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East Coast USA.

July 2001

Welcome to the East Coast of America where we visited Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island, Maine; Stowe in Vermont; Falmouth in Cape Cod, Massachusetts and Boston. Here are some of our memories which you might like to share.

Maine was an area that I had long wanted to visit and Mount Desert Island with Acadia National Park and Cadillac Mountain in its midst seem to have just about everything for a five day stay. We decided on a hotel just outside Bar Harbor called 'The Regency' which was a great place with its own pool area overlooking the sea. It belonged to the Holiday Inn chain and we found the room to be fine and the breakfast very reasonable, especially when feeding two hungry teenagers. It was lovely hot weather, although it did get somewhat humid at times, but we had air conditioning so no-one was worried. The hotel had its own jetty and they were supposed to have a boat there that would take you the short journey into town, but this was not available while we were there so we just drove down and hoped that we would find a parking space eventually! We were usually lucky if we went early enough but going in at night could be risky regarding parking spaces.

On the second day we took a walk down to the University of the Atlantic as there was to be a craft show. This worked out really well as I managed to get most of my gifts there, and lovely they were too. One stall selling glass wind-chimes had me hooked! I was worried about getting them back to the U.K. undamaged but the lady there wrapped them up so well in tissue and cardboard that I am happy to say they survived intact. I have already passed a wind-chime on to my eldest daughter who thinks it is beautiful.

One day we decided to go into town and have a peek at all the gift shops and the harbour. We wanted to book the Whale watching Boat for the next day and while we were there we happened to see this brightly coloured trolley bus which was just setting off for a one hour tour of Acadia National Park, so on we hopped. The driver and tour guide told us that Acadia National Park is one of the smallest in the U.S.A. but it is also one of the most frequently visited. He said that Cadillac Mountain was the highest point on the whole east coast! Eagle Lake is also very pretty, especially when viewed from Cadillac Mountain, as we were about to find out.

The route took us up along Paradise Hill and we looked out over Frenchman Bay. When we reached the top of Cadillac Mountain we had a fifteen minute stop for sight-seeing and photographs. Here is Ben and Robyn enjoying the view. It really was spectacular. There were lots of other tourists up there with us and I was glad we took the bus as parking was tight. On the way down our guide told us that Mount Desert Island was discovered in 1604 by Samuel de Champlain. Apparently they had a big fire here in 1947 and a lot of the vegetation was destroyed. It looks very green now though.

As you can see Robyn really enjoyed it up here but fifteen minutes wasn't long enough so we vowed we would come back with the car and see more of this lovely park. The island you can see to the right of her in the distance is called 'Thrumcap Island'. The loop road that goes around the park is mostly one way so we would have to plan our stops in advance as the whole island takes about an hour to drive around.

The town of Bar Harbor proved to be very pretty and we spent most evenings there eating or going to the 'Art Deco' cinema which had tables upstairs where you could put your popcorn, beer and feet! We watched a film there called 'Evolution' which was really funny. The cinema was just like the ones we have in G.B. but I suppose it was quaint for America. Bar Harbor was where the rich and famous built their summer homes at the beginning of the 20th century and it certainly is pretty with its old wooden fronted houses. 

They have a great array of restaurants too where you can eat almost anything. We had a fish meal in 'Bunnies' one night where I had the works; clam chowder  and a whole lobster all to myself. 
 On another occasion we ate Italian and on the last night we ate Thai. It was a very good menu and demanded scrutiny so out came the glasses!

Robyn and Ben liked the food so much that they were complaining of over-eating all the way back to the hotel, but what's new about that. We always seem to over-eat when we visit America and then we starve ourselves when we get home. Its all part of being on holiday as far as I can tell and no one suffers in the long run. Perhaps if we lived in the U.S.A. it would be a different matter!

Now we come to the Whale watching trip and for anyone who has not done this yet, put it top on your list of things to do. Perhaps we were just lucky on the day, but we saw a finback 'breach', that is, it jumped right out of the water straight ahead of our boat!
It was a fantastic trip. We booked to go on The Royal Miss Belmar which was only built in 2000. It was therefore the newest and fastest whale watcher in Maine. We were told ahead of time that it gets really cold out there on the ocean so we dressed up in jeans and fleeces, which was really uncomfortable on land at in was about 85 that day and very humid. Robyn was nearly passing out with the heat. However, we needed that extra protection as you can actually feel the temperature drop at one point. Its a bit like hitting a wall of ice.

The boats go out into Frenchman Bay between two islands  called 'Sheep Porcupine Island' to the left and 'Burnt Porcupine Island' to the right. After that its the Atlantic Ocean all the way. You can buy your tickets at the Golden Anchor which is right next door to the jetty, but we were lucky as we had someone visit our hotel the day before and so we acquired ours then.

It got so windy on the ocean that if you didn't have your hair tied back you would get 'whiplash'! Robyn was sensible, but she had fun too. We stood at the front of the boat just in front of the Captains cabin and clung onto the rail. It was like being on a giant roller coaster at one point and the twins loved it! You had to be careful about water coming in on the side of the ship and two poor souls paid the price for their 'ringside seats'. We saw lots of finbacks and the guide was really good, explaining to us all about their diving patterns and terminal dives etc. It lasted for about three hours in all and when we returned we were tired, wet and sticky from all that salt, but very glad we went nevertheless.

The next day we were ready to see the rest of Mount Desert Island so off we set with three 'must see' destinations in mind. First stop was to be Thunder hole which we had heard so much about; secondly we wanted to take a walk on Sand Beach and thirdly we wanted to take a look at the Nature Centre at Sieur de Monts where they had the Abbe Museum which showed how Native Americans in these parts lived all those years ago. Anything else we managed to fit in would be considered a plus as far as we were concerned!

First up was Sand Beach, a very pretty area and quite deserted. We took pictures and decided to move on to our next destination  which  would hopefully have  an advice centre which sold maps and drinks. It had turned out to be a very hot day and we were already thirsty!

We parked up at the Shoreline Centre which had just about everything; maps, drinks, toilets, gifts, walking sticks with fancy handles, toilets. However there was no plumbing and no electricity so the toilets were just seats over sandboxes and the drinks were warm! But never-mind, we were happy just to find a parking space! Luckily 'Thunder Hole' was just across the road so all we had to do was walk down some steps to see this marvel. However, what we didn't know was that it only really 'thunders' when the tide is right. They have a chart outside the advice centre that tells you what time the tide is right each day, but on this occasion it was to be at 3.45 in the afternoon, so unless we wanted to come back then we had to make do with the softer 'booms' we heard coming from the cavern under the rock.

We decided that we would take some pictures anyway so Robyn and Ben climbed on the top of 'Thunder Hole' and posed for me. They were getting quite used to doing this by now as I had to have an assortment of pictures for the web page I would be writing. Also, it was difficult to know what the pictures would turn out like as I just had a regular camera and not the digital camera that Dan usually brings along. He also has to bring along the laptop to download all the pictures we take and as that was not possible the camera had to stay at home as well. I was just keeping my fingers crossed that some of the pictures would be ok.

This is presumably what Thunder Hole would have looked like at 3.45 pm, but we didn't stay around long enough to see, we just brought the postcard and imagined the thunder.

This lovely old beach area was along Ocean Drive. The rocks were very large and the rock formations were unusual as well. You get an appreciation of how rugged the coast line is along this part of the bay.

We never did get round to visiting the Abbe Museum at Sieur de Monts as the whole Loop road is one way and we had flown past it on entering the park not knowing it was so close to the entrance. We therefore took a leisurely drive around the rest of Mount Desert Island and then headed back to our hotel for some good old fashioned sun bathing around the lovely pool. This was the only day on the whole holiday that we ate lunch. There was a sort of Tiki hut by the pool and we could smell the food being cooked. However, it smelled much better than it tasted and most of our 'sandwiches' went into the nearest bin! That was a shame because their breakfasts were wonderful. That night we took a few last pictures and said our goodbye's to Bar Harbor. Tomorrow we would be traveling to Stowe, Vermont and it was to be a very long journey, the longest of the whole vacation, so we needed to get some well earned rest.

It proved to be a very long, but very scenic drive to Stowe, Vermont but Ben navigated really well and we stopped of for breakfast at Denny's on the way. As always, we ordered too much and ended up leaving half of it. Not me though, I found out about the portions at Denny's a long time ago, hence an omlette and a coffee sufficed. We passed a sign which said 'Rome' which is where Paul and Patty Lynch live. We met them this Easter in the Caribbean but I did not have their address so we couldn't stop, and anyway, we had a very tight schedule. I wanted to get to Stowe before dark as the day had started badly and we had been driving in rain for quite a while.

Our destination was to the The Golden Eagle Resort which was situated right at the beginning of the mountain road leading eventually to Mount Mansfield. This proved to be a very pretty area in the summertime, but it must have also been fabulous as a ski resort during the winter. The resort had just about everything you could need for a relaxing five nights; an outdoor and indoor swimming pool, a large Jacuzzi, a gym, tennis court and cafe which served breakfast each morning. Here I tried 'Eggs Benedict'..........very yummy! The only down side to this resort was the accommodation we had hired was across the busy mountain road so we were not really 'on site' so to speak. 
This picture shows Robyn and I going across to the gym for a quick work out. You can see the road behind us. The accommodation, which was a two bedroom flat, was very roomy but also quite dark and smelly. At first I thought that it was damp or dusty. It took me a while to realise that the smell was coming from the open fireplace. I guess the chimney needed sweeping as the smell of soot was really strong! However, it was nice to have all that space to ourselves and after unpacking off we went to explore the resort. It was all very peaceful and I wondered where all the other tourists were, but this was not their peak season so I guess any ski resort during the summer months is quiet. It suited us fine!

This is the lovely indoor pool which was heated.

This is the restaurant area where we ate breakfast most mornings.

We ate at the English Inn called Mr. Pickwick's on the first night and the food was splendid. Here we planned our strategy for the next four days. We decided that keep fit was in order so every morning before breakfast we would use the gym. Part of our day would also involve swimming in both pools and then relaxing in the Jacuzzi. Ben and I booked tennis for each afternoon and Robyn hired videos to keep her amused. 
We had one plan that was a must, and that was to visit the Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Factory just up the road at Waterbury. They had factory tours where you get to see the ice cream being made and hear a bit about the history of the place and then you get to taste the new flavours. We were up for doing it the next day! Robyn has always loved Ben and Jerry's Ice cream but I must admit it has always been a bit too adventurous for me. 
Before we started the tour Robyn and Ben posed in front of a large map that plots the history of this Ice Cream Factory. I didn't know that much of their profit goes back into the local community. They even have a Ben and Jerry Festival!
Its a great place to visit with lots going on inside and outside the factory. When we were on the tour the guide told us that each employee takes home three litre cartons of ice cream a day. He also said that market research has shown that the favourite time to eat ice cream is when watching a movie. I guess the employees must watch lots of movies!  While we were there we just happened to notice a place to put smiling, happy faces. This was after we had sampled the goods of course.
And here you see us doing just that!

Sadly we said goodbye to Ben and Jerry's and made our way back to Stowe. We had some serious relaxing to catch up on, and then there was always tennis. We had decided that tonight we would dine on Mexican fare so it was to be a restaurant further up the mountain road called Miguel's.  
We needed heating up after all that cold ice cream, but first we wanted to go to the small local cinema to see Planet of the Apes which I had seen originally starring Charlton Heston but which the twins had never seen or heard of!
The one thing that you could always be sure of in Stowe was the fact that you would never go hungry. They have so many restaurants, and so much variation that's its hard to choose. We tried a place called 'Whiskers' one night and the meals were huge, far too big for one person. It was an old house that was sort of like an old bric a brac shop with lots of memorabilia and such like. Lots of fun. We also had breakfast one day at the Dutch Pancake Cafe which was situated at the Grey Fox Inn just up the road from our accommodation. You could have sweet or savory pancakes and they were also rather big, a bit too big for breakfast but then we were on holiday and this was America, right! 
We went into town one day for shopping and sightseeing. This picture shows Stowe Church at 20 degrees below!!!!! I don't think we will be coming back to visit in the winter-time! It was a nice place to spend a few hours just wandering around buying gifts and such, but we had decided that we would go exploring for the rest of the day and headed in the general direction of Mount Mansfield, Vermont's highest mountain. We had decided to take the Gondola to the top and partake in some luncheon! Well that was the plan anyway.
On the way we passed this pretty covered bridge as stopped to investigate. It is called 'Emily's' bridge, but is also known as Stowe Hollow or Gold Brook. We discovered that there are three different legends attached to this bridge. Firstly, it was thought that in the 1800's a girl called Emily was jilted and she hung herself from the bridge. Another story from 1925 goes like this; Emily fell in love with Donald and then got pregnant. Donald did not want to marry so he hung himself from the bridge. Shortly after giving birth to her twins Emily followed suite. Yet another story says that a girl called Emily, while on her way to her wedding, was thrown off her horse at the bridge and died. In any case, the bridge is supposedly haunted by no other than, you guessed it, Emily!
Well, we got to Mount Mansfield and we took the gondola. Ben and Robyn thought it was fun.

We ate lunch at the 'Cliff House' restaurant at the top and then wandered around for a bit. Not only is Mount Mansfield the highest peak in Vermont, it is also the largest of two alpine ecosystems. 
From the top you can, on a clear day, view Lake Champlain, the White and Green Mountains and also Mont Royal in Quebec. The lower forests  are made up of northern hardwoods such as maples, beeches and birch. Indeed, maple syrup seemed to be in abundance in all the restaurants we visited. As you climb higher you enter what is known as a 'transition zone' which is home to hardwoods and evergreens. Near the summit, the forest is primarily balsam, fir and spruce. We hadn't come to hike, only to view and presently we descended via the gondola and back to the resort for some swimming and sunning, or video watching as the case may be.
There was a very nice garden area to the back and side of the apartment but it overlooked a storage area which was busy at times with guys in hard hats stowing large containers. It wasn't very noisy but it did spoil the ambiance somewhat. This garden area belonged to the house next door which was vacant for most of the time we were there. I did see a guy lopping branches from a tree one day, but apart from that, there was no sign of life. In fact, it was so quiet around here that the twins visited the cinema again while I stayed in to read my book.
On another occasion we visited the Von Trapp Lodge which was also just a short drive up the mountain road. Maria Von Trapp was the inspiration for the musical 'The Sound of Music'. She fled from her native Austria during the Nazi era and settled in Stowe because it reminded her of her native homeland so much. Well, it certainly was beautiful up there in the rolling hills. This picture of the Von Trapp family was taken in Stowe in 1945.
We took a horse and cart ride around the estate which was pleasant. The original Lodge evolved from the family home that was built in 1942. After Baron Georg von Trapp died in 1947 the family decided to take in visitors to help ends meet. Over the years various wings were added to accommodate more and more visitors but then in 1980 disaster struck and the lodge was destroyed by a fire. The new Lodge was completed in 1984 and is now a thriving guest house.

This is what the old lodge looked like.

This is part of  the new lodge.  

It really is a lovely place and very European.
One morning we decided to drive into Burlington for some designer shopping! Lake Champlain also looked interesting so off we set. The town was quite disappointing as it did not live up to the reputation in the tourist books. We did manage to buy some trousers for Robyn and a belt for Ben though. We also found a nice Art shop with decent postcards like this one which shows a water-colour of the Burlington skyline by artist Annelein Beukenkamp. I had better luck in Stowe with purchases and found a small gallery who were showing works from local artists. These two prints below are by the artist Kathi Kimball who lives in St Albans, Vermont.

This is called 'Enjoying the Good Life.'

This is called 'The East Illumination'

We had a great time in Vermont but now it was time to head for Cape Cod, our third destination in New England. So once again we hit the road for a more leisurely drive this time as it was nearly all motorway and Ben was a star at navigation by now. We were ready for some fun at the cape!

The drive to Cape Cod was uneventful and Ben kept up entertained by his 'Ali G' impersonations for most of the way. Went crossed over the Bourne Bridge in the early afternoon and found our next destination without too much trouble. We were staying at the Sea Crest Resort which proved be be further outside the town of Falmouth than we anticipated. It was nice, nevertheless, as it was situated on the Old Silver Beach and had lots of amenities to offer like swimming pool, beachside location, gym, restaurant and tennis courts. All of which we took advantage of during our stay. The room was adequate for our needs and it was a very big complex as we were to find out. They hold lots of wedding receptions here and also have a conference centre. Robyn and Ben went for a look around and booked us into the restaurant for dinner that night. They also found out that you had to be sixteen to use the gym, even if you were accompanied by an adult, so that put an end to our keep-fit regime for the rest of the holiday!

The town of Falmouth proved to be about a twenty minute drive away and was nice. We went in on a few occasions to eat, shop and wander around. One good place where the food was good and the prices reasonable was the Irish Pub and Restaurant called Liam Maguire's. They served a varied menu and had a good children's selection as I can recall. I had mussels here while Robyn had BBQ ribs and Ben had pasta. It was yummy and not a Guinness in sight, unless you ordered one that is. Another place we visited was a breakfast cafe where they had lots of postcards up from clients all over the world. We took down their address so we could also send them a postcard but then mislaid it. If anyone out there knows what it is I would be grateful. They were situated just across the road from what I took to be the town hall and an amusement arcade with real wooden skittle bowling. We visited this one wet afternoon and had lots of fun. Robyn can testify to that! We also found a store called 'Army and Navy' which had just about everything you could need in terms of outdoor clothing. It was good for spending a wet couple of hours in as there wasn't much else to do in Falmouth when it rained. We always seemed to be stuck in traffic on the Cape, but where all these cars were going to remains a mystery. There were not that many people around, only cars! Even when we decided to drive along scenic route 6A from Sandwich to Orleans, all we saw were cars, cars and more cars. The Cape was a strange place, it must get deserted during the winter months. One thing we did find was that it took much longer to drive anywhere here and never once did we get to visit 'the tip'. The nearest we ever got was Eastham and that took us a good four hours from Falmouth!

Once or twice on our journeys up and down the Cape we crossed the Mashpee River. This is a very pretty natural area with lots of wildlife. We saw lots of fishermen on the banks. Fishing however, is not our forte and we always seemed to busy looking at other things on the cape to stop here and relax for a while. I remember one evening trying to find the town band that was supposed to be playing in the town park. Well, we found the town park but alas, no band. Robyn and Ben were not worried about this as they had brought their own music from England along and we had rigged up two small computer speakers to a portable C.D. player in the hotel room so they had music whenever they wanted. I however, had to make do with the car and the town band, if only I could find them! The town green was pretty nevertheless. We never did find the band though. Perhaps it was just as well because that would have meant driving back in the dark. and I didn't like that one little bit. I think I lost my night vision about five holidays ago!
So what did I learn about this lovely New England town? Well, it seems a settlement was established here in the 1660's by those of the Quaker persuasion. However, by the late 1680's lots of other people with different persuasions were living here too and by the 1800's it was a major whaling port as there was big money to be made in this trade. For example, you could make 300 dollars in those days just for one pound of 'Ambergris', a wax like substance collected from the intestines of sperm whales!

Another nice area close by was the town of Woods Hole where they have an Institute of Oceanography and some great fish restaurants. I read somewhere that Penzance Point, which is found in Woods Hole, was home to the Pacific Guano Works in the 1800's. Ships from here used to go out and collect seabird's droppings and bring them back to be made into fertilizer. This area is now home to lots of luxury summer retreats of the rich and famous. Where there's muck there's money I guess! Here is Ben having a great feast at a quaint fish restaurant that looked out across the harbour. I think we ate Giant Prawns cooked in garlic on this occasion. Whatever it was, I remember it was really good. We drove back in the dark that night down small unlit lanes. It always seemed longer on the way back because of all the one way systems they had there. One night we would find the hotel in ten minutes, another night it would take us twenty. There were very few signposts either so it became somewhat of a rush most evenings to get back before it was dark, as as this was about 8pm then dinner had to be eaten fast!

One day we decided to visit the harbour area and search out the Nobska Lighthouse on Vineyard Sound. It had been raining hard all morning and we had driven down to the new Falmouth shopping mall to get out of the wet, however, it was only partially constructed and like all other malls in the U.S.A. you needed your car to drive from one lot to another. Not good for rainy days. We did manage to find a T.K. Maxx though so shopping ensued, followed by a trip to Burger King as the twins were hungry again! Later we found the harbour area but it was deserted. I got the twins to pose anyway!

Its amazing what a trip to Burger King will do for bored, wet  teenagers! 
Out came the smiles.

We drove on to find the Nobska Lighthouse. New England is famous for its array of lighthouses and you can buy just about any type of memorabilia you want showing either one or a host of them. We had seen the one in Bass Harbor perched high on the cliff face and I also remember visiting one somewhere else along the Cape called the Nauset Light. Well, we now added the Nobska Lighthouse to our list. Here they all are below.

Bass Harbor Light
This lighthouse is found in Acadia National Park which is on Mount Desert Island, Maine. It was built in 1858 and overlooks Somes Sound and the Cranberry Islands. It is now a private residence.

Nobska Light
This lighthouse lies between Buzzards Bay and Vineyard Sound, Falmouth and overlooks the Nantucket Sound. The original light was built in 1829 but this one dates from 1876. It was originally called 'Nobsque' and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Nauset Light
This lighthouse is the most photographed of all the lights on the Cape. It is found in Eastham and in 1996 was moved because coastal erosion threatened to topple it into the sea. It was originally one of a set of three called the 'Three Sisters' and completed in 1838. It is also on the National Register of Historic Places.

On our last day at the Cape we decided to chill out on the beautiful silver beach and make the most of the calming atmosphere of sun sea and sand between our toes for tomorrow we would be heading back towards Boston for our last stop before we flew back to the U.K. Here is Robyn making the most of the beautiful weather. We swam in the sea and jumped the waves along with all the other tourists and then packed our bags ready for our final destination, Boston by the sea! We decided that as the journey was to be the shortest so far we would stop off at Historic Plymouth and visit the 'Plimoth Plantation' on the way there. It was a good plan, now we just needed some organisation regarding packing, rising and paying the bill in time!

Our day at Plimoth Plantation turned out great apart from the slow crawl of traffic along the motorway and one nasty accident in which we were not involved that goodness.  At Plimoth Plantation they have a Pilgrim Village set up as it would have been in 1627 with men and women playing the part of villagers of that period. They also have Hobbamock's Homesite which is based on how the Wampanoag Native Indians lived. The have a craft centre showing how things were made and if you want to you can drive two miles into Plymouth to see a Mayflower II, but as we had seen Mayflower I in Plymouth, Devon, U.K. we thought we would give that a miss and just 'do; the village, homesite, gift shop and cafe of course! It was a lot of fun and we all had a good time as you can see below.

One of the reconstructed houses.

Sitting in a porch which was covered with vines.

By the wooden palisade surrounding the village.

The only mosquito around is printed on the T shirt.

This was a replica of the kiln used to fire pots and suchlike.

This Native American is making a 'mishoon' or canoe.

Now onto Boston where we had decided to park the car in a car park near the hotel and just leave it there until it was time to drive to the airport. All I had to do now was find the right street! I was nervous about driving in a city the size of Boston as I had read someone's web page the night before we started our vacation and it most definitely said that driving in Boston was a nightmare. Also what didn't help is that Boston is having the 'big dig' at the moment and the entrance to our hotel was on a street that was now one way because of all the bulldozers being parked up on the other side of the road.             
Eeeek. I think we were just about to find out if this had been a good idea or not.

Well, we made it but I did make one little tiny mistake, but no harm done. We got our bags upstairs and then off I went to park the car which proved to be easy as it was just two blocks up the one way street. There it stayed for the next two days, believe me. We were staying at the Boston Harborside Inn which was just under the old corn exchange which is a very distinctive building with a clock face on top. A bit like Big Ben but not on such a grand scale. This sketch doesn't do it justice. We had a suite which was great for the three of us, but the noise from the street was terrible, especially early in the morning as the workmen started digging around 5.30am and went on until 6pm. No-one could sleep in the pull out settee in this room so we all squashed together in the bedroom, Ben having his own pull out bed and Robyn and I sharing. Needless to say, no-one got a lot of sleep during our time in Boston, but it was fun to do anyway and we were very close to Quincy Market which was always buzzing with shoppers, restaurant crowds and buskers of all description. One night we sat outside a coffee shop after dinner in Little Italy and listened to a guy playing violin. Also in the crowd were men with hard hats who had just finished work, groups of children, lots of Japanese tourists and others just generally enjoying themselves. That's what I like about America, the diversity and the casual way of life.

We found Boston to be a great city for lots of different reasons. During the day there is so much to see and do, but the buildings really come alive at night and they are so pretty when all lit up. This is a  picture of me relaxing inside our hotel. We were on the second floor facing out towards the street so we could people watch when we wanted to. It was very centrally placed to do the Freedom Trail and the Harbor Tour so we did both on the same day. The Freedom trail we did by trolley bus because you can get on and off all day on the same ticket. This proved to be a good idea as we wanted to visit the U.S.S. Constitution or 'Old Ironsides' as she is lovingly known. She can be found in her permanent dock in Charlestown which was on the other side of the harbour to us, so the tickets worked out well. We would also visit The Bunker Hill Monument as Ben wanted to climb to the top of this 221 foot granite tower, Faneuil Hall and Boston Park where we wanted to take a ride on the Swan Boats. We set off on a very hot day, the weather forecast had promised it to be in the 90's!

First up was U.S.S. Constitution so we caught the trolley bus to the required stop and got off to stand in line for the full tour of this lovely old ship which is still in service today. She has the nickname of 'Old Ironsides' because she has such thick sides that cannon balls bounced off her planking during the war with the British. She remains undefeated and has been in forty historic battles. She is a living museum of Naval History and every year on the 4th July she is rigged up with decorative flags and towed out into Boston Harbour where she lets off her cannons and is then turned around and brought back to her permanent dock. I found an interesting page all to do with the 'saving' of this great warship when I was looking for some art from Cape Cod.

Apparently in 1906, an artist called Edward Pape was very instrumental is saving this ship from destruction when it was decided that it would be taken out to sea and used as a target. His petition, which can be seen here, was handed to Congress and 'Old Ironsides' was saved. This petition was signed by the Governor  and almost all the living ex-Governors of the Commonwealth, seventy mayors and ex-Mayors, by twenty five survivors of the crew and a host of others, including thirty thousand citizens of the Commonwealth. The petition measured one hundred and seventy feet long and the names were signed in nine and ten abreast! Whew, that ship must have been the pride of Boston and what a blessing it was saved for future generations. We had a great time onboard and found out that another famous Bostonian, namely Paul Revere, had furnished the copper bolts and spikes for the sum of $3,820.33 by a process known only to him.

Here are Robyn and Ben on the Spar deck under the mizzen mast awning. They are leaning on one of the gun carriages and you can just see another to the right of them. It was a very interesting tour and we found out lots of facts. Here are some of them.
After two unsuccessful attempts, Old Ironsides, the 'Pride of the American Navy', was launched on October 21st 1787 but only a few people were present because on the previous first attempt she slid only eight feet down the ramp and disappointed hundreds of spectators who had lined the shore on Noddle's Island which is now East Boston. The second previous attempt was also a failure and the Constitution was by now considered an 'ill fated ship'! Just shows you its silly to be superstitious.

This is Captain Isaac Hull. In 1812 when the United States was at war with the British U.S.S. Constitution engaged H.M.S. Guerriere. Whilst alongside, Captain Hull is reported to have said to his gunners, "Now boys, pour it into them!" The story them goes on to say that cannon from the Guerriere made no impression on the sides of the Constitution and one of the British sailors shouted, "Huzza! Her sides are made of iron!" Hence the nickname 'Old Ironsides' was born.

The guns found on the spar deck or top deck  are carronades that fire a 32 pound solid shot out to a killing range of 400 yards. The original gun carriages were made by Ephraim Thayer whose shop was in the South End, Boston. Immediately under the Spar deck is the Gun deck and here you will find thirty 20-pounder long guns. They weigh about three and one quarter tons each and their shot can pierce twenty inches of wood at 1000 yards. Each gun was given a name by the original crew and these can be seen over the gun-ports. On a quiet day at sea the areas between the guns was used for repair and general maintenance of the ships items such as ropes, rigging and sail mending.

This is the anchor capstan where seventy to seventy five men heaved round on bars which were placed in the sockets to hoist the 5300 pound anchor. Manpower on U.S.S. Constitution was frugal as I remember reading that on Nelson's flagship, H.M.S. Invincible, they needed three hundred men to do the same task, but that had been earlier in the century and ship building had moved on a bit since then. Nevertheless, it is something to be said for the skill of designer of the Constitution,  Joshua Humphreys.

After this we walked across to the Bunker Hill Monument as Ben was determined to climb to the top of this. The monument marks the centre of the Battle of Bunker Hill which took place on June 17th 1775. 
This 221 foot granite tower contains a spiral staircase to the top but there is only a small viewing window at the top and as it was already 95 degrees Ben was going to get very hot and sticky climbing all those stairs! 

Sure enough, he came down about twenty minutes later and his T shirt was so wet you could have wrung it out!. Robyn and I had stayed below in the visitors centre reading all about the battles, as there were more than one and looking at the toy soldiers who were deployed on various battle scenes in glass cages. Ben said that he didn't really get to look out of the tiny viewing window at the top as there was a school party up there and all the kids were clambering around trying to see out. He decided to come down again in search of cool air and water! He can't remember just how many stairs there were to the top but the tour bus guide said it was somewhere in the region of two hundred and thirty.

We then took the walk back to the trolley bus stop and waited for it to arrive. We were all wearing stickers like the one  shown here so it would be easy for the drivers to spot their customers. This worked out fine and our next stop was to be the park area as we were going to take a Swan boat ride on the lake.

Ben stares across the lake at the Swan Boats. Little did we know what was in store. It all looked so peaceful!

No sooner had we boarded the boat than a load of small kids got on with bagfuls of bread and then started throwing it overboard to hundreds of ducks we fought savagely for it. The lake was teeming with them and they tried to hop aboard more than once.

Not only that but pigeons were swooping down also. It was like being in the Hitchcock film 'The Birds'. Not a very pleasant experience and definitely not something I would recommend if you are nervous about things with beaks!

After this we bought lemon ice  sherbets and waited for the bus to go back. Robyn was feeling too hot and sticky to go on so she went back to the hotel and Ben and I went down to the marina intending to take the last part of the tour which was the harbour cruise. This was our last day and we wanted to do it all before we went back to the U.K.  It is a nice area down there which we had discovered previously when we took a walk through the Christopher Columbus Gardens which are very pretty and shaded from the sun by climbing plants which grow up over a large trellised walkway. 

They also have a statue of the great man put up and maintained by the Columbus Society. From here you can look out over the harbor, read, eat lunch or just people watch. Further up in Little Italy we found a nice harbour front restaurant called Joe's and we had good food there. I remember their salads being very nice.

The harbour tour was ok. It took us out to the Logan Airport area and then down to see the U.S.S. Constitution again. I tried to take a few pictures looking back to shore but they did not turn out as good as this postcard which shows Boston Harbor in its full glory. You can just see the high tower of the Corn Exchange with its clock face which was the marker for our hotel. If ever we got lost we would always look for this to regain our bearings. We did not get to see the ship made famous by the 'Boston Tea Party' because when we were in Cape Cod there had been a fire which started in the small gift shop on the pier and the whole area was now closed for the rest of the season. Ah well, such is life. I think I can safely say that we saw quite a lot on this holiday so missing out on one ship was to be no great hardship.

We had had a really good time in Boston. It is a great city and as we prepared to pack our cases for the journey home and work out what time to get up to take the car back to Alamo we thought how fortunate we were to have visited New England and seen so much variety in places and people. New England is nice, some parts are nicer than others, but we had been away for nearly three weeks and we were ready to go home to 'Old England' to see friends, pets, relatives and neglected, hard-working husbands of course! 
So bye for now. Come back and visit our web page soon. 


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