Birthplaces, Beginnings - BOSTON !

Trip Start Sep 07, 2008
Trip End Dec 10, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Massachusetts
Friday, October 31, 2008

The first shots of the American Revolution were heard here, George Washington resided here, the world's oldest commissioned warship still afloat, is docked here, Benjamin Franklin was born here  .... This is where it all started - AMERICA'S FIGHT TO FREEDOM.

Cities like Boston (or any big city really) are hard to maneourve yourself around, and to find suitable parking.   So with limited time, we decided to do a informative city tour, and grab as much information as we could, from those that know the city best.   Well, if it was up to me,  I would have picked the one with the glossy brochure, and just made the decision, on the other hand Gary likes to 'investigate' ... so I'll give him his dues he definitely got it right with 'Boston Tours'.   Their brochure was very simple, you had to pay cash and there wasn't anyone there to take your reservation unitl 5.00pm.   (You can imagine my skepticism at this point.)   However, the man on the end of the phone was very personable and helpful.  Told us exactly where the best parking would be for us to meet the bus, and the whole phone conversation and booking was just about giving your name, and then turning up - believe me, with the Americans, who want to know every detail of your life, this was refreshing.

So, we were up, and on our way by 7.30am, only 14 miles up the road, however at that time in the morning, it took us 45 minutes!   Thank goodness we had decided to leave extra early. 

Our bus driver Tim, was dead on time (I like that!), and we soon found out that he was a born and bred Bostoner (if that's what you call them), and I believe an Irish one at that.   He was a living, breathing encylopedia, and his humor was the icing on the cake.   He told us stories of Boston when he was a kid, and all the nicknames they had for neighbourhoods etc.  One part of a residential area we saw, they had nicknamed  the 3 storey, flat roof box houses Irish Battleships, 'cause everytime he walked through there as a kid, (and got up to mischief), it would empty out and the whole family ie: mum, dad, aunties, uncles, cats, dogs, would start chasing you down the street, ready to beat the daylights out of you ...  I believe it.

We saw lots of different things today, even a film being made - all the studio motorhomes/trailers lined up.  It's a movie starring Mel Gibson (nope didn't get to see and can't remember what's it called, sorry).  Anyway, let me just try and touch on the highlights of our amazing day ...

*USS Constitution - did a 40 minute tour including the gun deck of this, the oldest war ship afloat.  Was launched in 1797, so that makes it pretty old.  To be standing on a ship that fought and won many a battle was surreal.  We got to see the actual cannons (by the way they're only called cannons when on land, once they're on the ship they're called guns), and  visualise how they would've worked; something like 4 men per cannon, and they are not light, and that is NOT easy work.   About 90 secs to haul in, clean fill, check and fire.  

*Breed Hill which houses the Bunker Hill Monument, where the first battle between the Americans and the British was fought.  The story goes that the British lost 1500 men (out of 3000) and the Americans lost 500.  Possibly the British tell a different story .....  however, what I do know is that it's 294 steps to the top of the monument - we got to 50.

*Harvard University Campus - is one of the many teaching instituions in Boston.  In fact, this is what the city is known for, as a good percentage of all the students in the U.S. are in fact in Boston.  Just to give you an idea, at the start of the school year, there is an influx  of 300,000 of them.  Our driver did joke about it being a city of removal trucks as everybody moves in  - only half joking I'd say.    Anyway, Harvard is everything you would imagine it to be:  the old brick buildings, mixed with new, cobblestone square,  church, eateries and lots of buzz.   All of this right by the Charles River, where you'll see the students doing their rowing training, in the Harvard colours.     With 7 U.S. Presidents (and possibly an 8th if Obama gets in) to its credit, it's obviously a good place to start  if the Whitehouse is your destination.  Just for your info, Harvard University was named after John Harvard, who gave half his land, and his 600 book personal library to them, after he died - age 25.

*Boston Common - The Oldest Public Park in America, 50 acres of it, gifted to the people in  1634 - and it is beautiful.  It's peaceful, lots of trees, ponds, and its smack in the middle of the city.  Try to imagine a smaller Auckland Domain, flat, and in Queen Street.  Before the common was a park, it was pasture, and was a staging ground for soliders of the Revolution.

*Longfellow Home -  built in 1759.  It was the home and headquarters of Gen.George Washington and then the home of the Longfellow's from 1843-1882.  It was continued to be lived in, by the descendants until 1950.   This is no replica.   This is the actual home that these people lived in, entertained in eg: the likes of Charles Dickens (on his first trip to the U.S.), Oscar Wilde, and many, many other notable writers, poets, muscians and actors.    I stood at the front door, and imagined the coach and horses pulled up outside, and the men walking around with their top-hats and the ladies in the big skirts enjoying the garden .....   walking where they had walked was incredible - for a few moments,time stood still.
To be honest, I could just go on and on about this trip.  We saw so much more, (I didn't even mention the fabulous Quincey Market),and the history within just a few square miles, was often daunting.  It's impossible to take it all in.  This is a beautiful city, with so many trees all in the autumn colours, gorgeous shops, cobblestoned paths, infamous landmarks, magnificent churches and great markets.  I'm not normally a fan of cities (as you may guessed from my other entries), but this beauty is an exception.

Our driver said, that when he was growing up, Boston was a slum.  Well, Boston has pulled it's socks up, and transformed itself into a bustling haven.  I would now have to rate this, as one my most favourite cities in the U.S.
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