Holidays and Other Excursions

Month: October 2016 (Page 1 of 2)

Boston and Homewards

Wednesday 12  and Thursday 13 October 2016

As is common on returning from the USA our flight home is an overnight trip so we have much of the day free in Boston until late afternoon.

We decide to head out once we have to check out of the hotel, but they will store the cases and we will go and find some lunch and then return to the hotel in plenty of time to be collected for the journey to Boston Logan airport.

We did make one mistake – I had suggested we go and see the Boston Tea Party Museum but in the light of our experiences in Salem decided it would probably be overdone so we agree we would not go there.  We later heard that we had missed a treat from fellow travellers – so if we ever get to Boston again we must do it (although that seems unlikely).  So if you are in Boston do not miss the Tea Party!

Jackie had previously identified the best place for a proper American burger, which happens to be in the old area of North Boston we visited yesterday, so we know where we are going.  We then go back to Quincy Market for a wander around running into some of our fellow travellers before returning to the hotel.  This time we walk it in both directions and again the weather is pleasant and conducive to a gentle walk through the City.

Summarising some of the distances we have travelled:
London – Boston is 3272 – so 6544 miles.
Boston – Falmouth return is 154 miles.
Boston – Portland is 106 miles.
Portland – North Conway is 63 miles.
North Conway – Salem is 121 miles.
Salem – Boston only 16 miles.
So known distances total a little over 7000 miles plus the mileage on the trips across to and around Martha’s Vineyard, to the two railways and around the White Mountains.  All without difficulties or problems.

Unlike our return from Australia our journey home is relatively smooth and we are back from another long promised holiday.  Still many more to go!

Really enjoyed all of this trip.  There were more trains than some of our holidays which was welcome – but they were digested alongside some of the parts of the USA which have more history being the first settlers and more recently the Boston powerhouse which drove the Kennedy family to prominence.  And our prime aim was to see the famous autumn colours which we may not have captured – but we certainly saw.  The whale watching was a bonus after the problem at the end of the Canadian trip!  And by and large we enjoyed some excellent weather – warm sunny days throughout most of the trip which always adds to the enjoyment.  The tour was well organised and it operated very smoothly.



Tuesday 11 October 2016

A busy day as we set off initially on a coach and then walking to see the City.  The first walk is around some of the more prosperous parts of the City to show us how the wealthy and influential citizens live – very nicely too I rather think.  This area is adjacent to Boston Common which between 1634 and 1830 was the home cows (only 70 after 1646 due to overgrazing) which provided milk for the city; effectively the development from the dock areas had reached this by 1634.  Bearing in mind the first settlers came in 1630 development was rapid as more came.  Boston is one of the longest established settlements in USA and therefore has many other firsts to its name – and of course Harvard University.

We then move onto a location near the quays and wander into the older part of town, North Boston, and indeed past the birthplace of Rose Kennedy.  She may have ended her days as a Countess of the Holy See but she certainly came from much humbler origins.  This area in general has seen much redevelopment and reconstruction but the churches and some other older properties remain.

On this part of the walk we also see the Paul Revere statue and the church from where he commenced his famous ride.  The ride itself is best known through the Longfellow poem.

Photos from the morning excursions are here.

We have time (just) to pick up some snacks at Quincy Market and then we head to catch a boat to take us whale watching.  The good weather continues but the outward ride is on some pretty choppy water and sadly Jackie is finding it all a little uncomfortable to say the least.  When we reach our first stopping point the whales seem a little reluctant to come and see us, but they appear eventually and I get some photos (some better than others to be sure!).

The whale photos are here.

The return trip is considerably smoother and by the time we disembark Jackie is feeling back to normal.

This evening we head across the road to Flemings, a steak restaurant chain, where we have the most expensive meal of this holiday – and I would say it is worth it.  Trainee waitress but she does not get much wrong, she is watched very closely by another member of staff.  Pretty good steaks to end our holiday and the best restaurants were right on our doorstep here.

To Salem and Boston

Monday 10 October 2016

We leave behind the hills and return to the coast, this time to Salem which is infamous for the Witch Trials.  The sun is out but it is not overly warm.  We wander around and the place is completely mad in the American way of overdoing things!  The coach shows us around the town before we stop.

Our first stop is “The Burying Point” where a number of alleged witches were buried following their “trials” and “convictions”.  I note that among the “hangings” are also those “pressed to death” which sounds even less attractive.

Just a few photos of the buses and the Burying Point.

We do not fancy visiting any of the attractions but instead find Murphy’s restaurant where we can sit outside and enjoy the sunshine and for once just order a main course.  We also have a look at some of the smaller shops looking for anything which might be of interest.  Being close to Halloween the pumpkins and ghosts and such like are much in evidence.

This photo from Jackie Whitbread is part of the local witchiness:

Once everyone is re-assembled we head onwards into Boston where we are staying for a few nights at the Revere Hotel, Boston Common – so we are very central.

Dinner tonight is in the very wonderful Legal Seafoods which is conveniently just across the road!  Highly recommended for sea food.

Conway Scenic Railroad

Sunday 9 October 2016

Today we travel through the wonderful autumn colours once again going over Crawford Notch – but this time making use of the preserved train service.  We are in the White Mountains and the area is very busy today – the train is very well loaded and as we later discover so are the roads!

The Conway Scenic Railroad is based close to our hotel in North Conway so it is a short journey to the station on our coach and once tickets have been secured we can wander around taking photos of the other locos and of our train as it shunts.  The Railroad has three services, the main one is over the Notch which we shall be taking and two others through the valley but time does not allow us to take part in these.

Later in the day we hear reports that leaf fall has commenced and so this weekend is “peak colour” which is achieved immediately before the leaf fall commences, so despite earlier misgivings it turns out we could not have timed our trip any better than we did!

The photographs of the train and colours are extensive!

We move onto lunch – and it is clear that the entire area is at maximum capacity as the small eating house as just a couple of empty seats at the bar outside, all of the inside rooms being full!  Everyone has descended for the colours!  We actually eat quite well.

Our onward progress is slow after lunch as we get stuck in a traffic jam.  There is a local event on and there is a lot of traffic turning in and out of the location and it takes nearly an hour to get past it.  After that our progress is not too bad and our journey back to North Conway is along the Kancamagus Highway.  This is apparently the best place to view the colours and it is a good trip.

Towards the end of our journey we take a detour as one of the promised points of the journey is to see one of the covered bridges which used to be very common in USA but less so these days.

Photographs of the Highway and the covered bridge.

Once back at North Conway we wander out to the shopping centre and we go to Applebee’s simply because it is convenient.  We go to the bar for a drink but are asked not to sit there and we have to wait in a seating area until a table is free.  Nothing wrong with the food – more the quality of the service.


Mt Washington Cog Railway

Saturday 8 October 2016

An early start this morning – we are leaving the hotel in the dark.

We are heading to the Mount Washington Cog Railway via Crawford Notch.  As we head along in the coach we are generally half asleep when suddenly the sun peeps over the horizon lighting up the adjacent hillside with a blaze of autumn colours – and of course none of us get the picture as we were not expecting it!  Absolutely stunning.

On our way we see signs to Bretton Woods.  In 1944, 730 delegates from the 44 nations forming the Allies met at the Mount Washington Hotel at Bretton Woods and laid the foundation for post war economic activity – the Bretton Woods agreement.  This underpinned world economics until 1971.

The Mount Washington Cog Railway was the first rack and pinion railway opening in 1868 and it remains the second steepest line in the world – not bad for the first of a kind.  Snowdon did not come along until 1896!  Mt Washington is only 3 miles long and has an average gradient of 1 in 4.

The reason for our early departure is that we have to be on the 08:00 departure as it is steam hauled, later trips are handled by the fleet of bio-diesels.  The locos are at the rear of the one coach on the ascent to the summit and then lead on the way down.  As I recall our steam train was followed to the top by a couple of bio-diesel powered trains which then had to return before we could do so – so we had a longer period at the top.

There are some wonderful photos of the railway, the views themselves and the autumn colours.

On arrival the view is very clear and we can see all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.  Whilst we were there it seemed to get colder (not very warm in the first place) and the the weather closed the view down a little – so the early start was extremely worthwhile.

Our coach returns us to North Conway and in consequence we do have a part day off.  This enables Jackie and I to wander into the adjacent shopping mall so that as is usual on trips to the USA I can acquire some inexpensive jeans.  As with our last visit to Florida I am also looking for some trainers but for some reason (I think my feet must have gone funny shaped) none of them seem to fit well – even if I try different sizes.  We also eat in the mall – very convenient for the hotel as it could not be closer.

Falmouth to North Conway

Friday 7 October 2016

Our coach takes us back towards Boston.  On the way there we head into Plymouth (sometimes Plimouth) which was the landing point for the Pilgrim Fathers.

Our first stop is what used to be known as the “Pilgrim Monument” but is now officially the “National Monument to the Forefathers” which is a single piece of granite, possibly the largest single piece in the world, commemorating the Mayflower pilgrims.  There are other “Pilgrim” related monuments hence the renaming!

Also in Plymouth and our next stop is Plymouth Rock which allegedly markes the first landing point of the Mayflower pilgrims, although it was not mentioned until much later.  It has moved several times and has split into several pieces.  Since 1920 it has been covered by a Roman Doric portico.

Nearby is the Mayflower II an English reconstruction of the original built in 1955/6.  We were somewhat lucky to see as she had been away for some work and shortly after our visit departed again.  The intention is to ensure she is entirely sea-worthy in 2019 to mark the 400th anniversary of the original arrival of the pilgrims.

Photos of the above can be found here.

We rejoin the coach and our destination is Boston North station where we join our train to Portland.  We are aboard the Amtrak “Downeaster“.  The current service is relatively new having been re-established in 2001.  Much of the route is heavily wooded and there are no great views as we meander along.

The catering car is at the rear of the train but it is closed until we have been underway for about half an hour or so.  There were about three wraps available and I buy two of them – train catering is even poor here.  And additionally they were not particularly nice!  One of those rare times when USA food is not great!

And the train photos mainly at Boston are here.

The coach has taken our cases and meets us at the far end of the line.  We now commence heading west and uphill and we can see a real change in the surrounding colours.  Fall is here.  Within a month the country will be voting for a new President and it is demonstrably clear that Trump has a lot of support!

Our destination for the next three nights is North Conway so we have moved from Massachusetts to New Hampshire.  “New England” comprises six states – those two plus Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut and essentially runs from New York state to the Canadian border on the East Coast.

Martha’s Vineyard

Thursday 6 October 2016

We recommence the organised tour with a coach to the Falmouth terminus of the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard.  This is an island famous for its residents who can achieve a certain amount of privacy on the island – such include Carly Simon, Maria Muldaur, Judy Blume and historically Jackie Onassis, James Cagney and Patricia Neal lived here, whilst many more film stars, politicians and other well known people visit for holidays.

The island also has the notoriety of the location for the filming of “Jaws” and the sad death of Mary Jo Kopechne in 1969 at Chappaquiddick; later in 1999 John F Kennedy Jr and his wife and her sister died in a plane crash just off the coast.

We are met by a “school bus” type coach and are driven around the outskirts of the island.  The driver is also our guide and she manages to drive and talk more or less without pause as the tour progresses.  She named many more celebrities.

Our trip reaches Edgartown which is the largest town on the island for a lunch time break and we wander around the pretty town in some pretty hot sunshine reaching the waterside.  The pubs close to the water are all busy so we wander back towards town and find somewhere to sit in a bit of shade but outdoors as the weather is so nice.

Photos of the trip to Martha’s Vineyard are here.

After lunch we rejoin the bus and wandering off her normal route our driver takes us to a point from where we can see the Chappaquiddick bridge in the far distance.  Our journey then resumes back to Oak Bluffs where we also have a chance to see the local houses before catching the return ferry.

In the evening we take the bus to Woods Hole which is at the end of the mainland.  I had hoped for a nice little harbour with some bibbly bobbly boats and so on.  Instead there is a nasty stench of diesel hanging around.  We end up in the Landfall restaurant which delivers a good meal in a nice environment.  I choose the local delicacy of stuffed Quahog but unusually I am not particularly taken by this particular clam.

Picture by Jackie Whitbread

We take the bus for the return journey and sort of parallel to the road is the Shining Sea Bikeway which is a conversion of the former railway line (there was evidence of an old railway bridge at Woods Hole) built by the Old Colony Railroad into a cycle route.  At Falmouth the bus actually wanders into and out of the old station area.

Time to move on.


Falmouth / Hyannis / Hyannis Port

Wednesday 5 October 2016

We have a little trouble finding the breakfast room this morning – it is downstairs and does not seem open when we get there – we are up quite early as we have not quite adjusted to the time differences.  An adequate if not an outstanding repast this morning.  Here is the clock in the breakfast room – although I have no idea which Southampton is the source of the clock!

Clock in Falmouth Shoreways Inn

Great Rail are very keen on inserting free days to ensure that their clientele do not overdo it – although their customers do tend to be the older age group which these days includes me but not Jackie!  So our first day in the USA is a free day which helps adjust to the time difference.

Our first task this morning is to walk along the main street to find the post office and despatch a couple of post cards.  Also they helpfully tell us where to find the bus stop – which might seem an odd form of transport on a rail based holiday.  The tour guide recommendation is to take the bus to Hyannis which is about 20 miles east of here.  Whilst reckoned to be about an hour the journey is closer to 75 or more minutes.

When I was growing up in the Sixties there would often be mentions in news reports of the “Hyannis Port Compound” which was the summer residence of the Kennedys away from Washington and where they could enjoy some privacy.  This was someway out of Hyannis itself along on the coast.

These days on Main Street of Hyannis there is the John F Kennedy Hyannis Museum which we wander around – I think they are somewhat limited in the material to which they have access as I spot the same photo being used several times – which perhaps confirms the privacy which applied.  An interesting reminder of that period of history.

In need of sustenance we head to “Spanky’s Clam Shack and Seaside Salon” for lunch.  It is right by the water and we are able to watch boats coming and going.  Once again stunned by portion sizes, hopefully we will adjust our ordering to match before too much longer.  Photos of Hyannis are here.

We catch the bus back.  At one location outside (I think) a supermarket we circumnavigate a huge selection of pumpkins as we are not far from Halloween.  When we get back to Falmouth there are some wild turkeys walking on the green.

Wild turkeys Falmouth

All the photos of Falmouth are here.

This gives me a chance to use the indoor pool and to spend some time by the side of the pool reading and listening.

In an effort to get something more suitable in size terms we eat in the local pizzeria this evening and do not overload ourselves, having had a decent lunch as well!


New England in the Fall

Tuesday 4 October 2016

We are on our third Great Rail Journeys holiday (India [Palace on Wheels] and Canada [Rocky Mountaineer] were the previous trips); this time we are going to visit New England in the Fall.  We are on what I think is an “extra” trip as it is not a normal departure day for GRJ and unusually is a BA flight, so adding air miles for our future holidays!

Our flight destination from Heathrow is Boston but we return to visit the City at the end of our holiday and we are soon on a coach down to the coast staying at ShoreWay Acres Inn, Falmouth.  The coach journey along the US highways is smooth but most of the foliage we can see remains green and although there is some evidence of colour changing it is not significant.  Are we going to be denied the autumn colours which are the entire point of the trip?

Falmouth is south south east from Boston and being an early settler location we pass signs for Braintree, Weymouth, Plymouth and Barnstaple (among others) as we head to our destination which is still on the mainland.  We are however not far from the island of Martha’s Vineyard which we shall visit in a couple of days and we are right on the coast.

The hotel is perhaps a little old fashioned but reminds me very much of the TVs view of the world in the nature of ‘Murder She Wrote’.  We wander out to the small Main Street which has an interesting variety of shops, including a bookshop.  We had previously identified a restaurant (the Quarterdeck) which is packed with customers.  We order a starter and main course each, forgetting we are in America.  The starter is large and the main course larger still; not surprisingly many customers seem to order only a main course.  Jackie hears another customer order a martini and regrets not being able to follow her example!  Jackie then orders a white Zinfandel.  This of course turns out to be slightly pink and we all know how much Jackie enjoys a rosé!  We stagger back to the hotel feeling somewhat bloated to say the least.


Back Home

Friday 2 and Saturday 3 September 2016

Friday is spent entirely at sea as we head back down the North Sea and through the English Channel to berth at Southampton, right back where we started from.

A day at sea allows the shipboard team the opportunity to arrange extra events.  We have a look around the specialist restaurants and will probably take advantage of them if we ever come on the Celebrity again as they break up the dining.  Jackie usually partakes in a bingo session on a sea day, although I do not always accompany her I do this time.  Just as well as she enjoys a small win on this trip, mainly because one number flashes up but was not announced by the caller – although I spotted it!  Lucky!

The evening entertainment has been pretty good throughout the trip – a Freddie Mercury impersonator one night and an excellent girl singer who has worked on UK X Factor and won (I think) the Dutch version.  I am told we will be doing a Celebrity cruise again in the future, it is more relaxed than Cunard and the entertainment is better – of course the ships are much larger which gives greater capacity but the ratio of staff to passengers is not so good – but the service seems pretty good to me.

On Saturday morning we cannot be sure when we are disembarking as it is done in stages and we are given estimates of when it is likely that we can go and collect our luggage.  The more expensive staterooms tend to disembark first.  We have time for a breakfast but they are ahead of schedule and we are about half way through breakfast when we are told we can go.  Finding luggage is always fun in the adjacent “warehouse” and unlike when we arrived we have to walk back to the car – when we arrived the luggage was collected at the car and that was the last we saw of it until we were in our cabins!  Luckily the wheels on the cases work and we are not in a great hurry.

Steve and Veronica have definitely enjoyed the trip and are looking at what might be worth booking for the future.

Route segmentDistance in Nautical miles
Southampton to Bergen805
Bergen to Flam100
Flam to Geiranger (approx)256
Geiranger to Alesund (approx)65
Alesund to Stavanger250
Stavanger to Southampton635
Total (approx)2111

And with that summary another holiday comes to an end.

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