Friday, July 31, 2015

A Technological Glitch!

I hope you all have not forgotten us!  I've not had access to internet for the longest time, but I wanted to let you know we're still here.  We've toured Salem, Massachusetts, eaten in Kennebunkport, Maine and walked ourselves silly in Washington, D.C. since I last posted.  I've got a ton to tell you and will get back to posting as soon as I can.  Please be patient!

Until next time...

Friday, July 24, 2015

Yet Another Cruise

Who would have though living in an RV would afford us the opportunity to take so many cruises?  Our last sightseeing adventure in Boston was a Harbor Cruise.

Our cruise "ship"

It was the smallest "ship" we've cruised on, but it did have a fully stocked snack bar!  Anyway, the views were amazing provided us with yet another perspective of the new favorite city.

Bridge over the Charles River

Old Customs house, now being turned into luxury homes

New luxury homes built on the piers

Oil barge being towed by tugboat

Sailing school

Lots and lots of sailboats

A view of the skyline you can't get except from the harbor

It was a short 45 minute cruise, but a perfect way to end our days in Boston.  Keep your fingers crossed for me that I will be able to return some day.

Until next time...

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A View From the Clouds

Prudential Tower

The Prudential Tower in downtown Boston is the 2nd tallest skyscraper.  Take the express elevator to the 50th floor and you enter the Skywalk Observatory.  We did this on our second day in Boston and the perspective we gained of the city was priceless.

The Back Bay (bottom) and Cambridge (top)
The Back Bay area was originally part of the Charles River, but fill dirt covered stinky mud and garbage to create one of Boston's priciest neighborhoods. 

Christian Science Plaza
Known as the Mother Church, the tiny portion at the front was the original church;  the huge domed section was and add on.

Boston Common
The trees you can see in the distance are in the Boston Common.

Boston Marathon Finish Line
The yellow stripe down on the street is the finish line.  Our tour guide made no mention of it, so I guess there is no marking or monument at the site to date.

If you look really closely, you can see the green Fenway Park.

A view of the harbor islands

The John Hancock Tower 
Tallest building in the city and the home of my retirement acount!

This neighborhood of Victorian brownstones is the city's most culturally diverse.

The pictures in this post can't do justice to the narrated view you get by touring the Skywalk.  If you're ever in Boston, be sure to check it out.

Until next time...

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Quirky Boston

You know I always look for the odd, unusual or just plain weird things wherever I go.  So I thought I'd treat you to some of the quirkier things I saw in Boston.

These boxes are on street corners all over Boston.  Installed in 1852, they were the most modern system at the time, using telegraph to notify the fire stations.  They are still in use today and still relying on the telegraph!

Gas Station?
What looks to be an ordinary gas station turns into a parking lot during home games of the Boston Red Sox.  According to our tour driver, the owner of this station can make as much as a half a million dollars a season just by parking cars.

Eat and leave!
This sign in McDonald's warns you that you need to eat your McMuffin in 20 minutes or less, then leave.  While we were catching a quick breakfast one day, the city police came through and told one individual he needed to leave - he was sleeping in one of the counter chairs.  So they do mean business!

Can you guess who this is?
Edgar Allen Poe was born here, although he fought a career-long battle with  Boston area authors.  In 2014, he finally returned home.

Purple glass
See the two panes of glass that are purple in this row house?  You can find this glass in structures around the city.  When the John Hancock building was being built, the glass maker used the wrong formula for the glass for the 60 story tower.  It resulted in glass that would turn purple when the sun hit it.  Not a good look, it was decided.  Since the glass maker had to absorb the astronomical cost of the mistake, he sold the glass to individuals who then used it in their buildings.  So, today, it's a status symbol to have purple glass in your home!

The skinny house
As in any major city, real estate is expensive and limited.  This shows that any sliver of space can, and will, be used.

Cemeteries are all over the city.  I think one of the earliest tombstones we saw was from the late 1600s.

This church was originally a wood building, erected in 1688.  In 1749, this stone church was built around the original structure and, when completed, the wood was disassembled and removed through the windows.  Our tour guide told us the plans for the building of the church were sent in three parts and, for some reason, the package containing the third part, the steeple, was never received and that's why it doesn't have one.  Sounds like an interesting story, but I couldn't verify it.

The Boston Commons, where the bandstand is located, is today a smoke-free zone.  But in the mid-19th century, when public smoking was banned city-wide, this is where the gentlemen of the era would come to partake of the wicked weed.  It consisted of a circle of benches and came to be known as "Smoker's Circle."  The bandstand replaced the benches in 1912.

For my Colorado and Oregon people, I couldn't resist taking a picture of this tshirt!

Until next time...

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Why's it called Beantown?

I ❤ Boston!!!

After having limited luck navigating large cities on our own (Nashville, anyone?), we decided to do another trolley tour as a way of seeing the most of the city in the short time we had.

The Trolley map
The green line is the route the trolley took.  As you can see, we pretty much covered the entire city.

There are several of these hop on/hop off narrated tours in the city and, for me, they are the best way to visit a large city with limited parking.  Our campground host was able to give us good directions to a garage in North Caimbridge where we could park all day for only $7 as opposed to $30 - $50 in town, and we took the "T", as Boston's subway system is called, into the city each day.

The days we chose could not have been more beautiful, weather-wise.  High seventies and low humidity made riding in the open air trolley and walking on our own very pleasant. I took a million pictures, but only later realized that the camera I was using was okay for distance shots, but gave me blurry, unfocused images when I zoomed.  Still, I managed to get a few images to share with you. 

The house has actually been restored to not what it looked like when Revere lived here, but to a typical house of the period.  Very disappointing for me.  Interestingly, the house was bought by Revere descendants in 1902 to insure the history was not lost.

This is a great hands-on museum for children.  For adults, not so much, although Sid enjoyed it.

Old Ironsides
The USS Constitution was in dry dock when we visited, so no one was allowed aboard.  Interestingly, the dry dock she is currently in is actually a National Historic Landmark, having been built in 1833.  Before this was built, ships had to be laid on their sides for repairs.

We ran out of time, so didn't get to go inside this state capitol building.  We did learn, however, that the gilded dome, originally copper laid by Paul Revere, had been painted several different colors before the state settled on the gold leaf.  During World War II, the gold was painted over once again to make it less of a target for potential bombers.

Arguably, the most visited historic site in the country.
Old cemeteries
These are found throughout the city.  We walked through a couple and I think one of the earliest tombstones we saw was from the late 1600s.

The oldest park in Major League baseball.

Home of the Boston Celtics basketball team.

Not a great picture, but this park is so large it's impossible to take a good picture.  The park was created in 1634, making it the old park in the country.  Used for many things over the years, such as cow grazing, public hangings and protests, the park is still owned by the citizens of Boston and hosts a wide variety of events for the public.  

Street performer on the Common

Sid and his fishing buddy at the Frog Pond in the Boston Common

I wanted  to walk on Bunker Hill, but we ran out of time.  Did you know the Battle of Bunker Hill actually took place on Breed's Hill?  Bunker Hill lies behind the monument.

The Freedom Trail is a walking tour of historical sites denoted by this line of bricks embedded in the sidewalk.  We walked about a mile of the 2.5 mile trail.

And, finally, it was imperative that we get some fresh seafood while in the city.  The restaurant has any type you could wish for and is delicious.  The crab cakes are to die for!

Although we saw and did a lot in our two days in the city, there is so, so much more to Boston.  The Museum of Art, the Trinity Church, Bunker Hill, the Boston Public Library, the Christian Science complex and just too many things to list.  I know that I hope to come back some day and discover all that Boston has to offer.

Oh, and the Beantown nickname?  Well, there's no definite answer, but Massachusetts has long been known for its baked beans, dating back to its Native American roots.  For other possible stories, check out this website and make your own decision!

Until next time...

Monday, July 20, 2015

Finishing up Lexington

 After leaving Cape Cod, we returned to the Boston area do to our major sightseeing (the previous stop here was just a layover).  Before heading to the big city, though, we finished up the last two historic buildings in Lexington that were featured on the Minute Man National Historic Park trail.

The Hancock-Clarke house was built by John Hancock's grandfather in 1737 as a parsonage and has several interesting stories surrounding it.  When seven-year old Hancock's father died, he came here to live with his grandfather for three year's until he was adopted by his uncle and moved to Boston. The house remained in the Hancock family until 1752 when the grandfather died and Reverend Clark succeeded him.

The structure itself was purchased by the Lexington Historical Society in 1896 when it was in danger of being demolished by the property owners and moved it across the street.  In 1974, the original property was also purchased and the house was moved back to its original location.  We jokingly called it "the first mobile home!"

Another surprising fact I learned while visiting this house involved Paul Revere.  Did you know that his original mission was to ride to Lexington for the purpose of getting Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who was staying with the Clarke's at the time, to move out of the line of the British troops?  Seems Hancock had a price on his head and it was critical that he not be captured by the British to be tried for treason!

And, speaking of Paul Revere, the legend of his ride is almost complete fiction, written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1860!  In addition to the purpose of his ride being different that what I learned in history class when I was a child, Revere certainly did not go shouting "The British are coming!" since the warnings were supposed to be covert and the colonists still considered themselves to be British.  Too, William Dawes had been sent on the same mission by a different route and when they met up in Lexington, decided on their own to continue to Concord. 

The Monroe Tavern, built in 1775, is about a mile or so from the Hancock-Clarke house and is situated right on the original road used by the British on their march to Concord.  Interestingly, the original builder of the house, William Monroe, was the grandson of a man who came to this country as an indentured servant.  This house is in its original location, but was extensively remodeled in the 1800s.  The historical society has spent the last hundred years removing many of the renovations and restoring it to as original a condition as possible.

The house was used as a field hospital for the British soldiers as they marched back to Boston from Concord.  Although they torched other houses in the area upon leaving, luckily they restrained themselves to only destroying all the furniture in this one.

In 1789, in probably the first ever presidential PR tour, George Washington dined at the Monroe Tavern.  He was on a circuit to "meet and greet" his constituents and, in an effort to preclude any appearance of favoritism, Washington refused to dine at any individuals home, preferring to pay his way by dining in local taverns.  The chair in which he sat is proudly displayed in an upstairs room.

Lexington is a charming little town and I'm sure we only touched on a fraction of the history here. But there are so many more places on the bucket list that we can only spend so much time in one place. Next up, we're going to tour the city of Boston!

Until next time...

Sunday, July 19, 2015

JFK Library

John F Kennedy Presidential Library

We did get the opportunity to visit the JFK Library while in Boston;  unfortunately, my camera was on the fritz and I have no pictures.

As presidential libraries go, it was very understated and elegant, befitting the Camelot image that surrounded his presidency.  He did accomplish quite a lot given that he only served for 3 years and many of his initiatives continue today.

Definitely worth the time.  It's fairly easy to get to and had free parking (a rarity in Boston!).

Until next time...

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard - The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful

Cape Cod.  As someone who has never been to Cape Cod, I had a few preconceptions of what we would find here.  As I write this, we are getting ready to leave the island, having been here 7 days.  And I have to say, our stay has been a mixed bag of experiences.

Upon crossing the Cape Cod Canal on the Bourne Bridge, we discovered that, while a beautiful bridge, it's also very, very narrow.  Julie (our motorhome, if you don't remember!) is not excessively wide but we managed to inflict a large scratch down her side by hitting the concrete curb. (Negative).  We immediately found that gasoline was cheaper on the island than back in the Boston area. (Positive).  There are few main roads on the island and they all have rotaries (roundabouts) that cause traffic to back up, sometimes up to 3 miles. (Negative).  We finally got to our campground on the Joint Base Cape Cod, a huge military installation that is almost closed and close to being a ghost town. (Negative and Positive).

The beaches, and there are quite a few, are all owned by the various towns and hotels on the island and you have to pay to go to them.  (Negative).  They are also fairly small. (Negative).  And since they are mostly on bays or sounds, there are no crashing waves, which is my favorite kind of beach. (Negative).  We did drive one day to the Cape Cod National Seashore on the outer Cape and found two perfect beaches. (Positive). And, for us, they were free due to the America the Beautiful pass for old farts.  (Positive).  But, with the stop and go traffic, the drive was well over two hours each way. (Negative).

The island itself is much larger than I thought and is crammed with houses, shopping centers, strip malls, souvenir shops and all the other businesses that go along with tourist towns.  It takes forever just to go a few miles.  (Negative).  The drivers are all very polite, however, letting people in whenever needed.  (Positive). We did go off the beaten path a few times and drive through the residential areas to gawk at the classic Cape Cod homes, with their weathered siding and bright white trim. (Positive).

A somewhat typical Cape Cod house

Not this picture, but most of the houses nearest the beaches were enormous and meticulously landscaped.  We were visiting during the annual Hydrangea Fest, so all the flowers were at their very best.  I've never seen such brilliantly blue hydrangeas before and they were stunning.  (Positive).

Not the best picture, but these were everywhere on Cape Cod

Sid managed to get some fishing in and was thrilled to catch a 20 lb. striper,  (Positive).

Sid's fish

Being this close, we took a day to cross the Nantucket Sound on a ferry and visit Martha's Vineyard.   It was very similar to Cape Cod, but I think we got a different perspective as we were on foot.  While the ferry was reasonable for passengers, it cost over $100 to take your car over, so walked and took the bus on the Vineyard.  Martha's Vineyard was not as polished as Cape Cod and the vibe was definitely a more laid back, vacation-y feel.

In the center of  the town of Oak Bluffs on the island is the Martha's Vineyard Camp Meeting Association neighborhood.  In 1835, Methodist summer retreats were organized here and tents were raised to house the attendees.  By 1859, tents had given way to wooden cottages whose look, design and size were inspired by the temporary structures they replaced.  The neighborhood has no interior streets, is heavily wooded and is a lovely, cool place to take a walk and drool over the unique cottages. (Positive).

A walking path

There are supposed to be 300 of these cottages in this neighborhood - we only saw a fraction of them.  

One of my favorites

The ferry ride was a new adventure. (Positive).   This ferry was much larger than any I've ridden on before, with a full service snack bar (beer and wine available), tables and chairs, free wifi, air conditioning and inside and outside seating.  Only 7 miles separate Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard, but the ride takes 45 minutes.

Ferry to Martha's Vineyard

Another attraction on Martha's Vineyard is the Flying Horses Carousel, the oldest platform carousel in the country and officially designated as a national landmark. (Positive).

 Flying Horses Carousel
Not very fancy, but you can still capture a brass ring for a free ride!

Looking back at my post, I guess the time we spent on Cape Cod was a positive experience overall. Another couple of Bucket Lists items checked off anyway. I left with the feeling that to really enjoy this place you need more time than what we had to learn the ins and outs.  That and a few million bucks wouldn't hurt either! 

Until next time...