Friday, August 6, 2010

Follow the Red Brick Road

16 historical sites, 2.5 miles, 1 copy of Fodor's Boston 2010 = 4 really tired & sore feet

Follow me to Freedom!
The Garretts decided to take on the Freedom Trail while they were in Boston and boy was it a hike!  When our guide book read, "It takes a full day to complete the entire route comfortably" we thought no problem, we can knock it out in probably half that and make it to the Samual Adams Brewery in time for cocktails.  We were wrong.

Start of the Freedom Trail
The Trail is just that...a red line painted/bricked through the city that weaves you through the wellsprings of U.S. civilization.  Staying on the line is a step back in time, just make sure you wear your walking shoes!  We started the hike at Boston Commons, the oldest park in the country.  Almost 50 acres in size, it was home to public hangings until 1817!  In more recent times Martin Luther King, Jr. and Pope John Paul II both gave speeches there.
So Shiny!

Through the park and up the stairs is the Massachusetts State House with it's shiny gold dome. Look closely in the closing shots of The Departed and you'll see it in the background. The dome was originally made out of wood shingles and is now sheathed in copper and covered by 23 karat gold which prevents leaks. If you look way up high to the very top, you'll notice a wooden pinecone which symbolizes logging in Boston during the 18th century.

Steeple to the Sky
You have to backtrack through Boston Commons to get to the next stop, Park Street Chuch, which was a town granary before the Revolution.  The steeple is 217 feet tall and was home to the first Sunday school in 1818.  Remember singing "My Country 'Tis of Thee" when you were a kid?  It was sung here for the first time in 1831.  

That's a tombstone!
Right next to the church is the Granary Burying Grounds-the third oldest cemetery in Boston.  There are 5000 people buried there, but only 2300 headstones!  Back in the day, it was super expensive to bury folks and generally there was only one headstone per family, which means that each grave contains at least 20 bodies.  The headstones were super cool and looked just like the Halloween aisle at Walgreens-probably one of the coolest things we saw on the tour.  There we saw the graves of Samuel Adams, John Hancock and Ben Franklin's parents.  

Box seats for church
It was back on the red line again to King's Chapel, which was an Anglican parish ordered built by King James II.  Inside, the church the seats were segregated to help keep the parishioners warm in winter.  The bell tower is supposedly haunted here but the lack of flash photography didn't keep us there for long.  

Brett & Ben
Behind King's Chapel was the first public school in America, established in 1635, and a statue of Benjamin Franklin.  Brett had a great time posing with Ben.  We were surprised to learn that the school did not allow girls as students until 1972!  The Former site of the Old Corner Bookstore was close by too, although the building is now owned by a jewelry store.  FYI: that's where The Scarlet Letter was published.
Tea time!
We trooped on to the Old South Meeting House, built in 1729, where the Boston Tea Party began.  Back in 1773, more than 5,000 colonists got together and got pissed off about taxes on tea.  342 crates of tea went into the water. The rest is history.  

Good thing it's
a historical landmark
It's odd to see such a beautiful, ornate and stately building in the middle of high rises and sky scrapers, but that's exactly what was the Old State House.  Dating back to 1713, folks gathered there to hear the Declaration of Independence read from the building's balcony.  There, the idea of 'no taxation without representation' was cooked up and the Boston Massacre happened on the streets just outside of it's doors.  Look down here and you'll see a circle of cobblestones commemorating the event that left five dead in 1770.  A guy on the street was playing Colonial music on his fiddle when we walked up and it was like you could just close your eyes and imagine yourself there centuries ago.  

Rock the Cradle of Liberty
The red line didn't take us much further before we ran into Faneuil Hall.  Known as "the Cradle of Liberty," the second floor meeting hall here is where Americans first protested the Sugar Act & the Stamp Act.  Just in front of the Hall is a statue of Samuel Adams, but it's most famous feature is the grasshopper weather vane.  The vane which was used as a test to determine if people were spies during the Revolution period.  You better know what was up top Faneuil Hall if you didn't want to find yourself on the wrong side of the law back then!  

Clam chowda!
Once we had made it this far in the tour, we had to have a break.  Luckily, we found Quincy Market just off the red line beaten path and with a quick Google search, we quickly were eating some of the best clam chowder and lobster bisque recommended by former travelers at the Boston Chowda Company.  We also had to scarf down a lobster roll just to make sure we weren't missing anything.  Can't say that we had any complaints!
Paul's house
With a bit more energy and legs rested from all that cobblestone, we trotted on down the red line to Paul Revere's housewhich turns out is the oldest building in downtown Boston. 

Dessert time!
The trip there to Paul's place took us through the Italian Market and we passed by Boston's Modern Pastry Shop, which was voted #1 Pastry Shop in the Country by TLC.  Well, you know we couldn't pass that by.  A fruit custard later (we're NY cannoli snobs now) we finally made it to Paul's house,  His park bench made a great resting stop while we had a little dessert.

Giddy Up!
The red line weaves from paint to brick to paint throughout the trail and by the time we made it to the Old North Church, we had just about seen enough red for the day.  ONC is Boston's oldest church building (built in 1723) and one of the most recognizable landmarks.  The whole "One if by land and two if by sea" thing happened here in the 191 foot tall steeple.  Remember the ending of National Treasure? Part of it was set here.  The inside of the church again had the box seats used by families and today has regular Sunday services.  A huge statue of Paul Revere on a horse is just outside the church, but you've probably already seen it if you've ever caught Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.  You do have to admit that you've watched it though.

More dead people
Up a hill from the Old North Church is Copp's Hill Burying Ground-the second oldest home for the dead in Boston.  First hole dug in 1659, thousands are buried here, including the guy who made the grasshopper weather vane and the dude who put up the lanterns in the first place in Old North Church so they could tell how the British were coming.  By this point in our hike, we were tired and still had a ways to go so unless you had somebody really famous and cool to show us, we weren't that impressed.

Our copy of Fodor's showed only two more stops before we were done with this long joy ride so we were instantly pumped.  The history was neat to look at and the weather was certainly tolerable, but it just seemed to drag out.  The next part of the journey was windy!  We had to cross the Charlestown Bridge and the wind was blowing like crazy across the harbor.  The scene was gorgeous with the sailboats and yachts docked just below!

On the other side of the bridge was the U.S.S. Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world.  First launched in 1797, she earned the name "Old Ironsides" during the war of 1812 because the cannon balls would just bounce off of her thick hull.  Heather tried to bribe Brett with the promise of $1 to run to the front of the boat and yell "I'm the King of the World!" but he would have no part of such foolery.

Once back on dry land, we hit the trail for our last stop, the Bunker Hill Monument.  This was the biggest rip off of the whole excursion that day.  First of all, it looks just like Washington Monument in DC, so if you've seen that, then you've done're not missing anything.  Secondly, after walking nearly 3 miles through cobblestone all day, this was supposed to be the highlight of the tour.  Awesome view of the city at the end.  Great, we can't wait!  It was closed.  It was closed so they could power wash the thing!  So we climbed up a super tall hill to look at the 221' tall knock off version of Washington Monument because it was the first major battle of the American Revolution.  Whoopity-do!  Someone did drop the "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes" line here.  Heather's eyes were just seeing red by the time she took her obligatory photos of the scaffolding for the power wash project and marched back down the hill, where she promptly found a random brick on the Freedom Trail and decided it would make a nice souvenir.  Take that Bunker Hill!

Brett's dirty feet have
Boston on them
The Freedom Trail was very interesting and informative and we would totally recommend anyone doing it at least once.  We really learned a lot and it was amazing to see the actual places that we had studied in our history books as children.  Just make sure you wear good shoes for walking a lot and pack some water and snacks with you on your trip!


  1. Wow...this is a great and comprehensive post, Heather! There really is so much to see in Boston, and you did a great job of summing up the historical highlights! I have taken multiple foot, trolley, and boat...since we moved here in May. I really, really enjoyed the Super Trolley tour. We learned a ton, and it was much easier on the feet. But I think my fave thing to do in Boston is just to hang out in Boston Common, let the kids play in the Frog Pond, and then head over to the Public Garden for a ride the Swan Boats. It is SUCH a beautiful part of the city!

  2. Thanks Kate! It took me two days to write this one checking all my dates and facts online, lol! The city really is awesome though-so beautiful! I could have sat in the park and just watched people all afternoon. We really did enjoy seeing it all, but I can't imagine pushing a stroller down that cobblestone. Mothers are such troopers!