Monday, 23 June 2008

Say Au Revoir to the Continent of Americaland!

So, this is it. After 160 days, we are about to embark on our final day on this side of the pond. It's one final 'hoorah' as we spend the next few hours (shopping and eating) in New York City before flying back to Blighty this evening at 9pm. Then we have four days at home before jetting off to Australia on Sunday.

I can hardly believe we've been away for five-and-a-half months. It seems pretty natural to be doing what we're doing now, travelling from one place to another, spending 24-7 in each other's company. I can't say I loved every minute, especially not the nasty accommodation in Liberia (Costa Rica), and the endless bus journeys in Mexico, but mostly it has been a super-duper trip of a lifetime. Thank goodness we've still got another nine weeks to enjoy on the other side of the world before reality bites!

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Someone Stole Las Vegas

and dumped it next to Niagara Falls. Or so it would seem.

Hubby and I decided a trip to Canada wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Falls, but crikey heck, we were in for a shock! We have both been before but things sure have changed. Admittedly, the last time I was there was about 25 years ago so some change was to be expected, but I really wasn't prepared to be greeted by a huge Planet Hollywood, at least three waxworks museums, a huge Sheraton hotel, two casinos, three Starbucks and various other shops and eateries. If you had plonked me down amid all the tackiness and asked me to guess exactly where I was I would probably have said Las Vegas or possibly Blackpool, but I never would have thought I was just a few hundred metres from one of the great natural wonders of the world!

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Desparate Measures in Fight Against Rising Fuel Costs

Oh, those poor Americans. You've got to feel sorry for them, paying all of $4.00 a gallon for "gas", while in the UK it costs the equivalent of $10.00 a gallon. Some Americans are clearly feeling the pinch and are going in for the new "compact" car.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Bonjour Canada!

Here we are in Canada; we arrived on Friday, driving from St Albans in Vermont all the way across to Guelph in Ontario in one day. We're staying with my aunt which is great as it means we get to do all those normal things that living in a house rather than a hotel allow such as sitting on a sofa, having barbecues and eating home-cooked food. Hooray! I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but sometimes it can actually get boring having to go out to eat three times a day, every day; we were just craving simple food like a cheese sandwich or a jacket potato. In America it's almost impossible to get a sandwich with just one filling - a cheese sandwich invariably also includes lettuce, tomato, onion, mayonnaise, mustard, and sometimes even a slice of ham and, of course, once all those ingredients go between the two slices of bread the sandwich is about 4 inches high and it's quite an effort to even take a bite out of it. So getting to Aunty Pauline's means we can eat sandwiches with just cheese, and jacket potatoes, and plenty of vegetables, and everything is in a manageable size!

Of course, we count ourselves lucky to have got to Guelph in one piece after driving along Highway 401 through Toronto. The drivers were absolutely crazy, constantly cutting each other up, undertaking, overtaking, squeezing in to the tiniest spaces imaginable. Quite possibly the worse driving we have seen on this entire trip, which is saying something after Honduras. I must admit I was very surprised as I've always thought of Canadians as being quite sedate; hubby thinks perhaps it is the French influence.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

The Agatha Raisin Appreciation Society

Have you ever noticed what a teeny, tiny, little world we live in? I have, and especially in the last week. On Tuesday hubby & I met a fellow blogger for coffee in Kennebunk, Maine. Pie, as this fellow blogger is known, first left a comment on my blog when we were in Central America (Nicaragua, I think) and I was so totally chuffed that someone in the big wide world other than friends and family who may have felt obliged to, was reading my ramblings. She had stumbled across me through our mutual adoration of Agatha Raisin, the main character in such delightful books as Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death. Blogspot allows its bloggers to set up profiles which can be searched by fellow bloggers to see if we have anything in common - Pie & I are two of approximately four people in the blogging world who admit to loving Agatha.

Anyway, I'm rambling here, so to get back to the story - Pie lives in Maine which is where we were, so we arranged to meet for coffee. Hubby & I had such a lovely time meeting her - she was pretty much the first person on our travels who we have sat down with and chatted to for that length of time. We must have half bored her to death as our mouths went 20 to the dozen trying to get out nearly 6 months worth of talking. And, of course, we had to talk properly rather than in that weird code language that seems to have evolved between us while we've been travelling.

And then, to cap it all, Pie clearly thought we weren't too odd as she invited us to her house the following evening to meet her hubby and kids, and to practice our social interaction a little more! We had a great evening chit-chatting away, and it was fun to meet her children, especially Henry who greeted us with a fishing net over his head.

Anyway, isn't it a small world? Who would have thought when I started this blog back in cold and damp England in November, that seven months later we'd be sitting in a kitchen in Maine chatting over beer and wine with the natives! For this reason alone, I am really pleased that I started this blog, cos without it I wouldn't have met the lovely Pie and her family.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Can't Walk and Chew Gum or, Why Men Shouldn't Multi-Task

So, I was sitting at the computer checking my email while hubby having a shower and doing whatever else it is that men do in the 10 milliseconds that they seem to need in the bathroom, when hubby appeared looking a little sheepish. "I tried to multi-task." he said. "OK", said I "what did you do?" "Well, I was trying to save time [who knows why, since I had only managed to open one email in the entire time he was in the bathroom, so it's not like he was in there a long time anyway], so I blew my nose whilst using mouthwash." "Riiiight," I said "and what happened?" as if I (and you, dear reader) didn't already know. "Some of the mouthwash came down my nose." said hubby, in a plaintive voice.

The moral of the story for all those men out there - 'don't walk and chew gum' as the saying goes.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot!

Goodness me, I think the weather gods were listening when I had a little whinge about the fog/lack of summer in Vermont. Yesterday it got hot, in fact it got very hot - in the 90s. Crikey heck, we've not seen the mercury soar like that since we were in Belize. As hubby said, it's like being on the first day of your holidays all over again, trying to get used to the heat. Not that I'm complaining, oh gosh no, I need to catch me some rays and top that tan right back up again. So, what luck that the weather held out today - again in the 90s - and is due to continue in the same vein for the rest of the week. Tantastic!

Anyway, this morning we had to give up pretending we lived at the Four Columns Inn and drag ourselves away. We just loved being there; I think it's the nicest place I've ever stayed at so I suggest that you all take a holiday to Vermont asap and stay at the Four Columns. And if you do go, be sure to try their homemade granola which is fab (and if you don't get the chance to go drop me an email as I have the recipe for said granola, which the owners very kindly gave me!)

We are now in Ogunquit, Maine. A funny little town right on the coast. As we drove here from Newfane, we stopped at the Nubble Lighthouse, apparently either "the most photographed lighthouse in the USA" or "the most famous lightouse in the world", depending on who you listen to. We added our vote to the former by taking a snap. Pretty, isn't it?

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Only in America, Part V

Hubby & I spotted this sign as we pulled in to the car park of the huge Christmas shop I mentioned a few postings ago. Firstly I would just like say "18 wheels, 18? are you sure?", I can't believe a vehicle with 18 wheels is allowed on the public highways let alone in a car park where innocent people are going about their business and wandering around in a daze admiring their purchases, having just emerged from the Christmas shop. Secondly, can anyone afford to drive something that big with petrol prices as high as they are?! And thirdly, what on earth would the driver of such a monster truck (who in my head resembles a member of ZZTop) be doing in a place that sells Christmas decorations and smelly candles?!

Friday, 6 June 2008

Summer in Vermont...

Exsqueeeeze me, but itsn't it June? Could someone tell the weather in Vermont that it is June which, in my book, is summer and which, in my book, means sunshine and NOT fog at 4 o'clock in the afternoon. Thank you.

Although, having said that, these photos were taken when hubby and I were driving back to the hotel having just been to visit a nearby Christmas shop where we bought three tree decorations, so in actual fact the weather was quite apt. Did you know it's only 202 days til Christmas?

Thursday, 5 June 2008

A Blogging Epiphany

Finally, after seven months of blogging, I have worked out how to position photos WITHIN the text of the blog, rather than having to lump them all at the top. Hooray, my technological education continues apace. I'll just give myself a big old round of applause for being brilliant.
Now I just need to work out how to leave captions so I can tell you exactly what the photos are of. Give me another seven months and I'll have it sussed.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Vermont, From Top to Bottom and Side to Side

Hubby and I have traversed the length and breadth of Vermont in the last few days. On Monday morning we left the wonderful, fabulous, delightful (can you tell I liked it?) Four Columns Inn in wonderful, fabulous, delightful, pretty and quiet as a mouse Newfane with its exceptionally friendly folk (can you tell I liked it?!) and set off to drive to Burlington which is in the north-west of Vermont. We stopped along the way in Woodstock (not the one where they had the hippy festival back in the days of yore), but another Woodstock where we fortified ourselves with a cup of tea (hubby) and coffee (me), and a little look round the shops before heading off again. We arrived in Burlington about 6pm, but we were rather disappointed I'm afraid; our guide book had made us all excited with talk of a "cafe society" as hubby and I do love a cup of tea/coffee and a slice of cake, but when we got there hubby thought it looked just like Watford whereas I was a little more gracious and said it reminded me of Wellington in New Zealand. But from this you can probably gather it was just like any other city in the world. Except for the fabulous setting on Lake Champlain. Such was our disappointment that hubby announced we should return to the lovely Four Columns Inn in Newfane and spend two more nights there. Imagine my delight!

So we left Burlington on Tuesday morning and decided to spend that day and the next heading back to Newfane. We stopped in Waterbury to visit the number 1 tourist destination in the whole of Vermont. Is it a) the lodge where the Von Trapp family of Sound of Music fame lived; b) the Ben & Jerry Ice Cream Factory; c) the Windsor-Cornish covered bridge or d) Queechee Gorge, the Grand Canyon of Vermont?

Yes, that's right, it's b) the Ben & Jerry Factory. YUM! We had a tour of the factory and a free sample of one of their new flavours 'Imagine Swirled Peace', which was very good. A little way down the road we stopped in The Cabot Annex which is a shop selling lots of cheeses from around Vermont. They had about 12 different samples set out on a table which had foolishly been left unguarded so hubby and I totally filled our boots with all the varieties of cheddar, plus some crisps and crackers. Then I went next door to the chocolate shop and they had free samples too so I scoffed plenty of them. We had so many freebies that we didn't need lunch. Result! We then rolled across the parking lot and squeezed ourselves back in to the car and headed south back to Woodstock, which had looked so nice on the way through that we decided to stay there.

This morning, after a night at the very lovely Charleston House B&B, we headed for Queechee Gorge, touted as the "Grand Canyon of Vermont". Hmmm. The "Don't Blink or You'll Miss It Canyon of Vermont" might be a more apt name.

We actually had to turn the car round and drive back over the bridge as we missed it the first time. After that we decided to head for Hanover but took a wrong turning and couldn't be fussed to go back, so we carried on along the road to Windsor where they have the longest covered bridge in the USA. It makes for a lovely photo from the outside as you can see below, but actually driving across it is no great shakes as it just feels like being in a tunnel. And anyway, I don't get it, why do bridges need to be covered? Can anyone tell me? Am I missing a vital point?

So, here I am now typing this in the lovely sitting room at the lovely Four Columns Inn in lovely Newfane while poor hubby is upstairs lying down on the bed with a wet flannel clutched to his forehead, trying to figure out how exactly he is ever going to pay for this trip and what he did to deserve a wife with such expensive tastes.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Only in America Part IV - Can You Guess What It Is Yet?

This is what hubby and I did for the first time ever in Litchfield.

Yes, that's right, we used a Drive-thru ATM! We’ve seen the Drive-thru McDonalds, the Drive-thru Starbucks, but never a Drive-thru ATM. Amazing! We were so excited to use it. And, not only was there a Drive-thru ATM, there was also a Drive-Up Bank Counter.

New England and a Mojo Rediscovered

So, the first full day of our road trip found us in New Haven, home to Yale University. Urrgghhhh. What a grotbag place. The campus of Yale is very pretty, but the town of New Haven is horrid. And we stayed in what ranks as the joint worst hotel we have stayed in on this entire trip so far. So, imagine how pleased I was having had a hissy fit because we couldn't find anywhere to stay, and then ending up in a total dump in order to stay under hubby's measly $80 budget. You'll all be pleased to hear that hubby has since revised the budget in an upward direction after we didn't get to sleep until 3.30am in the horrid hotel as we were too busy jumping out of bed every 5 minutes to make sure the car hadn't been stolen or vandalised. The following day, after a large coffee to help me stay awake, we spent time being cultured and visiting the Yale Center (such terrible spelling these Americans have!) for British Art and the Yale University Art Gallery (we were only this cultured because they were both free to get in to). Then we drove north to the tiny town of Litchfield, all centred round a very pretty, half-mile long village green where we stayed in a lovely little B&B (for just $20 over budget...) The following morning we went to church. Not because we have found religion, but because the First Congregational Church of Litchfield has a second hand bookshop in its basement where books are mostly $1-2! And these are good books too, not nasty old ones. The three ladies running the place were a total hoot; Martha was telling the other two about a bookshop she had been to where all the books were in a long alphabetical run, ie they didn't separate out the mystery or sci-fi or poetry or romance from the general fiction. The other two ladies thought this sounded great and wanted to get started on rearranging the entire bookshop then and there. Martha was a little concerned that this was quite a big job, but was willing to go ahead with it too. She thought they could do with some help though and suggested they find someone with Asperger's Syndrome who would "just get on with it and not stop til they had finished". And there we were thinking Americans were PC! In Litchfield we also tried something for the very first time - please see the separate posting with photos to see if you can guess what it was.

Saturday saw us heading east to the city of Hartford and a visit to the Mark Twain House. We had a fun tour round the house which is beautiful and full of lovely antiques and we learnt all about Samuel Langhorn Clemens who was apparently 5 feet 7inches tall, had red hair and a dislike of institutions; sounds like someone I know. See how cultured we are? And I didn't go to Starbucks once that day. After Hartford we headed across the state line to Amherst, Massachusetts, a pretty college town where we spent the night. It chucked it down with rain so we went to the cinema to see Sex and the City, which is very funny but, if you were a fan of the series, you may find it lacks a little something.

Sunday, we headed north. We were extremely excited (as you can see by hubby's face in the photo) to find the World's Best Christmas Shop and spent quite a while walking around ooohing and ahhhing at all the lovely stuff in there. We then crossed the state line in to Vermont. Vermont is very beautiful and very green and full of the prettiest houses you ever saw. We pass a house we want to live in approximately every 100 yards. We arrived in the tiny village of Newfane and decided to stay at The Four Columns Inn, which is without doubt one of the nicest hotels we have ever stayed in. And Newfane itself is one of the friendliest places we have ever stopped in. It felt like the lady at The Four Columns couldn't do enough for us, and I was especially pleased when the chef baked some choc chip cookies just for us and we had them warm from the oven. How fab is that? And we loved the story about Mick Jagger who stayed there for his 40th birthday. See what high circles we can mix in when the Keeper of the Purse loosens his hold on those strings?! And see how a little bit of money goes a long way towards getting wifey's mojo back?