1. The Quintessential New England Experience

    Welcome to the third installment of my travel blog for Boomers. I’ve previously written about my favorite thing to do in France and my newly discovered gem in the United States. Today I’m going to tell you about the one place in the world that is dearest to me — my hometown in Gloucester, Mass.

    Each summer for the past five years I have hosted an authentic clambake for Road Scholar participants. This year, there were 24 folks from our Adventures Afloat program “Grand Voyage: New England, the Canadian Maritimes and Quebec,” who sat at picnic tables in my backyard eating chowder, corn, steamers, mussels, lobsters and strawberry shortcake.

    imageSharing some of my family history with the Road Scholar group.

    Napa Valley is famous for its wine, Memphis its barbecue and our corner of the U.S. is famous for its seafood. Participant Kathy Jacobson from Santa Monica, California paid me the highest compliment when she said, “This is the quintessential New England experience.” Then she cracked open a claw just like a local.  

    I’m fourth-generation Gloucester. My great-grandfather started the “Mighty Mac” company, making Mackintosh jackets for the fisherman more than 100 years ago. Gloucester is one of our country’s most famous fishing towns, and I remember as a child the harbor filled with fishing boats, the smell of fish everywhere and the fisherman literally throwing fish at each other because they were so plentiful.

    imageGetting ready for a succulent seafood feast!

    Times have changed, but that proud seafaring culture is still an important part of Gloucester, and it’s why so many people love to come visit. I actually live on Rocky Neck, a small peninsula that juts into Gloucester Harbor that is famous as the home to one of the oldest continuously-operating art colonies in the United States. Artists love the light here, the way it reflects off the water and the pink granite. They call it “penetrating.” Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper painted here in the 1900s, paving the way for generations of artists who have captured the boats, lighthouses, homes and people of my community.

    After our clambake, art historian Judith Curtis took our group on a walk to learn about the famous scenes of Rocky Neck captured on canvas and the idyllic days when the shoreline would be dotted with artists and their easels. We ended our walk around Rocky Neck with a stop at my nephew’s ice cream shop, Kiss on the Neck

    With that famous afternoon light starting to fall on the fishing boats in the harbor, it was time for our group to board their home for the next 12 nights, the Yorktown. They were heading north up the coast of Maine and down through the Canadian Maritimes. They had many more enriching days ahead of them, but I hope when it’s all over one of their fondest memories is a simple backyard clambake at my house.

    -JoAnn Bell

    Vice President, Programs

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