Dig down deep under the glacier forming over New England, and you’ll find Boston. A wonderful city, I spent a lot of fun times there while I was in high school, coming down to visit from Vermont. Here’s what it looked like before the New Ice Age buried it. (I’m sure it will look like this again, when the snow melts. Like, in September, maybe.) If you’re there and you have a few hours, I strongly recommend that you walk The Freedom Trail.
The route is clearly marked, both by street signs, occasionally painted lines on the sidewalk, and often by these medallions embedded in the sidewalk. Or ask, I’ve always found Bostonians to be friendly.
Three blocks up from the Boston Common you’ll find the King’s Chapel and Burying Ground. The burying ground (“cemetery”) is on the far side as seen from this view.
Also seen in this view is a Duck Boat. We love the Duck Boats and have taken them in many cities. Boston, Seattle, Toronto, and possibly a couple more that I’ve forgotten. Remember to get a quacker and quack at the pedestrians. (Hey, if you can’t go and be a complete idiot while on vacation, why go?)
Hang a right here, down past where that FedEx truck is…
…where you’ll find the Old City Hall. Originally the site of the Boston Latin School, which in 1635 became the first public school in the country, this building served as Boston City Hall from 1865 until 1969. When the new City Hall was built, this property, rather than being razed, was one of the country’s first examples of adapting and reusing old buildings in order to save them. The Architectural Heritage Foundation turned the building into a Class A office building, which it remains today.
In front of the Old City Hall you’ll find this statue of Benjamin Franklin, a favorite son of Boston and one of my favorite historical figures. I have the most interesting conversations with him when I’m bored.
Two blocks to the southeast you’ll find the Old South Meeting House. About 230 years ago this is where a bunch of hotheads decided to have a Tea Party. These days it’s used for concerts, some lively lectures and public debates on things like the First Amendment, and other public and private functions.
You may notice that we were going north, turned right and now we’re going southeast? That’s actually north-ish, then more like east-southeast. Streets in Boston rarely (if ever) go in a straight line very far. It’s NOT my favorite place to drive, but fortunately has an excellent public transportation system. Learn it, use it, stay out of your car if at all possible. And it’s not just me — one of my favorite memes is decidedly NSFW so I won’t post it here, but if you Google “Boston streets vs New York streets image” it will pop right up. Yeah, that!
Two blocks to the north (-ish) is the Old State House. Just out of view to the left in this image is where the Boston Massacre occurred, one of the things you can see re-created on some tours. There are also tour packages available that can combine several sites at a discount, so if you plan on going here and to Paul Revere’s House and a couple of other museums, get the package.
This view also shows why Boston is one of most European-like cities today – buildings 250+ years old cheek-to-jowl with mid-rise skyscrapers from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s and modern skyscrapers of 40 or 50 stories towering above them all.
A block north and you’ll find Faneuil Hall, sometimes called “The Cradle of Liberty.” In the 1770’s it was another key meeting place, including the public meetings that occurred immediately after the Boston Massacre. The statue on the Congress Street side (shown) is of Samuel Adams, who was a fiery speaker, rabble rouser, revolutionary, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and a regular speaker here. These days, Faneuil Hall is a market and shopping center, but also a great place to get lunch and something to drink while you’re walking The Freedom Trail.
On the east side of Faneuil Hall is a large plaza, dominated by Quincy Market. When I was there it was full of vendors, a farmer’s market, folks from the office buildings having lunch, and signs about concerts and other events. There’s an MBTA subway station on the far side, so it’s an easy place to get to.
In the background of this image you can see the Boston Custom House. Originally Boston’s first skyscraper, finished in 1849, it makes a great landmark if you get lost. These days, it’s high-priced condos and a Marriott time-share property.
Heading north (-ish) you get out of the downtown area and head toward the North End. A block or two up from Faneuil Hall you’ll find the North End Park, which is a great place to relax and eat if the area around Faneuil Hall is crowded. The park usually has people playing baseball, frisbee, or just relaxing.
Looking back to the south is the skyline of downtown Boston. Looking up to the north you can see the TD Banknorth Garden, where the Bruins and Celtics play. Next to it you can see another iconic Boston landmark, the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge. Built as part of the Big Dig (the largest and most complex freeway construction project in US history), The Long-Suffering Wife and I just know it as “That-Beautiful-Honkin’-Huge-Bridge-That-We-Passed-Over-About-Nine-Times-Trying-To-Get-From-Downtown-To-Logan”.
You’ve heard Abbot & Costello’s “Who’s On First?” routine, where no matter what the one guy says, eventually the response will be “Third Base!” Well, that was us going over the bridge, getting off and coming back and trying to find the correct combination of one-way streets and magic spells (remember that NSFW meme that I mentioned above?), only to end up once again on TBHHBTWPOANTTTGFDTL, getting off, coming back, getting lost, only to once again…
Of course, every time I tell this story to anyone who lives in Boston, they look at me with dismay (“How did this clown ever get a driver’s license?!”) and bewilderment, eventually screaming, “You don’t go over that bridge to get to Logan from Downtown!!”
I know that.
I knew that then.
Boston streets vs. New York streets.
It’s a wonderful city. Fly in and use taxis and subways. If you’re driving, park in New Hampshire, take a taxi in…
Next time, we follow The Freedom Trail into Boston’s North End.