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When we took our first family camping trip to Cape Cod a few weeks ago we decided to make the most of our first day, leaving early and stopping half way to have a wander around Plymouth, MA.
Plymouth is where the Pilgrims chose to found their colony in 1620, after arriving in America on board the Mayflower, and is where New England was established. It is now home to the replica Mayflower II and is of course the site of the eponymous Rock.
We arrived early and found parking immediately, and were greeted by this beautiful view across the bay.
We decided walk down to the pier first, towards the Mayflower II, having driven past it on the way into town.
We hadn’t planned on actually boarding the ship, but the 9yo had studied the Pilgrims last year and was interested to see on board. So, we decided to give it a go, and we were so pleased that we did. It was fascinating, and I learnt a lot!
On entering, we found an exhibition detailing the history surrounding the voyage on the Mayflower.
The Pilgrims were a religious group who wanted to remain separate from the Church Of England and fearing the volatile political landscape of England fled to the Netherlands. They then arranged passage to America, to establish a colony on behalf of a group of English investors. On arriving in the UK, in Southampton, the Pilgrims were joined by additional colonists, hired by the investors. After a few false starts, a total of 102 colonists set sail in the Mayflower from Plymouth (UK!), and the crossing took about 65 days…
The exhibition was fascinating, I didn’t know much of the detail of the journey or subsequent colonisation. It was interesting to discover that the Pilgrims first landed on the tip of Cape Cod, in what is now Provincetown, in November 1620, but found the Cape too inhospitable (weather and Native Indians!) and they sailed further west, before choosing to settle in Plymouth in the December of 1620. The weather was of course a huge issue and half the colonists died that first winter.
The Mayflower II is a full scale replica of the original ship and my first thought on boarding was that it was tiny! How did 102 passengers live in the tiny below decks area, especially considering that there were children and pregnant woman on board. In fact, one baby was born on the voyage and was named Oceanus. What a fabulous name!
There are costumed role-players on board to tell you all about the journey and the early days of the colonisation, and it is really well done. The 9yo was fascinated, completely absorbed by the tales of this gentleman in particular.
The below decks area was really cramped, and trying to imagine that many people, probably sea sick people, living there for 65 days is hard. In fact, it doesn’t really bear thinking about!
We left the ship, taking in a final section of the exhibition, before walking along the pier to get one last shot of the ship itself.
We couldn’t leave Plymouth though without a visit to Plymouth Rock! Although there is no real historical evidence that the Pilgrims first disembarked on to Plymouth Rock (it is not mentioned in writings until 121 years later!) it has become symbolic of this hugely significant historical site.
There are several other interesting historic sites in and around Plymouth, and we will head back at some point to visit the others. But on this occasion, the heat and the excitement about getting to our campsite won, and we headed back to the car. A diversion due to road works on the way out of town though took us past the National Memorial to the Forefathers (the Pilgrims). I just had to get out and take some photos, it is really quite something!
We spent a lovely couple of hours in Plymouth, learning more about the very early history of the US. The Mayflower II was excellent and it has certainly made me want to come back to visit the other Plymouth sites.
A lovely start to our mini-break camping!
I’m linking up with the wonderful Country Kids at Coombe Mill, as always. Click on the badge to see what everyone else has been up to and be inspired to get outside!