Home of the Red Sox baseball team, Harvard University, and a mountain of American historical landmarks, Boston is one of the most pleasant and the most beautiful cities in the United States. This is my second visit to Boston, and — as with my previous visit, back in 2000 — I'm here primarily to see my wonderful cousins, who live here and who call this place home. I'm also here to have a reunion with my Dad, and with my Auntie and Uncle, all of whom I've been away from, since I departed from Australia 8 months ago.
If you ever find yourself in Salem, Massachusetts, don't miss going to the Boston Hot Dog Co. on the main street, and grabbing a "Chicago dog" for lunch. This has to be the best hot dog I've had in my life. Ever. Lovely grilled sausage, pickled cucumber, jalapeño chili peppers, lettuce, tomato (they say tom-AEY-to!), and American mustard, all on a chunky long roll. I devoured this dog, ears 'n' all (as my grandad would say). He had it coming.
For today's Boston regional outing, my dad and I went and visited Salem — possibly the biggest tourist spot in Massachusetts (apart from Boston itself). And why? Because of the witches, of course! As all history buffs should know, The Crucible (which I studied in high school). These days, tourists flock to Salem for the trial re-enactments, for museums portraying the tragedy of bygone years, and for Halloween celebrations that are unrivalled by any other town in America.
My uncle David took me to a camping store this evening, called EMS (Eastern Mountain Sports), where I got myself a lovely new tent. I purchased the Big Agnes Seedhouse SL1, a compact 1-person dome tent that's suitable for backpacking trips. It's quite light, and it's also meant to be durable and waterproof. Also got myself one of those funky self-inflating sleeping mats; and a new compass and flashlight (as I lost my old ones). To find out why I bought a tent, and what I'm going to be doing with it, stay tuned for my upcoming adventures in Europe :P.
For a little excursion out of town (and interstate!), today my dad and I got a bus down to Newport, Rhode Island (about 1½ hours south of Boston). About 100 years ago, Newport was the exclusive summer retreat for the wealthiest millionaires in America — and as such, these millionaires built some super-impressive mansions in the town. Today, Newport is still a very posh area, and many of the mansions are still privately owned and inhabited; but quite a few of them have been converted into museums and event facilities, and are open to the public. We went on a tour of the two most famous mansions in town — "The Breakers" and "Rose Cliff" — and we also explored the cliff-edge ocean shore that straddles the mansions.
Today was an incredibly bereft-of-fun day. Most of my day was spent on the phone, with either Qantas or British Airways, trying to get the rest of my round-the-world flights sorted out. Since my travel agent back in Sydney was unable to book all my flights when I left — as they can only be booked so far in advance — I have to book London-to-Bangkok and Bangkok-to-Sydney now. Wasn't easy: although I've paid for the round-the-world package, that doesn't guarantee me to seats on specific flights; and all the flights on those routes in Jan and Feb '08 are utterly booked out. The fact that I can only get specific super-dodgy seats on a given flight, and that my ticket is non-upgradeable, doesn't help at all. Anyway, managed to get it all sorted out — and managed to buy a Eurail ticket as well!
When I met John and Matt, back at DrupalCon Sunnyvale in March, they were still in the final stages of writing Pro Drupal Development. But now it's out. And there's no doubt at all: this is the book on Drupal. It's so good, it even scored a Slashdot review (and that's no small feat). This book really does have everything the professional Drupal developer needs to know. Pereonally, I like the final chapters most (on security and performance), and I'm confident that they'll be a reference asset to me for years to come. Got the book today in Boston, as it will undoubtedly be more expensive back home than it is here in the USA.
Sounds like the kind of name that America's worst president would make up, don't you think? Actually — amazingly — the name "the freedom trail" was not made up by Dubbya, and it even predates the Bush administration. "The freedom trail" is a red line that winds through the streets of old Boston town, and that guides the curious tourist to a number of the more prominent historical landmarks, here in one of the oldest and most history-rich cities in the USA. Today, Ivor, Manuela, dad and myself embarked upon the trail, and discovered a whole lot of things about Boston and American Heritage.
We've been seeing a lot of signs around Newton Center lately, telling us to "vote for Geoff Epstein". Well, this afternoon we finally met the mysterious Geoff himself. In a ridiculous turn of coincidence, Geoff Epstein is an Aussie ex-pat, who's been married and living here in Boston for over 30 years. The signs are up all over town, because he's running in the elections for something to do with the local council. Geoff seems like a friendly guy, although we're not sure whether or not we're related to him.
We finished off Adam's barmitzvah celebrations today, by doing something that we really didn't do enough of yesterday: eating! Hahahahaha... yeah right, as if we needed to eat more this weekend. This morning's brunch was an informal little affair, at the Goldstein house, where we just kinda popped in and shmoozed for a bit. The brunch was catered separately to yesterday's big lunch, which was insane — as yesterday's lunch has provided the Goldsteins with enough leftovers to end world hunger in 22% of Africa. Anyway, nice morning finale to the simcha.
This was it: today was Adam's barmitzvah! In the morning, we had the service and the torah call-up; and in the afternoon, we had a colossal lunch in the shul hall. All of this was at the conservative synagogue that my cousins go to, just down the road from their house in Newton Center. Adam did a great job on stage: read his portion very confidently, and gave a solid and well-intentioned speech. And needless to say, the lunch was scrumdiddlyumptious.