What I Love About New England...and Why You Need to Visit
No one can dispute the fact that New England is spectacular in the fall. The first time I visited was in the fall, to join the throng of "leaf-peepers" driving highways and back roads searching for the perfect fall foliage. And it was, in fact, simply breathtaking. It was just as I had seen it in the books and postcards. The fall colors run the gamut from blinding yellows and oranges to blazing scarlet to deep plum.
There is a certain smell in the air in the autumn that I love. It's a medley of clean, crisp air, the damp fallen leaves, and wood smoke curling from chimneys. Don't forget about fresh cider! When you visit an apple orchard in the fall, and partake of glorious fresh-pressed cider, you will never be able to drink apple cider from the store again.
Things start to go quiet in the fall, too. Summer is over, kids are back in school, grownups are back to work. The beaches now offer up a chance for peace and solitude. The "main street" sections are a little more subdued. Now we start to anticipate the cool weather and ready ourselves for the holidays.
Quaint Harbor Towns
I never tire of traveling up and down the coast, stopping and admiring one harbor town after another. I love the weathered shingle cottages and old fishing shacks. I love seeing stacks of lobster traps piled up on the docks. The harbors are filled with colorful leisure and fishing boats, each with catchy names like: "Risky Business", or "Finally Friday".
There is usually a seafood stand where you can grab some fried fish, or some clams for a quick lunch. Or a small shack where you can sign up for a day of fishing, or a whale-watching cruise. There are cute gift shops or art galleries unique to the area to pick up a great find to remember your trip.
Symbols of steadfastness and security, these guardians of the shore are some of my favorite destinations. There is no shortage of these gems along the New England coastline! They are often located in the midst of such striking scenery, and offer up such great vistas, I have a hard time leaving once I have spent some time and taken some photographs. Many times there is a park adjacent, or maybe even a picnic table present, so you can bring a sack lunch and really relax and enjoy your visit. I really love seeing the beacons flash, and just imagining the history and the life the lighthouse keepers led long ago.
Small Town Main Streets
I love to shop the charming main streets in New England towns. I enjoy strolling along brick or cobblestone streets, admiring old brick buildings or colorfully painted shops. They are not filled with big name shops and eateries that you can find anywhere. They have small, independently run, local shops and cafes. Often the present day boutiques are housed in what were old warehouses or mills, and you can see remnants of those old buildings, whether it be the name of the old place still showing in weathered paint on old brick, or by the worn pulleys or looms kept and showcased in the new shop. There is almost always a shop with art or crafts created by local artists. You can find a unique cafe to stop for coffee and a pastry, or a lunch of some fresh local fish. And don't worry -- there's always a souvenir shop where you can find some treasures for friends back home!
I come from Southern California, where most places you see are filled with stucco structures, with tile roofs, and definite Spanish or Mediterranean influence. Many cities are filled with cookie-cutter developments, perfectly planned just so, and are very "uniform." It's neat and tidy, and that's fine, but when you've grown up with it you long to see and live somewhere different.
When I traveled through New England on my many vacations, I really enjoyed seeing old classic colonials, and adorable Cape Cod style homes with beautiful gardens and white picket fences. You can find both simple and gingerbread style Victorians, and lovely farmhouses with huge porches. Then there are the great brownstones and row houses in Boston. I grew up in a real estate family, and I love visiting homes that are for sale. There's nothing like walking through a home that's 300 years old! Whether shingled or clapboard-sided (or both), austere or more formal, these homes to me are a great feature of New England, and I really enjoy them.
Billings Farm and Museum, Woodstock, Vermont
A really enjoyable time was visiting Billings Farm, in Woodstock, Vermont. As much as I am obsessed with traveling up and down the coast and seeing the lovely harbor towns, I wanted to see the countryside and rural areas of Vermont, too.
Luckily, at the time I visited, I got to see the Jersey calves, which were my favorite part of the excursion. I just adore baby animals, and their buff-colored faces and huge brown eyes would win over anyone's heart. The calves are curious, friendly, and playful. You can also walk through and see the milking cows, you can see draft horses, and also sheep, chickens, and other farm denizens.
There are also exhibits you can see; when I went they had a "squash exhibit" with so many different types and sizes and colors of squash I had never seen before. I know, sounds kinda' corny, huh? Well it was fun! They had activities for kids to participate in too, and you could get some wonderful cider and cider donuts, or home made ice cream. It was a really peaceful and beautiful setting, and I enjoyed going through the old farmhouse as well. There is a museum showing pictures and equipment used over the years on the farm, and a great little gift shop on site as well.
It's fascinating to think about that fact that this is where it all began! Our founding fathers, the revolution, the birth and the building up of this country, all started back here. When you read books like Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War, by Nathaniel Philbrick, you are awestruck by the conditions of the journey and the obstacles faced by those first pioneers. When you go to the spot where the first shots rung out to begin the revolution, it's pretty amazing. When I was young and in school, I didn't really get into history so much. In later years, my fascination with New England somewhat encouraged my interest in certain aspects of early American history. Now that I live here I can set foot where major events took place. Which leads me to another of my favorite things about New England...
The Great City of Boston
Boston! Where do I begin? What a fabulous city. Sure, it's got everything any metropolitan city has: arts, entertainment, tons of restaurants, shopping areas, the financial district, and so on. But Boston is so, for lack of a better term, "user-friendly." It is a very walkable city, you can most of it on foot, depending on what sights you wish to see. But they also have a fantastic public transportation system available to make things even easier. Walking through the public garden is a favorite past-time. The spring is my favorite time....the flowering trees are stunning, and the rose and tulip beds are just gorgeous. The weeping willow trees and the Swan Boat lagoon offer such a tranquil setting. You can put down a blanket and just relax and people-watch.
There are shopping districts, such as Downtown Crossing, and the Shops at the Prudential Center in the Back Bay. Newbury Street is a fun place to walk from boutique to boutique. And Charles Street in Beacon Hill has a real old world feel, with upscale shops and antique stores, in a lovely residential neighborhood. In this area you will find famous Acorn Street, a beautiful little skinny cobblestone street with gorgeous old townhomes.
Restaurants and cafes are EVERYWHERE in Boston. There is a Theater District where you can catch a show. Last Christmas we went to a matinee of The Nutcracker at the Boston Opera House. In the midst of Boston's Financial District, stands the historic Old State House! Nearby is Faneuil Hall, and Quincy Market, where you can find just about anything to snack on, and some more great shops like Crabtree & Evelyn, Urban Outfitters, and more.
In the Italian "North End" is a favorite stop of mine: Mike's Pastry. They have the best cannolis, and THE best cappuccino I've ever had. It is a "must." The beautiful Old North Church, as well as Paul Revere's home are just around the corner!
A cool way to sightsee Boston is to take one of the trolley tours around the city. You can buy a ticket, then hop off and hop on all day as many times as you want. You could take the tour around once, decide what you want to see, then start the tour again and hop off where you want, and hop back on to go to your next stop! That way you can get all the way out to see Fenway Park! Fenway is definitely another favorite place of mine. It is a beautiful old stadium, and a really awesome place to see a Sox game. You can also take the tour of the park, which is really fun.