History Repeats Itself: A Blitz Through Boston

Some things in life bear repeating, or so I have heard said, although perhaps it’s not always good for history to repeat itself…..especially those historic revolutionary events of Boston which we will review today. Amongst those things that bear repeating, however, I would include a driving tour of the East Coast of the United States, and that is why we find ourselves in Boston again, this time with our kids in tow. 

Ideally a person needs a month or two to properly tour the east coast, and an abundance of money; however, we have neither. My plan is to start in Boston and work our way from there to New York City, Philadelphia, Lancaster, Washington DC, and to our daughter Jasmine’s new home in Maryland. The main purpose of our trip is to delve into the history of our great nation, the United States. Admittedly I am a dunce in this regard, since I was raised in Canada and I had no American or world history classes. 

I work hard to figure out a way to make this trip include many awesome places for cheap. You know, nothing is cheap in Boston and New York City and Washington DC, so good luck with that! One thing that I can save money on is flights. I found tickets from Phoenix to NYC for just $131, but the flight is too early for me to catch since I am working the night shift. But of course, Aundrea is an adult and can fly with the kids to NYC. Sending the four of them to NYC instead of direct to Boston saves me $400 on ticket prices. 

David brings Aundrea and the kids to catch their 5 am flight while I am at work.  Now pay close attention. Each child has one small backpack for their 7 week summer vacation. 

The larger checked bag on the right contains everything a family of five needs for shelter, sleeping, cooking  and eating. Yep….. tent camping! Two tents, five sleeping bags, five sleeping pads, two pillows, pots and pans, dishes and a camp stove. I do have a confession to make. I did not tell my husband that I plan to camp on this trip. He is oblivious to the fact that I have packed along camping gear. Hotels are frightfully expensive in Boston ($200 per night for even a Motel 6) and I would just as soon camp if I can than sleep in some bug infested cheap motel. 

So you might be thinking that NYC is far from Boston, so it makes no sense to fly there if Boston is your destination, and you’re right; however, our daughter Jasmine lives near Washington DC and she is joining us for our east coast tour. I arrange for a rental van, which Jasmine picks up from near her home. She drives north, picks up the kids in NYC, and from there heads on up to Boston. 

Believe it or not there is a campground 15 minutes from Boston called Camp Nihan Environmental Education Center, which is where they spend the night. Cheap….. it’s only $30 for the night. And for an added bonus, it’s beautiful! Taking along camping gear has already paid off. I would book a second night, but there is no availability. 

While the kids are snug as bugs in their tents, David and I take the red-eye straight to Boston on tickets paid for by our Johann’s airmiles…… thanks Johann! We plan to meet the kids this fine morning. We catch a beautiful sunrise as we land in Boston. If you’ve ever flown into Boston you would know there are many beautiful islands in the ocean here. It’s gorgeous!

We arrive in Boston super early. David and I take the subway to Boston Common, a park that is at the beginning of the Freedom Trail, which is where we plan to meet the campers. Boston Common is a 50 acre park that was used by the British as a camp prior to the American Revolutionary War. 

Now, while Boston is arguably a beautiful city, their subway system is really ancient. 

Seriously. Listen to this. The brakes are so squeaky on this subway car it makes me laugh! 

I love the contrast of this huge glass building next to the historic buildings. It catches the morning light beautifully. As we walk in the Boston Common park we see there are 37,000 flags placed to commemorate all the Bostonians who have lost their lives in wars….. so many lives…… It’s Memorial Day weekend, which is quite fitting.

We are starving, so we walk to a restaurant that is way across the park dragging our luggage behind us. Yelp didn’t warn us. In Boston breakfast is not served until 8 am. No restaurants are open!

While we are deciding what to do we notice some runners. I guess there is a marathon today! The lead runners race by……

A young man pushes this buggy, and he is about 5th from the front of the line! Wow! That’s an accomplishment. 

Since the restaurants are not open we grab coffee at a nearby Starbucks. Soon there are large numbers of marathoners running by. 

This run is called “The Run to Remember”. The run is to remember fallen first responders who have died in the line of duty. 

“All gave some, some gave all.” Now, giving your all is indeed the ultimate sacrifice, as many have done to secure our freedoms. 

The marathon results in road closures, which complicates our plans to meet up with Jasmine and the kids. She keeps trying to get around the roadblocks without success. Finally we tell her to stay put and we will walk to where she is. There they are! This is our vehicle for the next two weeks…. a Dodge Caravan! I am worried how we will get 7 people and all our gear in this vehicle, but it ends up being no problem at all! This car is actually amazing with all the storage space and conveniences. 

We head off to find a parking garage and to start our trek upon the Freedom Trail of Boston. David and I were here last summer, during which I was wondering if this is really the Freedom Trail, as opposed to the Trail to Tyranny (http://kaijabeishline.com/2016/07/30/5812/).  We were so impressed that we are back with the kids.  There’s lots to love about this beautiful city!

Perhaps many people in the east know what the Freedom Trail is, but not so much in the southwest. When I tell people in Arizona that we will be walking on the “Freedom Trail” they look confused. So here it is. It’s a 2.5 mile walk through the city that goes to 16 significant historic sites in this city of Boston. You can start or stop anywhere. Boston, of course, is where our freedom was conceived and realized. 

The trail is well marked and easy to follow. 

Perhaps I should introduce our crew for our east coast trip. My husband, David, and my children from left to right, Aundrea 22, Kristoff 15, Bjorn 13, Annika 13, and Jasmine 25. 

Let’s see if anyone in this motley crew loses their temper today. David and I are pretty sleep deprived, having just taken the red eye. The kids tent camped last night, so they might be cranky, too. Let’s see. Oh, and they are hungry, but our team leader isn’t….. so maybe you know what that means. There’s a bagel shop on down the way per our yelp expert…… but it might take a while to get there. 

We zip past the Massachusetts State House with the plan to stop here on our way back. The morning sun glistens on the gold dome. 

Soon after we embark upon our walk we come upon the historic Granary Burial Ground. Who is buried here?

You might recognize this name…… a signer of the Declaration of Independence. 

“The remains of thousands of Boston citizens and notables lie within the walls of the Granary. Along with Massachusetts governors, mayors and clergymen, visitors will find the graves of three signers of the Declaration of Independence: Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Robert Treat Paine; Peter Faneuil, benefactor of the famed downtown Boston landmark; patriot and craftsman Paul Revere; James Otis, Revolutionary orator and lawyer; and five victims of the Boston Massacre. Near the center of the ground, a 25-foot-tall obelisk commemorates the tomb of Benjamin Franklin’s parents.” (Wikipedia)

Just a few steps down the street we find the King’s Chapel, which originally was built upon a burial site in 1688, because no one would sell land to a nonpuritan Anglican congregation. The Royal Governor, no doubt loyal to the king of England, directed that this church be built to be fit for the King! 

Do you remember this little finger game? “Here’s the Church, here’s the steeple, open the doors and where’s the people?” I mean, where’s the steeple in this case? The King’s Chapel is steepleless!

David and I got married in a steepleless church in Aurora, Ontario, and from what we were told the steeple in that church came down after being struck by lightning and never got rebuilt. Did this steeple at the King’s Chapel get hit by lightning? No.  I guess the original plan included a steeple, but it never got built. I wonder if the King would be disappointed? 

The puritan’s Old South Meeting House has the claim to fame as the place where the Boston Tea Party was launched in 1773. Perhaps one could say this is where the right to protest and free speech began, although I would venture to guess the puritans probably held tight reigns on some forms of free speech. Nonetheless, this meeting house is where colonists gathered in large numbers to protest British rule in the years leading up to the American Revolution. 

Perhaps one of the most significant meetings here occurred when 5000 people gathered to make a decision about what to do with three English ships in the harbor loaded with tea. The British were demanding tax for the purchase of the tea, but the colonists were decrying taxation without representation. If you’re smarter than me, you would know what happens when Samuel Adams declares the code words, “This meeting can do nothing more to save this country!” That’s when a real party breaks out…… a tea wrecking party….. when scandalous patriots storm off disguised as Indians to destroy 340 crates of tea by chucking them into the harbor! 

About a mile into our walk we come upon The Old State House. Yep! We are taking the tour of the museum inside! At the ticket counter I tell the agent “it’s me and my husband, and our five kids.” After they ring me up I realize they let all the kids in for the discounted kids rate….. oh well, I am not going to argue! I might try this strategy again later…..

Some kids are more kiddish than others. I am sure they all look younger than 16. 

There’s a cool stairwell in here! 

The Old State House is the oldest public building in the US. It’s the site of the Boston massacre, which some might argue was not a massacre at all. Personally, I think those words have such an ominous ring to them that I would call it a massacre even if it wasn’t, although in my mind I am glad that the rebellious patriots stood up to British rule, if you know what I mean. And when British soldiers mow down five patriots it’s a massacre as sure as any! 

The first reading of the Declaration of Independence occurred right on that balcony. 

I love the old architecture. 

We make our way down the trail. Faneuil Hall. 

No trip to Boston is complete without some Boston Chowda at Quincy Market! 

And buttery lobster rolls! 

Quincy Market is an awesome historic marketplace. I love this building even though it’s a busy place.

How is the clam chowder, boys?

Boston has many panhandlers and homeless people on the street. I don’t remember seeing so many last year when we were here. 

I love the imagination of the architects of days gone by when they designed these corner buildings. 

I love the old cobblestone streets. 

I love the new mixed in with the old. 

Now, Mike’s Pastry is not one of the sites on the Freedom Trail, but maybe it should be. Everywhere we go we see people carrying boxes of goodies from this bakery. We are after Boston cream pie! I have been on a sugar free diet for 5 months. Do I dare to break it? This place is super busy, so we have to crowd around the table. And to answer your question, yes I did have a small bite of Boston cream pie, and yes, it was good. 

Holy cannoli! Bjorn looks like he is in hog heaven. 

Now y’all definitely have heard of Paul Revere. This was his home. Revere played an important role in our independence from Britain by alerting the patriots that the Bristish were coming. For some reason Annika has decided that he does not deserve all the recognition that he gets. Maybe she is right?

I am sure that Paul Revere frequently looked out of this window. 


Paul Revere’s Ride 

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807 – 1882)

Listen, my children, and you shall hear

Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five:

Hardly a man is now alive 

Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, “If the British march

By land or sea from the town to-night,

Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry-arch

Of the North-Church-tower, as a signal-light,–

One if by land, and two if by sea;

And I on the opposite shore will be,

Ready to ride and spread the alarm

Through every Middlesex village and farm,

For the country-folk to be up and to arm.”

Then he said “Good night!” and with muffled oar

Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,

Just as the moon rose over the bay,

Where swinging wide at her moorings lay

The Somerset, British man-of-war:

A phantom ship, with each mast and spar

Across the moon, like a prison-bar,

And a huge black hulk, that was magnified 

By its own reflection in the tide…….


“One if by land, and two if by sea.” Yes, Paul Revere surely did earn his place in history. 

The Old North Church is the site from which Paul Revere had the lanterns shine to alert the Americans that the British were coming by sea. And this, my dear friends, was the beginning of the revolutionary war. 

The Old North Church was kind of a hoity toity place. I guess it was a private church, in that churchgoers had to pay for their own private family booth. I love how this one booth only applies to the governor and “other gentlemen”. 

The church is beautiful, and has earned its place as the most visited destination in Boston. 

I love these stately windows. 

We grab a booth and listen a while to a lecture about the history of this building. I try to get Aundrea to sing a solo, but she refuses. 

A window to your soul. 

Onward march. By now my feet are killing me, but there are still many sights to see on the Freedom Trail!

Next up is Copp’s Hill Burying Ground. Looks like the apartment building across the street was ravaged by a fire. If you ask me this place is haunted!

We pass a schoolyard with this sign. I have to wonder if they don’t let “nuts” on their property how do they propose to teach anyone anything? And who makes the determination if someone is “nuts”?

We cross the old rusty Charlestown Bridge which was completed in 1900. I daresay it qualifies as a part of the American infrastructure that needs refurbishing, and indeed, starting in August 2017 it will be renovated. It makes for a good backdrop for photos. 

How about this old loading dock for a few photos? We had to hop over a bit of a barrier to get here.

On down at the harbor in the dry dock we get to tour the USS Constitution, otherwise known as “Old Ironsides”. This incredible wooden 44-gun Navy frigate was named by George Washington, and fought the HMS Java in 1812. There is a super interesting story about how during this battle the Constitution’s double wheel got hit, killing two and injuring two of the quartermasters who were steering the boat. Without a wheel the ship could not be steered, so crew members were sent two decks below and steered using an iron tiller fitted into the rudder stock as part of the steering gear. Commands for steering were transmitted down to these men by calling out orders which were sent from man to man from the deck. Guess who won? 

 You can tour this historic ship for free, however on July 23, 2017 the restoration should be complete and the ship will sail to Boston Harbor. 

Right next door is a navy destroyer that is also free to explore. 

Kristoff does some one finger pull-ups. 

I love this big sailboat in the Boston harbor. 

Now we are off to Bunker Hill. I wonder how much longer this rusty pipe will last. 

The Freedom Trail is marked by bricks the whole way, making it really easy to follow. I love this neighborhood near Bunker Hill. 

The homes along here are stunningly beautiful! 

Bunker Hill has a tall monument on it to commemorate the battle here in which the British Redcoats lost 1/2 of their 2200 men within just a few hours of fighting. All hope for a peaceful resolution ended with this deadly battle. You can get a ticket and walk up the steps to the top of the monument, but we opt out. It is humbling to stand here where so much blood was shed. 

That’s it for the Freedom Trail, folks. It’s time to grab the subway. You may remember I mentioned earlier that the subways in Boston are in pretty rough shape. Here is a perfect example of a subway station in disrepair. 

The whole time that I am in the subway I imagine myself with a huge pressure washer cleaning the grime off the walls and walkways and stairs. 

Looks like everyone is exhausted from all the walking today. We have a few subway nappers on our way to Harvard University. You know, we are going there just in case one of the kids want to go to college….. there’s supposed to be a statue there of John Harvard, and if you rub its left foot your kid will surely get to go to Harvard! For sure we will do that as soon as we arrive. 

Whoa, for some reason I thought that the Harvard station would be more beautiful than the other subway stations in this city, but it’s a dirty old relic, too! 

At least the Harvard station has a fan blowing around the smelly air. Eek, the fan is ruining my fancy overnight flight hairdo! 

This ad on the station wall catches my eye. As for me, I got my bachelors and masters degrees in nursing literally while nursing….. nursing my three youngest babies while attending online classes that is….. my degree program definitely didn’t take me away from my family in a physical sense at least. 

Well now, here is the famed Harvard. I am shocked to find that it is gated! And guarded! No riff raff allowed here today, I guess!!! Seriously? We can’t rub the statue’s left foot? I don’t want to anyway! I have heard that the students here regularly urinate on the statue.

Across the street from this Harvard gate a church has a message. 

Sorry Bjorn, without rubbing the toe of Mr. Harvard it’s a no go. Better get a picture of you at Harvard now, so you can prove that you “went to Harvard”!

We do manage to sneak into the Science building at Harvard. The boys are admiring this old computer. 

There’s a gorgeous cathedral here! Did you know the original goal for Harvard was to educate students about the Bible? Gasp!!!!!! Such blasphemy!

Maybe Aundrea would like to go to music school here. Oh yeah….. it costs like $200K. Never mind! 

Well, that’s that. Boston in a day. We are going to stay tonight in a Marriott hotel… super fancy…. great deal…. $100 for the night in a city where rooms go for $200 at Motel 6. I think I got such a good deal because they have ongoing construction at the hotel. 

Before we head out of downtown Boston we stop to meet with a lovely couple, Jasmine and Tristan’s friends. The young woman lives here in Boston and the young man lives in Manhattan NYC. He is allowing us to spend a couple nights at his apartment in New York, so we meet to pick up his house keys. Shortly after this photo is taken they send a message that they just got engaged! Congratulations! 

We still haven’t decided what to do for our second day of vacation.  I am thinking maybe we will get up early tomorrow and head to Salem, MA to see if I can reconnect with my inner self….. isn’t that where the witch trials were? 

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