10 days, 6 states-dangerous driving on the wrong side of the road, panoramic mountain views, windswept beaches, gingerbread cottages, magnificent fall foliage, and a science fiction backdrop.
Massachusetts to Maine
Picked up rental in Boston and had no troubles getting on to the main highway north. Not great driving or navigating but very simple instructions given by car hire.
Drove to the north shore. Had lunch at Rockport –quaint fishing village from around 1690.
Had a great seafood lunch at a small place called Red Skiff (great seafood-scallops, prawns, and our first taste of fried clams) and walked around the harbour-blowing a gale. Quaint red fishing shack the guide book says is Rockport's most iconic image –for some reason called motif no 1.
On to Kennebunk where we stayed 2 nights at Kennebunk Port Inn. Great spot –easy drive but in Kennebunk not Kennebunkport, so away from the crowds.
Drove to Ogunquit another quaint fishing village of the same vintage as Rockport –this one has a cantilever pedestrian bridge. The marginal walk along the rocky shores was great.
Rachel Carson Wildlife Reserve and walked through the lowlands-very pretty with dappled pathways and marshy areas. Then on to a Kennebunkport and found the crowds-so decided to keep driving.
Drove through to Bidderford Pool –a gorgeous beach/water front community with amazing homes. Freezing cold and rough surf and a surfer comes of the beach!! I thought only our surfers were mad!
Went to Maine Diner for dinner –local recommendation and very crowded –we had our first taste of eating at the diner counter.
We headed off to the Kancamagus Drive in New Hampshire –the most famous fall colours route. Fall tourists are called leaf peepers, and they stop everywhere on the Kancamagus. We did too of course. Beautiful reds and oranges (or russets and ambers as Leonie would say!) and rocky streams and falls.
We stopped at Lincoln at a gorgeous local healthy eating place called the purple tomato and stocked up on cheese and crackers for later as we weren’t sure what dining options there might be at our next stop Carroll, Twin Mountain. We stayed at Carlson’s Lodge-very atmospheric foyer with large stone fireplace and the obligatory, moose head on the wall, , antique tiffany lampshades, and wooden balcony surrounding the 2nd floor. Amazingly with all this rural feeling, our room had a key code door pad!
Early the next morning we took the cog rail up Mt Washington. The peak is at 6288 feet, and is supposedly the highest on the eastern seaboard (but our guide on Cadillac Mountain had said something similar there!). An hour trip up the mountain, an hour on top, and an hour back down. Great fun and fantastic views. We broke through the fog near the summit and had vistas of clouds pouring off neighbouring peaks looking like waterfalls!
Then on to the Omni White Mountain Resort-a historic and grandiose hotel. We had a lovely lunch with amazing views over white mountain. We headed out that night to Northern Embers a local restaurant and bar. Sat at a a high top! Salads come large here!
For those who don’t appreciate science fiction/fantasy, you may not realise that this neck of the woods had a whole other meaning for Leonie and me. Julian May wrote a series of books called the Galactic Milieu, starting with Intervention, and White Mountain, the White Mountain resort, and and the cog rail feature heavily.
We had to include Hanover in our itinerary for the same reason. Hanover and Dartmouth are centrepieces for much of the Galactic Milieu series. Some of the plaves she references are still there, others already gone or renovated beyond recognition.
Vermont to Rhode Island via Connecticut
We overnighted in Woodstock Vermont (there are lots of places called Woodstock for some reason) at a historic inn-Lincoln Inn –apparently originally owned by one of Abe’s cousins. These days it has a well deserved reputation for food. While leonie strolled the streets of Woodstock I had a much needed massage. Felt human afterwards. Dinner in the tavern and an early night. We are such party animals!
5 plus hour drive from Woodstock to Rhode Island and we broke the trip at Mystic.Connecticut. No,we didn’t have pizza but the first shop we saw on the way in was called Mystic Pizza (who knows if it predates the movie!). Would you believe I found a Desigual jumper that once I tried on wasn’t coming off! That makes 4 pieces of Desigual I’ve bought on this trip (a dress and 2 tops at Vancouver airport). Now I discover there is a Desigual store in both of Boston and NY ( on my no go list). For those of you who haven’t heard of Desigual, google it-amazing colours; and generally expensive and not so easy to find at home –hence my excitement.
I caused a minor scene in Mystic-not running naked down the street or hitting people over the head to get to the Desigual! The loo in the restaurant didn’t seem to flush properly and knowing how many different flushing mechanisms there are around the place, I looked around, and found a cord on the wall-so of course I pulled it. Turned out to be an emergency cord. Leonie tells me there was a bit of consternation outside as this flashing light and loud noise went off! I innocently walk out the door just as this young barman was coming to rescue me-I felt like offering to go back inside so he could!!
On second use of the facilities, I noticed the big blue sign above the cord about emergency use only! Don’t know how I missed that the first time.
Newport, Rhode Island
Got to Newport safely and found our B&B, another historic building. I had checked that we were on the ground floor (they call it first floor). Historic and quaint generally mean narrow stairs, no lifts, tiny bathrooms, not much hot water etc. In this case, we had a 2 bed room suite so we each had our own 4 poster queen bed!
We have discovered Raw Bars-fresh oysters and clams are very popular. And Benjamins was highly recommended. Raw oysters and clams (littlenecks) as well as cooked crab and lobster, plus a full menu. I tried the local oysters-salty so not sweet like ours but still good.
I had decided to do something I’ve always wanted to do and stay away from the shops –I’m too attracted to pretty shiny things I don’t need! So I took a sailing lesson.
On a slightly overcast Friday morning I headed off to my sailing lesson with Newport Sailing School. Mike did a great job and I jobbed and tacked (not like an expert). Sailed past Pete Townsend’s yacht so I gave a wave. Some amazing yachts and motor yachts-not to mention the views of some of the mansions. Leonie thought it a bit foreboding that I was on a 3 hour cruise and started calling me Gilligan! She took a 2 hr cruise and we sailed past each other out in the harbour. I enjoyed the lesson and will continue when I get home.
We headed out to the mansions of Newport and visited Breaker’s-the Van der Bilt summer cottage. Way over the top, enormous, glitzy etc. I couldn’t believe the size of some of the “cottages” we drove past –and some are still privately owned! i think i preferred the more realistic town houses -still gorgeous but more liveable!
Took advantage of the sunshine the next morning to go back to the cliff walk near the Breakers. Might have been sunny but a very cold breeze-this is a very different pacific ocean to ours!
Martha's vineyard, Massachusetts
Then headed off to Martha’s Vineyard. We hadn’t been able to book on the vehicular ferry (Leonie tried over 5 months ago but they wanted rego no, make, size and weight of the car! –not much good when you aren’t even in the country yet). When we went to book once we had the car, we found out it was a holiday weekend and the ferry was full! After a mild panic, we spoke to some locals and found out that it is better not to have your car and that the passenger ferry comes equipped with a car park. So all good.
Had lunch at yet another raw bar. This time I tried the littlenecks-raw clams. Just like oysters. The scallops here have been amazing-even breaded and fried, the batter is light and the scallops juicy fresh!
Martha’s Vineyard- no vineyards and no Martha, but plenty of gorgeous homes ranging from gingerbread cottages built where tents used to be to whaling mansions; not to mention a few hollywood sized homes as well. We had great weather again and had no problems without the car. We joined a bus tour of the island that took us through every village, and then we spent more time in Edgartown –home of said whaling mansions (no they don’t cry-they were built by whaling captains!). Martha’s Vineyard is mainly a summer resort-many of the buildings don’t have insulation so are not habitable in winter. Something I hadn’t known about the Vineyard-20,000 year round residents; 18,000 skunks! Apparently a local farmer wanted to reduce the snapping turtle population so brought a few pairs of skunks back!
Jaws was filmed on Martha’s Vineyard so we googled and found many of the main scenes including a somewhat iconic bridge, the police station, sheriff’s house etc. Menemsha fishing village also featured heavily in the movie. I must re-watch it soon.
Our accommodation here was a quaint B&B in Oak Bluffs- our room was tiny and the bathroom (while private) was across the hall! Not great for the midnight run! Having said that, the tiny single beds were some of the most comfortable we’ve had! No room to spend time there though so we took advantage of the local cinema and went to the movies and saw the Martian. Quite good.
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Our next port of call was Hyannis further up the Cape-but we did a quick detour so,I could stand on the hallowed grounds of WHOI (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute). A mecca for any ocean lover and scuba diver! They worked with the French to find the Titanic, and have major ocean research projects on.
Our day on the mid Cape started with a thunderstorm and torrential rain and ended with blue skies! Provincetown shook her fog off for us so we could see the Pilgrim’s Monument (not that either of us was going to climb the 100+ stairs!).
We visited the Pirate Museum-home to artefacts from the only authenticated pirate ship ever found-the Whydah. I hadn’t heard of Barry Clifford, the man who found her, but he grew up around here with tails of shipwrecks. She was not far off shore from where the Marconi station ended up, so I kept an eagle eye out to sea. There was a stationary ship that could have been the watch dog –I presume he must have some security presence as he owns the wreck, all its contents, and all rights to dive on it!Driving
Well, we survived the 10 days driving with barely a scratch on the car-there goes a waste of comprehensive insurance payment! I won’t say absolutely no scratch as I did get a. It close to the gutter once or twice –ok, I scraped along it!
It’s amazing how quickly we get used to driving on the wrong right other side of the road. For the first few days we both had a tendency to veer to the right hand side of the road and I had to explain to Leonie that “ooh ooh” didn’t cut it. She needed to say “FUCK LEFT” for it to register with me! I also learnt that turning left out of a one way street when I was on the left hand aide was a recipe for disaster as I automatically turned into the left lane!
Onto our next adventure as we head to Boston tomorrow.