Hi, we are Nick and Christine Snowdon, two ex Travel Professionals, ex Travel Educationalists, and now Travel Bloggers. We enjoy searching out both new and traditional destinations on which to spend our retirement fund. Over the last 10 years we have travelled to over 50 destinations on 4 Continents and are loving it.
We’d always fancied a bit of a road trip, this one took in three new destinations…
If you live anywhere North of Derby it can be a bit of a pain getting to Heathrow and Gatwick for Transatlantic flights, so take a look at Manchester Airport, where there are numerous options to get you over the pond. On this occasion we chose Aer Lingus via Dublin to Boston. Cheaper and still quicker than travelling down to Heathrow or Gatwick.
First Stop, Boston
We looked at a number of accommodation options for Boston. We finally decided on a studio apartment on Columbus Avenue part of the South End neighbour-hood of Boston, an attractive red brick area a little away from the centre. The ser-viced apartment was on the first floor of the building with a roof terrace with spectacular views of the City Centre. You got a feel of being part of a neighbourhood.
Things to do in Boston: Freedom Trail
One of the first things we did was to walk from the apartment to Boston Common, where you will find a well-stocked Tourist Office, which is also the start of the Freedom Trail, a Boston must do. The Freedom Trail is a two and a half mile walking path taking in 16 historically important sites. The Tourist Information Cen-tre will give you a free map, but you can book an organised tour if you want. We downloaded a free audio guide before we left the UK, these are available from iTunes and other sites and give you lots of useful information and allow you to go at your own pace.
The Freedom Trail is a great way to see fascinating parts of Boston, passing through districts old and new, giving you a feel for the city, its history, and links with the UK, including the Boston Tea Party exemplified in its “Museum Experience” to savour that historical moment.
Things to do in Boston: Visit the Museum of Fine Arts
In the Fenway district you will find the Museum of Fine Arts which houses a wide range of collections, including Contemporary Art and Photography. It is worth checking out the opening times and admission costs as we happened to land lucky with Free Entry on a Monday between 16.00hrs and 22.00hrs. This gave us a pleasant early evening walk from the apartment to the Gallery and plenty of time to explore the artwork.
Check out Cheers Bar and Back Bay
Next to Boston Common is Boston Public Garden which is a great place to start exploring the Back Bay area of Boston. You can take a walk through the garden/park and check out the Ducks!
People of a certain age will enjoy a nostalgic visit to the building just down Beacon Street opposite the Boston Public Garden, which houses the Cheers Bar, made famous in the TV Series. It is well exploited now, but you can get a drink and a bite to eat, and if you have time, soak in this view of the picture from the opening titles.
From Cheers it is a short walk to the Charles River where you can enjoy a stroll in the park beside the river.
Enjoy the Hospitality
Now we don’t know how this happened but a short way down the road from our apartment was just the place to cool down after a hard days sightseeing – a bar with the choice of 40 draft beers and 60 different bottled beers, with the benefit of it being quiet in the early evening. The food was great too. Another great find down the road from the apartment was Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe, the only eatery we have seen with a queue outside for breakfast. Well worth a visit.
We moved on after four nights in Boston and decided to make a stop on the 400 mile to drive to Quebec. We took an overnight break in a small town called Stanstead and stayed at a quirky B&B called Domaine Les Boises Lee Farm where the wife of the co-inventor of Insulin had lived!
Second Stop: Quebec
Quebec is one of the oldest cities in North America and is a UNESCO World Her-itage Treasure with a very European feel, and the Old Town was where we spent the majority of our time.
We stayed at the Hotel Champlain, which was well placed in the Upper part of the Old Town for all of the attractions and shops. Most places we visited were within easy walking distance.
Things to do in Quebec: Explore the Old Town
One visit we thought was a must when we first arrived in Quebec was to the Musee de Fort, which offered an intimate 30 minute sound and light show giving the background history of Quebec and at $8.50 was good value.
The Chateau Frontenac dominated the skyline of Quebec Old Town and is a huge hotel. We passed by one afternoon and were confronted by a dramatic sculpture by the Surrealist, Salvador Dali – a nice little surprise. We must admit that Quebec was quite an “arty” place with murals, free form sculptures for all to see. Also worth a visit was the Rue du Tresor, not far from the Hotel Champlain, where you could find all manner of artistic pieces to suit most tastes.
From the Upper to the Lower Town you can meander your way passing cafes, shops and museums and if you didn’t fancy the walk back up having visited the port, then you could use the Funicular.
Take a boat trip on the St Lawrence
When we visit a city we almost always take a boat trip on the river. It offers a different perspective on a place. There are lots of companies offering a variety of cruises and we chose the 1.5 hour trip up the St Lawrence River to Montmorency Falls. Now, don’t get taken in by those promotional photos which show the boat almost underneath the Falls. It isn’t really like that and you will need your long distance lens to get the same view. However, the boat trip was very enjoyable with some lovely views of the city on our return.
Enjoy the Hospitality
There are lots of cafes and bars in the Old Town where you can sit outside and “people watch”, especially interesting when there are cruise ships in town! It can get very busy when cruise ships let loose their passengers, but fortunately most of them return to their ships before we went out for aperitifs and dinner. Whilst on the subject of food and drink, don’t forget to put the Maple Syrup on your pancakes, Quebec Province produces about 70% of the world’s production.
There were lots of well-priced restaurants near our hotel, mostly French orientated and Chez Boulay-bistro boreal on Rue St Jeanne was one of our favourites. One of the Canadian specialities to be found in Quebec was Poutine, which we had never come across before. Well we had, in our youth, but not realising its French origin? To us it was known as cheesy chips and gravy and apparently it serves a similar purpose, to assist in dispelling a hangover. The Canadians add a touch of sophistication by using fresh cheese curds in their version.
Leaving Quebec behind we took a different route to Cape Cod the final stop on our travels. One of the stops was at a town called Shelburne in Vermont. Here we found a great 45 acre open air museum, a must for anyone with an interest in the American West. The 39 buildings, Steamboat and Railway covered all aspects of American 19th Century history, Art and Design, (check out a Painter called Ogden Pleissner). We were in our element.
Final Stop: Cape Cod
Things to do on Cape Cod: Take a walk by the sea
This was the chilled part of our trip. We had a week in an apartment in South Yarmouth, a good central base from which to explore the Cape. There were lots of lovely walks on the beaches and coastal areas, such as the boardwalk at Sandwich and the beach right next to us.
Walk in the steps of the Pilgrim Fathers.
It’s easy to get about on the Cape but route 6A is the more scenic route to take whilst exploring small town America. It’s amazing what you see along the way.
Explore the Cape
Provincetown is right on the tip of the Cape and was the first place the Pilgrim Fathers landed in 1620. There was a good museum there right next to Pilgrim Monument, and it was fascinating to find out that some of these first settlers came from Worksop, a town not too farfrom where we live in the UK. The Provincetown Tower stands 252ft tall and gives the legs a challenge to get to the top. However it was worth the effort for the spectacular views.
Things to do on Cape Cod: Take a boat to see the whales
We think this may have been the highlight of our trip.
We have seen whales before, but only from the land, in the seas off the South coast of South Africa. We booked this trip with Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises based in Barnstable. It cost $53 (concessions $45) and for this we got a four hour trip sailing into the Stellwagen Bank National Maritime Sanctuary – one of the world’s top 10 whale watching destinations. The boat was jet powered to minimise the environmental effects but could really get a move on. Our trip was towards the end of the season and so was not busy enabling great views for everyone. An onboard Naturalist gave a fascinating commentary throughout the trip and took the time to come and talk individually to the passengers.
Enjoy the Hospitality
During the week we also had time to do the usual things in life – but in the USA. We shopped at the Outlets, visited the Mall, went to the Cinema and each morning had breakfast in our Local Diner.
Having visited a variety of places on this trip we felt we had had experienced a lot of what this part of the USA and Canada had to offer. We enjoyed the connections with the UK and at the same time revelled in the Americanness of the places we visited and the people we met.
After nearly three weeks away it was time to drop the hire car back at Boston Airport and catch our flight home. We came to check in and were told our plane was cancelled, but that’s another story…