Tuesday, October 30, 2012

To Salem and Back Before the Storm

"Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall."
(F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsy)

Well there's crisp, and then there's a hybrid superstorm called Hurricane Sandy. Thankfully, we never lost electricity, hot water, or heat, but there were live media crews outside our building today due to large downed trees.

What a haunted Halloween, weather-wise! This time last year we had an unreal "Snowpocalypse" but then the winter season that followed was incredibly mild; I wonder if "Frankenstorm" will mean that we'll be spared for the rest of this fall and winter. Either way, children's trick-or-treating will undoubtedly be affected.

Scary transformation

Sam and I spent the past weekend in Salem, Massachusetts, the self-proclaimed "Halloween capital of the world." I had taken a day trip years ago with a few friends I used to work with when I was a graduate student in Boston. This time, we arrived late Friday night, walked around town all day on Saturday, and drove back in the chilly pre-storm drizzle on Sunday. Please see below for more photos.

On the Road

We stayed at the Red Roof Inn in Saugus, MA. On the way, we stopped at Taco Bell in Old Greenwich, CT and snacked on Butter Lane cupcakes in the rental car -- pumpkin frosting on banana cake and chocolate cake, yum!

Pumpkin-y good cupcakes on the way to the hotel

Exploring Salem

Saturday was truly an idyllic autumn New England day. We drove into Salem and ate breakfast at Brothers Deli & Restaurant. Salem is a quaint, walkable town with many shops, parks, museums, and a waterfront. Of course there are also a lot of attractions related to the witch hysteria and trials of 1692 -- a fascinating true story in American history -- and although I visited a few of them in 2003, we only went to one at the last minute in the evening.

Omelette breakfast, lobster roll, and clam chowder
Candy, snacks, and rides in the park
Seeing long lines at the Salem Witch Museum

Peabody Essex Museum

In the midst of all the creepy/campy museums is an excellent fine art museum called the Peabody Essex Museum, founded in 1799. We visited several of the galleries but focused on the featured exhibition, Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones, which was a lot of fun; I highly recommend it. Our visit ended with an interactive photobooth where visitors could choose which hat would be virtually placed on their heads -- I went with the powder blue feather hat.

PEM's Hats included SJP's iconic Philip Treacy creation
Intricate bridal headdress from 1800s China;
dyed feather hat from 18th century England;
leather, wood, and sequin Christian Dior Haute Couture
by Stephen Jones hat from Autumn/Winter 2007
Playing dress-up with some outlandish hats!

Haunted Harbor Cruise

After PEM, we went on a Salem Harbor cruise with Mahi Mahi Cruises & Charters. The Hannah Glover was decorated for Halloween, and a costumed woman spoke of haunted lighthouses and other spooky stories, as I sipped on hot apple cider.

Ships in cold water, apple in hot cider
Lighthouses with an "old film" camera setting

The House of the Seven Gables

In addition to colonial, maritime, and witch history, Salem is also rich in literary history, as it is the birthplace of Nathaniel Hawthorne, which is immortalized in The House of the Seven Gables, also known as the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion, built in 1668. The Nathaniel Hawthorne House, where the writer was born, was relocated next to the House of the Seven Gables in 1958.

Oldest surviving 17th century wooden mansion in New England
Nathaniel Hawthorne's birthplace

Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie

Across the street from the entrance to The House of the Seven Gables is Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie, America's oldest candy company since 1806. I insisted we wait on the long line to enter the store, and left with a bag full of candy!

Will wait for candy!
Witch History Museum

At the end of the day, we decided we should check out one of the witch museums. The Salem Witch Museum, the most popular one, was packed with tourists waiting to get in, so we went to the Witch History Museum instead. Afterwards, we went back to Saugus and had buffalo wings and popcorn shrimp while watching World Series baseball (Detroit vs. San Francisco) and college football (Michigan vs. Nebraska) at Buffalo Wild Wings near our hotel.

I'm pretty sure the original "witches" didn't look like that

Cracker Barrel, Charlton Orchards, and Obadiah McIntyre Farm Winery

On Sunday morning we started our drive back, planning to stop at an orchard and winery to see if they had any remaining fruit to be picked or wine to be tasted. While Saturday had been beautiful, Sunday was cold and rainy. We found a Cracker Barrel in Sturbridge, MA -- much better than the roadside service area options (we had also stopped at a different location on the way to our "New England Minimoon").

Eating and playing the Cracker Barrel game

We drove to Charlton Orchards and Obadiah McIntyre Farm Winery, but there wasn't any fruit picking and with the bad weather, no customers. They opened the store for us, and we bought a bag of McIntosh apples, a small bottle of Crimson Gold Red Raspberry Wine, and a bottle of Carbonated Apple Wine, and went back on the road.

Abandoned orchard and farm winery

My sister's family in NJ and my parents in Westchester are without power, and it could take a week to be repaired. My brother-in-law, who works at NYU Langone Medical Center -- which is still being evacuated -- was permitted to cross the bridge into Manhattan early this morning when he told them he is a doctor. My father, who also works at a hospital, went to work this morning too, but he doesn't have to cross any bridges or tunnels on his commute.

Mass transportation remains shut down, so this is my second day at home instead of in the office, which I found out lost power as did most of lower Manhattan. Yesterday I made potato-apple latkes, Hungarian apple soup, and chicken pot pie, and right now I'm thinking of baking chewy ginger cookies. Stay safe, East Coasters!


  1. Chicken Fried Chicken was liTerally finger-lickin' good.

  2. Oh wow, your trip looks like so much fun: if there's two things I love, it's kitschy vacation destinations and holidays, so I definitely hope to check out Salem someday. And I'm so glad you're safe: I live in the Midwest so we didn't get much Sandy, but the devastation in other areas is so unreal. But it's good you still have power!

    1. Salem is a fun place to visit! I don't know if their Halloween was affected by the hurricane. Sadly, the parades in NYC were cancelled and no one could get around but I still saw a lot of kids out and about in Brooklyn. My sister, my parents and brother are still without power, so my sister's family is coming over today. And my offices are still without power but we hope to be back on Monday.

  3. This brings back so many memories! We used to go to Salem for Halloween as a child :) Great photos!


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