Monday, August 31, 2009

Remembering Shakey's Pizza in Nashua, N.H.

Article by Eric H.

With its corporate chain restaurant status, Shakey's Pizza Parlor, on the Daniel Webster Highway, in Nashua, N.H., might not have been your classic New England dining spot, but it sure was classic in the sense of fond local dining childhood memories.

The dark, cavernous room with a player piano and Laurel and Hardy movie playing made the hand-tossed fresh pizza even that much better. Add some full-bodied root beer and Shakey's became one of our our favortite "cheap eats" places within radar of our Arlington, Mass., home. Going to Shakey's usually occurred after a day of beach fun at Silver Lake State Park in nearby Hollis, N.H.

Shakey's is long gone, a victim of Pheasant Lane Mall area development. I often wonder if Shakey's would have the same favorable effect on us today. The answer is probably "yes," as you can never go wrong with good pizza, a rollicking player piano and Laurel and Hardy getting into mishap after mishap!

For more on Shakey's and other New England restaurants that are no longer with us, we encourage you to read our "Great memories of New England restaurants that are no longer with us" article.

Welcome to Apple Picking Season!

Article and photos by Eric H. Video by Worcester Love.

With summer vacation in the rear view mirror and a touch of fall in the air this morning, we can now turn our seasonal New England interests to great fall-time activities like apple picking. All over New England, commercial apple orchards report their "corp" businesses yielding an impressive supply of apples ready to pick from the trees. We recommend calling your chosen apple orchard before traveling there, however, because, as they say on the infomercials, "results may vary."

We can tell you that the picturesque Brookfield Orchards in North Brookfield, Mass., already has Paula Red apples, similar to a MacIntosh and typically one for the first varieties to be ready for picking. Brookfield Orchards reports that regular Macintosh and Cortland apples should be ready for picking by Labor Day Weekend.

Visiting Brookfield Orchards -- a fifth generation family-run business dating back to 1918 -- goes well beyond just apple picking, however. A charming country store with many architectural nooks and crannies features jams, jellies, maple products, Vermont cheddar cheese, candy, books, maps, crafts, antiques and collectibles. The snack bar and bakery is best known for its delicious homemade apple dumplings. Add some vanilla ice cream and flavorful Vermont cheddar cheese, and that is worth a visit to Brookfield Orchards by itself. September and October snack bar offerings include hot dogs, hamburgers, chili and macaroni and cheese while the year-round bakery features (besides apple dumplings) homemade apple pies, applecakes, chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies. Brookfield Orchard also offers specialty pies in the fall and for the holidays (they are open, year-round except for Thanksgiving and Christmas days and the Fourth of July).

Brookfield Orchards also has a playground with swings, a slide and "twirl around" contraption.

Perhaps the most memorable aspect of Brookfield Orchards is its idyllic country location where an isolated scenic presence, the seemingly endless apple orchards, the pleasing aromatic combination of apples and fresh air, and the rolling central Massachusetts countryside with hilly views are enough to make you want to stay all day. It's hard to think of a more relaxing, beautiful location in New England for apple picking and beyond.

Brookfield Orchards
12 Lincoln Rd.
North Brookfield MA 01535
Phone 508- 867-6858- 877-622-7555

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Art in North Atttleboro, Mass.

Article by Eric H.
Village Artisans Collaborative, which opened in April 2009, is really a fantastic addition to an already thriving downtown North Attleboro, Mass. Billed as a "An Art Community for Community," Village Artisans features some wonderful local art work, as well as quality crafts. This is not another pretentious store with overly expensive work, stuffy employees and insufferable new age wallpaper music lurking in the background. Rather, Village Artisans focuses on bringing art work to all walks of life, helping improve North Attleboro's strong sense of community with its cultural presence, and just being nice, down-to-earth people dedicated to fine customer service in the process. Isn't that the way all businesses should conduct themselves? Nice to see a new store follow the tenets of good business practice.

Just to let you know, the Village Artisans and the North Attleboro Cultural Council will be hosting a two-day Arts Festival at Veterans Park in downtown North Attleboro on from Sept. 26 -27 from 10am - 4pm. They are looking for all types of artisans and craftsmen to participate in what should be a fantastic event. The cost for a non-member: $50.00 per day/$80.00 both days, member $25.00 per day/$40.00 both days. This is an outdoor show so please note that there will be no overnight security if you choose to participate both days. Fair enough! Applications can be picked up at the Village Artisans shop or by emailing

We'll be featuring more Village Artisans information and events in the future! We really enjoy and respect the mission of this new store, and think that you will, too!

Village Artisans Collaborative
21 North Washington St.
North Attleboro, MA 02760

A Few Thoughts on Sen. Ted Kennedy

Article by Eric H.
All politics aside, I believe that Sen. Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy brought an important element of civility to state relations in Massachusetts and, ultimately, to our country. Yes, that might sound strange, given visions of him pounding his fist on the table and and often displaying an angry, beet red face when disagreeing with his political colleagues while in session, but there's always another side to common public perception of an individual.

During my time working for the public sector, I had some contact with Sen. Kennedy's staff. Always pleasant, professional and somewhat like a friendly neighbor asking for a cup of sugar, his staff had little in common with some other political staffs that flexed their egos, verbally intimidated and thought they were the apex of the universe. Funny, I thought these people were working for us -- not the other way around. With Sen. Kennedy's staff, I felt like they respected the people they represented by being kind yet firm in their inquiries. As an "initial" contact in the process, I felt they made my job easier. Not easier in shirking job responsibility, but just making one's job more pleasant through the fundamental art and science of two-way civil communication.

Please understand, I'm not jumping on the Ted Kennedy bandwagon, stating what a great man he was when the fact is that I never met him -- and that I really didn't care for his politics. While I did see him once at a local chamber of commerce event where he lit up the room with his personality (what a great sense of humor he had!) and seemed genuinely thrilled to be with the common folk, the message here is that the integrity of a political rep's staff speaks volumes about the politician himself. I suppose this goes with the Henry Ford quote: "Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success." Seems to me that kind of teamwork favorably reflected Sen. Kennedy and his staff working together as partners in collective professionalism.

Bangor Book Festival, Oct 2-3

Our friends from the Maine Office of Tourism recently sent us information on the third annual Bangor Book Festival to be held on October 2-3, 2009.

Hosted by the Bangor Public Library, this event will start with an opening reception and keynote address from best-selling novelist Douglas Preston. Author readings, book discussions, and programs on writing and illustration are scheduled for this educational and entertaining event. Local and regional authors will also discuss their work in the categories of Maine history, Native American history, earth science, landscaping, architectural photography, and historical fiction. Additionally, the Book Festival will feature two children's book readings, as well as authors being available to sign books. For more information on the Bangor Book Festival, visit or call 207-947-8336.

By the way, we think you'll love Bangor. It's really an underrated New England city that has a small-town feel with big city amenities like plenty of dining, and attractions like the Maine Discovery Museum (the largest children's museum north of Boston), the Bangor Museum and Center for History, the 31-ft. tall Paul Bunyan statue, and the Maine Forest and Lodging Museum. What's more, Bangor is about an hour from Acadia National Park, one of the true jewels of the northeast United States with its breathtaking scenes of mountains meeting the ocean!

Something Fishy in Vermont

Article by Eric H.

Every once in awhile we stray from our predominant New England travel and vacation theme to feature local businesses and locally-produced products that we truly believe in. Today, we feature a fish oil supplement made in Vermont. Yes, fish oil made in Vermont is far removed in topic, than, say, spending a romantic weekend getaway in Stowe, Vt., so bear with us while we take a vacation from New England travel news.

New Chapter, a Brattleboro, Vt., supplement company, recently came up with one of the most brilliant health food products, in our opinion, with Wholemega.

This fish oil supplement features nature's complement of the 16 omegas (3, 5, 6, 7, and 9s) naturally occurring in wild caught salmon. That's good news if you subscribe to many health advocates' belief that state fish oil has the potential to benefit cardiovascular, immune system, brain and digestive health.*

Wholemega differs from most fish oils that usually focus on just two omega components, DHA and EPA. This "whole food" concept of featuring all the omegas -- plus naturally occurring vitamin D and Astaxanthin (a powerful antioxidant) -- virtually mimics the composition of the omegas found in salmon. What's more, the salmon used in Wholemega is caught from the "pristine, protected waters of Alaska," so product purity is paramount -- significant, given fish can carry toxins, PCBs, heavy metals, etc.

You can see the product integrity just in its color, alone. The Astaxanthin gives Wholemega its deep orange/red color, quite different from the dull, yellow hue of purified fish oils that can result from too much chemical processing. New Chapter reports that Wholemega is "rigorously tested to ensure each capsule delivers Natures bio available, effective, and whole profile of beneficial fatty acids and nutrients."

I've taken fish oils for a long time, and never felt any external difference. Perhaps they were working on the inside, but I can tell you that Wholemega is working on the outside as well for me. I notice a more calm feeling, which is a great remedy during this recession. Also, Wholemega does not "come up" on me with those terrible fish burps. I guess that's what happens when you consume a product that is more in touch with nature than supplemental lab processes. Sometimes, you have to wonder if some of the supplements out there have more drug-like qualities, given the nutrients, or other valuable components, are isolated and created in high doses. I believe that New Chapter Founder and Chairman Paul Shulick understands the potential downfalls of nutritional supplements, and that he went on a mission many years ago to try to capture the genius of nature through whole food supplements. That doesn't mean we should view supplements as the end-all to good health, but rather to use them wisely (always consult with your primary care physician first before taking a supplement) -- to "add to" a healthy whole foods-based, organic diet.

Nowhere in nature does isolated DHA and EPA exist in a fish. The idea of featuring all 16 omegas may seem novel, but it is ultimately fundamentally simple: respect the innate wisdom of nature and try to come as close to it in possible in a supplement. Why didn't anyone else think of this idea before when making fish oil? I love this product and commend Mr. Shulick and his staff for offering this upgrade on fish oil supplements!

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A New England Scenic Tour

Article and photos by Eric H., lifelong resident

New England resonates with such scenic richness and diversity that you could spend a whole lifetime here and not get to see every unique nook and cranny of the six-state region. We are continuously amazed at New England's visual delights featuring quaint small towns, ocean beaches, mountains, historic cities full of character (and sometimes characters) and of, course, the experience of four distinct seasons.

With excitement, we are pleased to present to you a sampler of scenic New England. Above is a slideshow we just put together that should please fellow New Englanders and those wanting to travel to New England. Happy travels!

Searching for Back to School Savings in Southern New England

Article and photo (of Benny's) by Eric H.

Hard to believe that the school season is upon us, but that's strictly "academic" now.

With the abundant early season rain and oppressive late summer humidity making it hard to ever get any vacation momentum going for many of us in New England, the summer did indeed seem to go by too quickly. Now, with local school budgets unable to pay for many of our supplies, it's up to us to feed another retail cash cow in the form of back to school merchandise. In a recession, many people grumble about this extra cost -- as well as wonder, once again, what our tax dollars are going.

After an informal investigation into what local stores offer the best savings for back to school items, we found Benny's, a southern New England chain, to lead the pack. That's not to say that Benny's offers the best savings as we only checked out a handful of stores, but computing a list of several back to school necessities did suggest that Benny's is a strong contender. Plus, we like the small chain, personable feel of Benny's. It almost feels like shopping at a downtown department store from yesteryear!

Here is a list of items that schools typically require a child to have before returning to school, with an amazing total price following:

Two boxes of tissues
Two boxes of sanitizing wipes
A box of crayons (64 count)
A box of pencils (20 count)
A package of highlighters (three count)
A package of 10 markers (10 count)
Pencil sharpener
Cap erasers
Two lunch boxes

Total: $26.52 (not including tax)! That's a savings of about $10.00 from some other stores selling similar merchandise.

We certainly have no vested interest in Benny's -- nor are they advertiser's or personal friends -- so know the following statement to be "pure": time after time, we have found Benny's to offer what we are looking for at the right price. We also appreciate the old-fashioned friendly general store look. We generally like the hired help that prioritizes customer service and displaying the ability to speak and listen well. It's really no surprise that this southern New England chain survives quite well after being in business around 85 years!

You can find out more about Benny's (including store locations) by clicking on the link above.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

This One Takes the Cake

Article and photo by Eric H.

Jimmy's Steer House in Arlington, Mass., is best known for its delicious steaks at moderate prices, but they are also no slouches at offering incredibly tasty desserts. "Jimmy's Avalanche" might just reach the apex of dessert nirvana with its vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce and honey roasted pecans in a cake form that goes well beyond your basic store-bought brand or restaurant afterthought. We're not recommending making the trip from California just to taste this dream dessert, but if you're in the area and like steak, salad and dessert in an old-school setting, by all means try Jimmy's. It's a local New England dining landmark, especially with the senior set and families looking for a good value-- and something sweet at the end of a great meal!

Jimmy's Steer House
1111 Massachusetts Ave.
Arlington, MA 02476
Tel. (781) 646-4450

Maine Open Lighthouse Day, Sept. 12!

Just received word from our friends at the Maine Office of Tourism that the country's largest open house of lighthouses will take place at Maine Open Lighthouse Day, Sept. 12 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. With lighthouses open to the public from Kittery to Lubec, many communities, businesses and lighthouse volunteer groups are planning special events and activities on that day, and local lodging establishments are offering travel packages. Sounds like a "beacon" of great travel opportunity to us!

Additionally, a number of museums and visitor centers at lighthouses will be open on September 12. For more information on Maine Open Lighthouse Day, we recommend logging onto

Cheers to a Vermont Mom and Pop Store

Article and photo by Eric H.

Nice to hear that the Comfort Inn in St. Johnsbury, Vt., has asked the family-owned and operated Kerrigan's Market & Deli in West Burke, Vt., to provide catering services to its business meeting members.

The partnership makes perfect sense. We have stayed at the 107-room Comfort Inn in St. Johnsbury and regard it as the best-run chain we have stayed at, anywhere (on-the-ball management staff, great indoor pool, spotless rooms, beautiful landscaping, and ideal location to the scenic Northeast Kingdom). We have eaten at Kerrigan's Market and Deli, enjoying the made-from-scratch food that features breakfast selections, subs, salads, wraps, and pizza. The pulled pork is to die for, prepared daily for several hours with an incredible homemade marinade sauce. The steak and cheese brings little bit of "Philly" to the Northeast Kingdom in Vermont.

To owners Dave and Judi Kerrigan and their family that works at the store, we say congratulations on the hard work and sticking with the hard-fought journey that brought you to your successful destination today. As Judi aptly says, " Goes to show you that good food has no bounds."

Hard work has no bounds, either, thus proving that Mom and Pop stores can indeed prosper in a rapidly growing superstore world. Kudos to Dave and Judi and family!

Kerrigan's Market
4080 US Route 5
West Burke, VT 05871
(802) 467-8800
Fax: (802) 467-8805

Editor's note: For more information on the story behind Kerrigan's Market and Deli, we encourage you to read a previous post on Kerrigan's at The Weekly New England Travel and Vacation Gazette.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Happy Days at George's Surf N Turf Drive-In in Mendon, Mass.

Article and photo by Eric H.

Put a little Brylcreem in your hair, get in your pink Cadillac, and head down to George's Surf N Turf drive-in in Mendon, Mass.

The first two suggestions, when combined, might land you in some kind of observation facility, but the last suggestion -- George's Surf N Turf Drive-In -- remains wildly popular and surprisingly wholesome and refreshing in an increasingly boxy, assembly-line, vanilla restaurant world.

A classic drive-in with car hops, 50s music blaring out of tinny speakers, picnic tables and groves, burgers, fries, fried chicken, milkshakes and ice cream, George's brings back the "Happy Days" of dining -- a place where "Fonzie" and Richie Cunningham from "Happy Days" would not look out of place. A novelty dining spot like this could have easily turned into a tourist trap by serving up high-priced, anemic portions of average food, but, happily, the focus is on high quality comfort food, most notably the thick, creamy New England clam chowder, tasty toasted lobster roll, and fried clams.

The waitresses don't roller-skate, but walk to and from your car with a friendliness and efficiency that make the overall experience terrific. If you prefer ordering at the walk-up window, the service is just as good. Whatever service mode you choose, George's is sure to please as a nice lunch and dinner spot with a touch of authentic nostalgia -- and the only locally-owned drive-in we know of in the area. We recommend giving George's a try!

George's Surf N Turf
116 Uxbridge Rd
Mendon, MA 01756
Tel. (508) 473-2125

Hi, I'm Slim from Whitman!

Back in the 1970s, the WEEI radio "Sports Huddle" sports talk show (starring Eddie Andelman, Marc Witkin and Jim McCarthy) featured a hilarious topic where callers identified themselves and the alleged local New England town they were calling from to create a famous person's name.

Some examples:

Hi, I'm...
Slim from Whitman (Slim Whitman, hokey pop singer)
Rick from Middleton (Rick Middleton, former Boston Bruins great)
Rick from Springfield (Rick Springfield,rock star and actor, famous for the hit single "Jessie's Girl")
Bobby from Hull (Bobby Hull, former hockey great)
Dave from Maynard (Dave Maynard, former WBZ-AM radio personality)
Ben from Franklin (Ben Franklin, the guy who flew a kite in a lightning storm; OK, he was much more than that)
Karl from Malden (Karl Malden, actor, star of The Streets of San Francisco")

You get the picture. Can you think of any other peoples' names combined with local New England communities that result in a famous person's name? Write us!

Mike from Lowell

The Best Small-Town New Hampshire Communities?

Article and photo (of Littleton, N.H.) by Eric H.

What town in New Hampshire reminds you most of small-town America? We'd be interested in hearing from you about these charming, quaint, quintessential New England towns in the "Granite State."

"Small-town America" refers to a community bringing us back to a simpler, more traditional time. Often, small town America is a place of tree-lined streets with old homes, and a community where people go downtown to shop at the local hardware store, eat at the diner, have a ice cream at the local parlor, get a haircut at the barber shop, or hear a concert at the town common. Most importantly, small-town America is a place where neighbors foster close-knit neighborhoods, speak their minds at a town hall meeting forum, and believe in the glory of community spirit. It is essentially a scene from a Norman Rockwell picture with, perhaps, a comforting, safe and secure Currier and Ives look.

So, what is your favorite small-town America New Hampshire town? Your feedback will surely help those interested in visiting, or moving to this type of New Hampshire community. We look forward to hearing from you!

Weddings and Receptions, Newport-Style!

Article and photo by Eric H.

If you're in a knot trying to figure out where to tie the knot in New England, consider the Belcourt Castle in Newport, R.I., as grand and surprisingly affordable place for a wedding and reception.

This spectacular late 1800s, 60-room 17th century King Louis VIII hunting lodge replica surely impresses with its old-world, French-style charm and Norman, Elizabethan English and country German design. With a simply beautiful chapel with stained glass and high arched ceilings and the elegant by friendly main reception room's Gilded Age "king" and "queen" chairs and spectacular chandeliers, the Belcourt Castle resonates with character, uniqueness and charm.

What a perfect place for a wedding and reception! When attending a recent wedding and reception at the Belcourt, a friend told us that the total cost of the wedding and reception cost less than many other sites in the area -- amazing, given the famous, historic presence of the Belcourt.

Additionally because Newport is such a wonderful coastal destination with its famous mansions, beaches and fabulous variety of shopping and dining options, you might just want to "honeymoon" here , too, at esteemed, elegant hotels like Vanderbilt Hall, or the Chanlers at Cliff Walk.

Click on the link above to read the full article on Belcourt Castle weddings and receptions. Also, the book, Secret Providence & Newport: The Unique Guidebook to Providence & Newport's Hidden Sites, Sounds & Tastes (Secret Guide series),is
a great way to learn about the "historic streets and tucked-away nooks of Newport."

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Remarkable Maine Diner

Article and photo by Eric H.

The Maine Diner in Wells, Maine, goes way beyond just typical diner food, specializing in local New England favorites like seafood chowder, lobster pie, lobster salad, clam cake plate, fresh fried clams, and some of the best homemade Maine wild blueberry pie you'll ever taste. We often prefer the Maine Diner over most of the fancier Maine waterfront restaurants specializing in seafood. You won't get any coastal ambiance at the Maine Diner as it is located on inland commercial Route 1, but the breakfast, lunch and dinner selections are so good, it doesn't matter for many of us.

You can read a review on the Maine Diner by clicking on the link above.

Maine Diner
2265 Post Road, Route One,
Wells, Maine
Tel.: 207-646-4441

The Next Best Thing to Being in New England

Article and photo (Echo Lake, Franconia State Park, N.H.) by Eric H.

If you are considering traveling to New England, a great way to get familiar with the area is by touring our New England Travel Photo Gallery. With large, colorful photos of popular and hidden New England travel destinations, we also give you a written descriptive --straight from the heart -- of that particular location.

New England indeed resonates with such vacation diversity, including the mountains, ocean, charming little towns and villages, and wonderful small, medium and large cities. We hope you enjoy our photo gallery. If you need more information on planning your New England vacation, we encourage you to browse our entire locally-produced and owned Web Site, which includes many New England travel essays, resources and tips, as well as online hotel reservations and a book store full of New England travel books. Happy New England travels!

Marshfield Fair Runs until Aug. 30

Just a reminder that the 142nd annual Marshfield Fair, in Marshfield, Mass., runs until Sunday, Aug. 30. Truly one of New England's most special fairs, this year's event will include plenty of vendor comfort foods and midway rides, plus demolition derby, wrestling
motocross, truck pulling, blues festivals, lawn mower races
and pony, horse and ox pulling.

As they say in the infomercials:" But wait, that's not all!" We suggest you check out the Marshfield Fair Web Site's schedule of events before traveling to this fun, seasonal attraction on the South Shore of Massachusetts. You can also call (781)834-6629 for more information. We hope you enjoy this traditional New England event!

The Best Maine Blueberry Jam

Article by Eric H.

The blueberry picking season might have seen its better days in New England, but, fortunately, Maine blueberry jam doesn't grow on trees, thus making it available year-round. Our favorite New England based blueberry jam is, hands-down, Stonewall Kitchen Wild Maine Blueberry Jam. Bursting with flavor, this jam has the right combination of wild Maine blueberries, pure cane sugar, fruit pectin and lemon juice. If you are not able to visit the Stonewall Kitchen flagship store in York Beach, Maine (2 Stonewall Ln., Tel. (207) 351-2713), then you can buy it by clicking on the link above.

It's easy to see why this is Stonewall Kitchen's most popular item. Simply amazing, especially with peanut butter!

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Library Where Eating is Allowed

Article and photos by Eric H.

If your town or city has too many empty storefronts or municipal buildings, we suggest frequently reminding your local appointed and elected officials that there is a way to make good use of these structures. Of course, it all starts with your community encouraging local businesses to come into town -- so if that isn't the case, remind your local reps of that, too!

One of the best examples in New England of re energizing an empty town building is the Somethin's Brewin' Cafe, a library-turned-cafe in Lakeville, Mass. Holding onto the overwhelming charm of this 1913 Andrew Carnegie-funded former library, Somethin's Brewin' has created an unofficial, relaxed town meeting place where locals can have a cup of coffee or two over a delicious breakfast or lunch. The food is delicious, the atmosphere one-of-a-kind!

To read the full review on Somethin's Brewin', click on the link above.

Visiting The Children's Museum in Easton, Mass.

Article and photo by Guy Bocabella

As we face another hot, muggy day in the Boston, Mass., area, this might be a great time to get into some nice, cool air conditioning -- why not make such a destination involve culture? We recently took our nephew and niece to the Children's Museum in Easton, Mass., and found it to be a perfect "staycation" idea!

The Children's Museum in Easton, Mass., is one of New England's true "travel attractions" gems. This modest-sized kids museum with a big heart has become increasingly popular through the years, and no doubt, the recipient of many locals who want and need to save money by prioritizing the day trip mode over extended vacations. Through any economy, however, The Children's Museum in Easton deserves a visit given the wide-ranging educational and entertaining activities for children (primarily for children ages one through eight). Housed in a former fire station, this charming museum is packed to the gills with activities that tap into the most important element for a child -- piquing one's interest through quality exhibitions, interactive features and programs. Some of the simple but most enjoyable activities include climbing the fire pole, the arts and crafts activities, doctor's office, woodworking shop, "World Place" outdoor exploration center, the "Fetch!" Lab with Ruff Ruffman (science and math activities), and the "Broadway" performance center.

You could spend a whole morning or afternoon here, with not one dull moment. Highly recommended!

Camden 4th Annual Maine Fare, Sept. 11-13

For those looking to go beyond New Hampshire and Vermont travel for the fall season, Maine offers a wonderful variety of autumn events. Often offering more than just apple and pumpkin picking, you are sure to find some unique travel ideas in this state tailor-made for four-season vacationing.

We just received from our friends at the Maine Office of Tourism, a list of fall events. Here is one of them, with more to be featured at our blog:

Camden, Maine, will be hosting the 4th Annual Maine Fare culinary celebration from Sept. 11-13 (yes, it's technically still summer, but considered a fall event). This special event starts with the Grand Tasting on Camden Harbor with Maine chefs, winemakers, distillers and brewers, and continues with cooking classes, demonstrations, guided tastings, and a marketplace of artisan and organic foods, and hand-crafted beverages.

Stay tuned for more fall listings from Maine, as well as the other five New England states!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Review of Woods Seafood in Plymouth, MA

The latest dining review on's travel and vacation Web Site features Woods Seafood, a restaurant and fish market located at Plymouth Harbor in Plymouth, MA. With scenic views of the harbor, the informal and inexpensive Woods Seafood features a wide variety of fried, broiled and baked seafood dishes. Clambakes and lobster dinners are a specialty. On a hot summer day like today, Woods serves as a great terrific destination, as the attractive Plymouth waterfront area is perfect for strolling, shopping and taking in the coastal sights and sounds. Located in this district are historical attractions like Plymouth Rock, the Pilgrim Hall Museum and the Mayflower II.

To read more about Woods Seafood, please click on the link above.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Life Before KISS 108

Article by Eric H.

Every once in a while, we take a vacation break from our travel articles and reminisce about New England back in the day. Consider the following one of those articles...

Anyone remember WWEL FM 107.9 ("Well') in Medford, Mass.? The beautiful music station had a solid run from 1972 to 1979, playing soft selections from such artists like Ferrante & Teicher, Mantovani, Johnny Mathis, and Peggy Lee. Along with WCOZ (now WJMN), WBOS, WSSH (now WCRB-FM) and WJIB (now Talk 96.9), WWEL played an integral part in the elevator music, "muzak" format in Boston during the 1960s and 1970s.

Kiss 108 took over the 107.9 airwaves from WWEL in 1979; the rest in history. Starting as the "disco" station, Kiss 108 evolved into a model for the contemporary hits format. Legendary disc jockeys like Dale Dorman, Sunny Joe White, Vinnie Peruzzi, J.J. Wright, and Matt (Matty in the Morning) Siegel contributed mightily through the years to the station's esteemed format (Siegel has been on Kiss 108 since 1981).

Although Kiss 108 is a virtual household name in the Boston area, stations like WWEL created lasting memories for those who liked this type of music. It wasn't my cup of tea then but thinking back, songs like "Impossible" by Perry Como and "Close to You" by The Carpenters bring back some very warm memories.

Lastly, I encourage you to look over the WWEL "radio dial" card in this posting. It's amazing how many call letters and formats have changed!

Magnetized to Salt Water Taffy Making in York Beach, Maine

Article and photo by Eric H.

The New England sea has an innate ability to magnetize us to its waves, the changing color of the waters, the salt sea air and the cushy natural flooring of the sand. It's just a natural mechanism for many New Englanders to head to the ocean for this special rejuvenation of the soul and senses.

In York Beach, Maine, across from Short Sands Beach, a whole group of people have found another magnetizing source of enjoyment by watching through the windows the making of salt water taffy at The Goldenrod. This landmark seasonal restaurant (established in 1896) features a dazzling array of machines that, when combined with the human touch of salt water taffy making, create a classic visual summertime scene. Adults and children alike gaze curiously through the windows, apparently enjoying the process just as much as ultimately purchasing the salt water taffy -- affectionately and traditionally known as Goldenrod Kisses. For many of us, viewing this tasty production is an annual travel "must" as part of York Beach's magnetizing presence. And yes, the salt water taffy is phenomenal --eight million pieces are made each year with seemingly half of that amount consumed by us!

We recommend going inside The Goldenrod, experiencing the sweet aroma of boiling sugar and molasses filling the air, and then buying some of these magically delicious Goldenrod Kisses. While at the Goldenrod, we also encourage you to sit down for a good breakfast, lunch or dinner -- or ice cream at the old-fashioned soda fountain. Summer is always good at York Beach and The Goldenrod!

The Goldenrod
2 Railroad Ave.
York Beach, Maine
Tel. 207-363-2621

Recommended New England Beaches for a Hot Summer Day

Article and photo (of Short Sands Beach, York Beach, Maine) by Eric H.

For most of the New England summer, life was no day at the beach given the cooler temperatures and rain. How times have changed as we are now experiencing, in some areas, some record-setting heat. While today will not be quite as hot as yesterday (at least in the Boston, Mass., area), you can expect another scorching day -- in other words, a day perfect for the beach.

From the rocky Maine coast to the gentle, expansive sand beaches of Cape Cod and South County Rhode Island, New England offers a tremendous variety of wonderful ocean beaches. We have listed some of our favorite New England beaches. Be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen, water and a sun hat, and enjoy this hot August summer day!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Nice Gift Shop, Pilgrim!

Article and photos by Eric H.

I've always found it quite remarkable that John Alden could be so many things at once -- a carpenter, cooper, the first Mayflower passenger to set foot on Plymouth Rock, one of the founders of Plymouth Colony, a signer of the Mayflower Compact, and one with the vision to open a gift shop selling bright orange rubber lobsters and Plymouth Rock stuffed toy bears strategically located across from Plymouth Rock.

All kidding aside on the last one, the John Alden Gift Shop in Plymouth, Mass., has actually been around 90 years, surviving quite wonderfully in its old-fashioned, worn tile and drop ceiling ways. With the familiar pleasantly stale chemical smell of treated clothing merchandise upon entering and a wonderland of childhood-familiar and beloved gifts from the past, the John Alden Gift Shop is probably no different from the time you set foot into this traditional gift shop from your Ford LTD station wagon with the phony wood paneling.

The bright orange rubber lobsters and stuffed toy bears remain along with Plymouth "America's Hometown" t-shirts, coffee and tea mugs, pencils and stuffed animals. You'll also find those orange and black bumper stickers with the primitive Pilgrim and Minuteman illustrations, vibrantly-colored educational cards detailing the Pilgrim's first landing (as well as the Boston Tea Party and Constitution), and even the last bastions of soon-to-be-extinct Kodak 35mm film still for sale behind the counter. Of course, there's also a culinary favorite of the Pilgrim's -- the old-fashioned over sized root beer lollipops. I also love the John Alden tea mug that states "Descendant of John Alden." I'm not sure what this means, but it's a real confidence booster. The illustration of John Alden on the mug is priceless, too. He reminds me of a demented version of the Lucky Charms cereal box cartoon character!

The John Alden Gift Shop ultimately resonates with a warm, nostalgic personality, and all the simple pleasures of old-fashioned gifts and souvenirs. It's, by far, our favorite gift shop in a colony of similar stores along Plymouth Harbor.

John Alden Gift Shop, Inc.
74 Water St
Plymouth, MA
(508) 746-1887

Monday, August 17, 2009

One Brontosaurus Burger, Please!

Article and photo by Eric H.

There's nothing quite like a good sub shop with a dinosaur theme.

First Sandwich Shop Owner Tom Dugdale, a local expert on dinosaurs who once appeared on the David Letterman Show, serves up interesting decorations of dinosaurs, cavemen and other prehistoric elements to go along some mighty fine pizza, pasta and subs at this downtown Walpole, Mass., location. The displays are simple, not overwhelming as you won't find, say, talking troglodytes or some guy dressed up as Fred Flintstone serving your pizzas. The food prices are also simple with some amazing prices -- $5.99 for a large cheese pizza, at this writing. Our favorite dish is the hearty chili, bursting with a tangy, meaty flavor. First Sandwich Shop also offers "meal deals" at $4.99 -- sandwiches or small pizzas that include potato chips or cookies, and a drink. It's a terrific value.

The First Sandwich Shop certainly isn't a major tourist attraction, but rather a friendly, little hometown sub shop with an interest in dinosaurs. Now how many sub shops can offer that?

First Sandwich Shop
975 Main St.
Walpole, MA 02081-2965
(508) 668-7335

Thanks a "Lot," Natick Collection!

Article and photo by Eric H.

The Natick Collection, in Natick, Mass., stands as one of New England's premier shopping malls with something for every taste -- 200 diverse stores ranging from the upscale Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom's to the more populist presences of JCPenney, Claire's Boutique and McDonald's. With a refreshed, updated mall atmosphere with skylights, landscaping and plush soft seating area, the Natick Collection runs on almost all shopping cylinders.

Except for the parking.

Recently, trying to find a parking space near the Cheesecake Factory was nearly impossible -- and made even worse by a "green incentive," to reserve certain parking spots for fuel efficient vehicles. After driving several rows of the parking lot without finding a space, we thought we had finally found a spot until reading the sign: "GREEN DOT SPACES RESERVED FOR FUEL EFFICIENT LOW EMISSION VEHICLES." With our Mazda mini-van we didn't qualify to become one of the chosen few.

We're all for conserving energy, but can't we contribute on our own terms without being told what to do? Here, at the Natick Collection, we ultimately wasted gas trying to find a parking space in a poorly laid-out parking lot with, apparently, a social agenda.

Personally, we think it's a foolish idea to reserve spots for certain vehicles. This incentive seems elitist and frustrates shoppers like us not to return to the mall. We feel that we were penalized for having the "wrong vehicle" in an already cramped parking section at the mall parking lot -- not a very nice thing to do to customers supporting the mall through purchases at the stores.

Do you think this sign is a good "green" idea, or another expression of modern-day insanity?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Maine Ocean Beaches Approach Their Warmest Temperatures

Article and photo (of Sand Beach, Acadia National Park, Maine) by Eric H.

This is nothing scientific, but it seems to us that Maine ocean beaches always approach their warmest temperatures from mid-August to early September. The water is still chilly -- compared to Cape Cod or Rhode Island -- but some prefer it that way. Plus, you often get a unique rocky coast appeal in Maine that you won't find, with as great consistency, in other parts of New England. We personally prefer the Maine beaches (especially in the fun-filled southern Maine towns) for the rocky coast scenery and often, fewer crowds than, say, Cape Cod. Contrary to the belief that Maine beaches are too rocky, many coastal destinations feature great stretches of sandy beach -- case in point, Long Sands Beach in York Beach, Old Orchard Beach in Old Orchard Beach, Ogunquit Beach in Ogunquit and Goose Rocks Beach in Kennebunkport. Add a Downeast Maine dinner with Maine lobster and New England clam chowder at a local restaurant, and you have a truly special day.

This week is truly a great time to cool off from the high temperatures by embarking to a Maine beach. You can find some of our favorite Maine beaches here.

Enjoying New England Ice Cream Stands

Article and photo by Eric H.
New England ice cream stands serve as sort of a rite of passage for the summertime here in the six states. Hard to believe that in a few months, many of these seasonal places will be closed! With one of the last extended heat waves for the season upon us, what better time to enjoy a nice, cold ice cream at one of New England's relaxing ice cream stands? Our New England ice cream stands article features such gems as Peaceful Meadows in Whitman, Mass., Bubbling Brook in Westwood, Mass., Brown's in York Beach, Maine and the Ice Cream Machine in Cumberland, R.I. Whether something out of the ordinary like key lime pie or cinnamon ice cream, or just plain vanilla or chocolate, this is a great time to cool down with a traditional treat within the many pleasant ice cream stand settings in New England. For more information on New England ice cream stands, click on the link above in this article, or browse our reader's favorite places to eat ice cream.

Overrated New England Attractions: Plymouth Rock

Article and photo by Eric H.

Plymouth Rock, located in Plymouth, Mass., certainly doesn't "rock."

By far one of New England's most overrated attractions, Plymouth Rock proves that history doesn't always equate to education or entertainment value. With the year "1620" stamped on its side, you otherwise couldn't tell the difference between this rock and the one in your backyard that serves as an impediment to your otherwise fine landscaping.

Perhaps the nicest thing about Plymouth Rock is that it resides in a Greek temple-like structure -- nice to look at but also not worth getting your hopes up if traveling, say, 3,000 miles from California. It's sort of like the disappointment of the Griswold's in the 1983 movie "Vacation" when they traveled all that distance to find out that "Wally World" entertainment park was closed.

Although an important symbol in American history as the alleged landing site of the Pilgrims, you'd be much better off touring the wonderful Plimoth Plantation or the Mayflower II replica (located across from Plymouth Rock at the scenic 11-acre Pilgrim Memorial State Park at Plymouth Harbor) for a comprehensive, as-close-to-authentic experience on this remarkable period of history. Plymouth is, ultimately, an incredibly worthy New England travel destination with its coastal charm, wonderful downtown with a great variety shops and restaurants (many specializing in seafood) and all its history in the form of museums and other attractions -- but please don't get your hopes up about traveling to see a rock! Leaving no stone unturned is not always the way to travel, as evidenced here -- clearly, Plymouth has far better attractions.

By the way, the Pilgrims first stepped onto New World land in Provincetown, Mass., located at the tip of what is now known as Cape Cod!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Trip Planning for the 2009 New England Fall Foliage Season

Article and photo (Flume area at Franconia State Park, N.H.) by Eric H.

The 2009 fall foliage season will be here before you know it. Strange as it may seem to discuss this topic in the midst of an August heat wave, the reality is that this is the best time to start trip planning for this what many consider the best time of the New England season.

The foliage colors can be brilliant, there's a special chill in the air, and lots of small town attractions and "town common" events to get you in the spirit. Hotel rooms go quickly, so it's also paramount to have peace of mind early to know where you'll be staying -- or if a leisurely day trip is more appropriate, given the tough economy. For any travel preference, we have updated our New England Fall Foliage Travel Guide with additional vacation and travel ideas on the best New England scenic autumn vacation destinations and hotel getaways, colorful leaf peeping spots, driving tours, hikes, day trips, apple picking and apple cider recommendations. Like the rest of our site, the content is driven by the places we "locals" like to visit in our six-state region. Ultimately, these perspectives bring out the purity of New England, including the "hidden gems" that you might not know about.

As always we are looking to add to our guide and welcome your New England fall foliage feedback, ideas, and tips. Enjoy our New England Fall Foliage Travel Guide!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Morin's Diner in Attleboro, Mass., Interviewed by Guy Fieri, of the Food Network

Article by Eric H.

We are so glad to see Morin's Hometown Diner in Attleboro, Mass., getting the recognition it deserves. Guy Fieri, of the Food Network's fascinating and well-produced "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" show, visited the 98-year-old restaurant last week. The segment should appear on the Food Network sometime this month.

On a personal note and perspective, Morin's is a terrific restaurant that we have been going to for years! This historic breakfast, lunch and dinner downtown dining spot has an unusual but most welcoming look with a diner, tavern, bar, and cozy dining room, all under one roof. We recommend the delicious "comfort classics" like the homemade meatloaf, chicken pot pie, steak tips, baked mac and cheese and Yankee pot roast. If you're feeling a bit more upscale, you can't go wrong with the braised lamb shank or lemon pepper salmon served with beer steamed mussels over saffron, zucchini and red pepper risotto. For appetizers the artichoke and spinach dip is absolutely phenomenal. We have also found breakfasts and lunch to be very good, too, especially the omelets and burgers. Oh, and the chocolate cake is moist, dense, bursting with chocolate flavor and served in a large portion!

Congratulations, Morin's, on being interviewed by Guy Fieri, and thank-you for continuing to put the customer first at your interesting-looking, pleasant restaurant with so many great food selections. We also love the authentic "hometown" feel of your restaurant where everyone seems to know each other. We are not surprised that the Food Network found you!

Morin's Diner
16 South Main St.
Attleboro, MA
(508) 222-9875

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Blueberry Picking Season is Here in the Boston Area, New England!

Article and photo by Eric H.

(Norfolk, MA) - Local blueberry picking seemingly became fruitful overnight with an abundance of the nutrient-dense, disease-fighting little fruit ready to pick at farms in the Boston, Mass., area.

Jane and Paul's Farm, on aptly-named Fruit St. in Norfolk, Mass., was, yesterday, our blueberry picking destination of choice. Filling three lbs. of blueberries into a blue bucket came with great ease at this southwest suburban Boston location, given the myriad rows of fully-ripe blueberries. Other farms in the area -- including The Big Apple in neighboring Wrentham -- report good blueberry picking, also. The same holds true for much of New England, although if in Maine, call your local farm to find out if they have been affected by a local fungus that has impeded the blueberries' growth at a handful of farms.

All in all, however, now, and in the next few weeks, is the time to pick blueberries in New England. Not only is bluberry picking a fun activity, but the fruit also is incredibly healthy -- extremely high in antioxidants and reported by some health experts to support the heart, healthy vision, memory, and possibly fight some forms of cancer, according to the University of Georgia's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in Athens, Ga.

Happy blueberry picking!



Popular Posts