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Boston’s Freedom Trail, an awesome lighthouse and Tavern Road food

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BOSTON – There’s probably no better place to find out why America exists.

This is the birthplace of the United States in many ways, the place where the Boston Tea Party took place and where Paul Revere (more on that later) rode from to warn of an attack by the redcoats (not “the British”; more on that later, too). And they make it easy to take a Freedom Trail tour and learn about the various historic spots along the way.

I had a tour with Emily, dressed as an old-time citizen named Mehitable Dawes.

Emily showed us the Granary Burial Ground, where Revere rests, not to mention John Hancock, the first signer of the Declaration of Independence and Sam Adams. Folks line up to take photos of Revere’s tomb stone and that of Sam Adams.

Adams burial spot is directly across the road from the popular Beantown Pub, which Emily explains means “you can have a cold Sam Adams while looking at a cold Sam Adams.”IMG_0145

Emily says the original plots have been moved about over the years and that members of her tours have occasionally found things like finger bones or pieces of old clothing.

Emily explains that Revere would be shocked to see how much has been made of his dash from Boston to Lexington and Concord to warn residents of an attack and to let Samuel Adams and John Hancock know they were about to be arrested by redcoats.

William Dawes did the same trip but hardly anyone knows about him. Or the folks who helped each of them, Emily points out.

Still, Americans are good at burnishing the facts and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow apparently refused to apologize for his romantic Revere poem.

Emily points out that Revere wouldn’t have been shouting “the British are coming” because everyone in the colonies was pretty much British; America not yet being an independent country.

She’ll also point out the Old South Meeting House, where the Tea Party plan was hatched and historic Faneuil Hall, with its first floor market.

IMG_0154We didn’t have much time for lunch so ducked into Faneuil Hall for a quick bite on our way to a harbor tour. The chowder at Boston and Maine Fish Co. was only adequate, but we met a local couple named P.J. and Karen and they suggested we try an “oyster shot.” For $5 you get a fresh shucked oyster in a glass with tabasco, garlic, lemon and horseradish (or so I recall), topped with an ounce and a bit of amber coloured Sam Adams. You slug it down in a couple gulps and wait for the gentle heat to rise into your throat. Yum.

P.J. and Karen say they live in the area and haven’t found anyplace else that serves oysters this way. A delightful couple, and thanks for the recommendation.

I’ve flown into Boston a few times over the years, and when I was by the window and the weather was nice I’d often gaze out at the islands in the harbour and wonder iif folks could go out there for a walk or hike or a try at fishing. But I’d seldom heard about the islands as a destination or day trip until I asked the tourism folks about it prior to my visit.

They were nice enough to set me up with a three-hour cruise to check out the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area. We spent about 45 minutes cruising past islands such as Deer Island and George’s Island and Spectacle Island, which was once a rendering plant and then a garbage dump that my tour guide sent “millions of gallons of disgusting-ness oozing into the bay.” There are how hiking trails, beautiful trees, benches and classes in Yoga, kites and other activities. One island has small yurts with bunk beds and camping facilities.IMG_3526

The final destination was Little Brewster Island, in the outermost part of the harbour; a small, rocky islet with the last lighthouse manned (in this case, womaned) by someone from the U.S. Coast Guard. Sally Snowman is the 70th person to take care of the lighthouse and the first woman in the history of the beacon, which dates back about 300 years now (297 to be precise).

She gave us a brief explanation of the history of the lighthouse while dressed in period costume, and then it was time to climb to the top. It’s only about 70 steps and then there are a couple of small ladders to negotiate. It’s hotter than blazes inside the glass tower in summer but the view of small waves crashing on the rocks and sailboats zipping past on the blue water and the lighthouse cottage and island greenery makes it more than worth the heat.

Back on land, we eschewed the noisy Beantown Pub and instead downed a couple cold ones at the Hub Pub, located just behind the Omni Parker House, which I neglected to mention the other day is the home to both Boston cream pie and the birthplace of the Parker House Roll. The pub is dark wood with some exposed brick and had a large U.S. flag draped over the second floor balcony. It’s the sort of place that advertises five Dos Equis for $20 and is on a quiet side street, which seemed to mean mostly locals. And that’s the way I like it.

Dinner was at a wonderful spot in the trendy Fort Point area just south of downtown called Tavern Road, run by two brothers, Michael (the manager, from what I could tell) and Louis (the chef, most definitely) DiBicarri. It’s a former industrial area that’s been given over to new condos and artists’ space; a bit like Liberty Village or King West but with larger buildings, I’d say. We had great rolls with rosemary and parmesan and served with maple orange butter. Yummy. We tasted thinly sliced lamb salami, duck prosciuotto and coppa di testa, made with cows head and VERY tasty. One of my favourites was a small piece of toast topped with whipped goat feta, honey and caramelized orange peel. Also good was the warm ricotta with tomato jam and green peper in a beautiful ceramic bowl and the spaetzle with gruyere cheese and cherry peppers.IMG_0271

The lamb steak was a tad dry but was tasty once mixed with the accompanying endives and a carrot puree. I thought the porchetta with nectarines and almonds could use a bit more spice, personally. But the starters were awesome and we had a great dessert of Mexican-style chocolate ice cream with chilies and caramel.

It’s a beautiful spot with high ceilings and plenty of air, with a very cool mural on one wall that depicts the owner’s uncle, a local artist, plus Ben Franklin and other bits of Boston.

Just down the road on Congress St. is a cool bar called Drink. There’s no real menu, so instead you tell the super friendly waiters what you like in your cocktails and they offer up some options before retreating to another part of the bar and mixing it up for you.

I kinda missed seeing them in action, as that’s part of the fun for me. But it’s a warm, subterranean space with views of folks passing by on the sidewalk outside and it’s got a lot of exposed stone and wood and plenty of pretty people for a nice ambience.

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