17 May 2007

American Diary - Part 1

MAINE and MASSACHUSETTS On May 12th I arrived safely in the USA on a very comfortable Continental airlines flight into New York then connected to Portland in Maine to be met by Hannah and Arne Klepinger from Yarmouth who kindly offered to be my hosts during this first week of my US tour. If you remember, I met Hannah in 1999 on holiday in Porlock, Somerset. Straight from the airport we dined at Cape Elizabeth at the Lobster Shack, right on the coast with Cornwall some 3000 miles East. My lobster roll was to die for! Slightly jet lagged it was an early night for me once we arrived at the Klepinger home - a pretty pale yellow New England style wooden home set in a wooded street. Sunday was Mother's Day in the US, and the kids (Matthew 11 and Larua 14) both gave their Mom a card and attempted some chores in the garden! Hannah and I set off in the convertible Chevrolet to head up the coast for a 2 day road trip Thelma and Louise style around Mount Desert Island. The journey was very pretty passing amazing scenery and traditional houses just made for the landscape. Lunch was at Belfast, my first taste of 'Steamers' boiled clams and hot butter followed by fried clams - I was clammed up afer that! Arriving on MDI (the island) we found a room overloking the bay at the Wonder Vew Inn - it reminded me of the summer camp in Dirty Dancing! We then spent 2 wonderful days eating great food (traditional Maine fare, lumberjack breakfasts and carbohydrate packed lunches) and exploring the awesome scenery of the Acadia National Park on foot and in the car with the roof down of course! We did do approximately 7 miles of walking too.... including around Jordan Pond (sadly the restaurant was closed so no chanc to eat 'popovers' a kind of filled yorkshire pudding) and along a hiking trail where the carriages go. The park resembles our Lake District, but has more trees and a sense of wildness that we don't have in the UK. We saw unusual birds, deer and evidence of Beavers - I even saw a hummingbird in Hannah's garden before we left. It's a park for the outdoors and activity. It was too early in the season to take advantage of the many things to do, like carriage driving, cycling, climbing, whale watching etc. So instead we made sure that our stomachs experienced the best food, and made the most of the convertible by cruising the quiet roads all around the island. My favourite spot being Otter Cliffs, looking out across the ocean watching the sea birds and lobster boats. I will be going back there again one day. When I do, I'll revisit 'Jeannie's breakfast bar' for a Great Maine Breakfast! On the way home, we called in at Camden to see the clippers in the harbour and had a dose of culture in a museum at Rockland exhibiting Maine artists (good) and some Andy Warhol (crap in my opinion) and had one last meal at (famous in Maine) Moody's diner! Back at the house in Yarmouth Mathew was involved in a school concert, so I went along and it was great! the 4th & 5th grade performed as a band and also sang, and it wasn't at all bad! It was fun to see high school life for real. With Hannah and Arne back at work and the kids at school, I decided to head south to Boston for 2 days of sightseeing. I was there in 2004 with BMC sofware but didn't get chance to explore. On the internet in Hannah's kitchen I booked a Ducktour ride and called to reserve a room a the swanky Park Plaza hotel on arlington street (whci is where I am typing this from!)I took the bus from Portland (watching Ferris Bueller's Day Off on the way - one of my fave films) and jumped on the subway or 'T' to get to my hotel. Once my bags were dumped, I walked into the Boston (Bawston) sunshine, strolled through the public garden and Boston Common to join up with a guided history tour along part of the Freedom Trail. As you will all know, Boston is the home of the 'tea party' which sparked the war of independence and led to the creation of the USA as an independent state. Being British here is a little awkward, but you are treated with good humour (just don't mention taxes). The tour was great and ended at Fanueil Hall, which gave me chance to visit the home of the Massachussets arm of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company - the oldest army regiment in the world. The HAC had it's hadquarters in London at Armoury House where I have been several times as a guest and enjoyed their hospitality. Boston is closely linked in it's history to the British and unlike the rest of the USA has buildings and locations which date back to the 17th century. For this reason it attracts people from all over America. I took the rest of the Freedom Trail my myself, ending up at the site of the Bunker Hill battle between the British and the Bostonians. The tower which marks the spot has 294 steps and I managed them all! The views were worth it happily. It was at this point that the weather changed dramatically and I sheltered in a doorway on a street of very attractive houses down from Bunker Hill. I managed to get a taxi to stop for me and made it in time to join the Duck Tour at 5pm. These amphibous vehicles take you on a tour of the city then drive into the Charles River for a dfferent view. Despite the very torrential rain and lightening, it was fun (if a little cold) and the driver was full of tales and stories to keep us entertained. So, wet and tired I returned to my 'swanky' hotel. I have one more day in Boston to visit some museums and maybe the aquarium, then back to Maine to say goodbye to the Klepingers and on to New York! (PS: apologies for any bad spelling, this hotel keyboard is bad!)