New England Trip, Part I

So here’s how our vacation to New England got started.

During the summer we made plans to take about a week-long vacation in August after camp, but we weren’t sure where we wanted to go. By the end of camp season we are always completely exhausted, so the kind of vacation in which you do nothing but chill sounds pretty attractive. But we didn’t really want to chill, we wanted some kind of cool adventure where we saw places we had never seen before, et cetera et cetera. We settled on New England because there is a lot to see in a relatively small geographical area, we hadn’t been there before, and -most importantly- it would be cooler than Virginia Beach (which is hot, hot, HOT in the summer).

We picked a week, made a few lists of things we wanted to see and do, but when camp got crazy we didn’t have time to do much planning, or making reservations or anything like that, until later in the summer. Really it’s a miracle this trip even worked out at all because so much of it was planned at the last minute. Rhode Island wasn’t even part of our itinerary until the night before we left on our trip, when I suddenly realized that I absolutely had to see Newport. Heh heh. As thrown-together as the trip was, it was pretty amazing that it all worked out really well.

Our plan was to take an Amtrak train from Newport News, VA (about an hour from our house) overnight all the way up to Boston, MA. There we would spend about 3 days touring mostly historic sites, using Boston’s subway system (the “T”) to get around. Then we would take a rental car down the coast to Newport, RI, stay a day or so touring the mansions and such, and then head back up past Boston all the way to Maine where we would gorge ourselves on lobster until we our lust for crustacean flesh was satisfied. :D Then we’d drive the rental car back to Boston and from there catch an Amtrak train back to Newport News. The whole trip would be about 8 days long.

Got that?

Armed with a New England guidebook and a couple of sketchy maps, we set off…

Here I am in the Amtrak station before our train left for Boston. Well, Boston and the um, eleventy-million stops in between. Yeah, the train stopped a lot. Remember it was overnight? Uh-huh. The crossed fingers are illustrative of the mood at that point in the trip, which I would describe as “So far this is not looking too good but I am trying to remain positive that this vacation might still somehow be awesome.” We had spent a long time in a very run-down section of Newport News trying to find the train station, the rain was coming down nonstop, the day before had been pretty rough, and …….. yeah.

I’m going to fast-forward through the following night which MIGHT have included lightning striking the train, fire alarms going off in the train station, deafening announcements by the conductor every half hour or so all night long, painfully cramped seats, and nauseating bathroom smells. Of course, the whole thing could have been a bad dream, but I highly doubt that since I HARDLY SLEPT A WINK ALL NIGHT. Let’s just say the next morning we were in Boston, very tired, and somehow I had come down with a cold. Great. We dragged ourselves and our stuff to our hotel where we waited until they would let us check in, ate an overpriced lunch at apparently the only place to buy food in the area, and finally took a much-needed nap for the rest of the afternoon.

The beginning of our vacation certainly wasn’t very promising, but things started to get better from this point on. That night we went to Chinatown and hit up a small restaurant called Taiwan Cafe. There Ben got a comforting bowl of beef noodles, and I got some mega-sized dumplings that didn’t make it into a picture because they so quickly made it into mah tummy.

Close up on those nooooooodlesss….

Most things were closing up since it was a Sunday evening, so we just walked around Boston, admiring the beautiful architecture. I loved the mix of old and new buildings in Boston; it is such a cool city. We were so happy to finally be there!

We enjoyed people-watching in the Quincy Market, which is right by the historic Faneuil Hall. There are places to shop and eat (and I did buy some jeans), but mostly we just sat and relaxed.

The next day we slept in a little, and when we woke up, oh snap, it was pouring rain. We weren’t about to sit around in our hotel room all day, though, so we bought a couple of umbrellas since we’d forgotten ours at home, and went out to start seeing Boston. We started with the Freedom Trail, which is a 2.5-mile walking path marked by a red brick line that takes you to all the historic sites like Old North Church and the site of the Boston Massacre, among others.

We don’t have as many pictures from this day due to the fact that our camera was hiding from the rain in Ben’s backpack. But we did a lot in spite of the weather. We toured the Massachusetts State House, which was one of the best tours of the trip. Among other marvels, it contained a bust of George Washington that was once a bust of Samuel Adams until someone decided it looked a lot like Washington (?!), and a bronze “teagle” which is a weird combination of a turkey and an eagle. A few hundred years ago when they were debating what America’s national bird should be, apparently the front-runners were the turkey and the eagle. Not knowing which one would be chosen but working under a deadline, the artist cast not a turkey, not an eagle, but a teagle. It looks like a bird of noble bearing, except it has drumstick legs and a wattle. Yeah, I’m kind of glad they went with the eagle eventually.

We also saw King’s Chapel, which has an extremely old and venerable pulpit. Behold.

At the Old South Meeting House, which won the “Probably not worth the $6 admission fee, but oh well, too late now” prize for the day, I picked up some postcards. Throughout the entire trip I regularly bought, filled out, and sent postcards to family members, a practice that got me some funny comments. Is sending postcards on vacation becoming a lost art? That makes me sad, because I love postcards.

When we had seen all the history we could handle for a day, we just chilled for a while, got coffee at Starbucks, etc. We even hit up some stores like TJ Maxx (where we bought a jacket and scarf cause it was cold in the rain!) that looked really cool because they were inside antiquey brick buildings. Boston is so awesome like that. We spent at least an hour in a store called Brattle’s Book Shop, where I was in my element. It was jammed with yummy old books. I bought an old book of poetry by Tennyson to add to my slowly-but-steadily-growing old book collection.

Because it was Restaurant Week in Boston that week, some of the high-class pricier restaurants were offering special three-course dinner menus at $30 per person, so we thought we’d try one that night. We somewhat randomly chose Anthony’s at Pier 4, which turned out to be a pretty famous place. A lot of famous people had eaten there, as evidenced by the signed photos on the walls …. movie stars, sports stars, presidents, and such. It was pretty sweet. We were a little bit wet and bedraggled because we had tried to walk there but only got halfway there before we were rain-soaked and tired out, at which point we got a taxi. We finally got there, though, and the view of the harbor was beautiful, if a little misty, as we ate lobster bisque, steak and salmon. Oooh la la. The service was excellent. Our waiter was a dapper old gentleman who said “thank you” about every 5 minutes.

And that was it for days 1 and 2 in Boston. Tune in next time for more….

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