Day Six: North Conway, NH – Waterbury, VT – Burlington, VT

Vermont roads

Vermont

Miles travelled
142

Where we stayed
Best Western, South Burlington – again, a very pleasant room.

Where we ate
Lunch was ice cream.  Hell yes.
Dinner was at American Flatbread in Burlington, and it was so good – definitely one of my favourite meals.  We shared a massive New Vermont Sausage flatbread, and then I had a brownie for pudding, whilst Husband had carrot cake

Photos
Day Six

No watching the sunrise this morning – the view over the closed mini-golf wasn’t particularly epic – so today started quite ordinarily.  The breakfast room was packed full of French-Canadians and we weren’t used to hearing French, especially not when we were half asleep, so it felt a little surreal.  I had another go at the waffle machine and shared a waffle with Husband, and I was also very thankful for the free fruit (something I had missed at previous breakfasts).

Our drive today would be through the amazing White Mountains, and over the Kancamagus Highway.  Wowsers.  This was a beautiful road with plenty of places to stop for a wander round.  Paying for a parking permit was really quaint – you had to put $3 in an envelope with your license plate number and post it in a box in one of the car parks, then hang the receipt on your rear view mirror.  So trustworthy!  We paid for our permit at the first place we stopped – Lower Falls and made a quick visit to Falls Pond.  It was a little grey and overcast, so no beautiful blue skies for our photos but it was still really pretty.

Falls Pond

On the way to Falls Pond

We stopped again a bit further along at Sabbaday Falls, and had a lovely little walk up to the falls.  Unfortunately, it had started raining at this point, but the mist over the hills were making it look really dramatic.  If not grey.  Back down from the falls, and I decided I would be brave enough to have a drive.  There was no one else on the road, and I knew if I didn’t do it now, I wouldn’t get a better chance.  I drove for about 10 minutes up the highway and I found it so ridiculously frustrating.  Because we were going up hill, I knew what gear I wanted to be in, but the bloody automatic wanted to decide for itself.   I pulled over into a car park, gave up, and left the rest of the driving to Husband.  One last view point, and then on to one of the absolute highlights of the trip – the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury, VT.

I.  Was.  Excited.  Despite the pouring rain as we ran across the car park.  Tours are every thirty minutes, and we got there just as one left, so we wandered about the shop and the mini-museum.  First stop on the tour was the Cow Over the Moon Theater where we watched a short film about the history of Ben & Jerry’s, and then our tour guide Blair took us to the mezzanine over the production room.  No photos were allowed (Blair made sure he weeded out the ice cream spies) and we got a little wave from someone on the production line as Blair explained how the ice cream was made.  It was such a great tour, and Blair had a great sense of humour.  Someone asked if there were any new flavours coming out, and Blair said that there was a film tie-in coming out (which was then revealed that very day to be Scotchy Scotch Scotch!) so we got a bit of an exclusive there.

They were making Peanut Butter Cup so I assumed that we’d be getting a sample of that, but instead we got a (quite large) sample of Mint Choc Chunk which was delicious.

Ice Cream

Mint Choc Chunk

But this wasn’t enough ice cream for us, and we went over to the scoop shop – I had Chocolate Therapy and Husband had Maple Walnut which is apparently now only made for the scoop shop in Vermont.  I asked for a small cone and got a ridiculously sized thing – I don’t know if I misunderstood or if this was the small, but I couldn’t finish it!  The rain had died down, so we took a trip to the Flavor Graveyard to pay respects to the ghosts of ice cream past.  The first gravestone we saw was for Peanuts! Popcorn! – NO FAIR, I WOULD HAVE LOVED THAT!!

We took the obligatory comedy photo in the Ben & Jerry’s photo cut-out thingie before driving the extra half an hour to South Burlington, VT for our evening stop.  And one of my most important purchases – Allegiant by Veronica Roth – from the Barnes and Noble across the street.  Yes, I did choose the Best Western based on it’s proximity to a book store the day that Allegiant was released.  You’d all do it too.  I accidentally ended up buying two other (hard back) books as well, which would eventually be a massive pain in the arse when it came to packing my suitcase, but it was totally worth it.

I of course immediately started my read in the hotel, but I was able to tear myself away for some incredibly delicious flatbread in at American Flatbread in Burlington that evening.  This was after spotting a free space in Burlington, driving towards it, then realising it was “Mayor Parking Only”.  HEE!  The restaurant was absolutely buzzing but it took about 5 minutes before we got our table which wasn’t bad at all.  The pizza oven was in plain view, so I spent the evening mesmerised by the two bakers making up the pizzas, then a third baker whisking them into the “earthen oven” to produce a very tasty flatbread.

To walk off the yummy food and because we had free parking (something else I loved about the towns we visited), we wandered around Burlington and soaked in the college town life.  We hadn’t decided what we going going to do tomorrow at this point, but Burlington by night made us want to visit Burlington by day.  With plans decided, we drove the 10 minutes to our hotel where poor exhausted Husband fell asleep in front of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and New Girl, and I read a little bit more of Allegiant before sleep called me as well.

Day Five: Rockport, Me – North Conway, NH

Samoset sunrise

Samoset sunrise

Miles travelled
154

Where we stayed
Such a ridiculous change from last night – Comfort Inn and Suites at North Conway.  We wanted somewhere to stay to break up out long drive to Vermont, and the Comfort Inn was reasonably priced.

Where we ate
Dunkin Donuts in Lewiston, ME for lunch – we shared a grilled cheese sandwich.
Burger King for dinner.  The shame.  I’m sure there are plenty of nice places to eat in North Conway, but we really couldn’t be bothered to find them!

Photos
Day Five

Once again, we caught the beautiful sunrise and watched it from our balcony at Samoset.  It was amazing and it felt like we literally had to force ourselves to leave the room.  I could have stayed here forever.

We knew we had a longer drive today so we set off relatively early.  We thought about getting breakfast, but we were so full from last night that we couldn’t face it. But before we started on the trek, we drove down the road to visit Camden Hills State Park.  We had no idea if it would be open or not – a combination of the government shutdown and it being out of season – but we were assured by the front desk staff at the hotel that it would be.  And fortunately, it was!  We drove to the top of Mount Battie and the views were stunning.

Camden Hills

Penobscot Bay

We had a bit of a wander about, thought about going for a hike but realised we were up a very high mountain, and managed to spot Rockland Harbor light (which was the lighthouse by our hotel).  We spent about an hour here before driving back down and onwards to New Hampshire.  I felt a little bit sad as we were saying goodbye to the ocean for a few days, but I knew we would see it again.

Maine is a big old state and it felt like an age to cross it!  We stopped at a gas station in Lewiston – we had a copy of The Next Exit in the car which was so useful when finding places to stop so we knew what was at each exit and chose one had a Dunkin Donuts.  Well, pretty much every exit had a Dunkin Donuts because they were everywhere but the Lewiston one was about halfway.

Our cheesy lunch eaten, we spent another hour and a half on the road and parked up at Settler’s Green Outlet Village.  Now I love outlet shopping, but Settler’s Green left me a bit cold – I much preferred Freeport, ME.  It was really spacious and quite pretty, with mountains surrounding it, but I just didn’t like the shops.  That said, I did buy four t-shirts in Old Navy, but that was mainly down to necessity as I was going to run at out clothes at some point!

We went over to the Comfort Inn and checked in.  I got excited as there was a pirate mini-golf at the hotel, but it was closed!!  Gutted.

Mini-golf

Pirate Mini-Golf!

The room we had was quite big with a separate sitting room and it was perfectly decent, but my goodness I missed Samoset!  We hung out in the hotel room for a couple of hours so Husband could refresh from the 3 hour drive, watching Ellen and the news.

Not really wanting to think about dinner options, we drove down the White Mountain Highway and stopped at the first place we found, which happened to be a Burger King.  A Burger King with a fire pit in the middle of it – a little odd!  We filled up on free refills (Cherry Dr Pepper – YUM!) and got back in time for two hours of Dancing with the Stars.

Today was possibly our most chilled out day, but I think we needed this to recharge our batteries.  I went to sleep, very excited about tomorrow…

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.

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).