10 October 2016

The Freedom Trail

For the record, I'm pretty sure there are chirping smoke alarms in hell.  All last night, one of the alarms in the hall outside our apartment beeped.  This morning, the other one started.  Whomever invented those blasted things is the worst.  We have phones we can unlock with our fingerprints or our eyeballs, certainly we can come up with a better way to alert someone that the batteries need to be changed.

Aside from chirping alarms, staying in this sleepy little neighborhood has been so fun.  My favorite part about staying with Airbnb is the chance you get to stay outside of tourist centers.  We may spend a good part of our days playing tourist, but we get the chance to escape the busy city and enjoy the relative normalcy of suburban life.  I love it.

Today we started on the north part of town and hit up a few features on the Freedom Trail.  If you haven't been to Boston (or studied the American Revolution), then you ought to review the story of Boston.  Without this intensely stubborn city, the Revolution would never have happened.  Boston was the center of industry and shipping for the English at the time - all the taxes, all the regulations, all the rules hit Boston harder than anywhere else.  It was a city founded on the backs of principled and educated men and women who eloquently and firmly fought for their ideals and managed to convince more reluctant colonies (I'm looking at you, South Carolina) that sticking with England was detrimental to the prosperity of the locals.  All my love of England aside - I do think that America becoming free from Britain was the right choice.  I am grateful for my forefathers and New England ancestry for the sacrifices they made to ensure the prosperity of this country.

The Freedom Trail, then, takes you to some of the more important Colonial locations.  We started by visiting the Copp's Hill Burial Ground, where some of the earliest Puritan settlers were buried.  Some of the highlights include Captain Robert Newman - one of the men who helped light the lanterns and hang them to warn the American Militia that the British were coming (by sea, as it turned out). The other grave that I found particularly interesting was an obelisk in honor of the first black Master Mason in the all-black Free Mason lodge in early Boston.

From there we went down the hill to the Old North Church, made famous because of is role in being the location from which Captain Newman (and his companion whose name I can't remember) lit the lanterns to signal the coming British attack, which led to what was essentially the first shots fired in the Revolutionary War.  The church itself is significant enough to have been visited and frequented by many important people throughout history.  The pew we sat in, for example, was once used by Teddy Roosevelt.

Just behind the Old North Church is a chocolate shop.  We had to stop.  The smell alone was divine.  We walked over the "Don't Tread on Me" rug (seriously?) and some salted caramels and a cashew turtle later (mom can never resist those), we went for some more dessert at the famous Mikes Pastries store.  We got there just before the rush (the store was full when we got there, the line was down the block when we left), and it was totally worth it.  We each got a croissant and have a cannoli and a macaroon waiting for us when we want more dessert.  Given that we walked about five miles today, I'm not feeling bad at all about that.  Even if I hadn't walked five miles today, I wouldn't feel bad.  I thank God every day for carbs.

Paul Revere's house was next.  I had no idea that Paul Revere ever did anything of significance in his life other than ride a horse, but he was a bit of a Renaissance Man.  I found out that his work in dentistry led to early forensic techniques.  He had sixteen children, eleven of which survived to adulthood.  It was fun to learn more about him today.

After Paul Revere's House we made our way to Faneuil Hall and the Quincey Market.  We ended up eating lunch in the "Cheers" restaurant, which meant little to either of us since mom and I have never seen the show, but the Clam Chowder was delicious, so that's good.

The Brattle Bookshop was a must.  Frankly, any bookshop is a must.  This one was particularly awesome, with a huge selection of books outside and a decent selection inside as well.  I probably could have stayed for hours, but I limited myself in respect of my company and my budget, and came out with three awesome books, two of which were printed prior to the first world war.  (Ironically, they were the cheapest books.) A collection of poetry by Tennyson, essays by Emerson, and Faust.  I love beautiful books.  I don't know how in the world I'm going to get them home in my tiny little suitcase, but I've been training my entire life for creative packing of books.

We wandered through the main parks in central Boston for a while after the bookshop.  The parks were smaller than I imagined them to be - the parks and gardens in London are so big that you can forget you're in the city - but they were well worth the trip, if only for the chance to do some squirrel watching.  There were so many of them.  Living in Utah you rarely see squirrels.  I forget about that until I see them again and realize how much I miss them.  These squirrels are so used to people feeding them that they come right over to you and look for the food in your hands if you crouch down.  Man I love those little rodents.

So far I haver really enjoyed the chance to wander this city.  Boston reminds me of so many other cities I've been to.  Seeing Pret restaurants reminds me of London.  The mix of history and modern structures reminds me of Berlin.  The squirrels and the smell of fallen leaves remind me of Iowa and being a kid again.  It's been lovely.

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