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A "Revolutionary" Journey Part IV (Boston)Author: Host Ciao (More Trip Reviews by Host Ciao)
Date of Trip: December 2008
Previous: A "Revolutionary" Journey Part III (New York City)
I never would have believed that the streets of New York City could be so empty! I had an 8 a.m. train and wanted to arrive at Penn Station early to find a Red Cap and also find my way around. To do this I had a taxi pick me up at 6:30. The streets were deserted—a very strange sight.
The Red Cap took me down to the train quite early so I went into an end seat in the quiet car. The ride was good, and after a couple of hours the conductor announced that we were speeding up to 150 miles per hour. I would guess this was where the tracks were new enough to stand high speed travel. Without getting on my soap box too much, I think that we need to spend much more time and money on upgrading train travel in this country.
I took a taxi to my hotel in Boston, the Harborside Inn. I think the hotel must once have been part of the wharf buildings. It was tall and narrow and on the floors there was a wall about 4 feet high on one side of the hall. You could look over this and see the brick wall all the way down to the lobby. I was on the sixth floor so it was a long way down. The room was great—big comfortable bed, great pillows, a table with two OK chairs, big flat screen TV, even a video player and a copy of the Top 10 Boston guide. My only quibble with the hotel was that there was no coffee maker in the rooms. However, there was coffee available in the lobby 24 hours. There were also two computers for guest use there and nice comfortable chairs. http://www.harborsideinnboston.com/
As usual I had picked this hotel because of its location, which to my mind couldn't have been better—two blocks from Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall and close to the subway and many, many historical sites. The room cost was $129 a night plus tax, which I feel was very reasonable for its location. I wandered over to the market and saw a camera store on a lower level of one branch so I had my New York memory stick put on a CD—yes the missing CD.
I went to Faneuil Hall and toured the upper level. This was once Boston's town meeting hall and is now part of the Freedom Trail and is operated by the National Park Service. http://www.faneuilhallmarketplace.com/ There are shops on the lower level, mostly crafts and souvenir type. I then went over to the main market building which has a huge food hall with many, many, many different food stands and booths. The seating area was jammed so I opted for an Irish pub on the upper level. I had an excellent lunch—tomato soup and grilled cheese and a Guiness. It cost $21 with tip so not cheap. After checking out a few more shops I went back to the hotel and took a taxi to St. Stephen's Church since I didn't know how long it would take to walk to Saturday evening Mass.
St. Stephen's is a very plain Catholic church. I expect this is because it was once a Congregational and then a Unitarian church. I had thought that St. Stephen's was the "Italian church" but had found out at the camera shop that St. Leonard's was. I didn't go there because the evening Mass was later. There is also a third Catholic church in the Italian area. The area on Hanover Street and its side streets north of North End Park is the Italian section. It is full of Italian restaurants, so many that I don't see how they all survive. There were already lines outside some of them at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.
I stopped at Mike's Pastry shop, which had been highly recommended by a friend. The coffee shop area was jammed, and there must have been six or eight clerks scurrying around the bakery area. I bought a couple of raspberry filled cookies and three huge macadamia nut cookies and headed toward the hotel.
I walked through Boston's Holocaust memorial, which is a bit hard to explain. It consists of tall glass towers that in December had steam rising in them. This must be only in the winter and from heat pipes underneath because I have seen a summer picture, and there is no steam. There are engraved quotations to be read inside the towers too, but this is difficult at night.
The walk from church to Faneuil Hall took about a half hour. I wandered in some of the shops there again and then in shops and past push-cart kiosks in the main market building. These shops and kiosks sell clothing, souvenirs, crafts—lots of "stuff." In the food hall I bought some orangena and chips. I took these back to the hotel and by adding a cookie had one of my throw together "strange suppers" before heading to bed before 10.
On Sunday I brought coffee up to my room and ate a couple of cookies for breakfast. Then I set out to walk the north part of the Freedom Trail, mostly Revolutionary War sites in Boston. http://www.thefreedomtrail.org/index.html It was snowing, but the big soft flakes weren't sticking to the ground. It wasn't very cold so a great time for a walk. I first stopped at St. Leonard's church where the Mass in Italian was about to begin. With its statues, frescoes, etc. it reminded me of many churches I had visited in Italy. The church also has a nice little garden and a gift shop. Here is another Freedom Trail website. http://www.iboston.org/pap/freedom.htm
Because I had already "done" Faneuil Hall, my first Freedom Trail stop was Paul Revere's home, one of the oldest surviving structures in the city. Much of the house is original and it contains furnishings thought to belong to the Revere family. He had two wives and eight children with each wife. Docents are on site to explain the house and the area. On that day the house next door was also open for special tours that featured Colonial style refreshments typical of Boston in the 1700's: mulled cider and pastries such as seed cakes. No pictures are allowed inside so I bought several postcards and, of course, had to buy a 30 page paper "Colonial Christmas Cooking" book. I haven't tried the recipes yet.
A service was going on at Old North Church so I would have to return there later. I walked to the next stop, Copp's Hill Burying Ground, second oldest in Boston. It is made to wander in, and the snow made it more interesting. When I read about it, the only names I recognized were Increase and Cotton Mather, Puritan clergymen included in some American lit books. I decided to find the Mather family tomb and did though it took a while because the tombstones are very old and hard to read.
After I walked down from Copp's Hill, one of the highest points in Boston, I crossed the Charleston (I think) Bridge and headed to Bunker Hill, passing on the way the Training Ground (Colonial name) where soldiers trained for the Revolutionary, War of 1812, and Civil War. It is now called Winthrop Square.
There is a museum connected with the Bunker Hill Monument which has an interesting diorama of the battle and other exhibits. From here you can arrange to climb the 294 steps to the top. I did not! Instead I went across the street to the National Park Service building where there were more exhibits and a shop. I checked directions for sure and headed down to the Charleston Navy Yard.
I was luckily right on time for a tour of the U.S.S. Constitution, Old Ironsides. The Naval personnel who conducted the tour did an excellent job, and it was very interesting. The huge guns weigh as much as a Ford Explorer and were manned by eight to 11 men. We visited the two lower decks too and saw the hammocks where the men slept—four hours of sleep, 20 hours on duty. We saw the rum barrel, the cooking area, and the officers' small cabins. There was a Christmas tree on deck and work is going on there to make that part of the ship more like it was originally. http://www.ussconstitution.navy.mil/
A modern ship was docked nearby, but I didn't fancy standing in the long line so I went to the U.S.S. Constitution Museum for a bit. When I left there I managed to get my directions mixed up—didn't have my handy compass. After a couple of blocks I realized that I was heading into strange territory. I headed back to the museum and got directions to the bridge. All was well until I got to a spot where the markers for the Freedom Trail (follow the red brick road) went off in two directions, and I wasn't sure which one lead to the bridge. I'm still not sure though I have an idea from the map I wasn't carrying that day. Luckily a taxi pulled up so I took it back to St. Stephen's, which is near Old North.
On the Paul Revere Mall between the two churches a children's group was singing and tables held items for sale, a small Christmas fair. Old North is Boston's oldest church. This is where the two lanterns were hung that sent Paul Revere on his famous ride. The church has pew boxes with high sides. I also visited the shop next to it. http://www.oldnorth.com/history/tour.htm
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