Sunday, July 5, 2009

4th of July - independence for more than just America

Okay, so I know it has been a few days since I blogged, but that is because I was on an adventure. I decided to go to Boston Friday and Saturday BY MYSELF! I bought the bus tickets, booked a room in a hostel, and did the Freedom Trail! I know, I know, I didn't tell you all before I went, but I didn't want people to worry or try to talk me out it of. I needed to do this. I wanted to see if I could handle a city by myself. And guess what, I CAN! In fact, Boston wasn't as impressive as I thought it would be. I mean, it was so small (for a city). The cityscape was much shorter than Chicago's. I mean, if you divided the number of tall buildings in Chicago by 5, you maybe have the number of tall buildings in Boston. No doubt that it because it older, so the buildings are smaller, but still. I have to say, my living in Chicago for a term has added more confidence than I could have realized before this trip. I have no problems using public transportation, am usually comfortable in groups of people, and just took everything in stride. Okay, so I'll try to recount my weekend play-by-play.

I woke up at 7:30 on Friday to walk the mile and a half (or so) to the bus station and catch the 8:40 bus. All of you know that I'm not a superstitious person, but it was great because I found a penny on the floor face up on the floor by my seat on the bus. I took this as a good omen :). After four hours of traveling, the bus pulled into South Station. After grabbing a tiny, cheap lunch, I finally found the MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority) subways, and took the orange line to the downtown area. I wandered around by Faneuil Hall and Government Center. There was a bunch of shopping that I did not participate in, but I looked briefly at some of the stores. Then I wandered around across the street and by the docks for several hours. Finally I found the plaza where a Celtic concert was going on for Harborfest. Although I intended to listen to the whole concert, I only heard that last three songs because I couldn't find it before that. It was still fun, though.

By the late afternoon, I decided to head to my hostel because it was a half hour MBTA bus trip. I found the hostel with little difficulty, but I have to say I wasn't impressed. After grabbing a sub for supper, I hung out in the hostel all night. It was a lot of fun to talk with the other travelers. I met an Irishman, a guy from Liverpool, a Londoner, a Glasweign (a girl from Glasgow, Scotland), another guy from the UK (I didn't hear from where), an Israeli, and one Mexican. There was also a group of Russians, but they didn't really talk to anyone. It was SO MUCH FUN to sit and talk with them. I also tried New Zealand red wine (compliments of the Irishman), but didn't like it. I "offended" the Irishman because I didn't drink with everyone else, but water was the best choice especially since I was dehydrated from walking around all day. I had some really great conversations about traveling, differences between UK schools and US schools, the ridiculousness of the American drinking age, and random stuff. I didn't stay up with the rest of the people because I was exhausted, so I went to bed at 10:30. The beds in the hostel were very uncomfortable, the pillow was flat, but I fell asleep for a while. One of the girls in my room snored, so I didn't sleep sounded once the early morning came, but I dealt with it.

I got up at 7:30, checked out of the hostel, and started for downtown Boston. Unfortunately, I was on the bus for over an hour, had to wait for another one, and so didn't make it to Bunker Hill Monument until 10:30. I climbed the 294 steps to the top and took pictures. Oh my gosh, I am so out of shape! (I'll post pictures at the end of the blog, I want to get everything down first.) After Bunker Hill, I went to the USS Constitution and watched it cast off for its anual 4th of July trek around the Harbor. I didn't hear them shoot off the 24 guns, but it was cool to watch the ship cast off. I then continued down the Freedom Trail, had to backtrack a few times because I lost the trail. I walked by the Old North Church, Paul Revere's house, the Old South Meeting House, Old City Hall, Copps Burying Ground, Old King's Chapel and burying ground, site of the Boston Massacre, and Fanueil Hall again. Basically I went on the whole Trail except the last three stops. I lost the trail and I wanted to stay by Government Center because I needed to use the orange line to connect to the red line to get to South Station again. Instead of wandering around after the Freedom Trail, I sat and listened to another concert from Harborfest. I really liked them. It's hard to describe their style, because the guys played accostic guitars and a bass, but the vocal style sounded kind of folksy. Whatever genre it was, it was a good concert. I didn't hear the whole thing because I wanted to get to the Station in plenty of time to eat and catch the bus. After a three hour bus trip, I was back in Deerfield, feeling exhausted but accomplished.

Okay, so what have I learned from this experience? I now know for sure that I can manage myself in a city and that being a tourist is exhausting! I walked at least three miles, my shoes started breaking (they are getting pitched), didn't grab sunscreen, so am really burnt, and while I slept my leg muscles cramped up. At least I slept in until 12:20 this afternoon. Today is an easy day to recover from my trip. I'm glad that I did this, though. I know that I can handle myself in most situations now. That's a good feeling to have. I also now have a Boston t-shirt to prove that I went there! Okay, so here are some pictures...

The Freedom Trail is an actual marked path running throughout Boston. It is made of red bricks two bricks wide and has these medallions dispersed randomly. It's easy to follow for the most part. There were a few times when I lost it because it went through really busy places, so following a crowd didn't even help, but normally following a large group of people is a good strategy.

This is the Bunker Hill Monument. Now remember that the Battle of Bunker Hill actually took place on Breeds' Hill, but history has forgotten that detail. This was the first site I saw because it is the northernmost section of the Trail. This isn't in Boston, but in the neighborhood of Charlestown. I climbed all 294 steps to the top. They were accurate in their counting, because I counted them as well. Here are some views from the top...

If you notice, there aren't that many tall buildings. It is still similar to standing in the Sears' Tower, but it was still cool to be in the Bunker Hill Monument.

I then went to the USS Constitution. This ship was the first ship in the United States navy. It was commissioned during George Washington's presidency, but I don't think it was completed until John Adams. Every 4th of July it sails to the Harbor and shoots off 24 guns across the water. I only saw it cast off, but it was really neat to see the navy go through that whole procedure. It was here that I realized that I was going to get sunburnt very, very badly but couldn't do anything about. I also bought a Boston t-shirt at the USS Constitution museum shop.

These are images from the Old North Church. You know, where Paul Revere saw one or two lanterns in the steeple before his famous ride? The guide at the pulpit is actually correcting the story, but there were so many people that I didn't hear everything. I wanted to go into Paul Revere's house, but that cost money, so I didn't. I only did the free sites...It's bad enough that thanks to food costs I only have $4 to my name, but my adventure was worth it.

I think that is it, if any of you want more details just ask! It's so exciting. "I'm a big girl now!"


  1. I'm impressed, Margaret! If I figure out enough of the Galesburg public transit system to get to my internship, I'll consider it an accomplishment, and Galesburg isn't exactly Boston. Although, if I'm feeling ambitious, I may try to visit Sarah and Zac in Chicago, next year.

    There aren't many tall building in Denver, either. In fact, just judging by your photos, I think Denver has even fewer than Boston. The Denver skyline is more like... small clump of buildings, mountain, mountain, mountain. I like it that way!

    Again, very nice photos! It's fun to sort of vicariously see what you saw.

    P.S. You had a Dyslexic moment,"talk me out it of." I'm not the only one!

  2. P.P.S. How incredible that you got to meet people from so many different places! That does indeed sound like a lot of fun!