Jeff and Cheryl New England Trip travel blog

Today became a day for books and authors. We decided to visit Hartford, CT to see the homes of Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe. After breakfast at the hotel, we started off. The drive was a little less than an hour. We arrived a little after 11. We walked up to the visitor's center, came across the gift shop and looked at all of the stuff that we also sell at the NJLA store. (We're cheaper). We went to the desk to arrange a tour and were told that there would be a character tour at 12:30 with Suzie, Samuel Clemens' daughter. I decided we should do that one. We looked at the exhibits at the center for a while. They had a life size Clemens made from Legos. After a while we walked to the tour beginning point.

The tour began right on time. Suzie was absolutely delightful. She told us a few facts at the beginning about her family and especially about her father. We then walked across a courtyard to the house. Suzie took us to all of the rooms in the house, pausing in each to tell us about their family life and their interactions with their father. She never broke character. During the tour she told about her father as a newspaper reporter, as a riverboat captain, a prospector and finally as an author. She described her father as being very progressive and ready to accept the latest gadgets, such as a typewriter, and said that his investment in a new line-o-type machine failed and sent him and the family into bankruptcy. The family spent a number of years in Europe, before Clemens returned to this country to a hero's welcome. The tour took about an hour and a half. We then watched a 20 minute video of his life, done by Ken Burns.

After the Mark Twain tour, we walked about 100 feet over to the visitor center for Harriet Beecher Stowe. When we bought the tickets we were told that this would be a different type of tour. This tour was more interactive and planned on conversation. Our tour began in the center in a room with pictures of numerous books dealing with slavery, racism and the like. The tour guide talked for about 15 minutes about those topics, looking for responses from the group. A couple of comments came from the group of about a dozen. We then went to the house. We entered a room that we were told was added after the house belonged to Stowe, and so the room was covered with photos and quotes from prominent folks (Obama, Frederick Douglas, ALex Haley, and the like)A. Our discussion continued there.

From there we went to various of the rooms discussing not the home and life of HB Stowe, but more about Uncle Tom's Cabin, and slavery and how it related to today. One of the rooms had chairs set in a semi-circle to continue discussion. It was interesting, but not what was expected.

After this tour we left Hartford and traveled to Niantic, CT. Cheryl wanted to stop there to see The Book Barn. I just turned to Cheryl to ask how she would describe it, and she said "It's indescribable". The Book Barn describes itself as the largest used bookstore in New England. It starts in the main barn and continues in a number of smaller buildings, outdoor shelving units, etc. There are toys around for kids, a petting zoo with 2 goats, gardens, and used books everywhere. Also, this was one of four locations in Niantic. As a sign in the barn says, "Visit the downtown location. It is much more organized and has indoor plumbing!". It really needs to be seen to be believed. On the way home Cheryl was wondering, with all of those books outside, what happens when it rains, or just from the humidity. I commented that none of the books seemed to have had a problem with the humidity, but I don't know why not. We left after about an hour, Cheryl with one book in hand.

We had dinner at a waterside seafood restaurant in Niantic, a small waterside community with a nice downtown and numerous restaurants. After dinner we came back to the hotel and turned in for the evening.

Tomorrow, Mystic.

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