Sunday, November 5, 2017

Visitors from Dublin


We said our goodbyes to Cape Ann vowing to return and headed a whopping 33 miles north to our next stop, Salisbury Beach State Park. We chose this park for its proximity to Boston, as eight days from our arrival we'd be heading to Logan International to retrieve Steven's parents. They would be flying in from Dublin to spend a couple of weeks with us to see what this RVing lifestyle is all about.

Before they arrived, however, we had plans to give Scoopy a good thorough cleaning. It's the kind of clean we do a couple of times a year and also when we have a mouse. Which, thankfully, has only happened three times. Steven dreads it when I am peering intently at the kitchen counter and say, "What is this?" because he knows I am looking at some foreign black speck and he envisions a deep cleaning in his future. He had to stop eating Everything bagels because inevitably I would find a tiny black seed and freak out. 

With no evidence of a visitor, this ended up being just a typical cleaning: a little wood polishing, carpet cleaning, clearing out drawers and cabinets, a good dusting and packing away a few dishes I've collected during our travels. I pack away dishes two or three times a year and my cabinet always seems to get crowed again. I admit I have a thing for dishes and that is never going to change.

Before we found someone to wash and wax Scoopy we thought we were going to have to do this ourselves. Since that was not the case, we were left with more free time than we anticipated so we took advantage of it and went on a few day trips to the surrounding areas including the Portsmouth Harbor Light. We also spent time on Salisbury Beach which is one of the most beautiful we have ever seen. As we walked along we could see humpback whales feeding just offshore. They come in pretty close!

Salisbury Beach was one of the most well-manicured places we’ve ever been to. Just beautiful!

Portsmouth Harbor Light

We retrieved Paddy & Elizabeth who arrived right on time at Boston Logan. We had made them reservations at a little local motel about five miles from our campsite. The place had a slight "murder-y" feel to it, but we were only there three days and it had everything P&E needed, so it sufficed. And the price was right.

Paddy and Elizabeth arrive in Boston!

We were expecting to find Norman Bates at the check in desk but thankfully it was a pleasant stay.

We had been watching the extended weather forecast for a while hoping for sunny days during Paddy & Elizabeth's visit, and for a while it looked like we'd get plenty of sunshine. Then came Hurricane Jose and, though diminishing, it was still strong enough to dump some rain and give us cloudy days.

Over the next couple of days, jetlag be damned, we all got in the car and drove for hours as we visited all our favorite places on Cape Ann and beyond and made a trip into Boston. Our primary goal there was a stroll and lunch at Eataly, which as you know is one of my favorite places. Just to add to our dish collection, P&E bought us a set of Eataly plates! I love them so much!

Portland Head Light

The beautiful little harbor town of Rockport, near Gloucester.

Having lunch at Eataly!

Our first big travel day was the first time Steven's parents had ever traveled in an RV. We had Scoopy all closed up and the seatbelts out at the dinette. They squeezed into one side, buckled up and off we went about 130 miles north to Boothbay, Maine!

Taking a picnic break on the way to Maine.

Steven and I had reservations at the Boothbay Craft Brewery, which is outside the busy harbor town. It has a restaurant, cabins and five or six RV sites with full hookups. Paddy & Elizabeth stayed at a super nice AirBnB about a mile away from us. It was a perfect set up, except for the fact that the AirBnB was in the boonies and not walkable to anywhere.

The adorable AirBnB in Boothbay.

Our campsite at the Boothbay Craft Brewery.

Who needs the brewery when we can have our own happy hour?

We had five days in Boothbay and enjoyed visiting the shops, exploring the nearby towns and eating blueberry pancakes. We took a trip to Rockland, where Steven and Paddy visited the Farnsworth Art Museum while Elizabeth and I visited Camden State Park and Mt. Battie.

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The best Maine blueberry pancakes at Bridge Street Cafe in Boothbay Harbor!! We loved their sign!

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Steven and Paddy went to the Andrew Wyeth exhibit while Linda and Elizabeth did Camden and Mt. Battie.

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We spent another day picnicking at Pemaquid Point Lighthouse.

On our last night in Boothbay we decided to eat dinner at the Watershed Tavern which is the onsite restaurant that is next to the brewery. It's an odd place, in that after you are seated and given a menu, you have to go up to the bar and place your order. There are no waiters. People apparently hate this system as is evident on Yelp, but we decided to go anyway.

It's not just the ordering system, the whole place is awkward. We put our name on the waiting list and promptly decided to go elsewhere. We just left without telling anyone, because we couldn't find anyone to tell! We went back to the rig, but since we didn't really have a Plan B, we changed our minds and decided to stay after all. I went in to put our name back on the list just as the hostess called us to our table, so off we went. She never knew we left, so that worked out well.

We were taken to our table which, it turns out, we were sharing with another couple. The wine flowed and the food was good and Steven broke an entire flight of beer glasses on the concrete floor. (Opa!) That was sure loud and got everyone’s attention! We enjoyed talking with our tablemates so much that we stayed out much later than we had planned. We had way more fun than we anticipated given how the evening started out. All-in-all, it was a great night and a fun way to end our stay in Boothbay!

Steven’s beer flight before the incident!!

Our next destination was Winter Harbor on the Schoodic Peninsula. I admit I didn't choose the best route to get there, as we drove on what is surely the most skinny and pitchy road ever. I had to mostly take my half out of the middle, otherwise we found ourselves at quite an angle, which was uncomfortable to say the least. And I guess the road was bumpy, too, as my dinette class passengers were prone to shouting "turbulence!" every now and again. We finally made it after a trip that took much longer than anticipated, but unfortunately our troubles were just beginning.

As we prepared to leave Boothbay, Elizabeth tore up her plane ticket and took the wheel in Scoopy!

Paddy and Elizabeth in dinette class.

We had long ago made reservations at the Mainstay Cottages and RV Park in Winter Harbor and had more recently confirmed our reservations. Paddy & Elizabeth were going to stay in the Boathouse, an adorable and cozy little waterfront cottage while Steven and I stayed up the hill in one of the RV spaces. It was an ideal set up and we were all looking forward to staying here.

Steven and Paddy went into the office to get us registered, but after a while Steven returned to the rig and asked me to step outside. Uh, oh. That's never good. He said there was a problem and that they had no record of our reservation. WHAAAAAT? Of course, we were all dumbfounded! There was cursing and wailing and gnashing of teeth, but to no avail. The proprietor insisted there was nothing he could do. He had a space for Scoopy, but there was no cottage available.

I can't even tell you how upset we all were and the more we talked about it the more upset we became. We envisioned some inept and senile granny taking our reservations and we had a few choice words for her that I won't repeat here.

The proprietor called the little motel in town to see if he had a room. He did, and although he wasn't on the premises, he invited us to go over there and just pick any room and what is our credit card number? He'd gladly take a credit card number over the phone before we even got there! WHAAAAAT? Talk about murder-y!

We decided that we'd get Scoopy parked into her space and drive over to the motel. While Steven was unhooking Toadie, the proprietor came running out waving his arms. Steven went over to talk with him and he was quite animated. I was watching all this in Scoopy's mirror, when I saw them start walking to the office.

When he came back, Steven was all smiles. It's fixed! he said. It was all just a big misunderstanding and the Boathouse was available after all! He said the guy had misunderstood our last name and he thought we were someone other than the Dempsey party who had reserved the cottage. WHAAAAAT??!! Oh, glory! We had reservations after all! Hallelujah!

Although we could have done without the crushing depression that hit us when we thought all was lost, the joy we experienced when it all turned in our favor was through the roof. We even felt a little bad for disparaging granny, but mostly we were over the moon that it all turned out as we had planned. Let me tell you, we had a raucous happy hour that evening! At the Boathouse, looking over the shores as we had long envisioned! Now, all was right in our world.

The cutest lodging on the east coast. The Boathouse at Main Stay Cottages and RV Park.

Lovely Maine sunset in Winter Harbor.

The balcony literally hung right over the water. What a fabulous place for happy hour!!!

Paddy is thinking it really doesn’t get any better than this.

P&E had never eaten grits before and they were a bit leery, but then they had my Shrimp and Grits! Loved ‘em!

The boathouse as seen from the Bar Harbor ferry with the tide out.

After all the driving and touring we had done in the car, Winter Harbor was the perfect place to slow down and enjoy the view. The sleepy little town has an interesting hardware store, IGA grocery store, a couple of galleries, a lobster pound and a few restaurants, many already closed for the season. You could walk everywhere and there was also a Hop On, Hop Off bus that made a loop through the Schoodic Peninsula and it had a stop right by our campground. It was a very enjoyable and laid back place. We managed to visit the lobster pound and picked up four beauties that we picked and put into a lobster potato salad, which we took on a picnic along with a bottle of wine. It was a lovely day.

Finally, Maine gets on the map.

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Giant waves at Schoodic Point.

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Paddy and Elizabeth get a chance to see their lunch up close and personal!

After buying lobster at the local pound in Winter Harbor, they cooked it and we ran home to prepare lunch.

Yet another picnic lunch, this time on the Schoodic Peninsula with our lobster and a bottle of wine.

Walking distance from our campground was the ferry terminal where we caught the ferry for a day trip into Bar Harbor. As the crow flies, Winter Harbor is not far from Bar Harbor, but it is worlds away in terms of crowds. When you think about "downeast Maine" Bar Harbor surely comes to mind, but it has become an over-crowded cruise ship town, in my opinion. It is a beautiful place, but it is so touristy and the stores so junky, it was the kind of place I only need to visit once.

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Bar Harbor was filled with ships of every description from large cruise liners to a schooner set up for tourists.

On another day, Steven and Paddy were up early for the 2 hour drive to Lubec to photograph the sunrise at Quoddy Head Lighthouse. It was a memorable experience for both of them.

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Quoddy Head Lighthouse just before sunrise and a few minutes later as another beautiful day began.

Of course there are gorgeous places throughout Acadia National Park, which Steven and I visited on a driving trip. Paddy & Elizabeth ditched us that day in favor of their peaceful little cottage, opting to take in the sunny skies and calm waters from their lovely balcony at the Boathouse.

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Looking down at the cruise ships in Bar Harbor from the top of Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park.

Bass Harbor  Head Light.

Thunder Hole in Acadia National Park can be incredibly dramatic but the waters were calm when we visited.

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Our visit to Maine would not be complete without yet another lobster roll accompanied by a blueberry pie.

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One last look at the Boathouse and Winter Harbor on our departure day.

Our time with Paddy & Elizabeth went by way too fast. We soon headed toward Boston for their return flight, but on the way we had one more important stop, Trader Joe's. Paddy, a great cook, enjoys great food stores, just like me. In Ireland, Lidl and Aldi are the main stores, there is not a TJ’s in sight! So a visit to one of my favorites was a must! We spent an overnight just south of Portland and made a quick trip into town to visit what I think is one of the finest TJ’s I have seen. Paddy was ready to tear up his ticket so he could stay longer and enjoy all the things TJ’s had to offer. Instead, we made our way to the Elks Lodge just north of Boston, where we pulled in and called a Lyft car to ferry them to the airport.

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A quick trip to Trader Joe’s and then our final goodbyes when we reached the Elks Lodge near Boston.

It was so sad to see them go, our time together just sailed by! But we have plenty of memories to hold us over until our next visit in 2019!

NEXT UP: A Change In Plans

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Bewitched in Salem

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I (Steven) was looking forward to staying in Salem for a number of reasons. The first was its proximity to Gloucester, the fishing town made famous by a disastrous weather event back in 1991. The Perfect Storm, as it was known, inspired a book and a film of the same name. The story of the hapless crew of the sword boat Andrea Gail is epic and moving. Man against nature, love lost, it's all there.

The movie poster depicting the final dramatic moments of the Andrea Gail.

Another reason I was excited about Salem was to learn more about the infamous Witch Trials of 1692. Honestly, my knowledge of those events was limited to folklore and legend. The only image I had in my mind was of people being burned at the stake. I have since learned that no one was actually burned, hanging was the preferred punishment for those found guilty but, either way, the whole affair was tragic.

An artist’s rendering of how people perceived those accused of witchery in Salem.

Finally, having easy access to Boston City either via the nearby ferry or by car made this location particularly attractive.

So with all of that in mind, we arrived in Winter Island State Park for eight days. We had to split our stay between two campsites because of availability issues. The first 4 days would be in site 12 and the rest of our time was next door in site 13. Each site had a great view of both the harbor and the Happy Meal-sized Fort Pickering Lighthouse.


We had a wonderful view of the marina from our campsite.

Also nearby is the remains of Fort Pickering itself. I took a walk to see what it was all about and found weekenders on the grounds with big blankets spread out, eating, drinking and generally having a good ole time. With kids and dogs on the loose, this wasn't your typical historical landmark. In fact, every available grass patch and rock was occupied by people out for a quick tan.

From a photography standpoint, lighthouses are my thing here on the east coast and, although the lighthouse by the campground was pretty small, it was perfectly positioned for the moonrise and the sunrise.

Moonrise over Winter Island.

First up, we decided to travel to Boston via ferry. The ride was scenic and informative and it was a lovely sunny day as we stepped foot in the city. It's easy to get lost and walk around aimlessly in a place this big so we decided to take one of the bus tours right out of the gate to get our bearings. The tour lasted just under two hours and our driver was quite entertaining. After the tour, we went in search of lunch at Faneuil Hall Marketplace, a huge shopping center with food vendors as far as the eye could see. Boston is a beautiful town and some of the architecture reminded me of the older parts of Dublin.

Arriving in Boston after a fun ride on the ferry from Salem.

Home of the Boston Red Sox: Fenway Park! We didn’t have time to visit so just a drive-by shot on the bus.

IMG_2561Faneuil Hall Marketplace.

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Trying to figure out which tees to buy as gifts. This was the best shot we got of the Cheers sight, lol!

There was no way to see it all in the short time we were in the area, but we did manage to squeeze in a return trip but this time we drove into the city. We actually needed to do something while Scoopy was getting a professional wash. Our goal in Boston was to visit Eataly, a sprawling Itallian-themed gourmet food store with a variety of restaurants integrating nicely into the shopping experience. Linda was in her element here. It wasn't her first visit to Eataly, she first discovered its wonders in New York City. It's hard to describe the sheer scale of the place and the food displays are breathtaking. We spent a few hours there and then headed back to camp with our swag in tow.

Scoopy stayed behind for a wash while we went back to Boston for the day.

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Eataly of Boston.

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Boston is such a wonderful city to explore and we had fantastic weather during our return visit.

When we visited Gloucester, I was surprised how "modern" it is. Having seen The Perfect Storm, I guess I was expecting something a little grittier and basic. There is a beautiful walk looking out at the water that leads into town. On the way are two impressive memorials, one for the wives of fishermen, depicted by a woman looking out at sea with two young children. The other memorial sports a sculpture of a fisherman in a dramatic pose steering the wheel of a boat. The number of deaths related to stormy seas in this region is staggering. Over 10,000 have lost their lives from this town alone over the years.

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Down by the waterfront in Gloucester.

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The members of the Andrea Gail who perished and the “Crows Nest” where loved ones waited for news of their fate.

We went into the Crows Nest for a couple of drinks and to admire the photos on the wall.

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The bartender let us peruse a photo album of the cast and crew of The Perfect Storm during its production.

Who hasn’t had fish sticks from the Gorton’s Fisherman??

Nowadays, Gloucester is a vibrant community with over 60 restaurants as well as galleries and theaters. We found a great little hole in the wall restaurant called the Causeway. We loved it so much, we went there twice for some delicious seafood. The first time we ordered onion rings to start and then an order of fish and chips each. Holy cow, the meals were HUGE!! Although we managed to finish most of our lunch, our bellies were still full by nightfall. For our second visit, we were a little wiser. This time we split a meal of swordfish in honor of the crew of the Andrea Gail.

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Good eats at the Causeway in Gloucester. Loosen your belt or split your meal, the portions are huge!!

This whole coastal region makes up what’s known as Cape Ann. It’s about 30 miles northeast of Boston and marks the northern limit of Massachusetts Bay. Cape Ann includes the city of Gloucester and the towns of Essex, Manchester-by-the-Sea and Rockport.

Rockport was a standout for us and it is big on scenery and character. We spent a little time walking down a street full of quaint gift shops and restaurants. Usually when we see these kinds of places, we tend to avoid them because they are full of the same old mass-produced “stuff”. Not so in Rockport. It has a distinctly different feel to it and the quality of the jewelry and knick knacks is better than most.

Just up the road from Gloucester is the beautiful little town of Rockport.

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Rockport had some really quaint stores to browse.

We had such a great time with our friend Tammy Williams back in Littleton, NH, that we decided to meet up in Salem seeing as we were again crossing paths. After taking the Hop On, Hop Off bus tour, we felt well educated about the rich history of the town. The guide touched upon the history of the early settlements, the witch trials and the story of the famed House of the Seven Gables. When we got off the bus, we walked around the town at our own pace. We had a lovely lunch at the old Hawthorne Hotel and then we were off for a tour of the House of the Seven Gables. For me, what makes or breaks a place like this is the tour guide and we had a great one. I felt like I was inside a PBS documentary listening to the well-informed narrative while gliding in and out of the old rooms and secret passageways. Well worth the visit for us.

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Setting out with Tammy on Hop On, Hop Off bus tour in Salem.

It’s all fun and games until you get it in The Bunghole. The store owner did some great photo-bombing!


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The house of the Seven Gables and the beautiful surrounding flower garden.

A visit to Salem would be incomplete, of course, without learning about the witch trials. Many businesses have cashed in on these events in the most tacky ways you can imagine. There are images everywhere of old hags with pointy noses and wart-infested faces on broomsticks. Having said that, there were also some unexpectedly pleasant surprises. The Witch Museum's presentation of the trials was a little corny but the message was powerful. One of the display walls demonstrated how our prejudices have not changed much since 1692, they've just found new guises. The museum could have settled on the whole witch thing and been done but they went out of their way to educate visitors about these prejudices and also to clarify the modern "witch religion" of Wicca. As it turns out, it has much more to do with being in harmony with nature and almost nothing to do with the stereotypes of primitive pagan rituals.

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Tammy is so much fun to be with and a wealth of knowledge about the area. We had a great time together.

Elizabeth Montgomery is immortalized in the center of town for her popular TV show “Bewtiched”!

One of the victims of the Salem Witch Trials.

On another day, I took the opportunity to see a reenactment of the witch trials by one of the local theater companies in a production called Cry Innocent! There was a certain comedy in the presentation but they also managed to bring a fine focus on the frightening ignorance of the time. So with a little research, it's possible to wade through the kitsch (although that can be fun on its own level) and discover some authenticity.

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The cast of Cry Innocent! in Salem.

We have already decided our trip here was too short and we must return. Cape Ann is just a fabulous area. Each town has its own character and rugged beauty and, despite the activity of all the boaters and weekenders at our spot in Winter Island State Park, it was a peaceful place and central to everything we could have wanted.

NEXT UP: Visitors from Dublin!