from Inverness to Philadelphia
22.02.2006 - 04.03.2006
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The landlord came round on Friday morning and we did the checking out thing which was no hassle at all and then they dropped us down at the bus station for the Megabus to Glasgow. Pamela met us from the bus and we sped off around Glasgow on a crisis mission to collect their other car from the garage before it closed. Once we got back to theirs we had a nice relaxing evening with lasagne for dinner (Pamela does a mean lasagne) and got a fairly early night before our fairly early start.
We left the house at 5.30am to get to the airport for our flight to Dublin, which all went very smoothly. I had got the timings a bit wrong though and thought we had an hour in Dublin but it was 2 1/2 – at least it was that way and not the other so we got a really good airport meal for our breakfast. It turned out we also had a stop in Shannon and had to get off the plane to got through US customs which seemed a bit odd – they welcomed us to America with still 6 hours flying to do! We arrived in Boston an hour ahead of schedule because there was a tail wind. We were grateful for the tail wind because it not only meant we got in early but it was also responsible for the cold weather Boston was having and that meant it was all snowy when we got there. It was snowing as the plane landed and kept snowing just a wee bit most of the evening. We got a taxi to the hotel – the Boston Park Plaza –, which is extremely posh and has a huge chandelier in the gorgeous foyer. The doorman with one of those posh luggage trolleys met us at the door. We stood in line thinking there must be a mistake and we couldn’t possibly have got a hotel this posh on our budget but they did have our names down and the bellboy took us and or luggage up to our room on the ninth floor. It was a nice room but not stunning but had a decent view over Boston and a great shower. It had just enough room for me to do my yoga in the morning, which was a bit of a luxury in a hotel room. We headed out to explore some of Boston and mostly just strolled around the park, which is lovely. There were lots of dogs playing in the snow and the ice skating rink still open and it just kept lightly snowing. We also found the shopping street and got something to eat and the information centre then strolled to t he Cheers bar for the obligatory photos. We popped inside briefly and decide to go back another time because I was pretty tired. We walked back across the park and all the lights were just coming on and it was really pretty in the snow. We had a very chilled evening and a very early night.
We woke on Sunday to lovely sunshine so had to get out and explore again. We started off walking the freedom trail, which is a brief tour of American history. We started off with no understanding of it at all and just walking it as a way to see some of Boston and just something we’re supposed to do in Boston. It turned out to be rather more interesting than that and we now have a very basic understanding of the part Boston played in American history and some of the history of the revolution. The trail itself is a red line painted on the ground or in the cobbles so it was particularly interesting in parts where there was still a couple of inches of snow on the ground and we had to scrape snow a couple of times to find where the trail went. Actually that made it all just a bit more of an adventure. We met a lovely man who gave a couple of great tips – like that threes a water taxi from near the end of the trail back to town so we didn’t have to walk all the way back. So at the end we got the water shuttle back again and it was beautiful day to see Boston from the water. Also life just feels at more familiar when we’re on boats to go places. We walked along the harbour front for a while to get to the Boston tea party boat but it wasn’t there so we just headed to the bus station and booked our tickets for tomorrow, then back to the hotel for a rest. After warming up we headed out again to find some lunch and had a look in the window of a Skipjacks seafood restaurant in Copley Square, that came highly recommended. As we were looking in a friendly man started chatting with us and he’s one of the band members that play jazz there every Sunday afternoon and had been for 16 years. So we went in for lunch and to listen to jazz for an hour. The food was great and we got our bowl of Boston clam chowder and then shared a fisherman’s platter – and it was a good thing we did share because it was huge. The jazz (Bill & Bo Winiker group) was also great and it was a very relaxing and pleasant experience. We were really stunned by how friendly the Bostonians were – lots of people smiled at us and chatted and even the man in the bus station went out of his way to help us and gave us more information rather than less. A waitress in the restaurant spent a few minutes looking at a map with another tourist to show him the best way to get somewhere. After lunch we carried on walking and saw Copley square and some of the downtown area. They seem to be quite big on bronze statues of interesting things – there was the hare and the tortoise in one place, some musical frogs, and make way for ducklings in the gardens. Make way for ducklings is one of the first books I ever got read at primary school and I remembered it well but have never seen it again and had no idea it came from Boston – so of course we had to buy a copy of the book.
We walked across to the Charles River and along the riverbank for a while and then back in to the Cheers bar for a drink and a bowl of famous Boston baked beans – its called beantown because of the baked beans. They are done with molasses and hotdog or salt pork and are great – certainly leave the English tinned baked beans (which we never eat) for dead. After that we were exhausted and headed back to the hotel to stay in the warm and watch some Olympics. We wanted to see the closing ceremony at 8.30pm but by the time it came on we had both fallen asleep so many times that it really wasn’t even worth leaving the telly on so we just went to sleep. We don’t normally get jetlagged but are certainly both struggling and feeling very tired – I think it might have something to do with how hectic the 2 months before leaving were and also the cold. The temperature is mostly around minus 1 to minus 8 and the wind chill brings it down even further. We don’t really have the clothes for that kind of temperatures because it’s only for a couple of days but it certainly does make things hard going. The fact that we walked about 8 miles in the snow may contribute too.
Monday morning we decided to go and have a bit more of a look at downtown and the shopping area so set out about 8.30 in search of breakfast. The wind had come up a bit and was dropping the temperature to about minus 20 with ice blowing around so we fairly quickly abandoned the outdoors and went into the prudential plaza for breakfast (muffin and bowl of Nantucket seafood chowder) and a stroll about before heading quickly back to the warmth of the hotel. We checked out and walked the mile down to the bus station and got the bus to Albany. The journey was not as pretty as I thought it might be – most of the snow had melted and everything just looked fairly grey. I kept a look out for moose – Fred pointed out that we weren’t likely to see moose just standing beside the interstate but it kept me occupied anyway. Fred met us in Albany and we headed home for a lovely relaxing evening and a nice dinner and just catching up which was really lovely. There is a bit more snow at Fred’s than everywhere else but still not enough to try out cross-country skiing (although we did see a woman in Boston skiing on less snow but we were walking faster than she was going and it looked really hard work).
Tuesday morning was another lovely sunny morning but rather cold and I just chickened out and stayed indoors all day. Actually it was really nice not to have anything to do and to just be able to relax and look at cookbooks and garden books and potter about. It’s the first time in quite a while I’ve been able to do that. We did a bit of dusting and hovering and Steve went out for a stroll around the farm with the dogs. Poor Sam (dog) had a seizure during the morning and was not very well for a wee while so we were a bit worried especially since Fred was out and we didn’t know if Sam normally has seizures. He was ok again a while later though and Fred spoke to the vet and he starts some medication tomorrow. We spent the afternoon puttering about and making dinner because Ron and Carol were coming round. We had a lovely relaxing afternoon and evening with Ron and Carol and a very nice dinner. Fred cooked steaks for the main and I made Marilynn’s Key lime pie for dessert which turned out well. A compulsory few glasses of wine was had as well of course and it was great to catch up with them.
Wednesday was another lovely day and still quite cold. Fred was at work again for the morning and we had a slow start and then did very little for the day. We watched a movie, went for a little outing in the jeep to get used to driving it, which felt a bit weird and we both struggled with where exactly the other side of it was. Then we took the dogs for a walk up the back of the farm and around the pond, which was frozen solid. Odie went out on it and did a little ice dancing which was quite funny to watch but she hurt her leg in the process so was a bit sorry for herself. We just chilled out for the rest of the day and made dinner with Fred then went out for some shopping after dinner. I had been reading cookbooks and had found a cookie pizza, which we decided to make for the party on Friday, and Brent wanted a chocolate cake for his birthday cake so we needed ingredients.
Thursday wasn’t as nice a day but we went out for the day in the jeep as Fred was at work all day. One of the interesting things about Boston and New York is that the weather seems to be really quite stable – if its sunny in the morning it stays that way all day and likewise if its cloudy. I guess that comes from the US being a rather large weather system but it was quite a surprise after the Scottish weather. We went for a wee jaunt over to Vermont for a drive about. There was a lot more snow over there and it was really pretty with all the cute wee towns with their elegant wooden houses with colonial decks and tall spired wooden churches, and cute wee gazebo band-stands in the town squares. It all looks even cuter in the snow and with fir wreaths and red ribbons decorating the houses still. We also stopped at the Vermont Country Store, which must be the best shop in the whole world – they have everything that you never knew you needed until you saw it there. The cookware section of course is the best, but they also have great food and lots of things to taste for free so we also had our lunch of crackers with various dips and spreads. We managed not to buy anything other than a couple of postcards, a travel tin opener and a pumpkin cheesecake mix. I was also very tempted by a lovely moose cookie cutter, and sleigh bells and maple taps but they’ll have to wait till sometime when we have more space. We drove up towards Vergennes and were going to call in on some friends there but couldn’t get hold of them so just did a huge loop around in the Green Mountains national forest, which is really pretty. We wondered for a bit what the signs saying frost heave meant but soon worked it out because the roads were really badly misshapen and bumpy. Fred told us later that its just uneven freezing of the ground under the road making it buckle and in the summer it just settles back down to a normal road. We passed several ski fields and were very jealous but had decided since we have nothing with us even in the way of clothes skiing would be very expensive and we should save our money for things that we may not get to do again in the Caribbean and Belize. We were on the lookout for moose all the time but never saw any but we did see a few snowmobiles, a couple of covered bridges, and lots of folk out ice-fishing. The wee huts on the ice are really cute and it looks just like ‘grumpy old men’. It seems like a bit of an obsessive occupation because Fred said you could see them sometimes making holes in the ice to fish through when all around the ice has melted and there’s plenty of perfectly good water to fish in! We got back just after six and Fred had just got in from work too so we went out for dinner to the ‘Man of Kent’ pub along the road. Its an English pub and is pretty good too. I had a really nice local cider – woodchuck – and Steve tried a couple of local beers – Trojan pale ale and oatmeal stout, which were good too. The food was very nice and it was a very pleasant dinner. As we were leaving a man collapsed just beside us and was being held up by his mates on a bar stool. Lots of people were just standing looking so I thought I’d better try to do something and was just checking for his pulse when he came round again so we left them all to and came home and just chilled out on the sofa reading till bedtime. I actually read a fiction book for the first time in ages and it was very good – Plainsong – and I would recommend it.
Friday morning I had baking to do for the party and made Brent’s chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and chocolate icing and the cookie dough for the pizza. Fred fixed up heating for the garage because there would be 17 of us so too many to sit in the house and eat. We also made up the cheesecake mix from Vermont country store and an Orkney fudge cheesecake but did them as half and half so we had half of each to take to Sally and George. They have this great stuff in the US called coolwhip, which is a fat free whipped cream substitute, and despite that fact that it goes against all my moral principles because there’s not a single natural ingredient in it. However it does make cheesecakes extremely easy and a lot less fat (I won’t say better for you!). We went out early afternoon to meet up with a friend of Fred’s who is from NZ and was keen to chat with other folk from NZ. There was also a bit of shopping to be done and then home to finish up the cleaning of the garage and setting up for dinner and the baking of the pizza cookie before everyone arrived. The house was chaos for the evening with 9 kids running around having a great time. It was however remarkably well behaved with all good natured noise. The dinner was really fun and the pizza cookie was cool – I think I’ll make that again! It was really lovely to see Brent & Ericka and Mark and Kim again and have a chance for a bit of a chat. By the time the kids were all gone the three of us were pretty tired and just sat back on the couch with a wee dram before bed.
Saturday morning was a road trip down to Philadelphia to Sally and George. Fred supports our quest to check off as many states as possible (and likes to have a competition with George about who can take us to the most new states) so we made a short detour through Connecticut. Connecticut was really pretty and had a bit of snow and cute villages. We got down to Sally’s mid afternoon and spent the rest of the day just getting organised for an early start in the morning to Puerto Rico. We had a nice dinner and some good gossip and visiting time too and George got home pretty late in the evening.