After my Great American Adventure 2010 was done and dusted, I still had half of my summer break to spend so I decided to go to the only region in the USA that I haven’t been yet – New England. I decided to spend about five days up north – three days in Boston wandering around town and two days in Cape Cod lazing by the beach. Mid-July was my target since it is well into summer where the days are long and the outdoors are inviting. The low-cost Megabus really helped my budget as I rode the double decker bus from sleepy State College to the buzzing South Station, in the heart of Boston.
Back Bay & Charles River
It was a great day to walk around as I made my way to my friend’s place somewhere in Back Bay. I met Enrique a year ago while backpacking in New Orleans and he so happened to be working in Boston at the time and was kind enough to let me bunk at his place for a couple of nights. The hostels available were either expensive or too far out of town while I didn’t feel like Couchsurfing this time around.
Back Bay is an old neighborhood where rows of 19th-century Victorian brownstone houses are eclipsed by skyscrapers like the Hancock and Prudential towers. Besides those two glass giants, the rest of the “new” buildings adhere to the general architecture of the area so you can admire historical landmarks like the Trinity Church, Old South Church and Boston Public Library without feeling that those buildings look out of place.
After a quick round at the legendary Fenway Park, where I was greeted with smiling fans trickling out after a Red Sox victory, I back tracked to the shores of the Charles River for an evening stroll. Bostonians make full use of the warmth as the channels are filled with sailboats riding the wind and varsity rowers clocking up the miles while revelers take advantage of the sunlight to lounge around by the riverbank.
A Walk Through Liberty – The Freedom Trail
The next morning, I set out into the heart of the city to traverse through the historic Freedom Trail, a 4 km path from Boston Common to Charlestown, a once-bloodied neighborhood across the Charles River. The trail consists of 17 historical sites that are of utmost important to the American Revolution and Independence, with the other significant city being Philadelphia. Using the guide map in my Lonely Planet travel bible, I started off at Boston Common, a public park with a back story as colorful as the flower meadows gracing its lawn. This was followed by the Massachusetts State House, Park Street Church and the adjacent Granary Burying Ground, where luminaries such as Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere and the victims of the Boston Massacre were laid to rest.
I had lunch at Faneuil Hall, where the forefathers of independence once roused the crowd with speeches on the need to be free men and chart their own destiny. Although the building has now been turned into a market of eateries and shops, I lingered around outside to imagine how it was like to be an everyman, get stirred by the prospects of war and liberation against the unfair practices imposed by the British Empire on her colonies.
Charlestown & The Harbor
After a quick tour of the North End, Boston’s very own Little Italy, the final leg of the trail encompassed walking across the river to Charlestown. This quiet neighborhood was once site to the Battle of Bunker Hill between the British and the colonists. A museum dedicated to the battle and a towering obelisk are the main attractions here alongside the USS Constitution, the infamous ship that sank five British warships in the War of 1812.
After a classic New England lunch of Poor Man’s Roast Beef at Durgin Park, I crossed to the other side of the city to hang out at Boston Harbor, site of the notorious Boston Tea Party where tons of tea were dumped into the harbor out of protest against the empire’s “tea tax.” There are no sights of chaos this time around as I laid down on a wooden pier facing the Boston skyline to conclude a wonderful journey into the sparks of the American Revolution.
Americans are very proud of their history and they take great measure in preserving the most important parts of it. As a history buff, Boston is a mecca of artifacts from skull and bones tombstones to statues of the revolutionaries. There’s no such thing that constitutes a “real American” based on region but if you want to experience the USA’s year zero, Boston will be your starting point.