It seemed like a good idea at the time: the north eastern United States in spring, a lovely time to visit all our friends there and see the area at its best. It had been a fairly rough winter at home by London standards and we were looking forward to some typical spring sunshine. Little did we know!
We flew in to Boston late in the evening and found there were dire warnings of blizzards for the next day. We had a quick stroll around the Back Bay area where we were staying, a very good introduction to what we soon found to be a prosperous and attractive city. Next morning, looking out, snow was already falling, or rather blowing horizontally in gale force winds as the third nor'easter in as many weeks swept up the coast.
We made a few forays out during the day, but the snow was relentless and by late evening was over a foot deep on the sidewalks. The city was quite a sight. No cars and very few people were out, and Boston's retro streetlights were haloed by the face-stinging blizzard as the trees became steadily more laden with snow. The only signs of activity were the snowploughs that circled the blocks in threes to clear the full width of the carriageway, and the snow shovellers clearing their own stretches of sidewalks. Otherwise the whole city was closed down: we managed to find just one coffee shop open until 2pm; and an Irish bar in another hotel. We ventured as far as Copley Square, where the public library and Trinity church loomed faintly though the swirling snow.
Our own hotel, the Elliot, is old school but charming with it. Lovely, friendly staff in all departments, and an excellent restaurant, Uni, with mainly Asian inspired dishes. The breakfasts here were also among the best we have had in the US. That evening we retired to our suite, comfortably cosy as the storm continued to blow outside.
Next morning was a complete contrast as the sun broke through and the wind died, and everything looked bright, white and clear. By now the snow had reached almost two feet in places, but the streets and sidewalks were miraculously clear – just huge piles along the kerbs, and in the open green spaces (and almost burying any cars left parked in the streets). Boston is well used to these storms and knows how to deal with them. We walked for miles through this winter scene, along the wide linear park that is Commonwealth Avenue, lined with huge Victorian mansions, meticulously restored; to Boston Common and then to Bunker Hill. We followed a heritage trail through the downtown area where many historic buildings are preserved. Boston has a colourful history, well worth exploring. In the evening we went to a fringe play at Boston's Center for the Arts, in the South Side – a recently gentrified area, with the shops to prove it. (If you too have a chichi children's clothing boutique and a shop that only sells hand pressed olive oil, you can be assured that your area has made it too.)
So all in all, not the spring we had hoped for, but a good experience nevertheless.