Take the Beantown Trolley, says our Canada writer-photographer George Bailey.
It’s a gimmee, all tours of Boston claim to be the best, the oldest, most trusted, or the most complete. The one I chose was billed the oldest, Gray Lines Beantown Trolley. It also included a boat tour of the Boston Harbour. This fully narrated tour kicks off at the Boston Harbor,a place of wall to wall people. Life bursts at the seams here. Before you even begin your exploring, you’ll quickly realise that Boston is chockablock with posh hotels and fine eateries and there’s no shortage of customers.
Boston Harbour Tour
I got my $29.00 ticket after lunch and decided to take the 45-minute harbour tour aboard Fort Independence. From the boat I saw spectacular views of bridges, boats, buildings, all calling out to be photographed. If you want, stop and take a free tour of The USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) and see the many sights in the Charlestown Navy Yard. The USS Constitution was launched in 1797 and is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world.
The Trolley Tour
The trolley route has 18 stops and covers most of downtown Boston and parts of Cambridge. You can get off and on during the day at any given stop. If you never get off the open-air trolley it’s like sitting on a church pew for two hours. Beantown Trolley’s ‘red-line’ route is well marked on the tour map and places of interest are clearly indicated. Here are a few highlights of the tour.
Before I stepped on, I walked to the nearby Quincy Market. Constructed in 1825, this is a huge structre with a domed central pavillion and Greek porticos. It consists of three long buildings, separated by tree-lined malls. There’s rows of food stalls, shops, restaurants, a flower market, pushcart vendors and a gaggle of street entertainers all beckoning out to you to spend money.
The Freedom Trail / Paul Revere House /Little Italy
Get off at Stop Two and be prepared to wind down (wear your best walking shoes) narrow cobblestone streets of this historic district. Follow the Freedom Trail of red bricks or granite stone embedded in sidewalks which form a line, guiding you from place to place. Strolling down (or should I say up) these streets is a reminder of how American independence from Britain was gained. Along the way you’ll pass Copp’s Hill Burial Ground (locals call it “Corpse Hill”). I took time to read the fascinating tombstones. Many had not only their names on them but their entire life stories. As a bonus, there’s a spectacular view of Boston Harbour atop this hill. Proceed to the Paul Revere House on North Street. This two-story clapboard house was built in 1680. Thanks to poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and the telling of the ‘midnight- ride,’ this home was preserved and now boasts the claim of being Boston’s oldest building. Adult admission is $3.00. This section overflows with other heritage buildings, each with a tale to tell.
I was in Little Italy, and what better place to get a cold one and a pizza. I joined the locals on a bench outside Caffe Graffiti. It took a bit of time for the regulars to warm up to me but I started to move my hands a lot and spoke passionately and soon fit right in.
The Boston Commons and Cheers
Stop 4 took me to the Boston Commons and the neighbourhood bar that inspired the setting for the popular television show ‘Cheers.’ Originally a cow pasture, the 1634 acre Commons is like a piece of heaven in a large city. Visitors lazily paddled their way in swan-like boats on a pond within the stretch. Nearby, a little league baseball game kept parents riveted to their seats. The Commons have come along way since Puritans kept stocks and pens here for the punishment of those who profaned the Sabbath. Just outside the Commons is Cheers.This restaurant was used for the opening scene of the popular American television series of the same name that first aired in September 1982 and ran for 11 seasons .This is a place where ‘everybody knows your name.’ It’s true. After introducing myself to the door people they pointed out Norm’s chair and said, “Here’s your stool, George.” I felt right at home. Cheers.
For more information:
Greater Boston Visitors and Convention Bureau at www.bostonusa.com or 1-888-SEE Boston.