Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Back to Boston: Art and War

The Old North Church still towers against the contemporary skyline of Boston. This is the view from the docks at Charlestown across the Charles River.

Note: This is the final essay of a three-part travelogue on our recent vacation to the Boston area.

We slept later the next morning but were up in time to watch large snow flakes falling outside mixed with light rain. It had rained more heavily during the night and the ground was soaked, not frozen. The snow didn’t last and certainly didn’t qualify as snow at all by New England standards.

Our breakfast at the North Bridge Inn featured French toast and sausage with plentiful coffee and juices, cranberry muffins and other homemade breads. All prepared right there in the house’s standard sized kitchen. By the time we had packed up the rain had stopped. This was fortunate as we had to tow our roll-on luggage and book packs several blocks back to the Concord commuter rail station. We managed to board the train back to Boston and take the subway over to the Harborside Inn on State Street without getting wet, though the wind had picked up a good bit.

This took a couple of hours so we decided afterwards to enjoy a few draft beers and an early lunch across the street at The Black Rose. We conversed and enjoyed the fact that we didn’t have any quick tourist timetable to meet that day. It was more relaxed, though the weather kind of sucked.

We formed a vague plan. Jennifer wanted to do some more shopping in the merchant district. I decided to visit the Bunker Hill Monument since I did not have the opportunity to take that in during our 2000 visit. She would shop while I took the ferry over to Charlestown. We would stay in communication by cell and meet up later in the day at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

The ferry over the Charles River to Bunker Hill afforded me a nice view of the city from waterway (including the Old North Church - see pic at top of post). From the Charlestown Naval Yard I picked up the northern end of the Freedom Trail and followed it past the historic shipyard up to the Bunker Hill Monument. After a bit of orientation at the visitor’s center I ascended what is, in fact, Breed’s Hill, where much of the Bunker Hill fighting took place.

The monument is of a rather impressive height. It houses a 294-step winding stairway to the top made entirely of stone. A vigorous workout that I actually enjoyed after playing fat and happy for a couple of days. I only paused once on the way up. I figured this was an acceptable vacation substitute for my otherwise fairly regular 3 mile jogs. There was an impressive view (see left) from the top through a small opening back toward Boston Harbor overlooking the historic Charlestown docks and the entire area of the British assault onto the hill, now covered by small offices and residential development.

Taking the Freedom Trail back to the docks, I paused long enough to explore the museums there, to see the USS Constitution from a distance as well as the USS Cassin Young positioned near Dry Dock One (see right). The dry dock is the second oldest of its kind in North America. The USS Constitution is the oldest battleship in the world that is still afloat.

Communicating by cell with Jennifer I discovered she had purchased a couple of pair of pants that she liked and was now en route to the Art Museum, located at the other end of town near Northeastern University. I negotiated the ferry back to the subway and took it over to meet her in the museum’s magnificent rotunda.

It was an interesting contrast in my mind. Moments ago I was exploring the site of one of the most famous battles of the American Revolution on a breezy gray day. Suddenly, now I was surrounded by the muted echoes of visitors exploring a comfortable domicile of great Art from literally all over the world.

The highlight for both Jennifer and me was the impressionist section of the exhibits, featuring several works of Manet, Monet, and a famous painting by Renoir (see right). Both of us have always appreciated the impressionist period and style. We lingered here for a bit, time and weather no longer being an issue.

Back at the Hotel we rested a short while, conversed about the happenings of the trip, reviewed our pics on our laptop. It was really too windy to enjoy being out in the cold city streets that evening so we made our way over to the nearby Cheers Restaurant for dinner. The beer was fine, of course, the food was just OK. Cheers is a contemporary Boston institution and we simply wanted to say “been there, done that.” Both of us had been fans of the television show back in the years when it was one of America’s most popular programs.

I almost bought a commemorative t-shirt that read “Cheers: I don’t even know my name.” We laughed.

Our final day in Boston dawned sunny but very gusty and cold. The deep city chill bit to my bones. We had a late checkout and flight so we decided to walk through downtown. We considered the option of having lunch at the famous Omni Parker House (foundry to the famous Parker House Rolls and Boston’s Original Cream Pie) but the restaurant only served in the evenings. Instead, we had to be content with hanging out in the ornate lobby for awhile (see above). Afterwards, we visited a downtown bookstore before gathering our luggage and taking the subway back out to the airport.

I’ll spare you the details of our delayed flight back home. We got back to the house about midnight after waiting several hours extra at Logan International Airport for our plane to arrive. The reason for the delay was never explained to us. I guess the groove of the first day was spent and now some sort of karmic balance had to be attained.

The Boston area is a terrific mix of history, urban sophistication, intellectualism, art, and architecture. The people are almost universally friendly toward tourists. It is a fairly compact town best viewed by walking. The downtown area is highly concentrated with interesting shops, restaurants, and places of historical note. It was a thriving city in a time when New York was just a town. All this makes it a special place situated somewhere between the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple and an enduring rural landscape recalling more tranquil colonial times. An interesting contrast and a rich experience to those lucky enough to Be there, whether residing or just passing through.

1 comment:

The girl with far away eyes said...

This entire trip sounds wonderful! I am ready to take off right now lol! Glad you had such a nice time:)