Tag Archives: Boston

guided sightseeing tours peter jones pietro place

Guided Sightseeing Tours

I live in Boston, I am from London, and I am in the travel business.

I watch the endless flotilla of sightseeing buses in their various forms trundle through the streets and main thoroughfares of all of the major cities.  I actually love the double decker buses in London and the hop on/hop offs that have taken over most of the cities of the world.  They truly serve a vital and useful function.  When people arrive in a city, they need an overview just to get their bearings.  While it is not my cup of tea to get stuck in a traffic jam, I sort of like the views and it’s a lazy way of a getting a history lesson.

Most of the time, guided sightseeing tours are brilliant.

The guides are local and with their peculiar accents and personalities they shine.  They are great communicators, energizers, and perspective givers.  They have their arsenal of anecdotes, their funny stories, and they are often our first impression when we arrive in a major city.  God forbid the poor tour group who gets the unbrilliant guide reciting date after date, detail after detail in the most hopeless way.  These are “the Memorizers” – fear them because they are out there and they will take the wind right out of your enthusiastic sails!

Most importantly, to be able to guide at the highest level, to recite history and communicate it effectively, and to move and change the narrative depending on the ebb and flow of traffic, requires concentration.  A guide should never be the driver of the vehicle.  That would detract from guiding and driving.  The other day there was a tragic accident in Boston with a “Duck Boat.” The “Duck Boats” in Boston are a fun tourist attraction – old amphibious military vehicles restored so that they can drive down the streets of Boston and then on into the Charles River.  It is an incredibly successful concept that has been replicated in other cities where tidal barriers permit.

But there is one problem and it’s a big problem.

The driver, situated about 15 feet above pedestrians on the street, is doing two separate things at the same time; each requiring their own expertise.  Drivers need to have good vision of everything around them, they need to solve short term problems, and they must stay alert to everything on the road and the sidewalks.  In addition, they have to read traffic signs, respond to hazards, and be aware of their spatial significance.  They are essentially driving a tank through narrow and busy streets.

In addition, they are tour guides.  They have to provide commentary, anticipate what they are going to see, and move their commentary around as the traffic changes its pattern.  So how can you do two things at the same time?  Texting and telephoning while driving in most states is forbidden.

Yet these guys drive around with blind spots everywhere, high above pedestrians, bicyclists, and scooter drivers and they are expected to be 100% alert to the changing driving conditions.

It’s impossible.  The tragic accident that happened the other day was proof of this.

What is the city going to do about this?  It looks at the moment like nothing and why….because Boston Duck Tours brings important revenue to the city of Boston.  Shame on you Boston and shame on the Boston Duck Tours.  Add a separate driver to each vehicle; a second set of eyes to help watch for pedestrians and other vehicles on the road.  It cost someone their life the other day and that is too big a price to pay for profit and gain and tourist dollars.

guided sightseeing tours

Late Flight to Istanbul Pietro Place

A Late Flight to Istanbul

The great thing about flying on Turkish Airlines from Boston is that they have a very late flight at 11:40 pm.  In addition, if you are heading onwards to Tel Aviv, as I was, connections are pretty good.  Package that with a business class fare that is not one of those jaw dropping dreadful price points that make you wonder who ever pays for those flights at full fare, and you have it.  Dinner at a good restaurant in Boston and a late night flight departure is a great way to spend the first part of a transatlantic flight.  The preparation at least is going to be decent!

Turkish Airlines, as I found out, unfortunately did not have flat beds, but staff were pretty good, seats were decent for business class and the rest I simply can’t remember as I took an Ambien! Next stop was Istanbul about 9 hours later.  Istanbul is a funky airport.  Old bits shoved onto sleek new bits makes for a decent transit stop.  Tel Aviv was next on my journey and flight time wasn’t bad.  Actually, service on the Tel Aviv flight and leg room was better than the long transatlantic flight.  They must know we all take Ambien for the long hauls!

I’ve followed up my insiders’ guide to Ashland, Massachusetts, with a tour of my second adopted home-town: Boston!

A lot has changed in Boston over the past few years, (hello, artisan coffee and cheese) but one thing remains the same: this city dominates in athletics. Whether your an superjock or a sensualist, Boston is ready for you!

Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel for Pietro Place in Boston, Massachusetts and dozens of other video blogs!

Pietro Place Travel Blog Aqua Taxi Post

Aqua Taxi (The Uber Debate)

Pietro Place Travel Blog Aqua Taxi Post

Aqua Taxi

All of the talk, wherever I go, seems to be whether Uber is ethical.

Let’s rewind and remember that Uber started essentially as a high-end, low-cost limo service with smart drivers and GPS. Imagine, these were the first guys in the taxi service that discovered GPS! Like any brand, it started to take off. There was no cash, no tip, no conversation needed, and less than the price of a taxi, all on an app that was highly reliable and told you exactly when and who was going to show up. They then diversified into Uber X which was a lot less than a taxi but the cars were not as nice. Yet it still had GPS relied on credit cards and no tip.

Then the protests began. The basic premise of the protest was unfair competition, no liability, and safety.

If taxis want to compete with Uber, then they should do so on Uber’s terms. Take my city, Boston. Taxi service here is terrible; they are owned by two or three large companies that simply don’t seem to care. The drivers earn a pittance, the taxis are dirty, there is no way of knowing if your taxi is going to show up and, if you don’t tip, they look at you as if there is no tomorrow. So, who is kidding who here? Uber found a gap in the market place – simple as that.

The other night, I took a water taxi from one end of Boston to the other.  I had this vague fantasy of an Uber vaparetto – imagine that!

The Acela Train That Couldn’t

Not to rag on the ACELA train that services the Boston – New York – Washington corridor, but it is a particularly painful experience, costly and inefficient. Compare the Limoliner at $89 where the wireless works, the seats are like first class on an airplane and you get movies to boot vs. the ACELA at anywhere between $130 – $275 where the wireless rarely works, the service on board in first class is a joke and in business class non-existent and there are no movies. Not to mention that you leave from a beat up station like South Station in Boston and arrive at one of the most horrendous in the world, Penn Station in NY. It’s grimy, it’s confusing, it’s full of people who seem to not be catching trains.

And you wonder why America runs on Dunkin’ or buses rather than trains. The journey time is more or less the same, except you have a far greater chance of being delayed on the train, than on the bus. But it’s the service that really stands out. The Limoliner wants you to come back. Amtrak doesn’t care and what’s more, given that the price is half the price of a one-way ticket by air, you would think that the appeal of the train would inspire Amtrak to try and make me want to come back.

I haven’t given up, but I find it incredibly frustrating that in this day and age, when trains are flying along in Asia and Europe at speeds of 200mph or more with friendly service and efficiency, that we seem still to be tied up with a ragged antiquated system along the Eastern seaboard, which is a prime artery for train travel. Boston to Washington, DC (about the same mileage) takes roughly 7 hours and that’s on the fast train. We could learn a thing or two from the Italians: Rome to Milan – about 362 miles in just under 3 hours.


Chapter 3: Snowconomics and Why Someone Else Should Shovel Your Snow

Chapter 3:  Snowconomics and Why Someone Else Should Shovel Your Snow

Shoveling snow is a New England tradition; a tradition we’d largely escaped this winter season. It almost seemed the snow wouldn’t come – a signal of global warming? Just days after two snow storms heralded in record amounts of snow, it now appears that Mother Nature was simply playing tricks on us.

Soon after the snow comes “the shovelers.”  Like Christmas Carolers, they bring joy to those that open the door. “Do you need your car shoveled out? On its face, a straight-forward question.  But deep within the syntax lurks a challenge to one’s virility. A man does not NEED to have his car shoveled out. He is able-bodied. He should throw himself into the trenches and dig along with the rest of them. Shoveling snow has long been perceived to be a man’s duty, like barbecuing.  But the truth is, the casual snow shoveling industry is a chance to spread the wealth to those in need. With public transit systems in disarray, many lower-wage earners find themselves in a pinch. Many take to the streets, offering to shovel out their neighbors.

It’s an underground industry – cash only. Though I’m sure this would be an opportunity for Square and other mobile payment mechanisms. But here’s the thing, if you have a good salary and you feel that shoveling snow is a great way to work out, remember you’re breaking the economic cycle. The fact is if you want to keep fit, go to the gym. There’s a guy walking along the street with a shovel who needs your money. And he’ll do a better job than you.


The Boston Snow Chronicles

The Boston Snow Chronicles

Chapter 1:  Navigating Boston in the Winter Storm Season

Boston received more snow last week than any other week-long period in history. And then we had a parade.  The two are not connected; the New England Patriots winning the Super Bowl right on the heels of the worst snow week ever, was as unlikely as the Pats’ rookie Malcolm Butler interception. But it happened.

The timeline:

  • Sunday night the Patriots won. The most glorious fourth quarter ever played in a Super Bowl.
  • Monday the snow won and shut the city down.
  • By Tuesday Boston was already brushing off the snow:  the schools reopened, as did the government buildings and suddenly everyone was back on the roads.
  • It deserves its own bullet-point. The T was and still is a nightmare. Does Boston really think we’ll get the Olympics with this subway system?
  • And on Wednesday – in the midst of mountains of snow, of all things, the city of Boston brought out the Duck Boats to carry our glorious heroes and handsome Tom around the clogged up streets, amidst adoring fans.

So we celebrated the Super Bowl win and then most offices were closed – so we kept on celebrating.   And then we suffered and shoveled and we thought that would be our last storm of the season. Yeah right. This is Boston. It’s only just begun!


Buried In Snow

The week just got buried in snow. Honestly. Boston looks like a ski resort. My street has walkways that remind me of those pictures of First World War trenches. Cars are buried, even cop cars, and there is nowhere to put the snow. Didn’t the Russians develop a heating solution. It seems like it would be so easy. Snow does go away. And on top of all this, I am heading to Stamford CT for a meeting, plus DC for another meet.

Stamford is our corporate HQ and not the greatest town. It’s main attribute is that it is 40 minutes from NYC. It is slightly soulless and dead after dark. It’s also astonishingly, the most expensive place to live in the Usa. I don’t believe this little gem. It just can’t be. It’s dreadful ! Great week to be traversing the north eastern corridor! For now, I am looking out the window of my country house preparing to go out with snow shoes and shovel the roof, and enjoy this stuff as if I were a kid again