COOOEE

COOOEE : A long, loud call used to attract attention when at a distance, mainly done in the Australian bush
OZ : Australia!

10 November 2012

Concord MA to Boston MA


As with any blog, the newer entries appear at the top, but for reading this trip report it would make more sense to start from the beginning of the trip, so head to 22 October : http://cooeeoz.blogspot.com.au/search?updated-max=2012-10-30T21:17:00-07:00&max-results=5&start=5&by-date=false




WHAT WE DID
We went to Boston the long way!!!  Instead of going straight to Boston we thought we would have a bit more of a coastal treat and headed to Rockport via 128 then down via Salem on 127.  That was the plan but … somehow after Rockport we got tangled up in Gloucester and ended up heading south on 128 again … and I got a bad case of car sickness trying to convince the GPS to get us to Salem via 127 … so we gave up and headed to our hotel.

This was another bad choice.  We needed to be at the airport early the next morning for our marathon flight(s) home and we needed to return the rental car.  So I made our booking at the Embassy Suites neat the airport.  Again the failure was that it was a bland chain hotel.  But it was also a bland chain hotel that was the most expensive room of our trip.  My thoughts had been : last chance of comfort before that long flight, last chance for a comfortable bed, a last chance to spoil ourselves on our trip.  Wrong.  It was expensive but bad value.  It was valet parking ($35) with no help getting bags out of the car (with my husband’s disability this falls to me so I truly objected to the standover tactics to get a tip for doing nothing).  There were zero smiles on offer at the desk, uncommunicative and unfriendly on both check in and check out For the first time on our entire trip of over 5 weeks, there was a charge for Internet Access.

WHAT WE WOULD CHANGE
I think on our last day I could have done without getting carsick!  All I wanted to do was get to our hotel and crash.  It would have been far better to have gone straight from Concord to Boston and done a Hop-on-Hop-off bus tour.  This would have taken a lot of the strain out of the day for me (Chief Navigator and Tour Guide).

Would not choose to stay at the Embassy Suites.  Ever.

09 November 2012

Newport RI to Concord MA






WHAT WE DID
This was a last minute change of route.  It was meant to be Concord via Connecticut’s quiet corner : head out on 163 & 138 to Jewett City then north on scenic 169, before heading to I-395 around Oxford, then via I290 and I-495 to Concord.  Problem was that the Last Green Valley was white – Athena had dropped the temperatures and there was snow.  And snow + us don’t make good driving companions … it looks great when you are at your destination, but not great for a sighseeing roadtrip.

So we went a less scenic, less slippery, less challenging for us hot climate people, way – via 24 to I-95 and got there safe and sound.  Concord looked extra pretty with a dusting of snow!!

Concord was a perfect way to end our road trip : everything was on offer : a quaint town complete with photographic church and memorial, beautiful architecture, a wonderful museum, places of historical significance (in fact a sense of living history) and of course that wonderful link to past authors in the cemetery and their homes : Thoreau, Emerson, Hawthorn & Alcott.  Bliss

We stayed at the Best Western (see “What We Would Change”).  While the room was a disappointment, the location of the hotel had advantages.  It just out of town and was easy to access the two adjoining restaurants : Papa Razzi (great Italian) and the Asian Gourmet (Chinese/Taiwanese food but they also have a sushi house and a Hibachi bar)

I highly recommend a visit to the small but engaging museum to put you in the right mindset to appreciate the rich history of the area.


WHAT WE WOULD CHANGE
I had avoided “chain” hotels and here in Concord and in Boston I let my guard down for the sake of convenience.  Bad decision.  The Best Western looked ok from the outside but the room was small, very small, and reached by a jail block style internal concrete corridor.  Also, having emailed when making a booking, and specifying that stairs were not an option, it was disappointing to be told (after booking in) that the complimentary breakfast was upstairs.  They did offer me a piece of paper where my husband could tick a box to order if he would like to eat in our pokey room looking at the wall.  So, if we could do it all over again (yes please!) then I would look harder for different accommodation.

As I said, the weather made us reconsider our route, so, without that restriction, we would have preferred going via 169

07 November 2012

Newport RI



WHAT WE DID
The original plan had been to do the Mystic Seaport in the morning and then head to Newport but we had ticked that box the previous day.  And that was a good thing as the weather had turned cold and wet (a nor’easter called Athena was starting to make an impression).  We braved the sharp winds and did a (very) short stroll in Mystic, then jumped in the car and headed for Newport.  We travelled via 1 and 1A taking as many little coastal detours as possible, but still arrived in Newport way before check-in time.

We arrived and asked about upgrading and getting an early check in. The desk clerk was very accommodating (though the computer info let him down, telling him that the room was ready, when it wasn’t).  We left our luggage and headed out to explore Newport. 

For “cons” (limited choices with closed for the season, not the same autumn glory) there come “pros” (driving around was a breeze and parking meters didn’t need feeding in November).  I loved the shopping precincts in Newport.  We did the Ocean Drive multiple times.  And the Mansions …. Sigh … Just. Loved. Them.
We did The Breakers + One (Rosecliff).

The plan had been to use one of our “Newport” days to do a scenic drive - to Yarmouth or New Bedford or Plymouth or Providence, or all of the above!! – but Athena had brought strong wind with cold rain, so we decided on skipping that.  (Plus it was Election Day and it was hard to tear DH away from the TV – he has dual US & Aussie citizenship.)

And we couldn’t have wanted a better room to spend the day in!  We had a King Suite on the top floor.  Big room, very comfortable bed, and great views.

Sadly Flo’s Clam Shack was – you guessed it – closed for the season, but we enjoyed dinner at the hotel’s Ocean Bar & Grill, had great breakfasts at The Atlantic Grille and the Corner Cafe, and a very forgettable lunch at The Atlantic Beach Club.


WHAT WE WOULD CHANGE
The Breakers + One!!!  No way!!! Not enough!!!! I (maybe not DH) want more!!!
We didn’t do the Cliff Walk – it was a little too physically challenging for DH, the weather made it climatically challenging and it was partially closed due to damage from Sandy – so that has to go on my list of “next time”.

Maybe we should have split the time – instead of Mystic : 1 night, Newport : 2 nights, I think 2 + 2 might have worked better (but then, that is only because the weather stopped our plans in Newport).

04 November 2012

Great Barrington MA to Mystic CT



WHAT WE DID
From Great Barrington we continued south on 7 and 63 to Litchfield then east on 4 to Hartford.  In Hartford, again pandering to my inner reader, we stopped at Mark Twain House and Harriet Beecher Stowe House.  After Hartford we headed towards the coast via I-91 then 9.  We made a minor detour in to Essex, then on to Mystic Via I-95.

The original plan had been to stop for a late lunch at the Griswold Inn in Essex but if I had paid attention to my travel plan I would have seen a major flaw!  It was Sunday and Essex was overrun with daytrippers.  Enjoying the charm was hampered by lots of traffic and no parking.  We didn’t stay long (maybe it was a case of lowered frustration levels after the previous drive).

Instead of exploring the coast between Old Lyme and Mystic, we decided to head straight to Mystic for lunch.  We could not check in to The Whalers Inn so we went the Mystic Seaport.  This worked well for us.  We ate at Latitude 41 and then walked it off in the seaport museum.  A most enjoyable afternoon.

The Whalers Inn was a good choice.  I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it (but not the surly bar staff in Bravo Bravo).  The management had been particularly good in letting me cancel and then remake my booking when they introduced a November special that changed the cost of the room from $161 to $99.  The Whalers is really well located for walking into town across the bridge.  It is quiet and the room and bed were comfortable.

That night we ate at the Riverwalk Restaurant, chosen mainly because it was raining, we didn’t need a booking and there was easy parking.  My Portuguese cod was delicious, DH’s pasta dish far less so.


WHAT WE WOULD CHANGE
Don’t arrive in Essex tired and hungry at lunchtime on a busy Sunday!  And I had been looking forward to lunch at The Griswold Inn!!

But not much else! 

We met a bit of traffic towards Hartford, but I imagine it would have been much worse if it hadn’t been a Sunday morning.  We missed out on a bit of coastal exploration, but that may have been a good thing as those communities were still recovering from Sandy (some were still without power).

03 November 2012

Woodstock VT to Great Barrington, MA



WHAT WE DID
We rejoined Route 100 and kept heading south, then followed 8 down through North Adams, Pittsfield and Stockbridge to Great Barrington.  Again it was an easy, scenic, interesting drive, though Pittsfield came a bit of a sensory shock after the bucolic countryside we had become used to.

We stayed at The Briarcliff Motel.  This was outstanding!  Richard and Clare are such amazing attentive hosts!!!  The accommodation is simple, stylish, comfortable.  The complimentary continental breakfast is excellent with lots of homemade and local selections.  Highly recommended!!!!!

We had a built in sightseeing day in the Berkshires and Richard and Clare were very helpful with multiple suggestions.  We are both avid readers so our sightseeing took us back into Vermont to Bennington for Robert Frost’s grave (and Stone House Museum which was closed for the season).  At the Bennington   Museum there was a wonderful Grandma Moses exhibition as well as other interesting historical sections. On our return trip we stopped at Arrowhead, Herman Melville’s home (also closed for the season).  Our sightseeing drive wound its way through many back roads so that we visited Stockbridge, Lenox, Lee and Williamstown.

The first night we were here we ate at the Barrington Brewery.  And the only drawback was that it was so enjoyable that we ate here again the second night (yes, we should have been more adventurous! Especially as it was not quite as good the second time.)


WHAT WE WOULD CHANGE
We weren’t enticed by anywhere in Woodstock to have breakfast before we left.  Big mistake.  Ohhhhh I need a strong coffee to start the day and there was a scarcity of places to stop.

Our second visit to the Barrington Brewery was not quite as good (very busy so maybe that had an impact on the quality) Yes, we should have been more adventurous!

It might have made sense to have changed our route south : from Wilmington head west on 9 to Bennington and then south on 7 (as you can see in the “what we did” in a way we doubled back on our tracks on our sightseeing day … but then again, we did it at a slow no-rush pace).  This would have meant that our sightseeing day could have headed off in a different direction (more of the Berkshires? The Litchfield Hills? Across to the Catskills?). 

Loved our stop here … and we never got to check out all those covered bridges, Clare!! So I wouldn’t hesitate to add an extra night here … there was a lot of exploration to be done and the Briarcliff is an excellent base!

01 November 2012

North Conway NH to Woodstock VT


WHAT WE DID
Breakfast before we left North Conway was at Peaches.  The less said the better … very meagre servings (though maybe that was a good thing given the quality of the ham and the overcooked eggs) and poor service (there were only 2 tables to look after but they were busy doing their books) … it think it wins most disappointing breakfast of the trip. 

We had the Kancamagus allllll to ourselves!  (well, maybe we saw about a dozen other cars along the way … but no moose).  It was easy to see that we had missed something spectacular with Fall colour… and hard not to say “I wish …. “ but it was still beautiful.  And I guess without all those showy leaves in the way, we got to notice the little streams, the rocky outcrops, the rolling vistas ….

Our shortened stay in North Conway meant that we didn’t have our free day of sightseeing, the day we had planned to leisurely do the Kanc etc. This meant that we needed to change our exit route to via the Kancamagus, then 112 and 302 to Route 100. 

One of my Internet references was “US scenic Byways” and its suggested route south is via 5 & 10 on the Connecticut River Byway.  Have no idea what we missed, but TA advice put Route 100 firmly in our plans. It was everything we wanted. 

We loved Vermont … different to, but as beautiful as, the Maine coast.  Route 100 was an easy, varied and scenic drive.  Woodstock was a beautiful township – everything from a town green to a covered bridge.  If you look up “picturesque” in a dictionary, don’t be surprised to find a picture of Woodstock accompanying the definition!  We also did a short scenic detour to Quechee State Park.

We stayed in Woodstock at the Braeside Motel.  Not a fond memory.  The room had an abiding cloying smell of deodoriser (the makings of a headache for me! but at least the windows opened for fresh air) and the bathroom was in need of a makeover (why, oh why, do they have those low kiddy height toilets???).  Nice bed, quiet location.


WHAT WE WOULD CHANGE
Obviously we would choose somewhere else for breakfast.

And we would choose Fall Fall Fall … we would love to be there for peak colour!!!

One thing I would love to change about quite a few of the scenic routes we took would be to put in a few pullovers.  There were times we would have loved to stop for photos, or even do a u-turn to go back and check something out and there was nowhere suitable for manoeuvring.

We would have preferred to stick to the original plan : North Conway to Littleton via 302, on to Stowe via 15 then down Route 100.  But then we would have missed the Kanc.  And only being allowed one designated driver, heading north on I-93 from Lincoln to Littleton to match into this planned route would have made it a long day’s drive for one.

Oh … and I would change not seeing a moose … I looked hard, but never spotted one!

31 October 2012

North Conway NH



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WHAT WE DID
We followed I-99 to Lewiston then headed inland via Naples and Bridgton to North Conway.  Not an overly exciting drive for the most part … an Interstate, so can’t expect much.  But given that it wasn’t great driving weather, it was a pleasantly uneventful trip.

We stayed at the Golden Gables.  A bit like the Interstate … pleasantly uneventful.  As was North Conway. But I would like to thank the management of the Golden Gables for allowing a late change to our booking due (one less night).  The room was fine and in the block away from road noise and I loved accommodation where you could open the windows and not be stuck with air-con.

We did a little sightseeing and a little shopping in the North Conway area.  That night we had an outstanding meal at the Moat Mountain Brewery.  The serves were great value and absolutely enormous!  We had more than enough to have leftovers as a picnic lunch the next day!!  Breakfast before we left was at Peaches.  The less said the better … very meagre servings (though maybe that was a good thing given the quality of the ham and the overcooked eggs) and poor service (there were only 2 tables to look after but they were busy doing their books) … it think it wins most disappointing breakfast of the trip.  


WHAT WE WOULD CHANGE
The preplanned route was to go via I-95 to Augusta then head in via Bethal and Gorham and then south on Route16 to North Conway.  With two drivers (about 5 hours without stops) and with good weather it would have been doable.

North Conway wasn’t “us” … or at least the section where we were wasn’t.  Strip malls.  Yes, bigger and better strip malls … but still strip malls!  And, while I can understand that this makes it an attractive destination for some, it wasn’t our ideal stop.  I would look at Jackson as an alternative place to stay.

I was really disappointed that we only got one night in the White Mountains making it virtually an overnight stopover rather than a sightseeing base.  I was looking forward to Mt Washington, Franconia Notch, Bretton Woods etc.  It was unfortunate that Sandy made us err on the side of caution, but we got off lightly.
  

30 October 2012

Bar Harbor ME



        


WHAT WE DID
We stayed at the Bar Harbor Inn in the oceanfront lodge.  Bliss!  A stunning view.  An expanse of lawn, the ocean front walk … and then fishing boats, lobster floats, islands, sunsets, cruise liners … and a very close visit by a bald eagle.  The complimentary breakfast was very good.

During our stay we ate at (will do full reviews on TA)
Jordan Pond House : I didn’t come away a fan of the famous popovers … erk!
Side Street Café : haphazard service, ho hum food
The Thirsty Whale : good fun, good value, good service, good food – especially those fried pickles!!!
The Reading Room :good service, but generally not impressed, food was ordinary
Morning Glory Bakery : If only we had found it sooner!!  Excellent coffee and food
Havanas : If only we could do it all over again … and again … and again.  Our waiter had to be the best I have ever had … he was so passionate about the food he was serving.  The mojito was the best ever … quality ingredients and superbly made.  The food was excellent, outstanding, delicious.  The owner was interested in customer satisfaction.  Oh??!!  Did I mention that we loved our meal here!!  A perfect night out (an added extra was the horse drawn wagon that kept passing by with loads of kids in Halloween costume)

Grindstone Neck : a wonderful selection of take away gourmet foods

Arcadia National Park still had plenty of colour and not many tourists so we almost had it to ourselves (there has to be some small advantage to missing out on things like the carriage rides …. Sighhhh).  We went through the park multiple times on just about every day that we were there, stopping in different sections for short walks.  We have some good before & After photos of the storm surge created by “Sandy”. We also went to the part of the park on the Schoodic Peninsular as well as driving all around Mt Desert Island.


WHAT WE WOULD CHANGE
I think I set aside too much time for Bar Harbor, given the time of year and with so much “closed for the season”.  And then we added an extra night to our stay so that we could keep an eye on where “Sandy” was going to make landfall, how much flooding might come with it, if roads would be closed because of debris, etc. 

I had planned Campobello as a day trip (FDR is one of DH’s political and polio heroes!), but once at Bar Harbor, and with only one designated driver, we realised that this would be too much of a rushed there-and-back-again drive.  In hindsight, maybe we would have spent a night up that way before doubling back to the White Mountains.

We should (and we are still kicking ourselves!) have found out about bike hire when we arrived.  So many things were already closed and the courtesy bus had stopped running … we made an assumption, without checking, that bike hire would be out of the question.  For all we know it was … but after it was too late, when the weather had changed for the worse, we noticed the bike shop was open!  We should have checked - those carriage trails looked so beautiful! And we had fairly good weather for our first few days.

And we should have eaten at Havana’s much, much earlier in our visit … so that we could eat there again and again!  And we shouldn’t have assumed that The Reading Room would be the “special” place for our last night (it was also my birthday!!) … when we could have been at Havana’s.

25 October 2012

Portland ME to Bar Harbor ME


WHAT WE DID
Our route was to Freeport via I-295, then US-1 to Bar Harbor.  Just plain beautiful.  I thought Day 1 coast was great, and things just kept getting better!! Everything you could expect … but more than you expected!

Of course, we stopped at L. L. Bean!  (My Maine ship’s bell windchime is sounding as I type this!) And then it was a slow scenic coastal & small town drive.  We stopped at Damariscotta for an outstanding coffee in an excellent bookshop (Maine Coast Bookshop & Café). We had perfect weather and clear views for our detour on the Mt Battie Auto Road.  Lunch was possibly my favourite of the trip!  Ahhhhh! Young’s Lobster Pound at Belfast!!! (I shall do a TA review later … but right now I will just sit and think about that lobster for a while .   .  .  .   .   .  mmmmmm, yum)  And I should mention DH’s scallops were also amazing!


WHAT WE WOULD CHANGE
Hard to say … Maybe an extra night on the coast getting from Portland to Bar Harbor as we loved all those coastal town.  And maybe it would work taking this extra night coming south from Bar Harbor before heading inland to the White Mountains.  One thing we did miss was going up to the Observatory on the Penobscot Narrows Bridge as we were getting tired of the drive, so an extra night and extra travelling time would allow this to be fitted in.

24 October 2012

Portsmouth NH to Portland ME



WHAT WE DID:
Our route was via ME9 & US1.  What a glorious drive!  Coastal Maine at its best!!

We loved our stop at the Rachel Carson Nature Reserve (a hero of our times!) .  We loved the lighthouses, the deluxe holiday houses, the small ports, the charm of the towns… all movie set gorgeous!  But we were very disappointed with our lunch stop at Mabel’s Lobster Claw (overpriced, under-endowed lobster roll … and serving a fork for eating the melted icecream pie??? But DH was happy with his Lobster Mac & Cheese).

We stayed at the Inn At St John.  As fans of John Connolly crime fiction, we came by this from his website … and I checked it our on TA as well. It was a great choice. Staff were very helpful ensuring we had an accessible room, the accommodation stylish and cosy and the complimentary continental breakfast was the best!  We ate that night at The Great Lost Bear, another suggestion from John Connolly as his fictitious private eye “works” there.  Thanks, Mr Connolly … two excellent recommendations!



WHAT WE WOULD CHANGE
Not much!  Beautiful scenery and plenty of time to sight see. 
Would choose somewhere else for lunch.  This was one of the shortcomings of the timing of our trip – so many places were “Closed For The Season” (and in fact Mabel’s was closing up a few days later) so we didn’t always have a wide selection to choose from.

23 October 2012

Boston MA to Portsmouth NH



WHAT WE DID :
Flew in, arriving at Logan at around 5.15.  Picked up rental car from Alamo.  Headed to Portsmouth via I-95.  It was dark, there was a fair bit of traffic and we were tired and hungry.  Good advice from Alamo counter on exiting the airport and city, and it was good to have the GPS!

Stayed at Port Inn (easy to find, good value, nice roomy room, very ordinary continental breakfast included).  Ate at Jumping Jay’s Fish Café (excellent!  especially their clam chowder).  Next morning toured around Portsmouth (beautiful).

WHAT WE WOULD CHANGE :
Portsmouth deserved more!  Should have allocated two nights as we were very tired when we arrived and didn’t get the best value out of a fine restaurant.  We saw a little of Portsmouth the next day, but would have like to have explored a lot more.

22 October 2012

New England Road Trip







Everyone has different agendas and wishlists, and so, for what it is worth, here is a trip report of our holiday.  I did my planning mainly with the help of Trip Advisor, Lonely Planet Guides (New England & Trips) and lots of great websites (my favourites were http://www.visitnewengland.com/ and http://byways.org/ and http://www.roadfood.com/Restaurants/ )

We are more into history than art, more into photography than shopping, more into road food than fine dining, more into rural than urban.  As the road trip accounted for 19 nights of accommodation, and wasn’t the sum total of our holiday, I was also looking for accommodation that was reasonable in price (and for this in particular Trip Advisor was excellent). 

WHAT WE DID
We did a 1300mi (or around 2000 km) road trip through the New England states from October 23 till November 11.  We did a loop, setting out from and returning to Boston.

We had pre-booked a car from Alamo and all of our accommodation.  We took our own GPS.  I also picked up some maps from AAA.  And I had already planned the road trip on Google.

Boston MA > Portsmouth NH : 1 night
Portsmouth > Portland ME : 1 night
Portland > Bar Harbor ME : 6 nights (last minute change)
Bar Harbor > North Conway NH : 1 night (last minute change)
North Conway > Woodstock VT : 1 night
Woodstock > Great Barrington MA : 2 nights
Great Barrington > Mystic CT : 2 nights
Mystic > Newport RI : 3 nights
Newport > Concord MA : 2 nights
Concord > Boston MA : 1 night

We were originally booked for 5 nights in Bar Harbor and 2 nights in North Conway but Hurricane Sandy gave us reason to wait and see if bigger changes were necessary.  We were lucky and our thoughts were with those who bore the brunt of what was known as Frankenstorm.


WHAT WE WOULD CHANGE
Yes!  We would have loved to have been in the New England for the peak colour!! (This was an add-on holiday to a visit to family on the West coast and that dictated our travel dates).  But not to worry … there were pluses (like no crowds)

With the rental car, I had checked and even printed out the fine detail from the Alamo website, but when we picked up the car they refused the extra driver at no cost (even though site said it was a perk of being in their “Insiders Club”). We were told that our Alamo included insurance (which as Aussies we have to take) didn’t cover it.  An extra driver just about doubled the cost so DH was to be the only driver.  Next time I would get confirmation via email.  The strange thing was that we had just handed in our Alamo rental in San Francisco where we were both listed with no extra charge!!  Someone was wrong but we were too tired to argue the point and needed to be on our way.

We were very happy with what we saw and did on our road trip.  In fact, we are hard pressed to say what our favourite part was.  But we may, when pushed over a wine or two, consider some tweaks, eg Portsmouth : 2 nights; Bar Harbor : 4 nights; Mystic : 2 nights; Great Barrington : 3 nights


READING LIST :
The Witch of Blackbird Pond ~ Elizabeth George Speare
Little Women ~ Louisa May Allcot
The Crucible ~ Arthur Miller
It and others~ Stephen King
Cider House Rules and others ~ John Irving
The Perfect Storm ~ Sebastian Junger (wow! That was a bit prophetic!!)
Mystic River and others ~ Dennis Lehane
Charlie Parker series ~ John Connolly
Caleb's Crossing ~ Geraldine Brooks
The Marriage Plot ~ Jeffrey Eugenides
Empire Falls ~ Richard Russo
Olive Kitterage ~ Elizabeth Strout
In The Heart of the Sea ~ Nathaniel Philbrick
Ethan Frome ~ Edith Wharton
Peyton Place by Grace Metalious
Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan

ROAD MUSIC : 
with a New England selection:
Connecticut ~ Judy Garland & Bing Crosby
Moonlight in Vermont ~ Willie Nelson
Massachusetts ~ Bee Gees
M.T.A ~ Kingston Trio
Old Cape Cod ~ Patti Page
Whoever’s in New England ~ Reba McEntire
Weekend in New England ~ Barry Manilow
The Last Resort ~ The Eagles
Please Come to Boston ~ Joan Baez
Cheers ~ TV Themes
I Will Find You (Last Of The Mohicans) ~ Clannad
with a little bit of travelling music thrown in:
On The Road Again ~ Willie Nelson
On The Road Again ~ Canned Heat
I’ve Been Everywhere ~ Johnny Cash
Going Up The Country ~ Canned Heat
No Particular Place To Go ~ Chuck Berry
King Of The Road ~ Roger Miller
Rockin’ Down The Highway ~ Doobie Brothers
Ramblin’ Man ~ The Allman Brothers
Travellin’ Man ~ Rick Nelson
America ~ Simon & Garfunkel

22 May 2012

Phuket, Thailand

These pictures were from out "Hong By Starlight" trip with John Gray Seacanoe.
http://johngray-seacanoe.com/thailand/hong-by-starlight.htm

We really enjoyed this experience. Many thanks to our great guide (see photo) ... I am sure that they were all great, but he was thoughtful and helpful and added to the serenity of the surroundings.

The bus pick up was late (we sat waiting for 45 minutes) and then had a bat-out-of-hell ride across the island. The PA system on the boat was next to useless so the instructions and descriptions were a bit hit-and-miss. So we are not off to a good start.

Organisation and communication was lax and haphazard at times. When the monsoonal rains struck, the crew all disappeared downstairs where they appeared to be having a good time, while we were awash upstairs not knowing what was happening. The site mentions constellation gazing and a nature game for the return trip but instead a mindless DVD was played. Disembarking was dark, slippery and dangerous ... I know from experience and bruises.

The biggest negative of the experience could have been fixed with a couple of simple ground rules :
1 : No alcohol
2 : No mobile phones
Because there was a small group that dominated because they were loudmouthed and drunk and didn't even go out in the kayaks ... a spoiler for everyone else.

BUT ... and this is the important bit ...

The kayaking was a fantastic adventure. The seas were rough but our guide was amazingly skillful and informative. I loved lying down and going through the caves into the hongs ... breathtaking on the way through and breathtaking, in a completely different way, once you were in that magical world. Two of the tunnel entries were extremely close (and Alphie did well with his claustrophobia!!) and the third was through a bigger, bat-filled cave.  While it would have possibly been better with more sunshine, the contrast between the open choppy seas and the placid jungle surrounded lagoon was just amazing.

It was also amazing that they are able to provide the quality of food that they do in such a confined space (maybe Centara Grand Beach could get some tips!!!)

19 May 2012

Phuket, Thailand


We met up with Mary and Doug at the Centara Grand Beach Resort at Karon Beach, Phuket.  A Five Star Resort holiday is not our usual thing ... our holidays usually involve the local culture, local food and local sightseeing.  This was more a by-the-pool and shopping focused holiday.

The Centara Grand was a pink palace by the beach, spread out, glamorous and well equipped with swimming areas.  We had booked a Deluxe Pool Suite so we had our own infinity plunge pool.  There was also an Adults Only Pool and a big meandering family pool area with a "slow river".  In front of the hotel was Karon Beach but during our visit it wasn't swimable because of the rough seas (and raw effluent being released).  The resort had two restaurants, Cove (for breakfast buffet and theme night dinners and al la carte ... hit and miss) and Mare (Italian ... blerk).  Our upgrade included access to the Club facilities (afternoon teas, cocktails, etc) but unfortunately this was up two steep flights of stairs making it inaccessible for Alphie (not impressed).


We ate out with Mary and Doug at ??? (Japanese) at Jungceylon, at 9th Floor (Continental http://www.the9thfloor.com/) for Mary's birthday, at Savoey (Seafood http://www.savoeyseafood.com/) in Patong and at Two Chef's in Karon (International http://www.twochefs-phuket.com/).  We had facials and shopped at Jungceylong (www.jungceylon.com/), a combination shopping complex with a department store, specialty stores, market stalls, restaurants and fast food ... and an Irish Pub.  We bought some great clothes and souvenirs at a small shop with no bargaining hassles at Cape Promthep.

We flew AirAsia, a cut price airline ... though when you start adding on the extras (like food and like luggage) it all adds up.  On the way home, thankfully, I got a serious case of food poisoning ... either from our layover at Kuala Lumpar or the meal on the plane ... a not recommended way of losing holiday weight!!!

We loved the Thai people.  The ones we encountered were as beautiful on the inside as they were on the outside.  They were gracious, welcoming and spiritual.  Our waitress at breakfast, Aud, was sweet and thoughtful.  But we fell in love with Yui, who cried when we left, who befriended us, who epitomised the Thai people for us.