We decide to stop at Plymouth on our way to Boston from Cape Cod. The huge historical significance of Plymouth, where the first English settlers arrived in 1620 aboard the Mayflower and set up their colony in the New World, is something not lost on anyone with even a rudimentary grasp of American history.
The Pilgrims, Plymouth Rock and the first Thanksgiving feast they celebrated a year after arriving in the New World, to give thanks for their bountiful harvest (thanks Squanto!) are not alien concepts even in faraway Singapore. Indeed the story is kept alive by way of an increasing number (it would seem) who celebrate the festival in late October complete with turkey, trimmings and thanksgiving gatherings.
The drizzle clears up by the time we drive into Plymouth port and park our rental. The port itself is beautiful and serene, gleaming in the afternoon light and leading me to wonder why the Pilgrims didn’t set off for the New World in as nice weather, instead of the bitterly cold winter’s day they landed in Plymouth some 400 years ago.
By all accounts the people on board the Mayfllower had a terrible journey, wracked by huge waves and bitter cold from the outside and cramped conditions, food shortages and illnesses from within. Half of the 102 passengers and 50 crew would die in that first winter alone.
A reproduction of the Mayflower is bobbing in the port, looking a little plain without billowing sails and masts on its rigging. A notice tells us the boat is in need of refurbishment and to please donate to this cause.
Jude and Sherman go onto the Mayflower for a paid tour while Ari, Juno and I wander around the dock. (I am unwilling to get on another boat after Provincetown.)
We go take a look at the famous Plymouth Rock, supposedly the first thing the Pilgrims stepped on when they got off the boat in the New World.
A man dressed like an olden days person (pilgrim?) is leaning against the rock’s protective railing, looking thoroughly bored with his job of explaining this piece of history. He says the whole story hinges on the 1741 testimony of a very old man who actually knew first-hand some of the Pilgrims and claims they told him what happened. And that the actual rock, whittled down to this smallish stone, was in fact fifteen feet long in the beginning. When I ask in disbelief whether the whole legend of the rock hinges on one man’s story, I can tell I’ve tread on some stockinged toes and they weren’t very happy. “There is no reason to believe he was lying,” he says coldly. I guess this is one part of American folklore that you just don’t mess with.
Coming out of a little store with some very sweet Plymouth fudge, we meet a couple who excitedly tells us they saw the Obamas on the pier at Martha’s Vineyard, waiting to board a ferry to the mainland, on that very same afternoon we had been there, just a few hours earlier. I am really taken by their story – they are, like me, obviously Obamaphiles – but later, on the news, it seems that the Obamas are still on Martha’s Vineyard, holidaying. Bah.
Small history lesson over, we make our way to find lunch, and find very few establishments open, and so settle on T-Bones Roadhouse somewhere on the Main Street. It’s a little bit scary in T-Bones. (It comes with neon-bright signage, the symbol of a cowboy riding a bucking pig, various decapitated and mounted wildlife and game machines where you get to shoot the target with a realistic toy rifle.) I idly googled it and found that a few years ago, some T-Bone regulars got together and attempted to smash the Guinness World Record for the largest open-faced sandwich. They did it. Their sandwich weighed 2539 pounds, obliterating the old record of 1652 lbs.
Or maybe T-Bones is unnerving because it’s just a few stops down from Plimoth Bay Outfitters. That’ s a euphemistic name for a gun shop. I was really too nervous to take any pictures at T-Bones as some of the people at the bar looked like they frequented Plimoth Bay Outfitters.
Though their sweet margaritas were good I have to say.