Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Weekend in Massachusetts

We spent the weekend before last, a long weekend, in Massachusetts because M had a conference and a paper to present. Her conference was in Salem, Mass so we stayed there and proceeded to explore Salem and the surrounding towns for mini-adventures and great seafood. This obviously is the old Town Hall in Salem. This was the view from the outdoor table at the pub we ate at the first night, and the second day for lunch. More on that in a second.

Salem has a large number of blocks in the downtown area that are brick lined and off limits to traffic, which makes strolling and browsing the shops especially enjoyable. There were surprisingly very few tourists in town. I assume they all headed for beaches for the weekend, I don't know.

Here's my first meal in Salem. Well, if you're going to do it, do it up right I always say. Maeve asked me what was up with the new picture on the header of my blog. Well Maeve, this is where the picture originated and I thought it looked so good that I put it up there to remind myself to enjoy life every chance I get. Of course, the lobster wasn't enjoying life, but he was mighty tasty and I am a carnivore afterall.

This is the sign outside the pub where we ate. It's on the outer edge of the walking area downtown and just a couple blocks over from the cemetery and a few blocks from the harbor. Great location. I enjoyed the humor of their sign but what I really enjoyed the most was their New England Clam Chowder. Let me preface this with the following information. I HATE clam chowder. It either tastes like a fishy potato soup or it tastes slightly of aluminum as if the clams came out of a can. I've never in my life had a clam chowder that I thought tasted good, until the Lobster Shanty. I swear this chowder could win an award and the chef obviously knew what he/she was doing. This chowder was made with the freshest clams, no canned clams. It was also made with real butter and real cream, just a few, very few potatoes. It was so rich, creamy and flavorful I could have just swam in it. OMG! You would not believe the richness of the chowder both in flavor and texture. I've never had chowder like that in my life. It was so good, that I thought, "hmmm, maybe I just needed to be in New England to get the authentic stuff." So I tried clam chowder again that weekend at another restaurant, nope, crappy stuff. So if you're ever in Salem, go to the Loster Shanty and order their lobster, because, face it, they're gorgeous and they taste good, but if you do nothing else, order their New England Clam Chowder and prepare to have a taste experience like none other. YUM!!

Here's another shot of the walking area downtown. Most of the shops had cool stuff in their windows, flowers in window boxes, white lights in the trees and tables outside to invite you to sit awhile and enjoy.

There was evidence of witchcraft in Salem in case you were wondering. It appears that despite the Puritans' best efforts, witches have taken over the town...along with hippies, Egyptologists, New Age followers and the like. A number of spots
in the downtown walking area were permeated with the scent of Patchoulli. Good thing I love that scent.

We visited the Salem cemetery in the downtown area. There are some really cool, really old tombstones. They had memorial stones set up outside the cemetery in memory of the people hung and/or burned as witches. Of course they were never buried in the cemetery because it is hallowed ground and you don't bury witches on hallowed ground. D'uh!

Here's one of the memorial stones.

Here's a typical headstone.

Here is a really cool, or creepy tree in the cemetery, depending on your point of view. I thought the tree was awesome!

Here's a statue of one of the founders of Salem in front of the Witches' Museum.

When we went in search of water views and other towns, the first town we ventured to outside of Salem, was Marblehead, Mass. It was a beautiful seaside village with twisty winding roads leading up the cliffs along the shore. There were houses on every inch of soil overlooking the ocean. There was a public beach that we saw from above and after a few tries and going down people's driveways, finally found the entrance to. I don't like it when people build everywhere and it blocks the view of the ocean and leaves little to no public access to the ocean for the general public. It turns the area into private beaches.

After Marblehead we ventured west of Boston to meet up with my sister, D, and her husband, J, for dinner. They live in Massachusetts and I hadn't seen her in 3 years. I hate having my picture taken. I don't need any reminders of how much weight I'm putting on, but I'm posting this anyway so maybe I'll think twice about what I eat. *sigh*

The next day we visited Gloucester and Ipswich. We got lobster rolls in Ipswich, but it was rainy and drizzly and we didn't see much reason to get out and walk around. So on to Gloucester. We absolutely LOVED Gloucester! Apparently back in the 1930s, they had some pretty smart people living in Gloucester. They set aside ALL the property running in front of the town, around the entire large harbor, and up to the old military fort as a public seawall and park. So when you drive into Gloucester the first thing you see downtown is the ocean. You can walk the length of the downtown along the ocean and you can continue walking out of town, up to the park and to the old fort. It was so beautiful we went back twice to see more of the town.

There were a ring of old cannons set up on top of one of the bluffs at the old fort, which is now part of the park. I assume since they were pointed at the harbor it was for the purpose of blasting any enemy ships that might try to enter the harbor.

Along the seawall walkway in the downtown area were statues and plaques erected for the families and

sailors who built Gloucester. There was a huge semicircle of plaques listing the names of every sailor from Gloucester lost at sea from 1916 to the present. These plaques also included the names of the men lost in the Andrea Gail of _The Perfect Storm_ story, if you saw the movie.

While we were there the second day, the local Catholic Church was having its annual festival so we got to see marching bands and floats. There is a really strong Italian and Portuguese base to this town as many of the sailors who originally settled here were from those countries.

So when they marched through town with the Madonna or some other Saint on a float, they would be singing songs in their own language.


They also did a blessing of the fleet at the festival. Kids would march through town with paddles sporting the names of different sailing vessels for the blessing. Once the parade and blessing was done, everyone enjoyed the food and carnival rides that were set up.

We discovered Gloucester has two large harbors, although one is called the big harbor and the other the small harbor. After we finished our festivities and walk around the town, we discovered this plaque that was on a hill overlooking the smaller harbor, which is the actual working harbor for the town.

Gloucester was home to an artist who did his work with gorgeous views of the harbor

all from his hilltop home made of granite. Pretty cool.

Last but not least is this little critter. It has nothing to do with Gloucester. Remember, each time we visit someplace we get a kitschy souvenir to put on our porch. Well, we went looking for a small black witch while in Salem to put on our porch and we couldn't find any witch small enough without being too small, or weatherproof or narrow enough to fit on the ledge of the porch. We found plenty of wizards and Egyptian gods, but no witches in Salem! It's just wrong. So we ended up with this horrible souvenir of a teddy bear in a witch's hat ready to drop a frog into his cauldron. Well, it's waaaayyyy more kitschy than I'd planned, but that's life.


maeve said...

So very, very cool!! I koved you pics!! I try to hit Gloucester at least ever other year! Always do a whale watch and eat loster at the Gloucester house! Did you see The House of the Seven Gables while in salem? We stayed right downtown at the OLD Quaint Hotel Hawthorne. Actually the witch trials and scare did not happen in Salem but rather Danvers, which was old Salem. The home also of Rebecca Nurse. Now after the yummy clam chowder and lobster I am soooooo ready for another New England jaunt!! VV please send me an e-mail, old PC is down, need to up date laptop!! Thanks!! How did M's presentation go?

tweetey30 said...

That is an awsome trip. Thanks for sharing.. I love the little guy with the cauldron.. He is adorable.

Larena said...

will keep my eyes out for a little black witch for you !!hope to get pictures of the last 10 days up soon, keep a lookout !
Lobster was put here by a generous God for us to nourish our bodies...so was buffalo...:) L

Vancouver Voyeur said...

Hi Maeve,I didn't go to the House of Seven Gables this trip because I'd already been in it on the last trip when I was younger. I'll send you an e-mail.

Hi Tweets. Glad you enjoyed the post. Yeah, I guess the witch bear is cute, but it wasn't what I was envisioning for the porch.

Larena, you should be in NY by now I believe. Hope you have a spectacular time. If you go down 38 on your way into Newark Valley, stop at the produce stand on the right and say hi to my sister. I believe it's fairly close to where you used to live, maybe a little closer into Newark Valley.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

What a fabulous trip. I loved all the pictures. But especilly that area in Salem with the cobbled stone streets and the shops with the little lights. It looks so welcoming and the shops look like you could find ALL sorts of treasures!
I'm not a Clam Chowder person, but THAT Chowder sounds like Ambrosia!!! YUM, YUM, YUM.....
Marblehead was Beautiful, too and Glouchester(?) Too.....New England has such a rich History and such a special look to it all, dosn't it? I feel like I got to take some of this trip with you....!
Oh and that Kitchy thing? It is a hoot! LOL!

tshsmom said...

I'm jealous! Great food, history, and scenery all mixed into one trip.

I wish all communities would do the same with their waterfront property. Our town only has ONE public beach left on a HUGE lake. Now they're talking about closing that last beach and building condos...not if I have anything to say about it!

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