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Phillips Exeter Academy: The School of Legend

November 20, 2013 in American History, American literature, New England Travel, New Hampshire Travel

There is a special kind of lore for boarding schools. They are full of century-old traditions, ghost stories, and sneaky romances. This might be why so many famous books have taken place at boarding schools. Jane Eyre escaped from her awful relatives to the sanctuary of Lowood Institution. Nicholas Nickleby tutored at a terrible school run by the odious Mr. Squeers. In A Little Princess, Sarah Crewe bravely suffers at Miss Minchin’s Boarding School for Girls. And, of course, there’s Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s exploration and adoration of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

There is one boarding school in New Hampshire that has been so immortalized by books and lore that it seems almost fictional. The prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy has been the home to many a literary figure, from Dan Brown to John Irving. Robert Langdon of Brown’s hugely popular Da Vinci Code went to Exeter, as did Patrick Bateman of Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho. Irving has immortalized the school in many of his popular novels, including in A Prayer for Owen Meany and The World According to Garp. It is also the setting of John Knowles’ A Separate Peace, the coming-of-age story read by high school students throughout New England.

Phillips Exeter Academy, often known simply as Exeter, was founded in 1781 by a Harvard University graduate. It has since been the home to many historical figures, from Daniel Webster to Mark Zuckerberg. At first it was seen as a stepping stone to Harvard, though today its students go on to many different colleges, most in the Ivy League. In 1930 the school received an important gift: a series of round tables meant for classrooms. The learning style associated with these tables was the Harkness method, named after the gift-giver Edward Harkness. Small groups of students today still sit around the Harkness tables and are encouraged to participate in a Socratic discussion, often with little involvement from the teacher. Exeter is now known for this method of teaching, and it’s mimicked in schools throughout the country.

The campus is regal and collegiate, with its stately brick Academy Building and vast green grounds. It’s located in the beautiful town of Exeter, New Hampshire, an historic and quaint New England town. The school’s grounds feature a huge modern library, holding thousands of volumes and lots of space to study. Just entering the library imparts a feeling of studiousness. You can sense that many great literary minds have come and gone through its doors. And Phillips Exeter, with its prestige and literary significance, feels even more magical.

If you find yourself in New Hampshire, take the time to drive by Phillips Exeter. You can stop and wander the beautiful grounds. See the building in which Owen Meany squeaked his way to the head of the class, view the gym where Garp joined the wrestling team, and take in the breathtaking chapel (now called Assembly Hall) where the climactic end to A Separate Peace takes place. Who knows – maybe some of that literary genius will sink in.

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Travel Deals to Satisfy your Wandering Mind

January 3, 2011 in Hiking, Mount Washington, New Hampshire Travel, Stephen King, travel deals

As I read our recent article The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, I daydreamed about vast plains and endless trails. They led me to euphoric moments where I breathed in the pure air of the New England mountains. As my heart raced, I listened to the soundtrack of distant running water and chirping birds. These images were vibrant, as if I was right there, hiking on Mount Washington.

Located in New Hampshire, Mt. Washington is one of the highest peaks in the northeast. It reaches approximately 6288 feet, making it one of my hiking goals to conquer. I have always wanted to take on this rewarding challenge.

I found a great travel deal that offers a challenging hike, comfortable bed, amazing breakfast, and packed lunch for the journey. The Mt. Washington B & B is offering a fantastic two-night hiking package. In addition to a hearty breakfast and comfortable place to rest your head after a grueling hike, The Mt. Washington B & B also offers a guidebook to the mountain and the comforts of home.

Although Mt. Washington’s weather is erratic, it continues to remain a popular hiking destination. The most popular trail is the Tuckerman Ravine. It is approximately an 8-mile climb.

For the New Year, will you take on the challenge of hiking Mt. Washington’s vast plains and endless trails?  I certainly can’t wait to breathe in that pure New England air.

Weekend Getaway: Roughing It in Maine and New Hampshire

September 7, 2010 in Maine travel, New Hampshire Travel, Uncategorized, Weekend Getaways

Image via Looseends's Flickr Stream Like my fellow Literary Traveler blogger Ashley, I’ve been on a rather tight budget this summer.  This does not jive well with my near-constant need to get out of the city, to always be going, going, gone.  Fortunately, I’ve found a way around my limitations: camping.

I’m no stranger to roughing it–I did once complete several weeks of Outward Bound–but I hadn’t done a lot of camping in the past couple of years, so my recent trip to Maine was something of a shock.  Camping was dirtier, messier, scarier, and harder than I remembered.  But also so much more fun.

And Maine is the perfect place to get away from it all.  From the mountains in the West to the island-riddled coast in the East, the entire state is filled with incredible views, pristine lakes, remote villages, and all the rural charm you could ever want.  We stayed at the Augusta West Kampground on Annabessacook Lake, an oddly-shaped body of water, delightfully rich in water lilies, located somewhere in the middle of Maine.  Our first afternoon was spent on the water, canoeing from island to minuscule island, poking through the debris left behind by former visitors.  I felt like an anthropologist, uncovering the remains of a forgotten culture–though in truth I discovered nothing more exciting than charred fire pits and empty beer cans.

On the second day–and our final day of the weekend getaway–we drove out to New Hampshire and climbed Mount Pine.  The White Mountain National Forest is an amazing place for both experts and amateur hikers.  Though I probably fall into the later category, I felt an absurd sense of pride as we reached the summit, just moments before the fog rolled in.  I watched as the thick, sullen clouds descended over the peaks, shrouding them–and us–from view.

Fortunately for me, my camping days are not over yet.  This week, I’m dragging my boyfriend out to Western Massachusetts, where my younger sister goes to school.  I’m looking forward to several days of hiking, hot dogs, beer, bonfires, and maybe some early-fall swimming.  Stay tuned for details.

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