On July 4 we were probably the most touristy of any time during our entire trip. We took the T, Boston’s subway system, downtown and walked the Freedom Trail. And I, for one, would recommend it highly if you ever happen to be in Boston. You can do it one of two ways. Take a tour, they start at the visitor’s center in Boston Common, or buy your own map (it costs $2.00) and walk it yourself. We opted to buy our own map and walk it ourselves, though we did see many a tour along the way, always lead by a person dressed in period costume.
If you’re a person, like me, who loves history, then this is the tour for you. There’s a lot of history to be had along the 2.5 mile walk… the building where the Declaration of Independence was read, Paul Revere’s house, the Old North Church where the lamps were hung, King’s Chapel, the Old South Meeting House where the group gathered before the Boston Tea Party, the site of the first public school, and the burying ground where Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, Franklin’s parents, and John Hancock are buried. To name just a few. It’s spectacular, just being in those places, seeing where history was made.
Besides the history of it all, there are other things to see…. like some of the architecture, Chinatown (that was a slight detour off the tour route… only a couple of T rides and we were there), old buildings next to new, street performers at Quincy Market, the oldest Tavern in the country, and the North End, otherwise known as Little Italy. And Little Italy it is… there were guys walking around in white ribbed tanks with gold chains, older gents sitting on benches in front of restaurants or markets smoking cigarettes or cigars dressed exactly as you would imagine, as if they’d been there every day for years and would be there for years to come. There were older women sitting in chairs on sidewalks chatting it up, or napping. And everywhere we looked, as we walked through, there were Italian restaurants and street corner markets. We loved it there, so much so we decided to have some lunch in the neighborhood. And let me tell you, it was the best Italian meal I’ve ever had. Plus, our wait staff was great… in that sort of “whatever… you eat the pasta or you don’t… who cares” kind of way. They were incredibly attentive and helpful, even answering our question about what the name of the restaurant meant, but they seemed to have to warm up to us. At first they could care less, but by the time we were done and leaving everyone was making a point of saying goodbye to us, almost like we’d become part of the family. It was great.
We ended our day in the city by taking a trip on the T to China Town, and let me say… wow. Talk about feeling like we were in a foreign country (kind of like when we were in Little Italy). Everything was written in Chinese, all the people were Asian, and the smells coming out of some of the restaurants were stupendous. We thought, man, if we hadn’t already eaten, we’d certainly be sitting down for some real Chinese food. It was the best China Town I’ve been in, except for maybe the ones in San Francisco and Honolulu, though this was close.
Finally, to cap off the day, after we’d made our way back to our hotel room for a couple hours of rest and relaxation, we walked down to the Longfellow Bridge (which goes over the Charles River between Cambridge and Boston) and found a spot to watch the fireworks. Boston’s fireworks for the fourth of July have no rival, save for possibly the show put on in D.C. The Boston Pops performed (with speakers on the Cambridge side… so we did hear it), John Mellencamp performed, and the fireworks themselves were spectacular. We had never seen anything like them. Not only were there so many it was incredibly bright, but there were literally some fireworks we’d never seen… like the ones that looked like lines with a little parachute on the end that kept them afloat for an amazingly long time, or the others in the shapes of planets with rings, hearts, boxes, smiley faces, and stars. Then there was the entertainment standing behind us. There were several guys and girl, all from the area, with very thick Boston accents, talking about a trip they took and what they thought of the fireworks. Listening to them was almost as entertaining as watching the fireworks and listening to the Boston Pops. We think they were college kids and we liked them instantly.
All in all it was a great way to spend the 4th of July. We started the day with a tour of the streets and buildings where the pursuit of our freedom started, and we ended the day watching a celebration of that freedom. It was pretty unforgettable.