I’m always creating lists. Lists of books to read, movies to see, people to talk to. But my favorite lists are my travel bucket lists. And my favorite travel bucket list is my history list.
I’ve loved History longer than anything else. In third grade, I discovered the Magic Tree House books. I picked uo two chapter books each week, and devoured the stories. I reread about Indians and the Titanic, the American Civil War, and ancient Rome.
When I read about Historical events, I imagine visiting the places where these events happened. When I was 18, my parents took me on a two week trip to Virginia. In preparation, I made a bucket list. The list was littered with Civil War battles, presidential homes, and museums. My parents forced me to narrow the list to less than 10 items. I figured out my top five choices, so we visited – Antietam, Yorktown, Montpelier (James Madison’s home), Harper’s Ferry, and Williamsburg. We were going to visit Monticello, but it was terribly expensive. Something like $30 a person. My sister’s were exhausted of the history tour, so we decided to save that one for another trip. (If you’d like to take a road trip to Monticello, I’m probably game)
Anyway, I always have a huge list of history places I’d like to visit. But if I had to narrow the list to 10 places, these would be my top choices. But since I talked so much about each place, I’m dividing this list in half. Today, here’s part one of my history bucket list.
My History Bucket List – Part One
This is the top of my need to visit destinations, simply because this is the cradle of my homeland. There simply wouldn’t be an America without the Sons of Liberty and this obstinate city.
And while I’m looking forward to taking a revolutionary tour, I’m also very eager to see the residence of some of my other favorite Bostonites.
William Lloyd Garrison probably ranks as my favorite Boston fellow. He used journalism to promote the abolition of slavery and created a ruckus wherever he went. A true Bostoner. And I think I just created two names in the same post for Boston residents. 🙂
Anyway, Garrison wrote this –
“I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! No! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen;—but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest—I will not equivocate—I will not excuse—I will not retreat a single inch—and I will be heard.
The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal, and to hasten the resurrection of the dead.”
Garrison takes journalistic snark to a whole new level.
And Boston was the perfect place for Garrison to stake his abolition flags. The city teemed with anti-slavery sentiment. This is the area that sent fire-breathing John Quincy Adams to the House to stand against slavery. The city is covered with traces from the underground railroad. Homes of former slaves who sheltered their runaway compatriots. One former slave kept two kegs of gunpowder by his front door to blast away slave-catchers. The city also has the oldest African-Amercian meeting house.
Did I mention Phillis Wheatley also lived in Boston? She was the first Afrian-American published poet.
I even wrote a poem about her in high school, thanks to my mom.
Poetess, her words she wrote
Honored, taught, conscience smote
Individual, learning in a colored
Low-born she was, rose above, and
Lived –as a free born one indeed
Impossible we say, but do words so mean
Would she allow this, their blind
Hatred of her kind to cloud her mind
Eclipsing what men though; she strove
Average above, published a book:
The first done so, not by white
Leaned ones, nor a scientist old and grave
Even not a voting man, but a slave,
Yea, a lady.
You could say I’m excited to one day visit Boston. And while I look forward to eating real Boston clam chowder, I also can’t wait to walk in the footsteps of my childhood heroes: Sam Adams, Paul Revere, Abigail Adams, and John Hancock.
What! I almost completely forgot to include Kennedy. I can’t believe I’ve written almost three paragraphs on Boston and nearly left out the Kennedy clan. I’ve visited the Kennedy Presidential Center website dozens of times while reading up on JFK speeches. And every time I see their Boston mailing address, I’m reminded of another reason to visit this Yankee city.
It’s weird to think that as opulent and beautiful Versailles is, only 3 kings ever lived there. But the gigantic palace changed French history.
If Louis the 14th hadn’t insisted on moving out of Paris, and coercing his nobles into becoming meaningless court snobs, the French Revolution might never have happened.
But Versailles was built, hastening the collapse of the French monarchy.
What’s incredible is how Versailles was preserved. The gardens, the mind-boggling decor, the palace was kept in pristine condition. While the rest of France may have been pillaged and burned, Versailles still stood.
Since I first read a fictitious diary of Marie Antoinette, I’ve wanted to visit Versailles. While Paris sounds nice, I could completely skip the Eiffel tower just to visit Versailles. And in homage to Ben Franklin, I might wear a beaver cap.
After writing that last line, I’ve wondered about deleting it. It probably makes no sense. But it’s the week before finals, and I really want to include lots of historical allusions in this post. So Ben Franklin and his beaver cap stays in. 🙂
I was going to write London for this choice, but decided against it. Mainly because London is too vast, and I can specificly name what I want to see in Amsterdam.
There’s two things I’d like to see in Holland. The Anne Frank Museum and the Ten Boom home in Harlem. While the Ten Boom shop is not in Amsterdam, it’s close enough to this city for the sake of this blog post.
I read The Hiding Place many, many times as a teenager. My parents encouraged us to read only Christian oriented books on Sunday and The Hiding Place qualified. While my parents napped, I read the book nearly every Sunday. And I really did finish the entire book in an afternoon. My parents took long naps. And I read fast.
I didn’t read about Anne Frank until I was much older. And I didn’t appreciate her writing, until I found a monologue from a play about Anne Frank. Her writing moved me, and I grew to appreciate Anne Frank in a new way.
“I’m afraid that people who know me as I usually am will discover I have another side, a better and finer side. I’m afraid they’ll mock me, think I’m ridiculous and sentimental and not take me seriously. I’m used to not being taken seriously, but only the “light-hearted” Anne is used to it and can put up with it; the “deeper” Anne is too weak. If I force the good Anne into the spotlight for even fifteen minutes, she shuts up like a clam the moment she’s called upon to speak, and lets Anne number one do the talking. Before I realize it, she’s disappeared…
…I get cross, then sad, and finally end up turning my heart inside g out, the bad part on the outside and the good part on the inside, and keep trying to find a way to become what I’d like to be and what I could be if… if only there were no other people in the world.”
August 1944, from Anne Frank’s last diary entry
On a side note, I’d like to visit the Netherlands in the Spring, when the tulips are all in bloom.
Portsmouth and the HMS Victory
Ever since I first read a short biography of Admiral Nelson, I’ve been fascinated by the British Navy. While land battles were fairly foolish enterprises, Georgian naval battles were down right insane.
Sure, let me board a ship that could get blown to bits by cannon. And it’s wooden, so when those cannon balls hit, giant splinters of wood are going to fly everywhere. Also, no-one has a clue how to swim.
But, I live on an Island Nation. So, I need to know how to climb rigging, load and shoot a cannon in less than two minutes, and out-sail French privateers.
To me, there’s hardly anyone braver than the seamen of the British Navy. And yes, the Navy wasn’t a nice place. Pressing free men into forced service and just the general cruelty of the entire system.
But the officers and the shipmen were some tough men. And nothing demonstrates this more than the Battle of Trafalgar.
While one can’t visit the battle site, the flag ship of Admiral Nelson weighs anchor in Portsmouth, England. HMS Victory is the longest-serving commissioned ship in the British Navy.
These words stirred the British to defeat a combined fleet of French and Spanish ships. The combined French/Spanish force had 37 ships, 4 of which were the largest in the world at the time. The British only had 27 and their ships were much smaller. Several of them were so outdated, they weren’t even supposed to be sailing. But here they were, fighting a much larger fleet of newer, better gunned ships.
If the British didn’t defeat the enemy fleet, England would be open to a Napoleonic invasion. Admiral Nelson knew one decisive victory could secure England’s safety. Nelson drew up some new tactics…which I have no idea how to explain. 😀 His tactics are explained here more fully.
The battle was one of sheer nerve. As one of Nelson’s officers encouraged his men,
“Now, gentlemen, let us do something today which the world may talk of hereafter.”
Long story short, the ships engaged, Nelson was shot and killed, and the French were defeated.
England was safe from invasion. It wouldn’t be for another 100 years that England would face another invasion, this time the threat of Hitler and the Luftwaffe. And once more, a fleet of brave Englishmen would do their duty and hold off the enemy.
It seems only fitting on the heels of praising the British Navy, to swivel to another moment of sheer human fortitude and courage.
“This operation is planned as a victory, and that’s the way it’s going to be. We’re going down there, and we’re throwing everything we have into it, and we’re going to make it a success.”
— General Dwight D. Eisenhower
While D-Day seems like a settled game-changer in the war, nothing was settled on June 6th 1944. Only courage and fight could determine the victor. And the Nazis had the upper hand: they weren’t fighting with water at their backs, or climbing cliffs, or dodging a hail of fire to charge forward.
The allies had a combined total of 150,000 men. They lost nearly 9,000 in less than 24 hours. The Germans only lost 4,000.
So much hinged on the D-Day invasion. One misstep, and the Germans would have the upper hand. All of Europe held their breath, begging for an Allied Victory. Those bundled in attics, hiding in mountains, hunched over radios. The hopeful, groaned whispers in prison camps, “The Allies will be here soon.”
Normandy is not just a battleground. It is a living symbol of liberty.
“The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.” — General Dwight D Eisenhower
That’s the first half of my list: I should have known better than to try to include ten history spots on one blog post. My storytelling just doesn’t let me say only a few words about these places.