After a break whalewatching in Provincetown and Hyannis, I returned to Boston and picked up the Freedom trail where I left off, outside the Paul Revere house. Armed with my map I wanted to 'do' the 'Freedom trail' before catching my night bus to Washington that evening. So it was with anticipation that I strolled down Hull Street to the Old North Church.
Just before this is a lovely courtyard where wall plates commemorate those who died at the battle of Bunker Hill. With trees and benches this is a beautifully genteel part of Boston and the streets narrow here to give a real sense of the past. The Old North church itself is a lovely Anglican church made of whitestone and a wood-beam carved interior. It was packed with tour groups when I was in there so I left and followed the red trail uphill to the Copps Hill burial ground.
With the exception of New Orleans, this is one of the few parts of America that still looks the same way it did hundreds of years ago. This is reinforced by the brownstone Georgian houses and cobbled streets and the absence of traffic. The burial ground itself is a beautifully kept cemetery with trimmed grass and expansive views over Boston harbour. This is where British troops aimed their cannons ready for the battle of Bunker hill. And the tip of the Bunker Hill monument is visible from this high bit of ground. In fact in this spot you get a good idea of Boston's original intention, that of a port.
Then under the underpass (why have they put a freeway through the centre of historic Boston?)and across the bridge to Charlestown. Here the Freedom trail became a little obscured as it passed a construction site. And there followed an amusing sight of tourists scouring through the dust and rubble trying to pick it up again. Then the wonderful Charlestown naval yard with USS Constitution - "Old Ironsides" which was built in 1797 and was used in the war of 1812. This was a terrific ship to explore and I like so many other tourists couldn't help but play with the Bofors gun.
Then up through the Brownstone streets to the Bunker hill monument. This area is gorgeous and the walk uphill takes you past Georgian houses and ornate lampposts. At the top of the hill is a huge tower marking the spot of the battle of Bunker hill. Inside is an uninformative museum with diorama's showing the battle. But also 300 steps leading up to the top of the tower which give excellent views of the harbour and north Boston. On my way out I was accosted by a character dressed in 18th garb who informed me the monument was to commemorate the battle and to chant "Down with the British! Down with the British!".
I looked at him with amazement.
"But I am British."
So that was the end of the Freedom trail and I must admit it is a wonderful idea and showed me parts of Boston I would never have wandered into on my own. It has that wonderful sense of stepping back in time and its inhabitants are very proud of its history. But in many ways it was very unsatisfactory. As you wandered the streets you noticed the names - Hull Street, Fleet Street and Richmond Street. And realise there are stories behind the names. I wanted to know what life was like in 18th century, for rich or poor, black and white. And Freedom trail, despite its hyperbole, did not accomplish this.
But as I waited for my bus to Washington I walked along the Charles River to the Harvard bridge and looked across the water. There were joggers in the park and yachts and rowers on the river, all silhouetted against the skyscrapers of downtown Boston. And there is no denying it - this is a great city.