First time, New Bedford ...
We drove south, through Rhode Island, to Massachusetts' southern coast. The destination was New Bedford, a first visit for Peter, Mom and me. I knew it was an historic fishing port and home of the Whaling Museum, but not much else. But I had it on good authority (thanks, Tom) that this was an area to check out.
I'm a sucker for cobblestoned streets, so right off I loved the Historic district. We had lunch in an old bank building turned pub. There were a lot of stately stone banks in the area; the whaling industry was very profitable in the 1800s, so I guess they needed places to put all the money. There were many neat old houses and buildings, well maintained, including the visitor's center.
I hadn't known that New Bedford was a stop on the Underground Railroad; the area attracted fugitives because the whaling ships needed laborers and welcomed blacks where most other industry work was white only. The great Frederick Douglass arrived in 1838 and was inspired by the area. Another famous guy, Herman Melville, hung around the docks of New Bedford.
We headed to the waterfront and walked along Fisherman's wharf. There was a small tour boat that seemed to be waiting for us. We set off with a few other passengers and a very knowledgeable guide. She'd lived in the area for 20 years and knew the harbor well. It was full of boats and ships of all sizes, and all the businesses lining the harbor had something to do with the fishing industry, from ice to fuel.
Our guide pointed out what the different boats fished for besides fish: scallops, quahogs, lobsters.There was a Coast Guard cutter, a long barge with mountains of sand being pushed by a tug (named Lyman), a vintage wooden boat under full sail, and all kinds of ritzy boats and yachts at the marinas. A real hub of activity.
We went south to the hurricane barrier — a wall of rocks with a gated opening — past the Palmer's Island light (above). We saw the Butler Flats Light as we went outside the barrier before turning back. On the Fairhaven side of the harbor we could see the spires of three landmark buildings: the Unitarian church, town hall and library. It was fun being out on the water, I love different vantage points.
Of course we had to go to the Whaling Museum. And what a great museum it was: there's a full-size whaling vessel and a 66-foot blue whale skeleton. But what really surprised me was all the artwork — several gallery areas with nautical/seascape paintings. Amazing scrimshaw, sailor's valentines and all kinds of interesting ephemera.
Before leaving town we circled around the southern tip. Nice homes and neighborhoods take advantage of the shore access and views there, and Fort Taber Park is at the tip. Then just up the road are triple deckers tightly packed in a more urban setting. A very interesting city, with such contrasts.
But the day wasn't over yet ... and we were hungry. We stopped in Providence on the way home and found our way to Federal Hill. I hadn't been in many years. So many good Italian restaurants on Atwell's Avenue, and the area oozed charm on the hot summer night. We ate outdoors on a plaza, at a place that had just opened for business.
Another reunion ...
It was great to see David, my former brother-in-law again. He came to the house, which had grown a bit since his last visit several years ago. We had dinner down the street (more on that below), and caught up on what he'd been up to at work and in his travels. He teaches photography and is a fine-art photographer. He's the one who inspired me with his beautiful panoramic photos many years ago. He lent me a Widelux camera for one of our trips, and I've been hooked ever since. We sat on the deck as the sun went down on a steamy night; Mom was glad to have seen David because she was leaving the next day ... (Next stop: Texas, where we're all headed in August.)
The story begins in late May. After a tiring day painting the kitchen, with plastic sheets still covering every object and surface, we decided to walk to the Canoe Club for dinner. Uh-oh. No cars in the parking lot on a Saturday night. Then we spotted the sign: "Thanks for the memories. Gone to Hawaii, Aloha." Well! Without any warning, there went our restaurant. It had been a nice place to bring family (esp. the kids); we'd miss it.
Over the next two months, there was all kinds of activity on the site. The building was painted, the inside gutted (old benches appeared on the roadside for the taking), a huge hole was dug in the parking lot (new septic/water?), and a banner went up. "Coming soon: Alicante, Mediterranean Grille."
I thought it was too good to be true — a restaurant with food that I love, within walking distance? I'm always lamenting the lack of good restaurants in our area. So on my walks I kept tabs on the progress (as did Mom). Then suddenly, it was open last week. With David coming, this was the time to try it out. As soon as I walked in wearing my casual summer clothes, I felt underdressed. The place had been transformed — no more wooden booths and benches, but elegant furniture, white tablecloths, and attentive waiters.
The menu was great (e.g. Mariscada Salsa Verde: mussels, clams, shrimp, scallops and lobster in garlic, white wine parsley sauce with rigatoni), the food lived up to expectations, and there was a dessert tray! Welcome to the neighborhood, Alicante.