These are Eric’s diary entries, with the newest entries at the top.
Yes, we're back home today! As always after coming home from a multiple-week vacation, when you're back for a few hours it feels as if you've never been away. But we have this diary to proof otherwise!
On our way home we first found our way to Short Hills, where we lived from September 1995 through January 1997. During that time I worked in Manhattan and would take the train into the city every morning, and the train (or sometimes the bus) back every evening.
We found the train station, and from there the house where we lived: 98 Meadowbrook Road, within walking distance of the station (I did walk to the station: I tried biking a few times, but it was up a pretty steep hill so I gave up on that soon enough).
We then found Taylor Park in Millburn, where Nicoline used to take the kids to play. According to Google Maps it is a 0.9 mile walk, but when we drove it today we were surprised how far it was. I guess walking a mile to a playground wasn't a problem when we were younger. Frank and Mark, who were 2 and 4 at the time, didn't complain (much) either back then.
We completed our trip down memory lane by going by the South Mountain preschool that Frank went to when we were in New Jersey, and other places we remembered, including the IKEA opposite Newark airport, where we would go to the restaurant so we could watch the planes take off and land.
Over the past 19 days we have driven 3,216.5 miles, went through 7 states and two Canadian provinces, and in the process finally added Maine to states we have visited. This brings the total to 47, leaving only Hawaii, Alaska and Oklahoma. That's going to be the subject for another vacation...
In a way, Woodstock and West Point are opposites, one the epitome of the bourgeois society, the other the symbol of counter-culture. Yet they are both located in the Hudson valley, not that far apart.
Woodstock itself, as a town, is more focused on its art scene than the 1969 music festival, although there are of course plenty of references to the event that made the quaint little village world-famous. I particularly wanted to see the faux historic markers that an artist put up in the town. We found three of them, I don't know if there are more in town.
FDR was definitely one of the greatest presidents the U.S. has had. The only four-term president, he brought the country through both the great depression and the second world war. He inspired the American people in a way few presidents before or since have been able to do.
I was particularly impressed by a statue behind the library. Cut from a piece of the Berlin wall, the figures of a man and a woman are surrounded by big red barbed wire, while the base is inscribed with FDR's four freedoms: freedom from fear, freedom of speech, freedom of worship and freedom from want. It is amazing how the 32nd president is still relevant today.
The rain started almost at the moment we got back to our car. There was a torential downpour when we crossed the Hudson on the Franklin D. Roosevelt bridge at Poughkeepsie. The rain continued all the way to West Point.
By the time we arrived at the Westpoint Acadamy's visitors center, it was too late to take any tours or visit the museum. So we just looked around the visitors center itself, before continuing to find a supermarket to get dinner and then a place to sleep.
The theme of today: rain, rain, and more rain. We packed up our stuff and left Québec around 8:45 this morning, with the first goal of finding a mail box to send off postcards to Frank, Mark and Nicoline's parents. That turned out not quite as simple, but after asking at a gas station we got to a post office with a mailbox. After that, driving; over 400 miles according to Google Maps.
We did all Interstate (and the Canadian equivalent) today because of the distance we had to cover. It rained most of the way, with some really bad downpours / thunderstorms around Albany. Originally we thought about taking byways once we would be past Albany, but with the bad weather that wasn't worth it and we stuck to the main road. At least you don't have unexpected cross traffic on an Interstate.
It turns out there is a ferry from Lévis to Québec; Nicoline noticed a sign yesterday and found out the details on Google. So we don't have to drive into the city, we can park on this side of the river and take the ferry in. And if it hadn't been so foggy, we would have had a great view of the old city coming in. As it was, we saw mostly fog.
Once on the other side of the river, we climbed the many stairs to the old town on top of the cliffs to find the tourist information. At the tourist information, we got a map of the city and a booklet that had a number of walking tours. We chose to follow the one "Inside the walls" which took us around the fortified upper part of the city.
For much of the day the weather remained foggy, drizzling, and we got caught in one shower (from which we found shelter in a coffee shop, where we had a cup of coffee and a snack). Only later in the afternoon did it begin to clear up a little bit.
We saw a lot of the old town, with one of the most interesting parts the library in the Morrin building. This is the kind of library I would aspire to, if I had the money -- including the gallery and the round staircase on the left. Also notice the radiators, which are basically stacks of iron pipes through which I guess the hot water runs.
When we got out of the Notre-Dame-de-Québec cathedral (which really is beautiful inside) there finally was some sun and some blue sky. We finished the walking tour of the walled city and decided to head down to the "lower" part of town, next to the river.
Here we walked around until it was time for dinner. Nicoline got the "poutine" she had been looking forward to and I had a "beaver tail" with maple syrup frosting. Both were good, with my beaver tail being of course pretty sweet (but then, I do have a sweet tooth). And a maple syrup ice cream for desert!
Our goal today was to go to Quebec, and we had two options: the "northern" route or the "southern" route. We chose the northern one, changing into Canada at Fort Kent, which is the northern terminus of US-1. Supposedly, there is a sign on the bridge marking the end of probably the longest highway on the East Coast. However, the bridge is being reconstructed and with all the border security stuff I think the sign may have gotten lost; I didn't see it. So I had to do with a picture of the bridge itself.
It took us three and a half hours to get to Fort Kent, going through the last bits of Maine for this vacation. We did see an Amish buggy, multiple lumber trucks, and a lumber yard on the way. We also did see the fort in Fort Kent but it was closed so we weren't able to get in or anything.
Once we started into Canada, the problems started. First, the Canadian custom officer had a hard time believing we were just driving into his country for a few days without having an idea of where to stay. "You drove all the way from Maryland to come into Canada" he asked incredulously. He made us wait for ten minutes or so, probably checking to make sure we didn't escape from an asylum somewhere, before we could continue.
Then we tried to find a map of where we were going (the province of Quebec). Tourist information: closed. Other tourist information: closed. Library: closed. Gas station: maps were sold out. At least the lady at the gas station was able to point us in the right directions towards the city of Quebec. After just about another hour driving we finally found another gas station (really, we did not see any gas stations or stores or anything like that in the towns we passed through) where we were able to buy a map.
With the map, we at least were able to figure out where we were and where we wanted to go, which was a huge improvement. We found that we could deal with the signs and stuff in French, but understanding the French of the people was very hard. Fortunately is Nicoline better in speaking and understanding French then I am, so I'm mostly letting her do the talking now.
Around four o'clock we were getting pretty close to Quebec and since we wanted a hotel/motel outside of the town, we started looking. We basically followed a sign we saw on the highway to Motel Beaumont, and it turned out to have really nice rooms! So we unpacked and rested for a moment, then went out to get some groceries for breakfast tomorrow (breakfast is not included) and went to eat before getting back to the motel to do our trip diary.
The forecast for today was sunny and a decent temperature, after the showers of the last two days, so we scheduled our canoe trip for today. Fortunately, the forecast turned out to be right! We went back to Baxter State Park and again drove the 45-minute trek over the "Tote Road" to get to the Kidney Pond campground.
At the campground we could rent a canoe for a dollar an hour, which is quite nice. Actually, you can also rent canoes on some of the other lakes that you can only reach by hiking: you have to get a key at a campground, take the paddles and possible life jacket with you, and then you can use the canoe at the lake. No hiking for us today, though: we just stuck with Kidney Pond.
It was a great day to be drifting on the lake. I didn't take many pictures because I had my camera with me in a waterproof bag because I don't quite trust my own antics in a wobbly canoe. In all honesty, the boats are pretty stable, but I'd still rather be safe than sorry.
Upon Nicoline's request I took a picture so show the clarity of the water, and I think this worked out pretty well. The water is pretty clear in all these ponds, and supposedly also reasonably well stocked with fish. There are all kinds of restrictions on fishing, in fact, the sign tells you to "consult a law book" if you want to do anything but fly fishing...
After canoeing, and then sitting on the porch of the "library" at the lake and reading, we went back to Millinocket to do the laundry and have dinner at the McDonalds in town. Every vacation I want to eat once at a McD. This one turned out to be quite fancy -- and the Big Mac was as standard as they should be.
We started out lazily today. This morning's weather wasn't conducive to hiking, so we staid in bed reading, enjoying our home-made breakfast in bed (bagels). By the time we did get out of bed, we looked at the options and decided on trying the "River Pond Nature Trail" because it supposedly included seeing wildlife.
The trail itself was interesting, but a bit too long - towards the end we were getting tired of it. The trail was moderately well marked with signs and blue blazes, but it was overgrown in place, plenty of fallen trees to climb over. The following are all photos of the actual trail, not the wild forest:
The trail had a number of trees marked with their type, age and use, which was interesting, but beyond that, we didn't see any wildlife, just some droppings. So after an hour or two we were done with it; unfortunately it took up almost three hours to finish the entire hike.
After the hike we continued on the "Golden Road" to Greenville. The road is marked on the state highway map, but is only moderately better than a logging road. Mostly packed gravel, with lots of potholes, some pretty big. This is how I imagine large parts of Maine, with just some random roads and not much else. The weather was strange, a few rain showers alternating with sun (sometimes at the same time, producing a rainbow). And, we did see some wildlife: a deer.
By the time we got to Greenville, it was getting later and we decided to have dinner at the "Black Frog" restaurant, on the stormy lake. Since we still haven't seen any moose, Nicoline decided to have a "Moosehead" beer, so at least we got to include a picture of a moose in our blog that way! There was a double rainbow in the sky while we were eating. When I looked at the zoomed-in picture of the lower rainbow, I noticed it actually had multiple repetitions of a rainbow in there. Very cool!
After getting up so early yesterday we slept in, and didn't get up until around 8:30. Since the place we are staying does not provide breakfast, we went into town to find a place to have a coffee and something to eat. That wasn't quite as easy, until we ran into The Appalachian Trail Café. Just what the doctor ordered! It was really busy though, so having breakfast took almost an hour. But after that we were able to buy a detailed map of Baxter State Park in the "Trail Connection" shop upstairs.
After breakfast we went to the park. It is half an hour drive from Millinocket to the park visitor center and entrance (if you don't stop for pictures on the way). We got suggestions from a park ranger and decided to go to the "Daicey Pond" area and do some hiking from there on. Since we are planning to come back tomorrow and the day after, we ended up buying a season pass rather than having to pay the entrance fee three times.
Once in the park, it was still a ten-mile drive to Daicey Pond and since this is a gravel road with a speed limit of 20 mph (which is the limit, not the actual speed one can drive, which often was closer to 15 or even 10 mph), it was another 45 minutes until we could park the car and start our hiking.
The hike we decided to do was not all that hard, but did follow the Appalachian Trail for a part. With us having done the Maryland part of the Appalachian Trail through the Howard County Recreation and Parks day hikes, and since Baxter is the northern end-point of the AT, we couldn't visit the park and not hike this famous trail. Anyway, we hiked around Daicey Pond and to Elbow Pond and Grassy Pond. It was a beautiful piece of park that we came through, at times it looked like a fairy tale forest. Amazing was the moss, which at times covered whole logs and even complete areas. Also nicely quiet: we only saw other hikers three times on the whole two and a half hour hike. And we saw a lot of different mushrooms. Here is an impression:
We ended up at the "library", a part of the Daicey Pond campground with a breathtaking view of the summit of Mt. Katahdin. In the enlarged part of the shot with the telephoto lens, you can actually see the hikers who have made it to the summit of this 5271 ft. high mountain, and reached the end of the Appalachian Trail. This is something we can only dream of.
Today we drove from Trenton to Millinocket, which is, according to Google Maps, a distance of 110 miles and should take just about 2 hours. It took us twelve and a half hours and I don't know how many miles, since we thought the direct route would be boring so we took a little detour through Canada.
We got up early and were on the road at 5:30. This allowed us to see the sun rise from traveling US-1 North. We followed the road all the way to Calais, ME (it actually goes quite a bit further), which we reached around 9:00 in the morning. We got to see the country wake up around us!
In Calais we "hopped over" into Canada, put our watches an hour forward, and stopped at the first tourist information. Based on the suggestions of the lady who helped us, we decided to continue on to St. John and do a self-guided walking tour themed along the "loyalists" there.
From St. John we followed part of the Scenic River Tour along Route 102, which was interesting. When we met up with Route 2 (single-digit state routes are comparable to the US interstates) we took that to get back. This turned out to be part of the Trans-Canada highway, making us drool about driving that one from one end of Canada to the other. Maybe in 2016....
In Woodstock we stopped for dinner at a Tim Hortons after which we re-entered the United States, and blazed down I-95 to Millinocket. As we were driving, we realized that we've driven just about the entire I-95. A couple of years ago we drove it south all the way to Miami to take a cruise, and now we've driven it to the northern end in Maine.
It turns out that the cabin we reserved is (again) right next to the airport. It is an amazing coincidence. But I don't expect that to be a big problem, and the cabin looks nice enough.
Nicoline had picked up a brochure of a "Big Chicken Barn Books & Antiques" and we decided to have a look there. Yes, they did have a lot of "antiques" (stuff), the whole lower floor full, and the entire upper floor was used books. Fun to walk around and browse, although we didn't buy anything.
The weather in the afternoon was supposed to be better (which turned out to be correct) and we decided to rent bicycles for half a day and ride the carriage ways of Acadia. Because we only had the bikes for four hours, we decided to limit ourselves to a tour around Eagle Lake. We had a light lunch on the way, while taking a break overlooking Breakneck Pond. When we returned the bikes, the guy at the bike shop said that would have been around 12 miles (18km), which isn't bad.
Of course Nicoline was correct when she warned me that since I hadn't done any real biking in almost 20 years, it would be harder than I thought. And of course Nicoline was also correct in that the carriage ways were not at all as flat as one might think. But even though it was hard, I'm still glad we did this!
We still had some time left after returning the bikes so we decided to go to the Nature Center at the Sieur de Monts Spring, and visited the wild gardens there. For the past few days I kept thinking how my father would have loved the rugged coast here, but this is something my mother would really have loved to wander around in!
We wanted to have dinner in a place called "2 Cats" which we had seen in town, but it was closed. So we ended up having dinner in a pub / restaurant instead, where I had a pizza and Nicoline had a bacon cheese burger.
Today is a gorgeous day - sunny, warm, light breeze. We tried to get a see kayaking tour for today but that didn't work out. We did sign up for a tour for tomorrow, but when we looked at the weather forecast for tomorrow, it's not too good (temperature in the low 60s, fair chance of rain) so we decided to cancel that tour. But we still had to figure out what to do with today. Well, we went to the other Acadia National Park: the one on the next peninsula over, all the way down to Schoodic Point. Far fewer people, and still gorgeous!
Before we got to the park we stopped at the tidal falls of Taunton Bay, where the water rushing out of the bay creates complete rapids. It didn't look like much when we were there, since it was almost low tide, but you could still see where the whitewater would be.
In Gouldsboro, we stumbled upon a glass studio where the artist makes different plates with patterns in colored glass. We bought two of these plates to hang on the new wall we've built in the living room instead of the handrail. That also takes care of our "blue glass memento" for this vacation.
After all of that, we finally entered into the park. Like its big brother, this part of Acadia has a one-lane road along the coast. Driving along I was reminded time and again of my father, who would have loved the views and the rugged coast here. The photos below don't really do it justice!
At the southern-most point of the road, we reached Schoodic Point. Here you could actually go onto the rocks and people had brought chairs and were enjoying the view. We had our lunch break here while I took photos of the sea clashing into the rocks.
After our lunch break we drove around some more but not taking a whole lot of pictures. Later in the afternoon we ended up in the Ellsworth public library, where we have Internet so we can upload our diary entries.
Update on September 5th: after the library, we went to dinner in Ellsworth in a nautical-themed restaurant, but they also had non-seafood dishes. Nicoline had fajitas and I had a bacon cheeseburger. After dinner we decided to go to the top of Mount Cadillac after all, to see the sunset.
We were really too late to see much of the sunset, which wasn't a big deal because the summit of the mountain is really much more geared towards watching the sunrise, for which it is of course famous. But I did get a nice picture looking down at Bar Harbor at night!
The internet at the Open Hearth Inn works for Nicoline, but isn't working well for me. I don't know why, but I couldn't get an IP address at all yesterday. I left my laptop on over night, and by this morning it got a connection, but when we got back from today's trip it was lost again. Hopefully it will be back tomorrow, otherwise we'll have to find a Starbucks or such to upload the diary.
Today we went to Acadia National Park, and a major part of today was a moderately strenuous 3-mile, two hour hike we did. It doesn't sound like much but it was clearly enough for us. But more about that later.
We started out at the visitor center, where one of the signs gave a tantalizing titbit of information: that Somes Sound is "the only fjord on the east coast of the United States." That is something we will have to look into later. The ranger wasn't much help, by the way. When we were talking about a "moderate" hike, he suggested to walk the carriage ways, or a walk around Jordan Pond. Those are not hikes, they are strolls! So we looked at the various brochures ourselves and found one that was labeled as "moderate" that sounded much more like what we had in mind: to the summit of Gorham Mountain and back along the road.
In order to get to the starting point of the trail, we had to drive the Park Loop Road, a road that goes around the park. We stop several times (after all, we're not in a hurry) to take photos of the park and the rugged Maine coast.
We stop for a snack at what the thought was the summit, but it wasn't. However, after the stop we do reach the actual summit and take our pictures there. We have a great view of Sand Beach, but because the the fog and clouds of not much else.
We walk back along the Ocean Path with a stop at Thunder Hole. It isn't thundering much right now, since the tide is receding.
From Jordan Pond we left the park to drive along Somes Sound, supposedly the only fjord on the East Coast. I'm not sure what makes it a fjord, but it does look a little bit like what I vaguely remember of Norway. Interestingly, at one point there was a waterfall on one side of the road, the water of which went under the road and at the other side ran into the sea. You could clearly see the difference in sea weed and other life where the fresh water streamed in and the areas around it.
We have been generally lucky with the weather so far, but today was a rain day. The whole day the weather went back and forth between a light drizzle and a complete downpour. After breakfast we packed our stuff and went on the way towards Bar Harbor, taking a quick stop just outside of Richmond to take a photo of the old bridge which is about to be replaced.
All day I've tried to get some Maine-in-the-fog photos, like this one at the Robert E. DeWick recreation area in Woolwich. I'm not sure if it worked well. For one thing, I keep forgetting to dry off the lens of my camera, having the water droplets ruin the photos.
Around noon we come by the Penobscot Narrows Observatory, an observation point on top of a bridge overlooking Fort Knox, but decide not to go up - the admission fee of $7.00 per person is a bit steep on a day like this, where the view isn't much because of the fog and rain. The observation deck can be seen on top of the first bridge pillar.
For lunch we eat at Finn's in Elsworth. Since we're only a few miles away from the place where we have a reservation, and we're not supposed to show up before two, it makes sense to have lunch first. The food was OK, but they were taking a long time with it, so overall it's not a place I would recommend.
We arrive at the Open Hearth Cottages at exactly five minutes past two. The cottage we have reserved looks just as cute as advertised, although moving out stuff into the cottage in the pouring rain is not what we planned. But it's cosy, has heating and air-conditioning, so we're happy with it.
After getting settled in, we drive into Bar Harbor to do the laundry. While Nicoline is waiting at the laundromat, I walk into the town to take some photos. Who would thought they'd have a "Route 66" cafe featuring lobster and seafood? I just cannot see the connection between Route 66 and seafood, let alone lobster... But at least at the supermarket they have a grammatically correct "14 items or *fewer*" line!
At the end of the morning we got in the car and drove around some, taking random roads. Somehow we ended up at a rest stop where we had Quizno lunch. They had statues of cute bears and a moose outside. Afterward we stopped at a supermarket to get some supplies, and noted that they sell all kinds of liquor in the Maine supermarkets.
Tonight we did the sauna / pool / hot tub thing again. It is nice doing this hot-cold thing, but I'm not sure if I would want to do it where you'd have to wear clothes. I'm not sure if the heat is good for a bathing suit, and I would think it would be so uncomfortable! Anyway, this visit to Richmond has been good to us, after all the running around in New York, so we are ready to move on again tomorrow!
After breakfast I took some photos of the B&B, before there were any people around. The photo in this paragraph has the sauna (in an old barn) on the left, the hot tub in the middle and the swimming pool on the right. This is where we also ended up today: as I'm writing this, we've spent the past hour hopping between heated pool (cool), hot tub (hot) and sauna (hotter). I am liking this clothing optional place; life is very relaxed here. It's only 7, we still have to go out for dinner though -- we wanted to do the sauna before having an extensive dinner and Nicoline trying some beer.
We spent most of our time today in the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath. There is an indoor museum part with many artifact and models related to Maine maritime history, and then there are different additional buildings with various different expositions. You know, I still have a hard time imagining people going out to sea with these relatively small ships!
Outside is also a steel sculpture hinting at the shape of the largest wooden schooner built in the U.S., the "Wyoming." This schooner was built on just about exactly the spot of the sculpture. When finished in 1909, it was used to haul coal from Virginia to New England.
One thing that amazes me, and I remember being surprised by it when we visited the "Batavia werf" in Holland in 2010, that they make these wooden ships with beams directly side-by-side, which are then covered by planks on both the outside and the inside, as can be seen on this photo of a section of a ship hull. I keep thinking that there are beams every couple of feet with planks on the outside, but when you see pictures of the inside of these wooden sailing ships with beams every few feet, these beams are actually attached to the inside of this triple-layer hull. The other remarkable thing is that they didn't use iron nails but wooden pigs to connect all the wood pieces together. That way it didn't rust!
As part of the museum visit, we took a tour on the Kennebec river with a small tour boat. We went down the Kennebec river a little bit, saw a harbor seal, then went back up past the Bath Iron Works (a company building navy ships) and the town of Bath.
Finally we visited the "Herman Zwicker" which used to go out fishing for cod. The ship would stay out for weeks, with the crew going out in twelve tiny rowboats, setting lines, hauling them up, and collecting the fish in the boat. It must have been incredible hard work.
After the museum in Bath we visited the L.L. Bean store in Freeport, the largest L.L. Bean store in the world. There are actually multiple stores side-by-side, including one with home furnishings and one with hunting and fishing gear. We went into the outdoor stuff store, the one with the famous huge shoe in front of it. One nice detail was that in the shoe department, they had a section of rock on which to try out the shoes, which makes a lot of sense when you're selling hiking shoes...
Today was supposed to be the day we would, for the first time in our live, enter the state of Maine. And it was, but of course we first had some driving to do, because yesterday we ended up in an Econolodge in Mystic, CT. Due to the fact that the states in the Northeast seem to be stingy with welcome centers (we didn't find one entering either New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island or Massachusetts) we didn't have a map to go by, but of course the route wasn't hard: just follow I-95.
We did find a New Hampshire welcome center and got outselves a map of that state, and then we finally did enter Maine. Yes, this is state number 47 of the states we have been to (although admittedly not all of them were visited extensively). Only Oklahoma, Alaska and Hawaii left to go.
Next goal: find the Maine welcome center. I had looked that one up on-line, because I had wanted to make sure we had a place to get tourist information and a map of the state. supposedly it was at exit 3. So we took exit 3, following a sign to an information point, drove a mile or two through outlet stores and other strip malls, but no welcome center. In the end we decided to ask for directions, which we did - in a candy store called "Yummies." Very dangerous, of course, but we managed to get out with only a few liquorice bags :-).
We did find the welcome center, got our map, and had lunch there. From there, we continued on US-1, and later on state route 9, through Kennebunkport and other summer vacation towns to a place called Biddeford, where the Wood Island Lighthouse (the lighthouse at the top of this page) is found. I took a series of photos of that lighthouse, so that I can one day change the banner of this site to a photo of my own.
From Biddeford we continued along the coast for a while until we got back on US-1, and then we took I-295 up to Richmond, ME. Here we have rooms in a Bed and Breakfast called "Richmond Sauna," a clothing-optional B&B with a sauna, hot tub and swimming pool.
When checking out how to drive on Google Maps, Nicoline had noticed this morning that the same exit we would be taking to Sagamore Hill, but the opposite way, was Levittown. So we made this our first destination for today. Having done no research beforehand, we found the town but could not find anything like a museum, historical markers, anything of the kind. We finally stopped at the post office we stumbled upon, to at least have a picture with "Levittown" in it, and took the opportunity to buy some stamps. When we mentioned we were looking for a Levittown museum or something like that, the clerk came around from behind his counter and took us to the hallway, where there was an original map of Levittown hidden behind a paper screen. Using this map, he showed us how to get to the library.
In the library we spent 45 minutes reading up on the history of the town, which was the first "suburbia" created in the years after World War II. Thousands of houses were built using the Henry Ford assembly line principles - there were five different models on the outside but inside all houses were essentially the same. However, the houses were of remarkable quality and came with ammenities like a fridge and washer, and built-in book cases. The 1950 models even came with a TV. They were really a boon for the new burgeoning middle class!
After visiting the library we drove around randomly through some of the neighborhoods and it is fascinating how now, 65 years later, the houses that started out almost identical all look very different now. And it still looks to be a thriving middle-class neighborhood where it would be a pleasure to live and raise a family!
Next we went to Sagamore Hill, president Teddy Roosevelt's house in Oyster Bay. The house itself is being renovated and therefore inaccessible, but we visited the museum telling the story of Teddy Roosevelt's life. He was a politician of the type that we would need again. In his first two years as governor, he "reformed the state civil service, increased taxes on corporations, improved factory safety inspections, regulated sweat shops and child labor and established a commission to oversee the scientific management of the state's forests and natural resources."
After visiting the museum, we hiked the "nature trail" which was a little bit disappointing. The bridge to the beach was closed because of damage from hurricane Sandy and the trail itself wasn't very spectecular. But at least we got to stretch out legs. But we did see some big mushrooms (Nicoline's foot in the photo to show the size).
From Sagamore Hill we took route 25-A and then route 25 all the way to the tip on Long Island called Orient Point, where we had booked a place on the ferry to New London, CT. We had played it safe and booked a fare on the 8:00 ferry, but we were there early so we ended up on the 6:00 ferry. As it turned out, this ship was built as the "USS LST-510" during World War II and actually participated in the D-Day landing at Normandy!
We start our trip today. We are of course ready way before the 9:00 am start time we had planned, so we spend some time checking facebook and stuff before packing everything in the car and leaving. We basically take I-95 and the New Jersey Turnpike, then take a right at Elizabeth, NJ to go through Staten Island onto Long Island.
We have reserved a hotel in Queens for two nights, so we unpack the car, schlepp everything into our room, and almost immediately leave. The Queens Village station of the Long Island Rail Road is literally just around the corner.
After dinner we hang out because I had this idea in my head to take a picture of Coney Island by night. Poor Nicoline had to drag the 100-ton tripod all over town just so that I could take these night pictures! At least I wasn't the only one with a tripod :-).
We are about to leave! We have packed all our stuff, did the last-minute shopping, got muffins for breakfast tomorrow morning, and are just about as ready as we can be right now.
We are ready for warm or cold weather. Warm temperatures aren't guaranteed in Maine in September so we have packed long pants and sweaters as well as our "regular" summer wear. As a result, we have more clothes than we would usually take on a trip.
The stuff for inside the car is ready on the kitchen counter. Of course Marching Monkey, who accompanies us on all our travels. Koala is our speaker set, so we can listen to audio books on Nicoline's MP3 player. But we bought some (hopefully interesting) audio books on CD, which can be played directly in the car. And a car-charger-octopus with USB outlets to keep all our electronics charged.
Finally, all the stuff we are taking is laid out in the basement. We'll put it in the car before we leave tomorrow morning, no sense having it in there overnight. Apart from the clothes, camera, tripod, and laptops, we have a big box with different shoes for various occasions, jackets, and a box with snacks and stuff. Of course we keep adding, so after the photo was taken we've added lawn chairs and other stuff.
I wanted to give an update for those who are looking at this website to follow our vacation.
Nine days before we start on our Maine trip. Our vacation (time off from work) has already started, but the first week and a half we are still at home. We have started a home remodeling project (see the post on tumblr) that should be done by the time we leave for vacation.
We have most of the itinerary sorted out, and in fact have made a number of reservations. I am not going to go into too many details on our plans, but the first stop will be Long Island. We'll be arriving in Maine by the Labor Day weekend. The plan is to spend some time in different parts of Maine, and then amble back home through Canada and the Hudson Valley.
I started this website for the 2013 vacation to Maine. Even though the trip is not going to be all that spectacular (not compared to our previous trips, at least), I still wanted to create a website where we can keep our trip journal.
We went down to Annapolis today to take photos of Nicoline and myself for the website home page. We wanted to have updated photos which reflect, somehow, the character of the state of Maine. By taking photos in Annapolis with some of the harbor in the background, we hope to capture the maritime aspect of Maine.
It was actually Nicoline’s idea to go to Annapolis for the photos. The rest of the site is adapted from last year’s trip site, which in turn was adapted from the 2007 “around” site. That way, we’re both familiar with it and we know it will work while traveling.
Today we used the New York City metro system to our exhaustion -- literally: it's a great system, but inside the stations it is *hot*. I guess it is from all those air-conditioned cars; they cool down the cars but the heat is pumped into the tunnels and the stations. Because otherwise you would expect it to be cooler underground, right? Anyway, when we saw an actual rat in the subway station on our way back to the hotel, we knew we were truly done with the system!
Our first stop was a Jewish Hassidic Walking Tour. The tour started out with a long talk by the rabbi, rabbi Epstein, which was actually pretty interesting. A lot of the things he said, about relationships and about what matters in life, when you would take the religion out of it, made a lot of sense. Some of the same things about relationships that we have tried to emphasize to our sons: when you want to get serious with a relationship, make sure you agree on the things that are really important. The important thing of a relationship is not what you get out of it, but what you can bring into it. Stuff like that. Other parts of the explanation didn't make any sense at all, and had logical jumps that I guess you would have to take on faith, because the logic just wasn't there.
After the introduction the tour got started with a stop at a prayer center, followed by a repair shop where they check out and repair the black boxes Jews use while praying, and ended with lunch in a Kosher deli. I'm leaving it up to Nicoline to give a more detailed description of this whole tour. I have to say, though, that a couple of times during the explanations I was reminded of Jewish co-workers and felt I got a little bit better understanding of them and their life.
The second goal for today was the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. We were here an hour early and watched part of the introductory movie, then went on the walking tour "Hard Times." Even though the word "tenement"basically includes any apartment building, the term usually refers to the bottom-of-the-line housing for immigrant families. On our tour, we got to see reconstructed apartments of two families, one from around the 1870s and one from around the 1930s. There was a lot of explanation of how these people lived, also relating some of their lives with immigration policies of today. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed, so no photos of the inside.
The third goal for today was B&H, the photography / video superstore on 9th Avenue. This store is famous for its quality service, its knowledgeable personnel, and for closing for the Sabbath and Jewish holidays. In fact, their website remains up, but they do not accept on-line orders until the end of the Sabbath or the holiday. And yes, wandering around in the store is amazing. I tried a particular lens for my camera that I have been curious about, and Nicoline found an MP3 player we may be considering buying.