Sep – Oct 2004 – NYC, New England, & Canada Cruise & Road Trip

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Sep – Oct 2004 – NYC, New England, & Canada Cruise
September 28, 2004 – Day 1
San Francisco, CA to Newark, NJ

Well, there really isn’t much of a “Day in Review” as the day really didn’t start until almost 5pm this afternoon. Both Natalie and I worked all day, and we needed to accomplish a bunch before we could head for for 2 1/2 weeks off without checking work email or voicemail… It will be so nice!

So after heading home and finishing up the last few details of closing up the house and packing up the laptop (yes, it is coming on this vacation, but only to stay in touch with really important people — like those who are checking out this travel log…) we headed over to Macaroni Grill for a wonderful dinner of pasta and salad. You know me, the way to my heart is through my stomach…

Over to San Francisco International Airport (Thanks for the ride, Mom Miladinovich!) to get checked in… I forgot just how quiet this place is at night… We got right in, and straight to our gate in no time flat… So, this evening, is just hanging out at Gate 68, and patiently waiting for our flight. We leave at 10:20pm and will arrive in Newark at 6:43am local time. Hope we get some sleep on the flight!

Good news to report, the rain from the remnants of Hurricane Jeanne have passed through the Newark and New York City area, so we should arrive tomorrow to mostly sunny skies and temps in the 70s. Can’t wait to post our first pictures tomorrow!

September 29, 2004 – Day 2
New York City, NY

Our day started at 12:01 am on United Flight 78. The red-eye flight landed at 6:43 am local time. This meant we got a whopping 5 hours of “airplane sleep.” For Darin who can sleep on his good ear, this is a little more than Natalie who heard every noise.

We had to wait an hour for the SuperShuttle to pick us up. Then an additional hour and a half to make it through good ol’ NY rush hour traffic getting into Manhattan.

But, it was all worth the wait. Our hotel is beautiful. Darin found another gem!! We have a full kitchen, nice size bedroom, and luxurious bathroom towels (if you know me, you know that is important!!). We had just enough time to drop our luggage, get freshened up, and depart for our first adventure — The Broadway Spa.

Darin arranged for us both to be pampered this afternoon. I began the afternoon with a 60 minute swedish massage, followed by a pedicure and manicure. Darin elected to have the 75 minute aromatherapy massage and spa manicure. We both seemed to be quite tense — wonder if our companies’ works comp would cover the cost of the massages?? It was the perfect beginning to our two and a half week adventure.

From the Broadway Spa we headed updown to the Gershwin Theater where we saw the Broadway production of Wicked. As Darin says, “It was wicked good!” Wicked is the story of the Wizard of Oz from the “wicked witch’s” point of view. Turns out she wasn’t wicked afterall, just framed. It was a top notch show — several tony award winning actors, amazing set, in a beautiful theater (so much better then the theaters in SF).

After the show, we stopped to grab some food — first food since Mac Grill last night!! After our snack, we headed back to our hotel for a little rest.

Greg and Tonya arrived about 6:30 and we all headed out for our first dinner in NY. We found a nice little italian resturant a couple of blocks from our hotel. Ended up being a good pick!

It’s now 8:53 (40 hours since I last woke up). Time for bed . . . . until tomorrow . . . .

September 30, 2004 – Day 3
New York City, NY

Day 3 was another amazing day in New York City…

After a morning bagel at our hotel room, we jumped on the Subway to start our day. A quick trip up to Grand Central Station, a transfer to Times Square, then uptown to 66th Street/Lincoln Center in search of ABC Studios, home of The View. We waited in line outside for half an hour, went trough metal detectors, then waited in line inside for another hour. It was all worth it when we finally got ushered into the studio.

Natalie and I has choice seats, and although we weren’t “VIPs” with our Pink stripes on our tickets, we still had seats in the center section with a great “view” of the “The View”. An stand-up comic who opens for Joy Behar warmed up the crowd, and got everyone into the right mood for the show. It’s broadcasted live every weekday from 11am to 12noon eastern. As the clock ticked closer to 11, the producer began his countdown, and the rest was history. James Spader, Sela Ward, the Hot Topics, and Joy’s Month in Review were filled in during commericial breaks with the co-hosts taking questions from the audience. It was a great chance to see all of the behind the scenes work that goes into creating a show like this. It was a fun addition to our trip, and would encourage us to consider attending other shows in the future.

We met Greg and Tonya at the Met afterwards, and headed towards Central Park, where the sky turned dark gray, and the rains began to fall. We took shelter at the Loeb Boathouse, where we picked up lunch from the Cafe. The rain let up just as we were finishing, and we were able to continue our stroll through the park, enjoying the scenery, and taking plenty of pictures.

Given the questionable weather situation, we decided to head on over to Grand Central station to see the place, and knowing that we would remain indoors, would allow us to have some more sightseeing time without getting soaked. It was a great building with an amazing number of people coming into and out of New York City, through this important transportation hub. Check out some of the pictures…

We headed back to the hotel for a quick change of clothes before heading to Yankee Stadium. The trip, in the height of rush hour, still only took about 25 minutes — gotta love the New York Subway system. We didn’t know it when we bought our tickets, but our game was the last of the home season, and not only was it Free Yankee Hat day, it was also the game that if the Yankees won, would clinch the division championship. Boy, were we in for a treat. Once there, we checked out the Yankee Team Store, and then, once the gates were opened, headed towards Monument Park.

Monument Park is located in Center Field, and pays tribute to many legendary Yankees, from retired numbers, to individual plaques recognizing achievements and memorable performances on the ballfield. It was amazing, you would think that every last Yankess fan was there praying to Babe Ruth for a win… It was wall to wall people and they finally had to close it, and turn many fans away. Fortunately, we were near the front of the line, and got to see it all.

Heading up to our seats, we found the view to be a great one, and got ready to watch the Yankees and Twins battle. The game was in a word — Amazing! It was a suspense-filled combination of home runs, great defense, and lots of tense moments where we wondered if the lead the Yankees has given would come back. In the end, the game was won in the bottom of the 9th, with a 2-run homer to break the tie. Final score 6-4 Yankees, and the 48,000+ fans went absolutely bezerk.

It was pandimonium outside the stadium — you would have thought they had just won the World Series, but as loud and as crazy as those Yankee fans were, they were also orderly, courteous, and all around fun — as long as you weren’t a Boston Red Sox fan…

We headed home, tired, but in awe at what a great day we had experienced, and looked forward to what tomorrow might bring. Oh wait — Natalie had a fantastic idea — to stop at Pizza 33, for a slice of New York Pizza Pie. It was wonderful… We’ll have to go back there again…

October 1, 2004 – Day 4
New York City, NY

Today was a full day. We started at 7:15 this morning to make the first ferry out to Liberty and Ellis Islands. Liberty Island opened on August 1, after being closed for three years. After two security screenings, we toured the grounds and were able to go into the pedestal as close as tourists could get. It was amazing to see Lady Liberty up close.

From Liberty Island, the ferry took us to Ellis Island. It is a beautiful building filled with so much history of hope. The self-guided tour took you through the process a new immigrant would have gone through when arriving at Ellis Island. It is inspiring to see what families went through to come to the United States.

Once we returned to Manhattan Island, we grabed a quick lunch and headed to the financial district to see Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). The entire area was bustling with traders, business people, and tourists. As expected, the level of security was intense. Buildings were sealed off from everyone without proper credentials. The NYPD dressed in their blue jumpsuits, bullet proof vests, and M16s protected the area.

A somber and humbling trip to Ground Zero followed. Although construction had begun on a replacement for the WTC towers, many buildings in the surrounding area will be making repairs for many years to come.

By this time we were ready for a little snack. We decided to head uptown to Serendipity 3. It is a small resturant and general store that was made famous in the movie of the same name. It was also mentioned in “One Fine Day.” While the movies make it a must to visit, their signature dish frozen hot chocolate make it a must to sit down and eat.

While we were still on our sugar high, we decided to head down to Times Square. It was nearing sunset and all of the LCD displays were lighting up the streets below. We walked Broadway up one side and down the other visiting shops, seeing the sights, and people watching. It had been a long day, but before we headed back to the hotel, we had to stop at ESPN Zone for a drink and a few games.

We were a block from our hotel when we realized we hadn’t had dinner — back to Pizza 33 for lasagna pizza and baked ziti pizza. MMMMMMM!

October 2, 2004 – Day 5
New York City, NY & Board Cruise

Since it was our last day in New York City, we got up and packed our bags to get ready for our cruise. We checked out of the hotel and headed off to our last NYC tourist attraction: The United Nations (UN).

We arrived at the UN just after 11:00. We went straight through security, purchased our tour tickets and looked around the exhibits in the Lobby. After waiting for the German, Japanese, and Mandarin tours to depart, we set off on our English tour. Our tour guide was an Israeli woman who had be to the UN for seven months. She really new her stuff!! She took us to the Security Council Chambers, the Economic and Social Development Chamber, the General Assembly Chambers, and many exhibits documenting what the UN does: peacekeeping, setting up elections, mine clearing, etc. It was a very interesting tour.

From the UN, we raced back to our hotel to collect our bags and head to the Cruise Terminal. After standing in line after line we boarded the Carnival Victory. Since we knew where everything was, we were able to start our vacation right away and not spend the first day finding our way around. We purchased our tour tickets and unpacked our luggage, all before the muster drill. After leaving our muster stations, we went back to our cabin to change into our bathing suits and went straight to the gym to relax in the hot tub. What a way to start the cruise!!!

We leisurely got ready for dinner, played a few rounds of cards on the Prominade, and checked out the cyber cafe before heading to our late-seating dinner.

Dinner was excellent and the company was fun. We sat with Lisa and Mike who are from Connecticut and Christine and Pete who are from upstate New York. We decided we were the “kids table.” It felt like the six of us were the only passengers under 60. We laughed more during dinner then we did during the comedy show.

After dinner the six of us set out to find some fun! We started at the Welcome Aboard Show. This is a change for the Cruise Director, Dana Hodson to introduce the crowd to the social staff and have a little fun. He did a great job. He brought Mr. Ping Pong on stage — this little asian man was hysterical!! The comedy show with Derrick Eason followed. We left after 5 minutes (not very funny). We headed over to the Irish Sea Bar, where Chris led a piano sing-a-long. It was the most hopping place on the ship, with about 15 people there. It was actually a lot of fun but he ended at 11:30, which was about 10 minutes after we got there. Good news is tomorrow he plays until 1:30 am. From the piano bar, the six of us headed over to the Artic Dance Club where the passengers barely outnumbered the crew — all six of them. Regardless, the six of us had a great time. We are looking forward to dinner tomorrow night where the “comedy show” starts all over again.

October 3, 2004 – Day 6
Boston, MA

After a morning on the cruise ship, we arrived into Boston Harbor right on time at 1:30pm. We grabbed a few photos of the city skyline from where we docked, and headed to our tour of Boston, with a side stop in Cambridge to see Harvard University.

We boarded our tour bus, and upon meeting our driver and guide, knew that this wouldn’t be the best tour we’ve been on, but shortly thereafter, plummeted to a disasterous level we haven’t experienced in a long time. There is no need to go into detail (the Hotel Director has already received “a letter”), but when life gives you lemons, make lemonade… Natalie and I had the chance to see some of Boston’s sights, and we did make it to Harvard Yard to see the famous University. We both agree that one day our kids might be able to go there, but we’ll have to save a bit to make that happen.

The campus was beautiful, even though we got a whopping 25 minutes to look around. We walked through the courtyards that made up Harvard yard and picked up a souvenir.

From there, we travelled to Old North Church. This was the famous location where Paul Revere began his ride, and the lanterns were placed into the steeple to warn the insurgents that the British were coming. “1 if by land, 2 if by sea”. The church was nice, and Natalie and I got to sit in a square box pew that Teddy Roosevelt sat in over 92 years ago.

At this point, the tour was a lost cause, so we ditched the tour (our tour guide declared us AWOL — no joke), and grabbed a taxi with two other tour deserters, and we headed to Quincy Market. This is a combination open air mall and shopping center that has really great character. We grabbed some cookies, free internet access, and chatted with Sophie for a few minutes online.

From there, we headed to Boston Common and the Public Garden. We passed by the State House and took pictures. Boston Common is great. Green as far as the eye can see, with tall skyscrapers in the background.

Just a few more blocks down Beacon Street was Cheers Restaurant. We grabbed an appetizer and then headed back to the ship for dinner.

Although the day started off on a bad note, it ended wonderfully, with an overall great day in Boston. Tomorrow is Portland, Maine!

October 4, 2004 – Day 7
Portland, ME

The ship arrived in Portland at 8:00 in the morning but Darin and I took our time getting up as our tour didn’t leave until 1:45. After having breakfast delievered to our room, we got ready for our day in Portland, Maine.

We disembarked the ship at 10:00 a walked around the area known as Old Port. It is a beautiful city filled with the most welcoming people. We did a little shopping at the LL Bean Factory Outlet (I got a $16 pair of shorts for $1.60!!), printed out some of our digital pictures, and grabbed some lunch.

Lunch was incredible. We found this mexican resturant in this non-despcript alley. I know what you are thinking, “Mexican food in Maine?” I thought the same thing when we decided to try it. But, it was a gem! It turns out that the owner/chef owned resturants in California, Arizona, and Mexico City prior to establishing this resturant in Portland, Maine. If you are ever in Portland, Maine, we highly recommend Salsa Mexican Resutrant on Wharf Street. Their motto is great — “Here, mexican food is so authentic, you will be afraid to drink the water…”

After lunch and a quick cookie fix, we headed back to the ship to catch our tour. As soon as we boarded the bus we knew this would be a much better day. Our guide was a “Maineiac” (born in Maine) and while our bus driver wasn’t born in Maine, he at least currently lived in Portland and knew his way around.

Our tour began by driving through Old Port. Our guide imparted a lot of great information and interesting stories. From Old Port, we headed to Cape Elizabeth. Cape Elizabeth is scattered with many “summer cottages” which are dream homes for most bay area families. Cape Elizabeth is also home of Portland Head Light, which is the most photographed lighthouse in the US. It was absolutely beautiful!

From Portland Head Light we went back to Portland Harbor and boarded a boat for a tour of Casco Bay. On our way out on the Bay, we passed a lobster boat unloading their days catch. It was amazing to see the amount of lobster they off loaded.

Casco Bay is home to the Calendar Islands. The Calendar Islands is made up of 365 separate islands; hence it’s name. Many of the islands have forts or lookout points that aided the troops in securing Portland during the Civil War and World War II. Our cruise included a view of Portland Head Light from the water in addition to five other lesser known light houses. The Captain pointed out a few interesting sights: a fishing boat we passed which was used in the movie “A Perfect Storm”, Billy Joel’s newly built house, and an oil tanker unloading crude destined for Montreal along with the safety precautions required. It was an interesting trip!

Once back on board, we took a little nap before dinner. Tonight was formal night so we got dressed and went down to the lobby to take a few pictures. We proceeded to another fun dinner at the “kids table” followed by the first production show “Livin’ in America.” It was actually the same production show Darin and I saw on the Victory two years ago but it was still entertaining. From the production show, we headed to the piano bar where Kevin was playing requests but the crowd was responsible for singing. It got to be so loud that the old people sleeping in the cabins above the piano bar kept complaining. With every complaint we got a little louder 😛 It was a lot of fun!

Funny story: The Sunday before we left on our trip, Hannah gave Darin a rock that she had found. It is actually a very pretty rock. Ever since that day, Darin has been carrying it around in his pocket. Our trip had been fantastic until yesterday. When we arrived back in our cabin yesterday after our disasterious tour, we realized we had left that rock in the cabin all day. Today we made sure to bring it with us and it turned out to be a wonderful day. We now consider it to be our lucky rock and we are considering taking it to the casino to see what it really can do.

Tomorrow is our first day at sea. . . .

October 5, 2004 – Day 8
Day At Sea

Today was a nice, relaxing day. We rushed to get up for lunch in the Pacific Dining Room. It was actually the first time I have ever been in the dining room for lunch. I highly recommend it.

From there we headed over to the Purser’s office to drop off a letter to the Hotel Director. Per Sophie’s suggestion, we wrote a letter to the Hotel Director regarding our tour in Boston.

From the Purser’s desk, we headed up to Lido deck to work on our travel log and have a few more snacks. The 24 hour pizzaria is excellent!!!

From there, we headed back to our cabin to take a nap. As you can tell, it had been an exhausting day!! Before drifting off to sleep we received a call from the Shore Excursion Manager and the Hotel Director himself. Both thanked us for our letter and informed us that they would do everything possible to rectify the situation.

We woke up from our nap just in time to get ready for dinner At dinner, the Assistant Maitre ‘D brought a bottle of wine complements of the Hotel Director. We had another fun dinner with Lisa, Mike, Christine, and Pete. We had so much fun that we were the last to leave the resturant. When we finally left, we only made it to the lounge right outside the dinning room and sat there talking, laughing, and enjoying the company until 1:30am.

When we returned to our cabin, there was a plate of a half dozen chocolate covered strawberries complements of the Hotel Director. I guess it pays to complain!!

October 6, 2004 – Day 9
Sydney, NS

Arriving into Sydney, Nova Scotia at 6:30am, with mostly sunny skies and a brisk 55 degrees, we could ask for no more, as Natalie and I prepared for our 7 hourCabot Trail and Cape Breton Highlands shore excursion.

We met our tour bus on the pier at Sydney Harbor, and there George “G” Williker, our guide, and Alex, our driver started us off on a full day of sights on the Eastern Nova Scotia Island of Cape Breton.

We travelled through a number of roads on our round trip journey and got our first real taste of Fall Foliage. The curving two lane road was lined with tree covered hills of mostly green, but plenty of orange, yellow, and red too! It was a great sight to see! But even better, our guide informed us that it was only going to get better in the next week or two — we will be in Vermont and New Hampshire at that time, so we were pretty excited at what is yet to come…

We started our tour at Saint Ann’s Lookout, getting a good look at the bay, and the hills. From there, we continued to the Gaelic College of Arts and Crafts at Saint Ann’s where they create Tartans, Kilts, and many textiles of heritage and geneology.

From the Gaelic College, we headed to the Keltic Lodge, home of one of the 10 best golf courses in North America. The lodge was really cool, and the surrounding areas were great photo opportunities. At $40 Candadian to play the 18 holes, you might want to consider a trip up there to hit the links.

Following our path North on the Cabot Trail, we continued to Neil’s Harbour (yes, we have to spell it that way while we are in Canada) and Lighthouse. Neil’s Harbor is a great little fishing village, where boats, lobster, and crab traps are as natural as the town church…

Black Brook was our stop for box lunch on the water, with great views of the cove we were in, and I got to take a quick 3 minute hike to find a very cool waterfall that was tucked back in an obscure corner of the cove.

As we began our trip back home, we got to learn about more of this area’s history, took in more of the Fall Foliage, and even had a sing-a-long on the bus… (Too bad Natalie and I didn’t know any of the songs…)

In Englishtown, our 55 passenger luxury bus coach rolled onto a Cable Ferry that took us across the bay above Saint Ann’s Lookout — that was truly a unique experience. Nothing happened, but to just roll a bus onto a boat to cross the river is not exactly a normal occurence for us living in the Bay Area… It was actually a lot of fun!

From there, we drove home back to Sydney Harbor and Downtown… Natalie and I took a quick trip to two local shops to look at some of the handicrafts. Back onto the ship for a nap then getting ready for dinner. Tomorrow is Halifax!

Side Note: For all of you who are complaining about gas prices in the United States, today we learned that the current price of gas in Canada is $0.95 CDN per liter. Doing the math, that comes out to about $3.00 a gallon… So, keep your spirits up and know that your counterparts to the north are paying through the nose…

October 7, 2004 – Day 10
Halifax, NS

Our morning started at 10:00 when we were cleared for disembarkation at Pier 31. The Victory usually docks at Pier 21, but the Queen Mary 2 pulled rank and got that spot. Carnival did provide complimentary shuttles to Pier 21, all three blocks away.

From Pier 21, we decided to use our Frommer’s Nova Scotia book to guide us through the city. We passed the Old Burying Grouds, which is the final resting place of Halifax’s first citizens. It opened when the city was founded in 1749 and was in use until 1844.

From there, we walked up to the Resturant Area of Halifax to have lunch at a italian resturant called Il Mercato. We found another gem of a resturant!

After lunch, we headed up to the 18-acre Public Gardens. They are absolutely beautiful. As Frommer’s so appropriately describes, “ducks and swans cruise across the glassy surfaces of ponds, fountains play in the breeze, and the sweet fragrance of flowers greet you.”

The Citadel was our next stop. In 1825, the construction on the citadel began, not finishing until 1856. We took a guided tour to learn about the fort and the daliy life of a solider that would have been stationed there. From the top of the Citadel, we were able to see the Old Town Clock and views of the entire city.

From there, we continued our walk past the Old City Hall through the Grand Parade to St.Paul’s Church. St. Paul’s was one of the first Anglican cathedrals established outside of England and is Canada’s oldest Protestant place of worship. From there we walked past the Province House (the seat of the Nova Scotia Legislative Assembly), the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Cable Wharf, and the Halifax Waterfront.

We are currently sitting in a little coffee shop on the waterfront checking our e-mail and updating the website. If anything exciting happens in the next couple of hours, we will add it when we reach land again (Saturday). Back to the ship so they don’t leave without us…

October 8, 2004 – Day 11
Day At Sea

Like our first day at sea, we rushed to be up before noon. We started our day at the preview at the art auction. We intended to just go for the preview then to lunch at 12:30. Instead, we found two pieces we really liked so we stayed for the auction. Not only did we purchase the two pieces we had identified, but we also picked up a etching of Winnie the Pooh. A picture of “Sea of Tranquility”, the Thomas Kinkade that we purchased, is under photos. We can’t wait for you to see it on our living room wall!!

Since we missed lunch, we went up to the Mississippi BBQ for a quick hamburger and fries. From there we had to go to our cabin to start packing up our cabin so we could enjoy the rest of the day without worrying about getting the packing done.

For some reason, there were two evening shows planned for tonight. The first show consisted of a comedian and one of the Platters. The cliental of the ship seemed to have liked him but I have to admit I had never heard of The Platters.

From there, we walked around the ship a little bit before dinner. Another good dinner in the Atlantic Dining Room! From there we went back to the Carribean Lounge with Christine, Pete, Lisa, and Mike for the second show: American Idol meets cruise talent show. It was actually very entertaining.

After the show, we went to the Irish Sea Lounge for Kevin’s piano sing-a-long. At the Lounge, we were able to get pictures of subjects of many of our comedic dinners. Doesn’t the man in “The Dancing Dahmer’s” look like Jeffery Dahmer? (I have to appologize, you probably will not appreciate today’s pictures as much as Christine, Pete, Lisa, Mike, Darin and I will).

After Kevin’s “show” was over, we went it search of some excitement. As you can see in the picture of the Disco, it is as firgid as it’s name suggests. We livened it up a bit until it closed at 2am. After 2, the only two areas open are the casino and the Pizzaria. So, Darin played $20 in the casino before we headed up to the Pizzaria. By time we were done, it was 3am and we were coming into NY in three hours. Time to say goodbye . . . .

October 9, 2004 – Day 12
New York City, NY to Mystic, CT

After a substantial lack of sleep (see yesterday’s log), we arrived into New York Harbor and docked at about 8am. That was actually about an hour early, which was great, except for the fact that all Non-US Citizens needed to go through customs before anyone going disembark. After all of that chaos, we finally got the green light around 9:10 in the morning…

Our car was waiting for us at the pier, which really helped get us to Newark Airport quickly, so we could get our rental car… Over to Terminal A at the airport, and a quick trip on the AirTrain to the National Emerald Aisle, got us into our new transportation for the next 7 days, and we were off in our Chevy Classic on our way to Mystic, Connecticut.

The New England Region is well known for its Toll Roads, and we felt it almost immediately. $8 to get from Manhattan into New Jersey, then $1.70 just for the privledge of driving on the New Jersey Turnpike, then another $6 to cross the George Washington Bridge to go through the Bronx on I-95. It was all worth it through, we crossed into the state of Connecticut and began heading towards New Haven, our first stop on the Driving Tour.

New Haven, CT is the home of Yale University, and I must say that it is a memorable experience. I can’t even begin to describe the place, but take a look at the photos, and just remind yourself that a year at this university runs about $38,000 — that should bring you all back down to earth again.

After a quick bite to eat at Ivy Noodle — quite good Lo Mein and Pan Fried Dumplings, we headed over to the Yale Visitor Center to meet up with a campus tour.

Our tour guide was a Junior from Santa Monica, California, and was a lot of fun — only one recommendation… Decaf… He was a good tour guide and showed us some great spots on the campus.

After Yale, we headed Northeast on I-95, and continued to Harkness Memorial State Park, and walked along the coastline. There is also a mansion on the property that was being used for a wedding and reception. It was impressive, and provided a nice rest after being in the car for a while.

On arriving into Mystic, we checked into our hotel, and made our way down to dinner at a close by restaurant called “The Steak Loft”. Don’t let the name fool you, the food was amazing, and continues to fuel the vacation full of gem food offerings.

Back to the hotel after dinner, and time to rest… We were both very tired and called it a day. Tomorrow, Mystic Seaport, Rhode Island, and heading North towards more Fall Colors!

October 10, 2004 – Day 13
Mystic, CT to Andover, MA

Well… we caught up on our sleep last night, and rolled out of bed in the 9:00am range, getting down to our complimentary breakfast right around 9:45am… The breakfast was great! Make your own waffles, bagels, english muffins, eggs, sausage, juice, and muffins.

From there, we travelled down to the Mystic Seaport — it was nice, but most of the downtown was closed off as part of the museum that required an admission fee. We took some pictures, but moved on to the town of Stonington, where we went to DuBois Beach and saw the Stonington Lighthouse.

From there, we travelled to Newport, which was an incredible town… Although the weather began to give us a few raindrops, we walked the downtown section of town, saw the wharf, and then got into the car to take a 30 minute drive along Ocean Drive, where some of the most incredible mansions we have ever seen were sitting side by side on a beautiful coastline.

Next, we needed to make a quick pit stop at Bed, Bath, and Beyond to exchange our Car Power Adapter, as the current one fried out late yesterday… Bob, at the store, was awesome, and gave us an immediate exchange, and we were back on the road towards Portsmouth.

There, we found two of Rhode Island’s wineries… Yes, grapes grow in Rhode Island, so Natalie did a little tasting, and we found a great bottle of wine to share on a picnic later this week in Vermont… By now, it was nearly 4:00pm, and we hadn’t eaten lunch, so we pulled up to Leo’s Ristorante for amazing Italian Food. We had Chicken Parmigiana, Tortellini and Chicken in Butter Herb Sauce, and really good soup. We were so stuffed, that we called it a day, and decided to skip dinner.

We continued along to Providence, just as the sun was going down, so we got to see the city, walk around a bit, and grab some great shots of the town.

Then it was on the road to head towards our hotel for the evening. We arrived into Andover, MA at approximately 8pm, and settled in for the night. Finished the weblogs for the last couple of days and got up to date. A good night’s sleep and tomorrow, we are headed to Lexington, Concord, Portmouth, and Lake Winnipausakee, on our way to Conway, NH… We’ll see you tomorrow!

October 11, 2004 – Day 14
Andover, MA to North Conway, NH

So yesterday was a long day, and Natalie and I decided to move a few items on our itinerary from yesterday to today, so this morning, we woke up and started our day with a nice breakfast at the hotel, and got on the road… We did a little backtracking (only about 20 minutes), and headed to the Battle Trail of April 19, 1775, as Paul Revere made his historic ride.

We saw the Old North Bridge where the famous “Shot Heard Around the World” was fired. Only 4 people died, but to see what came of that single interaction, shaped history in so many ways.

We continued to Walden Pond, the location of Thoreau’s collective writings — a beautiful location, and one that I wouldn’t mind spending a nice New England summer at… When the snow begins however — time to head back to sunny California.

From there, we headed to Minute Man National Historical Park. We saw a great multimedia presentation on the events of April 19, 1775. It was a great opportunity and experience, and sadly, we are one of the last people to be able to see it. Due to continued cuts to the US Department of Interior Parks Service and Programs, the very site we visited today will be closing on October 31st and will be closed indefinitely.

We continued on to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and stopped to have some lunch at yet another gem — The Muddy River Smokehouse, where we had some fantastic pulled pork sandwiches, cornbread, and Country Nachos. Yum!

After a quick walk through town, we got back into the car and moved north towards Weirs Beach, on the shores of Lake Winnipausakee. It is a fun beach community that was slowly beginning to start its winter hibernation, so we stopped for a few fall foliage pictures and decided to drive on to our final stop for the day — Conway…

Conway is at the gateway to the White Mountains of New Hampshire… Our stop tonight was a Bed and Breakfast on the banks of the Saco River. Nice place, with Hot Chocolate and Chocolate Chip Cookies as we checked in, and our front door looked out onto the river. It was a great way to end the day…

Tomorrow… Heading into Vermont!

October 12, 2004 – Day 15
North Conway, NH to Burlington, VT

We had somewhat of a lazy slow day yesterday so we got a early start today. We packed up and headed to Banners Resturant. It was a little local joint that served amazing and cheap breakfasts. As we sat there enjoying our breakfast, we got a little concerned about the rest of our day — we always seemed to find one real gem everyday. We found todays before 10 am . . . . . we hoped that it wouldn’t be our last.

We decided to take a different route than we had planned: the Kancamangus Highway. It turned out to be a wise choice. This highway took us through a sea of color. It was absolutely amazing! With the exception of the New Yorker traveling 25 mph on the 50 mph two lane windy road, it was a wonderfully beautiful drive.

From the Kancamangus Highway, we drove through the Franconia Notch State Park. We would have loved to get out and explore but it was raining and extremely windy so we decided to enjoy it from the car.

By the time we arrived in Montpelier the skies had parted and the sun shone bright. We took a tour of the Vermont State House. I could not get over the size of the State House and the State Capital for that matter. Montpelier has a population of 7,000 people. The State House is a two story building, all of the chambers on the second floor. Their government consists of 30 Senators and 150 Representatives. All of the positions (except Governor) are part time positions. It was so interesting to see!

From the State House we headed up Main Street to the Morse Sugar Farm. We watched a DVD on the Maple Sugar process and was able to taste their 5 different types of syrup. From there, we continued east 20 miles to the Grand View Winery. Luckily, the winery does have a “grand view” because it was the only thing we were able to enjoy as they are closed on Tuesdays.

We headed back to Montpelier to get to Waterbury. Waterbury is home to the Cabot Creamery Store and Ben & Jerry’s Factory. At Cabot Creamery, we tasted more cheddar cheese then you can imagine: Mild, Sharp, Extra Sharp, Hunter Sharp, Private Stock, Garlic Herb, Smoky Bacon, Sun-dried Tomato Basil, Roasted Garlic . . . .

Ben & Jerry’s was our next stop and what a great stop it was! We watched a video on the history of the company and their mission. After the video we watched them make the ice cream and package it. Can you believe they only produce two flavors of ice cream a day?! After watching them make the ice cream we were given a taste of two of their flavors: Primary Berry Graham (Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream with Strawberries & a Thick Graham Cracker Swirl) and Phish Food (Chocolate Ice Cream with Gooey Marshmallow, a Caramel Swirl & Fudge Fish). The taste was great but it wasn’t enough. We went to their scoop shop and I had a pint of Mint Chocolate Cookie and Darin had the Confection Election Sundae (Primary Berry Graham & Vanilla Ice Creams with a strawberry sauce core, whipped cream, graham cracker crumbs, and a chocolate democratic donkey to top it off.) The Confection Election Sunday is only avaliable through the end of November and all of the proceeds from the sale of these sundays go to “Rock the Vote.” I have a feeling Darin will be supporting “Rock the Vote” a lot in the next month.

After checking into our hotel, we decided to take CitySearch’s recommendation and go to Papa Frank’s for dinner (can you believe we were still hungry?!) It was a great little italian food join in Burlington, VT. We ended up eating our way through New Hampshire and Vermont. Another wonderful day full of gems!

October 13, 2004 – Day 16
Burlington, VT to White River Junction, VT

This morning, we were up and out the door by 9:15am, and headed to the city of Burlington, VT to begin our day. This morning’s first stop was the Lake Champlain Chocolate factory for a tour… The tour started at 10am, so for breakfast this morning, we elected to join millions upon millions of east coast folks and head into the closest Dunkin Donuts to start the day.

After some Munchkins (Donut Holes), we attempted to “sweeten the deal” with a factory tour of the Lake Champlain Chocolate Factory. We learned what goes into each and every great tasting bite, and have slightly more understanding of why it is priced at $24 a pound. Before we could get too bitter about that, there were free samples, so we had some chocolate caramels, and we proceeded to snag up a canister of hot chocolate mix…

From the chocolate factory, we headed out to the waterfront of Burlington, and took in the view from Battery Park, overlooking Lake Champlain and the New York coastline on the opposite side. The weather was again blue sky and very comfortable — as long as you were in the sun…

A few miles up the road was the Boyden Valley Winery, where we got to taste not only the traditional Chardonnay and Merlot, but also a number of Fruit Wines, including Cranberry, Blueberry, Rhubarb, and Maple Syrup Wine — I know, maple syrup is not a fruit, but it fell into the category because it is flavored with apple wine.

We picked up a nice bottle of Cayuga wine, and along with some excellent Cabot cheddar we purchased yesterday, decided that we were only one ingredient short of a great picnic — a couple of loaves of crusty bread. Within minutes, there was a sign for the Main Street Bakery, where we found a just out of the oven warm loaf of white and wheat. We were on our way.

The next stretch of road was without pictures due to its numerous twists, turns, and narrow shoulders, but Route 108 through Smuggler’s Notch is by far one of my favorite of the entire trip. It seems that the road was controlled by nature itself, and it decided to allow some of us to drive, very carefully, mind you, through this area of Vermont. The Notch is well know for its ski areas, but today, it was admired for a full spectrum of acre upon acre upon acre of unspoiled reds, oranges, yellows, browns, and greens (though very little green was left). We drove for about 20 minutes through this, and found a picnic area off the main road with picnic tables out in the sun and underneath huge trees with falling leaves. You could have not asked for better. Natalie and I enjoyed our picnic lunch, and some pictures were taken before we got back in the car. It was personally one of my favorite points of the trip.

Another half hour, and we were a little closer to the reality of homes and farms, and whatever makes up reality in Vermont… We stopped at the Cold Hollow Cider Mill to see Apple Cider being made — of course, sampled the merchandise, and had a second chance at Grand View Wineries as their tasting room was at this location, as well.

From here, it was about 60 miles down Scenic Route VT100, a place where there is little more than a two lane pavement ribbon running through some of the most perfect country there is… Big red farmhouses, are tucked along huge fields of grass with the fall colors making up the hillsides in the background. This was just one of the reasons we travelled to New England on this trip, and we can honestly say we weren’t disappointed.

We arrived into White River Junction to our hotel for the next two days (we have a rest day tomorrow), and got checked in. We want to finish up some of our backlog, and get up to date with the Travel pages and pictures…

We closed out the evening with dinner at a local eatery called Lui Lui, where Italian is the norm, the food is very good, and where you can have your hotel in Vermont, travel to New Hampshire for dinner, and cross over the Connecticut River to do it… Only in New England I guess…

Tomorrow is the Quechee Gorge, Hanover, and catching up with the Kummells!

October 14, 2004 – Day 17
White River Junction, VT

Today was Day Two in White River Junction (WRJ). It was a great stop for an extra day of rest, but also allowed us to just do some sightseeing, without the need of making sure that we were heading towards our next town or stop. This morning, we had a nice start to the day, grabbing breakfast from the lobby breakfast bar. Soon we were on the road for a day of sights and fall colors in the WRJ area.

Our first stop was Quechee Gorge Village. This little shopping village was made up of 3 large non-descript buildings from the road, and honestly, we though we would be there for maybe 10 minutes… Once we walked in the doors though, that all changed, as I can only descibe this place as a gigantic real life eBay of antiques and collectibles. Sellers purchase “display areas” to show their items and provide prices for each. The store will sell everything that people want, and take a small cut of the profit. It was actually quite ingenious. You would not believe the things they had here. Comic books, old records, china, coins, stamps, lunch boxes, glassware, salt and pepper shakers, posters — you name it, it was here.

Then go up to the second level and find the arts and crafts of local folks — nearly 250 of them, displaying photography, woodwork, candles, and little trinkets. It is here that Darin realized that he could actually make money off of his photography hobby. The photography being sold at this Village is no better than the work that Darin does himself. From the arts & craft store, we went next door to the Christmas Loft. They had everything you could ever need for decorating your house for Christmas.

Our next stop was the Quechee Gorge… Well, actually, it was the tasting room for the Ottauquechee Valley Winery, which was located about 40 yards from the Gorge and Viewing Bridge, so we checked out some very good fruit wines from the local area, and picked up a few bottles.

Finally, we got to the Quechee Gorge. This gorge is quite deep, but along with the nice weather and the fall colors was a lot of fun to see. Natalie and I also made a quick trek to the Quechee Falls to see the water that flows into the Gorge. We walked across the bridge over the top of the gorge and headed back to the car to continue our trip into some scenic back country.

Small two lane roads bordered by creeks and streams, farmhouses and sprawling stretches of green grass were the norm out here. It made for some great driving as we headed into Hanover, New Hampshire.

Hanover is the home of the Ivy League’s Dartmouth College. It is a beautiful campus with many great buildings and a nice little town to go along with it. Natalie and I grabbed a burger at Molly’s and toured the campus before heading back to the hotel.

Later that evening, we met up with the Kummells. Matt is currently in his first year in the MBA program here and we spent the evening with him, his wife Vicki, and their daughter Bryn. The girls went out for a wine tasting event on campus, while Matt and I babysat. It was a nice mellow evening, and was capped with the St. Louis/Houston Playoff Baseball game, and tons of great EBA pizza and buffalo wings.

Tomorrow — on to Connecticut!

October 15, 2004 – Day 18
Burlington, VT to Hartford, CT

We got a late start today. We grabbed some breakfast in the lobby, packed up the bags, and got on the road for our final hotel. We stopped at Harpoon Brewery in Windsor, VT. Unfortunately, the factory was not in operation and they were not tasting when we got there. So, we headed on to our next stop . . . . Putney, VT.

We had seen the Putney Moutain Winery tasting counters at many of the little stores that we had visited over the last couple of days but they were only open for tasting on Saturdays. So we looked up the address and decided to visit the winery as we passed through Putney. Unfortunately, the address provided was a residence, not a winery. So, we headed back to our trek into Massachusetts.

Our map had indicated that there was a winery- West County Winery, in MA only 2.5 miles off of our route. It neglected to inform us that altough it was only 2.5 miles away from I-91, we would have to take a 33 mile detour to get there. When we finally arrived, we found the West County Winery – a local convenience store that happened to sell wines (mostly from California).

From there, we decided just to head straight to our hotel in Farmington, CT. Even though all of our destinations were a bust, we did enjoy the beautiful scenery of the VT and MA backroads that we took.

Once back in civilazation, we stopped at a Cracker Barrel for lunch. MMMM . . . . good comfort food. After lunch we continued south to our hotel, Homewood Suites (highly recommend it). Once in our room, we relaxed for a little bit before heading out to dinner.

We got outside and it was pouring. It was near impossible to see anything, especially since CT doesn’t believe in street lights. But, Darin did a great job of following the directions to Pizzeria Uno that we had received from the computer — too bad the directions were wrong! We finally found a nice gentleman who informed us that Pizzeria Uno was no where close and gave us directions to West Farms Mall where the resturant was. Although the directions were good, they didn’t quite get us all the way there. We stopped to ask for additional directions from a very helpful guy coming out of the grand opening party of a hair salon nearby. His eyes lit up when we mentioned the mall and he provided us with excellent directions!!

After dinner, we headed to my favorite east coast joint, Cosi. We relaxed in our couch and enjoyed huge mugs of hot chocolate and s’mores. The perfect place to spend our last evening in New England.

October 16, 2004 – Day 19
Hartford, CT to Newark, NJ to San Francisco, CA

Today’s Day in Review will be a little more like a Trip in Review… Seeing New England, Canada, and New York City was a fantastic experience, and one that we know that we would jump at the chance to do again…

Today we drove from our hotel in Farminton, CT to Newark International Airport. As you can see, there were many, many roads for us to travel on today, so there was only one stop… The Riverside Square Mall was our lunch stop for the day. The food was pretty good, and gave us a chance to reflect on a great 19 days…

It was great hanging out in New York City with Greg and Tonya… We hope you enjoyed the Big Apple and we look forward to travelling with you again soon…

Our cruise was an experience in comedy thanks to Pete, Christine, Mike, and Lisa… Thanks for reminding us that there is fun in everything and that “Whopperhead” and “Jesus Christ!!!” are simply terms of endearment…

The people of New England showed no boundaries for being welcoming, friendly, and helpful wherever we went, even though the drivers of places like Massachusetts and New Jersey remind us all to take deep breaths on the roadways.

The Fall Colors are something that we simply don’t get to see in California, and we hope that the pictures do some justice to the brillance of where we have travelled.

We look forward to the next trip. Hope you enjoyed reading this as much as we enjoyed making it.. As the doors at the Gershwin Theatre in New York City read…

“You Are Now Leaving Oz… Reality Straight Ahead… Drive (or Fly) Safely…” See you next time!

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