Monday, August 19, 2013

Vacation 2013

I've been on vacation.  The plan was to go east this year.  We thought we might make it to the Maritimes but wanted to take an American route this time.  Normally we drive through Quebec and New Brunswick if we want to go to Nova Scotia.  Last time we did that, we were enjoying ourselves doing what I call The All Saints Tour in New Brunswick (Saint Stephen, Saint Andrews, St George, St John and Saint Martins) and never did get to Nova Scotia. That's how we like to travel though.  Pick a direction and go exploring.  This time we figured that if we even got to explore a bit of the Maine coastline, that would great.  As it is, we didn't get that far.

Rumour has it that it's cheaper to travel south of the boarder.  That rumour comes from Americans trying to get us down there to spend our money.  Don't believe a word of it.  Yes, the gas may be cheaper, and if you are going mainly to shop, you might find some great bargains, but if you are traveling you are not going to find it nearly as convenient or as cheap.

We crossed the boarder from Ontario into New York, but there wasn't much to see until we hit Vermont. That's when we discovered Champlain, at the top end of Lake Champlain. It's a beautiful little spot, with a large marina, and not much else. We
thought we might enjoy exploring the area, so we looked for a place to stay, even though it was early in the day. We found a fair size motel, with a sign that said "No Smoking Rooms" but the windows were so filthy that it would be easy to imagine people had been chain smoking in there for the past ten years without anyone ever cleaning the windows.  We didn't see anywhere else to stay, so we stopped at the town office and inquired.  The answer to the question of if there was a place to stay in town was met with a rather emphatic "No!"  It was suggested we go over the bridge and drive about 50 miles south through the islands. 
Apparently the people of Champlain don't realize they could easily turn their little town into a gold mine if they opened a few shops and created some places to stay and to eat..

The first few places we priced wanted $185 or more for a room. We just want a place to sleep, people!  By the time we got to Burlington and tried a couple more, we discovered that was not only the going rate, but that rooms were filling up fast. We hauled out the CAA card, and managed to knock the rates for the first night down to $ tax.

Then we went looking for a place to eat.  We had already discovered that many of the restaurants and gas stations south of the boarder were no longer in business. I have been told  that is because of the economy, but if that were so, why were all the hotels asking so much for a one night stay, and why were most of the vehicles parked outside from the various states, and only a
few from Canada?  It was really hard to find a place to eat.  We did notice that there was no shortage of pizza joints still in business though, and in the end we were directed to one that served other things.  So we ended up with fish and chips. The fish appeared to be the frozen packaged kind from a supermarket, but it was priced like it was the catch of the day.
Thankfully the hotel provided breakfast, and you can bet we made sure we got well fed before we left there the next morning. I made myself a blueberry waffle and followed that up with eggs and sausage and a yogurt, then washed it all down with tea.

We discovered we could tour the Ben & Jerry's ice cream plant, so we stopped to do that, and were rewarded with a decent sized sample.  We didn't need to look for more food until that evening, when we stopped in St Johnsbury but once again we drove around and around town looking for a restaurant that was still in
business.  The first one we tried was listed in the hotel's booklet as where you could get 15% off if you showed them your room key. Since we found that the CAA card didn't help reduce the room rate as much  as the previous night, and the price was even higher, we thought that  little discount might be useful. It turned out the restaurant was another one that had bit the dust.  We finally stopped a lady walking down the street and asked where we might find some food.  She directed us to a friendly little place where we were finally able to get our first decent meal, but it was no cheaper than it would have been up here.  Actually, I'm sure it was a couple of bucks more per plate.  Mind you, we were starting to discover American restaurants really load up the plates. The servings are huge! 

Once again, we were glad to eat the provided meal at the hotel in the morning.  We stocked ourselves up pretty well, I must admit, since we didn't know if and when we would find someplace else to eat.  We planned to stop and explore The Flume Gorge so we had a pretty good idea of the area we wanted to stay the following night. Mind you, if we had traveled the longer Canadian route, we would already have been in the Maritimes by then, but as it was, we were exploring and had just crossed into New Hampshire.  We decided to try booking ahead, and went looking for places on the computer.  I found a couple of suitable spots but we didn't want to take any chances using a credit card on a strange computer, so we tried phoning the booking number instead.  The person on the other end couldn't seem to find the same hotels as I had, and kept mentioning highways that we couldn't locate on the map.  I think we were both looking in a different state, or something, but apparently this idea wasn't going to work.  I made note of the hotels and the addresses though, so we could look them up when we arrived.

The walk through the Gorge cost us $15 each, but it lasted a couple of hours and I'd recommend it.  Mind you, it was my kind of trail.  I always say you cannot go on vacation with me unless you are willing to climb rocks or a multitude of stairs.  This was definitely that sort of trail. Before we reached it, we also took a nice free walk along another trail to The Basin.

'When we got to Lincoln, where the motels were, we found the first one I had chosen was full, but got a room at the second one. The price was more in line with what we would pay for a big chain hotel on our side of the boarder, but was definitely cheaper than what we paid the previous two nights.  It was also very musty.  It was easier to find a place to eat our dinner this time. The hotel guy named two places, and we set off to find one of them.  Though reports were that the food was good, it was a very strange menu, with very high prices.  We decided to try the other place instead.  So did everyone else in town, from the look of things.  The place was packed, and so were the plates when they arrived.  Though this may have been our cheapest hotel, it was also our most expensive restaurant.  I think I finally learned though, that when an American  menu has a Light section, that doesn't mean Light as in low calories or fat, but rather smaller amounts like we might see in the Senior's or Children's selections.  I'll remember that next time we go. That might not be enough for me up here, but I suspect it would be down there.

The hotel had basically the same breakfast available, but you had to heat it up yourself, in a microwave on the counter, and there were no coffee machines in the rooms. All that apparently costs an extra $75 at a hotel that smells better.

The weather man predicted a major storm in the area for the next day, that would chase us through the mountains if we proceeded east.  He also predicted an even bigger storm that would hit the east coast and cause it to rain most of the week.  I checked the weather back home and decided our best option was to try to get out of the area before the storm hit, and just head for home. It turns out that was a wise decision as the weather at home didn't interfere with anything we decided to do here. Meanwhile a man my hubby spoke to this week reported that he had just come from the east coast where it rained almost all the time he was down there.

 Did you notice me say "next time we go"?  We can basically get back to where we left off in one day, and get to Portland Maine in just another 2 hours, so yes, we will try this again.  We traveled route 2 and saw the scenery, but went home by way of the freeways, which is much faster.  Next time we will go by way of the freeways at least as far as Montpelier.  We'll take a back road through the mountains down to Lincoln and stop to see The Lost River. That will satisfy my rocks and stairs on a holiday requirement.   I have a different hotel all picked out in Lincoln, and can book it from home before we leave.  We'll sleep over and start out fresh for the drive through the mountains to the coast the next day.

I'm already looking forward to it.

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