Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich, MA

One day not long ago I was chatting with a colleague at work about things to see and do in our corner of the planet and having grown up on Cape Cod he is, of course, rather keen on the cape's attractions.
At one point, he started waxing enthusiastic about the Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich, which just happens to be his hometown. The more he spoke about the place, the expansive gardens, the unique collections of old cars, cool stuff for kids to explore outside, the more I was determined to scoot over there while our world is still green.

This last Sunday dawned overcast, but the sun finally broke free by mid-morning andas the temps climbed warmward we squeezed into the Mini, pulled out of the drive and headed east on I-195 in the direction of the the Cape Cod Canal.

Of course we knew what we were getting ourselves into, that by the time we finished our sojourn in Sandwich we would be vying for a very small bit of asphalt with thousands of other like-minded travelers shuffling off of "the cape" on Sunday afternoon, but so be it.

We had little difficulty finding the place -- getting turned around only once. Although we missed the blooming of the hydrangea and rhody gardens -- we'll return next spring to be sure -- the space was warm and welcoming. We parked, paid and moved off into the gardens.

Our first stop was right near the entrance, the car collection building.

Now as I understand it the permanent collection is made up of old cars, frankly not terribly exciting for me (or Susie for that matter). But right now there is one incredible car exhibition underway in the building -- a two-level round barn affair -- called "Imagination in Motion," and features some of the coolest concept cars from the 1950s as well as the solar-powered car from University of Michigan and, get this, a 2009 car that actually flies along with several Chevy Corvette concept cars.

1954 Plymouth Explorer
1954 Hudson Italia
1956 Buick Centurian
fiberglass roof and rear view camera instead of a rear view mirror

1956 Firebird II - turbine-powered and stainless steel
2009 Terrafugia Transition Roadable Aircraft -- an air car that works
2009 University of Michigan Infinium solar-powered car
1953 Lincoln X100
1963 Corvair Chevy Monza SS
1953 Buick Wildcat II

After a leisurely browse among those wondrous figments of car designers' imaginations we broke back outside into the sun. We planned to walk the nearly quarter of a mile to the end of the gardens, although you can hail any one of the electric "taxis" is you tire of the undulating hills or heat.

Along the way we found some curious sculpture out in the middle of nowhere, among moving fronds of metal, mobiles and a maze cut out of garden plants. We then walked past a windmill (original from Cape Cod the signage informed us), and then cut into a small dell where we found a waterfall made from a long over-hanging metal slough, and a fascinating sundial.

Leading up to the windmill was a pavement made of memorial bricks -- and the one dedicated to Raymond Miles Urquhart immediately caught our eye: "We will meet you in the morning by the riverside." What a lifetime of stories is encapsulated in that one simple sentence.
Memorial stones in the pavement leading to the windmill

down into the forest of moving metal fronds, mobiles and other cool bits of the human imagination


A little farther on we came across Hidden Hollow, a spectacular valley designed for young people to make things, build things and just enjoy stretching their own imaginations.

Hidden Hollow - a place for kids to explore the wonders of their world by hand

In the nearby small but very well laid out Heritage Museum, at the end of the walk, are unique folk art paintings, scrimshaw, cigar store indians, figureheads and other characters once used as marketing tools in front of various shops and buildings around New England in days long gone.

And of course there was the carousel. . . which we had to ride.

ready to ride!

On our way back we stopped at the Magnolia Cafe, located just before you exit the gardens. Our wraps were delicious and and we sipped cold beer sitting outside in the shade watching the world quietly slip by.

. . . although there were picnic tables nearby if you so chose.

On our way to the parking lot we almost missed this very unique rose bush: two very different roses growing from the same plant:

After leaving the gardens we drove back down Grove Street, stopping for a few minutes to pay our respects at the Old Town Cemetery. Overlooking Shawme Pond, itself surrounded by a ring of deep green, we walked among men and women long dead but whose hopes and dreams still leap out from their stones.

Next stop: Fall River and the Narrows Festival!

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