All the News from the Salem Inn and In Salem

Monday, March 29, 2010

Local Color II: More North Shore Lore
presented by the Hamilton Hall Ladies' Committee

Thursday, April 1, 11 AM at Hamilton Hall,  9 Chestnut Street, Salem

Jim MacAllister

Hamilton Hall, named for Alexander Hamilton, built by Samuel McIntire in 1805

During Jim MacAllister's 25 years of involvement with local history, he has been a relentless pursuer of the odd and little known fact, the colorful character, the unusual place or event.  Jim will take the stage at Hamilton Hall to share some more of his favorite tales, from the absurd to the magnificent and everything in between, all culled from the annals of Essex County cities and towns.

Tickets may be purchased at Hamilton Hall or at the door the day of the lecture.  Be sure to get there early as these lectures ALWAYS sell out.

Doors open and bullion will be served from 10:00 - 11:00.
Admission is $10.00 per person.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Walk Through Salem - NOT Your Ordinary Guided Tour

 Mr. Zac, our tour guide

I recently had the pleasure of having coffee with Chris Dowgin, author and illustrator of the book A Walk Through Salem.  A resident of Salem for 18 years, he is as fascinating as his book, with an approachable personality, bohemian dress and hair, and a wide breadth of knowledge of Salem, history and psychology.  (He also has a  penchant for Cadbury bars and milk, like A Walk Through Salem's narrator, Mr. Zac).

A Walk Through Salem features recognizable buildings, people, and places in Salem, rendered in a whimsical, sketchy style. It is a genuine walking tour guidebook, and you can follow the trail and see the sites and sights on the tour.

However, this is not your ordinary guidebook.  For Dowgin has created an alternative Salem that operates on many levels: physical, symbolic, archetypal.  It lends itself to reading more than once to follow Dowgin's take on the classic fairytale structure, which as defined by professor Jack Zipes of the University of Michigan, “awaken(s) our regard for the miraculous condition of life and evoke(s) profound feelings of awe and respect for life as a miraculous process, which can be altered and changed to compensate for the lack of power, wealth, and pleasure that most people experience".

We begin our tour at the Unzipping Tree, in Salem Commons, and urged on by our gnome-like tour guide, Mr. Zac, we are encouraged to enter through the tree into another world.  In this world, we meet the denizens of Salem we may have never noticed before: squirrels that talk, fish and pigs that fly...(what, you've never noticed them before?  That's why you need this book.  You're not paying attention.)  Then getting back home proves to be the hardest part of all...

We visit some of Salem's most famous locations, such as the Lyceum, where Alexander Graham Bell gave his first public display of the telephone, but is now struggling to use his cell phone.  Duke Ellington is playing at the Salem Willows, and the onion domes of the Saint Nicholas Church double as soft serve ice cream, when in season.

What I enjoyed most about this book was Dowgin's sense of wordplay and ironic humor.  As the mom of two little would-be-sugar-addicts-if-I-let-them, this was my favorite page:

Chris will be giving a book signing at Spring Fling at  Old Town Hall.  There will be music, wine, beer, and food from merchants all over Salem. 6-9 PM; tickets $25 in advance, $30 at the door.

The book is also for sale at Pamplemousse, The Salem Inn, the Witch Museum, the Cat and the Fiddle, Remember Salem, the Awakening Guild, and can be purchased online at

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Gulu-Gulu Cafe- Salem Goes Funky

 The patio outside the Gulu-Gulu Cafe

The Gulu-Gulu Cafe (which means Glug-Glug, the drinking sound, in French) is situated on the pretty little park that is home to the Bewitched statue.  The owners met each other in a cafe in Prague with the same name and have done a great job replicating a European flavor here in honor of the cafe where they also celebrated their wedding.

When the weather is fine, (soon to come, we hope), nothing beats sitting outside in Gulu-Gulu's patio seating and drinking a beer from their extraordinary beer menu.  Except, perhaps, indulging in a healthy but delicious panini sandwich as well.

When the weather ain't so good, being inside the Gulu-Gulu ain't so bad.  It is a gathering place for artists, musicians, and other People of Mixed Funkiness and Creativity.  The space is open and big, but the warm wooden trim and cushy sofas make it feel cozy nonetheless. The art on the wall is for sale (and some if it is really, really good).

Apoidea by Glenn Church, for sale at the Gulu-Gulu Cafe

There is also music and movies to be had.  Live music, open mic nights, and old movie nights are scheduled every week with other spicy goodies thrown in- March is Marchstache Month, so grow those handlebars and get ready to compete, or come to the end-of-the-month LGBT Teadance.

So all this is great fun, but let's not forget about the food and the staff.  The menu consists of light meals such as crepes, sandwiches, and salads.  The Gulu-Gulu does its best to buy locally so everything is as fresh as possible, and every meal I've had there has been good.  I thought I'd died and gone to dessert heaven when I had the chocolate mousse cake the last time I was there.  But be prepared to wait; in true European fashion, at the Gulu-Gulu eating is considered a social event and it can sometimes take awhile to get your freshly prepared meal.

The staff is as funky and friendly as the surroundings- piercings, tattoos- anything goes.  Makes an artist like yours truly feel plenty welcome.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Salem Diner- the Real Thing

The Salem Diner has occupied its corner at 326 Canal Street since 1941, and is still going strong.  If you want to "step back in time"- a phrase often associated with Salem's many historic attractions, the Salem Diner is the place to do it- without a theater, without a ticket, without a tour guide. 

The Salem Diner is a Sterling Streamliner built by the J.B. Judkins Company of Merrimack Mass, and is only one of two remaining.  The Sterling Streamliners were a line of customized, factory-built, “modernistic” diners manufactured in the 1930s and early 1940s. It is a favorite of locals as well as college students (Salem State is directly across the street).

Having eaten many omelets there, I can attest that the food and coffee are great.  The waitresses are laid-back, friendly, and very accommodating. The coffee comes in thick white mugs and the food is delicious- when I returned to research this blog post, my eggs were done perfectly,  the home fries crispy on the outside and creamy inside and my coffee mug was refilled with good black coffee.

They also serve lunch- BLTs, tuna sandwiches, as well as daily specials such as Yankee pot roast  and spinach pie.

Directions from the Salem Inn: go left on Summer Street when you leave the Inn.  Take your first left, and you will come to a major intersection.  Take the second quick right and follow the signs for 1A south.  After you pass the orange brick buildings of Salem State on your left, The Salem Diner will be on your right, turned sideways.

Salem Diner
326 Canal Street
Salem, MA

Open daily 6-3
Sunday 7-2

The Salem Woods- Another Hidden Gem

If you find yourself longing for some significant green space and think you need to travel out of Salem to find it, I'm going to let you in on a secret: the Salem Woods.

The Salem Woods are not easy to find unless you know they are there- they are quite well-hidden. They consist of a considerable tract of land (248 acres) and include several different ecosystems.  The woods are home to red-wing blackbirds, turtles, geese, ducks, swans, beavers, frogs, and river otter, among other critters.

The 2.8 mile trail takes about an hour to hike.  This looped trail will take you past birch groves, apple trees left from an old orchard, up and down rocky hills.  The trail is fringed with beautiful golden grass and, at the apex of the loop, the view opens to the gorgeous marsh known as Thompson's Meadow, where you can overlook acres of unspoiled wetlands and hear the unmistakable call of red-wing blackbirds.  My kids and I lay on our bellies one sunny spring day and peered over the cliff into the very clear water below, where we counted hundreds of turtles either swimming or sunning themselves, just as we were.  It's also not unusual to find a cache of turtle eggs dug up and the shells left behind after someone had their dinner.

I have hiked the Salem Woods for years in all seasons, during the day, by moonlight, and it is always changing.  The trails shift, the woods burn, different flowers are showing themselves off.  There are creeks, marshes, fields of fern.  If you are visiting and need a quiet break from the busier pace of downtown, or are a local who would like a respite, visit Salem Woods with some sturdy walking shoes.

Directions from the Salem Inn: when you exit the West House, go right on Summer Street.  Take a left at the first set of lights and proceed down the ramp.   Go left at the bottom of the ramp onto Bridge Street and then continue until the end of the street.  Take a left onto Boston Street and continue until the end.  Take a right onto Essex Street, which will turn into Highland Avenue.  At the third light after this (you will pass Collins Middle School and North Shore Medical Center) turn left onto Willson Street. Proceed 0.25 mile past Salem High School and the Nathaniel Bowditch School to Olde Salem Green Municipal Golf Course on the right. The trail begins at the far end of the parking lot.  If the golf course parking lot is closed or you fear you may be there past sunset (when they shut the parking lot gate), park at the High School.  Walk to the road that exits the high school campus to your left and there is a trail that leads away from the road and up along the football field.  Proceed past the field, down a wooded hill and you will be deposited by the trailhead.