Road Scholar 5717

Discover one of America’s most historic cities by retracing the steps of Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Paul Revere. Learn how American independence was born in Massachusetts as you walk along the Freedom Trail. Led by expert instructors, explore the city’s historic sites such as Faneuil Hall and Bunker Hill, beacons of Boston’s revolutionary past.

* Explore with experts the Boston Massacre site, the Granary Burying Ground, the Old South Meeting House, and the Old State House.
* Visit Paul Revere’s home, in Boston’s historic North End neighborhood, and climb the bell tower at the Old North Church.
* Relive the first days of the Revolution at Old North Bridge, along the path from Lexington to Concord.

This is the first time in many years that I’ve done a longer (more than a couple of days) visit to the Boston area. I’ll add 4 nights to visit friends depending on the schedules.

Day 1, Sunday, May 14: Afternoon Arrival / Orientation
(D) Fly to Logan Airport in Boston. Schedule the StuporShuttle at 8AM. It is a direct flight from Houston; fairly long (4 hours) but not too awful – if it goes off as scheduled. The NorEaster weather turned out to be less than forecast so we got in safely. There were indeed showers, lots of wind, and it was very cold. There was a major temperature change: Houston this morning was 66 when I got up and about 75-76 when the shuttle came but it was only about 46-47 on arrival in Boston.

United UA 1077Houston – Boston10:39A – 3:29P3:50

After a really excellent lunch, the plane arrived on time. Estimated travel time from airport to the hotel was 15 to 30 minutes and is very expensive: Taxi, $30--$35. But the driver didn’t know where he was going and spent lets of time just driving around, so the cost ran way up – over $40 for about 45 minutes of wandering around. He didn’t get a tip. I’ll also have to take a taxi back to the airport when the tour is over.

Hotel check-in and Road Scholar registration was in the Colerico Room on the 3rd floor opposite the elevators where we receive the usual misinformation handouts.

We have a welcome deception and disorientation program, and it was to be followed by a plated catered dinner (the cafeteria next door where we have many meals is not open for dinners) in the Inn's function room. That got changed. Instead we had to walk about a half-mile (each way) to some harbor-side eatery where we had what I consider to have been one of the most miserable menu selections I can remember: the only thing of any possibility was Italian and it had such a bitter after-taste that I ate only two bites and gave up on it because I didn’t want THAT taste in my mouth all night, so it turned out to be an unplanned “skipped meal.”

Our Group Leader, Dorrit, will be with us throughout the program. Unless noted otherwise, we will be using the MBTA (public transportation) that includes a ferry from Charlestown to Boston and (horrors!) the subway. Hotel: The Constitution Inn is just a 2-star hotel (1 ½ stars?) and is both part of the Boston YMCA and sort of a residence (temporary lodging) for hospital patients, usually young, but at least the hotel turned out to be much better than I had thought it might be.

Day 2, Monday, May 15: Introduction / Freedom Trail
Activity note: Use of MBTA public transportation system including ferry to/from Boston and subway. Not all stations have elevators and may require walking up/down flights of stairs. Getting on/off a motorcoach, walking up to 2 miles throughout the day including up/down hills and cobblestones; standing at various sites.

(BLD)Temp 47 this morning. After a decent night, meet Dorrit in the lobby at 7AM. We make the cold, breezy walk across the street and through some confusing alleyways (trying to find our way through the maze of nameless streets and un-street-numbered building in the Navy Yard area is a REAL challange) to our usual feeding trough for breakfast at 149 Eat Street Café (each morning). We have a “coupon” worth $8 for whatever we want for breakfast. If we go over that, we pay the difference. Will probably run about $2 over each day. It is actually the cafeteria for the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). The food IS good.

After breakfast, we are joined at the hotel at 8:30 by our expert instructor, Charles Bahne, for a presentation on roots of the American Revolution. About 10:45 we board a motor coach for an introductory ride around the city so that we can experience Boston traffic, even though we are still having frequent light showers (really messes up the traffic) and it is still quite cold and VERY windy. The weather this morning is not helping things.

Lunch (burgers) is at the “Back Deck” in Copley Square in downtown Boston and is good. Lots to eat. We had just finished lunch when the fire alarm in the building went off so we got out in a hurry, and also made sure to get at least a block away before a big firetruck and an ambulance came screaming “to the rescue.” They got there in a hurry!! We didn’t see any fire however - kitchen??

Then we walk a bunch more in the cold, damp wind. This afternoon, the weather clears up some (no rain) but still cold and the wind chill is bad on exposed street corners, we walk about half the fabled Freedom Trail. There are 16 official sites along the 2.5 miles marked with a line of red brick or red paint. We will go part way, from Boston Common to the Old Granary Burying Ground, Old South Meeting House, the Old State House Museum, and Faneuil Hall. We have a Park Ranger presentation at historic Faneuil Hall.

Afterwards, about 5:15, enjoy a classic New England Dinner at Cheers in Quincy Market – light fare but good. We’ll return to the Inn on the Charlestown Ferry. We were supposed to take the 6:30 ferry but missed by about 1 minute so had to wait, mostly in the wind, until the 7PM trip. Back at the hotel, we have a great lecture on the history of Old Ironsides - the USS Constitution., by Margherita Desy who has led most of the work on its restoration. Fantastic.

Day 3, Tuesday, May 16: Paul Revere / Old North Church
Activity note: Ferry to/from Boston. Walking up to 2 miles throughout the day including up/down hills and over cobblestones; standing at various sites.

(BLD) It is supposed to be quite a bit warmer today. Breakfast is at 7 in the Eat Street Café. At 8:20 start the walk to catch the ferry for an 8:45 trip across to Boston, disembark at Long Wharf, and walk from the waterfront to North Square where Paul Revere’s house has stood since 1680. Right next door, at the Mariner’s House, an historian from the Revere House will give an illustrated talk on “Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride – Dispelling the Myths.”

For group size timing, we are split into two groups who do the exploration of the Revere House. While it appears small to us today, in its time it was considered a very fine townhouse. Paul Revere lived here with his wife, five children, and his mother! About 90% of what we see today is original. The other group gets lunch in the dining hall of the Mariners House, where men and women who work at sea can come and stay when they are anchored in Boston. Then we swap out. Lunch back at the Mariner’s House turns out to be a simple one: hot dogs, beans, and a 5-star potato salad, but I’ll rate it very high. It may turn out to be my favorite lunch/dinner meal of the trip.

Next, we’ll go on a walking field trip through the North End neighborhood and have a behind-the-scenes visit to historic Old North Church — “One if by land, Two if by sea.”

Not-so-"Fun comment" by some "Locals" as our Rode Skalur group approached when we were out on one of our walks: "Look, here comes the Circus Parade. Watch for the elephants."

I thought it would be a short walk and didn’t think about the walking surfaces (old broken streets and sidewalks plus slopes, etc.) itself and didn’t take my cane which proved to be a major mistake. My back really hurts after that walk. Back at the Mariners House, Captain Mike Cicalese talked to us about the history of the Mariners House, the Mariners Association and the Maritime Marine – definitely more interesting than I had expected.

Dinner is at a local Boston restaurant, Tia’s, with our pre-selected (Sunday night) menu. We’ll return to the Inn on the Charlestown Ferry, with a not-too-long wait. On the way back to the hotel, Dorrit lead some of us to Tadeshi’s (Rode Skalur recommended “nearby” convenience store which is “lost” somewhere in this maze of buildings) and then on to the hotel, so I/we could get some food for tomorrow night after I get back from the Charlestown Navy Yard Historic Facility and the USS Constitution, and also going aboard the Cassin Young destroyer while there. The remainder of this evening is at leisure.

Day 4, Wednesday, May 17: Bunker Hill / Free Time for the Freedom Trail
Activity note: Walking up to 2 miles including up/down hills; standing at various sites.

(BL) Breakfast again at 7. In the Colerico Room, we have another nice presentation, “The War Begins,” with Charlie Bahne, setting the stage for our field trip tomorrow to Lexington and Concord (by coach, not Metro/”T”). The presentation, which covers up to and including Lexington, is good.

Scheduled: Led by Charlie, we make the long walk to Breed's Hill, site of the Battle of Bunker Hill, and visit the Bunker Hill Museum. The famous order — “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes” — may never have been uttered, at least in that form, but it lives on as a legacy of the Battle of Bunker Hill that began on the afternoon of June 17, 1775. The colonists lost the first real battle of the American Revolution, but their valiant defense inspired the patriots. The site is marked by a massive granite monument visible from many parts of the city.

Change in (my) plans. The forecast high temp for today is 86 and its already 87 at 11 AM when the walk is supposed to start. We are told that the Museum at Bunker Hill is closed so the only thing to do there is look at a tall piece of stone. Although we were to do some walking around the area, there isn’t that much to see and because my back is really hurting from yesterday’s walking, I’m skipping the walking tour.

We have a box lunch at the hotel. It was supposed to be in a dining area on the top floor at 12:30 but the elevator is broken so rather than having to climb many flights of stairs, our lunch boxes are delivered on “our” third floor. The other elevator (“ours”) works only up to floor 3. After lunch, we are “free” for the rest of the day so since I/we are already/still at the hotel (as opposed to being lost somewhere downtown), after munching on the box lunch, I’m going to head (out in the 90+ temperature) to the USS Constitution area for a long visit, and the Naval Yard Museum there isn’t TOO far to walk. The heat send me back to the hotel after a bit over two hours, but still, this makes this a HIGHLIGHT day.

Dinner is on our own so after I get back from the Constitution, I’ll eat the munchies I bought last night at Tadeshi’s on the way home from that dinner. This will work well since there is a microwave in the room.

Day 5, Thursday, May 18: Lexington/Concord/Farewell Deception
Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach several times throughout the day; walking up to 2 miles.

(BLD) Finally, it is barely cool enough in my room to turn off the fan – at least until I get back from breakfast then back on for another hour. However it was a new record high temperature yesterday, another record heat today, and record heat forecast for tomorrow. This wasn’t supposed to happen in April.

Breakfast is at 7. Our lecture this morning focuses on the siege of Boston. About 10:30 we head out on our chartered bus, which is supposed to be, and actually is, air conditioned, for a full day field trip to explore two of America’s most iconic sites where some of the key events in the Revolutionary War took place. We have onboard commentary as we travel out of Charlestown through Somerville and Cambridge enroute to Lexington's Battle Green, where the first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired. The temperature there is forecast to get well up into the 90s.

What happened at Lexington and Concord? British troops set out from Boston in the early hours of April 19, 1775, to seize revolutionary leaders as well as arms and ammunition stored in Lexington and Concord. Spies learned of the plan and spread the word. Paul Revere and others set out on horseback to rouse the countryside. When the British advance guard arrived on Lexington Green at dawn, they were met by members of local militias known as Minutemen. A shot rang out that was immortalized as “the shot heard ’round the world.”

The British had more than three times the numbers of the colonials, shot seven of them, and marched on to Concord. But there they met more militiamen at the Old North Bridge and were repulsed, retreating back to Boston with numerous casualties along the way. The British general Percy wrote to London of the rebels, “Whoever looks upon them as an irregular mob will be much mistaken.”

Lunch is at 11:45 at Via Lago restaurant (cheeseburger #3) in Lexington. After lunch, we drive just a bit further ending at the North Bridge. We visit the Minute Man National Historical Park in Concord where we have a short multi-media presentation. There is someone there portraying a British (trumpet) signal man and gave us a demonstration. Interesting, I’m glad he was there.

At the conclusion of our field trip, we drive back through the Concord countryside passing the houses of Hawthorne, Emerson, and the Alcott’s. We were supposed to return to the Inn by about 4:10 but thanks to Boston traffic, we don’t get back until 5:30. The trip itinerary was good and the sights along the way were interesting, but that heat pretty much “ruined” the day. This is April in Boston, not July or August in Houston.

Then we are off at 6 for another visit to a “feeding trough.” Our final deception dinner is at the Navy Yard Bistro where we have the, IMO, 2nd worst dinner of the trip. Poor food and incredibly awful noise. After it is eventually over we manage to make a long overdue escape from the Bistro and head back to the hotel.

There we gather in the Colerico Room for a special presentation: we get to “meet” Deborah Sampson, a colonial soldier, as portrayed by actress Joan Gatturna. This turns out to be one of the, if not THE, most incredible performance that I can remember. Absolutely fabulous. It alone makes this trip worthwhile.

Day 6, Friday, May 19: USS Constitution / Departure
(B) We have our last excellent breakfast at 149 St Café. Then we gather in the lobby at 9 to take a short walk and have a special guided tour of USS Constitution, “Old Ironsides,” led by US Navy personnel. It is very short but very interesting. I’m really glad I did that extra visit Wednesday. Then we return to the Inn and make our “escape”.

I check out and ask the hotel staff to call a taxi – quick arrival and very fast transit to the Logan Express (so unlike the arrival transfer). I even (barely) make the 11AM Logan Express shuttle – at least 30 minutes earlier than I had expected – and arrived in Framingham at 11:45. Russ picked me up as quickly as traffic allowed and we had a late (hot sub) sandwich which was better than the usual Rode Skalur meals.

After Anne got home we went out again and had a great Italian dinner. Wow. Another good thing is that the cool front is coming in as promised and it is turning very nicely cool and enjoyable. A good day! I’ll be here for 4 nights.

Day 7, Saturday, May 20 – Local activities and a school Play
Most of the day just going along when Russ is doing some shopping for whatever he needs then another hot sub for lunch (same as yesterday). We have an early dinner then head to a special stage production play put on by the students from Ann’s school.

It is “Korczak’s Children” which is about the Headmaster and “his children” in an orphanage in the Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw, and end with they all being marched off to be loaded into the trains heading to the Death Camps at Treblinka. The performers were all 7th and 8th (graduating) students from the Drama programs/classes at the school. The performance was really remarkable. Another highlight of the trip.

Day 8, Sunday, May 21 – Sturbridge / Brunch / Carly
It is only 41 this morning. This weather feels GREAT! We have to start out early (8am) to head west to Sturbridge where we have a reservation for a “Brunch” Buffet at Sturbridge. The food and selection was so great that we all went back not only for “seconds” (full plates) but also for (full plate) “thirds.” Then we drive on a bit to visit Russ’s daughter Carly, and Justin. After a nice visit (I haven’t seen Carly in about 10 years) we take a long scenic route returning to Mendon. It has been a long day with lots of driving through great scenery and has also been a very nice one.

Day 9, Monday, May 22 – Trip to Maine (Rain) to visit the Maine Gem and Mineral Museum
Heat wave! Its 10 degrees warmer this morning than it was yesterday. We make another very early (6AM) start to try to get ahead of the traffic gridlock points since we have a long drive north to Bethel, Maine, to visit Carl Francis who is the Coordinator of Collections at the Gem and Mineral Museum of Maine. It is a 13-hour round trip, including the visit, and 475 miles with only occasional rain. A really excellent day. I’m looking forward to a repeat visit to the Museum in May 2019. The last picture above is the Maine Gem and Mineral Museum.

Day 10, Tuesday, May 23: Fly Home
An afternoon flight makes getting to the airport easier but means a later arrival into Houston and home. Catch the Framingham shuttle at 1:30. It’s another one of those 4-hour flights.

United UA 2045Boston – Houston4:45P – 8:06P4:21

The flight took off on time into bouncy weather. About 30 minutes into the flight there was a medical emergency – someone had a seizure - but the flight attendants had the proper equipment and there was a doctor on board so we weren't diverted to some emergency landing. The flight itself was almost constantly very rough – the flight attendants had to suspend their functions 4 different times. But we all survived the rough flight.

Then a couple of good things: 1) the flight arrived about 30 minutes early; 2) my bag was the first one on the carousel; 3) only 5 minutes wait for the shuttle; 4) I was the first one to be dropped off. That made up at least an hour hence the 8:45 vs the 10PM anticipated arrival home. We just missed some rain when getting into Houston. Some sprinkles later.

The Constitution Inn: Charlestown, MA, 2-star hotel. 5 nights. The Inn is part of the Boston YMCA. Located in the historic Charlestown Navy Yard, 3 blocks from USS Constitution and Boston National Historical Park. The Navy Yard was closed as an active naval installation in 1974. Since then it has undergone major renovations. Many of the Navy building were repurposed as office and research and design space. The Massachusetts General Hospital is the largest tenant here. The Navy Yard is also the site of the Boston National Historic Park, part of the National Parks System.

Room amenities: Road Scholar rooms are on the third floor (the same floor as the conference room where our classes are held). Rooms have two double beds, cable TV, refrigerator, and microwave oven. Facility amenities: The Inn is part of the Boston YMCA. 149 Eat Street Café is in adjacent office building and serves breakfast & lunch on weekdays other restaurants are nearby. The Inn has complimentary wireless Internet on every floor. On the second floor there is a lounge area with vending machines and an ice machine. The Inn is fully air-conditioned.

Contact info: 150 Third Avenue; Charlestown, MA 02129; phone: 617-241-8400; www.constitutioninn.org/