Day Trip to Boston and Plymouth, Massachusetts • August 6, 2017 • Written by Jess & Curtis
When planning for our summer in New England, we made a bucket list of the places we felt we had to see while here. After living in New York for 10 months and now Connecticut for 1.5, it seemed like we should at least make an effort to visit New York City. I mean, why not when it’s less than 3 hours away and we can take public transportation? But when it came down to it, we realized we just didn’t want to…I don’t know the right way to visit the city, but going there for one day just to walk around with our dog didn’t seem like the best idea. Instead, we felt drawn to visit a different city, one we had been to before and enjoyed thoroughly — Boston! We went 2 years ago with my dad and our sisters and spent half a day there, and we knew we had only scratched the surface. It was time for a return trip!
Last time, we took the L train into the heart of the city from Concord, MA. We looked at all the different routes we could possibly take this time, compared the Sunday schedules, and ended up deciding on Middleborough, MA. This was mostly because they had the earliest leave time in the morning and more return trips, but also in case we didn’t spend the full day in the city, we had a few other places in mind to visit afterwards.
We read that dogs were allowed on the train during “non-peak hours,” so we decided going on a Sunday was our best bet for taking Charlotte. We were able to take her both ways without any issues. The ride was only 50 minutes and we soon arrived at South Station. Our plan for the day was to fully walk the Freedom Trail, so we wandered among the sky scrapers towards the southern end of the trail in the Boston Common where we started following the red brick line.
The first major stop on the trail was the current Massachusetts State House just North of the Commons. We couldn’t walk up to or around the building, and honestly, it wasn’t our favorite State House, but it’s another check mark. That makes our 6th State House we’ve seen together. (SC, VT, NY, RI, & CT).
Just across from the State House we saw a monument we’ve seen somewhere else – the Monument to Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts 54th. This particular monument we’ve had the pleasure of following the history for over the past couple years. The Monument honors the legacy of the First Black Regiment in the U.S. Army. While in Charleston, we visited the site of the Battle of Fort Wagner where the 54th and Col. Shaw fought and died. During our first trip to New Hampshire, we visited the home and studio of the sculptor of the monument (and a cast replica of the monument) at Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site. (We also visited the where the movie Glory was filmed — Jekyll Island — but that’s beside the point.)
We continued following the red line, dodging and weaving through the crowds that were especially prolific at the beginning of the trail. We passed by many older buildings dating to the 18th century. Of course, with Charlotte in tow, we were restricted to viewing the buildings from the exterior. Plus, had we visited each of the museums along the trail, we would have easily spent $75+. Highlights along the trail through this section were the Old South Meeting House, the Old State House (which we both agreed was much nicer looking than the current state house), the site of the Boston Massacre, and Faneuil Hall.
Faneuil Hall was one of the Visitor Centers for the Boston National Historic Park, the National Parks agency that loosely governs some of the more historic sites along the Freedom Trail (and one site South of the City). So while Charlotte and I watched some street acrobats, Curtis went in on a quest for National Park Stamps and information on the Junior Ranger Program. We didn’t follow all the assignments to complete the program, but we used the booklet as a guide for where to find more cancellation stamps.
Last time we were here, we started on the North side of the freedom trail and made it as far as Paul Revere’s House. Today we only intended on getting to this point, but once we arrived, we agreed to continue on the trail as it does make for a nice walk, and at this point the sidewalks were much less crowded. We continued past the Old North Church, crossed the Charles River, visited the USS Constitution, and walked all the way to Bunker Hill. We love the quiet and friendly neighborhood in Charlestown surrounding the monument, so we decided to take a break on the hill near the obelisk. We had some snacks and let Charlotte rest.
Instead of following the trail back, we decided to slowly make our way back to the station by following the river then cutting through the city. We went back across the Charles River Dam and got to watch one of the locks in action. When we left Bunker Hill, it was around 1:30 and we planned to take the 3:30 train, and it took almost the entire 2 hours to make our way back due to the lock, running into people eager to pet Charlotte, taking water breaks, and collecting a few more stamps. Once we arrived back at the station, we went to check where our train would be leaving, and Charlotte decided this was the perfect place to lie down and take a nap — right in the center of the station! A photographer noticed her and pulled out a big camera and started to click away — she easily took 50 pictures of her. All Charlie did was lie there. Easiest modeling gig ever!
We took the train back, arriving in Middleborough at 4:30. We had already had a long day, but we decided we were still up for a little more exploring. We drove 30 minutes East to Plymouth making a brief stop at a McDonald’s along highway 3 — the location of a Whispering Giant statue! An odd location, yes, but easy to find. We then continued into Plymouth where we found free parking and began a short walking tour.
Honestly, we were just expecting this town to be a tourist trap and thought we wouldn’t be here long, but we were pleasantly surprised. Perhaps our timing was just right, with not too many tourists and perfect weather, but we really enjoyed it. Granted, we didn’t do the more “touristy” attractions such as Plymouth Plantation, avoided the restaurant strip and beaches, and we weren’t there for long, but we were definitely glad we stopped. We saw some historic buildings, walked through the old cemetery, had success finding letterboxes, and saw Plymouth Rock.
We then drove a little further North to check out a monument on Google Maps more on a whim than anything else. Neither of us had seen pictures of the monument or read any description, we mostly went because we like monuments.
The National Monument to the Forefathers is hands down the greatest monument we have ever seen both in scope and subject. Built from 1859-89, at 81 feet, it is (possibly?) the largest solid granite monument in existence. The monument honors those who came over on the Mayflower and founded Plymouth Colony. This is accomplished via three layers of virtues: at the base, on the interior faces in high relief are the virtues of Prophet and Evangelist, Justice and Mercy, Youth and Wisdom, Tyranny Overthrown and Peace. Seated above each of these pairs are the virtues of Morality, Law, Education, and Liberty. And standing above them all stands the monumental Faith. And upon the faces of the central pedestal are the names of those who came over on the Mayflower. But a description does nothing in comparison to being up next to it.
Once we left the monument, sunset was fast approaching and we wanted to find a prime viewing location before starting our trip back to Connecticut. We began heading South hoping to find a good vista or point along the coast. I noticed a sign that said Manomet Point, and on a whim said “Turn here!” We followed the road all the way, where it ended as a parking lot for a Lobster restaurant. The restaurant was closed and a few others were parked here, so we reasoned that it was fine to park and enjoy the views. We could make out Cape Cod along the horizon, and had an excellent view of the setting sun to the North West.
With sunset over, Google Maps said that the fastest way back to New London was to head South to pick up 495, and we decided we could spare a few minutes by driving just a mile or 2 further South to get one more county. We returned late that night, completely exhausted yet feeling very content with our full day. We’re not big city people, but we love Boston and would even visit again someday!