Warning: Long post ahead.
If you’re here from social media, then you already know what today’s post is about. But I think an introduction for everyone is still in order. So my sister is in medical school, and she had some time between her third and fourth year, and she wanted to go somewhere with the family. Well, it didn’t work out for our parents to go, so it was just her and I.
In discussing and planning for this trip, we had multiple cities in mind, including New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. We eventually settled on Boston because my sister has been to New York before (doesn’t mean she wouldn’t want to go again), I’ve been to Philly, and our time frame wouldn’t be enough to do everything we wanted to in D.C.
Flights on Southwest were booked four days apart from each other. We reserved an Airbnb as it was much cheaper than hotels (and probably closer to public transportation as well). We were relying only on public transportation and our feet for this trip, so being close to a subway/bus station was pretty important. My sister also found a couple Groupons for us to use and we started planning what we were going to do. Since we were only there for four days, we didn’t check luggage. Instead, we packed our Swiss Gear backpacks we used for school and a personal item.
One quick disclaimer: in looking up things for Boston, a lot of things were like “America’s oldest”. So if I mention that, please take that with a grain of salt. Cities on the East Coast like Boston and New York were settled first, so yes they are the oldest, but they also have a slight advantage simply because they were settled first.
Thursday, May 24:
After packing, we got up around 5 in the morning, arriving at Indianapolis International around 6 or so. Because it was so early, we actually did not have to take off our shoes or remove our electronics or liquids from our bags. Our flight was scheduled at 7:20. It was a smooth flight, and we arrived at Boston Logan International safely. We took a shuttle from the airplane. After leaving the airport, a voice came over the PA: “At Silver Line Way, you’ll hear the engine shut off for a moment while the bus converts to electric power for the rest of the trip.” These buses are equipped with two poles that my sister said looked like fishing poles on the top, and when the engine shuts off, they extend upwards to the cables that cross the street overhead. The bus then ran like a trolley car through actual streets. We got off and bought a 7-day pass for unlimited rides on the public transportation system (often just referred to as “The T”). After getting off the T at our stop, we then walked 15 minutes to our Airbnb (we didn’t want our stuff with us). One thing we had not counted on was the height, angle, and amount of hills in the neighborhood where we were staying. When we got to the house, we were both winded.
After leaving our Airbnb, we went to the Samuel Adams Brewery in Boston. Obviously I am not 21, so I could not partake in the free tasting. Say what you will, but breweries are cool places. Our tour was really informative and fascinating. We had lunch, and then took the train and walked over to Boston Common. Boston Common, while being a giant park, is also one end of the Freedom Trail, a 2.5 mile trail with 16 historical sites mainly from the Revolutionary War period marked by bricks in the sidewalk. We started from the Common and walked to the Massachusetts State House. The dome of the state house is gold, and it really stuck out. Across the street was a monument for the 54th Massachusetts Regiment. This is one of the most famous regiments of the Civil War because it was the first regiment of black volunteers. The regiment was commanded by Robert Gould Shaw, and most of these men died in storming Fort Wagner in South Carolina.
Next stop was the Park Street Church. Unfortunately, we could not go inside this church, so we moved on. Next to this was the Granary burying ground, where a lot of American patriots are buried. However, by this time, it was after 5:00, and everything was closed. We could walk by but not go in. We then went to King’s Chapel, the oldest Anglican church in America. Next door is another burial ground (we went in there on Saturday, so I’ll come back to that). Following the Freedom Trail, there was a monument for the Boston Latin School, the first public school. While Boston Latin School does still exist today, it is in a different site. Directly across from this memorial is a statue of Benjamin Franklin, who actually dropped out of Boston Latin School. Although Franklin is now much more associated with Philadelphia, he was born in Boston.
We then walked to the Old South Meeting House, yet another church. Like the King’s Chapel Burial Ground, we went in here on Saturday, so I will talk about this building more later. The next place on the trail was the Old State House. The east side of this building is where everything went down, so to speak. On the ground outside this side, there is a monument where the Boston Massacre took place. Also, the east facade has a balcony where the Declaration of Independence was read. As a result, that night when it was read, Bostonians had a huge bonfire where they burned relics of the British Empire.
Our last stop on the Freedom Trail that day was Faneuil Hall. This used to be the town meeting hall. Here is where Bostonians made their distaste for British rule known to each other. Nowadays, it serves as a marketplace and museum.
Our last event of the day was a sunset cruise out in Boston Harbor. We did a “Tall Ships” cruise on a four-sailed schooner. It was so beautiful to get on the water and sail around the harbor. Also, three sides of Boston Logan are surrounded by water, so when we got out far enough, departing planes flew right over our heads!
Steps taken: around 25,000 (Both my sister and I had step counters, and this is about the average between both of us)
Friday, May 25: Steps: 26,529
If Thursday was busy, Friday was crazy. We started the day with taking the T. On the T, there was a man rolling a joint. It was an interesting start to an interesting. Our first stop of the day was the Battle of Bunker Hill Monument and Museum. We started with the museum, which told the story of the battle and showed some artifacts, including a real drum taken from the British at this battle. There were also some recovered weapons, like cannons, muskets, and swords, as well as a glass case of the recreation of the battle with miniature figures (think Night at the Museum). This recreation had a type of program where it talked about what happened at the battle while casting spotlights on the area in which it occurred. Then, we climbed the Monument, an obelisk 221 feet tall. There is an observation deck at the top, but to get there, you have to climb 294 stairs. So we did, and took breathtaking views of the city of Boston.
After climbing back down, we walked to the harbor to get some lunch and continue our day. We ended up having Boston’s famous lobster rolls right on the harbor. On the way to lunch, we passed the Commandant’s house, where the captain of the naval yard lives and a monument for those who served in the Korean War. Then we continued with our day. We next went to the USS Cassin Young, a WWII destroyer. If you know me at all, you know that I love warships and World War II. This was so amazing to see and learn more about. However, before we got to the ship, we passed Dry Dock 1, which is used to repair ships and is the second oldest naval dry dock.
Upon leaving the USS Cassin Young, we backtracked a little bit and came to the USS Constitution Museum. This famous ship is the oldest naval ship, and it is still considered active today (coming back to that in a moment). The museum describes how the ship was built (like using an interactive exhibit of discovering which wood works the best to repel cannons) and tells the stories of the wars in which the USS Constitution served, including the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Barbary Wars. On the second floor of the museum, you can retrace the journey a sailor would have taken, from enlisting to swinging in hammocks. At the end of it, you find out what actually happened to the crew.
Our next stop was the USS Constitution herself. Like I said earlier, this is still considered an active ship for the Navy. This means that to board the ship, we had to show I.D. Also, all the people aboard the ship to answer questions and oversee the visitors are active Navy sailors. Obviously we could not walk over the entirety of the ships (there are five decks) and the cannons onboard were plugged, it was amazing to be a part of that rich history.
Following the Freedom trail took us next to the Old North Church. Any history or literature buffs may recognize this as where the two lanterns were hung in the belfry to alert Paul Revere that the British were coming across the water to attack. He actually came up with this signal that way other people would know in case something happened to him. Paul Revere rowed across the Charles River to ride to Lexington to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that the British were coming to allegedly capture them two. Another man, William Dawes, took an overland route to also warn them in case either of the messengers were captured. Revere passed under the guns of a British ship, and Dawes had to pass a checkpoint controlled by British guards. It was a harrowing night for these two men, but it helped prepare the patriots for the upcoming war.
That was the end of our “history” for the day. However, the next place we went, while much newer than the War for Independence, has its own century of history. We crossed the David Ortiz bridge to go to Fenway Park. While I myself am a die-hard Cubs fan, it is on my bucket list to visit all 30 baseball stadiums. Unfortunately, the Red Sox were playing the Atlanta Braves and not the Chicago Cubs. So to blend in, I wore a Red Sox shirt I had bought for the trip. Our seats were near the Green Monster, and that famous wall proved to be an eventful place. The first home run that the Sox scored hit the top of the wall, but it still counted. The second home run over the Green Monster was so high that it flew over one of the advertising signs atop the wall as well. The third went into the seats at the top of the Green Monster. Five of Boston’s 6 points that night came from home runs. The Red Sox ended up beating the Braves 6-2.
After the game, we walked to a gelato place that actually formed the gelato into a giant rose, with the flavors being the petals. I got a macaron on mine, but it would have been amazing without it as well.
Steps taken: about 26,300
Saturday, May 26:
While Thursday and Friday were probably our busiest days, Saturday was probably my favorite day. We started the day by revisiting some places on the Freedom Trail that we didn’t get to go into on Thursday. We started with King’s Chapel Burying Ground. While this is not home to as many well-known patriots, it does still have its own claim to fame. The Winthrop family (John Winthrop was the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony) is buried here. Also, some of these tombs are elaborately carved and look really cool. Also in this cemetery is the tomb of Elizabeth Pain, who is believed to be the inspiration for Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter.
Our next stop in retracing our steps was the Old South Meeting House. While this church may not be as famous as Old North, it is still pretty important to history. Why? you may ask. Well I’ll tell you. This was where the whole idea of the Boston Tea Party formulated and agreed upon. Obviously, the Harbor was where it actually happened, but you could call Old South Meeting House “the room where it happens”. The British actually seized control of this church during the War and destroyed all the pews.
We next went to a new place. Originally, our plan was to go into the Paul Revere house, but it would have cost us around $10 each and we weren’t allowed to take pictures, so we just passed on by. We next came to the statue of Paul Revere memorializing his midnight ride. This is right in view of the Old North Church, which is obviously a fitting place for it.
This was technically the end of the Freedom Trail for us. However, the next thing we did was still vital to both Boston and the American War for Independence. What did we do? Well, we threw some tea into the harbor! That’s right, we went to the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum. Everybody got assigned an alias of a real person who participated in the Tea Party (I was Benjamin Edes, one of the editors of the Boston Gazette). After reenacting the meeting at Old South, we headed down a ramp to one of the ships in the Boston Harbor, the Beaver. (There were three ships that were involved in the Boston Tea Party: the Dartmouth, Elinor, and Beaver). Aboard the ship, we were told that throwing tea into the Harbor was no easy feat. When full, these chests would weigh 400 pounds each. They were packed as tightly as possible with loose-leaf tea, covered in a layer of lead (similar to aluminum foil), put into a wooden chest, and covered in canvas. So the fact that these patriots cleared all three ships in only three hours goes to show how outraged and vindictive they were over the tax on tea. As our tour guide said, it wasn’t the tax itself. The tax was only 3 pennies per pound of tea. Those who could afford the tea could afford the tax. The issue instead was the fact that British parliament chose to levy this tax to help pay for the French and Indian War, which the colonists help fight in alongside the British. So they thought they had already paid the price in the lives lost. In the museum itself (which you could not take pictures in), they have an original tea chest that was not destroyed on display.
Once we finished the tour, throwing tea into the harbor, and buying tea (including one of the same kinds of tea that was thrown in the harbor in 1773), we traveled in both distance and time. We went to Dorchester to remember someone who lived just 10 years shy of two hundred years after the Boston Tea Party. We visited the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. This was something I really wanted to do while in the Boston area, especially because we talked about JFK in my Honors class for like two solid months. However, by the time we arrived, it was 4:10, and it closed at 5:00. Consequently, we had to really rush through this museum. We technically saw everything, but we didn’t really have time to slow down and read all the plaques and descriptions. Fortunately for me because of my Honors class, I know a lot about JFK (and family), so it wasn’t as much of an issue for me. It was really cool to see his legacy and understand things we talked about in class. Compared to the previous two days, this was our shortest day, because the JFK Presidential Library was our last thing.
Steps: about 23,700
Sunday, May 27:
Sunday was probably actually my least favorite day, simply by default. Don’t get me wrong, I still had a great time, but we had more time to do more on the other days. Having more or less finished the Freedom Trail, we did something different on this day. We went to the Mary Baker Eddy Library to go to the Mapparium. Mary Baker Eddy was one of the leaders of Christian Science, but we weren’t there to know more about her life. The Mapparium is a spherical room with a glass bridge going across the middle. While on the bridge, you are surrounded by the globe. As my sister put it, “It was like being inside a globe with the maps on the inside.”
After we left the Mapparium, we took the T up to Cambridge. What to do in Cambridge except visit Harvard University? So we did. We took what’s called a “Hahvahd tour” (read it in the accent). It’s not really a tour for prospective students, but more learning about the campus and seeing some of the buildings. I think every person dreams of going to Harvard someday, but honestly, I was unimpressed. For one thing, there was no “centralized” campus. This means that it was scattered throughout Cambridge and not in just one area like most colleges. It was hard honestly for me to know if we were on campus or not. For another thing, we didn’t really get to see as much of the campus as I expected. The architecture was pretty, and Harvard obviously has a long history, but I wouldn’t want to be a student there.
We then went to the MIT Museum. If you look at my pictures, I don’t have a lot of pictures of here. That’s because A. It would have been hard to take pictures of some of the things, and B. This stuff for the most part didn’t interest me as much as it did my sister. They had a brain exhibit, with drawings by Santiago Ramón y Cajal, and blown-up microscopic images. Another exhibit was robotics, and while some of them were cool, some of them were also really creepy, and I didn’t want that on my phone. The last exhibit that was interesting was a gestular engineering exhibit, but it is difficult to take pictures of moving machines. One of the machines would lower a scoop into a trough of oil, raise the scoop, and dump it on itself, but that’s hard to just take a picture of. While I enjoy science, it doesn’t fascinate me as much as the historical stuff does, so I can’t really do it justice.
The most exciting part of the day was our return trip. On the shuttle bus back to the airport, once again the engine shut off, this time to convert to diesel power. We got to Boston Logan had a couple hiccups going through security. The first was that there were no bins for my sister to put her things in, and a TSA agent kind of snapped at us for holding up the line. Then, one of my bins got screened and had to be looked at by a different TSA agent for “suspicious liquids”. He let me go with no problem, but I don’t know what it was. All my liquids were in the quart-sized zip clear bag and were all under 3 ounces. Lastly, my sister got frisked after stepping through the machine. I would love to say that was the end of the problems, but it wasn’t. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 7:15, with boarding to start at 6:45. However, it’s a little hard to board when there is no plane. The plane pulled up to the gate around 7:20. The flight was then scheduled to leave at 7:50. People deplaned quickly, and we boarded just as fast. We were on the runway to fly at 7:50. After flying straight over the ocean, we flew through clouds, and couldn’t see anything except the plane. Once we got high enough above the clouds, I was able to watch the sunset on the plane. We only got the seatbelt sign to turn off for a few minutes because we kept encountering turbulence. But we touched down safely and got off the plane.
Steps: about 16,800
All in all, I had an incredible time in Boston, even if we walked around 10 miles each day. We did so much in 4 days, and it was such a neat experience to see all that history. I definitely want to go again someday!
Let me know if you have any thoughts or comments!