Travel: New England Traditions
In my own inelegant way, I got down. I skied over to Lunch Rocks, stepped out of my bindings, and have never stepped into a ski at Tucks again, though I’ve returned many times. The thing is, you don’t have to ski Tucks to love it.
The magic of spring here is so many things: the camaraderie of friends and strangers on the trail; dogs chasing Frisbees; beach balls being batted around; the soulful, funky notes of a saxophone floating on the air. A kind of snow-bowl theater in the round is within reach of anyone who can hike the three miles to the floor of the ravine.
For all of my trips here, I loved the saxophone day most; I listen for those sweet notes every time I round the bend and look into Tucks’ great glacial cirque.
Make Way for Swan Boats
At the Boston Public Garden, we can all be children.
Crusty Bostonians can be sentimental, too. They hang onto things for generations. That’s what has helped preserve their hometown’s architectural distinctiveness when almost every other city in America looks like Houston.
And one of those things that Bostonians hang onto is the ritual of riding the swan boats–those pretty, pedal-powered throwbacks that seasonally circumnavigate the manmade pond at the center of Boston’s lush and beautiful Public Garden.
People who once rode these icons with their grandparents now take their grandchildren. And kids who live in an age of Xbox like it, primed by the Robert McCloskey classic Make Way for Ducklings and excited by the real-life mallards and swans sharing the lagoon with them.
“We got so close to the ducks that we could see their flippers,” gushes 7-year-old Elisabeth, who’s just gone for a ride with her second-grade class. She saw the lagoon’s two swans, too, she says, but “the swan on the boat was too proud to answer.”
It figures. When Robert Paget designed the first of the swan boats in 1877, laying boards across two rowboats, he was inspired by the Wagner opera Lohengrin, in which a knight in shining armor rides a boat drawn by a swan. So for his own version he had a copper swan made to hide the pedal-powered paddlewheel.
Today there are six boats in service, the granddaddy of the fleet now 93 years old. They’re still driven by pedal power (though the swans are fiberglass). And the fourth and fifth generations of Pagets run the concession, which operates from Patriots’ Day weekend in April till mid-September.