Published: September 3rd 2012September 2nd 2012
My hotel room
Not sure it captures how fancy the place is, but the photo is included by request.
Finally I could really sleep in. I didn’t have to be up early to catch a plane, train or bus, and I didn’t even have to check out. As a result, I left the hotel at about 12 to embark upon the so-called “Freedom Trail”. The trail is a series of historical buildings and places in Boston, mostly related to the American Revolution. They have mapped out a path between these locations and it was this that I planned to follow.
First thing was to get something to eat. As it is a weekend and I seem to be staying in the financial district, there wasn’t much open near the hotel. So I walked towards the beginning of the trail and eventually found a small food court. I picked up a chicken sandwich and went over to the Boston Common to eat it.
The Common was once a pasturage that was gifted to the city, but nowadays it is a nice big park. As it was a nice sunny Sunday, there were plenty of people enjoying the place – particularly the playground and water features. I ate my sandwich and embarked upon the path of freedom.
itself is the beginning, and first stop is the State House. It’s quite impressive with gold leaf on the dome roof. The House is essentially the state’s parliament house, with the governor, senators and representatives doing their business within.
Next on the trail is the Park Street Church which I took a couple of photos of from the outside. Almost next door is the Granary Burying Ground, a cemetery with a number of famous inhabitants including Benjamin Franklin’s parents, John Hancock (possibly the best known signer of the declaration of independence), Samuel Adams (revolutionary), James Otis (who coined the phrase “Taxation without representation is tyranny”) and the five victims of the Boston massacre.
At the entrance to the cemetery, a fellow was handing out guides for the place that he created himself. All he asks is that you return the guide when you finish. He also accepts donations to cover his printing and living costs. I figured he must be unemployed and has done something off his own back, and the guide was well done so I gave him a donation. Speaking of guides, I heard a couple of tour guides telling the same joke about the pub
across the road: “It’s the only place in the world where you can sit and enjoy a cold Sam Adams (beer) while looking across at a cold Sam Adams”.
Next stop was a statue of Benjamin Franklin and the site of America’s first public school. Then it was on to the “Old Corner Book Store” which is Boston’s oldest commercial building. It started as a book store, obviously, but today it seems to be a restaurant.
Then it was on to the Old South Meeting House. There was quite a history to the place, as it doubled as a meeting place and a Puritan church. The Boston Tea Party was probably initiated there, Benjamin Franklin was baptized there and Phillis Wheatley (the first African-American to have a book published) worshipped there. I went inside to have a look, and it was an interesting place. I also had a conversation with the girl selling entrance tickets. She asked if I was Australian and told me she was born in Brisbane and is about to move back there because she has a job in some art place I’d not heard of. A couple of her friends are going too, but
The New State House
It's a shame that the drink driving campaign banner is up
she was concerned about the job market. I reassured her that Australia’s unemployment rate was actually quite good, and Queensland is one of the booming states so she liked the sound of that.
I left there and headed to the next stop – the Old State House. Apparently the State House with the gold roof is often called the “New State House”, even though it is 214 years old! But the old one was first used before Massachusetts became a state. Again, it was the site of many important events in the lead up to the revolution, and it was also where the declaration of independence was first read to the residents of Boston. I spent quite a bit of time in there because there were a couple of free tours. They were not “tours” so much as “mobile lectures” because neither went very far but they were very interesting and informative. The second one was about the Boston massacre, the site of which was out the front of the Old State House.
It was now 3pm and I had to be a bit judicious with my time because the two things I most wanted to see on
the trail were at the end and I would have been disappointed to not see them. So the next few sites on the trail I walked past and only took photos from the outside. There was Faneuil Hall next, which had quite a crowd out front. Some guys were break-dancing and really had the crowd going. I can’t comment on their show though, because I couldn’t see them very well. If I’d gotten going earlier, I could also have seen another changing of the guard ceremony here, but it was not to be.
Next stop on the trail was the Paul Revere house. Paul Revere is best known for his midnight ride to warn the “minutemen” in Lexington of the British troops coming to confiscate their weapons. I’ve read that he only became the best known of a number of riders that night because a poet in the 19th century found it easiest to rhyme his name. He was also apparently a skilled silversmith, a skill he put to use as a propagandist during the revolution. He also served as an artillery officer.
I then quickly walked past the next two points on the trail: the Old North
Church and Copp’s Hill Burying Ground. Not only was I concerned about the time, but it looked like some rain was heading in and I had forgotten to bring my umbrella this time. At least I remembered my hat though!
So it was across the Charles River into Charlestown, which some people may know from the movie “The Town”. Fortunately I didn’t encounter any of the crime depicted in the movie, but I was keen to go there for two things: The Bunker Hill monument and museum, and the USS Constitution (and museum). The trail says to go to the USS Constitution first, but as it closed at 6 and the Bunker Hill museum closed at 5, I switched them around.
The Bunker Hill monument is a 200+ foot obelisk that commemorates the battle of Bunker Hill. It was a battle where the British prevailed, but at a great cost in soldiers’ lives. It is celebrated by the US because it was the first time that revolutionary troops stood up to the British regulars. It was here that the American Colonel Prescott allegedly uttered the immortal words “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!” The
British attempted to storm the American position three times, only succeeding on the third attempt when the Americans had run out of ammunition.
The museum was small, but quite well done. There was an excellent diorama of the battlefield, showing each of the attacks and giving a good idea of how the battle played out. There were also some other smaller dioramas which were really cool. There was a lot of information about the battle too.
Then I headed down to the USS Constitution, a frigate which was built as part of the first US Navy and earned the nickname “Old Ironsides” when cannonballs fired at it apparently just bounced off as if it was made of iron. The Constitution is still a commissioned ship in the US Navy, which meant tourists had to go through pretty heavy security to have a look on board. It was great to look around an historic tall ship that is in such good condition. The navy obviously takes care of it as if it was actually going to be used – plenty of spit and polish.
It was now 5:30 so I headed into the USS Constitution museum. There wasn’t
a lot in there, to be honest, but there were some interesting displays about the battles the ship fought and won. Most of the museum seemed to be designed for entertaining kids, so if you bring some to Boston, I would recommend visiting.
As I was having a look around the gift shop minutes before closing time, the guy announced a number of ways we could leave. One of them was to take a ferry to downtown Boston, so I opted to head back to the hotel that way. I was bloody tired at this point and it seemed like a much nicer option than walking back. I got some nice photos along the way and headed back to the hotel. I managed to avoid any rain, I think some came down when I was in the Bunker Hill museum, but it wasn’t much.
I pick up the hire car tomorrow, which should be interesting. I am both nervous and excited about it. I’ve driven on the wrong side of the road before, so it should be fine from that end. I am really looking forward to not having to rely on planes, trains and buses for a
while. The next one I have to catch will be the flights from Orlando to Vegas on the 25th.
There are more photos below