Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Suburban Boston Oasis at Hale Reservation in Westwood, MA


Article and Photo by Eric H., at VisitingNewEngland.com

It's amazing that the peace and tranquility of Hale Reservation in Westwood, MA, is just minutes from the maniacal, sometimes hostile, commuter-crazy Route 128 in the thick of the southwest suburban Boston suburbs.

More than just a basic, suburban, token place to walk and hike, Hale Reservation features 1,100 acres of untouched woodlands, scenic, protected ponds, meandering streams, long stretches of hiking trails large playing fields, and outdoor pavilions. Hale Reservation feels more like being in New Hampshire than southwest of Boston.

Best known as a day camp for outdoor exploration and learning, as well as having a membership-only beach, Hale Reservation brings in large crowds, yet it never seems too busy. With all those acres, there's indeed room for everyone.

My favorite hikes include the 1.7 mile Page and Saddle Trails with great views of Noanet Pond and somewhat challenging steeper hills on the south side of the pond; and the 2.3 mile Storrow Pond Trail, a fairly easy but long hike with some more pleasing waters views of Storrow and Noanet Ponds. At some points along the hikes it's virtually silent, making one realize how much noise we have to deal with every second of the day in our suburban neighborhoods.

Living in the suburbs means making a greater effort to find wide, open spaces than if living in, say, the natural regions of Vermont and New Hampshire where pristine surroundings are virtually in one's backyard. Taking that extra effort, however, yields a highly satisfying experience at places like Hale Reservation where the beautiful surroundings validate that there's still some large areas of scenic beauty in the overdeveloped Boston suburbs.

Hale Reservation
80 Carby St.
Westwood, MA
Phone: 781-326-1770

Good Eeeevening!: A Perspective on New Hampshire Meteorologist Al Kaprielian



Article by Eric H., at VisitingNewEngland.com

Somewhere in the 1980s, my esteemed Arlington High School journalism teacher Len Tammaro tipped me off about a New Hampshire television weatherman that he called "Crazy Al Kaprielian." That night, I couldn't believe what I saw: this nerdy-looking guy with a high-pitched voice flailing his arms all over the weather map, contorting his face in every direction, and squealing, "Good Eeeevening!" and "HIGH PRESSURE!" (his future trademark phrases)." All that boundless energy and the myriad antics left the viewer laughing, yet enervated at the same time.

In this world of slick, Ken and Barbie television meteorologists, Al Kaprielian has been the antidote to the standard, unctuous television personality. Twenty-five years later, Al is still going strong on MyTV New England with his unique style --perhaps validation that he really loves his job.

No doubt, Al has always been an unconventional, unique-looking and, also, amazingly accurate weatherman. At every chance, we watched Al before traveling somewhere in New Hampshire or southern Maine. We'd even watch him to plan our travels in Massachusetts because he was better than any weatherman here! Others have recognized his talents as he was awarded "Best Weather Forecaster" in the Nashua Telegraph's 2004 Reader's Choice Awards, Best Media Personality and Best Weatherperson in New Hampshire Magazine's The Very Best of New Hampshire Reader Choice Awards.

I once had the honor of briefly meeting Al at a Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce breakfast. He was nothing like his television personality, talking in a quiet but friendly voice and almost seeming shy. He was so genuine, modest and interested in what others were saying. I thanked him for his years of information and entertainment, and he had this look like a teacher had just given him an "A" on his paper and a gold star. This might be stating the obvious, but many people in the media that I have met do not act with this type of humbleness.

I remember watching Al mostly on WNDS-television, which is now My TV. Whenever you have a chance, watch this one-of-a-kind meteorologist who has become a legendary New England cult hero. Now how many weathermen can we say that about?

Northern New Hampshire Foliage is "Head and Antlers" Above the Rest


Photo by Marc H., courtesy of TravelGuideOfAmerica.com

Northern New Hampshire foliage is near or at full peak, which is sure to delight all walks of life from people to your standard New Hampshire moose!

VisitNH.com sent us some updates yesterday telling us that the Great North Woods Region features spectacular color all over the region with bold reds and oranges everywhere. In the White Mountains, higher elevations show near-peak conditions with plenty of bright yellows, peachy oranges and various shades of red. Franconia Notch and points north is described by one leaf peeper as a “palette beyond compare” with truly outstanding color and vibrant panoramic views. Routes 3, 142, 116 and 117 are perfect for scenic drives. Other brilliant colors can be seen on Route 49 in Waterville Valley, the Kancamagus Highway and Route 302 along Crawford Notch State Park.

For a recorded report on the latest New Hampshire fall foliage reports, call 1-800-258-3608.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Quiet Boston Suburb: Norfolk, MA


Article by Eric H., Photo by Joan H., at VisitingNewEngland.com


Rare is the opportunity to live in a suburban Boston town like Norfolk, MA, with its population of less than 10,000 and no areas that touch a major highway. Anchored by a nice town common with gazebo, a brand new library, a big white church with a tall white steeple, and the surrounding area with ponds, lakes and country roads, Norfolk has little commercialism, and isn't on any EPA Superfund list. There's a skating rink, Jane and Paul's Farm for fresh produce and three good full-service, family-oriented restaurants -- the Eagle Brook Saloon, Guido's and Horse and Carriage. Stony Brook Reservation features an impressive boardwalk system that allows you to walk the edge of Teal Marsh for a great view of turtles, fish, muskrats, and great blue herons.

With some good-looking homes under 400K, a great school system (part of the King Phillip Regional public schools at the middle and high school levels) and very low crime for the Boston area, we highly recommend southwest suburban Norfolk as an affordable, quiet oasis that is within 45 minutes of Boston, MA and Providence, RI.

Fritz Whetherbee, the Great New Hampshire Storyteller

Article by Eric H., at VisitingNewEngland.com

Fritz Whetherbee, best-known for his down-to-earth folksy New Hampshire tales on WMUR-Television Channel 9's Chronicle, is one of my favorite regional storytellers. A lifelong New Hampshire resident, Whetherbee tells his stories with that weathered, methodical, cracked and salty voice that could only come from New England. He fondly looks back on a gentler New Hampshire that he once knew, but never seems to trash his more modern state, the earmark of a man with loyalty and love to his region.

Whetherbee's genius resides in his ability to take something seemingly small and make it come to life in a full story. Much in the same vein as Garrison Keillor and Mark Twain, Whetherbee talks about the Granite State's people, places and things with an eye for detail and a impassioned perspective that make New Hampshire come to life -- even for Massachusetts residents like me!

If you're fortunate enough to have Channel 9 Manchester on your cable television, I highly recommend watching Whetherbee's tales on Chronicle, which airs from 7-8 p.m., EST. If not, please check out this funny vignette on New Hampshire's "Frog Rock:"

Seafood Dining, Rhode Island Style


Article and photo by Eric H., at VisitingNewEngland.com

The days of eating on the outdoor decks with water views of the harbor and Atlantic Ocean might be numbered at Champlin's Seafood in the Galilee section of Narragansett, RI, but that's no reason to stop enjoying the experience of dining coastal-style in Rhode Island.

With dining hours currently set from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, the chance to feast on fresh-from-the-dock seafood at Champlin's remains through the fall season. Outside dining still exists, but for chillier times, the ample indoor dining spaces will accommodate dedicated lovers of seafood.

The special aspect about Champlin's is that it's not only a restaurant but a seafood market with commercial seafood vessels landing daily at its landing docks to deliver a wide variety of fish from the deep off-shore waters of the Atlantic Ocean, and Narragansett Bay. As a result, Champlin's remains one of the region's best seafood restaurants, not only for its prime location but for the "eliminate the middleman" mentality that utilizes local fishermen who deal directly with the restaurants. Galilee is, in fact, is a live, authentic fishing village, so you can be sure that Champlion's seafood is fresh. Its fried clams are native Rhode Island clams -- not from Maine or Canada -- resulting in signature items like fried clams, clam cakes and clam chowder. The lobster dinners, lobster rolls, and steamers look like the real version of what you see in those chain restaurant television commercials -- but never quite find the same version when you go there.

Other items on the menu include fried squid, baked scallops, fish and chips, lobster bisque, baked stuffed flounder and charbroiled swordfish.

Management tells us that the restaurant hours might change in the fall and winter, so always call ahead before traveling to this terrific seafood restaurant with an equally terrific location that has been in business for more than 69 years!

Champlin's Seafood
256 Great Island Road
Narragansett, RI
State: Rhode Island
Phone: (401) 783-3152

The Bright Personality of the Yankee Candle Factory


Article by Eric H., at VisitingNewEngland.com

Photo Courtesy of Yankee Candle Company, Source: MassVacation.com

The Yankee Candle Factory in South Deerfield, MA, has come a long way since founder Mike Kittridge started the Yankee Candle business in 1969 in his parent's basement.

It just goes to show what a little perseverance does as this household-name Massachusetts travel attraction offers an overwhelmingly fun mix of shopping, entertainment and dining, including more than 160 candle varieties, 16,000 square feet of home furnishings, a candle making museum, foods from fudge to gourmet dinners (and Chandler's Restaurant), a car museum, a Bavarian Christmas Village with themed holiday shops and a 25-foot Christmas tree.

Even a person like me who has an aversion and general dislike for candles thoroughly enjoyed our visit. It's like one-big cartoon with its animated look that is the size of some shopping malls. It's sort of like Disneyland with a wick. The appeal of the Yankee Candle Factory resides ultimately in its ability to offer something for everyone. If you don't like candles, you'll love vintage cars. If you don't like vintage cars, you'll love the fudge. And if you don't like like fudge, then perhaps you should see a doctor.

It's a great world when candle products can translate into a world-class attraction, but for us New Englanders we applaud this type of business for its high fun quotient and unique, one-of-a-kind appeal.

Yankee Candle Company, Deerfield Flagship Store 25 Greenfield Rd., South Deerfield, MA. Tel. 877-636-7707

A Good, Old-Fashioned New England Education


Article by Eric H., at VisitingNewEngland.com

It was difficult for my five-year-old mind to understand why my Dad and Mom wanted to move to Arlington, Mass., so we could receive a great education. At that time in my Burlington, Mass., life, I didn't need much more than a hug, a yard to run around with neighborhood friends and to walk with my folks around the corner to the local pharmacy for a Hoodsie. Life seemed good in our 1,000 sq. ft. home, which seemed like a big, red castle that other people referred to as a starter ranch.

When we moved in 1967 to a big, stucco home in Arlington, one of the first things my parents did was introduce me to the nice people at the Parmenter Elementary School. The appealing first impression of the bi-level playground eventually led to seven years of a memorable education that still serve as a template, of sorts, in always wanting to learn more and treat people well. The Parmenter school teachers and staff seemed like an extension of how our parents raised us. My Dad, in fact, was a part of that Parmenter educational process as a beloved piano teacher. He was also known as the guy who played Laurel and Hardy movies in the Parmenter auditorium to the hundreds of students, howling in laughter at the piano rolling down those steps for the hundredth time in the classic 1932 film, "Music Box."

Mr. Stevenson was the principal and seemed steeped in patriotism with his love for our country, as well as stressing for us to always try to do the "right thing." Unlike the day-is-night mentality of today, right and wrong were better defined and understood at the Parmenter School. Mr. Stevenson empowered us by listening to what we said, but could be incredibly strict when we broke his trust by misbehaving. We didn't dare do anything bad, as he set a consistent tone by enforcing rules and expecting us to follow those rules. His secretary, Mrs. Cerrese, looked very old-fashioned with her perfectly coiffed short hairstyle and motherly personality. She never seemed to be rattled, and really enjoyed her job. She loved kids, and loved Arlington.

There was one time when a group of neighborhood thugs chose me as the punching bag of the month. Fortunately, my Dad taught me how to box so it was quite a challenge for these bullies to claim victory. Mr. Stevenson saw everything, called us to the office, had us discuss the problem with him, and with each other. He knew who started the fights, read the bullies the riot act and punished them by taking away their recesses, but also encouraged us to become friends. It's amazing, I did become friends with these kids, all the way into high school although we didn't hang out together because of moral and values-based differences.

In Kindergarten, Mrs. Watt was the sunny, sweet teacher who made education fun and paved the way for a love for education. First grade brought us Mrs. Ackerman, an older lady with a leg brace, a stern look and a real stickler for learning the basics. Her squeaking leg brace set a kind of fear into us when she walked towards us, but it turned out that Mrs. Ackerman was just as kind as Mrs. Watt, but in a different way. If you were interested in learning, she could be your best mentor and friend. If not, watch out! Mrs. Daigle, a young teacher right out of college, provided an endless supply of nurturing and grasp of teaching fundamentals that perfectly combined to make her my favorite teacher. She was like a big sister to me and helped me become a great speller. Mrs. Goodale brought by-the-book teaching lessons to us in third grade, not the most exciting way to learn but quite valuable in that we learned an awful lot in just one year, especially in the math department.

Fourth grade was interesting as the "open class" concept became popular and often misguided. It seemed like some higher powers in the education system thought that we could learn by doing whatever we wanted. Far out, man! Thank goodness, however, for Mrs. Corbett, a young, old-school teacher who dealt with the open class correctly by keeping the class loose but infusing a solid, traditional curriculum at and beyond the fourth grade level. Like Mrs. Daigle, she was one of the all-time kind people that made it fun to learn. My SRA reading skills went through the roof in her class, a true testimony to her.

Mr. Giroux taught us soccer skills and the need to wean ourselves from our teddy bears in the fifth grade. He was an all-around good guy that brought an almost military-like discipline to the class -- much needed, given a group of wiseguys in the class. He was a competent teacher and paved the way for sixth grade teacher Mrs. Duffy to passionately and consistently review and introduce reading, writing and math lessons in preparation for junior high school.

At lunch, we walked home where our moms had our peanut butter and fluff sandwiches. We exercised it off by walking back to school for the afternoon session. The neighborhood kids like Jeff Norman, Paul Dillon, Bobby Erickson, Eliot Dresselhaus and Phil Doherty made it a lot of fun, walking back to school as well as having some great baseball games after school in our backyards, on the hilly streets, and at Menotomy Rocks Park.

The Parmenter School eventually closed its doors in 1983 due to a changing population in Arlington (which keeps changing, thus making you wonder about why the school had to close). I'll never forget the closing ceremony, especially seeing a much older but still sunny Mrs. Watt. The school that helped form my life was now gone -- it still brings tears to my eyes. I know it's unrealistic and a question meant in the figurative sense, but why can't some things just stay the same, forever?

The current school there is the International School of Boston, a French-American bilingual co-educational school with a fine reputation. Every time I drive by the former Parmenter School, however, I feel sad that this school could not have lasted forever and spread its special educational ways to future generations. The Parmenter school was the epitome of a great public education in a close-knit neighborhood.

The name of the school and the names of the teachers and students might not mean much to you, but that's not the point of this article. The point originates from the lead in this article: never get in a comfort zone when it comes to your child's education. The first few years of a child's schooling might just be the most important. The presence of great educators can make or break that child's introduction to the world of education. To families with children ready for public education, I say research every statistic of your current community's public education system, compare it with other towns and cities, and don't hesitate to make a move if you find a better school system. Of course, statistics must be validated by a visit to prospective schools to find out if the teachers and administration have the proper humanity and fun learning environment to match the stats. If so, you just might have found yourself a modern-day Parmenter School that your child can take with them for life in the quest of enjoying the process of learning, growing up and, ultimately, being a productive citizen. Hope you have found yours, as the Parmenter School set an incredibly high standard -- and a joyous experience, at that!

The Timeless, Famous and Delicious Parker House Roll

Article by Eric H., at VisitingNewEngland.com

As a little boy growing up in the Boston suburb of Arlington, MA, in the 1970s, I remember Mom and Dad occasionally taking us into Boston in their phony, wood-paneled Mercury Marquis station wagon. What a treat it was parking at the Park St. underground parking gararge and waiting for a bus to noisily take us to all the famous-and-not -so famous attractions in the "Hub of the Universe."

With WVBF-FM 105.7 (now WROR) disc jockey Major Tom Lewis playing all the top 40 hits on the bus driver's low-quality radio, we soaked in the Boston atmosphere from the fresh fish smell at Haymarket Square marketplace to the baseball games at Fenway Park where Sonny Siebert, Ray Culp, Gary Peters and Jim Lonborg headed our good-but-not-good-enough Boston Red Sox pitching rotation.

Perhaps one of the highlights was dining at the Parker House Hotel in Boston. Everything looked so fancy and organized at this elegant place with the fancy window dressings and high ceilings. The Parker House was built in 1855 and had some famous employees, according to Wikipedia -- "Ho Chi Minh who was a baker in the bakeshop from from 1911 to 1913, Malcolm X who was a busboy in the early 1940's, and Emeril Lagasse... John F. Kennedy announced his candidacy for Congress in the hotel's Press Room, proposed to Jackie Kennedy, as well as held his bachelor party here."

The hotel indeed beamed with historical and political-attracting tradition (and an amazing $80 million renovation in 2000 and additional $30 million renovation in 2008) and the 1970s dining room featured what I remember as traditional New England fare -- clam chowder, pot roast, Boston scrod (the Parker House invented this dish) and Boston Cream Pie. Our favorite aspect of the Parker House was what many other people loved it for, too -- the famous Parker House Rolls with its buttery, soft and sweet taste in a oval shape. You couldn't just eat one, two or three of these great rolls. It always had to be more!

It's funny how a creative chef can make something as simple as a roll that much better than the others. The Parker House certainly accomplished this magic, and Bertucci's, to a degree, did pretty much the same thing with their tasty rolls in the next dining generation. The amazing thing is that it wasn't rocket science, just a knack for turning simple ingredients into something special.

The Parker House lives on today with a slightly more refined look, but with the traditional Boston feel that put its lodging and dining on the Boston map. The Omni Parker House certainly stands on its own as a traditional New England travel and vacation attraction. The Parker House is located at 60 School St., MA, Phone: (617) 227-8600.

From the Omni Parker House Web Site, we found the recipe for those famous Parker House Rolls:

Ingredients:

6 cups All-purpose flour
1⁄2 cups Sugar
2 tsp. Salt
2 pkg. Active dry yeast
1 cup Margarine or butter (2 sticks) softened
1 Large egg

Method: (about 3 1⁄2 hours before serving)

1. In large bowl, combine 2 1⁄4 cups flour, sugar, salt, and yeast; add 1⁄2 cup
Margarine or butter (1 stick). With mixer at low speed, gradually pour 2 cups hot
tap water (120 degrees to 130 degrees F.) into dry ingredients. Add egg; increase
speed to medium; beat 2 minutes, scraping bowl with rubber spatula. Beat in 3⁄4
cup flour or enough to make a thick batter; continue beating 2 minutes,
occasionally scraping bowl. With spoon, stir in enough additional flour (about 2
1⁄2 cups) to make a soft dough.

2. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about
10 minutes, working in more flour (about 1⁄2 cups) while kneading. Shape dough
into a ball and place in greased large bowl, turning over so that top of dough is
greased. Cover with towel; let rise in warm place (80-85 degrees F.) until
doubled, about 1 1⁄2 hours. (Dough is doubled when two fingers pressed into
dough leave dent.)

3. Punch down dough by pushing down the center of dough with fist, then pushing
Edges of dough into center. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead
lightly to make smooth ball; cover with bowl for 15 minutes and let dough rest.

4. In 17 1⁄4 inch by 11 1⁄2 inch roasting pan, over low heat, melt remaining 1⁄2 cup
Margarine or butter; tilt pan to grease bottom.

5. On lightly floured surface with floured rolling pin, roll dough 1⁄2 inch thick. With
Floured 2 3⁄4 inch round cutter, cut dough into circles. Holding dough circle by
the edge, dip both sides into melted margarine or butter in pan; fold in half.
Knead trimmings together; re-roll and cut more rolls. Cover pan with towel; let
dough rise in warm place until doubled, about 40 minutes.

6. Bake rolls in a 400-degree oven 15-18 minutes until browned.


Yield: About 3 1⁄2 dozen.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sunday Mornings at Don's Diner in Plainville, MA


Article and Photo by Eric H., at VisitingNewEngland.com

Everyone loves a good diner, but how many of these landmarks remain open in the New England downtowns where the heart of our communities used to gather for an informal meal and great conversation?

It seems like more diners today line the faceless highways, strip malls and remote roads leading from our town centers, but, fortunately, places like Don's Diner in Plainville, MA, grace its modest but active downtown with an old-fashioned dining spot where everyone says "hello" to each other. Plainville is just that kind of town and Don's Diner is the vehicle to enjoy that small town feeling.

Don's Diner, after a brief hiatus, reopened its diner in late 2006, starting with breakfast only and then, most recently, adding lunches. A fourth generation diner dating back to 1936, Don's Diner is full of classic chrome, swinging stools at the counter, nostalgic memorabilia, newspaper clippings and family photographs lining the diner car, a small, out-of-date television playing, and plenty of that good, old conversation and comfort food elevating this Plainville landmark to legendary diner status. Recommended dishes include the hearty omelets, home fries, M&M and chocolate chip pancakes, and homemade blueberry and cranberry-walnut muffins. We can hardly wait to try Don's Diner's lunches! The smell of coffee and the quick, personable service add requisite dimensions that further validate the diner's authenticity.

Sunday morning seems especially pleasant as the church crowds and families finding time to all be together that reflects the great, close-knit Plainville community spirit. Historically, a diner is that kind of gathering spot for local staff and customers, and Don's Diner represents its genre as well as any.

Don's Diner Inc., 121 South St., Plainville, MA, Tel. (508) 695-7036

In Search of the Best Greek-American Cuisine in Massachusetts


Article and Photo by Eric H., at VisitingNewEngland.com

I wasn't born Greek, but my taste buds definitely have some lineage to the Acropolis -- not the famous Greek landmark, mind you, but the former Greek-American restaurant near Porter Square in Cambridge, MA.

At a very young age, I felt a strong affinity with baked lamb, rice pilaf, and Greek salads. At the Acropolis, the stoic bald smiling Greek host, the water boy who rushed to fill glasses after a first sip, and the eight-track player playing "Never on Sunday" every few minutes with its short loop, provided joyful childhood memories. What made the Acropolis most satisfying, however, was that succulent Greek baked lamb with rice pilaf --- the precursor to eating perhaps a ton or two of Greek food since age seven.

Sadly, the Acropolis closed in the early 1980s, but since then I have found some worthy contenders that deliver this delicious cuisine. Taso's Euro Cafe might just be the best, located at the tiny Norwood airport in Norwood, MA (125 Access Road, 781-278-0001). The plain-looking, over sized sub shop-like dining room yields some amazing souvlaki, pastichio (Greek lasagna consisting of a pasta and cream sauce mixture that is layered with meat sauce), and a Greek baked lamb special -- with the right sauce mix of tomato, nutmeg and cinnamon -- that we wish was on the menu every night. It's about as close in quality to the Acropolis as you can get.

Christo's in Brockton, MA (782 Crescent St, Phone 508-588-4200), has been a long-time mammoth-sized Greek-American restaurant that still turns out a fantastic Greek salad, a decent baked lamb (a little fatty, at times) and an absolutely terrific Greek pizza. The Aegean in Watertown, MA (640 Arsenal St., Phone 617 923-7771), doesn't thrill me with its rather sterile atmosphere and not-always-friendly service, but its chicken, egg and lemon soup, moussaka, grape leaves, spinach pie and of course, an ample and tasty baked lamb with rice pilaf ranks amongst the best Greek food we've sampled in Massachusetts.

In Belmont, MA, the Andros Diner ( 628 Trapelo Rd., Phone 617-484-7322) -- open for breakfast, lunch and dinner -- makes a fabulous Greek salad and homemade dressing, lamb souvlaki, and kebobs. The dining rooms are a bit cramped, but this tiny restaurant always draws the crowds and for good reason -- the Greek food, as well as other traditional diner-type food, is almost always well-prepared and at a reasonable price.

Of course, I have to wait a year for my favorite gyros pita sandwich at the Eastern States Exposition (The Big E) fair in West Springfield, MA, held annually in September. Demitrio's makes this huge sandwich, loaded with lamb, tomato, onions, and tzatziki sauce. It's worth the wait, but it sure would be nice if Demitri's had a restaurant of its own in the Boston area!

Enjoying Small-Town New England at the Walpole Arts and Music Festival, Walpole, MA, Oct. 4


Article and photo (of Blackburn Hall) by Eric H., at VisitingNewEngland.com

If you're looking for a friendly, small-town New England seasonal fall event next weekend, we highly recommend the Walpole Arts and Musical Festival to be held on Sat., Oct. 4, from 10-4 p.m., at Blackburn Hall on Stone St. in downtown Walpole, MA.

One of those New England events that flies under the radar but is, nevertheless, a joyful way to spend a day, the Festival will include local painters, sculptors, musicians, puppeteers, jewelers, thespians, blacksmiths, poets, culinary aficionados, writers, and illustrators. It's a laid-back scene, located at a historic New England building with large grounds and a local crowd where everyone seems to know each other. Last year, we enjoyed some of the local folk and country music (some amazingly talented entertainers) and the highly creative local artists that work their craft for the love of what they do, and not for the fame. It's part of that modest New England spirit that makes this event an understated, but special way to spend the day in a pleasant, southwest suburban town. There will even be food vendors serving pizza, baked goods and a warm cup of coffee (and much more!)

For an added benefit, Jane and Paul's Farm (508-528-0812), at 33 Fruit St., in Norfolk, MA, is just a 10 minute drive from Blackburn Hall and features some nice apple picking and a farm stand with fresh produce. What a great way to spend a fall day without getting stuck in massive fall foliage traffic jams!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Vanilla Bean Cafe in Pomfret, CT, is Good for the Heart -- and Your Hearty Appetite


Article and photo by Eric H, at VisitingNewEngland.com

One of our favorite day trips is traveling to the postcard-picture perfect town of Pomfret, CT, enjoying the rolling country hills, shaded country roads, expansive traditional New England village green and dining at the special Vanilla Bean Cafe.

A charming, converted, renovated 1800s farmhouse, the Vanilla Bean Cafe will warm your heart and fill your hearty appetite with its great breakfasts, lunches and dinners in a casual, cozy setting. The dining experience perfectly complements the laid-back, relaxing feel of this area known as the "Quiet Corner" of northeastern Connecticut as it's almost like an indoor community village green where people come to meet over a cup of fresh coffee and delicious homemade meals. What's more, the Vanilla Bean becomes an entertainment spot on Saturday night with folk singers (some famous including past performances from Geoff Muldaur and Lori McKenna). With pleasant outdoor seating in the warmer weather and a quaint, dimly-lit "country" main dining room that includes a sofa, the Vanilla Bean is one of the most cozy restaurants we've been to in the New England region. It's like someone invited you into their living room.

The food is simply amazingly fresh, whether it be a muffin, mixed greens salad, fresh turkey sandwich, a pork dish with flavorful wild rice, savory beans and appropriate spices, huge hot dogs or the made-from-scratch carrot or chocolate cakes. You order at the counter where the service is always pleasant and then wait for your order in the dining room. The counter help gives you a huge playing card that the waitstaff uses to identify where to serve the food!

The Vanilla Bean Cafe is a perfect dining choice for the fall foliage season, to warm up on a cold winter's night, to revel in the laundry fresh smell of spring, or as part of a hot summer's day travel where you will be welcomed by a staff that truly values its customers -- and you get to sample some wonderful food, entertainment and ambiance, in return.

The Vanilla Bean Cafe, Corner of Routes 44, 169, and 197, Pomfret, CT., Tel. Tel (860-928-1562

The Prudential Observatory Reaches New Heights in Boston Travel


Article and Photo by Eric H., at VisitingNewEngland.com

The Prudential Building's 50th Floor Skywalk Observatory is one of Boston's more interesting tourist attractions, providing sweeping panoramic views of the Boston area.

From this height, Boston looks like a miniature toy village, including views of Boston Harbor, the Charles River, Fenway Park, the even-taller Hancock Tower and the outlying suburbs. And you thought you had great views from your third-floor walk-up attic!

Having this type of view from far above makes great sense in a city like Boston where the diverse neighborhoods filled with fascinating architecture really come to life. To make more sense of it all, visitors can utilize a personal audio system that educates the listener on Boston's historic and cultural points of interests at designated sections of the Skywalk.

The Skywalk Observatory is open seven days a week and costs, at this writing, $11.00 for adults, $9.00 for seniors and students with IDs, and $7.50 for children under 12.

It's all a grand Boston travel experience, unless, of course, you have acrophobia!

The Prudential Skywalk Observatory
800 Boyslton St.
Boston, MA
Tel. 617-859-0648

Vermont Perspectives and Travel and Vacation Events in October


Photo of fall, in East Topsham, VT. (photo by Andre Jenny at Vermont Vacation.com)

The good folks at VermontVacation.com tell us that its beautiful state is featuring many interesting fall events in October, ranging from fall foliage festivals to Halloween extravaganzas. More about those events, after a brief personal perspective of fall in Vermont and a favorite Vermont village...

There's nothing quite like a Vermont autumn event with its colorful leaves, a chill in in the air, a gentle feeling radiating from its Green Mountains, and the community spirit of people convening at farms, village greens and historic buildings. Add a nice glass of apple cider, some fresh Vermont cheddar cheese and you've got the perfect New England vacation.

My personal favorite Vermont town is Weston, a charming little village nestled in a valley within the Green Mountains. The entire village is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and features a splendid village green with gazebo, beautiful homes, a few old inns, and some interesting local shops including the famous Vermont Country Store -- selling virtually everything except the kitchen sink within a charming, quintessential New England country store setting that seems to go on forever. You could easily spend a few hours at the Vermont Country Store. The Bryant House restaurant is a real gem for dining, featuring some truly amazing maple smoked ham, and Vermont cheddar cheese within a delightfully renovated downtown 1827 Colonial farmhouse. After experiencing the special, trip-back-in--time feeling of Weston, you may want to stay here, forever! Weston is as authentic as Vermont gets and shows little sign of becoming generic -- something some other New England tourist towns have become. Weston will have its Annual Weston Antiques Show in early October -- see lisiting below in this article!

Without further delay, here are some events, courtesy of VermontVacation.com, that will surely provide instant memories of your impending Vermont vacation, including events in eclectic Brattleboro, the classic Vermont small towns of Brandon and Weston and Woodstock, and the spectacular Mt. Mansfield setting of Stowe:

Fall Foliage Festival
Northeast Kingdom – October 1-5, 2008
Vermont villages invite visitors to celebrate rural life against a spectacular backdrop of orange, red and yellow leaves. The towns of Plainfield, Peacham, Barnet, Groton and St. Johnsbury each host the festival for a day, in that order. For more information, visit www.nekchamber.com.

Weston Antiques Show
Weston – October 3-5, 2008
Featuring renowned dealers from across the United States, with American and English furniture, accessories, Americana, folk art, silver, samplers, paintings, oriental rugs, jewelry and more. Hours 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Admission $7. Weston Playhouse, Route 100. For more information, visit www.westonantiquesshow.org.

Pumpkin & Apple Celebration
Woodstock – October 4-5, 2008
Enjoy hands-on activities, educational programs, tastings, races, apple pressing, and more. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Billings Farm & Museum, Route 12, Woodstock. For more information, visit www.billingsfarm.org.

Brattleboro Literary Festival
Brattleboro – October 3-5, 2008
The 7th Annual Brattleboro Literary Festival is an annual three-day celebration of the literary arts. The festival will feature readings, panel discussions and special events that showcase emerging and established authors including former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, National Book Award winner M.T. Anderson, NPR book commentator Alan Cheuse, language and lexicography icon Ilan Stavans, National Book Critics Circle Award winner Anne Fadiman and Newbery award winning author Susan Cooper. Held at various locations in downtown Brattleboro. For more information, visit www.brattleboroliteraryfestival.org.

Brandon’s Harvestfest
Brandon – October 4, 2008
Enjoying making “Harvest People” (scarecrows, stick figures, leaf people) at this fun event, which also includes hayrides, pumpkins, a church bazaar and apple pie festival. Organizers supply you with all materials, accessories and instruction on how to make your own “Harvest Person.” Your first Harvest Person creation is free of charge, after that each one costs $5 to make. 10 a.m. Central Park, Brandon. Supplies are limited. For more information, visit www.brandon.org.

Autumn on the Green
Danville – October 5, 2008
Held on the first Sunday in October, Autumn on the Green is an award-winning showcase of more than 100 artisans, crafters and cottage industries amidst the spectacular views and color of autumn. The event includes demonstrations, live music, food and more. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Held at the Village Green and Town Hall. For more information, visit www.autumnonthegreen.com.

Foliage Art & Craft Festival
Manchester – October 3-5, 2008
The 16th Annual Hildene Fall Art & Craft Festival features 200 booths showcasing art, crafts and specialty foods at scenic Hildene’s Meadow. Enjoy fresh food and live entertainment, and this year’s new Vermont Beer, Cheese and Sausage Tent. River Road. For more information, visit www.craftproducers.com.

Dead Creek Wildlife Day
Addison – October 4, 2008
Dead Creek Wildlife Day offers excellent wildlife viewing opportunities and other activities such as a bird banding demonstration, nature walks, soap carving, atlatl and Native American hunting artifacts, and more. 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area, Route 17 west. For more information, visit www.vtfishandwildlife.com.

Eleventh Annual Mount Zion Hike
Hubbardton – October 5, 2008
Enjoy the breathtaking views of the Hubbardton Battlefield and the colors of autumn. Wear sturdy shoes, dress for the weather, and bring water. Meet at the Visitor Center. 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Hubbardton Battlefield State Historic Site, Hubbardton. For more information, visit www.historicvermont.org.

Weston Craft Show
Weston – October 10-12, 2008
The Weston Craft Show is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Enjoy imaginative displays of fine art and craftsmanship with a gourmet lunch in the beautiful Weston Playhouse surrounded by glorious fall colors – a show within a show not to be missed. Route 100. For more information, visit www.westoncraftshow.com.

Stowe Foliage Arts Festival
Stowe – October 10-12, 2008
The 26th annual event is widely known as a festive marketplace. In addition to the juried Fine Art and Craft exhibitors, the ambiance is fueled by diverse and delicious food fare, live entertainment, and an amazing array of kids’ activities. For more information, visit www.craftproducers.com.

Ludlow 24th Annual Harvest Craft Fair
Ludlow – October 11, 2008
More than 40 juried crafters provide an early start for holiday gift shopping. Enjoy a variety of folk art, homemade jams and jellies, jewelry, children’s games and pumpkin painting. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Black River High School Gymnasium, Main Street. For more information, visit www.yourplaceinvermont.com.

South Hero Applefest & Craft Show
South Hero – October 11-12, 2008
Vermont’s largest apple festival includes free entertainment, music, flea market, cider pressing contest, crafts, petting zoo and plenty of apples. South Street. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.champlainislands.com.

Annual Vermont Apple Festival & Craft Show
Springfield – October 11-12, 2008
The Vermont Apple Festival & Craft Show is a celebration of the fall harvest, with over 50 crafters, live entertainment, agriculture and activities for the whole family, and, of course, apples. Wellwood Orchards is once again the official Vermont Apple Festival Orchard. They'll have bushels of red, juicy, ripe apples plus plump pumpkins, sweet cider and other delectable items of the harvest. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Riverside Middle School, Route 11. For more information, visit www.vtapplefestival.com.

Art in the Park Fall Foliage Festival
Rutland – October 11-12, 2008
Vermont’s oldest continuing arts tradition. Celebrating its 47th year, a treasure for the exhibitor and the attendee. The setting is an outdoor park with a gazebo in the center that is used by musicians in inclement weather, and by attendees enjoying the atmosphere. There is something for everyone with free children’s activities, musical entertainment, daily door prizes and grand prize drawings, food concessions, demonstrations, and high quality arts and crafts. Main Street Park. For more information, visit www.chaffeeartcenter.org.

Oktoberfest/Annual Harvest Art & Craft Show
West Dover – October 11-12, 2008
Enjoy Mount Snow’s Annual Oktoberfest celebration, complete with authentic German music from the Oberleander Hofbrau Band, German food and beer, fun games and activities for all ages. Inside the Main Base Lodge, artisans and crafters from across New England showcase fine watercolor paintings, woodwork, fleece, photography, fudge, salsa, kids’ crafts and more. For more information, visit www.mountsnow.com.

19th Century Apple and Harvest Festival
Strafford – October 12, 2008
Press cider in an antique press, taste heirloom apple varieties, meet John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed), make a scarecrow, sample cider, play period games, tour the new Education Center and the replanted orchard. Vermont grown apples, apple treats and pumpkins from the garden, heirloom flower bulbs, and our fresh pressed cider will be on sale. 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Justin Morrill State Historic Site, Strafford. For more information, visit www.historicvermont.org.

Dummerston Apple Pie Festival
Dummerston – October 12, 2008
For more than 40 years, the Dummerston Apple Pie Festival has been held on the Sunday of Columbus Day Weekend, the peak of colorful autumn foliage in Southern Vermont. A full 1,500 apple pies are made by many church members and friends. People from all over the United States travel to Dummerston to take part in the festivities. Dummerston Congregational Church, 1535 Middle Road. For more information, call 802-254-9158 or e-mail janart54@sover.net.

Haunted Forest
Williston – October 16-18, 24-25, 2008
What is the Haunted Forest like? The Haunted Forest features outdoor community theater set amidst the magic and enchantment of a dark forest. A pair of mysterious guides will lead guests through the Haunted Forest. The flickering faces of more than 1,000 jack-o’lanterns light the dark trails. Throughout their passage, visitors encounter strange and hilarious characters in a variety of Halloween-theme scenes. For details, visit www.thehauntedforest.org.

Cabot Apple Pie Festival
Cabot – October 18, 2008
This ninth annual event will feature pie judging, music, crafts, pumpkin carving, children’s activities, silent auction, food and pies for sale. 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Cabot School Gym, Main Street and Common Road (Route 215). For details, call 802-563-3396 or visit http://nek4u.net/cabothistory/ApplePie.html.

Annual Pumpkin Carving Festival
Manchester – October 18, 2008
Manchester created a Guinness World Record and the town is out to beat last year’s record of 214 pumpkins carved in one place at the same time. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Orvis Flagship Store, Route 7A in Manchester. Following the daytime event there will be a Harvest Dinner event at the Equinox Valley Nursery in Manchester beginning at 6 p.m. Enjoy wagon rides and an exploration of the corn maze. Music, local food and fun, family activities will be the highlights of this evening event. For details about reserving a space at the Harvest Dinner, please call 802-362-6313. For general information, visit www.manchestervermont.net.

Pumpkins in the Park
Vergennes – October 18, 2008
A fun family event featuring pumpkin contests for all ages. Awards will be given for various age groups as well as families and adults. Bring a carved and/or decorated pumpkin as well as a candle to Vergennes City Park by 6:45 p.m. The event begins at 7 p.m. Cider and donuts available. For more information, visit www.midvermont.com or call 802-388-7951.

3rd Annual Great Pumpkin Challenge
Bennington – October 25, 2008
This is Bennington’s third attempt to attain the Guinness Book of World Records title for the most jack-o-lanterns displayed in one place. Pumpkins must be carved and candled by 5:30 p.m. A parade will start at 4 p.m. in the Banknorth parking lot. Main Street will be aglow. For more information, visit www.bennington.com.

Gilfeather Turnip Festival
Wardsboro – October 25, 2008
The 6th Annual Gilfeather Turnip Festival celebrates the Gilfeather turnip, first propagated in Wardsboro in the early 1900s by John Gilfeather. The festival features live music, entertainment, Gilfeather turnip soup, turnip tastings, Gilfeather turnip cookbooks, crafts and more. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wardsboro Town Hall and vicinity. For more information, visit www.friendsofwardsborolibrary.org.

1st Annual Middlebury Spooktacular
Middlebury – October 25, 2008
The Middlebury Business Association is sponsoring a trick or treat costume parade down Main Street's sidewalks, followed by a pumpkin display on the town green. Prizes awarded for best pumpkins and costumes in several age categories. 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Rain date is October 26. For more information, contact Donna Donahue at ddonahue@nationalbankmiddlebury.com or 802-388-4982.

Haunted Happenings
Shelburne – October 26, 2008
Celebrate Halloween with trick-or-treating, a costume contest, games and more at Shelburne Museum’s annual Halloween extravaganza. Enjoy nonstop activities at 20 buildings on the museum grounds. Haunted house and scary obstacle course, too! 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, visit www.shelburnemuseum.org.

Visit VermontVacation.com for more interesting events and attractions in Vermont.

Western Hotel Pizza and Tavern: A True Hidden Dining Gem in Harrisville, RI


Article and Photo by Eric H., at VisitingNewEngland.com

The Western Hotel seems to be located somewhere between Gomer Pyle's gas station and Little House on the Prairie, but don't let its out-of-the way location in tiny Harrisville, RI, deter you from sampling a bit of history, loads of character and some terrific comfort foods.

Situated in a former 1700s stagecoach stop that once accommodated Abraham Lincoln (don't worry, not recently), this lonesome-looking, historic, craggy long wooden building features a cozy, rustic, all-wood dining room and swinging doors leading to a friendly and equally rustic bar. You would expect to see Gary Cooper walking in here at high noon, but the reality is that the Western Hotel is family-friendly with the proof being in the glitter crayons for the kids. The service is really pleasant -- the staff makes you feel like part of the family.

Locals rave about the great bar pizza, prime rib, marinated steak tips and fish and chips, but I really enjoyed the tender, black "Diamond" sirloin steak that matched the quality of those more expensive urban steak houses. The Western Hotel also features a terrific red Rhode Island clam chowder with a flavorful tomato base and plenty of tender clams.

If you're looking for an out-of-the-way restaurant with excellent food that seems like your own special discovery -- and a place that will make you feel right at home-- then consider the Western Hotel.

Western Hotel Pizza and Tavern
610 Douglas Ave.
Harrisville, RI
(Tel. 401) 568-6253

Run, Run As Fast as You Can to the Yum Yum Shop in Wolfeboro, NH, Before its Seasonal Closing on Oct. 13


Article and Photo by Eric H., at VisitingNewEngland.com

The Yum Yum Shop in Wolfeboro, NH, aptly reflects it name, specializing in absolutely amazing gingerbread men cookies as well as a full-spectrum of delicious baked goods including cookies, puff pastries, cakes, donuts, muffins, danishes, turnovers, breads and whoopie pies. A seasonal business, the Yum Yum Shop will close for the season on Oct. 13 and reopen in the spring.

Making up to approximately 200 gingerbread cookies a day, the Yum Yum Shop makes for a joyful experience with its incredibly nice staff, and gingerbread man designed seats and tables in a pleasant dining room overlooking the serene eastern shores of Lake Winnipesaukee. From the baked goods to the water views, visiting the Yum Yum Shop has been a sight to behold since 1948!

The Yum Yum Shop, Main St., Wolfeboro, NH, Tel. (603) 569-1919

Friday, September 26, 2008

When Our Favorite Restaurants Leave Us

Article by Eric H., at VisitingNewEngland.com

The other day while driving to the Eastern States Exposition (The Big E) fair in West Springfield, MA, I noticed one of our favorite restaurants was closed. I later learned that the Ivanhoe had shut its doors permanently at this location in July of 2007, mainly because of losing a significant amount of parking space to an expanding furniture store.

When driving back to suburban Boston from our frequent Cooperstown, N.Y., vacations, the Ivanhoe served as a welcoming dining friend for supper. While we were always sad to leave Cooperstown, the Ivanhoe could stand on its own as a revered last vacation meal with really great food, superb service, and a comfortable atmosphere. It didn't matter that the "Anytown USA" strip mall look of West Springfield couldn't hold a candle to pristine Cooperstown; the Ivanhoe became a wonderful tradition that became part of the fabric of our overall Cooperstown vacation.

In the past few years, we weren't able to get to the Ivanhoe because we departed Cooperstown later and later on each visit (it's that special of a place!). So, we started going to the Metro 20 Diner in Albany, NY, a few hours after our 3 or 4 p.m departure from Cooperstown. While the Metro 20 is one of the better diners we've been to, we can't help but feel sad about not having gone to the Ivanhoe a few more times. It was just one of those places that resonated warm thoughts. Maybe it was the homemade bread, excellent clam chowder, tasty seafood casserole, the long salad bar with an unending supply of anchovies(!), the longtime waitresses with an innate kindness and professionalism, the bi-level dining area with pleasant lighting or the powerful restroom hand dryers that almost blew us back to Cooperstown, but whatever the reason, the Ivanhoe will be sorely missed.

The Ivanhoe had deep routes in West Springfield, opening in 1967, and being the last of the Abdow family restaurants that included the Abdow Big Boy chain and the former P.J. Scott in Chicopee.

The Ivanhoe might not have been the best restaurant we have been to, but somehow it made us feel our best. You never forget restaurants like that.

New Hampshire Perspectives, Fall Foliage Updates, and Events


Photo of Wolfeboro, NH, by Eric H.

What better time to visit beautiful New Hampshire than during the fall foliage season?

The fall foliage in New England is as good as it gets, an added benefit to the inherently rugged, dramatic mountain ranges, the family-friendly traditional attractions and events, and the many lake towns that gently force you to relax. Mt. Washington affords the most amazing mountains views with its 6,288 ft. of rural splendor, but I also recommend the following communities:

Wolfeboro, for its quaint, active downtown and location on the quieter side of Lake Winnipesaukee.

Meredith for its extended lake walks and shopping at the Mill Falls Inn and Marketplace.

Hollis for its winding country roads, quintessentially quiet downtown village-like look, and pleasant farms that offer apple picking.

Keene for its Oct 25 Pumpkin Festival, one of the most vibrant small-town, downtowns in New England, and the academic look of Keene State College.

Peterborough for its artsy feel, the Peterborough Diner and presence near beautiful Mt. Monadnock -- great for hiking!

Milford for its circular-shaped village green and a great downtown that was honored by the National Trust For Historic Preservation's Main Street Center with their Great American Main Street Award in 2002.

Portsmouth for its scenic location on the Piscataqua River and great mix of historic buildings, waterfront restaurants, sidewalk cafes, and galleries and boutiques.

Bristol for being just a good all-around town that seems stuck in time near beautiful Newfound Lake and with nice mountain views.

To fully enjoy the greatness of New Hampshire, the folks at VisitNH.com have supplied us with the latest New Hampshire fall foliage updates, as well as upcoming events:

Great North Woods Region: Autumn has arrived in the Great North Woods region!
Cool, misty evenings and warm, sunny days have pushed extreme color into this northernmost area of the state. Western parts of the region are showing well-established colors, which may reach peak fall foliage by next weekend. Route 3 toward Colebrook is alive with plenty of deep reds, bold oranges, and a few pale yellows. Travelers on this road may see deer, moose, and wild turkeys. On the eastern side, reds and oranges are scattered everywhere, especially along the edge of the Androscoggin River. Their reflections in the calm water just increase the intensity of the color. The 9th Annual Northern Forest Lumberjack Festival takes place on Sunday at the Northern Forest Heritage Park in Berlin. This family event begins at 8am with a Lumberjack breakfast. Please call 603-752-7202 for more information.

White Mountains Region: Fall colors are everywhere in the White Mountains region.
Well-established foliage is reported in Waterville Valley, where the 19th Annual Chowderfest takes place on Saturday at the Town Square. For details, please call 603-236-8175. Areas along rivers and waterways are showing spectacular reds in all shades, from bright pink to deep cranberry. Mountainsides are beginning to burst into vibrant oranges, reds and yellows, mixing nicely with the remaining greens. Points north of Franconia Notch are reported to have an indescribable myriad of colors, with the following scenic drives showing brilliant foliage: Route 18 from Franconia Notch State Park to Littleton; and Route 142 from Interstate 93 to Route 116. The reds and oranges in the Mount Washington Valley are becoming more pronounced with each day, with the Presidential Mountain Range showing 25% color. The colors will be a nice backdrop for the 12th Annual Fall Festival and Scarecrow Contest, which takes place Saturday on Route 16 in North Conway. For more information on this free event, please call 603-356-7031.

Lakes Region: A lot has changed in the Lakes Region since Monday’s report. Red maples and golden ashes are scattered throughout the area, with some beautiful patches of orange and red showing up along the edge of Lake Winnipesaukee. Route 104 from New Hampton to Meredith brings the traveler past some colorful waterways. The top of the Ossipee Mountain range is a blend of beautiful autumn color. Scenic drives in this area are particularly beautiful because of the many ponds and lakes that reflect the fabulous colors. Route 28 north to Route 16 north to Route 25 east into Effingham is a beautiful drive. For those who prefer a hike, Knight’s Pond in East Alton is a favorite. Take Route 28 to Rines Road and go east to the Lakes Region Conservation sign for Knight’s Pond. Flaming red maples surround this natural area. Route 125 takes you to the New Hampshire Farm Museum, where folks will celebrate Apple Day on Saturday. Please call 603-652-7840 for more information.

Dartmouth-Lake Sunapee Region: Parts of the Dartmouth-Lake Sunapee Region are approaching well-established conditions, with hillsides and mountain views resembling a vibrant patchwork quilt of color. Route 4 from Lebanon to Danbury takes you by frequent blocks of beautiful reds and oranges. Further south to the Sunapee Lake area, the leaves are about 25% changed, with red maples showing their brilliance against the evergreens and early yellows of the birch and witch hazel. Route 10 from Newport to Route 31 with a visit to Pillsbury State Park to Washington is a pleasant scenic drive.
Route 103 takes you to Mount Sunapee where you can take a chair lift ride to the top of the mountain to a 360-degree view of the fall colors. The foliage in the town of Warner is looking fine, and will provide a nice ambiance for the Harvest Moon Festival, which takes place on Saturday at the Mount Kearsarge Indian Museum. Please call 603-456-2600 for more information, or visit www.indianmuseum.org.

Monadnock Region: While some areas of the Monadnock region are showing brilliant reds and oranges, other parts are still in the just-beginning stages. Route 9 from Hillsborough to Spotford has lots of swampy and boggy areas that are bursting with color blasts of deep reds and hearty oranges, while Route 202 between Peterborough and Jaffrey is showing just spotty color. The south side of Mount Monadnock is in full color, while the north side is still pretty green. Route 101 from Keene to Peterborough is showing moderate color, with most of it surrounding Dublin Lake. There are lots of photo opportunities in this region if you know where to look. On Saturday, the 6th Annual Schnitzelfest takes place along Central Street and Butler Park in Hillsborough. For information on this ethnic seasonal event, please call 603-464-5858.

Merrimack Valley Region: The cool overnight temperatures have shot some serious color into portions of the Merrimack Valley Region. Trees along waterways and rivers are showing dazzling reds, along with occasional oranges. Open areas along fields and meadows are edged with colorful foliage, while tree trunks are wrapped in nearly red ivy vines. A suggested scenic drive would be Route 122 south from Amherst, past Silver Lake State Park to Hollis, to Route 130 west through Brookline, then north on Route 13. There are lots of orchards and farms throughout this region where you can choose that perfect pumpkin or pick your own apples. For a complete list, please visit our website at www.visitnh.gov. Go to Best Time to Visit; choose Harvest; and then Pick Your Own.

Seacoast Region: What can we say? The Seacoast region is always last to showcase fall foliage, and this year will be no different. Some color can be seen along Route 108 from Dover to Durham; Route 88 from Hampton Falls to Exeter is showing occasional bright reds with some yellows; and Route 9 from Somersworth to Madbury, especially around the reservoir, has some vibrant reds along the edges of the woods. Route 4 from Portsmouth to Nottingham is close to 50% changed, with frequent patches of bright red and orange trees. There is still a lot of green in this region, but when the color strikes, it will be magnificent. If you’ve never been inside a lighthouse before, now is your chance. The Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse on Route 1B in New Castle is holding an open house on Saturday from 1 to 5pm. Climbers can enjoy a panoramic view of the harbor and points beyond. Please call 603-436-3988 for more information on this fun and educational event.

For more information on New Hampshire travel and vacation ideas, log onto VisitNH.com

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Latest Maine Fall Foliage Updates


Our good friends at MaineFoliage.com report to us that recent evening frosts have sped up the foliage process -- good news for those wishing to leaf peep sooner than later in the "Pine Tree State" (the state's nickname really doesn't give justice to the fall foliage season here).

As of Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2008, The Maine Department of Conservation stated that rangers in far northern Maine have reported observing between 50 and 75 percent peak leaf color in western Aroostook County and the northern portions of Somerset and Piscataquis County. Rangers are also reporting between 30 and 50 percent peak fall leaf color in eastern and southern Aroostook County, northern Penobscot County, and locations north of Rangeley in Franklin County.

Foliage, however, in northern Washington County is low -- 10 to 30 percent peak color -- which is also being reported in the southern part of the county, and in Hancock, Kennebec, Androscoggin and southern Penobscot counties.

The Maine coastline, from Kittery to Belfast, is less than 10 percent toward peak.

The Fish River Scenic Byway in Aroostook County, along Route 11, will have significantly great color for a weekend drive, making it an ideal time to hike or fish at Aroostook State Park in Presque Isle.

Pristine Baxter State Park, the lakes between the park and the town of Millinocket, and the Moosehead Lake region, also should be ideal for the fall foliage crowd during the next week. Reports are also favorable for the northern section of the Old Canada Road National Scenic Byway in Somerset County.

For the most up-to-date fall foliage reports, visit MaineFoliage.com, where visitors can sign up to receive the weekly reports by email or RSS feed.

For more information about events and activities happening in Maine this fall, check out VisitMaine.com.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Kerrigan's Market and Deli Fills a Business Need and Hearty Appetites in Northeast Kingdom, Vermont


Article and photo by Eric H., at VisitingNewEngland.com

When Kerrigan's Market and Deli opened in late December 2007, its presence created an immediate benefit for locals wanting made-from-scratch, take-out food within a close distance of home.

Located in sparsely-populated, scenic West Burke, VT, and surrounded by other beautifully, isolated "Northeast Kingdom" mountain communities, Kerrigan's Market and Deli is not your basic, modern-day, hermetically-sealed, big-soft drink mini-mart. Owner Judi Kerrigan says that "everything here is made from scratch." Opening early with the Vermont mountain sunrise and closing late at night with the chilly high elevation air, Kerrigan's offers homemade salads, pizzas, subs, wraps and a special pulled pork sandwich that is baked for six hours with a special rub -- then hand-pulled and topped with Kerrigan's "special" barbecue sauce. The steak and cheese is also a favorite with shaved black angus steak mounded with grilled onions and green peppers and cheese with mayo or mustard. Kerrigan's also features cinnamon rolls, muffins, cookies, donuts and cakes, once again all made on the premises. Kerrigan's also sells beer and wine.

"In today's rush-rush society, we felt a need to serve food made from scratch, and close to home," says Kerrigan. "For many people around here, it was 15 miles to another pizza place. By the time you brought the pizza home, it was all cold and hard. Our food is all fresh, and close to home. People are sincerely appreciative of our business and have embraced it since we opened."

Kerrigan's is purely a family business with Judi, husband David, daughters Keri, Ashley, Melanie, Jennifer and Judi's Mom working at the market. There's a country feel to the store, where people come in, order, sit in chairs, relax, and enjoy local conversations.

The Kerrigan's new business is not only a big hit with the local population, but also provides a valuable service to those visitors traveling for the fall foliage season, skiing during the winter at Burke Mountain and hiking at Mt Pigsah or swimming at pristine Lake Willoughby during the summer.

For the Kerrigans, the business is a dream-come-true.

"I spent years making money for everyone else," said Kerrigan. "We felt is was time to do something for us. We're doing just that and creating a business that our customers have really enjoyed."

Kerrigan's Market and Deli
Open Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m.-9p.m., Sunday 8 a.m.-8p.m.
4080 US Route 5
West Burke, VT
Tel. 802-467-8800

Belfast, Maine, Offers True Coastal Maine Ambiance


Article by Eric H., Photo by Joan H., at VisitingNewEngland.com

Belfast, Maine, has all the Maine coast visual bells and whistles you could ever want: rocky shoreline and ocean views, docks with lobster men working their craft, scenic countryside and a charming, old-fashioned downtown. Filled with art galleries, antique shops, dining and lodging options and locally-owned "service" shopping, this historic mid-coast community has remarkably preserved its homes, buildings, and maritime industry. It's best to walk the downtown and marvel at this preservation. For dining, we especially like Darby's (155 High St., Tel. 207-338-2339), located in a historic building built in 1865 and serving as a restaurant or bar for the past 140 years. As expected, this great lunch and dinner place offers chowder, fish 'n chips, and haddock, but the eclectic menu also features Pad Thai, portabella sandwiches and chicken enchiladas! Darby's also makes a terrific crab melt.

Belfast also showcases the old-fashioned downtown Colonial Theater (163 High St., Tel. 207-338-1930) with its colorful facade and neon marquee. The Colonial adds real hometown flavor to Belfast and plays Hollywood, foreign, and independent movies.

It has been a while for us since visiting Belfast, but we were incredibly impressed by its scenic coastal authenticity and hope to return soon! Visit the Belfast Chamber of Commerce Web Site for more information, including a great video on the community.

The Local Chicken Pie That Would Make Aunt Bea Jealous


Article by Eric H., at VisitingNewEngland.com

If Aunt Bea from the Andy Griffith Show lived in the Boston area, she sure would be ticked off that someone made a better chicken pot pie than her.

The fact that Aunt Bea is no longer with us and, come to think of it, a fictional television character makes the argument kind of pointless, but you get the down-home-cooking concept. Harrows, in Reading, MA, trumps the supermarket brands with its slow-cooked overnight farm-fresh chicken and vegetables, perfectly married with a succulent gravy and topped with the most amazing flaky crust. You can order the chicken pies with potatoes and carrots, or without.

Harrows is strictly take-out, although they used to have a very cozy, dimly-lit restaurant on the premises that we wish was still around. Not fazed by the restaurant's closure, there seems to be more crowds than ever before for the take-out -- perhaps testimony to America's love with traditional comfort food and good pricing value during these tough economic times. Chicken pies range from one to six serving containers with prices starting at $5.25 and peaking at $19.25 (with vegetables), at this writing.

Add a wonderful homemade apple or blueberry pie, and you have a meal that begs for a return, as evidenced by Harrows being in business since the 1930s. Harrows is the ultimate place for this special type of comfort food and a true Boston area dining tradition.

Harrows Chicken Pies
126 Main Street
Reading, MA
Tel. 781-944-0410

Budabing's 50s Cafe: A Case Against Calorie Restriction


Article by Eric H., at VisitingNewEngland.com

I love a happy restaurant -- a place where food is served in ample portions, kids are everywhere except the assigned dining table, waitresses crack jokes, music plays off the jukebox, and you can get away with making funny sounds with the plastic ketchup bottle.

What a pleasant alternative to the crowd that uses the search engines in the afternoon to find "great 18th century artist" information and then claim authority of the subject during conversation at your local snob restaurant requiring an attitude and second mortgage for the meal. At Budabing's in Millis, MA, everyone seems to be having a good time, including the waitresses -- and the brave cooks working by the 100,000 degree wood-fired oven. The restaurant walls are even fun with "I Love Lucy," Elvis, Three Stooges, Texaco, Speed Racer and other memorabilia signs. The jukebox lends authenticity to the 50s look, with further nostalgic validation created by the long counter with stools. Most of us, however, like to eat in the informal, spacious booths with tables big enough to accommodate the large portions of food.

Not a place for calorie restriction researchers, Budabing's serves big pizzas, big chicken, steak and seafood dishes, big sandwiches and wraps, big salads and very big desserts. My favorite dish is the mixed greens salad with a variety of greens with grilled chicken, shrimp and steak tips. The dish is about as big as Millis! Other favorites: the foot-long hot dog, chicken pot pie, tuna melt on rye, grilled Reuben, cheeseburger club, barbecue chicken, steak tips, perfectly-formed fries and the amazing hot fudge brownie sundae. The only items I don't like are the too-salty clam chowder and the rather flat-tasting, oversized onion rings.

Some sophisticates might say Budabing's is not for them, but you just might see those people sneak in and order a burger and shake. For the rest of us, we revel in the concept of a joyous, welcoming, informal restaurant with enough excellent food to feed an Army. So, pass the plastic ketchup bottle, and enjoy this down-to-earth gem in tiny Millis!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fenway Park, Your Destination for Red Sox Playoff Baseball!


Article and Photo by Eric H., at VisitingNewEngland.com

Fenway Park in Boston, MA, will once again become an autumn sports "destination" as the Boston Red Sox clinched an American League playoff berth last night by defeating the Cleveland Indians 5-4. The win not only put them in the playoffs, but eliminated the rival New York Yankees from playoff contention this year.

It's nice, once again, to revel in the baseball fall foliage version of the Red Sox turning over a new leaf this century by producing yet another quality playoff-bound team, not to mention winning 90 or more games six of the past seven years.

Fenway Park has been a popular destination through the years, given its loyal fan base, but the present sure feels better than the past watching, for example, a spirited, talented Jonathan Papelbon pitch relief than a underwhelming Jim Burton, a good-guy power hitting fan favorite David Ortiz slug away instead of a mercurial, mean-spirited Carl Everett, and a determined and talented Dustin Pedroia manning the second base position as opposed to an anomaly like Kim Andrew. It's also testimony to a team that has the guts to rid itself of a hall-of-fame caliber player like Manny Ramirez and replace his laconic, bad behavior and great bat with the mild-mannered yet productive Jason Bay -- and not see a drop off in overall team play.

Indeed, the 86-year drought of not winning a World Series is becoming more of a faded memory, given the Red Sox' recent successful track record. We'd like to say enjoy Fenway Park now as a post season destination, because it won't last. While true that we should enjoy the moment, please also consider that Boston Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein and his crew have come up with a plan for the future, thus increasing the chances of the Sox being in this playoff spirit for the long run. With up-and-coming players like Pedroia, Papelbon, Justin Masterson, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jed Lowrie and relatively young stars like Kevin Youkilis, Josh Beckett, Jason Bay and Daisuke Matsuzaka, there's much excitement now, next year and beyond.

"Red Sox Nation" grows with more and more passion everyday,as the Red Sox prove that two World Series Championships this century was no fluke. This team is in it for the long run and the Fenway Park are will once again become a hot travel destination for those in love with our national pastime, the new Boston Red Sox dynasty, the uniqueness and intimacy of the Park, and all the great beer, burger, hot dog and entertainment places and complexes that serve the area. Go Sox!

Editor's note: For a list of recommended restaurants in the Fenway Park area, visit Hidden Boston Restaurants, which has a "selected list of some of the best restaurants (several of which are little-known) near Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, as well as a list of restaurants slightly further away from the ballpark."

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Story of a Restaurant Hiding in a Working Class Residential Norwood, MA, Neighborhood


Article and photo by Eric H., at VisitingNewEngland.com

Driving into a working-class residential neighborhood on Savin St. in Norwood, MA, will lead you to a building that could pass as a lousy-looking home, an even lousier-looking auto body shop or perhaps a warehouse that sells boiler plant parts.

Most locals fondly know this building as the Colonial House Restaurant, but people outside the area generally have no clue about this truly hidden restaurant. For all of its homely exterior, things change quickly upon entering up a few steps into the lively bar area with a modest wide-screen television and chances to play Keno. Upon further inspection, however, the restaurant, as a whole, looks incredibly inviting. The Colonial House Restaurant is truly one cozy looking place with a fireplace that roars warmly in the winter, wall sconces by each booth, wide plank wooden floors and post-and-beam ceilings in the two back dining rooms that would make George Washington, your grandmother, parents and children with colonialist tendencies proud. It's hard to believe that you're in this type of charming atmosphere, given the cruddy building exterior and otherwise nice homes on a street that comprise a real neighborhood, not a place for a restaurant.

The Colonial House Restaurant delivers a fine dining experience to its loyal customers -- some in baseball caps and others earning 22 times what their employees make -- with large portions of reasonably-priced steak, chicken, seafood and pasta dishes. The baked stuffed chicken with stuffing, gravy and vegetable of the day is about as good as its gets for this type of dish, as well as the lobster bisque, prime rib, chicken broccoli and ziti, fried calamari and a surprisingly good Italian-style pizza. There are enough beer selections to please the most finicky Norwood drinking crowd, and there's even a list of fine wines that goes well beyond the Boone's Farm level.

People in Norwood are loyal to their town. Many never leave, which is understandable since it's a close-knit community with a terrific downtown, tree-lined neighborhoods, two classic New England town commons, an excellent hospital and other services, and watering hole/restaurants like the Old Colonial Restaurant. If I lived in Norwood, I would brag about this hidden gem of a place to people outside the area and take them there, at every opportunity. Since I don't live in Norwood, however, I consider myself lucky to know this out-of-the-way restaurant with the ugly exterior and very appealing inside atmosphere and fine, traditional foods.

Colonial House Restaurant
33 Savin Ave, Norwood, MA
Phone: (781) 762-3000

Taking the Road Less Taken in the New England Autumn


Article and Photo by Eric H., at VisitingNewEngland.com

Sometimes, traveling to less obvious New England autumn destinations works wonders for the soul. Take for instance, the beach, that antiquated travel destination from what already seems like generations ago -- the past summer.

While we strongly encourage touring New England for the once-a-year colorful treat called fall foliage, you might want to consider a beach vacation or day trip, also. Gone are the wall-to-wall people, the traffic jams and in some cases, the high parking rates. Suddenly, the beach takes on a different perspective -- more lonesome, natural and wide open to better encourage those proverbial long walks on the beach without as much distraction.

Long Sands Beach at York Beach, Maine, is one of our favorite fall beach destinations. Walking the two-mile beach with slightly cooler temperatures, vacant beachfront cottages taking a breather for high-energy renters, peaceful views of Nubble Lighouse and the rocky Maine coast in the distance, comfortable windbreakers as the new garment choice, and fewer people on the beach make this stretch seem more like your own special discovery rather than just being another summer face in the crowd.

You can really have the best of both worlds at York Beach. After walking the beach, take a half-hour drive south west to Durham, NH, home of the University of New Hampshire and serene, surrounding countryside. Durham is a great place to walk the tree-lined university streets, rustle through the leaves, and also enjoy walking the small, quaint downtown with cafes, restaurants and locally-owned stores.

After arriving at the Long Sands Beach, however, you might not want to go anywhere else and and just enjoy the relative solitude of the New England coast. If that's the case, there are plenty of lodging options, the best being The Inn at Long Sands, with commanding views of the ocean from every room and an on site restaurant with more nice views. For a truly special treat, however, travel up Route One north for about 10 minutes to Clay Hill Farm(220 Clay Hill Rd, Cape Neddick, ME, Tel. 207-361-2272), a charming, rambling upscale farmhouse, beautifully situated in the countryside of Maine (there's potential here for excellent fall foliage!). We rank Clay Hill Farm as one of our favorite restaurants in New England with amazingly tasty gems like the lobster bisque, and one of my all-time favorite dishes: roasted duckling, semi-boned and crisp served over a blueberry-Merlot sauce with delicious roasted potatoes on the side.

There's a pianist creating a relaxing tone to the spacious, refined-looking farmhouse dining rooms overlooking the gardens.
Clay Hill Farm is also the first restaurant in the country to be certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a wildlife habitat and bird sanctuary, so enjoy gazing at each other but be sure to look out the windows and savor the pristine surroundings to complement your overall experience. Clay Hill Farm has also been named for several years as one of the top restaurants in the country by the Distinguished Restaurants of North America ((DiRoNA).

A great idea for a special night is to eat early at Clay Hill Farm, and then make it back for a relaxing autumn nighttime walk at Long Sands Beach and maybe even a mile walk to Nubble Lighthouse where you can further connect with the sea, the rocky Maine coast and one of New England's most stunningly beautiful lighthouses. It's a refreshing way to spend a different kind of fall vacation in New England.

Ice Cream for a New England Fall Day

Article by Eric H., at VisitingNewEngland.com

We often think of summer as the time to frequent our beloved New England ice cream stands. The fall time, however, brings about homemade ice cream flavors that are perfect for the autumn season. Richardson's Ice Cream stand in Middletown, MA, offers two such seasonal flavors, apple crisp and pumpkin ice creams. Both taste authentic -- not too sweet or artificial -- courtesy of its high cream content and traditional made-from-scratch process (including 400 cows in the field) that makes Richardson's ice cream so special. Richardson's also features an all-season dining room, two miniature golf courses, batting cages and a driving range! Fall hours are Monday through Friday 10 a.m. -10 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.- 11 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Richardson's Ice Cream
156 South Main St. (Rte 114)
Middleton, MA
Phone: 978-774-5450

Travel Tips for Enjoying Fall in New England


Article and photo by Eric H., at VisitingNewEngland.com


Today is the first day of fall and the beginning of many, traditional happy, harvest season times in New England.

Best known for fall festivals, apple picking, a glass of cider and some spectacular fall foliage, New England might not be the only deal in town for the autumn season, but the uniqueness, history and scenic beauty of the area brings out the fall colors that much more. Rumor has it that Humpty Dumpty once had a great fall to make up for a miserable summer here in New England.

All jokes aside, many people prefer the New England fall to the summer. Much of the oppressive humidity and hazy pollution is gone and the more frequent chill in the air brings a refreshing feel. Life seems to slow down and be more reflective, and the Earth becomes more still, like a perfect painting made for repeated viewing.

In a sense, that's the way New England comes across in the fall with its postcard picture-perfect village greens, historic, old towns and cities looking their best, courtesy of the red, orange, and gold colors and tall white church steeples somehow looking better than any time of the year.

Some of my recommended things to do to fully enjoy the fall season:

Take a refreshing 45-minute walk around famous Walden Pond off Route 126 in Concord, MA, enjoying the changes in color and the serene body of water that Henry David Thoreau once had the pleasure of viewing through his quite modest waterfront property from 1845-1847.

Drive the scenic Kanamagus Scenic Byway in the New Hampshire White Mountains, famous for its spectacular fall foliage colors.

Have a picnic high atop the summit of 2,290-foot Pack Monadnock Mountain at Miller State Park (you can either drive or walk it) on Route 101 E in Peterborough, NH. The panoramic views of the scenic countryside, including the 3,165 feet high Mt. Monadnock Mountain. Hiking opportunities also abound for more fall foliage viewing -- the Wapack Trail, a 21-mile footpath that extends from Mt. Watatic in Ashburnham, MA to North Pack Monadnock in Greenfield, NH.

Enjoy the colorful pumpkin displays and the apple orchard at Phantom Farms in Cumberland, RI (2920 Diamond Hill Rd.,
Tel. 401 333-2240) where some cider, a pumpkin mousse roll and a home-baked pie from the bakery will complement your fall day just fine. Phantom Farms also features some very fun fall festival events. Up is the road is Adams Farm (140 Sumner Brown Road, Tel. 401-333-1845) open for a limited time during the fall season, and offering a relaxing country feeling with pumpkins, gourds, apples, cider, caramel apples, a corn maze, hayrides, a picnic area and petting zoo. It's understated, but the simplicity of the area and things to do always brings us back. It's nice that local growth and development here is limited to plant life!

Pick some apples at the Nashoba Valley Winery in Bolton, MA, a very charming quintessential town with country roads leading from the downtown. Set admisdt a hilltop orchard, you can pick McIntosh, Liberty, Gala, limited Gravenstein apples, and Cortland. OK, now what you were wondering: There is a winery here, and an upscale gourmet restaurant, as well as a brewery. For many, it doesn't get much better than this!

Enjoy the rest of the Eastern State Exposition (the Big E) running until 10 p.m. on Sept. 28 in West Springfield, MA. It is the largest fair in the northeast and filled with amusements, food vendors, parades, live entertainment, animal displays and horse competitions and the Avenue of States -- replicas of state house buildings in New England that house regional foods, gifts and crafts. Following the Big E is the Topsfield Fair on Route 1 North in Topsfield, MA, America's oldest agricultural fair, running from Oct. 3-13. Highlights include amusements, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police equestrian team, parades, regional foods including fruits and vegetables, milking demonstrations, pumpkin test, a petting farm, racing pigs, home-baked foods and much more.

Experience great cider and rustic traditional Vermont charm, at the Cold Hollow Cider Mill (3600 Waterbury-Stowe Rd., Route 100, Tel. 800-327-7537) in Waterbury, VT. The cider is made with a rack and press built in the 1820s and is one of the best we've tasted in New England. The cider donuts aren't bad, either! There's also a fudge-making room, a toy shop and a winery that features Vermont-made wines and hard cider. Of course, you can't beat the fall foliage and true Green Mountains views of the Vermont countryside in Waterbury and neighboring Stowe -- home of Mt. Mansfield, the highest peak in Vermont at 4393 ft.

Visit the "Quiet Corner" of northeast Connecticut featuring rolling hills and quaint, little villages that haven't changed much in the past 150 years (although this is not the case with Putnam). With the scenic fall foliage drive through the peaceful towns on Route 169, antique shopping in Putnam, nice inns and country restaurants, the "Quiet Corner" is a nice escape for a fall foliage trip. For lodging, we recommend the Inn at Woodstock Hill, a charming inn built in 1816. The Vanilla Bean Cafe (Tel. 860-928-1562), at the Route 44-169 intersection, in beautiful Pomfret offers a casual atmosphere for breakfast, lunch and dinner in a restored 1800s farmhouse. The Vanilla Bean specializes in coffee, great wraps and sandwiches and really great "blackboard specials" for dinner. The desserts are phenomenal, especially the dense, rich chocolate and carrot cakes!

Walk the Freedom Trail in Boston, MA. It's probably the best time of the year to do so -- minus the humidity and summer crowds -- with flourishes of changing leaves and the 2.5 mile red brick walkway with historic meeting houses, museums, churches and other landmarks including the Boston State House, Old Corner Book Store, Park St. Church, Old South Meeting House, site of the Boston Massacre, the Paul Revere House and Faneuil Hall.

Discover classic Vermont downtowns with a small town feeling and that signature postcard, picture perfect look. Some towns that meet this criteria -- and offer wonderful area fall foliage -- include Woodstock, Newfane, Weston, Wilmington, Stowe (it's becoming a bit more commercial, however) and Brandon. Burlington, beautifully situated on Lake Champlain, is more of a city with a small college town feel (Burlington is home to the University of Vermont), and offers great downtown shopping, restaurants and activities along the lake.

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