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Trip Report My trip report - "Cute" (call it "picturesque") New England

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Well, I finally got my netbook charger, so I can complete this trip report. The main purpose of this trip was to help our DS and his girlfriend set up their apartment in New Haven. They've lived mostly in Africa (Uganda) since college, so they owned absolutely nothing useful! We planned for two days with them (my DH and DD had already been there a week before I arrived – good planning on my part!), and a 4-day break to drive around New England. So with no particular itinerary in mind, and no map, but having in mind the list of places we got from all the helpful Fodors New Englanders, we set out on Monday morning, later than planned of course. Our desire – to see some picturesque towns, eat some decent food, soak up some American history.

Day 1 – left New Haven around 11. Drove to Hartford – got gas and lunch, and stopped at the very lovely AAA office to pick up some maps. We drove on the interstate (91) through CT and most of MA. One thing my late mother taught me – get the hell off the interstate! And something we learned quickly – those New England states are REALLY SMALL!! Continued straight through Massachusetts. Our first real stop was Historic Deerfield, which we thought was beautiful. We were so impressed by the fact that the whole town was bought by one family (their kid was at Deerfield Academy, which I guess means they were loaded) who restored a great deal of it. Some of the homes are “museums” and some are occupied by actually 2009 people. After a quick visit to the historic post office (actually had to mail something), we stopped at the gift shop and some general store outside the historic area (which we did in every town – our favorite being the one in Woodstock). After Historic Deerfield, we went to Putney, Walpole, Grafton (really lovely), Ludlow (might have been our favorite, but it was late and everything was closed, so we just kept on driving), Chester, then Woodstock. All of them were worth driving through, but like the entire region, they are all so small (remember the commercial, “A limo this small…..?”) We spent the night in Woodstock at a roadside motel called the Shireview. It was just a 2* motel, but we arrived late, and were leaving early, so didn't want to spend a lot (i.e. the Woodstock Inn would have been a waste of money on this trip). We had a beautiful view from the room (the river “runs through it”), and there was free wireless, comfortable beds and a decent shower. New furniture and wallpaper, and they might get a third star! We wanted to have dinner at The Prince and the Pauper but we were hungry and tired and would have had to wait an hour and a half, so had dinner at Bentley's instead – better than I expected “comfort food”. In the morning, we had breakfast at The Creamery – very good french toast (Being on Weight Watchers, I appreciated that you could order 1 (me), 2 or 3 pieces), waffle, even the egg was better than usual! Nothing fancy about the Creamery – looks like its been there untouched for 50 years. We wandered the commercial part of town, visited the Woodstock Inn (very lovely, but lacks the “wow factor” of something like the Del in San Diego), walked some of the residential blocks to look at old houses, covered bridge, etc. (since we think our house is “old” at 100 years LOL!). I know everyone says Woodstock is very touristy, but there's a reason for that – it's really lovely! We spent a fair amount of time browsing the shelves at the old general store – in continuous operation since the mid-1800s as I recall. Very modern merchandise for sale, but a historical setting, too.

We left Woodstock with a very loose plan to drive east to New Hampshire. Went through Queechee (that gorge is “gorgeous”, and this is coming from someone who spent four years in Ithaca!). I've never had a particular desire to visit during “leaf season”, but it was so beautiful in summer, now I do. Kept going, to Hanover, Dartmouth College (what a terrific college town, but talk about isolated! (see other posts about Williamstown), Lyme. New Hampshire is spectacularly beautiful – just one gorgeous vista after another. We continued driving south, our intention being to make it too Lake Sunapee in time for the annual craft fair. Oops – the show ended two days before we arrived. Kept going through Contoocock, Hopkinton and Concord (saw Franklin Pierce's birth home, but we didn't go in). Oh yeah, we also saw the farm where Calvin Coolidge was raised – honestly, I can't even remember now where it was, but I remember it was gorgeous! On the way from Hanover to MA, we drove through some heavy rain. My DH decided he was ready to stop driving, so we spent the night roadside (well, in a motel) in Andover, MA at a La Quinta. Cheap (really - $62.00). Very comfortable bed, very good shower, but in the first room they gave us there was an active leak into the shower from above (and consequently mold on the ceiling). They readily moved us – no active leak, and no mold, but it was obvious there had been a leak as the ceiling above the shower was stained. Still, as I said, it was cheap and the beds were comfortable. Ate dinner next door at an Italian restaurant called Le Chateau. Decent if not great Italian – they tout their toasted ravioli, which wasn't very good, but the bread and the vegetables that came with my grilled shrimp were fresh, the minestrone and clam chowder were very tasty. Nothing refined about it, but still hit the spot for a trio of tired travelers!

Next day, on to Concord, MA. We “breakfasted” in the charming downtown at a local cafe – Main Streets Market & Cafe. Visited some of the Revolutionary War sites of interest (where the “shot heard round the world” was fired, where Paul Revere was captured – we didn't know he was – etc.). We passed by and walked around the homes of some notable authors (Emerson, Hawthorne, Alcott, Thoreau – it's amazing that they all lived in one small town), and then went to Walden Pond. It's such a calm and enchanting spot in summer, and then I saw the picture yk posted of Walden Pond in the fall. It's so spectacular I saved it as my computer wallpaper. We continued down the Battle Road toward Lexington, where we visited the Hancock-Adams house and the Battle Green. Took off from there to Boston (we had been in Boston in April, but our daughter hadn't been there in 12 or 13 years, so we did a quick drive-around ---- Harvard Square, Fenway Park, Comm Ave through Back Bay, around the Public Garden and Common. Parked at Faneuil Hall – had a piece of pizza at Regina's, walked to the North End – had a cannoli at Modern, continued on to Copp’s Hill Burial Ground and Old North Church, had a cannoli at Maria's (sense a trend?), then took off for Newport. By the way, we would rank the cannoli (yk, I finally got to do my own taste test, although we had Mike's in April, not this time), and we would rank them Mike's-Maria's-Modern. So there! :-)

We arrived in Newport after dark, only to find that most of the motels were sold out. We got the very last available 2-bed room at the Holiday Inn Express in Middletown. Perfectly adequate. Again, pretty comfortable bed and great shower. Breakfast included, which, while not great, was okay and allowed us to get out and about without spending the time to look for a place to eat first. It was raining that day, so we didn't go to the beach, or walk along the ocean cliffs as we had planned, but we did drive through all the mansions, and all along Ocean Drive. We toured Rosecliff, mostly because my DD was taken by the fact that they've filmed many movies there (The Great Gatsby, 27 Dresses, among others). Drove through the downtown area more to look at the old buildings than anything else, since most of them are just modern shops now. Ate at Annie's, which was okay, nothing great, wouldn't recommend it as the bathroom was kind of grungy. After lunch, we went by Touro Synagogue (the building is 200 years old, the congregation actually was formed in 1658, pretty impressive at least to me – it's the oldest Jewish congregation in the US), then through Washington Sq. Historical District, and out of town.

Back to New Haven – where it is a construction zone – painting, building, everything covered in plastic, etc. We stayed that night (slept on an air mattress in the middle of all this – surprised even myself!) and most of the next day, then headed home.

FWIW, New Haven may not be Cambridge, but it sure has a vibrant restaurant scene. We had very good dinners at Zinc, Thali, and Geronimo's, and a pretty good vegetarian lunch at Claire's.

So that's it. Short trip, but very enjoyable. Lots of these towns were “blink and you miss it”, but still as picturesque as promised. Thanks to everyone who suggested places to go. We didn't make it to all of them, but we saw an assortment (including covered bridges, which I may have forgotten to mention) It was a great trip! (For others planning, we drove about 500 miles total over 3-1/2 days, and it was pretty leisurely).

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