Archive for January, 2011


Hershey World and Gettysburg

We were up and out pretty early on Wednesday morning in an attempt to fit in both Hershey World and Gettysburg. After driving through the lovely snow and rain we eventually arrived at Hershey, PA, just before lunch. After a few photos of the outside we headed and were welcomed by the very friendly staff. Apparently the best place to start is with the Hershey’s ride, so we ventured up the slope towards the entrance, pausing to read all about Milton Hershey and his life along the way. The ride was interesting, we sat in a little car and were taken through the chocolate making process from tree and cow all the way through to milk chocolate. On exiting the ride we were given a small sample of milk chocolate. Now it was time to decide what else we wanted to do… “Create Your Own Candy Bar” seemed too good an experience to pass up, as did the “Hershey’s Chocolate Tasting Adventure” so we dutifully bought our tickets for both of those. That done there was just enough time to visit the food court for lunch before going in to make our candy bars. We were the only ones booked in, so we had the undivided attention of Tamika, the lady running the session. Once we had put our bags and coats in lockers we had to put on highly attractive aprons, hairnets and gloves. (There is a photo, but I’m not sure if Liz would ever forgive me!) The first step was to design the chocolate bar, a choice of dark, milk or white chocolate base, followed by a choice of 2/3 out of 6 possible fillings and followed by optional sprinkles. (If you are interested I went for milk chocolate, with vanilla chips and cookie pieces and sprinkles.) We then moved into the production area to watch our bars assembled.

Vanilla chips and cookie pieces

 

Being "enrobed" with chocolate

Sprinkles!

Once the bars were made it was time for us to design the packaging while they spent 10 minutes in the cooling tunnel. Packaging designed we watched as our bars emerged and were packaged.

My chocolate bar

 

The finished product.

Unfortunately, the packaging for Lizzie’s bar got caught in the machine and hers had to be re-run through the system for us to collect later on. 😦 Our next stop was the chocolate tasting, which was amazing. It took the form of a lecture, and once again we were the only ones there. We got 5 chocolate samples and some chocolate milk with cinnamon which was delicious. After a brief introduction we finally got to taste some chocolate and we discussed the different flavours and characteristics of each sample. It was good fun and we now both have Masters Degrees in Chocolate Tasting! Certificates in hand there was just enough time for some shopping before getting back on the road towards Gettysburg. Before we left Hershey however another stop had to be made, to photograph the streetlights shaped like Hershey’s Kisses! Unfortunately by the time we reached Gettysburg it was snowing quite heavily and getting dark, so we decided to leave our explorations until the next day.

Even though the snowstorm had continued well into the night, the roads were passable enough and we found the museum. Tickets in hand our first stop was the film and the cyclorama, both of which helped explain the significance of Gettysburg to those of us who are reasonably ignorant on the finer points of American history. After that we wandered through the exhibits. Although I started off looking at absolutely everything, there was so much there that it would have taken days, so I spent less time on things as the exhibit went on. Having been to quite a number of historical sites so far I am starting to feel like I have a vague grasp of America history. We eventually left at around 2pm and after a quick lunch in the car it was time to head to Washington DC.

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Philadelphia

Although we had initially planned 2 days in Philadelphia, we only spent one day in the city itself. We arrived in the city at around 11am, and after paying $5 for our all day parking headed towards the centre of town. We managed to time our arrival very well, and minutes after arriving we joined a tour around Independence Hall (where the Declaration of Independence was signed). The tour lasted about half an hour and covered three of the main rooms in the hall. The guide talked us through the history of the building as well as important events that had taken place there. To be honest, since my knowledge of the finer points of American history is hazy at best there were things that went over my head, but overall it was a good tour. After finishing in Independence Hall (outside photo opportunities were sadly lacking due to all the scaffolding) we headed over to see the famous Liberty Bell across the road. After going through a second set of security we wandered through the exhibition to the Bell. Although there were lots of people standing in the way we eventually managed to get pictures of the bell on its own and us with the bell.

The Liberty Bell

Our next stop was Franklin’s grave… which led to another seasonal fail, the cemetery is closed in January and February, but you can see the grave through the fence. Needless to say, that was a little disappointing, but we had a look anyway. With all our sightseeing done, there was one thing left on our agenda for Philadelphia… cheesesteak! Lizzie had done some research the night before on places to get good vegetarian cheesesteak, and as luck would have it, one was very close to where we had parked the car. Unfortunately, they only offered the vegetarian version, so rather than watch Liz eat then find somewhere else where she could watch me eat, I opted for the vegetarian version as well. It was very good, very calorific, but very good. I failed on the photography front but I think Liz got a few pictures. With everything ticked off our Philadelphia to do list we headed back to the hotel, in order to take advantage of the free pizza, soda and cookies on offer at the weekly “guest appreciation social”… only in America!

Atlantic City

Having spent altogether too long in New England it was time to head south. The first half of our trip took us past New York to Elizabeth, New Jersey (had to be done). Unimpressed with the centre of town we did discover the IKEA, and after waiting in a very long queue for lunch we wandered through the store. Although we had been planning to buy blankets and stuff, all we came away with was a large zippable storage bag for our non perishable food, exciting stuff! After our break Lizzie took over the driving duties for the rest of the trip to Atlantic City and we arrived just as the sun was setting. We had managed to get a really good deal in staying in the Trump Marina hotel and casino, our cheapest room so far! It was also by far the nicest room so far as well, it even had its own lobby as you walked in! After a bit of chill out time we wrapped up warm and headed out to explore the boardwalk. We caught the “Jitney” (like a minibus) into town and found the boardwalk pretty quickly. We also found Bally’s casino with its Wild West theme and 24 hour happy hour! After a warming round of shots, we walked down the boardwalk for a while, but were both a little disappointed – clearly another seasonal thing! We returned to Bally’s for a couple of drinks and a go on the 1c slots. Liz did really well at this point, coming away with $8 from an original $1 input, I on the other hand lost $3. We headed back to the hotel to dress up for the evening, since we had decided that we wanted to do this properly. Once we were ready we headed down to the hotel bar, after a $15 round of drinks and being chatted up by old men we decided that Bally’s was much more fun, so headed back there for the remainder of the evening. Several drinks later, we progressed from 1c slots to $1 blackjack, and after watching a few rounds I felt I had learned enough to join in and it was a lot of fun. Following the discovery that while you are playing drinks are free (you just have to tip the waitresses), my blackjack skills went somewhat downhill. We did however provide great amusement for everyone else at the table, from the dealer to the other players, one of whom, a large black man was quite amused to be told by Lizzie that Baileys really was quite a girly drink. We also made friends with Budweiser Boy, a policeman who was also a volunteer fireman and EMT and his sidekick, Charlie/Steve (neither of us can remember). After the casino closed we had a few drinks with them before heading back to the hotel, it also seemed a great idea to kiss Budweiser boy as we left. Returning to the hotel we both crawled into bed and set the alarm so that we wouldn’t miss check out the next morning. We stumbled down to breakfast the next morning, which was amazing, I only wish I hadn’t been so hungover! After checking out we drove into the center to check out the outlet shops. Hungover shopping isn’t the best, but Lizzie managed to get some good bargains. After a trip to Starbucks to use their Wifi we found a place to stay in Philadelphia and, as the sun set we left Atlantic City and headed towards Horsham, PA.

 

Oh the Places You’ll Go!

After an uneventful drive back from Vermont and a brief stop back in Boston to pick up my lost mobile phone, I took over driving duties from Lizzie and we headed towards our next stop, Springfield MA. After an unremarkable night in a Red Roof Inn,  the next morning we headed out to Springfield bright and early to visit the Dr Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden… yes I know I am very sad. We were a little disappointed to find the Lorax almost completely buried in snow, but the area around the main cluster of statues was clear. We spent a rather cold half hour taking photos and posing by the various statues before returning to the car.

Do you like green eggs and ham?

Our next destination was Hartford, now, to be completely honest our entire knowledge of Hartford comes from the Gilmore Girls… Even though we had discovered a few days earlier that it is entirely filmed in California we still thought Hartford was worth a visit. Apart from Mark Twain’s house (who knew he lived next door to Harriet Beecher Stowe?) it was somewhat unremarkable, and really quiet. I should perhaps rewind a bit… we arrived and parked in an apparently free car park (according to the sat nav at least) before heading towards the town centre. Everything seemed closed, even the tourist information and welcome centre. At this point we were befriended (/accosted) by a local with very bad teeth who took us to JoJo’s coffee for the best coffee in Hartford, and after talking for about 10 minutes about the Royal Family wandered off and left us there. His advice did turn out to be useful and we caught the bus down to Mark Twain’s house. Admission was a little pricey, but I enjoyed the whole experience and the guided tour was very good (albeit not as personal as our one to one tour of Louisa May Alcott’s house). Once we had done the tour, wandered round the exhibits in the visitor centre we decided to walk back into the centre, via the park and the State House. Several photo opportunities later we returned to the car park to discover that not only was it not free… it was $10! After a bit of trouble pinpointing the exact location of our hotel we eventually got hold of them for directions. Our home for the night was the newly opened Days Inn in Southington, which on the outside looked like any other, as did the corridor, but the room itself would not have been out of place in a much classier establishment. Our mission for the evening was to find a laundromat, we really know how to have fun on a Saturday night! The local one was closed, but the very helpful receptionist at the hotel found us one a few miles away. Laundry done we settled in for a relatively early night.

The Full Vermonty

The drive to Vermont was long and pretty dull until the weather started to clear up, allowing us to see the gorgeous scenery. It was just getting dark when we arrived at the Hilltop Inn, our home for the next two nights. Having carted all of our stuff in, we ventured down to the onsite restaurant “Suzanna’s” for dinner. How to describe it…? Well, with 3 different patterned wallpapers, frilly white curtains and no two plastic tablecloths alike, not to forget the still present Christmas decorations on every windowsill. The menu was somewhat basic, Liz had to choose between the two vegetarian choices on the menu, one of which was spaghetti with garlic butter… That said, included in the price was the salad bar, where we both piled our plates high with vegetables. Deciding to forgo dessert in order to take advantage of the Ben and Jerry’s ice  cream sold in the lobby later on, we had a brief rest to let our food digest before we tried out the pool. Continuing with the theme of the whole hotel, the pool was slightly dodgy, with slightly murky water and surrounded by a plain concrete floor. But we braved it nonetheless, Liz managed to stay in longer that I did, my chlorine allergy kicking in sooner than it usually does sent me back to the room and straight into the shower. We settled down to watch TV with our pint of Ben and Jerry’s AmeriCone Dream and all was well. Except that the heater even when turned off seemed to enjoy turning itself on and blasting freezing air into the room. The first guy that came to look at it shrugged and said that it would be fine if we kept it on all night, helpful since it sounded like it was descended from a jet engine. After over an hour of it turning itself on we called the front desk again and were moved to another room, it was only a few doors down but had a fridge and a more user friendly heater.

We were up bright and early the next morning and after a breakfast of dry cereal and an apple we headed out to the place we have been talking about since we arrived in the States… The Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory!

It was everything we had hoped for and more. On arriving we purchased our $3 each tickets for the tour and browsed the shop while we waited for it to start. We discovered a display with all the different flavours available in North America on display and decided that our mission is to try all the flavours in the remaining five months of the trip. A ringing cowbell signaled the start of the tour and we headed up the twenty five steps to the Cow Over the Moon theatre to watch a “moo-vie” on the history of the company, from two friends opening a shop in an old gas station, through to the world famous brand we all know and love. Then it was onto the mezzanine above the production room (no photography please) to see how the ice cream is made. We watched as hundreds of pints of Peanut Brittle were made, packaged and sent in the direction of the freezer while the whole process was explained. Then it was onto the tasting room for the sample of the day, Mint Chocolate Chunk… yum! The tour ended here and we were given the choice, leave through the door, or through the tunnel… do you need to ask how we left?! Returning to the gift shop we both bought some small souvenirs, then it was onto the Scoop Shop to sample another flavour. After watching it be made Liz had to go for the Peanut Brittle and I tried out Milk and Cookies, also amazing. We are going to catalogue our progress in trying all the flavours, with reviews of each one, which can be found on Lizzie’s blog here. Hyped up on sugar we raced around taking photos and braved the unplowed route up to the Flavour Graveyard, where unsuccessful flavours go to die.

It was well worth it, as each gravestone includes a short epitaph for the dearly de-pinted flavour as well of the dates it was produced.

We were both disappointed to discover, however, that The Full Vermonty, although discontinued, does not have a headstone in the graveyard. Our Ben and Jerry’s outing complete we headed back towards the hotel in search of a Maple Sugareworks in the nearby town. Although Morse Farm, is mostly seasonal, we were able to watch the video, sample the different grades of maple syrup and go to look at the sugarhouse. Although the sugarhouse was being renovated since it is not maple syrup season, we ran into Bert Morse, who showed us all the different parts of the machinery and explained the process, all the while apologising that there wasn’t much to see at this time of year. Deciding that the cross-country skiing also on offer was a bit too strenuous we headed to Montpelier to have a wander. In hindsight, an hour and a half was maybe too much to look around the town, but we did manage to find a supermarket to restock our food supplies. Back at the hotel it was a quiet evening of TV, reading and yet more ice cream. Tomorrow marks one month into the trip, we will be beginning our long journey south to Florida, starting with returning to Boston to collect my mobile… sorry Liz.

After coffee with Amber at the Best Western and parting ways with Hannah, I drove us to our next port of call, the Bedford Motel just outside Concord, MA. Apart from the fact that it was my turn, it was necessary for me to drive because after 3 cups of coffee, Lizzie was talking non stop and shaking slightly. The Bedford Motel was slightly stuck in the 60’s, but with two queen size beds, a fridge and a microwave and a parking space right outside the door it was perfect. Our first port of call was the supermarket to buy supplies, after nearly a month of eating out we are trying to reign in our spending a little. After a visit to Stop’n’Shop and a quick lunch of “turkey-style” meat free burgers we headed to Concord to get our bearings. Concord itself is beautiful, we were very lucky to have gorgeous weather as we wandered around taking lots of touristy photos. We wandered into several of the shops (mainly to warm up as it was FREEZING) and as it got dark decided to head back, via TJ MAXX in search of new gloves for Liz. Dinner was more mircrowave cooking, and we had a quiet evening sorting out our stuff and watching some TV. At this point I realised that I didn’t have my mobile phone, panic! I went and looked in the car and we called the Best Western to ask if they had it. We were directed to housekeeping and told to leave a message. Eventually we managed to get an answer on Wednesday morning, they have the phone (phew! I just put $25 of credit on it.) and we can pick it up on our way back past Boston in a few days.

The following day we were up relatively early and quite surprised to see that the forecast rain was actually pretty heavy snow. Despite this we headed to a pretty deserted Concord and after getting Lizzie some much needed gloves. Our first port of call was Orchard House, the home of Louisa May Alcott and the place where she wrote Little Women. After trekking through the swirling snow for what felt like miles, we eventually reached the house, the sign outside, “Closed Today”. Sad face. We trekked back to the Concord Museum and were greeted warmly by the lovely Claire. She chatted to us about where we were from and it turned out that she has a cousin at St Andrews. She then gave us tickets at student price. Apart from the staff we had the museum to ourselves and the staff were really friendly and went into great detail about the history of the town as well as recommending what to do. They also gave us the number for Orchard House so that we could call on Wednesday morning to see if they were open then. While we were in the museum the snow had turned to rain so we wrapped back up and ventured out. Our next stop, the North Bridge, about a mile out on the other side of town. The walk was long, but it was definitely worth it, although we did decide not to climb the snowy hill up to the visitor centre. After that it was back into town to warm up at “Helen’s” with a hot chocolate and a cinnamon roll, served by Helen herself, before heading to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery to visit the graves of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and Louisa May Alcott among others. The cemetery was closed, but we hadn’t come this far for nothing. Initially I did not want to go in since it was closed but faced with the choice of following Liz up the snow bank and around the closed gate or waiting by the road for her, I followed her in. The cemetery was beautiful and we soon located signs pointing us to authors ridge. Most of the gravestones were covered in snow, but we managed to find Thoreau’s family headstone, although his personal one was buried, we thought the same was true of Louisa May Alcott’s, being able to see only the larger Alcott family stone, but in front of it there were several smaller stones and I glimpsed the top of the letters L.M.A above the snow. It was reachable from the path so I brushed some of the snow away to reveal the rest of the stone. We also found Ralph Waldo Emerson’s grave due to its unusual shape (we had seen it in the video at the Concord Museum) but the inscription was completely buried in the snow. Once we had trekked back into town it was time to head home to dry out and warm up.

Wednesday morning was pretty frantic as we tried to get all our stuff sorted, all the washing up done, lunch made and be out of the room by the 11am check out time. We managed it with minutes to spare and a quick phonecall later were on the way to Orchard House in Concord. Luckily for us it was open, but as the only visitors we got a private guided tour of the house. It was incredible to see the house preserved as it was when Louisa May Alcott lived there and wrote Little Women. We learned how the story was based loosely on the story of her family, with each of the girls modeled on Louisa (Jo) and her sisters Anna (Meg), Beth and May (Amy). Although most of the story is fiction, a number of events are detailed as they took place in real life. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside the museum, but I bought a set of postcards instead. After a quick trip to the Post Office in Concord we headed towards our next stop, Vermont.

 

… and then there were two.

With Hannah’s knee not getting any better, and the doctor that she saw here recommending an MRI to see what is going on, we were faced with a difficult decision. Ultimately, on crutches, in almost constant pain, and with her insurance company not letting her know whether they would pay for treatment, Hannah’s decision about whether to stay was pretty much made for her. After a bit of a nightmare booking flights online, her dad booked her a flight home for Monday night. We returned back to the Best Western on Sunday so she would be closer to the airport, could take advantage of the free shuttle, and we knew there was a restaurant and bar where she could hang out before the shuttle left. So, just after midday on Monday, having waved Hannah off in the shuttle bus to the airport, we headed towards Concord.

Salem

Salem, a place we had all been looking forward to visiting. After leaving the Best Western and driving to our home for the next few days, Woburn’s Red Roof Inn (classy we know), we had a few hours of daylight left, so headed over to Salem. Rather than attempting to race round a museum before it closed we decided just to wander to get the feel of the place and to take some snowy pictures. Having missed lunch we were all rather hungry, so food was also on the agenda. Salem was, quite literally, a ghost town. Most of the shops, cafes and restaurants that we came across were closed. Eventually we found somewhere open and settled in for lunch/dinner. Afterwards, with our two hours of free parking running out, we headed back to Woburn.

After some internet research (“we should Google it” is becoming a bit of a catchphrase), we discovered that the distinct lack of activity yesterday might have had something to do with the “Snow Emergency” that had been declared. Although we had also discovered that most of Salem’s many museums are seasonal, we were pleased to see that “The” Salem Witch Museum was open. To be completely honest it was a bit of a disappointment. From the outside it looked pretty promising, and quite a lot bigger than it actually was, and it is in a castle! On entering we were told we were just in time for the next presentation, so we duly paid our $8.50 each and were shepherded into the presentation room. It was dark, only lit by a glowing red circle on the floor, containing the names of all those killed in the 1692 Witch Trials. We were instructed to sit on the right side of the room and we obediently took our places on the plastic benches. The presentation was pretty good, the room was filled with waxwork tableaux which were lit up in turn while a narrator explained the events of 1692. Once this was finished our “tour guide” took us into the Evolving Perceptions exhibit. Essentially her role was to briefly introduce each of four waxwork figures, then press a big green button to make them tell us their story. Once this was done, she said we could go back and look at the timeline at our leisure, and that the exit was through the shop. Wait… that’s it?! Indeed it was, so 40 minutes later, and $8.50 each poorer, we had finished our tour of The Salem Witch Museum. Having expected the museum to take several hours, we were slightly at a loss as to what to do. We wandered around town for a while, then headed for lunch. Lunch marked our first real diner experience. Luckily for me Lizzie ordered first, and I was able to benefit from hearing the guy tell her that she needed to say how she wanted her eggs and what kind of bread she wanted. I managed to order my eggs and toast without feeling too much like a stupid English tourist, (over easy on brown toast, if you were wondering) and we sat down to our meal. (I must admit however, that although I ordered them confidently, I really had no idea what my “over easy” eggs were going to look like…) After lunch it was time for more wandering, a tarot reading for Lizzie, a discovery that the other museum we were hoping to see was seasonal, and a walk to the waterfront to see the USS Friendship and to take pictures of the Custom House. Returning to the hotel, Lizzie and I decided to brave crossing the road by the hotel to the mall opposite in search of some swimwear for Liz (the hotel had a pool). TJMaxx proved unsuccessful on the swimwear front, but our big find of the night was Sports Authority, where we headed in search of swimwear but got sidetracked by their camping department and vowed to return with the car to buy our camping supplies for later in the trip. Unfortunately when we returned on Sunday morning the sale had finished. FAIL. Luckily however, I made friends with Don, the manager, who was a great deal more useful than the hot, but slightly out of it Sales Assistant who we initially asked for help. Don used what came up on the receipt as “Manager’s Discretion” to discount both our tent and our sleeping bags back to the sale prices of the previous day. In addition to this we also walked away with a Queen size air bed and a battery powered pump (we were surprised and amused that this was cheaper than 2 roll mats, but there you go), a 16litre coolbox, a folding camping pillow each and possibly our best buy, a CoZee each. “What is a CoZee?” I hear you cry… basically a giant fleece blanket with sleeves, a very cheap and static fleece blanket, mine actually sparks! Thanks to Don, we managed to save about $50… we love you Don!

Boston Highlights

Our stay in Boston has been at a much more leisurely pace than our time in New York, so I definitely don’t have enough to do a post per day since they would be very short and possibly a little dull. The day after we collected the car we had planned as a shopping day, but I managed maybe a couple of hours shopping before heading back to the hotel feeling ill… oh the joys of food poisoning! (See… if this had been a post in its own right it would have been soooo boring!) On Saturday Hannah decided that she really needed to get her knee checked out, so while she headed to the local hospital, Lizzie and I took the opportunity to visit the JFK Museum. From the moment we were handed our tickets (stickers based on JFK’s original campaign badges) and told that we could hang our coats up round the corner – for free! – we liked this museum. We picked up our complimentary map and headed straight into the theatre for the introductory film. I won’t bore you too much with the details, but it was seriously one of the best laid out and genuinely interesting museums I have been to, arranged so that you walked through the exhibits detailing his life and career in chronological order, with areas mocked up to look like TV studios, campaign rallies, the oval office etc. it was really cool. We were also both impressed that the museum mostly focused on his life and achievements rather than his death. All that covered his death was a short dark corridor with 4 small TV screens showing news footage from the day itself. We then headed back home to see how Hannah had got on and to have a quiet evening in with Dominoes pizzas. (If you were wondering, Hannah has a bandage, crutches, 2 different types of painkillers and another appointment on Tuesday for a more thorough examination.)

Not quite used to the slower pace (and amazingly for me missing the fresh air and exercise of extreme tourism) Liz and I were quite keen to get up and walk the Freedom Trail around Boston on Sunday (unfortunately this was not a crutches friendly activity as it involved a 3 mile walk, but Hannah wasn’t overly bothered anyway and enjoyed a lie in instead). We started at Boston Common and were both quite excited by the idea of the Freedom Trail tours on offer by a guide in period costume, unfortunately the $14 per person price tag for these meant that we set off on our mission clutching the cheaper version of the tour, a $3 map with brief descriptions of each site. Nevertheless we both posed at the start of the red line that marks the trail and began walking along it. Since it was Sunday most of the buildings on the trail with free admission were closed, but in hindsight this was probably a good thing since it took us somewhat longer than we had planned anyway. My camera decided to run out of batteries on the trip so my photos stop abruptly at the Old North Church but Liz took plenty for both of us (as well as any that I requested – thanks Liz!). We had great fun in the USS Constitution museum, particularly enjoying the hands on (for kids) section where we interviewed each other for positions on a ship, and thoroughly embarrassed ourselves trying out the hammocks. After we had each climbed into the lower ones a man who had watched us said that we were in the bad hammocks for being stepped on, and showed us how to get into them… he was a bit taller than us… when we tried I fell out the other side on my first attempt but eventually managed it, once Lizzie had stopped laughing at my attempts she managed it fine too. On leaving the museum we realised that going around the ship was free too, and as we walked towards it someone called out to us that the guided tour had just started and that we could make it if we were quick. This was ultimately a bad plan as it led to the final demise of the Lego bag… Lizzie’s lego bag has been gradually dying, and the extra strain on the strap as she was running was its undoing, literally the strap came right off. Sad face. Anyway, the tour was really interesting and I have discovered one advantage to being so short, I was the right height for all the ceilings on the ship – WIN! The final stop on the tour was the Bunker Hill Monument, looking at it it just looks like a really tall obelisk, which I guess it is, but you can climb it. Ignoring the sign at the bottom warning people with respiratory conditions not to attempt the 294 stairs to the top (I posed next to it on the way down clutching my inhaler) we started climbing, and climbing and climbing. The view from the top was worth it, but the view down the hole in the middle of the monument was terrifying, especially as it was seen through a somewhat rickety looking metal grate. On the way down we heard from Hannah that she was on her way into town so we headed to meet her, not so easy on legs that have climbed up and down lots of steps and just want to shake, lots! After meeting Hannah we went to Little Italy to visit Mike’s Pastry to try the (apparently) world famous cannoli. I’m not going to lie, they were nice and all but I wasn’t that impressed, I think it was too sickly for me. We were all far too full after that so after a short wander we went home for a bit before returning to Little Italy for dinner. Our evening meal was lovely, and made completely from scratch (as we discovered on questioning the onion content of the dishes) and afterwards we found a bar with a live band and had some drinks while listening to them. As has happened a few times now, our accents attracted some attention and ‘Bill’ came to join us, and spent quite some time recommending places to visit on our trip. (After a slightly creepy start, he actually turned out to be quite a nice guy.)

Monday for me was a pretty quiet day, not being a beer drinker, I enjoyed a lie in and a few hours to myself while the others went on the Sam Adams brewery tour. I headed into Boston to meet them and to test out the Paramount Cafe that had been recommended to us. Unfortunately, they were a little tipsy and very lost, so were late to meet me, but I had a wander around Boston Common while I was waiting.

Tuesday was Lizzie’s first driving experience, as she drove Hannah to the hospital for her follow up appointment. She did very well, better than me (but I would like to think that this was because we were on quieter roads and not on the Interstate – it might not be true, but it makes me feel less useless!). One major problem was that the Sat Nav died on the way there (we had left the cable in the box), resulting in asking twice for directions, but we managed it eventually. Liz and I had hoped to do the Harvard tour, but after getting very lost, we were too late, so decided to do some shopping and visit Trinity Church. We wandered across Boston Common and took some photos and then FINALLY found Filene’s Bargain Basement that all of the travel books had told us about. To be honest, we weren’t that impressed, particularly as Liz was on the hunt for a replacement for the Lego bag and the array of bags with gold tassels and weird fringes were not quite what she had in mind. We found Trinity Church, and had a brief look at the outside, but were a little put off by the entry fee, so decided to leave it at that. On the way home we stopped off at Quincy Market and Lizzie bought a bag made entirely of zips and I bought a (possibly completely ridiculous) knitted headband thing to keep my ears warm (photos to follow).

The predicted snowstorm caused us to extend our stay another night, since all the locals had told us not to try driving in it. This turned out to be very good advice, and after a quiet day in the hotel on Wednesday, we dug the car out of the snow this morning (literally) and headed north towards Salem.

After our day of travel yesterday, we had a bit of a lie in before Lizzie and I ventured downstairs to sample the breakfast in the hotel. Once we were all ready we caught the free shuttle to the “T” line (Boston’s subway) to pick up the car. Our first port of call was Quincy Market to find lunch, wandering through I had a weird feeling that I had been there before, which was very bizarre, until I realised that I had, on a school ski trip 11 years ago! 3 portions of macaroni cheese later we decided that it was high time we picked up the car. After walking in the wrong direction (no surprises there, we are pretty good at that!) we eventually found it, and since Lizzie had organised everything before we left all that was needed were a few signatures and photocopies of our driving licenses before we were directed upstairs to find the car. Which is HUGE by the way, its a Ford Escape (I think). Perhaps foolishly I had volunteered to do the first drive back to the hotel, and after a few brief instructions from the Alamo man, we started driving down seven stories of car park. Of course, I did have to pull over before we even left the car park since I hadn’t had a chance to adjust the mirrors or check where the lights were etc. At this point it was going reasonably well, then we left the almost deserted car park… Lizzie tells me that you could hear a change in my voice when we hit the real road with real cars. At this point the GPS hadn’t picked up where we were so we were just driving aimlessly until it did. Driving was going ok, but I was really struggling to concentrate on several things at once; driving an automatic for the first time (there was a lot of pressing of an invisible clutch going on), following the GPS, staying in the right place in the lane as well as being aware of all the other cars. It didn’t really help that Lizzie is a nervous passenger and kept air braking and holding on to her seat. Although I really appreciated her telling me when I was getting too close to the right side of the lane, it also made me more stressed. Eventually we came off the interstate to be told in the middle of a bridge that we had arrived… since there are roadworks this wasn’t the case and although I had watched the route to the hotel very carefully the night before on the way in, I was in the wrong lane for the turning so ended up going back over the bridge in the wrong direction. At this point, everybody’s nerves were getting to me and I was really stressed and just wanted to stop the car and cry. However I eventually got back round to the turning and this time did not miss it. I have never been so glad to park a car and get out, I still had the feeling that I wasn’t sure whether I was going to be sick or cry, so I left the others to practice driving round the car park. You will be pleased to hear that I was not sick and nor did I cry, I had a cup of tea which made everything better! After a few hours chilling out in the hotel and each having about an hour on the computer we headed back into Boston in search of dinner. It was quite late by the time we got in and most places had stopped serving but we did find somewhere eventually and had a nice meal and a few drinks before catching the last train back to the hotel. Unfortunately the shuttle was not available to pick us up, but we discovered that the 10 minute walk is not bad at all. One episode of Veronica Mars later, at around half past 2, it was definitely time for bed.