New England in the Fall
It was typical Fall weather as we left New York City and travelled towards our base in a Central Massachusetts hotel. The rain was belting down but of course the views were really impressive. New England during the Fall is a spectacular time of year with a variety of coloured leaves from auburn to deep red ensuring our foliage tour of New Hampshire was unforgettable.
Our foliage tour of New Hampshire took us through Franconia Notch State Park, Lincoln, and along the Kancamagus Highway. Franconia Notch State Park is located in the heart of the White Mountain National Forest which provided unspoilt and unforgettable views of the Fall foliage. Franconia is in the stunning mountain pass which encompasses Flume Gorge in the south to Echo Lake in the north with the I-93 winding through the remarkable peaks of the Kinsman and Franconia mountain ranges. We had time to stop at the Flume Gorge Visitor Centre and walk through Flume Gorge. As it was a coach tour time was limited but there are ample opportunities to fish, ride a bike or hike the Appalachian Trail. From here we visited the small town of Lincoln which is located near the White Mountains and while we were here, we had time to visit the Americana Museum. Lincoln was established as one of America’s first colonies in 1782 and is home to a variety of adventurous activities. We found the Old Man of the Mountain remarkably interesting as it gave us information on prehistoric man and how he hunted within the snowy New England terrain using a skill older than previously thought – skiing! We then made our way along the Kancamagus Highway which is also known as the Kancamagus Scenic Byway or simply as ‘The Kanc!’ The Kancamagus Highway is renowned for the best Fall foliage views along this winding 34.5 mile stretch of Northern New Hampshire. The Kancamagus Highway takes you to an elevation of around 3,000 feet at its highest point at the Kancamagus Pass near Mount Kancamagus near Lincoln. The bright colours of the Fall foliage were accompanied by the deep forest smells of the pine forests which were enhanced during the rain. There are no facilities like petrol stations along the highway, but the Kancamagus Highway has a rich cultural history in relation to the Indian land, loggers, and railroad workers of the industrial past. We returned to the hotel in the evening and after dinner we were taken on a shopping trip to the Worcester outlet malls for some famous American discounts. Discounts ranged from 50% – 90% and I was delighted to pick up some discounted Levi Jeans there!
Although I had enjoyed the amazing Fall foliage in New Hampshire I was looking forward to visiting Boston! Our guide on the coach gave us a full guided tour of the city. It is always great to be in the presence of somebody who is local to the area and knows the history. Boston is the capital city of the state of Massachusetts and lies on Massachusetts Bay close to the Atlantic Ocean. It is a small city with a quarter of the city including the Charles River and Boston Harbour near water. Our guide took us on a guided tour of the Freedom Trail which is a unique collection of museums, churches, burying grounds and a ship that tells the story of the American Revolution and beyond. During the Freedom Trail tour we saw Boston Common, which was established in 1634; Massachusetts State House which has served as the seat of Massachusetts government since opening in 1798; Park Street Church which was designed by Peter Banner and one of the first landmarks people saw when travelling towards Boston; Granary Burying Ground which was established in 1660 and once had a 12,000-bushel grain storage building next door; King’s Chapel which was Boston’s first Anglican Church founded in 1686 and is at the corner of Boston’s oldest English burying ground; Old Corner Bookstore; Old South Meeting house where the Boston Tea Party began; Old State House which has stood the tests of massacre, revolution and fire; Boston Massacre Site which saw the clash between Bostonians and Redcoats in 1770; Faneuil Hall which hosted America’s first town meeting and has been hailed at the home of free speech; USS Constitution which is the oldest commissioned warship and was launched in Boston in 1797 and the Bunker Hill Monument which marks the Battle of Bunker Hill which happened in 1775 and was the first major battle of the Revolutionary War. The walk along the Freedom Trail was remarkably interesting and I saw some additional events that peaked my interested. At the Massachusetts State House, a press conference was taking place and we also stumbled upon live filming on a movie set. I was enthusiastically filming it all on my camcorder and was flattered that I got a wave from the director shooting the movie!
After an active day in the city of Boston we retreated to the countryside for a bit of fresh and old-fashioned New England hospitality at the Bull Run Restaurant in Shirley, Massachusetts. On the way there our guide told us stories about local folklore and legends including the English involvement in King Phillip’s War which was an armed conflict which occurred between the indigenous inhabitants of New England and the New England colonists between 1675-1678. She also told us about the Harvard Shakers and the Harvard Shaker Village which is comprised of 12 remaining Shaker Structures, a burial ground, and the Holy Hill of Zion, where outdoor worship once took place. Johnny Appleseed was also an outdoorsman who was said to have travelled on foot across America planting apple trees and he was born in Massachusetts in 1774 and our guided told us about him and Mary and her little lamb which are local legends and folklore. We arrived at the Bull Run Restaurant which also has a long history and tradition of serving the thirsty traveller since 1740. The food and the ambiance were outstanding here. I tucked into some native turkey with traditional stuffing. It was absolutely delicious and the whole evening was fantastic being good-humoured and educational. It is always interesting to learn about the local history and myths and legends.
At 9am we departed our hotel and headed north towards Maine. Before we arrived in Maine we stopped at Newburyport, Massachusetts and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Newburyport is a beautiful quintessential New England coastal city with lots of shops and restaurants and hosts the Yankee Homecoming event in the summer. Portsmouth is a port city on the Piscataqua River and is home of the Strawberry Banke Museum. We only stopped briefly at these places to stretch our legs and have a drink and a bite to eat. After our brief visits to Newburyport and Portsmouth we crossed the border into Maine and celebrated visiting three states in a day! We arrived at York Harbour for our legendary lobster bake lunch! I was not really too keen at the prospect of eating lobster as I am not a huge fan of seafood and let us be honest, they look awful too! However, I wanted to sample the local traditional meal and of course the chowder too. I was seated next to the guide and she could see that I didn’t look very keen especially as I thought you had to choose your own lobster in a tank but I had got my wires crossed about this and this seemed to bemuse our guide! When the lobster arrived, it seemed huge and I felt a bit queasy to be honest and I was not sure how you actually battled with it to get some actual meat to eat. I began to imitate our guide who was enthusiastically tucking in. I followed suite but my enthusiasm did not improve. The taste of the lobster and chowder were acceptable, and I ate most of it, but I think it was more out of politeness than anything else. I doubt I will be ordering a lobster bake lunch again anytime soon! Following lunch, we drove through Kennebunkport.
The houses were beautiful and as it was getting close to Halloween all the houses seemed to have decorative pumpkins on the front porches. Some of the houses had skeletons and spiderwebs too. It was so typically American, and you could see some children adding more to their Halloween displays on the porch. I always enjoy seeing authentic activities which give you a sense of everyday life and this became one of the highlights of the trip. We visited some more shops at the famous Kittery Mall Outlets, but my money was low, so I decided just to browse rather than spend more money on Levi Jeans!
We bid farewell to our Central Massachusetts hotel and drove south to the village of Plymouth. Plymouth was the first established pilgrim settlement and was founded in 1620 and it is located on the coast of Massachusetts. Within Pilgrim Memorial State Park is the Plymouth Rock which marks the site where Pilgrims first came ashore and settled with hope of a peaceful life in America.
They built their first fort and watchtower on Burial Hill. The Mayflower II is a full-scale replica of the ship that the Pilgrims boarded for their voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. We also visited the Plimoth Patuxet which is a living history museum which replicates the original settlement of the Pilgrims. Formally known as the Plimoth Plantation the word ‘plantation’ has been recently dropped to better represent the fact that the site includes historical re-enactments of both the 17th century English colony and the Wampanoag tribe.
For the next two nights we stayed at a hotel in Cape Cod. Cape Cod is a sandy peninsula which was created during the last ice age and reaches out into the Atlantic Ocean like a crooked arm. It was the site of several early explorers and was home to the Wampanoag people for thousands of years before the European settlers arrived. The Pilgrims first landed at Cape Cod but as it was too sandy to support them, they sailed across Cape Cod Bay to establish a colony in Plymouth. The Cape Cod National Seashore features of 40 miles of gorgeous sandy beaches, marshes, and ponds as well as lighthouses and cranberry bogs. A 50-mile area of sea from Provincetown to Chatham is known as the ’ocean graveyard’ because there are over 1,000 shipwrecks in the ocean between the two towns. We were due to enjoy a Whale Watch in Provincetown at the Dolphin Fleet but due to stormy seas it was cancelled and due to the tight schedule on board a coach tour there wasn’t enough time to reschedule it leaving us a little disappointed. However, we made the most of our time browsing in Provincetown which had a diverse and welcoming LGBTQ+ community.
We also visited Hyannis and we were able to visit the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum which chronicles the assassinated president’s life and family through videos and photographs. Sadly, this was our last evening in New England and we celebrated our last evening at the Hearth ‘n Kettle in Hyannis which had fantastic, tasty wholesome food! Rich in culture, history and outstanding natural beauty New England is definitely worth a visit!