In the steps of witches & forefathers: Boston & Salem 2017

There has always been within me, this fascination with all kinds of history. The pieces of our collective past that permeate the subconscious psyche of a nation, molding the future of a country  into what we pass over in school with general statements. There is something to be said about walking the very same halls of initial law makers, government founders and historical figures of our literary past. Even still, it makes everything tangible when you can touch the grave markers and hear the accounts of the Witch Trials in Salem, within the halls that heard testimonies of accusations, the misguided bedfellow of mass hysteria and paranoia brought on by bored little girls.

Hurry up and WAIT! : Day 1

Early in the morning, at about 1am, Katie and I loaded up her car and made our way to Cleveland, 2 hours away from Columbus where we live, to catch our flight to Boston. I had made a run to my Starbucks near my  house the night before, right before closing, to get an iced latte for the next morning and hidden it away in my refrigerator so that I could have my morning pick-me-up at 1am, since they don’t open until 5am and we would be at the airport before then.

The line to check in was ridiculously long and we were thankful we had given ourselves several hours to get through security. Unfortunately there was an issue with our flight on United Airlines and we ended up delayed, making it to our connecting gate as our group was being called to board, Group 5….the last ones on the plane. They said there was an issue with the flight plan downloading to the computers….in all my years flying (I have been flying for over 20 years and lived overseas for 2 years) I have never heard of this being an issue, but I’m sure it happens. Katie hates connecting flights, so she was really anxious about missing our flight. We made it, but barely.

We arrived in Boston and found our way to the train station at the airport with only a few minutes to get our bearings and find the directional signage leading the way. It took us a few minutes of looking at the system map to figure out where we were and on which line we should use to head to our AirBnB in Randolph, just outside of Boston. It had been a few years since Katie had to traverse the transit system, so once she got her bearings, we had no problem determining which station we wanted to get off at and catch the Uber to the house. We got off the red line at Quincey Station and grabbed some hot dog bites and a pop to hold us over until Moriah made her way from Connecticut.

After grabbing an Uber, we had a short 15-20 minute drive to the house from the station and our hosts, Joseph and Dale, had left us a key so that we could get situated while they were at work. We found a warm welcome letter and instructions for a few “need to know” items on the counter in the kitchen and Katie and I headed upstairs to claim our bed room. We chose to share the big bed and gave Moriah the loft with her own bed. Katie quickly fell asleep and I decided to follow suit with a little nap while we waited for our trio to be complete.

Joseph and Dale have the cutest house and they are warm, welcoming and very friendly. I highly recommend their place if you head to Boston, By the way!

With the arrival of Moriah, we attacked each other, hugged and squealed and did that annoying thing that girls do when they see their besties after too long apart. (We aren’t sorry.) We then ventured to find Starbucks at the nearby Target, bought our Boston mugs and picked up some snack items before searching on our phones for a place to get some Lobster Bisque soup… I had a hankering. Of course, dinner was full of too much food, catching up in ways we can only do at a table together, and ridiculous amounts of laughter.

“Hang the witch!” : Day 2 – Salem, Mass.

We got a fairly early start and piled into Moriah’s car and drove to Salem. We decided not to take the train because we didn’t want to be limited on how long we could stay in Salem. We required, of course, a stop at Starbucks and Katie and I found another Boston mug each and made our way to Salem.

It was beyond busy. They say that October is busy in Salem, and they aren’t kidding. Partially this is due to the fact that you can’t beat the East Coast in fall. This is also because of Halloween and the history of the Witch Trials in Salem. Today was particularly busy due to it being Friday the 13th as well. After making our way down crowded streets and scoping things out, we found some free parking down a side street, just outside of the main part of the city.

We had a list of things we could do, because we had purchased the Go Boston Card, there were some things that were included in the pass and a few others we could pay extra for, but get a discount. It took us a few checks of the map to get our way figured out and we honestly got ourselves turned around a few times. This always means we end up bickering a little until we realize we are being ridiculous and start listening to each other instead of always wanting to lead. (Sometimes we have too many chiefs. lol)

We found our way to the Witch Trial Memorial and Burying Spot for other members of the community. (Those who were executed for being accused of witchcraft, were not buried in this cemetery.) We spent a good bit of time making our way away from the crowds as much as possible, quietly walking around the gravestones and pondering each person’s life and story that we may never know. It is amazing to think that each person buried in a cemetery truly lived. They had a family and loved ones, friends and a unique journey through life. Beneath our feet lay the remnants of dreams, hopes, fears, joys and heartaches. We exited the main burial grounds and walked the pathway around the Witch Trail Memorial just outside the cemetery wall. Stones that look like a free floating bench stick out of the wall of the memorial, each engraved with the name, method and date of death for the individual. On each stone were colorful flowers, slowly softening and wilting in the sun and 60 degree weather.

We then decided to follow the map to the red line that goes around Salem. They call it “The Witch Walk”, but it leads you around town and to all the key historical sites. We picked it up somewhere in the middle and found ourselves a bit discombobulated as we tried to figure out where we were in relation to the places we wanted to see.  (We got lost and turned around a few times….again.)

The lines to get into many of the museums were really long and we had picked up our reserved tickets for the Salem Witch Museum with the time slot of 5:30, so we often found that we didn’t have time to wait in the other lines and still see the House of the Seven Gables and the other cemetery that Moriah wanted to see, which is purported to be the location where they crushed the man to death.

We stopped in the main square of the town, where the shops are largely found, and saw the Salem History Museum as well as did some shopping and grabbed some lunch. We bought gifts at Emporium 32 (My FAVORITE store in Salem) where Katie got me a tea cup for Christmas (I got to have it early though) and had some lunch at The Red Line Cafe.

We mostly walked around town and took photos of the buildings, shopped at Jolie Tea Company and made our way to the Salem Witch Museum where we were ushered into a large room with benches in a large circle. On the walls were cubbies with statues and scenes depicting the timeline of events which lead up to the trials and executions. After the presentation where recorded voices acted out the scenes,we were guided to the gift shop as we waited our turn for the next part of the tour, a semi-circle walkway with more statues and recorded voices where a guide told us about the evolution of the “witch” from the beginning of Druidism with the women who were healers and a type of midwife through to modern day Wicca. Our guide then explained that throughout history there have been many witch hunts, and though they are not the same as what occurred in Salem, the same concept continues to occur in our society. (Think Nazi Germany and the persecution of Jews, AIDS and the vilification of Homosexuals etc.)

After purchasing our magnets int he gift shop, we made our way to the House of the Seven Gables. This is the house upon which Nathaniel Hawthorne based his book by the same name. We ended up on the very last tour of the night. Well the last standard tour anyways. They were getting ready for the “Halloween themed” tours at a lot of the places we were looking at visiting. So, on our tour it was the three of us and a couple with a baby. This place was so interesting. We learned the history of the house and how more gables were added over the years. The additions to the house resulted in it being the largest in Salem at the time. Many of the houses in Salem have long since faded away and been razed to make room for modernity. However, Hawthorne’s book saved this particular one. We got to walk through the secret passageway behind the fireplace (added by a previous owner and not really part of the house when Hawthorne remembered the house from his youth when his cousin owned the home.) It was so neat to see the original beams in the attic, we weren’t allowed to touch them, but I could imagine how they would feel to run my fingers along them. We were allowed to touch the walls in the winding and very narrow passageway behind the fireplace though.

We ended our day with dinner at an Irish pub, complete with loud music and even louder patrons before making the drive back to our beds.

Call me Ishmael: Day 3 – Whale Watching in Boston

I love whale watching. I have far too many memories from my childhood on the West coast, bundled up in February, my siblings pumped full of Dramamine, waiting to see a pod of whales swim by. I’ve been lucky enough to see countless migratory whales. I had not, seen them on the East coast though.

Included in our Go Boston pass was one “premium” outing. We chose to do the whale watching tour, and I’m glad we did. We saw 7-9 whales with their young, teaching them to fish. It was incredible. The day before in Salem had been pretty warm (Katie and I were a bit bummed) so, I chose not to take my coat. I didn’t want it to be warm and then have to carry around my jacket all day. Instead, I had my thin sweater and a short sleeve shirt on with my sneakers and leggings. I was smart and left my hair wavy/curly (its natural state) since we would be out on the water most of the day. We took an Uber to the station, took the train to the Aquarium and checked in for our reservation. As we were checking in, it started to sprinkle. As we made our way onto the boat it began to drizzle. We soon pushed off and began the hour long cruise out to the feeding grounds for the whales. At this point, it started to rain. It was windy and raining the whole way out to sea. Needless to say we were soaked. I was thankful at this point that I didn’t bring my D800 as I don’t have a waterproof housing for it. By the end of the nearly 5 hour tour, we were drenched but I was thankful I didn’t wear my jacket, because I was dry fairly quickly.

We decided the rest of the day would be spent walking around and shopping for the most part. The logic in this was that we would have our shopping out of the way and we then we wouldn’t be carrying around a bunch of shopping bags while trying to do the Freedom Trail the next day. Ben (my husband) had asked for one souvenir while I was in Boston, a replacement for his 20+ year old Cheer’s shirt. So, we made a plan to make our way in that direction after stopping for some Clam chowder at Scholars. We walked all over the city, made our way to David’s Tea (where Katie and I bought more tea to take home) and to Quincy Market before heading to Cheer’s on Beacon street for dinner and drinks as well as some shopping before heading back to the BnB.

One if by land, two if by sea :

Day 4 – Adventures along the Freedom Trail

Today, we decided to take Moriah’s car into Boston. We decided that because it is a Sunday and the all day rate was only $18, it was better to not have to walk all over train stations after walking the 3 miles of the Freedom Trail. We parked at Boston Common and made our way on the hunt for a public restroom. This proved to be less than simple. Many places either had no public restroom or no restroom at all. After a few minutes and a couple changes in our direction, we found a shopping center with a food court….that means restrooms. We didn’t see one immediately and the need for one was becoming more urgent for Katie. Just as we were about to give up and head out the doors, we found it, only to find that only one stall had toilet paper! We then made our way through Boston Common and stopped to take photos before heading to the fountain for a few selfies and to start walking the trail.

The trail takes you around the city to all the historically significant locations. One major stop along this red line on the sidewalk is the Granary Cemetery, where you can find the graves of Mother Goose, Paul Revere, Sam Adams and John Hancock, just to name a few. Surprisingly, the monument for Paul Revere was not the original marker. Instead, his grave sits next to the monument. A tiny little stone, labeled with nothing more than his name. No flamboyancy.

We followed the brick marked path along modern buildings and buildings from the 1700s. We went to the Old South Meeting House, The Old State House, to the site of the Boston Massacre, through the Italian neighborhood for lunch and silly photos and made our way to Paul Revere’s house before heading to The Old North Church. We stopped at the end of the courtyard before the church, where we found a print shop where they showed us how they made hot chocolate in the 1700s as well as how they printed the newspapers of the time.

After a good walk around and listening to the little presentation and demonstration, we made our way to the Church. Within these hallowed walls we found the oldest American built pipe organ from 1759, which replaced the original (in 1759) from 1739 when the church was built. It is here, in this church, that they say that the lanterns were lit to warn that the “British were coming” (though that statement was never spoken, as at that point of history, everyone in the Colonies was British.)

At last it was sunset and time to make our way back to the commons for the drive back to the BnB. We did just a little more shopping with a stop back at Quincy Market again, before making our way back to the car. We ended up back at the house just a little after when we had planned, but only because we decided to pick up a pizza and settle in at the house for some dinner and repacking our goodies for the flight home in the morning. Moriah loaded up her car, we said our goodbyes and Katie and I filled our bellies with Pizza while checking out all our souvenirs and working to fit them all in our suitcases.

What’s high in the middle and round on both ends? 

Day 5: Homeward bound

It was dark as we made our way to the street in front of the house to wait for our Uber to the airport. Without so much as a sip of coffee or a bite of food, we made the journey in practical silence. We had little wait to get through security and the early morning travelers were content, as we were, to file systematically through the queues speaking in only hushed voices, if at all.

We were early, a lot early. So we found our gate and grabbed some breakfast in a cafe. It was nice to sit down for hot food and not be rushed before a flight. We spent the time talking and replaying our favorite parts of the trip before boarding the first leg of our flights.

We had a 3 hour lay over in Newark, NJ so we walked from one side of the terminal all the way to the other before we realized we took a wrong turn and found the right direction for our next gate. We still had time, so we found a spot and grabbed some lunch.

After the last couple hours on the flights, we made our way through the Cleveland airport and grabbed the shuttle to the long-term parking lot where we had left Katie’s car. Stopping at her parents’ house, we stayed for a few minutes to pet the dogs, let them out and to leave some of the souvenirs that Katie got for her family before we stopped at Starbucks to grab some coffee and a snack for the drive back to Columbus.

It is always an adventure to head out to a new place with my best friends to explore. Forever yearning to go, to see, to experience something new and bigger or smaller than what I live every day. But it sure is nice to get home to my family, to tell them all about the adventure, and all the places we saw that I can’t wait to take them to see too.

So…..where are we headed to next? Time to spin the wheel and throw a dart…the world awaits!

“Keep your heart open, a suitcase packed and wander often, for the world is wide and adventure awaits.”

~ Emylee