Augusta, Concord, a little Boston 9/18 – 9/22

Augusta, Maine:  Population = 18,291, elevation = 351 feet, average January low temp = 11.1, Average July high temp = 80, average sunny days = 182, annual snowfall = 78.3”, annual rainfall = 41.2”, air quality index = 94.4, water quality index = 79, comfort index = 53

When we are planning our travels, Marylu and I like to keep our daily drives no more than 4 hours long.  We each drive two one hours shifts, with stops for lunch and potty breaks.  If our next destination is too far away, we may stay in a hotel for a day or two.  Boston is too far from Winter Harbor for a one day trip, so we thought we would visit another state capitol, Augusta, Maine.  Not much happening on a Sunday night, so we sought out a nice pub for dinner.

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Love the name

On Monday we headed downtown to check out the capitol.  This is another city infested with roundabouts but at least the traffic is light.  As state capitol buildings go, this pretty modest.  There are the two chambers, the flags, the portraits, some nice marble work, and a rotunda.  Unfortunately, there is construction underway so the dome is dark.

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Some guy who was famous a long time ago. Nice hair!
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The state capitol in Augusta, Maine

Our scan of TripAdvisors “Things To Do” keeps pointing us to Hallowell.  Hallowell is now a suburb of Augusta, although back in 1797, Augusta split off from Hallowell.  Today it is a riverside collection of touristy shops, restaurants, antique dealers, and pubs.  They also have a wonderful riverside park with a long row of adirondack chairs where you can relax and watch the river flow by.

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Great place to watch the Merrimack River flow by
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Relaxing on the river

Concord, New Hampshire:  Population = 42,981, elevation = 346 feet, average January low temp = 10.4, Average July high temp = 82, average sunny days = 197, annual snowfall = 63.7”, annual rainfall = 37.2”, air quality index = 72.9, water quality index = 61, comfort index = 55

Our AirBnB in Boston is delayed a day so we get to see another state capitol, Concord, New Hampshire.  Augusta was modest; Concord is just drab.  Again, flags, portraits, nice marble.  For some reason though, there is no rotunda in the building.  Every other capitol we have been to has the round central room, usually with an elaborate marble inlaid floor, and a view of the dome towering overhead.  Concord has only ceiling in the middle of the building. At least the outside of the dome is gold.  It is currently being re-covered with gold leaf, by hand, bit by bit.

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The Concord capitol is getting a new gold layer for the dome
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The Senate Chamber

We did find a beautiful rotunda just across the street.  The New Hampshire Historical Society is in a classic building that features a carved marble rotunda with arches of inlaid granite of different colors.  And way up there is a fine dome, capping off the building with some nice color and ironwork.  Inside the museum is not real exciting.  Lots of portraits of old politicians and military guys.  A few odds and ends of historical stuff.

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An amazing rotunda
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Historical political humor. Not sure who is supporting what.

After the museum, it is about Beer O’ Clock, so we locate a nice nearby pub with a good selection of local and national brews.  Our bartender tells us about the area and recommends we go have a look at the Nature Preserve on the Merrimack River, just outside town.  It is a nice stroll through an odd forest.  As a surprise bonus we get to see two rowing teams practicing in their coxed eights.  I know, fun name, huh?

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This would make a good Halloween haunted forest
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The coach in the motorboat had a lot more to say than “stroke”

The drive to Boston is a short one, but this AirBnB only allows checkin after 4:00.  With a little time to kill, we decide to make a pilgrimage to one of my favorite breweries, Sam Adams.  On the map, it looks like the brewery is in a nice green space, maybe a park.  Actually, it is tightly surrounded by homes and businesses.  The streets are narrow and there is no place to park.  After a bit of neighborhood prowling, we finally find an open spot and hike back to the brewery.  The tour is short and informative.  The tasting involves comparing three different brews and we can have as much as we can drink.  Great beer and brewery!

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Some of the awards Sam Adams has won for its beers

Next up: Boston

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Winter Harbor, Maine 9/11 – 9/18

Winter Harbor, Maine:  Population = 962, elevation = 85 feet, average January low temp = 14.5, Average July high temp = 78, average sunny days = 182, annual snowfall = 64.9”, annual rainfall = 50.2”, air quality index = 69.2, water quality index = 60, comfort index = 56

The drive from Halifax to Winter Harbor is a long one, so we stopped for the night along the way in Saint John, New Brunswick.  This is also a seaport city but, unlike Halifax, it does not seem to be thriving or very interesting.  Comatose on a Saturday night.  The most interesting thing about St. John is the tides.  The Bay of Fundy has some of the world’s highest tides.  The difference between high and low tide when we were there was something like 27 feet.  With that much water coming in, there is a river that actually reverses directions.

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The tide is down so the river is running out to sea.
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High tide and the sea is coming up the river.

From St. John, the Trans-Canadian Highway runs wide and smooth as far as the USA border.  After that, we enter something of a “green desert”.  No food, no gas, no rest stops, nothing for about 80 miles.  The roads are heavily patched, narrow, and curvy.  It is a huge relief to finally find our destination, a smattering of homes and businesses clustered around a bay.

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The next day we set off to explore the neighborhood.  Just down the road is the entrance to the Schoodic Loop portion of Acadia National Park.  This is a long peninsula with a road that loops around the coastline.  The views are spectacular.  The coastline is made up of hard granite, cracked into layers and huge crystal-like cubes; smooth, undulating black lava flows; and heaps of rocks, rounded and smoothed by the ocean.  The forest is pine and birch with sprays of spruce, cedar, and maple.  Clumps of wild roses, heavy with ripe red rose hips pop out of the forest, next to blueberry bushes bearing the last, raisin-y berries.

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The rising tide crashes over the granite and lava
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The last of the wild roses

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Just across the bay is the somewhat famous tourist town of Bar Harbor.  The captain of our  bright yellow ferry boat provides us with a running dialog on the history, geology, and biology of the area as she negotiates the passage between islands and a multitude of lobster trap floats.  The voyage across the bay is, to me, the best part of the day.  Bar Harbor is a crowded tourist trap, awash in backpacks and cameras, punctuated by selfie sticks.  Lunch is good, the beer is better, the ocean views are great.  Away from the city, the rest of Acadia National Park hosts herds of campers and hikers.  Every single parking spot on the island is taken.

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The Katie Grace awaiting passengers
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Antiques, souvenirs, restaurants, pubs, everything the tourist could want is right there in Bar Harbor
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The harbor at Bar Harbor with a few of its many sailing vessels

Winter Harbor actually has a golf course, the colorfully named Grindstone Neck.  The fairways are not so fair, the roughs are very rough, and the greens are inexplicably punctured with little holes.  Birds?  I lost three balls but I found four, so I figure I came out ahead.  And the views of the bay were very nice.

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Of course, you can’t spend any time in Maine without having some lobster.  We have been toying with various seafood all along the coast, but now it is crustacean cracking time!  One peninsula over is the Corea Wharf Gallery and Grill.  Step up and order, then grab a table on the pier where you can see the lobster boats riding at anchor.  The lobster rolls are a grilled bun piled high with big fresh chunks and maybe a hint of sauce.  As good as it gets!

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Nuthin’ fancy, just lobster and bun on a paper plate

Back in Winter Harbor is the Fisherman’s Galley.  Carl and his sons and crew serve up most everything locally caught that had fins or a shell.  Again, this is a simple joint, not some fancy-shmancy dining room.  Step up to the counter to order and they bring it to your table.  Marylu and I picked a nice little lobster ($13.95 a pound with corn, coleslaw, and bisquit) out of the tank and sent him off to meet his maker.  Or unmaker, I guess.  Fortunately, they serve the lobsters with directions on how to disassemble them.  And a bib.  I needed both.

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Don’t worry about the splatter, just dig in

Winter Harbor is a nice little town to visit.  Stroll the spectacular rocky coastlines.  Hike the trails.  Join the throngs of summer people riding bicycles for miles of scenic forest and coast.  Feast on lobster so fresh, you can talk to the guy who caught it that morning.  Very nice.  But I think I saw a leaf starting to turn yellow.  Time for me to head south.

Next up: Augusta and Concord

Halifax, Nova Scotia 9/2 – 9/9

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada:  Population = 297,943 (metro area = 390,096), elevation = 0 to 793 feet, average January low temp = 13.3, Average July high temp = 74.8, average rainy days = 164.7, annual snowfall = 87”, annual rainfall = 47.1”

We arrived in Halifax on a Friday afternoon, about 4:30.  That was a mistake.  We found ourselves caught up in long strings of traffic and swirling herds of pedestrians.  The occasional street sign peeked from its hiding place just long enough to let us know where we weren’t.  Halifax is not a huge city, but it is hard to drive through, especially downtown by the waterfront.  Construction sites are everywhere, detouring lanes of traffic with barricades.  Pedestrians have the right of way and abuse it heavily, crosswalk or not.  One way streets go everywhere you don’t want to go.  Stoplights are few so a new-to-the-city driver has to slow and examine the intersection for stop signs.  And hope a pedestrian does not dart out.

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Street scene in Halifax

Once we were safely installed in our seventh floor condo, we could relax and look out over the harbor.  This is a deep water ocean harbor so everything from ocean liners to cargo ships are chugging by, passing through a soup of yachts, sailboats, fishing boats, and even schools of kayaks.

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One of the resident party boats tours the harbor
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Halifax is a popular stop for cruise ships
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A Canadian Navy ship slips out of the harbor under cover of dense fog.

Our first foray into the city is along the boardwalk.  To our right is a bustling farmer’s market with fresh vegetables, meats, cheeses, crafts, wines, and food.  And a brewery.  To our left, the boardwalk runs for over a mile.  This is Halifax’s favorite walk.  This weekend the weather is fine and the boardwalk is the best show in town.  Have a fine meal at the swanky Bicycle Thief or grab a basket of poutine at Smoke’s.   Have a cold pint on the deck at the Stubborn Goat or in the dining room at Gahan’s Brewery.  Admire the yachts tied up at the piers.  Don’t miss the ice cream at Cows!

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Fresh produce at the Farmer’s Market
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Great people watching on the Boardwalk
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My next boat

Venturing further into the city, the most popular place to be on a warm Sunday afternoon is in the Public Garden.  This is 16 acres of formal Victorian garden with ponds, streams, fountains, artistically arranged flower beds, a quaint little bandstand (with a jazz combo today), and a concession stand with more great ice cream.

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Sunday afternoon in the Gardens

Halifax is an old city, established by the British in 1749.  There are rows of stately, beautifully maintained old houses, each adorned with a plaque noting its construction date.  The salt air is not kind to stonework and the old government buildings, churches, and cemeteries look ancient.  The oldest standing building in the city is St. Paul’s Church, built in 1750.  St. Paul’s hosted the memorial service for the Titanic victims.

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A row of homes from the mid 1800s
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The old city and the new

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Guarding the old city and still towering above the new, stands the Citadel.  This monument to military strategy was so invincible that nobody ever tried to invade it.  Today it is still manned by soldiers in kilts, the traditional uniform of the British.

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A British soldier in traditional kilt and doublet

Halifax is deeply rooted in its British history and people.  Stroll around its very walkable downtown and you will see lots of old dark wood pubs.  Irish pubs with shepherd’s pie and beer.   British pubs with fish and chips and beer.  New pubs with great fusions of new and old.  Try the poutine and the donair.

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The Old Triangle pub
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Fine folk at Durty Nelly’s

Halifax is a curious blend of old and new, traditional and modern.  To explore it thoroughly would take a lot more time than we have.  I’m not sure I would visit in the winter, but in the summer it is a great city.

Next up: Winter Harbor, Maine

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island 8/26 – 9/2

Charlottetown, PEI, Canada:  Population = 34,562 (metro area = 64,487), elevation = 0 to 161 feet, average January low temp = 10.2, Average July high temp = 73.9, average rainy days = 130.8, annual snowfall = 114.3”, annual rainfall = 34.9”

From Quebec City, we motor East toward the coast.  Our route takes us along the St. Lawrence River, toward the Gaspe Peninsula.  The northernmost of the Appalachian Mountains rise above rolling farmland.  By the time we stop in Sainte-Luce for the night, the river is too wide to see across.

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The last of the Appalachians tower over the farms
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The St. Lawrence River has deep tides so these sculptures rise out of the water then sink into it.

The next leg of our journey runs South through pine and birch forests, through frequent highway construction, to Miramichi, then on to Charlottetown.  To get to Charlottetown, we take the Confederation Bridge across the Northumberland Strait.  This is the longest bridge in the world that crosses water that freezes in the winter.  That is something I would rather not see happen.

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Crossing the Confederation Bridge on a grey day

After a cluster of tourist traps at the end of the bridge, the highway winds across countryside that looks, to me, like the photos you see of the English countryside.  When a farm has been working the same land for centuries, each field has very distinct borders and the area looks like a patchwork quilt.

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A quilt of farmland

Charlottetown is a harbor city.  It is located where three rivers converge, just before they flow out to the ocean through a narrow gap between two peninsulas.  The waterfront is lined with piers where everything from fishing boats to sail boats to exotic yachts are tied up.  The ocean is part of everyone here and it permeates the culture.

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A pier full of sailboats waiting for the wind
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Lobster rolls, cold beer, and boats

Within a fisherman’s cast from the piers are the inevitable seafood restaurants.  Who has the best lobster rolls?  Too soon to tell, need more research.  Everybody has chowder too.  Not some pasty New England clam chowder, this is the real stuff with all kinds of fish and shellfish amongst the potatoes.

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Lots of lobster, a little sauce, and a bun
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Hearty seafood chowder with a nice sprinkle of shoestring potatoes

There are a lot of old stone buildings in Charlottetown.  St. Paul’s Anglican church was built in 1896, but looks a lot older, probably due to the salty sea air.  The interesting thing about this building is that the ceiling is built exactly like a sailing ship.  At St. Dunstan’s Basilica we found more of the nautical in the anchors in the ceiling.  Maybe sailing the North Atlantic gives a person good reason to pray.

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St. Paul’s ceiling like an upside down sailboat
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St. Dunstan’s ceiling honors the sailors

Marylu grew up reading “Anne of Green Gables”, so we had to go see the house.  This is the beautifully restored house that was the inspiration for the one in the story.  There is also a museum with lots of information about the author and her life.

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The house of Green Gables
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Anne’s room. She would put a light in the window to let Diana know to come over.

The drive back from Cavendish (a.k.a. Avonlea) took us through the north shore beaches.  Red sandstone cliffs rise and crumble into the sea.  A little further on, the cliffs turn into sand dunes, wild and lumpy and dotted with sturdy grasses.  We got a brief look at the dunes before the sky opened up and let go with a massive downpour.

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The red sandstone cliffs of Prince Edward Island
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North shore dunes, about 5 minutes before the storm hits

Lots of things to do in Charlottetown.  Definitely tour the Cows factory.  Amazing ice cream, great cheese, and funny cow artwork.  Tour the Beaconsfield house, formerly the home of a wealthy shipbuilder.  Check out the Regimental Museum for some military history.  Rent a cottage on the beach and watch the waves roll in.

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Great ice cream and hilarious t shirts at Cows
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Beaconsfield house
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Many of the military uniforms on PEI feature kilts.

Next up: Halifax