As a lifelong resident of southwest Georgia, I am blessed to live in the land of peanut fields, pine woods and unpaved roads. We have the privilege of enjoying our unique proximity to prime hunting land and pristine beaches. But when I have the chance to travel, it’s something I always enjoy. I like to visit places I’ve never been before. I love D.C. I really don’t like Milwaukee.
Recently, I had the chance to visit a city that I’d always hoped to see in person. A town with history around every corner. Where centuries old churches sit next to a financial district skyscraper. Boston, for those of us that like that kind of thing, is awesome.
Our direct flight from Jacksonville arrived in Beantown around 2:30. After the usual stress of locating our checked luggage (until you see YOUR bag on that carousel, you’re nervous), we were told to take the Silver Line into town. The Silver Line is a FREE public bus line that will get you to just about any central spot in the city – for us, we needed a ride to South Station, which was just a few blocks from our hotel. After about a half hour ride, we emerged from the south station tunnel into a bustling Boston.
As you might imagine, Boston is your prototypical big city. People everywhere. Cars honking their horns. Walkers dodging traffic. But I was immediately struck. The first thing I noticed? Just how clean it was. This isn’t New Orleans or Atlanta. Wide sidewalks and green space everywhere. No trash on the streets. And guess what else? People were friendly. Not rude, like New York City. I liked it immediately.
Remember how I said our hotel was just a few blocks from South Station? Yeah, that wasn’t exactly true. We were a mile away and we were hauling suitcases down those wide, clean sidewalks. But after about a 20 minute walk, we arrived at our destination, albeit a little wore out from the jaunt. We checked in and asked the front desk where to start exploring, to which we were informed that any first trip to Boston needed to include Freedom Trail – a roadmap of Bostonian history. Perfect.
Day One: The Freedom Trail
In Boston, every street leads to something you’ve heard of before. The Boston Marathon treks down Boylston Street beside Boston Commons (a former cow pasture and Boston’s first public park). We started there. We saw the home of John Hancock (yeah, the former governor of Massachusetts and the big name on the Declaration) and the Massachusetts State House. We made our way down Park to the Park Street Church (where Our Country Tis of Thee was performed publicly for the first time) and north to the King’s Chapel and Burying Ground where patriots like Paul Revere and the victims of the Boston Massacre are buried. Where gravestones are so old, you can’t tell if it says 1674 or 1644.
As we continued down the Freedom Trail, we were awestruck. Big city buildings seemed to defer to the larger than life historic structures. The small Old South Meeting House was nestled between two massive concrete buildings but somehow held its own. After all, Benjamin Franklin had been baptized there and colonists gathered there to challenge British rule. On December 16, 1773, more than 5000 colonists gathered there to protest the tax on tea and heard Samuel Adams give the signal that started the Boston Tea Party. In 1876, the folks of Boston fought to preserve the building from destruction, the first successful effort of historic preservation in New England. See? History everywhere.
The Freedom Trail plays host to so many landmarks, I could never include them all here. Like Boston, the Trail is a mix of old and new. It’s incredible and worth your time. But a trip to Boston for a baseball fan like me wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Fenway.
Day Two: Fenway
Fenway Park is as legendary as it gets for baseball fans. The Red Sox have something that few professional baseball teams do – a park rich in history. As much as I love the Braves, Suntrust Park isn’t exactly historic yet. And Turner Field was cool – after all, it hosted the Olympics at one point, but that was two decades ago. They’ve been playing ball at Fenway for a century. Names like Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski. Wade Boggs and Carlton Fisk. Fenway has history dripping off of the Big Green Monster.
The first thing I noticed? It’s not that big. One city block, in fact. I went for a run that morning and decided to run to Fenway. I ran for a while and eventually thought I’d taken a wrong turn, because I didn’t see it. Surely the Big Green Monster would be towering over the coffee shops on the way, right?
Nope. It wasn’t until I turned a corner and got around a three story parking garage that I finally found it.
The city block that it occupies is surrounded by sports bars and t shirt shops. No parking lots. Just the one garage I mentioned above and another on the opposite corner. But that fits – there are plenty of cars on the streets of Boston, but everyone walks or takes public transit there. So why would Fenway need a parking lot?
As I walked around the Fenway block, I saw statues of former Red Sox greats. Pennants hanging. And through one open door, the green grass of baseball’s most recognized field. Fenway, although not huge, was everything you’d expect. The only problem? The Red Sox were playing the Yankees. In New York.
As I made my way back to our hotel, Fenway disappeared behind the buildings once again, but was permanently etched in my memory (I hope). The wide, clean sidewalks led me back down Tremont to Boston Commons and eventually back to our room where our bags were waiting to make the trip home.
We left Boston at about 11:00 on a Thursday morning. To be honest, I was sad to leave. One afternoon and another morning wasn’t enough. But rest assured, I’ll be back. As far as big cities go, Boston is my favorite. To visit. I won’t be leaving my pine woods and peanut fields anytime soon.