Amie is our 13 year old grandaughter. It was her turn to spend the weekend with grandma and grandpa. We choose Boston and it was a great choice.
by zabelle on December 4, 2008
This was another case of having a really hard time finding a landmark. I wish I could tell you that I followed the red brick of the Freedom Trail to this house but we didn’t. I used a very detailed map of the north end and still we almost gave up without finding it. There are no signs that I could find pointing it out. It is one block east of Hanover St. Was it worth finding, yes and no? The cost of entry was $3 and for an additional $1 I got two postcards and a visitor’s guide. No photography is allowed inside the house. We began by looking at a bell that was produced by the Revere Foundry which is housed in the courtyard. There is another one of the Revere bells in the steeple of St Stephens Church around the corner.This house was built in 1681 for a wealthy merchant Robert Howard. It was constructed in the Tutor style with the second floor overhanging the first and an irregular shape. By the time it was purchase by Paul Revere 90 years later it had undergone many changes. One very interesting fact that I learned here was that Paul was the son of a French Huguenot émigré named Appolos Rivere somehow I never knew that Paul was a first generation American. There are four rooms that you visit inside the house. There was a docent on each floor as well as informational signs in each of the rooms. The kitchen is the first room as you enter. This was not the location of the kitchen in the Howard House, it was in the basement. There is a large fireplace and in it are the implements that they would have used to cook meals. There is a fence that keeps you from getting to close to anything and since there is no crowd control if there are more than a few people in the room you are going to have a very hard time reading any of the signs. Considering that it was after 3pm in the afternoon on a November weekend and we were surrounded by visitors I can’t even begin to imagine what it might be like in the season. It really was a shame because the signs we did get to read were very interesting. I wish they would offer a headphone tour or at the very least a brochure that would give you the information, the folder that I bought does not give the information on the signs.The front room is decorated as if they were celebrating an occasion. It was a real multi purpose room being used as a dining room and as a parlor. The stairs are steep and narrow so you need to have a certain amount of mobility. There second floor holds the master bedroom and what was probably Paul’s mother Deborah’s room, the children would have slept on the third floor.
Offered on the hour every afternoon during the summer this is a 60-minute chance to see what regular visitors don’t have access to. Collin was our tour guide and he was enthusiastic and made our tour very enjoyable.We took our granddaughter Amie with us and we wanted to give her a little history of Boston.You purchase your tickets at the gift shop next door to the church. The cost is $8 for adult and $4 for children up to 16 years old. You met your guide in the St Francis Garden, which is right behind the store.One thing you need to know before you even considering taking this tour is that it requires a lot of stair climbing, it is not handicap accessible and it takes a good bit of stamina to climb the steep and narrow stairs to the bell ringing room. The first stop on the tour requires climbing one steep set of stairs. It is the gallery around the upper level of the church. It houses the organ as well as seating on both sides. These are basically the cheap seats. The wealthy members of the church would have paid to sit in the lower level. Servants, African Americans both freed and slaves and poor persons would have been seated in the gallery. Actually, you have a very nice view of the church from the gallery. We would have gone to the bell ringing room next but the bell ringers were rehearing so instead we went to the crypt. The first thing we visited in the crypt is a columbarium. They have dedicated a whole section of the crypt to the burial of ashes. We then headed into the bowels of the church, and bowels it is, if you are claustrophobic or germaphobic don’t go on this tour. This is not some romanticized crypt this is a low ceilinged, basement with cemented over crypts in the walls all the way around. Many of them are not marked. The reason they are cemented is to keep the bodies from being removed and replaced with new bodies. Old North Church was not a Congregational Church it was an Anglican Church. It was the parish church of General Gage and it was from the tower here that he watched the battle of Bunker Hill play out. The tower was the highest spot in Boston at the time of the Revolution, which is also, why it was used to signal the riders. The last stop on the tour was the bell ringer’s room. These are not song bells these are sound bells. There are eight bells of different sizes and sounds. It is up two very narrow, winding and steep staircases. Up is bad, down is even worse. I highly recommend this tour for anyone who is interested enough in the Old North Church to want to do something beyond just sitting and listen to the 15-minute talk that happens in the regular body of the church.
I think every American has heard this phrase, "Don’t Fire until you see the whites of their eyes. I am not as sure most of them know it was uttered at the Battle of Bunker Hill.Before I write any more I have to tell you, the battle wasn’t fought on Bunker Hill, it was fought on Breed’s Hill. Breeds Hill no longer exists and the monument sits proudly atop Bunker Hill so certainly the name Bunker Hill Monument is correct even if it isn’t where the battle was foughtThe United States Park Department presents this film about the first battle of the War of Independence at the Charlestown Navel Yard Visitor Center. It runs every half hour usually on the hour and half hour. When we arrived, we discovered that they had started the film off time to accommodate some visitors since it was a slow day. We didn’t mind and spent some time reading the displays and visiting the gift shop. I was happy to find a ship model for one of my grandsons so it was not time wasted. This was a very personal experience for me since I have an ancestor who fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill, as the park ranger told me , there are many people who visit here who have ancestors who fought at the battle but I am the first one who had ever mentioned having an ancestor in the British Army. What I learned as I listen to the film was that the King ordered troops sent out of Ireland to reinforce the troops in Boston, that is how my Irish ancestor ended up being sent to the area. I know he was here because he got a land grant in Canada citing his army experience.What you will see and hear is a film with the addition of vignettes around the walls where the light will shine from time to time. It is one of the best films of its kind that I have ever seen. It was filled with action and drama and also lots of noise. You become a part of all the action and it was a very sensory experience. You sit on benches but if there are only a few people in the theatre, you can sit in the last row, which does have back support.I learned more about the events leading up to the Battle and the main players in this film than in any history course that I have ever taken. It might be a little too intense for very young children, you also sit in the dark most of the time, which I have to admit made taking notes a bit of a challenge. I highly recommend this film, it was $4.50 well spent.If you are taking the Beantown Trolley Tour this is stop number 2. If you are driving, they have a parking lot.
Durgin Park is something of an institution in Boston. Founded over 130 years ago by John Durgin, Eldridge Park and John Chandler with the philosophy that the best advertising is plenty of food on the table. Over the years that has grown to include a reputation for crusty waitresses and family style dining. Celebrities have made it pretty much a household word and everyone from John F. Kennedy to visiting dignitaries has eaten here. Now of course Al and I and Amie have been added to the list. We did however get off to a bit of a rocky start. The sign at the bottom of the stairs says wait there, don’t listen to the sign. We waited there and no one asked us if we wanted a table. We then saw some people walk up the stairs and get seated, okay we walked up too and yep we were sent on up to the third floor.I have to start by saying we ate on the third floor, we had our own table for three and our waiter was both friendly and efficient so I guess we did not have a typical experience. One the wall where we sat al the table were for two and there were 5 or 6 of them. I have to admit that they are close together and it might as well have been communal. We were privy to every word our neighbors on either side said. On the upside the size of the portions made us all giggle and we started talking to other guests. The menu offers the gamut of typical New England fare. You don’t need to order an appetizer because the corn bread they serve you while you wait will fill you right up.Al ordered the Poor Mans Roast Beef and I had Thanksgiving on a roll . While we were waiting for our meals we watched our neighbors get theirs. The clam chowder came in a dish as big as your head and the shepherd’s pie and the chicken pot pie pretty much sent the ladies into a spasm. They are huge, be prepared to take home leftovers.I loved my turkey sandwich, it was just like I make at home, fresh turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce all served on a nice bulkie roll. Al’s roast beef was cooked rare just the way he had asked for it and was served with mashed potatoes and butternut squash. Amie had the children’s portion of chicken fingers and she ate about ¼ of the portion. It was a very satisfactory lunch. What we could have had, a lobster roll, fish chowder, raw or steamed mussels, little necks, oysters, steamers or cherrystones. They have a really impressive array of seafood everything from lobster, clams, shrimp, scallops, oysters, swordfish, fish and chips and broiled or fried seafood platters. Beyond that there are things like their specialty prime rib and the mundane grilled or steamed frank. They serve Boston baked beans, apple pan dowdy and their own coffee jello. The strawberry shortcake has a bit of a cut following and though I was too full to eat it I did see a neighbor of our laying intone and it looked delicious.
Located on Huntington Ave in the Back Bay section of Boston the Colonnade is a well established grand dame. The lobby is impressive enough to satisfy even the highest stickler. Desk staff is knowledgeable and very eager to please. There is no valet parking, the self parking lot for the hotel is in the same block and parking is on the second and 3rd levels. There is an elevator which takes you down to the lobby.The rooms are well equipped but on the small side. They are narrow and long. The wood is light, blond in color giving the rooms a contemporary vibe. There is a round table and two very modern chairs with two chrome reading lights. There is internet access available if you are wiling to pay $14.95 a day. There is also a business center in the lobby but you won’t get free internet access there either, if you want it free you will have to find a coffee shop nearby. The bedding is white and brown with lots of pillows as decorations. Again a very contemporary look. Amie was very impressed, she has never been in a hotel quite this elegant. Sound proofing is terrible in this hotel. We could hear every sound that came from the hall and there were many. We could also hear the shower and toilet in the next room. It was a bit distracting but didn’t dampen our spirits. The view from our room was nice in a distance, not so nice close up, more of an alley. There is a Keurig single cup coffee maker with a limited choice of coffee cups. A Kona, a breakfast blend decaf and an English breakfast tea. The Amenities in the bathroom are Gilchrest and Sommes. There is also a rubber ducky with the colonnade name on it which is a very charming touch. This was Amie’s souvenir of the hotel and she was giggling as only a 13 year old can when she put it in her suitcase. There are two fluffy bathrobes in the closet along with an iron and ironing board. Amie commandeered one of the bathrobes and enjoyed strutting around looking at herself in the mirror. The bathroom is small; it was gleaming clean but uber petite. The vanity is again very light wood in a modern style with legs and cubby holes for the towels and the glasses. The top was granite but there is barely room to turn around in there and the door slides back and forth because there is no room for it to open into the bathroom.The room came equiped with a flat screen TV with plenty of channels. There is a fitness center on the fifth floor that has enough machines to allow you to continue your regular routine of exercise even though you are away from home. There is a roof top pool that is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. There is close proximity to the T; it is literally right outside the door to the Prudential Center Stop. Go inbound and get off at Government Center for Quincy Market or Haymarket for the North end. Their room service was phenomenal, fast efficient and delicious, a great combination. The food prices are not crazy; an omelet with 2 additions and toast was $12.95. Buttermilk pancakes with real maple syrup $9.95. gratuity of 18% is added plus a $2.95 fee but added but the benefit of eating your breakfast in your jammies in the room far outweighs the small extra cost. We did this to give Amie an experience she has never had before and earn great grandparents points. We were very successful. Parking is about $40 a day, not uncommon in a large city. There are rates available from time to time that do include free parking as well as free breakfast. This is a very nice hotel with a friendly staff and we would stay here again in a heartbeat if the price is right.
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