‘Leaf-Peeping’ in New England

New England is the collective name given to the North Eastern US states of Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Viewing the fall colors in this region is on most travel lists. Our chance to make that happen, came in October 2013. Most people head to Vermont and New Hampshire during the Columbus Day weekend in October. We decided to avoid the snarling traffic and visited those areas the week following Columbus Day weekend.

We started our road trip in Boston. Apart from the acclaimed universities campuses of Harvard and MIT, Boston has a lot of history related to the American War of Independence. The Boston Tea Party sparked the war that lead to the birth of a nation. We did a city tour of Boston with ‘Ride-the-Ducks’ on one of their amphibious vehicles. When the ‘bus’ rolled into the Charles River, even our 1 year old toddler looked puzzled and amazed! The brick lined streets and red brick buildings of Old Boston reminded me of the old town areas of Philadelphia.

Everything in Salem seems to commercialize the Salem Witch Trials of the the 1690s. There are too many Witch Museums, Witch Villages and Witch memorials that confuse tourists. We made a couple of interesting stops to see the house that Nathaniel Hawthorne based his book ‘The House of Seven Gables’, on. The very popular book is said to imbibe the spirit of Salem. It is on my reading list!

South of Boston is Plymouth – the birthplace of the tradition of ‘Thanksgiving’. Plymouth is the second English settlement in North America (the first was Jamestown in Virginia). A group of Puritans, now popularly referred to as the ‘Pilgrims’ set out from Europe on a ship named ‘Mayflower’, to escape religious persecution and make their home in the New World. They ended up in Plymouth in 1620. There is a rock by the Atlantic ocean in Plymouth, that commemorates their landing. A to-scale replica of Mayflower is docked nearby as well. We visited the Pilgrim Hall Museum, which had a plethora of artifacts from the Pilgrim era, even some artifacts that actually came on the Mayflower.

The Cape Cod Seashore is beautiful. Unfortunately, due to the Federal government shutdown, most of the beach accesses and all of the Visitor centers were closed. We were still able to drive along the Ocean and enjoy the views.

Rhode Island is the smallest of the New England states. Newport, RI has a ‘Cliff Walk’, a pedestrian path that meanders along the edge of the cliffs along the shoreline. This walkway runs adjacent to many of the large mansions of Newport. We had a little interest in touring the ‘Breakers’ mansion. However, that interest disappeared when we learnt that strollers were not allowed anywhere in the premises. Although very windy, the Cliff Walk was stroller friendly.

We began seeing vibrant fall colors in Connecticut. We visited our family in Connecticut and stopped in Hartford for a visit to the Mark Twain house. That area seemed to be where a lot of prominent figures in society of those times, lived. Mark Twain’s neighbor was Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’, which is said to have greatly influenced the American Civil War.

It was past the peak for fall colors, when we arrived in Vermont. Yet, there were sporadic bursts of brilliant colors. We spent a night in a Austrian-Swiss styled lodge in Stowe. The Von Trapps (Sound of Music fame) settled in Stowe, Vermont, after escaping from Europe. The Von Trapp lodge also has strong Austrian architecture styles. We found Vermont to be a very quaint place with many covered bridges, white steepled churches and where time moved slowly. In stark contrast, the Ben & Jerry’s factory wa quite crowded when we stopped there for a tour. We filled ourselves on milkshakes and ice-cream while we waited for our turn to tour.

New Hampshire offered the best colors we saw on this trip – a mix of yellows, burnt oranges and reds. We drove the very steep Mt.Washington Auto road in our rental car and had to stop very often, to cool the smoke coming from the brake pads! Although the drive was nice, we thought it was a little too overrated. The White Mountains lived up to our expectations and displayed very beautiful colors. The Kancamagus Highway was a dream, awash in vibrant colors.

In Maine, our main goal was to have a whole steamed lobster. This was my first time and I watched ‘how-to’ videos on youtube to prepare for it. I did win the fight with the lobster and was able to get the meat out. However, I learnt that I didnt enjoy the taste of lobster, even after it was dunked in butter. The lobster roll was better, but I am no fan. And of course, we had to visit a lighthouse, before we left Maine.

At the end of 5 days and 1000+ miles on the road, we had on item checked off our bucketlist and loads of memories to keep forever!

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