2015 in Review…the Travel

It’s been a little while since I posted to my blog, mostly due to being so busy with work, the holidays, and a really busy life.  So I went back through my photos to see what I had missed in the fall and holiday season.  What I found was that I had missed a lot all year! (more…)

Autumn in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley

“We headed west into the Virginia countryside with no set plan but to enjoy the fall weather and all that the Old Dominion had to offer!”

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Manhattan: The Rooftops of Tribeca and the Financial District at Night

On the way home from our New England Road Trip we had to go from Maine to Virginia.  We decided this called for an overnight at the halfway mark in New York.   (more…)

New England Road Trip – Final Destination, Bates College

This post is the final posting in the series, New England Road Trip. (Photo credit for cover photo:  Margaret Trombly)

After 5 days of roaming around New England, visiting, sight-seeing and enjoying some vacation time, at long last we arrived at the main destination of the trip.

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New England Road Trip – Camden, Maine

This posting is part of the series New England Road Trip.IMG_1369

After 5 days of ambling through New England states, sightseeing, visiting, eating and drinking, it was almost time to meet up with our daughter Margaret,  pack up her dorm room and bring her back home to Virginia.

First, however, we had one more stop, one more cousin to visit and one more gorgeous oceanside town in Maine…

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New England Road Trip – Portland, Maine

This posting is part of the series New England Road Trip.

After leaving Ogunquit, our next stop was Cape Elizabeth, Maine.  Cape Elizabeth is more or less a suburb of Portland, but it’s not your average suburb.  It’s on the water and home to gorgeous oceanside homes.  Out on the tip of this cape is Fort Williams Park, home to the oldest lighthouse in Maine, the Portland Head Light.

This spot, nearly the easternmost in the United States, is breathtakingly beautiful.  To stand and watch the surf pounding the rocky shore is inspiring.  I could not take enough pictures of the lighthouse with the 18th century Keeper’s Quarters at its base.  Behind looms the Atlantic Ocean and you feel like if you looked hard enough you could see Europe.

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The rocky coast of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, looking out on the Atlantic Ocean. This day was so clear you felt like you could see Europe.

From Cape Elizabeth we headed to the Old Port section of downtown Portland, Maine.  This is a very charming city and walking among the restored old buildings with the smell of sea air feels like you’re on vacation!  We stayed at a brand new Marriott property called The Press Hotel. This is the former headquarters of the Portland Press Herald.  The hotel is decorated in an artsy homage to the newspaper and journalism business with typewriters adorning walls, and tasteful decor reminiscent of the era.  It’s also right in the heart of Old Port and a great location from which to see Portland.

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Right in the heart of Portland’s Old Port section, and formerly the headquarters of the Portland Press Herald, the building on the right is now a Marriott Autograph Collection hotel called The Press Hotel.

That night for dinner we were meeting my cousin Pam and her two kids.  If you’ve been keeping track of the “cousins who don’t own a winery tour” Pam would make the 4th cousin visit on our trip and her kids would be the 2nd and 3rd C1R’s, (cousins-once-removed).

Pam picked pretty much the perfect spot, the Flatbread Company.  While I think Flatbread Company might be a franchise, this place feels like a unique one-of-a-kind restaurant and bar.  They have a very impressive collection of craft brews, mostly from Maine.  It’s right on the water and has really nice outdoor seating and the food, service and beer were all extraordinarily good!

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This work of art greets you at the Flatbread Company in Portland’s Old Port district. It details the local farms where ingredients come from, and the Maine and New England breweries where they get their craft brews.

I tasted a lot of good beers while in Maine and they have a really vibrant craft beer scene.  By far, however, my favorite was from a small father and son brewery in Lyman, ME called Funky Bow Beer Company.  Their story is rather poignant and their beer is unforgettable.  If you are a fan of citric, piney IPA’s, you have to try the aptly named, “So Folkin’ Hoppy“.  One of my first tasks upon returning home will be to get this beer in Virginia!

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Maine has a vibrant craft beer scene and my favorite of the trip was the aptly named, “So Folkin’ Hoppy” from Funky Bow Beer Company out of Lyman, ME.

We sat outside and ate and visited and I got to know my young cousins, two adorable fun-loving kids who immediately started horsing around with me (I am powerless to resist acting like a kid).  We took selfies and stole french fries off each other’s plates and had a really nice time together.

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My cousin Pam and her children–my new buddies in Portland!

After dinner we said goodbye and wandered off to sample the nightlife of Old Port.  I had spent some time here during college, but that was during early Reagan administration so most of it was unfamiliar.

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There was, however, one treasured and familiar site.  3 Dollar Dewey’s is an institution in Portland and in what I believe is its 3 location.  Back in the early 80’s my friends and I would visit Portland on the weekends.  It is about 40 minutes south of Lewiston where we went to college and 3 Dollar Dewey’s was a favorite place with its communal tables, board games, and even then an exotic selection of beer.

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A Portland institution, 3 Dollar Dewey’s was a must-stop location from my youth!

The name of the place is rumored to come from a sign in a brothel that read, “$1 Lookie, $2 Feelie, $3 Dewey”.  This story is printed on their menu’s and lives on.  We had a couple more great Maine-based beers and chatted with the bartender and a couple folks at the bar.  It was great to be back!

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The legend of how 3 Dollar Dewey’s got its name.

The next morning we set out in search of breakfast and didn’t have to go too far.  The Holy Donut is a true gem!  Their donuts are made with real Maine potatoes–not potato flour, mashed potatoes!  The Old Port location is charming and the flavors are like entire meals.  For me it was all about the Maple Bacon donut.  It was like bacon, pancakes, and donuts all wrapped into one meal.  I’ll admit that I have eaten a lot of donuts in my life, but I will never forget this one!

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From the moment we saw this storefront we knew where breakfast was coming from! The Holy Donut was an experience and uniquely Maine.

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The rich, sweet, smokey, and salty Bacon Maple donut reduced me to Home Simpson-like noises of “Mmmm bacon maple!”

That afternoon we were off to Camden, Maine and then it would be Lewiston to retrieve our daughter from college; so, our tour of Portland was a brief overnight but I highly recommend a visit to this charming New England city!

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Picture of the Day: Piankatank River, Gloucester, VA

Down in the tidewater area of southeast Virginia is the Piankatank River.  It empties into Chesapeake Bay just north of the York River and Colonial Williamsburg.

We were treated to a casual barbecue at the home of a colleague who lives right on this river, where we watched a gorgeous sunset.

The drive down was beautiful too!  We drove down through southern Maryland crossing the Potomac into VA on the Rt 301 Nice Bridge.  Towns like Tappahanock, Dahlgren, all great historic areas of Virginia!

A nice spot indeed!

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New England Road Trip – Ogunquit, Maine

This posting is part of the series New England Road Trip.

Our first stop in Maine was Ogunquit.  Ultra-charming and somewhat unique, this is where my family went to the beach.  Although large and beautiful, the beach is not the center of town, nor the center of activity.  The town stands on its own with great restaurants, shops, and art.

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The beach at Ogunquit is large and very beautiful, but unlike a typical boardwalk town, it is not the center of town, or even the center of activity.

Behind the beach is a river, making the beach itself a large peninsula.  As the tide comes in, the river flows in, and as the tide goes out the river flows out.  This makes for some fun swimming and floating on the river side of the beach.

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Accessing Ogunquit’s beach requires crossing the bridge over the Ogunquit River. The river’s current near the mouth flows both upstream and downstream depending on the direction of the tide.

Ogunquit has a large gay population, and at the risk of generalizing or stereo-typing, this results in better restaurant selection, night life, and general sophistication.  It’s  not Provincetown, but drop into an Ogunquit gay bar on karaoke night and you’ll understand!

It also has a large French Canadian population which adds an international element to the scene.  It also plays a trick on the eye because I have yet to meet a fat Canadian!  The coast of Maine is filled with Québécois and no matter what their age, men and women alike all have the body of a teenager.

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The town of Ogunquit is separate from its beach, but only a short walk down this path.

With the exception of the beach, the shoreline is rugged and rocky.  It’s exactly what one thinks of when they think of the Maine coast.  The walkway along this rocky shore is called the Marginal Way.

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Walking along it, you can’t take enough pictures!  To one side are classic vacation homes and old-school resort hotels; and, to the other side, pounding surf on the rocks, sailboats, and the vast Atlantic ocean.

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At the end of the Marginal Way is Perkins Cove where you will think you’re in a calendar photo.  This quiet, protected cove is moored with fishing boats and lined with restaurants.  The small footbridge is also a drawbridge, and when a high-masted sailboat comes in, the captain honks to ask the people on land to press a button to raise the bridge.

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This footbridge is also a drawbridge and when a high-masted sailboat comes in they honk to ask people on land to push the button and raise the bridge.

There, in that cove is my family’s favorite spot in the world, Barnacle Billy’s. Here in this is humble institution, you order at the counter, pick your seat and wait for your number to be called.  I suppose they have burgers and chicken but I’ve never seen anyone order anything but lobster, clams, corn on the cob and rum punch!  And man is it good!  Good enough, in fact, for President George H. W. Bush who makes regular trips from his Kennebunkport compound by boat!

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Ever-vigilant against the sun’s harmful rays, Alice was ready for a lobster roll!

 

On this day we had only a few hours on our way to Portland.  It would be a quick lunch and a walk around town, so we walked along the Marginal Way.

Stopping for only lunch with a subsequent destination meant we could not enjoy the legendary Rum Punch…of which one should never have a 3rd!     (LCF, you know what I’m talking about!)

We did, however, enjoy a couple lobster rolls and some New England Steamers!

New England steamed clams are one of the few foods you cannot get just anywhere.  You can get clams, but not these.  Delicate and briny, dipped first in clam broth and then in drawn butter, this is my favorite food and what I would order if told to select a last meal.  If I should ever face a firing squad, at least I have that to look forward to!

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Two lobster rolls and a batch of “steamahs”, or New England steamed clams. The white cup is clam broth and you dip the clam in the broth first, then in the drawn butter. Mmmmm.

Ogunquit has been the site of many happy vacations, family gatherings, and fun stops to and from college.  Being on the southern end of the Maine coast it’s pretty easy to get to.  There are great restaurants and a lot of variety.  If you’re tired of boardwalk beach towns that only offer t-shirt shops and corn dogs, give Ogunquit a try!

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Road Trip to New England Continued – New Hampshire Lakes

This is the continuation of a week-long New England Road Trip.

The New Hampshire portion included a stop at my mom’s house in the town where I grew up, Laconia, NH.  This is right in the center of New Hampshire among lakes and mountains.  Growing up, “extended day” programs at school consisted of a school bus that would take us to the local ski area in the winter and in the summer we water-skied every day.

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This is Lake Opeechee, a small lake in the center of Laconia, New Hampshire.

We were there in late May and lilacs were in full bloom everywhere.  The fragrance perfumes the whole outdoors!  The lake was calm and occasionally you would hear a lone boat going by fishing or just cruising.

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These lilacs are the state flower in New Hampshire and they perfume the entire outdoors in late May!

My mom lives on the lake and to sit out back enjoying the town across the lake, and the familiar mountains in the background took me back to my high school days  (which is to say, many decades ago!)

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The view of Lake Opeechee from my mom’s back yard. In the distance, the legendary Belknap Mountain, site of countless high school hijinks.

For dinner we were going to a new place, the Holy Grail of the Lakes.  This was a former church that had been restored and converted to an Irish Pub.  This is my kind of church and I too was quickly converted!

There are beautiful stained glass windows, a very high ceiling and a choir loft for a more private dining experience.  In the center, what would have been the altar, is a large 3-sided bar.  The food was good and the beer list was superb!

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Looking down from the choir loft in the Holy Grail of the Lakes Irish Pub in Laconia, NH.

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My cousin Beth joined us for dinner in this church that has been converted to an Irish pub.

 

Our road trip was primarily to connect with family and it continued in Laconia. I visited my Uncle Dick and caught up with him, and stayed with my mom.  I also got to see my cousin Beth who joined us for dinner and once again we were laughing and telling stories!  This brought the family visit tally to 2 Aunts/Uncles and 3 cousins!

 

 

The next day I got up and went for a run around the lake.  It’s about a 5 mile loop and in the years since I lived there the city has built a nice jogging trail around much of it.  The WOW Trail is named for the three lakes in the area, Winnisquam, Opeechee, and Winnipesaukee.

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It was a great run and along the way I encountered so many memories of my youth.  Various friends’ houses where we used to hang out, my old middle school (which back then was called Junior High School) and a humble little fishing store called the Opeechee Trading Post where I used to buy a shoebox of night crawlers for fishing bait!

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The Opeechee Trading Post where I can still remember the shoe box I would get for $1 filled with dirt and big wiggly night crawlers to use as fishing bait.

From Laconia we were headed to Maine and as we left town we drove around the big lake, Lake Winnipesaukee.  If you’ve ever seen the Oscar-winning movie On Golden Pond, many of the scenes were filmed on Winnipesaukee and it is a huge beautiful lake.

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The charming town of Alton Bay. Out in the center of the bay (in the background of this picture) is a band stand.

One of my favorite spots on the lake is the tiny town of Alton Bay.  It is at the far tip of the lake in a quiet protected bay.  There is a bandstand out in the center of the bay and summer cottages (which in New England are called “camps”) along the shores.

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In New England it’s not called a “summer cottage”, it’s called a “camp”. The shores of Alton Bay are lined with such camps and certainly has a seasonal rhythm.

We made a stop at Shibley’s Drive-in for some fried clams.  This is not health food but it is one of life’s special treats!  We would go on to eat a lot of good seafood in Maine but the fried clam–complete with big bellies–is a fond memory and a treat I don’t ever find outside of New England.
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Fried clams are not health food and their flavor is not for everyone; but if you grew up eating them, they are a rare treat that brings back lots of memories.

Our stop in New Hampshire was a brief overnight.  Next would be Maine, Portland, Camden, and finally Bates College to retrieve our daughter.

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New England Road Trip – New Hampshire

This is the third posting from a week-long road trip to New England.

The next leg of our road trip was New Hampshire.  Right in the center of the state is an area called the Lakes Region, where I grew up.  The first stop however was a bit short of that.

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This is “The Farm”. All my life this has been a magical place. It sits on the Merrimack River and is filled with beauty and history and memories.

This beautiful picture is a place known to the family simply as, “The Farm”.  My great grandparents raised 9 children here on the banks of the Merrimack river in Franklin, NH.  The oldest of those children was my grandmother; the youngest, my Great-Uncle Stan, lives there to this day.

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My strongest association with the Farm is my great grandmother, a Polish immigrant whom we called Babka.  Babka used to tend large gardens in these fields and then make amazing food with what came out of the gardens.  She made chicken soup, the likes of which I have never seen again.  She also made Polish food that I remember most fondly.

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This humble spot in Franklin, NH has been the site of some of my best memories. Vegetables picked minutes earlier, a view of the Merrimack River, and the connections of family, all enjoyed on this lawn.

In the years since Babka, Uncle Stan has made the place more beautiful than it ever was.  Stan retired from a career as a cardiologist and now he and Aunt Yvonne enjoy all this gorgeous spot has to offer.  Flowers, home-grown vegetables, natural beauty, wildlife.

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In New Hampshire the state flower is the lilac and in late May they are everywhere. The air is literally perfumed with lilac everywhere you go!

As a kid, there was no mystery to what made the farm so great.  Toward the end of Babka’s life, Uncle Stan bought her a golf cart to get around the farm.  As kids we put more miles on that golf cart than a long-haul trucker.  Stan saw the attraction and began adding to the motor pool with go-carts, mini-bikes, and eventually a 1980 Dodge Colt with manual transmission that we could literally drive anywhere on the farm we wanted!

I have a great memory of my then 13 year-old daughter learning to drive a stick in the middle of a field with Uncle Stan in the passenger seat!  It should have been a Ford Bronco because that thing lurched and bucked all over the field!

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Below the front lawn is the Merrimack River, the biggest in New Hampshire. It starts less than a mile upstream when the Winnipausakee River meets up with the Pemigewasset…or as I prefer to call it, “The mighty Pemi”.

We had lunch outdoors with Stan and Yvonne and caught up with them.  We sat under an open car-port  because rain was threatening.  It overlooked the Merrimack River about 30 feet below down a steep bank.  You could see birds swooping in for prey, and you could smell lilacs from every direction.  This spot on the front lawn of the house was the site of so many fond memories and it was so great to be back.

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As if to illustrate New Hampshire’s nickname of the Granite State!

We even took a golf cart ride around the property.  Living in the Washington, DC area, it’s a rare event to have a 12 acre field of open pasture all to yourself!  We saw blocks of granite from an old bridge abutment.  They have hauled up from the bank by Stan and let you know you’re in the Granite State!

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The only problem we were going to have was explaining to our kids that we had gone to the farm without them!

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Alice at the wheel as we toured the property by golf cart.

After a great lunch that included Yvonne’s Asparagus soup, potato salad and some barbecue, we said goodbye and headed to Laconia.

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My Great-Uncle Stan and Aunt Yvonne

The next stop was my mom’s house in Laconia.

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