I’ve been a little slack in keeping up with this blog – one reason being that I was away on a road trip with my folks, and I’ve been a bit snowed under with work since I got back. Sorry ...
So how was the trip? I have to admit, it was a lot of fun. New England in October is ridiculously picturesque, with those vibrant fall colors and we had clear, crisp Autumnal weather for most of the trip, which essentially involved driving from one historic B&B or tavern to another.
My father and step-mother, however, despite being out of their native habitat, do not seem to get that (a) America is not England and (b) it is in the 21st century. We constantly had questions about whether we had relatively normal things (e.g. TiVO, to the door mail service, instant coffee), yet surprise when English things aren’t routinely found in America (e.g. HP sauce):
“It's not like in England”
“Yes, that's because we're not in England!”
My step-mother also had a rather irritating habit of saying “Oh gosh, really?!” after everything we said. But still it was a nice trip.
The rather convoluted journey was aided by my new TomTom GPS which has Stephen Fry’s voice programmed into it. Navigating foreign terrain is so much calmer and less fretful with the calming tones of Mr Fry telling you where to got and asking to “turn left up ahead if you wouldn’ mind”, and “it would be terribly nice if you changed lanes now”. Towards the end of the trip if felt like we had him in the car with us, and we actually started conversing with the TomTom as if it were alive. Anyway, to cut a long story short, here’s a little summary of the trip:
Day 1 – A mammoth drive from Virginia, through Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and finally finishing in Massachusetts. We stayed in the college town of Hadley, at a quaint B&B built in 1795. For poster beds and crumpets for breakfast, who could want for anything more.
Day 2 - Up through MA, stopping in Portsmouth New Hampshire for lunch at the Portmouth Brewing Co (best known for the Smuttynose brand), for a flight of beers and to fill the trunk with “supplies”. Then we headed up the coast to Maine. Home for the next night was "the captain's house" - a quaint B&B on the shore. I love the Maine scenery, especially when it’s foggy and slightly mysterious. There were a few times when if felt like we were driving through a Stephen king novel.
Day 3 - The Captain’s house is famous for its food –and the day started with fantastic three course breakfasts starting with fruit soups and serious coffee. Behind the B&B was some extensive bogland with trails,that had to be explored. We were on a quest to try to find moose. However, some serious rain a few days previously meant that the trails were more like “the fire swamp” in the Princess Bride, and we expected to at any moment be attacked by rodents of unusual size. The weather started to close in, but not before hiking off to a coastal headland and looking for ghost ships amongst the fog and murk.
For the afternoon, we headed into “Bahaba”, a town with more lobster, moose and lighthouse crap for sail than you could shake a stick at. Also, there appeared to be only a dozen people in the whole town below the age of 60. Beer supplies were already running low, so they were replenished at Bar Harbor Brewing Co.
Back at the Captain’s house, a fire had been lit, hot chocolate was brewed up, and a couple of bottles of local wine were opened. Evening in front the fire place reading books on comfy chairs in front of crackling logs, was a perfect end to the day.
Day 4 - More excellent breakfast although our enjoyment was somewhat diminished by loud oil & gas executives in the adjacent dining room criticizing “nutjob”, “hippy”, “treehugging” environmentalists and criticizing the government for the temerity of trying to introduce some environmental safeguards. From the anecdotes that we heard about cutting corners and corruption, it seemed that the government wasn’t regulating the oil and gas industry enough. However we were far to British to make a scene and scoffed down our cranberry and blueberry pancakes with maple syrup in silence, then slipped into diabetic comas.
More driving to the historic Jameson Tavern, in Freeport (Maine). As an aside, this tavern is reputed to be haunted by the ghost of a girl called Emily, and a mysterious lurking figure in a top hat. A block or so away, or foggy and stormy nights, the locals say you can sometimes the ghost of “The Dash”, a sunken schooner, possibly a smuggling vessel, Freeport’s own version of “The Black Pearl”. Ghosts aside, the tavern had the best pub fries ever, hot chocolate to die for, and some extremely nice ales (thumbs up for Dr Hyde's angry ale and Gritty's Halloween seasonal).
The entrepid adventurers, then turned away from the coast and headed inland into New Hampshire and we stayed in another 18th century B&B in Hillsborough. Another four poster bed and a gorgeous fireplace furnished lounge. We popped into town and yet another tavern in a historic buidling : “Tooky Mills”. Although unlike most of our tavern visits, this one hadn’t always been a pub in the 19th century it had been an underwear factory – which explained why it’s décor included long johns and bloomers.
Day 5 – We headed into the historic center of Hillsborough, which was quaint as quaint can be. There were a number of traditional crafts shops, and the family aided the New Hampshire economy by spending nearly a thousand dollars in the pewter shop alone. I’m now the proud owner of a tankard the size of my head. Basically a metal bucket with a lid, although technically I have to wait until my birthday next year to use it (it’s a present). The afternoon involved a bit of work and visiting a friend who was giving a lecture/book signing event on killer whales, then off along rural roads, driving through leafy avenues and passing mom and pop convenience stores and maple syrup stalls, as we tootled around New Hampshire. As dusk drew on, the scenery became more and more like “Sleepy Hollow” as if a pumpkin-headed horseman might leap out in front of us at any moment. Very atmospheric.
Vermont was also a great place to stock up on supplies. Any remaining space in the car was filled with cheeses, maple syrup, preserves, beer/cider and other such goodies.
The final night was spent in Bellows Falls, Vermont and we had a slap up final dinner in Leslie’s Tavern (est 1795): mushroom soup, mushroom ravioli and pumpkin cheesecake. Pumpkin spiced beer and local reds. Mmmm.
Leslie's Tavern, VT
Day 6 – Time to get back to Virginia, reality, and less face it, dieting – the trip had been extremely calorific and the liver cells needed a bit of a rest L But all in all, a good time was had by all.