Archive for the ‘USA’ Category

Pic transit…

As promised, a few photos from our protracted journey from North to South America.

The curly tip of Cape Cod, with Provincetown on the end.

Martha’s Vineyard, including Chilmark and Tisbury (for us Wiltshire folk)

Yet another boring airport… Is this really Darkest Peru?


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In transit

(and not sic this time, we hope). Just time for a cursory report from Boston Logan Airport as we sit here waiting for Flight AA4619 to JFK. We got here around 11am after dropping the car off (Hertz are astonishingly efficient at checking the cars back in – they are waiting ready with a scanner, you empty the car and hand over the keys, then the cars pass through a 16-station car-wash and who knows what else; quite a production line).

Earlier this morning we had a small breakfast of cereal at the motel – none of us feeling especially hungry – and then went to see the animals again. The girls were each handed a young rabbit to hold for a while, and then they fed the goats with Applejacks (cereal). Afterwards there was time for a paddle in the pool as the morning warmed up.

For the first time in this trip we are paying for internet access – we thought it worthwhile because it’s getting on for a six-hour wait at the airport and there isn’t much to entertain the girls here (the newsagents have nothing for the littlies or the slightly less-littlies). So they have been playing games on the Disney Channel website to pass the time, while we have been able to check emails, etc.

It’s a long haul ahead of us; we get to New York at 7pm before flying out again at quarter to midnight… (wish us luck!) – we then arrive in Lima at 6.30 tomorrow morning and wait around in the airport until 3.50pm for our final 1½-hour flight down to Arequipa. Good thing we’re going to be collected and driven to our Hostal, or so we hope.

Once again, we’d like to thank you for all your feedback; we seem to be getting between 50 and 80 page views per day, so please do introduce yourself if you haven’t left a comment before…

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State of the Union

So here we are at the end of Part I; our time in the USA is coming to a close. What are the highlights for us?

For Tim:

  • The perfect beach at Manomet
  • Lobster chowder on Cape Cod
  • The whole week in Lancaster County
  • Root’s Auction farmers’ market
  • Squam Lakes Natural Science Center
  • The views from Bald Rock and Cadillac Mountain
  • Union Fair and the Flying Wallendas

For Kirsten:

  • the Amish Farm Feast
  • our time in Amish country experiencing their peace and quiet
  • our hike up to Bald Rock
  • riding on a horse called Blue at Pico Mountain
  • the girls’ happy faces when riding horses, playing on beaches, making up games/stories
  • Ellen riding a bike
  • Hannah swimming in the sea
  • fresh, warm blueberry pie at Union Fair
  • the sweetest corn on the cob ever

Some ‘firsts’ for some or all of us:

  • Climbing a mountain
  • Exploring caves
  • Hiking (part of) the Appalachian Trail
  • Whizzing down an Alpine Slide
  • Riding a horse
  • Riding a bike with no stabilisers
  • Jumping on a bungy trampoline
  • Travelling by ski-lift and gondola
  • Meeting Amish, Mennonite and Wampanoag people – and the Flying Wallendas
  • Riding in an Amish wagon
  • Encountering black bears, chipmunks, skunks, bobcats, hummingbirds and an opossum – and lots  of goats…
  • Seeing Abraham Lincoln’s hat
  • Going up inside a lighthouse
  • Eating lobster, Whoopie and Shoo-fly Pie
  • Attending a blueberry-spitting contest

On a more prosaic level, our average daily costs have been:
Accommodation: $115
Living costs: $75 (everything else except for car hire and souvenirs)

Top bargains:
£1.35 in total for numerous international land-line phone calls via Skype
$25 (£15) each time to fill up the car with gas

So – are the days treading more slowly for us? No, but they’re leaving deep, deep footprints…

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Moody’s Diner

Time to move on, once again. It  took longer than we expected to pack the remaining bits and pieces (perhaps because we are getting ready for our next flights) and we left our Maine farmhouse a little after 10am following a final chat with Steve, the owner.IMG_2616

Not long afterwards we pulled over at Moody’s Diner. I noticed it on the way up, and then read about how it’s something of an institution round here – so we thought we’d stop by for a coffee.

Moody’s dates back to 1927 and it has remained a family business ever since (31 descendants currently work there), as well as retaining a traditional diner atmosphere.

We ordered our coffees (and juices for the girls) and then wondered about a mid-morning snack to go with the drinks. The girls went for a final Whoopie Pie each (huge!) while we thought that a blueberry pancake would do nicely. The waitress queried whether we wanted one order of two pancakes, or two separate plates – so we were somewhat gobsmacked when two plates arrived, each with a stack of three thick pancakes – plus oodles of syrup with which to drench them (oh, and free refills of coffee – something you don’t get very often nowadays).

So we ended up with an unexpected (but utterly delicious) brunch for only $15 – the prices are as retro as the décor…IMG_2620

After a quick whizz around their gift shop (the diner is adorned with photos of intrepid travellers wearing Moody’s T-shirts anywhere from Alaska to Antarctica – the favourite slogan is ‘I’m a Moody person’) we pressed on down Route 1 (which runs down the east coast as far as Florida).

Here is today’s selection of random snapshots from the passenger window:


Our final ‘Maine-ly’ before we entered New Hampshire.

One of the many personalised number plates (there is a seven character limit, and longer words are abbreviated by eliminating vowels, texting-style).


As we headed south in Maine, it became increasingly touristy; around Kennebunk the road was lined with motels, holiday parks and restaurants; what would anyone come here to see (apart from the packed beaches)?

The weak puns continued; Mainely Maine is plainly lame, while Able to Cane and Clair de Loon (i.e. the bird) are trying too hard. However, I must admit that Bait’s Motel (near Searsport) is a decent effort. But it’s not endemic to Maine; New Hampshire soon brought us C’est Cheese.

We stopped at a Subway for a drink (no need for lunch) and had a little difficulty in finding our pre-booked motel in Seabrook; it was Ellen who first spotted the elusive Best Western sign. Anyway, we checked in around tea time and checked out the children’s play area (welcome exercise after another long day in the car).

There is also a petting zoo (yet more goats…), assorted water play areas and a flaccid inflatable obstacle course. Unfortunately, a man informed us that there weren’t enough children staying for any of the promised free activities to run (power bikes, pony rides, Ferris wheel – about 6 feet in diameter, train ride) which was a bit of a disappointment. “They’ll be running tomorrow” (start of Labor Day weekend) – but we’ll be long gone by then.

Out to another Subway for supper.
“What would the kids like to drink?”
“I’m sorry?”
“What is that?”

In the end we established that they would like wahder. But they didn’t have any. So we paid for a fizzy drink they wouldn’t consume and had to buy a bottle of water from the garage shop next door. [This shop also sold wine called Three Blind Moose. ‘No idea’ what that’s about (sorry…).]

Our room is large, clean, modern and quiet and we get a sit-down breakfast tomorrow morning. Thank you again, TripAdvisor.

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Lively Lady Too

 We woke up to yet another beautiful day – blue sky, sunshine, hardly any clouds and the perfect temperature.

After breakfast we headed down to Camden to check out the “Lobster Boat”; according to one leaflet the boat would leave at 11am, another leaflet said 10.30am. When we tracked the organisers down in the harbour they explained there would only be one daily trip at 1.30pm! (it’s the end of the season hence only one trip a day instead of three).

Right, we put our names down and went back to Lincolnville Post Office to find out how best to send a parcel back to the UK.  The lady was extremely friendly and went out of her way to help us.  She handed us two different sized (free) postage boxes for us to take back home and try out.  We managed to get the girls’ books, Amish dolls and horseshoes in the smaller box and sent it at the slightly cheaper rate of $40 instead of nearly $55 (that would  have been the “flat rate” no matter the weight of the parcel).

Since we had some time on our hands, we decided to group all our belongings (clothes, electrical stuff, overnight bag, notebooks, etc.) ready for our departure tomorrow.  It also meant that we could really relax and enjoy our boat trip this afternoon.

At about 1.30pm we boarded the Lively Lady Too, together with another couple and a family with two small children.IMG_2585

Camden harbourIMG_2587

The captain and his helper pulled up a lobster trap and overloaded us with information about lobsters.  Now we know that legal lobsters are those of the correct length (there are different lengths for male and female lobsters), any lobsters that are too short are thrown back.  Also female lobsters with eggs will have one of their tailfins notched and released back into the sea.  They notch a tailfin to avoid someone else removing the eggs and trying to sell the lobster (no-one will buy a lobster marked in this way).  The two most interesting facts about lobsters are that they can’t see anything stationary and they don’t have any memory at all. IMG_2591


After the captain expertly put bands on the lobster’s claws the children were asked if they would like to hold it.  Not one little person felt brave enough, so the lobster was passed to Tim to hold and show to the children.  Ellen and the little boy then had the courage to stroke it.  IMG_2603

We also came across this group of Harbor seals and were told they were not sunbathing but storing up oxygen.  They can then stay under water for up to half an hour – Hannah thought this fact was pretty fascinating.  IMG_2606

On the way back to the harbour, the children were invited to steer the boat, but again Hannah & Ellen declined.  All in all we found this boat trip very informative and fun and would strongly recommend it to other visitors.IMG_2609


Once back on firm ground we immediately headed for the nearest ice cream stall and treated ourselves to yet another ice cream – cookie dough again for the girls, Maine maple walnut for Tim and Moose Tracks for me (vanilla & chocolate with chocolate & peanut butter chips).

Tim had had a nagging headache all day and was feeling pretty tired, so after I finished a little more packing the girls and I went to our local beach one last time.  We will miss it, but we also know that we will come across many more breathtaking places before heading back home.

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Et in Acadia ego

It’s a clear day, it’s not the week-end, the Union Fair isn’t on – so the time is ripe for driving ‘down east’ to Mount Desert Island, a good 70 miles from where we are staying.

It’s the home of the only National Park in this corner of the USA, and there’s a clue in the title… Acadia is indeed a corruption of Arcadia, and is associated with French settlers (Cajun is a further southern corruption).

Many people spend a whole week in this area, and we had but one day. The lady in the Visitor Center recommended doing the highlights in reverse order to avoid the crowds, and we took her advice.

First we drove up Cadillac Mountain (named after the French explorer, not the automobile), the peak of which is the first part of the USA to see the sun rise (in autumn and winter, at least). On a day such as today, the views are spectacular – Kirsten’s panorama ran to nine photographs, which I don’t think I can squeeze into this blog, but it’ll make the photo-book we produce one day…

Anyway, here is a selection of our shots:

Trails are marked with cairns rather than gaudy coloured markers.

A view down towards Bar Harbor with its five ‘porcupine’ islands (Bar, Sheep Porcupine, Burnt Porcupine, Long Porcupine and Bald Porcupine).

The sky was ridiculously blue (but not as deep a colour as we’ll get in the Andes, perhaps).

The clouds casting island shadows…


Three ladies on the summit, ready to greet the sun’s first rays (if we’d got there six hours earlier).

Then the long and winding road down again.

We stopped at Bear Brook for a picnic lunch, then drove on round the one-way loop road to the imaginatively-named Sand Beach (well, it is the only sandy beach on the island). The girls had a good run around, but no swimming today; the water is notoriously cold here, and there were three-foot breakers.


Thence to Thunder Hole – not a James Bond film, but a Pancake Rock sort of thing where waves are funnelled through a narrow channel in the rocks and spurt spectacularly with a great deal of noise (or they do at high tide). We still experienced something akin to the thuds of Salisbury Plain shelling.

By this time it was getting near 4 o’clock so we scooted around the rest of the loop, skipping intriguing stops such as Bubble Rock in order to get to Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium in Bar Harbor for a nice ice cream. We know well enough by now to order the Small option every time, and if Hannah’s Cookie Dough cone was small, the large one must be served in a traffic cone… Ellen had hers in a bowl (to prevent dribbles), Kirsten had Mocha Chip and I tried their trademark KGB – Kahlua, Grand Marnier and Baileys. (I was allowed to drive home some of the way.)

We had promised ourselves a proper lobster meal before we left the States, and once we got home we did a quick change of clothes and popped down to The Lobster Pound on Lincolnville Beach. The girls were given the mandatory colouring sheet and crayons and ordered the mandatory chicken and chips. We asked about sharing a crustacean and were instead offered twin lobsters (how do they know?) for a very reasonable price (about £7 a piece), so that’s what we went for – see below:

Eating them was a bit of a lobstacle course (we’ve never done this before), figuring out which bits of shell to crack and how to wheedle out the meat with our special forks – and which bits not to eat (anything green got the red light). These were of the soft shell variety – less meat, but sweeter and more tender compared with hard-shell lobsters.

Yes, we enjoyed the meal (including our starter of mussels) but you don’t get much edible lobster per pound weight – good thing there were fresh bread rolls and side orders of salad and baked potato.

Finally, do you all know the three famous crustaceans to be found in London…?

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Lighthouse Family

An end to the rain this morning, although the sky was still overcast. We drove south to Camden and followed the two-mile Scenic Route to Rockport – supposedly ‘the prettiest walk in the world’, according to Yankee magazine, but I wouldn’t go that far. Only the occasional glimpse of the ocean, and the much-vaunted Belted Galloways were far in the distance (we got up close at Friday’s Fair). Admittedly, fall is the best time for this drive/walk, so we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

Then down to Rockland breakwater – and its lighthouse. You walk out along the breakwater (built with a mind-boggling 768,774 tons of stone, all neatly jigsawed together) for nearly a mile, as long as it’s low tide and the sea is calm (which it was).

And then you arrive at the 1902 lighthouse, again a relatively squat construction compared with your tall and slender Brittany ‘spears’. The lighthouse keeper lives alongside and behind the light, rather than below.


We looked around the keeper’s accommodation (used until 1963, and currently just bare rooms with old photos) as well as the lighthouse itself. The latter appears to be solar powered, judging from the above photo; a slight drawback, one might think.

Then the near-never-ending walk back along the breakwater, leaping over the deep cracks between boulders. This area (like so many in Maine) is used for lobster traps, so this photo could be subtitled ‘girls and buoys’…

We returned home for lunch, stocking up with lots of bread and pastries at Hannaford’s to see us through our last few breakfasts, lunches and teas. Then down to Lincolnville Beach to keep the girls happy. Quite a fresh breeze today, so we kept fleeces on although the girls ran around with just their swimming costumes on for most of the time. Here they are ‘surfing’ on bits of driftwood.

And here is a windjammer tacking into the wind on its way back to Camden Harbo(u)r.

(Kirsten) Ellen and I were approached by a friendly lady and two girls (her daughter Sydney, aged 7 and friend Tara, aged 8) who wanted to get to know Ellen & Hannah and maybe play tag together on the beach or paddle in the “hot tubs” the girls had dug out earlier.

The lady explained she grew up on Islesboro, an island we could see in the distance (she even managed to point out the house she grew up in) and suggested  a couple of activities we could try out on our way to Acadia National Park.

Something else that fascinated the girls was a man who kept walking up and down the beach with a metal detector.  Every time he stopped to dig up some sand they went over to watch from a distance.  One time he stopped to have a chat with us, turned out he was originally from Glasgow (his wife from Sussex), and had come to the States at the age of 19. 

It is exactly people like this friendly lady and man that make a place even more interesting and memorable and that’s what I really like about travelling.

Despite the fresh breeze we did manage to have an afternoon snack of cookies and crisps and pink lemonade on the beach (a hot coffee would have gone down really well, actually).  But about half an hour later we were defeated by the cool breeze and headed back home so the girls could have a warm bath/shower before supper.

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