Things to do When Traveling to Boston: A Walk Along the Freedom Trail

By Barbara Nunn, guest blogger

In early October I found myself traveling to Boston and Cape Cod for a week with some good friends, simply to enjoy the fall foliage and soak in all the history Boston has to offer. The journey to Boston didn’t start off well though. We were causalities of the American Airlines debacle. Our flight was delayed so the seats could be checked insuring they were properly attached to the floor. Yes, I suppose we were relieved to know our seats were safe (note the hint of sarcasm).

The Taj hotel is very conveniently located across the street from the Public Gardens

We arrived in Boston early afternoon and checked into the Taj Hotel, a beautiful and pricy (over $400 a night with all the taxes) hotel, but it put us in the center of Boston and easy walking distance to lots of history.  We didn’t need a car or a cab, which we figured would off-set the pricey hotel rooms.  Plus it saved lots of time. Overall, it was worth the extra money and the hotel itself is wonderful.

We got a late lunch to Legal Seafood—my crab cakes were awesome—and headed for the Freedom Trail.  Now the Freedom Trail, to most people, is the secret trail slaves took to escape the South and slavery during the Civil War.  This is history from a century earlier, but it is legitimately a freedom trail—for the colonies freedom from England!

We started our trek in the Public Gardens, immediately across the street from our hotel.  The gardens are separated from Boston Commons by Charles Street.  The Public Gardens are truly gardens.  There are species of plants from every state in the Union arranged in beautiful beds with grassy areas, wide sidewalk paths and benches everywhere.

A view from the bridge in Boston Public Gardens

The focal point is a large pond with the world’s shortest expansion bridge!  It is a beautiful bridge that offers wonderful views of the park, an island at the north end and home for numerous ducks and swans.  In the spring and summer, Swan Boats offer rides to visitors, but by October these boats have been stored for the winter.

The garden is also home to the duck sculpture inspired by the children’s book, Make Way for Ducks.  It is a really neat sculpture.  I took way too many photos in the gardens, but if I ever get back to painting, I have plenty of material for inspiration!

Some of the ducklings from Make Way For The Ducks

Across Charles Street is Boston Commons.  Most of the land in both of these places, and much of Boston, is fill.  It was all part of the Charles River and has been filled in to allow the city to grow.  It is amazing.  But I digress.  Boston Commons is more park and less garden.  There are fewer benches, but plenty of retaining walls the proper height for sitting.  The Frog Pond is a shallow wading pool and the gazebo is a popular gathering place.

The Swan Boats were put away for the season, but the real swans were present

On the north side of the Commons at the far east end is the State House with its gold leaf dome. Back towards the Gardens are beautiful town homes, part of Beacon Hill, that must cost a small fortune.  This strip is also the site of the pub that inspired the long-running TV show “Cheers.” (There is also a restaurant named Cheers—more on that later.)

On the south end and immediately east of Boston Commons are the Church and Granary Burial Grounds where Paul Revere is buried.  Interestingly, the most prominent marker in the cemetery is not Revere’s but that of Ben Franklin’s parents.  It is a tall obelisk shaped monument.  Paul Revere’s original grave marker is small, but historians have rallied funds and placed a larger marker next to it so it is more visible.  Also buried in these grounds are the victims of the Boston Massacre (All 5 of them! Some massacre…)  The markers are thin sheets of stone many without any ornamentation—just “here lies…” with a year of birth and year of death.  A few are decorated with angels, but the majority of the decorations are skulls.  That is a little disconcerting…

The Old State House

We walked down the Freedom Trail and saw the Old State House, which we visited the next day, and then to Faneuil Hall, which was the market area in colonial days.  Today the building houses restaurants from one end to the other.  It was amazing to see all these small eateries and bakeries.

Just outside the hall, we found Cheers, the restaurant, and decided to have a light supper in the replica of the TV set. It was fun to see all the décor and actors’ cardboard statues.  The clam chowder was deceptively good as was the basket of fish and chips we shared.  I say deceptively with a lot of sarcasm as the three of us all got food poisoning within an hour of eating it… It was a long night, but we survived.

More to come from our Boston history tours and Cape Cod.

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