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Thursday, October 30, 2008

New England Town of the Day: Foxboro, MA


Article and photo by Eric H.

The hundreds of thousands of people who visit Foxboro (also spelled Foxborough), MA, yearly for a New England Patriots football game or shopping and entertainment at the adjoining, soon-to-be-completed Patriot Place might not even know that there's a real, live town here. Foxboro, a town of about 16,000 about 25 miles southwest of Boston, is true "small town America," blessed with a quaint downtown, a large circular village green with gazebo, historic homes and churches, an old-time Aubuchon Hardware store, the "townie" Commons Cafe, the Orpheum Theater for local plays, and many nice little stores. On the outskirts, you'll find Normandy Farms Campground, and quiet neighborhoods with well-kept ranches, Colonials and Victorians. The tree-lined streets, leading off the town center, several well-regarded public schools, brand new police and fire stations, and an ambitious plan to renovate old state buildings into commercial and residential space further validate Foxboro as a town with a look of the past and an eye for the future. In your New England travel, we recommend checking Foxboro out beyond the football stadium, if you happen to be in the area!

New England's Hearty Appetite for the Phantom Gourmet

Article and photo (Salem Cross Inn, West Brookfield, MA) by Eric H.

For those of you with a hearty appetite and who are constantly searching for the best New England restaurants, we recommend visiting the Phantom Gourmet, watching its show on Channel 38 Boston (Saturdays 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., Sundays 11 a.m.) and listening on WTKK 96.9 FM Boston radio on Saturday from 4-7 p.m. (it's amazing how they can be in two places at the same time!). With hungry businessmen and food critics Andelman brothers Dave and Dan running the show with a mysterious, unknown restaurant reviewer named the "Phantom Gourmet," this well-known dining review business is best known for its lively, brutally frank and humorous television descriptions of local restaurants in the best Boston accents or "I'll try my best not to have a Boston accent" voices. The Andelman brothers, sons of local legendary sports talk show host Eddie Andelman, really love their junk food, but still manage to have the "Phantom Gourmet" review all types of restaurants. In addition, with food and beer fests gracing Boston, selling a Phantom Gourmet "Boston's Best Restaurants" book, and promoting their dining review business, the Phantom Gourmet has really become household names in the Boston area.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

New England Town of the Day: Oxford, MA

Article and photo by Eric H.

The Main Street of Oxford, MA, features just about everything that is good about a traditional New England small town: a wide tree-shaded street with great sidewalks, grand old Colonial and Victorian homes with cozy front porches, tall white steeple churches, a classic old library, a park and town common, and a diner. The diner, Carl's, offering some of the hugest breakfasts we've ever seen, really showcases the close-knit feel of Oxford as everyone seems to know each other (the owners of this place are a riot, just short of making the comedy circuit). The rest of the town isn't quite up to the downtown's standard, but it's, nevertheless, quite an attractive town just minutes from Worcester in central Massachusetts. If you're in the Worcester area during your travel, we recommend stopping by this town that quite well represents the spirit of a small, quintessential New England town.

New England-Based Businesses Offering Unique and Familiar Christmas Gifts

Article by Eric H.
It's not even Halloween yet, but let's admit it: the Christmas/holiday shopping season showed signs of evolving after Labor Day in some stores. And reality is that we are less than two months away from the holiday season -- we all know how quickly two months can pass.

I have researched some New England businesses that offer high quality merchandise for the whole family. You can view some of these businesses and their Christmas and holiday gift ideas at VisitingNewEngland.com. Businesses include the Vermont Teddy Bear Company of Shelburne, VT; Stonewall Kitchen of York, Maine; and Cambridge Soundworks. We have also included Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots, and Boston Celtics holiday gift suggestions, including apparel and accessories, automotive gifts, baby gifts, books, 2009 calendars, DVDs, office products, and toys and games. Additionally, we have found New England travel discount passes to Boston attractions, tours and museums, as well as a ski pass that will save you money -- great during these tough economic times.

There's even the famous PajamaGram gift line. Did you know that they are owned by the Vermont Teddy Bear Company?

In advance, Merry Christmas and enjoy shopping!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

New England Town of the Day: Sandwich, MA


Article and photo by Eric H.

Sandwich, MA, pleasantly combines two of the best elements of New England: the quaint white steeple church, tree-lined, Colonial home downtown look and the seaside charm of New England. Proving that you don't have to drive too far through Cape Cod to get the true essence of this legendary vacation destination, Sandwich, the oldest town on Cape Cod incorporated in 1639, is just minutes from the Sagamore Bridge -- connecting mainland Massachusetts with Cape Cod. Sandwich offers a great deal of scenery and attractions for its residents and vacationers: ocean beaches, a pretty harbor, a bike and walking trail along the Cape Cod Canal, and quintessential inns and restaurants including the renowned Daniel Webster Inn and Restaurant, golf, boating opportunities and gift shops. Developed without being overdeveloped, Sandwich is one of our favorite Cape Cod destinations as it is the "real deal" -- not the hokey, cheesy Cape Cod that is becoming more dominant these days. Sandwich, on the other hand, is just Cape Cod being Cape Cod!

Friday, October 24, 2008

New England Town of the Day: Barrington, RI

Article and photo by Eric H.

Barrington, RI, doesn't get the press that nearby Newport and Bristol receive, but that doesn't mean it's any less of a idyllic New England coastal town. Primarily an upscale residential community, Barrington features plenty of splendid water views with the Warren River on the east and the Narragansett Bay on the west and south. Barrington is also located on the East Bay Bike Path, spanning 14 miles from Providence to Bristol with many water views. Although the downtown isn't as clearly defined as Newport or Bristol, it, nevertheless, has a pleasant look with historic, tree-shaded town buildings, boutiques, a book store and a few restaurants. Barrington's location is terrific, close to Providence and Newport making it an ideal, scenic place to live, or travel as part of a day trip. The water views are the real draw here, bringing you into a true coastal New England town, thus proving that you don't have to religiously follow the travel guides to find the best of New England.

In Search of the Best Maine Blueberry Pie

Article by Eric H., Photo Courtesy of HiddenBoston.com

I love blueberries. They are packed with antioxidants, taste great and, better yet, transform into something more magical in the form of a pie. Here in New England, we are not exactly bereft of great-tasting blueberry pie. The blueberries often come straight from the source, Maine, creating the foundation for locals to practice the art and science of making the perfect Maine blueberry pie.

Out of all the great tasting wild blueberry pies in New England, I find the best to be at the Maine Diner in Wells, Maine. Served with some delicious vanilla ice cream, this version of a sweet New England dish mixes the perfect crust with wild Maine blueberries and just the right amount of sugar.

The Maine Diner is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and features other Maine/New England specialties like lobster pie, clam chowder, seafood chowder, Maine crab meat roll, chicken pot pie, and a delicious roast turkey dinner.

Always call ahead to make sure the Maine Diner has its delicious blueberry pie on the menu the day you decide to travel to this deservedly famous Maine roadside dining landmark.

Maine Diner, 2265 Post Rd., Route 1, Wells, ME. Tel. 207.646.4441

Thursday, October 23, 2008

New England Town of the Day: Essex, CT

Article and photo by Eric H.

Perhaps best epitomizing the quaintness of a small Connecticut Colonial seaport town, Essex is a true visual delight with its idyllic location on the Connecticut River. Tucked away in south central Connecticut, Essex boasts a picturesque marina, beautiful town park with gazebo, quintessential historic New England lodging at the landmark Griswold Inn, and 14 miles of sidewalks leading you past historic homes and interesting little shops and restaurants.

Author Norman Crampton mentioned Essex as one of America's best small towns in his 1995 book, ''The 100 Best Small Towns in America.'' One look at Essex and you'll know exactly what he's talking about!

Additional resources:
VisitingNewEngland.com Article on Essex
Essex Tourism Web Site
Hotels Near Essex

Bath, Maine, Getting Ready for the Holiday Season

Intro by Eric H., Bath holiday event info, courtesy of VisitMaine.com

We've written before in The Weekly New England Travel and Vacation Blog about Bath, Maine, as a wonderful, coastal mid-Maine travel and vacation destination. A truly authentic small Maine city with a vibrant, historical downtown, travelers often think of Bath as a summer travel spot, given its proximity to beaches and all the great benefits that come with it -- seafood restaurants, lodging with a water view, and refreshing ocean breezes. The reality is, however, that places like Bath thrive year-round as a residential community -- and, surprise, a place to visit even during the colder months.

A good case in point is the holiday season. We recently received information from VisitMaine.com on a special holiday event to be held in Bath:

Bath's Old Fashioned Christmas Turns Green

The city of Bath's Old Fashioned Christmas celebration is living up to its name and getting greener in 2008.

The month-long event in Bath's downtown kicks off November 29 with the Jingle Bell Walk from Library Park to city hall. The walk is open to the public and replaces the traditional rolling parade of decorated floats pulled by pick-up trucks. At city hall children can help Santa Claus with the lighting of the city tree, and carolers will sing songs of the season.

Area businesses will display elaborately decorated balsam trees during the Festival of Trees at the Maine Maritime Museum, December 2. This year's decorating theme is "Christmas treats." There will also be maritime crafts, storytelling and music.

On Friday's from November 20 through December 19, the Bath Trolley Company will offer evening caroling trolley rides through the city. Enjoy the scenery of dressed up storefronts while singing along with carolers.

The popular Candy Cane Train, a favorite for children, will run between Bath and Wiscasset on December 13 and 14. The 90 minute round-trip ride with Santa Claus and his elves, storytelling, hot chocolate and cookies is a memorable treat.

Bath's downtown businesses will offer special sales and services like gift wrapping and store registries during the month of December. Fun events like cooking and candy making demonstrations and wine tastings will also take place. Wreaths and Christmas trees will be for sale in the city.

The festivities will conclude on December 31 with singing, refreshments and the
ringing of the 1802 Paul Revere bell at city hall. For more information about Old Fashioned Christmas in Bath go to www.visitbath.com or call 207-442-7291.

To learn more about events and activities happening in Maine this winter, log on to www.visitmaine.com.

The Pleasant Pocket of Small Towns in Norfolk County, MA

Article and photo by Eric H.

As the Boston, MA, suburbs move toward a more overcrowded, unfriendly, keeping-up-with-the-Joneses mentality, there is a pocket of towns southwest of Boston that remain generally more laid-back, quaint and friendly.

The towns of Walpole, Norfolk, Millis, Medfield, Medway, Wrentham and Franklin comprise a series of close-knit Norfolk County communities that include pretty village greens, meandering country roads leading from the town centers, road side farm stands, loads of community events, scenic ponds and lakes, and real estate prices generally lower than some other areas around Boston. The crime rates in Norfolk County are low and the schools are amongst the best in the United States, according to Forbes Magazine.

It's especially nice to go out to breakfast or to the local supermarket, and meet people you know. After a few years of being involved in these communities, it's rare to go out and not see a familiar face.

In the western suburbs where I used to live, the feeling has become less friendly, more narcissistic and overcrowded, in my opinion. This is a general observation, not an indictment on the great people that live in the western suburbs. It just seems a bit less close-knit than in some of the towns where I resided.

Norfolk County has a perfect location, within commuting distance to Providence, RI< and Boston, MA. One of its towns, Foxborough, is becoming a destination with Patriot Place at Gillette Stadium (home of the New England Patriots). Patriot Place is an already spectacular outdoor shopping and entertainment complex with several restaurants, a movie theater and the amazing Bass Pro Shops. Tonight, The Cafe 31 Baskin Robbins celebrates its grand opening by sampling Baskin-Robbins treats with 20 percent of the proceeds from Thursday night through Saturday to be donated between Foxborough High School and Sharon High School.

Although the development of Patriot Place has resulted in Route 1 Foxborough becoming a busy major New England attraction, Norfolk County remains generally quaint, full of historic preservation and with a nice mix of pleasant suburbia and rural lands. It's really a great place to consider moving to -- these small towns will quickly welcome you to the neighborhood and where the townsfolk encourage newcomers to get involved with their beloved communities.

Capturing the New England Flavor: Wolfeboro Station, NH

Article and photo by Eric H.

Wolfeboro, NH, is truly a special vacation or day trip treat, with several nice downtown stores and restaurants, and the amazing views of the eastern shores of Lake Winnipesaukee and the mountains framing this idyllic, little town. With all the great lake and mountain views, however, I keep coming back to the Wolfeboro Station building as this town's greatest representation of New England's character. Sort of like a Victorian-looking train station building, Wolfeboro Station now houses the Wolfeboro Chamber of Commerce. What a nice place for them to work, and for us to view as tourists always looking for the "true New England." Next time you're in Wolfeboro, make sure to stop by this personality-filled building and receive some tourist information and tips from the Chamber at 32 Central St., just a block off Main St.

The Storrow Pond Trail at Hale Reservation, Westwood, MA

Article and photo by Eric H.

We're always looking for the best hidden, not-too-taxing New England hiking gems, and we'd have to put the Storrow Pond Trail at Hale Reservation in Westwood, MA, in that category. Starting at Hale's main entrance, the wide trails, complemented by some pretty slopes, take you by some truly beautiful views of Storrow and Noanet Ponds. If you didn't know it, you'd think you were in New Hampshire, not minutes from overcrowded Routed 109 and 128! Just follow the blue blazes and you've got yourself one of metro Boston's nicest hikes, as well as a decent workout at this scenic 1,200 acre reservation.

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

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Old-Fashioned Fall Fun at The Big Apple Farm in Wrentham, MA

Article and photo by Eric H.

The Big Apple Farm, located in the tiny Sheldonville section of Wrentham, MA, serves as an old-fashioned working American farm in business since 1950 and a rural community travel attraction on over 200 serene acres.

We consider The Big Apple Farm the best local farm in the southwest Boston suburbs, a salt-of-the-earth destination that favors authenticity over tourist trap cheesiness. For starters, there's seasonal fruit picking, including apples in the fall (all picked over for the 2008 season, unfortunately), raspberry picking in July and blueberry picking in July and August. For those looking for something a bit more sweet, the Big Apple Farm's bakery and donut-making facility turns out some fantastic baked goods, most notably the cider donuts, hand-dipped candy and caramel apples, apple crisp, blueberry muffins and homemade pies (including blueberry, strawberry rhubarb, pumpkin and Boston cream). There's even an ice cream stand with a cozy, adjacent indoor porch overlooking the peaceful Big Apple fields. The 20-plus flavors of ice cream -- courtesy of the local, legendary Richardson's of Middletown, MA -- includes current special "fall" flavors like apple crisp and pumpkin!

The produce section can be limited, depending on crop abundance and the time of the day, but what The Big Apple offers is fresh-from-the-field fruits and vegetables that put supermarket produce to shame. We've tasted some wonderful cucumbers, green peppers, onions, cauliflower, lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini, corn, eggplant, raspberries and blueberries. The list of fruits and veggies goes way beyond what we've sampled, however with 28 types of vegetables and 24 varieties of apples. It's a virtual wonderland for those in search of local produce, but we recommend calling for current inventory before traveling to the Big Apple. The farm stand also features locally produced honey, maple syrup, fudge, Vermont cheese, candies, jams, jellies and preserves.

The apple grader is a fascinating Big Apple attraction. Visitors can view the whole process on a platform overlooking the machines sorting the apples by weight onto bagging tables. The apples then land in a washing machine, and through a conveyor belt leading to a dryer, and a polisher. The apples then drop into cups that end up in the appropriate grading table that is in their weight range. Workers then sort the apples by "firsts" and "seconds," then into bags, and onto the farm stand shelves.

Current fall events at The Big Apple include hayrides, and a well-developed pumpkin patch. It's a beautiful time of the year to visit the Big Apple as each visit seems like the prototype of what an autumn local farm visit should be like -- a friendly, inviting place with the sweet smell of apples in the air, seasonal events, local foods, and nice countryside with foliage.

New York City might be famous as "The Big Apple," but in our New England neck of the woods, the Big Apple Farm satisfies us just fine!

The Big Apple
207 Arnold St
Wrentham, Ma
Tel. 508-384-3055

Friday, October 17, 2008

Small-Town Feel with Great Downtown Near Boston?


Article and photos (top to bottom: Walpole, Newburyport, Walpole and North Attleborough) by Eric H.

I received the following e-mail from a reader interested in moving to a vibrant, small town within an hour to Boston, MA (we'd appreciate your reader feedback on this posting):

I hope you can help. My husband and I love New England and want to call it home. We recently visited Northampton and love the small town feel with the eclectic mix of old and young; however, we need to be a little closer to Boston Airport (within an hour). Can you recommend a small town that has the same feel as Northhampton and would also be suitable for raising a three and six year old and a quaint "Main Street" without the chain restaurants, etc.?

While it's entirely possible to find a small town with character and a quaint Main Street close to Boston, I'm not aware on any suburbs that have the eclectic mix of old and young within a college town setting (Northampton is home to the esteemed Smith College). Northampton also has more affordable housing, if that's an issue, so here are a few suggestions of nice towns within an hour of Boston that won't break the bank (please feel free to respond to our choices or to post your own "best place to live" near Boston):

Newburyport -- A restored historic, coastal North Shore downtown with brick sidewalks and buildings accommodating a great diversity of traditional and modern shops and restaurants. Newburyport features splendid old homes around its downtown and plenty of ranches on the perimeter of this unique-looking community. It's a small city, but has a population of approximately 17,000.

Melrose -- Located about seven miles north of Boston, Melrose is a small city with a population of 28,000 that has the unusual feature of not being touched by any major highways. Yet, it's so close to the "Hub of the Universe!" Melrose has a remarkable concentration of Victorian homes, as well as a thriving semi-quaint Victorian downtown, great parks and recreational fields, and a nexus to the pristine, unspoiled Middlesex Fells Reservation. Melrose has some areas of high density population, but for the most part, you can purchase a home with some space between you and your neighbor. We've heard good things about the schools and the culture in town -- there's even a Melrose Symphony Orchestra!

Arlington -- What was once a town with seemingly just pizza shops and banks has transformed into a restaurant-rich, eclectic community with a great school system and vibrant downtown. Actually, Arlington seems to have three sections that could serve as thriving downtowns -- the town center, Arlington Heights and East Arlington. You'll find grand, old homes in the Jason Heights district near the center, a mix of middle and upper class neighborhoods in Arlington Heights, and more of a working-class two-family home presence in East Arlington. There's also the old-fashioned Capitol Movie Theater in East Arlington, lending a real community feel to this section of Arlington. Although six miles from Boston, the crime rate is very low for a town of 42,000. Scenic Spy Pond completes the landscape in this compact, but densely populated town that is about eight square miles.

Walpole -- The downtown has some empty storefronts, but I woudn't let that sway you from looking at this attractive, quaint- looking town of 23,000 and about 25 miles southwest of downtown Boston. Located right on the commuter rail, Walpole has a close-knit friendly, community-oriented feel, and loads of recreational activities, events and parades for the adults and children. Walpole doesn't feel like a town of 23,000, as the population is spread out within 22 square miles. There's a true suburban, semi-rural feeling to the town where everyone seems to know each other. Regarding the downtown, this could potentially be one of suburban Boston's best as there are three open town common-like parcels: one that hosts concerts during the summer, another with a tree lighting ceremony in December and the other soon to be dedicated to a local fallen Soldier, 1st Lt. Andrew Bacevich. That area will feature a dedication plaque and water fountain. With the spaciousness of the center, a locally-owned drug store, a bakery, two arts and crafts studios, two dance schools, an old-time barber shop, several restaurants (including three Irish pubs) and stores that sell yarn, antiques, home furnishings, flowers, and wedding merchandise, Walpole already has the makings of a great downtown. Common St., right off the center feature some of metro Boston's grandest old homes and North Walpole has a lot of open land. In North Walpole, Adams Farm -- open to the public -- features more than 365 acres of town-owned land, hundreds of conservation land acres adjoining the property, and land owned by the New England Forestry Foundation and the Norfolk County Agricultural School. In East Walpole, Bird Park is a suburban treasure offering 89 acres of walking paths, trails and granite bridges, ponds, streams, tree groves and rolling meadows. East Walpole is a sort of like a village of its own with a variety store, restaurant, bakery, pizza place, hair salons, its own post office and churches.

Schools are fine in Walpole -- especially at the elementary and high school levels -- and offer two choices for high school: Walpole High School and the aforementioned Norfolk County Agricultural School offering students curriculum in animal and marine Science (veterinarian science, canine grooming and obedience, marine science, dairy and livestock management and equine studies), plant and environmental Science (floral design, urban forestry, landscaping, environmental technology, ornamental gardening and natural resources), and diesel and mechanical technology (diesel and heavy equipment operation and repair, construction, welding and small engine repair).

Wakefield -- About 12 miles north of Boston, this community of about 25,000 borders Melrose and features some of its characteristics of small-town life mixed with more densely populated areas. The downtown is OK, but doesn't offer as much variety as Melrose. Still, it's not a bad downtown. What Wakefield does have right off the town center, however, is beautiful Lake Quannapowitt. This beautiful lake features four miles of walking paths, a nice town green and park, a playground and general lake scenery that you just don't find around Boston. Wakefield is in a great location -- not only close to Boston but within a half hour to wonderful North Shore communities like Rockport, Gloucester, Ipswich (home of the great Crane's Beach), Essex, Marblehead, Salem (known for its witch history) and the aforementioned Newburyport.

North Attleborough -- You can have it all in North Attleborough: a quaint active, tree-lined downtown, farm land near the Plainville and Cumberland, RI, borders, shopping galore along Route 1 (featuring the terrific Emerald Square Mall, excellent public schools, a great school sports program, and a well-developed YMCA with just about every recreational activity you could imagine. There's Falls Pond for swimming, and downtown pools free to residents to North Attleborough -- right next to a beautiful town common with gazebo and lots of seasonal events. World War I Memorial Park features playgrounds, picnic tables, plenty of trails for hiking and an animal area with goats, cows, sheep, pigs and llamas. At the Memorial Park, there's "Julia's Playground," dedicated to Julia Cekala who died of hemorrhagic pancreatitis after celebrating her 9th birthday. At the playground, you'll find a beautiful butterfly garden, archway, wishing well, fire tower slide, butterfly fountain, butterfly benches and perennial flower plantings.

North Attleborough -- with a population around 29,000 -- feels like a city in some parts, a small town in others, and a rural destination, but most importantly, it feels like a town with lots of community pride, close-knit neighborhoods and a vision for the future. With the involved North Atttleborough and Plainville Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Associates of North Attleborough helping build a better downtown, and myriad other community organizations, this medium-sized town near the great city of Providence, RI, really seems like the epitome of civic pride. What's most telling is that all the people we've talked with from North Attleborough love their town and wouldn't want to live anywhere else!

We especially love the downtown with Shirley's Fine Chocolates for a great variety of chocolates and Mackie's for a heart breakfast, lunch and dinner -- they also have an ice cream parlor!

A Truly Bad Art Museum in Dedham, MA

Article and photos by Eric H.

The Museum of Bad Art (MOBA) in Dedham, MA, certainly doesn't practice any false advertising when stating its mission: "Art too bad to be ignored."

Located in a dingy basement in the Dedham Community Theater just outside the restroom, this community-based, private institution founded in 1993 is "dedicated to the collection, preservation, exhibition and celebration of bad art in all its forms and in all its glory," as stated on the MOBA Web Site. MOBA even sells a book of its bad art, as well as producing a newsletter!

Most of the art work, created by unknown amateurs, has been retrieved from dusty attics, thrift stores, yard sales and trash cans. I recently took a very brief tour of the museum, silently gasping in horror at some of the horrific art work. With no staff present for my 10-minute visit, the most stunningly putrid piece of art work I saw was "On the Shore at Sunset." The description reads, "'Two bathers' frantic calls for help go unnoticed as another life and death drama unfolds between the identically colored crab and cat. The artist added real sand into the paint to give the beach a realistic texture and to indicate that the surf was dangerously rough."

Leaving the Dedham Community Theater nauseated from the art work and subtle basement mold smell, I decided that I would never again return to this weird New England travel attraction but that night I changed mind. Who knows, I thought, maybe there will be a rotation of even worse art work. That would be worth a return visit indeed!

The Museum of Bad Art
Basement of Dedham Communitiy Theatre
580 High St.
Dedham MA
Tel. 781-444-6757

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Return to Franconia State Park in New Hampshire



Article and photos by Eric H.

On a recent trip to Northeast Kingdom Vermont, we drove through one of New England's most beautiful regions, Franconia State Park in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The mountain scenery and fall foliage colors were beautiful, as always, but the brief visit brought back equally beautiful memories of spending time here as a child.

I remember my Mom and Dad taking us with great frequency to Franconia State Park during the 1960s and 1970s. In the back seat of our phony-paneled wood Ford LTD station wagon, we recorded our voices on a $59.00 Hitachi cassette recorder with a fading phony wood panel and a powerful built-in mike that picked up the road noise more significantly than our voices. With WFEA radio 1370 AM playing the greatest hits of the 1960s and 1970s on the analog car radio and an occasional ABC Contemporary Radio newscast, we shouted over all the musical and road noise-- documenting each landmark of our day or extended weekend trip.

Often, the journey is as exciting as the destination, but in this case, the destination slightly edged the journey. How could it not with attractions like the Flume, the Basin, Echo Lake Beach and the eight miles of scenic highway between the high, dramatic, larger-than-life peaks of the Kinsman and Franconia mountain ranges? Also sweetening the pot was a ride back to North Woodstock where we feasted on BBQ chicken and blueberry pie at the Longhorn Palace restaurant, and watching the trained bear show at Clark's Trading Post.

We enjoyed everything about Franconia State Park with perhaps the exception of the Old Man of the Mountain, a series of five granite cliff ledges. Some people said one of the ledges looked like the profile of a face, but to me it looked like just another piece of granite. The Old Man of the Mountain collapsed in 2003, bringing some people to tears on the nightly newscast!

Everything else on our recent visit remained intact, as nature does not go out of business. The Flume is a natural granite gorge extending 800 feet at the base of Mount Liberty and towering granite walls rising to a height of 90 ft. The Basin features a pleasing waterfall and a 20 ft. diameter pothole. Echo Lake Beach is one of New Hampshire's most beautiful lakes -- 28 acres of water serenity and framed by the slopes of Cannon Mountain and the Franconia and Kinsman Ranges.

In my early 30s, I hiked Cannon Mountain and found one of the most amazing scenic attractions: Lonesome Lake. Located about 2,760 ft. up Cannon Mountain (about a 45 minute hike), the view of the Franconia Range across a clear glacial tarn were simply spectacular, and no doubt, still remain that way. Lonesome Lake, seemingly in the middle of a mountain, kept the flame alive in regards to my love for the Franconia Notch area.

Nearly 15 years later, this brief return to Franconia inspired future plans to come back to this simply beautiful area of New Hampshire. After all, there's an eternal connection to the White Mountains, its fresh air, fun attractions, and scenery that created fond memories from yesteryear and, surely, travel plans for the future.

Visit the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation for more information on Franconia State Park.

Maine Fall Foliage Updates

Colorful fall foliage leaf peeping opportunities still exist in Maine, most notably in southern Maine and all coastal locations over the next several days, according to the Department of Conservation's final fall foliage report of the season. We recommend viewing the map in this post to see current conditions and to visit MaineFoliage.com for continuous updates -- or VisitMaine.com for the latest events and activities for your Maine vacation.

Two key events coming up are:
Blue Hill's 3rd Annual Foliage Food and Wine Festival, Oct. 16-19 http://www.bluehillpeninsula.org/
The City of Hallowell's annual Fall Festival, Oct. 17-19 http://www.hallowell.org/

Both events are located in regions with peak foliage, at this writing, thus, enhancing great events even more!

Boston Area Country Store Evokes Memories of Vermont

Article and photo by Eric H.

The Old Country Store and Emporium in West Mansfield Village, MA, looks like someone took a village from Vermont, put it on a flatbed truck and brought it to the Boston suburbs.

Located in a Vermont-like neighborhood with old Colonial and country homes, a peaceful-looking modest old church, tree-lined streets, and a solitude occasionally interrupted by a rushing train, the Old Country Store and Emporium becomes even "more Vermont" upon entering this 175-year-old, continuously-running country store. The original store, with its worn, hardwood floors, 19th century mood lighting, post-and-beam ceilings, and an unidentifiable mix of country store aromas, immediately creates a scene actually better than some country stores in Vermont by packing what seems like every favorite, heartwarming country store item into its large-sized rooms. There's an antique candy counter with hard-to-find candies, an area artfully dedicated to fudge and other delicious chocolates, a provisions section with homemade peanut butter, Vermont cheddar cheese, fresh ground coffee, a pickle barrel, jams, jellies and maple products, unique teas and, of course, Vermont Common Crackers. The original store also offers touches of 21st century merchandise like a wide variety of Webkinz dolls, sure to delight the kids.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of the Old Country Store, however, is the "Emporium," with its old, restored, operational player pianos, restored soda fountain and apothecary shop, barber shop items, home fragrances, toys, vintage furniture reproductions and curios, grandfather clocks, cranberry glass, fine pewter, forged brass candlesticks, and floor lamps. There's even a cozy, dimly-lit upstairs attic with furniture for the bedroom, including one of the best displays of rocking chairs we have ever seen in our lifetime of frequent furniture shopping.

Meandering rooms, fully aligned with the old country store look, thankfully, seem to go on forever -- we can never quite get enough of this place. The "Grain Shed" features houseware and kitchen merchandise. The hardware section extends this trip back in time with wrought iron hardware designed locally, door knockers and other relevant merchandise. There's even an "old country store lamplighter" who can fix your old lamps and skillfully turn a jug, vase or bottle into a lamp! Where else in this big box store, modern world can you find such ingenuity?

The Stove Room houses fireplace grates, screens and hearth accessories, while the "Old Sharon Box" offers "woodenware, stoneware, mugs and cast iron products from the foundry and forge."

As if this greatest hits of country store items wasn't enough, the Old Country Store and Emporium also features a separate building called Firehouse Candles, housing an amaazing array of candles and accessories from Yankee Candle and Colonial Candle of Cape Cod.

The Old Country Store and Emporium makes for a great New England travel retail attraction in a location where you certainly wouldn't expect a country store. Once in West Mansfield Village and the Country Store, it's hard to tell the difference between this location -- ironically, right off hectic Routes 95 and 495 -- and a peaceful setting in Vermont. For us, it feels like the quickest 20 minute drive from the Boston area to Vermont!

Old Country Store and Emporium
26 Otis St.
Mansfield, MA
Tel. 508-339-8128

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Travel Idea for a New England Fall Sunday Afternoon



Article and photos by Eric H.

Bird Park, in Walpole, MA, offers 89 acres of walking paths, trails and granite bridges, ponds, streams, tree groves and rolling meadows. It's easily one of eastern Massachusetts' most beautiful parks, courtesy of its dedicated, prideful owners, The Trustees of Reservations.

This well-maintained, special East Walpole destination also features a nice playground for the kids, as well as tennis and basketball courts. Fall time at Bird Park enhances this great travel destination even more with its brilliant red, yellow, orange and gold leaves. There are pockets of beautiful foliage now, but the next few weeks should bring even more.

After an afternoon in the park, take a short walk to 204 Washington St. (Tel. 508 660-1400, open at 4:30 p.m., and bordering Bird Park), a friendly, spacious, family-oriented neighborhood restaurant and bar, known mostly by only Walpole residents. It's a nice place for a good steak, roast turkey dinner (Sunday special), Italian-American veal and chicken dishes, some berry cobbler and a nice mug of beer or perhaps in my case, hot chocolate.

A walk in the park and a nice Sunday restaurant meal is indeed a nice way to spend a simple, informal fall day in the Boston suburbs!

Bird Park is located on Washington Street in Walpole, MA. Tel. (508) 669-6136.

Stars Restaurant Shines at Hingham Harbor

Article and photo by Eric H.

Every community should have a restaurant like Star's on Hingham Harbor in Hingham, MA, located about 20 miles south of Boston.

Friendly, cozy, and reasonably priced, this dining spot with views of Hingham Harbor serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with a creative streak. Always going the extra mile, the Shepherd's Pie, as an example, isn't just ground beef, mashed potatoes and corn: there's also a herb tomato demi glaze and Parmesan crust. The baked mac and cheese features a four-cheese sauce and bread crumbs. The cod is potato encrusted with grilled seasonal vegetables and a roasted tomato-herb vinaigrette.

For those who love food without a twist, Star's comes through quite including favorite American dishes like burgers, a great clam chowder, chicken pot pie, lobster rolls, grilled salmon, and a delicious grilled tenderloin medallions with asparagus, onions and real mashed potatoes.

Stars presents huge portions, but if you have room for dessert, there's the amazing cookie-baked brownies served with vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, caramel sauce and whipped cream.

The atmosphere is just fine with red walls, blue wood and multi-colored lights around the dining room and bar areas (with sports playing on the televisions) -- and with some views of Hingham Harbor. The restaurant appears to appeal to all walks of life, as evidenced by the BMWS and tiny Kia sedans out front and the investment banker and shaggy people-type customers inside.

Stars really shines with its contemporary-to-traditional diner food, and we can hardly wait to return for a hearty breakfast!

Stars on Hingham Harbor
3 Otis St.
(Route 3A)
Hingham, MA
Tel. (781) 749-320

Back to the Good Old Days at the Lynburke Lodge and Motel



Article and photos by Eric H.

There's nothing wrong with staying at a luxury hotel every once in a while, but sometimes a return to yesterday feels best by staying at a no frills, clean motel.

The Lynburke Motel, in Lyndonville, VT, reminds me of the sunny, friendly, reasonably-priced New England motels we used to stay as children like the Springs in Pittsfield, MA, Indian Head in North Woodstock, Vt., and Kimball Terrace in Northeast Harbor, Maine. The spacious, laundry-fresh rooms, a heated outdoor swimming pool, a living-room-like lobby with nice dim lighting, a gift shop with "country treasures and treats," modest but pleasant flowered landscaping, and very friendly owners and staff fills the Lynburke with traditional warmth and hospitality. There's also cable television and free wireless Internet.

The Lynburke also features a unique attraction: the Sanborn covered bridge, an antique, 117 long. structure built in 1867. It's certainly not fully restored, but can be walked across carefully. Crossing the bridge will afford pleasing country views of the Passumpsic River.

Perhaps the best aspect about the Lynburke is its location, close to attractions Lake Willoughby, Burke Mountain Ski Area, Lyndon State College and the vast beautiful mountain scenery of Vermont's Northeast Kingdom. Hiking and biking opportunities abound in this area. In addition, downtown Lyndonville is about a minute's drive and looks like something out of Mayberry RFD with its small town stores, restaurants and leisurely pace of life. The Lynburke is really a fine, basic foundation for your travels across this unspoiled, pristine region of Vermont. There's nothing stiff and snobby about this place, and that just suits our traditional motel souls just fine!

Lynburke Lodge and Motel
791 Main Street,
Lyndonville, VT
Tel. (802) 626-3346

The Beloved Miss Lyndonville Diner

Article and photo by Eric H.

When locals rave about a local restaurant, we take that as a cue to put aside the travel guide dining recommendations and do as the natives do.

While staying at a local motel in Lyndonville, Vt., the owners and staff praised the Miss Lyndonville Diner -- almost approaching filibuster status about the virtues of this diner. They told us that the Miss Lyndonville is where everyone goes for the delicious muffins, and oversized, delicious waffles and pancakes, and the equally good lunch and dinner (they favored breakfast, however).

We arrived at the Lyndonville for dinner where we immediately fell in love with the hometown atmosphere. It almost seemed like we entered someone's living room, as everyone seemed to know each other. With the exception of the counter and stools, however, the Miss Lyndonville didn't really seem like a diner. The two rooms of booths and tables created more of a small restaurant look.

Whatever the restaurant genre, we feasted on perhaps the best pot roast and fresh turkey we've sampled in our long history of dining out. The portions were not only heaping, but indeed done right -- just like the proverbial grandmother used to make. Service was typically diner friendly and efficient. Although the party behind us impeded our overall experience by being unable, or unwilling, to control their bratty kid (dangerously playing with knifes and forks above our heads), we felt like the locals were spot on about the greatness of the Miss Lyndonville Diner. Next time, we'll be back to again do as the locals do for muffins, waffles and pancakes and maybe even come back for some homemade pie with vanilla ice cream sometime later in the day!

Miss Lyndonville Diner,
686 Broad St.,
Lyndonville, VT
Tel. 802-626-9274

Peace and Quiet in Suburban Boston at Adams Farm

Article and photo by Eric H.

Walk about a mile into Adams Farm in Walpole, MA, and you'll hear something quite unfamiliar to the Boston, MA, suburbs: absolute silence.

With the exception of leaves rustling, birds chirping or other melodious sounds of nature, the chance to get away from it all in an otherwise developed area results in a refreshing, tranquil feeling.

Adams Farm, off North St., features more than 365 acres of town-owned land,hundreds of conservation land acres adjoining the property, and land owned by the New England Forestry Foundation and the Norfolk County Agricultural School. The total acreage adds up to 700-plus acres, an unbelievable amount of open land for the suburbs! It's a perfect four-season natural recreation destination, ideal for activities like hiking, picnics, horseback riding, non motorized mountain bike riding, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding. Adams Farm is also an ideal place for fall foliage leaf peeping.

In 2006, local residents and businesses contributed money to create a red barn with a white fence and pavilion, thus adding a true New England look to the property -- not to mention opportunities for locals to hold events (with permission from the owners).

Adams Farm is owned by the Friends of Adams Farm, a group of locals residents dedicated to preserving open land "for future generations to enjoy." This area could have become a golf course or another commercial entity, but through hard work and perseverance, this group of true, local New Englanders worked in civil fashion with appointed and elected officials to make this natural gem a reality.

It's great when locals speak up in hopes of creating a land that is silent! The natural beauty at Adams Farm truly represents the best of rural New England, yet is so close to all the suburban and urban lifestyles that brought us here.

Visit the Adams Farm Web Site for more information

Northern Rhode Island Near or at Fall Foliage Peak


Article and photo by Eric H.

Northern Rhode Island currently offers many areas of peak fall foliage. One of New England's more underrated travel destinations, northern Rhode Island has many roadside farm stands and small restaurants, scenic rural views and historic mill towns and cities within the Blackstone Valley.

We recently drove through the Cumberland, RI, area, where the leaves around the Cumberland Reservoir area were spectacular!

One great way to leaf peep northern Rhode Island (and bordering Connecticut) is through the Blackstone Valley Fall Foliage and Shopping Train Excursion to Putnam, CT, departing on Sat., Oct. 25, 2008, at 9 a.m. from the Ann and Hope parking lot in Cumberland, RI. More information of the train ride can be viewed here, including ways to purchase tickets.

For more information on the Blackstone Valley, read a previous post at the weekly New England Travel Vacation and Gazette at http://newenglandtravelnews.blogspot.com/2008/10/impressions-of-blackstone-valley-rhode.html or the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Life is a Merry-Go-Round at Nantasket Beach, MA

Article and Photo by Eric H.

I found no "amusement" when Paragon Park at Nantasket Beach in Hull, MA, closed in 1984 to give way for cold and clinical condo development. This once-magnificent amusement park landmark -- bringing thrills to locals since the early 1900s -- brought a festive quality of life to this coastal community, just 20 miles south of Boston and easily accessible from our suburban locations.

While Nantasket Beach has made a bit of a comeback with a growing number of restaurants and hotels, the feeling just isn't the same for some of us traditional New Englanders. There are, however, three saving graces for the Nantasket visitor who wanted things to stay the same, forever: an original clock tower, one of the best ocean beaches on the northeast Atlantic coast, and the Paragon Carousel from 1928. Largely restored within its original housing, this special carousel features 24 restored horses and a Wurlitzer band organ that generates the carnival-like music -- creating a childhood sense of well being and security. There might be better carousels in this part of the country -- like the Empire State Carousel in Cooperstown, NY, and the Crescent Park Carousel in East Providence, as examples. It's funny, though, how one's own childhood merry-go-round memories override other carousels that might be better in quality. Sometimes, a healthy sense of denial preserves our happiest childhood memories.

Just the few times I had spent at Paragon Park was enough to create memories, to this very day. Sadly, the Paragon Carousel is now the last carousel in the Boston area, so we indeed need something to hold onto -- what better than a carousel horse and a beach to splash around from our golden years?

Read here about more information on the Paragon Carousel

An Instant Favorite Restaurant in Nashua, NH

Article and photo by Eric H.

Too many times upon returning from vacation, we have ended up at restaurants with witch-type waitresses, service that could be done better by a turtle, and a kitchen out of everything except water and a toothpick.

Martha's Exchange, in Nashua, NH, served as the antidote to this disturbing dining trend. Located off the wide, brick sidewalks of surprisingly pleasant Main St. in a historic, restored 1872 Victorian building, Martha's Exchange looked immediately inviting. With its outdoor cafe dining, colorful yet relaxing indoor and outdoor mood lighting, interior brick facades, and an amazing "candy shoppe" with virtually every type of chocolate known to mankind, Martha's Exchange set a positive tone for our modest appetites. With the Boston Red Sox on the bar television (and a brewery featuring 25 different brews) across from an old world-type dining room, we sunk into the comfortable booths while receiving some friendly hospitality from the hostess and then our waitress. Service couldn't have been sharper or efficient.

We opted for chicken panini sandwiches with roasted red peppers and swiss cheese on focaccia bread. It was fresh and phenomenal in taste and inspired us to find a way to get back to Nashua again for some more substantial dishes on Martha's Exchange's lunch and dinner menus.

While Nashua wasn't our vacation destination -- and nor it should be as it is largely an industrial and residential city of 79,000 -- Martha's Exchange ended up being our favorite restaurant on this weekend featuring visits to northern Vermont and short stops along the way in Littleton and Concord, NH. We'll be back!

Martha's Exchange
185 Main St, Nashua, NH
Tel. (603) 883-8781

An Old New Hampshire Town Moves Into the 21st Century

Article and photos by Eric H.
Littleton, NH, a historic mill town beautifully situated at the edge of the White Mountains near Vermont, could have been just another dying New England industrial community but, fortunately, has employed a vision to make the most of its modest, rural location.

The downtown is surely one of New Hampshire's best examples attracting businesses that have ultimately attracted visitors and pleased residents looking for a full service town center. With a movie theater, toy and book store, Chutters candy shop, a classic in town diner aptly called the Littleton Diner, a furniture store, a post office filled with character, a 100-year old Opera House, the historic Thayer's Inn and restaurants popping up all over the place, Littleton is more than a stop along the way. It's, on one hand, picturesque with its typical New England big, white churches and mountain views, and on the other, a town with a downtown that has nearly all of its storefronts filled -- unusual in this tough economy. There's also a new walking bridge that provides residents and visitors a scenic downtown river walk. Coming from the green, but often regressing suburbs of Boston, we thought, "Why can't we have a downtown like this?"

Littleton, in fact, has done such a great job with its town center that in 2003, The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s National Main Street Center recognized Littleton for its outstanding achievement in the revitalization of a downtown!

Read here for more information on Littleton

For the Love of Country Stores and Pizza


Article and photo by Eric H.

Country stores in Vermont are best known for their Vermont clothing, arts and crafts, furnishings, souvenirs, regional food and sweets, gift baskets, Christmas gifts and penny candy, but how about some pizza?

Bailey's and Burke, in East Burke, VT (near the Burke Ski Area), has all the bells and whistles of a country store with its "past and present" gifts within a classic, old wooden country store two-story building featuring dark, creaky narrow hardwood floorboards, a cozy area for eating and a network of larger rooms leading to smaller, quaint rooms with more merchandise. Owner Jody Fried is quoted as saying, "It's like walking into a warm blanket."

From country linens to homemade Vermont fudge, Bailey's and Burke will surely satisfy the most picky country store aficionado. The difference, however, at Bailey's and Burke is the wonderfully overwhelming pizza aroma. For me, it sure beats that eventually nauseating smell of candles at other gift stores!

While it was too early to eat pizza, that aroma led me to the deli section where I saw pizza being made that looked as good as it gets with lots of toppings, a mouthwatering homemade pizza sauce and a fluffy, pastry type foundation. It turns out that the deli section is a main part of the country store with lots of baked goods, pastries, deli meats, and an adjacent small market area with some well chosen natural and organic foods. Despite having a food area larger than most country stores, there's still plenty of opportunity, however, to shop for typical country store merchandise, given that Bailey's and Burke offers the two, large floors of shopping, as well as a wine cellar. There's also a restaurnat on the premises called the Pub Outback -- set in an antique barn and featuring appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, entre├ęs and fresh baked breads and pastries.

So, you can have your fleece mittens and your pizza, too, at Bailey's and Burke. It's like merging a classic country store with your favorite pizza place!

Bailey's & Burke
466 Route 114
East Burke, VT
(802) 626-9250

Commanding Fall Foliage Views Today at Burke Mountain

Article and Photo by Eric H.

Most of the fall foliage in Northeast Kingdom Vermont is past peak, but you'll still get some great leaf peeping opportunities in certain areas of this quiet, high and lonesome region.The views from Burke Mountain, pictured in this article, still afford beautiful panoramic views of the vast mountain ranges in this region. We recommend traveling there as soon as possible before all the foliage is gone. If you're not able to, then consider that Burke Mountain has another impending benefit -- the ski season with its 45 trails and glades on 250 acres of terrain, and a vertical drop of 2,011 feet. For today, however, the peacefulness of the mountain is fully intact before the roar of winter soon sets in at this scenic, unspoiled part of Vermont.

Visit the Burke Mountain Ski Resort Web Site for more travel information.

Lyndon Freighthouse on Track as a First-Rate Restaurant and Gift Shop

Article and photo by Eric H.

When in Vermont, it's always good to feel like you're in Vermont -- that's not always easy, given the growing gentrification of the region.

The Lyndon Freigthouse, in the "Northeast Kingdom" laid-back town of Lyndonville, VT, will bring you right into the heart and soul of traditional Vermont with a restaurant, gift shop, railroad museum, coffee shop, ice cream parlor and information center all set within a historical building. The Freighthouse is one of two buildings left from the 22 built in the area by the Boston and Maine railroad, making it an essential Vermont and New England travel destination for lovers of history.

The Lyndon Freighthouse restaurant reflects Vermont's "green" perspective by tapping into local natural and organic ingredients for its breakfast, lunch and dinner selections. Set in the rustic, slightly worn, former 1878 red freighthouse with a long farmer's porch, and a country store-meets-restaurant-type look inside inside, this is the type of atmosphere that one would expect in a rural, Vermont restaurant. There are Vermont photos and memorabilia all over the walls, a long counter with stools, wooden booths and tables, and very friendly, unassuming service. We recently enjoyed our breakfast of locally made blueberry/raspberry muffins and rye and maple swirl bread, an organic omelet with organic cheddar cheese as well as Starbuck's Coffee (OK, that's not a Vermont staple). We look forward to returning for some lunch, which includes organic grass fed beef and vegetable dishes and even organic french fries -- and of course, some Carmen's Ice Cream, featuring 70 flavors of hard serve, soft serve, yogurt, sugar-free ice cream, and sorbet.

The Lyndon Freighthouse is partnered with the Vermont Fresh Network, an organization that teams local farms with restaurants to provide the freshest local foods at restaurants.

Also on the premises, upstairs, is the Freighthouse Gift Shop, with "Vermont" made merchandise including maple syrup, photographs, paintings, home furnishings, antiques, crafts and souvenirs for sale on two old-fashioned floors. There's also a working model railroad with historical artifacts and information.

The Freighthouse, with its country restaurant and rural country store gift shop atmosphere within a historical building, keeps the "green flame" alive when looking for the "real Vermont." Plus, the food we've tasted so far is terrific -- fresh, local and organic!

The Lyndon Freighthouse
1000 Broad St.
Lyndonville VT
Tel. (802) 626-1400

The Perfect New Hampshire Lake Travel Getaway


Article and Photo by Eric H.

Echo Lake Beach is located right off busy Route 93 in Franconia Notch, NH, on the slopes of popular Cannon Mountain in the White Mountains, but seems like a million miles away from civilization. This pristine 28-acre beach features incredibly peaceful views of where the Franconia and Kinsman Ranges meet, thus creating a notch. In the fall, the foliage is "top-notch," while the June 20-Sept. 1 timeframe brings visitors a perfect lake beach travel getaway with lifeguards on duty for safety purposes, a snack bar for hunger purposes, and the chance to rent a kayak or canoe for scenic splendor purposes. New Hampshire lakes -- or New England, for that matter -- don't get much prettier than Echo Lake Beach. The good thing for you is that it's right off the highway in the heart of the White Mountains.

Visit the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation for more information on Echo Lake Beach.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Special Roadside Farm Feeling at Phantom Farms in Cumberland, RI

Article and Photo by Eric H.

Phantom Farms might have a slightly menacing name, but you'll feel quite relaxed and refreshed visiting this friendly Cumberland, RI, apple orchard and farm stand.

With cornstalks, rocking chairs, deep orange pumpkins and colorful flowers gracing its wide front porch and adjoining snack deck, Phantom Farms creates a perfect New England country roadside stand atmosphere that gets even better once inside. The store features baked goods, cider, bags of fresh-picked apples, pies, cream and butter fudge, flowers, and jams. A current special is the pumpkin mousse roll! We personally recommend the pumpkin scones, fresh blueberry pie, and moon pies with cream stacked to seemingly the moon!

Phantom Farms, located in the pleasant northern Rhode Island countryside, also features a garden center, flower shop, gift shop and a spectacular fall time pumpkin patch with colorful pumpkins, gourds and squash of all sizes.

The 2008 apple season has ended at Phantom Farms, but this terrific destination is open all year with its tasty and tasteful merchandise. Phantom Farms also offers a wonderful variety of seasons events, which we have posted here, with permission from Phantom Farms!

Phantom Farms is one of the nicest farm stands we've visited in New England. The management and staff are also very pleasant, taking great pride in their business and its customer service. There's a special feeling you get when visiting that makes it a preferred New England farm stand travel destination for us -- noteworthy, given all the great farm stands in this region.

Phantom Farms
2920 Diamond Hill Rd.
Cumberland, RI 02864
Phone: (401) 333-2240

Friday, October 10, 2008

Markey's Lobster Pool Open for Columbus Day Weekend!


Article and photo by Eric H.

With its lively indoor and outdoor summer shack seafood scene, Markey's Lobster Pool in Seabrook, NH, seems like the perfect hot weather New England dining destination but why stop something so good with the change of seasons?

The southern coastal New Hampshire landmark will be open for lunch and dinner this Columbus Day Weekend -- good news for those who love lobsters from an on site lobster pool, delicious and substantial lobster rolls, some of the most tasty clam chowder in this region, and perfectly fried clams (with equally perfectly fried onion rings). Add some water and marsh views, and the feeling of being in coastal New England feels quite pronounced.

After Columbus Day, Markey's will be open for lunch and dinner on just Friday, Saturday and Sunday. As a loyal customer who loves Markey's seafood, you can be sure this hardy New Englander will be eating there even in the thick of winter. After all, there's no need to suppress one's love for regional lobster and clam chowder!

Markey's Lobster Pool, Route 286, Seabrook, NH. Tel. (603) 474-2851.

Fall Foliage Updates for New Hampshire

Commentary and photo by Eric H., fall foliage updates courtesy of VisitNH.com

The good people at VisitNH.com just sent us some fall foliage updates for New Hampshire. Just a day away from the Columbus Day Weekend, this leaf peeping information should serve, no doubt, as a valuable guide to your New Hampshire trip planning needs.

On a personal level, New Hampshire has always had a special place in my heart, especially during the fall foliage season. Yes, fall foliage is tremendous anywhere in New England, but to me, the New Hampshire foliage resonates with colors seemingly more consistently brilliant. Add the dramatically, rugged and beautiful White Mountains and its nearby lakes or quaint, relaxing towns like Hollis, Milford, Bristol, Keene, Wolfeboro, Peterborough, Meredith and Woodstock and you have the perfect foundation for a New Hampshire fall foliage day trip or extended vacation.

Without delay here are the updates from VisitNH.com -- and don't forget to call its recorded hotline at 1-800-258-3608 for more updates:

Great North Woods Region: Just when we thought the foliage in the Great North Woods region was starting to fade, up comes another autumn blast of beautiful color. The yellows of the poplar and birch have peaked, and are now combined with the remaining oranges and leftover reds to make spectacular viewing. If you drive into the valleys, you’ll see the incredible mountain vistas. Climbing a fire tower is a fun and educational family activity, and Magalloway Tower sits 3,360 feet atop Mt. Magalloway. There is a sweeping panoramic view of Northern New England and Canada from this viewpoint. Follow Rt. 3 to Magalloway Road, and follow the 8-mile dirt path to the trailhead. A 60-minute hike up a steep and rocky trail brings you to the tower. Bring some of the beauty and fragrance of New Hampshire into your home this holiday season by tagging your tree now. Please visit www.nhchristmastrees.com for a list of tree farms in the state.

White Mountains Region: The foliage in the White Mountains region just continues to amaze, with its constant blast of fiery reds, brilliant oranges, and lemon yellows. Route 16 from Conway to Gorham provides peak fall color, and route 302 from Glen to Twin Mountain is still looking fine in it’s array of autumn colors. Route 93 from Franconia to Plymouth is always a favorite drive, and it takes you past some of New Hampshire’s most beautiful natural areas, including the Flume Gorge; Cannon Mountain, where you can ride the tramway to the summit; the Basin; and the Old Man of the Mountain Historic Site. Mountain vistas are glowing with an orange-red tint, and waterfalls are framed in warm colors. The villages in the Mount Washington Valley are crowded right now with the Return of the Pumpkin People. Take a self-guided tour and enjoy viewing these hand-created folks who will delight and amuse you. Bring your camera – they’re only here for the fall season. Call 603-383-9356 for information, or visit www.jacksonnh.com.

Lakes Region: There is plenty of fall color to be seen in the Lakes region, with glorious shades of hearty orange, scarlet red, and bright yellow surrounding the open meadows. Higher elevations are near peak right now, and should be at full peak within the next week or two, while the lower slopes are drenched in bold color. The area surrounding Lake Winnipesaukee is about 60% changed right now, and is expected to peak very soon – why not book a fall foliage cruise on one of the vessels that grace the waters in the lakes region? For information, please visit www.lakesregion.org; go to Where to Play; On the Water; and click Cruises/Boat Tours. Landlubbers will want to travel routes 109, 25, 11 and 171 for a scenic loop around the big lake. The Sandwich Fair takes place this weekend; follow Routes 109 or 113 to the fairgrounds.

Dartmouth-Lake Sunapee Region: The Dartmouth-Lake Sunapee region is near peak right now, with 70 to 80% color among the remaining greens. Despite some leaf drop, there are still plenty of warm oranges, bright reds, and glowing yellows in the area. Our leaf peepers are reporting possible peak conditions very soon – maybe even by this weekend. Interstate 89 from exit 20 in West Lebanon to exit 9 in Warner shows remaining swamp maples and what is described as a colorful patchwork quilt covering the hillsides. Some activities in this region include visiting a roadside farm for apples and pumpkins, and taking a scenic chairlift ride to the summit of Mount Sunapee. Routes 4 and 4A provide lovely scenic views, also. The town of Warner is holding its annual Fall Foliage Festival this weekend; for information, please call 603-456-9775

Monadnock Region: The lowlands in the Monadnock region are still ablaze with the gorgeous oranges and reds of autumn, and routes 109, 32, and 202 are good roads to take for scenic drives through this area. Reports say that Mount Monadnock – reputedly the second most climbed mountain in the world – is near peak right now, so if you’ve never climbed it, now would be a good time. Route 101 to Peterborough is awash with peachy oranges. The Pumpkin Trebuchet on Route 31 in Greenfield, NH is a must see for anyone in the area. Please visit www.yankeesiege.com for information, or call 603-547-6421. The color throughout this entire region has changed dramatically over the past week and should last well into next week.

Merrimack Valley Region: The Merrimack Valley region is still slow in its change from summer green to autumn glory, but Interstate 93 from Manchester to Derry appears to be about 40% changed, with nice yellows, bright oranges, and hearty reds. A drive on route 130 west will bring you through the scenic rolling hills of Hollis, which is about 50% changed right now. Here you will find roadside farm stands where you can buy authentic New Hampshire grown fruits and vegetables. Southern parts of this region are mostly green, with sporadic yellows and occasional splashes of orange and red. Looking for something to do on this Columbus Day weekend? The Milford Pumpkin Festival is taking place, and is always a good choice. Please visit www.milfordpumpkinfestival.org for information.

Seacoast Region: Our leaf peepers in the Seacoast region are reporting increased color changes, with more reds and oranges throughout the area. Route 1 from Hampton Falls to Rye is starting to look like fall, especially along waterways and lowlands. Route 101 west from Hampton to Epping is showing more vibrant color among the green, and Routes 155 and 155A are good country roads to take for a look at New Hampshire’s back roads. A visit to the Coppal House Farm and Corn Maze on Route 155 in Lee is a perfect way to experience autumn in New Hampshire. For information, please call 603-659-3572. City dwellers may want to head to Portsmouth for a guided walking tour of the Portsmouth Harbour Trail. For information, please call 603-610-5510.

Log onto VisitNH.com for more great New Hampshire vacation information.

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