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 :

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.)

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

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.

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!