lost in boston

red lanters for chinese new year, boston“I wish this cursed place was burned.”  (General Thomas Gage, commander in chief of British forces in America and the last Royal Governor of Massachusetts, writing about Boston in 1775)

Yesterday I did the northern portion of the Freedom Trail, starting at Faneuil Hall.  Well, that was my intention.  But as is my usual way I took a wrong turn when I left my hotel and ended up discovering Chinatown, which was in exactly the opposite direction.  Boston’s Chinatown is not large but like every other city’s Chinatown that I have seen, you know it once you are there.   For one thing there is a whopping great dragon gate.  Small shops filled with roasted birds hanging in the windows line the streets.  Grocers set out bins of unusual vegetables.  Nearly everyone around you is speaking Chinese. I scoped out a couple of restaurants for future reference (i.e. dinner tonight) and pulled out my map.

Once I had myself properly oriented I headed north and picked up the Freedom Trail at the Old State House.  Just north of Faneuil Hall is a tiny warren area full of colonial and revolutionary area bars, a handful of Irish pubs, and the Union Oyster House, which claims to be the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the US.  Daniel Webster apparently liked the raw bar there.    There is also a recreation of the Green Dragon Tavern, where the Sons of Liberty used to do beer bongs (although the building is clearly old the sign out front says the original Green Dragon was “nearby”).  I kept going past these; it was only 11am and too early for a beer, even for me.

From there it was into the North End, which today is basically Boston’s Little Italy.  Every single merchant in this area appears to be either an Italian restaurant, an Italian pastry shop, or an Italian grocery.  In colonial times it was an area of craftsmen and tradesmen.  Paul Revere lived here and Christ Church (Old North Church) soars over the neighborhood.   Paul’s house was closed but the church was open and it is an interesting and relaxing place to stop before the slog over the bridge to Charlestown.

The northern part of the Freedom Trail has less stuff to see and there are long stretches where you basically trudge through bleak open landscapes.  North End is a nice oasis and once you cross the bridge into Charlestown you have come to another charming Boston neighborhood.  Most of this area was torched by the British during the Battle of Bunker Hill so most of the buildings are post-revolution.   Also, unlike the rest of Boston which is built almost entirely of brink, the houses here are often wood-sided and they are very colorful compared to the general redness of the rest of the city.

It’s a bit of an uphill climb to Bunker Hill but not an unpleasant one.  Once you get to the top of Bunker Hill (actually Breed Hill just beside it) you can climb the monument.  It’s only 294 steps to the top and they have helpfully painted the number of steps you have already climbed every 25 steps or so.  When you get to the top and can start breathing normally again you can look out four windows over Boston.  It was pretty cool and well worth the climb, although my legs are still stiff from it.

From Bunker Hill I wound back down the hill to see the U.S.S. Constitution or “Old Ironsides”.  She is not actually made of iron.  She is made from live oak, which is very dense.  Apparently in an important battle someone observed cannonballs bouncing off the sides of the ship and thus the nickname.  Unfortunately the ship is closed on Mondays but the staff let me go out on the dock area and take a few pictures.  Since it was close I went over and checked out the U.S.S. Cassin Young, a WWII destroyer.  This was surprisingly interesting.  I’m not sure I’ve ever been on a WWII-era ship before and it was kind of weird to see what cramped quarters the men lived and worked in.  The ship suffered three serious kamikaze attacks in the Pacific and I cannot image what it must have been like to be stuck on a burning ship in the middle of the ocean while being shot at.  It was a fascinating tour but it pretty much killed any lingering desire I may have had to join the Navy.

On the way home from Charlestown I followed the Freedom Trail back into the North End, picked a random restaurant, and had a delicious Italian dinner.   My walk home was surprisingly warm and pleasant (the chianti might have had something to do with this) and I read myself to sleep.


~ by gun street girl on February 16, 2010.

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