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Days 60-61 – Tuesday & Wednesday June 19-20, 2007 – Lowell, Massachusetts
We loved the Doubletree Hotel in Lowell, MA so much, that we decided to stay there for another night. Most of this much needed extra day of rest was spent in and around the hotel. The hotel’s location played a great part in our decision to stick around. The Doubletree sits on the banks of a canal in Downtown Lowell, within a short walking distance to quite a few old interesting places. Tuesday morning, we slept in late, lounged around the hotel and watched a little TV before heading out in the afternoon to get lunch and go to the library.
Downtown Lowell truly is charming. Lowell is considered by many to be the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution and at one time was the industrial center of the United States. Downtown Lowell is made up of old mills and factory buildings that have been converted into businesses and offices. It also houses quite a few small boutique shops along with an array of pizza joints and diner type restaurants. In addition to all of that, the Lowell History Museum and the Quilt History Museum are also packed into this dense area. We decided not to visit either museum, but took a little time to enjoy one of the areas’ many art galleries. In visiting this gallery, we learned something about Lowell’s wacky community art.
As we spent the morning walking around the city, we couldn’t help but notice mysterious art projects all around the downtown area. Upon entering the art gallery, we saw an explanation and history of Lowell’s community art on display. The city has long been encouraging local school children and artists to design projects for it’s beautification. After spending a few minutes at the art gallery, we walked back to the hotel, with a new appreciation for the scenery.
Our day off on Tuesday gave us the spunk we needed to get back on the road. Wednesday we were excited to see Salem, MA. Salem, originally a Puritan colony, was made infamous for it’s witch trials in the late 1600’s. Ever since I read The Crucible in school, Salem has always been a place of interest for me. While there is much to do in Salem, with rain pouring down most of the day, we didn’t see as much as we had originally hoped to.
Our first stop in Salem was the Visitor’s Center. The National Park Visitor Center in Salem is very small, but worthwhile for one reason. Once an hour, they show a 27 minute long video on the history of Essex County, where Salem is located. The video provides a tremendously rich view into the storied 400 year old history of Essex County and it’s people. When the video was over, we braved the rain and drove down to the waterfront where we dined in a local restaurant that was recommended by our guide book.
When we emerged from the restaurant after lunch, all of us were delighted to see that the rain had subsided temporarily. Without the constant downpour of water to deal with, we took a stroll along the waterfront, before walking through a couple of charming neighborhoods on our way to the Salem Witch Museum. The Salem Witch Museum is perhaps one of the best “small” museums that we have seen thus far. Instead of the usual boring exhibits full of long paragraphs about nothing, this particular museum puts on a show for it’s guests. I think this made it easier for everyone to not only learn, but enjoy the information being provided.
After buying our tickets, the cashier gave us a “showtime”. When the time came, about twenty of us were ushered into a large rectangular room filled with several different scenes, covering all four of it’s sides. As a narrator explained the different events comprising the history of the witch trials, each corresponding scene was illuminated with theatrical elements. The statues do not move, but the extensive lighting and narrator’s eerily deep voice get the point across successfully. This first part of the show continued on for about thirty minutes.
After the first part was over, our group was then led into a room in the back of the museum. In this second part, a guide explained the history and origins of witches and witchcraft. She also went into details about where our modern day image of witches came from. (Think Wizard of Oz.) In addition to the guide’s commentary, this second part also featured three more theatrical scenes. These scenes expanded on a few of our guide’s main points in a dramatic way. The final part of the presentation then focused on modern witches, who practice the ancient Wicken religion. The entire tour took about an hour and was very enjoyable. I hope to encounter more museums that have applied the “think outside the box” mentality in designing their exhibits.
We left Salem at 4pm, ran some errands and settled for the night in Merrimack, New Hampshire. Tomorrow we are going to tour a submarine here in New Hampshire, before setting out on what I am sure will be a stunning drive up the coast of Maine. By Friday night we should be speaking French with our neighbors to the north in Quebec.
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The Coomer Family
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