TRAVEL BLOG - Boston 2009

Day 7b – Something’s Fishy In Boston!

For the events of Thursday, June 4, 2009

1:15 PM – Got back on the Green Line train at Prudential, going toward Lechmere (final stop). I’m getting off at Government Center to change trains to Blue Line – to the New England Aquarium. I just saw a woman wearing a toque, scarf, gloves, and floor length parka on the train – and it’s +21C. The poster girl for mental illness. If you’re worried about the sun, you get SPF 30-60, not 3 layers of clothes.

At Park Street, one stop before Government Center, the doors of train open on both sides, which makes it chaotic. This station is like Sydney, where all tracks for different lines are side by side, not on different levels like Skytrain. It sounds like a good idea,but isn’t – you still have to walk down one level and under tracks and back up to catch trains. Park Street has 3 lines so it’s a bit crazy there.

Weird because at Government Center (the next stop), you can go down one level to Blue Line tracks. When the old trains go by overhead, the whole station shakes – it was a bit disturbing. Almost like a minor earthquake I guess, though I don’t know I’ve ever felt one. Guess everyone else is used to it.

Blue Line trains are again different than Green – more like Red but newer. I don’t get why they aren’t all the same. Unless when they built new lines they couldn’t buy enough older models. Reminds me of Canada Line and Skytrain – one can’t run on the others’ tracks. This is repeated at least 3 times here and they even paint trains to match Stations.

Inside these trains reminds me of newer Red Line I took to JFK, but not the ones back from JFK, which were horrible. In this case, the train was newer, clean and I’m only going 2 stops to Aquarium station anyway. At stop just before mine, State Street, the doors opened to the most horrible mess I’ve ever seen in my life (see picture left, click for larger) – it was like exiting to a dimly lit cave. Unbelievably horrible. I guess they are renovating it, but I mean, good grief, that’s ridiculous to have to look at every day. They could have spray painted everything white or something for now.

At Aquarium Station it was the exact opposite – beautiful new station that had computerized audio announcements when next train was coming. Exit gates were my height (no fare jumping there!) – very sci fi looking. Coming out of the Atlantic Avenue exit and walking down State street to the water was like what I would think Atlantic City would look like – a big wooden boardwalk with tacky tourist souvenirs, food etc. The New England Aquarium is right there, built out on the water. There’s also an IMAX theater here too. They have a replica tall ship tied up by the Aquarium that you can take out on tours, and lots of bus and boat tour operators have booths and boats here, with a Boston transit ferry stop here (like they have Sydney) that takes you to the Navy Yard.

Aquarium was really neat – all housed in one huge building, unlike Vancouver Aquarium, where many exhibits are outside and a smaller building only houses about 25-30% of the total exhibits There was the opportunity earlier in the morning to go whale watching on a special Aquarium boat, with their staff, out on the ocean, but it left just before I got there sadly. Oh well. Next one is tomororw morning, and that won`t work, but not the first time I`ve done whale-watching.

Inside the Aquarium was pretty standard fair – piranha, sharks, a giant octopus (which would have been neat if he wasn`t sleeping the whole time I was there) and a few other interesting things like giant crab and lobsters, etc. The real attraction, though, was the penguin exhibit. They were so cute, and there so many of them! I got there just as feeding time started. They would hand feed each of them individually and write down their names from little collars they all wore – so they ensured all were properly fed. You could tell they took good care of them. Some of the little guys were such posers for pictures – not afraid at all of all the screaming kids and flashes. Very cute – well worth the $18 to get in – cheaper than our Aquarium though again, not as big, and they don`t have any dolphins or whales of any kind there – so you don`t need big tanks. They had a neat 3 storey tank that you walk around and around up an incline – with sharks, etc in it – and divers swimming around with them. Again, nice touch. Also had a really cool jellyfish display with a lot more times and bigger tanks – much better than Vancouver`s. Overall, definitely worth a visit if you get the chance – but get on the whalewatching boat, it`s an incredible value of $40 for a 4 hour trip. I paid nearly twice that much for the same ride in Cape Cod.

3:39 PM – left Aquarium and headed to Quincy’s Market to maybe grab something to eat and check out souvenirs for the last time.

4:03 PM – was walking into Quincy’s Market after buying some souvenirs and a box of salt water taffy across at Faneuil Hall. A street performer was doing done kind of act and pointed me out on my way in and said something about me ‘inventing the steam engine’. No idea what he Was talking about. I gave the thumbs up and kept walking and the crowd laughed. I heard him say on the way in – ‘doesn’t he look like the inventor type’ and they laughed again. What does THAT mean?

Quincy’s Market is about 200 years old and is a giant food court with about 40 restaurants. They have Chinese, Thai, etc and also things like a fudge shop, Philly Cheesesteak place, a Boston hot dogs with Boston beans shop, etc. I picked a 1/2 chicken dinner with rice and veggies at a place called Ari’s BBQ for $7.59! I was shocked! It was really good too! Grabbed some maple fudge on the way out and walked 2 blocks to Haymarket station (Green Line). 2 stops back to Park Street, where I changed trains to Red Line to go 2 stops to South statio…right in the middle of rush hour. It got really busy really fast, and I wasn’t ready for it. I was at downtown stations and skyscrapers were emptying by the thousands into the streets, and many were coming to the stations. You had no time to think or stop to look at a map. It was just a wall of people going down the stairs. Exciting and scary – no one in this city has any tolerance or patience if you’re in their way, so I just rolled with the punches.

5:08 PM
– got off the train at South Station. That was my station but I had to get off the train regardless – I was starting to panic a bit because I couldn’t figure out where I was going. I was planning to walk most of the way back to the hotel – was close to the edge of Financial District where my hotel was.

I had bought a $9 day pass and used it a lot but won’t again until at least rush hour is over. I’ve been in Grand Central in NYC at rush hour and it was busy but wasn’t like this – this was more compressed and faster and shorter so more people at once. Told there’s too rush hours here – blue collar and white collar rushes. Trains were back to back to back – they are driven by operators do they can do that, unlike Skytrain. But not very orderly I didn’t think.

Was typing this at the station with my iPhone just now when a Chinese lady with a suitcase came up to me and scared the liver out of me – got right in my face with map in hand asked ‘where is cheap hotel’ just like that. No ‘excuse me’, nothing. Sigh. You’d think I’d be used to it by now but it never gets old.

She looked pretty harried so I said jokingly “in Cleveland” and told her I was from Canada. I said my hotel was cheapest I had researched – at $250 a night. She suddenly huffed, stormed off and yelled back – “I don’t go to Cleveland Canada and I not stay with you.’. Yah, you read that right.

My mind instantly thought ‘what the…..’. I actually thought I was on Candid Camera and kind of looked around, thinking the punch line to the joke was coming… coming… coming…. Like she would pull off a wig and Howie Mandel would be laughing at me. Yah, it never came. I was then really irritated. She embarrassed me in front of hundreds of people walking into the station – like I was some kind of pervert or something. She came up to me, not the other way around.

I felt like yelling back ‘ honey, grab some English next time before you come to a city like Boston. Do they not have hotel reservations in Shanghai?’ but I restrained myself. Sorry, but honestly I think they get dumber all the time. How could you just show up in a major city right ‘off the boat” (substitute plane, etc.) without booking something first and not having a clue what anyone is really saying. It seemed she had no clue where she was either but obviously just got here – airport tags on luggage. I’m still shaking my head on that one. Bizarre.

5:30 PM – walked a few blocks from station to where Congress Street crosses some unknown waterway.. Right at that bridge was where the Boston Tea Party ship – used to be. I saw it 6 years ago and got video but not pictures, and VHS tapes aren’t as useful as they used to be. In its place was a ripped up mooring and a big “Coming soon sigh. Coming soon? They do realize it happened over 235 years ago, right?

6:00 PM – Walked back to South station, and didn’t see as many people going in. Probably because I went in the wrong entrance and found myself at the Amtrak and bus station. I saw one sign that said NYC for $1 on the bus and thought – yah right. Then saw a Greyhound sign for $15 and I was tempted to just get a ticket!

A nice lady could tell I was a bit lost and confused and pointed me to the subway entrance – which was all part of one big building. She walked the same way and gave me good tips on seeing Boston. Best restaurants in the city are on North End in Little Italy by Paul Revere’s house. Too bad it was my last night here and couldn’t get motivated.

Finally got down into Red line (2 levels down) thinking I’d take that to hotel, then realized I came to South station on the Green Line and needed to be on that platform to get back to hotel (South station is a transfer zone), so walked up a level. Two trains were on either side of the platform and both were … going the wrong direction. What the…?

Then I saw other tracks farther down but you couldn’t just walk over to them, so I had to go down and exit up just in time for a train to show up. I figured the other trains both went one way so these did too. A guy behind me asked if this was the right train to Boylston, and I was so proud of myself that I actually knew the answer!

Except I was wrong! The train announced Haymarket while we were on it, and I said out loud ‘you’ve GOT to be kidding me.’. People kind of glanced but said nothing. That’s where I started from! I was still somehow going the wrong direction! How idiotic – there’s one Green Line train going North from South Station (which they stupidly call “Inbound”) and it breaks into 3 lines going off in 3 directions either South or West. So basically on the 2 platforms, only 1 train out of 4 was going my direction! Thank God for an unlimited pass. I decided to get off at Park Street, 2 stations down – suddenly had a craving for a McDonald’s hot fudge sundae – and they’re only $1 here! It’s the same McDonald’s I’ve been to a few times now at Boston Common.

6:30 PM – Went back to same station I just came from, and waited. First train that came through was – wrong direction again! You’ve got to be freaking kidding me. K, I’m officially DONE with this stupid system. I walked out thinking I had to just go back to the other platform and then realized I had right platform, just wrong side. Thought I’d give it another try – went back down and stuck in my card – and it beeped and said ‘Pass already used’. Already used? It’s a 24 hour pass!

Done, done, done.. I started walking through Boston Common back to the hotel.

MBTA officials – hope you’re reading this. Burn your freaking subway to the ground and start again. Seriously, it’s hopeless, and it stinks too (literally). It’s hopelessly shot in the head and so is whoever designed it. You either gave to be a rocket scientist or on crack to get it. I’ve apparently got neither ‘advantage’ so…. Beautiful evening for a walk through the park! The sundae helped too.

There must be a University or College graduating today – lots of people getting pictures taken in the Public Gardens – pretty spot to do it for sure, and the weather was just perfect, though a bit overcast. It was a great day – glad it all worked out the way it did, though the subway made me a little crazy. Um crazier. I’m going for accuracy on this blog.

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