Jamie – 16 November 2011
We saw Boston as a bit of a layover as we adjusted to the six hour timezone change from Amsterdam. That said, we enjoyed our time there and it was nice to be back in the land of English speakers. Sure enough we all woke at 2am for the first two days, and Bec and I had to work hard to get the children back to sleep. Boston has some great family restaurants and we went out to dinner early both nights – the children were keen at the start of the meal, and asleep before the bill arrived. On each occasion Bec and I had to carry all three bodies out of the restaurant door which may have been a little unsettling for patrons arriving for their meal reservation. Ultimately their body clocks were forced to accept our new time zone and by the time we got to Vermont we were largely back on track.
In Boston Sari proved to be a bit perkier than the boys during the days and accompanied me on a walk of the Freedom Trial, a 4 km journey from Boston Common to the Bunker Hill Monument in Charleston. The trial is marked with a (mostly brick) line built into the footpath and roads, and simple ground markers explaining events, graveyards, notable churches and other buildings provide stops along the way. The highlight was a climb up the Bunker Hill Monument, a 67m tall granite obelisk that was built about 170 years ago. This offered a wonderful view over Boston, for the princely sum of 294 steps (not bad for a sleep deprived 4 year old after a 4 km walk). She never asked to be carried once which made her Dad very proud.
Aside from Mr Bartley’s Gourmet Burgers we also dined at the Barking Crab Restaurant, a great clam-shack in the Seaport District where you can buy lobster cooked 15 different ways. It was a lively and fun venue – perfect for children (even those who just want to sleep) and Sari managed to get the guitar guy up on stage to dedicate a song to her, on account of her dancing and flirtations with him, before sleep overcame her.
The 4.5 hour drive to Stowe, Vermont was very pretty although much of the country bore the scars of Hurricane Irene which came through in late August. It is extremely unusual for a hurricane as large as this to come as far north as Irene did – the last one this big was in 1901. She started in the Caribbean and worked her way up the east coast of the US and into Canada, taking 57 lives and causing an estimated $15 billion in damage. We saw literally thousands of trees with limbs ripped off or hanging. We later leant that some of this damage was also caused by a massive and unseasonally early snow fall over the Halloween weekend (just 2 months after Irene). In some parts of New England over 80cms of snow fell on trees still in leaf which caused many of them to fall. Powerlines were also damaged which left millions without power for several days.
As we drove north we were lucky to be back in (also unseasonal) warm weather and couldn’t help but wonder at the so called “once in a hundred year” weather events that now seem to be occuring on an annual basis! Much of New England is poor and, as beautiful as their country is, it is sadly apparent that this has been the ruin of many.
Our stay in Vermont was wonderful. As Bec has documented already, we were spoiled by the Newstead’s great friends – Michelle and Sam Labow – who surrended their house to us for three days and went to great efforts to show us all around Stowe and its surrounds. It was lovely being back in a house, as opposed to a hotel, and to enjoy delicious home cooked meals. The children were in a constant state of excitement thanks to the snow showers and outings like the Ben and Jerry’s factory tour. A few days after we left them Michelle emailed to say that they had found the banister knob that mysteriously went missing during our stay. Sari couldn’t quite remember where she had put it so this was a great relief to her parents.
We then drove south to the historic and very beautiful town of Mystic, Connecticut, where we spent three days before heading into New York City. Mystic sits on the Mystic River which flows into Long Island Sound. Its flat land and plentiful timber supply saw it become a major centre for ship construction during the 1800’s and it now hosts the Mystic Seaport, the largest maritime museum in the USA. The museum’s collections and exhibits include over 500 historic boats and a recreation of a 19th century seafaring village spread over 37 acres. I spent an entire day walking fascinated around tall ships and lighthouses.
We visited a working steam driven cider house (the last one in the USA). This beautiful old factory produced without doubt the best cider (apple juice) I have ever tasted. We also walked through the local cemetery, where Bec ingeniously set the children a series of tasks which they loved – find the oldest headstone, draw their favourite headstone, find out which wars the veteran graves related to, etc. It was really interesting tracing some of the original founding families through several hundred years of history via their headstones.
My 80’s junky wife (her words not mine) had us all visit Mystic Pizza for dinner one night. For those who did not watch teen movies in the 1980’s, Mystic Pizza is the name of a Julia Roberts film which was set in this restaurant, and having a meal here brought Bec as much joy as I got from a day at the Seaport. The pizzas were excellent and it was fun being surrounded by film memorabilia while we ate.
This morning we drove from Mystic into Manhattan which felt like a trip in a time machine. We have gone from a village of 4,000 to a city of 8 million. We are here for 10 days, including Thanksgiving, and have lots planned. All very exciting.