Day Fourteen: Boston, MA

Harvard

Harvard Library

Miles travelled
Only 9 miles walked today – slackers.

Where we stayed
Our final night at the Revere Hotel, Boston Common, Boston, MA.

Where we ate
Starbucks again for lunch
Rustic Kitchen for dinner.  This restaurant was next to/in our hotel and was perfect for this evening as we didn’t want to go too far.  I had baked rigatoni which was really nice but hotter thank the sun.  Husband had stuffed chicken which wasn’t great quality chicken, but he didn’t hate it.  He then had pumpkin cheesecake for dessert.

Photos
Day Fourteen.  Not many photos from today as it was a bit rainy.

Our day started with a very serious conversation with the server in Panera about riots and politics in Boston.  We did not expect such a heavy topic over the cinnamon rolls.  The main gist of his comments were that he didn’t envy us today due to 1) the Red Sox playing in the World Series that evening; 2) Obama giving a speech at Faneuil Hall; 3) possibly ‘fun’ riots later on in the day.  It turns out that the last time the Red Sox won the World Series, Boston got a bit riot-y, someone died, and everyone was angry.  But we were reassured that it was just rioting to celebrate so we didn’t need to be worried.  Uh, ok.

Pushing all of that to the back of our minds, we walked over to Park Street to grab the MBTA over to Cambridge.  It was really easy to buy a ticket ($2.50 each way) and in no time at all, we were walking out the Harvard exit and over to the Harvard Vistor’s Center.  We put our names down for a tour which would be leaving in about 45 minutes, and then figured out what to do for 45 minutes in the rain which wouldn’t spoil our tour.  We found some shelter, and after being asked if we studied there (YAY!), we went back to the center to start the tour.

There were about 20 people on the tour, from Ireland, Germany, Argentina, and Japan.  The tour guide was in her final year studying Sociology and she was a sweetheart.  She was really chatty as she walked us from building to building, giving us personal and historical stories.  We wandered around the Old Yard, looked at Mass Hall, over to the Science Center, then into Memorial Hall where we listened to the din from the Freshman dining hall next door.  Only Freshman are allowed in this hall to breed a sense of community amongst the new students, and not even we were allowed in to look (although that didn’t stop some people in the tour from opening the door – so rude!)

Old Yard

The Old Yard

We then went over to the library (again, not allowed in) and the tour finished at the fake statue of John Harvard, also known as the statue of three lies.  We really enjoyed the tour, and thanked our guide before heading off towards MIT, stopping at one of the Harvard stores to buy merchandise.  We hoped to use the MIT app to look around as it had a really good walking tour, but it didn’t seem to work without 3G so instead, we wandered about a bit not knowing what we were looking at.  We jumped back on the MBTA at Kendal/MIT and travelled back into Boston.  We grabbed a Starbucks for a very late lunch and went back to our room for another nap after watching Obama do his talking thing across town.

Still a little bit worried about fun riots, we decided to stay close to the hotel for dinner and went next door to the Rustic Kitchen.  Pretty much everyone in Boston was at home or in a bar watching the game so it was quite quiet (although the game was on in the restaurant as well) and we enjoyed a peaceful dinner.

It was the last night of our holiday, so back in our room, I had a fun game of trying to squash everything into my suitcase whilst we watched the rest of the game.  It felt like the game went on forever, but the Red Sox won and we switched off the TV, trying to hear if there were riots.  We figured we were far enough away from Fenway Park so we weren’t worried as we fell asleep.

Day Thirteen: Boston, MA

DSC_7290

Bunker Hill Monument

Miles travelled
My Fitbit says we walked just under 12 miles.  Sheesh.

Where we stayed
A second lovely night at the Revere Hotel, Boston Common, Boston, MA.

Where we ate
Starbucks La Boulange savoury square – yummy.
Cheesecake Factory for dinner.  OMG, so much food, it was ridiculous.  We shared a quesadilla to start which was a very stupid idea as this was far too much food.  Husband had a GIANT chicken salad for his main and I had an Americana Burger.  We took away our dinner to eat back at the room – Red Velvet and Chocolate Tuxedo.

Photos
Day Thirteen

My plans to start the day with a relaxing bath went to hell as I discovered the plug hole was broken.  Curses!  I would later google how to block a plug hole without a plug (pro tip – soak a flannel or hand towel and use that to seal the hole.  Worked a treat!) but in the meantime, I had a not-so relaxing shower.  We did report the problem, but it didn’t seem to get fixed – we got the impression that the front desk staff member was just updating her Facebook status about the annoying British people complaining about a plug.  The Skoah toiletries made up for it though.

Today was going to be a bit of a test as we knew we wanted to walk the Freedom Trail, but I didn’t know how well I’d do on my ankle.  The Freedom Trail is about 2.5 miles long, but we somehow managed to do a little under 12 miles throughout the whole day (according to my Fitbit).  About 1.5 miles of that was walking to and from dinner, so we must have done a significant amount of detours to get up to 10ish!  I suspect this might be some of the reason why my ankle is still bad now – I did not go by the RICE method at all.  American medicine helped me along a little bit.

DSC_7253

Boston State House

We went over to Boston Common to find the start of the Freedom Trail – the red bricked line that would be our guide for the day.  It took us first up to the New State House which had a huge “Go Sox” banner on the front.  They’re obviously very proud of their team.  We then walked over to the King’s Chapel Cemetery which looked very picturesque in the dappled sunlight.  We walked passed the Old Corner Bookstore (which is now a Chipotle!) and decided to go in to the Old South Meeting House.  It was surrounded by scaffolding so I didn’t have high expectations but it was really good!

The museum is set around the edge of the seats in the meeting house, and whilst we were there, some school children were having a historical debate, pretending to be figures from the American Revolution and Boston Tea Party, so we’d hear them yelling in agreement or disagreement every now and again.  It was really fun to watch them getting into character and their teacher was really enthusiastic.  I actually learnt quite a lot from the museum exhibits.  I didn’t really understand what the Tea Party was before, or appreciate any of the history of the American Revolution, but I feel like now I do !  It also didn’t try to gloss over the past, so learning a bit about slavery was fascinating as well as shocking.  A great little museum.  They also had a cute gift shop (the other side of the entrance, and yet the same girl served us which confused us immensely) and I bought my Dad some Boston tea.

Next on the trail was the Old State House and the site of the Boston Massacre.  We didn’t go into the Old State House, so marched on to the next historical point, Faneuil Hall.   We didn’t go in here either, but we did get exasperated by the idiot vans parked on the pavement.  We had to squeeze passed them, grumbling about inconsiderate drivers, before realising that they were probably getting ready for Obama’s speech the following day.  How exciting.  We deviated off the red brick path to walk around Faneuil Hall Marketplace, which was very pretty but seemed to be full of touristy shops.

Faneuil Hall

Faneuil Hall

After this, we cut across Route 93, watching a woman spectacularly drive the wrong way down a road, and into the North End, a neighbourhood of Boston that’s also known as Little Italy.  There were some really nice looking restaurants here, and if we had more time, we’d definitely have gone here for dinner.  We walked passed (of course) the Paul Revere House and the statue of Paul Revere, who was wearing a Boston Red Sox shirt, and up to Old North Church.  The church grounds were packed with children and costumed tour guides, so we took a brief look around before walking up to another cemetery, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground.  We were a bit disappointed in this site, as there as a footnote on one of the info board saying that many of the grave stones had been moved to make space for a pathway.  That sucks!

On to Charlestown, and to get there we had to cross the Charlestown Bridges which was CRAPPING TERRIFYING.  I’m not the best at crossing bridges at the best of times, but I usually manage it because most bridges don’t consist of just GRATING that you can clearly SEE THROUGH TO THE RIVER.  I freaked out a little bit a lot and was almost in tears at one point, but I managed to get across – go me.  I was rewarded with a sit down in the City Square Park, where Husband perked me up by singing the “Let’s Go Bruins” song at me, only with our names instead of Bruins.

A quick top up of Ibuprofen, and we walked on to the Bunker Hill Monument.  There wasn’t even a question of walking up the 294 steps, what with me being broken and Husband being fearful of Heights, but it was to wander around the area looking at the house.  We really liked the big houses around Monument Square, and decided that we’d like to live here when we grow up.

The last stop on the Freedom Trail tour was the USS Constitution.  We did the museum first, which was informative and had lots of games (for kids) that I enjoyed playing.  Husband then wanted to go on the ship, and had read that it should have been open today, but the sign on the front said it was only open Thursday-Sunday.  We stood around confused for a bit, before deciding that we wouldn’t bother asking so just looked at the ship from afar.  It looked quite ship-like.

Back over the river (*freak out freak out freak out*), back through Boston, and safely back to our hotel room with a Starbucks, after which I proceeded to have the first nap of the trip.  I had my feet wrapped up in the comforter on the bed, which was the softest material I have ever touched (you could buy the comforter for about $300 which I was seriously tempted by…) which made it a lovely lovely nap.

I woke up refreshed and ready to stuff myself with food, so we walked over to the Cheesecake Factory in the Prudential Center.  We got confused by how to get in (two entrances!) picked the wrong one, but only had to wait about 5 minutes before we were seated, which is amazing for the Cheesecake Factory.  We even had a great table, on a raised bit at the back of the restaurant so we could people watch whilst we ate All The Food.

As is tradition with us, we got our cheesecake to go and took it back to the room, sneaking it in to the hotel so they staff wouldn’t judge us.  I managed to finish mine, but Husband didn’t (his was bigger than mine) as we watched the American X-Factor which was CACK!  I then successfully had a wet flannel bath, and we settled down to sleep with tired legs from our long day.

Day Twelve: Providence, RI – Boston, MA

Boston

The view from our balcony

Miles travelled
52 in the car, about 5 miles on a bus!

Where we stayed
Revere Hotel, Boston Common, Boston, MA.  Really nice hotel, AMAZING toiletries (Skoah spa toiletries – my hair was so shiny!) – I really enjoyed our stay.  We didn’t get the room we booked (two beds instead of a king size) but at least we could fit in one bed so we didn’t mind too much.  We were also supposed to get champagne on check in but that didn’t happen either – probably for the best as I would have fallen off the balcony or something.  But yes, a balcony overlooking lots of pretty buildings.  It wasn’t cheap, but we accepted that we had to splurge to enjoy Boston.  We stayed here for three nights, so there would be no more hotel hopping.

Where we ate
Panera again for lunch.
Fast food for a pre-gig dinner.

Photos
Day Twelve – my photo timeline looks a little messed up as my camera was on UK time, but my phone was on America time, and I didn’t want to take my camera to the gig.

We woke up with heavy hearts today.  We knew that today would be our last day with Walter, our beloved rental.

OK, perhaps it was just me with the ridiculous over-attachment to inanimate objects, but I felt sad that we’d be leaving the car behind after 1400 miles!  Husband just felt quite anxious about driving to the airport.

We woke up (in separate beds – ack!) to the sound of our free morning coffee being left at the door which was a lovely start to the day – thanks Omni Providence!  We had already packed last night, so there was nothing left for us to do except wait for rush hour to die down before heading out up the I95.

The drive was actually quite easy.  Things got busy and a little bit hairy as we got closer to the airport, but everything is well signposted and we found the rental place without any problems.  The big Logan Airport rental parking lot on Transportation Way is done so incredibly well – they direct you as per your rental company, so we just followed the signs for Budget, found our way to the drop off bit and then said farewell to Walter.  You did us proud, little Jetta, and your door compartments were just the right size for guide books on my side, beef jerky on Husband’s side.

It’s ok.  I’m ok *sob*

Anyway, getting into Boston from the airport was almost too easy.  We jumped on the rental bus back to departures, made our way downstairs to the Silver Line bus stop, plopped ourselves on a bus and let the bus driver do all the work.  All this was FREE.  Did you hear that London – a free bus to take us from the airport to downtown Boston.  I’m still not quite over how brilliant that is.  And to make it even more brilliant, halfway through the journey, the dual-mode bus turns electric and goes underground in it’s own tunnel.  Husband and I stared at each other in absolute wonder.  This is the freaking future.

When we planned the trip from the airport to the hotel, we hadn’t planned for me to have a busted ankle (I know – it does feel as though we should have expected this) so the actual walk from South Station to our hotel on Stuart Street was a tad more laborious and  painful than we thought.  I think it took about half an hour instead of 15 minutes, and in hindsight we should have just got a taxi.  Never mind.  We had a quick stop at Panera, where I experienced my first bit of Boston fieriness, when a customer started yelling at the woman behind the till for no reason.  The employee seemed to take it well though, and gave as good as she got.

The hotel was only about a minute away from Panera, so we checked in, marvelled at the beautiful room and balcony, then went for a walk to try and get our bearings.  We ended up walking through Boston Common, down Washington Street (and accidentally into Macy’s where Husband treated me to some Bobbi Brown make-up) and all the way down to the Harbor.

Boston buildings

Out for a wander

We didn’t spend too long out, as we had a gig to get ready for, and I had new Bobbi Brown make-up to put on.

Husband is really into a band called Fitz and the Tantrums, and when we were looking around for fun things to do in Boston, he was really pleased to see that they’d be playing a gig at the House of Blues.  We ended up getting tickets quite far back on the mezzanine level, so we didn’t know how good the seats would be, but we figured they couldn’t be dreadful.

We walked to the House of Blues, stopping at a Wendy’s on the way so we could grab another Pretzel Pub Chicken – there was a Celtics basketball player in the queue behind us, and I of course only know this because the homeless man in front of us was saying “hey, you play for the Celtics”.  And he was tall.  Some of the streets around the House of Blues were a bit scary so we walked as quickly as we could, but eventually we got back to civilisation and queued up to get in.  We got asked for ID which completely threw me as I wanted to say “CLEARLY WE ARE IN OUR THIRTIES” and fortunately, I had both of our passports on us.  The doorman wasn’t ready for weird British passports.

Our seats were actually really good – we had a great view!  The tour was called The Bright Futures Tour, and was a co-headlining tour which we didn’t realise until a bit later.  First on was an LA band called Beat Club, and they were really good.  I’ve listened to their EP a bunch of times since getting back home (I’m listening again to it now) – live, they sound a bit like Simple Minds mixed in with the Strokes with a little bit of the Blade Runner soundtrack and a little bit of the Ramones, and I really hope they make it big.  I do love a band that embraces synths.

Second up, and the co-headliners, were Capital Cities.  Again, not a band that have made it to the UK yet, but they were incredibly popular with the crowd.  They had some catchy songs, including Safe and Sound which I think got to number one in the Billboard Charts, but they ended by dancing around on stage to a remix of their own song which felt a little odd to us.  Everyone else loved it though so they’re clearly doing it well.  They were teaching the crowd a little dance routine and everyone got into it – I very much doubt that would happen at most UK gigs.  It was really amusing to look down on the crowd from the mezzanine to see them all doing the same routine.

And finally, Fitz and the Tantrums.  I must confess that I had listened to their second album a few times before the gig, and it hadn’t grabbed me but hearing it live really did.  Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs were fantastic together – their voices were phenomenal.  There was so much energy and passion and you couldn’t help but really get into it.  Out of My League was probably one of my favourites from the night, as was The Walker.  The staging was really good as well – their ‘neon’ heart backdrop was actually more like a video screen (Husband understands the tech more than I do) and there were amazing patterns and colours to match the music.  And at the end – the classic confetti cannons.  I have listened to their album a heck of a lot more now, and I’m even considering going to their London gig in March.

Fitz

Fitz and the Tantrums

As the gig ended, we all shuffled down to the exit, where the House of Blues managed to thoroughly piss everyone off by messing about with the queues.  Our two options were merch stand or coat check – there didn’t seem to be an option for exit and every time someone asked, they kept shunting us into different queues.  We eventually managed to get out, and sang our way back to the hotel on a post-gig high.  In my 17 years of going to gigs, this was my first overseas gig which has pleased me greatly!

Day Eight: Bennington, VT – South Deerfield, MA – Mashantucket, CT

Slots

My favourite machine (which was not good to me this time)

Miles travelled
160

Where we stayed
A Producer Suite at the MGM Grand in Foxwoods Resort Casino, Mashantucket, CT.  We booked this a couple of months ago, and managed to get a really great rate and Quidco cashback booking through Expedia.  And thank goodness we did book it then as the price more than doubled in recent weeks.  It was a fantastic room through – big jetted tub, separate living room area, and an amazing view over the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation.  The only negative about this room was we weren’t able to check in for an hour when we got there, and the front desk staff confused us greatly about this, so we ended up just hanging about waiting when all we wanted to do was relax.

Where we ate
Coffee and a doughnut at Mrs Claus’ Cafe (yes,really) for lunch.
We went to Fuddruckers in Foxwoods for dinner.  Husband had a Southwest burger which had bacon, guacamole and cheese, I just had a cheeseburger and loaded up on salad at the produce bar.

Photos
Day Eight

Today was very odd.  Very odd.  But those of you who know me will know that I do like the odd.  We also didn’t appreciate this at the time, but this was the last our of free breakfasts, and my last waffle – boo!  If we’d realised this, I’m sure we would have celebrated it more.  Instead, we just packed up and got started on another long drive.  We popped over to the Hannaford’s supermarket as we left the hotel – I do love a good overseas supermarket – and stocked up on road trip snacks.

We took Highway 9 over the Green Mountains and were again treated to a beautiful drive.  We then drove south across the state line to Massachusetts, and into Deerfield, MA to… the Yankee Candle Flagship Store.  Yes, you read that right.  We watched Undercover Boss a while ago, and the boss of Yankee Candle went and worked at this store in Deerfield, so we thought it would be fun to visit.  What we didn’t expect was an immense 90,000 square feet sprawling megastore.  I’m not entirely sure that megastore even covers it.  Obviously there were quite a lot of candles, but there was also Bavarian Christmas Village, indoor forest with snow and a waterfall, more candles, toy department, home department, a variety of make-your-own candles, make your own wax hand (!) and then some more candles.

It was insane.  Coach parties stop here – COACH PARTIES!!!  They give you a map when you walk through the door!  We got lost at one point!  They made a point of telling us which entrance we’d gone in so we could find out way back to the car.  Only in America.

Yankee Candle

Yankee Candle Deerfield flagship

I love Christmas, but I have a personal rule that I can’t look at Christmas presents or decorations until December, however this place has “The World’s Greatest Christmas Shop” so of course I had to break my rule.  I was very close to spending the rest of my holiday spending money in the Christmas Village, and it was a struggle to decide on what decoration to get.  Husband and I have a tradition of buying one new tree decoration a year which reminds us of a big holiday or trip, so when I saw a Father Christmas climbing a lighthouse, I had to buy it.  They also had a display of Coca Cola decorations (“Holidays are Coming!”) and as my Mum is obsessed with the advert, I had to get her something from there.

The little lighted village decorations were adorable, and they even had Halloween villages which I really wanted to buy.  I spent ages in this section filming the cute houses and stores.

Part of the Undercover Boss episode focussed on the wax hands area of the store and I thought I’d have a go, even if the hand would eventually get smashed up by baggage handlers.  But as I stood and watched a kid dipping his hand in the warm wax, I got a little bit creeped out and decided against.  There were wax hands on a shelf and they looked so freaky!  So I backed away from that.

After stopping for a coffee at Mrs Claus’ Cafe, we bought 12 pick and mix votives/wax tarts of scents we don’t think we can get in the UK – I did want to get some of the glass jars, but I really wouldn’t have been able to fit them in my suitcase.  We had voucher for free fragrance spheres, so we grabbed some of those, and they’re actually really good – I’m sad they don’t sell those in the UK.  We poked our head in the museum as well, but it was quite small, although we did see these insanely patriotic candles so thank goodness we didn’t miss those.

Frankly, I can’t believe I’ve written almost 500 words on a CANDLE SHOP so I think it’s probably time to move on.

We made a quick detour to drive through Historic Deerfield and this village was beautiful – old colonial houses in what is described as  an “open-air living history museum”.  If we hadn’t spent hours upon hours in a freaking mega-candle-warehouse, we might have stopped but instead we just had a quick drive about.  We almost ran over the hoards of posh school children who seemed to just be roaming about, which caused Husband to yell “Warbler in the road” and make me snort with laughter for about an hour.

We then experienced our most nerve wracking drive so far as we travelled further south.  Up until now, the most built up areas we’d driven through were towns with populations around 40,000 – 60,000, so quite similar to the towns I live in and near.  Springfield, MA seemed ridiculously big and scary, and just as we were getting over that, we hit Hartford, CT.  A population of 125,000!  What were all these frightening big towers and massive four lane roads?!?!?!    There was a huge sigh of relief from both of us when we got back out into the country again and onto Route 2.

From candles to casinos.  Rising from the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in front of us was Foxwoods resort and casino, our room for the night and place where I would of course make my millions (spoiler alert – I didn’t).  We had a very frustrating check in experience when the front desk staff throughly confused the heck out of us, whilst simultaneously tried to distract us by randomly yelling “I like your hair!” and “Do you like chocolate?” – I do appreciate that they were trying to keep us sweet, but when I’m trying to find out why our room isn’t ready, yelling this nonsense didn’t help!  We eventually managed to get out of them that our room would be ready at 4, so we dropped out bags in storage, and went and had a coffee whilst we waited for them to call us.

We sat in this quite empty coffee ‘shop’ listening to these incredibly annoying app developers putting together some kind of Apple pitch over Skype, and when we couldn’t put up with them anymore, we went back to see if we could have our room.  It was ready (despite them not giving us a call – naughty Foxwoods).   However, it was worth the wait as the room was stunning with an amazing view.

Foxwoods

Our view

We freshened up, and then went down to explore the resort which was remarkably huge (second largest in the USA).  We walked all the way from our hotel at MGM to the Great Cedar hotel and back again, trying to spot where the good slot machines were and where we were going to stop for dinner.

The Sex and the City slot machine called me first, and I managed to double my initial bet straight off with a Miranda bonus (and the woman next to me cheering along).  I really liked this machine when I played it in Las Vegas, so I was pleased it was being kind to me again.  I then promptly lost it all in an Alice in Wonderland machine.  Bum.  Husband played a Fort Worth game which he enjoyed and doubled his money, but he then lost it in a Hangover machine.  The final pre-dinner machines were a different Sex and the City machine for me, and a Michael Jackson machine for Husband.  Michael did not bring him luck, and the mini-bonus that kept me going for a while gave up in the end.

We got back to the room in time for sunset and unsuccessfully tried to photograph it, before going back down for dinner at Fuddruckers for some very yummy burgers.  We were sat in a Marilyn Monroe booth in the middle of the restaurant which gave us a great vantage point for people watching.

Two last machines for tonight – we found two unoccupied Wizard of Oz machines next to each other which is so very rare, so we jumped on these for twenty minutes of losing our money.  BOO!  Grumpy at not winning anything, we went back to our room and luxuriated in our jetted bath, before falling asleep in the lovely bed.

This entry has taken me the entire afternoon to write.  Congratulations if you have actually managed to read it all without falling asleep.

Day Two: Rockport, MA – Salem, MA – Wolfeboro, NH

Salem

Witch House, Salem, MA

Miles travelled
111

Where we stayed
Inn on Main, Wolfeboro, New Hampshire

Where we ate
Naughty fast food in Newburyport for lunch.
Dinner was at the Inn on Main and was amazing – I had grilled chicken in a balsamic vinaigrette, Husband had steak and mashed potato.  Dessert was chocolate pudding and summer berry cheesecake.

Photos
Day Two

We woke up at about 5, still on England time, but we snoozed until 6 and slowly got dressed and packed before going over to the lobby for breakfast.  There was a good spread of cereals and juices, and I got a waffle made for me (YUM).  We got ourselves together, and left at about 8.30 to get to Salem.

Being close to Halloween, I was really looking forward to Salem.  I’d read about all the Halloween happenings going on in October, and wanted to immerse myself in the history of the place.  Unfortunately, we left quite disappointed.   It was still early when we got there, and the town was still waking up with some stalls being set up and shops just starting to open.  We decided to go down to Derby Wharf/Salem Harbor straight away.  It was really beautiful, and really peaceful as we walked down to the lighthouse.  We grabbed a coffee at a great coffee shop called Jaho, and sat in Salem Common, watching as hoards of children on school trips traipsed passed us.

Salem Harbor

Salem Harbor

Desperate for some more history, we went over to the Witch House on Essex Street.  It was nice to see some 17th century artefacts and I enjoyed learning about the owners of the house.  I think I expected a bit more about the witch trials, and I think some of the things were replicas, but it was fairly priced so we liked it.

We then had a wander around Salem and that’s where it kind of fell flat – it was so commercial.  The stalls had all been set up and many of them were very cheesy.  The shops sold a lot of crap and it just felt so so tacky.  Maybe we looked in the wrong areas, but we decided to give up on Salem after going through the ‘mall’ which was just awful and off putting.  Oh well.

So after not spending a great deal of time at Salem, we carried on up the I-95 to Wolfeboro in New Hampshire, with a very quick stop at the services in Newburyport for a naughty Big Mac.  It was an amazing drive, and we definitely saw some foliage!  We got to Wolfeboro at about 2.30 and checked in to the Inn on Main.  Wow!  I loved this room – beautiful white linens, dark hardwood floor, really nice bathroom.  LOVED IT!  It all felt very new and I could quite happily have spent a week here.

We jumped back in the car to drive into town and I fell in love again.  It had a similar feel to Rockport and had some great little shops.  After a wander, we found the Cotton Valley Rail Trail and spent a couple of hours walking next to Lake Wentworth.

Wolfeboro

Lake Wentworth, NH

After an amazing walk, we went back to Wolfeboro town and sat on Lake Winnipesaukee watching the sail boats as the sun set.  When it started to get a bit cooler, we went back to the hotel and decided to dine there as well.  Being a little bit out of season, the Inn on Maine Bistro was relatively quiet, but we still had a really lovely meal.  It was our waitress’s first night and she was excellent – it didn’t even feel like it was her first night!

Full of great food and quite sleepy, we walked the few steps to our room and snuggled into bed to watch Undercover Boss.

Day One: London – Boston, MA – Rockport, MA

Rockport Harbor

The harbor – Rockport, MA

Miles travelled
Not including the London to Boston bit – 37 miles

Where we stayed
Rockport Inn and Suites in Rockport, MA

Where we ate
Lunch was on the plane (and wasn’t actually that bad, all things considered).  We ate a snacky-dinner at a coffee shop called Bean and Leaf Cafe as we weren’t that hungry (lemonade and a brownie for me, coffee and a lemon cake for Husband).

Photos
Day one

The first thing we discovered as we woke up bright and early – our plane had randomly been delayed for three hours.  It wasn’t the best start, but we decided to go to the airport anyway as there wasn’t much point waiting around at home.  As soon as we joined the bag drop queue, we were whisked out of it to a secret exclusive queue around the corner, and given vouchers for free food – Delta seemed very keen to apologise for the delay by treating us really well!  We used our vouchers to get some breakfast in the airport restaurant, had a wander around, sat down and read for a bit, and before we knew it, we were on our way.

The plane trip itself was perfectly pleasant.  We had upgraded ourselves to premium economy, so had a bit of extra leg room -crucial for Husband as he is tall, unlike shortie me who was swimming in space!  We had a pasta thing for lunch, which was quite nice, and I watched Now You See Me, and The Way, Way Back which made me bawl my eyes out.  For some inexplicable reason, I also decided to watch Melissa and Joey, which I have never seen before and will never see again.  And then we landed!

We got through passport control and customs really quickly, mainly because we were one of the first in the queue, grabbed our bags and then went to collect our car for the trip.  Boston Logan Airport is so easy for rental cars – all the companies are in one building and to get there, you can grab the free shuttle bus.  We had a really nice guy go through the paperwork with us at Budget (I think his name was Chris) so by about 4, we had our 2.5 litre Volkswagon Jetta who we named Walter, and then we were off up the I-90.

Neither of us have driven in America before and we were a little nervous as due to our plane delay, we would now be driving out of Boston at a really busy time.  Fortunately, the GPS kicked in really quickly as we left the airport and I think without it, we would have been lost – it was so confusing!

The drive was a  bit surreal.  We stuck to the main roads but even then, the surroundings were so pretty and so American, which is a ridiculous thing to say because of course it was American!  There was a bit of traffic in the Boston area, but once we got a bit further out, it was a breeze.  We made it to our hotel in Rockport, Massachusetts without incident, and it was such a relief to get the first nerve-wracking drive out of the way, that we got quite giddy!  We chilled out in the room for a bit, before deciding to brave the car again and drive into town.

Rockport town

I fell in love with Rockport.  We got there as the sun was setting and it was so beautiful and peaceful.  There were a couple of people out walking their dogs, some going into the local performance center (it was broadcasting Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet and looks freaking amazing) and it was a delight to walk around the town.   We went down to the harbour to take some photos and have a quick look around, and dropped in the Bean and Leaf cafe, where the guy behind the counter gave us some more info on the area.  I think Rockport was having a festival that weekend so we were sad that we’d miss it, but we vowed that we would be back to the town in the future.

We drove back to the hotel, where I had a bath and we watched Parks and Recreation, before collapsing into a very deep sleep!

End of the holiday!

Road Trip

Our long awaited road trip around New England has sadly come to an end, and we are exhausted but really happy with the last two weeks.  I will admit to being nervous about how things were going to go, as neither Husband nor I have ever driven abroad, and we did suddenly realise that spending hours every day trapped in a car together might be a quick route to madness, but we survived (and barely argued at all – hurrah!)

Many more posts are forthcoming, mainly because if i don’t write everything down I will forget, but for now, some random observations:

  • For 80% of the time, driving was absolute bliss.  We could drive for ages without seeing another soul, and the roads were so wide and smooth (on the whole).  Our Tom Tom GPS was great, but took us down some odd routes sometimes.  So many places had free parking after 6pm, and even during the day (take note, UK towns!) so it all felt very easy to go out in the evening for dinner and a walkabout.  I think going back to driving in the UK will be a bit of a culture shock.
  • Signposts were a bit patchy.  At times, there were so many that you couldn’t figure out what the hell was going on,  but mostly, they were pretty much non-existent.  I think we’re so used to having everything pointed out to us, that we freaked out when exits weren’t signposted in time or at all, or when the signs showing the route along a highway vanished.
  • Americans are terrible at using indicators.  Sometimes no indication, sometimes indicating at the wrong junction, sometimes using hazard lights as indicators (those ones freaked us out – “OMG, why have you switched your hazards on?  Are you stopping?  No, you’re just turning”).  And so many of the cars don’t have orange indicators at the rear of the car which took a heck of a long time to get used to!
  • Related to this – roundabouts/rotaries/traffic circles.  Holy crap, these were terrifying.  I don’t have any issues over here with roundabouts, but the American ones were just insane.  For a start, there are clear signs saying YIELD TO TRAFFIC ON ROTARY but that doesn’t stop people from randomly shooting out in front of others.  There’s barely any indicating so goodness knows where people are going, and there is no lane management at all.  We thought rotaries would be easier to work out than crossroads, but nooooo.  They were not.
  • It’s really rough being a pedestrian in some of the big towns.  Whilst the turn right on a red rule worked great when we were driving, it wasn’t too great when we were at the crossing trying to cross the road on a walk symbol.  We were never too sure if the car was going to stop for us!  The sidewalks in a lot of areas were terrible as well, with random bits of street furniture dotted around the place and broken paving slabs.  I can’t count how many times I tripped.  It was also quite off-putting how close people walked behind you.  Just before we got to the last bit of our trip, I sprained my ankle (yes, I am clumsy) so couldn’t walk that quickly.  Instead of walking passed me, people would just stick so close behind me that I really thought they were pickpocketing!  So many times, I physically stopped to make people go passed.  So frustrating – I really felt my personal space was being intruded on so many occasions.

This sounds like I hated it, but I didn’t at all.  There were so few things we had issue with, and I would go back in a heartbeat.  But more of those details in my next posts.

It’s not a road trip. It’s a covert operation.

Trip planning

A few months ago, Husband decided we were going on a road trip this year.  Completely out of the blue – I got home from work and there were books about New England on the coffee table that he’d randomly bought on a lunchtime bookshop binge.  Excitedly, I got to work and had our entire route planned before he finished saying “I wonder if there are any Cheesecake Factories in Massachusetts”.

We got the big map out again on bank holiday Monday and started to finalise our plans (using a spreadsheet on the TV – ever the data nerds).  We’ve already paid for three nights at the Revere Boston Common as we found a good deal, so all we had to do it come up with what we’re going to do for the rest of the two weeks.  Hopefully something along the lines of the following:

Rockport, MA
We land in Boston and drive straight out to Rockport.  It’s only about an hour away, so we’re starting off slow.  We might do Salem, MA on the way (or maybe the day after depending on how tired the flight has made us).  Being a witch obsessed teen has made me somewhat fascinated by Salem.

Wolfeboro, NH
I can’t wait to see Lake Winnipesaukee.  Looks beautiful.

Boothbay Harbor, ME
If we have time, we’d love to do a boat trip out to Monhegan Island as well.

Camden, ME
We debated about whether to go to Augusta or to Camden, but decided on Camden in the end.  It looks such a great town, and we’re looking forward to taking a trip to Camden Hills Park.

Conway, NH
Admittedly, there apparently isn’t much here other than an outlet village (which is enough of a draw for me), but it’s we’re we’ve decided to stop here before going across the White Mountains and the Kancamagus Highway.

Burlington, VT
Conveniently near the Ben & Jerry’s factory and The Alchemist Brewery.  Fun for everyone!

Bennington, VT
We’re not sure on whether we’ll stay here, but we need somewhere halfway between Burlington and our next stop.  And I have to visit the Yankee Candle flagship store.  Stop laughing.

Foxwoods, CT
I’m aware that Foxwoods isn’t a town, but it is the 2nd largest casino in the USA.  Those two statements don’t really have a connection.  FOXWOODS!

Hyannis, MA
We’ve had to go a bit of a weird route because hotel rooms were too expensive for the nights we had planned to stay there.  Hyannis is the start of our mini Cape Cod adventure.

Provincetown, MA
Right at the tip of Cape Cod.  It’ll be nice to get back to being by the sea again after all that inland driving!

Providence, RI
We’re planning on doing a tour of Brown University.  I always wanted to go there when I was younger.  I hope they don’t mind random British university Administrators hopping on their tours.

Boston, MA
And this is where we end our trip, taking a detour to Plymouth, MA on the way from Providence.  So far, I have planned on visiting the Flour Bakery, going on a Harvard tour and seeing some art.  There’s an exhibition on American modernist photographers at the MFA which looks exciting.  We’ll probably be exhausted by the time we get here, but hopefully we can stay awake for the last three days.

I think we’re decided on which hotels we’re going to stay at – largely independent places, but the odd chain has sneaked in.  We’re not planning on spending a huge amount each night, but I think some places might test our budget a little.  Trip Advisor has been a saviour in the planning, as has Trivago – I’ve seen many a hotel that I thought was out of our budget, but Trivago has managed to find us a good deal.

Plotting the towns on a map, we are just driving in a big square, and might be missing out on some amazing towns in the middle so if you have any suggestions, let me know!

Now I just need to wait another 4 months (or so) for our trip to come around.  This summer is going to be hard!

(Oh, btw, it’s not really a covert operation.  That’s just me quoting Buffy).