A Weekend in Salem

The last couple weeks has been pretty stressy and work-focused, so Mariama and I decided to take a weekend off and go visiting someplace new.  We’re trying to expand our destinations a bit and avoid the trap of “lets go someplace comfortable and known…” – we hope to travel abroad in the future, and always going back to places you know isn’t gonna mesh too well when we’re travelling in new countries and strange places.

So this weekend we settled on visiting Salem, MA – I’d been here once a long time ago (we’re talking 15+ years, while managing a toddler), but really hadn’t looked around much.  This time we planned on exploring, biking, and walking as much as time allowed.

Because I booked things so late, our options for hotel stays wasn’t that wide, but I ended up booking a room with the Salem Inn, right in the middle of town.  We ended up in one of their ‘satellite’ houses, about a block away, called Curwen House.  Think early 1800’s colonial manor house and you’re not far off.  It was well apportioned, comfortable, and had free breakfasts each day (which was really good).  My only gripe was the air conditioning was stuck on HIGH all weekend, so we were a bit chilled.

Friday night we walked around town a little – we seem to be in mid/off season.  It wasn’t crowded, but it wasn’t dead.  It was cool without being chilly.  Pretty much perfect timing for exploring.

Saturday we got up early, had breakfast, and biked out to Marblehead.  This was our first ‘long’ ride in quite a while – things just have gotten in the way, and we haven’t been on the bikes nearly enough.  We rode about 9 miles total, out to marblehead, then down to the beach (Hello ocean!), and back to town.  We got back good and tired, but rather than fall into bed, we decided to go get a lateish lunch.  A really good restaurant called Bonchon was our destination (think upscale Korean fried chicken), which was delightful.  We were sort of energized after lunch, so decided to do more foot exploring.  Originally we had hoped to visit the Peabody Essex Museum (which had a series of exhibits that sounded great.  Ocean Liners, Movie Monsters, and some other nifty things going on), but the weather was so nice, and there were so many ‘little’ places we wanted to see, we decided to just walk and explore.

Saturday night we were initially going to go a very nice italian restaurant, but ended up at a place called Bambolina (which we found on Yelp).  It was wonderful!  This is absolutely not your neighborhood pizza joint.  We had fantastic appetizers and a hand made pizza (which was made right in front of us) that was outstanding.  Highly recommended!

Salem is an interesting town.  Naturally, it’s best known for the whole witch thing, and it’s hard to get away from it.  It’s the source of 90% of their tourist industry I suspect.  But the town isn’t particularly ‘high brow’ as many Massachusetts coastal towns are.  There’s definitely money to be found (particulary out on the coast near Marblehead and Swampscott), but a good portion of the town is fairly middle class.  It was interesting going from the touristy strip on Essex street and after a block passing homeless folks and loud Irish bars, then jumping right into restored 19th century homes.

Some takeaways…

  • This is a great place to visit that’s not far away from home (about an hour and 15 minutes) to get away for a weekend.
  • The restaurant scene is remarkably good.  Even though we only stopped in 2 places for meals, I could see spending time figuring out all the nifty places in the town.
  • The Salem waterfront is a big bay, so there’s not a lot of feel of ‘being on the ocean’ unless you go north or south a bit on the shore.  Having said that, there’s a huge marina and maritime museum right in town.
  • If you have an interest in early-mid 1800’s history, this is the place to be  The place is drenched in it.  Buildings, families, stories, monuments – they’re all here.

Will we come back?  I think so, yes.  As I said, it’s not far away, and with a little juggling, I think we could find lodging that’s comfortable and not very expensive.  Everything is within walking distance, and biking is very easy and gives you access to a lot of the area.

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A wandering geek. Toys, shiny things, pursuits and distractions.

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