Monday morning we drove to Mystic, Connecticut. No, not for the pizza (I've never seen the movie). There's a "living history" museum there called "Mystic Seaport" - a reconstruction of a nineteenth century whaling village, complete with interpreters who act out various aspects of life in such a setting. We've been there before, but not for many years. This kind of thing makes for a great History Geek Family Vacation. The interpreters love it when you ask lots of questions, particularly when kids do. It makes for a very interactive and fun learning trip.
We stayed at a nearby Marriott where I got a great deal from priceline. We got there in the early afternoon on Monday and decided to just enjoy the hotel facilities for the rest of that day. I had a hot stone massage (heaven!) and the girls had elaborate manicures that include massaging the hands and arms and paraffin. We hung out in the hotel pool and jacuzzi. We ate in the very nice hotel restaurant. We relaxed and started to feel like we were on vacation. The hotel had a nice pool and we swam morning and evening every day we were there.
On Tuesday Zara and I headed over to the Seaport bright and early and Kendra elected to sleep in.
They have a new thing at the Seaport this year called "Hands On History" where you can take classes in various 19th Century activities. Zara took the blacksmithing class, which was just wonderful. She used hammers and bellows and anvil and heated up metal to well over 1000 degrees farenheit and ended up with a beautiful decorative iron hook. It was quite amazing to see her create it, under the direction of the blacksmith, of course.
After Zara's class, we picked Kendra up at the hotel and spent the rest of the day at the seaport, looking at exhibits and going to lectures and demonstrations. I found the pharmacy and medical office particularly interesting - the interpreter was a retired physician with a particular interest in the history of medicine. The girls rented a sail boat and sailed around the harbor there for an hour. The seaport also has a very cute little planetarium and they do a live show about navigation using the stars. There's something great about a live planetarium show. Not as polished as the canned shows, but really using the equipment as it was designed, to be able to show the sky with different conditions and from different times and places ad hoc.
We had dinner in a seafood restaurant adjacent to the seaport. Zara and I had lobsters. It's my favorite food but I only have it once or twice a year and very much enjoy it when I do. We went back to the hotel for a swim and went to bed.
The next morning we were back at the seaport and this time both girls did Hands on History workshops: candle making and printing. One of the fun things about these workshops is you get something to take home at the end.
The girls took candle-making (and ended up with beautiful candles) and printing (and had cute note cards to take home, announcing them each as the newest printer's "devil" or apprentice).
Kendra also did a toy boat making activity. I particularly enjoyed a lecture and singalong on sea chanteys. We realized we wanted one more day at the seaport (we'd originally planned on spending Thursday either at the beach or the aquarium or both) so I went over to the membership office and converted our two day tickets to a family membership. Wednesday evening the girls both had hot stone massages, which they loved, too.
On Thursday both girls did the blacksmithing workshop. Kendra felt left out, having missed it the first time round and Zara wanted to do it again.
We went to the sea chantey presentation again (different singer, different songs) and Zara did the toy boat thing. We went on a little boat ride from one end of the museum to the other and also took the horse drawn carriage trip around the whole site. And we really enjoyed exploring the ships, especially the Charles W. Morgan, the last extent wooden whaling ship in the world. We also bought some souvenirs at the gift shop. Oh and the girls got capsized by a whale :-).
We moved on to Newport, RI Thursday night. We would gladly have stayed another night in Mystic and done the aquarium the next day, but I'd already paid for the RI hotel with priceline, so we went. The hotel had an outdoor pool, which was too chilly for me in the morning and for Kendra at all times, but Zara swam night and morning and I swam in the evening. On Friday we toured two of the Newport mansions: the Breakers and Chateau-sur-mer. A far cry from the lives of the folks in the whaling village. The kids were very impressed by the opulence. Well, me too, but I reminded them that the people who lived there got their wealth by stepping all over people like us.
Friday evening we headed to Northampton, MA where my kids' Uncle Ruth and her family live. We met vickifelder and her daughter there. Ruth is a wonderfully hospitable host and a great friend. I had seen her a couple of weeks before in Fire Island, so we'd caught up a bit, but it was nice to have a whole long weekend together. We hung out in their hot tub and the kids played on their trampoline. We shopped and poked around in downtown Northampton, which has a great Cool College Town vibe. We went to the Yankee Candle Flagship Store-cum-almost-theme-park, which is a zoo, but fun. The four adults had a grown up dinner on Saturday night while the kids had pizza and movies at home. We went to a county fair on Sunday and Vicki and I went to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art while the kids had some more trampoline time and Ruth and Ellen had some home time. Unfortunately, Vicki's daughter sprained her ankle on the trampoline while we were there, and she and Vicki spent most of Sunday evening in the local ER while the rest of us had a barbecue. But we did save some barbecue for them, kind souls that we are :-).
Thanks for reading and picture viewing to any who got this far. It was my first "real" vacation (i.e. going away and taking off a whole week from work) since France in February of 2007. So I was kind of overdue. I'm glad we did it.