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Monday, September 24, 2012

Change of Scenery -- Salem, MA

When the Blues started to become the Blacks I decided I needed a change of scenery. I longed to find the spark that would re-ignite my creativity. It just wasn't happening in Roanoke, and the more I became a hermit tied to my walls, television, and computer, the more I feared I would never claw my way out of the hole I had unintentionally dug. Before heading to a therapist and the possibility I would be prescribed some sort of medication, I decided I would seek help from within and I followed my spirit's guide.

I felt I needed to go somewhere different and unfamiliar, places that could be freshly explored. So on the spur of the moment, my husband and I got away. Armed with Ms. Garmin, some maps (don't always trust Ms. G), AAA Tour Books, Sirius Radio, a camera, bottles of wine, a cooler of goodies, enough clothes for a week or two, and a Roomsaver hotel coupon book, my husband and I set out north to New England. The main goal was Acadia National Park in Maine, but we'd be playing it by ear to see how far north we really wanted to/could go. This would be the first road trip where we couldn't easily get back to the kids within a day. They said not to worry, but with Bella in their care that wasn't an option. I fretted the most on Day 1.

We got a late start so decided to stay at the Brooklyn home for one night as a good stopping point. Baked clams that night and Italian cookies for the road. The next morning we headed to Salem, MA. I'd never been there, but always thought it would be an interesting city to visit. We decided all our eating experiences would be local restaurants. No pulling off the side of the thruway to some crappy fast food joint. We would drive into a city and see where we'd wind up. Our first lunch was in Hamden? CT. I only mention this small diner, whose name I cannot remember, because they made the most amazing Eggs Benedict and hash browns I'd ever had, anywhere. The people in Connecticut were very warm and friendly and I felt we were off to a good start.

I chose a coupon for a hotel in Beverly, MA which was about 4 miles outside of Salem. The Wylie Inn was a very nice Inn/Conference Center that I thought far too expensive without a coupon. Although the clerk sniffed when I asked him if he could honor the coupon for two nights, there didn't seem to be a crowd knocking down their doors. Off-season travel is the way to go. Anyway, I'd describe the hotel as utilitarian, functional, and clean, but lacking warmth. I thought the rooms faced their beach, but I was wrong. None of them did. You couldn't see the beach from the hotel, but it was a short walk through the woods down to the water. With only the following day to explore Salem, we wouldn't have had time to sit on or look at the shore anyway.

"Beach" at Wylie Inn, Beverly MA

Salem is a very picturesque town with a beautiful, busy harbor. I never realized how important Salem was during the early settler days when ships ruled the world. Most of the history I experience here in Virginia deals with the Civil War era. Learning about a different historical time was a refreshing change of pace. As long as I'm not sailing on it, I find the sea to be romantic, cleansing, energizing, and calming.

Salem Harbor

The first place I wanted to visit in Salem was the house that inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne to write "The House of the Seven Gables." Why? I don't know. I never even read the book, but after visiting the house I downloaded the book. The house was built in 1750, and walking through it you could feel the history. It was a really interesting tour which I highly recommend. One quick tidbit...I learned why the floorboards of New England houses were 23 inches wide instead of the standard 2 feet. The King of England had decreed that any tree in the colonies that was 24 inches in diameter was his to be chopped down and used for England's ships which he said were protecting the colonists. Instead of complying with the edict, the colonists would split a tree down to 23 inches thus sparing it from the King's ribbon. I like their way of thinking.

Unfortunately I wasn't allowed to take photos inside the house, but the following are shots of the outside.

House of the Seven Gables, Salem, MA
View from House of the Seven Gables, Salem, MA

Backyard of House of the Seven Gables, Salem, MA
Birthplace of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Salem, MA
 By far that was my favorite Salem experience. Although I found some of the storefronts, homes and cemeteries interesting, most of Salem was pretty much a tourist-trap witch-themed mecca.

Typical Salem store
Salem Cemetery

I got bored pretty quickly with everything witchie...the Witch This, the Witch That. Other than when I was at the harbor, I didn't feel my spiritual side click with the town. The movie at the National Park Visitor Center was a welcome diversion and informative reminder that Salem wasn't just about "witchcraft." Of course the town knows where their bread is buttered, so they make the most of  it. One day in Salem was enough for me...
The Witch House, Salem, MA

 The ugliest statue of Elizabeth Montgomery that probably exists...

Elizabeth Montgomery "Bewitched" statue, Salem, MA
Time to go further north...

***Salem Tips***

Start the day early and you can cover pretty much everything by the time you're ready to go back to your room. If you want to stay in town at one of the B&B's you should book way in advance. Parking is tricky, probably much worse in the summer and October. If you go to House of 7 Gables they have free parking and depending upon the time of year they will allow you to keep your car there for a while while you explore that part of Salem. When you head to the pedestrian mall, park in the lot across the street from the Visitor's Center. $3 covered all day. If you're looking for good in-expensive food, skip the touristy restaurant on the harbor all the way at the tip. Sorry, can't remember the name, but it's on all the maps. If you're looking for views, then visit it. Nice outdoor deck. Enjoyed a nice lunch at The Witches Brew. Best "souvenir" shop was in the House of 7 Gables. Make sure your hotel room is not situated next to a stairway, elevator, or ice machine.

1 comment:

  1. What a cool vacation! I am glad you got away. I had no idea there was a statue of Elizabeth Montgomery *anywhere*!

    And I hope you're feeling better.