Thursday, 7 August 2014

Safe and sound in Boston, but blink and you’ve missed it

After a lovely last evening with Denise and Paul we were up bright and early at 05.00 to head off to Birmingham airport where we boarded a little twin prop plane to Shannon, not going all the way in that one fortunately.

The neighbourhood by Hadas and Grant, very nice traditional houses
Once in Shannon, the select few transit passengers were swept through some back doors to Aer Lingus US Security. Not all the checks we were expecting, no turning on of laptops/phones, just the ‘normal’.  Then through Homeland Security and a very nice lady with an American accent told us that on arrival in Boston we could just collect our bags and leave, we’d just been through customs and immigration! We were confused! Last call for boarding so on to the gate, where I asked if I had time to go to the loo “yes Mrs.Cross” What was he? Psychic? So good flight and easy arrival, hopped in a cab and arrived at our airbnb accommodation in Jamaica Plains. Lovely couple, and lovely neighbourhood, 5 mins one way to some shops and restaurants and 5 mins the other to the ‘T’ to take us into Boston proper. 
A guide dressed up as a British Redcoat on Boston Common
Checked emails before feeling too dopey, so decided we should walk up to the ‘pond’, very nice walk through a park before heading back to look at the shops, determined to stay awake. 17.00 but bedtime in our heads as we’d been up 18 hours. Glad we looked in the wholefood market as it was ‘tasting’ evening, so that was interesting! Decided on a Cuban restaurant as it was busy and quite cheap, and all we wanted was to eat by this stage but didn’t really care. So one meal and one sandwich filled us up and gave us half the sandwich to share for breakfast! Decided to go back and fortunately Hadas and Grant were in the lounge so we had a good chat with them before finally giving in and heading to bed.

The State House complete with real gold leaf covered dome
Old South Meeting House, used to plot the Independence War
Didn’t sleep too badly but we were up fairly early so headed off into the City, got off at Chinatown and walked through the Common to the Tourist Information, where map in hand we set off to follow the red stripe in the pavement marking the ‘Freedom Trail’ what were we doing following a trail all about the struggle for independence from Britain? Joining everyone else it seemed! We ‘self guided’ till we got to the National Parks Ranger Station (we were surprised) at Faneuil Hall where we had a great chat with a ranger who couldn’t sign us up to the next free tour as it was full, but if we came back in 20 mins we could be on the next one. So looked at the stalls in Quincey Market, before getting our stickers for the 12.30 tour after more joking with the ranger. He’s a history teacher who spends his summers doing his ‘dream job’ leading tours in Boston.

The old State House. The Declaration of Independence was first read out to the people of Boston from that balcony (July 18th 1776). The circle of stone on the ground is the site of the Boston Massacre (March 5th 1770), where British Redcoats shot five unarmed civilians in cold blood (others say it was a wild, angry mob advancing on the British troops and they fired in self defence)
Our guided walk. The grey building was owned by Paul Revere, who was pivotal in events leading up to the war. He was involved in the Boston Tea Party and  gathered intelligence on the movements of the Regulars (British troops) and warning of their march to Lexington on April 18th 1775 by shining lanterns from the steeple of his church and then riding to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams (signatories of the Declaration of Independence) 
From this church he shone his lanterns
Interesting hour continuing on the trail, before continuing on our own over the Charles River and on to Bunker Hill, we went up the 294 steps of the monument far too fast, and are still paying the price – aching calves and thighs. Good views of Boston but better head down as it sounds like an army is on the way up, and where would they all go?

The monument on Bunker Hill. The defiant revolutionaries built a fort here and withstood cannon fire from Boston and ships at sea, before being beaten by the advancing British troops (June 17th 1775). They proved to be better fighters than the British expected and, although they lost, half of the British troops were wiped out, a fact that gave the revolutionaries heart and the will to carry on the struggle
'Old Ironsides' The USS Constitution
Last stops on the tour were ‘Old Ironsides’ the USS Constitution the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world first launched in 1797 and the USS Cassin Young a WWII destroyer, which were very interesting, but we had just about had enough by then. So back ‘home’ for a quick sit down before heading out for something to eat, Mexican today, nothing left for breakfast, so back to the market for some bagels (to go with the healthy melon we had left over from yesterday)

Below decks of the all wooden ship

On the deck of USS Constitution
On the deck of the USS Cassin Young. Apparently two kamikaze pilots crashed into it, one a few days before the first A-Bomb, but the ship somehow survived
The Samuel Adams brewery (I believe he was the cousin of John Adams)
Slept a little longer and didn’t rush out as our first port of call was the Sam Adams brewery – well it’s what people come to our stop on the T for, and the tour and tasting were free, and they do actually make some ‘proper beer’! So rude not to really! Did feel a bit wrong drinking free beer at 10.30, but hey! We didn’t leave till 11.30 though as we got talking to another history teacher, so Brian really getting his fill here! Back into the City with the intention of doing the free ranger guided tour on the Black Heritage trail. Knew we’d missed the 12.00, but thought we’d just find out where it started for later, when we came upon Dana, our man from yesterday, leading the 12.00, so how could we not join him? 
Our really interesting guide Dana outside the former home of George Middleton who, in early 1800's was a leader of Boston African American community
The home of John Kerry, US Secretary of State on Beacon Hill
Very interesting tour, not only was Boston the birthplace of Independence from Britain but it was also the birthplace of Black emancipation. He obviously loved his subject, prompted by questions from Brian and conversation with the only coloured man on the tour, with his young son, who clearly knew his stuff too, the tour overran by a good 20mins, despite the little rain shower that we all ignored! Not sure everyone else enjoyed it quite so much, but we got very sweaty hugs goodbye from a very excitable Dana, still thrilled that we’d come and joined him.

Dana standing outside the former home of Lewis Hayden, a fugitive slave and leading abolitionist. He used the house as a meeting place for abolitionists and a station on the 'underground railroad' (a secret network of underground and above ground passages used to get fugitive slaves away to safety. According to Dana, some slave catchers turned up one night with a warrant to search the house for two escaped slaves he was hiding. He told them they could come in if the wanted, but they should know that the cellar was full of gunpowder and if they came inside he would lock the door and blow them all up. They could either leave in peace or leave in pieces. They ran away pursued by an angry mob, never to return
One of the passages said to have been used as part of the 'underground railroad'
Faneuil Hall
Back to Faneuil Hall to the talk upstairs and all the street performers round Quincey Market, very like Covent Garden, but at least we could slow down and stand and watch as having gone from beer at 10.30 to an iced coffee and refill at 14.30 for lunch I felt very odd! Gentle amble to the harbour before ‘home’. Take out pizza for tea which has also provided a slice between us for breakfast and a slice each for lunch!

The great hall in Faneuil Hall, originally designed to allow all Bostonians to meet and debate on equal terms. Our guide said that, in his view, if there had been more understanding, co-operation and negotiation in 1773 between the then King of England, King James and the American colonists, there would today be a picture of Queen Elizabeth II in the bottom right, where the picture of George Washington is. As it was, both sides became entrenched in their views and war became inevitable
A street entertainer leaps over four 'volunteers' outside Faneuil Hall
Jobs this morning – off to buy a cheap cellphone (well we wanted a US SIM, but as my phone doesn’t work at all here…..) just to enable us to book motels etc and a satnav to get us round the place once we pick up the car in a few days in Denver, so I’ve written while B has worked on the technology! Hopefully the phone will have charged enough to enable us to ring a taxi to take us to the airport so we can move on to Denver.

Brian: I would love to write a long ‘green’ type history section of what we learnt, but not sure if anyone would read it! The bits under the photos is as far as I'll go!
The sign says 'Play me I'm yours' so she did - and very good she was too!
Sitting by Boston Harbour

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