Monday, November 29, 2010

Boston. In under five hours.

It's 2PM.  We managed to see whatever we could at Minute Man National Historic Park and now it was time to move on to Boston.

S, being the schmoozer he is, made friends with the ranger at the park.  To be fair, both the ranger and S are really nice friendly guys so schmoozing came naturally to both :-).  Not only did the ranger give us permission to leave the RV in the parking lot but also to leave it there after closing!  He would then coordinate with the officer on night duty making sure we'd have no problems. Like I said, really nice guy.  Oh, lest we forget, he also spent a great deal of time making sure we knew where we were going once we got to Boston and gave us some recommendations regarding places to see and things to do.

So, having taken care of that 'little' issue, we headed to the nearest train station to take us into Boston.  30 minutes on the train and we were in the heart of Boston.  Incredible!  Never having been here before I was thoroughly impressed.  I don't think I've ever said that about big cities.  Period.  Neither one of us are fans of big city life, they're just not our cup of tea.  Ha! 'nother pun!  Tea, Boston - get it??  Sorry, I'm often the only one laughing at my jokes.....


Boston is an awesome city!  Just the right mix of old and new, really pretty and not so, well, big city like.  It's really manageable.

Within a few minutes of walking around to find the visitor center we stumbled across this plaque on a building:


We had been here less than five minutes and already we had our first Ben Franklin reference.  In this family we love Ben Franklin so it was quite an event!  The kids have been enamored with him for a while now and yes, Liberty's Kids, again, had a lot to do with it.  But since then, we've also watched, listened to and read all about him and his multifaceted life.  What a man!  BTW, he apparently did not like the time he spent as his brother's apprentice at all.  Being the independent and original thinker he was, I can't say that came as a big surprise.

We made it to the visitor center at 4:15, 45 minutes before closing.  Uh Oh.  We can pick up our Jr. Ranger packets (and here they were indeed packets!) but we would not be able to return them completed on time before they close.  Luckily the ranger was understanding and kind enough to give me the badges to hand out later, once everyone completed their 'work'.  The other downside to getting here so late was that most of the sites were closing so we weren't going to be able to see them all from the inside.  It was unfortunate, but there was not much we could do about it.

Our goal here was to walk the so called 'Freedom Trail'.  It's literally a red line on the sidewalk that guides you from one historically significant place to the next.  The total distance, one way, is 2.5 miles.  Our plan was to walk it start to finish and then take the ferry back to downtown at which point we'd catch the train back to our RV.

It was 4:45PM.  We had just spent hours running around Lexington and Concord, we were exhausted before we even got here and now, we had 2.5 miles to walk, not to mention taking the time and effort to see everything along the way.  Oh, and it was cold.  The sun was going down and the winds were blowing.  But, our determination to do it all was still strong.  We headed out and started pounding the pavement, literally.  We went at an extremely fast pace through it all, practically running from one site to the next.  Thank goodness for the stroller!

First up,


At the time I'm sure the building stood out among the rest but now, of course, it's swallowed up by the monstrosities around it.  It is however, a quiet and noble reminder of what happened here.  A distinct contrast to this now bustling downtown.  It's like it's saying, 'Hey, wait!  Stop for a minute and think about the significance of this place!'  I can tell you, it does a good job of getting the message across.


Next up was Faneuil Hall, otherwise known as America's "Cradle of Liberty" as it was the location of the very first organized protests against the British.  We're talking pre revolution.  Apparently, it was the custom in England to have a public meeting hall above a marketplace and that's exactly what this was.  Still is.  A marketplace anyway, not sure about the public meeting hall.


The statue is of Samuel Adams, organizer of the revolution and signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Third stop was


The house of


Yes, the actual one.  This was the one and only site that was still open so we could actually go inside and explore.  Unfortunately, photography was not allowed....

The house is decorated and furnished according to the times with authentic period furniture.  Some of the furniture is thought to be actual pieces owned by the Reveres at the time.  The pieces were passed down from generation to generation of his decedents and finally donated to what is now a museum.  We had a wonderful opportunity to have a nice long question and answer session with some of the guides inside.  The kids asked question after question as we discussed many aspects of life at the time including:  What Paul Revere did other than ride his horse? (he was a silversmith), what they might have had for dinner? (green beens and ham), how many of his many kids slept in one bed? (3 or 4), the role his 16, total, kids would have played in the house (You're a 7 year old boy? Bring in the firewood, you're a 9 year old girl?  Better finish stitching your sampler! You're a 15 year old boy?  See ya, you're off to be an apprentice to someone never to return to live in the house again).  We stayed way past closing....


On our way to Paul Revere's house we spotted THE cannoli shop in town.  Mike's Pastry in case you're interested.  We had been informed by practically everyone we came across today (including our friendly ranger in Concord) that it's a must stop.  So you see, we had no choice really :-).  The selection was tremendous (this is only part of it) and yes, they were indeed yummy!  If not a bit sweet.


Onward we marched along the Freedom Trail heading to the North Church, the same church those lanterns were placed in on April 18th, 1775.  Along the way we ran into Paul Revere himself on his horse with THE church steeple in the distance.  Actually, it wasn't his horse at all.  He didn't have one!  No need for one in the city.  The horse was lent to him for the purpose of completing his mission.

Those are the cannoli Analyzer's carrying there....


There's the church again.


As we left the visitor center in downtown and headed to the heart of old Boston, the streets became narrower and narrower and some were even still cobblestoned.  This was most noticeable walking around here by the church.

We left this old residential part of Boston and headed across the river towards Charlestown and the Navy yard.  It was quite a bridge to cross on foot!


Continuing to follow the trail


climbing what seemed like a pretty steep hill, we arrived at Bunker Hill!

It's apparently being renovated, or something, so we got to see it with these red things around it.


Two months after the battles of Lexington and Concord another battle was fought at this location.  Here the British suffered heavy losses yet still managed to defeat the Americans.

Being as late as it was the museum was of course closed, but at least we got to be there.  One can also climb the 294 spiral stair case to the top of the monument.  We obviously didn't.


It was now getting pretty dark and we needed to head over to the dock to catch a glimpse of the USS Constitution and then hop the ferry back to downtown.  Huffing and puffing we marched along.  We were almost done!  I guess it might seem like we were just trying to check things off our list at this point, but it really was more than that.  We wanted to see these places and objects with our own two eyes and put our feet on the same ground those audacious men and women did.  And we did!

At the docks we came across this ship


Not sure what it's meant to be, but it was cool to look at.

Right across from it was the USS Constitution


Theoretically one can climb aboard and tour the ship but it was Monday and of course there are no tours offered on Mondays....Had there been a tour we would have tried our darndest to be there on time.

Now we needed to head back.

We came across two uniformed navy officers at a guard house who informed us that the last ferry was at 6 o'clock.  6 o'clock?!  It was now closer to 8......We were so disappointed not to mention unhappy since we'd now have to take a cab, probably two, back to the subway station.  This was A. Going to be much more expensive and B. Not nearly as fun.

The officers pointed us in the direction of the taxi stand and basically sent us on our way.  Walking along the dock to find it we spotted signs for the ferry and S being S, went to find out what the deal was and if we still had any chance.  Well, turns out we had NOT missed the last ferry!  We were invited to board for an immediate departure!  Whoohoo!!

We ended up having a private tour of Boston harbor, a truly magnificent sight to behold, especially at night!


The kids were given free rein of the upper deck, but Whirlwind was tightly held on to of course.....


We disembarked right next to the New England Aquarium....Ugh!  What a thing to miss out on in this town!!  The other thing we missed?  Can you figure it out after reading this?  What MAJOR thing did we not see?

The Boston Tea Party!  As we were walking to the subway station it literally hit me like a bolt of lightening.  What the heck were we thinking?!  Or not thinking, really.  I couldn't believe we hadn't seen it let alone think about it!  How could it not be front and center in the Boston info we had?!

After smacking myself over and over that night we later found out that we really didn't miss anything.  Apparently, the museum and ship replicas burned down a little while back and everything was now under construction and not open to the public.  Phew!  I could at least stop smacking myself about it.  Though we could have gone to see where it happened, we could not have seen it.  OK, not ideal but I can live with that.  There's so much more to see in this town we just have to come back some day anyway.

As we got closer to the subway station we walked by the old State House again.  Glowing softly in the middle of the hustle and bustle in was a nice, and fitting, farewell to a truly beautiful city.


We made it to the subway!  Our day of schlepping was finally coming to a close.  The time now was 8:45ish and all we needed to do was retrieve the RV from the park and drive an hour to the Walmart down near Plymouth.  At least there was no more walking involved....

I think that for kids who've been on the constant fast paced move for, oh, 12 hours or so, they don't look too catatonic :-)


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