Sunday, November 9, 2008

New England Town of the Day: Plymouth, MA

Article and photos by Eric H.

In a rare portrayal of arrogance and pettiness, I stayed away from Plymouth, MA, for many years. The rationale was quite elitist and, actually, quite pathetic:

It's too close to home. Therefore, it can't be any good!

I heard that there's crime there. Why, other towns around here don't have crime!

Who wants to travel an hour to see a silly rock (Plymouth Rock) that's one-third the size of its original presence --thanks to chucklehead tourists chipping the rock for their own take-home souvenirs? We have many rocks in our backyard and in the heads of some of our state politicians!

No one goes there anymore, it's too crowded! (coining a classic Yogi Berra line)

Surely, there are better things to do like watching a Munsters Marathon on TV Land!

Yes, the above statements are more designed to humor you, but, in reality, I was never too crazy about Plymouth. For a while, the downtown seemed run down, crime did rise during this time, and it just seemed like there were better coastal travel destinations -- like Newburyport, MA, Portsmouth, NH, York , Maine and Block Island, RI. Returning to Plymouth yesterday for a day trip, however, opened my eyes to a place I can hardly wait to return. The downtown is absolutely thriving with a colorful array of traditional stores, boutiques, galleries, restaurants, cafes and, of course, historical attractions around the corner.

Turning that collective corner off Main Street will bring you to Plymouth Harbor, where you will find the 11-acre Pilgrim Memorial State Park featuring scenic harbor views and landmark travel attractions like the aforementioned Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower II -- an impressive replica of the ship that brought the Pilgrims to America. Also at the downtown waterfront are nice-looking "water view" restaurants like Isaac's (very, very good seafood!) and the East Coast Grille.

Looking around the waterfront area, my heart warmed up when finding the John Alden Gift Shop. This old-fashioned, long-time operating store brought back such nice memories of going to this shop a few times as a child in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The old-school gift shop exterior look is intact, which made me feel very young again! And, wow, it is ever amazing that John Alden had the foresight as a Pilgrim to open a gift shop -- what a brilliant Pilgrim (please note I am just kidding).

Although Plymouth has a population of 58,000 (and growing), it really feels like a smaller town with its quaint downtown, spread out waterfront and outlying rural areas -- inlcuding the Long Pond area that might be my ticket to finally learning how to fish!

So, my interest in Plymouth has gone from about zero to 60 in about one second. It might sound strange, but the rushed elementary school field trips to Plymouth and the dull textbook history lessons (William Bradford was a Pilgrim...he rode on a ship) might have dulled my ambitions to visit Plymouth as a younger person. Now, I am fully re-energized to explore more of Plymouth, including the following:

Plimoth Plantation, an indoor and outdoor museum portraying Plymouth as it was in the 17th Century (this means lots of information on Pilgrims)

The Pilgrim Hall Museum that showcases a collection of Pilgrim possessions

The Jenny Grist Mill, a 1636 living history museum offering a tour of this famous grist mill

The nearby Edaville Railroad in Carver, MA, a personal favorite childhood attraction that has come back to life (after being closed) as an amusement park featuring train rides

Sometime, we'll come back to stay at the newly renovated John Carver Inn (it looks so grand and has a perfect downtown location). eat at the East Coast Grille for a nice seafood dinner, and reconnect with this famous New England tourist destination that slipped away from us for many years. It's time to return to "America's Hometown!"

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