Saturday, October 14, 2017

Bewitched in Salem

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I (Steven) was looking forward to staying in Salem for a number of reasons. The first was its proximity to Gloucester, the fishing town made famous by a disastrous weather event back in 1991. The Perfect Storm, as it was known, inspired a book and a film of the same name. The story of the hapless crew of the sword boat Andrea Gail is epic and moving. Man against nature, love lost, it's all there.

The movie poster depicting the final dramatic moments of the Andrea Gail.

Another reason I was excited about Salem was to learn more about the infamous Witch Trials of 1692. Honestly, my knowledge of those events was limited to folklore and legend. The only image I had in my mind was of people being burned at the stake. I have since learned that no one was actually burned, hanging was the preferred punishment for those found guilty but, either way, the whole affair was tragic.

An artist’s rendering of how people perceived those accused of witchery in Salem.

Finally, having easy access to Boston City either via the nearby ferry or by car made this location particularly attractive.

So with all of that in mind, we arrived in Winter Island State Park for eight days. We had to split our stay between two campsites because of availability issues. The first 4 days would be in site 12 and the rest of our time was next door in site 13. Each site had a great view of both the harbor and the Happy Meal-sized Fort Pickering Lighthouse.


We had a wonderful view of the marina from our campsite.

Also nearby is the remains of Fort Pickering itself. I took a walk to see what it was all about and found weekenders on the grounds with big blankets spread out, eating, drinking and generally having a good ole time. With kids and dogs on the loose, this wasn't your typical historical landmark. In fact, every available grass patch and rock was occupied by people out for a quick tan.

From a photography standpoint, lighthouses are my thing here on the east coast and, although the lighthouse by the campground was pretty small, it was perfectly positioned for the moonrise and the sunrise.

Moonrise over Winter Island.

First up, we decided to travel to Boston via ferry. The ride was scenic and informative and it was a lovely sunny day as we stepped foot in the city. It's easy to get lost and walk around aimlessly in a place this big so we decided to take one of the bus tours right out of the gate to get our bearings. The tour lasted just under two hours and our driver was quite entertaining. After the tour, we went in search of lunch at Faneuil Hall Marketplace, a huge shopping center with food vendors as far as the eye could see. Boston is a beautiful town and some of the architecture reminded me of the older parts of Dublin.

Arriving in Boston after a fun ride on the ferry from Salem.

Home of the Boston Red Sox: Fenway Park! We didn’t have time to visit so just a drive-by shot on the bus.

IMG_2561Faneuil Hall Marketplace.

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Trying to figure out which tees to buy as gifts. This was the best shot we got of the Cheers sight, lol!

There was no way to see it all in the short time we were in the area, but we did manage to squeeze in a return trip but this time we drove into the city. We actually needed to do something while Scoopy was getting a professional wash. Our goal in Boston was to visit Eataly, a sprawling Itallian-themed gourmet food store with a variety of restaurants integrating nicely into the shopping experience. Linda was in her element here. It wasn't her first visit to Eataly, she first discovered its wonders in New York City. It's hard to describe the sheer scale of the place and the food displays are breathtaking. We spent a few hours there and then headed back to camp with our swag in tow.

Scoopy stayed behind for a wash while we went back to Boston for the day.

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Eataly of Boston.

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Boston is such a wonderful city to explore and we had fantastic weather during our return visit.

When we visited Gloucester, I was surprised how "modern" it is. Having seen The Perfect Storm, I guess I was expecting something a little grittier and basic. There is a beautiful walk looking out at the water that leads into town. On the way are two impressive memorials, one for the wives of fishermen, depicted by a woman looking out at sea with two young children. The other memorial sports a sculpture of a fisherman in a dramatic pose steering the wheel of a boat. The number of deaths related to stormy seas in this region is staggering. Over 10,000 have lost their lives from this town alone over the years.

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Down by the waterfront in Gloucester.

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The members of the Andrea Gail who perished and the “Crows Nest” where loved ones waited for news of their fate.

We went into the Crows Nest for a couple of drinks and to admire the photos on the wall.

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The bartender let us peruse a photo album of the cast and crew of The Perfect Storm during its production.

Who hasn’t had fish sticks from the Gorton’s Fisherman??

Nowadays, Gloucester is a vibrant community with over 60 restaurants as well as galleries and theaters. We found a great little hole in the wall restaurant called the Causeway. We loved it so much, we went there twice for some delicious seafood. The first time we ordered onion rings to start and then an order of fish and chips each. Holy cow, the meals were HUGE!! Although we managed to finish most of our lunch, our bellies were still full by nightfall. For our second visit, we were a little wiser. This time we split a meal of swordfish in honor of the crew of the Andrea Gail.

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Good eats at the Causeway in Gloucester. Loosen your belt or split your meal, the portions are huge!!

This whole coastal region makes up what’s known as Cape Ann. It’s about 30 miles northeast of Boston and marks the northern limit of Massachusetts Bay. Cape Ann includes the city of Gloucester and the towns of Essex, Manchester-by-the-Sea and Rockport.

Rockport was a standout for us and it is big on scenery and character. We spent a little time walking down a street full of quaint gift shops and restaurants. Usually when we see these kinds of places, we tend to avoid them because they are full of the same old mass-produced “stuff”. Not so in Rockport. It has a distinctly different feel to it and the quality of the jewelry and knick knacks is better than most.

Just up the road from Gloucester is the beautiful little town of Rockport.

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Rockport had some really quaint stores to browse.

We had such a great time with our friend Tammy Williams back in Littleton, NH, that we decided to meet up in Salem seeing as we were again crossing paths. After taking the Hop On, Hop Off bus tour, we felt well educated about the rich history of the town. The guide touched upon the history of the early settlements, the witch trials and the story of the famed House of the Seven Gables. When we got off the bus, we walked around the town at our own pace. We had a lovely lunch at the old Hawthorne Hotel and then we were off for a tour of the House of the Seven Gables. For me, what makes or breaks a place like this is the tour guide and we had a great one. I felt like I was inside a PBS documentary listening to the well-informed narrative while gliding in and out of the old rooms and secret passageways. Well worth the visit for us.

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Setting out with Tammy on Hop On, Hop Off bus tour in Salem.

It’s all fun and games until you get it in The Bunghole. The store owner did some great photo-bombing!


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The house of the Seven Gables and the beautiful surrounding flower garden.

A visit to Salem would be incomplete, of course, without learning about the witch trials. Many businesses have cashed in on these events in the most tacky ways you can imagine. There are images everywhere of old hags with pointy noses and wart-infested faces on broomsticks. Having said that, there were also some unexpectedly pleasant surprises. The Witch Museum's presentation of the trials was a little corny but the message was powerful. One of the display walls demonstrated how our prejudices have not changed much since 1692, they've just found new guises. The museum could have settled on the whole witch thing and been done but they went out of their way to educate visitors about these prejudices and also to clarify the modern "witch religion" of Wicca. As it turns out, it has much more to do with being in harmony with nature and almost nothing to do with the stereotypes of primitive pagan rituals.

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Tammy is so much fun to be with and a wealth of knowledge about the area. We had a great time together.

Elizabeth Montgomery is immortalized in the center of town for her popular TV show “Bewtiched”!

One of the victims of the Salem Witch Trials.

On another day, I took the opportunity to see a reenactment of the witch trials by one of the local theater companies in a production called Cry Innocent! There was a certain comedy in the presentation but they also managed to bring a fine focus on the frightening ignorance of the time. So with a little research, it's possible to wade through the kitsch (although that can be fun on its own level) and discover some authenticity.

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The cast of Cry Innocent! in Salem.

We have already decided our trip here was too short and we must return. Cape Ann is just a fabulous area. Each town has its own character and rugged beauty and, despite the activity of all the boaters and weekenders at our spot in Winter Island State Park, it was a peaceful place and central to everything we could have wanted.

NEXT UP: Visitors from Dublin!


  1. Interesting history in that area, love the statues and the lighthouse!

    1. Thanks. When I saw the lighthouse when we first arrived, it seemed tiny but it ended up being pretty photogenic!

  2. Thanks for another great tour of an area we have not yet been too. The Perfect Storm is on TV as I type, nice to see the authentic places and filming locations.

    1. Wow, that was a coincidence! I was sure to watch it again before we arrived in the area. It still holds up as a great film today. Thanks for your comment.

  3. What a great day in Salem! Looking forward to seeing you again in Seattle!

    1. I'm noticing a trend here...every time we see you we have a great time :)

  4. Loved your blog on the area. One thing about the house of seven Gables. My first wife lost her shoe going up the stairs behind the fireplace. I had to go back down with a flash light to find it. Held up the tour. But it was a good one and we enjoyed it. We love that area too!

    1. Funny story although I'm sure it was stressful when it happened. That secret passageway is very narrow and dark. Glad you enjoyed this post.

  5. I visited Salem on a family vacation when I was 15 - of course I didn't want to be there (who wants to vacation with Mom and younger siblings at 15?) but shocked myself by actually enjoying it! Will have to return and see it as an adult!

    1. Yes, I think your adult experience will be much better :)

  6. We made the mistake of driving around Boston - the bus sounds like a much better idea! The moon at the lighthouse is stunning. Love the construction sign!! My mixed feelings about visiting Salem seem warranted with the combination of corny and real history. Wicca is a misunderstood religion, most still look for the green face and warts :-(

    1. Yeah, my preference is to drive a big city AFTER I've become acquainted with it and gotten a sense of the layout. Salem is one of my favorite places we've visited since we started this big adventure.

  7. I lived in Boston for 10 years and loved it! Spent hours and hours walking and exploring -- your photos bring back good memories. I like the idea of NOT driving in Boston. I hardly ever drove even when I lived there! Your photo of the lighthouse and moon is outstanding.

    1. It was the same when we lived in Seattle. We hardly ever went in there. When I did, I just took the bus, a lot less stress :) Thanks for the kudos on the lighthouse shot.

  8. I'm loving the effect you are applying to the lighthouses, Steven. It appears to be aged/linen. Very cool.

    1. Thank you, I was very pleased with how that one turned out. The funny thing is, I saw the moon out my window and raced down to the rocks by the lighthouse. I didn't have my tripod so handholding a shot like this was almost a guaranteed fail. I wedged the camera between my knees, held my breath and by some miracle managed to get one that wasn't blurred :)

  9. What a great post you wrote and wonderful pictures as always . We your readers are lucky to have someone like you and your posts to enjoy. Sure makes me want to see the east coast. Vern in Boise Id.

    1. Always good to hear from you Vern. I'm glad you are continuing to enjoy our blog.