Well I didn’t make it to the ex-pat event last night after all – I looked up the address again and worked out that to get to it I’d have to walk through the financial district, which is totally fine in the day, but after hours it’s almost deserted. Which would probably have been totally fine, but being a bit new to the city I wussed out and had another quiet one. Which led to me not waking up until 7.30am today – result!
After a healthy (yes, you read it right, HEALTHY) breakfast of cornflakes, I pottered off into North End. The Trolley tour tickets are valid for 48 hours, and there are a fair few areas they can’t get into (Boston is not overly car friendly…. but then the drivers aren’t very friendly either so it works both ways!) so I thought I would wander through North End, then across the bridge to Charlestown and pick up the trolley at that point on the tour. Essentially I was following part of the Freedom Trail, which is one of Boston’s best free tourist attractions – it’s a red line which is either painted or bricked into the sidewalks (sorry, pavements) and takes you around a lot of the major tourist sites, including the Bunker Hill Monument, USS Constitution, Old North Church, Quincy Market, Old State House, and Boston Common to name a few. It’s not that long (under 3 miles) but once you’ve stopped to take all the pictures you want, and to wander round the attractions en route, it can feel like a marathon!
North End is gorgeous – tons of Italian restaurants, and some of the most amazing food shops I’ve seen! “Depasquale’s Homemade Pasta Shoppe” was the most impressive, with loads of fresh pasta on sale (including about 10 types of ravioli!). The Freedom Trail runs right through North End, so I stuck to that for the most part (stopping off at Mike’s Pastry on the way through – I had a pistachio cannoli and a coffee, which was astonishing (the cannoli, not the coffee. The coffee was good too, but not astonishingly so!), as shown below:
And no, Mum, I didn’t finish it. No-where near. I was pretty impressed, actually – one of the most popular bakeries in North End, which isn’t cheap, and the above with a cup of coffee set me back under $7 – in the UK I imagine it would’ve been about £8 for that…
Anyhew, I used my sugar and caffine related energy (now I curse it – you will see why later…) to carry on along the Freedom Trail – I stopped off in the Old North Church, which is where two lanterns were hung from the steeple as a signal that the British were going to march on Lexington and Concord via the sea route. So it says in my guide book, anyway… It’s a lovely church, and there was a really poignant memorial outside to the US soldiers who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq – it’s the tags from each soldier hung up together in rows: when the wind blows they knock together and chime very softly, and it’s surprisingly moving.
From Old North Church, the Freedom Trail takes you to the Copp’s Hill Burying Ground – the second-oldest cemetary in the city (they are terribly proud that it dates back to 1660 – bless). It should be a quiet place to reflect, but it was rather overrun with Japanese tourists when I went in, so I left sharpish! It’s the last tourist point in North End, so the next step is over the bridge to Charlestown (scariest road bridge I’ve ever encountered – the middle part is like a grille, so you can see straight through to the water below!!! Not a fan…).
It was at this point that my suger and caffine related energy caused me some problems. The sensible thing at this point, with the temperatures rising significantly (it was 35 degrees today, or very high 90s for non-metrics…) and the time getting closer to midday would have been to look at the Bunker Hill Monument from a nice comfortable distance, and then go and do the USS Constitution tour with the lovely sailors. But no. That little part of my brain that tends to stay quiet unless aggravated, piped up and said “Let’s go to the monument and walk up it – we’ve not done that before”. So off I went, up to the base of the monument, past the signs saying “Do NOT attempt to climb if you have any health issues or are unfit” and merrily started to climb the steps. All 297 of them.
When they say you need to be in good physical condition to make the climb, they mean it. Seriously. There is a bench at the very top, which is constantly covered by very VERY sweaty people trying to regain their equilibrium. And then looking a tad hard done by when they realise that not only are there thick windows between them and the ‘best views in Boston’, but that some git who was here before has scratched the glass, making it quite hard to get good photos. When I was capable of speech again, I took some photos (see album: http://www.helengoestoboston.com/photos/main.php?g2_itemId=538) and then started down again. I must admit feeling quite smug when, on meeting people coming up the way, they asked me if they were nearly at the top yet. “You’re just coming up to about half way”, I told them, and laughed inside as their faces fell. Exercise doesn’t agree with me…. Although I get the feeling that if I did the climb once a week for the next 18 months, I would end up much fitter for it… That isn’t in any way a binding statement, however!
From there it was off to the Naval Yard, for my tour of the USS Constitution – nicknamed ‘Old Iron Sides’ from when a British ship attacked, and the cannonballs just bounced off the sides. The Americans then broke the British ship, who surrendered (this was in the War of Independence, obviously, not last Thursday) Entertaingly enough, the sailor showing us around (not in an officer’s uniform this time, sadly – I shall have to time things better next time) then mentioned that there was an English representative in the crowd (me!) and that obviously they were very sorry about it. So I just got the Americans to apologise for the War of Independence…. does this mean we can have it back?!
I picked up the trolley tour outside the naval yard and sat tight until we got to the Prudential Centre, where I grabbed some lunch. By that point (about 3pm) my feet were starting to hurt like hell (if you are doing the Freedom Trail, or anywhere in Boston, wear sensible shoes. I have been wearing Hush Puppies flip flops, which are very comfortable most of the time, but frankly aren’t up to the task of this much walking – trainers tomorrow!) so I thought I’d head back to the apartment for a bit of a rest. Wandered along Boylston Street, and through part of the Common – all very lovely, but next time I’ll do it in sensible shoes!
Anywho, now I’m back at the apartment for a bit of a recover before dinner – I think I’m going to try for Legals tonight, as I haven’t had a fix of clam chowder yet! Although as it’s a Friday night it might be best to get take-out rather than queuing for a table for just me. The apartment is very lovely, and I’ll still be able to get out and grab some food and wine! I’ve got some meetings set up for next week to see apartments with a view to renting rooms – it’s a bit scary to be looking at sharing with someone after so long living alone, but I think it’ll be good for me, and I hope I’m not too set in my ways! Fingers crossed…