Day 5. Boston. Hurricane, Har Gau, Hall

In which we consider natural disasters, do not eat an excellent sandwich for lunch, and go for a walk.


So, here are some snips of news headlines from the last several years. What do they have in common?

Well, yes, they are all natural disasters. More personally, they are natural disasters that happened while we were on holiday in those locations.

I’m not saying we are cursed. But it has definitely occurred to me that we could probably phone the Chamber of Commerce at pretty much any popular holiday destination, threaten to visit them at peak season, and expect a generous payoff for not turning up.

Okay. Want to guess where I’m going with this?

Yep. Got it in one. I mean, I did kind of foreshadow it with the heading and all.

Truth to tell none of the disasters worked out too horribly, as natural disasters go.

Hurricane Madeline weakened significantly before it hit Hawaii and had very heavy rain but no huge damage; we had to cancel our trip to Big Island because all the flights were grounded, but we stayed an extra five days at a very nice resort in Maui which was no hardship.

Mount Agung didn’t erupt while we were there (although it did some months later, killing over a thousand people). Flights were grounded for a while because of the ash, but we left Bali as scheduled before the groundings.

The earthquake in Vanuatu actually occurred the morning of the day that we arrived in the afternoon, so I’m stretching things a little bit by including it. Again, no great damage was done although we did get to experience a fairly exciting aftershock that evening.

And Hurricane Dorian also weakened considerably before it hit. There was heavy rain and winds around Cape Cod but Boston only got some pretty mild rain.

It did, however, make the seas rather energetic for a day or two. As a result of which we delayed the whale-watching trip we had booked for this day. And good on Boston Harbour Cruises for making the tickets transferable and being quite frank about what the seas were going to be like. We decided that even if the weather was going to be … okay … today, it was going to be better tomorrow.

So, there we were at about 11am on a Sunday, at Boston Harbour, and nothing to do for a few hours. How to fill in the time?

Yum Cha!

I mentioned last post that one of the things we like to experience in different cities is yum cha. So far we have found it to be an extremely consistent experience wherever we have gone, but there are often some specialties local to the city or just to that restaurant to discover, and there is a comfort to the similarities.

Having done extensive research about the Boston yum cha scene, the smart money appeared to be on China Pearl. Let’s play yum cha bingo.

Located in Chinatown? Check.

Families queueing to get in? Check.

Located at the top of awkwardly high stairs? That’s a bonus point!

Huge internal space with decor that looks like it’s from the ’70s? Check and check!

Prawn dumplings – thin, supple pastry and juicy prawns. Check.

Deep fried prawn and chive dumplings – crispy and chivey.

Shao mai – densely porky and chewy.

Turnip cakes – firm, slightly charred.

Check, check, check.

Vegetarian pocket dumplings – sorry to say these were a miss. The pastry was thick and stodgy, the filling sparse and lacking flavour. No check here.

Crab claw dumplings – crispy shell and generous amounts of crab and prawn mince filling. Definitely a check.

And, egg tarts, because you have to have egg tarts – light flaky pastry, rich slightly sweet filling. Check.

So overall China Pearl was a good, classic yum cha experience. No special or unique menu items that we saw; but it did have a steam table with fried and steamed dishes on it as well as the usual trolleys navigating speedily around the room, which is not something I’ve seen elsewhere.

It’s pronounced Fan-ewe-il.

So, a bit more of a holiday history ramble.

The first time I visited Washington D.C., we went to the Mall, as you do. Everyone knows the reflecting pool, right? Lincoln memorial at one end, Washington Monument at the other, beautiful reflected vista in between. You know, this one.

Well, when I was there, it was drained for maintenance. It was a long, shallow trough with a bunch of dead algae and pond scum at the bottom. Inspirational, not so much.

The next time I was in D.C. we went to revisit the Jefferson Memorial. Founding father (Lisa Simpson’s favourite!), key writer of the constitution, third POTUS, and yes, he had a complicated relationship with slavery (to put it mildly). It was … not closed for maintenance, but was completely covered in scaffolding and draped with cloths for maintenance. The beautiful classical architecture of columns and dome was obscured.

It seemed like every other American icon that I visited was going to be closed or obscured. I swear, when I went the the Grand Canyon I half expected the whole jolly thing to be covered with painter’s cloths with a “Thank you for your patience” sign.

Faneuil Hall is a Boston icon. Built in the 18th century and rebuilt and expanded in the 19th, it has been a market (on the ground floor) and a meeting hall (on the upper floors) for several centuries and change. Nowadays it is part of a market district, a museum and gallery in the basement, and the upstairs hall is still used for functions.

But you are smart people. I think you can see where I’m going with this.

Yep. The whole darn thing was swaddled in scaffolding and mesh. Everything was going on inside as usual – it’s a bit of a tourist trap, to be honest, but hey, if you’re a tourist, embrace the traps, right? There are plenty of things to eat and souvenirs to buy. If you want a hat in the form of a lobster, this is the place to find it!

And how is it pronounced really? I completely failed to ask a Boston native. Based on my pretty rudimentary French I would have said Fen-ewe-ay. Googling it I get video clips saying Fan-el and Fan-youl. I guess it’s a mystery for the ages.

Tomorrow – whale watching. For sure, this time!

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