Thursday, August 4, 2011

One More New Thing in New England: A Weekend in New Bedford

Back in December 2009 when I was putting together the 2010 list of New Things, fellow list maker Leah urged me to include a weekend in her hometown of New Bedford.  I never did get around to it in 2010, and in 2011 she once again reminded me that I really needed to check it out.  With roughly a month to go before I ship out for my 10 month adventure in Jordan I realized that the opportunity was dwindling and I'd better seize.  So, now I'm back from four fabulous days in New Bedford, made all the more great by the fact that the time was at different points spent not only with Leah, but also Chris, Siham, Drisk and Leah's friend-since-childhood and fellow New Bedford local, Yun.

Chris and I drove down on Thursday and Leah introduced us to her hometown with a huge dinner at a local Portuguese hometown favorite, Antonio's which we made extra-gluttonous by visiting the Gulf Hill Dairy, which is shaped like a giant milk bucket and is ideally suited for watching a sunset over the water..  Later that night Leah tried the new cookies I had made in her honor, Leah Laches. As all my friends know, one of my favorite things to do is bake cookies, and I particularly love inventing new cookies and naming them after the people near and dear to me.  Leah had let it be known that she was definitely next on the naming list, and so Leah Laches have joined Chris Crinkles, Almond Bennetts, Lemon Driskies, Siham Surprises and Maple Hoxies in the roster of my namesake cookies.  Leah Laches are a peanut-butter-and-jelly-twist on the classic rugelach, and luckily, Leah pronounced them worthy of their namesake.
Here's Leah and her terrific mom, who outdid herself in hospitality at the cookout she hosted for us and other guests on Saturday.

Leah, preparing to find out whether it's possible to cram a huge cone of ice cream on top of an Antonio's dinner and not get sick.  (Turns out that the answer is yes, but you might still really regret it.)
Chris, Leah and Pumpkin hanging out in Leah's apartment while she passes judgement on the cookies named in her honor.
On Friday Leah had to work, but Chris and I found plenty to amuse ourselves as tourists immersing ourselves in New Bedford history.  I never read Moby Dick till I was an adult, and I have to confess I was freakishly fascinated by the long, drawn out descriptions of whales and whaling.  So for me, touring the whaling museum and nearby Bethel (site of the famous sermon from the pulpit that Ismael hears before he sets off on his voyage under Captain Ahab's command) was hugely interesting.

Among the many really remarkable things to see at the Whaling Museum are four real whale skeletons hanging from the ceiling.  If you look carefully you can see the one further away is actually two -- the larger is the mother and the little one is her baby, which was still a fetus when she died.

The famous Seamen's Bethel that features prominently, like the entire town of New Bedford,  in the beginning of Herman Melville's Moby Dick.

Late Friday afternoon Chris took his leave of New Bedford to go pick up his brother from Logan Airport and head to Southern Vermont, but luckily the relief team, composed of Siham, Drisk and Yun, were on hand to take over.  Together, we ate and sunned our way through New Bedford, crashing a fabulous family cookout hosted by Leah's parents, trying Cape Verdean food at Izzy's restaurant, and hitting the shore for swimming, sunning and beach-combing twice in two days.
Drisk and Siham try a breakfast with a Portuguese twist at Izzy's.  Drisk was having a dish called cachupa. He said it was excellent.

Although the others didn't get the memo, Siham and I knew that the beach color of the weekend needed to be red. 
Drisk, Siham, Leah and Yun worship the sun and rejoice in the second straight day of perfect beach weather.
The verdict of the visitors was that Leah and Yun are right.  New Bedford is a lot of fun. It has a great blend of history and current happenings (did you know that New Bedford actually has one of the biggest still-running fishing industries in the country?), people (and therefore food) from around the world -- from Cape Verde to Portugal to the Pacific Islands to Scandinavia -- and ports with tall ships a few miles down the road from gorgeous beaches. Who knew?

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