As the clock ticks down on our time in New England, we have found ourselves busily ticking off items on our to-do and to-see lists. Several weeks back, I had briefly researched Minuteman National Park, but the consistent advice I found was to: “Just go to the Visitor’s Center and they’ll send you in the right direction.” Therefore, I did no further planning and, on a particularly nice November Monday, we jumped in the car and headed for the park…. only to learn that the Visitor’s Center was closed on Mondays. Oops.
Given that we were only 20 minutes from the historic city of Salem, Massachusetts, which was also on our to-see list, we decided to just head there instead. We continued north, parked the car, walked over to the Visitor’s Center and were greeted with:
And so marked the end of our experiment with planning-free travels.
Since it was a beautiful day, we took advantage and wandered through the neighborhood. Salem was equal parts creepy, cheesy, and lovely. There is a small park near the Visitor’s Center…
…and some pretty incredible street art nearby.
The town has all the trappings of a traditional coastal New England city, yet, was overrun with haunted houses, psychic palm readers and trinket stores seeking business from the tourists who descend each year. The Old Burying Point cemetery crystallized these disparate characteristics.
The cemetery lies adjacent to the Memorial for the victims of the Salem Witch Trials and is the final resting place for several key figures from those events. The cemetery is in excellent condition given its age — visitors are forbidden from making gravestone rubbings and someone has obviously worked hard to maintain the integrity of the headstones. The visitors we encountered were respectful and quiet.
Yet, as we wandered among the grave stones, attempting to make out the 300 year old carvings, we were accompanied much of the time by pre-recorded sounds of creepy laughter coming from one of the nearby haunted house attractions. It was pretty weird.
Anyway, as you can see, by the time we got going, the sun was already on its way down, so we headed over to Salem Beer Works for a quick beer tasting before calling it a day. All in all, we liked the town and would like to come back when things are actually open so we can learn more. There’s obviously a ton of fascinating history here. We just picked the wrong day to visit.
The Culinary Arts Museum, Providence, Rhode Island
Later in the week, we visited the Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson & Wales University. J&W is a four year university most known for their culinary program and some of the famous chefs it has produced (Hint: “BAM!”). Somewhat surprisingly, it was the best museum we’ve been to so far on our travels. It was full of interesting exhibits, it was up to date and modern, and it was thoroughly engaging.
Exhibits included several about marketing and branding;
food in popular culture — the rise and fall of certain types of restaurants based on societal changes;
and exhibits containing the stunning creations of people who have a LOT of patience:
There were also several exhibits that discussed how methods of food preparation and cooking have changed over time…Kevin got a little stuck in this section…. shockingly…
Additionally, there were exhibits about the intersection of food and travel – explaining things like why airlines started serving food in the first place and why that service has gone from enjoyable to godawful over the years, exhibits on famous chefs and cooking competitions, exhibits detailing various food initiatives at the White House, and countless examples of old time kitchen gadgets, tools, and products.
All in all, we spent over two hours at the museum and still didn’t see everything. It was really impressive and we would absolutely recommend visiting if you have an interest in the intersection of food, history, and culture.
We’d also highly recommend a visit to Providence if you like beer. (Or hipsters… Man, there were a lot of hipsters around there). Providence is quickly becoming a go-to destination for craft beer enthusiasts and we were lucky enough to try some really good ones.
Of particular note was the teeny tiny brewery Crooked Current. Here’s a picture of their fermentation vats….
Like I said, teeny tiny….. But they had some GOOOOOOD stuff. Their beers really stood out because the flavors were completely unique: “oatmeal raisin stout,” “pumpkin maple ale”…. things that the other brewers just aren’t producing.
The Providence River, Providence, Rhode Island
Last but not least, we spent an afternoon taking in the sites along the Providence River, which cuts right through the capital city. The Providence River Boat Company offers a one hour cruise which offered a nice overview of the history of the City.
Providence was founded by Roger Williams in 1636 after he was exiled from Massachusetts for religious reasons. It rapidly became a center of industry and manufacturing, but fell on hard times in the twentieth century. The City went downhill for years, before beginning a new period of revitalization efforts in the 1990’s. The mayor who spearheaded many of the efforts was kinda corrupt and kinda went to prison, but not before doing a helluva job revitalizing Providence!! Good work, Corrupt Mayor!
As we learned on the tour, at one time, much of the river was paved over and polluted. The City spent the money to uncover the waterways, clean up the pollution, and build numerous businesses, shopping venues, and walkways along the river. They really did a fantastic job.
One of the oldest structures on the water is a power plant that is still in operation – it used to be coal fired but now utilizes natural gas. Our guide said it was one of the region’s most frequently photographed structures and we could absolutely see why….
Another cool structure we learned about was the Fox Point Hurricane Barrier, a 3000 foot long tidal flood barrier that is closed off when large storms are approaching. It was built by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1960’s in response to a series of devastating storms in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The barrier has three “garage doors” which can be closed off, and a pumping station nearby that moves 300,000 gallons of water per second when needed. The barrier has saved the city from flooding on several occasions.
We had a great day hanging out with Jeremy and Jen
Followed by a great evening when my other brother, Andrew, and his wife, Debbie, joined us for dinner…
…which, of course, led to the consumption of many martinis….
….which, of course, led to the selfie stick coming out
Anyway, this will be our last post before the holiday. We are personally thankful for all that we’ve been able to do this year, (demon dogs notwithstanding), and all the people who’ve helped and supported us along the way. As everyone knows, Thanksgiving is THE BEST holiday (don’t even argue with me about this), and we are looking forward to shoveling turkey in our faces, drinking Bloody Marys, and watching football all day… just like the Pilgrims. We wish everyone a very happy and very safe Thanksgiving.