Salem Common Bandstand
Well, now, I’ve been absent from my blog for a few weeks, haven’t I? In past trips, I blogged while I traveled but by the end of the day, by the time I’d sorted out my photos and typed up the day’s events, I was too worn out to keep organizing blogs. Thus, I’ve not written a summary of our road trip down through New England until now.
The first part of the trip starts on Monday Morning, Labour Day. We drove from Halifax to Woodstock, New Brunswick on the Trans Canada Highway, crossed over and down Interstate 95. We decided we’d break the trip into two days rather than put in a 10 – 12 hour day driving and stopped over in a Howard Johnson motel in Woodstock. It’s right off the highway, does a basic continental breakfast, gives you free wifi and a bed to lay your head. The room was a good size and the dated décor and furniture has seen better days but it suits the purpose.
While we were there, we drove up the road a bit to see the longest wooden covered bridge in the world at Hartland, New Brunswick and we had a meal in a pub in Woodstock. There’s also a potato chip factory nearby called the Covered Bridge Chip Factory and you can visit that as well, see how they make kettle cooked chips and try samples. They have lots of neat flavours, too. Graham stuck with near-standard flavours like BBQ but I tried Lobster and it was really nice! You wouldn’t expect that to be a tasty potato chip flavour but it was good.
We had a bit of a delay at the border but it didn’t hold us up for long. There’s many miles of not much else but trees through Maine but past Bangor, things got a bit busier. We did run into a thunderstorm of Biblical proportions just as we came into New Hampshire on the Interstate. That was scary. The rain was coming down heavier than I’ve ever experienced inside a car. We really couldn’t see much of anything aside from the red taillights of the car ahead of us. We managed to find an exit and came off the Interstate and ended up on the shoulder of the road because we couldn’t see if there were any businesses or parking lots we could pull into. We waited it out, about 10 minutes or so, with four way flashers on and wipers going. It finally passed off, and we got back on the highway but a little while later, once we were off the Interstate, we drove into it again though we found a parking lot to turn into and this time, it was only a short wait for it to pass. It stopped altogether shortly after and we made our way the rest of the way to Salem, about an hour after we had planned to arrive.
The B&B in Salem, the Amelia Payson House, was easy to find. It is fully air conditioned which was great because it’s turned out really warm and humid. We found it and got registered and had a lovely chat with the owner, Donald. We got our bags up to our room and had a brew to relax for a bit.
Salem Witch Museum at night
The Inn has all the amenities you would expect including free Wifi, a must these days. Right outside our room is the sitting room with a Keurig coffee maker. Donald brought me some teabags and milk which was much appreciated. We had our drinks and headed out for a walk to find somewhere to eat. Donald had recommended a place which turned out to be not far away. I think a lot of the attractions in Salem are going to be close together. We went to the Salem Beer Works where we had some very interesting beers and Graham had an epic double burger. I had a Cajun dish that had just the right amount of heat. Yum!
We have one full day in Salem and we’re going to make the most of it, at least until we come apart at the seams. Breakfast was fresh waffles and fresh fruit, lovely! We got trolley tour tickets from Ada and headed out. The inn is only around the corner from the Salem Witch Museum so we went there first. This place isn’t a museum as such, rather, it has two presentations, one describing the witch trials and hysteria from 1692 and the other with someone talking about witches, Wiccan, and witchcraft and its general history. The first presentation had scenes with mannequins set up all around the room, one scene at a time with lights enhancing the descriptive narration. Quite well done. The trolley tour guide later told us they had consulted Disney in this so it makes sense they’d have done it right.
Around another block, we waited by the visitor centre where the Salem Trolley Tour picks up punters. We had about a 10 minute wait for it and away we went. The weather, by the way, is excellent today. It’s sunny and hot for sure but there’s very little humidity and there’s a bit of a breeze just when you need it.
The trolley takes you around the centre of the City in a general figure 8 route, heading down past the harbour first and out around by a big park and newer areas before heading into the city centre again to go through the older neighbourhoods where some historic houses are and some really beautiful old mansions are on Chestnut Street. The guide was quite good and talked about all kinds of things, from the witches, to Nathaniel Hawthorne to city rivalries. I do like when tours are narrated by live human beings rather than pre-recorded information.
We did the whole tour route and got off back at the visitor centre. We decided to walk down to the waterfront which was quite nice. There has been a lot of new development there and some nice restaurants looking over the inner harbour area. We looked at some menus and decided on a restaurant called Capt’s where I had a New England specialty, the lobster roll. This one was really good, with lots of lobster in it. It was piled high on the bun and a bit messy to eat, guaranteeing you’ve got your money’s worth! We even had dessert which we don’t always have room for.
We walked around the pier where the large old tall ship, the FriendShip was but it was closed so we couldn’t go on board. We walked back and just missed the trolley. We were going to take it back to the Witch Dungeon attraction but it’s just as well we missed it as we would have missed out on two other things that we decided were very cool.
The first of these was a little printing shop that also carried all kinds of unusual works from local artists, it’s all gothic and new age and that kind of thing which we both like. It’s called the Scarlet Letter Press and Gallery. The owners were very interesting and I think the man that does the printing had a fair bit in common with Graham, at least with the kinds of films they both like!
Onward. We walked back towards the tourist centre, passing lots of shops geared towards the witch tourist trade, some looking pretty hokey and some that were much less the type that would attract the bog standard tourist, shops that someone that actually practices Wicca or other new age practices would frequent. There are shops that advertise Tarot readings, one that said it was a school of witchcraft and wizardry, shops where you can buy any manner of fantasy themed or creepy ornaments, artwork, books, posters and jewelry.
The next thing we found that we’d have missed if we’d have caught the trolley was a movie monster museum called Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery. It was very dark inside but lit enough so that you could see the monsters and read the cards. It showed a lot of the old movie monsters from the 1920s on through the 80s and 90s including Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Werewolves, Pumpkinhead, Freddie Kreuger, and many more. Graham knew them all! I knew the old ones but am not as familiar with many of the modern horror movies other than obvious ones like The Exorcist, Silence of the Lambs and some of the series of films like Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street.
There were lots of old movie posters and a lot of signed photographs of an awful lot of movie actors from both the old and new eras. The accompanying music reminded me of the kind of scary music they’d play with the old silent or very early talking horror movies. Wonderful stuff!
Near the Old Burying Point
We stopped at a Dunkin Donuts for a cold drink. That’s the American equivalent of Tim Horton’s. Apparently it was started in Massachusetts. More trudging as we’re starting to get footsore by now. We came back up behind the Peabody Essex Museum which is supposed to be really good but it’s very large so would take a few hours to get through. They have a house that was transported from China which we could see from the outside. It’s also across from an old burying ground with some graves of some very early settlers.
We stopped in a few shops along the way and finally got to our destination by foot rather than trolley, the Witch Dungeon museum. Again, it’s not really a museum as such, more of a presentation with some exhibits. They have a live performance which we expected to be much longer than it did. There’s a brief explanation of how the witch trials crisis started and then it depicted a pre-trial hearing where one of the young girls that was embroiled in the accusations against many of the men and women in the village was confronting an older woman. It probably wasn’t more than 5 or 10 minutes then we were ushered downstairs to a representation of the jail (gaol) and dungeon where the accused were kept with some more narration. Except we were told the real jail would have had a dirt floor. This didn’t. And the real jail didn’t have cells. This did. And the real jail was actually in a different location. What was the point, really?
Oh well, live and learn. We had to think about what to do for our evening meal. We are both tired and sore and thought that since we’d had a large meal at lunch, we would just buy some sandwiches and have them in the room tonight. We often do that after a long day walking around. Getting old!
Since we’d found ourselves back at the visitor centre we decided to go in and they told us about a deli inside the little mall next door. We found it, got some sandwiches and drinks there and we finally made it back to the B&B about 5 p.m., totally worn out. The Air Conditioning sure felt good as did a cold drink to rehydrate. Boston tomorrow will be another long day so we should plan that.
Impressions of Salem:
Beautiful old mansions and houses, brick and wooden, brightly painted and well preserved. Centre of the city is easy to navigate and all the main things are close at hand. Seems to be some really good restaurants and lots of unique shops. Somewhat tatty and exploitive of the witch connection when it’s really quite a historic place but it’s claim to fame ended up being the Witch Trials and that sealed it’s reputation. That’s what brings the tourists in. It’s mayhem at Halloween! Some of the attractions related are very good and very well put together and some are just hokey. Same goes for the shops. The trolley tour is very good, I’d recommend that. There are parks and squares and the waterfront is quite nice, too. It’s a good place to base yourself if you’re visiting the area, both Boston and some of the nice towns in the area. We would like to go again and stay longer and explore more of the area.
Part 2 of the trip coming soon.
The longer version with more detail, should you prefer it, is here on my main website.
There are more photos here.