As promised in a previous post, here is a selection of my photos from the Vermont Toy Museum in Quechee Gorge Village near Hartford, Vermont. The museum’s website is down, possibly due to the recent AWS issues, but I got the following from Atlas Obscura:
Nestled above a charming general store near the Quechee Gorge, the Vermont Toy Museum’s vast collection of dolls, action figures, lunchboxes, yo-yos, and matchbox cars is a hidden treasure right off the White River Junction. Around 100,000 toys are housed inside the museum.
The museum’s items largely came from members of the local community. They were collected and compiled decade-by-decade, which displays the evolution of toys and games from the 1950s to the present day. Though it’s unknown who operates and maintains the museum, it’s closely watched by the employees at the downstairs Cabot Cheese Store and the antique mall next door.
The museum also houses an intricate model train exhibit that takes visitors through the four seasons of the Green Mountain state for only a quarter. This museum’s tireless attention to detail, nostalgia, and cozy atmosphere make it a must-see for travelers on Route 4.
It was a fun visit. A place we might have spent a lot more time, but just like the camera museum in Staunton, Virginia, there is only so much time…. 😉 As it was, we spent a lot of time saying things like, “I had that!” or “I remember those” or “the kids had these.” Fun stuff!
Almost forgot! I have completed processing my photos from our New England trip and have posted them on my Adobe Portfolio site.
Growing up in western Pennsylvania, I had actually visited New York many times prior to this most recent trip. I went to Peek’n Peek to ski, visited Buffalo, Corning, Watkins Glen, Troy and even Lake Placid. But those visits were all before I started getting serious about photography, and many of them, including Lake Placid, were Before Kathy, and I wanted to take her there. While I had some photos that would have worked – they’re our rules, after all! – we decided that another swing through the state would be the right way to do it. Plus we wanted to visit the Finger Lakes.
Departing Burlington, we swung around the south shore of Lake Champlain, crossing into New York near the town of Moriah. Moriah’s claim to fame is as the home of Johnny Podres, 1955 World Series MVP for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Your trivia for the day. 😉 The rain and fog were still with us, but as we drove north and west the skies finally began to clear.
Our first destination was Lake Placid, and we arrived there in time for a late breakfast and a few photos of the fall color on the lake. We didn’t stay long, since we had a long day ahead and didn’t want to linger at the beginning. Also, the town was in the process of some major road work in town. Main Street was torn up and loaded with piles of dirt, rocks and road equipment, rendering the normally picturesque town pretty rough looking. Another technicality is that the lake in town is actually Mirror Lake, and that Lake Placid is out of town to the north. We did stop to see the Olympic ski jumping site on our way into town, but didn’t try to take a tour.
Leaving Lake Placid and heading west through Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake, we crossed a bridge over the Raquette River near Piercefield and were greeted with a lovely park overlooking the river, complete with still water reflecting the fall color of the trees along the riverbank. The skies were clearing but still mostly cloudy, providing us with ideal conditions for photos. It made for one of those unplanned stops we were glad to have taken the time for.
Our ultimate destination was a lodge on the west shore of Seneca Lake, one of the Finger Lakes and central to the Finger Lakes wine region. I had a chance to do a little early photography before heading out to explore the area attractions. We visited three wineries, bought souvenirs at two of them, visited a distillery and the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport. We took a boat cruise on Saranac Lake out of Watkins Glen. That was the seventh boat cruise of our trip – do you get the feeling we like boat cruises? 🙂
One of our days there was dedicated to a drive to Rochester, where we visited the George Eastman Museum and, most importantly, met up with two of our long-time photo buddies Paul Maxim and Ken Bello. We had lunch with them and Ken’s wife before driving along the shore of Lake Ontario through Webster (Where Life Is Worth Living) and ultimately returning to our lodge.
New York made for our 49th state visited. Number 50 is Hawaii, and we have plans to visit there in February. After that? We’ll have to see, but there is a lot more of this country we want to see, we have friends to visit all over, and we might want to see a little bit more of the world. 🙂
There’s no question we didn’t spend enough time in Vermont. Even if it hadn’t rained most of the time we were there, it would not have been enough. But what a beautiful state!
Our first stop after crossing the VT-NH state line was the King Arthur Baking Company in Norwich. We’re not bakers but know the name, and since it was on the way we thought we’d check it out. I guess if you are into making breads and cakes from scratch, this would be your Mecca. From what I could tell they have a little bit of everything in the store, including seemingly dozens of types of flour, pans, mixers, storage containers, you name it. Like a camera store for bakers! There is a cafe on site where they serve products that are made in-house, and there is a cooking school where you can learn to make lots of yummy things – after buying all of the proper equipment and ingredients, of course!
Next we stopped at a place called Quechee Village, and visited the Vermont Toy Museum (what a place – I’ll do a separate post) and Vermont Spirits Distilling Company. Of course we brought home souvenirs. Then it was on to Sugarbush Farm, a working maple syrup and cheese making farm near Woodstock, where we sampled and purchased some of their products. After that we visited The New England Maple Museum in Pittsford.
We spent most of our time in Burlington, which was essentially only one day since we got there late and were only staying two nights. But we crammed as much as possible into one day, visiting Ben & Jerry’s, taking a boat cruise on Lake Champlain, and exploring the town. After a nice dinner at an Irish pub, we headed back to our motel to prepare for the drive to New York.
After spending 9 days in Maine, it is easy to see why it has become a very popular destination over the last few years. I read recently that, according to the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, restaurant and lodging sales reached $2.3 billion between May and August, a roughly 12% increase over 2019. It seemed like most, or at least many, of those people were in Acadia, Bar Harbor and the surrounding areas!
Our visit was based at the Asticou Inn, located in Northeast Harbor. That area is much less busy than Bar Harbor and made a fairly central place to stay without being too far away or right in the hustle and bustle. We heard about Asticou from a waitress at a restaurant in Whiteville, NC. She had waited on us in April and during our conversation told us that she worked at Asticou during the summers. When we made our travel plans we got reservations at the inn and met her there during our visit. Small world! We stayed in a group of rooms on the first floor of an 1854 “cottage” which is really a big old house. We had plenty of space, and although the floors were uneven and squeeky, it was a nice place to call home for a few days. The restaurant there was awesome, although it was closed for two of the five nights we were there. Not lacking for choices, however, we found two great alternatives the other nights!
Our first morning there entailed sunrise on Cadillac Mountain, the highest point in Acadia National Park, and the first place in the US touched by the sun each morning. Reservations are required to go to Cadillac during the day in-season, and sunrise spots are especially coveted and limited to one per person every seven days. Sunrise was about 6:25am, which required a very early alarm in order to get there with time to spare. And Kathy went with me! My funny story from that morning was at the entry gate, the ranger checked our documents, welcomed us and allowed us to go ahead. I asked if he had any tips (meaning for sunrise) and his reply was “keep it between the white lines!” It gave us a laugh. Despite the restricted entry, the parking lot filled quickly, as did the top of the mountain – people bundled up against the cold and wind with all kinds of clothing, both weather-appropriate and otherwise! It was pitch black dark when we got there, and as it got lighter we were able to see more and more people. I can only imagine the pandemonium at peak times before the restrictions!
Admission to Cadillac Mountain after 7am was by timed entry every 30 minutes. Once there you can stay as long as you want. I arbitrarily made a sunrise reservation for our first day, and a 7am reservation for our fourth day. It was good timing, as the sunrise morning was “severe clear” while the second visit was socked in with fog. A few clouds on the sunrise morning would have been preferred, but clear was better than pea soup!
After sunrise we headed back down the mountain and took the Park Loop Road, which goes past many of the top destinations, such as Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Boulder Beach and Otter Cliff. The nice light faded quickly and we stopped a lot to explore, but our main goal was to get there before the “nooners,” as we like to call the crowds of people who start showing up at popular places late morning. They were all in Bar Harbor having breakfast at 7:30 in the morning, heading into the park afterward. Case in point was when a couple days later we cruised past this area of the coast on a boat tour. That afternoon the traffic on the Loop Road was bumper to bumper, and there were dozens of people trying to get a peek at Thunder Hole. When we visited there early in the morning there were only a handful of people at each place!
That afternoon we headed toward the eastern side of Acadia to the Schoodic Peninsula. It turned out to be the least-populated part of the park and probably our ultimate favorite. It doesn’t have the views or the terrain of Acadia proper, but what it lacks in drama it makes up in quietude. It does still have its own beauty, with rocky coastline, nice views and plenty of places to explore. We didn’t have nearly enough time to really relax and enjoy Schoodic, and would make up for it be staying closer to there on a subsequent visit.
We planned a boat cruise out of Bar Harbor for the afternoon of our second day. So we got into town early so we could find a place to park, spent some time walking around town and had a late breakfast at a restaurant called Jordan’s Restaurant. Jordan’s is known for, among other things, their Wild Maine Blueberry Pancakes. Maine IS blueberry country, after all! And they were as good as you might expect, topped with real Maine maple syrup. There was a bit of a wait, but we expected it and it was well worth it. We went to the boat dock in the early afternoon and took a cruise aboard Acadian Boat Tours’ ‘Eden Star.’ We saw…more lighthouses. Also lots of wildlife – seals, dolphins, lobster fishermen and tourists. 😉 The weather was less than ideal – cold and rainy – but the water was smooth as glass, the clouds made for glare-free photographs and we saw some very interesting clouds. We returned from the boat ride ready for cocktails and dinner, and had both at Jack Russell’s Steakhouse and Brewery, a nice steakhouse right across the road. No, it’s not sacrilegious to have steak in Maine!
We devoted our third day for a drive to Quoddy Head State Park, site of the Quoddy Head Lighthouse and known as the Easternmost Point in the Continental US. That means we have now visited the two easiest points to get to – the other being the Southernmost Point in Key West. The Northernmost Point is in Middle of Nowhere (not the actual name!), Minnesota and the Westernmost Point is in Middle of Nowhere (not the actual name!) Oregon. We want to get there but it may need to wait a while! The lighthouse is quite beautiful, and from the shore we could see Canada. In fact, when we were in the parking lot our phones buzzed with the message “Welcome to Canada” and we were charged for using my phone “internationally” even though we never actually left the country! We had a nice dinner – seafood this time – at The Chart Room, a a local waterfront place we had passed earlier in the week.
We devoted our fourth and final day, after an early morning drive back to Cadillac Mountain, to exploring the western side of Mount Desert Island (pronounced ‘dessert’ even though it is spelled like ‘desert.’ It’s evidently a French thing.). We returned to the inn for a late lunch of Lobster Bisque, Lobster Roll and Lobster Popovers (an Acadian thing), knowing that we probably would not be getting lobster in New Hampshire 😉 and spent the afternoon getting ready for our departure toward New Hampshire the next morning.
As spectacular is Acadia is, I don’t know that I would rush back there. I’m glad we went, but truthfully there is so much more to see than just that area. There’s a good reason it is so popular – it is truly gorgeous – but like so many National Parks it has become almost too popular for its own good. We did really enjoy the afternoon we spent exploring the Schoodic Peninsula, and I would go back there in a heartbeat. But the entire Maine coast has some beautiful places just waiting to be explored. We barely got to see inland Maine, and we weren’t anywhere near the north woods or Katahdin. So there is plenty of unseen territory for another visit, or two or ten! Plus we have friends there, so how hard is that!
For anyone interested in seeing even more of my photos, I have posted a photo gallery on my Adobe Portfolio page for Maine, as well as the other parts of our New England trip. I hope to have the final group processed over the next week or so.
Well, not literally. But I couldn’t think of a better verb to use, so that’s whatcha get! 😉
Our introduction to the state of Maine actually began while we were still in Massachusetts, when we decided to take a quick trip to Bob’s Clam Hut and Wiggly Bridge Distillery. We had read about Bob’s in a New York Times article about coastal Maine and decided we needed to try it. And a distillery named Wiggly Bridge was just too cool to pass up! Both places are about an hour’s drive from Rockport, and we had originally planned to stop at both places on our drive from Rockport to Boothbay Harbor. But Bob’s doesn’t open until 11:00 and the distillery not until noon, and we didn’t want to wait so late to start our drive from Rockport. So we made it a stand-alone trip, even though it meant a little bit of duplication.
Bob’s is just one of those legendary places that attracts locals and tourists alike. Bob’s has been featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, was named a “Great American Lobster Destination” by USA Today and took a spot on Thrillist’s list of “50 Essential Restaurants Every American Should Visit.” Coastal Living has also recognized the lobster roll at Bob’s as one of the best in the state and Yankee magazine spotlighted the clam hut as having one of “The 10 Best Fried Clams in Maine.”
Bob’s has been in business since 1956, and it gets pretty busy and the lines start as soon as they open at 11:00! I had a lobster roll and Kathy had fried clams – both were delicious and worth the stop, but the unexpected delay made us late for our tasting at the distillery!
Luckily (for us) the crowds were a lot smaller at Wiggly Bridge. We were the only people scheduled for a tour at 12:00, so they didn’t mind waiting. The distillery is family-run and so small that when we called to tell them we would be late, the owner/distiller/boss man answered the phone! They’ve also got an interesting history. Started by a father and son as a result of a discussion during a family dinner, they basically taught themselves how to build a distillery, including learning to weld so they could build their first still! The spirits are pretty darned good too, and made up a sizeable portion of our souvenir collection. 😉
Once we were ready to enter Maine for real, we met up with Joe and Katherine at a(nother) lobster shack, this one out on Cape Elizabeth near Two Lights Lighthouse, named, appropriately enough, The Lobster Shack at Two Lights. 🙂 I always knew that the Maine coast is rocky, but seeing it in person was absolutely amazing. The rocks looked a lot like petrified wood, but it is really rock!
After lunch, a bunch of gab and a few photos, Kathy & I and Joe & Katherine headed toward Boothbay Harbor and the hotel we had arranged to stay at. On the way, Kathy & I stopped at Portland Head Lighthouse, one of the most picturesque beacons on the Maine coast. Once leaving there we headed on toward Boothbay ourselves, which was going to be our base for the next 4 nights. More on Boothbay and beyond in my next post.
As a photographic aside, I’ve been working over the last couple of weeks with the new masking tools in the latest version of Lightroom. While it is much more powerful, I’m finding it a bit less intuitive than the prior version. I use luminance masking a lot, and it has been a bit frustrating to me. But the more I play with it the better I get. I hope! 🙂
When choosing where to stay and what to do in Massachusetts, we decided to keep with the smallish coastal fishing village vibe as much as possible. We wanted to avoid the larger cities with their traffic and congestion, understanding that even though we were past the peak travel season, anywhere we went was likely to be busy. We really want to visit Boston, and in fact were scheduled to spend some time there last year before a cruise that was cancelled. It’s a destination in itself, and this trip was already shaping up to be a long one!
We wanted to stay near or on Cape Cod, so we looked for places to stay that suited our preferences – centrally located, a selection of restaurants, not too urban, etc. We also wanted to be able to take a coastal cruise, either sightseeing or whale watching. And we also hoped to get over the Martha’s Vineyard. We settled on Hyannis, because it met those criteria.
But first, we managed to do a little sightseeing on our drive from Mystic. I mentioned in a previous post that we had encountered traffic in Newport due to the boat show. We lost some valuable time there, and that cut into our visit to New Bedford, the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park and the Jonathan Bourne Whaling Museum. We spent a couple of hours in New Bedford before moving on. The drive ended up taking most of the day, albeit with some good stops.
Since we only had two full days to spend on Cape Cod, we had to choose wisely. We ended up deciding against Martha’s Vineyard, as it would have taken an entire day. We would have had a boat ride on the ferry, but would not have seen the sights around Hyannis Harbor and Cape Cod Bay. We had to make a choice and decided to devote a day to some time in town, a coastal cruise and then some driving down to Falmouth and Woods Hole. The second day was devoted to Provincetown, Chatham and Cape Cod National Seashore. Sadly, the Cape Cod Potato Chip factory was closed to visitors, so we did not get to visit. 🙁 We did, however, find some good clam chowder for lunch, so all was not lost! 🙂
Our coastal cruise was interesting, because it took us past a number of lighthouses, and houses built to look like lighthouses. The homes around the Hyannis Port Yacht Club include those once owned by members of the Kennedy family. We saw ‘Mya,’ the sailboat once owned by Ted Kennedy. It was moored in the harbor along with an unnamed sailboat that was moored to a mooring ball painted with the name “Kennedy.” No idea whose boat that was or who now owns Mya, but I’m guessing it is still in the family. That afternoon we visited Falmouth and Woods Hole, taking in a few more lighthouses.
Provincetown was an interesting place. A smaller version of Key West, perhaps. Funky shops, funky people and a real laid-back attitude. Probably not a place we would want to have stayed, but we were glad to have visited.
Along Cape Cod National Seashore, we made stops at the visitor center, Marconi Beach to see the remains of the original Marconi Wireless Station, Herring Cove, and the town of Chatham (more lighthouses!). No, we didn’t see any of the sharks reported to be making a comeback along the Cape, but we did see a few seals, which the sharks like to have for dinner! 🙂
Before returning to our hotel we made a stop at the John F. Kennedy Memorial. It was dark and cloudy and not the best conditions for photos, but I did manage to snap a few. The next day we headed up the coast, around Boston and on to Rockport. Stay tuned! 🙂
I’m not sure what attracted me to Mystic, Connecticut. It wasn’t ‘Mystic Pizza,’ the pizza shop made famous by the movie by the same name. I haven’t seen the movie, although I was familiar with the name. No, it had something to do with something I had once read or heard about ‘Mystic Seaport.’ And we found it to be an excellent home base for our short but busy exploration of Connecticut.
Mystic Seaport is the name of the Mystic Maritime Center, which bills itself as “the nation’s leading maritime museum.” I’ll write about our visit to the museum in a separate post, so for now I’ll just talk about the town of Mystic itself.
The town of Mystic itself proved to be a quaint, albeit busy, seaside town. The Mystic River flows through the town, and there is a drawbridge on Main Street that opens once per hour to let sailboats and other larger vessels pass through.
We stayed at the Steamboat Inn, a small B&B right next to the river and the drawbridge, and it was the perfect location to explore the town while still making it easy to get out of town to see other places. I loved being able to walk out the door and photograph in the early morning, while Kathy caught a few extra Zs in our room. I’d get back in time for coffee and breakfast before starting off on whatever we had planned for the day.
We’re not big shoppers, so a few hours wandering around the town on afternoon was all the time we needed. We did buy ice cream, and yes, I did take a few obligatory photos of Mystic Pizza. There were several good restaurants within walking distance, including one we visited twice. S&P Restaurant & Oyster Bar impressed us so much on the first visit that we went back a second time. Fresh fish, excellent service and a decent wine selection is what we look for, especially at the coast, whether it is the northeast or the southeast. It fit the bill nicely for us.
In addition to the Maritime Museum, we ventured over to Groton, on the Thames River, to visit the USS Nautilus. The Nautilus was the first nuclear powered submarine and, among other feats, was the first to complete an underwater crossing of the North Pole. I remembered reading about the sub as a kid, and at one time seem to recall having a toy or plastic model. That was a long time ago! Photos from that visit and from the Maritime Museum are included in the gallery 2021-09 New England Part II on my Adobe Portfolio page.
Some might say that it is hard to do a lot in Rhode Island, but I don’t think that is true. While it’s a small state, it packs a lot into a small area.
We had originally planned to just spend a day in the state, but when we made a last-minute adjustment to our itinerary we were able to add an overnight in Narragansett before backtracking just a bit to Connecticut. Narragansett is a lovely seaside town with lots of beautiful waterfront homes, without the hustle, bustle and big money of Newport. We spent an evening and most of the next day exploring the town as well as Cape Elizabeth and the Port of Galilee.
And I had my first of many Lobster Rolls! It wasn’t the best one I had, but you never forget your first one. 😉
On our drive from Mystic to Rockport, MA we passed through Newport. We had originally wanted to overnight in Newport but were put off by high hotel prices and low availability. When we drove through we quickly realized why – it was the first day of the annual Newport International Boat Show! Duh – our research had not discovered that. 🙁 So we gritted our teeth, drove through the crowded streets and out to Fort Adams State Park for views of the Newport Harbor, the Claiborne Pell/Newport Bridge and views back toward Narragansett. As it turned out, we were very glad to have spent the extra time in Narragansett, as we would have ended up really shortchanging the state without it.
By the standards of a Rhode Island local, we certainly missed a lot. I’d be happy to return someday, possibly even to Newport. But we saw and photographed enough to “check it off the list” and moved on to the rest of New England. More to come, soon!
Blue skies and sunshine just wouldn’t have been the right way to experience Mount Washington, said to have the “worst weather in the country” according to some. We saw no sunshine today, and in fact were amazed at the strength of the blowing snow, ice and wind at the summit. We rode the cog railway – no way were they letting cars to the top in those conditions!
Lots of fall color around, although we were faced with a lot of fog, rain and tourists. Photos to follow, however!
We only had a few miles in New Hampshire this afternoon until we arrived at our motel. So instead of lighthouses we now have covered bridges! We visit Mount Washington tomorrow, where the forecast is for 50 mph winds and a temperature of 30 with snow and ice. Yikes! 🙂