Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Connecticut Shoreline

It is Wednesday, September 21st and we have stopped for the night near Florence, SC, in a campground called Florence RV Park.  It is very nice, good price and all pull thrus.  Van drove 9 hours yesterday and it was a monster of a drive.  Today, was much better.  He drove about 7 hours and the traffic and roads were pretty good.  I will tell you that beginning in Virginia, the interstate system is 100 times better than up north.  Monet  was even able to lay on floor and sleep some because it was not so bumpy.  Clothes didn't even fall down in the closet!

Last night we stopped at a Cracker Barrell in Dumfries, Virginia.  It was our first Cracker Barrell and a terrific stop.

We didn't have a chance to post our last stop along the Connecticut coastline before we left.  We stayed in East Lyme, CT at Aces High RV Park and it is a terrific place.  We shot out in the car from there and went to Groton where the USS Nautilis is.  What an afternoon that was.  Then we went to Mystic, Noank and New London.  The next morning we got up and headed to Gillette Castle near East Haddam, then Essex, Old Saybrook, Madison, and Guilford.  Mystic was definitely a beautiful stop.  We ended up eating lunch there at a quaint little restaurant downtown.

This is the USS Nautilis.  This is a must see for anyone who is in the area .  It is very  impressive, and somewhat difficult to believe, that a 160 men were crammed in this vessel long enough to go under the polar ice cap.
hiThis is the Gillette Castle, which is a State Park now.  William Gillette was an eccentric  actor who created the Sherlock Holmes character.  He played this character his entire acting life and made a small fortune doing so.  His wife died at a young age and he made her a death bed promise not to ever marry again, which he kept.  They never had children.  For many  years his home was a boat called "Aunt Polly."  One day while cruising up the Connecticut River, he saw the site that would later become his home.  He must have been in love with his boat because the house had a  lot of nautical influence. He even dedicated one bedroom to "Aunt Polly."  The home, while having a steel frame, was constructed of local stone and hand carved wood.  There were 47 doors, each  being different, each being designed by him,  and each being different.  There are too many curiousities about the house  to mention.  However, the light switches were hand carved and looked like toggle switches you might find on a train.   All of his bookshelves had boards across the books like you would find on a boat to make sure the books didn't fall off the shelf.  Ever since he was a little boy, he had a fascination with trains.  At the age of 72, he decided to built his "own" railroad.  It was 1/4 scale with 3 miles of track around his property.  He had as guests in his home many famous movie stars and a President.  The house was plain and simple but grand at the same time.
This is called the Wedding Cake House .  I forgot what little town this was in...sorry.
God willing, we will be home tomorrow night.  I'm ready!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Boston, Massachusetts

On Thursday, September 15th, we traveled to Boston to see the historic sites.  We had indicated previously that we were going to take the train, but decided once we got to the exit that the traffic was less than anticipated.  (I guess we are just accustomed to Atlanta's traffic)

There are so many historical sites that there is no way we would try to cover them all.

This is the Park Street Church and was built in 1809, and acquired the nickname "Brimstone Corner" both in reference to the fire-and-brimstone sermons and to the gun powder that was stored in the crypt during the War of 1812.   On July 4, 1829, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison gave his first public anti-slavery address here.  Two years later, on July 4, the hymn "America," better known as "My Country 'Tis Of Thee" was fist sung on the church steps.

The next place we visited was the Granary Burying Ground.  Many prominent Bostonians are buried there.  One is Samuel Adams as shown here.  Also buried there, are John Hancock, all five Boston massacre victims, Paul Revere, Ben Franklin's parents, Peter Faneuil and possibly Mother Goose (not really--it was Martha Goose).  There was also eight Governor's of Massachusetts buried there.

This is Paul Revere's actual tombstone.  You can barely read it when you are standing in front of it, so there was no way to make it show here.  They have placed a monument next to this in his honor.

This is the inside of King's Chapel, which was built in 1688, under orders from King James II.   By 1749, the original wooden structure was too small for the congregation and so the new chapel was constructed around the original Church.  The canopied Governor's pew as shown on the right, was used, not only, by the Royal Governors, but also by President Washington on his visit to Boston in 1789.  The pulpit that is shown to the left, is the oldest continuously used pulpit in the United States.  Slaves sat on the left rear side of the church and condemned prisoners sat on the right for a last sermon before being hung.  There is a cemetery next to the church where William Dawes, Paul Revere's riding companion, is buried, as is Mary Chilton, believed to be the first woman to step off of the Mayflower.

This statue of Benjamin Franklin stands in front of the spot where the first public school was in the United States.  It was called "The Boston Latin School" and was begun in 1635.  The school continues to operate today but in another location.  Four years of Latin are still required in order to pass.  Some of the school's alumni are Ben Franklin, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Charles Bulfinch, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Believe it or not, this statue is located in the patio eating area of Ruth's Chris Steakhouse!!!

This is the second oldest church in Boston called "The Old South Meeting House," and was built in 1729.  Many of crucial events that led up to the Revolution took place  here. The most famous of the meetings was held on December 16, 1773, when over 5,000 gathered to protest the tax on tea.  During the British occupation of Boston in 1775-1776, British troops desecrated the sanctuary using it as a stable and serving drinks from the  balcony. The pulpit and pews were chopped into firewood and library was used as kindling.

This is is Faneuil Hall, which was a gift to the city by wealthy merchant Peter Faneuil in 1742.  As a result of the impassioned speeches by patriots such as Samuel Adams and others, it earned the nickname "Cradle of Liberty." 

This is the Old North Church that Sexton Robert Newman hung two lanterns in the steeple on April 18, 1775. to signal the beginning of Paul Revere's ride.  More than 1,000 individuals are buried in the underground crypt, including the Royal Governor's second-in-command at Lexington and Concord.

This is Paul Revere's home built around 1680.  It is Boston's oldest private building downtown.  It was from here that Paul Revere set out on the "midnight ride."  He was apparently the original multi-tasker. Not only was he a patriot, but also an expert silversmith, copper manufacturer, part time dentist, engraver, and somehow found time to father 16 children.  As many as eight of this children lived with him at one time in this house.

We had a wonderful lunch here.  It is the oldest continuously operated restaurant in the United States.  We were so pleased that we were able to get in and that the prices were more than reasonable.  Van had been craving an oyster po' boy and finally he was able to get one.  Van mentioned to the guy in the gift shop that it was the best oyster sandwich he had ever had, and he calmly replied "we've had a couple of hundred years to get it right."

We had walked the 2 1/2 mile Freedom Trail and it had started to rain, so we hired a pedi-cab to take us back to the parking garage.  Van had wanted to go to the original Cheers but decided not to because of all of the negative comments on line.  Apparently the inside doesn't even remotely resemble the TV Cheers bar and the prices are a rip off.  However, on our way back to the car, our driver let us stop to get a picture of the actual staircase used in the show and a picture of the sign.

We had decided that we were going to drive to see the USS Constitution, which was about 2 miles over the bridge.  Unfortunately, since it was on a naval base, entrance was prohibited except by foot and there was no parking nearby so after driving around and around, we decided not to go. 

We got up this morning and are staying in a wonderful campground in East Lyme, CT called Aces  High RV Park. We'll be here 3 nights and hopefully that will give us enough time to see everything we need to on this last stop.  We plan to go to the USS Nautilis tomorrow and are real excited about that.  We also hope to go to Mystic and head south about 30 miles along the coastline.

Hope everyone is doing well.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cape Cod, Massachusetts and Newport, Rhode Island

It's Wednesday, September 15th and it has been an absolutely beautiful day.
Yesterday, we got up and headed to see the Cape Cod area.We were able to make it all the way to the tip, which is Provincetown.  The Cape was very pretty but we both were a little surprised by the "feel" of the area. We had been to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket several years ago and assumed Cape Cod would have that same quaintness and appearance.

We started off in Sandwich and saw the Wing Fort House which was built in 1641.  It is the oldest house in New England owned and operated continuously by the same family over three centuries.

The Wing Fort House

We were interested in trying to get a view of the Kennedy compound but learned that the only way to get a glimpse was by a boat ride and that didn't show much, we were told.  We did, however, go to the JFK Museum in Hyannis.  While there, we saw  a layout of the compound and learned that there were actually three huge homes on the compound.  The one closest to the point was the home of the father, Joseph, and where all of his children grew up.  They are all now dead with the exception of the youngest daughter, who we were told was around 85 years old.  The next closest house to the point was Robert's house and the furtherest back was JFK's. 

The JFK Museum

We had lunch in Provincetown at a restaurant on the water.  This town, while commercialized with t-shirt shops, still had beautiful water views and a quaintness to it.

 Our view from the deck at the restaurant

 This morning we got up and headed to Newport, Rhode Island.  We were reminded that Newport is the home of the America's Cup Yacht Race, as is shown by the street sign. We had no idea that they were having a huge boat show today which made navigating around the city difficult.   The primary tourist attractions for the area are the mansions of the super wealthy during the Gilded Age.  We set out to see five of the grandest mansions but only accomplished seeing three of them because we ran out of time. 

The First house that we saw was Kingscote, which  means "Kings Cottage."  We were surprised to learn that it was built in 1841 for George Noble Jones, a wealthy plantation owner from Savannah, Georgia, Van's home town.  We also learned that prior to the Civil War, it was not uncommon for wealthy southern families to spend their summers in the cool climates by the sea.  In fact, apparently they were the ones who started the "cottage" practice in this area.   Even though it is a fine wood mansion, it actually is a cottage compared to the opulent , over the top mansions built by others.  When the Civil War broke out, Mr. Jones left the area returning to Savannah, never to return.  In 1863, the property was sold to William Henry King, a bachelor who had made a fortune in the china trade. 

The second house that we saw is called "The Elms" which was completed 1901.  The house was built for a Pennsylvania coal magnate, Edward Julius Burwind.  At the age of 17, Mr. Burwind was appointed to the United States Naval Academy, which was in Newport during that time, after which he began a 10 year career as a Naval Officer.  After resigning his Commission an 1875, he joined his brothers in the coal business and soon took over the New York office.  Obviously, he became very wealthy and married the former Herminie Torry, daughter of the U.S. Consul to Italy. The picture here is of the back of the house as it faces the ocean.

The third house that we saw was the most fabulous and ornate of the three that we saw.  This place was the summer home  of Cornelius Vanderbilt, II and his family. He actually worked as a bank clerk and continued to do so even after accumulating so much wealth.   Apparently he and his wife were actually down to earth people and met while teaching sunday school. He  was a kind man and very philanthropic, most of the time giving away his fortune annonymously.  He first wanted a two story villa to replace the original Breakers, which he bought from Pierre Lorillard in 1885, and which burned to the ground in 1892.  Because of his fear of fire, no wood was used in the construction of the current home. The core of the home was stone and brick, with steel beams for support.  The kitchen was isolated in a ground floor wing as further precaution.  The home had so much gold and marble that it truly is hard to imagine.  The wallpaper in one of the rooms had plantinum and therefore will never tarnish.  Many of the interior carvings and ornate columns and fixtures were designed and made in Europe, and some of the rooms were even constructed in Europe and then disassembled and brought to America and reassembled by the original artisans.

 It was obvious that these mansions were built for the primary purpose of just showing off and basically saying "look how rich I am."  These cottages were only used 8-12 weeks out of the year.   Our recollection is that both of  the last two cottages required  in excess of 40 servants. The Vanderbilts called their servants "staff."  Both homes had bell intercoms so they could summon a sevantthier clothing and so forth.  The men servants did all of the cooking and serving of the meals.  Obviously,  the women servants participated greatly in the preparation of the food.  The butler was basically the captain of the servants and supervised all of the servants both male and female.  Not only did they cook for all of the guests but also had to feed the servants. 

 Tomorrow we head for Boston on the train.  The station that is closest to us is closed for repairs so we have to go to another location, catch  a shuttle and then catch the train.  Who knows where we'll end up or if we'll ever get back here.

By the way, we should be home by next weekend.  Mom found out today that the  thyroid is where the cancer is and it  has to be removed, so I want to be home for that surgery.  Also. David (my brother)   has a doctor consultation on the 27th about his kidney transplant and, since it appears  he's going to get stuck having to get my kidney, I'm going to try to go with him to it.

Will talk with you  soon .

Monday, September 12, 2011

Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts

What a beautiful day!  We got up and headed out for a one hour drive to Lexington and Concord.This area is the seat of the beginning of the Revolutionary War.

This is the Munroe Tavern.  On the afternoon of April 19, 1775, this old pub, built in 1695, was the site of the temporary hospital and headquarters for British soldiers retreating from the battle at Concord. Fourteen years later, George Washington dined here in an upstairs room while on tour in New England.  When the British took over they killed an unarmed man named John Raymond and there is a monument at the Tavern explaining his death.

The Colonists had no regular army, however, they had a militia, a small force of volunteers, pledged to be ready at a minute's notice, giving rise to the name "Minute Men."  The Buckman Tavern was built in 1710.  In the early hours of April 19, 1775, several Lexington Minute Men had gathered to drink ale.  Around 4:00 am came the news that 700 British troops were just minutes from the Green outside.  Captain John Parker, Commander of the militia, filed out of the tavern to get ready for the confrontation. The front door has a hole in it, allegedly from a bullet shot during the encounter.

This is the Hancock-Clarke House in Lexington. Around 1:00 am on April 19, 1775, John Hancock and Samuel Adams were awakened by a knock on the door.  Paul Revere had arrived to warn these two important leaders that the British were on the march.

Between Lexington and Concord, Paul Revere was captured by a British patrol.  His fellow messenger, Dr. Samuel Prescott, eluded them and rode onto Concord.  This is the monument that marks the spot where Paul Revere was captured.

iThis is the Wayside with it's distinctive red brick chimneys.  It was originally the home of the muster master, whose job was to summon the Minute Men if the British attack.  In the 19th century, it became first the residence of the Alcott family, then in 1852, Nathaniel Hawthorne bought it and changed the name from Hillside to Wayside.  He completed the "Tanglewood Tales" in his study at the tower at the top of the house.

This is the Orchard House which is a little farther up the street from Wayside.  The Alcott family moved to this house after leaving Wayside.  It was where Louisa May wrote much of  "Little Women." 

This is the Old Manse House.  It was from a window of this three story wooden house that the Parson William Emerson, watched the bloody events of the beginning of the Revolution.  He was the grandfather of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who lived here as a little boy.  In later years, the house was rented to Nathaniel Hawthorne.

The most famous site in Concord is the Old North Bridge where the 400 Minute Men confronted the 700 British Regulars.  As the British advanced across the bridge, the famous shot rang out.  As stated above, William Emerson watched these blood events from the Old Manse house.

Henry Thoreau came here to Walden Pond and lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor.  A replica of the cabin he built is in the background of the statue.  This is where he wrote his most famous work "Walden" published in 1854. The cabin was very small, having only a small bed, a desk, a chair and a stove.  Obviously, it did not have a bathroom.
This cemetery contains the last resting places of Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne.  The grave of Henry David Thoreau is marked by a simple headstone with only one word "Henry."

Experiencing and viewing these historical sites is an impressive experience.  It's hard to explain the feeling standing on the North Bridge where the shot heard around the world was fired.

We took a tremendous amount of pictures on this tour but downloading in this campground (and most campgrounds) is a slow process due to their limiting data speed.  Can't wait to share actual pictures later with you.

Tomorrow it looks like we will be heading toward the Cape Cod area.  It's supposed to rain here later Wednesday and possibly Thursday.  We found someone here in the campground that will come in Thursday and Friday and walk Monet for us so we'll hit the Boston area Thursday and Friday.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Plymouth, Massachuetts

We arrived yesterday to the KOA in Middleboro.  It is a very nice campground but didn't have  cable.  As you all know, Van is a Georgia football fanatic, no matter if they are winning or losing, so what we ended up doing was scout out another campground in Plymouth and decided to move there.  It is a huge campground but it looks like there are a tremendous amount of people who either live here or are here seasonal.  We were lucky enough to get a spot towards the back of the campground that was pretty secluded, so it's quiet.  What was so great about the move was that the cost of this campground was half of what the KOA was.  I told Van that "I had saved him some more money!!"

 We decided that since we had to be back to the motorhome by 4:00 (for the game) that we would go see the Plymouth sights, which was only 5 miles away.   It is a relatively small town but has been fixed up with shops and restaurants down the main street and then the waterfront street  is where Plymouth Rock and the replica Mayflower II are.  The remainder of the historical sites are scattered
within a few blocks of the main strip.

We were so surprised at how SMALL the rock was.  It apparently, at one point, was moved to the town after the Revolution as a show of strength.

 This is the replica of the Mayflower.  Just a gorgeous boat.  It is hard to imagine how the pilgrims were able to make the voyage in such a small ship and carry sufficient food and drink for the trip.  We also read that the first church was "gathered" in England and reconstructed here and possibly brought as well on the Mayflower.

This is the courthouse in Plymouth which is touted as "the oldest courthouse in America."  After a new courthouse was built, this building was used as a City Administration Building.  It has been refurbished as it once was.  The second floor has been turned into a court room with great effort to make it like it was originally.  It is now a Museum and the representative in the Museum told Van that they have certified at least 3 cases that were handled in this courthouse by a young lawyer by the name of John Adams, later to become the second President of the United States.

This street is the oldest street in the United States having been made by the pilgrims as the first street of their settlement.  There is a reproduction of the Village that shows what the street looked like in the day. The sign is bent and we wondered if someone had attempted to steal it for obvious reasons.

We saw this sign on the side of a building on the main street.


We'll be in this area for 8 more days.  Will be going to Cape Cod, New Bedford, Boston and surrounding areas. 

We plan to be home by the end of the month.  We are missing you guys.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Essex and Newburyport, Massachusetts

The rain stopped enough for us to go touring around.  We started out at
our furtherest point in Newburyport and ended up in Essex and back here
at the Cape Ann Campground, which is located in Gloucester.

The picture of me holding Monet is a daily look.  She's in a dog pouch which is like an open backpack but worn in the front.  It was still chilly today so having her block the wind was nice.  My back is ready to break when we are through sightseeing in an area but she absolutely loves being carried in this thing.  

This is the Custom House Maritime Museum
built in 1835 and designed by Robert Mills, who also
designed the Washington Monument and the U.S.
Treasury Building.  Newburyport happens to be the birthplace of the U.S. Coast Guard and still has an active unit there.

This house was designed as a combination residence/ships chandlery and was built by
Lt. Aaron  Pardee of the Continental Army for his wedding in 1786.  It is a private residence today in Newburyport.

This is the Old South Church of Newburyport, which was constructed in 1756.  The neat part is that the bell for the church was cast by none other than Paul Revere.

This is the infamous Warren's Restaurant that we promised you yesterday that we were going to stop and eat at in Essex.  As you can tell by the picture of the building, it's not fancy.  There are no waitresses and you order your food at the counter, then pick it up when your number is called.  Also, you get your drinks from another counter and pay for them separately there.  No refills on soft drinks!!  As you can tell by the picture of the food, we got our money's worth.  We even ended up coming home with almost a plateful of leftovers.  (You know you are a tourist when you keep taking pictures of your food!  ha)

Ron is so in love with the clams that he travels an hour from The Villages to get them.  And guess what, they come from Essex.

We have put so many miles on our motorhome this trip that we thought we'd start shopping for a new one!! 

This goes to prove that there's no reason that if you want to motorhome, that you can't!!

Well, we head out of here in the morning down to Middleboro, Massachusetts.  This is in the middle between Boston and the Cape Cod area.  We plan to be there at least 10 nights.  The weather is supposed to start being pretty tomorrow so we are excited about seeing all that area.

Talk to you soon.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Salem and Marblehead, Massachusetts

Today we went to Salem and Marblehead, Massachusetts.  When we woke up this morning it was overcast and raining and stayed that way the entire day.  It reached all of 60 degrees!!  This was the first day Van wore long pants and a jacket.

We found Salem to be full of beautiful old homes, apparently built by ship owners and merchant traders.  There are many old houses presently occupied by what I would call "normal folk."  Obviously, Salem, for tourist reasons, places a lot of emphasis on witches and witchcraft.    Only 19 people were put to death during the witchcraft trials of 1692.  We didn't have any interest in the witchcraft stuff so didn't really spend a lot of time on those things.  Van did, however, see a bumper sticker that he thought Victoria (his daughter) would enjoy which said "Eve was framed."  One of the major historical points of interest was the House of Seven Gables which happens to be New England's oldest surviving wooden mansion, which is the 1668 Turner-Ingersoll Mansion which inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic novel.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, who wrote "The Scarlett Letter" was born in Salem in 1804.  His birthplace is
also on the plot of land where the House of Seven Gables is located.


It is our opinion that Salem would better promote itself talking more about the shipping industry rather than the witch trials.  We were surprised to learn that Salem, in the 18th century, was the Venice of the New World.  It was the shipping mecca, and actually produced, several millionaires.  These ship owners traded all over the world, including China and Russia.  The poorest of the three major ship owners left an estate of 1.5 million at his death in 1817.  Wow! The only thing negative about Salem was the traffic conditions.  It was difficult to navigate around the town with all it's one way streets.   Apparently the stop signs and traffic signals were "suggestions" only and not intended to be complied with as in the south.

The ship in the picture is called "The Friendship" and is a full sized replica of a 1797 East Indian Merchant Ship.  Tours of the ship are available through the National Park Service.  We were also impressed to learn that the Charter Street Burying Point, a cemetery in Salem, has many prestigious residents, including Mayflower passenger, Richard More.

 We ate lunch in Marblehead which Ron tells us is a high-end town.  We always thought that Ron and Maureen were "high end" and now we have confirmed it (ha)!  If you haven't seen Marblehead, you wouldn't believe the incredible houses and the incredible views of the harbor/coves here and the surrounding towns.  We ate at a restaurant called Barnacles, which overlooks one of these coves.  They are completely full of both motor boats and sail boats.  It is difficult to see how they navigate in and out of the harbor/cove area as crowed as they are.  These pictures show the view we had from Barnacles overlooking the cove.  It was raining, so the pictures aren't real clear.

Tomorrow we plan to go to Essex, even though the weather forecast looks pretty much the same as today.  We have learned that Woodman's, a restaurant in Essex, has received many awards as the  "Best Seafood in America."  This has been reported by Forbes, Zagat Restaurant Guide, Yankee Magazine, Boston Magazine, Travelocity, The Travel Channel, New York Times and even, 1000 Places To See Before you Die.  Even though Van is convinced he has already put on 10 more pounds, he will definitely eat there tomorrow.  However, I too am excited about Essex because it is advertised as America's Antique's Capital, having more than 35 quality antique shops.  Poor Monet....she will be toted around with us like a sack of potatoes (again).  We are also thinking about going up to Ipswich and the Newburyport area but haven't researched it yet.