My weekend in New England
It was not only because of Barry Manilow’s hit song that I decided to visit this part of the USA. The past decades, I have been fascinated by my friends’ stories of how they marveled at the region’s natural beauty and in everything else that it has to offer.
New England is the name given to the area in the northeastern corner of continental US composed of the states of Vermont, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine and Connecticut. Each of these states has something that merited a closer look, thus my decision to spend a good part of the week on a tour of these places.
Vermont, which is also known as The Green Mountain State, its literal translation, is where my favorite ice cream, Ben and Jerry’s, is made. A 30-minute Tour of its factory in Burlington reveals the beautiful story of how this global enterprise started.
Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield were childhood friends who, after college, decided to enroll in a correspondence course on Ice Cream-Making. With $12000, mostly borrowed, as start-up capital, they converted an old gas station into an ice cream parlor.
Ben suffers from an illness that has robbed him of his sense of smell and taste, so he relies only on the food’s texture, for him to appreciate what he’s eating. This led to the trademark chunks found in each flavor, giving the brand a distinct advantage over its competitors. After the Factory Tour, you can imagine how many pounds I gained!
The state of Rhode Island is popularly known as the “home” of yacht races, especially the world-famous America’s Cup, and is the Summer Capital of New England. I was surprised that there were very few people in Downtown Newport, which is probably why it is very clean and orderly. The city is where we find the mansions of the rich and famous. One such mansion that I took time out to visit was The Breakers, owned by, probably America’s richest family, the Vanderbilts.
The five-story, 70-room mansion of Cornelius Vanderbilt is fireproof and uses only concrete, marble, steel trusses, and no wood at all. It sits on top of a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and got its name from the rush of waves that constantly crash on the rocks below. Its present owner, The Preservation Society of Newport has seen to it that the mansion’s opulence, shown through the lavish multimillion-dollar furnishings, is kept intact, for its half-a-million annual visitors to marvel at.
New Hampshire is known as the Live Free Or Die State. At first, I found this tag quite threatening, until I visited the state and realized how such tag came about. Although it is part of a quote from General John Stark, a famous soldier in the American Revolutionary War, it could have been precipitated by Patrick Henry’s famous speech to the Virginia Legislature, which ended with, “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
The state is a favorite of adventure seekers as it has a wide expanse of wilderness, The White Mountains and Mount Washington are choice destinations for hikers, mountain climbers and skiers. Not being into any of these, I didn’t stay long, and proceeded to my next stop.
When people talk about Massachusetts, more often than not, they talk about Boston, its capital, and the largest city among all the New England states. This particular visit made me discover a lot about this historical city. I enjoyed walking along the Freedom Trail, a 4-kilometer path marked on the sidewalk with red bricks, going through 16 different historical locations in the downtown area, each one identified by an implanted marker on the sidewalk. The interesting landmarks include Paul Revere’s House and the site of the Boston Tea Party.
An impressive structure in the downtown area is the imposing Massachusetts State House where the Office of the Governor and the state’s legislature are located. The building has a very attractive golden dome, which can be seen from almost any part of the city, shimmering through the clear blue sky.
Another impressive destination in the city is Quincy Market, steep in history, but a mecca for the “blackbelters” in shopping. Any time of the day, the place is buzzing with activity, with hundreds of customers walking through its rectangular structure, hobbling towards every direction carrying bags of merchandise. Naturally, I was one of those, because the bargains were just too hard to resist.
The easternmost state in the continental US is Maine, which means it is the first to see America’s sunrise. Going over the brochure, I saw that the state is known for its giant-sized lobsters and king crabs, and that people go crazy over how inexpensive seafood is in this state, which, in fact, is a big factor in its tourism campaign.
It is also the home state of celebrated poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, he of the “Song Of Hiawatha” and “A Psalm Of Life” fame. But his house is in another city, not in Augusta, the capital, which meant additional travel time, if I had to visit it, plus, I’m allergic to shellfish, so I decided to bypass Maine this time.
The southernmost state of New England is Connecticut, which forms the Tri-State Area with New York and New Jersey. It is also known as the Constitution State because many provisions of the United States Constitution were derived from the state’s own Constitution.
What got me interested in Connecticut is Yale University, the Ivy League research university, which started out as a college for Theology and Sacred Languages. Located in New Haven, the university prides itself with having graduated five U.S. Presidents, 19 Supreme Court Justices, hundreds of Congressmen and diplomats, 52 Nobel Laureates and 20 billionaires. Its Law School was where Hillary Rodham met Bill Clinton, her classmate.
I like the Gothic architecture of the main campus in downtown New Haven. It has stone carvings on its walls depicting various personalities, like an athlete, a writer, etc. adding more character to the entire structure. And I learned that the architect deliberately splashed acid on the walls to give the buildings and the fortress-like stone towers that “Middle Ages look.”
My New England sojourn was indeed a most fulfilling endeavor. A swing over the northeastern corner of the continental U.S. gave me a filling dose of the varied delights that America has to offer. There were many other attractions I wanted to visit but time, rather, the lack of it prevented me from doing so. Nevertheless, I was happy having visited these impressive destinations. Now, I can picture what Barry Manilow meant when he sang:
“Time in New England
Took me away
To long rocky beaches...
…When will I hold you again?”
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