  The film was made by Charles Guggenheim in the six weeks after RFK's assassination in June 1968 and was shown at the Democratic Convention that year.  Richard Burton is the narrator.  Even 43 years on some people clapped at the end of the film but I just had a lump in my throat because you've seen this man, this celebrity, surrounded by crowds and with his family, obviously affected by the poverty he sees in America and campaigning against a sitting President from his own party and yet the final scene is a really haunting one of him alone on a beach in Oregon. It's this image I think without Freckles, his dog, and in black and white and he looks so alone & vulnerable and you know that within eight weeks he will be dead.  What a waste!

Anyway, I can't recommend the library enough to you - please try and go one day.

That afternoon I paid a quick visit to Faneuil Hall but the shop I wanted was closed due to renovations and this area is a bit like Covent Garden - a lot of street theatre and even more tourists so I headed back to the hotel. 

School Street is on my way back.  So named because it's the site of the first public school in the US.  Old City Hall is there as well with a very good statue of Benjamin Franklin and an adorable one of a donkey, symbol of the Democratic party:

Look how well worn he is - obviously well loved.  I had to stand there for quite a while to contend with all the children wanting to sit on his back.

On my way back I decided to visit King's Chapel  I don't know if I have ever been inside before, if so it must have been on my very first visit to Boston.  I really liked the simplicity of the inside of the church and the box pews were interesting:

The Governor's pew in King's Chapel
As I was looking at the altar I saw that one of the monuments to the ministers was to Palfrey Perkins who had been minister there 1933-53.  Unlikely to be a relative of mine because my grandfather Perkins emigrated to Liverpool in the early twentieth century and was an Irish Catholic rather than a Unitarian but you never know what links there are far into the past.   

From there my route took me past Park St. church which is famous for being the place that William Lloyd Garrison delivered his first anti-slavery sermon and where 'America' was sung for the first time. 

Then it was into Boston Common and to the Public Garden:
Swan Boats - Public Garden

I'm going to cheat a bit here and include some pictures of the Public Garden from October 2009 - just because it looked beautiful with the leaves changing colours:

From the Public Gardens it was just a relatively short walk to the hotel and to a Chinese meal (I knew it would be a lot of seafood from then on in!)  P J Chang's is a chain and not quite Imperial City in London, but it's not bad and very good value for money.  And, most importantly for my feet, not that far from the hotel.

My next installment will be about the journey to the Cape and how I fell in love.

See you soon.

Practical information

There are loads of hotels in central Boston, the first one I ever stayed in was the Park Plaza and that was OK.  Other than that I've stayed at the Copley Plaza other than one trip to the Bostonian.  The Bostonian was good, excellent location in respect of Faneuil Hall and for the waterfront but I do like being as central as I am with the Copley Plaza.  On my final day I went out to Brookline, a street-car suburb, and right by one of the T stops was the Holiday Inn so that could be worth checking out if it's cheaper than some of the other options.  I think it would take about 10/15 mins into Park Street (the hub of the T) and a trip is $2 each way or less if you get a Charlie Card (not ticket).

Getting to the JFK library is very simple.  Using the T you take the red line to JFK/UMass and a little shuttle bus takes you on to the library.  The shuttle bus arrives every 20 minutes and when you've finished takes you back to the T stop for your return to Boston.  The fare is $2 each way (or less) for the T and no charge for the shuttle bus.

The best T stop for King's Chapel would be: State I think.  This is the station for the old State House and includes a visitor centre.

The best stop for the Park Street church is Park Street and this is the main hub for the whole subway system.  This is a good stop for Boston common also.

For the public garden I would use either Park Street and walk either across or around the Common or Arlington (on the green line).

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