|New England´s Fabulous B´s -- Boston, Berkshires, Baseball, Baritones And Beauty
FEATURE by Willard Manus
Visiting New England for two weeks was a big high. The area simply has everything: history and tradition, urban and rural delights, high and low culture, superb food and drink. All that and friendly, English-speaking natives.
Our trip started in Boston, America's oldest, longest-inhabited city. Oldest is the operative word where Boston is concerned: oldest American school, courthouse, port, church, pub, customs house, you name it. Same goes for our hotel, the Parker House. America's first hotel has been renovated many times over the centuries--most recently by the Omni chain--but it still retains the old-world charm and atmosphere that made it JFK's favorite home away from home. (Its bar remains the favorite hangout of many of Boston's top lawyers). Even its kitchen is famous, if only because Ho Chi Minh and Malcom X once worked there.
JFK is practically synonymous with Boston. The library and museum named after the late president was designed by illustrious architect LM Pei and is a national memorial and resource center that also offers panoramic views of Boston's skyline and Harbor Islands.
We were introduced
to some of Boston's other best-known attractions on the Duck Tour, which
took us through the city in an authentic WW II amphibious vehicle. After
traversing downtown Boston and observing such sites as Boston Commons,
the Holocaust Memorial, Beacon Hill, the headquarters of the Underground
Railroad, the crystal-palace John Hancock skyscraper and the USS Constitution
(Old Ironsides), the Duck slid into the Charles River and gave us a taste
of aquatic Boston with its graceful bridges, sailboats and yacht clubs.
We walked off the feast by following the Freedom Trail, the 3.5 mile walking tour that runs through downtown Boston, marked by a red brick line. The Paul Revere House, the Old North Church and graveyard and the statue of Samuel Adams (the man they named the beer after) were just a few of the historic sites we visited on foot.
Boston is just a 4-hour
car ride away from Cooperstown, New York, home of the National Baseball
Hall of Fame--and the Glimmerglass Opera (see OPERA for a Glimmerglass
The Cooperstown region is chockablock with history and human interest. Named after its famed native son, author James Fenimore Cooper, Cooperstown--"Where Nature Smiles"--adjoins Otsego Lake, a nine-mile-long body of glistening water that once was the favorite fishing grounds of the local Iriquois Indians. (Otsego means "the meeting place"). The lake figures prominently in two of Cooper's Leatherstocking tales ("The Pioneers" and "The Deerslayer").
We stayed elsewhere, in two different local inns, the Hartwick Guest House and Cottage in nearby Hartwick, NY, a charming 100-year-old renovated Victorian house; and The Inn at Cooperstown, an award-winning, three-story B & B that was built in 1874 as an adjunct to the famed Fenimore Inn. Both were designed (in the Second Empire French architectural style) by by Henry I. Hardenbergh, the architect whose later achievements included the Dakota Apartments and the Plaza Hotel in New York. The inn, which is fronted by towering golden sugar maples, was fully restored in 1985 and has been tastefully improved on every year since. Quiet, comfortable, and known for its sumptuous breakfasts--The Inn was an ideal haven for us.
When it comes to museums,
Cooperstown has more than just baseball to offer. The Farmer's Museum,
for example, takes one back to the rural life of the 1800s and re-creates
in athentic detail the years when Cooperstown was the hop king of the
USA. (Hops is a vine whose flowers are used in the making and flavoring
of beer). Migrant workers from all over the country flocked to the area
to live in tents while they picked hops, ate, drank and partied--and sometimes
Next we drove though
the green, heavily forested Berkshire landscape to Stockbridge, MA where
we visited the Norman Rockwell Museum, which holds 600 paintings and drawings
by America's favorite artist and illustrator, plus an archive of more
than 100, 000 photographs, letters and materials. The Museum's campus
includes the artist's original studio, moved from the center of town,
where he hung out in Ed's Bar with his fellow Saturday Evening Post illustrators,
Mead Schaeffer, George Hughes and Jack Atherton (some of whose work is
also shown at the museum). It was particularly pleasurable to peruse Rockwell's
1967 portrait of "Stockbridge at Christmas" and then walk down
the very same street a little later, realizing how little it had changed
over the years.
(This fall the Turner exhibit will travel to the Manchester U.K. City Art gallery; in May 2004 it will visit the Burrell Collection, Glasgow, Scotland City Art Gallery.)
Seeing the Turner paintings capped our New England trip, one of the most pleasurable and memorable we've ever made.