Wednesday, July 29, 2015


The oddly placed 'entrance' to Salem Willows
As part of my ongoing Everyone's at Gen Con so why bother series, where I relax the tone and content of the Blog, I am going to talk about going to Salem Willows and Derby Street for a relaxing day. 

My wife, Anoma, got back from Thailand yesterday so we decided to go to Salem today before she has to return to work. Salem is pretty close to where I live (one town over) and it has a lot of nice places to go. It is a bit like a smaller, cozier Boston with a lot more New Age stores. It is also a bit of tourist trap because of the whole witch trials thing. Interesting fact: the neighboring town of Danvers is actually Salem Village where the craze started (present-day Salem was Salem Town where the trials were conducted). Danvers changed the name from Salem Village because they didn't like the bad publicity. Salem embraced it, so you can find all sorts of witch house and haunted tours throughout the city.  For locals we mainly go to Salem willows or hang out in the town town. 

The gazebo uses stealth to ambush unsuspecting
Salem Willows is an old fashioned amusement park by the sea with a classic arcade, food, gazebos, rides and miniature golf. They are also famous for their chop suey sandwiches and popcorn. Neither of us are really into any of these things, so we just walked around for a while and spent time by the beach. Then we headed to Derby Street, another section of the city where there are cafes and shops. 

There are a ton of new age stores in salem. You really can't go forty feet without bumping into a fortune teller or magic shop. Most of them are Wiccan but there seem to be a few different types. This isn't something I know a whole lot about, so I could be incorrect. We walked by some of them but didn't check any out today. 

The best part about walking around Salem is the food. I am not really able to enjoy that these days, but they have all kinds of ice cream places and candy stores. The Ye Olde Pepper Company on Derby Street is a great place to get some salt water taffy or a specialty they call Gibralters (they taste a bit like they sound). 

Yin Yu Tang Exterior
Photo by Fletcher6
There is also the House of Seven Gables, which is near Ye Olde Pepper. We usually like to stop there for the tour, but today we opted to just walk around. Basically you can get a live tour of the house that was purported to be the inspiration for Hawthorne's classic novel (my understanding is he didn't live there, but visited a cousin who did). I am not a big Hawthorne reader, but I like the tour because the house was built in the 17th century (though it has been altered and moved over the years). 

Another interesting spot is the Peabody Essex Museum (which is closer to the downtown). Again we didn't go there today, but one of the main attractions I like there is the Yin Yu Tang house. This is a house built in Huizhou China during the Qing Dynasty that was sold and moved to the museum (where it is complete and furnished). I really enjoy this exhibit. Apparently I have a thing for old houses. It may seem an odd choice for Salem, but the museum has long had a nautical and Asian focus (due to Salem's prior role as a great port). 
The Bunghole

My wife loves the bubble tea at Jaho, so we headed there and then went to an antique store. Even though I studied history and despite my love of old houses, I never really understood antiques. Anoma seems enjoys them though so we spent some time there. I spent most of my time contemplating buying an vinyl record of Cat Scratch Fever. The problem was I am not into vinyl and I don't have a record player. The record itself was only like 12 bucks, but the record player (which I wasn't sure even worked) was 124 dollars. I don't know what possessed me to consider the purchase. I'm not even a huge Ted Nugent fan. I think it was because I was so uninterested in everything else. Wisely I didn't give into the impulse and we left empty-handed (which I think the best possible outcome when antiquing). 

Outside the antique store is a strip of shop, restaurants and cafes by the water. So we walked around there for a bit before heading home. But not before I got this The Bunghole liquors sign. A bunghole is the whole in a cask that liquor pours from, but obviously it has other connotations. 

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