Boston: cradle of American civilization?

Our Freedom Trail guide

Was the first skirmish of the American Revolution really prefaced with the shouted warning “The British are coming”? Highly unlikely. Everybody was still ‘British’ at the time, including the colonists. It has been the hindsight of later historians who invented such anecdotal events to lend realism to the events leading up a Revolution that would make the ‘pond’ a

Mass. State House

more definitive frontier than it was.

Stereotypes abound with any regional group. New Englanders are frequently seen as snooty, impatient, elitist and clever, and

Paul Revere's grave

the NE of the USA has the greatest agglomeration of WASPs (white Anglo-Saxon protestants) on the continent. Whatever the truth behind stereotypes, it was immediately evident to us that the New Englanders were different from other Americans. More reserved, quieter presence, conservatively dressed………….without the accent, they reminded me of the gentle folk of the Western Isles of Scotland.

Our introduction to the fascinating history of the area began with a guided

Old North Church

tour of the Freedom Trail: a walk through town that took us to the principal sites connected with the uprising that led to the Revolution, and ultimately to the declaration of independence. The Trail takes you past the golden dome of the State House (the blueprint for the Capitol in Washington), the Old Granary Burying ground (burial site of notable patriots), the site of the Boston Massacre (where, in fact, only 5 were killed), the house of Paul Revere (famed for his midnight

Bunker Hill, site of first battle of Revolution

ride to alert colonial troops of the arrival of the British), the Old North Church (whose tower was used for hanging the famous two lanterns to warn the patriots) and finally to Bunker Hill, whose obelisk marks where the first pitched battle of the Revolution took place. Even though the whole route is only 2.5 miles, you need a whole day to take it all in, and a pub to revive your drooping spirits afterwards!

In the form of culinary experiences, I did tremendous violence to a lobster as I worked my way through the crustacean with what look like a pair of nut-crackers! I discovered that ‘ziti’ is a type of pasta and ‘zuchini’ is what we call courgette, and Sunday brunch was taken to new heights in Boston.

Salmon with avocado

We decided to celebrate our 35th anniversary a little early by ‘brunching’ at the Top of the Hub (the 52nd floor of the Prudential Tower), and our menu included yoghurt and granola, ginger pancakes and maple syrup, salmon with avocado, duck, all followed by naughty desserts and coffee. Just take a look at some of the aerial views that frequently distracted us from what was on the table!

Tandeming by the Charles River

Of course, our final city-visit of this tour had to be concluded with a tandem ride (this time, with a beach-cruiser style machine), which took us down the length of the Charles River as far as Harvard. But on our final Sunday, given that churches would be open for services, I decided to have a ‘mini-binge’ and visited three, staying for the duration of two services.

Tiffany lantern

The first was a Congregational Church with the most extensive collection of Tiffany windows (and lantern) of any church in the USA; the second was Trinity Church (Episcopalian) reputedly voted one of the ten finest buildings in all America; and the third was the Mother Church of Christian Science (not to be confused with Scientology) whose form of worship took the form of commentary on readings from the teachings of their founder, Mary Baker Eddy. America is a place where you can detect many shades of the Christian message. Sometimes they evolve like mini-enterprises

Mother Church of Christian Science

with pastors who strive to develop communities with their own identity.  Sometimes you can drive many miles along an avenue and see upwards of 20 little churches dotted along the verges, almost like a row of commercial outlets, each with its neon signs and digital advertising billboards, beckoning you to come and save your soul next Sunday (and pay your tithes!). Of the three I visited in Boston, Trinity Church was by far the best attended by its devotees, whereas the Mother Church of Christian Science itself could only muster about 40 in its congregation, some of whom were merely visiting, like ourselves.

And so our transcontinental trip across the Americas came to a close. Unlike

Boston through the wine glass

the early settlers of the 17th century, our orientation took us from west to east, from the oyster stews of Vancouver to the lobsters of Boston; from the fresh snows of the Athabasca Glacier in the Rockies to the soaring glass towers of New York; from the ‘heartland’ of mid-west America and its warm welcome to the monumental grandeur of Washington DC. When you travel coast-to-coast, you gain a perspective not only of the geographical expanse of the continent, but also of the motley varieties within communities as you travel. A truly remarkable experience, and one that I would heartily recommend if you enjoy a bit of adventure touring.

Prudential Tower, with restaurant at the very top

Views from the Top of the Hub restaurant

Trinity Church

Scene of a road accident? No, a film set!


About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on November 5, 2011, in Trans-continental America and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Andrew Bethune

    Try King’s Chapel, the oldest continuous worshipping community in Boston, and possibley in America.

    • Thanks Andrew. For some reason King’s Chapel was not open to the public a few weeks ago. Otherwise it would definitely have featured on my ‘hit list’ for visits.

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