Sunday, July 29, 2012

Visiting Concord

Last week a business trip took me to Boston so I seized the opportunity and asked my husband to go out with me a few days early for a little sightseeing.

Number 1 item on my agenda was to visit Orchard House, the home of Louisa May Alcott in Concord, so we started out by staying our first night in Lexington, at one of Starwood's new eco-conscious Element hotels.  Given that we're not big fans of the whole B&B experience, staying in Concord didn't seem reasonable but we enjoyed this hotel and I would recommend it.  I can also recommend the two places we ate in Concord--80 Thoreau was wonderful (started with the Pork & Rabbit Terrine and then I had skate for the first time--wonderfully light, but buttery and full of flavor) and then for lunch we ate (with I think the whole town) at Concord's Colonial Inn, where I had a lobster roll, which was also a first.

I truly enjoyed visiting Orchard House and grooving on all the Little Women stuff--btw, the tour guide did an excellent job, especially in describing transcendentalism.  She also was diplomatic when it came to Bronson Alcott--I don't have much respect for the man myself, but she was factual in answering questions about him without going into all the aspects of his character that kept his family at poverty's door until Louisa published Little Women.  I only read Little Women last year, so this wasn't so much a pilgrimage for me as an interesting place to visit.  If you want to read up on LMA, Eden's Outcasts about Louisa and her father, Bronson, is excellent.

At Orchard House, Concord, MA

While Orchard House was fun, interesting, and special, I had expected to enjoy it...however, I was pleasantly surprised twice when we visited the Concord Museum.  I absolutely loved peeking into Emerson's library...

Often what makes a vacation memorable is when you stumble onto something wonderful that you didn't expect.  For Jeff and I, that was the Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage exhibit that is at the museum until September 23.  We loved it so much we bought the last signed copy of the book that Leibovitz wrote to accompany the exhibit. 

After the museum and Orchard House, we visited Sleepy Hollow Cemetary and found the graves, it wasn't hard, of Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Nathanial Hawthorne. My favorite part of the cemetary, and really may favorite part of Concord, was the peacefulness of the woods, and fields. The area has changed so much in the 150 years since these giants of American letters lived and worked here, but you can definitely feel the pull of Nature on your soul when you visit the area.

Next up was the Minuteman National Park where we visited the Old North Bridge, where the first battle of the American Revolution was fought.  As to be expected in the summer, the bridge was crowded with visitors to the point where we really couldn't get a picture of the bridge without someone on it.  No matter, my favorite part was the utter tranquility of the scene looking downriver from the bridge.  It didn't take me long to imagine away everyone else and think how lovely it would be to spend the summer reading in this spot.

Our final stop in Concord was to Walden Pond, which is now a state park and was overrun with kids playing in the water. They did have a recreation of Thoreau's cabin near the parking lot, with his statue. I'd heard that Walden Pond was no longer a place where one could quietly retreat from the world, so I wasn't too disappointed.


  1. Wow! What a great place to visit. I have never been there but I really need to make the trip.

    Of course the literary history is of extreme interest. I am also an American Revolutionary war buff so the area holds a double fascination for me. Old North Bridge seems a near mystical place to me.

    The pictures also look great!

  2. If you return to Concord, try kayaking or canoeing under the North Bridge - talk about tranquility! I do a lot of kayaking and the Concord River is still one of my favorite places. You may have noticed the boat house on the road into Concord from Rt. 2 - you can rent by the hour.

    I just read Little Women a couple of years ago and loved it. I've done a ton of reading on Louisa May Alcott and her family and I agree that Eden's Outcasts is a fantastic bio. Matteson really understands spirituality which is key to explaining Bronson in a fair way,

    If you're interested in reading more on the Alcotts, I keep a blog at

    Glad you enjoyed your trip!

  3. Excellent photos! We were at Minuteman National Park last year, but need another trip for Orchard House and the Concord Museum... lucky for us we can do it over a weekend. Thanks for the Element hotel recommendation, too.

  4. Wow, this sounds like a lovely trip! I've only read Little Women and a couple of stories by Alcott, but I was really impressed with what I did read.

  5. I would love to visit there. I have always been fascinated with the Alcott family and their famous friends.
    I wouldn't be so hard on Mr. Alcott though. He was a huge inspiration to Louisa who perhaps would not have been the writer she was, or at least been so intent on being published had it not been for him (poverty being a very important impetus!)
    He seems like a man ahead of his time who stuck to his ideals (unfortunately to the detriment of his pocketbook). He reminds me somewhat of Gaskell's Mr. Hale, another character that some dislike for weakness, but I have a softspot for. :)

  6. Phylly3 - funny you should mention Mr. Hale because I also thought of him a few times whilst reading Eden's Outcasts.

  7. I went to Concord with my family as a child and the highlight for me was Louisa May Alcott's house. My Dad bought me my own copy of Little Women there and I cherished it for a long time. Looks like you had a great visit to the area!