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NEW YORK and MASSACHUSETTS - Summer 2001 (2)
We had chosen the Salem Inn for our four-night stay and as a result our daughters and some of our nieces and nephews reserved there too. The inn is truly old New England. It is comprised of three historic homes that are on the National Register of Historic Places. Each of the rooms and suites is different in size and shape and all feature period antiques. Some rooms have working fireplaces and whirlpool baths. The family suites have kitchenettes as an added convenience.
Our room was in the four-story Nathaniel West building. There are no elevators in any of the buildings. Luckily getting to our room on the second floor meant climbing just one staircase but rooms on the third and especially the fourth floor might be challenging for the less fit. We had occasion to check out the fourth floor accommodations and would not recommend them in the summer months as the window air-conditioning is inadequate in dealing with the heat near the roof.
We had a very large bedroom with a king bed, desk, sofa, chairs, a fireplace and a nice-size bathroom with a stall shower. The space was quite nice but the interior was a bit tired and in need of sprucing-up. There are a limited number of free parking spaces at the rear of Peabody House but on-street parking was handy and free.
A complimentary light buffet breakfast is offered each morning in a comfortable room on the lower level and the rose garden brick patio in the rear has additional seating in a peaceful, relaxing setting. The staff throughout the inn was friendly, accommodating and committed to the satisfaction of the guests.
Salem is synonymous with witches from the Salem Witch House to the Salem Witch Museum and all witch points between. There is also the famous House Of The Seven Gables and the very fine Peabody Essex Museum. For the children, Salem Willows Waterfront and Amusement Park is a treat. At Pickering Wharf there is boutique shopping, a selection of restaurants or you can board a ship to go whale watching. The main drag, Essex Street, has been turned into a pedestrian mall for witch-shopping and more.
I grew up in this part of the world and we were not only looking forward to Mom's party but to revisiting the gorgeous north shore of Boston, among the most serene and peaceful coasts we know.
Linda and I lived in a harbor front apartment in nearby Marblehead for the first few months of our marriage. The old town is built on one of the most picturesque and gorgeous harbors you will ever see. The restored, ancient homes on the narrow, twisting streets and lanes take you back to the founding of America. Marblehead Neck juts out to form the harbor across from the banks of the old town.
My cousin George and his lovely wife Ali live here and keep their cabin cruiser moored in the harbor. We were delighted they found the time to take us on a harbor cruise and we also enjoyed a light dinner onboard on our last night. Ali, originally from Caracas, is easy-going, charming and intelligent and George, a psychiatrist, has the Freedman wit and good looks. ;-) An editorial cartoonist by avocation for more than twenty years, George has two books to his credit: Drawing from Life and the recently published Still Drawing From Life. All proceeds from George's books go to The Jewish Journal.
We never tire of driving on Rt. 127 along the coast north of Marblehead and Salem to Cape Ann. Thanks to strict local building laws little has changed over the years except that more of the old homes have been restored. There has been no new major development. The quaint old towns of Beverly Farms, Manchester-By-The-Sea and Magnolia, with their beautiful old homes and estates along the precious shoreline, are nothing short of magnificent. We kept pulling into side roads leading to the shore finding small beaches and picturesque marinas for some splendid photo ops.
Then into Gloucester, America's first seaport, which is still a working harbor. Gloucester is steeped in American history, culture and art along with magnificent beaches, scenic drives and walks. Driving along the shoreline around Eastern Point and onto Rt. 127A brought us to another favorite spot, Rockport. This 1600's fishing village is now primarily an art colony, where the two hundred year old fishing shacks have been converted into art galleries and specialty shops.
It was a beautiful, sunny warm day. The sea was sparkling and we began to think about next summer and which of these dream towns we might settle into for several days.
Being an old New England guy, I grew up eating fried clams. Not the clam strips served in chain restaurants but fresh out of the sand whole clams with big, fat, juicy bellies, lightly coated with delicious batter and deep fried to a dry crispness. Linda fell in love with the little critters when we met and now we were in real clam country.
Nearby Essex is home to serious clam beds and that has always been the place to have the best. From Rockport we scampered down Rt. 127 to Rt. 128 to Rt. 133 into Essex. The place we always enjoyed was no longer in business so we went to the most famous fried clam emporium, Woodman's of Essex, where they claim that they invented the fried clam over eighty years ago. We waited in line to order and pay and then waited for our number to be called. We settled down with our feast at one of the wooden booths in the typical clam shack environment. I was in sticker shock at the prices but ever the optimist, I expected the clams to be first rate. The fried clams were mediocre at best, the fresh clams spoiled by a too thick, tasteless batter. The portion of steamers was a joke for the price and the quality of the clams left much to be desired. The beverage prices were bloated and there was even an extra charge for tartar sauce. Ooops don't let me forget to tell you about the onion rings - 96% awful, thick, tasteless batter over 4% onion, served 100% greasy - an insult!
All was not lost, on our way back to Salem we had the urge for ice cream (we needed a treat after the treatment). We stopped a postman for directions to an ice cream place we had heard about. He never heard of it but suggested that we try Richardson's Dairy. The Richardson family has been farming in Middleton since 1678. They have 330 award-winning Holsteins that produce what many claim to be the best milk in the world. In 1952 they launched their "one perfect ice cream". During the summer months they now serve 750-800 tubs every week at this location. This was the best homemade ice cream we have ever had the pleasure of enjoying. The texture was as creamy as it gets and each of the six flavors (a large size consists of three giant scoops) was intense and incredible. We happily licked and spooned away not wanting it to end.
Mom's party was sensational. It was the first time all the family gathered together from all points in the hemisphere. She's the only one who could have pulled it off. Our invitations featured a picture of her on the front with There's Something About Mary and that caption says it all.
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