Kendrick's manager was out of town this weekend, so he found himself having to work for a couple hours on Saturday. I had a choice; I could wait ofr his shift to end at 2:30 and head out to Salem then, or I could go out there by myself in the morning. After he lost/forgot his cellphone at the rehearsal of a play he's in (a production of And Then There Were None, an Agatha Christie novel) on Thursday evening, and determined he had to retrieve it after work, I figured there was no point waiting for him or I'd never see anything in Salem. Off I went.
Salem was a short ride from Boston; maybe twenty minutes? It was my first time riding a train completely on my own and I was disproportionally excited about it. When I left Boston it was sunny, and it was only slightly overcast when I got to Salem, so I was feeling pretty happy. I think my excitement blew through the roof when I walked up a flight of stairs to the top of Salem's train platform and realized Salem's train station is RIGHT SMACK IN THE MIDDLE of their downtown. HUZZAH! NO KAJILLION-MILE WALKS!!!
Salem Town Hall
It was still pretty early - maybe just before 10? - when I got there, so I just wandered the streets for a bit watching all the shops open up. I had heard that Salem was pretty darn touristy, but I was still a bit surprised at the vast surplus of Wicca, magic, and new-age shops. Oh, and the Witch Museums. One or two or even three I could understand, but there must have been a half-dozen quasi-historical museums as well as countless haunts and witchy walking tours. I didn't know where to begin, so when I happened to find the town's Visitor Center I wandered in and was quickly shuffled into an auditorium to watch a film about Essex County's history. It was surprisingly educational - I had no idea that Salem, at one time, was one of the East Coast's most prosperous ports - and reduced the Witch Trials to two or three sentences in the glorious history of the harbor.
I was surprised to learn that the wealth this maritime marvel had brought to Essex County had indirectly led to the founding of a major art museum. Apparently many of Salem's prominent citizens collected art and furniture from the Orient, and many of their treasures are now housed in the Peabody Essex Museum. (I'd heard of the musuem last quarter in my Asian Art History class, but I didn't realize I'd be right next to it!) It was right across the street from the Visitor's Center, and it was a perfect destination. My brother had said he would try to join me in Salem when he got off work, so I was hesitant to do anything I thought he'd also be interested in. But I can easily spend several hours staring at Chinese paintings and Japanese lacquer, so I spent the rest of the morning browsing the PEM's extensive collections.
We do have an Asian Art Museum up in San Francisco, but the PEM has a huge selection of Asian-influenced works from Europe and America as well as a greater selection of Asian art created for export - that is, for the foreign market. So a lot of the works focus more on foreigners and their interests and tastes rather than the indigenous people. (Makes sense, seeing as the buyers were East Coast sea captains and import merchants.)
So the morning flew by. Suddenly it was 2 pm and I was STARVING. I'd seen most of the main galleries, but there was a Qing dynasty house imported from China that I was debating whether I wanted to stick around to see. Yin Yu Tang cost an extra $5 and I'd have to wait until the house was opened to the next group (you can't just wander in because of the house's size) but I let my stomach prevail and wandered out into the streets to get food.
While I'd been in the art museum the fog had come rolling in and it was bloody cold. I started walking out toward The House of Seven Gables, stomping my feet to keep warm and wondering if my desire for warmth could overcome the humiliation of wearing a "WITCHY WISHES FROM SALEM" sweatshirt. (Seriously, the tourist rags were hideous. What gives, Salem?) I just couldn't justify spending the money on an ugly hoodie, so I just kept shivering and wishing my cup of toasted marshamallow mocha would warm more than my fingers.
All fogged up! I never did wander out to see that ship, but does every town in New England have their own reproduction old-timey boat?
The House of Seven Gables - it inspired the Hawthorne novel by that name
Behind the house there's a garden, complete with a wishing well. It was getting foggier so the pictures weren't as clear, but I tried my best.
A Scarlet House for the author of The Scarlet Letter
This house was self-toured, with docents manning almost every room. That's always sorta awkward, because you have to think up some questions to ask them because you can kinda tell that's what they want, because they're bored standing around a dead man's house all day. I learned some interesting things about Nathaniel Hawthorne's childhood; the loss of his father and his mother's dependency on others to survive resurfaces again and again in his novels.
When I finished the Seven Gables House tour, I called my brother to see if he'd picked up his phone yet and to find out if I should expect to meet up with him. No response. I figured if he had not yet retrieved his phone, it was highly unlikely he would make it out to Salem before everything started closing up.
Across the street from Seven Gables is Ye Olde Pepper Companie, which claims to be America's Oldest Candy Company. Why not? I bought some Blackjacks (molasses stick candy) and Gibralters (white candy that comes in mint or lemon) to take home to Mom and snapped a photo of the exterior.
It's so cute. Candylicious.
It makes me think of home in San Francisco.
I bought a bag of tea so I wouldn't feel guilty about taking pictures of the interior.
It smelled really strong of apricot. I still haven't tasted it, so I hope it's good.
flameelf , you'd hate it.
Derby House. Apparently you can take tours of this place, but I wasn't there at the right time.
Looks like successive generations just kept adding and adding to the original building.
The "Witch House." I think one of the judges at the trials lived here? It was locked up so I couldn't wander around to find out.
By now it was past five and things were starting to close down, so I headed back to the train station. The fog had retreated back over the ocean, so it was much warmer, finally.
Kendrick made a pasta with a lot of ginger, chili powder, and other ingredients that I don't eat if I have a choice. I was pretty ravenous by the time it was ready (nearly 9 pm!) and gobbled it down anyway. The rest of the evening was pretty quiet; I think we watched another episode of Iron Chef (it's what was on his computer; they don't have a TV in the house) and read for a while.