Day 16: Beantown? Nerdtown.

10 Jul

Oh boy, did we ever nerd it up today! Anyone can walk the Freedom Trail to soak up the history of the beginnings of Revolution that formed our great nation. Anyone can take a duck tour, or ride the trolley, or even buy a t-shirt in the Harvard bookstore despite the fact neither they nor anyone they know will ever attend Harvard (It’s true, I did that when I was about 8 years old. Bought a Harvard sweatshirt in the Harvard bookstore. I did not go on to attend Harvard. Nor did anyone I know. However, now my 14 year old wears that same sweatshirt, and maybe…. Or maybe not. Continue reading…) But today, we didn’t do the “expected” Boston things. Today was nerd day. Though I did manage to sneak some US History in at the end. Which was special to my little nerd heart.

After checking out of our lovely, lovely hotel (The Residence Inn by Marriott Boston Harbor on Tudor Wharf – man, that’s a mouthful!), we drove straight to the Museum of Science. They have a parking garage, and it was our intention to leave the van there for the day. We were on rather a bit of a clock, seeing as how we had a 12:30pm tour to make in Cambridge, so the kids really only ended up with a little less than an hour and half in the science museum. I can tell you, that is not nearly enough. But we were counting on public transportation without benefit of a schedule, so we needed to pad the travel time to accommodate. There is a T station right next to the science museum. So, we marched off down the street to the T, took the green line to Park, then transferred to the red line to Kendall. Easy peasy. It is at moments like this that I am most impressed with the travel abilities/flexibilities of my children. My very suburban children, who are driven everywhere by me, but can ride the subway/train/T (depending on the city) like it ain’t nothing but a thing. I think one of my favorite pictures I took today was of Harper on our return trip. Standing in a mostly full car, holding on to the bar, reading a book.  Ain’t nothing but a thing.

And why were we going to Cambridge, to Kendall Square specifically? Because we were taking a tour of MIT. (You thought I was going to say Harvard, didn’t you? Cambridge = Harvard to many people, but there are a few other universities in the Beantown area…) When Beau was about 5 or 6 years old, he somehow got it into his head that he wanted to attend MIT for college. I imagine that he heard about Cal Tech or one of those west coast schools and I suggested that perhaps he could instead consider MIT, as I would love to visit him in Boston. Well, that proclamation of his future attendance at MIT stuck around for a great many years – at least though the thick of the Lego-obsessed years. But the Legos are now mostly packed away and he seemed to have abandoned his childish dream of going to school in Cambridge (After all, when I was 6 I was convinced that I was going to attend Harvard Law.) Well, when we decided to come to Boston, Beau, who has been wearing my Harvard sweatshirt for some time now, asked instead if we might tour MIT. I was happy to comply. It turns out that MIT is a really beautiful and interesting campus, and I don’t just mean the gorgeous rotunda facing the Charles River that everyone associates with the school. There are lovely grassy quads, beautiful spaces, interesting architecture, and a richer student life than I ever could have predicted. So, as it turns out, I’m pretty sure I’m going to need to borrow some money in just four years. Beau is hooked, I’m hooked, and I was already prepared to throw the entire contents of my wallet to the cashier at the bookstore. I also want to point out that Avery, the littlest of the group who has no interest in MIT (she’s decided that SCAD or RISD would be the best fit for her) was a real trooper, and did not complain about the hour+ long walking tour in the heat. Harper was also a trooper, though I caught her looking around with a bit of a gleam in her eye from time to time, and she asked the tour guide a few pointed questions herself. It is definitely time for me to start buying lottery tickets!

When we were finished with the tour, we had a much-needed break for a late lunch. Our original plan was to continue on the red line to Harvard. Maybe take a self-guided walking tour of the campus. Make the requisite jokes about “parking the car in Harvard yard,” but properly pronounced in the beautiful Boston accent, of course. But after touring MIT, no one was even remotely interested. And while I would have liked to see the campus again, as I was awfully young when I saw it the first time, I was completely okay with that. I don’t care if any of my kids goes to Harvard. And if they don’t care, why waste the time? So, instead, we jumped back on the red line going the opposite direction, back towards Park. But happening to look out the window and realize that we were passing the science museum, and it was just a few blocks away, we jumped off at the Charles/MGH stop and walked back across to the museum instead of having to transfer lines and potentially have to wait for a train. Even though we were already tired, and I was insisting on tacking some US History on to the end of our day, the girls requested that we spend more time in the museum. So we did. What kind of monster would I be if I turned down my children’s request to spend more time learning about and engaging with science?!

But after another almost two hours, I was ready to go. I was eager to backtrack back to Charles Town to visit the Bunker Hill Monument, conveniently placed on Breed’s Hill. (Look up the history on that if confused. The Battle of Bunker Hill happened not on Bunker Hill, but on Breed’s Hill.) We made our way through some already building traffic, and after driving around looking for something that was not “By Resident Permit Only”, lucked into a 2 hour space on the street (Free parking? In Boston? Inconceivable!) just down the hill. Since we had arrived before 5:30pm, Avery suggested that we climb the monument, and I was all in. And soon, I was all but in cardiac arrest! Turns out that being a perpetually-stressed, physically-lazy, emotional-eater single mother of three will really wreak havoc on your fitness levels! (Who knew?!) The Bunker Hill Monument, many say, looks extremely similar to the Washington Monument. And they would be right. Except that the Bunker Hill Monument existed in its finished state 46 years before the Washington Monument! In fact, the cornerstone for the monument was laid in 1825, to commemorate the 50 year anniversary of the battle, by none other than the Marquis de Lafayette. The 221′ obelisk wasn’t completed until 1842, but still, that’s way before the one in DC was completed in 1888. So it would be more correct to say that the Washington Monument looks awfully similar to the Bunker Hill Monument! To get to the top of the monument you must climb 294 steps in a tight, spiraling configuration. Two hundred and ninety-four steps. For an overweight slug like me, that was a lot. And to be honest, the reward is more in the doing of the thing than the payoff at the end. The room at the top is, understandably, quite small. While the vistas are nice, perhaps I was spoiled by having already done the Skywalk Observatory. I am very glad I climbed it, to be sure, because I like being able to claim small accomplishments, but I’m not sure I would say that is a must do. After making our way back down the 294 steps (I think my knee liked that part even less!) we walked across the street to the Bunker Hill Museum. It is a small, but nicely curated space. They have some artifacts from the battle – including a drum, some swords, and cannon balls. And painted on the walls is a quote from General Nathanael Greene, “I wish we could sell them another hill at the same price.” For while this first battle of the Revolutionary War was technically a British victory, it came at great cost to the British, and proved that the scrappy “American” Patriots would be difficult to defeat. And how could I forget to mention the statue of Dr. Joseph Warren at the Monument building itself? Poor kid. Always being forgotten. It’s said that he was so influential in the patriot cause that had he survived the war it is likely that George Washington would have been the one to fade into obscurity.

Satisfied that we had properly nerded out, and also proud that we had engaged in US History, as well, it was time to leave Boston in the rearview. I am very sad about that, about the many many many Boston things that were left undone. But maybe that’s okay, because who doesn’t love an excuse to return to a place they love? After leaving Breeds Hill, we put another 89 miles on the odometer to our hotel in Springfield, Massachusetts (we just cannot quit this state!) A treat for tomorrow – Six Flags New England. We’ll put the learning and discovering aside and simply enjoy riding roller coasters!

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