Walking Through Boston’s History…and More Graveyards
It was only a week and a half ago that I was in Boston for the 2014 Boston Comic Con. Though I’ve already written about that event last week, I thought I’d take the time to write about the two extra days I spent in Boston with my girlfriend and her daughter, by way of a mini-holiday to wind down the event. Blasphemous as it is for a Jersey boy to say, Boston is my favourite city (I’ve been twice before–once for the 2013 Boston Comic Con, and once for a day trip up from Cape Cod). What’s more, my girlfriend and I love the New England area in general, and we’re both avid lovers of history.
It’s hard to believe every Bostonian isn’t keenly aware of the hands which helped build their city and the great things which were accomplished (and, in some cases, atrocities which occurred) there. Then again, many tourists probably know more about the histories of New York and New Jersey than I, a native of the latter, do. I suppose it’s the unfortunate condition of living in close proximity to such greatness: people take it for granted. Still, I find that difficult to believe about Boston. Even if the average Bostonian is not conscious of the rich history of the land upon which they live, it must in some way effect their lives, even if indirectly.
Many of the historical landmarks and buildings are marked and still standing, and a good number are incorporated into the daily traffic of not only Boston’s tourists, but their residents as well. The Old State House has a subway entrance at its lower end. Faneuil Hall stands at the head of a large shopping center. Even Paul Revere’s house is in the midst of Boston’s Little Italy. Docked in Boston’s harbour is the USS Constitution. Commissioned under President George Washington, it is the oldest commissioned naval vessel afloat in the United States. Even the Boston harbour, where the ship is docked, has a lush history of its own.
Of course, Boston has some incredibly old graveyards as well. We took the time to visit at least one, though my girlfriend and I would have liked to see them all. We’re quite the ghouls, if you don’t know from some of my previous blogs about our visits to old graveyards. Though, King’s Chapel Burying Ground I think is the oldest graveyard we’ve walked through. And that’s the difficulty about writing about any one thing in-depth in this post: there’s so much to see in Boston.
Of course, there is more to Boston than the history. I’m not a sports fan, so I’m not going to go on about Fenway Park, the Celtics, or which beloved baseball team is better. I will highlight the Boston library, however, which is the largest in the country. Much to my disappointment, we didn’t get to visit this last landmark, though we did happened upon an old and rare used book store, which displays a multitude of old and beautiful tomes, including original pages from Medieval manuscripts and a first printing of a Charles Dickens novel (again, the history, even when I’m trying not to highlight it). What’s more, Harvard University is just across the water in neighbouring Cambridge, where (as one tour guide claimed) 60 percent of that city’s population are college educated. A very erudite city indeed!
The food is also excellent. There’s plenty of seafood (lobster rolls are served at nearly every establishment) and an Irish pub on every corner. Boston is the home of Cheers (both the bar and where the television show was set), which has some solid pub faire. The city also boasts two of the oldest establishments in the country, the Bell in Hand Tavern and the Union Oyster House (but there I go with the history again). We dined at the latter on our last day in Boston, and the food, as well as the atmosphere, was fantastic.
We also had an excellent meal the first night at No-Name Restaurant (I got a lobster roll there), and desert on our way out at the delicious Emack and Bolio’s Ice Cream (which now has locations in New York–I’ll have to look them up). My only disappointment was not being able to get to the Lansdowne Pub near Fenway Park for brunch. On a my first trip to Boston, I had ordered Eggs Benedict over crab cakes at the Lansdowne, and it was the best breakfast I think I’d ever eaten.
I don’t wish to paint some idealistic picture of Boston. It is still a city, and with that comes the same mix of crime (though I didn’t hear many sirens there), homelessness and stressed, single-minded workers in a hurry to make their appointments. However, there is still something inherently different about the rush of Boston.
It’s one of the cleanest cities I’ve ever visited. Its people are considerably more laidback than in other cities I’ve been to (generally speaking). They also seem to live healthier (it’s a walking city, after all, and most establishments close at a reasonable hour, giving one the impression they have a healthy opinion of what it means to work).
I can’t imagine another place in the United States like Boston. Areas of Italy (which I visited in 2001, before September 11th) are similar, as I imagine much of Europe is as well, but not in America. I can see why New Englanders have a different way about them. It’s just a different world up there–a wonderful world, where deep history meets with modern day, and life is enjoyed, rather than spent adding up as many Ben Franklins as you can.
I’ve toyed with the idea of moving to a New England town or city, and I can see why my late friend, Rob Johnson (who passed away from HLH in 2011), never wanted to move back to New Jersey once he went up to Boston to attend university. Perhaps I will move to the area, someday. If I do, they might be my most prolific years creatively. It’s a uniquely inspiring place. I can’t wait to go back.