31 March 2011

"Freedom Trip" - "Freedom Trail"...same thing ;)

February 2007
We've now been in Boston one afternoon (spent napping) and one night, and already I've learned that paying $20+ for a salad inside the hotel isn't money well spent.  Who does this?! However on occasion, circumstances will dictate.  An under-the-weather travel pal, combined with a strange big city and darkness, may force you to throw away all those penny pinching travel rules you had just studied (darn it).  Plus, eating inside my first night beat the safety concerns of venturing out into the unknown, alone.  Very strange now thinking back, I never once questioned the price of the beer I had been served, couldn't even tell you how much it was. But I've never forgotten that pricey salad.  Funny eh? 

Rise and shine.  We were up early (both parties feeling 100%) and ready to explore. We were able to figure out the "T" pretty quick.  How many of you have tried this system?  For those of you who don't know, the "T" is Boston's subway system (underground public transportation).  They use the Charlie card, a plastic access card that you attach "rides" to via a machine similar to an ATM machine. Once you've mastered how to add those rides to this card, you're golden.  On and off at every stop if you wish.  YAY for this system.  It's congested and expensive to drive (and park) in Boston.  Taxis are great, but if you're spending five days, presumably you want to get places.  Get a Charlie Card (paper copy of this rider card will do the trick too, the machine decides which to give you). 

Just follow the bricks :)

First stop....the Freedom Trail

What is the Freedom Trail you ask?  It's a 2.5 mile (4 km) red trail, mostly in brick, that allows you to stroll along in amongst pedestrian traffic, throughout downtown Boston, while exploring 16 must see historic sites.  Give yourself a day and even at that it won't be enough.

Here's the tale of our historic adventure ...

We opted for a self-guided tour, but you can book a guided one.  Pick a starting place, get your camera ready and you're off.  :) As you walk ... the bricks you follow, the people you meet, the buildings you see, all the statues, fountains and monuments you take pictures of and the establishments where you can venture inside (restaurants, homes, museums), become a collective collage of past and present that provide you with a history lesson and the living culture of this great city.  I hated history in school (really, who didn't?) but honestly, I can't get enough of it when I'm actually feeling, seeing and understanding it.  And for no charge, this Freedom hike offers you that. :)

Some of the sites: 
Boston Commons.  This is a 50 acre central park, the oldest public park in USA history and home to the Make Way for the Ducklings bronze on cobblestone tribute monument for the author of a famous children's book.  Do you like monuments and statues?  Start here.  In amongst the history markers, this park was an ice skaters paradise with both an outdoor rink and a frozen pond, how fun. I was certain in the Spring and Summer months this park would boast the most beautiful assortment of annuals, perennials, shrubs and tree species. Even in February there were some breathtaking sights within the landscape.

Cheers.  Just on the Beacon Street side of the Commons, you'll find Cheers (one of two actually).  This one has the entrance that was made famous by the TV show.  Once you go down the steps and open the door, aside from the door itself and the wooden statue beside it, nothing here appears as it did on the show. 

But apparently the Cheers near Quincy Market doesn't look anything like the TV show on the exterior, but is a replica of the bar seen on TV inside.  Is this true?  (I'll await your feedback as I've never ventured inside this one).

Be sure to step inside the Old State House and Paul Revere's place.  They're both two floors of fascinating historic information. Behind the Old State House you can find the Boston Massacre site marker.  It's a large circle, made of paving stones, set in-ground, with a centre star. And you should open the doors to the Old North Church, it was pretty neat to see the box like seating / praying areas. 

When you get to Faneuil Hall you can pick up some neat trinkets to take back home.  Be sure to go upstairs, it's the meeting hall. Apparently, way back when, Samuel Adams (the same guy they named the beer after) gave several speeches there.  Stroll across the way to Quincy Market, once inside, the one centre aisle that's lined with food vendors and shops from one end to the other will overwhelm your senses with the aroma of delicious food (good luck lol). 

Before we crossed the Zakim Bridge en route to Bunker Hill and the USS Constitution, our trek along the Freedom Trail led us to the City's North End, Little Italy.   We decided that this is where we should have lunch.  Just about all restaurants had their menus displayed in the windows but we chose this place "Strega" because of their menu and they had these pictures.  Photos with staff and famous people lined the edges of their menu in the window and around the entrance.  You won't believe it, but within all the pics posted there, who's do you think?!  The Soprano's, John Travolta etc etc. and there he was, Justin Timberlake (it was 'his' trip remember lol).

What an incredible choice.  The meal was something else (seafood, pasta, rich sauces...mmm).  The atmosphere inside this restaurant was very "welcome home" like.  And our waiter, OMG our waiter! Gianni, with his thick dark hair, his deep voice, his Italian build, his dark eyes, that accent.  He'd be walking to and from the kitchen, when out of nowhere he'd belt out Italian songs and verses.  That deep voice, oh my dear me (bliss).  He gave us our check, wished us a fun stay in Boston.  He mentioned over and over how he'd hope we'd visit there again during our next stay (to which we promised we would).   Now, if all this isn't enough for you to think you need to try this place out..it wasn't until we were outside that I noticed the receipt.  At the very bottom it states:  "What Happens at Strega, Stays at Strega".  haha, how perfect ;)

Okay, back to the Trail.  At the USS Constitution Museum you'll learn all about the Navy's vessel, the Constitution and how it received the nickname Old Ironsides.  Be sure to venture on board the ship, it's quite something.  This is where we ended our history lesson.  Of the 16 sites along the Freedom Trail, (this link will take you to a website that I found useful when trying to describe the Freedom Trail) Quinn and I can happily say that we saw all of them and most were visited (whether of interest or because the February wind gusts pushed us in the door, I can't quite recall lol). 

We then took the water taxi (part of the public transport system) to the New England Aquarium.  We'd only allotted an hour and a half before closing, too bad, it was pretty spectacular inside.  The walkway to the top spiralled around a giant water tank filled with so many creatures. :)  Amazing.  We could've easly spent a half day here, you can plan accordingly.

BOSTON 2007 - trip photo album 
(this link will take you to the Picasa website, where you'll find all the pics from this trip... enjoy)

A few more 'Must Shares': 
  • The Skywalk Observatory (in the Prudential Centre) is well worth the time and money to view Boston from the 50th floor, with a handheld device telling you exactly what you're seeing, while you're looking out windows that provide you 360 degree viewing access.
  • You can take the "T" from the airport for a fraction of the cost of a taxi.
  • Justin Timberlake filled the TD Garden that night.  His audience a very mixed demographic, all of whom watched him intently (he's pretty great to see live).
  • Pink, who opened for Justin, was phenomenal!  The ribbons hanging from the ceiling and her own acrobatic moves.  WOW!
  • If you try to take a case of beer into the hotel, you will be stopped (some existing by-law).  However, you can occasionally find nice people who help you put it in a bag before proceeding through the doors :P
  • There is no Wal-Mart in downtown Boston (lol, I was convinced there was one...it's outside of the downtown, a fair distance away haha).
We left Boston with a vow that we'd be back (it's beautiful there).  And when we do, Strega (amongst a few other places) would definitely be on our list of must-dos.

Here's a valuable lesson, I don't need to shop for EVERYONE I know when I go away (and neither do you).  Avoiding this will eliminate the last minute rush to purchase an additional piece of luggage to get things home (o.m.g.), long waits at customs upon return and a hefty tax bill for bringing so many items back over the allowable dollar amount.  This trip taught me not to shop, little things maybe, it's better to save the funds for the next adventure and share the stories and pics of the adventure instead.

Results from the Weekly Survey Question:  have you visited the City of Boston in Massachusetts, USA?
Yes:  66%
No:  33%
Glad to see so many of you have visited this historic city!!  Would love to hear your stories and adventures.  Feel free to comment below or send me an email: holidayheidi@hotmail.ca.

Ready?  Well, get your bags emptied and repacked my friends.  Less than 6 weeks from this adventure, we're leaving for the next!  How about the Caribbean?!  All Inclusive, direct flight, 7 days.  Hola, Republica Dominicana!!

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