Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 10.10.10
Stanstead, Quebec


Boston is buss-town

On their twenty-fifth anniversary, my parents splurged on a packaged bus tour of Europe. We have a photo of them leaving the house in their matching polyester brown leisure suits, a photo I had great pleasure displaying at their fiftieth anniversary. They were adorable -- adorable twins.

So when Deb suggested we sign on for a three-day bus tour of Boston, I had reservations, not because I have an aversion to organized tours so much as an aversion to polyester.

Thankfully, our group's fabric range was varied, though I did notice a high polyester thread count among the many, many other bus tours in Boston. According to statistics, the population of Greater Boston is 4.5 million, with students adding another 300,000 and bus tour participants an additional 425,000.

At one point Deb and I found ourselves climbing uphill just as a tour group was coming down. We were like salmon swimming upstream. We emerged without incident, though I'm thankful that walker had handbrakes. It's also a good thing Deb and I weren't with our own tour group, otherwise the clash might have appeared to be a battle reenactment, which would have further attracted more tour groups...

I was also grateful that our group organizer hadn't obliged us to wear tour badges. Tour badges are just one step up from holding onto the daycare rope.

Badges, however, made it easy to play "Spot the Tourist," which I liked to do while wandering about (ironic considering I was a tourist). One way to distinguish tourists was that they weren't running. Bostonians are required by law to jog three hours a day. They're also obliged to speak with these adorable accents, because no one really talks like that, do they?

Also, tourists don't wash their hands after using the washroom. I noticed this in Quincy Market, the gift-shop-and-food-court heart of Boston. Not washing your hands is gross. Merely rinsing your hands without soap: equally gross. You're basically giving your germs a bath.

How do I know they weren't Bostonians? I mean besides the badges and lack of Spandex? Because I imagine that Bostonians wouldn't be caught dead near Quincy Market. Where else, though, can you purchase obligatory cheap souvenirs for your children? Well, pretty much anywhere. But boxer shorts emblazoned with "HOME OF THE GREEN MONSTAH"? Only Quincy Market.

Our three days weren't just shopping and dodging oncoming tour groups. We also visited the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, which was stupendous, immediately followed by the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, which was stupendously eclectic. "I can't look any more," I said to Deb. "My eyes are full."

And besides visiting a quiet, graceful church where Paul Revere was actually a member as opposed to that stupid Old North Church whose only real claim to fame are some stupid old lanterns stuck in a stupid old steeple and yet people line up around the block to visit it like it's some kind of stupid old Mecca (I'm paraphrasing the kind volunteer at the quiet, graceful church), there were also random observations, like:

- Your tour guide loses credibility when his list of films shot in Boston includes "Good Will Hunter."

- Bus tour priorities are "When does the bus leave?" and "When do we eat?"

- Five people were killed in the Boston Massacre, which suggests that "massacre" was the 18th century hyperbolic equivalent of "awesome."

- Three professional sports teams, 52 post-secondary institutions, an abundance of phallic structures, calling it Beacon Hill when it's really just Bunker Incline... is Boston trying to compensate for something?

- "Deluxe continental breakfast" isn't "deluxe"; it's "awesome."

- When you write a newspaper column, your fellow passengers caution each other about watching what they say. Really, though, they should be worried about someone taking photos of them sleeping open-mouthed in their seats. Nah, I'm just kidding, ladies, honest...

Speaking of photos, we ended our tour with a cruise of Boston Harbor. One of our bus-mates took a photo of Deb and me. We're wearing blue jeans and nearly identical brown sweatshirts.

We are adorable.

Ross Murray's collection, You're Not Going to Eat That, Are You?, is available in Quebec in area book stores and through He can be reached at