After a restless four days at home, I convinced Neal to abandon his thesis research for a little day-tripping. Much of what New England has to offer is best enjoyed during warmer months, but one thing that actually seems more appropriate on a rainy, January day is a drive south about one hour to coastal New Bedford, home of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, in the heart of the New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park, and Seamen's Bethel, described in Herman Melville's Moby Dick.

The primarily industrial town is pretty sleepy this time of year. We spent a couple of hours inside the museum, 20 minutes of which was spent watching a film ("City That Lit The World") that reminded me that the park and museum's primary mission includes documenting the history of the whaling industry and the role the city played in it, with a more recent need to educate the public about the conservation of endangered whales. It is a whaling museum after all, not a whale museum, but for some reason I was a little surprised that the conservation bit wasn't more prevalent in the museum's mission and exhibits.

For lunch, we followed Fodor's recommendation and headed away from downtown to check out Antonio's, clearly a local hang-out for New Bedford's large Portuguese population. It's local in the sense that everyone stops what they're doing and looks up at you as you walk in. I imagine that's how a fictional outsider (Charles Gordon Windsor, Jr., for example) might have been greeted walking into Mystic, Connecticut's Mystic Pizza (the actual pizza joint was supposedly inspiration for Amy Jones' screenplay and the 1988 film was shot on location there). Anyway, the crab cakes and fried fish we had were tasty enough but I quickly remembered how eating fried food makes me feel a little queasy.

Back in town, we walked part of the self-guided tour, down to the piers, where we spotted this cute little house at the base of the pedestrian bridge that takes you back across Route 18. There's a small boulder in the yard with a plaque on it commemorating two dogs that served as "guardians of the waterfront."

The rainy weather made a hot beverage sound awfully nice and I remembered that we had a Starbuck's gift card with us. We kept our eyes peeled on the drive back but all we passed were the usual Dunkin' Donuts every few miles.

I learned last night, watching the first hour or so of the miniseries that started the new "Battlestar Gallactica," that Starbuck is a character in Moby Dick, the name of the first mate on the whaling ship Pequod. Starbucks coffee chain supposedly took its name from this character, as did, I assume, the writers on Battlestar Gallactica, for the feisty blond played by Katee Sackhoff. Talk about a full-circle weekend, huh?

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