A walk from the edge of the Navy Yard through Paul Revere Park and over the locks to North Station is a story of old Boston, today's Boston and a lesson in both beauty and decay.
It's also an incredibly direct commute from the neighborhood to downtown Boston, a shockingly quiet place to spend an afternoon and one of many spots in Charlestown to take in views of the harbor, the city and Charles River from perspectives that most people never get to see.
Which Way to Go
The boundaries of the Navy Yard are littered with rusty tools that pay homage to the neighborhood's naval past. You're literally walking over the harbor's history -- with views of the aging Charlestown bridge and the gleaming Zakim bridge both before you.
Once you're in the park, the landscaping is bright and lush—at least in high summer. The park is enormous and surprisingly, almost eerily quiet on most days. (On weekends things pick up with doggie field trips.) The park is situated in such a way that it's easy to forget it's part of Charlestown, or part of anything in Boston but itself.
Along the way there are the Charlestown bells, bright chimes in a public art display that have stopped functioning in recent years. There are broad views of the Charles, with tour boats and small watercraft bobbing around. There are piles of litter floating on the surface of the water under rotting docks. There are high-end condos on the horizon.
Follow the path toward the city for unique views of the Zakim and downtown, and a route to the city like no other. You have to walk over a quaking metal labyrinth of locks over the river. Once on the other side, you'll find another angle of the harbor and Navy Yard.
So much decay, so much new development, side by side on the edge of the water.