Exploring the Vibrant New England
Spanning along the northeastern Atlantic coastline and the oldest clearly defined region of the United States, New England is renowned for its rivers and lakes, surpassing forests, mountain ranges with hiking and skiing trails, pastoral farmland and countryside,substantial rocky coastline and soft, sandy beaches.
The region was named by Captain John Smith, who explored its shores in 1614 for London merchants and by 1620, first colony was established in New England by the earlier Puritan settlers fleeing religious persecution in England.
Although winter is harsh with extreme cold and snow, summers are cordial here with different shades of orange, pink, yellow, white and red flowers and foliage across a wide terrain of lush green countryside. So, when my parents visited us in summer of last year, it was a perfect timing to explore the wild beauty of nature.
Located only a 10 minutes’ walk from our home is a picturesque Jamaica Pond, which is part of a larger Emerald Necklace, perhaps the first urban greenway in world, peculiar in its design as a series of parks, united by a chain of drives, rides and walks, forming a grand parkway reaching from the heart of the city into the rural scenery of the suburbs. It is ringed by a 1.5-mile walking path, and is an extremely popular destination for Bostonians for walking, fishing, rowing, and sailing.
Being a largest natural freshwater body in the lower Charles River watershed, it was used to supply fresh water and about 5,000 tons of ice every winter to whole Boston until 1930’s.
We enjoyed corn tortilla with spicy Mexican homemade salsa sitting there with a stunning view of geese, swans and wood ducks gently swimming over the muddy river.
Our next destination was Boston Common and freedom trail, 2.5-mile, red-lined route that introduces you to rich history of the American Revolution and provides a link to a bunch of historically significant sites.Faneuil Hall, in the bustling colonnade of Quincy Market, America’s first and favorite urban festival marketplace, is the visitor’s heaven with a food court presenting a most authentic traditional and modern culinary including the classical local’s special clam chowder.
Live performers there with a quality music display, collecting coins in lieu of their talent, were engaging the street walkers who started gathering in a semi-circle to watch their live street theatre.
Castle island, also known as Pleasure Bay, has been a site of fortification and old armory since 1634 at Day Boulevard in South Boston on the shore of Boston Harbor.
Preserved as a state park and still firing occasional ceremonial salutes, it is a home to granite bastion “Fort Independence” and is among the oldest continuously fortified sites of English origin in the United States. A shoreline string of parks and beaches with a large playground provide a perfect spot for jogging, walking and playing in a background of nice blend of history and recreation.
Fried fish and chips with clam strips were crumbly and delicious at Sullivan’s, built in 1951 and successful in drawing crowds for its remarkable fried seafood. The island presents a breath holding view of Boston Harbor with huge vessels anchored at dock and Logan airport with views of planes taking off and landing.
Just a half an hour drive from Boston is a spectacular Houghton’s Pond, surrounded by an array of hiking trails within the Blue Hills Reservation of Milton, Massachusetts. A conservatory body of spring-fed kettle hole and muddy water in a pond with daffodils on its surface is home to near extinction water birds and species.
Formed by dwindling glaciers about 10,000 years ago, it was inhabited by the Massachuseck Indians who once fished the pond and hunted the surrounding lands,and today provides a magnificent view of nature’s beauty with 24 acres of accessible beach for hiking, biking and horse-riding.
Located along the Kennebunk river, the town of Kennebunkport in Maine delves you in the fragrance of old fishing and shipbuilding blended with a breeze of freshness coming straight from dark blue waters. Walking in the Dock Square area packed with giftshops, thrift stores, souvenir shops, art galleries, seafood restaurants along both sides of the road gives you a real treat. A nicely constructed bridge over the river Kennebunk provides opportunity for ample photography with white schoonersin background making their way to the Atlantic like seagulls hovering over the ocean.
Old orchard beach, Maine, with its vast stretch sandy beach and long woody pier, offers the stunning stuff to shop, eat and play. The most amazing attraction especially for children is Beachfront Palace Playland Park. Spread over 24,000 square foot, it is one of the largest in New England containing more than 200 games and attractions. Children enjoyedroller coasters and other thrill rides, including Adrenalin and Power Surge!
Just besides Old Orchard beach, about 7 minutes’ drive in a town of Scarborough, was a spectacular and New England’s most famous fresh seafood serving restaurant, Clambake. With a seating capacity of over 700, it is located on Maine’s largest salt water marsh, thus providing a stunning glimpse of free roaming oceanic pelagic seabirds. Mouthwatering fish n’ chips, Baked Haddock, Maine Lobster and shrimps were as fresh and crispy as one could imagine.
This reminded me of a taste of freshly baked fish cooked with a recipe of local “masala” that I ate in Manora, a small peninsula South of Karachi, when we visited our maternal uncle decades ago.
Our next destination was Portland. Located along the Casco bay, Portland is the city established in 1633 by earliest permanent British settlers on the southern coast of Maine. Continuing with its tradition of trading and fishing, it is now a hub of art, entertainment and dining. Bustling with visitors, brick sidewalks and cobblestone streets of the revitalized Old Port District, is a place where you can browse through bookstores and beautiful craft shops.
The city’s waterfront features working fishing wharves and converted warehouses with restaurants and shops. The nearby Western Promenade is a public park atop a beach ridge, offering spectacular river and mountain views.
The calm, tranquillizing air in a small town, well known by recently acclaimed Hollywood movie of the same name, Manchester-by- the- sea, carried a charm that one can breathe in a fresh air. The serene sleeping beauty in which this small town was wrapped, blended with cool breeze coming from Atlantic. Located about 30 miles from Boston, at North Shore in Essex county of Massachusetts along Cape Ann, it is a small town with population of just under 6000 and is famous for its vista points and scenic beaches. Interestingly, beach here is known as ‘singing beach’ because of friction between grains of sand causing a curious singing sound. Although we were not able to hear any melodious songs, but did hear the distinct creak of the sand after shufflingour feet on Singing Beach’s dry sand.
The next stretch was to Newport, Rhode Island, the site of magnificent mansions built by the leading architects of the 19th and early 20th centuries for the nation’s social and financial wealthy elite. These “summer cottages” provided the aura and grounding for a society centered on sport, fashion and parties in settings of spectacular natural beauty.
The Breakers, Marble House, The Elms and Rosecliff are among the most
frequently visited mansions. The largest among these is Marble house, which is busted with visitors during the peak summer season with a huge parking lot across the mansion, filled with buses, trolleys and private cars. The splendor, wilderness and the rendezvous stone work inspired by Petit Trianon at Versailles, with tides of the ocean kissing its splendid walls were simply mesmerizing.
Architected by Richard Morris Hunt, it was built for Vanderbilt family who established their fortune in steamships and the New York Central Railroad.
Marble House was more than a summer cottage; it was a social and architectural landmark that set the pace for Newport’s subsequent transformation from a quiet summer colony of wooden houses to the legendary resort of opulent stone palaces.
Chinese Tea House is eloquently built on the seaside cliffs, where Alva, after death of his husband, hosted rallies for women’s right to vote. Just adjacent to the mansion, along the cliff walk, Easton Bay presented a spectacular, magical view of the mighty Atlantic. We just sat on the edge of the cliff and watched yellowish orange sun absorbing slowly over the sea, blurring the boundary between water, sun and sky.
On our way back to Boston, we visited the home of my cousin in West Hartford, Connecticut. Paved by beautiful bridges over highway I-84 and blossoming trees along both sides of the road, Connecticut is the southernmost state in the New England.
The visit to Madina Academy in Windsor about 20 minutes’ drive from West Hartford, came as a surprise. We were not aware of its whereabouts, until we stopped for Zuhr prayer at one of the mosques in West Hartford, when the mutawali of the mosque, migrated from Karachi 40 years ago and taking care of the mosque for more than 30 years, invited us to Eid Milan party at Madina Academy, where he was heading after the prayer. We followed his car to the academy and were gripped in pleasant surprise to see such a wonderful, well organized center of Islamic and modern education that was founded in 1998 and accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) providing quality education from Pre-Kindergarten through grade 12. In a big event hall facility and spacious space outside, a wide variety of foods of Middle Eastern and South Asian origin provided our taste buds with the height of delight.
Before arriving in Boston, New England was known to me for the “New England Journal of Medicine” (NEJM), the most reputable and authentic journal in the world of medicine, but after making it home for a couple of years now, it is gradually revealing on me that modern-day civilization can go hand in hand with goodness, beauty and truth of nature.
Closing my eyes and thinking of nature’s wilderness in its different forms like expanse of the sea, prominence of the mountain or blossoming of a flower, make me realize that “every landscape lies under the necessity of being beautiful” – in words of Ralph Emerson.