Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Travels with Gary #3 - A Nor'easter

The plan for our second day in Boston called for an early morning walk along the Freedom Trail before we picked up a rental car and set off for Maine. We left the hotel at 6:30 AM while it was still dark and walked around the edge of the Boston Common past joggers circling the park and commuters rushing up from the subway to the place were a brass medallion set in the pavement marked the beginning of our journey.

We followed the red painted line from the medallion to the front of the gold domed Massachusetts State House where we turned to walk to the Park Street Church, but because the light drizzle had become a steady downpour, we decided to return to our hotel via the "T" stop across the street to borrow umbrellas. The doorman accommodated our request and we were quickly on our way back to the Trail squeezing through busy narrow sidewalks under the protection of two large golf umbrellas.

The Parker House Hotel famous for Parker House rolls and Boston Cream pie was our destination for breakfast. We noticed a huge pile of luggage and large groups of tour bus travelers as we walked through the spacious lobby to the elegant dining room. I enjoyed a delicious fresh fruit platter while Gary partook generously of the breakfast buffet.

After breakfast we grabbed our umbrellas and dodged the tour bus travelers shuffling onto buses, to resume our walk on the Freedom Trail. Across the street from the hotel, we found the King's Chapel Burying Ground. Upon entering, an eerie feeling washed over us - we could sense the holy presence of the old souls buried in that place.

We continued on past the Old Corner Book Store, the Old South Meeting House, and the Old State House. The elegant proportions, modest scale and refined decoration of the Old State House contrasted sharply with the bustling modern city that surrounds it.

On a corner near the State House, two construction workers struck up a conversation. When we told them we were tourists from Oregon following the Freedom Trail, the older man said with a distinct Boston accent, "we don't fully appreciate the treasures we have here." The younger man raised his arm and shouted, "Go Ducks!"

We continued to follow the twists and turns of the Trail past Faneuil Hall and the Paul Revere House (Boston's oldest house) to the North End where we found the Old North Church. The white 18th century interior hung with flags and filled with box pews is instantly recognizable. Not far from the church the Trail continues across the Charlestown Bridge to Bunker Hill, but we went in the opposite direction to pick up our rental car at the Government Center parking garage.

On the way back to retrieve luggage at the hotel, we drove past the impressive Trinity Church designed by H. H. Richardson in 1871. The church, a granite and sandstone Romanesque structure with Spanish inspired bell tower and pyramid shaped turrets, is considered by some to be one of the 10 finest buildings in America.

After picking up our luggage and successfully negotiating pothole filled roads out of Boston, we stopped briefly in Salem to take a look at the House of Seven Gables, the Salem Witch Museum, and the Salem Common.

The road north of Salem crosses over a small section of New Hampshire tucked in between Massachusetts and Maine. The increasing cold wind and rain discouraged us from taking our planned walking tour of Strawbery Banke the 10 acre outdoor museum filled with 40 buildings on the spot where Portsmouth, New Hampshire was founded. We slowly circled the area in the car stopping to take a look at the Oracle House built in 1623, the Sherburne House built in 1695, and other interesting sites.

Shortly after leaving Portsmouth and crossing the border into Maine, we turned off Interstate 95 onto Hwy 1 & then Hwy 9 for a meandering drive along the coast. Finally, I was on the coast of Maine - Halleluiah! Our route passed through picturesque villages such as York, Ogunquit, Wells, Kennebunk, and Kennebunkport where the streets were filled with lovely homes. At Old Orchard Beach we drove along a seaweed littered road with a narrow rock studded beach on one side and vacant vacation houses on the other. The streets and sidewalks were strangely empty.

While I waited for Gary to pick up a bowl of lobster bisque at Fox's Lobster House across from the Nubble Lighthouse near Old York, 50 mile an hour wind gusts rocked the car so violently that I began to feel seasick. The road was filled with leaves and downed branches. At one point we had to back track a bit to find a way around a large tree that blocked our way.

We rejoined Interstate 95 for the drive into Portland where we enjoyed the tastiest meal of our trip at a popular restaurant called Katahdin (named after a mountain in Maine). Fresh, warm focaccia bread served with a delightful dipping sauce of olive oil and chocolate accompanied the salad of fresh greens. Gary's dinner of tender scallops with crispy potatoes and my delicate pizzetta covered with heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella were both excellent. To top off the meal we shared a Maine raspberry upside-down cake drizzled with caramel sauce. Magnifico!

A 25 mile drive north complicated by a wrong turn led us to Brunswick where we checked into our almost deserted hotel at about 9 PM. Although it was exciting and it seemed appropriate to visit Maine in the middle of a Nor'easter we hoped for better weather the following day.

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