Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fall Break 2012 - Tour de Northeast

Like many folks, I have a bucket list of places I want to visit with my family before the kids are grown. I've always wanted to go to New York City and to the New England states. So, that is just what we decided to do for this year's Fall Break vacation. Although it goes against my nature, I don't even have much in the way of an itinerary, and that doesn't bother me in the least!

"The journey not the arrival matters." T.S. Eliot

Day 1 - Heading Out

Thursday, October 4, 2012
Due to some changes in our work schedules, we were able to head out a day earlier than we had planned. Tahoe loaded down and packed with pillows and various forms of entertainment, we left the house about 4:30 p.m. I'm not sure how far we will get today, but leaving early will sure make tomorrow's trip easier. I am so thankful to have the next 8 days to spend with my family experiencing new places.

On the road...

The plan is to arrive in Staten Island Friday evening, check into hotel (Hilton Garden Inn), and then hop onto the ferry to head to Manhattan. We definitely want to see Times Square at night!  We will spend Saturday in NYC and then Sunday in Boston before heading to Cape Elizabeth/Portland Maine for 3 days.

Day 2 - On the road again...NYC Bound

Bristol, Staten Island, Staten Island Ferry Terminal, Statue of Liberty, Manhattan, Times Square

Friday, October 5, 2012
We stopped for the night in Bristol, VA. We were back on the road at 8:15. GPS ETA is 5:15. It's a beautiful morning, and now that the fog has cleared out, we are taking in the beautiful views of the mountains in Virginia. Although the fall foliage is not in its peak here, it is definitely well on its way.

Just a roadside snapshot in VA

We arrived at the Hilton Garden Inn on Staten Island around 6:30 pm. After a quick change and freshening up, we were off to catch the Staten Island Ferry to Manhattan. The drive into Staten Island and the commute to the ferry was nerve-wracking for a girl like me that is not use to big city traffic. Driving in Memphis and Nashville is a breeze compared to the New York City area...maniacs everywhere. The buses and cabs will just run right over you if you don't watch for them. Noah said, "I knew the people in New York would be mean...I just knew it". (Out of the mouths of babes.) The ferry ride through the harbor was pretty cool...our first view of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline being at night with the torch and the lights of Manhattan illuminated against the nighttime sky and reflecting off the water.

After docking at the ferry terminal, we took the "1 Train" up to Times Square. Chad thought it was appropriate that the first sign we saw after coming out of the subway was Ernst & Young (it's a CPA thing). Time Square was a very lively place. We were starved though, so we immediately scouted out a place to eat. We went for the NY style coal-fired brick oven pizza at John's Pizzeria. I believe it hit the spot for all of us. Then, we just took in Times Square and took the kids to M&M World. They loved it!!! After filling their bags with M&Ms from the wall of chocolate, it was late and time for us to head back to the hotel.

What do I think Alex will remember most about Time Square?...the "naked cowboys" :)
How many questions did Noah ask on the subway?...I lost count after 50.

Day 3 - NYC Blitz - 24 Hours in the Big Apple

Staten Island, Staten Island Ferry Terminal, Statue of Liberty, Manhattan, Rockefeller Center

Saturday, October 6, 2012
After a late night in Times Square, we didn't get going as early as we had hoped to on Saturday. We were back on the ferry to Manhattan a little before noon. It was a completely different ferry experience than the night before, seeing everything in the daylight.

We decided our first stop would be for lunch at the Carnegie Deli. Noah marveled over his foot long hot dog and shocked us by eating all 12 inches of it (sans bun, of course - his usual style).

After lunch, we went to Rockefeller Center, which I really enjoyed. We went in the Lego store and then to the American Girl Place. It was mayhem at both, but the kids were overwhelmed with excitement. We left the Lego store with the Empire State Building, a Ninjago set, and a Lego Friends set. We brought Caroline Abbott (the new historical character) home from American Girl store. We wrapped up Rockefeller Center with a quick trip through Nintendo World for Noah.

It was getting to be late afternoon at this point. We had one more place we wanted to go before leaving NYC - B & H Photo and Video, but, to our disappointment, it was closed for the weekend. So, we decided to start making our way out of New York and into Boston. It was kind of neat passing through Brooklyn, Bronx, and Queens on our way out...I just can't imagine living in those places!

Day 4 - I Think I'll Go to Boston


Sunday, October 7, 2012
Old Statehouse
It was time for bed when we got to Boston. We stayed at the Hampton Inn Boston/Cambridge. Just driving in, I could tell I was probably going to love it. The next day confirmed it...I LOVED BOSTON!!! We started our day with the Boston Duck Tours (tour the town in the amphibious trucks/boats like those used by the military and driven by their Great-Granddaddy in WWII) because we thought the kids would love it and it would make a tour around the city more appealing to them. We were right...THEY LOVED IT!!! As a bonus, Alex got picked to drive the boat in the waters of the Charles River.

The duck boat was a great way to get an overview of Boston, Cambridge, and Back Bay. We then used the Old Town Trolley as a mode of transport and a more in depth tour. I loved the architecture and history found in Boston.

There is so much more we would like to do some day in Boston. We toured Fenway Park (no, we are not Red Sox fans).

We tried to take the USS Constitution Tour, but it was closed by the time we got there. Something kind of neat and special did happen at the museum though. We only went in there because Alex had to use the restroom. While we were in there, Chad just happened to pick up and read a flyer sitting on a table in the hallway. To our surprise and to Alex's delight, the author of the Caroline Abbott (her new American Girl) series, Kathleen Ernst, was at the museum. We missed the opportunity to do the tea party with her, but we were able to meet her, take pictures, and have her sign the book set. What a good way to end our day in Boston.

Tidbit - Alex and Noah are both going to college in Boston now - Alex says she is going to MIT. Noah is still debating between MIT and Harvard.

Day 5 - A Fine Day in Maine

Cape Elizabeth, Portland Head Lighthouse

Monday, October 8, 2012
We arrived in Cape Elizabeth, Maine around 8 pm last night. We found the cottage to be very cozy and livable. The back deck has a view of the Atlantic and you can hear the soothing sound of the waves coming ashore.

We found a nice spot for dinner, The Good Table Restaurant, where we enjoyed some great food and exceptional service. Although I had never tried lobster before, I thought since we were in Maine I would at least try it in some way. So, I chose the lobster pasta special of the evening and found it to be very satisfying.

This morning, everyone slept in and recovered from the traveling. It was a beautiful morning, and we were eager to start exploring the coast. But first, we had to take care of Daddy. His foot has been hurting since we first left for vacation - tendinitis we think. He has been such a trooper, not wanting to spoil the fun for the rest of the gang. It occurred to me this morning that perhaps his doctor could call in something that we could pick up at the Portland Walgreen's. Mission was soon accomplished and by the end of the day he was getting some much needed relief.

Although it was closer to lunch time by the time we left Walgreen's, the kids were still wanting breakfast. We stopped at a little diner by the name of Miss Portland. The diner's specialty was the corned beef hash. That is not something I usually eat but I gave it a shot just for the sake of trying something different. It was good...but not something I'd want very often. The kids ordered pancakes that were the size of a large dinner plate.

The rest of the afternoon was one of those really special family times that you will never forget. We went to Portland Head Lighthouse. It is the oldest lighthouse in Maine and the second commissioned by the "new government" in 1790. The photographs were amazing, and the kids were giddy with excitement watching the waves crash into the rocks.

Portland Head Light

After that, we went to Two Lights State Park. This proved to be another memorable place to spend time with the family. There were several trails to the ocean and then lots of rocks along the shore where the waves crash. We spent the rest of the afternoon just watching the kids playing on the rocks and the waves coming ashore. Of course, we took tons of photos there too.

We had dinner at The Lobster Shack before heading back to the cottage for the evening. Noah was entertained by watching the cooks pick out Chad's live lobster from the tank. He refused the offer to hold or touch the lobster though. Both Alex and Noah thought it was funny to see the lobster served. Noah said he wouldn't be eating a bug like that...LOL!

Back at the cottage, the kids found a Toy Story Monopoly Jr game and played for hours...until the squabbling started and we sent them to bed. :)

Day 6 - Another Day in Maine

Cape Elizabeth, Freeport, Old Port

Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Today was kind of a low key day. We started the morning off with a quick stop at Panera Bread before heading into Freeport to do a little shopping. Freeport is a charming coastal village where many of the stores are located in historical buildings or homes. It is also home of the L.L. Bean Headquarters and Retail Store. After shopping for a little while, we went back into Portland. TripAdvisor had listed the Allagash Brewery Tour as the number one rated attraction in Portland. After touring it, we are not exactly sure how that happened.

Hanging Out in Freeport
We spent the evening in Old Port and dined at Portland Pie Co. We caught a glimpse of the Carnival Glory docked in the harbor. I couldn't believe it's size...way bigger than I would have imagined it being. Then, as we were heading out of Old Port, Chad caught sight of the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile going down the road. Of course, we had to turn around and chase after it for a picture. We finally found it parked at a hotel and stopped to take pictures. I tried to look online to find out why it was in Portland, but I could only find the summer schedule. I did find out that there are 8 of the weinermobiles in existence. The one we saw had license plate WNR MBLE.

When we got back to the cottage, the kids talked us into playing The Monopoly Jr game with them...there was lots of laughter and silliness.

Day 7 - Beachcombing & Lobstering

Old Port, Crescent Beach State Park

Wednesday, October 10, 2012
A walk down to the beach with my family was a great way to start our last day of vacationing in Maine. I love being on a beach looking at the ocean, whether it is warm and sunny or cool and breezy like it was today. I just think it is good for the soul.

Our Cottage

As cold as it was, boys will be was all we could do to keep Noah ashore. Alex, our budding photographer, was busy framing and taking pictures.

A good rain had set in by mid-afternoon. That did not stop us from our plans to go lobstering off the coast of Maine. We braved the wind and rain to go out with Captain Tom to pull, check, bait, and set traps. It was a good day, turning up a total of 8 keepers, plus a few crabs. We learned a lot about lobstering such as how to measure for a keeper lobster, how to mark a breeding female, and how they will sometimes molt their shells. We found one such male that had molted in the trap. Captain Tom said he would make a fine dinner due to the sweet flavor of softshell lobster.

Stuffing Bait Bags
Setting Traps
Measuring for Keepers

Banding Claws

On our way out, we spotted seals and saw the 10th largest private yacht in the world (owned by David Geffen of DreamWorks SKG). Needless to say, the yacht was impressive.

Day 8 - Baseball Hall of Fame

Cooperstown, Niagara Falls, New York, US

Thursday, October 11, 2012
We left Maine early this morning headed to Cooperstown, NY to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame. The drive across Massachusetts and mountainous Upstate New York was the most amazing I have ever seen. We timed it just right as the fall foliage was at its peak. The views along the way were simply breathtaking. I said a few days ago that I could not imagine living in the Boroughs of New York City. That is not the case with Upstate New York. If all my family would pack up and go with me, I would load the U-haul tomorrow and move to Upstate New York (or Maine, either one).

Cooperstown was a nice, quaint little town. I don't have a lot to say about the Baseball Hall of Fame, other than it is cool to say I have been there now. I pretty much scouted out the Cardinals memorabilia and players, along with snapping pictures of the plaques of the ones I consider the greatest...Ozzie Smith, Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Bob Gibson, etc.

Just a pretty picture taken behind Baseball Hall of Fame

Cooperstown Lakefront (Lake Ostego)
Main St., Cooperstown, NY

Tidbit - I am so glad Tennessee doesn't have toll roads!

Day 9 - Niagara Falls & Headed South

Niagara Falls, New York, US, Louisville

Friday, October 12, 2012
We arrived in Niagara Falls last night just in time to grab a bite of dinner at our hotel (Sheraton at the Falls) and take the short walk down to Bridal Veil Falls to see it illuminated at night.

This morning, we walked around the Niagara Falls State Park to see Horseshoe Falls. I had been to Niagara Falls Canada with my family in 1990. Now, a passport is necessary to go to the Canada side. Because we did not decide on going to Niagara Falls until a few weeks ago, there wasn't enough time to get me and the kids one. I knew the Canada view was amazing, but I didn't know what to expect from the New York side. I was not disappointed, though. The views were spectacular. It was also beautiful to just walk around the park and enjoy the fall colors. Noah chased squirrels while Alex posed for some pictures.

Check out the sound of the falls...

It was soon time to start making our way home. We drove to Louisville, KY where we stopped for the night to visit and have dinner with my brother before heading home in the morning. He took us to Rocky's on the River and then drove us by the Louisville Slugger Museum so we could see the gigantic baseball bat.

Tidbit - Just because everyone else is driving 81 MPH through Ohio doesn't mean you can too!

Day 10 - Last Leg - Louisville to Lexington

Louisville, Lexington

Saturday, October 13, 2012
Today is bittersweet...will be glad to get home but sad that vacation passed so quickly. Chad read somewhere a few days ago that travel is a gift to your children. I certainly hope they see and will remember it that way. Maybe one day when they are discussing the Boston Tea Party in an American History class, they will recall riding past the harbor in the trolley just in time to see the re-enactors throwing the tea overboard, driving the duck boat through the Charles River, or seeing the U.S.S. Constitution. Perhaps in geography class, Niagara Falls, the Catskills, the rocky Atlantic Coast, the Shenandoah Valley, the Great Lakes, etc will seem more real. Or, maybe it will remind them of climbing rocks and chasing squirrels. To me, it was worth every mile, every toll, every tank of gas, and a speeding ticket.

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