Friday, September 13, 2019

Old Ironsides, Boston, and the Cradle of Liberty

September 13, 2019—Boston. Birthplace of the nation, and home of the traffic jam.

Yesterday, the Destroyer and Leader Association (the group that organized this reunion; Jim’s ship was a DL—destroyer and leader) took us to Boston, which is theoretically about an hour from here. I say theoretically because traffic was bad—even worse than Jacksonville’s at 5 p.m. Traffic was compounded because it was a rainy, overcast day and quite chilly (although to us Floridians, the cooler air didn’t feel too bad).

Our first stop was the USS Constitution, a three-masted sailing vessel, is the world’s oldest commissioned sailing vessel still afloat. Named the Constitution by President George Washington, it is more familiarly known to us today as Old Ironsides. Launched in 1794, it is still manned by a crew of 60 U.S. Naval personnel. It is berthed at Pier 1 of the former Charlestown Navy Yard, and is a stop on Boston’s Freedom Trail.
The USS Constitution, also known as Old Ironsides. This sailing ship is open, free to the public to tour, even though it is still a commissioned ship in the U.S. Navy.

Masts on the Constitution

Jim, looking at cannon on the Constitution.
The 60 crew members of the Constitution would sleep in hammocks below decks.
The ship's galley lies just beyond the last row of hammocks.

Rows of cannon are below decks.

Old Ironsides resides in the old Charlestown shipyard. The only drydock remaining (for exhibition purposes) is this one, which was built in 1833. The Constitution was the first ship drydocked  here. 

After a ceremony by the DL Association to commemorate shipmates who had died during the past year, we boarded Old Ironsides. In addition to touring the topside, we were able to go below decks, to the level containing the cannon, as well as the lowest level, containing the mess hall and sleeping quarters of the crew. Their hammocks hang from rafters; I can imagine their being rocked asleep by the motion of the waves hitting the boat.
The DL Association held a ceremony in front of the USS Constitution, honoring deceased shipmates.

Unfortunately, we were not allowed enough time to visit the museum. Our next stop was Quincy Market/Faneuil Hall.

Faneuil Hall, we discovered, was built in 1743 as a British meeting place and market. It was the site of many speeches by patriots, including Sam Adams, and it was where the Boston Tea Party was organized. The upstairs of Faneuil Hall, also known as the cradle of liberty, is the actual town hall. It is still used for special political events and performances. We found the meeting place quite by accident: Our tour group stopped at Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market for lunch and shopping. After enjoying a bowl of overpriced clam chowder (everything is expensive in Boston), we wandered around and found the meeting hall. A national parks ranger gave an interesting 15-minute talk on the history of Faneuil Hall.

The downstairs of Faneuil Hall was always a dedicated marketplace. Quincy Market, across the street, opened in 1824. Today, both marketplaces are active, although not in the way they were more than a hundred years ago. Quincy Market, the larger of the two markets, has a huge food court, with restaurants catering to every taste—from sushi to barbecue, with many devoted to seafood, of course. We opted to try some clam chowder. It was delicious.

In addition to the food court, Quincy Market is home to many kiosks and apparel stores that sell everything from toys to tee shirts, all focused on the tourist trade and priced to match. ($19.99 for a tee shirt, anyone?)

Incidentally, Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market are just a stone’s throw away from the Boston Commons (park), where Cheers is located. The television program was never filmed inside the bar, however—only the cars passing on the street were Boston-authentic.

The day was not quite done: After lunch, we reboarded our buses and meandered on a guided tour of Boston. Although we did not stop (except once, in front of the baseball stadium), we caught glimpses of historic places, such as the old South Church, the state capital, Beacon Street. We even saw where Tom Brady used to live. (Who cares?) 

We finally headed back to Warwick, in (you guessed it) heavy traffic. Rush hour seems to start about 3 p.m. in Boston.

This afternoon we drove up to Providence, about 10 miles away, the state capital. Founded in 1636 by Roger Williams, a religious exile from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, it is home to at least a half dozen colleges and universities, including Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design. We did not have a lot of time, so we merely drove around the riverfront area, to see homes dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Very nice, and I am certain, very expensive.

Everything is expensive here. To compare, this week at home, Walgreen’s advertised “buy 2 Coca Cola 12-packs at $4.99, get one free.” Here Walgreen’s has the same offer—except the 12-pack is $5.99, a dollar more! Ah, well.

Tomorrow we head home. Instead of driving straight down I95, which takes us through New York City with all its traffic and significantly high tolls, Jim has plotted a course that may involve a few more miles but should be better on the driving nerves as well as the wallet.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


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