Edward Gorey’s Cabinet of Curiosities : The 2017 Edward Gorey House Exhibit


Map of Cape Cod by Consuelo Joerns, a friend of Edward Gorey, on sale in the shop

On our first return to Cape Cod in 2008, after an interval of  29 years, I discovered The Edward Gorey House and made a visit and posted my photos here. On our last Saturday of this year’s trip, after checking out of our Airbnb in Barnstable, I made a second visit to the house.

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The Mailboat Run : Casco Bay Islands



Casco Bay Lines, operates passenger, vehicle and freight service year-round. Casco Bay Lines ensures that passengers have safe, dependable and reliable transportation, and is considered the “lifeline” for the residents of the islands. Casco Bay Lines’ ferries transport nearly one million passengers, 30,000 vehicles and 5,300 tons of freight annually. Casco Bay Lines also delivers the U.S. mail and transports island students to and from Portland. A wide range of scenic cruises and charter trips for celebrations, meetings and sightseeing are available as well.”

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Historic New England Houses

The second place we stayed on this trip was in Maine and had the delightful name of Merrymeeting Retreat. It’s named after the nearby peninsula and bay of the Kennenec River to which it’s possible to walk, through woods, to see eagles nesting and other wildlife.

Our host told us that the house, below, was built in 1780 by Captain Samuel and Hannah Hinton Lilly. It stands next to the very quiet Route 128 (River Road) about 12 miles north of the historic town of Bath and about 8 miles from the equally historic (by American standards) town of Wiscasset to the east.

river road house

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FOR SALE : Preserved and meticulously restored : The Crocker Tavern House, Barnstable, MA

Crocker Tavern House sign

Crocker seems to have been a popular name around Barnstable, MA, where we stayed on our recent trip to New England. Our AirBnB was the annexe of Henry Crocker House (Item 2 on Page 2) and just across the road is the Crocker Tavern House. And there’s an Historic New England property in nearby Yarmouth Port The Winslow Crocker House. We’ve visited this area before. In fact, we’ve stayed in Barnstable a few times and I wrote about it here in 2012.


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The Wadsworth-Longfellow House, Portland, Maine

Visit the HWL House

On our last full day in New England, before heading off to LLBean, I joined a morning tour of the Wadsworth-Longfellow House, located right in the middle of Portland on Congress Street. The house is not his birthplace. Although he was born in Portland that house has now been demolished.

HLW House postcard



No Parking but always a car

Faithfully restored to the 1850s, the Wadsworth-Longfellow House was the childhood home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Built in 1785-86 by the poet’s grandfather, the house is decorated with original furnishings and family memorabilia. Tours offer a unique glance into the poet’s family, as well as into the cultural and social history of mid-19th century Portland.” [Information Board outside the house]

WLF House door

Yet again I enjoyed an entertaining and informative tour. No photography was allowed but there are pictures and descriptions of the rooms on the website and postcards of a selection were available in the excellent bookshop attached to the house.

Inside HWL House


Postcard shows the interior of Wadsworth-Longfellow House

Zilpa sampler

Zilpa’s Sampler (still on display in the house)

Peleg (love that name!) and Elizabeth Wadsworth, Henry’s grandparents, built the house in 1785-86 and Henry, born in February 1807, lived there from just a few months later throughout his childhood. With 9 siblings his father Stephen (and mother Zilpa) extended the house by adding another floor. Henry entered Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME in 1822. After graduation in 1825 he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts where his home there is also a national historical monument and open to the public : Longfellow National Historic Site, 105, Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA. He made regular return visits to his family home although, except for once, he and his wife never actually stayed there overnight.

Henry’s sister Anne lived here for almost all her long life; and when she died in 1901 left the house to the Maine Historical Society (MHS) requesting that the rooms “be kept with appropriate articles for a memorial of the Home of Longfellow” insisting that certain items be left where they had been during Henry’s residence.

There were interesting displays in the museum next door concerning the Emergence and History of Portland and about the Wadsworth-Longfellow Family.

Longfellow House

I also learned that :

In 1884, Longfellow became the first non-British writer for whom a commemorative sculpted bust was placed in Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey in London; he remains the only American poet represented with a bust. [Wikipedia]

The over life-size white marble bust of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was unveiled in Poets’ Corner Westminster Abbey in 1884, on a pillar near to the tomb of Geoffrey Chaucer. It is by the sculptor Sir Thomas Brock and the main inscription reads:

Longfellow bust, Westminster Abbey

LONGFELLOW. This bust was placed amongst the memorials of the poets of England by the English admirers of an American poet.1884″

On the left and right sides of the plinth is inscribed:

“Born at Portland, U.S.A. February 27th 1807. Died at Cambridge, U.S.A. March 24th 1882”.

Longfellow’s ancestor, William Longfellow, had emigrated to New England in 1676 from Yorkshire. His parents were Stephen, a lawyer, and Zilpah. Henry taught at Harvard University and his prose romance Hyperion was published in 1839 after the death of his first wife. Ballads and other Poems includes ‘The Village Blacksmith’ and ‘The Wreck of the Hesperus’. The Song of Hiawatha is one of his best known works and he was second only to Lord Tennyson in popularity. His grave is in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

A photograph of his bust can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.

Further reading:

“England’s homage to Longfellow” by E.C.Lathem, 2007

[source of text and photo]

Before the tour, after the  tour or at any time during opening hours anyone may visit the Longfellow Garden behind the house.

HWL better garden

The secluded Longfellow Garden located behind the House is an oasis of green and quiet in the heart of downtown Portland. Beautifully landscaped, the public is welcome.” [Information Board]

Looking back up garden

Looking back up the garden towards the house

The members of the Longfellow Garden Club have tended this oasis of peace and calm in the centre of the bustling city of Portland for 90 years. These volunteers weed the beds, prune the overgrowth, plant annuals, maintain the soil and much much more.  In 1924 Mrs Pearl Wing set about restoring the garden. She encouraged the local community to help her and to donate plants and create a fountain in the garden. She also established the bye-laws and operating principles of the Club.

Presnt day fountain

Present day fountain

Naturally, there have been changes in the area and garden surroundings since then. Until 1980 the garden was only visited by those touring the house but the Club convinced the MHS to allow public access during house opening hours. It is a popular quiet retreat and “hidden treasure”.

Read more about the life and works of the author of The Song of Hiawatha (possibly his best-known work here in the UK) here and see whether you can recognise his many quotations here.

“The love of learning, the sequestered nooks, and all the sweet serenity of books”

Our Town : From Peterborough, New Hampshire to London, England


The weekend after we arrived home from New England at the end of September I spotted a small listing in the newspaper for the play “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder. At first I thought the play was due to tour and was actually coming to Leeds but an online search proved fruitless so I checked the dates again and saw that it was showing at The Almeida Theatre in London during dates I was going to be  in town.

The notice had particularly caught my eye because the week before in Vermont we had made an excursion into New Hampshire from Brattleboro which is literally on the border between the two states. They are separated only by the Connecticut River.

Connecticut River

The Connecticut River

Bridge linking VT and NH

The Brattleboro Road Bridge Linking VT and NH

Our intention had been to visit a mountain we had seen on the previous day from another trip to Wilmington VT and the viewpoint at Hog Back Mountain.

Monandnock from hog back

 View from Hog Back Mountain – 100 Mile View

But when we arrived at Mount Monadnock the State Park Warden told us that, although it is the most visited mountain peak in the USA [A magnet for hikers, Monadnock is said to be the world’s third most climbed mountain, following Japan’s Mount Fuji and China’s Mount Tai.], we might find ourselves limited by time (it’s really a full day hike) and advised us to drive a few miles further to Miller State Park where it is possible to drive right to the top and take a shorter trail from the peak car park.

View from Miller

View from Miller State Park

Trail to hawk watch

Miller State Park is located on the 2,290-foot summit and flank of Pack Monadnock in Peterborough and is the oldest state park in New Hampshire. A winding 1.3-mile paved road leading to the scenic summit is open for visitors to drive in summer and on spring and fall weekends. Three main hiking trails ascend Pack Monadnock to the summit. The best known is the Wapack Trail, which is a 21-mile footpath that extends from Mt. Watatic in Ashburnham, Massachusetts to North Pack Monadnock in Greenfield. It is believed Native Americans named the area’s mountains, and that “pack” means little. On clear days views reach to Mount Washington, the skyscrapers of Boston, and the Vermont hills.”

Boston skyline

Boston Skyline just visible (slightly right)

Yes, indeed, it was amazing to see the skyscrapers of Boston on the horizon from a distance of 55 miles away!

This could be Mt Washington

Could this be Mount Washington?

We were fascinated by the Audubon Hawk Watch set up in a clearing. It reminded me of the Malhamdale Hills and Hawks Walk in July. Just like the RSPB The Audubon Society had set up an area with information boards, information table, binoculars and telescopes on tripods and staff and volunteers ready to answer questions and tell about the project. We felt very under-equipped!

Birds seen

Birds Spotted

Serious twitchers

A Serious Twitcher

owl to attract

Owl Decoy

As we left the park and drove back towards Brattleboro I suggested we stop at the town of Peterborough. A good friend and reader of posts here, Sarah, had told me some time ago about the pretty town which served as the inspiration for Thornton Wilder’s play “Our Town”.

Views of Peterborough

main st peterboro

Peterboro 1

Peterboro 2

Peterboro 3

Peterboro 4

Sarah's Hat Boxes

“We all grow up, we fall in love, we have families and we all die. That is our story”

And that is the story of “Our Town”.

Cape Cod : Woods Hole and Martha’s Vineyard and More

Beach at Falmouth

The Beach at Falmouth

It’s time to re-visit my summer holiday and go right back to the first week and a half that we spent on Cape Cod. We had marvellous weather and it’s strange to us but after Labor Day (the first Monday in September) many places close down and the locals more or less have the place to themselves again. It’s the way we like it. The weather is still good but you can find a table at a restaurant without queuing, the roads and beaches are almost empty but most of the local shops are still open.

Estuary Fairhaven

The Estuary at Fairhaven

We don’t usually travel far from our digs but we always make one excursion out of our Cape Cod Comfort Zone and that is to visit my online book group friend sherry who lives in Marion, Massachusetts on the other side of Buzzards Bay. This time our excursion included a new activity as my husband has taken up sailing and as it was impossible for us to find a sailing school open on the Cape he signed up for 16 hours tuition over two days (and including a one hour written exam at the end) at Sail Buzzards Bay  (Fair Winds and We’ll See You on the Water!) based in Fairhaven, Mass. just a few miles from Marion.

101 Main St Fairhaven

Sail Buzzards Bay HQ, Main Street, Fairhaven

Preparation for sailing

Preparation for Sailing School

Needless to say the watery theme continued throughout the trip. One day we took the ferry to nearby Martha’s Vineyard. The ferry from Falmouth to Oak Bluffs on the Vineyard takes just 35 minutes and during the autumn season there are just two sailings in each direction each day (Monday to Thursday – more sailings at the weekend). We understood that it was worth taking the bus to Edgartown where we had lunch, watched the three vehicle five minute journey Chappaquidick Ferry and had a wander around the compact centre of town.

Main St Edgartown

The Main Street, Edgartown, MV

Here’s how the tourist leaflet describes Edgartown :

“One of New England’s most elegant communities, Edgartown was the Island’s first colonial settlement and it has been the county seat since 1642. The stately white Greek Revival houses built by the whaling captains have been carefully maintained. They make the town a museum-piece community, a seaport village preserved from the early 19th century.”

Chappaquidick Ferry

The Tiny Chappaquidick Ferry

Daniel Fisher House

The Grand Daniel Fisher House (1840)

I’d hoped to visit the Whaling Church but it was included on an organised tour from the museum (which also included a visit to Daniel Fisher House) and we just didn’t have time before taking the bus back to Oak Bluffs for our return to the mainland.

MV Museum

The Very Old Vincent House Museum

Whaling Church Edgartown

The Impressive Whaling Church

On several days we would drive down to Woods Hole the village attached to the extensive Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute that dominates the area. There are some good seafood restaurants with docks onto the marina – all very nautical.

Woods Hole Marina


Dining at Woods Hole Marina

We also called in to see the displays at the WHOI Visitor Centre. The main exhibition highlight is the 1985-1986 discovery and exploration of the wreck of the Titanic.

Titanic 1


Titanic 2


Titanic 3

“This 1/570 scale model of the Titanic stern is on loan to WHOI from Roy Mengot of Plano, TX. Roy’s model is based on WHOI data and imagery and is among the best representations of the Titanic wreck as it was found during the 1985 and 1986 WHOI expeditions. The completed bow and stern models took 3,000 hours to build.”

Titanic 4

In addition to the Oceanographic Institute Woods Hole is also home to The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), The National Marine Fisheries Service, the Sea Education Association, The United States Geological Survey and the Woods Hole Research Center. Wow! That’s home to a lot of eggheads.

There’s a memorial statue to Rachel Carson author the far-reaching text “The Silent Spring”.

“I had my first prolonged contact with the sea at Woods Hole. I never tired of watching the tidal currents pouring through the Hole – that wonderful place of whirlpools, and eddies and swiftly racing water” Rachel Carson, author of  The Sea Around Us; The Edge of the Sea; Under the Sea Wind; Silent Spring. Scientist, writer and colleague at MBL, NOAA and WHOI 1907-1964

Rachel Carson on the hot seat

Rachel Carson on the hot seat!

Finally, I still haven’t got round to reading it but maybe I should read this first :

Moby Dick Book


LLBean: Bike, Boat, Ski, Hunt, Fish, Hike and kit out your Cabin or Home


I hate camping ...


Don’t you just love this cartoon which I saw in The New Yorker earlier this year? It really sums up the last full day of our holidays this year. We stayed at a rather smart hotel in Portland, Maine for the final two nights and spent the afternoon at one of our favourite stores. It’s an amazing place and this was our third visit.

Hiking list

To make sure you don’t forget anything

About a twenty minute drive north of Portland is the town of Freeport. And Freeport is the home of LLBean. In fact Freeport is given over almost entirely to shopping (there are many outlet and other stores) with some hotels and restaurants thrown in. I suppose some people live there but you wouldn’t notice.

LLBean 2009

The Flagship Store : we visited on 11 September 2009 (hence the flag at half-mast)

LLB Main entrance

The Main Entrance

L.L.Bean, Inc. has been a trusted source for quality apparel, reliable outdoor equipment and expert advice for over 100 years. Founded in 1912 by Leon Leonwood Bean, the company began as one-man operation. With L. L.’s firm belief in keeping customers satisfied as a guiding principle, the company eventually grew to a global organization with annual sales of $1.56 billion. Our company headquarters are in Freeport, Maine, just down the road from our original store.

LLBean sign

With over a century in business, a satisfied customer is still our most important goal. We’re proud of our heritage and values, and we invite you to celebrate with exciting events and activities throughout the year. In the meantime, you’re welcome to browse the stories, facts and figures in this section and learn more about our company, our heritage and our history.” [From the website]


Bean Boot MoBile

The Bootmobile

LLBean never closes! There are no locks on the doors and it’s even open on Christmas Day. However, although all of this sounds like a gimmick the goods are all excellent quality and, with the current exchange rate, reasonably priced. I came away with a couple of pairs of walking trousers (trail pants) and another fleece (I have bought four of these altogether on different visits). In the past I have bought a tote bag, waterproof over trousers, other casual trousers etc all of which are still in use.

But the main store is not just of interest to me as shopper. There’s also lots of history : how they enjoyed the outdoor life in the past and how it’s all come a long way since!

Camping artefacts

Camping Artefacts

Fly fishing artefacts

Fly Fishing Artefacts

Dew Drop Inn

One of LL’s early camps “The Dew Drop Inn”



Nearest I came to a bear

The Nearest I came to a Bear!

Pure Vermont Maple Syrup

Pure Vermont Maple Syrup

Do you know about maple syrup? Vermont is famous for it. You see farms and smallholdings with ‘maple syrup for sale’ everywhere in the Brattleboro and Dummerston townships.

Apple books

 Apple books for sale at the Farm Shop

You can also buy it at the Scott Farm, Dummerston where the Landmark Trust USA have their offices. I always like to visit the farm and shop as it is a pleasant walk along the quiet, dusty road from Naulakha/The Carriage House.

Scott Farm Shop

The Scott Farm Shop

I wrote about my previous visits to the farm and Landmark Trust offices here.

LMT USA Office

Landmark Trust USA Offices at Scott Farm

Ladder instructions

Ladder Instructions Notice in the Offices

On Dummerston Road

Just beyond the Scott Farm is an old sugarhouse. It doesn’t look as if it used any more although there’s a decent wood pile alongside.

Maple Syrup door

In order to try to find out more about the life of Emily Dickinson I took with me the novel “The Sister” by Paola Kaufmann. I found this excellent book a lighter read than perhaps a serious biography (and certainly a lot lighter to carry than Lives Like Loaded Guns the biography by Lyndall Gordon). In an early chapter Lavinia describes a local expedition to collect maple syrup (this was in northern Massachusetts in about the 1850s). I reproduce these paragraphs here :

“The history of the maples is a beautiful one. Throughout the summer, and thanks to the sun that for so many hours bronzes the tree canopy, sugars begin to accumulate in the leaves, which later are converted into sap, amassing like treasure in the trunks of the trees. This is the sweet soul of the maple. Towards the end of the summer and during autumn, the maple sheds these very leaves that have acted as sponges, soaking up sunlight. These leaves – some reddish, others yellowish – fall with the first frosts. Then, sweet soul of sap, protected behind layer after layer of living tissue; dead pulp and bark, remains intact, becoming sweeter and sweeter while the snow builds up on the dry, dead-looking branches and against the sleeping trunks; and the farmers keep the surrounding area clear so that should a tree fall it should not damage one of the young maples.

Maple leaves?

Then spring arrives, and thanks to the sweet sap hidden away on the inside, the maples return to life; the new shoots appear timidly to greet the sun that slowly grows more and more yellow, and this is when the work of the sugar-maker really begins: the maple harvest. Sometimes, if spring comes early or if winter has not been too severe, the operation begins in the middle of February, but normally the maple harvest is during March, although there is no one simple precise sign: the time is usually called the “sugar season”. Some believe that the sugar season is announced during the day by the crows, unable to wait in silence for the arrival of warmth.

The sugar-men know exactly where, amidst the dense woodlands, the edible syrup is to be found: it takes 40 years for a tree to grow from planting to sugar production. The men head off to these places with the sledges, as snow is still thick in the drifts, armed with wooden pails girdled to perfection with metal rings. The night before the first harvest they hang these pails outside the cabins full of hot water, then cold water, so that the slats swell into each other, helping to seal them. And they go, with their sledges, their pails and their tools, to bore into the maples a hole no more than three inches wide, three feet up, like a small wound through which the soul of the tree willingly bleeds. The healthiest and largest of the maples will tolerate up to three of these holes, and the sugar-men try never to wound the tree twice in the same place, always allowing wounds of the previous year to scar over completely. The pails hang from the spouts and they are left to collect the clear sap that drips down, slowly at first, then as time goes by, much quicker, until there is none left. When the pails are full, their collective contents are poured into enormous boilers, and either fires are lit in special spots in the forest, or the pails are carried to the cabins, where a more industrialized system helps to evaporate the water from the sap. In the forest, when the harvest is small, the dense liquid is poured into metal receptacles that are placed like gigantic kettles above the fire, boiling the syrup. And when it is at the right point, it can be thrown onto the snow, where the syrup acquires its wax-like consistency. If two drops melt as they fall, it means that the syrup is ready to be jarred.

And in this way, each spring, pails are hung from their small taps, and the maples, day after day, continue with their slow and sweet bleeding.”

I usually buy a couple of small bottles to pack in my suitcase and give to our sons. Like liquid gold it is probably just as heavy.