A Travellerspoint blog

Falling into New England

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View The Big Wide North of America on OwenGadflies's travel map.

Yes it's been a while!

And Yes we're back home in Melbourne, and have been for about 4 weeks!

And No I haven't had time to upload these posts I had written, or prep the photos!

So there are a couple more posts to come and I'll try and get them up as soon as possible.

In the meantime you can pick up the journey as we cross over the Canada/US border ...

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Once we had decided we were going to do an Alaskan cruise and go see the Canadian Rockies, it became inevitable that NYC would hit the itinerary. One way to get there was to also visit the famous New England, and what better time than in “Fall”? All those gorgeous colours!

Hence our next stop. But this one was going to take quite a journey. Despite what we imagined, there were few options to get us from French Canada to New England directly, even though it’s not that far if crows were flapping about. There were problems for Aussies wanting to take a Canadian car across the US border, so in the end we chose to train it from Montreal to Plattsburgh. That is on Lake Champlain and is the first reasonable-sized place over the border on the Montreal - NYC Adirondack Train journey.

So that was our first step. With visions of using a car to drive around various New England locations best known for their fall colours, we booked a car and picked it up from Plattsburgh – a GINORMOUS airport which they are busy expanding with construction everywhere and that we saw not one plane arrive or depart from, and a vast empty car park!

We got “upgraded”. (Mainly because they had a car with Illinois plates that they wanted to get closer to its home base.) But it meant we weren’t penalised for dropping off at a different location so we weren’t complaining and even less so when we slid into a VERY comfy Chevy 300. (I think, but I wouldn’t know an American car if I fell over it!) You know me, I do like my creature comforts and the sunroof was lovely as were the seat warmers and voluminous space for both us and our luggage!

What with the train being late and the ENDLESS time it took to get the car it was at least an hour later than we’d intended and we were facing a long drive of 430km/270miles.

But first we had to cross lake Champlain by ferry from Cumberland Head to Grand Isle and then via a causeway on Roosevelt Highway heading to Burlington. As we drove on and on through 3 states (New York, Vermont and Massachusetts) it got dark much earlier than we had been used to. So now things were getting more complicated. We’re in the dark, we’re tired and we still had 2 hours driving to go. And what could be worse? Well we moved onto yet another cross-state freeway and the traffic got noticeably heavier and even more noticeably aggressive, maniacal and speed-obsessed. We were doing the speed limit at 65mph which is about 110kph I think! And the whole freeway was passing us!!

It seems we hadn’t reckoned with the notorious Boston drivers. This was the “road back from the Cape”. Cape Cod of course!! And it was Sunday night. Now I’m not a girl who is known to drive slow. And Phil likes to put his foot down given half a chance but we were tense and terrified. In the dark, on an unknown road, in unfamiliar country, on the other side of the road, and with maniacs racing past us and honking and cutting in. I became artificially bright and upbeat, while trying to help Phil in all ways, except doing the driving, while also navigating our way. Phil just held on hard to that wheel and dropped occasional expletives.

Eventually we could turn off the highway and relax a little, but the stress was still there and the tiredness was seeping into our bones. Having left our hotel at 9am that morning, we arrived at our holiday house in Gloucester at just before 9pm. Wine was poured, a few bickies (crackers) and cheese crossed the lips, and then we crawled into bed.

But I don’t think it was only that drive. We’d had few “days off” from touristing in about 4 weeks and it had all caught up with us. The next 2 days saw us do the essentials for survival, ie buy booze and chocolate! Oh alright yes we bought other stuff and in fact ate “in” for about 3 nights. But we also did a lot of sitting on the balcony looking out at the rivers that weaved their way through Cape Ann, a very old part of Massachusetts.

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And we had good reason not to go hunting high and low through New England. They’d had a hot late summer and there was not a sign of trees of any colour but green. We were kind of relieved really. It gave us an excuse to prop and dole out a bit of self-care.

We did drive up to Portland in Maine which was pleasant and I insisted Phil try the famous “lobster roll” which looked pretty ordinary to me! It was a reasonable drive of 170 km/100 miles in 3 states. But again exhaustion that night. The next day was limited to local touristing, checking out a nice little art enclave (Rocky Neck Art Colony) in Rockport, thankfully just up the road. Then we dined out at a fabulous restaurant called Duckworth's Bistrot that we wished we’d eaten at earlier . Phil reckoned the lobster stew was the best meal of the trip. It certainly tasted like it had been made by someone with skill and had plenty of layers of flavour and texture. What was more amazing was that the chef and his wife had had their 4th child the night before. They live above the restaurant. But he was back working that next night. His wife, who normally makes divine desserts, was missing of course but we were so impressed by his dedication and his great staff. A fabulous night!

But sadly it was time to go to Boston. Back on “that” road – the scene of our hellish drive the previous Sunday night – and amongst “those” drivers! But we were better prepared and in daylight so it proved to be fairly uneventful They were all still aggressive and speedsters and maniacs, but heh what the heck! We stopped off in Salem on the way and had a bit of a look at the "witch trials" historical area, which is really just tourist crap. We only went into the cemetery which was really interesting. So glad we hadn't made a trip into Salem just for that!

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Sadly it was in Boston that the inevitable bad choice of accommodation unfolded. We’d stayed in hotels and cabins and apartments and suites and a holiday house fairly uneventfully. But this was just awful.

The photos on Airbnb had been ordinary but I remember I was having trouble booking, and it was late at night so I just booked it. BAD MOVE. It was old dark dingy and smelly. The steps up the front of the building were all different heights – all of them far too big in height and shallow in depth so your foot didn’t fit on the step. Bad enough for anyone but with a klutz like me in the mix it was a recipe for disaster. We returned the car to the airport (a few minutes away) and sat at the airport with ipad in hand until we had got ourselves a hotel room. We grabbed a cab went back and collected our cases from the hellhole and departed!!

In the days and weeks before our arrival a new art installation had slowly been growing on the John Hopkins Tower in Boston and causing much discussion as people tried to work out what it was all about. So we did get a bit of art culture in Boston, just not as much as we might have!!

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Boston began to improve then. But the tiredness was still persisting so we didn’t push it too hard. For a bit of a change from our usual touristing, we visited the Boston Library, a beautiful old building sadly and badly in need of restoration. Even though I thought it must be lovely to work there, I’d reckon the staff probably hate working in such conditions. And it had a beautiful courtyard where we sat to eat lunch!

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Afterwards we visited the Boston Aquarium. It’s multi-storeys deep and holds a massive tank that recreates a deep ocean environment around which one circles upwards from the bottom of the tank seeing different animals of the sea, beautiful coral, and amazing activity. Would never have pictured myself going there but it was a wonderful and fascinating balm for two tired tourists. We did wish we'd had the grandkids with us though, because they'd have adored it!

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Yes I feel a little guilty that I didn't go and do the traditional tourist stuff like visiting Harvard, The Freedom Trail, Boston Common, or even Fenway Park for a baseball match! We always believe that wherever we go we will have an experience we remember so the world didn't end because we didn't go see the Freedom Trail. I'd read about all of them which is better than lots of people do. So ppphh who cares?

And anyway New York was calling …

Posted by OwenGadflies 23:16 Archived in USA Tagged art massachusetts library aquarium boston portland gloucester new_england maine salem cape_ann

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