I had not been to Plimouth Plantation for years. We wanted to show some Pilgrims and some Indians to children from Florida who had heard about them on an audio tape. I remembered Plimouth as the Pilgrim village and one little Wampanoag hut. Was I in for a pleasant surprise.
The first stop was the Plimouth Plantation website. This has all the information you would need for a visit and is easy to use. The second stop was the visitor center in Plymouth for tickets. A combination ticket is good for the Village on two consecutive days, in case you get really into it and want to return again, plus the Mayflower on any one day within a year of purchase. That is a bargain for $22 senior rate. And the center is open from 9:30 am until 5:30 pm March 24 through November 25. It is advised to plan on three hours at the plantation, but you may need more. Time just flies.
Here I quote from the website: The visitor center features "Thanksgiving: Memory, Myth & Meaning" exhibit, the new orientation film, "Two Peoples, One Story" produced by the History Channel, and the History Channel film "Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower," showing every day at 2 pm all season long. The orientation film is definitely worth seeing. I will have to save the Mayflower film for another trip.
We decided to see the Wampanoag Homesite first, just because historically it was first. Here is where I was amazed. There were three traditional buildings covered with huge pieces of bark. The construction is ingenious and we were invited to go inside to explore. Each was furnished with goods as they would have been in 1620. The guides are not actors, but actual Native People telling about the history and ways of their ancestors. Being summer, the dress was light including a lovely child using nature for his playground and delighted to pose for photos.
A short walk away is the 1627 English Village built as I recalled on a path sloping down to the ocean. The construction of the houses are authentic to the period with thatched roofs. One is underway and much of our time was spent sitting on a bench watching the workers. No modern machinery was in use. The first house we entered was the blacksmith shop, quite dark except for the fire that was alternately low and high according to the work of a large bellows. The blacksmith was making hinges to go to the workers building the house and he explained exactly what he was doing, welcoming questions. Each person you meet in the village is an interpreter, taking the personality and history of a particular person from 1627.
A second house found a servant family having lunch. The father was very interactive with my grandchildren, skilled at giving information and getting them to talk. He asked our five-year-old if he went to work because he was dressed just like his father (shorts and a tee). Children his age would have worn a baby-gown with strings at the shoulder to steady their walking. These are the conversations that keep you here at the village for three hours or more. The furnishings were spare, but all of a sudden I would come upon a shelf of gorgeous pewter utensils. Gardens of all sizes were everywhere growing vegetables, herbs and flowers. And there were animals like cows, goats and chickens.
The street ends at the top of the hill at the main house. It is surrounded by a sturdy stockade. The second floor has narrow windows on all sides for lookouts. I have been in the village on Columbus Day weekend when the first floor was being readied for a feast. Dutch colonists from New York complete with plumes in their hats were visiting to see how the Pilgrims were doing.
We were going to bypass the Craft Center because we thought the children, three, five and seven, had had enough. But no. The potter caught their eye and they could have stayed all afternoon. Each of the crafts people can talk about their craft, of course, but also about the politics of the time, the trip across in the Mayflower and can answer lots of questions. This was definitely a building for all ages.
As we began to head toward the parking lot, a call went out that the goats were outdoors at the Nye Barn. Plimouth Plantation does breeding of unusual animals that were common to the period. The goats were frisky, cute and clean. Again perfect for all ages.
We decided to save the Mayflower for next year but we jumped out for a quick look at Plymouth Rock. And right across the street from the Rock is the wax museum which is great. I remember a Pilgrim lying on the ground and his chest is moving! So a trip to Plymouth could easily include an overnight (or two).
There are many places to eat in town. The East Bay Grille is good and the Weathervane is there a la Kittery, Maine. But my particular favorite is the Lobster Hut – a lobster roll and the best onion rings in my experience. Also you can eat indoors, not fancy, or outdoors where you can watch the pleasure boats come in and out of the water on the state boat ramp. (On a summer's day, this could be three more hours!)
Many people like to visit Plymouth during the Cranberry Festival at Edaville, King Richard's Faire in Carver or the Thanksgiving season. All are great trips about fifty miles from Melrose. But each one would take most of a day to do it justice.
September 7, 2007