Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > United States
Reload this Page >

Amtrak First Class Adventure 🚂: Shakern and Stirred to Concord NH

Amtrak First Class Adventure 🚂: Shakern and Stirred to Concord NH

Old Aug 9th, 2023, 04:42 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,475
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Amtrak First Class Adventure 🚂: Shakern and Stirred to Concord NH

Hi Fodor’s

So this summer has been largely about dealing with care of elderly parents in the DC ‘burbs. This year travel further afield was not happening, so I decided to content myself with a semi-adventure involving my love of train travel and a modest detour heading back north to Montreal, where I live and work.

August 8– My first time taking Acela First Class (hurray for points!) from DC to Boston. Then, Concord Coach Lines (purchased through the Amtrak portal combined with the Acela ticket) from Boston South Station to Concord NH
August 8-10– Staying at Hotel Concord in heart of Concord NH. This was my first time to the NH state capital.
August 10– Concord-Montreal by bus

The trip report will be divided into two parts. First, what were my thoughts on first class travel on the Acela? I’ve taken Acela business or Northeast Regional coach in the past; is the upgrade to first class worth the expense? Second, what were my impressions after two nights of Concord? Included in that will be my thoughts on the tour I did today at Canterbury Shaker Village, an extinct religious community 20 minutes from Concord, which I reached via cab. Was that an interesting excursion?

*to be continued*




Daniel_Williams is offline  
Old Aug 10th, 2023, 02:35 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 31,151
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Although I like Shaker Village I am curious why you chose that instead of going someplace else like the Kearsarge Indian Museum in Warner. Since tou stayed at Hotel Concord I hope you enjoyed a visit to Gibson's bookstore.
dfrostnh is offline  
Old Aug 10th, 2023, 03:28 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 34,885
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Looking forward to it, I love your trip reports.
Christina is offline  
Old Aug 10th, 2023, 03:48 AM
  #4  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,475
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi dfrostnh
​​​
Believe it or not, I actually first heard of both from you when I went to Manchester in December. I think the Canterbury Shaker Village popped out for me more since I had never been to a Shaker community before. My knowledge of the Shakers was limited to a few lines of text in American history class many years ago now so I thought it would be a good opportunity to learn about their lives and beliefs, made more memorable by seeing where they actually lived. At first I thought going would not be do-able since I don’t drive but when I saw that it was not terribly far, I thought a cab might work, and thankfully it did. And given that much is outdoors there, equally thankfully the weather could not have been better yesterday.

It is in some ways thanks to your words that I ended up coming to this area, so thank you!

Best wishes, Daniel
Daniel_Williams is offline  
Old Aug 10th, 2023, 09:11 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 29,684
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi Daniel. I'm sending positive health thoughts for your parents and hope you can get things settled for them.

I'm looking forward to your TR! I wrote a paper about the Shakers:


It's under the album name Shakers'...some times Flickr defaults to a home page.

Last edited by TDudette; Aug 10th, 2023 at 09:13 AM.
TDudette is offline  
Old Aug 11th, 2023, 01:52 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 31,151
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Glad I was a help. Some Shaker sisters were still alive back in the 80s. Did you hear about winter Shakers? And the tie in with Warner Indian Museum is that it was started by Bud Thompson who used to live at Shaker Village. You'll have to come back. I've forgotten the details and didn't visit the Indian Museum until visiting Fodorites asked to go.
dfrostnh is offline  
Old Aug 11th, 2023, 04:14 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 14,160
Received 1 Like on 1 Post
I'm looking forward to your reports.
schmerl is offline  
Old Aug 11th, 2023, 04:44 AM
  #8  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,475
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
*Amtrak Acela First Class DC to Boston*

*DC Metro Heads-Up*

I got on at West Falls Church metro at 7:30 for the 8:55 train bound for Union Station. Usually this would be plenty of time, but this past Tuesday they were single-tracking due to some problem between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom metros. The driver kept saying at some intermediate stops “we have a red signal but will be moving momentarily”. There sure was a lot of mileage on that word momentarily as the driver was saying it again at 8:08 at Clarendon station, which for any of you who know there DC metro meant I still had a long way to go. I sprang up in a panic, ran with my luggage and a few curse words muttered under my breath to the Clarendon exit frantically calling an Uber and audibly saying “pick up, pick up!” as the bar on Uber seemed slower than usual for “searching for a driver”. Nearby people must have thought me crazy lol. Thankfully one came quickly, the traffic was tolerable and the driver got me to my train with a few minutes to spare. Just a heads-up for anyone who thinks of using the metro to catch a flight from National or Dulles or a train from Union Station to have a backup plan in case and that “moving momentarily” can mean “moving after 5 minutes”.

*DC to Boston by Train*

While I have taken trains in the DC to NY corridor perhaps over a hundred times in my life and most recently in June, the NY to Boston stretch I have only seen once in my life, 23 years ago back in May of 2000. Incredibly, I still do appreciate the DC to NY leg with the beautiful views of Chesapeake Bay estuaries and appealing looking towns like Havre de Grace alongside, the Delaware River, Philadelphia Boathouse Row and Art Museum, the “Trenton Makes, the World Takes” sign amongst others all almost seeming like familiar old friends after many years of travel. But the Connecticut portion of the journey is stellar, passing Long Island Sound beaches and inlets with interesting topography, marinas, charming-looking waterside communities and bridges, to name a few highlights. People mention the Cardinal or the Adirondack trains as being the most scenic or beautiful Amtrak east coast routes and I agree that they pass through some stunning and remarkable scenery, but to my mind, the NY to Boston rail portion while different is just as gorgeous. Bizarrely enough, I have never visited Connecticut, an omission I feel needs to be rectified—I saw so much that looks appealing, I almost wouldn’t know where to begin!

*First Class*

So, the first class aspect of the Acela ride. For those who have been on VIA Rail business class in the Quebec-Windsor corridor in Canada the experience is very similar, although I do think VIA Rail business has better food options and more comfortable seats (I prefer VIA’s upholstery—less slick material for the seat). There is a row of single seats separated by an aisle from rows of double seats. Some seats face each other, which may appeal to some. I had a single seat at very back which did not particularly recline (perhaps bad luck as I got the seat furthest back next to the “wall” of the train?). Meals are complimentary and are brought to your seat with professionalism and a smile, like on VIA Business, with a few options to choose from. The tiramisu dessert I had was excellent! A hot towel was brought after each meal. Despite the non-reclining seat, it certainly was a great way to spend time being pampered for several hours with gorgeous scenery! Would I do it again? Yes, definitely, but I think only on Amtrak Guest Reward points/benefits.

Oh and for those who appreciate these sorts of things, the actor Benicio del Toro was sitting across the aisle from me from NY-Boston. I didn’t interact as I figure famous people might like a few hours of privacy, plus I could only think of one movie I’d seen him in. Some of the Amtrak staff did shake the actor’s hand and speak to him.

*Coming Up—Onward to Concord*
Daniel_Williams is offline  
Old Aug 11th, 2023, 07:02 AM
  #9  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,475
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
*Concord Coach Lines Boston-Concord*

Travelling by bus in the US I find can be a remarkably varied experience. I remember Greyhounds out of Indianapolis and Charlotte where buses were cancelled or delayed and no one was telling you anything so you’re just left flailing with other equally exasperated passengers and sometimes ticket-selling staff who are scrambling to figure out what’s going on. In some locales, it’s not even clear which bus is yours and what gate it is leaving from (I’m especially remembering a trip from San Antonio). Travelling out of Boston South Station by bus is a comparative pleasure with clear (digital) displays telling you which bus was leaving from which gate (which I actually think is not asking too much?). My first time using Concord Coach Lines, the bus company seemed a well-organized professional operation, with reasonably frequent service to Concord (and a variety of other destinations); all buses I noticed happened to leave on-time and with clear boarding announcements. If you purchase your ticket through Amtrak as I did, the driver can’t scan your ticket but simply verifies your name on a list. I had about an hour wait between train and bus. The seats were comfortable and the ride to Concord went smoothly despite a rainstorm, taking about 1.5 hours with a single stop in N. Londonderry on the way. Quite unlike some bus stations I’ve been to, Concord’s was nice. There aren’t really amenities (I recollect hearing a vending machine?) but clean bathrooms and air-conditioned waiting area with ample seating, which is more than what some similarly sized towns offer. Staff was courteous. Do note that while Uber does serve Concord, the wait was awhile—I would recommend Main Street Taxi instead to get you to your accommodation, who were great both times I took them. Staying at the Concord Hotel, I actually walked back to the bus station; perhaps an option for those staying there or at the Holiday Inn downtown who have light enough or rollable luggage.

*Coming up: Thoughts on Two Night Stay in Concord. Too much, too little, just right? Also Shaker Village thoughts*
Daniel_Williams is offline  
Old Aug 11th, 2023, 07:12 AM
  #10  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,475
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Christina, schmerl—Thank you for reading and commenting!

tdudette—Interesting to see Ms. Lee in your paper’s first page, as I only learned about her on the tour. I definitely didn’t know the Manchester (UK not N.H.) connection to the Shakers. According to the guide at the village, she was illiterate—fascinating the influence a woman of her circumstances had!

dfrostnh—No, I had not heard of the winter Shakers.

Daniel_Williams is offline  
Old Aug 11th, 2023, 10:52 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 29,684
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
No help with Concord sights, so am looking forward to more of your TR.


ps...Rhody and I visited the Kentucky Shaker Village. I believe the New England Shakers were among the last ones to survive.
TDudette is offline  
Old Aug 11th, 2023, 12:16 PM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 3,080
Received 17 Likes on 10 Posts
Even though I don't share your fondness for North American train travel,
I do admire your ability to, loosely translating from Polish, turn cowpies into whips.

In the woodworking circles, thanks to Norm Abrams and his New Yankee Workshop, Shaker style was quite popula5 about 30 years ago.

C.H Becksvoort is know as the master of the style.
https://www.chbecksvoort.com/

He is a TV star

Last edited by cdnyul; Aug 11th, 2023 at 12:19 PM.
cdnyul is online now  
Old Aug 11th, 2023, 02:12 PM
  #13  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,475
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
*Hotel Concord*

This hotel was such that I would even recommend it to the pickiest of my friends. Clean, modern, soundproof, well-situated, far more than what I needed frankly. I chose it because other than the Holiday Inn, it seemed the one best situated within walking distance of the Statehouse and “Main Street action”. A good bit more than what I usually pay for accommodation but given that I wasn’t going further afield this year, I allowed myself this treat. I also liked the idea of spending my money at a local institution rather than a multinational chain.

*Dining*

My meal the first night was exceptional, at the farm-to-table restaurant Revival within half a block of Main Street and less than a 5 minute walk from my hotel. The lamb merguez meatballs with chickpea salad were divine and the crème brûlée was to-die-for. I also enjoyed the white beer I tried from nearby Newburyport, Mass. Nothing compared to this stellar meal but my pad thai at Siam Orchid was excellent and burger at the convivial pub-environment Barley House was also good. I was surprised also given the quite reasonable price that Constantly Pizza actually had some really decent NY style slices; a good option if you need to eat quickly as I did when I went to the Shaker Village. I did also stop at Granite State Candy Shoppe for some N.H. Maple Pecan ice cream.Â

*Downtown Concord*

Concord would probably not be considered the pièce de resistance of New England picturesqueness given its grid layout and the mix of practical modern shopping venues, some boxy industrial era buildings amidst handsome old churches and homes. To my mind, this might be a positive thing as it keeps the town from being overly swarmed with tourists, but those who do venture there will find beauty at numerous viewpoints. My first morning during a self-guided Historic Concord walking tour, in addition to admiring some beautiful churches including the Sacred Heart which of interest to me had a French Canadian congregation and the stately structures such as the Legislative Building, what I enjoyed most were the peek-a-boo squares that were accessible by cut-throughs between buildings, such as the Bicentennial Square and Eagle Square which had the beautiful stone building Hamel Center.

*Statehouse Tour*

Given the number of Statehouse tours I’ve done over the years, some Fodors regulars might be led to believe that I’m trying to do them all. Apparently there’s a book one can get where they will put a stamp for each statehouse you visit and I have met people on the tours with this book whose goal it is to see them all. I more stumbled across state capitol visits accidentally, as something to see when I had some spare hours in Albany and then in Austin some years later. There I discovered that the guides were excellent and knowledgeable on the building and state history and gave excellent tours for the exorbitant price of free. New Hampshire’s now is the 8th Statehouse I’ve seen and its tour was every bit as well done as the others. I can say that these days, while I don’t plan trips around state capitals, I commonly will aim to see the Statehouse if I end up in one!Â

Other than the striking gold dome which was a later addition to the N.H. statehouse cupola, I liked the simple but pleasant grounds of the Statehouse with its entrance archway as well as the murals in the 24 member Senate chamber most. Apparently the house legislative chamber is the oldest continuously serving one in the nation (I think I’ve got that right; the docent said it’s important to word that just so). I was surprised to learn that N.H. legislators are only paid $100 a year—the guide did not comment when I said I imagine they must get additional income from lobbyists. I loved that apparently tea has been served in the windowed circular area underneath the dome.

*Pierce Manse*

I knew relatively little about the 14th president of the United States Franklin Pierce before visiting his home in Concord other than that when I as a boy decided to memorize the presidents, I thought he was unusually handsome. As an adult seeing him again, I find myself of the same opinion, and the museum tour guide even commented that given what human nature is, his good looks may have helped secure his presidential victory over Old Fuss & Feathers Winfield Scott, Scott so named for his strict adherence to military etiquette. I also remembered the slogan “we Polked ‘em in 1844 and we’ll Pierce ‘em in 1852”.Â

Franklin Pierce is apparently the only US President to hail from New Hampshire and his life was marred with tragedy, with all three of his sons dying in childhood, one Franklin Jr shortly after childbirth, the second Franky of typhus at age 4 and the third Benny at the age of 11 after a tragic train accident right before Pierce’s inauguration. A devoutly religious and temperate NH woman who was less than enamoured of the political scene in Washington, his wife Jane is thought to have never recovered emotionally from all these tragedies. A letter is on display at the Manse that shows Benny at the age of 11 with an eloquence and handwriting that exuded a remarkable maturity that I certainly didn’t have at age 11. Tragedy also struck Pierce’s vice president William King, who died of tuberculosis only 1 month into his vice presidency, leaving that office vacant for the duration of the rest of Pierce’s presidency, a vacancy which I did not even know was a possibility.

Franklin Pierce’s father Benjamin Pierce, a New Hampshire governor, and general was a survivor of the particularly brutal battle of Bunker Hill, so politics definitely ran in the family. According to the guide, the Pierce boyhood home is still visitable in Hillsborough NH and receives state funding; the Pierce Manse is not in its original location and private funding was needed to save it from the wrecking ball when it was moved from its original home nearer the Statehouse to its current location in the early 1970s. Â Franklin Pierce himself fought in the Mexican-American War, with a replica of his uniform on display in one of the closets, which looked exceedingly hot (not as in sexy lol but as in too warm, although I know from experience that Mexico in winter can get chilly so who knows).

Pierce was friends with Nathaniel Hawthorne with whom he went to Bowdoin College and to my surprise also Jefferson Davis. Although he stated abhorrence for the institution of slavery and unlike many of the first 15 presidents did not own any himself, his support of the Kansas-Nebraska Act and attempts to compromise were unpopular to many factions and seen as weakness in leadership; he was not the Democratic Party candidate in 1856. Â Former friend, Bowdoin alumnus and NH abolitionist John P Hale became a rival of Pierce as a result of his appeasing stances.

Other than learning some of the above eye-opening facts, none of which I knew before going, and more, the house itself is a handsome one and has many original artifacts that belonged to Franklin and Jane Pierce, including daguerreotypes of Jane and Benny, a foot-operated toaster and some beautiful and innovative pieces of Shaker furniture owned by the Pierce family. Which brings me to…

*A Highlight of my Visit: Canterbury Shaker Village, coming up next*
Daniel_Williams is offline  
Old Aug 11th, 2023, 03:01 PM
  #14  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,475
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts

NH Statehouse

Canterbury Shaker Village

Pierce Manse (no pictures could be taken on the inside)

Murals in N.H. Senate Chamber

Closest park I could find with views of Merrimack River from Main Street drag (Kiwanis Park). Other side of river from Concord’s Main Street. Very peaceful spot.

Sacred Heart. I should not have been surprised to find an old French Canadian church in Concord given migration patterns but I was.

Mary Baker Eddy House, founder of Christian Science. Surprised at number of religious groups that seem to be founded in this area!
Daniel_Williams is offline  
Old Aug 11th, 2023, 03:36 PM
  #15  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,475
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Tdudette—I think I remember the guide at Canterbury Shaker Village said the Shaker group furthest south was in Kentucky; I imagine that’s what you saw.
cdnyul—Interesting that Becksvoort worked at Sabbathday Lake, as that’s apparently where the last two living Shakers are. Â I like the expression cowpies into whips—and don’t mind when others don’t share my fondness for North American train travel. Â It’s kind of like thermodynamics, which I find interesting but know it can be a bit of a tough sell for many. Â 😊Â
Daniel_Williams is offline  
Old Aug 11th, 2023, 04:55 PM
  #16  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,475
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
So, Main Street cabs took me from downtown Concord to Canterbury Shaker Village for $40, about a 20 minute ride into a higher altitude very rural area. While it is free to walk on the grounds, the guided tour Shaker Stories History and Legacy costs $26.50. So, not an inexpensive day but a memorable and worthwhile one.

The tour is one of the best I’ve done. The grounds are quite beautiful, which shouldn’t be too surprising as the Shakers were trying to create their “heaven on Earth”. Order and cleanliness were extremely important to the Shakers (heaven naturally would be clean!) and for this reason they would not have done as we visitors did, walk diagonally through the grass, but rather would walk on smooth paths from building to building, probably helped to not track in dirt and leaves. Interesting to enter the meeting house, where the brothers would face one way and the sisters another; the mark from the pegs where they would line up in the meeting house were still visible. This is where the services took place and where at a certain point they would do what the spirit of the Lord called them to do, which commonly might involve trembling, thus the origin of the name Shaker, or singing or dancing or speaking in tongues.

Known for celibacy, the guide wanted to impress on us listeners that this was not the reason for their extinction; he felt it was more modernity, societal changes and the opportunities elsewhere that caused first the men and later the women to not join. In the 19th century, often times children were brought in when orphaned or if the mother died of childbirth, especially since their schools were known to be of high quality where children were treated well, so they were growing in those days despite the celibacy. They strongly believed in equality of the sexes which made me wonder if this was why moving into the 20th century, the female membership was higher. Unlike certain religious groups also, there was a love of animals and we were told that when there was need to slaughter one for a meal, it was done in as humanely as they could.

Known best as furniture makers and perhaps secondly for the Shaker stitch in knit sweaters, this was really just a fraction of their innovations. They developed clothes pins, seed packets which I never realized needed to be invented (apparently before seeds were put in burlap bags) and even had a device that did the spin cycle essentially of a washing machine. The Shakers disliked so much the concept of waste that one of the sisters invented the circular saw when she saw two of the brothers with a flat saw being less efficient with the cuts. They did not eschew modern inventions like other religious groups, for example adopting electricity when it came about.

The guide expressed to us that although we might assume that the sisters were dour given all the rules, that this was not true from his interaction with them, that there was much laughter and cheer. And seemingly not bitterness knowing their version of utopia was on the verge of disappearing as they would die off. Although one sister’s hope was that their accomplishments would not be remembered as “a chair”. I really don’t relate much to their world although there was a beauty about it but knowing that I was seeing a society that had gone extinct, with the guide’s poignant final words, I could see that I was not the only one with tears in their eyes at the end.

*Summary of Thoughts on Concord Area*

So, for me, two nights in Concord made for a great visit—the town I think makes for a good weekend or long weekend getaway. Definitely to do a tour of the State Capitol, the Shaker Village and Pierce Manse, I needed a full 1.5 days! The Pierce Manse of note is only open Thursday, Friday and Saturday 10-3 and the Shaker Village tour I did is a mid-day affair also.

Happy travels! Daniel
Daniel_Williams is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2023, 01:55 AM
  #17  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,475
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Just to say, I’m not sure why  “A circumflexes” are appearing in my posts. I deleted a lot but looks like I missed some.
Daniel_Williams is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2023, 03:25 AM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 31,151
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Wow, you fot a lot accomplished and must be a good walker to cover some of the distances you did. I haven't been to the Pierce Manse but your description encourages me to visit. On summer saturdays the street next to the state house is blocked off for the farmers market. In winter the farmers use a building inside Eagle Square. We also have yet to dine at Revival but seeing many raves on Facebook I think you made a great choice.
the downtown was thriving when I first moved to the area but was impacted when the mall was built. JC Penny and Sears left downtown and moved to the mall. At one time I think there were 4 bookstores either on Main Street or nearby. A chain bookstore moved to town and eventual only Gibson's survived and later the chain died. They frequently host authors.

I don,t think I've ever heard of a state legislator benefiting from lobbyists although it probably happens. Most are retired and probably the reason why so many do the job for a pittance is the same reason why people serve on select boards in NH's many small towns that depend on volunteers. I think our town pays select board members $1500/year to manage the town. The fire department is all volunteers. The librarian is paid but volunteers help keep the livrary open three days a week.

Thanks for a great trip report, beautiful photos and even this NH person learned something.

winter shakers were people who would join for the winter but leave when the weather was good. I was impressed that orphans were educated and learned a trade and when an orphan became an adult, he or she was given the option of leaving. If they chose to leave, the Shakers gave them help to get a new start.
dfrostnh is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2023, 04:45 AM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 57,091
Received 5 Likes on 3 Posts
Originally Posted by dfrostnh
Glad I was a help. Some Shaker sisters were still alive back in the 80s. Did you hear about winter Shakers? And the tie in with Warner Indian Museum is that it was started by Bud Thompson who used to live at Shaker Village. You'll have to come back. I've forgotten the details and didn't visit the Indian Museum until visiting Fodorites asked to go.
isn't that where we went, Frosty? Fascinating place and I learnt so much there.
annhig is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2023, 05:37 AM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 14,160
Received 1 Like on 1 Post
Daniel, thanks for your detailed report and photos.
I always enjoy your reports.
schmerl is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Your Privacy Choices -