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A tourist on terra local

October 11, 2010

It was a perfect autumn day — 68 degrees with a cloudless sky — and I joined two dozen other people on a walking tour of Central Park. For two hours, we explored landmarks featured in movies dating to the 1960s.

There I was: wearing sunglasses and a sturdy pair of walking shoes and carrying my Nikon —the stereotypical tourist. But instead of returning to a hotel that night, I caught the commuter train to my home about 30 miles away.

I love being a tourist in my own town.

On this particular tour, I wasn’t the only area resident in the group. A young couple from Brooklyn and a mother and daughter from New Jersey also signed up to see the 17 buildings, bridges and landscape features that have served as movie locations for such films as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, When Harry Met Sally and Enchanted.

For me, the excursion was a great opportunity to see parts of Central Park that I had either never visited or breezed through without knowing the history of what I had just passed. And as a movie fan, I had always wanted to learn more about such familiar film scenes as Bethesda Terrace (with its ornate fountain), the Boathouse Restaurant, the Bow Bridge and the Carousel.

It was also fun to chat with “official” tourists, such as Claire, a 20-something Australian who was packing a month’s worth of sightseeing and shopping into her two-week visit to NYC. She had already taken a ferry to the Statue of Liberty, visited several museums and hit the clubs at night with her Australian friend, who had moved to Greenwich Village three months earlier (and was working seven days a week to afford her new American lifestyle). After the park outing, Claire planned to shop at  Chelsea Market, take a New York Harbor boat tour and go out dancing — again — with her friend.

When you’re among visitors from other countries and states and listening to a well-versed guide, it’s easy to see Central Park and its surroundings with fresh eyes. I like to do the same when I visit Boston, a city whose charms I know well because I grew up in one of its suburbs.

Unfortunately, it’s been some time since I’ve had the chance to play tourist in Beantown. But when I do have a day or two of free time, I love to browse in the shops on the Back Bay’s Newbury Street, with its lovely brownstone buildings and sense of history, and then walk over to Copley Square, with its large fountain and towering Trinity Church. In the right conditions, you can see the church reflected in the glass panes of the adjacent John Hancock Tower — one of my favorite views.

In warm weather, I usually stroll through the Public Garden to look at the flowers and watch the Swan Boats taking passengers for a cruise on the lagoon. Then I might walk along the cobblestone streets near the State House building with its dramatic gold leaf-gilded dome. And that’s only a sample of where I like to wander when in Boston.

But I don’t have to travel far to explore early American history or see interesting architecture and pretty landscapes. I’m fortunate to live in the Hudson River Valley, which boasts many historic sites, restored homes, parks and trails. Although I don’t take these places for granted, I’ve spent time at them mostly when friends or family members are visiting. So it’s time for me truly to be a backyard tourist and explore more sights in my corner of New York.

All photos by J. Leary

© Janice Leary and My Point Exactly, 2010-2014. Unauthorized use of this material, including original photographs, without express and written permission from this blog’s author is prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Janice Leary and My Point Exactly with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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