Nice old New England

Trip Start Apr 14, 2010
Trip End Apr 16, 2011

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Flag of United States  , Vermont
Wednesday, October 12, 2011

We finally bid goodbye to our friends in Toronto and headed on for what was now feeling like the very final leg of our incredible trip. We were heading east to Montreal before working our way down through New England to Washington DC and finally to New York where our flight home was booked for just a few weeks time.

We decided to break up the drive to Montreal with a stop at the Thousand Islands (of salad dressing fame) for a short cruise in the hope of seeing some of the famous autumn colours of the region.  It turned out that several coachloads of Japanese tourists had had the same idea so we decided to wait for a later boat and enjoy lunch on the waterfront in the sunshine, giggling smugly as the boat left with people packed round the rails like sardines.  The cruise was very pleasant but the leaves, whilst pretty, weren't quite as spectacular as we’d hoped so we headed on in the hope of finding more colour as we headed east

After a fun night in Montreal, which we really enjoyed but kept being surprised by how very French it felt, it was time for our final border crossing of the trip as we headed down in the States once more.  It was also nearly our least successful border crossing.  Sarah’s passport dunking had so far drawn a couple of comments from the border guards but not been a problem, but this time she also needed to get a new border stamp as her 3 month US visa was only valid until 19th October and we weren’t flying home until the 20th..  Oh, and you couldn’t really read that the date on the stamp as the ink had run.

Shouldn’t be a problem we thought, we’ll just explain and they can restamp it.  What we hadn’t figured on was the technicalities of the visa-waiver programme which, as the border guard patiently explained to us, means you can only get a new 3 month entry to the US if you’ve been back home in between.  As in to the UK.  Urrrr, uh oh.  After a very worrying few minutes of discussion between the border guards, common sense thankfully prevailed and they agreed to give Sarah a new stamp.  PHEW.  We gratefully took back the newly stamped passport and headed on into the USA before they could change their minds.

Our first stop back in America was to drive through Vermont to the Green Mountains.  We managed to get a great deal on a gorgeous little hotel in the middle of nowhere and spent the afternoon taking the cable car up a nearby mountain and walking to the highest point in Vermont.  We could barely stand a the top as there was a biting wind trying to take our feet from under us but we managed to brace ourselves for long enough to drink in the view of the mountains heading off in either direction with the valleys in between carpeted in a red, orange, yellow and green patchwork of trees.

On our way back to the hotel we spotted a sign to the 'Trapp Family Lodge’ and Sarah nearly crashed The Tank in her excitement.  For those of you that don’t know it, Sarah’s family the Beards are a little obsessed with The Sound of Music having watched it practically every week during her childhood, and we’d stumbled across the hotel that the actual family von Trapp had set up and lived in when they fled Austria.  Of course there was no option but to go and visit it – for the record it’s a nice, slightly Austrian chalet-feeling but no doubt over-priced hotel with lovely views over a Vermont valley and they make very good beer.  We even found a postcard to send to Sarah’s parents of the real Maria von Trapp.  Brilliant.

Having been a little disappointed with the foliage in Canada, the further east we headed the more dramatic the colours became until we found ourselves stopping every 5 minutes to get yet another photo of yet another spectacular tree.  This was certainly the case as we headed through the mountains into New Hampshire to Mount Washington and we were really looking forward to heading up it in the morning.  Unfortunately once more the weather had other plans and we woke up to a pea-souper fog and realised there was no point paying the exhorbitant cog railway fee (more than $60 each!!) to go up the mountain to see the inside of more clouds.  So instead we headed on east towards Maine and arrived in the early afternoon in fog and rain at the lighthouse on the Pemaquid Pensinsular, and our most easterly point in North America.  It felt very odd looking out over the Atlantic thinking back to the last time we’d seen an ocean when we’d finally left the Pacific coast in Vancouver about 3,500 miles away, knowing that across the water, only a little over 3,000 miles away, was home.

We’d found a hotel a little further down the coast in the supposedly gorgeous fishing town of Boothbay Harbour (it seemed a cute little town but in the horizontal rain it was hard to appreciate quite how pretty it might be).  It turned out we were there for the last weekend before the hotels closed up for the season and for some reason the hotel clerk to a shine to us and when we got to our room it turned out to be a suite about the size of our flat with a wraparound balcony looking out over the harbour.  Wow.

For us Maine had meant only one thing – lobsters – so we were pleased to see that we’d definitely come to the right place as the harbour was lined with lobster restaurants advertising things like ‘2 lobsters for $20’.  Given the weather it seemed a perfect afternoon to settle ourselves in a cozy pub for some backgammon until it was lobster-eating time, and that’s exactly what we did.  The pub turned out to be THE place to be in town and our afternoon of backgammon then turned into a huge lobster dinner, followed by more backgammon and chat, then a country band which had us singing ridiculous ‘country’ songs at each other and even dancing with the family of one of the band members.  The lobsters were amazing and served in true healthy American style with a plastic bib and a big bowl of melted butter to dip in.  Yum yum yum.  The backgammon was also epic and the victory dancing ridiculous with Sarah sneaking in a win having been 4-0 down (Gordon claims she purposefully got him drunk.  Whatever works.)

Next morning the weather had completely cleared and we woke with pounding heads to sunshine sparkling off the harbour and amazing views from our sumptuous suite.  We spent the day driving slowly south along the coast stopping for strolls at some stunning viewpoints, driving by George Bush Snr’s holiday house and even a making quick detour to a Designer Shoe outlet to fill up the last of our baggage allowance for the flight home.  We stopped for the evening in the holiday town of Ogunquit with its huge wide beach and, yup, lots more lobster restaurants.  Despite having eaten like kings just the night before we weren’t quite sick of lobster yet and found ourselves at the ‘Lobster Pound’ which might be one of our favourite places we’ve eaten.  Having taken a table you then went outside to the huge lobster & crab tank, chose which ones you wanted and they were taken straight out to the huge seawater steamers behind, arriving on our plates minutes later.  Simple, good value and utterly scrumptious.  We knew we’d like Maine.
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