A Very Little Dickens and a LOT of Sun! Day 6

In all the craziness of yesterday, I neglected to mention that one of our stops in Boston yesterday was at the Omni Parker Hotel, the place where Charles Dickens first read The Christmas Carol in America.

Below is a picture of the key to his room (520) where he stayed. While scarce other details exist of his time here, we do know that he consorted with the other Boston-area literati for a few weeks as a special guest of the Saturday Club at the Parker Hotel.







Today our travels took us to to Cape Cod, through Plymouth (yes, the Plymouth rock really does exist) and then onto the 1620 site of the first actual Pilgrim landing near present-day Provinceton, Massachusetts. This delightful town, with its requisite fudge and Christmas shop, is a teeny bit touristy but decidedly more chic than the usual beach spot.

It’s full of art museums, walkable streets, and people sporting T-shirts that say: “If my dog doesn’t like you, I probably won’t either.” Needless to say, Jen, our beloved curmudgeon, has already disappeared and Ann, sporting a fashionable new beach hat, is also making her way through the streets.










mcmillan pier
A view from MacMillan Pier, back toward town and the Pilgrim Monument, dedicated in 1910.





As for me, I perched on a bench outside the Public Library, and enjoyed a bit of gelato before moseying inside to capture a shot of the half-replica of the Rose Dorothea Schooner, which is permanently wedged inside and surrounded by bookshelves.

rose dorothea
You’ve heard of ship in a bottle, but how about “ship in a library?” Only in P-town…





Other literary points of note include the nearby homes of Norman Mailer and poet Mary Oliver. Supposedly, and maybe Jen has found it already, there once was a shack on the beach where Tennessee Williams put the finishing touches on A Streetcar Named Desire and where Marlon Brando auditioned for the part of Stanley.

We’re headed for Connecticut tomorrow so we only have one night in P-town, but we’re delighted to be staying in the most charming B & B of the trip, A Secret Garden Inn. Below is a view from our balcony, where you can hear birdsong, accordion music, and feel the sweet ocean breezes.

secret garden









The graciousness of our host, Michael, is best summed up by the handout he gave us when we checked in. “Check-out is no later than 11 a.m. Regretfully, this time is inflexible, as a courtesy to our next guests who are, like you, unique snowflakes…”

A Little History, a Little Hawthorne, and a LOT of Rain: Day 5!

Today was a busy day! We actually arrived in Concord, Massachusetts yesterday, and even though we didn’t have much time, we went to Walden Pond first, where Ann and Jen hiked to the site of the cabin of Henry David Thoreau (THAR-ow — yes, they do say it like that, repeat after me: THAR-ow). I sat on the beach and tried my best not to shiver while other people actually swam in the cool water. At dusk, to save time, we rode over to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery to gaze on the graves of Louisa May Alcott, Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Ann (5 foot, 1 and a half inches tall) as scale model in front of a replica of Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond

Today brought us rain, darkening both the sky and our literary ambitions. The Old Manse (built by Emerson’s father and home to Hawthorne and his family for a while) and The Wayside (the only house actually owned by Hawthorne) were CLOSED! We compensated with a little historic detour, driving over to the site of the Battle of the North Bridge, otherwise known as the “shot heard round the world.”

Fortunately, the Concord Museum opened at 9 a.m., and there we saw one of Paul Revere’s lanterns and Emerson’s actual study, which had been completely reassembled (books and all) within the walls. We also toured The Orchard, the house owned by the Alcott family, and I stood inches away from the desk used by Louisa as she penned the bestselling Little Women. We gently snickered at the way our Northern friends pronounced Raleigh (RAWL-eee).

Hungry for more Hawthorne, we decided to drive to Salem, the place of his birth and where he lived for a while. There we toured The House of Seven Gables, the house of his cousin Susanna and where he drew inspiration for his famous novel. While the incidents in the novel were fictional, the eventual restorer of the site took great pains to honor the novel by representing how the house may have appeared in the tale, even inserting a secret staircase in the chimney which might have been used by Clifford, one of the main characters. A highlight for me was seeing the actual desk where Hawthorne wrote another masterpiece, The Scarlet Letter. 

The inspiration for The House of Seven Gables

Being 3 p.m. and safely out of the rush hour traffic, we decided to next try our luck in Boston, a little ahead of schedule. I was a useless navigator for our driver, brave and dedicated Jen, who persevered against the rain and unyielding drivers to get us safely to our destination.

(Drivers beware. If Jen calls you “buddy” or “sweetheart,”  such as “Get out of my way, buddy!” this is not a term of endearment.)

Although the rain did not cease, Boston still gleamed. Here history and literature converged again. Forgoing a tour of Paul Revere’s house, Faneuil Hall and much more, we focused instead on just a few literary highlights, as you can see below. See you tomorrow, as we make our way to Provincetown.

sylvia plath
9 Willow Street in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston. Sylvia Plath lived briefly on the sixth floor of this building.












ee cummings
The grave of poet e.e. cummings, who might not be happy to see the use of capital letters on his marker. Hint: If you’re in Forest Hills Cemetery and want to see this for yourself, look for the Clarke family headstone just below the slope on Cherry Avenue.









The grave of Anne Sexton, one of the first confessional poets, known for her courage to write about what most people at the time considered taboo.