Monday, Sept 5th
The weather was gorgeous. We took the subway the short distance to "downtown" Boston. It was not a far walk, but as we were planning to walk all day, we did not want to add on a mile at the beginning. We headed to Boston Commons where we met our tour guide. He was dressed as "Bully", a cooper's apprentice who actually witnessed the Boston massacre. He was dressed in period costume. What were we touring you might ask? It was a walking tour of the first half of the Freedom Trail. It is basically a walking path through old Boston marked by a red trail that goes to many of the major historic sites. Boston is old... really old. It seemed just about every other corner had the oldest of something. Boston Commons is the oldest public park in America. It was originally a literal commons, grazing pasture for the town's livestock. From there we walked up to the Old State House, which is this gorgeous gold-domed building. I thought it was crazy that the entire dome has only 12lbs of gold leaf on it, stretched so thin! I would think they would need repairs all the time. From there we walked to the Old Granary Cemetery. It has many famous graves in it. We learned about how John Hancock was the "King of Boston" because of his wealth. He funded pretty much anything that needed funding in the days of the revolution, including the poor Sam Adams (also buried there), who might be considered the first career politician, as he really had no other trade and no money of his own. Also, Sam Adams was short, ugly, and very anti-alcohol. He believed the revolution would usher in a recurrence of earlier puritan ideals and called himself the last puritan. This makes it especially hilarious that there is a beer named after him. That picture on the beer is actually of Paul Revere, who was also buried in this cemetery. Paul Revere is an interesting character because he is so over-hyped. In all reality, it would seem he had very little to do with anything. Not that he did NOTHING, he is just way more famous that he deserves credit for. Also buried in this cemetery was Joseph Warren, a name we don't really hear about, but he would likely have been the first President of the U.S. if he had not died at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Another famous grave in this cemetery is that of Benjamin Franklin's parents. From the cemetery we walked to the old city hall, which has a few interesting features. First, it is on the site of the first public school, which John Hancock and many other revolutionaries attended. America had a ridiculously high literacy rate for the time period and public school availability is one of the major reasons. Second, it is right next to the King's Church, which the representative of the king so considerately built on a puritan graveyard. Third, in front of it is the oldest statue of Benjamin Franklin, which he actually posed for during his lifetime. From here the path wondered by a couple of other sites which significance has honestly slipped my mind at this point. We walked by a church that was one of the largest public spaces in the town and therefore served as a meeting place for many of the revolutionary meetings, including the one that started the Boston Tea Party, which by the way is one of the earliest examples of nonviolent protest. Eventually we ended up at the square where the Boston Massacre occurred, and we learned all about how it was not really a massacre so much as a riot. I never did quite decide if learning about all of the propaganda, lies, and exaggerations used to start the revolution were reassuring or disturbing. On one hand, disturbing because we tend to put the revolution in such a pure light when really it was full of all of the normal political corruption. On the other hand, reassuring because maybe, since that all turned OK, we really have not strayed that far from our roots with what goes on in politics today. Our tour ended at Fanuiel Hall and Marketplace, where the tour guide revealed that he really was the decendent of the Bully character was playing and had researched him through letters he wrote his mother during the revolution, which was pretty neat.
After tipping him handsomly, because it really was a great tour, we walked into Fanuiel Market. It had come highly recommended, but it was way overwhelming to me, and DH does not like food markets that much. I needed a seat and a I needed it NOW, which was not going to happen with the chaos in there. It was labor day, and it was packed. So, after walking through it quickly we exited and found a nearby sit down restaurant where we sat out on the sidewalk in the shade and ate yummy fish tacos. Feeling much rejuvenated, we continued our Freedom Trail walk by going into Faneiul Hall, "cradle of liberty", where many of the original meetings leading up to the revolution took place. It is well preserved and pretty neat. After that there was quite a hike to the next site. On the way we walked by the country's oldest continually operating restaurant, through an old market place that had fake bronzed refuse (like tomatos and lettuce etc) on the crosswalks, into the North End, the Italian district.
This is when the weirdest, coolest, most random part of our entire trip happened. The whole area was packed because the weather was great and it was a holiday. We were walking up the main street in the North End when we heard cheering ahead, then out of nowhere a bicycle rickshaw comes out of the crowd, and in the cart is a man in a yellow shirt holding the Stanley Cup. I kid you not. The Stanley Cup. In a rickshaw. We were in total shock. Was that really the Stanley Cup? What just happened? We spent the next half hour (and indeed several days) just looking at each other at random and saying "in a RICKSHAW". We watched the local news that night that confirmed that the guy we saw had the Stanley Cup in that neighborhood that day. He was taking it to a local Children's rehab center near the arena and then left on a bicycle. Wow. In a rickshaw.
So, after slightly recovering ourselves, we continued on the Freedom Trail, and found the Paul Revere house, where he lived for quite a while. It had been restored to be like what it would have been like when he lived there. We paid to get in and take the mini-tour, and it really was not worth it. We wanted more info about the man and his life, what we got was random minutia about life during that time period. We moved on and next toured the Old North Church, famous for being the steeple where 'one if by land' was lit. We got in on a tour of the bell tower and crypt, which was pretty interesting but not as historical as we would have liked, though it was neat seeing how the bells work, and its really complicated. From here the Freedom Trail took us to another cemetery, most notable for the fact that the British troops took up post there during the Battle of Bunker Hill. From here the trail took us down off of the hill the North End is on and across the river. By now it was 3:30 and we had been walking and touring, minue the 45 minutes for lunch, for about five hours. We both admitted we were tired and ready to head home. So, we found the nearest subway and headed back to the hotel, where I took advantage of the beautiful pool (with its retracting roof open, looking out at the prudential building and other nearby sky scrapers), and DH took a nap. All rested and cleaned up, we ventured back out for supper to the Top of the Hub, a fancy restaurant at the top of the Prudential Center. It has a gorgeous view to say the least, and the food was quite good. We did not get dessert there because nothing stuck out, so when we finished dinner we spent the next hour or so just walking around the area in search of dessert. We tried to find something local, but nothing popped out, so we did Cheesecake Factory, which was delicious. It was a really long but great day.