Notes from Boston

Massachusetts State House
Massachusetts State House

Welcome to Boston, we tawk funny here” our waiter greeted us. Later, we laughed nervously as he and other waiters brought tray after try laden with food. I began to wonder whether the table was strong enough to support so much weight. That was our Thanksgiving dinner at Maggiano’s. They were serving a Thanksgiving menu and we candidly thought it would do since we had no other plans, having just landed in the city.

We decided to take the leftovers and give them to the homeless from Boston Common, a couple of blocks away. Our waiter added plastic cutlery and gave us some advice, like avoiding the Common after dark.

One homeless person had an abundant, hot Turkey Day dinner.

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We thought it would be a good idea to take the hop-on-hop-off trolley ($26 each ticket at the information booth in Boston Common) to get a general feel of the city. We started at the stop right across from the State Capitol (a beautiful building, by the way).  There is a war memorial, which I guessed was from the Civil War and I was right. Then I realized the soldiers were black. That was a clear indication that we were in the North. I was used to seeing Texan memorials and they are very different, to say the least.

Our trolley came and the driver/tour guide told us all about that memorial. It is considered the most beautiful frieze in the country (it is indeed beautiful) and it honours Robert Gould Shaw, the (white) commander of the all-black 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment and who was killed in action in South Carolina. The 1989 film Glory, starring Matthew Broderick, was based on his life.

It was all well until I said we were familiar with the Civil War because we live in Texas. The driver turned round and pulled a face of disgust at the name and waved his hand dismissively. It didn’t make me feel very welcome.

The pretty bronze frieze
The pretty bronze frieze

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I had heard and read about Mike’s Pastry, especially about their cannoli, so I was looking forward to trying one. After we visited Paul Revere’s house (19 North Square), we strolled around the North End for a while and made our way to Mike’s. The shelves are jam-packed with tempting goodies. We bought a few cannoli: custard (yellow cream), pistachio and coffee. I had high expectations. Unfortunately, they weren’t met. The cannoli were just OK, nothing to write home about.

Some yummy-looking pastries at Mike's
Some yummy-looking pastries at Mike’s

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I have written about my penchant for historic cemeteries and Boston has its fair share. Granary Burying Ground was founded in 1660 on Tremont Street and it’s where Paul Revere and some signers of the Declaration of Independence are buried.

The iconography on the headstones changes with the centuries: the death’s head –a stylized skull- is typical of the 17th century; the winged cherub or soul effigy is from the 18th century, the willow and urn is from the 19th.

King’s Chapel (Tremont St between School and Park) dates from 1630 and is Boston’s oldest burying ground. William Dawes, “the other guy” who rode with Paul Revere to Lexington; Mary Chilton, the first woman to step off the Mayflower and other early Boston important people are buried there. There’s one gravestone that is said to have inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne to write The Scarlett Letter, that of Elizabeth Pain (1652-1704) however, there is no concrete evidence. But it’s so terribly romantic!

Elizabeth Pain. Hester Prynne?
Elizabeth Pain. Hester Prynne?