Archive for the ‘New Hampshire’ Category

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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On Golden Pond

Sunshine through the curtains early this morning heralded a return to blue skies and proper summer weather. We had a quick breakfast in the Reception area of our motel (standing up, and a limited but adequate choice of cereal or a toasted bagel with cream cheese). The owner, Mr Patel, was most helpful with ideas of where to go and where to eat, his low-key yet friendly approach a refreshing change from the well-intentioned but in-yer-face “And how are we all today? Awesome!” that prevails.

So Squam Lakes Natural Science Center it was – a shortish drive through our latest local Plymouth (those English place-names always seem to need qualifying with a State – there are multiple Manchesters, doubled-up Danburys, several Salems). Now Squam Lake was used as the location for the film On Golden Pond, and many businesses on the banks cash in on the fact; The Inn on Golden Pond, The Manor on Golden Pond, etc. Sounds prettier than The Inn on Squam Lake, admittedly…

But this New Hampshire area is certainly worth seeing, especially on a fine day like this. Not all twee, antiquey and maple-syrupy like much of Vermont but a rugged yet picturesque land of moose, bears and lumber trucks. The official state motto is Live Free or Die, and this appears on all car licence plates.

Anyway, the FairFX card took another hit as we bought our tickets for the Nature Center, but we are agreed that it was money well spent; we stayed there for a good five hours and found it hard to drag the girls away at the end.

Several ‘show and tell’ sessions presenting animals we would not otherwise see in the park, starting with a turtle talk for children at 10.30am.

Comparing and contrasting a box turtle (left) with a wood turtle (right), and the children could get up close at the end. And I didn’t realise that the box turtle can shut itself away completely, thanks to a hinged portion of shell, as if in a box. Nor that if the temperature is low, offspring are male, with warmer weather yielding female hatchlings.

The second session we attended featured an opossum (Latin for ‘oh, I’m Mabel’… although we were told that they never gave their wild animals names). She looked a bit dazed by the bright daylight but the intern presenter kept her busy with bits of fruit to snuffle after. They live a mere two or three years compared with the turtle’s 75+ years and so have large litters often exceeding the 13 babies who can fit in the pouch (they are related to kangaroos). They have a rat-like, prehensile tail as well as a fearsome bite.

Around the main trail were several enclosures showing native New Hampshire wildlife including bobcats,

mountain lions and black bears (but no tigers – oh my!) [Sorry, that’s an over-worn cliché.]

We stopped for a sandwich lunch in Kirkwood Gardens, a delightfully tranquil spot just outside the park.

Time for more meandering after lunch, and we seemed to be the only visitors to go the extra third of a mile around an ‘ecotone trail’ (following the boundary between two different habitats – woodland and meadow). We got a better view of a chipmunk doing its thing, having its snack while we enjoyed another maple cream biscuit.

There were several ‘ones that got away’ – the darting of a hummingbird to and from a feeder tube was too quick for me to snap, and the mountain lions remained in their cool cave, safely out of reach of my camera’s automatic exposure.

There were many interactive exhibits (i.e. buttons to press, puzzle pieces to place, information wheels to turn, flaps to lift, earpieces to listen to) – most of it worked and it kept the girls interested to the extent that they wanted to do everything again and again! We only lured them away with the promise of trying our motel outdoor swimming pool, and this was just what we needed on a warm, busy day. We also had the whole pool to ourselves again…

We took Mr Patel’s recommendation for our evening meal and drove three miles to the Italian Farmhouse, part of a highly-regarded local chain called the Common Man. We were a little taken aback to find a huge car park with barely any spaces left – perhaps there was a big event on and we wouldn’t find a table. We gave it a try nevertheless, and were told there would be a 35-minute wait – it’s simply a really popular place with the locals, even on an ordinary Tuesday evening.

So we took a seat and nibbled bread as we waited – again, there were books and puzzles to help pass the time (and pictures to colour for the girls). Pretty well on cue we were shown to our table in the main restaurant – no shoving young families away out of sight – and then the customary attentive service, even to the point of the manager, Paul (whom we had noticed earlier as a very hands-on, get-stuck-in sort of guy) introducing himself later on and hoping we had enjoyed our food. The sheer numbers seemed to be stretching the staff to the limit (never a moment’s rest) without compromising the quality of service or causing noticeable stress.

We had an excellent two-course meal with coffee for well under £10 a head. The girls had spaghetti with chicken/sausages (the best Ellen had tasted) and no marinara sauce by special request; Kirsten chose a lovely succulent chicken and spinach lasagna and I rose to the challenge of a 12″ Meat Lovers’ pizza – a little too crispy round the edge but otherwise tasty. We shared two desserts – a chocolate mousse and a Tollhouse Cookie Pie with vanilla ice cream (sort of Shoo-fly Pie with chocolate chips and walnuts).

All in all, we’re glad we made this stop-over in New Hampshire, and it’s a pity we don’t have more time here. But tomorrow it’s a long drive across to Maine and I have been sitting typing in the dark in this motel room for long enough now – that’s another 1000 words or so.

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Another fragmented night’s sleep (for the adults) – recently, we haven’t been sleeping much better here than at home. But up not long after 7am to have breakfast, finishing off our last bits of fruit. We are honing that essential skill of buying just enough fresh and frozen food to last us the week, using it up just in time to move on to our next stop.

Then about two hours of packing so we could leave before the 10am check-out time. A pleasant enough day; the sun has reappeared at last. We headed west from Killington and paused to walk along the edge of Quechee Gorge, ‘Vermont’s Little Grand Canyon’ (though that may be pushing things a little far).

Soothingly cool beneath the pines – we walked along to the dam 300m upstream and back again, thence to Laro’s gift shop for a last browse of local Vermont items – we treated ourselves to a pack of maple syrup cream biscuits (sort of posh and utterly delicious maple leaf-shaped custard creams).

Only a couple of hours’ driving today, so we stopped just short of our motel to have our ham sandwiches, played on the banks of the Baker River and picked up some leaflets for local attractions.

One of these, Polar Caves Park, had been well reviewed on TripAdvisor, and we were due to pass it travelling the final ten miles to our destination. So we pulled in there, making the most of today’s fine weather.

The usual near-$50 admission for all of us, and a slightly disappointing animal section to start with. A clever wheeze to get the public to come and pay for the privilege of feeding ducks (‘cos the deer weren’t very interested in the food on offer – dried sweet corn). A few exotically-plumaged pheasants and a peacock tended to be overlooked as they were not permitted to be fed by the likes of us. Fortunately (having bought their quarter’s worth of corn) the girls eventually succeeded in persuading one of the deer to eat from their hands (Hannah a little nervously – “does it tickle?”).

Further on, we had Spelunking 101 (as the Americans might label it) – a series of above-ground ‘caves’ formed by glacial action leaving heaps of piled giant boulders with narrow passageways within. All well-lit, plenty of warning signs about minding your head and not slipping, handrails and wooden steps whenever necessary. And opt-out bypass routes if you didn’t have the nerve or the frame for the next cave.




Hannah fearlessly led the way through the tunnels and passageways, followed by Ellen and Kirsten (who does not normally go for this sort of thing) while Tim struggled to keep his head down out of harm’s way.

The usual ‘rocks that look like something else, with a bit of imagination’, including quite a respectable pointer and a St Bernard, but I didn’t get the Pharaoh’s profile (and they didn’t spell ‘Pharaoh’ right…). Tight squeezes such as Fat Man’s Misery caused us no problems – the diet hasn’t taken its toll just yet.

As we emerged from the complex of eight ‘caves’ we were in desperate need of a drink after all the climbing up and down combined with the warmth of the day. So we had no option but to buy the expensive on-site bottled water (and a lemonade) to quench our thirst. Then a gentler, obstacle-free stroll through the maple woods to the Serenity Shelter where we sat down for a while. On the way back, suitably serenified, we spotted our first chipmunk (caught below as it scooted across the path). We hadn’t expected them to be so small.

And here are the girls helping to advertise Fox’s Glacier Mints.

We had an icy/crispy teatime snack at the park before driving the remaining few miles to the Red Carpet Motel. We seem to be the only guests in our block, and the basic facilities are adequate for our short stay; it’s reasonably clean and not too musty. We just have to beware any sneaky surcharges (according to past reviews).

We had supper at George’s Seafood and BBQ Restaurant just down the road. Very popular with locals, and cheerful, attentive service. The girls reverted to chicken fingers and chips with pink lemonade, Kirsten was defeated by a monster burger and I enjoyed my fresh fried haddock with fries, salad and coleslaw. The girls liked the nautical décor complete with fish tank and port-holes – they thought they were in The Suite Life on Deck (Disney channel programme with a parody of Paris Hilton – London Tipton). We liked the provision of Trivial Pursuit cards on each table, even if the questions were 25 years out of date… (Similarly, the park café had triangular solitaire boards on each table – is this a New Hampshire thing?)

Finally, today’s random overheard quotes:

[TV programme] “People say that Sophia looks exactly like me, and that Jack looks just like my husband. We’ve both replaced ourselves – we’ve done our duty to evolution.

[Roadside billboard] “The humourless shall inherit nothing.

And some strange Google searches that have brought readers to our blog unexpectedly:

Global pricing for laundry detergents
Large Peruvian stovepipe hats

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