Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Extra! Extra!

Just because I'm dying to share photos doesn't mean that my readers are dying to see them, but for the sake of an excuse to post more without feeling like the world's biggest bore, I'm going to pretend that you are as anxious to see them as I am to post them. :)

So, more photos of Boston...

Our photographer, Landon. He's on the other side of the lens in all the pictures here. :)
A view of the harbor as we sped away from it.
Boston's skyline, viewed from the USS Constitution.
Me in the Captain's quarters. We followed some other people in there, not seeing any signs that said we couldn't, but we were escorted out a few minutes later. The Naval guide was nice about it, but we felt bad. We really had no idea it was off limits. Thankfully, Landon got some shots while we were in there. It was an incredible place, most definitely the most interesting part of the ship - what a pity the public isn't allowed in.
The captain's bed.
"Old Ironsides" from the front. Unfortunately, she is undergoing a massive renovation, so the top was covered in tarps and her masts were down.

Lexi, Mom, Ashley

Monday, October 19, 2009

Boston: Part II

We woke up to bad weather reports, which damped our spirits a bit (no pun intended, really!). I believe it was the first time any of us had ever heard, or been under, a "gale warning". As we waited for our shuttle to take us to a sub stop, a fierce rain blew in, and as quickly left. If that was all a storm did in Boston then we would be okay, we figured.

Our first stop was for lunch at Legal Sea Foods on the pier. With great happiness we indulged in a delicious, if pricey, cuisine. (but hey, it's not everyday that you can eat a lobster roll or clam chowder when you're from Texas).

After lunch Mom, Ashley, and Lexi went to the New England Aquarium

where, in addition to fascinating sea creatures, they also saw Jeff Corwin and his crew filming an episode for Animal Planet. Apparently you could look but not loiter around the cameras, so their time observing Jeff Corwin swimming in the large tank was brief.

I had been to the NEA on a previous visit to Boston so opted instead to join my brothers

on their excursion to the USS Constitution, a historical sight I figured I might as well see once.

Having now been, I think I can safely say that once was enough. It would have been far more interesting had we been allowed to do a self-guided exploration, but people were only allowed in 3 areas of the ship (which, I must admit, was probably all that was interesting to see - yet I wanted so badly to see the details of remnants/relics from her history left around the boat) and were conducted and guided by enlisted members of the Navy.

One Naval guide did say something that I thought was interesting and provoked thoughts later when on the ferry heading back to the NEA. As he related a story of how the Constitution came to be known as "Old Ironsides",

he said that during the historic battle, sailors on the boat became very afraid as the British Navy rained shells with frightening accuracy on them and speedily gained on the Constitution in order to board and taker her. The captain of the Constitution reigned in his frightened men and reminded them to stay their ground and "stay true to their end". I was really struck by that expression. Those just aren't words that you hear today (unless you're on a sports team).

The ferry ride to and from the Constitution was cold and brisk,

and I found the icy wind a relief as it chased away my afternoon weariness (i.e.,. sleepiness - I had not recovered yet from the restless nights I had experienced the week before departing - which were totally not related to the trip, btw) and I felt reinvigorated and ready for more trekking around Boston.

Mom, Ashley and Lexi were on the pier waiting for us.

We regrouped and headed to the subway for a trip to find a certain bookstore near the Commons. We emerged from the underground into the very heart of Boston with bitterly cold winds, crowds, and old streets that reeked of times long past. We were heading to Brattle Book Shop, which unfortunately closed 5 minutes after we found it. Disappointed and now very cold, we refreshed ourselves at Dunkin Donuts (the stop of choice in Massachusetts - you can't throw a stone without hitting one!), then we boarded the subway again to go back to the Brookline area where we had spotted an independent bookstore the day before, which we now visited and subsequently did some minor wallet damage while there.

When we at last left Brookline Booksmith, we found it was dark and even colder than it had been. A stop at the Starbucks next door was necessary for steaming cups of hot espresso drinks to warm (and wake) us up. Armed with our hot drinks, we headed out again into the cold city.

Boston at night is somewhat quieter than it is during the day, and it's many twinkling lights only added to the already atmospheric city.

We went back to the airport and picked up our rent car, then back to the hotel to pick up our luggage, and then we were finally on our way to Maine, arriving 4 hours later at a time most unearthly. But we had arrived, and we were thankful.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


I kept a journal while on the trip. The following posts (including this one) are snippets from my rambling notes. :)

On Tuesday we arrived at Boston's Logan Airport to begin our 8 day vacation on the East Coast.

After settling into our hotel and gathering info regarding the use of mass transit around Boston, we set out in the late afternoon to see that great, old, city.

It was with trepidation that we approached the subway station. As Texans who live in a sprawled out suburban area, we needed to acquaint ourselves with the droll details of things such as the destinations of red, blue, green, and orange lines. We took a promising blue train (after receiving some helpful assistance from an MBTA employee) and boarded with excitement and anticipation.

We got off at Government Center to transfer to another line and this was my first time to step off a train and into the fascinating underworld of the subway. My first impression was that people were moving: on trains, off trains, up the stairs to the street, down the stairs to the trains. People were holding steaming coffee, books, bags, instruments. There were musicians hawking their cd's and playing for cash. My eyes could not rest from the ever fascinating spectacle around me. I could not remember any underground as interesting as this one was. The trains themselves were even more of a spectacle. To my surprise, I quickly began to note that there are a vast amount of readers who are adept at reading while standing their ground on the swaying, jerking trains. I remember being impressed by one girl in particular: a true pro, she kept her eyes and hands trained on her book, all the while standing with feet firmly planted while others were reaching to grab onto anything they could for support; she continued to read as the doors opened and people shoved past her; she read without missing a beat of anything happening around her.

Soon we were on a new line and heading we didn't know where. The train reached street level and we emerged from darkness into light, traveling at a rapid pace, with frequent stops; here was a place called Brookline... and there we spotted some enticing stores and disembarked. We made our way to a Trader Joe's for some snack shopping (would you believe we had missed breakfast and lunch due to our hectic travel schedule and the fact that airlines don't feed you anymore and we were too stubborn to pay exorbitant prices for nasty airport food?!) and then back onto the train after realizing that the time was getting late. We promised ourselves that we would return to that quaint residential area after espying a bookstore, knitting store, and other promising storefronts.

We then made our way, somehow, into downtown Boston, and specifically to the North End (or Little Italy, as some call it), a busy place with swarms of people and delightful old buildings on equally aged streets. Our destination was Mike's Pastry Shop, a place recommended to us by my brother and sister-in-law, and also by a local. The place was teeming with pastries and people. 30 minutes later and some of the family emerged with a bulging box, to be opened and indulged in later. (we assumed the pastries might be too messy to consume on the street - and we were right!)

After Mike's, we ate pizza in a tiny Italian restaurant where English was the second language, and then walked back to a sub station to begin the trek back to our hotel.

Boston at night is somehow energetic without having the chaotic, rushing madness of other large cities. There is energy, but not the frenetic sort I found in Chicago and London. It is, strangely enough, a more deliberate pace.

We opened our pastries back at the hotel and tasted our first cannoli. Delicious!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Goin' Home

I unwittingly spoke too soon when I said stories and pictures were on the way (alas, I only have a couple to share). I had no idea at the time that my brothers would upload all of 10 pictures from the hundreds they must have taken in the week we have been here. I am sure that all the pictures will be uploaded when we get back home tomorrow, and I will hopefully have a post ready to share sometime this weekend.

We have all been feeling rather despondent on our last day in Northeast Harbor. Mount Desert Island has grown on us by no gradual leap, and we are simply not ready to go home just yet. If we could stay to enjoy the sun's rays filtering through the trees, the sprawling mountains bordering the quiet harbors, the magnificent seascapes visible from almost anywhere, the boats pulling into the harbor and unloading the day's catch, the water from the sea spraying upwards from it's collision with the rocky shore, and the mist rising from the mountains in the rain... if we could only stay in this beautiful place a little longer.

To lessen the bittersweet departure, we have been speaking of "when" and not "if" we return. :)
I climbed a total of 4 mountains during our stay. Hunter and Parker climbed 5. Together we summited 4. The above and below photos are pictures that were taken as we ascended Gorham Mountain last week.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Mount Desert Island

It has become my belief since arriving here on Mount Desert Island that there is simply nothing more wonderful or refreshing as waking up in the morning to a room flooded with sunlight; to step out onto the upper deck, feel the crisp (and rather chilly) fall air, and see a burst of color as the surrounding trees wave their leaf-laden branches in a seeming welcome to the new day.

We arrived in Acadia quite late on Wednesday, when it was too dark too see anything more than large, ominous shapes in front of us as we drove. In the light of the following day, our breath was taken away when we drove the same road (as we left the island for grocery shopping), to see that what were dark objects were actually mountains and trees - a welcoming sight for those of us who live in a large, flat, and rather ugly metropolis. :)

Our cottage is not an old one like some here on the island, but is very charming and comfortable. Near our cottage is a path that leads along a quiet brook, past small waterfalls, and out into the quiet Northeast Harbor.

It is very lovely here, with sprawling mountains to explore, glorious fall colors to see, exquisite fauna covering the ground everywhere, and a gleaming sea that crashes against the rocks. It is a quiet retreat away from the many things that contrive to keep us busy in our large metropolitan area. I may never want to return home...

Pictures to follow! :)