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Summer and fall in New England and the Mid-Atlantic!
Less an action-packed blog and more a smorgasbord of photos from various days and weekends in the northeast in between art shows, work and the occasional trip home to the sweltering Floridian summer sun.
Highlights included our first trip to the Great Sacandaga Lake (Land of the Waving Grass in local native tongue) in northern New York with good friends Steve and Barb for a day on their fishing boat. We island hopped, swam in the glassy waters and picnicked in almost total tranquility and seclusion surrounded by the forested peaks of the Adirondack Mountains. After a first-class watery day we experienced another first as the sun was setting pink on the lake. Steve was busy hauling the boat in at the dock when a couple of convertible amphibious cars pulled up. The boys were very excited and chatted with the owners for a few minutes. One of the cars was having its maiden voyage so we watched with a mixture of both awe and some trepidation as it left dry land with 4 not inconsiderably hefty passengers squeezed into its newly upholstered seats and motored off into the watery sunset to the surprised cheers of admiration of those left on dry land behind them.
There were other highlights to follow but in all honesty my day trip to Fredericksburg, Virginia, a small historical city south of Washington, DC on the Rappahannock River was not one of them. It was once a prominent river port in colonial-era Virginia. I’ve visited before – it’s not a desperately exciting town if you aren’t fully boned up on American civil war history but it does have some lovely old buildings, a certain quaintness and a half decent coffee shop so I thought it worth the trip out from DC again.
I certainly won’t make the same mistake again of visiting in August. I endured what was very possibly the hottest, most miserably humid few hours of my life trudging listlessly through the streets. Even the peanut butter coffee at Agora did little to lighten my perspiration-dampened spirit. I know nothing whatsoever about American civil war history but as I stood in front of a mural commemorating the thousands of lives lost in the first Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862 (mercifully waged in December), it crossed my mind that there couldn’t be a less hospitable place to fight a civil war (or any other kind of battle) than the swampy Southern Atlantic and Southern States of America during the sweltering summer months.
Conversely, my annual August trip to beautiful Annapolis, Maryland (more famous for its role in the American Revolutionary War with Great Britain – which I unashamedly admit I know equally little about) was quite the reverse. I sauntered around the beautiful harbor in the warm summer breeze with a spring in my step and wandered down to the marina to gaze at the sea-going vessels of the exceptionally well-heeled who come here every summer to play on the Chesapeake Bay – and to see and to be seen. I meandered through the back streets replete with immaculate 18th century colonial architecture, excellent coffee shops, cafes and colorful taverns and stores and reflected with considerably more positivity that if it weren’t for the bleak winters in Annapolis, I could happily live there 🙂
Boston and its environs took the Gold at the podium of New England destinations (as usual) in our various summer and autumnal travels. There are few places more glorious in fall than New England. We spent various weeks over July, September and October staying with our old friend Jan at his apartment on the waterfront in Boston 🙂 I spent my time mainly becoming ever more rotund on the delicacies offered by Tatte Bakery and Cafe, Flour Bakery and the irresistible Florentine cannolis at Mike’s Pastry in the North End. We endured the usual torturous trip to our favorite Chinese foot massage spa at the Rainbow Health Centre on Essex Street in China Town. It took quite some hours for Ming (the Merciless) to straighten out my toes from walking mile upon mile across the city every day in a vain attempt to burn enough calories to justify the next trip to Tatte …or Flour …or Mike’s 😉 …
The obvious highlights of any sojourn in Boston are the spectacular Harborwalk, Beacon Hill, North End, Back Bay, Newbury and Boylston Streets, China Town, Seaport and Fort Point with its trendy bars and cafes (Bar Mezzana/Sportello/Drink and Chickadee to name but a few), the colorful bi-weekly Farmers Market in Copley Plaza, the Boston Public Library, Boston Common and Boston Public Garden both of which were beginning to show signs of autumnal color in our final days there. For those who live in an almost perpetual state of summer (by most people’s standards) there is something very appealing about that dampness underfoot which comes of kicking soggy leaves in the park as they flutter to the ground around you and watching squirrels dash about collecting acorns for their winter supplies. For the month of September and roughly the first 2 weeks of October the weather is fabulous and the trees are mind-boggling gorgeous – peaking in all of their glory by mid-October. However, as soon as Mother Nature’s display has been unceremoniously replaced by the first signs of winter chill, it is most definitely time to hotfoot it back to the Sunshine State 😉
Before we left, however, I felt compelled to return to Boston Museum of Fine Art – partly because it was free on Columbus Day and partly because I wanted to visit a rarely seen collection of French pastels by Monet, Manet, Renoir and Co. The Museum is overwhelmingly huge and exhausting and would probably take days of concerted effort and the dedicated attentions of a personal guide to help you successfully navigate through the labyrinthine structure. I always get lost (the map of the various galleries might as well be written in hieroglyphics for all the information I can glean from it) and I always make my escape after briefly checking that Monet’s waterlilies are still safely hanging in his dedicated Gallery 252.
Still, with hindsight – rather wander the galleries lost for hours at the Museum of Fine Art than entirely waste an hour at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Seaport. It is a fantastic contemporary glass structure with a great view. I had high hopes for the quality of the art. The bonus was that Thursday evenings are, at least, free of charge – we concurred that it would have been most disagreeable to have paid good money to see the prized collection of painted concrete blocks and old t-shirts, socks and sweatshirts “embalmed” for posterity in resin… hmmm…
I also discovered during my wanderings through the city this summer that for years, in my haste to make it to the art galleries on swanky Newbury Street or to explore the streets and boutique stores in Beacon Hill, I had been blithely walking past King’s Chapel Burying Ground on Tremont Street in ignorance of its unusual appeal. It is the oldest graveyard in the city, founded in 1630. To be fair there are a number of famous graveyards in Boston but I don’t choose to linger for long amongst the dead when there is so much life, activity and beauty to see in the city. However, this burial ground is infinitely more interesting than most – not only because it is the final resting place of Mary Chilton, a Plymouth Pilgrim and specifically the first female to set foot on US soil from the Mayflower (amongst other notable historical figures) but mainly because of the photogenic and somewhat macabre gravestones engraved with winged skulls, crossbones, angels wrestling with Death, ghoulish dancing skeletons and various other depictions of hell, heaven and the afterlife. One Joseph Tapping’s stone at the front of the burying ground depicts a skeleton and Father Time battling over the eventuality of death. Cheery! No wonder I prefer to spend my time sampling Boston’s many and varied culinary delights and watching the sun glistening on the waterfront.
In between all of that, we had our annual trips to the beautiful coastal towns of Newburyport, Massachusetts and diminutive Wickford, Rhode Island; we tried out The Landing in Bowens Wharf in trendy Newport, Rhode Island which was memorable more for its sunset views, cocktails and its spectacular waterfront location than its food.
I took a day trip to Portsmouth, New Hampshire to kick some more autumnal leaves and potter around the harbor and boutiques (but really I went to collect picnic supplies from one of my other favorite old-fashioned bakeries on earth – Ceres) and then I meandered the scenic coastal routes 103 and 1A through York Harbor, Cape Neddick, York Cliffs, Ogunquit and super touristy Kennebunkport, Maine. For a town this tiny, it certainly does attract a huge number of tour buses whose mainly asian occupants were positively buzzing with excitement at its quaint architecture, colorful autumnal leaves and the famous (albeit long distance) view to the Bush family compound. An iconic New England road trip, if ever there was one!
I took the train from Boston to meet with my friend Roxane in Concord, MA. The plan was that we would attempt something vaguely cultural in between lunch at Main Street Market and Cafe and coffee and, to be fair, we did get as far as the entrance gate to the DeCordova Sculpture Park. Faced with a large sculpture made from a circular pile of bricks we took the unanimous decision to fritter the rest of the afternoon drinking coffee and eating delicacies overlooking the river at Nashoba Bakery instead. Maybe we’ll have to give it another try when the draw of caffeine isn’t so strong 😉
As I love Maine so much, my final girls day out with Roxane was another long drive up the Maine coast from Newburyport, Massachusetts to Ogunquit, Maine. It was everything one could possibly want from a quintessential day trip on the New England coast… the heady waft of beach rose perfume on the Marginal Way trail… maple trees luminescent with pink and orange leaves, waves crashing on the rocky shoreline and a rather excellent lobster roll at Foot Bridge Lobster in Perkins Cove. The good vegetarian fell once again from her lofty perch 😦 It must have been the hottest day ever recorded in Maine. It rarely reaches 80F in summer let alone 85F in October so the lure of the sea was irresistible. Not as irresistible as for those actually fully submerged in the icy Atlantic waters – but still enough for me to wonder if I could dip my toes into the briny on such a splendidly warm day. Wrong! It was, as ever, colder than the Arctic and I had to chip the ice off my toes before any semblance of feeling returned.
Another great summer and fall in beautiful New England 🙂