Monday, February 23, 2009
Wow. Plymouth Rock is really small...
Paul and I spent Valentine’s Day in Boston this year. Every February for the past three years, we have attended the J. Reuben Clark Law Society (JRCLS) conference for LDS lawyers and law students from across the country. In 2007 it was in Malibu – beautiful weather and beaches. In 2008 it was in Phoenix – a little rainy but mostly warm. This year it was in Boston, at Harvard Law School –
and it was FREEZING cold. But it was so much fun. You can kind of think of the JRCLS conference as EFY for lawyers and law students – educational and inspirational talks/classes about legal issues surrounding the building of the Boston temple, the current financial state of the country, Abraham Lincoln’s example as a lawyer, etc. We stayed with a family in their five-story 1850’s house at the base of Bunker Hill in historic Charlestown. They were so nice, and their house was just amazing with super-narrow staircases that winded precipitously between levels of living room, kitchen, and bedrooms. Adam and RuthAnne, Paul’s friends from the University of Utah law school came with us. We all flew into Providence, Rhode Island, rented a car and drove to Boston, then took mass transit around the city to avoid parking hassles.
After the conference ended on Saturday, Paul and I transferred our luggage to the Doubletree in downtown Boston so as not to inconvenience the family we stayed with for the conference for a whole week. Then we met up with Paul’s friend Mark to walk the Freedom Trail which winds past most of the historic buildings in Boston.
Mark and I had a bunch of finance classes together as undergrads, and he went on to get an MBA from Harvard. He has been working in Boston for the past couple of years and lives right on the Boston Commons which is where the Freedom Trail starts, so it was very convenient.
We sat in the pews of the Old South Meetinghouse where thousands of people gathered to discuss the Tea tax before heading en masse to the Boston Harbor for a little tea party.
We stood on the spot where the Boston Massacre took place,
and under the balcony of the Old State House where the Declaration of Independence was read for the first time.
We went to the Old North Church where two lanterns were hung to signal that the British were traveling by sea.
There is so much history and the city is just incredible. Definitely one of my favorite cities in the U.S.
On Sunday, Paul and I walked the Freedom Trail again, taking photos and soaking up Boston’s amazing architecture, history, and beauty.
One of the more random things I learned that day include the history of Boston Baked Beans. The Puritans who settled Boston were so devout that they wouldn’t cook a hot meal on the Sabbath, but during the freezing cold winters (to which I can attest), they wanted a hot meal. So they would put a pot of beans in the banked coals of the family hearth on Saturday so that on Sunday they could have at least one hot meal. Another interesting story I heard was that in 1918, a tank holding 2,300,000 gallons of molasses burst near the Charles River, creating a 25 foot wave of molasses that drowned 20 people and a number of horses. Bostonians tracked the molasses all over the city, making everything sticky for days. People say that on hot days in the summer, you can still smell the molasses down by the river. A third random story I heard was the history behind the names of the taverns in Boston. Because often people didn’t know how to read, the taverns were given names that fit the images on the signs hanging outside, like the Green Dragon and the Bell in Hand.
We met up with Adam and RuthAnne around 11:00 to tour the U.S.S. Constitution (aka “Old Ironsides”) – the oldest ship in the U.S. Navy.
After that we drove out to Lexington (where the “shot heard round the world” was fired) and Concord. Really there wasn’t much to see though because it is more or less a wooded stretch of road where the first major skirmish occurred between 700 British troops and about 2,000 American rebels that really started the Revolutionary War. On the way, we drove past the Boston temple, which was beautiful, and all the more interesting since we had just attended a lecture about the legal history of getting the temple built.
Next we drove south to Plymouth to see Plymouth Rock. It was kind of an eerie, reverent, inspiring feeling to be at this humble spot of land and know that our forefathers were there. The Mayflower carried 102 passengers, and 45 of them died during the first winter there. I felt such a peaceful sort of kinship with the courage and determination of these pilgrims, and felt rather subdued the rest of the day by thoughts of what their lives were like.
On Monday, Paul and I decided it was time to see all of New England, so we got up early for a day of driving and planned a route to wind through Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. A few months back, Paul and I were watching the Travel Channel and saw a show called “Donut Paradise” which showcased a donut shop in Saugus, Massachusetts called Kane’s Donuts.
So we decided, “hey, why not?”, plugged the coordinates into our Garmin GPS, and headed off in search of their famous honey-dipped donuts. The tasty confections were scrumptious, chewy and substantial, perfectly glazed, and just slightly warm.
We drove up along the Atlantic coast, stopping in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Kittery, Maine to check out the historic town centers. The area was surprisingly industrial, and frankly a little gritty and depressing. But once we were in Maine, we stopped at a couple of beautiful, grey sand beaches tucked up against the rocky coast. The weather was FREEZING, damp and bone cold, with a stiff wind blowing, but we had fun walking out to the 2-inch high waves the lolled onto the sand. We even found a few old lobster traps left to rot.
Further up the coast in York, Maine we found the most incredible lighthouse at Cape Neddick. The Nubble lighthouse is on a tiny island that is so close to the main shore that I almost felt like I could hop across the little channel to it, except it is just out of reach. We climbed out on boulders slippery with a decoction of ocean-slime and ice in order to get better angles for photographs. The brooding clouds hung low and oppressive over the little beacon, but the conditions were idyllic for someone with a romantic notion of a solitary lighthouse braving Maine’s harsh coastal environment.
Once we were back in the car and sufficiently defrosted, we headed into New Hampshire with the GPS to locate some of its famous covered bridges.
I’m not entirely sure why there are covered bridges in New Hampshire. I think I read somewhere that the towns would build them so that they didn’t have to remove ice and snow from the bridges during the winter-time, but I’m not sure if that’s true. Somebody google it and let me know—right now I am too lazy to do it myself. Anyway, we found the Waterloo Bridge, the Warner Bridge, and the Blow-me-down Bridge.
The Waterloo bridge was my favorite because of its bright red roof.
The creek below it was completely frozen, so I skated out onto it in my sneakers, slipping and sliding while Paul told me that I was crazy and it wasn’t his fault if I fell through the ice and died. I just laughed and walked underneath the bridge, upstream to take more photos. Later, after I had gotten off the ice and was inspecting the trusses inside the bridge, I noticed Paul testing his footing at the creek-bank to try to walk out on the ice. I could have told him that the sunny-side of the bank was going to be thin and not to step there, but I figure, live and learn, right? The ice cracked with his first step.
The landscape in New Hampshire and Vermont was absolutely beautiful. Ancient mountains that have been sloughed away with years of snow, ice and water are absolutely covered in trees, both coniferous and deciduous. This trip only further solidified the desire to go back and visit some autumn to see New England in its Technicolor glory rather than the stark green-blacks, whites, blues and greys that are prevalent during the winter months. Even without brilliant oranges, reds, and yellows, we would be driving along and suddenly crest a particularly high spot where the land would drop away to a panorama view of unspoiled forest that looks like as though it hasn’t ever been touched by time.
Random Fact: It is virtually impossible to buy Red Vines in New England. We looked for them at every gas station, but Twizzlers apparently has a corner on the licorice market there.
By late afternoon, we had made our way north and west to Sharon, Vermont. As Mormons, the place has special significance because that is where Joseph Smith, a man we believe was called of God to be a prophet in modern times, was born. We enjoyed a nice little tour of the visitor center with a senior missionary, and snapped a couple of photos of one of the largest solid granite shafts in the world, which was erected in Joseph Smith’s honor. The spot was peaceful and still and very, very cold in the way only a brilliantly sunny afternoon where the light reflects off diamond-crusted snow can be.
We drove through Dartmouth and picked up some real Vermont maple syrup before heading back to Boston where we met up with Mark Oshida for dinner at an amazing Indian restaurant at Harvard Square in Cambridge. We had Saag Paneer (spinach and fresh goat cheese – don’t knock it till you try it because it is one of my favorites), Lamb Korma (almonds, raisins, lamb and spices in a cream-and-tomato sauce), and Chicken Tikka Masala. After dinner, we had cinnamon French macarons and browsed around some of the shops in Harvard Square, picking up a feathered headband for me and a shirt for Paul. On the drive back into downtown Boston, we stopped for a few minutes so that Paul could hop out of the car and photograph the Boston skyline. It was an exhausting but wonderful day.
Tuesday was the last day of our trip. First we headed south to Cape Cod. I am in LOVE with Cape Cod. I want to spend my summers there on the beaches, riding bikes, haunting antique shops, and eating seafood. Even though it was frigid and there was snow on the beach, I thought it was one of most beautiful places I have ever seen.
I stayed as long as I possibly could until I was so numb that I thought I might be getting frostbite on my fingers and toes.
The last stop of our trip was in Mystic, Connecticut, which depicts life in a seaport village. There are a number of beautiful ships, including a replica of the Amistad.
We had some amazing clam chowder and fish and chips at a little restaurant, and wandered around the little village and some of the exhibits, including a particularly interesting one about the mastheads that adorn the front of ships. After that, it was back to Providence for our flight back to Utah.
It was a great trip and we saw a bunch of places we had never seen before.