Jonathan van Bilsen's, PhotosNtravel

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Boston: so much history in one place

The USS Constitution, launched in 1797 and still active

The thought of vacationing is often associated with exotic locales, ocean front playgrounds or far off adventures. Quite often though, many interesting destinations are much closer to home. I recently discovered this on a trip to Boston, Massachusetts. I have had the pleasure of visiting this great American hub of historic significance before, but have never really played the role of tourist, until now.

 

Flying to Boston is as easy as it gets. A one hour Porter flight will land you at Logan International, which is about a 20 minute cab ride to the historic heart of the city. My first destination was my hotel, the Omni Parker House, which dates back to 1855. It is the oldest of Boston’s elegant inns and the longest continuously operating hotel in the United States. This in itself makes it an intriguing place to stay, but the opulence of the place is unbelievable. Wood panelled walls and stately rooms, although somewhat small, have all the modern amenities one could ask for. I found the charm and service of the hotel to be excellent and accommodating.

The first undertaking was a ghost tour, which after the one I took in San Antonio; I swore I would never do again. Suddenly I found myself on a trolley, decked out in ghoulish appearance and commanded by a scary Grimm Reaper doppelganger. We set off and visited several graveyards where people such as Benjamin Franklin, and Paul Revere, now reside forever.

I discovered an interesting fact when I asked why the grave depth (i.e. 10 feet) was carved on the headstone. Some people could not afford to be buried in a plot of their own, so they made deals with the families of existing graves to be piled on top of a loved one, long passed. This accounts for cemeteries with 100 grave markers to actually have up to 2,000 people buried there. Many of the gravestones have multiple names marked on them, and a depth note to indicate how far you can dig. Fortunately the City fathers forbade this practice, but not until the start of the last century.

The tour was actually quite interesting, albeit a bit hokey, but near the end, Grimm got us all to scream at the top of our lungs as we passed some unsuspecting tourists, who nearly jumped out of their skins.

Boston is filled with history, as it was after all, the origin of the American Revolution. The old State

Boston as seen from the harbour

Capital is where the likes of John Adams, John Hancock and Samuel Adams, met to discuss plans for a potential break-away from Britain. History tells us that Britain was taxing the colonies immensely, and under British law, anyone subject to taxation must have representation in the government. This law was ignored by King George III, and the people of the new world were taxed without any opportunity to oppose the decree.

Much history is evident at the Tea Party Museum, where you can board a replica of one of the three ships that were involved in the ‘Boston Tea Party’. A guide explains what led to the famous ‘tea dumping’ and then shows you how it was actually accomplished. Again, it was all because of the tax payable on the tea shipments. The locals decided not to unload the tea, which meant no tax was due, however, the governor, a staunch loyalist, commanded otherwise. At night, several ‘Sons of Liberty’, as they were to become known, donned feathers, a little paint and passed themselves off as Mohawks. They boarded the ships and tossed the tea boxes into the harbour. Unfortunately there were several problems: the tide was out so the tea boxes did not sink, which meant the men had to jump in the water and open the crates and disperse the tea by hand; an unrewarding task, as it was December, and quite cold.

Only one person was killed, as a result of a box of tea falling on him. The revolutionaries did not want him to be found so they tied his body to a horse and watched it gallop home. The fallen victim was merely unconscious and regained awareness while being dragged behind the horse, which no doubt caused him more injury than the tea did in the first place. There is no account, but I doubt he took any further action in the War of Independence.

The Omni Parker Hotel, the oldest continuously operating hotel in North America

Aside from the history there are fantastic opportunities to dine on anything your palette desires; from great Italian food in Little Italy to a vast array of seafood in fine dining establishments. There are two Cheers bars, which serve the same menu and although Cliff is no longer there, his memory is everywhere. For those seeking simpler fare, Quincy Market has two floors of hundreds of stalls serving up everything from lobster rolls to pizza, hotdogs to ice cream.

A harbour cruise is a must, as it gives you a different perspective of the city and also allows you to see the newly restored USS Constitution, the oldest continuously serving naval ship in the United States (It was first launched in 1797).

Boston is a wonderful destination for history, sightseeing, nightlife and good food… and don’t forget to have a cup of tea.

Jonathan van Bilsen is a photographer, author, columnist and keynote speaker. Follow his adventures at photosntravel.com

 

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