Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Alcott Autumn: A Visit to Orchard House

"The old orchard wore its holiday attire. Goldenrod and asters fringed the mossy walls. Grasshoppers skipped briskly in the sere grass, and crickets chirped like fairy pipers at a feast. Squirrels were busy with their small harvesting. Birds twittered their adieux from the alders in the lane, and every tree stood ready to send down its shower of red or yellow apples at the first shake. Everybody was there. Everybody laughed and sang, climbed up and tumbled down. Everybody declared that there never had been such a perfect day or such a jolly set to enjoy it, and everyone gave themselves up to the simple pleasures of the hour as freely as if there were no such things as care or sorrow in the world."

Louisa May Alcott, Little Women Chapter 47

We're no astronomers.  We don't even read our horoscopes.  But we are pretty certain that in November, the stars aligned to fulfill our dreams.  

It all started with a business trip.  

Earlier in the fall, I found out I would be going to Boston for a conference in November, and of course, I called to tell Miriam about it.  I expected her to do a lot of things, but I never expected that she would gasp and say, "Erika!  November is Alcott month on Be Book Bound!  Boston is less than an hour away from Louisa's home in Concord!"

All of a sudden, my humdrum business trip turned into a literary sightseeing tour-de-force.  

And Miriam was coming, too. 

 (Thank you, Delta Airlines, for having airfare so affordable that we are sure it was a misprint.)

My conference ended on Saturday, and less than an hour later, Miriam had arrived at my hotel.  We squealed and giggled, and hugged and squealed some more as we put on our comfiest sightseeing shoes.

And then we took to Boston.

We began with a fall tour of the Boston Common and the Gardens . . .

I still can't get over how beautiful the colors were.
I thought we would miss all the leaves by the middle of November,
but several hung on for our arrival.
(This will bet the first of several pictures where you will notice our awkward pairing of exercise shoes with dark pants.  Almost like Jazzercise Nuns.  Brace yourselves.)

We then toured the Georgian row houses of Beacon Hill and its famous Acorn Street, said to be the most photographed street in America.  (But I bet they've never seen a picture like this . . .)

(And yes, that is about as far as I can lift my leg without tearing one of my many unused muscles.)

On Beacon Hill we found several famous residences, like one of the Alcott residences before settling in Concord . . .

and Robert Frost's abode.

No wonder he felt poetic!  Just look at that brick-covered hill draped in golden leaves.
I, myself, feel a Haiku coming on.

We then wended our way back to the Boston Common where we began our walk of the Freedom Trail.  We saw beautiful historic buildings, aged graveyards, and men with their wigs askew.

(And don't think that just because this man is wearing cropped pants that he is kindly and innocent.  He runs the most expensive Colonial newspaper-selling service I've ever been suckered into.  We told him we'd buy his confounded paper if he took a picture with us.  Hmfph.  So there.)

We also took in a tour of Paul Revere's Tudor home.  I truly cannot imagine 16 children running amok within its walls.  And I thought my mere 5 could do some major damage . . .

We could go on and on about the beauties of Boston---its history, its harbors, its churches, its shopping, its campuses, its people.  Oh, and Mike's Pastry shop.  It deserves an entry of its own.  At the end of our brief visit, we felt like we left parts of our hearts in that beautiful, bustling city.  

And then we traveled to Concord (or "Kanked" as we often heard) where we left whatever parts of our hearts remained.

Who could help but fall in love with a town that looks as though it is straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting?

This is just one of the many charming churches in the main square.

And here is one of its many quiet and picturesque streets.

We took a walk from Concord's main square to the famous Old North Bridge where "the shot heard 'round the world" took place.  It is hard to believe that such a devastating war began in such a peaceful place.

Adjacent to the bridge is the colonial home where Thoreau wrote his essay "Nature." It also happened to be the same home that Nathaniel Hawthorne later owned.  Famous writers, unite!

But we saved the best for last: the Alcott home, also known as Orchard House.  This is where Louisa May wrote Little Women.  Little Women is largely based on her own family and their life at Orchard House.  In fact, Louisa loved Orchard House so much that she wrote the book as if the March family had lived there their entire lives. 

We learned about Bronson Alcott's revolutionary ideas and his transcendentalist philosophies.  (Below is the school of philosophy for adults that he built on the Orchard House property.)

At Orchard House, we walked through the rooms where the Alcotts entertained some of the greatest literary minds of the time, like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.  We saw Beth's little piano.  We looked at paintings done by Louisa's youngest sister, May, after she went to Europe to study art.  And we stood at the window overlooking the hills and woods that Louisa saw as she would write for hours on end at her desk, often switching writing hands to give the other a rest.

Needless to say, it was a heaven-sent, dreamlike ending for our Alcott Autumn series.
But perhaps the most fitting part of our "Little Women" pilgrimage, is that we got to do it as sisters.  

Farwell, Alcott Autumn.  
It is time to celebrate the carols of Christmas, 
but we will return to Concord's Orchard House for another spell in the near future.


  1. What a dream come true to walk such historic places! I once wore "stylish" shoes around the Washington Mall and paid for it dearly for weeks afterwards. Good for you for wearing walking shoes!

  2. Thank you Thank you for all of those pictures!!! I cannot express how much I love that place! Especially the Concord area. I feel like I have indulged into the richest of desserts after reading your post. Seriously.... it was like a drug for me. That may sound wierd, but that place just has a special place in my heart! I am so glad that you two got to go together!! What a fun memorable trip!!!

  3. this is AMAZING!!!!! so glad you girlies got to go TOGETHER...i'm a bit jealous and a whole lot of wishing i was there with YOU! thanks for sharing! xoxox


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