NE Trip Part 7 – FINAL

Lodging, Transportation and Food –
 
 
 
All four of us flew into Boston, and we were able to arrive within 3 hours of each other. Lois and I were able to get RT tickets for $160, thus removing any doubt that it was the least expensive time/money vs. driving up route.
 
From the online research we had done, lodging should be made in advance. So we had to come up with a fairly specific route. We chose to spend several nights at the same place in Maine and do day trips out of there. Same with Stowe, VT. We had to come back to Boston twice to drop Beat and Carol off at the airport so we did some Priceline deals. We didn’t make the final arrangements for lodging until about 10 days before we left. We thought it would be fun to do a B&B toward the end of the trip but it fell on a holiday weekend, which is NE’s busiest tourism weekend of the year, since it falls over peak foliage.
 
By then there weren’t very many B&B rooms left in the area we were planning to be. Plus we had a hard time with paying twice as much per night as a Priceline deal would be, especially since we planned to keep moving during the day. One old inn advertised that there was no room in the house where a marble would stay where you put it on the floor. It would roll in one direction or another.
 
We wanted to do some camping somewhere along the line, since Carol is a camping expert, having worked at Fairplay Wilderness Girls’ Camp for 10+ years, and the rest of us love it as well. But in order to go camping we def needed sleeping bags and we even planned to take a tent since most of the rustic cabins were pretty pricey and it didn’t make sense to pay for extra luggage to take sleeping bags. We decided Stowe was the place to go camping since 1. we would be staying for 3 nights and staying pretty local 2. lodging in Stowe was fairly expensive. We found a state park that had rustic cabins for $48 a night so we scrapped the tent idea at the last minute. Plus we really didn’t have room to take a tent along.
 
We had also reserved a full-sized car and felt we had a really good price, $345 including taxes for 2 weeks. That was down from the $750 we had seen earlier that we thought wasn’t too bad. When we arrived at the car rental, the helpful gentleman took us through the paperwork. It was gonna cost another $5 a day to add a second driver. Some car rental companies (maybe just Hertz) will waive the fee if you are a AAA members, which we are. But this rental didn’t. Well, $5 a day is not a big fee so there was no question about it. Then we went out to the lot to pick out the vehicle we wanted. He showed us what we had rented, then showed us other available vehicles and told us what the the upcharge would be. We went over to look at a Dodge Journey and decided that the extra $5 a day was worth it. As the salesaman was showing us the vehicle, after we had agreed to take it, he said, “This vehicle hasn’t been cleaned. I’ll waive the extra charge.”
 
We didn’t fuss at that. The vehicle wasn’t extremely dirty but it had undoubtedly not been cleaned. Even had a ring on the windshield from the last person’s GPS. We were so thankful for the vehicle even though the 4 cylinder didn’t cut it very well in mountainous areas, but it made up for it by getting good gas mileage. We put 3,000 miles on in 2 weeks, all within the 6 NE states. Yep, that’s alot of driving. And when we came flying back into the car return (more to come on that later) I grabbed the receipt and we took off for the terminal. Our total cost including a 3/4 tank of gas we had prepaid (at a reasonable amount) our total bill came to $370ish. Apparantly he waived the $5 extra driver fee as well. Or he forgot to add it. We have no idea which. We just felt very blessed to have such a good deal. 3,000 miles and 2 weeks? We’ll take it!
 
So the first place we stayed was at a campground in Maine. We arrived after dark and our first impression of the place was not very good. They had a shop by the house that we had to drive past and the man’s maintenance/hobby projects were lying about. The house the owners live in has huge windows with no curtains so you can see right into their living room. Interesting. The cottage we had was a small 1-bedroom trailer with 2 pullout couches in the living room. It supposedly sleeps 6 but we all agreed that having 6 people staying in there would be tight quarters. We took advantage of the furnished kitchen and cooked several meals there.
 
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We kept our eating out to about 1 meal per day throughout the trip. On the brighter side, the campground was right on the ocean, which is whey we chose it. It also was mostly empty, which was nice too. There was a lighthouse about 5 miles out and since it was rainy/foggy the first two days we were there, we enjoyed hearing the faint fog horn blasts in the distance. The last morning we were there it was bright and sunny and we finally got to get  a good view of the cove we were in. It really was pretty area! And the owners were very chatty and helpful. I would recommend that they clean the place up a little, though. 🙂
 
For our Priceline deals, we got a Doubletree (very nice! Got warm cookies at check-in) for about $80/night. Later we stayed at an Aloft (a funky, modern branch of the W hotels; Westin, etc.) that was cool except for the shower issue I had. The shower head was one of those monstrous, feels-like-rain kind. And the only way to turn it on was too stand under the shower head and who wants cold water hitting them right off the bat. And then the shower door was floor-to-ceiling glass. Let’s just say, I was the first one to shower that night and the floor got very wet for the first and last time. We learned to turn the shower head away so the next person in wouldn’t suffer the same consequences. When we left the Aloft motel, we noticed several very foreign sports cars. Like $$$,$$$ cars. Two were parked there and other one passed us coming in. Apparantly Boston’s Italian sports car fanatics were having a get-together there. The last place we Pricelined was in CT near New Haven. A Courtyard this time. The down-side of getting too nice a motel is that you don’t get breakfast with it. But, I will say that the motel in Plymouth where we stayed took free breakfast down to a whole new level.
 
We stayed at Governer Bradford’s Inn. It is the only motel along the waterfront and it had a beautiful view of the harbor. But and I do mean but, their customer service was pretty poor, the place fairly dinghy, although I think they may be renovating some rooms), and the free continental breakfast was the poorest I’ve ever seen. Maybe it’s because there weren’t many guests staying there that week, who knows? But I felt sorry for the European tourists who were staying there as well. When you travel in Europe, and your lodging is advertised as having breakfast included, you do not receive bought sliced sandwich bread, a little bit of fruit, and coffee and a hot chocolate machine that wasn’t working. I told the lady working at the desk that it wasn’t working right and she acknowled that she already knew it. But there was no out-of-order sign so each person coming along kept dispensing tepid water and then tried to figure out where to discard it. So, I’m sorry, Governer Bradford’s Inn, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone as it is right now. Spruce it up and improve your customer service and you’d have a great thing going! Honestly, it has a beautiful harbor view and so much potential.
 
We had no way of knowing what the “rustic cabins” at Little River State Park
 
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in VT were going to look like. They now have pics on their website. 🙂 If you could see the “rustic cabins” at the state park where our church goes camping, you can understand our trepidation at just what we might find. The weather was 40s and rainy so we were very, very glad we had scrapped the tent idea. To our utter DELIGHT, the cabins are cute, 1-room pine structures, with a small porch.
 
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And much tighter than the “rustic cabins” we are used to. Which is a good thing because misty 40-50* weather is cold enough. And there was no heat in the building. In fact, the whole campground closes down for the winter, and we were there the last weekend it was open. The shower house only had 1 shower in it and we had to pay $.25 per 2 minutes of showertime but the hot water was so welcome! The campground itself was really pretty with lots of trees. Each site was surrounded by trees. There weren’t many people there since camping weather was pretty much gone. There were several van loads of fit senior citizens who came to do some hiking for the day. There is a hiking trail near the park that goes to what remains of an abandoned village. We didn’t have time nor want to brave cold, wet weather to hike, unfortunately.
 
Our only disappointment with these arrangements was that we were not able to do much cooking there. We had visions of campfire and cooking yummy food over it. It rained off and on most of the time we were there (3 nights) and their was no dry wood to be had. Even the stuff that the park had was just being cut to stack and dry for the following year. We learned that you can cook veggies in a coffee maker, though. And we managed to eak out about 2 meals over the reluctant fire.
 
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Let me back up a little, on our first day in NE we stopped at a second-hand store to by a few survival things such as a skillet, saucepan and can opener. I even found a very warm Old Navy hoodie for $3 that came in very handy. A week later on our way to Stowe, we were driving along and all of a sudden Carol said, “There was some free stuff in that driveway.” So we turned around and sure enough, out in the country someone has placed several items in their driveway with a FREE sign on them. So we picked up a 12-cup coffee maker and a spatula. We used the coffee maker to make coffee, water for cappucino, ramen noodles and mixed veggies, all at different times though.
 
We also had picked up $5 pillows at Family Dollar, since we didn’t want to pay any more for check-in luggage than we had to. Did you know a t-shirt makes a great pillowcase? That tidbit is free.
 
Like I said we only ate out about once a day. Made Chicken Enchilada Soup at the cottage in Maine, and we ate lots of wraps, granola bars, yogurt and other easy-to-travel things. I was tired of cold wraps by the time we left. I think the last couple of days we exceeded the 1-a-day. We didn’t want to keep buying more food and at that point it was easier just to eat out.
 
Our biggest splurge was some seafood in Maine.
 
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The waitress showing Beat how to get to the meat.
 
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The clam chowder here was unbelievably good! Lois got a bisque but it was disappointingly sweet. The rest of the food, though, oooh la la!
 
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The lobster roll is cold (usually) lobster on a hot-dog-type bun. In our opinions, it is not to be compared to the steamed lobster, or any of the fried or broiled seafood!
 
 
 
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The morning of our flight back home, we were in Plymouth. We had about an hour-drive back to the airport but we thought we had plenty of time. However, we had been talking about finding a place to give away our items (pillows, coffee maker, etc.) that we had picked up along the way. Well, they are into recycling up there and there were NO dumpsters that we could find to throw the stuff away, after various attempts to find a donation drop-off place for our “goodies”. Finally someone told us of a place where we could donate that was open already. So we finally got that taken care of and headed out for Boston, only to have serious traffic (on a mid-Wednesday morning??). For about a half hour we didn’t drive over 30 mph. We finally got there (remember the non-existent traffic signs) and returned our vehicle, and scurried to the airport where we missed our flight, but got scheduled on another one, and going through customs sister had a paring knife confiscated, but we still got into JAX at the original scheduled time. Whew! I get tired just thinking of that frustrating morning!! 🙂
 
And so ends the journal of a 2-week trip. Now I’m working on a book for my coffee table, using a great deal I got on Groupon for Picaboo.

NE Trip Part 6 – Rhode Island

Rhode Island is the smallest state, and is only 37 miles wide and 48 miles long; however, it has over 400 miles of shoreline. And it has some of the biggest vacations “cottages” you can imagine. More of that later.
Our first entry into RI was swinging through after our scenic drive on route 169 in CT. There was nothing impressive in the interior of the state. Some stone walls but fewer scenic spots that CT. At one point we drove through an intersection that was under reconstruction and was all dirt, about 4 lanes worth.
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No markings anywhere. We made turning lanes where we thought they should be.
A week later when we drove through RI, we were in down in the coastal part. Very different story! Of course, I may be partial to oceanic views! We crossed this fairly high bridge that had NO divider between east/westbound traffic. Yikes! We could see cruise ships in the distance.
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We were told Newport is a must-see town. Having been there we have no arguments against that idea.
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We parked in the mansion district and walked for a while, along several streets lined with mansions and over the Cliff Walk, lined with more mansions, aka summer cottages of the rich and famous (Astors, Rockefellers and more) of the late 1800s – early 1900s.
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Many of them can be toured but we decided excercise plus being able to see more of them was worth more to us than $$ to see the inside of one.
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The Breakers “The grandest of the Newport summer cottages and a National Historic landmark, Cornelius Vanderbilt II, President and Chairman of the New York Central Railroad, commissioned architect Richard Morris Hunt to design a summer retreat for his large family. This 70-room Italian Renaissance-style house, completed in 1895, includes a 45-foot high central Great Hall. It sits on a 13-acre estate overlooking a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean, where the waves crashing on the rocks below gave the house its name.” (from here)
These are some of the same people who also vacationed and owned vacation homes on Jekyll Island during the same era.
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There is also a 10-mile Ocean Drive where the modern mansions are. This is also a beautiful drive with the ocean in view the whole time.
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We stopped at Newport Harbor for a few minutes. It was the most beautiful panoramic view of a harbor!!
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And then, again, maybe it was just the perfect time of the day to see it. Anyway, that concludes Rhode Island. Short post for a short time spend in a short small state.
One more post coming and that will be it!! Oh to move on to more current events!

NE Trip Part 5 – Connecticut

Connecticut

Our first trek through CT was an afternoon drive down scenic hwy 169 in eastern CT. It was a very pretty drive with stone fences in front of many homes/farms/churches.

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This is one of the many old cemetaries that can be found in New England.

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It was a gorgeous day and there was a lively softball game going on here.

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NE has many pretty white steeples. I didn’t manage to get any photos of a steeples surrounded by brilliant foliage.

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In NE there are quite a few farms that have stores that you can buy fresh produce and we LOVED the fresh apple cider that was available. We stopped at one such place and they gave us directions to a local park where we took ate a picnic lunch and relaxed for a bit, giving us a break from the vehicle. We had left Maine that morning and had driven for 4 or 5 hours, with a few more to go back up into Mass.

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Beat, Lois & Carol

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We drove past this ivy-covered chapel on an college campus, where another wedding was about to take place. The father-of-the- groom and the coordinator were waiting outside and the guests began to arrive as we left. 

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I thought the simplicity of this home was picturesque.

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Near the end of the scenic highway we passed a house in Canterbury that was a school in the 1830s led by Prudence Crandall. She started including Negro girls in her previously all white private school but eventually closed down to protect herself and her students from physical harm. 

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The second time we were in CT was a week later when it was just Lois and I. We had toured the Norman Rockwell museum, which is in Stockbridge, Mass, (on the far western side of the state, very near N.Y.) We both really enjoyed, even if it was a big crowded that day. It was the Saturday of Columbus Day weekend, which is their busiest day of the year. I forgot to mention this stop on the Mass. post. There were a number of original oil paintings on display, and other lithographs on display as well. Most have been purchased back or were donated back to the museum. I don’t have any photos of the museum as they were not allowed to be taken inside. In one room they have a copy of every Saturday Evening Post cover that he drew. Many of his paintings/drawings were of local people. Before photography was so accessible, he would have professional models depicting whatever scene he wanted. Eventually he used locals and would have the scene photographed so he could use that to paint. Some people sent him ideas for scenes and a few he used. The Saying Grace scene was a suggestion sent to him. Someone had seen amish people in a restaurant saying grace and it apparently caught the attention of the surrounding diners.

Leaving Stockbridge we drove down another scenic route through the Litchfield Hills area and the cut over to near New Haven, where we had a motel booked for 2 nights. The next few days we took it a little easier. Sunday afternoon we were looking for a quiet beach that was warm enough to sit and read, write or rest for a few hours. We found one state park that was right on the ocean and had nice “facilities” but it was just too chilly with the wind coming off the water. We kept driving and eventually found this place that was more of an inlet. There was a nice park there, and we absorbed the warm sun and just rested!!

At first when got there we thought we saw a seal diving around a large rock a ways out. Eventually we found out it was a diver. Not sure what he was looking for but here he is on the way in. He had been out so far that all we could see was his head and flippers. Here he is on the way in.

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While we were there, Amtrack came whizzing silently through at least 4 times.

I was quite thankful for the quiet. The office where I work is near the tracks and the freight trains blast their horns as they go through town. We often tell them to shut up but they don’t hear us. Amtrack usually gives short, polite honks as it pulls in and stops at the station across from the office.

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Somewhere over in the same area is a little wayside restaurant with the best fish and chips ever! It was almost to chilly to eat outside but to pretty not too, as the moon was up over this inlet. And have I mentioned how good the fish and chips were?

Later that afternoon we drove through Mystic and stopped for a bit by the drawbridge. We were on the way across when the alarm sounded that the bridge would open up. It operates with a counter weight so we were happy to get out of its way.

Open bridge:

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Closing:

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Closed:

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Little boats on the water, watching the bigger boats go through.

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Mystic has a seaport museum/village a “living history museum consisting of a village, ships and 17 acres of exhibits depicting coastal life in New England in the 19th century”. We didn’t have time to tour it but heard it’s very interesting. That’s on my list for “next time.”

Another graveyard, this time the fall colors are more evident in CT.

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The next day we headed to Essex where we had tickets reserved for a steam engine and paddle wheel boat ride.

We picked the open car right behind the engine and go to enjoy all the bells, whistles and bursts of steam. Plus we had now windows to contend with. A definite best choice, considering the beautiful weather. After the foggy days of Maine, and the damp/drizzly days of Vermont, the sunny days in Connecticut were delicious!

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This shot of the conductor is one of my favorite shots of the trip.

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And yes, the Connecticut River does also have swamp. This picture is to prove that it’s not just the south that has this kind of “wasteland”.

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The name of the paddle wheel boat is the Becky Thatcher, a nod to Mark Twain, who used to live nearby.

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The ride on the CT River was relaxing and fairly slow-paced. The young guy who did the narrative did an excellent job of sounding interested in his job, and keeping it informative and interesting.

This castle looks like ruins but it was built to look like that in the early 1900s. It cost about $1 million back then. The man who had it built was William Gillette, an eccentric man who was known for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. He had no heirs. He had been married but as his wife lay dying from complications of a burst appendix, he promised her he would never marry again. He didn’t. It is now part of a state park and you can tour the grounds at no cost or pay a little to go inside as well. We only boated past but had a nice view of the castle.

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We could’ve caught this ferry and then hiked up the hill to the castle.

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This is a playhouse where Annie was first acted out on stage. However, when it was famous enough to go to Broadway, the only actor to make the move to NY was the dog.

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The river is a waterfowl migratory and breeding area and although we saw very few birds that day, there were swans.

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Which we sent packing!

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A little summer vacation neighborhood, which is always mindful of flooding potential.

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Lois took this one looking out through a porthole. I thought it was a really cool shot:

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The last morning in CT we swung through the Yale campus in New Haven, which is full of very old and beautiful buildings. But some of the streets were being worked on and we zig zagged through a few times and I didn’t get any pictures. Partly also, due to the fact that I was driving. And all the streets were one-way. And there were few places to quick pull off for pictures.

I believe concludes CT. Only Rhode Island to go and by the time I get that up here, it will be time for the next big trip.

Just kidding!!!!