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Article Info:

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Author: Marcia Passos Duffy


Tourist in My Own Hometown

by: Marcia Passos Duffy


I lived in the suburbs of New York City almost all my life and it was only when I was in my 20's and working on 5th Avenue when I finally went to the top of the Empire State Building. It took me almost two decades as well to ice-skate at Rockefeller Center, browse the Museum of Natural History, and see a Broadway play.
Now living in New England I still tend to overlook the tourist attractions in my own backyard. It took us eight years after we moved to Keene, NH before we climbed the “most-climbed mountain in the world,” Mt. Monadnock, just a 15 minute drive from our house.
I once read a magazine article about a family that took a week-long vacation in their own hometown. They visited museums, ate out every night, and basically took in their surroundings with the new eyes of visitors. I didn’t have a week – but a few hours I did have. So when my neighbor suggested that we become tourists for a day in Keene I jumped at the chance. My neighbor and I planned a simple late morning excursion with our kids on the Keene trolley.
I have never been on the Keene trolley. I see it motoring around town every time I leave my house to run errands. It looks sweet, touristy, and fun. The windows are rolled all the way up in the warm weather. The seats are wood. The pick-up spot was a five minute walk from the house, so we all walked down to our local Hannaford’s to wait for the 11:35 a.m. trolley.
Why it seemed so exciting is beyond me. I knew where the trolley went and I’ve seen all those spots a thousand times. I knew our final destination was a mere one mile from our house. But somehow, shedding the car and climbing aboard the trolley made it all different. And the kids actually cheered (the younger ones) when the trolley made the turn into the parking lot.
I want to say it was a pleasant ride and wax philosophical about the wind blowing through my hair and seeing the familiar scenes through different eyes. And I would if my 6-year son had not had an intense attack of vertigo which made him exclaim (uh, shout) that the trolley was going to tip over with all of us in it with each turn the driver took. He insisted on sitting up front, where the windows were closed, with me glued to his side; I spent the entire 20 minutes of the ride trying reassure him that this was not a doomsday ride.
But hey, those are the chances you take traveling with children, even if it’s in your own backyard. The ride took us the “long way” past the hospital, toward downtown. “It takes a lot longer to get the Colony Mill on the trolley,” my son said when we finally got off, relieved to be on solid ground (the driver I’m sure was even more relieved).
The Colony Mill Marketplace is the Keene, NH version of a “mall,” – it is actually a renovated mill originally built in 1838 to produce wool garments, including uniforms for the Union troops during the Civil War and the Allied forces during the World World Wars I and II. And it housed scores of civilian companies and families until it closed its doors in 1953. It was completely transformed three decades later into a regional marketplace.
Today it houses quaint shops like Dilly’s for Kids, Mill Toy Works (my son’s favorite), Pocketful of Rye, Toadstool Bookshop (this is my favorite bookstore – no Borders for me!) and True Necessities (my daughter’s favorite). My kids, with their pockets jingling with birthday money from grandparents, made some modest but happy purchases – a few shorts and a shirt for my 12-year old daughter; a strap-to-the-head flashlight and a pull- back toy car for my son.
We had lunch at the mall’s atrium -- unlike your typical “mall” setting in both food and atmosphere. Sometimes they even have live piano music. Homemade artichoke soup from Kristin’s Bakery, croissants stuffed with spinach and cheese; the other choice at the Marketplace is Chinese food and I ordered a plate of dumplings for us to share. It was good, satisfying; not a French fry or double cheeseburger to be seen yet all four kids ate heartily (maybe it was the thrilling trolley ride that made them so hungry.)
Our trip ended at another adjacent historic “mall” next door called The Center at Keene, originally a scenic railroad station in the 1800's that now houses several retail shops and a really good ice cream shop, Rick’s Gourmet Ice Cream. We ate our ice cream outside (I had chocolate custard with chocolate sprinkles – yum!). While we were enjoying our ice cream, we suddenly saw the return trolley go by. “Oh well,” my son said, “we can walk.” And we did -- bundles in hand -- on the bicycle path.
My friend and I looked at each other, pleased with the day. It was already past 2 p.m. “It wouldn’t have been the same if we took our cars,” she said. And I agree. There is really something special about being a tourist in your own hometown.
Copyright 2004
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About The Author


Marcia Passos Duffy is the publisher and editor of The Heart of New England online magazine and weekly newsletter, which celebrates the unique character of the northern New England states of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. To subscribe to her free weekly newsletter send a blank email to heartofnewengland-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

editor@theheartofnewengland.com





This article was posted on July 06, 2004



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