Memorial Day Weekend was a long one for most Americans -- although heaven forbid that we should actually celebrate the memory of our departed ancestors on the actual day itself -- and on Monday, a day off from work, Susie and I opted for a bit of a road trip.
Our plan centered on taking a boat trip somewhere and a quick scan of the available trips out of Boston pointed us in the direction of Salem. A fifty-minute, each way, and we could spend the day exploring one of New England's most famous (and to some, infamous) historic villages.
We drove an hour to Boston's Long Wharf, parked the car near the Aquarium, and worked our way through huge throngs of Asian tour groups struggling to get aboard the various harbor cruise boats. We soon found our catamaran and since we were a bit early opted to pop into the nearby Starbucks in the Marriott Long Wharf to a coffee. Just outside the hotel was a wedding couple having their photo taken -- whether they were going on a cruise was unknown to us; they certainly weren't on ours.
Fifteen minutes later we were back to the dock and on board, finding a good location inside, the weather being a bit overcast and windy. Before long we were pulling out of Boston Harbor and heading north scooting along the coast in search of Marblehead and Salem Harbor.
A little less than a hour later the boat docked at the little jetty in Salem and off we went. some travelers opted for the Salem Trolley but we were here to stroll and get a "feel" for the town. Our on-board guide had suggested we follow the painted red lines on the sidewalks which would steer us to all the significant attractions in the village -- and so we did, although we discovered that at the farthest point there was little to be seen. But that was still to come. Anyway, after leaving the wharf parking lot we turned up Derby Street and headed off in search of Salem proper.
A few minutes along our stroll we stopped briefly to peek into the gardens at the House of the Seven Gables -- indeed, author Nathaniel Hawthorn is probably the most well-known favorite son of Salem; while his popularity, in these parts at any rate, seem high, I could never get past his dense prose.
Anyway, we soon came upon a somewhat cheeky example of what symbolizes in most people's mind Salem: a witch. And indeed, there are business, theaters, museums, shops everywhere having to do with witches, witchcraft, witch history, and of course numerous places, some rather large, offering psychic healing, tarot readings, well, you get the drift.
|note the red line -- messy but helpful - and you'r right, Kosciuszko is also the name of a bridge on I-87 near Albany, New york|
|customs house . . . and if your around you'll see:|
|"public conveniences" as they were called in Oakham, England and convenient indeed|
Just off of Derby Street we turned up a short boulevard where we found a curious juxtapositions of memorials: the first was a statue of Theobald Matthews (1790-1856, "apostle of temperance," the second was a memorial to the boys from Immaculate Conception parish who perished in "The World War" and whose school was directly across the street; and finally a statue of Nathaniel Hawthorne
As we approached the memorial, located next to the Old Burying Point both of which were tucked behind a couple of garish witch-oriented businesses, we spied this little sign reminding the visitor that Salem's history is almost as old as that of the old Bay Colony itself:
A few dozen yards along we found ourselves in this lovely spot of green common, a shrine if you will to those men and women who had been put to death rather than admit to a crime for which they were not guilty. (As we were given to understand, those who admitted to being witches were let go, albeit with heavy penalties, while those who refused to admit to any such thing were put to death.)
Etched onto each bench in this rectangular bit of walled-in grass is a name, date of death and manner of execution: "Bridget Bisop, hanged, June 10, 1692," "Giles Corey, pressed to death, Sept. 19, 1792."
We paid our respects to each person and then walked through the small gate into the Old Burying Point of Salem. This a wonderful place to connect all the historical dots in much of Salem's early life as well as collect some fascinating memories (epitaphs); and you won't find better examples of New England funeral symbolism.
While there is no printed map available, there is this handy stone map to find the most important gravesites:
From the Burying Point we continued on our way into downtown, walking past Derby Square and the old city hall.
We also found way past the spot where once stood the first church in Salem, erected in 1629, and the First Meeting House, which operated from 1634-1673. Before he was banished from the colony and made his way to Rhode Island, Roger Williams was the first to preach here.
As it was nearly lunchtime we began our hunt for someplace to sit outside and grab a sandwich. We found just the place in the Village Tavern, located just across from the Peabody Essex Museum. Susan had a tasty grilled chicken Caesar salad, I had the equally delicious pulled pork sandwich (all smoked meats were done in-house); we washed it all down with microbrews from somewhere in upstate New York.
Part of the Peabody, directly across from the restaurant's terrace was the East India Marine Hall, once an exclusive club whose members were ships' captains who had successively sailed around the world. We would soon see the hall from the inside.
Between the East India Marine hall and our restaurant was this bit of interesting sculpture representing Salem in a series of reliefs we were hard-pressed to get it. But the kids didn't seem to care and just enjoyed laying on it.
One of the main streets is now pedestrianized (is that even a word?) and makes it easy to get to numerous shops selling witch clothing, witch paraphernalia, witch t-shirts and just about anything else having to do with haunting, ghosts and the macabre.
|view of the Village Tavern's outdoor seating from the street|
|just inside the entrance was this Studebaker Avanti followed by. . .|
|this airstream Clipper|
|part of the Maritime Collection|
|as was this "wedding" dress made out of seashells|
|the atrium cafe|
|interior of the East India Marine Hall - paintings of the members on the right and their ships on the left|
|part of the California design exhibition -- very nicely hung clothing made them seem to float|
Once we left the Peabody we picked up the red line and continued heading away from the town center, finding yet another memorial. What community dedicated to the tackiest of witchery would be complete without a statue honoring that loveliest of witches herself: Elizabeth Montgomery of "Bewitched." Thank heavens they skipped the one to Darren. . .
Near the outermost edge, the far end if you will, of the red line we came across the "Witches House". In fact, it's the former home of Judge Jonathan Corwin and is the only structure remaining in Salem that has direct ties to the witchcraft trials of 1692.
The red line turned around and heded back into downtown proper. At one point, and breaking the rule, we left the line to go and have a seat on a bench overlooking the very large and very green Salem Common.
But it was soon time to head back to the dock and catch our 4pm ferry back to Boston, The sun had finally come out, the air was warm and it was nice being back on the coolness of open water. We dock a little less than an hour later and after picking up our car we made our way back to Providence.
|in line to board|
|leaving the dock|
|the Salem coal fired power plant|
A wonderful way to spend a Memorial Day: paying our respects to the memorial outside the VFW in Salem and to those 19 men and women who perished long ago defending their right "to be right."