Before I get to our regularly scheduled blog update, I have to tell you what is happening right now in my hotel room. Dawn has the television tuned to the local Boston channel, and is watching the news. She has become infatuated with the Boston accent and is intent on learning how to replicate it. So, she waits until they interview a local person, then repeats what they said, missing “r’s” and all. Normally, I don’t find the Boston accent all that appealing, but I admit it’s very fetching coming from Dawn.
Sorry I missed last night’s blog update. We left Rhode Island first thing in the morning and drove straight to Salem, Massachusetts. Home of the infamous Witch Hysteria of the seventeenth century, example 1083-B of what happens when self-righteous people with a limited world view are put in charge of everyone else. Like everyone, I knew the story of the Salem Witch Trials. I always knew how terrible it was. But, walking through the simple memorial for the victims of the hysteria, slammed the reality of these poor people home to me. Here’s one picture that will stay with me – the memorial bench of Giles Corey.
Almost all the other accused were hanged, but Giles Corey refused to enter a plea. I understand where he’s coming from, and think I would have done the same thing in those unfortunate circumstances. The reality was, once you were accused, you were essentially dead. The Powers That Be decided to use a technique called “Pressing” That is where the victim is laid in a pit, a board is laid across him and heavy stones are laid on top of the board. When I say “heavy stones,” I mean stones so big it took several men just to pick them up. Every time the sheriff asked him for a plea, Giles Corey would say, “More weight!” After three days, after once again saying, “More weight!” Giles Corey died. Not that any of the accused had it easy, but I can imagine the incredible suffering he endured to not give in.
Here’s the rest of the quiet little memorial, which is right next to the Burying Point. Each bench represents a different victim of the hysteria.
After seeing the memorial, we walked right next door to the Old Burying Place. I like how they got right to the point when they were naming things around Salem. The Old Burying Place is the oldest cemetery we are likely to see on this trip. We saw 17th century graves there:
Also, there were lots of Hathorne’s buried there, direct relatives of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Because his relatives were involved in the Witch Trials, he added the”w” to his name to give himself a little distance:
Most of the headstones are completely illegible, though. Time has done its work, erasing the stone mason’s craft with wind and rain. I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there for how fleeting our infamy is, even in death.
The ironic thing about the whole Witch Hysteria is that there is a statue of the one person in Salem who we knew was an actual witch.
Apparently, when Bewitched did their episodes that focused on Salem, it brought a huge amount of attention to the town and really jump-started their tourism business.
We also went to The House of the Seven Gables, which is the house which inspired the novel of the same name by Nathaniel Hawthorne. A confession: I’ve never read The House of the Seven Gables. Guess I’ll have to do so, now that I’ve seen the house. (In my defense, I have read The Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne.) Like pretty much every cool house we’ve been in, they didn’t allow pictures on the inside, so I can’t show you the interior. But, here’s the outside:
Here’s the story behind the house. Nathaniel Hawthorne never lived in this house, but his cousin did, and she told him many stories about the history of the house. In fact, when Nathaniel was in the house, it only had three gables, as it has been remodeled a number of times. However, The House with Three Gables didn’t have the same ring to it.
In any case, although we’ve seen some old houses on our trip, we haven’t seen anything as old as this. The house was built in 1668. As far as I know, it’s the oldest surviving wooden private home still standing in America. The house ran the risk of being torn down in the early twentieth century, but Caroline Emmerton bought it, established a foundation, and restored the property. Unfortunately, (at least to me) when they did the restoration, they made the original building adhere more to the novel by adding a secret passage, which we got to use. The secret passage was very narrow and twisting. It felt like a much shorter version of when we climbed up inside the Statue of Liberty a few years ago.
We really liked most of Salem. The one part that we detested was the traffic. Tiny, narrow little streets, hyper aggressive drivers (one driver honked at Dawn to go when she was stopped to let a lady using a walker cross in front of her) and a seemingly endless stream of vehicles. Blech.
There were twelve lanes of traffic at this intersection, all taking turns. We felt like we were taking our lives in our hand when we tried to cross it.
We went to our little hotel on the edge of town (by the way, hotels in Salem are expensive, especially leading into Halloween, which they call their high season) we were intending to come back to do a walking history tour. Then, we got to the room, and I crashed. It felt like I was trying to fight a bug, so we stayed in and rested. That was probably a good idea, because I was feeling much better today.
Today, we spent a few hours in Boston. I know that’s a laughably minute amount of time to try and see Boston, but we just wanted to get the flavor of the place. Again, we loved Boston, but hated the traffic and streets. East coast cities seem to have such cramped streets. At one point, we turned down a street with cars parked on each side, and there was just barely enough room to drive between them. I think the good strategy would be to stay somewhere in the historic district and walk everywhere. That would eliminate parking, which was also a pain, even on a Saturday afternoon.
We only did two quick stops in Boston. The first was to see the Paul Revere House. Once again, no photos of the inside, but here’s the outside:
The Revere House was much more modest than the other famous houses we’ve been in. Paul Revere was a silver mason and a business owner, but he was distinctly middle class. He had sixteen children with his two wives, and eleven of them survived into adulthood. No wonder he worked so hard. We enjoyed having the opportunity to walk through his home and get a sense of what his 18th century life was like, especially in a more modest home.
After we left the Revere House, we drove around Boston for a while. We found some tree-lined streets that were quiet and attractive, and a few neighborhoods where things looked a little rougher. Basically, like any other city. It also felt to us that Boston roads are mostly made up of tunnels and bridges. We found a lot of those.
Finally, we swung by the USS Constitution and walked through both it and the museum. The museum is well laid-out and gives an excellent perspective on what life was like for the sailors on board the ship when it fought in the War of 1812. Here’s what Old Ironsides looks like today:
In addition to the museum, you can go on deck the old warship, too.
Glad I don’t have to clamber up those ropes. If I had to earn my keep that way, I’d be fish food sooner rather than later.
The weather today was horrible. Or, just like home in Washington, whichever you prefer. I tried to take a picture of downtown Boston. If you squint through the fog, I think you can just barely make the tall buildings out.
After being pretty well soaked, we gave up and headed north, first through New Hampshire, then into Maine. We’ll catch more of New Hampshire on the way back down. For now, we were anxious to get to Maine. Lighthouses. Stephen King. Leaf-peeping. That sort of thing.
We stopped for the night in Old Orchard, Maine, which is a picturesque little beach town. We’re staying in a little hotel right on the beach. If we can stand the cold and leave the slider open, we can hear the ocean. Just before dark, we got in a nice long walk on the beach. This was the closest we’ve felt to being home since we turned east away from the Oregon Coast.
It’s made us just a little bit homesick. Driving up the Maine coast looking for lighthouses will cure that for us tomorrow, then we’re hoping to do some leaf-peeping on the way up to Bangor, where my All Time #1 Favorite Author, Stephen King, lives. I won’t go so far as to say I am his #1 fan, because I’m pretty sure Annie Wilkes would come get me while I slept. I don’t expect Mr. King to invite me in for tea (I am aware that he probably isn’t in Maine right now – he’s more likely to be in Boston watching his Red Sox) but it will mean a lot to me just to see his house. He’s probably the only person I can can think of that would make me feel like a fan boy.
Cheers, and safe travels!