If you are familiar with Boston, you know that it is famous for its garden, its baked beans, and its 2013 baseball team resembling the cast of Duck Dynasty. It is also arguably the educational capitol of the U.S. with such respected universities as BU, MIT and Harvard, where you can get a prestigious degree in Ancient Greek or Women’s Studies that is sure to jumpstart your career as a barista.
I had a day off there this week and I was going to follow the typical American crowd and go to Cheers, but nobody there knows my name. So instead I ventured down Boston’s famous Freedom Trail and its many sites dedicated to the distortion of America’s founding. And of course, I took copious notes so that upon my return I could save my readers from spending upwards of $3 on an official infomap and offer up this,
The Official conTIMplating Guide to The Freedom Trail for Those too Cheap to Shell Out $3 for the Official Infomap
Feel free to print and take with you.
The Trail starts in Boston Common, captured above by the miracle of photographic technology. The Common was established in 1634 and is hailed as America’s oldest public park. Puritan colonists purchased the land rights to the Common’s 44 acres for 30 pounds from the first settler of the area, William Blackstone, so they could have a nice place to picnic, go jogging, and hang witches.
The first stop is the Massachusetts state house, built on what was originally John Hancock’s cow pasture. The impressive dome is overlaid with 24-karat gold and is thus often confused with Flavor Flav. Down the block is Park Street Church, which is where the abolitionist movement really took off and the very hateful and intolerant song, My Country ‘tis of Thee, was first sung before being banned from public school.
Next to the church is the Granary Burying Ground which is where many of those are buried who fought for our freedoms so we’d have something to sacrifice when our security was threatened. Paul Revere, Sam Adams, and the victims of the Boston Massacre are buried here, as well as Mother Goose and the parents of Ben Franklin. It is also where the City of Boston placed their John Hancock.
It was while wandering the Burying Ground that I overheard a number of school group tour guides discussing things like colonial dentistry, ghosts and Johnny Depp movies instead of boring factual stories of heroic courage and sacrifice. Pardon my French, but il n’est pas étonnant que nos libertés sont uriné loin.
The next stop is the King’s Chapel, commissioned by King James II, and the King’s Chapel Burying Ground which houses a number of more unheard-of famous people, who it turns out are also dead. Around the corner is the site of the first public school in the U.S., the location of which is marked by a statue of its most famous dropout, Benjamin Franklin, as well as an authentic Ruth’s Chris Steak House.
Continuing past the Old Corner Bookstore and its Chipotle, you will end up at the largest building in colonial Boston, the Old South Meeting House. It is here that many of the most famous protest meetings of the revolution took place which, according to the educational displays therein, would not have happened but for minorities, women and minority women.
The next stop is the Old State House and its famous balcony from which the Declaration of Independence was read in July of 1776 and under which the Boston Massacre took place six years earlier. It’s interesting that upwards of five people died in the ‘Massacre’ compared to just 2,977 people killed in the 9/11 ‘Tragedy.’
A couple of blocks away is Faneuil Hall, where impassioned speeches were first given against the ridiculous British taxes imposed on the colonists who insisted on and eventually went to war for the right to impose ridiculous taxes on themselves. The revolution foment eventually moved out of Faneuil Hall to the Old South Meeting House because it was larger and easier to pronounce. Below the hall is a 250-year old marketplace still in operation and behind the hall is the open-air Quincy Market, which is where I purchased my new MIT hat for the purpose of taking mirror-shot selfies (see below).
Heading north a couple of blocks you will find a lot of colonial-style taverns like Ye Olde Union Oyster House, Durty Nelly’s, and America’s oldest operating tavern, The Bell-in-Hand. Rumor has it that after a few hours of walking and touring it’s easy to get bogged down in this area for extended periods of time as there are a number of delicious chowdahs and ales to be sampled, but I wouldn’t know anything about that.
Continuing on into Boston’s North End, you will find some fantastic Italian eateries, the offers of which you can’t refuse, if you know what I mean. You will also find Paul Revere’s house, from which he set out on his famous ride with William Dawes, who turned out to be the Sonny Bono/Art Garfunkel of the group as nobody really remembers him. I learned that Paul Revere had 16 children in this 4-room home, which makes me wonder how in the world he ever saw the signal from the Old North Church in the first place, let alone had the time and energy to ride to Lexington after all those trips back and forth to soccer practice–then start a rock band in the ’60s.
Around the corner from Revere’s house is Mike’s Pastry, where Paul and Mrs. Revere would go for cannolis. The only reason I mention it is because they have the best tiramisu on the planet. Be sure to ask for a napkin and tell them TIM sent you and they’ll give you a napkin, albeit with a puzzled look.
Up the street is the Old North Church and its famous steeple from which the signal to Revere and that other guy was sent by Robert Newman, causing the British to mutter through gritted teeth, “Newman!” Newman is buried at the next stop, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, where you can overhear other school groups discussing the skull and crossbones and grog.
From Copp’s Hill, the trail climbs Breed’s Hill where the battle of Bunker Hill was fought, which doesn’t make any sense. Atop it is the Bunker Hill Monument which is kind of a low-budget B-movie Washington Monument that took a lucky 13 years to complete. The only way to the top is to climb the 294 concrete steps, with which a good ADA lawyer would have a field day. From the top you can take in the sweeping views of all of Boston as you hurl your recently consumed chowdah and tiramisu.
The last stop on the trail is the beautiful and italicized U.S.S. Constitution, or as they call it on NBC, “Ironside.” As I recall, the Constitution was undefeated in battle, after which the men hoisted their commander on their shoulders and he opened a chain of steak houses…or was that the ’72 Dolphins?
Anyway…getting back downtown is easy as you have the option of either turning this page upside down and backtracking, or taking the Hahbah Ferry which is just behind the U.S.S. Constitution Museum and coincidentally costs the same $3 I just saved you by writing this blog.