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 Seven: Burlington, VT – Manchester, VT – Bennington, VT

Burlington

Church Street, Burlington, VT

Miles travelled
124

Where we stayed
Hampton Inn, Bennington, VT.  It was a massive room with really comfy bed, but for some reason I only booked a room with a shower which for me was a DISASTER!

Where we ate
A quick stop at McDonalds for lunch (yes I know, terribly bad, but we were on the road!)
We went to Chili’s for dinner, and I’ve since discovered this is another thing we don’t have in the UK (used to, but I think it went under).  The waitress we had was ADORABLE.  She loved our accent and my purse, and was so incredibly cheery.  I loved her.  Anyway, I had a Quesadilla Explosion Salad (soooo much chicken and cheese!) and Husband had a Bacon Ranch Quesadilla.  We were stuffed and had to waddle back to our hotel across the parking lot.  WADDLE!

Photos
Day Seven

I was just looking through my photos from today, and I really didn’t take that many.  Again, it was a “we need to stop halfway” type of day, as our ultimate goal was Connecticut.  Anyway, it was quite busy in the breakfast room again, and I only felt like a banana so we didn’t spend that long before setting off.  We parked at Burlington Mall and walked straight down to Lake Champlain.  I’d hoped for a boat trip but once again, we’d missed the season, so we just walked along the waterfront for a bit.

Lake Champlain

Lake Champlain

Back up into town after a wander, we stopped at Starbucks for a quick coffee and then walked down the pedestrianised Church Street.  Modelled on Copenhagen’s Strøget, the street was dotted with shops, restaurants and ski lift benches (so cute!) and really felt like the heart of Burlington.  I was very excited to find the University of Vermont shop and bought lots of merchandise to take home, so I can pretend that I work at a fancy American university instead of an ordinary British one.  We considered going up the hill to visit the University, and I’m regretting not doing so now but that just means I’ll have to go back!

This was our first experience of a being in a college town, and on our drive to Route 7 after a couple of hours in town, it was so weird so see all the big fraternity and sorority houses dotted along the road.   They have some great houses – our courts/halls really don’t compare.

So we were back on the road, and it felt like a long drive.  We drove through cute little towns, like Brandon, VT, slightly bigger towns like Rutland, VT, and then we were back in the mountains – the Green Mountains this time.  Once again America, you win with your mountains – so so beautiful that at times it looked faked!  We saw a sign for Emerald Lake State Park but, yes, you guessed it – out of season.  Never mind!

Route 7

Route 7

We did a very odd route at this point.  Normal people might look at our route and probably think we’d gone a bit insane, which I suppose we had just from being in the car for a couple of hours.  We are a bad influence on each other.  We came off Route 7 and drove through Manchester, VT – another town filled with outlet shops, but these were fancy shops.  No Old Navy here!  It was really cute though.  It wasn’t a big mall or retail park – all of the shops are just along Main Street so it gave the outlets a very down to earth, yet quite exclusive feel.  There was a McDonalds here too of course, so we had a late lunch here.

When I wasn’t concentrating on where we were supposed to be going, I read the Lonely Planet guidebook to try and find places to stop along the way.  I was scanning the Vermont pages, and read something about a Historic Route 7A.  What made it historic?  Who knows!  (As it turns out, it’s to distinguish it from Route 7 – not that historic really).  Not knowing any better, we thought “Hey!  We should do the historic thing!” so despite having already gone passed the exit, we turned back.  We kept expecting history to jump out at us, but all we got were ‘turning circles’ lurking around the corner.

We got into Bennington and checked into the Hampton Inn – they’ve made the lobby look super fancy!  The room was nice as well, but I was mainly using it to carry on reading Allegiant.  We did a quick Google search to see what food was in the area, and the Chili’s was in walking distance.  Not having to drive was an added bonus, so Husband could have a sneaky beer or two.  I haven’t been to a Chili’s before, and we stuffed our faces with really nice food.  We received such great service – despite being a big chain place, we had a really good time.

We dragged ourselves back to the hotel and I settled in to finish my book.  Yes, there were tears at the end.  I had a shower (UGH!) and we fell into the very comfortable bed for a well deserved sleep.

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.

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).