Plymouth (Mass.) Pilgrimage

Some of the best trips are autumn trips. And one memorable possibility is a visit to Plymouth, Mass., where the first Thanksgiving Day was held in 1623. This historic site of the first British colony in New England is an instructive and entertaining place for anyone. It should be high on the list of places for parents to take their children. The main attractions are Mayflower II, Plimoth Plantation, and Hobbamock's Homesite.

Starting with the Mayflower
As everyone learned in school, the pilgrims risked all to seek religious freedom in the so-called New

Mayflower II
World. They set sail with their meager worldly possessions in a small ship, the Mayflower. Just what a risk that was is graphically brought home by a tour of Mayflower II, a full-scale replica of the original ship docked on the waterfront at State Pier near the Plymouth Rock.

Mayflower II, built in 1955, is just over 106 feet long. The original Mayflower, on the voyage that took it to Plymouth Rock in 1620, carried 102 passengers and 26 crew members. Today, a dedicated group of people don the costumes and attitudes of the early 1600's to tell visitors what life was like in that era. They are trained to stay faithfully in character and never let on they know anything about life beyond the spring of 1621.

When we paid our admission and went aboard, a 1620's seaman haughtily told us that the pilgrim passengers are just another cargo to him. They stay below deck and set up makeshift partitions of sheets to give them a little privacy in their cramped quarters. There is no need for them to cook. They don't work so they don't need hot meals. The crew, on the other hand does, and cooks food on a brick stove in the fo'c'sle, or crew's quarters, near the bow.

Everywhere on the ship costumed men and women living in 1621 go about their lives, tending to the vessel, sewing and mending, and giving demonstrations of everyday skills in use at the time. Visitors mingle with them and ask them questions, which they thoughtfully answer as long as the question does not involve anything after 1621. You can't get them to break character. (Everyone tries.) It is an extraordinary performance.

On to Plimoth Plantation
This replica of the 1627 village built by pilgrim families is a nonprofit living-history museum. Surrounded by stockade fencing, it consists of daub and wattle houses with thatched roofs, a fort, animal pens, storehouses, and "beasthouses" for cows and other livestock. Like the Mayflower II, it is staffed by costumed people living in 1627 and speaking in the accents of England or Holland from which they came.

The people go about their everyday business, allowing visitors to watch them sawing boards, repairing their houses, cooking food, and tending their kitchen gardens––little plots built up and surrounded by stones. We were treated to the sight of two women sitting outside a house plucking feathers from freshly killed geese and taking care to save the down for bedding. We chatted about hygiene with a woman pulling carrots from her garden. She flatly stated that bathing is bad for the health and warned us not to take more than two baths a year. It was sufficient to brush and air the clothes about once a month.

Inside another house, a woman was cooking a chicken in an iron pot hanging from hooks over a fire in the middle of the floor. Each house was different, and each family had some unique insight to provide into early 17th century colonial lifestyles.

Hobbamock's Homesite
A short walk down a nature trail brings us to Hobbamock's Homesite, where an Indian man of the Wampanoag tribe lived with his family in the early 1600's. This site is staffed by Native Americans dressed in 17th-Century Wampanoag clothing. They are living, however, in the 20th century and answer visitors' questions about Wampanoag life at the time the Europeans came. On the river bank are replicas of canoes used at the time. The homesite consists of Hobbamock's house made of tree limbs and branches, the women's house, and a small round house for other family members.

20th-Century delights
The modern city of Plymouth also offers much to do. There is shopping, whale watching, and of course, eating. Being on Cape Cod Bay there is plenty of seafood around and many fine restaurants with names like Hearth 'n Kettle and Mug 'n Muffin. One of the treats that is hard to get anywhere other than the Cape Cod area is a lobster roll. This is a unique sandwich on a specially shaped roll filled with chucks of freshly caught lobster. The best are found at the carryout restaurants along the water front.

Although fall might be an ideal time for your Plymouth Pilgrimage, it's fun to visit at any time of year for young and older alike.

Would you like more information on how to plan your trip to Plymouth and Cape Cod?

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