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A Vacation Adventure In Boston
by Don and Peg Doman
If you want historical sites of the American Revolution, you need to visit Boston. Of course there are other reasons to visit, also: the food, the people, and the accents.
Experiencing a detour within seconds after we picked up our rental car at Boston's Logan Airport, we didn't want to brave the hand directed traffic of the streets of Boston when we returned. Instead, we opted for Harbor Express, a passenger only ferry out of Qunicy, which is just across the harbor. The Harbor Express lands you just yards from the Quincy Market and this is a great place to start any adventure in Boston.
Quincy Market is one long food court with restaurants above and below. Fast food options abound. We noted that Vietnamese noodle soup shops were missing (a common site in the Pacific Northwest), but most other ethnic foods were present. Peg picked a quiche for lunch, while friend Al had scallops and lobster bisque (his two favorite choices at every seafood establishment we selected in and around Boston/Cape Cod). I chose a lobster roll and giant steamed prawns with lemon juice and cocktail sauce. The lobster roll was only okay, but the prawns were succulent and excellent.
We took our food outside and sat on a stone bench. The weather was pleasant and the food was even better in the fresh air. We began laying out our plans for the afternoon. Overhearing us was a shopping cart sourvineer salesman named Guinness. He was pleasant and funny. We talked for a few minutes. He didn't try to sell us anything, which was nice. I'm sure he had enough people buying.
We decided that Peg would take a taxi to the Boston Fine Art Museum and meet us three hours later near the statue of Sam Adams in front of Faneuil Hall, which stands in front of Quincy Market. Al and I decided to start off on the Freedom Trail. Al is even less inclined to walk than Peg and I, so this worked out fine. The Freedom Trail starts just a few feet from where we dined.
"In 1958, local journalist William Schofield had the idea that Boston's sites could be more accessible to residents and visitors, and conceived of the Freedom Trail. A natural and easily-accomplished idea, the sixteen historic sites between Boston Common and The Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown were connected by a red line, and The Freedom Trail was born. In addition to the historic sites, the beauty of the sights, sounds, and neighborhoods along the way made walking The Freedom Trail an instantly popular activity. In 1964, the Foundation was incorporated as a nonprofit organization. From 1958 to 1992 the entire Foundation was run, organized, and maintained by volunteer support-its early success was due solely to the spirit and leadership of the people of the City of Boston. Now the Foundation continues to produce real accomplishments in the areas of education, marketing, capital improvements and income-generating projects."
One of the sites that Al wanted us to visit was the New England Holocaust Memorial. The memorial is located right near the Freedom Trail. It was beautiful and emotionally breathtaking.
"The New England Holocaust Memorial was built to foster memory of and reflection on one of the great tragedies of our time, the Holocaust (Shoah). The effort was begun by a group of survivors of Nazi concentration camps who have found new homes and new lives in the Boston area. Dedicated in October, 1995, over 3000 individuals and organizations from across the community joined in sponsoring the project. The Freedom Trail location, in downtown Boston, is near Faneuil Hall and many other treasures of America's history. The site offers a unique opportunity for reflection on the meaning of freedom and oppression and on the importance of a society's respect for human rights . . . Six million numbers are etched in glass in an orderly pattern, suggesting the infamous tattooed numbers and ghostly ledgers of the Nazi bureaucracy. Evocative and rich in metaphor, the six towers recall the six main death camps, the six million Jews who died, or a menorah of memorial candles. "
Before we could start on the Freedom Trail, Al had one more stop to make. He was anxious that I should try the La Sfogliatella (a lobstertail confection) from Mike's Pastry.
A photograph of President Kennedy with originators Mike and Annette hangs on a wall behind the counter, while a portrait of Frank Sinatra looks down from another. The Lobstertail was a little too sweet for me, but Al loved it as did everyone else I saw stuffing them in their mouths.
"The history of this extraordinary and popular item dates back to a 16th century convent on the Amalfi Coast near Naples. This original ancestor of the lobstertail was called La Santarosa (named after the convent, now a popular motel, where the owner of Fiat Italy is said to frequent), and its filling was a creamy white, which oozed out of the sides, and was typically served up hot. In Naples coffee shops, this is still something to die for. The white fresh cream filling of the Santarosa was replaced as well with a yellow custard filling, thick, chewy and delicious. The modern day versions of both of these that Mike's Pastry carries are both the white cream and yellow cream filled. The best of both worlds, and a cake version is available as well."
Personally, I got the biggest kick out of our waitress, Maria (probably not her real name). I think she was the boss of everyone . . . at least she certainly acted like it. When any production company begins a new TV show or feature film based in Boston, they should have her tutor the actors on correct pronunciation for the Northend of Boston with its combination of New England and Italian inflections.
After waddling out of Mike's we started on our version of the Freedom Trail. I quickly regretted eating the Lobstertail when I passed an Italian deli. I just couldn't eat any more, so with tears in my eyes we ventured on. We visited Paul Revere's House, the oldest structure in Boston. It was built in 1680 and purchased by Paul Revere in 1770. I knocked on the door, but Paul didn't answer, so we moved on.
Next on the trail was Paul Revere Square and a beautiful statue of Paul riding his borrowed horse for the midnight ride. Legend has the name of the horse as Brown Beauty. Brown Beauty or not, the staue is magnificent. The statue is found in a tree studded square adjacent to the Old North Church, also known as the Christ Church. It was here that Robert Newman hung the lanterns signaling the approach of the British troops in the War for Independence. Less than twenty feet from Paul there were tee shirts and sweatshirts for sale to tourists. We declined to buy.
We walked past the lines waiting to enter the church and continued up a small hill to Copp's Hill Burying Ground, which is the resting place for many of the colonial Bostonians. The British set up a battery there and used it to fire on Charlestown. It was interesting to see how small the hills were. We walked down towards the water and saw the Bunker Hill Memorial across the Charles River standing high behind an office building. Copp's Hill and Bunker Hill were only small elevations . . . and of course the first major battle of the revolution, Bunker Hill was really fought on Breed's Hill, but history sometimes gets some things right . . . and sometimes gets them wrong.
The U.S.S. Constitution, also known as "Old Ironsides" is located in the Charlestown Navy Yard less than a quarter mile from Bunker Hill. The ship was launched in Boston on October 21, 1797. Old Ironsides is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world.
Each year the ship sails for a turn-around. Passage is arranged via a lottery. You can submit your name on the office Navy site for Old Ironsides.
Al and I continued our walk along the waterfront and then stopped at a small park. We approached a bocce ball court and watched a game between two older men.
"Bocce had its beginnings in the Italian Alps during the early Christian era, when players tossed stones at a target (the object being to land as close as possible to the target). Roman soldiers, employing balls instead of stones, spread the game throughout the Roman Empire, where the game evolved to boules (France), lawn bowls (England) and bocce (from the vulgar Latin word for ball, bottia) in Italy."
The two men played out their game and then some fellows who had been playing cards nearby put their table and chairs away in a locker and joined the first two players. It was obvious that everyone new each other. They were all between 65 and 85 . . . maybe older. The park had three separate bocce ball courts. Each one is played in a pit surrounded by granite blocks. The floor of the court was stone dust.
The group of players laughed and chose up sides by playing odds and evens with their fingers. It was so sweet. They were more than just friends, they were community. This quiet scene that lasted for maybe ten minutes is one of my favorite memories of Boston. We said our goodbyes and headed back downtown. I enjoyed the walk and frequently stopped and read the menus of Italian restaurants taped to their windows.
We arrived back at Faneuil Hall and Sam Adams before Peg arrived from the museum. It was a great day for girl and people watching. There was a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds represented. Most of them looked like Bostonians. The tourists came in a wide variety, also. Just before Peg caught up with us a group of black young men set up a microphone and speaker system and began calling people over, "Come and see black men dance." And, that's what they did. Well, actually, it took them quite a long time to start. Not wanting to perform before a sparse gathering, they kept hyping themselves and the crowd. I said to Al, "Their preamble is too long for their constitution." I lost interest about the same time Peg arrived and the three of us walked off to dinner.
We decided to have a quick dinner at Cheers, which is built to resemble the Cheers set from the famous TV sitcom of the seventies, which was built to resemble a favorite Boston watering hole. We each ordered drinks in a Cheers mug plus one drink in a Cheers glass. The food was decent. Again, we sat outside and enjoyed the views of people walking by . . . nobody knew our names.
By the time we finished our meal it was almost sailing time for Harbor Express. We gathered up our shopping bags and coats and started off for the wharf.
We hadn't gone more than a hundred feet before we spotted Red Auerbach, the great coach of the Boston Celtics. I had to sit down and talk to him. He listened well enough, but never really spoke his mind, which I thought was a little unusual for him. When Red refused to give me his cigar, we left in a huff and barely made it onboard our catamaran in time to sail back to Quincy.
We really enjoyed our short stay in Boston, and it was just that . . . too short. Next time we will arrange a stay of several days, so we can see more sites and talk to more people.