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August 29, 2017

Enduring charms

Craig McTurk pops into three cities in New England, the north-east corner of the United States, for an enticing glimpse into a region famed for its food and history

Craig McTurk

NEW England offers a glimpse into America’s earliest incarnation, for it was here that the country’s push for independence from Britain was nurtured and realised. It is the place for travellers interested in American history and fresh seafood.

New England is a region located in the north-east corner of the United States.

The region is made up of six diverse US states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

The opportunity to meet with relatives took me to three cities in New England that I have visited before.

At each visit, I gain fresh insights and continue to satiate my love for their culinary delights. As a photographer, the region’s scenic harbours, cranberry bogs and distinct seasons captivate me.

Start in Boston

Boston’s Logan Airport is likely to be your airport of choice to arrive in New England.

The city is a history-lover’s delight, and walking the 4km Freedom Trail should be at the top of your itinerary.

The Freedom Trail — identifi ed by a red line on the sidewalk — brings you past iconic sites like Bunker Hill, Old North Church and Paul Revere House.

Stop in at Cambridge, the fabled home of Harvard University where you can stock up on any Harvard-related merchandise at the Co-op.

While in Cambridge, you may want to pay a visit to the popular Russell House Tavern for some seafood and a drink.

Museum lovers are spoilt for choice in Boston. Three must-visit museums include the Museum of Fine Arts, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the Harvard Museum of Natural History.

Each offers something different, with the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum being one of the most unique that I have ever visited.

Located in a former mansion, its collection was built up by the home owner, who bequeathed it as a public museum upon her death and insisted that the museum’s collection remain intact and undisturbed.

Each room is as she left it more than 100 years ago, creating a feeling that you are viewing not just a museum but someone’s residence and lifelong pursuits.

An ideal way to spend an evening is to window-shop at Newberry Street before tucking into a wonderful meal at The Salty Pig, a stylish restaurant situated at the crossroads of Boston’s Back Bay and the South End.

Newport, Rhode Island

Rhode Island, the smallest state in America, is the setting for the quaint harbour town of Newport.

It used to be the playground of shipping and business tycoons during America’s Gilded Age, and some of its mansions are now open to tours.

Once home to the Vanderbilts and Astors, these behemoth homes have since been acquired by familiar names like Donald Trump and Larry Ellison.

These Downton Abbey-like residences provide a great introduction to Newport and offers a window into its past. Visitor can visit the website http://www.newportmansions.org to arrange for a tour.

Newport boasts a lovely town square with shops and restaurants that cater to every taste.

Be sure to check out Bannister’s Wharf, where you can enjoy a coffee at Coffee Grinder, or head to nearby Bowen’s Wharf to savour sublime Mexican food at Diego’s.

Between May and October, explore the environs on a boat cruise that departs daily from Bannister’s Wharf.

Dinner at Clarke Cooke House Restaurant is something not to be missed, as you can indulge in fresh seafood in a spacious 18th century house with elegant dining facilities.

With its excellent service and in the company of friends, this is as much a social experience as a culinary one.

For accommodation, options include contemporary chain hotels such as a nautical-themed Marriott, or a large number of historical houses that have been converted into picturesque bed and breakfast inns.

New Bedford, Massachusetts

New Bedford used to be the epicentre of the world’s whaling trade throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. Fortunes were made and lost in this once-bustling town, which had the highest per capita income in the world during its heyday.

The city — the sixth largest in Massachusetts — hit hard times in the 1980s onwards and suffered economically.

In the past decade, the city has leveraged its history to boost tourism and is now undergoing a renaissance.

New Bedford, with its cobblestone streets and New England charm, is about an hour’s drive from Boston’s Logan Airport.

No visit would be complete without spending a day at The New Bedford Whaling Museum, a child-friendly facility where old ships, harpoons, clothing and memorabilia are on display, including the world’s largest collection of scrimshaw (whalebone ivory) art.

The museum hosts an annual live reading of Moby Dick in its entirety, which pays homage to New Bedford’s role in the novel.

Author Herman Melville spent time in New Bedford while researching his book, and departed from here on the whaler, Acushnet, for his maiden whaling voyage that culminated in his acclaimed novel.

You can also walk to the impressive Rotch-Jones-Duff House, renowned for its lush garden during the summer months. Along the way, stop by 21 Seventh Street to see the large wooden house that was once a stop on the Underground Railroad for runaway or freed slaves, including Frederick Douglass who later became a national leader of the abolitionist movement.

The building looks much the same now as it did when Douglass and his wife lived there around 180 years ago.

Then, pop into Freestone’s City Grill for lunch and enjoy a lobster roll in this former bank, which features elaborately painted walls in the back room.

The host’s table is a repurposed church pulpit, and the restaurant’s brass railings are from the town’s former movie palace.

To unwind, check out some of the quaint shops selling homemade crafts such as candles, jam and nautical-themed gifts.

Or visit a food and deli warehouse at Sid Wainer & Son, where restaurant chefs head to select the finest produce on the East Coast.

Finish the evening with drinks and tapas at The Cork, a restored 1836 warehouse that once supplied equipment to whaling ships.

Across the street, The Black Whale Seafood & Raw Bar offers a wide variety of seafood; shellfish, oyster or jumbo shrimp platter accompanied by a bowl of New England Clam Chowder comes highly recommended at this well-appointed restaurant along the waterfront.

GUIDELINES

I flew on British Airways from Singapore to Boston via London Heathrow.

■ If travelling during the winter months, be sure to pack warm clothes and raingear since weather conditions in New England can be unpredictable.

■ A 15 to 20 per cent tip is expected at restaurants as wait staff rely on customer tips to supplement their income. 

■ Taxis are expensive as compared to Singapore, so consider alternatives like Uber and public transportation if you don’t rent a car.

- http://www.newportmansions.org 

- https://www.whalingmuseum.org

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