Posted in adventure, escape, family, kids, Life, People, travel

Into Massachusetts!

I have been the absolute worst about following up since I have been home, and there is really no reason why, other than my work schedule has changed and adjusting is always hard for me. So please, accept my apologies, and enjoy these photos from the last leg of my trip to the East Coast!

So, we took our time on our way to Massachusetts- got lost on a few detours to find bathrooms, and ended up having the best time on the winding little roads past beautiful homes interspersed with amazing houses, and of course, the requisite cemeteries every few miles. I am endlessly fascinated with the graveyards on the East Coast, and could spend days just reading the headstones. I know that sounds morbid, but really it isn’t. I love the history and the artwork on the stones, and…well, I’ve always loved cemeteries. They are peaceful and beautiful, and the ones in Maine and Massachusetts are super cool.

I think this is in Kittery?

There are woods like this everywhere!

Another beautiful graveyard!

From Maine to our place in Rockport, Massachusetts, was only about an hour and a half drive! For me, a born and bred Californian, this is mind-boggling. It takes hours and hours to get out of California, but on the East Coast, I was in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts all within the span of a few hours! I was trying to take a picture of some river or another and missed the New Hampshire sign, which bummed me out, but oh well!

Me, missing the New Hampshire sign.

The little air bnb that my mom rented in Rockport was just perfect. We both felt like it was the most comfortable little house, as if we’d been there a million times already and were just returning. It felt like going to grandma’s house, if you know what I mean. That first afternoon, we dropped off our stuff and strolled into Rockport. The funny thing is, I’d been there only eight months before, but somehow missed a ton of the town. In my defense, it was freezing cold when I had been there in October, and we were on the opposite side of town searching for beanie’s to warm our frozen ears, so we weren’t really strolling very much.

Our little rental house. It was perfect!

Rockport is incredible in cold weather, but it is PERFECT when it’s warm. We spent some time on the little beach right before town, then wandered around Bearskin Neck (pretty sure that’s what the street is called, for some odd reason) and looked in the shops. Eventually, we were starving to death, so we decided to eat at Roy Moore’s Fish Shack, mostly because they had items other than seafood on their menu- at that point, I was sick of seafood and needed something else! I had a BLT, Cam had her normal cheeseburger, and my mom had the lobster mac & cheese. I was all lobstered out. πŸ™‚

Our first foray into Rockport.

To be honest with you, the next few days are all kind of a blur to me now. We did spend one afternoon in Salem which was cool! Funny thing is, I loved Salem so much the first time I was there but it was too crowded for my taste in October- going back in June, it was much less crowded, but after seeing so many beautiful places in the preceding days, it wasn’t as awesome as I remembered. Maybe it was the Fall magic that was missing? I did get to visit the Salem Witch Museum, which was very cool, and Camryn REALLY liked it there. We also visited Salem Willows, a super old-timey park with old rides and an arcade. I got sunburned like crazy that day, and we were very tired by the time we headed back to the house. I believe Cam and I stayed in that night playing dice while my mom went to town and ate dinner alone.

All Salem & Salem Willows

We spent a lot of time just driving around, looking at houses, to be honest. I’m really glad my mom was into that, too, because it’s just so much fun back east. Even though it’s all in the USA, it couldn’t be more different than California- and that’s what makes it so incredible!

You can’t get a bad shot in Rockport. It’s beautiful.

We never made it to Boston, and we didn’t do the walking history tour at night in Salem like I’d hoped, but I was more than willing to let those things go just to enjoy the little town where we were. We walked so, so much and just did a lot of sightseeing, and I couldn’t have been happier with the way it all worked out.

Before I knew it, it was time to head home. I was glad to be back, but I will always, always love New England- and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if one day I called it home.

Cam took this one. Headed home!
Posted in adventure, Dreams, family, Goals, Life, photography, travel

Travels to Maine, Part 1

I would like to start this post by saying this: As much as I love Massachusetts, I loved Maine even more.Β  After some time to let the whole trip settle, I can tell you exactly why- Maine is PERFECT for me. It has all of the beauty and charm that I love, but like a quarter of the people. Now granted, it was the very beginning of summer in the little tourist town of Old Orchard Beach where we stayed, so I’m sure it gets busier as the weather continues to warm, but I promise you, it was one of the best places I have ever been.

The weather was gorgeous the whole time we were there- there was one morning of rain, but it didn’t last, and it wasn’t enough to prevent us from exploring. The little Inn I rented online (always a gamble when you don’t know the area and you don’t really know what you’re going to get) was small but spotless, and it was literally half a block from the beach. I could stand on the step of our room and see the sand.

This is the little place we stayed at. It’s actually much cuter than it looks here.

The first thing we did once we checked in and dumped our stuff was to walk to the beach, of course. My mom nor Camryn had ever seen the Atlantic ocean, which might not be a big deal to some, but it was to me. To think that that very morning I’d flown off from the edge of the Pacific, and a few hours later I was standing on the opposite side of the United States- that’s so cool to me. Cam splashed around a bit and we stretched our legs, then headed in to clean up and find dinner.

My mom and Cam, enjoying their first visit to the Atlantic

At the recommendation of the clerk at our Inn, we ate at a place called The Shack, which is right on the edge of the Palace Playland, a small amusement park that reminded me a lot of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. We sat outside on the upstairs deck and had the first of many, many seafood dinners. I had a lobster roll. You know what? I am not a huge fan of lobster. I’ve tried it enough times now to know for sure that I prefer crab any day of the week, but whatever. It was still yum. The best part was just being there, in a brand new place, with my mom and my daughter. It is still such an amazing thing to me, that I get to make these plans and achieve these little dreams of mine.

The Shack in Old Orchard Beach

We turned in pretty early that night and I was up before everyone else, naturally. The cool thing about being on the East Coast is that I wake up at an almost decent hour there! If I’m out of bed at three at home, it’s six there, and the sun is already up! So I took a little walk by myself through the neighborhood- and it was a neighborhood, as we were at the very end of the hotels. The houses were just stunning, and the greenery and flowers blooming were spectacular. I was so overwhelmed with joy at the natural beauty, I couldn’t stop smiling. I picked a really, really good time to go to Maine, I think.

Some of the sights along my first walk in Maine

I found a little store in Ocean Park and bought some coffee and cinnamon rolls, and some juice for my mom, then headed back, chatting with a few people who were out and about. When I returned, my mom took off, and I got Cam ready for the day. That day, we drove to Freeport, but found that it was mostly full of outlet stores, which was not really what we were looking for- we can do that anywhere. But in one cool store, the lady asked us if we had been to Wolf Neck State Park, which we had never heard of. We decided to check it out.

Major score! First of all, the drive there was worth it even if the park had sucked, which it didn’t. The neighborhoods in New England are really something to see- each house more amazing than the next, so old and well-preserved. Even the new houses are made to look like they are old. I really like that. The park itself was gorgeous. The trails were flat and easy for all of us, and the forest and ocean and all the little islands you could see from the trails were so, so cool.

Can you believe how green this place is? This is all Wolf Neck State Park.

I have never seen green like the green I saw in Maine. I have never seen the ocean look so much like a lake. I have never seen so much forest two inches from a bustling town. If I was going to move to the East Coast, I think it would definitely be Maine for me.

Stay tuned for Part Two of Maine!

Posted in adventure, family, Life, travel

Dreaming of the East Coast

The title is no lie. I just slept for about…um, 11 hours straight I think, and had some wild dreams. The funny part is, they all took place back on the East Coast, no doubt about it. For whatever reason, the New England coast really leaves such an impression on me. Each time I’ve been, I feel like I’m home. It’s crazy.

Of course, I missed my pets and the daily rhythm of my normal life- no one can keep up that frantic “gotta see it NOW” pace of vacation for too long. But coming back to California after a week spent across the United States is hard. California has this reputation for being glorious and beautiful, all sunshine and movie stars. And yes, there are parts of this massive state that are incredibly beautiful and sunny and wonderful. But hanging out on the East Coast, near the Atlantic Ocean, in June…or even in October, really, it’s just…breathtaking.

I took 1,744 pictures while I was there. Every corner you turn, every bend in the road, is some new sight that just knocks your socks off. I’m still so tired, trying to decompress from all that activity, and I am so, so glad to be home, BUT…I stand by my desire to make a move to the other coast sometime in the not-so-distant future.

Ideally, I’d love to try it out for a full year and see how I hold up during the winter, before committing to life there forever. Maybe this is a crazy dream, I don’t know. I sure would like to try it out though. I’m still trying to figure it all out, and that probably won’t happen this morning, but if anyone knows the best place to find rentals on the East Coast, please let me know. All I can find are summer or winter rentals, and I just want a regular one. Anywhere from Maine to Massachusetts, staying away from the bigger cities.

As far as the trip went, it was wonderful. I didn’t have a moment to spare for writing. We were running from the minute we got up most days, trying to drink it all in. I loved Massachusetts, of course, but Maine was slower and less busy, and I think I prefer that. Camryn was perfect- what a great little traveler she turned out to be! And my mom and I had a couple of typical little spats, but nothing major. I’d give the whole thing five out of five stars!

That’s all the time and energy I have to devote to this right now. I’ll give it a better breakdown soon, I swear!

Posted in adventure, faith, family, Goals, Life, Musings, random, travel, Uncategorized

On My Way!

Well, I’m not really on my way- not quite yet, anyway. This time tomorrow morning, I will already be at the airport with Cam, at our gate, waiting to board our flight. But you and I both know our vacations start well before we ever walk out the door of our homes. My brain has been in vacation mode all week, work nothing more than a bothersome distraction.

Does this mean I’ve been busy packing and preparing? Well…no. Just by virtue of the fact that I know I need to do a bunch of stuff, I have felt less inclined to do any of it. I have gotten all of our laundry done. I finally started packing our suitcases last night. I have dishes to do and one last Target run to pick up the final items I absolutely have to have with me for this trip- like those little tubes of freeze dried Starbucks instant coffee? Those are 100% necessary when staying in a hotel with questionable coffee availability and family who do not wake up anywhere near as early as you do. So, I need those. I need at least one new phone charger as all of mine seem to have stopped working this week. I really need a new fitbit band, but I’m hoping this one will hold up at least until I get where I am going. But I might see if they have one at Target, I don’t know.

Anyway you crack it, I will be somewhere in San Francisco tonight, sleeping in the first of a series of unfamiliar beds, and the adventure will begin.

This morning, I sat on my cushion for my normal prayer and meditation, and I set my intention for this day and this trip. Gratitude that this is my life now- I am a person who can plan a trek across the country and follow through. I can have confidence in myself, for I am capable, smart, and strong. I will be patient, with myself and others, knowing we are all doing the best we can at any given moment. And I will enjoy myself, basking in the love I have for my family, and that they have for me, as we embark on this adventure together.

Am I nervous? I would not be me if I weren’t, but…I trust that all will be well. So, Bon Voyage, my friends! I’ll catch up with you all when I am in Maine- I’m sure I’ll have plenty of time to write while I wait for everyone else to wake up!

Posted in adventure, family, Holidays, inner peace, kids, Life, living, mindfulness, parenting, random, travel

Quick Post

As I wait for Cam to thoroughly wet her hair in the shower so that I can come and wash it for her (we are working towards her doing it on her own, but if I want her to smell like a human child rather than a wet dog, for now, the work must be done by me), I thought I would drop by with a few tidbits. Yes, it takes her that long to get her hair wet. Don’t get me started on how frustrating it is, raising a child who has two speeds- slow, and stopped. She gets that from her dad, for sure.

Anyway, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it recently, but my trip to Maine is almost upon me! We leave Friday afternoon for an overnight in the city, and fly out of SF early Saturday morning. This will be Cam’s first flight ever, so I’m a little nervous about that- I sincerely hope it doesn’t freak her out. I’m not much of a brave flyer myself, so if she falls apart, I’m in trouble. Actually, I’ll probably find myself becoming very calm if she is upset, as mothers often do, but still…I hope she loves it. That would be ideal.

I left my house exactly twice this weekend, and on one of the outings, I braved the bathing suit section at Target. I did what I always do, despite my many promises to never do it again, and bought a bathing suit, a pair of shorts, and a top, without trying any of them on. This is such a bad idea. Especially when you factor in the part where it is nearly impossible to get me to Target in the first place, let alone to go back and return or exchange something. Anyway, the shopping Gods were smiling on me this time. The suit not only fits, but it’s super flattering, and the shorts and top worked out well, too. So, after my stuff, Cam’s ton of new stuff (she’s grown yet another size in the past few months), dog food, cat food, and travel size items to take with us, I was out about three hundred dollars. Not that I expected anything less.

I’m getting excited about this trip! I’m meeting my mom there, and we should have a great time, fingers crossed. I cannot wait to see Maine, finally! I just wish I could skip the flights and be there without all the hassle.

Anyway, the last thing…I did something kind of weird yesterday. I got in bed in the afternoon, right after a bath, and I made a conscious decision to do absolutely nothing. I mean, no TV, no music, no phone, no ANYTHING. I wasn’t even trying to meditate. I honestly can’t remember the last time I spent 15 minutes in utter, total stillness. The things your mind will do when you give it no material to work with! My God! My thoughts were doing the River Dance, the Can-Can, and all sorts of acrobatics trying to get my attention. I just tried to stay out of it. It’s not easy to do nothing.

Eventually though, for probably less than a minute, I experienced complete and total silence. The house was silent, my thoughts were silent…did you know that silence actually has a sound? It is almost like the low hum of electricity, except it’s in your ears. I don’t know why I wanted to do that- I wasn’t trying to accomplish anything. It’s just…it isn’t often that I’m not trying to accomplish something, even if it’s just watching a show on TV. I just wanted to see if I could do it, I guess. Wanted to know if I could sit with myself, how it would feel.

It felt nice. You should try it sometime.

Okay, I better go see what she is doing. This is ridiculous.

Posted in adventure, Blogging, escape, family, fun, Goals, Holidays, kids, Life, motherhood, Musings, random, travel

The World’s Quickest Trip

I know, I know- this is a weird time of day for me to write a blog post. I don’t even know if anyone will see it, but I want to get my trip recap out of the way because I have something I want to post tomorrow that has nothing to do with this, and my brain is funny that way.

So, we got a later than intended start on Friday afternoon- instead of leaving the coast at 2 like I’d hoped, we didn’t get on the road until 4. A considerable difference when you have a 6 hour trip ahead of you. Nevertheless, we were all on board and out the door two hours late, it is what it is. Also, didn’t factor in the colossal number of pee breaks my eldest daughter would need, and the hunger issue. Basically, we finally made it into Tahoe and our room at almost eleven Friday night, and we were SO TIRED.

Saturday was the only real time we had, and we made every second count. Up for our free breakfast at the lodge at seven in the morning, I was totally impressed with the spread offered at Granlibakken (the little baby ski resort I’d booked us at). This was not your standard hotel fare- this was REAL food. Great coffee, piles of bacon, sausage, breakfast casseroles, cinnamon rolls, blintzes, fresh fruit…basically, anything you could dream up was available. I really liked that part, and I am not even much of an early morning diner.

Camryn with a banana smile at breakfast this morning

We went straight from breakfast to our private snowboarding lesson, just one instructor for all three of us girls. Let me be straight with you- I had no real desire to learn to snowboard. That was strictly my daughters’ idea. I would have been quite happy skiing, but I thought, what the hell- kids want it, I want to be with the kids, I’ll try something new! Funny, then, that Camryn called it quits within 15 minutes and Aisley quit after 30. So I was more determined than ever to succeed, and I’m proud to say that I did. Well, sort of- I learned how to board down a tiny hill, and how to stop falling and how to stop without falling over. I also learned that snowboarding is probably not for me, and I am okay with that- at least I gave it my best shot.

Yeah, this was BEFORE the snowboarding happened. We were so young, so full of hope.

After the boarding debacle, we went up to the room, changed into our suits, and hit the hot tub and heated pool. We got super lucky- everyone was so busy playing in the snow that not a single soul was in the gigantic hot tub. We had the whole place to ourselves, with a gorgeous view of the snowy slopes behind us. We even went in the sauna for a while.

And this was after snowboarding. Look how I’ve aged since that morning. πŸ™‚

After that, we cruised into town and grabbed lunch, then went back to our room and rested for maybe an hour. Then it was go time again! We all got cleaned up and drove to the other side of Lake Tahoe to take Aisley on her first casino adventure. We had a ball! Cam stayed with her dad at Harrahs arcade while Aisley and I roamed the casino, and I showed her how to play the slots. I won 35 bucks straightaway on a video poker machine, then we found a super generous machine where we stayed for like an hour. I walked away with a hundred bucks extra, and Aisley won and lost about two hundred altogether. She still left 20 bucks richer than she came, so that was cool.

Finally, I waited in the long, long line at the buffet while Aisley went with Cam’s dad to gamble for a little longer. The wait was worth it, though! Crab legs for DAYS, I ate. I’m not kidding, I killed two full plates of crab legs, not to mention prime rib, sesame balls, and who knows what else. When everyone else was eating desert, I was working through a bowl of butter and more crab legs.

In line at the buffet, on the 18th floor

We all got back to the room, passed out, woke up, ate, and headed home. It was a short trip, but it was good. There were a couple little bumps in the road, personality clashes and bullshit, but… I’m choosing not to focus on that. From my perspective, it was a great time, and if anything I learned exactly how to make it perfect the next time around. And it was good enough that I definitely believe there will be a next time.

So that was my two night, one full day trip. I made it home safe and sound, and I’m excited for the what’s next! Stay tuned! I’ll be spilling my plans tomorrow.

PS: I am SO freaking sore today. Holy shit.

Posted in adventure, Dreams, family, Goals, Holidays, Life, manifestation, Musings, People, travel

New England Dreaming

fall foliage
Basically, this is where I want to live

Ever since I’ve been back from the East Coast, I have been thinking about it non-stop. I sent a text message to the girl I traveled with yesterday that said- “I am so homesick for New England. I cant stop thinking about it!” and she replied “Me too! I miss it every moment of every day.”

I guess that is the mark of a successful vacation, huh? And when I think back to my trip to Maui a few years ago, I think I felt a little the same…I mean, who has ever had a bad time in Hawaii? And even when I came back from there and daydreamed about living in Maui, I knew that if I did move, it wouldn’t be for long. The idea of living on an island seemed prohibitive, and I knew I wouldn’t last.

traffic.jpg
Ugh, my nightmare

If I’m being honest, this feels a little different to me. I’m definitely NOT a city girl. Even more than that, I’m not a particularly great “town” girl. I get upset and anxious trying to navigate the complicated four way stop that leads into the shopping center near my house- no one EVER knows when it is their turn to go, and how someone hasn’t died there yet is a mystery to me. I put off shopping at Target or for groceries as long as humanly possible to avoid crowds. Rush hour traffic makes me homicidal. And yes, Salem was a freaking zoo when I was there, but that’s only because it was October, and I should have known better, but…I want to go back. I want to be there. Maybe not Salem, maybe not even Massachusetts, but…somewhere in New England, there is a perfect place for me. I just know this.

Maine in winter
This just doesn’t look so bad to me! Courtesy of benvollmer.com

Everyone cautions me against the winters there, and I get it. I have never lived through a truly freezing winter…unless you count the first year I lived in Reno when they got the most snow they’d had in over 20 years. It reached the bottoms of my first floor apartment windows, and driving was the most terrifying experience of my life. I fell twice in one day in the same icy parking lot (I was wearing heels, like a moron). As a long-time resident of the central coast in California, I must say- I miss seasons. Last year, on Christmas, we decorated our tree in summer dresses with the doors wide open. It is what it is, I know, but it certainly dampens the magic of Christmas.

I don’t have the first clue how to make this dream a reality right now. I have a wonderful career at a place where I am comfortable and secure. I have great health insurance. I have very little- almost no- uncertainty, and for a person like me, whose life has been one uncertainty after another, this is very seductive. Safety, routine, security. I have a daughter here that has a close relationship with her father, and so, he’d have to be convinced to move with us. My other daughter is already ready to go. I have a life here, and it’s scary to think of giving it all up for the unknown.

You know what I really wish? I wish there were a way to take a time out- to take a year for myself to just go there and see how it feels. If I didn’t like it, I could come right back to my life in California, no questions asked. If I loved it, I could stay, no hard feelings. Wouldn’t that be great?

thanksgiving
If I’m being honest, this is pretty much my dream.

In the meantime, I am examining what it is about life there that is so appealing to me. I think the reason I am so enamored of changing seasons is because it appeals to my love of fresh starts and new beginnings. A new autumn, a new winter, a new spring, all marked by definite changes in the weather and the world around me. And it definitely has to do with my dreams about closeness, family, and tradition. The idea of a white Christmas, or being cozied up in my house with my kids, drinking hot chocolate…sigh. It reminds me of the magical times of my own childhood, at my grandmas house, where I felt safe and loved and happy.

So, as we go into the holiday season, as I ponder what, if anything, will come of my desire to live as far across the continent as I can possibly be…I will try to bring some of those things I loved about my own childhood into this house. Fill up the rooms with the scent of something delicious baking. Take a trip up to the snow. Bring as much holiday magic as I can to a house that is 75 degrees in mid-December.

If it is meant to be, I will find a way. I just have to keep reminding myself that I can have a wonderful life anywhere- whether it is here, or there. But I can’t allow my fear of the unknown to keep me from living the life I want most. I just need to be really sure I know what that is before I leap.

Posted in adventure, Dreams, escape, Goals, Learning, Life, Musings, People, travel

Finally, Boston

George Washington in Boston Public Gardens

It seems crazy that it’s almost been a week since I’ve been home. The funny thing about travelling is that it takes up your mind for so long after you get back. Not to mention how strange it is to have this momentous event in your life and then, suddenly, you are right back in the middle of your normal life, trying to get back in your groove. Maybe seasoned travelers don’t go through that, I don’t know. But for me, it’s been really weird.

On the third full day of our trip, we decided to go to Boston. I am not a big fan of cities, but it did seem like something that I shouldn’t miss, seeing as how I was going to be so nearby. So when my friend Alicia said she wanted to see Boston, I agreed. Boy, am I glad I did. We parked our rental car in a giant garage and took the train into the city. Honestly, for me, this was one of the coolest things ever. I don’t take trains, ever, so I just felt very sophisticated, even if it was kind of nerve wracking trying to figure out how to buy a ticket and which train to get on. Lucky for us, there were no lines and there were signs everywhere that said exactly which train went where. We hopped on with no trouble, and took the fifteen minute ride to the government center stop.

We wanted to walk the Freedom Trail, so we struggled for a minute to figure out where, exactly, that was. I told her to ask the guy dressed in period clothing in the Starbucks where we should go, but she chickened out, so…we were on our own. Luckily for us, it was not hard to find, as it is literally painted and bricked into the ground, so, after chugging down a familiar latte (I swear to God, there are Dunkin Donuts on every corner, but the Starbucks are few and far between) we quickly found our path. But before we could go more than a block, we stumbled across yet another amazing cemetery, and of course I had to go in. This one was tiny, wedged between buildings in the middle of the city, but WOW. King’s Chapel and Burying Grounds is beautiful. We wandered through, reading all the information, and I snapped a few pictures. Then we went inside King’s Chapel, and let me tell you- they don’t make churches like that anymore. The pews were like booths with doors, and from what I understand, you had to buy them? Maybe I’m not getting that right, but there were many placards describing the men who owned them, so…You’ll have to forgive me, I was very, very tired on this final day, and it’s all kind of a blur.

King’s Chapel Burying Ground
Kings Chapel burying ground
Kings Chapel
A typical example of the awesome headstones in New England

After that, we found ourselves at the State House, the site of the Boston Massacre, among other things. The museum inside was well worth the ten bucks, and we really took our time checking it out. I can’t emphasize enough how mind-blowing it was to read about the very early history of the country as we know it while standing in the places where history was made. It kinda…well, it gave me a bit of an emotional moment, honestly. It was just very cool. I’ve been much more interested in American History since I’ve been home, wanting to know more about how those days and years played out.

The State House

From there, we ran through Faneuil Hall, then made our way tiredly to Paul Revere’s old house. Very crowded, but so, so neat! I didn’t take any pictures because it was forbidden, but did you know that Paul Revere had 16 children? Yeah, me neither. Another thing- you can’t walk through that place without the words “The British are coming!” playing on a loop inside your head. It’s impossible.

After Paul’s house, we walked back to the Government Center, which by the way, passes right through what has got to be Boston’s Little Italy-I can’t believe I wasn’t hungry enough to try a legit cannoli. I’m still mad at myself. Anyway, we took an Uber from there to Cheer’s- not my idea, by the way, but…once you see it, it does cause a little nostalgic thrill. For people my age who grew up watching the show, it doesn’t suck. The inside looks nothing like the bar on TV, but so what? I had my Shirley Temple at the bar, and felt like I’d done something cool. Cheer’s is right across the street from the Boston Public Garden, so we strolled around there for a few. They have some serious squirrels in Boston, let me tell you. Fatter and far more spry than any I’ve seen here in California, there were so many of them that it started to give me the creeps. If they ever decide to organize, Bostonians will be in trouble.

Cheers! Or, the Bull & Finch, I guess.

Our final destination on our quick jaunt through Boston was the Museum of Fine Arts, and I am SO glad we went. My one regret is getting there at 3, just two hours before they closed, because you could truly spend an entire day in there. As it was, we saw a good portion, but we had to rush, which wasn’t the best. I was so excited to see Monet’s work in real life, but you know what? That wasn’t even close to my favorite. I loved the Egyptian display- it was thrilling to see things so old and so well preserved- and the Greek sculptures. There was so much more that I wanted to linger over- stained glass and fabulous paintings by who even knows who. My brain was just overwhelmed with the quality of the things in that museum. I learned another thing about myself on this trip-I REALLY love museums! I kind of knew that already, but living in a small town with just a few little museums, it’s hard to comprehend what a large museum is able to show to you. Unbelievable!

Just a few of the amazing sights at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston

After a slow ride back in another Uber, through terrible rush hour traffic, our driver deposited us safely back at Faneuil Hall so that we could grab a few last minute gifts before catching the train back to our car.

The thing you learn on your first trip somewhere is how to spend your next trip there, right? I know now to never visit Salem in October, and that if I ever go back, I should give myself a few more days to spend on the things I love- namely, museums and exploring the little towns along the coast. But there are so many places I still want to see, not only in my own country, but in the world- who knows if I’ll ever make it back there? Seriously, though…I have a strong feeling that I will.

Posted in adventure, Blogging, escape, fun, Goals, Life, living, Musings, travel

Day 2- Gloucester and Rockport

Since I can’t seem to get my body back on “normal” (West Coast) time, I figure I might as well go ahead and tell you all about day 2 of my trip. Day 2 wound up being my favorite day, and I learned some important things about myself as a traveler- namely, that I am happiest without an itinerary, and much, much happier in more idyllic settings, with far fewer people.

The day started off super slow- we were both so tired from the debacle in Salem the day and night before that we were not in a big hurry to get anywhere. To be honest with you, I actually felt hungover. I had been so tired the night before, but I couldn’t seem to fall asleep, and then I woke up way earlier than I wanted to, so I wasn’t very rested. I felt achy and dehydrated, and just generally shitty, but…when you are on a short vacation in a new place, you find it within yourself to soldier on. Which I am so glad I did!

Anyway, after an incredibly unappetizing hotel buffet breakfast, we hopped in the trusty charger and headed…north? North-east? Anyway, we headed out of Peabody and away from the more populated areas. The thing about these little towns off the freeway is that they are literally right off the freeway. The parking lot of our hotel exited onto the actual freeway. It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. They also have stop lights on the freeway and places to make U-turns. Crazy. But we made it on safely and before you know it, you are in the middle of massive beauty. The bright red and orange trees, and water, just everywhere. I still don’t know which were lakes, rivers, or inlets, but I guess it doesn’t matter…all I really know is, for me, water is the key. I love being near large bodies of water. I just feel better.

Just off the highway, we stopped for the first time at a big old candy store in the middle of nothing. Nichols candy house has been in business for 86 years, according to the sign. They make all their candy on site, and the ladies running the counter looked like they might have been there when the store opened. Seriously, they were adorable, in a no-nonsense, getting shit done kinda way. I didn’t buy anything there, which is my one regret of the whole trip. Alicia did, and I was lucky that she shared with me, because they know what they are doing. My advice to you? If you find yourself there, buy the truffles!

This was the view from right outside the Nichols Candy House

Anyway, after that, we programmed directions to a lighthouse into GPS. This was one of many times that Siri failed us on this trip. We asked for a particular lighthouse, she steered us to the middle of a neighborhood in Gloucester and told us we were there. After that, she stopped speaking to us. I’m assuming she was embarrassed. So, here we are, lost, trying to figure out why the ocean was so far away from a lighthouse, and we turned a corner to find…oh my God, the most beautiful graveyard in the world. It was called Oak Park Cemetery, and I demanded to be allowed to wander through it. I could tell Alicia was hesitant (she’s got weird Catholic guilt) but I was going, no matter what. I am so glad I did. The wind was super chilly, but the sky was bright blue, and the trees looked like they were bursting into flames, and the cemetery…so peaceful, and so insanely full of history. The headstones back east are incredible. I wish I had taken more pictures, up close, so that I could look into the symbolism. But at that moment, I was just so happy to be there, experiencing REAL fall weather, ambling quietly through this beautiful place, surrounded by graves that were hundreds of years old. It was one of many perfect moments I had that day.

Oak Park Cemetery

After a while out in the cold, the warm car was a welcoming place. We got back on the road, missed another turn, and wound up in downtown Gloucester (pronounced “Glah-stah” by the locals πŸ™‚ ). Sometimes those wrong turns are fortuitous. We easily found parking (yay!) and walked up the hill to a little coffee shop to get a warm drink and figure out what next. The place was called Drift Coffee, had a wonderful view of the water, and, much to Alicia’s delight, a full bar! I had a fancy latte, she had a glass of pinot noir, and we figured out our next move. I have to tell you, I had my next perfect moment sitting at that little coffee bar, staring at the street below and the harbor across the way. It was so beautiful, so peaceful, and so quiet…I was in heaven. THIS was the trip I had imagined, and I couldn’t have been happier to be where I was.

Drift Coffee

We wandered the down the cobbled street a bit, did some shopping and sightseeing, then headed down to the harbor to see the lost fisherman memorial. We saw our first drawbridge thingy- that’s what they’re called, right? Anyway, it was delightful. And I picked up some shells and sea glass to take home. After a while longer in the icy wind that was no longer quite as bracing and more like torture, we headed over, on the recommendation of one of the friendly shop owners, to Rockport.

The Fisherman’s Memorial

Rockport, if you can believe it, was even more idyllic and quintessential New England, (or what I imagined New England to be like, anyway) than Gloucester had been. We parked near a little white church with a tall steeple, and braced ourselves for the now freeeeezing wind rolling in off the ocean. Holy smokes! It was so cold. The first thing I did was find a store that sold beanies, and happily threw down 20 bucks for a super warm cap. Once my ears had recovered some feeling, we walked around a little bit, and decided to check out the little harbor. It was incredible. I know I keep saying this, but the sky there is just SO blue. Coming from the coast myself, there were so many similarities, but differences as well. The ocean smells saltier and brinier there, somehow. The scenery was just breathtaking.

Rockport

By this time, we were starving to death, so we found a little place called the Blue Lobster Grille, and grabbed a table. I had hot apple cider- it’s a whole different thing over there than any I’ve had here- and a giant plate of mussels, followed by seafood pasta that I could barely put a dent in. So, with full bellies and to-go bags, we raced to the car, waved goodbye to Rockport, and headed back to our room to get rested for our final day in Boston.

Posted in adventure, escape, fun, Goals, Holidays, Learning, Life, People, travel

Salem (My Trip, Part 1)

salem
Not my photo. I was not in the sky on this trip.

I’ve been home less than 24 hours, and I’m not (very) ashamed to tell you that I am still wearing the clothes I flew home in. In my defense, I wore stretch pants and a t-shirt, so they are kinda like pajamas anyway, PLUS…oh dear lord, I was so tired when I got home that I felt kind of drunk. We got up at 3 in the morning, which would be 12 midnight here, so that we could catch our flight on time, so the long and short of it is…I am all kinds of screwed up right now. It’s barely 4 a.m. and I’ve already been up for an hour. I have no experience with jet lag or time zone weirdness, but I’m learning fast. I got home yesterday, handed out gifts, hugged my children, ate some food, and passed out. I meant to shower and change, but I slipped into a coma instead, and that was that.

I’m going to break this down into three posts, since each segment was such a totally different experience, and I thought I’d start at day one- Friday- which was my first little taste of Salem. Little did I know it would be the most sane part of my visit to that particular town. Anyway, we flew into Logan, grabbed our rental car- I was expecting a Jetta, but apparently, a Charger is about the same thing (NOT), and either way, that’s what we got. My dear friend Alicia volunteered to drive, thank God, and we headed out of Boston to Peabody (pronounced Pee-biddy, apparently) where our lodgings were. After dumping our stuff, we hightailed it toward Salem, in search of food. Along our route into town, we saw a place called Kings, advertising the best roast beef sandwiches AND lobster (lobstah) rolls- two things I wanted to check off my list. Let Me Tell You Something!! That lobstah roll was good, no doubt, but the roast beef sandwiches on the east coast?! Holy smokes! I will be dreaming about that super thin, super rare, tender, delicious beef for years to come. Oh man. SO good! You know that feeling of disappointment when you realize you are going to be too full to finish your dinner? That happened. But the super friendly guys running the place wrapped it up for me, and I was able to have a little midnight snack later. It was still delicious the next day.

Best roast beef EVER!

Oh, that’s another thing I don’t want to forget to mention- the people we met, and I mean almost without exception, were the friendliest, chattiest, funniest, warmest people I’ve ever run into. I was in seventh heaven, as my chatty game is on point. I felt like I’d found my people. Anyway, onto Salem…

I do not know this man, but proof that people are extra friendly!

So, on Friday night, we made it into downtown Salem just in time for the end of the night market- I think this is a thing they do only in October. There were booths selling all sorts of Halloween or dark-themed items, and we wandered around, noting stores we wanted to return to the following day. We didn’t stay too long- it was already past nine and we wanted to be well rested for the next day, so we were in and out, after some oohing and ahhing over the amazing architecture and cobbled streets.

First evening in Salem

Saturday morning, we decided to Uber into Salem since we were worried about parking. The plan was to get there, Uber back in the afternoon, and then head back over in the evening for a ghost/history tour. What ended up happening, however, is that we decided to stay, from like 11 in the morning until around 10 at night.

Everyone said it was busy in Salem in October. I am not pretending like we were not forewarned. But “busy” isn’t exactly the right word for what we experienced. “Pandemonium” would be better, or “utter fucking chaos” even. It was intense. We couldn’t get into the restaurant we wanted to eat at, we couldn’t find a place to go to the bathroom, we couldn’t get into any of the stores we wanted to shop at. I mean, we could have done all of these things, but only if we wanted to wait in line for at least 30 minutes for each thing. I am not even remotely exaggerating. Even the stores had bouncers outside, letting in small amounts of people at a time. It was crazy.

A small taste of the insanity

Even so, we did have a good time. We had lunch at the Howling Wolf Taqueria, and I tried deep fried avocado for the first time. I promise you, it will not be the last. The service was great, and the atmosphere was happy and fun. We got to see the graveyard where the “hanging judge” John Hathorne is buried, and the graveyards back east are not to be missed.Β  I tried real hot apple cider and cider donuts, I drooled over the houses and the history and the greenery away from the crowds, and a few times, I managed to lose myself in the merriment of it all.

One saving grace of the day was the Peabody Essex Museum. Not only did it have the most amazing Maritime exhibit I have ever seen- and the east coast has an awe-inspiring maritime history,Β  let me be clear about that! But-and this is important-for the price of admission, you can come in and out all day, using their clean and uncrowded bathroom as many times as you please. I loved that place.

Stuff from the Peabody Essex Museum

Alas, the museum closed at 5, leaving us to wander the streets like pitiful, tired zombies until our pre-paid ghost tour at 8. So we wandered over to the Salem Commons, and I am so glad we did. We found a tree to park ourselves under and sat and watched the carnival on the periphery, and closer, families playing, and the big trees bursting with fall color. That was a happy moment. We wandered the side streets a little more, taking pictures of houses, and then made our way back into the fray, being swept along by the crowd, which showed no sign of thinning anytime soon. I saw the Bewitched statue, and managed to elbow my way into a store and buy hoodies for my kids. And finally, FINALLY, it was time for our tour. At this point, I had already clocked about double my normal amount of steps on my Fitbit, and I was tired enough to cry, but…

The walking tour was MAGICAL. Seriously, if they offer a walking tour in a town you are visiting, you should take it. You learn so much. Every time I have ever taken one, I’ve been so happy I did. This one was extra cool, though. I wish I could remember the name of the one we did- there are many to choose from in Salem- and I will definitely be doing some research to find out, as I want to give a good review on trip advisor or something. Anyway, our tour guide was a young woman and practicing witch, and she led us through town, telling us all about the history and the legends of Salem. Even as tired as I was, I could have kept going for twice as long just to hear more.

In the end, we made it back to the hotel in one piece, exhausted and definitely overwhelmed by our October Salem experience. I would definitely go back, no question about it. But not in October. No freaking way. That being said…I’m still, oddly, very happy that I had that experience. It was wonderful. I bet it would be even more wonderful in, say, June. Ha-ha!

To see all the pictures from my trip, follow or visit me on Instagram at : https://instagram.com/courtneyloreanneduncan