Boston Common roundabout
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!
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
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
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
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.