Thursday, May 22, 2008

Boston: Along the Freedom Trail

Did you know that Paul Revere had 16 children? 16?! I can see my Paul’s eyes light up and the corners of his mouth curl upward involuntarily as I tell him this bit of trivia I picked up walking the Freedom Trail and paying a visit to Paul Revere’s former home in the North End of Boston last week. I tell him not to get any ideas. Besides, only eleven survived to adulthood.

With Paul tied up in conference sessions for the large part of our first few days, I set out to explore the old cobbled streets of Boston’s history on my own. I was surprised to find that Boston was a relatively small, compact city that was very easy to get around with a combination of the T (Boston’s subway system) and a good pair of walking shoes.

I started off my journey on the Freedom Trail, which begins in the lovely Boston Common park and snakes around the city for 2.5 miles connecting the dots between many of Boston’s significant historical sights.
Walking along the red brick trail was also a good way to get my bearings in the city. There are may tour groups that lead guided expeditions along the trail, but I opted to download the audio tour ($15 to download) on the Freedom Trail website so I could take it all in at my leisure and pause at the interesting spots or fast forward through the long boring bits if I happened upon any of them.

Here are some highlights of places I stopped and fun facts I learned along the way on my first day in Boston:

Faneuil Hall- Boston’s first central marketplace. This is a lively area for shopping and eating and watching live street performers. There is a whole building full of nothing but gift shops. I was in heaven.

The Inspiration for the Scarlet Letter – Tucked away In the King’s Chapel Burying Ground is the headstone of Elizabeth Payne, who is rumored to be the inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s heroine in the Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne. Hawthorne probably passed through the graveyard on his way to work at the Custom House. Her headstone bears a coat of arms featuring 2 lions and a half of what looks like a stylized letter A.

The site of the first public school and the Old Corner Bookstore

The Old State House – I got to stand under the balcony where the Declaration of Independence was read to the people of Boston for the first time.

The Old South Meeting House – where some 5,000 people gathered to protest the tea tax and after a secret coded proclamation from Sam Adams (who, incidentally, I learned was pretty hopeless as a brewmaster despite his other talents) sent the group of protestors to the harbor to dump multiple shiploads of tea into the water in the event that came to be known as the Boston Tea Party.

Paul Revere’s House – When Paul Revere purchased the house it was already 90 years old. Walking into the old building with a fireplace in every room to keep the family warm in the winter, you feel distinctly like you’re inside one of those funhouses where everything is tilted and crazy things happen like balls rolling uphill and water running sideways. I asked the docent who offered her services if I was imagining things. She said no, its even more uneven upstairs.

The Old North Church – The famous site where Paul Revere was to hang lanterns – one if by land, two if by sea, to warn the people that the British were coming on the night of his famous midnight ride. This is one of the landmarks I was most excited to see. Although I am a little embarrassed to admit this, its role in the movie National Treasure had a little something to do with that.


bethany said...

that is really, really neat!! The east coast has so many fun historical adventures :) here in oregon it is all trees and mountains, which I also love...but you know.

Jessica said...

I know what you mean. I think the desert landscape and the Red Rock mountains where I live are beautiful too, but I loved Boston too(and Oregon). I guess each place has its own charm.

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