Craft the Travel, Worldschooling

Salem, Boston & The Cape

Daily I receive emails about great prices on flights across the US. One day in early August I jumped on roundtrip tickets from Dallas to Boston and it clicked! October + Massachusetts = a visit to SALEM!

I quickly joined a few facebook groups on Salem, MA to learn about the must-sees & stays. Luckily I was still early enough to find availability at The Hotel Salem on Essex and what a great location that choice was. After arriving at Boston-Logan Airport, we used a pre-booked car service called BeDriven. They were waiting for us at baggage claim and dropped us in Salem about 40 minutes later. The Hotel Salem is located on Essex Street in the center of the ‘the pedestrian mall‘, so any car service has to drop you at one of the two ends of the mall, but the hotel is just a 2-minute walk from either end into the center of the mall.

The location is beyond perfect and in the absolute center of all the action! Within a 5 to 15-minute walk West you have The Witch house,

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Gallow Hills Theater, The McIntire Historic District, Life Alive, The Ugly Mug Diner, The Soup Factory,

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The Boston Hot Dog Company, The Melt Ice Cream,

and The Salem Haunted Magic Show. Then within a 5 to 15-minute walk to the East you have the Witch History Museum, Hocus Pocus Tours, The Witch City Mall,

Peabody Essex Museum, Red’s Sandwich Shop, Brew Box Coffee & Breakfast, The Burying Point Cemetery, The Salem Witch Trials Memorial,

Bambolina Pizza, Turtle Alley Chocolates, Scratch Kitchen and The House of Seven Gables. Sprinkled in all around are all kinds of local artisan shops.

Special to The Hotel Salem is a rooftop restaurant and bar and a basement bar. Some of the other local hotel choices would be the Hawthorn Hotel or the Salem Waterfront Hotel to the East of the pedestrian mall, while to the West would be the Salem Inn.  We arrived on the 30th of October, had the afternoon to explore to the West of our hotel and took our trolley tour with Gallow Hills that night.

The crowds were light to medium on the 30th (a Tuesday). On the 31st we explored East of the Hotel, avoided areas that were really crowded (saving those for the next day), attended a magic (mentalist) show in the early evening and watched the firework show from the rooftop in the later evening. The crowds were medium and grew to heavy on the 31st (a Wednesday). Overall I found the 31st in Salem family friendly as long as you keep in mind that the evening is Salem’s Mardi Gras. Lots of Police on the streets and clearly the city was organized and ready for the crowds. Our hotel allowed us on the roof for the 15-minute firework show, but that was an exception as the area is 21 and up. On the 1st we went back to the crowded areas (like the Burying Point Cemetary) and had the place to ourselves.

The lack of crowds on the 1st was GREAT for my photography of the area and buildings, but several restaurants and shops took the day off so may not be ideal if you missed them the day before.  The 3 days we booked for the area were the perfect choice for our needs, to celebrate Halloween in Salem, and to also see the local history and landscape. If you were an adult only group seeking the Halloween-Witch vibe you may prefer to arrive on the 29th and depart the 1st to have more time to see the town of Salem in its full Halloween action.

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On the 2nd, our trip took us down to Hyannis, MA. We had been studying the Mayflower, Pilgrims and historical settlement of America, so it was a natural progression to transition from Halloween and Salem to the time of Thanksgiving and Plymouth. Honestly, I didn’t know beforehand how hands-on, beautiful and well organized Plymouth would be. We learned about a place called Plimoth Plantations.

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I went online and purchased the package of tickets (3 places) for Plimoth Plantations, Plimoth Grist Mill and the ‘What would you do experience?’.  At Plimoth Plantations, you experience a living history Museum set in 17th century Plymouth. Actors play the rolls as if you are in that time. The environment was built as it would have existed in 1627.  These photos below in circles are from a postcard set I purchased in Plymouth. Click each circle for photo descriptions and details.

The setting is 7 years after landing on ‘Turtle Island’ which is what the Wampanoag called ‘America’. When you first arrive you watch a brief video explaining the experience and getting a little back history. You head out on the trail and first visit a Wampanoag site. A winter house, a summer house and the making of a canoe. Wampanoag natives are on site to talk to you about their lives. Fascinating insight about things like how the English thought they had ‘magic fires’ because their wood didn’t smoke and pop, but it was because the natives new to only burn seasoned wood or their homes would be filled with smoke. Their society was Matriarchal…but because the English were a Patriarchal society they felt more comfortable talking to sons or brothers of the female chief and recorded history to reflect that.

After spending time with the tribe, we moved on to the 17th-century colonialist’s village. Here you could enter any of the homes, talk to the inhabitants and learn about their lives. These people came mainly for two reasons. They were fleeing for religious freedom or for better work/financial opportunities in their lives. They committed to 7-year labor contracts in exchange for 20 acres of land.  The contract term and amount of land could vary but that was the general arrangement. Jobs were scarce and the opportunity at land ownership was small in England, so making this incredible journey to the new colonies gave them a shot at both. Half of the original settlers died the first winter, but numbers steadied after that and more colonialists joined the following years.

After the Plimoth Plantation, we left and headed about 10 minutes into downtown Plymouth. We parked at the Plimoth Grist Mill where we learned how a Grist Mill works to make cornmeal. Awesome place that not only manages the actual production of product for local eateries but shares the knowledge of the process for educational purposes.

From there you can take a 10-minute walk to town for lunch at a pub, tavern or cafe OR hike 10 minutes down a lovely path towards the waterfront experience and Plymouth Rock.

We opted for lunch first at Will & Co Cafe and then on to the ‘What Would You Do?’ waterfront experience.

There we played a character on the Mayflower and followed a storyline to learn about their life. We took in gorgeous views from the Plymouth pier and found Plymouth Rock and the Pilgrims Memorial all in the area too.

We took the pathway back towards the Mill and our car through Jenney Pond Park adorned with gorgeous fall foliage and a babbling brook.  Plymouth is a JEWEL and a must visit for any history loving family.

We lucked out in finding a Whale Watching tour that was running its last voyage for the season on Sunday the 4th.

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We rode a 128 ft speedboat traveling about 30 knots (35mph) out of Cape Cod Bay just past Provincetown, MA.

This journey was about an hour out to sea and brought us to a spot where a few whale families were feeding before they leave the area for warmer waters. Several whales passed the boat and gave us their signature out-of-water tail flips.

We love boats and water and the whale sightings made it a special journey. We were back in the harbor just after 1pm, so we took the afternoon to drive all the way around the Cape to Provincetown. We made several stops along the way at scenic and beach lookouts.

We found the most beautiful, gothic memorial out in Provincetown, The Pilgrim Memorial.

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We climbed to the top and took in the 360-degree views of the area just before sunset.

Then we made the hours drive back to Hyannis to our cozy hotel, Courtyard by Marriott. The Courtyard was just what we needed, good quiet night’s sleep, friendly helpful staff (Hi James!), on-site breakfast and a place for me to do a load of laundry while Sebastian swam in the warm pool. I really contemplated trying to find a day to head over to Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard, but it just didn’t happen this trip…so I guess I am forced to return. 😉

On Monday, the 5th, we took the morning easy, packed up and made the trip back to Boston. We checked into the Sheraton in Copley Square, turned in our rental car and walked around Boston Common & Chinatown.

We enjoyed eating Hot-Pot at Shabu Zen (Thanks, Sherry!). Sebastian cooked the meats in a Miso Soup and I cooked the vegetables in a Spicy Thai Soup. We loved the fish paste and avocado smoothie too!

Tuesday, the 6th, was our final full day. We took a Duck Tour with Scott Milk. It was funny, entertaining and full of history and tidbits about Boston.

After we launched into the Charles River, Sebastian had the opportunity to drive the vessel a portion of the way.

After the tour, we grabbed a bit to eat and explored around Copley Square. We were starting to hit a wall of walking/trip fatigue and I wished we could have walked the Freedom Trail, we just didn’t have 2 and a half more miles in us. We went up into the Skywalk Observatory, but low clouds had come into the area and really diminished the visibility, so we made our way back to the hotel and spent the evening swimming & dining. We really enjoyed the location of the Sheraton. It is connected internally with a shopping mall, so despite the rain and cold, we could walk from our room and straight down to the mall and restaurants.

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My favorite part of the trip was Plymouth. It was a wonderful, beautiful surprise and I loved the way our trip transitioned from Salem at Halloween to Plymouth in November (honoring Thanksgiving). I highly recommend this trip to anyone with a passion for history, education and fall foliage!

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If you have Instagram and want to see our stories from the trip, look here at Salem, Plymouth, The Cape, and Boston. All the professional pictures I shot on the trip are HERE on LoveCameraEarth.com. If you want assistance planning a get-away to Massachusetts, email me at bookit@CraftTheTravel.com.

Craft the Travel

This is not the Cancun I remember! It’s better. It’s the Riviera Maya.

The last time I was in Cancun, Mexico I was in my twenties. We did a typical ‘hotel zone’ stay off the strip, tanned on the beach and visited Mayan Ruins in Tulum. I remember getting off at a small airport and taking a small school-bus type van to our hotel. The guys on the van had a cooler full of iced down Corona and liberally distributed them during the ride. Long gone are those basic days for Mexico. It has clearly ‘grown-up’ in the world of tourism.

We flew on Sun Country.  I hadn’t used them since my 20’s but the tickets were a great price and I thought I would try them again. The flight going to Cancun was delayed twice, so they did rob us of having a real dinner at the resort our first night. We settled for room service after check-in. The airline did complimentary upgrade us to exit row seats and functioned on-time returning home. I want to note that with this airline if your flight is delayed – it does NOT mean you can check-in later than the 2-hr window from your original flight time. We did not know this and waited at home during the ‘delayed’ time. Come to find out we checked-in with 8 minutes to spare. Since charter, vacation airlines only fly a specific route/day/time they don’t keep a schedule like the majors (AA, United, Southwest) do. While this doesn’t mean all charters are late and all majors are on-time, I do think the fact that the majors have a schedule to keep helps them stay on time more often than not.  Just my two cents when choosing who to fly!

To my pleasant surprise, we stepped off our plane and into Cancun’s fully updated and modern airport. It was clean, air-conditioned, fast and efficient at handling the tourist. If you are ‘carry-on only’ you are through lickety-split. They have craftily created an area that you must pass through full of small lectern-type desks. It appears that these are here to help guide you or give information…..while they will happily give you info, it is not agenda-free. These are representatives of ‘Mexico Tourism’ and the Mexican-owned ‘time-share’ property Vidanta. They want you to buy/stay in Mexico-owned properties versus foreign-owned. They will entice you with all kinds of good freebies or discounts on tours/excursions for a mere 90 minutes of your time (try more like 5 hours). Just keep walking! If you have prearranged transfer or need a taxi, they will be waiting for you just outside the exit, so again KEEP MOVING.

We had pre-arranged, private transfer with Lomas Travel and they did a first class job at getting us to and from our resort. This was my first time to stay in an ‘Adult-Only’ property as I typically travel with my son. I was interested in staying here because of my desire to investigate the ‘Palafitas’ (which I will cover later), but the generous travel agent discounted rate on the suite helped seal the deal to take the trip. Oh, the demands of the travel business! 😉

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Continue reading “This is not the Cancun I remember! It’s better. It’s the Riviera Maya.”

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Leaving the Flock

Friends, Let’s Catch-up!

We are here in Orlando getting close to the end of our trip. This has been a well-timed trip.  Many things are in flux and changing in our world, so to take time to slow down and just enjoy ourselves in the company of family has been a nice change of pace. I will follow up with more on Orlando and Disney in a follow-up post.

I’ll catch you up on the last month or so of homeschool activities. We continue to tackle our basics (reading/writing/math/spelling/good citizenship) on a weekly basis and keep our schedule full of ‘field trips’ and ‘meet-ups’. The DMA continues to provide lovely, monthly art classes rich in both art education and hands-on fun. We gave a run at an ‘escape the room’ game with some of our homeschool friends and made it out with moments to spare. It was exciting for the team to work together and WIN! We worked a month on studying Picasso and cubism. This study finished with painting ‘Picasso inspired’ selfies. I guess my inner ‘she’ is Medusa! Ha! We have a new relationship with the director of Soar United, Lynn. She has REALLY stepped up to the plate and opened up the doors to Soar so our kids can have a fun, weekly place to be ninja warriors, play soccer and dodgeball. We are excited that this is continuing on and if you are Dallas local, feel free to join. (Tuesdays from 11a to 3p). Mention you are with the homeschool group for a discounted rate. We had heard about everyone visiting the Crayola Experience up in Plano, so we decided to try it too. We enjoyed the day, but for others considering it, we felt it was for younger kids or those really into coloring/crayon projects.

If you haven’t heard by now, we are making some big changes in our personal lives. We are selling our lake home in preparation of moving in a worldschooling direction.

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I have also affiliated with a wonderful, long-standing, incredibly connected travel company and taken on an Independent Travel Agent role. You will see changes as our blog evolves from just ‘homeschooling in Dallas’ to ‘Worldschooling and Travel Adventures’.  The deals, resources and inside info is TO DIE FOR!! I’m through the preliminary training and business set-up and really have not been as excited about my career since I launched Juxby in 2011.  I CAN.NOT.WAIT to share more info about this new journey and how it may help you too! CLEARLY a blog is coming about this.

Enoy the rest of your weekend and happy early mother’s day to all my fellow moms. Whether you homeschool, worldschool, public school or private school, we are all just making the best choices with the resources we each have available to us for the betterment of our child’s future. I salute you and hope you do something nice for yourself tomorrow! (like take a nap! 😉 ) 😘