More About Boston
20 September 2007 | Boston, MA
Beth - on a bright and sunny day
We enjoyed two great days of atmosphere absorption, walking through historic neighbourhoods and gazing at the sights of the Boston waterfront before leaving on Thursday morning.
Jim and I had walked part of the Freedom Trail when we were here many years ago, so after we wandered through bustling and colourful Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall, we chose to walk the other part of the Trail. It is always a thought provoking experience to remember that there are generally at least two sides to every story. We, with loyalist roots in both of our families, walked streets and neighbourhoods in which our ancestors would have been viewed as traitors! The trail took us through little streets in the North End, past Italian Restaurants that we'd love to have visited, past Paul Revere's house and into the Old North Church where Robert Newman (friend of Paul Revere) hung the famous lanterns. We sat in one of the box pews where we learned that families used to purchase them and that the money paid determined how close one sat to the front. The walls around each pew helped keep them warm; the owners would bring footwarmers with them on which to rest their feet as they sat in their own little spaces during the services. An interesting bit of trivia from that church was that the cherub statues up near the organ had been plundered from a French ship bound for Quebec!
We strolled through Copp's Hill Burying Ground, the highest piece of land in the North End. I learned from Charles Bahne's excellent little book, "The Complete Guide to Boston's Freedom Trail" that it became a burying ground in 1600, after having been called Windmill Hill by the Puritans who set up windmills there. British soldiers camped among the stones during the Revolution, and in the Battle of Bunker Hill, shells were fired on Charlestown from this summit. We saw the gravestones of Increase and Cotton Mather - whose names I remember from Puritan history and the Salem Witch Trials, and the epigraph of William Clark who was a "Despiser of Sorry Persons and Little Actions"! We found many stones with curious symbols of skulls with wings - a symbol that dates back to medieval times - a darker image than the more rare cherubs found here. According to a sign in the burying ground, it may reflect the more conservative religious leaning of the early North Enders.
The Paul Revere Mall with plaques commemorating the many men and women from the North End was another fine place to wile away some time. It was not just history that drew our attention in this area though. As we walked further up one little brick walled passageway filled with flowerbeds and sunshine, we discovered a small, simple and enormously moving little shrine dedicated to the current conflict. Military "dog tags" - many "dog tags" hung from lines stretched across a wooden frame. Flowers grew below and a guest book invited passersby to leave notes. One caught our eyes. "May God bless the brave soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and may God forgive the idiot who sent them there. I cannot." Just as in days gone by, there are differing opinions on what is right.
Our last visit of the day was to the U.S.S. Constitution - "Old Ironsides". Launched in 1797 and "unvanquished in battle", it continues to be a commissioned ship in the United States Navy. It was closed for below-deck tours but after going through the security checkpoint, we wandered around the deck, admiring the wood and the rigging.
In the evening, we headed off to a Lyric Theatre performance of "Man of La Mancha". We might better have visited a local bar for some live music to get our performing arts "fix", because although we liked the intimate little theatre on the second floor of the YMCA building, the performance lacked the impact we remembered from when we first saw this musical at Neptune Theatre in Halifax many years ago.
On Thursday morning, we motored down to Mystic Marine Fuel Dock in Charlestown for a fill up before heading back out to the Atlantic Ocean. On the way we passed a motor yacht with a helicopter perched on the back - the first time we've seen this sight although we have certainly heard about the capability of these yachts for carrying one. Apparently the newest fad is to have a private submarine on board for underwater exploration too! We'll let you know when we see one of those. We purchased 30 gallons of fuel at $2.71 per US gallon (and learned that a harbour tug had been in earlier to purchase 20,000 gallons that would last about a week! Good thing we have sails.)