Posted on September 11, 2017 by Janet Steinberg
Boston, Massachusetts: Let's Get Away From It All

 

“Let’s take a powder, to Boston for Chowder, let’s get away from it all.”

 

As a teenager, I swooned as Frank Sinatra sang it to me.  As an adult, I delighted as I sailed into Boston Haarbor, the second-to last port stop on a cruise that transported me 2087 glorious nautical miles from Montreal to New York City. 

“Beantown”, as Boston is affectionately dubbed, is much more than Boston Baked Beans.  It is ducks that will splash you into the waters of the Charles River and swans that will glide you atop the waters of the Lagoon in Boston’s Public Garden.  It is a 3-mile, red-painted Freedom Trail, and a Holocaust Memorial that towers along that trail.

I guarantee you a quacking good time when you board a Boston Duck Tour.  This particular breed of Ducks was hatched during World War II to meet the demand for an amphibious transport that was half boat and half truck.  The transport, with the code name of DUKW, played a crucial role in allied operations including the D-Day landing in Normandy.

 

PILOT GUIDES DUCK FROM ROCKY SHORELINE FOR SPLASHDOWN INTO CHARLES RIVER

 

Decades later, Boston’s Original Duck Tours take place in authentic renovated WW II amphibious landing vehicles.   Upon boarding, you will be greeted by a tour ConDUCKtor, who will narrate your tour.  Your land portion of the tour will drive by all the places that make Boston the birthplace of freedom and a city of firsts.  And just when you think you've seen it all, there's more.  It's time for "Splashdown" as your ConDUCKtor splashes your DUCK right into the Charles River for a breathtaking view of the Boston and Cambridge skylines.  Little wonder that the Duck Tour’s slogan is "One big splash and the rest is history!"

For over 130 years, the Swan Boats have been a part of the Boston experience. As a welcome sign of spring, they glide along the waters of the lagoon in the Boston Public Garden, the first botanical garden in the United States.  The Swan Boats, the only boats of their kind in the world, have been gracefully preening themselves in Boston’s Public Garden Lagoon since 1877 when Robert Paget developed a catamaran that housed a foot-propelled paddle wheel.  Inspired by the opera Lohengrin, in which a knight crossed a river in a boat pulled by a swan, Paget conceived the idea of concealing the boat’s captain with a white swan.  Now a symbol of Boston, the fleet of Swans gives their passengers a chance to view the 24 acres of glorious greenery in the Public Garden. 

And what would a trip to Boston be without downing a nip at Cheers?  When you step inside the convivial Original Cheers on Beacon Hill (previously known as the Bull & Finch), you’ll immediately know why everyone knows your name. Because the bar in the Bull& Finch did not look like the bar on the TV show the owner Tom Kershaw built a room above the original that is a duplicate of the one on the show.  In 2001, at Faneuil Hall, (rhymes with Daniel Hall) Kershaw recreated the bar as it appeared on the set of Cheers.

 

 

 

 

ORIGINAL CHEERS ON BEACON HILL

 

When in Boston, you must eat fresh seafood.  My stop for Boston’s bounty from the brine always include Legal Sea Foods and the Union Oyster House.  

Legal Sea Foods is not a fish tale, but a tale of fish 60 years in the making.  It is a tale of a family-owned seafood market that was born in 1950 when George Berkowitz opened a fish market in the Inman Square neighborhood of Cambridge, Massachusetts.  He opened it adjacent to his father Harry’s grocery store Legal Cash Market where customers were given “Legal Stamps” (forerunners of S&H green stamps) with their purchases.  It’s here that the “Legal” name became synonymous with quality and freshness.

In 1968, the family opened its first seafood restaurant, right next to the fish market.  The fish was either broiled or fried, and served on paper plates at communal picnic tables.  Despite the low-key trappings, the food was second to none and word quickly spread. This early success led to further expansion and now, six decades later with restaurants along the Eastern Seaboard, the family philosophy endures: Legal Sea Foods is a fish company in the restaurant business. Their iconic tagline says it all: “If it isn’t Fresh, it isn’t Legal”.

The Union Oyster House  is the oldest restaurant in Boston and the oldest restaurant in continuous service in the United States.  

 

 

UNION OYSTER HOUSE

 

The doors have always been open to diners since 1826.  The Union Oyster House has been frequented by some very distinguished patrons.  President John F. Kennedy, while still a senator, came in every Sunday to feast in privacy in the upstairs dining room.  He always sat in the same booth to read his newspapers.  "The Kennedy Booth", booth #18, was dedicated in his memory in May 1977.  You can request booth #18 in advance and enjoy fresh oysters, cod fishcakes, Boston scrod, authentic Boston baked beans, and the town’s best Bloody Mary, as you dine in a bit of history.

 

 

THE KENNEDY BOOTH #18

 

Another bit of trivia is that the toothpick was first used in the United States at the Union Oyster House.  Enterprising Charles Forster of Maine first imported the picks from South America.  To promote his new business he hired Harvard boys to dine at the Union Oyster House and ask for toothpicks.  The rest, as they say, is history.

The Freedom Trail is a 3-mile, red-painted, walking path connecting Boston’s historic Colonial and Revolutionary sights from the Boston Common to the Bunker Hill Memorial.  The Freedom Trail includes such historic sites as the USS Constitution  (known as “Old Ironsides) and the Old North Church, the location from which the famous "One if by Land, Two if by Sea" signal is said to have been sent. 

 

 
THE USS CONSTITUTION aka “OLD IRONSIDES"
 

 

The New England Holocaust Memorial, located along Boston’s historic Freedom Trail (in front of the Union Oyster House) was dedicated in October 1995.  Built to foster the memory of one of the great tragedies of our time, the memorial was conceived by a group of Holocaust survivors who found new lives in the Boston area.  The six luminous, 54-foot tall, glass towers of this striking memorial, etched with six million numbers in memory of the Jews who perished in the Holocaust, serve a threefold purpose.  They represent the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, they recall the chimneys of the six main Nazi death camps, and they glow as the candles on a memorial menorah.  Those six glass towers are set on a black granite path, each over a dark smoldering chamber bearing the name of one of the principal Nazi death camps. Smoke rises from charred embers at the bottom of these chambers.  Elie Wiesel quoted a great Hasidic master who said: “If you look for the spark, you will find it in the ashes”.

 

SMOKE RISES FROM THE BOTTOM OF THE GLASS CHAMBERS

 

Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel’s own words are also inscribed at the memorial.  They instruct visitors: "Look at these towers, passerby, and try to imagine what they really mean - what they symbolize - what they evoke.  They evoke an era of incommensurate darkness, an era in history when civilization lost its humanity and humanity its soul . . ."

"We must look at these towers of memory and say to ourselves, No one should ever deprive a human being of his or her right to dignity.  No one should ever deprive anyone of his or her right to be a sovereign human being.  No one should ever speak again about racial superiority...  We cannot give evil another chance."

 

JANET STEINBERG is an International Travel Writer, winner of 41 national Travel Writing Awards and Travel Consultant with The Travel Authority in Mariemont, Ohio. 

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