By Don George
I grew up in New England, in the southwestern Connecticut town of Middlebury, in an area that is threaded with historic inns, meeting houses, cemeteries, and churches. Having grown up in New England, I still feel, half a century on, that the simple white clapboard homes, stark, high-steepled churches, stone walls, and spectacular forests of the region are a part of my blood and bones. One of the great gifts of growing up in New England was the sense of history it bestowed.
When I was a child, I wondered at the sign beside my road that read: “In this vicinity French troops under Rochambeau en route to Yorktown encamped during June 1781.” After my mother explained its meaning, I used to imagine French soldiers pitching their tents in my backyard. This gave the Revolutionary War an intimacy and connection that nothing else could: History lived just outside my house. When I was in high school, this sense was further enhanced when I learned that my ancestor, Thomas Minor, had emigrated from England in the early 17th century, arriving in Salem, Mass., on a ship called the Arabella in 1630, and that the nearby town of Minortown had been settled by his children’s children’s children in the 18th century.
You need not have grown up in New England to feel the powerful presence of the past here. This intimate connection with history is something that travelers can feel throughout the region. For me, it’s particularly poignant in Boston, where several of Crystal’s voyages call. Following the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail provides an excellent introduction to the history of the city and of our country. Highlights include the North Church, celebrated in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “Paul Revere’s Ride,” where the lanterns were to be hung “one if by land and two if by sea,” so that Revere could warn local patriots about the movements of the British Army. You can also visit Revere’s home to see how everyday citizens lived in the 1700s, and the nearby site of the Boston Massacre, which propelled the revolutionary cause. It’s fun and instructive to visit the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, an interactive experience that even allows you to participate in throwing tea into the sea. Also moving is the Granary Burial Ground, where such seminal historic figures as Paul Revere, John Hancock, and Sam Adams are buried.
Crystal guests also enjoy another facet of New England history with port stops in charming Newport, Rhode Island, which is home to the oldest lending library, synagogue, and continuously operating tavern in the U.S., as well as the largest collection of Colonial Era structures in the country.
The best time of year to enjoy New England – whether visiting or growing up – is the fall, when the landscapes are as spectacular as the history. The air turns crisp and the hillsides turn crimson and golden with the changing colors of the foliage. It’s a breathtaking season to visit, and the perfect time to mix a hearty day of history with fresh local cider and clam chowder – two appropriately traditional treats that take me back through my own history.
Explore the present charm and storied past of New England and Canada on six Crystal Symphony voyages this fall.