One of the top things we’d recommend to anyone visiting Boston is to pay the Mapparium a visit. This is where we started our second day in the city, and it is essentially a giant stained glass globe that you can walk inside.
Located in the Mary Baker Eddy Library, the globe is 3 storeys tall. Of course, if it was like a normal globe, and you stood inside it looking out, everything would face the wrong way! So just imagine that the view from the inside of the Mapparium is of a concave globe and not a convex one – it’s like someone has peeled the skin off the Earth, turned it inside out, and you’re standing in the centre of it.
The globe was made in 1935, and has never been updated. So you can stare at the huge European empires of countries like Britain and France, look at the size of Germany before WWII, spot how Alaska and Hawaii aren’t American states yet, marvel at the size of the USSR, ponder at what the hell Tannu Tuva is, check out old place names like Siam, see a unified Korea (under Japanese rule), and see why flights from the UK to North America look like they travel in a huge arc (whereas in reality they don’t, it’s more or less a straight line).
The acoustics inside the Mapparium are great too, as it is just one giant whispering gallery. This is possibly the worst place to have a private conversation or make a nasty remark about someone else in your group!
You could stand in the Mapparium for ages, it really is beautiful and amazing seeing the whole world around you. But unfortunately, you are only allowed inside for 15-20 minutes (more time really would be great as there is so much to look at), and neither can you take photos!! But at $6 each, it is still remarkably good value.
From the Mapparium, we hopped on the subway and made our way to Cambridge. We arrived at Harvard Square, and headed down Brattle Street. Continuing the American Revolution theme from the previous day, Brattle Street had gone by the nickname ‘Tory Row’ as its mansions were home to Loyalists (those who supported Great Britain) during the Revolution.
The real reason why we’d come to Cambridge though was to make a comparison with our last hometown in the UK, the ‘original’ Cambridge. Both are of course home to two of the world’s crème de la crème of universities, the University of Cambridge and Harvard University.
We appreciated that Cambridge, Massachusetts isn’t as old as Cambridge, England, so we weren’t expecting to stumble upon something like King’s College Chapel. However, we were a little disappointed by Harvard and its buildings. Whereas in England access to the university’s colleges is regulated and restricted, and you better adhere to those ‘keep off the grass’ signs, at Harvard we just wandered in off the street and probably could have kept on wandering all over their lawns if we’d wanted.
Harvard is home to the world’s largest private and university library, named after Harry Elkins Widener by his mother after he drowned in the sinking of the Titanic. But the biggest draw here is a statue of John Harvard, a graduate of the University of Cambridge and a Harvard benefactor. The statue is infamous for three lies; it is not an accurate representation of John Harvard (it was modelled on a 19th century student), it claims he is the university’s founder, and it gets the year of the university’s foundation wrong.
Despite these inaccuracies, the tradition for tourists appears to be to pose for a picture whilst touching the statue’s shiny shoe for good luck. Our guide book warned us of another tradition, that Harvard freshmen like to urinate on the statue, and deciding that we didn’t want the luck of touching his shoe that much, we moved on.
We paid a quick visit to the Harvard Law School. Famous alumni include Elle Woods of Legally Blonde, and various other fictional characters whose intelligence and/or social standing needs to be evidenced for the purpose of the story. Back in the real world, Barack Obama is also a graduate. Congratulations Barack, for this is also your 3rd mention on Brown Bear to date.
Returning to Boston itself, we went on the Black Heritage Trail. In truth, this was just an opportunity to explore Beacon Hill, one of Boston’s most prominent neighbourhoods and home to stereotypical red brick houses and pavements. Following the Black Heritage Trail became nigh on impossible though as it is so badly signposted; the opposite of the Freedom Trail.
On the way back to our hotel we stumbled upon a Lindt shop. Of course we had to go inside, where we discovered they had a massive sale on. With this being America, where everything is cheaper to start with, we got 76 Lindor truffles for only £8! Bargain of the century people! Wisely I claimed my half, and hid these from Emma.
We rounded off the day with dinner at Maggiano’s. We’d been to one before, for the wedding of our friends, Gemma and Ash, and the food had been excellent. Having not had lobster before, and being in New England, I knew that this was my chance to have some. Despite not being some traditional, independent seafood establishment, it was yummy, and I can see why Homer Simpson enjoys it so much.