Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Scary Salem

No one really knows what caused 2 young girls to fall ill in Salem, Massachusetts in the winter of 1692.  Did the girls eat grain that had gone bad and caused it to become hallucinogenic? Was it adolescent mass hysteria (the most common theory)? Or was it due to economic hardship caused by a brutal winter (the newest theory)? Whatever it was that caused the daughter and niece of a minister to fall ill "in fits", witchcraft will forever be tied to the city of Salem.( Twenty people were tried and executed for practicing witchcraft and putting "spells" on the young girls.)  And that makes Salem, the Witch City for over 300 years, one of the most popular places to celebrate Halloween in the US.

People come from all over dressed in costume and ready to celebrate witchcraft and the underworld. And there isn't a lack of it in Salem. Salem takes full advantage of it's past to help you celebrate.  There are 3D Haunted Adventures , a parade, a carnival,, graveyards, witch museums, ghost tours, witch tours and plenty of celebrating the macabre. And if you need a psychic reading, Halloween in Salem is your place.  But did you know that Salem has a seafaring past and you can visit a large historical park there? I didn't. Had we had more time, I would've liked to dig into the rest of Salem's history.

A very old and large graveyard sits in the middle of town where some of the most important people from Salem are buried. But none of the victims of the Salem Witch Trials are buried here. Since they were accused of unsavory "witchcraft", the family members of the hanged had to pick up their bodies and bury them elsewhere.

In fact, when my daughter and her friends went to Salem to celebrate Halloween last year, the graveyard appeared so disney-esque to them that they thought it was fake. It is, however, very real. And very old.

So if you want to celebrate Halloween with a little bit of fun, a little bit of ridiculousness, and a little bit of history ...head to Salem. Prepare for crowds and parking issues. But have fun. And Happy Halloween!

Full disclosure: I did not celebrate Halloween in Salem, just a short afternoon visit in the spring. I couldn't resist taking my picture with this statue from Bewitched which was a gift to the city of Salem.

If you want to read more about the Salem Witchcraft Trials and various theories on what caused the young girls fits, you can do that here

Friday, October 24, 2014

Fall in Rocky Mountain National Park

About a month ago, we set out to drive The Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, starting in Grand Lake and ending in Estes Park. At 12,183 feet, it is the highest paved road in America.  My goal was to see some fall color - specifically, the golden aspen trees that Colorado is so famous for.

It was a breathtaking drive, and successful. I was able to see the golden aspens.  And we saw a male bull elk with his harem of females. He even bugled for us - and the many other people watching from the side of the road. In fact, Estes Park is home to Elk Fest every October, which celebrates the elk rut.

But enough talking. Time for the beauty of  Rocky Mountain National Park! (Notice the road is above the tree line at the top so it is quite barren of any color there)

If you haven't experienced The Trail Ridge Road of  Rocky Mountain National Park, it's a must do. Especially in the fall. And just as a side note, the road is already covered in snow and closed for the winter. We made it about 3 weeks before it closed. It will re-open around Memorial Day weekend - weather dependent, of course.

I'm linking up with #fridaypostcards at walking on travels - go check out Keryn's photos of the beautiful Redwoods in California!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Little Women, Minutemen and Stars Hollow

Concord, Massachusetts is home to Louisa May Alcott's Orchard House, where she wrote her most famous novel, Little Women and Minutemen National Park, where the first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired. It is also one of the cutest little towns I've ever been to - and in my mind - was a real life Stars Hollow of the Gilmore Girls tv show.

Have you read Little Women? Seen the movie? Written by Louisa May Alcott, Little Women was her most successful book. Based on her own family, Alcott used Orchard House as the setting for the popular novel. You can learn about the real life characters of Marmie, Amy, Meg, Beth and Jo by touring their family house.
The Alcott family lived at Orchard House in Concord for 3 years. Louisa's father, Bronson Alcott, was a transcendentalist who established a school at the house which was very progressive, even (gasp!) teaching girls. Thoreau, Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne were friends of the family and frequent visitors to the house. Unfortunately, the school was too progressive for it's time so the family floundered financially. Louisa started writing to help the family out and was wildly successful for a woman novelist at the time.

You can visit and tour Orchard House. Our tour started with a short film about the author and her family. Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and told us all about the family's life at Orchard House. Even some of the original drawings from one of the daughter's are still on the wall. If you want to visit, you can find out more information here

Minutemen National Historical Park marks the spot where the first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired. A stop at the Visitors Center will give you a lay of the land and let you watch a multi-media presentation following the events as they happened, including the midnight ride of Paul Revere.

You can visit multiple battlefields, the historical Hartwell Tavern and follow the Battle Road Trail from Concord to Lexington. Our visit was on a rainy New England day - so we headed for the Visitors Center and watched the video presentation and wandered around the gift shop a bit. We didn't attempt to do any of the outdoor areas so I guess we'll just have to leave that for another day.

The actual town of Concord is small town New England at it's best. It reminded me so much of the fictional town of Stars Hollow from the Gilmour Girls tv show (a favorite in my house  - we spent many hot summer days watching the series, almost to the point of obsession. Just one more episode!)

The rain couldn't damper the cuteness. Though lacking the gazebo of Stars Hollow, Concord does have The Colonial Inn. Overlooking the town square, you can choose to stay here or dine at Liberty, the area's only gastropub.

We ate at the Main Street Market and Cafe. No words for how cute this coffee shop was. Pastries as large as your hand .(I was looking for the No Cellphones sign like at Luke's Diner in Stars Hollow but there wasn't one) I could visit Concord again and again.

(You can also visit Walden Pond, the famous pond where Henry David Thoreau went to live simply and immerse himself in nature. Once again, the weather was a bit of hindrance for us.)

How about you? Have you ever been to Concord? What did you think?

I'm once again linking up with #fridaypostcards !!!!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Breckenridge Oktoberfest

So the snow has started falling in Colorado already. But for my recent visit, the weather couldn't have been more perfect. Sunny and 80 degrees everyday. (Which made up for our evening arrival temp of 48 with drizzling rain and chance of snow) While we were there, I was able to visit the cute town of Breckenridge for my first time. And it happened to be the weekend of Oktoberfest!

Oktoberfest was held on Main Street  in Breckenridge with free admission and free parking. You can purchase collectible steins, to be filled with beer, or tokens which would get you a full pour of beer for $5 in advance and $6 at the festival.

Breckenridge Oktoberfest is the largest one in the Rocky Mountains. They pour 8000 gallons of beer, which is more than enough to serve all of Mile High Stadium!
During the day there were oompah bands and polka dancers, german food, many people dressed in traditional german dress and of course, beer. Paulaner beer to be exact. Which is quite fitting as Paulaner comes from Munich, home of the first Oktoberfest held in 1810. (We not only sampled beer but also a brat and apple strudel) I had a great time - some might say it was the company - but it was a very fun festival. Affordable, great weather and not too large or crowded.

Breckenridge Oktoberfest is usually held the 2nd weekend of September. Friday is a shorter festival day with the popular Brewmaster's Dinner held on Friday night,  usually a sell-out. And longer festival hours are held on Saturday and Sunday. The 2015 dates and prices are still to be determined. You can find out info. about it here

Check out some beautiful photos of Stockholm, Sweden for #fridaypostcards. I'm linking up!

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Grand Canyon of the Pacific

Waimea Canyon, located in Kauai, was  supposedly called  "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific" by Mark Twain when he saw it. Though not as big as the Grand Canyon in Arizona, at 14 miles long, one mile wide and 3600 feet deep, it is still a breathtaking sight to see.

We left from our resort in Lihue early in the morning to begin the drive up to the viewpoint of the canyon. It was a cool and clear morning and we were one of the first visitors to arrive. There was only one other couple there and the only sounds were those of the helicopters giving tours. (If you look closely in some of the photos you can see a shadow of a helicopter!)

We took our time oohing and aahing over the scenery, and then drove down the road a bit to see some views of the Na Pali Coast.

We saw this guy hanging out by the road on our way back down.

And we headed to  Waimea Town at the Waimea Brewing Company the world's westernmost brewpub, for lunch. Then back to the resort for a swim and the beach!

Waimea Canyon has a lookout point, restrooms and a parking lot. If you would like to continue on, you will enter Kokee State Park, which has hiking trails and views of the Na Pali Coast. For more info, click here

Linking up with #fridaypostcards at walkingontravels!!