Faerie Frolicking on the Isle of Skye!

In the midst of all the excitement surrounding the Indiegogo campaign for Talking Taboo, i’ve let my recounting of Scottish Highlands adventures lapse. But no longer!

After our morning in Dornie admiring Eilean Donan Castle, Dad and i set off for the much-anticipated meander through the Isle of Skye.

Can you spy the Skye Bridge?

Can you spy the Skye Bridge? (Look to the right!)

Living in a flat with 11 other people and only one not studying abroad, i’d heard songs waxed lyrical about the beauty of Skye. It had only mounted my anticipation to see it myself – craggy mountains, frigid sea, ewes in such abundance i would have no shortage of puns to make.

My father, on the other hand, was not too ecstatic that the only thing i’d suggested we do, rather than just see, was the Faerie Glen south of Uig. (He was never one to clap in the Peter Pan scene when Tinkerbell fell flat). But Uig was at the northern crest of the Isle, so we took the morning to drive through Skye’s wee little towns and not-so-little countryside.

We also couldn’t resist a stop-off at a little knitwear shop called “Hand Spinner Having Fun!” Dad tried every sweater in their arsenal on, but to no avail. Being the size of a medium oak tree (as J would say) has its disadvantages. He did, however, procure for me a warm hat-like thing to keep my ears from getting redder in the cold.

The shoppe had a cat!

The shoppe had a cat!

The Cuillins.

The Cuillins.

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There wasn’t a whole lot of traffic to contend with, so i managed to snap what i think might rank in my top-ten favorite photos (of mine) of all time:

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Well, not much traffic save the rogue sheep or two.

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When we at last reached Uig we prioritized food over faeries (bet you can’t guess who prioritized that list!). There wasn’t a whole lot to be seen in town – a ferry (without wings, alas), two restaurants, and a gift shop. It was the kindly gentleman behind the counter who gave us better directions to find the odd road off the main one to get to the Faerie Glen. Suddenly, i was five years old again and half-tempted to buy the faerie dust for sale. Instead, we settled on post cards and set out for the road posted as “Balknock.”

And at its end we found the Faerie Glen.

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The Faerie Glen!

The Faerie Glen!

I clambered out of the car with a jolt, frolicking in the muddy sheep-paths and delighting in the conical hills.

“What exactly makes this a faerie glen, anyway?” Dad asked behind me. I was initially too busy clapping my hands and repeating that i did, in fact, believe in faeries, to answer.

“Isn’t it obvious?” I was all sass. “Faeries live here, Dad.” I think i even did my best toddler-pout.

He mouthed an “oh” and snapped another picture.

In the end, i think the glen won him over. We split paths, he up one hill and i its cousin, drinking in the damp glamour of this little corner of Scotland.

We took matching opposite-hilltop photos!

We took matching opposite-hilltop photos!

The rain was in a pelting phase by the time i at last un-muddied my boots and plopped in the car. Once more, i asked the universe to invent windshield wipers for glasses. We were off again, back to the south of the Isle. There was a bounty of waterfalls, a hop-off at the gorgeous Talisker distillery (we were too late for the tour, alas) and even a rainbow over the sea.

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Rainbow over the sea!

Rainbow over the sea!

We stopped in Portee for my favorite British delight, millionaire shortbread, and some hot chocolate to warm up. (I also may, or may not, have taken seven or eight maps of the island for my collection. They were free! I couldn’t resist!)

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Casual roadside sightings in Skye!

We were bound for the B&B which was nestled near more castle ruins and a seaside port. It was a charming end to a breathtaking day.

Dad would like you all to know he took this one.

Dad would like you all to know he took this one.

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I won’t say i convinced my father to believe in faeries, but i think Skye’s magic did a pretty good job of enthralling us both!

current jam: ‘Q.U.E.E.N.’ janelle monáe featuring erykah badu

best thing: my friends come soon! and so does a certain non-medium-sized oak tree lad!

support talking taboo on indiegogo!

Exploring Eilean Donan Castle!

The cap off to our first day of road tripping through Scotland was the quaint, no-stop-lights-needed town of Dornie. A jig step away from the Isle of Skye bridge, Dornie promised us two conveniences: the ridiculously beautiful Eilean Donan Castle and ease for traveling to our next big destination: Skye itself.

Our first glimpse of the castle!

Our first glimpse of the castle!

So cute!

So cute!

The only place, really, to stay in the Highlands is in a B&B (we passed all of three hostels in our lengthy afternoon wander through the hills). Fortunately for travelers, these wee little stop-offs dot the towns of the Highlands in high numbers – and it means you get to have a more personal experience when traveling (and less expensive!). Our host, Jim, was a lovely and chatty man who boasted of being “born and bred here.” Our room, as the only guests in for the night, overlooked the exquisite castle itself – a serious, jaw-dropping treat!

by day

Jim laughed at my hop-stepping glee over the castle, saying he couldn’t even see the glamour of it anymore. But he also was quick to assure us the most beautiful time to capture the castle in photographs would be in the evening, at twilight. As far north as we were, that wouldn’t be much before 9:30 PM.

So to dinner we went, at “a pub just down the path from those wee blue gates” at the end of the B&B’s driveway. (We’re pretty sure it was one of two options in the part of town we were in). Feeling particularly British, i ordered a fish pie with a local ale.

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After dinner, we walked back through the we blue gate to drink in the blue-ing sky enveloping the castle. Just as the sun stretched its last farewell over the mountains, i snapped this photo:

Pretty excellent suggestion for a photo, Jim!

The view of the castle from our room!

It was a pretty remarkable ending to a pretty remarkable day!

The next morning we made our way into the castle itself, marveling over its pivotal role in the Jacobite rebellion and laughing at the most excellent wax sculptures in the kitchen. The castle bears a long history of Hollywood, too, having been featured in a James Bond film and a number of other Scotland-themed movies. While the interior is tremendously cool to see, it’s easily the exterior of the castle that makes it so enchanting. Seriously, the castle on an island on a loch thing never gets old.

Our first-morning look at the castle!

Our first-morning look at the castle!

Within the walls!

Within the walls!

Best photo of the day.

Best photo of the day.

And the surrounding landscape isn’t too shabby, either. In misty rain (as it was when we first set foot on the island) or in basking sun (as it turned into, ten minutes later) the castle retains a sense of awe and glamour. What a treat to see in all shades of sun and moonlight!

Barely twenty minutes passed between these photos.

Barely twenty minutes passed between these photos.

Arms laden with postcards from the giftshop, we made our way back on the road. It was only the start of the day, but it was a wonderful way for it to begin!

current jam: ‘skyfall’ adele.

best thing: kind shopkeepers.

Saint Giles Cathedral, High Tea, and the National Museum: Checking in with the Edinburgh Bucket List.

When J and i weren’t cowering under umbrellas in London or making moon-eyes at each other in Paris, we were covering plenty of ground in Edinburgh.

It is, after all, the best city in the UK (in my humble, obviously biased opinion).

I took J to my favorite tourist-y spot in Edinburgh on the first day: the Edinburgh Castle. We visited my second-favorite spot – Saint Margaret’s Chapel – and J geeked out over the weaponry in the Great Hall (there was a lot of rolling eyes on my end).

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Saint Margaret’s Chapel, oldest building in Edinburgh.

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The castle at dusk!

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He really liked the cannons.

My first-favorite thing to do at the Castle, however, has nothing to do with what’s on the inside. The parking lot that stretches in front of the portcullis offers some of the most exquisite views of Edinburgh and the surrounding mountains – and you don’t have to pay the 14 pound ticket fee to get in!

View from the Castle Terrace!

View from the Castle Terrace!

As much as i love going to the Castle (and believe me, i do love it – have a membership card and all) there were also things on my Edinburgh Bucket List that i wanted to make sure we checked off together. With a little less eye-rolling, we made our way through the 5th item on my list: the National Museum of Scotland.

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Jaws in the Animal Room.

The National Museum was the kind of place my elementary school would go on field trips. (I spotted more than a few clusters of children in uniform in the various exhibits). It encompasses everything from Victorian-era taxidermies to artifacts from the Scottish Reformation. It’s free, so for that reason alone, it’s well worth a visit. The best part of the museum, though, isn’t so much the stuffed lions, but the rooftop terrace. A friend had taken me up one Sunday afternoon for yet another exquisite view of Edinburgh and i was eager to share the view with J.

Alas, the roof terrace was closed. We’d run into a lot of closings because of the season: the Eiffel Tower top floor, the façade of Saint Paul’s, compressed museum times. Easily one of the perks of off-season travel is the discounted ticket prices and smaller queues. But you pay for it with the weather and minor inconveniences.

Our disappointment with the terrace’s closure, however, was abated by the beauty of the 6th item on my list: Saint Giles Cathedral. Situated along the Royal Mile with a tremendously distinctive spire, Saint Giles is a landmark i pass almost every single day. I knew it was meant to be gorgeous inside, but i’d saved the trip for when J visited.

St. Giles by night.

St. Giles by night.

I’m very, very glad i did. Calling the sanctuary lovely is a gross understatement, but anything else sounds forced. Sharing in the splendor with J was wonderful – he’s the only person i know who loves looking at old churches as much as me.

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Thistle Chapel

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On J’s last day in Edinburgh after moon-pie-eyes days spent in Paris and London, we went for High Tea at the Carlton. High Tea is just so quintessentially British, and more to the point High Tea is such a delicious occasion to dress up for a man as in love with his sport coat as J is. I got tick number 24 of of my list and J got to wear a tie (he’d packed it just for the occasion. There was more eye-rolling from my end).

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In posh splendor the tea was set out, and the trays stacked three-high with pastries placed precisely on our table. I tried not to slop tea all over my saucer while we talked about our now shared-love for Edinburgh. J plucked a treat off the tray and, before he’d finished sampling it, exclaimed “tastes like a really good Twinkie!”

Always a surprise, this exploring Edinburgh business.

current jam: ‘natural disaster’ zac brown band

best thing: the mediterranean sea!

Top 5 Things to Do in Amsterdam.

I’ve written about all of the things below in greater detail, but if you’re planning a trip to Amsterdam in the near future, these are the condensed top 5 things i would recommend doing! (See all my writing on Amsterdam here.)

1. Albert Cuyp Market. If you want to see a local side of town, this – the oldest street market in the Netherlands – is it. The market is exploding in stalls of things to try – everything from frites stands (mmm!) to lingerie shops. We took a full morning to peruse the selection and mostly ate our way through, devouring a powder-sugar-covered waffle at Wally’s Wafels and gorging ourselves on local olives. The prices are unparalleled for such gourmet food! (The market runs Monday – Saturday, 9 am – 5 pm).

top 5 - market

2. A Bike Tour. Really, i’m sure any company will do you just fine; Mike’s Bikes was great for the youthful, edgy side of Amsterdam (if a little heavy on the information about weed and prostitution for people not looking for that sort of entertainment) but if you want to get the lay of the land hop on a bike and go. It is the local way of getting around, after all!

shop cats make for the best bikes!

shop cats make for the best bikes!

3. The Van Gogh Museum. While the actual Van Gogh museum was undergoing renovations whilst we were in Amsterdam, the Hermitage Museum displayed the bulk of the collection in a special exhibit. Regardless of their housing, Van Gogh’s paintings come alive off the walls and force you to pay attention to their kinetic, vibrant energy. Though this is on the pricier end of Amsterdam museums, it is worth every cent!

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4. Dam Square. Though this is certainly the touristy center, there are so many great little shops to peak in (and wonderful people-watching!).  As a connoisseur of cheesy souvenirs, i loved shopping in Dam Square Souvenirs which is full of beautiful – if pricey – wooden shoes and other lovely Holland-themed merchandise. The best part, though, is the enormous yellow wooden shoe outside. Free mega-tourist-photo-op!

top 5 - souvenirs

5. Eat. Anything, really, but especially the bread, cheese, sausage, and frites! The Albert Cuyp Market is definitely the place to eat your way through, but don’t let your gastronomical exploits end there. Our favorite restaurant was van Kerkwijk, in Amsterdam Centruum. The menu is recited by the wait staff, who are warm and friendly folk, and it’s a selection abrim in quirky combinations (like steak slathered in strawberry sauce and goat cheese – shockingly good!). Another great place was right next to our hotel, the Café Onder de Ooievaar – the cheese and sausage plate made for a sumptuous late-night snack!

top 5 - eat

Bon voyage!

Highly Honorable Mentions:

The Anne Frank House (it was a wee bit crowded for this claustrophobic, but still very powerful – book tickets online & try to go first thing in the morning, rather than in the afternoon!)

if you like my condensed travel reviews, you’d probably like my tripadvisor profile!

current jam: ‘shake it out’ florence + the machine.

best thing: magna carterrrrr!

 

The Elephant House Café & Greyfriars Kirkyard!

For lunch today i met up with a group of ladies from my flat for lunch at (you guessed it!) The Elephant House Café. Over cups of tea and coffee we gabbed about our love for all things Potter, marveling at the view of the castle from her customary chair. The food could have been horrendous and we’d have loved it (because, you know, Rowling). Much to our delight, though, the sandwiches and tea were all exquisite. The café is bathed in a warm light and bedazzled in elephants; everywhere, there are petit statues and large posters of the gentle mammal. It’s an eclectic and comfortable place to be – with tremendously reasonable prices for American exchange students trying to stretch the pound as far as it can go!

Having a cuppa where Jo used to dream up the inner-workings of Hogwarts, no big deal.

Having a cuppa where Jo used to dream up the inner-workings of Hogwarts, no big deal.

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the view from our table!

the view from our table!

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Afterwards, some of us went to explore the graveyard at Greyfriars Kirk where we’d heard a Tom Riddle was buried. The search was a long one, before we finally found the grave on a wall in the rear of the garden.

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I’ve always had a peculiar fondness for graveyards; they’re steeped in history, usually quiet, and endlessly inspiring. The search, then, for the mysterious Thomas Riddell was not at all unenjoyable – particularly because it was made in the company of new friends!

Besides, i even found a grave adjacent to Thomas’ with an Elizabeth Riddell. Perhaps Voldemort had a long-lost aunt bearing the same first name as me?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGreyfriars, the street, is most famous not for ancient relatives of You-Know-Who, as it turns out. At the helm of the road is a statue of a small Skye Terrier, Greyfriars Bobby, who loyally waited for his human every day even after the human had long died. Both the human, a man named John Gray, and the dog are buried in the kirkyard.

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bobby & john

 

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It was lovely to explore this little corner of Edinburgh – and especially to do so with new friends! Days like today, even when my toes go numb, are making me fall in love with this enchanting city.

current jam: ‘i will wait’ mumford & sons

best thing: new friends!

The Hancock Shaker Village (or, They Still Have Field Trips in College?)

As part of my work as a course mentor for a first-year seminar this semester and as part of the work required in being an unapologetic religion nerd, i went to the Hancock Shaker Village on Sunday. With one of my favorite professors. And the students of the class i’m mentoring for. And my roommate.

It was a day of downpouring rain and unadulterated field trip bliss.

Nestled in the fall-color-blossoming Berkshires, the City of Peace greeted us somewhat bleary-eyed around 10 in the morning. The day had promised us rain and a damp cold; the promise was fulfilled. Yet nothing could dampen our sense of adventure (to employ the cliché) so, lime green entrance stickers brazen and umbrellas at the ready, we began our sojourn around the village.

The Shakers, though still around today, flourished most in the 18th century under the leadership of Mother Ann Lee, or the Holy Mother Wisdom. She was perceived to be the second coming of Jesus Christ, and the message she and her pacifist followers proliferated was one of racial and gender equality, as well as communal living and celibacy. The community functioned on these foundational principles of communal living, hard work, and through valuing a female half of the divine. Known perhaps the best for their music, the Shakers gained their name from their distinctive style of dance – dance that was integral to their weekly worship.

After navigating our way through the white tents housing craft fair solicitors, we made it somewhat sopping into the Brick Dwelling which served as a dormitory for the Sisters and Brothers of Hancock (among other things!). In the basement were all the kitchen necessities for canning and cooking and general house-managing, and as we worked our way up the floors we came to see how this community functioned in their vision of utopia.

The bedroom on the bottom left above was trimmed with a vibrant yellow hue, true to the colors used in the Shaker’s heyday. I loved the color and the desire to live in a vibrant space – to me, these touches humanized the Shaker’s vision for a perfect world in a really accessible way.

While trekking about in the historic buildings, we had to wear these hilarious (and undoubtedly useful) blue booties to protect the floors. It gave us all the appearance of having smurf-feet.

After exploring the Brick Dwelling, we braved the downpour once again and trudged our way, through the slug and mud, to the round barn with the promise of baby animals. The barn itself was fascinating (even to me of the suburban/urban bent) with its trapdoors and more hygienic system for cow-milking.

(that’s the famous round barn on the left!)

 

Easily the best part, however, was the Discovery Room. Though perhaps designed to entertain children younger than we (like, way, way younger) a cluster of us squealed in delight at the display of dress-up clothes running along the rear wall. Within minutes, the independent ladies of Mount Holyoke were two-year-olds in the playroom and a life-size toy cow. Unapologetic nerds, remember.

(the roommate and i, in our usual garb)

we’re twenty years old. that’s a thing we are.

After the donning and un-donning of bonnets and aprons, we once again endured the rain and made our way to the meetinghouse. I don’t have any photos of the inside, because we were all too occupied learning Shaker dances and songs (unapologetic nerds!) and trying to keep all that is carnal at bay.

 

All in all, the rain only made the day more of a memorable endeavor and certainly kept us intrigued by all that the interior of the buildings could offer. The Shakers are particularly fascinating to me in part because they are the focus of my professor, but also because of their radical notions of gender equality so early on in American Religious History. They also were (and remain) one of the longest-running utopian communities in the states – and i would argue a key facet to their longevity was this inclusion and validation of women’s voices. Their relevance, bonnets and all, is inescapable when discussing gender and religious identity in America over time.

And besides, who doesn’t love a good field trip?

current jam: ‘babel’ mumford & sons. all. the. time.

best thing: 1 day, 1 hours, 25 minutes. breathe, rinse, repeat.

An Irish Afternoon in Downtown Durham: Bull McCabes

Though i may not be gallivanting about Eastern Africa this summer, abrim with daring tales of seeing the final installment of Harry Potter whilst combatting a bacterial infection, there are still a number of adventures to be had in my hometown. As i’m now living here as something of a qualifiable adult, i find myself branching out farther and wider than ever before in my choices of cuisine and daytime preoccupation. In a way, then, i’m starting to greet the surrounding metropolis of the Triangle* as a new friend, rather than confining myself to the old news of Chapel Hill/Carrboro (though it will forever be first in my Carolina heart).

For this reason, i thought it might be fun to do a series of blogs entitled The Hometown Tourist Series throughout the remainder of my summer on the fun, quirky, worth-seeing, and sometimes bizarre new restaurants and hometown-tourist joints i uncover. Some will be new loves and others will be old staples, but i think regardless of the longevity of our relationships it will be a good way for me to be a continuing nomad in the land of my never-stagnant youth.

Enough preamble. The title of this post encapsulates the very essence of my new most favorite place in all of the Triangle: Bull McCabes Irish Pub.

I first came to discover this delectable pub on a whim; my mother picked me up from work around 8 one night and we decided to drive until we found a new place to eat. Knowing the City Center District and Historic American Tobacco District of Durham were hotspots for good food and enticing atmospheres (and relatively un-traversed by we), the night was commenced with a scouring the streets for a place still open late-ish on a Thursday evening. We quite literally stumbled upon this low brick building on the corner of Main Street and Chapel Hill Street – a most serendipitous and delightful of circumstances.

Ever a fan of a solid English Pub and totally willing to try an Irish-style venue in the states, we entered into a dark, low-ceiling-ed, wide-walled room abundant in cheering football fans (European connotation implied, per the atmosphere). I knew the moment i saw the walls were lined with fraying book and capped off with those enormous cathedral lamps it was true love.

(i’m not sure any photo could convey how massive these are, but this is my best effort!)

And though the atmosphere to a true hole-in-the-wall is key, the food is what makes Bull McCabes unparalleled. Sure, there’s eat-able pub food, but the cuisine served at this place rivaled the stuff i consumed in the UK. Of the menu, i have sampled (or rather, unapologetically gorged myself on): bangers & mash (my favorite), fish & chips, a BLT with added avocado. All come with their great, thinly-cut and perfectly-seasoned fries. And, of course, the beer selection is vast and (i’m sure, though i have not sampled it) sumptuous.

(the fish & chips)

(my sweet tea)

(though this is a diet coke, the caption on the glas sreads: off-centered ales for off-centered people. (love!))

All in all, going to Bull McCabes is ever a treat. Having now ventured with my mom for some great whimsical maternal-themed wandering, a Sunday brunch, and a delightful evening out i’d easily say this restaurant passes for any occasion wherein you seek good food, authentic and awesome atmosphere, and a splendid time.

(evidence of food consumption being of extraordinarily high yumm levels)

Condensed McMizziview:

Price: 1.5 – 2.3 (0 being fast food, 5 being somewhere super-fancy and of multiple courses (this menu is also contingent on size of portion & time of day))             Atmosphere: 5 (0 being fast food boring, 5 being the full experience of delicious things for eyes and mouth and ears!)                                                                                        Delectability of Food: 4.3 (0 being fast food, 5 being mouth-explosion crazed-good)

Things of interest to future McCabes-ers: website; location; full menu

*for non-locals: “The Triangle” is what we Carolinians confined to the cities/greater areas of Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, & questionably Cary use to refer to these very places. This is because Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill form something of a geographical triangle on a map (so clever! Bah!).

current jam: ‘mud on the tires’ brad paisley.

best thing: baskets of chocolate shared and family-growing.

Grand Central Station.

I may only be a stranger in the city of lights and motion, but i’ve always felt that Grand Central is the pulsating center of New York City; commotion, direction, chaos, everywhere people, everywhere energy and worlds and life…

(but you might get trampled if caught unawares staring at the stars above)

Witch You Were Here! A Day Spent in Salem, Massachusetts

In September of this year i proposed for myself a list of ten things i wanted to accomplish prior to the conclusion of 2011, inspired by my friend Mary Day Saou’s fantastic photography blog. While i have ticked off a number of items on the list, there are few that i have yet to share with all of you – so here it goes!

#5: Travel to somewhere historic in Massachusetts that i’ve not previously visited

Since playing the part of Abigail Williams in a (mini) class production of The Crucible my junior year of high school, i’ve had something of a bizarre fascination with the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. This play, in conjunction with a study of Puritan lifestyle in my AP US History class, led me to a phase of total obsession with the mass hysteria both of the Red Scare in the 1950s and the aforementioned trials. While my nights curled up with the works of Miller (minus my least favorite play of all time, Death of a Salesman) have long since passed, my desire to go to Salem has not.

Thus, when my friend Nora and her mom invited me to join them for a day trip to the famous Boston-area town, i did not dream for a moment of turning down the opportunity!

On Friday, October 21st, we left Western Mass behind us and arrived in a brilliantly-blue-skied, cobble-stoned street Salem with picnic lunches in tow. The town itself is positively littered with low-production but layered-with-cheese attractions, and each, it seemed, nurtured a penchant for wax figures with listless, but unnervingly realistic, facial expressions. The streets were by no means choked with tourists, but everywhere you looked there were children in costumes, promoters of said attractions, and adults in (to be frank) disgusting masks with copious amounts of fake blood. Salem, it would seem, shines brightest with the oncoming holiday of Halloween!

After (finally) finding a parking place, some slight snafus with the map, and a shocking encounter with a kind of demon-vampire-costume-clad lad, we commenced our adventures with a tour around the Salem Witch Museum. Though certainly not as exhilarating as traveling through all of time and space with The Doctor, my museum experience was equally as much fun in the states as it had been in London. Nora and i complained there were no “witch” depictions from the Potter world in the “modern witches” section of the museum (despite the Wizard of Oz and Bewtiched having displays!), reveled in an abundance of wax figures, and rolled our eyes at some of the more outrageous claims made by the voiceovers.

Thoroughly educated on the modern Wicca religion and its distinctions from the witch hysteria of the late 17th century, we headed back to the car to snack on some delicious sandwiches and marvel at the gorgeous weather. Refreshed and ready to go, we meandered our way down a few blocks to the Witches Dungeon Museum. In store for us were some truly Academy-Award-worthy performances of the original court records, and a brief – but frightening! – tour of the “dungeons” recreated to look like the original Salem holding cells.

Perhaps i should clarify; the dungeons are filled with wax figures (are you surprised?) made to look like the accused of 1692. Not in and of themselves scary, but when you’re winding down subterranean, narrow halls with very poor lighting – and when you’re two easily-petrified-screechy-types – it’s all-too-easy to be scared by low-grade production haunted house tactics. Or, in this case, someone slamming their arm into a window. Okay, maybe we’re a little scaredy-cat-y, but still!

Properly shaken, Nora and i decided to assuage our fears by faking our own deaths in the stocks conveniently provided outside the exhibit.

The three of us then trekked over to the graveyard where a number of famous Salem-ites were buried, in pursuit of the witches memorial.

And now, dearest reader, i have a bit of a confession to make: i rather enjoy spending time in graveyards. They’re always quiet, contemplative, and rich in history. I love looking at what people have written on their tombstones and, as someone generally obsessed with notions of the body, life, and death, i find our cultural way of marking the end of a person to be baffling, intriguing, and utterly fascinating.

This graveyard proved no exception. There were heart-breaking stones for small children lain next to their young mothers and fathers; stones so weathered the print had faded to be unreadable; and, most perplexing, around the perimeters of the graveyard was something of a mini – carnival, complete with a ferris wheel, fried dough stand, and water-gun games with stuffed animal prizes.

In a weird way, this described the epitome of the Salem tourist area to me. The graveyard, meant to be a quiet place to honor the long dead, surrounded by glowing signs advertising sticky sweet candies, horror midnight tours, and a fair straight out of a Cohen Brothers-type film. The Salem Witch Trials of 1692 were horrific – 19 were hanged or crushed alive because they had been accused of making a pact with the devil. The whole of the hysteria was, ultimately, an outcry of young and teenage girls oppressed in a regimented system allowing no time for play. Psychologically and physically, the newcomers to the North American continent were incredibly isolated and led profoundly difficult lives. Yet the fascination with the trials (an interest i undeniably partake in) has led to numerous wax museums and capital-generating attractions exploiting the town’s history to turn a profit.

I’m not saying these are bad things, just an interesting juxtaposition. I suppose it’s one prevalent in all of Halloween festivities. On the surface a night for merriment for children, but within it a chance for the older folk to frighten and terrify ourselves as much as possible – for seemingly inexplicable reasons.

Whatever the reason we choose to engage in such fear-factor-driven-fun, i enjoyed my day nonetheless. We capped off the night with a spin on the ferris wheel and a hearty dinner of powder-sugar-coated funnel cake. It was such a blast to hang out with one of my best friends and her mom, most especially while exploring the nooks and tourist-tastic corners of the historic city.

current jam: ‘this is halloween’ danny elfman

best thing in my life right now: glittery postcards to add to the collection!