Freedom, Fashion and Fish...

Trip Start Aug 24, 2012
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Trip End Sep 19, 2012


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Flag of United States  , Massachusetts
Friday, August 31, 2012

I learned three things on our second day in Boston:

What the saying 'two if by sea' means. I've heard that saying so many times, and I a, pretty sure there is a movie made with the same name, but until now I never really got what it meant. It's a bit of a silly saying really (until you find out what it's all about - I'll enlighten you later, unless you're supremely intelligent and well read like Shane, who already knew all about it of course).
That technology and history make wonderful bedfellows.
It isn't just empty boasting when Bostonians brag about their seafood...

We started our day relatively early, just before 8am on a blustery Boston morning. It was supposed to hit 90F (about 33C for those of us who use the metric system), so we were keen to complete our walking history lesson before the middle of the day.

The sun was already warm, so the breeze was welcome as we made our way to Boston Common to begin the Freedom Trail - a 2.5 mile (4 km) walk that would take us past many significant historical sites in the long, rich history of Boston, specifically relating to the American War of Independence. Boston, being the oldest city in North America, was the centre of the action, and the site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Now, when doing the Freedom Trail, there are several options so you're not just 'following the red brick road' and stopping to look at some old stuff.

You could take a 'free' walking tour with a guide who will tell you all about the sites, and their significance in the formation of the United States of America. When I say free, what I mean is that at the end you'll be asked for a tip if you enjoyed the tour. And even if you thought it totally sucked, guaranteed you'll still feel obligated to pay up.

Not that I'm saying the guided version would suck; I'm sure the insight of an experienced tourguide would be very interesting. But you're also limited by their departure times (the first tour doesn't start until 10:30am), the pace of walking of the slowest person in the group (guaranteed to be someone who was probably alive during the War of Independence), and the tour ends well before the actual end of the Freedom Trail, at Fanueil Hall (which just reminded me of another thing learned, more later).

Another option would be to purchase a Freedom Trail guide book, which allows you to stop and explore further at each of the sites. Plus you can start at whatever time you want, walk at your own pace, etc. But that leaves you leafing through a book for information on the site you've just rocked up to, looking like a complete tourist. According to Shane, looking like a tourist is THE WORST thing ever - he hates even HOLDING the camera, and if I stop to take a picture he practically runs, attempting to get as much distance between us as possible. He may as well scream 'I don't know her!' to whoever he thinks is actually interested in what we're doing.

So, this over organised Virgo had already planned ahead, and purchased a $3 iPhone app, which not only gave us the history of all the sites on the Trail, but also directed us to, and gave great information about other 'unofficial' stops along the way. We could choose to read ourselves, listen to audio, or even watch a video on the sites. It includes maps, images and information on opening hours and costs for the sites that we might want to explore further. Plus walking around with the iPhone out is much less 'touristy' than a big guide book, which means Shane was happier. Although he still would have liked the camera to disappear...
So, just before I get back to it, if you're ever heading to Boston, and you want to do the Freedom Trail (which I suggest you do), I also suggest if you have an iPhone you look up this App - its by New Wave Industries in conjunction with Know It All Tours.

Ok, spruiking over.

The Trail began in Boston Common, so named because it was originally designated common ground for farmers to graze their herds on. We'd already wandered through the Common multiple times in our comings and goings around the city, so as we walked we listened to our recorded tour guide telling us all about the history.

The Trail includes a lot of really interesting historical sites, including three of the oldest graveyards in America (one of which was used as a firing range by the British during the war), the balcony from which the Declaration of Independence was first read to the people of America, and the house of Paul Revere, he of the famed 'the British are coming!' midnight ride. Even I'd heard of that one.

We wandered through these streets, many of which are cobbled and appear to have been there since the Puritans first settled North America. Our surroundings served as a constant reminder that we were in the middle of the oldest city in the nation. And even though I know very little about America's history (Shane tells me that knowing every song from disney's Pocahontas doesn't really count), I could appreciate the significance of the events of the War of Independence, and why Americans are so fiercely proud of this status; it was hard won. Makes our republic referenda seem petty really.

So, I've explained point 2 on my list of things I learned, what about point 1? Well, I discovered, thanks to my fabulous iPhone app, that the Old North Church played a dramatic role in the war - the church sexton at the time (1775) placed two lanterns in the steeple of the church to signify that the British had been spotted approaching by sea. This sparked a chain of events that lead to Paul Revere riding out at midnight to warn the patriots of the impending invasion.

And if I were more interested in poetry, and had read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem 'Paul Revere's Ride', I would have known that the story was that one was to be placed if the British were invading by land, and 'two if by sea'.

Well, I hope you learned something here, because if everybody who reads this already knew all of this, I'll feel like a total moron...

And how about that other thing that I thought about when I mentioned Faneuil Hall? Well, I learnt that no one can really agree on how this is pronounced. I discovered this after trying to Google the pronunciation (I'd taken to just calling it Fanny Hall when talking to Shane, but that's not even close...well, at least he knew what I was talking about).

Apparently, the most popular pronunciation amongst Bostonians seems to be Fannay-yule, but according to the site that I found, the most 'correct' version that anyone can come up with is Funnel.

I think I'll stick with Fanny Hall, since from what I read, it's pretty much up to the individual how you want to say it.

We stopped our tour one stop short of the final site (Bunker Hill Monument) at the USS Constitution - the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world. The ship was nicknamed 'Old Ironsides' because its thick oak siding was so strong, it was said that cannonballs bounced off the sides.

It was lucky that in the early 1800's men were much shorter than they are today, because Shane bashed his head more than once as we trundled through the bowels of the ship, and I was very soon feeling a little panicky, and desperate to see the sky (and get my landlubber legs back on solid ground). I can't imagine the men who would have spent months of their time at sea on one of those things!

As you can imagine, we'd worked up quite an appetite on our journey through American history, so we leapt into a cab and hotfooted it back into the city, where we wandered Newbury Street searching for a meal. If you plan on shopping in Boston, this is the place to do it! The street is a mix of high end fashion labels and funky little independent boutiques, most of which are housed inside lovely historic row houses.

Shane rambled through a couple of pet supply boutiques, chatting to their owners and cooing over the puppies that people brought in with them. Were both missing our two terribly, and already I've bought gifts to bring back for them (I'm sure there'll be plenty more to come once we hit Super Zoo)!

I indulged my passion for church architecture, and spent a good deal of time marveling at the Tiffany stained glass windows in the Church of the Covenant. It's believed that the windows commissioned for this church were the inspiration for the world famous Tiffany Lamp.

That evening we found ourselves wandering back towards Fanny (Faneuil) Hall, where there was a great selection of restaurants to pick from. I'd been told on our plane ride that I had to try some lobster while in town, and that was exactly what I intended to do.

At Durgin Park, in North Hall just past Fanueil Hall, I almost wet myself with excitement at the seafood options on the menu. It didn't take much deliberation - I ordered the Boston Clam Bake, which consisted of Clam Chowder (or Chowdah as the locals would call it), a whole steamed lobster, steamed clams and boiled potato and corn. Shane ordered half a cow, because that's what you order when you're in a city famous for seafood and you happen to be unfortunate enough to hate seafood.

As I had been lead to believe, the lobster was DIVINE. I even managed not to think too much about Pinchy and his warm bath as I tore him apart and sucked the flesh from his claws.

Replete from our feast, we waddled our way back towards the hotel through the financial district. We marveled at how quiet the streets were for a Friday night. There were only a few people on the streets (one of whom was a homeless guy sleeping in a doorway in his underpants, who grunted at us in a Bostonian dialect that we had no chance of interpreting). Despite this incident, I felt remarkably safe wandering the streets of Boston after dark.

Possibly that's because I know that no one in their right mind would take on an angry looking amazon and a dude who just inhaled half a cow.
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