Traipsing around New England with a camera - a visit to the Mystic Seaport.

May 27, 2007

Jean, Lyssa, and I got up early on Saturday morning to hit the highways and travel farther northward, to the Mystic Seaport on the coast of Connecticut for a day-long jaunt. We got dressed and set forth in Jean's car around 0930 EST5EDT on Saturday morning, in the hope of dodging a lot of weekend tourist traffic. We almost pulled it off, too; traffic didn't start getting bad until we were within spitting distance of the Seaport, when traffic started backing up and parking when we got there became a worry. Thankfully, between a local radio station playing a full ninety-six hours of 80's music in alphabetical order by title and Lyssa's iPod, we were able to not go utterly insane while waiting for the opportunity to creep forward a few more feet. Once we arrived, we took a few minutes to secure the car and grease ourselves up with sunblock because temperatures hovered in the high 90's Fahrenheit yesterday, though without the humidity one expects of the DC metroplex.

I'm still very thankful that Jean offered to drive. I'm not sure that I would have made it after Friday night.

After getting ourselves geared up we met up with Shannon, who had the day off, and headed into the Seaport to see what we could find... The Mystic Seaport is a smallish town on the coast of Connecticut that is a living, breathing maritime museum. There are buildings all around the town that are emblematic of various aspects of coastal life and life on the high seas in the late 1700's and early 1800's, such as your average home, the print shop (complete with a number of fully operational printing presses), a smithy's shop (closed at the time), a school, the local church, and the docks. You can wander around pretty much as you please and look at all of the exhibits. You can even go aboard the restored and preserved ships moored in the harbor if you've got the time.

The price of admission for a weekend is $17.50us, quite reasonable when you take into account the fact that the Mystic Seaport is big enough to be a village - that's a lot of ground to cover, and a lot of things to do.

The first thing we did was head for the cafe' to get lunch, because none of us had eaten since the night before, an we were all feeling a bit peckish. Lyssa and I both had orders of the fish and chips, which, I must be honest, weren't much to write home about. The fish were okay, as they go, but the fries were a little on the dry side, and didn't really complement the meal. I give it two and a half flare guns out of four: Not bad, but not great, either.

We wandered around for a while and checked out the schoolhouse, the church, and the print shop before setting our sites upon one of the whaling ships, the Charles W. Morgan. Whaling ships of the 19th century were big, as they went (the 'Morgan was 113 feet in length) but incredibly cramped inside. While walking around, I had to hunch over most of the time because my head would touch the ceiling but would also rap against parts of the superstructure. The stairs were also incredibly steep, and I had to be very careful, lest I take a tumble and probably break something that I'll need later. Much of the interior space of the ship was dedicated to the processing and storage of parts of whales, mostly the blubber and spermaceti, if the crew had managed to take down a sperm whale. This left little room for anything else, as one would imagine. A quick count of berths aboard the ship showed that at most twenty-seven people could fit, though unless you were the captain, not at all comfortably. None of us would have fit into the bunks comfortably because they were meant for people who were much shorter than the folks of today (around five feet in height, give or take a bit).

I discovered something yesterday: My cellphone takes better photographs (1280x1024 @ 32-bit color) than my camera (640x480 @ 24-bit color) does. I've stopped carrying my camera and decided to use my cellphone only, even though it doesn't have a flash on it. Photographs will be added to the gallery as soon as we get back to DC.

We took some time out to get something to drink, in the form of small-batch sodas that used real cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup, and explored the exhibit of figureheads, carved wooden figures that adorned the prows of sailing ships of the time. There were images of Greek and Roman gods, what were thought to be famous people of the time and place, and abstract scroll-and-billet work. There were also descriptions of some of the less obvious aspects of the exhibits, such as how they could tell that they were restored (and how well), and some of the technical considerations behind them (figureheads didn't often have much ornamentation or extended arms because they'd be the first parts ruined by salt water).

We also stopped by the planetarium for the star show, and to cool off a little because the temperature had hit its zenith. It wasn't anything fancy, and it certainly wasn't on par with the Carnegie Science Center, but what it did have was a older gentleman narrating the show who really knew how to explain star maps to kids, and seemed to keep the attention of everyone in the audience. He was grandfatherly and funny, and explained some of the basic principles behind navigating by the stars at sea, which I rather enjoyed.

Before leaving, we stopped at a few of the gift shops scattered around the village and nosed around the souveniers. I picked up a couple of magnets for our fridge (and to send home to the family), and a few replica coins that I'll probably find one or two uses for. Lyssa bought a couple deck prisms to help light the office, and accidentally poved how resilient they are. We then stopped by the larger gift shop just outside of the village and nosed around the bookstore (you knew that was coming, didn't you?) before heading back toward Jean's stomping grounds to meet up with a friend, find dinner, and take in a movie.

We wound up going to a mall (I don't know which one - it didn't look familiar, and wasn't the one from Friday night) to hit Bertucci's for dinner and get tickets for Pirate of the Caribbean: At World's End at the megaplex.

As it turned out Kit, the aforementioned friend of jean's, didn't join us for dinner for some reason so the four of us (Jean, Lyssa, Shannon, and I) had a booth to ourselves but we did find her not too far away from the movie theatre before we went in.

There wasn't much in the way of previews before the movie started - there were some promos for Ghost Rider, which I would still like to see (though it'll be on DVD when I do) and Transformers (which I now, really, really want to see when it comes out). Unfortunately, the fans were not treated to a promo for the next Harry Potter movie, but those will start coming out en masse shortly, I've a feeling.

But, about the movie: The third Pirates of the Caribbean movie picks up not long after the second, with the search for Captain Jack Sparrow. The movie felt a little disjointed at first, I think because it's been so long since I've seen the second movie, but it also doesn't right after the second movie. Much is made of Jack Sparrow being as mad as a hatter, and in fact it's quite funny at times, but also a little inspiring, in that people can do amazing things when they have absolutely no idea what in the hell they are doing. Once they pulled it together, though, it was a very enjoyable movie. It had action; it had adventure; it had plots inside of plots and double, triple, and quadruple crosses (so much that you need a map to keep track of who was screwing who over); it even leaves you at the edge of your seat.

It even had Norman Lovett (the guy who played Holly on Red Dwarf) with a small part in the movie that left the five of us rolling with laughter.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End was an excellent movie. It was a lot of fun, and well worth the three hours. There is even a scene at the very end after the credits, so be sure to stay all the way through them. I highly recommend it to everyone, but think twice before you bring the little ones to the theatre with you.

We parted ways shortly after midnight this morning and headed for home, whereupon we passed out cold.

Lyssa and Jean were up earlier than I was today and headed out to get stuff for breakfast and dinner. I slept in because I was still wiped out from the night before, but got myself going around 1030 EST5EDT to take a shower and get dressed.

Much of today was spent lazing around Jean's apartment reading, writing, and generally doing copious amounts of nothing to relax.