Sunday 10 May 2015


Boston is very proud of its history, particularly its history as regards the American Revolution, so not surprisingly most of what we did while we were there related to that. The rest of what we did involved snowbanks taller than me, but that was the less fun part of the visit so we won't talk about that (just a lot of frustration involving traffic, no carparks and general difficulty getting around). Here's the highlights of what we did in Boston.

We went to Salem on our first day, since we were returning the car that evening. I've been a little obsessed with the Salem Witch Trials since I studied them for a whole semester at university during my arts degree (plus, as we've established, I've a reasonably high level of interest in the depressing and macarbe). To be honest, the museum (which is in an old church, the Puritans must be turning in their graves) was a little disappointing - they had an impressive-for-what-it-was-I-suppose overview of the history of the trials, involving a lot of papier mache people (and the devil!) and dramatic music, and another room explaining the history of people's perceptions of witchcraft up to the current practice of Wicca. There wasn't much in terms of analysing the possible causes of the accusations, which is what I always find interesting - what was it that made these people say things that they knew would get their neighbours killed? - and what there was was superficial at best. Plus, I thought they (as in Americans) let themselves off pretty lightly in terms of culpability. My impression was that they were saying 'Yes, during the Salem Witch Trials we did some terrible things for terrible reasons, but look over there! - the Europeans were much, much worse' which may be true, but by the time America was being colonised, witch hunts were in decline in Europe and besides, blame shifting is never pretty. Still, the town of Salem retains many old buildings, which I found interesting, a fascination with witches that results in a lot of New Age stores selling crystals and herbs, which I found less interesting, and a nice harbour.

Paul Revere's House - with snowbanks
Anyway, in Boston proper, Boston's pride in its history makes deciding what to do in the city remarkably easy. They have a self-guided walking tour called the Freedom Trail (which I at first confused with the Underground Railroad, which is a totally different thing, but related to the concept of freedom and with America so I think my confusion was justified). The Boston Freedom Trail takes you to all the important buildings related to the American Revolution, be they the Massachusetts State House with its shiny golden dome, beautiful murals and impressively large portrait of Abraham Lincoln, churches where revolutionaries congregated and spoke, Paul Revere's house various important peoples' graves and the site of the Boston Massacre (which I only learned about on the tour). But the best thing about the Freedom Trail, and I don't understand why more cities don't do this, it that the entire course of the walk is picked out in red on the pavements with bronze plaques when you're supposed to stop. Trying to navigate in an unknown city with instructions like 'Turn left at Such-and-such Street' can be really hard, depending on how well sign posted the city is. While the snow meant we couldn't always see the path, it definitely kept us on track more than once and helped us know when to stop. A good way to spend a few days.

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