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Sunday, May 26, 2013 : From New York City to Boston

 

Skype is cool. It's Mother's Day in France and I can talk to my mom, although we're thousands of miles away.

 

Then, after breakfast, we walk to the Hertz station near the World Trade Center to get our car. it is a beige 2012 Chevrolet Malibu, hardly clean. Hertz usually knows much better.


One World Trade Center, New York

One World Trade Center, under the sun ... At last !

 

We take this opportunity to snap a few pictures of One World Trade Center, finally under the sun. Glass walls perfectly reflect the blue of the sky. This tower is stunningly beautiful.

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Chevrolet Malibu 2012

Chevrolet Malibu 2012, our car for 3 weeks

 

After picking our luggage, which we had left at the hotel the time to get our car, we leave toward the North of Manhattan. We pass in front of Saint John the Divine Cathedral, the largest in North America, then behind the Columbia University campus.

 

It's Sunday morning and traffic is really quiet.

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Apollo Theater, 125th Street, Harlem

Apollo Theater, a beacon of African-American culture, 125th Street, Harlem

 

We are now in the heart of Harlem, very busy on this market day. We make a stop at the Apollo Theater, where so many African-American artists have performed, from Duke Ellington to James Brown to Chaka Khan, along with many others.

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Yankee Stadium, New York City

Yankee Stadium, New York City

We exit Harlem on Seventh Avenue, called here Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard (nothing to do with U2's bassist, it is named after the Harlem Representative elected in 1945), which is two-way. Just after crossing the Harlem River, we pass close by the Yankee Stadium, home of the eponymous baseball team.

 

To leave New York City, we cross the Bronx, the only borough that is not on an island. We now have a few hours' drive, mostly on Interstate 95, to Plimoth Plantation, about 40 miles from Boston.

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Model of Mayflower II

Model of Mayflower II

 

Plimoth Plantation is a living museum, a careful reconstitution of a Native American settlement and a nearby English village, staffed with actors seriously playing their parts. Both the Natives and the English wear 1627 costumes. The Natives are mostly true Wampanoag, the local ethnic group. The English speak with a delicious 17th century accent !

 

The visitor center deserves a visit of its rich collections of traditional artifacts by local residents. The films in the two theaters show the history of Native Americans and of the first European settlers. They make your time worthwhile.

 

Upon arrival, we learn that we will not be able to visit the 1620 Mayflower replica in nearby Plymouth. At the time of our visit, Mayflower II was undergoing renovation in a local specialized shipyard, and all we have is a model in a window box.

 

Mayflower II has now safely returned to Plymouth.

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Wampanoag Homesite, Plimoth Plantation, making a dugout canoe

Native village, making a dugout canoe

 

Our first visit is the Native settlement, Wampanoag Homesite, where the extended family of local tribe Pokanoket chief Hobbamock used to live. The settlement is about half a dozen houses. The group made a living of fishing (we are close to a wide river, and near the Atlantic Ocean), some hunting, gathering, and some cultivation. The locals called their group Patuxet. It was named Plimoth by the Europeans.

 

We carefully watch how dugout canoes are made, from a tree trunk. The tree is cut lengthwise, its inside is slowly burned, and the burned-out parts are carved out. Making a good dugout takes about 40 days.

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Wampanoag Homesite, Plimoth Plantation, traditional Native house

Traditional Native house

 

Traditional Native houses all have this turtle-like shape. They are built on a wooden frame, covered with large bark plates that keep it watertight.

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Wampanoag Homesite, Plimoth Plantation, inside the traditional Native house

Inside the traditional Native house

 

The specific elongated shape of the Wampanoag house helps it maximize heat conservation, an absolute must considering the harsh winters of the region. The extended family sleeps on the bunk beds that can be seen on the sides of the house, around the woodfire in the middle.

 

Of course, this house is built without a single metal part, and with no other tie than the weaved links that can be seen in the frame. It is sustainable development before its time. Most of all, it is easy to fix with the local materials.

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Wampanoag Homesite, Plimoth Plantation, making corn pancakesabrication des galettes de maïs

Native village, making corn pancakes

 

The Wampanoag cultivated a little corn. They crushed the grains in the pots that can be seen on the left side of the picture. Then, with the flour and some water, they cooked highly nutritive pancakes. They had also mastered pottery.

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Wampanoag Homesite, Plimoth Plantation, tradinional Native cultures

Native village, traditional cultures

 

The Wampanoag had also fully understood how to arrange cultures. On a small plot like the one on the picture, they cultivated corn and several other plants, each participating in a subtle balance of water consumption, sunshine exposure and ground resource utilization.

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Plimoth Plantation, English village, wooden house

English village, wooden house

 

After visiting the Native settlement, we walk along the Eel River (I assume its name comes from what could be fished from it), and we walk into the European settlers village. Although history mostly remembers the leading role played by the English, many Dutch settled in the area in the 17th Century.

 

When they arrived, settlers had to build everything, beginning with their own houses. Unlike the Natives, they used tools and had mastered metalworking. The frames of their houses are fixed with nails, and their doors hold on hinges.

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Plimoth Plantation, English village, drying wood

English village, drying wood

 

This pile of wood uses a characteristic circular shape that is best to keep wood. Only the top layer is actually exposed to rain, and the spaces between logs ensure an adequate internal ventilation of the whole pile.

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Plimoth Plantation, English village, vegetable garden

English village, vegetable garden

 

Settlers had also brought plants, which they began to cultivate immediately upon their arrival, in vegetable gardens like this one.

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Plimoth Plantation, English village, inside a one-room house

English village, inside a one-room house

 

The most basic houses only have a single room, which has many uses, including bedroom. Only a curtain separates the bed from the rest of the room.

 

At the beginning, furniture is imported. But soon, craftsmen build it locally.

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Plimoth Plantation, English village, woman gardening in 1627 costume

English village, woman gardening in 1627 costume

 

The woman in this picture works her vegetable garden with traditional tools, wearing an equally traditional costume. The reenactment of the Pilgirms' life in 1627 looks really accurate.

 

By the way, why were they called the Pilgrims ? First of all, they were often led by Protestant pastors, eager to evangelize the locals. And then, it took a huge leap of faith to face the often hostile conditions of an unpredictable environment. How many famines did they undergo, before the first Thanksgiving they shared with the Natives, after a particularly plentiful harvest ?

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Plimoth Plantation, English village, cattle

English village, cattle

 

The first settlers also brought cattle, that was fed and bred locally. They had to be hunters, fishermen, cattle breeders, farmers and craftsmen, all at the same time.

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Plimoth Plantation, English village, bread ovens

English village, bread ovens

 

With the cereals they had cultivated from their arrival, they made bread in those wood ovens.

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Plimoth Plantation, English village, cradle

English village, cradle

 

We visit a richer house, doubtlessly the one of a more successful man. It has a second floor, used as both granary and storage space. Furniture is more decorated and of better quality than what we had seen previously.

 

It is also the first house where we can see a cradle.

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Plimoth Plantation, English village, inside a richer house

English village, inside a richer house

 

This house is much larger than the previous ones. it has several rooms, to house all members of the extended family.

 

We can see that the table is covered with a carpet. At that time, floors are still made of raw soil, and carpets are mostly used as tablecloth. Only much later will they be laid on the floor.

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Plimoth Plantation, English village, actor in 1627 costume

English village, actor in 1627 costume

 

I can't help having a talk with the guide of this house. This actor takes his part very seriously, with a sense of humor that I taste like a present. He goes as far as speaking English with a 1627 accent. It's exhilarating !

 

He describes the house, its inhabitants, furniture, objects, with a luxury of details. Most of the information of these paragraphs is taken from his speech.

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Plimoth Plantation, the English village seen from the fort

Plimoth Plantation, the English village seen from the fort

 

We have reached the top of the English village. Quite logically, this is where the fort that is supposed to protect the small settlement was built. The first floor of this building is used as a church and a meeting place, and the second floor is the defense station.

 

At that time, buildings often had more than one purpose.

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Plimoth Plantation, English village, the fort

Plimoth Plantation, the fort

 

On the second floor, a few canons ensure the protection of the village. As can be seen on the picture, openings in the sides, protected by trapdoors, allow to use the canons without overexposing their servants.

 

Of course, if the potential attackers of this fort had also been equipped with canons, I would have had serious doubts about the real military interest of this fort. But they only had bows and arrows.

 

After visiting Plimoth Plantation, we explore the parking lot looking for license plates, and we hit the road again to Quincy, a town close to Boston, which we are going to visit for almost the next three days.

 

We have not walked that much, today. The podometer admits only 2.5 miles.

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