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. 🙂

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, 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, 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 🙂 ). 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.  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,  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