Travelcraft Journal

Navigation Menu

Exploring Salem: Day Two

Posted by on Oct 31, 2016 in Travel | 2 comments

[Part Two of Jessica Tennant sharing her adventures in Salem, Massachusetts.]

Hollyhocks

We woke up on our second day in Salem to our Red Riding Hood basket breakfast, and wisely decided to use the free street parking on Sunday so that we didn’t have to walk through the sketchy area of Salem. We parked near a park central to the village of Salem, where we could walk around the town and the wharf area and not worry.

Salem Witch Musuem

Salem Witch Museum

We started the day’s adventures with the Salem Witch Museum, since tickets were included in our stay at The Coach House Inn.

The experience started in a darkened hall of sorts where the story of the witch trials and the hysteria that resulted in the execution of 20 people (and more who died in prison) was told through narration and lit-up dioramas with nearly life-size models of people – and one slightly disturbing dog who looked to be taxidermied, accompanying a sculpted John Proctor. There was also a creepy, lit-up, gargoyle-like devil figure looming over us, which seemed a little over the top for a historical museum.

Salem

The presentation covered the origins of the hysteria, the trials and the craziness that was conducted in the courtroom, prison conditions, and hangings. It was a bit dramatic but interesting and informative, and seemed to catch the attention of even the youngest audience members.

This was followed by a guided tour of the rest of the museum which explored what the word “witch” means today, witches in folklore and movies, herbal remedies, a timeline of witch trials and mass hysteria, Wicca and common misconceptions surrounding it, and THE BEST TIMELINE EVER of how scapegoating has caused tragedies and marks on our history throughout the ages, including Japanese Internment and the Red Scare.

It was a comprehensive look at how mob mentality and hysteria can cause horrific events, starting with witch trials through modern day.

Salem, Massachusetts - Count Orlok's

Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery

We followed up that somewhat somber historical museum with what, in my mind, is a hidden treasure of Salem…Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery.

I hate haunted houses (especially when things jump out at you. I ended up at one with friends years ago and just ran around every corner yelling “BOO!” so that I could, hopefully, startle the actors before they scared me.), and Count Orlock’s Nightmare Gallery is NOT like that. It’s a carefully curated collection of models and life masks from various horror movies dating back to the 1920s, including Nosferatu, The Fly, Salem’s Lot, Hellraiser, Aliens, and more.

They even had a model (somewhat) showing the makeup my own father designed from Hocus Pocus, which was neat to see (although he wasn’t credited in the display and it wasn’t quite right). What I loved (that some may not) was that you had to read the display notes to get the background behind each piece, and so you basically read and observed your way through the creepy museum. My husband is a huge fan of classic horror movies, and I am a huge fan of special effects makeup artist work. It was an off-the-beaten-path but worthwhile attraction.

Salem, Massachusetts - Witch House

Heritage Trail Houses

We walked along the red-lined Heritage Trail, and came to the Witch House, which was a house that was in Salem at the time of the trials and was a judge’s home. “Judge House” didn’t have quite the same ring to it, so they named it Witch House (makes sense). We skipped out on the house tour, though, because we were planning to go to The House of the Seven Gables, and how many house tours/museum tours can you really do in one day, especially when they look eerily similar?

The House of the Seven Gables tour was fantastic, and cheaper once I found out that they had a teacher discount. Bryce was horrified that I introduced my teacher status by asking if I had time to pee before the tour started, and when told no, I said, “That’s okay, I’m a teacher, I can hold it pretty much forever.” BUT, unadvertised teacher discount for the win!

Salem house of seven gables

The tour was of the house, which inspired the Nathaniel Hawthorne gothic romance The House of the Seven Gables. He didn’t live there, though…his cousin did. And, when he visited, the house didn’t actually have seven gables.

It was neat to see evolution of the house: the original structure and then the parts that were added when the first owner, Captain John Turner, became super wealthy from his textiles trades with China…but then how several gables were taken down to make it more in fashion for the times.

It was later taken over by a very wealthy woman, Caroline Emmerton, who was devoted to returning it to the seven-gabled state it was in when tales told by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s cousin Susannah inspired his novel. Mrs. Emmerton apparently took liberties with the house too, constructing a secret room above a fireplace that aligns with the novel but was never a part of the original house. Pretty cool, if you enjoy old architecture and historical homes and literary connections. The gardens were gorgeous, too.

Salem, Massachusetts - Marblehead lighthouse

Marblehead

After lunch at Flying Saucer Pizza (again), we left Salem and drove to nearby Marblehead, a neat historic harbor town in its own right, but a great place for an afternoon walk to admire fancypants houses along the seashore on the island connected to the mainland via sea wall causeway called The Neck.

While we were only there for the walking, we found a steel frame lighthouse on the rocky northern tip on the Atlantic, houses with more hollyhocks than I’d ever seen in one place, grand mansions with private beaches, and a beautiful, secret-feeling public park nestled between two mansions called Castle Rock.

Salem, Massachusetts - Marblehead hollyhocks

Castle Rock was absolutely beautiful — a giant rock formation overlooking the ocean with a rocky beach to the left where people fished, and a cobbled beach to the right that sounded like a rain stick on crack as the waves came in and out.

It was gorgeous, worth the 10 minute drive, and fun to live vicariously by walking through the neighborhoods of the fancy.

Salem, Massachusetts shore

Stopping in Salem

I am so happy that we found a new (to us) New England stopping point between our home and Maine. Salem was a great combination of the historical, the spooky, the literary, and natural beauty. I would love to come back for a repeat visit…maybe if I’m brave enough in October, when Salem is at its spooky, kooky best. I have to say it was pretty amazing in July, too.


Photos –
1, 3, 5-9: Jessica Tennant.

2: Al Peabody, on Flickr, color corrected. CCL.
4: Robert Linsdell on Flickr, cropped and color corrected. CCL.

Read More

Exploring Salem: Day One

Posted by on Oct 27, 2016 in Travel | 2 comments

[Ever been to Salem, MA? Me neither. Fortunately, Jessica Tennant of My Path to Mommyhood took a road trip there this summer from her home in upstate New York and is telling us all about it! –S]

Salem

My husband Bryce and I go to Maine every summer. There is nothing quite so beautiful as coastal Maine, and we get to see many different parts of the state because my in-laws live in the capital area, which is central to just about everything.

It just takes a REALLY long time to get there, so we’ve started stopping partway on the way there and the way back, which gives us the added benefit of exploring New England.

Salem - coach house inn tile

Weekend in Salem

This year, we decided on a romantic weekend in Salem, Massachusetts to break up the trip to Maine.

I had actually never been to Salem before, which is a shame. Salem is a tremendously kooky town, full of serious and tragic history (ahem, witch trials) as well as an affinity for ghosties, ghoulies, and all things Halloween, and a literary history involving Nathaniel Hawthorne and H.P. Lovecraft. It has cobblestone streets, tremendously old houses, and a red line painted throughout town called the Heritage Trail – following it sends you past many interesting historical attractions.

Coach House, Salem by boblinsdell

Bed and Breakfast

We stayed in The Coach House Inn, a bed and breakfast on Lafayette Street. It was built as a Victorian ship captain’s house in 1879. The inn was great, the innkeeper was very helpful and hospitable, and the breakfasts were continental and came in a Red-Riding-Hood style basket to your door at 8:30 in the morning, like magic.

Salem Breakfast

One thing about the Coach House that wasn’t so great was the location. It was right on the street that leads you straight into historic Salem, but, to get there, you had to walk through a fairly sketchy (and, as we heard from locals, heroin-plagued) section of town. We walked once and used Uber to go home and then took advantage of street parking after that…so if you don’t mind driving instead of walking, it’s perfectly lovely.

image

Geek Pizza

Our favorite place to eat was Flying Saucer Pizza Company, which sounds like a strange choice for me as a person with Celiac disease, but it had delicious and safe gluten-free options. AND, it was decked out in art and action figures and all kinds of paraphernalia from Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, the Avengers, Ghostbusters…it was a terrifically geeky place! All the pizzas were named after various things from sci-fi, and they have a Space Pug, Charlie, who is their mascot.

I had The Vision pizza, TWICE (for dinner the first night and lunch the next day, because it was THAT GOOD), which had walnut pesto, cheese blend, fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, and balsamic fig. Does that not sound amazing? The regular pizza was excellent too, with Bryce mumbling “This is THE BEST pizza I have EVER HAD” to the server with his mouth full of a Hawaiian-style pizza with jalapeño peppers.

Salem burying point

Ghost Tour

It was an appropriately thunderstormy night for a ghost tour with Black Cat Tours. Our guide was dressed in old-timey clothing and delivered a great mix of historical and paranormal tales. He brought us through the burying ground, past an original house that was restored and, apparently, has a very Ring-like ghost of a girl who was quarantined in the attic for having scarlet fever and peeks out the windows.

image

Giles Corey

There was a section of the burying ground that had stone benches jutting from a stone wall, with each bench etched with one of the names of the witch trial victims and the date of their death.

All were hanged except one – Giles Corey, who was accused of witchcraft in his 80s (but, lest you think he’s a good guy, he also accused his wife), and knew that if he was convicted or confessed he would lose his property to pay for his time in jail (yup, they had to pay for their meals and everything they got in the deplorable jail conditions themselves). He refused to confess or consent to be tried. He was tortured to death through “pressing” – they lay a board on him laden with more and more stone weights every time he refused to consent.

Although he died, he saved his property from confiscation this way, and now you know what it really means to be pressed for an answer (!)

Supposedly, he haunted the head of law enforcement who had him arrested, hanging out at the end of his bed and causing chest pains.

Salem

Favorite Haunts

We also learned of an angry divorcee ghost who haunts the space where they have weddings and dances and other events, tries to push people down the stairs, and wreaks havoc on art displays, stomping around the top floor and going down invisible stairs that don’t exist anymore to frighten people on the first floor.

We didn’t personally see any of the ghosts, but thought the tour was fabulously spooky and informative. (Who knew the inspiration for The Tell-Tale Heart was a real-life murder of a stingy old captain by his caretaker right there in Salem?) I am a sucker for a good ghost tour, and this one was atmospheric and not corny at all.

So much to do and see in the first day, how could our second day in Salem compare?

[Part 2 is coming up on Monday!]


Photos –
1, 2, 6: Jessica Tennant.

5: Doug Kerr on Flickr, color corrected. CCL.
3, 4, 7: Robert Linsdell on Flickr, color corrected. CCL.

Read More

Downtown Mesa Community Garden

Posted by on Sep 6, 2016 in Travel | 4 comments

There’s a community garden in Downtown Mesa that I’d heard about but hadn’t been to until my sister-in-law Liz was in town.

Mesa community garden

Isn’t it funny how you tend to see more of your city when someone is visiting?

Mural in urban garden, Mesa

Anyway, after lunch at Republica Empanada (at Hibbert and 1st Ave.), she asked about the gate next to the restaurant that leads into the Mesa Urban Garden, and we went to check it out.

I wasn’t expecting to see much, because August in Phoenix is rough on plants and only the most hardy survive. But there were still a fair number of things growing – veggies and vinca and this gorgeous trumpet vine with orange flowers and long green pods.

Community garden, Mesa

The garden is surrounded by walls with colorful murals, and there’s a Little Free Library made from an old phone booth.

I’ll definitely have to return later this fall!

Mesa garden

Microblog Mondays: Write in your own space

Read More

Free Outdoor Movies

Posted by on May 2, 2016 in Travel | 12 comments

I love the feel of free community events where anyone can be in the audience, like outdoor concerts or Ballet Under the Stars.

Free outdoor events

Outdoor movies are particularly interesting because they turn the whole movie viewing experience on its head. In the theater, it’s all about blocking out the surrounding environment – controlling light and sound so that nothing distracts from what’s on screen. Outdoors, the environment becomes part of the experience.

Monsoon

As a teenager, I saw the movie Twister at a drive-in while a monsoon storm was moving in, the wind gusting hard and the sky turning a surreal shade of orange. I’m pretty sure I thought it was a better movie than it actually was because of the natural drama around me. On the other hand, sometimes the sound isn’t good or something blocks your view or the people from the Portlandia sketch show up.

Do you ever go to free or outdoor movie events?

image

Some places for free movies (inside or outside) here in Arizona…

May 2016:

Summer:

Library

Ongoing:


Microblog Mondays: Write in your own space

Read More

5 Arizona Things that People Don’t Believe Exist

Posted by on Nov 20, 2015 in Travel | 2 comments

“Wait…that’s a real thing?!”

People from outside of Arizona have been surprised or skeptical when these 5 things have come up, but they’re all for real.

How many of these have you seen?

image

1. Tumbleweeds – Not just the stuff of western movie lore, they’re actually Russian thistle plants. When they’re alive, they’re green and grow like weeds. The dead, dry ones break off and roll around in the wind. It’s not like I have to stop my car for tumbleweeds rolling across the road every day. But it has happened.

Also, the city of Chandler builds a big tumbleweed tree for the holidays every year.
image

2. Gila monsters – They’re more fat lizards than monsters. Yes, they have a poisonous bite. However, that’s not a big concern, since they’re not particularly quick or aggressive or likely to chase you down (or meet you at the airport). In fact, it’s rare to even see one out and about.

We felt lucky when we spotted a Gila monster sauntering through the shadows at Boyce-Thompson Arboretum.

image

bta-gila-text

3. Desert monsoons – A friend from Taiwan laughed when I mentioned monsoons in Phoenix. While what we call “monsoon season” isn’t what you’d see in South Asia, it comes with bigger storms and more rainfall than we get other times of the year. Sonoran desert storms are dramatic – and beautiful – in their own way with downpours, thunder, lightning, wind, and dust storms (see #4).

image

image

4. Dust storms – If you saw Mad Max Fury Road, that’s not what a dust storm is like inside. Think fog made of sand, and you’ve got the picture. When it’s dry and very windy, blowing dust forms a cloud you can see approaching from miles away. sometimes an eerie orange color in the afternoon light.

image

image

5. Roadrunners – Although they look nothing like the Wile E. Coyote’s nemesis, they are an actual type of bird. That runs. Sometimes on roads.

image

So there you have it: the real story behind Arizona’s mythological-seeming creatures and phenomena, which are, in fact, the real deal.

Of course, the jury is still out on the Phoenix Lights.

sierra-estrella

Photos:

1. Willcox, AZ

2. Tumbleweed Tree, Chandler, AZ

3. Gila monster. Photo by Blueag9. CCL. 

4. Gila monster at Boyce-Thompson Arboretum.

5-8. Phoenix area during monsoon season.

9. Roadrunner. Photo by Ralph Arvesen. CCL.

10. Sierra Estrella Park.

Read More