Saturday, July 10, 2010

Summer Vacation - Boston Day 2

Grams and Grandad were up early and headed into Boston for one of the events of Harborfest.  The Harborfest website describes it as "... a six-day long Fourth of July Festival that showcases the colonial and maritime heritage of the cradle of the American Revolution: the historic City of Boston."

We took the bus and the subway back to MIT to board the trolley. We were in luck, there was a trolley waiting. But when we tried to board, the conductor informed us that he was waiting for a charter and we would have to wait 10-15 minutes for the next trolley. We took advantage of the wait and went inside Cosi for our morning coffee. Coffee in hand and back outside, the next trolley pulled up, but it was full. The conductor who was waiting for his charter invited us to sit on his trolley and wait. By now there were quite a few other people also waiting. While waiting we chatted with the conductor and asked him if we would still make it to Long Wharf in time for the event we wanted to see. He assured us that we would, but then the next trolley that came was also full. This was Saturday, July 3rd, and the crowds in Boston had grown exponentially overnight.

What happened next amazed me. The conductor radioed his boss and told him that he was going to take us to the next stop rather than wait for his charter. He had assured me that we would make it in time for the reenactment and he made sure we did.

"The British Are Coming" was the reenactment of the Redcoats invasion of the city of Boston. The troops arrived by sea and marched to the Boston Common where they encamped.
While we waited for the ship carrying the British to arrive, we visited with the Redcoats who were there to meet them. We also chatted with other members of the crowd. All I can say was that Texas was well represented in Boston. Every place we visited all week we met people from all over the USA and quite a few of them were fellow Texans.

As the Redcoats marched off to camp at Boston Commons, we boarded the next trolley and headed for the North End (politically incorrectly known as Little Italy). It was a warm day so we grabbed a couple of iced teas to carry with us on our trek.

The North End was easily my favorite part of Boston. The streets are narrow and crowded. The buildings and the sidewalks are brick. The people are Italian and friendly. The restaurants run the gamut from open-air grab-a-slice-of-pizza places to elegant Zagat-rated bistros.

We wandered around just looking. The North End is so different from where we live that we were in awe. Many of the people we saw were so stereotypically American-Italian that it almost felt like a movie set. People were outside sitting on their steps. The firefighters had pulled folding chairs out to the sidewalk. We stopped to chat with them and asked for a recommendation about where to eat. They recommended a place called Artu. It took us a while to find it, but it was worth the walking. We started with Caprese Salad which was outstanding! I ordered my favorite Italian dish, Chicken Saltimbocca. Grandad ordered his usual Lasagna.  Both were excellent.

After lunch we continued our trip around the North End walking around the corner to the Old North Church and Paul Revere's house. There was a short but interesting presentation by a member of the congregation.  The Old North Church, which is actually called Christ Church, is an active Episcopal congregation. Admission is free; maintenance is funded by donations. She did an excellent job of telling the story of how on the night of April 18, 1775, Robert Newman, the sexton of the Old North Church, broke curfew to hang the lanterns for less than one minute. And it was seen not only by the Patriots, but also by the British troops, who were pounding on the locked front door by the time Newman came down the steps. He escaped by climbing out the window to the right of the altar. It's also interesting to note that this was an Anglican church. The colonists did not worship here, the British worshiped here. It was known as "The King's Church."

The church has been maintained much as it was in the 1700s. It has unusual box pews and its original candle-lit chandeliers.  It has a beautiful pipe organ, a clock that has been running since colonial times, and some small angel statues which were a gift to the church from a pirate who stole them. 

The gardens of the church are maintained as they might have been in the 1700s. There is a statue of Paul Revere on horseback and a memorial to fallen soldiers from the Iraq and Afghan wars. Still today, the steeple of the Old North Church is visible from many vantage points in Boston.

The City of Boston has so many sites to see that we could not possibly have done everything we wanted. We had to be satisfied with what we could see from the trolley on one last ride around its route.  Here's a quick recap.

We saw the bronze shoes that were a memorial to Larry Bird.  By the way, Grandad has bigger feet!

We saw the Cheers! bar, although it was extremely crowded and we didn't go in.

We saw Savenor's, the butcher shop where Julia Child bought her meat.

We saw the Church of Christ Scientist which has a huge reflecting pool and the people walking down the sidewalk next to it look like they're walking on water.

We walked through Harvard Yard and around the campus and we saw a building on the MIT Campus designed by famous architect Frank Gehry.

We saw Fenway Park, but we didn't go to a baseball game. Grams is not a baseball fan. But we noted that a nearby gas station closes on game day because they make more money from parking cars at $50 each than they can make selling gas.

We saw both the Old and New State Houses.  It's interesting to note that the "new" one was built in 1798.  The Declaration of Independence is still read from the balcony at the Old State House every July 4th.

We passed the graves of such patriots as John Hancock, Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, and Mary Goose (the real Mother Goose).

We drove past the site of the Boston Massacre where five civilians were shot by British troops in 1770. This was one of the events that sparked the American Revolution.

We ate cannoli from a real Italian bakery.

We saw America's original Victory Gardens, 49 acres of gardens set aside by the city during World War II in response to President Roosevelt's call for Americans to grow their own vegetables.

We passed the New England Holocaust Memorial which is made up of six glass columns inscribed with the infamous tattooed numbers of six million Jews who died in death camps.

We visited the Jamestown Ship Yard and saw the USS Constitution.  "Old Ironsides" is the oldest commissioned ship in the USS Navy and was built in Boston and named and commissioned by George Washington. Every year on July 4th, she sails into Boston Harbor and fires a 21 gun salute to our nations birthday.

We saw the Bunker Hill Memorial where 1200 colonials repelled two attacks by trained British troops on June 17, 1775, before the British finally captured the hill. It was a huge psychological victory for the patriots and proved that they could stand up to British "regulars." It was here that American General William Prescott gave the famous command "Don't shoot until you see the whites of their eyes."

We drove through the tunnels of the "Big Dig" and saw the Leonard P. Zakim-Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge. We saw Beacon Hill and the Back Bay. We saw Boston's Emerald Necklace and walked along the Charles River.

We found the people of Boston to be warm, friendly, welcoming, and unpretentious. The next and final day of our trip is set aside for the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, so that's it for sightseeing.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you guys had such a great time in our city! We absolutely love it here and probably will never leave! I am so bummed we missed you, you were so close to where we live (between MIT and Harvard Square, right on the water) and my little man goes to school right in Beacon Hill. We would have been running into each other the whole time! Hopefully, you will come back soon!

    PS. 23 bucks is a steal for parking around here... you definitely did the right thing taking advantage of the public transportation!