The Golden Rule of Travel

In a travel email newsletter from Bite-Sized Travel this week, there was a link to a blog post at Outside Online telling Americans to stop telling people that they’re Canadian when they travel. You can read that here. The gist of it urges American travelers to stand up for themselves and their country to Make America Great again. Be proud of where you’re from. They say it makes the traveler lie to people they meet right from the start and it doesn’t fool anyone. (Krista at Bite-Sized Travel says the easiest way to tell an American from a Canadian is to pronounce the letter Z!) It certainly won’t make you any safer traveling abroad.

American travelers pretending to be from Canada is nothing new. It might be an urban myth but I remember hearing that American travelers and backpackers have been sewing the maple leaf on their jackets or luggage even back when I was young, in the 60s and 70s. I’m from Canada so it wasn’t an issue for me. I am what I am. American tourists had a reputation as “ugly”, that is, loud and rude when they travel so people from other countries allegedly didn’t care for Americans. From my limited experience, I can tell you there are loud and rude travelers from pretty much every country, *including* Canada.

Having said that, Canadians do tend to be polite and friendly on the whole. I have a small number of experiences with the perception of where I’m from by someone in a European country when they discover I’m from Canada and not the United States.

The first time came when I was on a school trip to Paris. A few of us were trying to explain to someone in a cafe that we wanted hot dogs but couldn’t quite manage the French needed to make the waiter behind the counter understand. He seemed dismissive and we were getting frustrated. Our French teacher arrived and within the space of a minute, after she explained where we were from and what we wanted, the waiter was all smiles. “Oh, les Canadiennes!” What we got wasn’t quite a hot dog, more of a sausage in a bun but it was served with a smile.

Because the general Canadian English accent isn’t really that different from many of the American regional accents to the foreign ear, I often get mistaken for American and I’m always pleasantly surprised when someone recognizes my accent as Canadian straight off but I do think that my East Coast Canadian accent is a bit more recognizable. I do remember someone asking me a question about products on a shelf in a pharmacy in London that we were both perusing and when she heard my accent, immediately expressed her sympathy. It was about 2 weeks after Sept. 11, 2001. It was very kind of her but I did tell her where I was from but that it was quite frightening to have something like that happen so close to home and there were some Canadians that had died in the towers.

I’ve taken a few bus tours over the years. Most of the time, at least half of the passengers have been from the United States with various other countries represented as well. Sometimes, there have been fellow tourists that have been loud and opinionated and yes, they were from the USA. But there have also been some very lovely passengers from there as well. One older single lady traveling on her own complained through the whole trip. Everyone else sympathised with the other single traveler that was paired with her to share a room (saving that single supplement cost) and the tour guide must have had his work cut out for him. She was from Canada. In stereotypical response, most of the rest of us Canadians on the bus always felt like we should apologize on her behalf! (Canadians have a reputation for apologizing a lot and it’s true, we do!)

One last anecdote: On another bus tour through Italy, a group of 5 or 6 Canadians from Montreal kept themselves to themselves and didn’t join in at all with the rest of the passengers. They used the bus for transportation only and went off on their own all the time while the rest of us mingled and chatted with each other about our own cultures where our respective native languages made it possible. For most of us taking a bus tour, the camraderie between tourist from different countries is part of the fun. So, you see, tourists of all stripes and attitudes can come from any country.

Mainly, though, I haven’t really experienced any difference in attitude in people when they learn where I’m from, one way or the other, though I have had a friend say she’s noticed a thawing from a frosty service person when she’s self-identified as Canadian. It is true that there are a few countries on this planet where the USA is not welcomed and perhaps some travelers feel safer pretending to be Canadians out on the streets. For me, I wouldn’t travel to a country where I wouldn’t feel safe but I’m not an adventurous traveler.

I have had it (smugly) suggested that I am still considered an American because I’m from North America. That person happened to be from Scotland. Right. So, I suggested, it’s perfectly all right to call you European because the U.K. is part of Europe or perhaps I could refer to him as British because he was from the British Isles? That person’s national identity raised his hackles and he insisted that no, he was Scottish. I made my point. He conceded. (In fact, you won’t find anyone from the U.K. agree that they are European, in my experience, and even moreso now since Brexit.)

I think the writer of the Outside blog post is right, American travelers, (or travelers from anywhere) you should be proud of where you’re from and when you travel, just remember the Golden Rule. It all comes down to respect, doesn’t it? If you treat people with respect and use good manners, they’ll respect you in return. Don’t get cranky because things are not the same as at home. You aren’t home! You travel to experience new things. Why would you want them to be the same? If you find that people from other countries assume Americans are rude and obnoxious travelers, prove them wrong and change that reputation.  Travel, enjoy, come home with wonderful memories!

You can see what Krista at Bite-Sized Travel is up to here, and she does a great weekend mailing list with loads of interesting finds about travel, packing and planning and you can also read her blog posts about all the places she’s been and is planning to go.

Where Have I Been?

Galway Bay, Ireland

Galway Bay, Republic of Ireland

It occurs to me that, while I have posted twice before about travel wish lists (here and here , both fairly similar posts, I’m afraid),  I haven’t really made a post listing all the various places I have visited. I’ve probably posted photos from every country I’ve touched down on, or a good many of them at least but a full list, for my own records as much as anything (and probably more detail than you’re interested in), includes:

Countries:

  • Canada (where I live): I have visited the provinces of British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, where I live. We’re going to BC again this fall, my husband’s first trip there, and hope to see a bit more of Vancouver Island and maybe outside of the Vancouver area if we have time.  My husband hasn’t been to Ottawa so we really should go there so he can see the capital of his adopted country.
  • United States. We’ve both visited (me alone and us together) the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, New Jersey (that one’s just mine), Massachussetts. New Hampshire and Vermont were drive-thrus and New Jersey was for a training course so I didn’t see much of it aside from the hotel and training facility, and a little of the countryside on a bus between Parsippany, Newark to Manhattan.
  • United Kingdom including Wales and Scotland but not yet Northern Ireland. Obviously, I’ve spent a lot of time visiting England to see my fella before we were married but I’d already had a handful of visits there before I even met him, including a couple of bus tours.
  • Ireland (a bus tour, Dublin as part of the tour and also just to see friends, twice to see friends in Cobh including a wedding)
  • France (Paris, twice for me, once for him, and I was also in Nice with day trips both east a little ways and west into Monaco which were part of a high school trip)
  • The Netherlands (We took in Amsterdam and the open air museum in Arnhem)
  • Belgium (Brussels, Bruges)
  • Denmark (Copenhagen)
  • Italy (I’ve been on a bus tour around the country including San Marino, a short visit to Rome as part of my high school trip to Rome, Paris and the south of France and we visited Rome a few years ago)
  • Vatican City (Part of the high school tour,  bus tour of Italy and the two of us together)
  • San Marino (a tiny principality in Italy, we stayed here overnight on the bus tour)
  • Monaco (as a day trip from Nice on the high school tour)
  • Iceland (that was just in the airport, changing flights en route to London)
St Peters and Via Concilliazone

St. Peter’s, Vatican City

In the grand scheme of things, my list of countries I’ve visited isn’t that long compared to how many there are but I have made a lot of repeat visits to the United Kingdom.

 

I won’t go into the wish lists again, you can read through those links above if you have a burning desire to know. I won’t be insulted if you don’t!

I’ll never be able to afford to travel as much as I want but I enjoy what I can do and try to go some different places even if I’ve been to a location before, maybe just a museum new to me or a different day trip outside of a city.  I’ve been to London over a dozen times and *still* haven’t seen quite a lot of the areas such as Notting Hill and much of the East End which has a few really interesting museums and loads of markets.

I’m determined to lengthen that “been there” list a little more before I shuffle off my mortal coil.

Oh: Edited to add: I meant to add this link. I’ve got my own website where I have travelogues written for most of the trips I’ve taken, long and short journeys, here at The Voice of Reason.

Travel 2017: B.C. and Hawaii

Vancouver skyline

Vancouver Skyline from the North Vancouver ferry

We didn’t do a lot of traveling last year though we did fit in a couple of road trips. I did go to the UK at the end of March to bring my husband back to Canada for good but there were no other travel opportunities involved aside from driving to Ipswich to spend some time with his family.  We made a quick trip to the Canadian/US border to validate his permanent residency visa and did a road trip around Nova Scotia’s south shore in September which was a lot of fun.

The first trip to book is to go on our delayed honeymoon in November to coincide with his milestone birthday or just before it, actually, since his birthday is late in the month and the later it gets, the more there’s a possibility of weather-related travel delays. The plan will be to fly to Canada’s west coast, visiting Vancouver, Victoria and maybe Parksville and Tofino. We will be able to see some family and friends and do some sight seeing there. We also plan to fly to Hawaii for 4 or 5 days for the “just us” part of the trip.

The first bookings for the trip have been made. I browse through the Aeroplan site frequently, checking out availability and dates and last week I found the best combination. Fail: there was no availability for flying on Aeroplan points in coach class anywhere near the dates. Win: No problem if we want to fly business class on points. Win: I had more than enough points for business class. Win: Every flight we needed has business class seats in exchange for my hard earned points. Booked! Now we can look at specifics for the rest of the trip.

English Bay, Vancouver

English Bay, Vancouver from UBC

An aside: Aeroplan is strange. Some times I’ll search for flights and there will not be anything, and other times there will be and I’m checking the same dates or close enough. What I really find irritating, though, is that you might not get business class for part of the trip but they’ll still charge you the full whack for all those points. I say no. It’s wasting my Aeroplan points if I don’t get to fly business class all the way.  Now, a free flight isn’t free exactly, because they still charge you for taxes and any fees but Aeroplan has changed things. Now you can use points for the taxes as well. Fail: It uses almost as many points for the taxes as it does for the ticket! I don’t think that’s fair but it’s a step in the right direction. Luckily, taxes for two business class tickets to Vancouver only ended up costing under $200 per ticket. Still a win in my book considering the price of those tickets paying cash is over $4300 return.

Market Square, victoria

Market Square, Victoria

Decisions, decisions…

Planning a major trip is all about decisions and then you worry if you’ve made the right ones. Do we rent a car at all and if so, when? What dates will we fly to Hawaii? Earlier in the trip or later? Maybe we should do that at the very end, fly back to Canada  and then home the day after a night in an airport hotel. If we fly back to Victoria, we could actually leave the big suitcases with my aunt and uncle and just go to Hawaii with our carry on rolling bags which would be more convenient.

In the end, I think we’re going to fly to Hawaii from Vancouver even though it will mean taking all our luggage. It looks like we’ll go at the end of the holiday, then stay overnight at an airport hotel on return, and fly home the next night on an overnight flight to Toronto where we’ll change to fly home. Next will be to get the Hawaii flights booked and once that’s done, the rest can fall into place, including picking hotels. In Victoria, though, we’ll stay with family.

Steam clock

Vancouver’s famous steam clock, in Gastown

As always, it’s frustrating trying to decide where to stay. You read many reviews,  you try to read between the lines of the ones that aren’t as good. If a hotel has quite a few negative reviews, it’s off the list. Most places will have some people complaining and then you decide if their complaints are valid and if so, are they deal breakers for you? For instance, I really don’t mind if a hotel room is small but some people do. I want a comfortable bed, free wifi (!), breakfast included if at all possible, and an en suite bathroom. Those are top priorities. A kettle or coffee maker is nice to have and a mini bar  or fridge is a bonus because we can then use the fridge for our own drinks and milk for coffee/tea.

Budget of course matters. I don’t stay at hostels but we can’t spring for anything expensive. For Vancouver, I think it will likely be something along the lines of a Best Western, Comfort Inn or that sort of thing. I’ve no idea what to choose for Hawaii and might actually go to a travel agent for some suggestions. They often can get good deals.

victoria inner harbour

Victoria Inner Harbour

Once the hotels are sorted, we can make lists of things we want to do and see. That’s always fun! It looks like five nights in Oahu with, we hope, 3 full days and a good part of a fourth. We will probably stay 6 nights each  in Victoria and Vancouver, visiting friends and family and seeing the areas. I’ve been to both cities before, but my  husband hasn’t and he’s really looking forward to it.

Planning a vacation adds to the fun, I always found. I make lots of lists but in the end, other than a few things we *must* do/see, the rest if flexible. Stay tuned for more organizational notes and please, if you have any hidden gems for Oahu, or Vancouver, please let me know!

 

Throwback Thursday: New York City 1998

NYC Metropolitan Museum

Metropolitan Museum, August 1998

In the summer of 1998, I had been sent away several times for training courses. One of the destinations was just outside of Boston so I had the opportunity to spend a little time there. The next course was in Parisppany, New Jersey which isn’t all that inspiring but it was possible to catch a bus into New York. It was a journey of about an hour to Port Authority bus terminal. One evening, three or four of us made the trip in and went up the Empire State Building to see the lights of the city come on at twilight. We walked back to Times Square and were wowed by the lights!

At the end of the week, my flight home was not leaving until Sunday so I had all day Saturday to spend. It was early August and stinking hot and humid. I took the bus into the city again and rather than taking a tour or something, my plan of attack was to see several exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum. As you can see from the photo, one of them was about Tiffany and another about the pre-Raphaelites. I also had the chance to see the Unicorn Tapestries that were on show while the uptown branch of the Met, The Cloisters was being renovated.

The thing that really stands out in my memory about the museum, however, was getting to see Monets and Renoirs that they had.  I’m trying to remember if the National Gallery in London had any when I was there in 1993. I do remember seeing Turners and Canalettos there. In my memory, it was the first time I’d seen something by Monet and Renoir, though, so I’ll stick with that. They were stunning, as you might expect!

The Met is enormous, though, and you won’t see it all in one go. I saw what I went to see, the Impressionist galleries and the special exhibits and then took a cab down Fifth Ave. where I was meeting an internet pal that I traded postcards with. He and his wife and I had a quick lunch and when she went back to work (Sak’s Fifth Avenue!), he and I walked around that area, from Fifth Ave. over to Times Square. I picked up some souvenirs, took some photos and just soaked in the atmosphere of Summer in the City.

Eventually, he had to leave and I was hot, sweaty and very footsore. The heat and humidity were really dragging me down by this time so I completely failed to stay in the city and have my evening meal there, I took the bus back to the hotel where I had room service after soaking my feet in the hot tub! You’ve got to know your limitations!

That was my first nibble at the Big Apple. Graham and I went there for a few days in 2013 and did all of the touristy things and saw a show. We’d love to go back again and take our time, walk, go to museums and galleries, take in a show or two, eat fabulous food and shop until we drop!

Fall Road Trip, Part 2 : Boston and home the long way

Boston Common roundabout

Boston Common roundabout

Boston

For our second full day, we are taking the train into Boston, just a 35 minute ride by commuter rail. It was hot today, hotter than yesterday and a little more humid. We had another nice breakfast and walked to the train station which is only about 10 minutes away by foot. There’s a major construction project going on so you have to walk a long way up to the platform rather than take a bus or taxi right in. En route we saw something we didn’t expect, a Tardis! Well, not a real one, a painted electrical service box. Remember where we parked the Tardis, dear!

We arrived at Boston’s North Station which is attached to the arena, formerly the location of Boston Garden, now rebuilt and sucked up into the corporate world like most of the sports arenas around and owned by Toronto Dominion, TD Centre or something is what it’s called now, home to the Boston Bruins (NHL) and the Boston Celtics (NBA) (that’s hockey and basketball, respectively.) Out front of the complex is a statue of former Bruins defence star, Bobby Orr depicted in full flight as he jumped across the goal crease after scoring the winning Stanley Cup goal in 1970. I remember that game!

We went to the main road where we could see the tour trolleys going by from different tour companies. They all pretty much do the same tours and routes so we hailed one that was about to stop. He was more than happy to take our money and we hopped on for the orientation tour of Boston. What we didn’t expect was the comprehensive tour of all the road construction sites in the city and the horrendous traffic in the old historic centre. The poor guide kept apologizing and said he was running out of things to say. He said he had 2 hours of material for what was turning out to be a 3 hour tour!

Faneuil Hall

Faneuil Hall

We skipped the last quarter of the tour, because we were getting bored with sitting and going nowhere fast and walked over to the touristy Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall area. They are two old buildings that were used for plotting revolutions and political things and a market and are now used for art exhibitions, and lots of shops, food stalls, and a tourist information centre. Quincy Market is all food stalls inside and lined with souvenir and arts/crafts stalls along the outside. The old warehouses on either side of the area are also now shops and restaurants. It’s a busy spot but quite pretty on a sunny day like today.

Kurt Cobain's wrecked Guitar. Hard Rock Cafe, Boston

Kurt Cobain’s wrecked Guitar. Hard Rock Cafe, Boston

We wandered through there and then decided to get lunch. Lo and Behold, there’s a Hard Rock Café just behind it so we thought that was as good as any. You can be sure of a good meal there. Our server, Cam I think was his name, was really good, not just with the menu but with our questions about the memorabilia, too. We found out that the chain has specialists that buy memorabilia at auctions or directly from artists or via bequests in wills, too. After we ate, he took us into another room which is used for private functions and showed us some of the items in there which were pretty impressive, and all hidden away from the general public. In here we saw a smashed guitar owned by Nirvana lead Kurt Cobain, one of Madonna’s pointy-busted costumes, and Guitars owned by Eddie Van Halen and also Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead.

We followed the red brick road, so to speak. Boston has a red painted brick trail through the city that you can walk that passes by most of the historic buildings and locations related to the War of Independence in the 18th Century. It’s called the Freedom Trail. We walked past a few of these buildings including the site of the Boston Massacre of 1770. Because it’s so warm, we really didn’t want to walk around too much in the heat and wanted to do something besides just walk around anyway. We decided on the Boston Science Museum and Planetarium and flagged down a taxi to get there quicker than we could walk, even with the traffic, though it likely wouldn’t have been a long walk, maybe about 20 or 30 minutes from where we were. If it wasn’t so warm and our feet not so sore, we could have done it ourselves!

The Science Museum is quite large and though a lot of it is set up for kids to learn via interactive displays, it’s still interesting for adults. They have special shows through the day and there’s an Imax theatre and the planetarium which we particularly wanted to see as neither of us had been to one before. The fee for the museum is a bit pricey then you add on more if you’re going to the Imax and Planetarium shows. You can just pay for those individually outside the museum entrance if you are only attending a show in one of those.

We had a cold drink in the cafeteria while we waited for the Planetarium show at 3:30 which was about moons in the solar system. You sit back and recline and look up. The ceiling is the movie screen with the stars and moons and planets and the rest of the action going on over your head and it’s very cool. The show lasted about 40 minutes. They have different ones through the day and you really could spend all day in the museum seeing the exhibits and shows. We had about 45 minutes before they closed to see some of the other halls so we checked out the maps and models, dinosaurs, the space exhibit that had a couple of space capsule recreations, the Mercury and one of the Apollo mission ones.

By the time we left there at 5 we were done in and it was still quite hot. Since the museums and attractions all closed at 5 anyway and there wasn’t much else to do until we decided to eat, which would be later, so we decided to get the train back to Salem and find somewhere to eat there .

Even though our stay in Boston was brief, it was enjoyable. Boston is a huge city so it’s busy and since the city centre is old, the roads are narrow which clogs up traffic. You’re better off walking or taking the subway (underground/metro) system to get around. There are a lot of really nice buildings, some fine museums and galleries and more history than you can shake a stick at. Boston Common is the oldest one in America, Fenway Park is the oldest baseball park in the league and the shopping and dining is world class. For foodies, there’s a Chinatown and an Italian neighbourhood and there’s lots of excellent seafood. If you’re into sports, it’s a haven with four major league sports teams calling Boston home. (hockey, baseball, football and basketball) Nearby Cambridge is the home of MIT and Harvard Universities and those are also interesting places to investigate.

On our return, we walked back into Salem centre from the Train station, which wasn’t far, and looked into a couple of shops that were still open before coming to the square next to the Bewitched statue. There were several restaurants there, one with a very odd name, Naumkeag Ordinary. Let’s have a look.

The menu wasn’t large but it had some interesting items and they also do specials on Thursdays because it’s Farmers’ Market day and they devise a couple of specials using things they get from the market. We had some lovely apple cider and shared a pate plate to start. Graham had a steak and I had a mustard crusted haddock which was melt in my mouth good. Probably some of the best fish I’ve ever had! Graham’s steak was excellent as well so we did well.

We walked back through the pedestrian street where the Tourist Info centre is. It’s dark now but there are still one or two stores still open and we had a good look round one that had a lot of really off beat souvenirs. We got back to the hotel, another footsore day! The air conditioning felt so good! We chilled out (Ha!) and caught up with emails and things.

The road home

Old Streetcar, Canadian themed

Old Streetcar, Canadian themed

And here we are on Friday evening in a Best Western hotel in Portland, Maine. We got on the road this morning after a light breakfast. Our initial destination was the Kittery Outlet shopping area. It was only about an hour and a bit away from Salem. Graham was successful in his quest for new jeans and sneakers and I found a set of really nice casserole dishes. We had a quick bite to eat and headed back out again. We aren’t sure where we are staying tonight, we’re going to wing it tonight and tomorrow night but it’s still early so we’re going to see what we might discover along the way.

And what we found was the Seashore Trolley Museum  in Kennebunkport. We got to have a 30 minute ride on an exquisitely restored streetcar with narration from a volunteer conductor on the history of public transit in the area. We could wander around the barns and they also have transit cars, train cars, busses and the like all over acres of the site. We looked in the barn where they are currently restoring some trams and trolleys, which can take years. One of the trams they’re working on is from Blackpool! Graham joked that he probably rode on that tram as a kid!

Then we went over to the other barn where the finished cars are and there were some really lovely ones including one with a lot of lacy ironworks, with a Canadian Flag and beaver décor on it! They said it can take 5 or 6 years to completely restore a streetcar due to scarcity of materials and original mechanical parts. I love obscure museums and this one fit the bill but it was just too hot to tramp around for too long! We bought an ice cream and a cold drink in the museum shop and sat in the shade for a bit then headed back to the car. Time to start keeping an eye out for a place to stay and we picked this Best Western hotel in Portland with a government rate of acceptable.

We got an early start the next morning with sunny skies overhead. We expected we might be able to make our way all along the Maine coast back to the Canadian border today. We were wrong.

Portland Head Light

Portland Head Light

Our first stop was the Portland Head Lighthouse which was only a short drive away from the hotel. This is the oldest lighthouse in Maine and was built on instructions from George Washington in 1791. There’s a nice little keeper’s house that has a little museum in it and the views from the park are really wonderful. There’s another lighthouse in the distance called Ram Island Ledge lighthouse which makes a nice point of interest in the photos with the Portland one close up. It was already quite hot so we didn’t tramp around Fort William Park to see the remnants of an old fort. We visited the gift shop and then got on our way.

We decided to follow the US 1 route through the coastal areas though didn’t often actually see the sea. We drove through nice little towns and rural areas though the going was slow, having to shift down to 45, 35 or even 25 miles per hour through the main streets etc. The sun has gone behind the clouds and we wondered if it would rain but it held off and there were still sunny breaks. In one place we went through, we saw a little food stand called Red’s Eats. I don’t know what Red was selling but it must have been damn good because people were lined up around and down the block. There must have been about 50 people or more in the queue!

For our lunch break, we came across a restaurant on the edge of a cove at Lincolnville and thought that might be a good place to stop. It was called The Lobster Pound and Andy’s Brew Pub. We could watch people stroll across the rocky beach poking in the sand for clams, perhaps, with a few boats out on the water. The food was quite good and the service was as well. We didn’t try any of the brew pub’s ale because we were sharing the driving but it looked interesting. It was a large restaurant with almost all good views over the beach.

Away from there, we meandered along but we were finding it a bit frustrating as it was slow going most of the time. We ended up deciding that we’d never get back to New Brunswick tonight if we stayed on this road and we were already 2 days in the car, looking at another one, minimum, plus I needed to be 2 different places tomorrow if at all possible, I couldn’t put either of them off until the next day. It’s Decided. We would break off from the US 1 and head up to route 9 which goes cross country from Bangor to Calais and the border to St. Stephen and stay there overnight. I found a motel in Woodstock, called ahead and booked it and away we went through rural Maine. The road was pretty quiet and we had it to ourselves most of the time.

We had one coffee stop along the way and topped up the gas tank at the point where it rejoined US 1 with the sky going really dark quite quickly. It’s definitely going to rain and sure enough, just as we got back in the car, the rain started to hurl down! Luckily, we were right at the Duty Free shop and I pulled in to the parking lot, intending at least to wait out the worst of the rain. It eased up enough so we went into Duty Free to use up the rest of our American money.

We got to the border just as it was going dark, still raining a bit. We answered the questions, told them how much we’d bought. Yes, one bottle of alcohol. No, no beer or wine or tobacco. I don’t know whether that was the reason (since most people stock up on all those things) but they decided to have a look at our receipts in detail and look through the car. Whatever. We had nothing to hide.

It didn’t take long and we drove across and back into Canada, found the motel in St. Stephen (The Winsome Inn) and once we’d pulled out what we needed for the night, we nipped back down the road to a diner for a meal. The diner was called McNay’s and was an old fashioned no frills place with excellent homemade food. Nothing fancy about the restaurant but sometimes those are the best places and this is one of them.

Our last day was mostly driving again but we stopped in at Moncton to visit friends at lunchtime. It would have been a longer visit but I also needed to stop in Amherst to drop into a funeral home. The husband of a good friend had passed away and the family visitation was from 2-4 this afternoon and I really wanted to stop to see her even if it was just a short visit. It was. We got there about 5 minutes before 4 but they were all still there so I got to see her and talk to her a little.

It’s another 2 hour drive home and by the time we go there, we were more than ready to be out of the car! It took two trips to unload everything and there’s a mountain of laundry to do but we’re here. We really did enjoy the trip and I wouldn’t mind going again. I’d still like to drive through the rest of the coastal Maine area and stop off at all these nice places, shops, lighthouses, and museums. I’d also like to go to Boston again but would likely fly there and stay put for a few days, maybe taking day trips by train to some of the other places in the area, possibly including another visit to Salem. Or not. But road trips are fun and we’ll be doing more of them.

The longer version with more detail, should you prefer it, is here on my main website.
There are more photos here. 

Fall road trip, Part 1 : To Salem

Salem Common Bandstand

Salem Common Bandstand

Well, now, I’ve been absent from my blog for a few weeks, haven’t I? In past trips, I blogged while I traveled but by the end of the day, by the time I’d sorted out my photos and typed up the day’s events, I was too worn out to keep organizing blogs. Thus, I’ve not written a summary of our road trip down through New England until now.

The first part of the trip starts on Monday Morning, Labour Day. We drove from Halifax to Woodstock, New Brunswick on the Trans Canada Highway, crossed over and down Interstate 95. We decided we’d break the trip into two days rather than put in a 10 – 12 hour day driving and stopped over in a Howard Johnson motel in Woodstock. It’s right off the highway, does a basic continental breakfast, gives you free wifi and a bed to lay your head. The room was a good size and the dated décor and furniture has seen better days but it suits the purpose.

While we were there, we drove up the road a bit to see the longest wooden covered bridge in the world at Hartland, New Brunswick and we had a meal in a pub in Woodstock. There’s also a potato chip factory nearby called the Covered Bridge Chip Factory and you can visit that as well, see how they make kettle cooked chips and try samples. They have lots of neat flavours, too. Graham stuck with near-standard flavours like BBQ but I tried Lobster and it was really nice! You wouldn’t expect that to be a tasty potato chip flavour but it was good.

We had a bit of a delay at the border but it didn’t hold us up for long. There’s many miles of not much else but trees through Maine but past Bangor, things got a bit busier. We did run into a thunderstorm of Biblical proportions just as we came into New Hampshire on the Interstate. That was scary. The rain was coming down heavier than I’ve ever experienced inside a car. We really couldn’t see much of anything aside from the red taillights of the car ahead of us. We managed to find an exit and came off the Interstate and ended up on the shoulder of the road because we couldn’t see if there were any businesses or parking lots we could pull into. We waited it out, about 10 minutes or so, with four way flashers on and wipers going. It finally passed off, and we got back on the highway but a little while later, once we were off the Interstate, we drove into it again though we found a parking lot to turn into and this time, it was only a short wait for it to pass. It stopped altogether shortly after and we made our way the rest of the way to Salem, about an hour after we had planned to arrive.

The B&B in Salem, the Amelia Payson House, was easy to find. It is fully air conditioned which was great because it’s turned out really warm and humid. We found it and got registered and had a lovely chat with the owner, Donald. We got our bags up to our room and had a brew to relax for a bit.

Salem Witch Museum at night

Salem Witch Museum at night

The Inn has all the amenities you would expect including free Wifi, a must these days. Right outside our room is the sitting room with a Keurig coffee maker. Donald brought me some teabags and milk which was much appreciated. We had our drinks and headed out for a walk to find somewhere to eat. Donald had recommended a place which turned out to be not far away. I think a lot of the attractions in Salem are going to be close together. We went to the Salem Beer Works where we had some very interesting beers and Graham had an epic double burger. I had a Cajun dish that had just the right amount of heat. Yum!

We have one full day in Salem and we’re going to make the most of it, at least until we come apart at the seams. Breakfast was fresh waffles and fresh fruit, lovely! We got trolley tour tickets from Ada and headed out. The inn is only around the corner from the Salem Witch Museum so we went there first. This place isn’t a museum as such, rather, it has two presentations, one describing the witch trials and hysteria from 1692 and the other with someone talking about witches, Wiccan, and witchcraft and its general history. The first presentation had scenes with mannequins set up all around the room, one scene at a time with lights enhancing the descriptive narration. Quite well done. The trolley tour guide later told us they had consulted Disney in this so it makes sense they’d have done it right.

Around another block, we waited by the visitor centre where the Salem Trolley Tour picks up punters. We had about a 10 minute wait for it and away we went. The weather, by the way, is excellent today. It’s sunny and hot for sure but there’s very little humidity and there’s a bit of a breeze just when you need it.

The trolley takes you around the centre of the City in a general figure 8 route, heading down past the harbour first and out around by a big park and newer areas before heading into the city centre again to go through the older neighbourhoods where some historic houses are and some really beautiful old mansions are on Chestnut Street. The guide was quite good and talked about all kinds of things, from the witches, to Nathaniel Hawthorne to city rivalries. I do like when tours are narrated by live human beings rather than pre-recorded information.

Salem Waterfront

Salem Waterfront

We did the whole tour route and got off back at the visitor centre. We decided to walk down to the waterfront which was quite nice. There has been a lot of new development there and some nice restaurants looking over the inner harbour area. We looked at some menus and decided on a restaurant called Capt’s where I had a New England specialty, the lobster roll. This one was really good, with lots of lobster in it. It was piled high on the bun and a bit messy to eat, guaranteeing you’ve got your money’s worth! We even had dessert which we don’t always have room for.

We walked around the pier where the large old tall ship, the FriendShip was but it was closed so we couldn’t go on board. We walked back and just missed the trolley. We were going to take it back to the Witch Dungeon attraction but it’s just as well we missed it as we would have missed out on two other things that we decided were very cool.

The first of these was a little printing shop that also carried all kinds of unusual works from local artists, it’s all gothic and new age and that kind of thing which we both like. It’s called the Scarlet Letter Press and Gallery. The owners were very interesting and I think the man that does the printing had a fair bit in common with Graham, at least with the kinds of films they both like!

Onward. We walked back towards the tourist centre, passing lots of shops geared towards the witch tourist trade, some looking pretty hokey and some that were much less the type that would attract the bog standard tourist, shops that someone that actually practices Wicca or other new age practices would frequent. There are shops that advertise Tarot readings, one that said it was a school of witchcraft and wizardry, shops where you can buy any manner of fantasy themed or creepy ornaments, artwork, books, posters and jewelry.

The next thing we found that we’d have missed if we’d have caught the trolley was a movie monster museum called Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery. It was very dark inside but lit enough so that you could see the monsters and read the cards. It showed a lot of the old movie monsters from the 1920s on through the 80s and 90s including Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Werewolves, Pumpkinhead, Freddie Kreuger, and many more. Graham knew them all! I knew the old ones but am not as familiar with many of the modern horror movies other than obvious ones like The Exorcist, Silence of the Lambs and some of the series of films like Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street.

There were lots of old movie posters and a lot of signed photographs of an awful lot of movie actors from both the old and new eras. The accompanying music reminded me of the kind of scary music they’d play with the old silent or very early talking horror movies. Wonderful stuff!

Near the Old Burying Point

Near the Old Burying Point

We stopped at a Dunkin Donuts for a cold drink. That’s the American equivalent of Tim Horton’s. Apparently it was started in Massachusetts. More trudging as we’re starting to get footsore by now. We came back up behind the Peabody Essex Museum which is supposed to be really good but it’s very large so would take a few hours to get through. They have a house that was transported from China which we could see from the outside. It’s also across from an old burying ground with some graves of some very early settlers.

We stopped in a few shops along the way and finally got to our destination by foot rather than trolley, the Witch Dungeon museum. Again, it’s not really a museum as such, more of a presentation with some exhibits. They have a live performance which we expected to be much longer than it did. There’s a brief explanation of how the witch trials crisis started and then it depicted a pre-trial hearing where one of the young girls that was embroiled in the accusations against many of the men and women in the village was confronting an older woman. It probably wasn’t more than 5 or 10 minutes then we were ushered downstairs to a representation of the jail (gaol) and dungeon where the accused were kept with some more narration. Except we were told the real jail would have had a dirt floor. This didn’t. And the real jail didn’t have cells. This did. And the real jail was actually in a different location. What was the point, really?

Oh well, live and learn. We had to think about what to do for our evening meal. We are both tired and sore and thought that since we’d had a large meal at lunch, we would just buy some sandwiches and have them in the room tonight. We often do that after a long day walking around. Getting old!

Since we’d found ourselves back at the visitor centre we decided to go in and they told us about a deli inside the little mall next door. We found it, got some sandwiches and drinks there and we finally made it back to the B&B about 5 p.m., totally worn out. The Air Conditioning sure felt good as did a cold drink to rehydrate. Boston tomorrow will be another long day so we should plan that.

Impressions of Salem:

Beautiful old mansions and houses, brick and wooden, brightly painted and well preserved. Centre of the city is easy to navigate and all the main things are close at hand. Seems to be some really good restaurants and lots of unique shops. Somewhat tatty and exploitive of the witch connection when it’s really quite a historic place but it’s claim to fame ended up being the Witch Trials and that sealed it’s reputation. That’s what brings the tourists in. It’s mayhem at Halloween! Some of the attractions related are very good and very well put together and some are just hokey. Same goes for the shops. The trolley tour is very good, I’d recommend that. There are parks and squares and the waterfront is quite nice, too. It’s a good place to base yourself if you’re visiting the area, both Boston and some of the nice towns in the area. We would like to go again and stay longer and explore more of the area.

Part 2 of the trip coming soon.

The longer version with more detail, should you prefer it, is here on my main website.
There are more photos here.

The Next Road Trip – Maine

Our next trip is going to be a road trip. We decided to head down into New England, with the end destination being Salem, Massachussets where there be witches! We really enjoyed the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle, in Cornwall (UK) and wanted to see the American version. The museums around here will focus on the Witch trials, no doubt and be just as interesting. We’re also going to take the train or the ferry into Boston for a day as well. I’ve been to Boston but he’s not been there and it’s quite a nice city.

We’ll probably do the hop on hop off tour and then wander around. Boston has a good Fine Arts museum, that’s a possibility or we could just soak in the atmosphere of the city.

I had thought we’d take the more southern route, crossing at st. Stephen/Calais, Maine and taking an older road, called the “Airline” (route 9), maybe staying over in Bangor but according to Google, it takes just as much time to go north further into New Brunswick on the Trans Canada highway, past Fredricton and cross over at Woodstock/Houlton and take the I95 down to Salem. I suppose, it’s all highway so it would be faster. I think we might do that and break the journey overnight at Woodstock, as it’s quite a long day to drive all the way through, even just to Bangor which is 3/4 of the way by the time you get that far.

Coming home, we do plan to travel along Route 1 along the Maine coast, exploring. Seaside towns, lighthouses and gorgeous scenery. Might even go to Campobello Island and come back into Canada that way, by ferry from there to Deer Island to the mainland. We can decide when and where to stop on the road and pick a little motel along the way, or two and take our time coming back. We will also plan to make a stop or two at the famed outlet shopping areas of Kittery and Freeport if time allows.

And Time Will allow for at least one shopping stop, if I have my way :)

We’ve got a B&B booked for Salem, Amelia Payson House which looks lovely. The lady I spoke to was very nice, too so I think we’ll be happy there. We’ll book a hotel in Woodstock but the other nights we will be on the road, we probably won’t book ahead of time. Could be interesting!

New York birthday memories

A few weeks ago, I posted a few cartoons that my fella does for me as my annual birthday card. Often they are based on where we’d traveled in the previous year. This year’s card was based on our trip to New York City last May. One of the things he really was looking forward to was going up to the top of the Empire State Building, and mentioned several times King Kong. Now, See, I would have been more romantic, with thoughts of Sleepless in Seattle and An Affair to Remember.

I expected the cartoon to have some sort of NYC theme but I didn’t expect this:

Birthday-2014sm

You can also see that I have a camera in my hand, which is pretty typical of me. No matter what’s going on, I’ll be likely to take a photo before running off to safety! He joked “Oh, let’s go to New York, she said. It’ll be nice this time of year, she said. The view from the top of the Empire State Building would be great, she said”

He wanted to make sure the cartoon looked authentic so looked around the net for photos of the building in the 1930s when the original King Kong movie was made and wanted the Chrysler building in it as well so you knew for sure it was NYC. Utterly brilliant!