BOSTON IS ONE OF AMERICA'S GREAT CITIES and visitors have plenty of choices to keep them entertained. From the colonial walking tours to the chic shops of Newberry and Boylston streets, from the Italian neighborhood of North End to Harvard Square and the city’s other university communities, there’s a lot to see. But Boston isn’t merely a city. It’s the epicenter of a region awash in American history, culture, and natural wonder.
So if you have an extra day on your next visit, consider setting your sights farther afield from the conventional urban offerings. Less than an hour from Faneuil Hall and the rest of Beantown proper are myriad attractions showcasing the diversity of New England. Our trio of picks present you with exotic cuisine, stories of old, and a slice of the great outdoors.
BACALHAU AND BATTLESHIPS
Most visitors to Fall River, Massachusetts, a former textile mill town, are familiar with its most famous attraction, Battleship Cove, a maritime museum devoted to one of the world’s largest displays of warships. But the majority of visitors to Fall River fail to enjoy the city’s less-heralded asset, one of the largest Portuguese enclaves in the United States.
You needn’t have seen The Perfect Storm to know about New England’s long-standing fishing industry, and few nations rival Portugal for its seafaring traditions. As a result, experienced Portuguese fishermen have long made their homes along the New England coast. But it’s in Fall River that the Portuguese culture remains most evident, and the area’s unique architecture and fine food make for a good complement to a trip to Battleship Cove.
The heart of the Portuguese neighborhood is right near downtown, along the east-west thoroughfare of South Main Street, to the south on Columbia Street and north on Bedford Street. Within this easily walked area lies a vibrant ethnic community. Along Columbia Street, you can see the classic and distinctive triple-decker Portuguese-style residences, with balconies surrounded by ornate cast-iron railings and colorful cottage gardens. Interspersed among the homes are Portuguese bakeries specializing in sumptuous-smelling sweets and travel agencies advertising trips to the Azores and Lisbon. As you make your rounds, be sure to visit Chaves Market, a huge emporium of all things Portuguese, from hard-to-find foodstuffs to imported gift items.
As great as all of this is, what will really wow you is Fall River’s abundance of Portuguese cuisine. Did you know famed New Orleans restaurateur and celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse is neither Cajun nor Creole? He is Portuguese, and born and bred right here in Fall River, where he learned to cook in a succession of bakeries and cafes. Sagres, named for the southwesternmost town in Portugal (and thus continental Europe), is the largest restaurant in the area, with a choice location on Columbia Street. It specializes in traditional seafood dishes like mariscada, a tomato broth with a combination of shrimp, mussels, clams, fish, and lobster. Put the same ingredients in saffron-
flavored rice and you have Sagres’ paella. Bacalhau, or salt cod, is a traditional Portuguese ingredient for dishes such as bacalhau a gomes de sa, a casserole of cod, onion, potato, olive oil, garlic, black olives, and chopped boiled eggs. A variety of steak dishes are available as well, with the bife grilled, fried, or pan sautéed and always topped with a fried egg. Whether you favor seafood, poultry, meat, or even soup, you can be almost certain it will include chourico, a spicy Portuguese sausage used in nearly everything. Even the town’s hot dog stands serve chourico dogs as an alternative to the more American choice.
Once you’ve explored Little Portugal, as it’s known, be sure and take time to explore Battleship Cove, home to the namesake USS Massachusetts, as well as several other warships, including the destroyer Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., the submarine Lionfish, and several PT boats. The nearby Marine Museum at Fall River has a perfect replica of the HMS Bounty, built for the 1962 movie about the famous mutiny, along with exhibits highlighting the history of steamship service from Fall River.
FUNNY ACCENTS AND RIPE-RED CRANBERRIES
History buffs will be hard-pressed to find a more significant New England locale than Plymouth, the site of the Pilgrims’ landing. Located on the south shore of Boston, near the gateway to Cape Cod, Plymouth is both a modern coastal town bustling with shops, lodging, and restaurants, and also home to numerous important historical sights.
Of the latter, the most famous is Plymouth Rock, onto which the Pilgrims first stepped when they came ashore in 1620. The rock has been moved and now resides inside an ornate columned portico along the shore. Mayflower II, a full-scale replica of their famous ship, is anchored a block away. Climb aboard and imagine what it was like for the 102 passengers — nearly one for every linear foot of boat — to survive the 66-day voyage that brought them to the New World.
Continue on to Plimoth Plantation, a lively re-creation of the original settlement, to get a look at what daily life was like for the Pilgrims. Within the walls of the replica fort, actors dressed in period garb carry on in the Pilgrim style, raising barns, gar-
dening, and making candles, all while speaking in authentic 17th-century dialects. A visit to Plimoth Plantation and Mayflower II is a step back in time, a hands-on experience where you learn the ways of some of the earliest colonists.
But there’s more to Plymouth than its history. Much of its economy revolves around the tiny red cranberry, Massachusetts’ most lucrative crop. For a different perspective on our traditional Thanksgiving turkey accompaniment, ride the nearby Edaville railroad, a historic narrow-gauge train that chugs through a working cranberry farm. We guarantee you’ll soon be seeing red — and loving it.
PRISTINE BEACHES AND UNSPOILED SHORELINE
Even native Bostonians don’t always recognize the name Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area. There are 34 islands in the 50-square-mile park, which was opened seven years ago. The most amazing thing about the park is its location, right in Boston Harbor. A stone’s throw from downtown, it is easily one of the most accessible national parks in the country. Regularly scheduled ferries leave from Long Wharf, near the popular Faneuil Hall tourist area. Long Wharf has an information kiosk that is staffed by park rangers.
Thirty-one of the park’s 34 islands are open to the public — if you have your own boat. Only eight of the largest have the necessary dock facilities to accommodate ferries and water shuttles: George’s, Peddock’s, Lovell’s, Bumpkin, Grape, Little Brewster, Thompson, and Deer islands.
Sitting smack in the middle of the harbor, George’s Island has the most visitors, receiving as many as 100,000 day-trippers each year, and boasts the park’s most popular attraction, Fort Warren. An important Civil War site, this National Historic Landmark once held more than 3,000 Confederate prisoners. The 1860 fort has been partially preserved, and you can walk through interior rooms and caves or climb up on the ramparts to enjoy stunning views. George’s has volunteers who are available to give tours of the island.
From George’s, free water shuttles provide transport to several of the other islands, including Lovell’s Island for pristine beaches, or Peddock’s Island, the second largest in the park, for miles of walking trails and unspoiled shoreline.
Little Brewster Island is home to Boston Light, one of the nation’s most famous lighthouses and the oldest lighthouse site in the United States. You can climb the 76 steps to the top of the current lighthouse, which has been in service since 1785. Catch the ferry from Boston’s Fan Pier, but be forewarned: It only runs on weekends and sells out early. Fan Pier is also home to the park’s Discovery Center, the first of a dozen such centers being built nationwide as part of an initiative to make national parks more accessible.
Thompson Island, owned by the Outward Bound Education Center, is open to the public on Saturdays. Used as a training facility for the organization, the island is full of hiking trails. Whichever trail you choose, you won’t be disappointed: They’re each a quick, easy escape into the great outdoors, and the ferry ride is half the fun.
joshua paul is a photographer based out of brooklyn, new york.
travel time from boston: one hour
battleship cove is open daily except thanksgiving, christmas, and new year’s; call (508) 678-1100 or visit www.battleshipcove.org for specifics. for information on the marine museum, call (508) 674-3533 or log on to www.marinemuseum.org. about a half-dozen buses depart boston for fall river daily. for schedules, contact bonanza bus lines at (800) 556-3815.
sagres (508-675-7018) is a large full-service restaurant with a broad menu of portuguese specialties. billy’s café (508-672-9380) is a neighborhood tavern serving an overflowing spicy sausage sandwich it claims is “the best chourico and chips in town.”
travel time from boston: 50 minutes
several companies offer bus tours from downtown boston, including plymouth & brockton co. (508-746-0378). if you take your own car, parking may be difficult. all the major plymouth attractions lie within walking distance of each other along an oceanfront stretch several blocks long, except for plimoth plantation (508-746-1622, www.plimoth.org), which is three miles away and has parking. for more information, call (800) 231-1620 or visit www.seeplymouth.com.
the hearth n’ kettle at the john carver inn (508-746-7100) serves new england specialties, including chowders, lobster, and steaks. local stands serving fried clams and other new england seafood abound.
travel time from boston: a 45-minute ferry ride
from memorial day to columbus day, ferries operate from long wharf to george’s island. free water shuttle service connects george’s with grape, lovell’s, bumpkin, peddock’s, and great brewster islands. in season, call the boston harbor islands info line for inquiries, including ferry and water shuttle schedules, at (617) 223-8666. the park office is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the information kiosk at long wharf is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
the only food service in the park is a snack bar on george’s island. the best idea is to pack a picnic lunch to enjoy on the deserted beaches and rocky shores.