There are three things that I love about Boston and Massachusetts – the sport, the history and the food.
It is home to some of America’s most successful baseball, football, basketball and hockey teams, there are countless sites of US historical significance and its fresh seafood dishes are unrivalled anywhere around the world.
After visiting Boston, the majority of tourists tend to head south to the honey traps of Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard.
However, my wife Rachel and I made a beeline for the lesser-known Cape Ann north of the city, where we found adventure, culture and a few seafood surprises.
New England is just six hours from the UK, and thanks to Norwegian’s low-cost route from Gatwick to Boston Logan, the transatlantic trip can be both inexpensive and comfortable.
We arrived in Boston on a steamy Saturday evening, and checked into our hotel for the next two nights, the swish Hotel Commonwealth.
Proudly boasting to be the Red Sox’s official hotel, the Commonwealth’s beds are the nearest you will find to Fenway Park’s legendary 11m-high wall the Green Monster without actually pitching a tent in its left field.
The next day we explored Boston itself. The best way of getting around the so-called Walking City is via the Freedom Trail – a 2.5mile-long red brick path that takes in 16 of its major historical sites, including Massachusetts State House, Site of the Boston Massacre and Faneuil Hall.
The trail also passes by the front of Union Oyster House – the oldest restaurant in America and a favourite haunt of JFK.
The owner Joseph Milano took Rachel and I on a short tour before showing us to our seat for lunch – booth No.18, aka The Kennedy Booth, where we gulped down some of his world famous oysters, lobster rolls and clam chowder.
Later, after walking back through Boston Common back to our hotel, we headed out for an evening of food, drinks and banter at Dick’s Last Resort Comedy Club in Quincy Market.
The next day, we picked up our hire car from a Hertz pick-up point and headed up the US-1 and MA-128 bound for Cape Ann. Our first stop was the magnificent Great House on the Crane Estate in Ipswich which was the summer retreat of Chicago industrialist Richard T Crane Jr and used as the exterior of the Lenox Mansion in 1987 film The Witches of Eastwick. Cape Ann is made up from five towns, and as we drove the through a second, Essex, we stumbled upon a seafood surprise.
Over 100 years ago, Lawrence ‘Chubby’ Woodman fried up a few clams on the side of the road as a way of making a few cents.
New England delicacy the fried clam was born, and now, five generations later, his grandson Steve is still serving up the molluscs and other treats at their restaurant Woodman’s of Essex.
Just down the road from Essex is America’s oldest seaport, Gloucester.
The nautical Beauport Hotel, with its wonderful seafront restaurant and pool deck and bar that stays open until late was a perfect base from which to embark on one of the highlights of the trip the next morning – a voyage on board 7 Seas Whale Watch’s Privateer IV boat.
We had already seen cormorants, a harbour seal and a minke whale during our first two hours out in the Atlantic, but we were on tenterhooks waiting for our first glimpse of humpbacks.
Then, the captain on board the ship shouted – “Port side, left side of the ship” – Rachel and I rushed over and caught our first glimpse of a pair of the mammals, spraying water from their blowholes and turning over, before, with a swish of their massive tail fins, gracefully diving for their next meal into the blue abyss.
Back on dry land, we had a reservation at Gloucester House, and were joined for a quick chat by the restaurant’s owner and raconteur Lenny Linquata.
As riveting as Lenny’s tales were, I couldn’t help but be distracted by what the server had placed in front of me – a bright orange one-and-a-half-pound boiled lobster.
Lenny then began his lobster-dissecting tutorial: “Break the claws off… throw that bit away… get stuck right in there, but don’t beat it up”.
During our last two days in Massachusetts, we learned even more about the state’s role in American history.
In industrial Lowell, we embarked on a boat ride in the National Park, before taking a tour of the water-powered Boott Cotton Mill Museum, viewing the displays at The New England Quilt Museum, and meeting Sara Bogosian, President of the Whistler House Museum of Art.
Modern-day Lowell is an artsy and multi-cultural city, with a great array of food and drink from around the world. Our second-to-last hotel for the week was the Stonehedge Inn & Spa on the New Hampshire border which was perfect for relaxing stopover before our final destination, Lexington, the town some consider as the birthplace of the America.
During the hour-long Liberty Ride trolley bus trip with a costumed guide named Pat, we learned about
At the risk of mixing up my baseball and football jargon, I guess you could call this trip a home run.
- Richard Jones and his wife Rachel flew with Norwegian who operate a four times weekly direct service between London Gatwick and Boston Logan International Airport on brand-new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. Economy fares start from £140 one-way/£220 return and £400 one way/£720 return in Premium. https://Visit www.norwegian.com/uk
- Hotel Commonwealth in Boston, Kenmore, from £166 per night based on two people sharing.