When I was in my mid-forties, I decided to re-read all the "required reading" of my school years. The experience was profound. Books I once despised for boredom were now fascinating, themes and morals not revealed as a youth were incredibly clear as an adult, and the simpleness of how I remembered the books revealed surprising intellectual and emotional complexities. Plymouth was a similar experience for me.
Like most, I first heard about Plymouth in Elementary School. We learned about the Mayflower, Pilgrims, Indians, Thanksgiving, and a rock. We traced our hands onto a paper plate and created turkeys by gluing on grains. Beautiful innocence.
Experiencing Plymouth, Massachusetts as an adult was less about the historical events and more about the human pilgrimage.
Tad wanted to wash down the boat when we arrived so I previewed the town. While the tourist map listing all the places to go makes everything look big, the town is easily walkable. Within an hour, I had visited Plymouth Rock, the Mayflower II museum, sites of the first church, first homes, first meeting house, etc. They were all interesting, but it was in walking through the burial place of the pilgrims that I was reminded of our humanity and the sacrifices we will endure to ease our yearning for freedom and belonging.
The Pilgrim story is so surrounded by legend, we sometimes forget they were real people; men, women, and children who made long voyages in rough seas and conditions we cannot begin to fathom, all to find freedom. On December 16, 1620, half of the 125 malnourished and ill who arrived in Plymouth died the first winter. Burial Hill was where the survivors gathered to worship and where they laid their loved ones to rest. For me, it was a place of contemplation and solace.
Plymouth, was historically known as Plimouth and Plimoth, which is the old English spelling. Today we use "Plymouth" and reserve the historic spelling to denote a historic site (e.g. Plimoth Plantation). Plymouth was the second permanent English settlement in North America, (Jamestown was the first) remaining a relatively isolated seacoast town whose livelihood depended on fishing, shipping and shipbuilding until 1824 when the Plymouth Cordage Company was founded and became the world's largest manufacturer of rope and cordage products. Today, Plymouth stands as the oldest municipality in New England and one of the oldest in the United States.
Plymouth Rock is the traditional site of disembarkation of William Bradford and the Mayflower Pilgrims who founded the Plymouth Colony in 1620. Now ensconced beneath a granite canopy, it stands more as a symbol than an actual historical marker as the Pilgrims did not refer to Plymouth Rock in any of their writings. It wasn't until the idea to bury the rock in 1741 that Elder Thomas Faunce claimed it to be the landing rock of the Pilgrims.
We enjoyed all the historical markers and sites, but Plimoth Plantation and the Plimoth Grist Mill were my favs! We biked out to the Plimoth Plantation and I will confess to my first wipeout. Around mile-three we came down a hill and I hit a patch of sand as I started to make my turn. The bike went flying out from under me and I skidded across the pavement. Tad was ahead of me and didn't know I wiped out so he kept going. Two cars stopped to help me as I gathered my bike with my bloody hands. One guy kept asking if I was sure I was okay. I assured him I was fine as my knees embedded with gravel dripped blood on my shoes and my visor lay cattywompus across my face. When I look back at the visual I must have presented, I have to laugh and understand why he wasn't so sold on my confidence!
Plimoth Plantation, an interactive museum
In 1947 Henry Hornblower had the idea to replicate the original settlement as a live museum. They did much research to assure the authenticity and the Plimoth Plantation came to life. The museum features the story of the Natives and the Pilgrims. Tad loved talking to one of the construction docents and we even watched a colonial marriage take place. As the light shined through cracks of windows and doors, I imagined winters seeping through the openings.
Plimoth Grist Mill
The Plimoth Grist Mill located in town is a part of the Plimoth Plantation Museum. The mill was constructed to replicate John Jenney's water-powered corn grinding mill built in 1636. The Grist Mill is a working mill that grinds organic corn into delicious, freshly ground cornmeal. We arrived when they were cleaning the 200-year-old French Buhr millstone. This arduous task lasting over an hour is done twice per day! It was fascinating.
Mayflower II Replica
Plimoth Plantation's full-scale reproduction of the tall ship that brought the Pilgrims to Plymouth in 1620 was in Mystic for restoration. Check out this very short video of the
I feel like we only skimmed the surface of Plymouth and would have liked more time to dig into the archives of its history. Perhaps another time.
Safe Harbor Plymouth Marine
Plymouth Marine is a full-service marina with over 105 seasonal slips. Modern, concrete floats, are tucked into the secure harbor and close to town. The staff was great!
Fuel: gas and diesel
Power: 110v/30A and 220v/50A
Pump Out: yes
Fresh Water: yes
Wifi: yes, but like most marinas, it dropped a lot
Shuttle/Water Taxi: none
Waterfront Restaurant: We enjoyed lunch at the marina restaurant. It was a fun place, food was average Pub Grub
Other amenities: Ice, shower, heads, marine supplies and full-service repair shop
VHF Radio: Channel 10
Safe Harbor Membership Discount Marina: Fuel is 40 cents off on weekdays, but only 20 cents per gallon on the weekend.
Note: If the Mayflower II had been in town, it would have been just a few feet from the marina!