And since I know many of you are literary-minded as well, I thought I might share our experience to help guide you on your own trip!
First of all, you'll be wondering: fly into Boston or Hartford, CT?
Pick Hartford, otherwise known as Bradley International Airport (BDL). It's small. It's centrally located to the best attractions. It's cheaper than flying into Boston.
Next, where to stay? I puzzled over this one for a while and up until a couple of weeks prior to the trip thought we would change hotels each night. But that is so taxing, and when I mapquested times and distances, I discovered everything we wanted to see was within 2 hours driving time of Enfield, CT.
Enfield is just south of the Massachusetts border, so just outside of Springfield and about 20 minutes north of the airport. Turns out, a lot of folks stay here when they are visiting Six Flags. There are a number of hotels, and after some quality time on Tripadvisor we selected Red Roof Inn. It was clean, quiet, comfortable and reasonably priced -- perfect for us.
There are also an abundance of restaurants and stores on the Enfield exits. There even a shopping mall and a movie theater, for night-time, non-literary entertainment. I also spied a Barnes & Noble, if the literary haunts don't satisfy your itch -- or, as was our case, if the literary haunts add a gazillion new titles to your to-be-read list!
Hazard Grille (perhaps we ordered the wrong thing -- both of us had seafood, and it was NOT good), we visited the Country Diner three times! We also enjoyed a lovely meal at Lulu's Pizzeria and Family Restaurant.
Now for the literary goodness:
We arrived at the airport before noon, got our car from Budget (really quick, kind service) and scuttled into Hartford for lunch at Black-Eyed Sally's on Asylum Street. It's a blues-themed juke joint with a New Orleans flavor and lots of ambience. After a lovely meal, we headed for the home of Harriet Beecher Stowe. We took the tour and learned so much about Harriet and her family, like the difference between being anti-slavery and abolitionist and what happens when a parent is a famous preacher and instructs his kids to "go out and make the world a better place." I had no idea Harriet wrote 30 books and was an artist. I had to buy a biography, and I totally wanted her painting of an orange tree.
|Papa in front of Mark Twain's house|
Also, we viewed the exhibit "Race, Rage and Redemption," which was disturbing but important, with many items on loan from an exhibit from the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University.
We journeyed 40 minutes or so to Amherst, MA, home of one Emily Dickinson. We were fortunate to get tour guide Jane Price whose passion for Emily's life and work made the tour an absolute joy. (This, after a not-so-warm welcome by the young women in the gift shop/tour office... really, is it that hard to say, "Good morning"?) I loved seeing Emily's famous white dress and learning tidbits about her play with the local kids (She would drop a basket out her bedroom window with gingerbread as part of the neighborhood game of "booty."). Also, the last room held an interactive space with gave me a great idea for teach kids about the joys and agonies of word choice for poets-at-work.
|Turkey "pop" Pie at Judie's|
|Jeannine and me!|
Next we headed back to Hartford to see Noah Webster's house. Of all the places we visited on our trip, this one was the most disappointing. I guess Noah just hasn't achieved the fame of the others, even though his work was certainly important. We got the feeling that the house's focus was more on learning opportunities for local youngsters than for tourists -- great for them, not so much for us! Perhaps we would have had a different impression if we'd gotten there in time for the last house tour, so if you go, be sure to check the tour times before heading out.
We took our longest journey, east to Concord, which took us about an hour and 45 minutes, to see Louisa May Alcott's home, The Orchard. It's a charming house, and since it was a lovely Saturday, we were among many eager to revel in the sweet world of LITTLE WOMEN. The house was exactly like stepping onto the pages of that novel, and it was fascinating to learn all the parallels between the novel and Louisa May's real life. Not so appealing was the militant tour guide who seemed to take great pleasure in admonishing guests not to touch. I mean, come on, we get it. It kind of took away from the graciousness of the experience. We were pleased to sign the guest book on our way out -- a guest book that's very similar to the one people have been signing for the past 100 years as they've toured this home. (I know! 100 years! Amazing!)
|My favorite picture from the trip|
(I swear we didn't plan to both be
crossing our arms -- but, look!)
|Papa at the North Bridge|
Sleep Hollow Cemetery. It's a BIG cemetery, but we finally found Author's Ridge, where Thoreau, Hawthorne, Emerson and the Alcotts are buried. I was touched by the small offerings of pencils and pens and stones and paper scraps at each grave and even contributed a small something of my own. If one must be buried, I don't suppose there's a better spot in the world than this one.
If we hadn't been tuckered out, we would have visited Concord Museum, which came highly recommended by Jeannine and was featuring works by Annie Leibovitz. I'm sorry we had to miss it, but you know, it's always good to leave something for a return trip.
We traveled west about 45 minutes to the Berkshires, more specifically to Stockbridge, MA, home of Norman Rockwell Museum. How much did we love this place? How much did I smile walking through these rooms? How delighted was I to learn who tidy Norman was in his studio, and how ashes from his pipe would drop and ignite his brush-cleaning bucket, sending up flame and smoke and melting it into its own muddled shape? We could have spent days in the gift shop alone and seriously had to curb our spending. So much to love!
Since it was lunchtime we headed into Lenox, just a few minutes away, which was positively bustling, despite drizzle. We parked in a church parking lot and walked to Haven Cafe & Bakery for brunch. We were not alone. In fact, we could barely speak to one another, it was so crowded. We managed to enjoy our meal anyhow -- Papa had a Santa Fe omelet and I had curry chicken salad. It was wonderful to step outside again into the peaceful, wet air.
|Edith's bedroom. When can I move in?|
We were back on the Mass. Pike before we realized that we had forgotten to see Chesterwood, Daniel French's studio in Stockbridge, which Jeannine had recommended. We were so sad! But the bad thing about the Pike is you can't turn back. Again, something to see next time.
A side note about the Mass Pike: it cost us less than $3 each way to Concord, and nothing on our way to/from Stockbridge. Go figure.
We enjoyed a lovely breakfast and headed to the airport to return our car and wait for our flights. So hard to say goodbye! But oh so thankful for the experience, the memories, the wealth of time shared. Thank you, Papa. I love you so much!