Getting to know the Boston that predated New England
My original plan was to stay at an inn close by massive Lincoln Cathedral so as to be able to inspect this magnificent example of 13th-century Gothic architecture at my leisure. But every lodging with some appeal was booked because the annual county fair was in full swing. Rather than settle on a place in the outskirts, I took a quick tour of the cathedral and then looked at my map to find an interesting alternative. To the southeast of Lincoln I saw Boston marked on the map. This impromptu discovery immediately perked up my spirit, and with renewed enthusiasm I headed for the town from whence our Pilgrim fathers had come.Skip to next paragraph
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I had driven south from the highlands of Scotland and was by this time well conditioned to the steep mountains, high hills, rolling countryside, and curving roads. As I drew closer to Boston, however, I found myself moving along what seemed like an absolutely level landscape, more reminiscent of the Netherlands than England. I was to learn later that this area of Lincolnshire is called ``the Parts of Holland.'' This rich agricultural district is also known as Fenland, and the Romans were the first to reclaim the fecund soil for farming. Here is some of Great Britain's most fertile land, made exceedingly beautiful by tulips and other flowers, gabled houses, and windmills.
I was still about 10 miles from town when I caught sight of the famous Boston Stump rising above a layer of mist that was settling across the fens. The Boston Stump is the elegant, 272-foot high, Gothic tower of St. Botolph's Church. People who live in these parts say that the Boston Stump, the second highest church tower in the country, can be seen from more than 20 miles away. In medieval times, when Boston, a member of the Hanseatic League, was an important port trading in wool and wine, the Stump was a vital navigational landmark for ships coming ontointo? the Wash, a shallow inlet facing the North Sea. Boston is situated on the Witham River, which empties into the Wash. The sight of the Stump was indeed heartening, because the sun had set below the horizon, and I was looking forward to a hot meal and a cozy bed.
It was dark when I arrived in the Wide Bargate section of Boston, but fortunately ahead of me was a sign most welcoming to a tired American: the New England Hotel. Even though I didn't have a reservation, I was warmly received and assigned a comfortable room with a bath for around $50 US (about $65 for a double), which included a full English breakfast. An electric kettle, china, tea bags, instant coffee, and Scottish shortbreads were on the dresser for me to use at will. The supper in the hotel's dining room, consisting of mushroom soup, veal cutlets, and jam and custard trifle, was very good, disproving the old image of bland British cuisine.
Early the next morning I walked toward Boston's main attraction -- St. Botolph's Church. The town was alive with children, dressed in their snappy school blazers and ties, scurrying in every direction, and with tradesmen and women chattering and opening up their shops for another day's business. The huge cranes on the docks were already swinging in operation, loading vessels with coal, cattle, and agricultural products.