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  • Writer's pictureJanette Frawley

'In Boston are the elements of a great civilized city'

Initially I book two nights accommodation in Boston. It is very expensive and the cheapest accommodation I can find in central Boston is a third-floor student bedsit. It is still horrendously expensive. Within 24 hours, I realise that I need to extend my stay for at least two more days and because my bedsit is booked out (and is only accessible by spiral staircase), I book into a nearby hotel, The Colonnade. Situated near Copley Square, it is close to absolutely everything, so I'm glad I'm staying in this part of town.

I stop at a tour desk at the Marriott Hotel, where I hope to pick up a hop-on-hop-off tour, but end up talking to the ticket seller instead for a few minutes. He was really interesting. Probably in this late 60s, he lived and worked in Melbourne years ago. After finishing his degree at Harvard, he had written to each of the top 20 companies in Australia and asked for an interview. He ended up getting an interview with Dunlop and worked there during the Bob Hawke/Paul Keating era. In fact, he ended up being quite friendly with both. Apart from his very interesting background, he also advises me not to bother getting the ferry to Salem the following day, but to take the train.

I move my stuff to the new hotel and since there is a subway right outside the door, I jump on it to go to North Station, where I connect with a commuter train to Salem, the place were the 'witch trials' took place between 1692 and 1693. I'm quite interested in checking this iconic town out.

The day is perfect; warm with blue skies. I, along with half of Boston's population wait for the platform door to open at North Station. A train leaves every hour to Salem and beyond. Although initially I have my doubts, the train accommodates everyone and before long we are on our way.

I am not sure what to expect, but I am not prepared for the spectacle that Salem is today. I know it's October. I know that it is Halloween month. I am not aware that Salem turns into some sort of Disneyesque festival for the entire month of October. Family friendly, there are all sorts of activities to do as long as you have plenty of time because the queues to get into museums and other attractions are horrendous. I stood in a line for 40 minutes to get something to eat at lunch time.

The positive thing about this weekend festival is that the history of the Witch Trials is used as a basis for the festivities and the Witch History Museum provides an interactive view of the trials that took place. Out on the street ghouls and witches pose for photographs. For me, it is the wrong time of the year to visit Salem. Of course, I went with the wrong idea; after all, I had read Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot' many years ago and perhaps I was expecting to see something rather sedate with creepy undertones. What I found was hundreds of kids and dogs dressed in all sorts of costumes having a wonderful time.

As a side note, the God Squad, complete with banners and pamphlets had been on my train from Boston this morning. I have to suppress a bout of hearty laughing when one placard-bearing 'Jesus loves you' devotee corners a creature that had been wandering the street looking for tips and photo opportunities, to convert him to 'Christianity'. Does he not realise that these costume-wearing souls are not actually witches and members of the Adam's Family? Does he not know that these unidentifiable people are probably the town's teachers, doctors, and local amateur actors during a normal day. These zealots are really stupid.

By 3:30, I've had enough and make my way to the railway station, praying that I haven't missed the train. I haven't. When the train arrives, I quickly find a seat and am surprised when the Canadian lady that sat with me on the way to Salem sat next to me on the way back. It had been a fun day, but perhaps I need to revisit at another time of the year to have the opportunity to absorb the town's atmosphere and to comfortably learn about the unfortunate happenings of 1692 by puritanical Pilgrim settlers.

If nothing else today, I've been able to sort out the MBTA, Boston's public transport system.

Speaking of which; we may complain about the public transport in Melbourne, but when you ride the subway trains in Boston, it is surprising to see that many of the stations are old and, although clean, are largely unfinished concrete and old tiles. I'm surprised when we come to a fork in the tunnel to see a train coming straight for us, only for ours to swerve (as one does on tracks) to the left and enter another tunnel. It appears that there is a subterranean give-way system, which I think would only work here in Boston.

Quote: Oscar Wilde

Accommodation: Copley House/Colonnade Hotel


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