Tips to plan travel during a pandemic

2020…it’s been a long year so far and now that things have opened up a little more, we are all eager to get a change of scenery and also to get a little bit of normalcy back into our lives. For those of us who live to travel, that’s the top thing on our mind.

While we all are eager to get on a plane and go explore far off lands, that may not be the best idea at the moment. But we can still travel somewhere, it may not be somewhere that was originally on our bucket list and it may not be that far from home, but there is always some place for us to explore. There are things to keep in mind while traveling during this time though….

Travel Restrictions: The number one thing you must do when planning a trip is to find out the travel restrictions of where you are going and at home for when you return. Most countries have closed their borders, but even when staying within your own country, different states have different restrictions. I live in the US in the state of Massachusetts. We had quite a surge at the beginning of the pandemic, but the past few months our numbers have been on the low side. I originally was planning to head to West Virginia later this week to run a half marathon. It’s one of the few road races that is actually still happening, but a few weeks ago, our governor in Massachusetts said there is a mandatory 14 day quarantine to anyone coming into the state (with the exception of a few other states with lower new cases, mainly the other states in the northeast) and there was actually a fine involved if caught not quarantining. Now I’ve been working from home and could get away with quarantining when I return, but do I really want to not be able to leave the house for 2 full weeks, I’m not sure I could handle the thought of not being able to go for a run or a walk for that long! Also, there’s the thought of, how will they even enforce this, but being that I’m a big rule follower and have a guilty conscience, I just can’t risk it. So I deferred the race to 2021 (fingers crossed things improve a bit by then) and I’m headed to New Hampshire for vacation instead.

Virus Spread: Another thing to consider, is the virus spreading alot where you plan on visiting. New Hampshire has a low amount of cases, only about 20-30 per day vs. Massachusetts 100-300 per day. I may be safer going on vacation than being home in Boston!

Transportation: How will you get there, do you need to fly or can you drive? Everyone will have their own comfort level when it comes to flying, I’m not at the point that I don’t feel comfortable being inside a plane around other people for hours, so driving seems like a safer option to me. With driving you do still need to think of things, like restrooms along the way or if you will need to stop and eat and if you will feel comfortable with this. How comfortable you feel about these things will help decide if you go somewhere just a couple of hours away so you don’t need to stop or if you feel comfortable stopping you can take a longer road trip.

Activities available at location: What activities are available at the location you are going? Are there things you can do outside where the risk is lower than inside? Are there activities you can do that allows you to social distance? Also do these activities require reservations? You’d be amazed at the number of places that now do require a reservation. Some of the state parks in New Hampshire are requiring reservations to limit the amount of people in the park. Make your reservations early, i went to make a reservation and only one day that I was going to be there was available!

Lodging: Where will you stay? Do you feel comfortable staying in a hotel where you will have to walk thru lobby and take elevators where you may come into contact with other people? Do you prefer to rent a house so you can stay away from others? Either way, make sure to check the covid-19 procedures. Will they require face masks in public areas and what are their cleaning procedures? Most major hotel chains are doing extra cleanings and even keeping rooms empty for a few days after a guest checks out. I am staying in a hotel and have purchased this tool to open doors and push elevator buttons, may be overkill, but definitely won’t bother me to use it.

Extras to pack: During this time there are some items you may not normally pack that you will need to now. Face masks, lots of places are requiring them (if only everywhere would) and you should bring multiple with you as you will probably be wearing them each day. Also bring along some disinfecting wipes to wipe things down in the hotel room that you will be touching frequently. Hand sanitizer is something I always have with me, but I’m definitely bringing extra as I’ll probably be using it more than normal. You may also want to bring some snacks and water with you to limit the amount of places you need to stop inside. Also a good idea to bring paper towels to use to open restroom doors and other high touch areas in public. I am also bringing my own pillow, may sound crazy, but with the virus entering our body thru mouth, nose or eyes, I prefer to have my head on my own pillow that I know only I’ve handled.

Strengthen your Immune System: It doesn’t hurt to make sure your immune system is in tip top shape when you travel even without a pandemic going on. No one wants their vacation ruined by illness. About a week before I travel, I usually up my elderberry and vitamin c intake.

I also make sure to pack these items as well and take them each morning while on my trip.

Have fun! Most important, have fun on your trip, be safe, take all the precautions necessary but enjoy your trip like you enjoyed your pre-pandemic travels.

It’s a lot to have to think about, more so than when planning a vacation prior to 2020. Remember no matter how far or close you are traveling, there are many travel agents out there willing to help. They will know all the current travel restrictions and other covid-19 related information you will need for your trip. And by using a travel agent you can also help a small business during a time their industry is struggling.

Have you gone on a trip recently? Do you have one coming up? Do you have any tips to share?

Make Way for the Boston Public Garden

The upside to this tumultuous year of 2020 is being able to explore close to home. There are so many wonderful places in Boston and the Public Garden is definitely one of my favorites!

Established in 1837, the Boston Public Garden was the first public botanical garden in America. It is definitely a must do for all ages when visiting Boston.

If you have young children who have read Robert McCloskey’s popular children’s book based in Boston, Make Way for Ducklings, your first stop in the Public Garden must be the Make Way for Ducklings statue! The statue featuring Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings is a great spot to take your kids photo sitting on the ducks. If you happen to be in town on Mother’s day, you can attend the annual Duckling Day parade.

The ducks celebrate the holidays, seasons and local sports teams in style!

Another great activity for kids in the Public Garden is the swan boats! These boats have been riding along the lagoon since 1877 and it’s relaxing activity for both kids and adults. It’s also a sure sign that spring is finally here in Boston when the swan boats open in mid April each spring

The Public Garden is not just enjoyed by children and families though. It’s a great place for adults, young and old to have a picnic, relax on a bench, read a book or go for a nice slow walk. In spring it comes alive with beautiful flowers which are such a welcome sight after a long, cold, snowy Boston winter.

Summer brings not only tourist to the garden but also palm trees, yes palm trees in the northeast US. It also brings the resident swans, Romeo and Juliet!

Just like the rest of New England, fall is a beautiful and colorful time of year in the Public Garden! There’s this one tree that the leaves seem to change earlier than most trees in the city each year, it’s beautiful watching it change then the rest in the park change afterwards. Nature at it’s finest, living it’s cycle.

Although it’s not my favorite season in Boston, winter does bring some beauty to the Public Garden and I walk thru it often on my way from work to my pilates class or when I go for a quick walk to escape cabin fever. It’s definitely a different view, the trees are without their leaves, there are no flowers, but the bushes are decorated with lights for the holidays, the lagoon freezes over and snow fills the park making for a magical winter scene. So throw on a heavy jacket and head over for a walk thru the garden.

Have you been to the Boston Public Garden, what time of year did you visit and what did you like most? If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it. I hope all readers can relax and take in the beauty here some day.

When things don’t go as planned while flying….

Life – it’s unpredictable and doesn’t always go as we planned it. This has never been as apparent in the travel industry as it has in 2020. Life in 2020 has thrown a curve ball at all of us and our planned travels. How are you adapting and trying to be positive in this crazy time?

Even before covid-19 there was always a chance of something to disrupt travel plans, just on a much smaller scale and certainly not happening to everyone in the entire world at once.

Transportation can be so unpredictable, whether you are driving, flying or taking a train, there is always something unpredictable that can happen.

We’ve all dealt with delays when flying, they are annoying and can definitely throw your schedule off track. I’ve gone months and even years with no delays or delays so minimal that it didn’t even affect me much.

But then there are the times when you have major delays. And how you handle these situations can make your trip awful or not too bad. Years ago when flying from Tampa, where I was living at the time, to Boston to visit family, I had a layover in Philadelphia. The plane landed in Philadelphia to dark skies with storms threatening in the distance. After getting into the terminal, I found out that my connecting flight wasn’t just delayed due to the weather, it was cancelled and the next flight they could put me on was 8 hours later. No one wants to spend 8 hours in a busy airport! I was in my 30s at the time and ran into an older lady in her 80s and another lady in her 50s in the same situation. We decided to all go and get some food and keep each other company for the 8 hours. The three of us were from different generations and had absolutely nothing in common, but to this day, that is the best time I have ever had in an airport and surprisingly those 8 hours flew by. Good company always makes a bad situation better! I didn’t do a bad job of handling that delay.

Flash forward to last December, I was flying home from Gulfport, MS after visiting for the weekend for a half marathon. I woke up that morning to a text that my flight out of Gulfport was cancelled and they needed to reschedule my flight. The new flight included two stops one in Dallas and one in DC. Not only would I be flying all over the country to get home (Dallas is in the opposite direction from Mississippi to Boston), but I would be getting in much later too. I started off with a good attitude knowing there was nothing I could do about it and just grateful I had a lot of books on my kindle to keep me busy.

My flight arrived in Dallas and my connection, like most of the flights in Dallas was delayed. They kept delaying it more and more and I was then worried I would not make my connection in DC. Luckily there are a ton of flights from DC to Boston, so I was able to get rescheduled on a later one. By the time my flight left Dallas, it was the same time I was originally supposed to be landing in Boston, it had already been a LONG day.

I arrived in DC and was glad I was able to reschedule to a later flight, since the earlier flight was leaving 10 minutes after I stepped in the terminal. I was instantly happy with my decision and decided to go grab a drink while I waited for my later flight. Well then I got a text stating the flight was cancelled. I realized then that I made a bad decision changing the flight.

Being tired after a long travel day, knowing I would not get home that night and mad at myself for making the wrong decision, I did not handle this cancellation well at all. They claimed it was due to weather in Boston, yet my parents said there was no rain, snow or wind in Boston that day or night at all but that the next morning there was supposed to be a snow storm. I was of course afraid it would take all day to get home the next day due to this storm. I ended up getting in a slightly heated discussion with the gate agent. Not my best moment, but she put me over the edge when she tried to tell me that I would be safe sleeping in the airport. I was alone so sleeping with no one else to keep an eye on things like my purse, didn’t sound safe to me!

Luckily I had some Hilton points saved up and was able to use them to get a free room near the airport so I could get a few hours of safe sleep and then head back to the airport and hope my 6am flight took off.

The next morning was much better, after 3 hours of sleep I went to the airport and my flight took off and landed in the middle of the snowstorm in Boston and I was home and working by 9am. It was a long, tiring, frustrating day and everything worked out well, so I definitely could have handled it better and should have, it wasn’t anyone’s fault, especially not the gate agent. I spent years working at the front desk of hotels, so I know exactly how awful it is to deal with an upset customer.

Looking back at these two examples, I hope I can handle them all like the first one going forward. Have you had a flight delay or cancellation (I’m sure you have), how have you handled it?

Going to the Sun in Glacier National Park

I love being outdoors and national parks are a great way to see the outdoors. My favorite national park that I’ve seen to date is Glacier National Park.

Glacier National Park is located in northwestern Montana. It encompasses over 1 million acres and reaches the US/Canada border.

To explore the different parts of the park, you can drive the Going to the Sun Road. This 50 mile long east-west road spans the width of the park and crosses the Continental Divide. The majority of this road is closed thru the winter, it’s opening date is different each year depending on how long it takes to clear the snow, sometimes up to 80 feet deep, from the road. The road is normally open by late June but some years if there is a good amount of spring snow it may not open until July! There are numerous ways to ride along the Going to the Sun road. You can drive your own car or if you don’t want to risk full parking lots, you can take the park transportation. There are also tours like the famous Red Bus Tour, pictured here.

There is so much to see at the park, you could spend weeks here. I was just here for a few days but was still able to check out the major areas of the park. Here are some of the major areas to see.

Lake McDonald

Taking the western entrance into the park, you enter the Lake McDonald valley. There are so many great outdoor activites to explore this beautiful area.

Boating: At the Lake McDonald Lodge, board the historic DeSmet for an hour long ride around the lake. Rent a kayak or paddle board and explore the lake on your own.

Hiking: There are multiple hikes in this area, from easy to difficult. The most popular hike is the Avalanche Creek hike. The park provides a ranger led hike each day, but get to the parking Apgar visitor center really early if you want to take the park transportation to the ranger led hike, otherwise, you will miss out like I did. Next time I’ll be more prepared. The ranger led hikes are great especially if you’re alone, this is bear country, so wise to hike with others. I was able to do the Trail of the Cedars hike which is a great easy hike, a portion of it is on raised boardwalk, so great for beginners!

Logan Pass

At 6,646 feet, Logan Pass is the highest point reachable by car in the park and is located on the Continental Divide. The parking lot often fills up early, so it’s a good idea to take advantage of the park transportation as you don’t want to miss out on seeing this area. There is a visitor center located here and many rangers around leading talks, hikes and answering questions.

Hidden Lake Trail: One of the most popular hikes in the park is the Hidden Lake Trail. This easy 3 mile hike starts at the Logan Pass visitor center and takes you to an overlook where you can gaze down to the beautiful Hidden Lake. Although this trail is fairly easy, be prepared, due to the high elevation, a portion of the trail can be snow covered. These pictures above are from my trip in 2018 which was in mid-July. It was pretty crazy to be hiking thru the snow in 70 degree weather. The views on this trail are amazing as is the wildlife. As always, watch out for bears especially as you get closer to the Hidden Lake overlook. Enjoy the numerous Mountain Goats you will see along the way relaxing and walking along the trail. It’s really great to see them somewhat up close, but remember, they are wild animals so keep a distance.

St. Mary Lake

On the eastern side of the park is St. Mary Lake. Being that the parking areas on this side of the park are much less busy than Logan Pass I took my own car and I’m so glad I did. As I was driving down the road, I looked to the side of the road and out popped the cutest little bear. I stopped the car and the bear made his way across the road right in front of my car. Definitely happy that I saw the bear this way instead of on hike!

I probably could have taken 1000s of pictures of this lake, it was absolutely breathtaking!

Ranger Led Hike to St. Mary Falls: At the Rising Sun boat docks, I boarded one of Glacier Park Boat Company’s boats to head out into St. Mary Lake. This absolutely beautiful boat ride led us across the lake where we met a park ranger to hike out to St. Mary Falls. The ranger talked about the history of the forest and we saw first hand how much fire can impact the forest and how the forest starts to grow back. It was both devastating to see the damage from a forest fire but hopeful to see the ecosystem coming back to life. The falls were beautiful and quite relaxing.

Two Medicine

Located on the southeastern section of the park, the Two Medicine area is not located along the Going to the Sun Road so alot of visitors miss out on this beautiful area.

Ranger led hike to Twin Falls: Like St. Mary Lake, a highlight of this area is a boat ride and ranger led hike. Board the oldest wooden boat in Glacier Park Boat Company’s fleet for a ride out on Two Medicine Lake. Upon docking on the west side of the lake, take a hike with a ranger to Twin Falls. These falls were the most impressive I’ve seen in Glacier National Park. You can even hike up to towards the top of the falls. Another breathtaking and relaxing spot.

With so much to see and do, it’s worth taking a week or more vacation to Glacier National Park. Some tips to remember when booking your trip: book your lodging or camp sites early, the ones in the park fill up rather quick, keep in mind that the Going to the Sun Road isn’t always open by the start of summer, so a trip in July or August might be better than June, and always remember to have bear spray with you when hiking, it’s worth the $50 just in case you end up encountering a bear! Need help planning your trip, let a travel agent like me with first hand experience in the park, help you plan. http://www.beyondthemilestravel.com

Running and Kayaking in Big Sky Country

A couple of years ago, I ran one of my favorite half marathons to date, Missoula Half Marathon in Montana. I never thought of going to Montana and definitely had never heard of Missoula, but I heard it was the race to run in Montana so off I went for a week long summer vacation to Missoula and Glacier National Park.

Race Motivation

I got on the plane in hopes of actually finishing the race, even if it meant crawling. I had been dealing with a pretty bad case of plantar fasciitis for the past few months and really probably shouldn’t have been running a half marathon. But I had been getting ART done on my calf and foot for a couple of months and the doctor said that hiking would actually be something that would help, so since that’s what I had planned for after the race in Glacier National Park, I figured what’s the harm in heading across the country and attempting the race.

I took a very early flight into Missoula on Saturday morning and headed straight downtown to pick up my race bib for Sunday morning’s race and walk around and check out the area. Missoula was beautiful, nothing but fresh clean air with mountains in the distance. Race packet pickup was located near the river and it was so relaxing to sit by the river and watch the people fishing and walking out on the rocks. No walking out there for me, no need to add another injury before the race. With the time change and being that I left Boston fairly early, I was in bed before the sun went down that night, which worked out well since I normally have a hard time sleeping before races.

After a great night sleep I woke up early and drove to the parking lot where they had buses that took us to the start line. While waiting at the start we were able to see the sun rise above the mountains, it was a beautiful sight! It was a good way to start the morning and prepare myself for the beautiful 13.1 miles that lay ahead. This was definitely one of the most beautiful and entertaining courses I have ever run. Nothing but mountains, river, the greenest trees and grass all the way into the cute downtown finish. The locals definitely bring their A-game when it comes to entertaining the runners, how many races will you see a man dressed in a tux playing a grand piano on his lawn for the entire race?

I made it across the finish line in only a little over 3 hours, since my normal time is around 2:45-2:50, that wasn’t that bad considering I walked a lot and stopped quite a few times to stretch out the calves. A couple of friends from my running group here in Boston were running the full marathon and I was determined to make sure I finished the half before they finished the full. They are really fast, so they didn’t finish that far behind me!

At the finish they had free photos and I got to try a beer from Big Sky Brewing, I love trying local beers when I travel.

My foot was screaming in pain after 13.1 miles so after showering and having some food, I spent a good amount of time in the hot tub which helped dramatically. It just so happened to be National Ice Cream Day so I did a quick google search and found out Big Dipper Ice Cream was the place to go for some local homemade ice cream. I drove up and it was crowded so I knew I found a great place. Being that I was in the Northwest I knew I had to have the Huckleberry ice cream, it was the first of many delicious huckleberry flavored foods and drinks I’d have during the trip. When in states like Montana and Idaho definitely indulge in all the huckleberry you can!

After indulging in the ice cream, I knew I had to take a little walk around so my muscles wouldn’t tighten up on me. So I headed downtown to check out the Carousel for Missoula.

This carousel is completely volunteer built. The horses are all hand carved and they are beautiful. What a great thing for the community to build together.

There’s a lot to do in and around Missoula. If I was staying longer, I would have taken a rafting trip down the Clark Fork.

But alas the next morning it was on to my next adventure.

I headed out late morning and the ride was just beautiful, lots of open space and mountains, definitely a different view than driving in Massachusetts. Flathead Lake is a fairly large freshwater lake and it’s beautiful driving around it. I found a great restaurant with outdoor seating overlooking the lake and had some lunch. Then I drove further north up the lake to Somers Bay for my kayaking trip.

I took a kayaking tour with Sea Me Paddle Kayaking Tours. The tour ended up being just me and one of the owners of the kayaking company.

It was a really great tour, since it was just me, we went at my speed and he was able to tell me a lot about the area.

We took the kayaks out for a couple of hours in Somers Bay and saw some Osprey and a birds nest.

We also kayaked out to the remnants of an old pier used by the Somers Lumber Company. The guide was very knowledgeable about the area and also took lots of pictures which were great to receive a few days later.

One of the advantages of taking tours with someone that is so knowledgeable of the area, is they can recommend other things to do or places to eat in the area. I told him that I was heading up to Glacier National Park after the tour and he recommended a great place for me to stop for dinner along the way. He mentioned it was a brewery and that they had great garlic parmesan fries, say no more, I’m there. So after kayaking, I stopped at Backslope Brewing for dinner. This place did not disappoint, the fries were to die for and they had great beer.

After dinner I headed to the West Glacier Motel which was just outside the entrance to Glacier National Park. This National Park deserves a whole blog of it’s own so check back next week!

A walk along the Freedom Trail

From my past posts, I’m sure you can tell that I love history. I grew up in Boston with history surrounding me. There was something special about learning things in history class and being able to connect it to the actual historic sites that I’ve seen in person. Not being able to travel due to covid-19, I’ve been spending more time being a tourist at home so last weekend to celebrate the 4th of July, I put on my headphones and took an audio tour of the Freedom Trail.

The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile long trail starting in the Boston Common and ending in Bunker Hill. This famous trail is marked by a red line on the ground and passes 16 historical sites in downtown Boston.

In 1951, local journalist William Schofield suggested building a pedestrian trail to connect all of the local landmarks in the city. It is now one of the most popular things to do when visiting Boston.

Whether you take an organized tour, an audio tour or just walk it on your own, there is so much to learn along the Freedom Trail.

  1. The tour starts in the Boston Common. Founded in 1634, this is the oldest public park in the United States, it is also the location of Park Street T Station, built in 1897, this is the first subway station in the United States.

The Boston Common is a beautiful park , lots of green space, statues and fountains. It is also home to Frog Pond, which in the winter months is the most popular skating rink in Boston and in the summer months turns into a wading pool for young children.

2. Massachusetts State House

The State House was built in 1798 and is one of the oldest continually running state capitol buildings in the United States.

This building was designed by Architect, Charles Bulfinch, claimed to be the first American born architect. He is also one of the architects who helped design the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C.

The bar that inspired the hit tv show Cheers was named the Bull and Finch after this famous local architect.

3. Park Street Church – Built in 1809, this church was the site where William Lloyd Garrison made his first anti-slavery speech in 1829.

4. Granary Burying Ground

In this cemetery are buried three signers of the Declaration of Independence: John Hancock, Samuel Adams and Robert Treat Paine. Paul Revere and Mother Goose are also buried here as are Benjamin Franklin’s parents and siblings.

Across the street from the cemetery is the Beantown Pub which you can sit and drink a Sam Adams beer while looking out the window at Sam Adams grave, interesting way to take a break from touring the Freedom Trail.

5. Kings Chapel and Burying Ground

This church was built on the burying ground in 1688.

The bell on top of the church is said to be one of the last that Paul Revere cast and he himself is quoted as saying it was the “sweetest bell I ever made”.

By this point in the tour, I began to think to myself, should they have named it the “Paul Revere Trail”. So much about him so far and so much to still come. He definitely was an important figure in Boston.

6. First Public School Site

Boston Latin School opened in 1635 and is the oldest school still in operation today. One of the many famous students of this school is Benjamin Franklin. On the original site of this school you will find his statue.

From 1865 -1969, Boston’s City Hall was at this site. While the building seems small it’s a much more attractive building than our current City Hall, which in my opinion (and many others) is one of the ugliest buildings ever.

7. Old Corner Bookstore

I like to think of this stop on the tour of the sad way we don’t preserve history.

This building was built in 1712 and is the oldest commercial building in Boston.

On the second floor famous publishers Ticknor and Fields published books by such famous authors as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

So much historic works published here and now it is home to a Chipotle 🤦‍♀️

8. Old South Meeting House

This meeting house is famous for being the location that the Sons of Liberty departed from before they threw over a million dollars worth of tea in the harbor during the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773.

The clocktower is the oldest in Boston, built in 1729 and of course Paul Revere cast the bell in this tower as well.

9. The Old State House

On the balcony of the Old State House, the Declaration of Independence was read on July 18th 1776.

Each year on the 4th of July the Declaration of Independence is read from the balcony of this building. One of these years I definitely need to go check this out. I’ve had friends that have gone and they really enjoyed it. It would be a great way to kick off the holiday in Boston.

10. Boston Massacre Site

Just in front of the Old State House is the site of the Boston Massacre. On this site on March 5, 1770, 5 victims were killed during an incident between angry Bostonians and British Soldiers. In the middle of a the monument is a five pointed start to signify the 5 deaths.

11. Faneuil Hall

One of my favorite locations in Boston is Faneuil Hall. It’s a great place to take a little break from the tour, grab a bite to eat, do some shopping and check out the street performers. There’s so much to see and do in this area, I will definitely need to do a future blog post just on this area.

This location is famous for the meetings and protests that took place here and led to the American Revolution.

12. Paul Revere’s House

After grabbing a bite to eat and conquering my fears of covid-19 by using a public restroom, I made the walk over the North End of Boston to the next stop.

Paul Revere who we’ve heard alot about along the trail is famous for his midnight ride to Lexington and Concord to warn the troops that “The British Are Coming”

His house in North Square was built in 1680 and is the oldest structure in Boston.

I highly recommend taking a tour of the house.

13. Old North Church

This is one of my favorite views in Boston: the Paul Revere (of course here he is again!) statue in front of the Old North Church.

This is where Paul Revere’s midnight ride started on April 18, 1775 to signal the start of the American Revolution.

In the steeple of this church they would hang lanterns to warn those across the Charles River in Charlestown of the movement of the British Troops. This is where we got the phrase, “one if by land, two if by sea”

14. Coop’s Hill Burial Ground

Established in 1659, this is the second oldest burial ground in Boston.

Named after a local shoemaker, this burial ground was for the merchant class in Boston.

It’s located on top of a steep hill with views of the harbor below. Definitely stop for a moment after climbing that hill especially since the next stop is a bit of a walk away.

15. U.S.S. Constitution

We are now at the Charlestown Navy Yard. Docked here is the U.S.S. Constitution, which is the oldest ship in the U.S. Navy. It’s also known as Old Ironsides due to the fact that it never lost a battle during the War of 1812. Make sure to go on board the ship and check it out. This beautiful ship can be seen sailing the harbor at least annually as it needs to be turned around so that both sides of the hull are weathered evenly. This normally happens each year on the 4th of July and it’s definitely a beautiful site to see this ship sailing in the harbor.

16. Bunker Hill Monument

We are now at the end of the tour in the Bunker Hill neighborhood in Charlestown. On June 17, 1775 one of the most important battles of the American Revolution took place. Although this battle was won by the British, it showed that the Colonist could stand up to the British as they killed 200 and injured 800 British troops that day.

The 294 steps to the top are worth it once you see the beautiful views of the city below. The monument was of course closed due to covid when I was there so the photo of the view of the city is from about 11 years ago when I visited it last.

That concludes the Freedom Trail. I hope you enjoyed the 2.5 mile virtual tour I just gave. Definitely leave a full day if you want to fully experience it on your next trip to Boston.

Stay healthy and get out and explore your local area!

2020 – Searching for Positives

We are a little over half way thru 2020 and boy has it been a year that none of us would ever imagine would happen in our lives. Who would have ever thought that we would be living thru a pandemic and things like lockdowns, social distancing, face masks and phased re-openings would be hot topics of conversation. And for America, we also have the burden of a country that is more divided than ever, I can’t even imagine what the rest of the world even thinks of America at this moment. That said, it’s been a difficult year for all of us and you might be thinking to yourself, “I’m done with 2020, can we just skip to 2021?”. Or maybe you are like me and hoping to wake up some morning and realize this was some awful never ending nightmare, I mean it sure does feel like that.

It’s more important this year than any other year to try and think positively. This is a difficult task but when you truly think about it, there is always something positive. There are the obvious ones like being healthy thru all this or the ones that make you feel better, like the whole world is going thru this so we aren’t going thru it alone. But what are your specific positives. I think it’s important to first look at the negative things about 2020, all the things you are missing out on, to see how minor they are compared to the positives. We all obviously miss being with family and friends but what plans did you have that were cancelled or changed?

I took the above picture at Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival last September while attending a conference for my travel business. At the time I was planning my 2020 travels and knew that Ireland was where I wanted my big trip to be to. I had a trip booked to there planned for this May during the Memorial Day week, which is my favorite time of year for a big trip especially to Europe. This was my biggest disappointment of 2020, I was so looking forward to this trip. Travel feeds my soul and I love exploring new places and I’m part Irish so I was really looking forward to exploring my heritage. I also had 5 other trips cancelled (so far) this year.

Other than Memorial Day when I felt pretty down for missing this trip, I have been trying to think positively by looking at the good parts of 2020.

Seeing an old friend: There were luckily two months in 2020 before the lockdowns started and since I travel a lot, I was lucky enough to take two trips this year. The first one was in January when I traveled to Baton Rouge, LA to run a half marathon in my 31st state (thank god I got at least one state this year!). This quick weekend trip was special because one of my best friends from high school who I haven’t seen in years lives in Baton Rouge. I had a great time being able to catch up and spend the day with her and her kids. In all these months of not being able to see friends that I have seen numerous times over the years, seeing a good friend for the first time in years was definitely a bright spot!

Being at my happy place: Of course no year is complete without Disney. In February I was at Disney for my favorite runDisney event, the Princess Half Marathon. I was dealing with a bout of hip bursitis at the time, but the race was still as magical as always. I go to Disney quite a bit, but I still was able to experience a couple of new things on this trip, I stayed at the fairly new Gran Destino Tower at Disney’s Coronado Springs resort and it was just as beautiful as I thought it would be. I also had breakfast at what I now consider the most fun character breakfast ever at Topolino’s at the new Disney’s Riviera Resort. Check out my post on that here https://beyondthemilestravelblog.com/2020/03/01/most-fun-character-breakfast-ever/

It’s pretty crazy to me how quickly things changed after that trip, I got home on February 25th and covid-19 wasn’t even a thought in my head (well other than when I had an awful sinus infection in January and totally looked up the covid-19 symptoms to make sure I didn’t have it). The end of the next week, there started being cases reported in Boston from a conference that Biogen had. It kind of freaked me out but I had no idea that as of the following Tuesday March 10th, I would leave work to work from home after someone in the office building tested positive and still not be back in this office to this day.

Working from home: One of the biggest positives about all of this is being able to work from home (with my adorable coworker who is kind of needy and loving me always being here). I’m very grateful to still have a job while so many others have lost theirs. I never thought I would enjoy working from home full time, once or twice a week maybe, but every day? I work in accounting for my full time job and let’s just say I only do accounting because it pays well and I’m good at it, but it’s REALLY boring so I usually love the social part of being in the office more than the actual work. Over the past few months, things have been difficult in the office and it’s just made me depressed and negative, so being home has greatly improved my mood and made me way more productive when it comes to work. I honestly do not know how I’ll ever go back to that office. But that’s a problem I don’t think I’ll have to think about for a while.

Improving my health: Working from home has also helped me get more sleep, I sleep 7-8 hours every night compared to 5-6 hours before. Another thing I never thought I would enjoy would be exercising at home. I now can never see myself going back to the gym. There is an on demand app for my favorite class at the gym and my favorite pilates studio has classes on zoom. This has made it easier for me to do more cross training which in turn is helping to keep me injury free so I can run more. I might just reach my goal of 800 miles this year even after starting the year with only 27 miles in January due to hip bursitis.

Getting organized: During the spring when the weather wasn’t that great I was able to spend some time getting things organized at home. I cleaned our my closet and donated 4 bags of clothing, I’m trying to use all the trial size toiletries that I have and I reorganized my living room which makes it look a lot bigger which is good since I’m spending so much more time at home than before.

Appreciating my home city: I’ve always loved Boston, but now I have really learned a new respect for where I live. It has been so nice to have so many different areas of the city to explore on runs or walks. Even with everything closed, I felt like I could still “go somewhere”. There is just so much to see outside in Boston, I’ve enjoyed being a tourist and getting some really great photos without the usual crowds of people in them. I’m running different routes than normal and seeing parts of the city and even my neighborhood that I’ve never seen before. I’m not just close to the downtown, I’m also lucky to have a beach right down the street from me. It’s not my favorite beach but it is definitely helping to make summer feel more like summer even if it’s not one of my favorite Massachusetts beaches.

Grateful for modern conveniences: We should all be grateful that this happened in 2020 and not 1980. What would we do without the internet, social media and zoom? It would definitely be a lot harder to stay in touch and make sure everyone is ok. And working from home probably wouldn’t be an option, even more people would be out of jobs and the economy would suffer even more. I’m very grateful for social media, I’ve made new connections thru my blog, twitter and Instagram and have learned so much about different parts of the world from these connections. I cherish these new connections, it gave me a little piece of the connections that I am missing by not traveling. I’m also eternally grateful for things like grocery delivery and amazon. I don’t have a car and taking an Uber home didn’t seem safe, so these may be what I’m most grateful for.

As you can see, there have been many positives to 2020. None of us know what the second half of the year will bring. As states in the south and west reopened, cases have spiked to all time highs in America. Here in Massachusetts, our cases are on the decline and I hope they stay that way but as I listen to 4th of July parties going on around me, I fear we will see another spike I have other trips planned this year including a road trip next month I’d like to go on, but more importantly, I would really like to celebrate the holidays with my family later this year (I do not want to have to have a ZOOM Thanksgiving or Christmas!) and start 2021 off on the right foot. I will just continue doing my part in social distancing and wearing my mask and hoping more people start doing the same. I saw the above message while running one morning, maybe with some Fierceness, Persistence, Patience and Resolve we can all try and unite as one and do our part to contain this virus. One can only hope, right?

Stay Healthy Everyone and keep searching for those positives!

Remembering D-Day Part 4 – Afternoon thru Normandy

After lunch we headed to Sainte-Mere-Eglise, the first town liberated by the Allied Forces. As paratroopers descended from the sky into the small village, American soldier, John Steele was hit by shrapnel and landed on the church tower in the village. He then spent two and half hours dangling from the church tower. There is a replica of John Steele hanging from the church tower as if the church and town have stopped time.

From there we headed to Pointe du Hoc. This 100 foot cliff was the highest point in between Utah and Omaha Beaches.

The German troops were ready at Pointe du Hoc to defend Normandy from the Allied attack.

The US Army was able to successfully take over and secure the area after scaling the cliffs and fighting off the Germans.

A number of the bunkers still remain, it was very interesting to walk the grounds and see the remains from that battle.

View from Pointe du Hoc

I walked over to the cliffs to check out exactly how high up they were. The view was stunning, peaceful and so relaxing.

While taking in this peaceful view, it was hard to imagine the battle and resulting death that took place at such a beautiful location.

Something we should remember in every day life, no matter how beautiful or peaceful somewhere may be, terrible things can happen anywhere. We must enjoy the beauty that is life as we never know what may happen, none of us are immune to heartbreak in life no matter how invincible we may think we are.

After Pointe du Hoc, we headed over to the American Cemetery. If you would like to read more on that, please check out this blog: https://beyondthemilestravelblog.com/2020/06/14/remembering-d-day-part-2-the-cemeteries/

Then we made our last stop of the day at Omaha Beach. The landings at this beach were necessary to link the landings to the west at Utah and the British landings to the east at Gold. The atmosphere at Omaha was much more subdued than at Utah Beach, this made for a good time to reflect on the busy, information loaded day we all just had.

If you will be in Normandy for a short visit, I do recommend taking a full day tour like this, I would hope you have a knowledgeable, enthusiastic tour guide like I had, he definitely made the tour amazing.

It was a lot of information for one day though, so if you were spending a good amount of time in Normandy, I would recommend maybe taking some half day morning tours to the different sites so that you can spend your afternoons absorbing the information.

I hope you have enjoyed me revisiting my Normandy trip and learned some more things you didn’t previously know about Normandy like I did. Thanks so much for reading, stay safe and healthy everyone!

Remembering D-Day Part 3 – Morning In Normandy

After leaving the German Cemetery (more on that here: https://beyondthemilestravelblog.com/2020/06/14/remembering-d-day-part-2-the-cemeteries/ ), we headed to Angoville-au-Plain. This was my favorite part of the tour!

There is not much to this small town but it’s the church that holds the history and story of Robert Wright and Ken Moore.

These two heroic US army medics with the 101st Airborne Division used the church as a makeshift hospital during the invasion of Normandy.

Blood stained pew

It was interesting and also kind of eerie to see the church pew with a blood stain still visible from those 3 days that this was used as a makeshift hospital.

Both Robert Wright and Ken Moore received the Silver Star Medal for their bravery not only treating American soldiers, but also injured local residents and even German soldiers.

They treated these patients as bombs were being set off all around the church outside, shattering windows and even collapsing a portion of the roof.

This was a story I don’t remember reading in the school history books and hearing it as we looked at the blood stains from that time, puts a whole different perspective on how awful it would be to live thru a war.

The town celebrates these medics and has a memorial set up outside the church. Robert Wrights remains were buried at the site.

From there we headed to one of the more well known spots in Normandy, Utah Beach.

Utah Beach was the westernmost landing site of the invasion and was much more successful than the landing at Omaha Beach where there were many more casualties.

The beginning of the landing didn’t begin as a successful one though as they were off by 1,800 meters. This ended up working to their advantage as it led the Allied forces to a much less defended area of the beach.

Our guide took us to the beach and as we stood on the beach he told the story of the landing. You could close your eyes and get clear picture in your mind of the landing as he described it to us.

There were many statues and artifacts to see at the Utah Beach site. This section of beach is popular today for horse trotting practice. It was fun to watch them practicing on the beach, amazing how fast these horses can go!

After Utah Beach, we stopped for lunch. Lunch was at an old restored restaurant called Café J. Phillippe Epicerie. There are photos of soldiers outside this café back in June of 1944. The café was restored and has many artifacts from the time of the war to check out before or after eating lunch. I love when tours pick such interesting places like this for a meal, it really adds to the feel of the tour and is so much better than just going to another modern restaurant.

After relaxing at lunch and fueling up, we were ready for an afternoon full of visiting a few more stops in Normandy. Stay tuned for next week’s blog on all that we saw that afternoon.

Remembering D-Day Part 2 – The Cemeteries

There are numerous tours from Bayeux to see the sights of the Invasion of Normandy. Being that I was visiting from the US, I decided to take a full day US Beaches Tour.

La Cambe German Cemetery

Although this was a tour visiting the US sights of the Invasion of Normandy, the first stop on the tour was La Cambe German Cemetery.

Now why would we start our US tour visiting a German cemetery?

There are a couple of reasons, one of which is for us to be able to see the contrast in the German cemetery vs. the US cemetery that we would be visiting later in the day.

Another reason was that the La Cambe German Cemetery was originally started as an American cemetery during the war. The cemetery was for both Americans and Germans. After the war it became the largest German cemetery in Normandy without over 21,000 soldiers buried here.

Of these 21,000 soldiers buried in this 15 acre cemetery, 300 of them are buried in the hill that serves as the centerpiece of the cemetery. On top of this hill sits a black cross with two statues surrounding it.

You can walk up to the top to get a closer look of the cross and statues and also a view of the cemetery as a whole. When viewing the cemetery from up top, I noticed how subdued it was compared to cemeteries home in the US. I was happy to see that they had plaques to mark most gravesites with a few crosses scattered throughout. It makes for a more peaceful site to visit.

American Cemetery in Normandy

That afternoon, we visited the American Cemetery in Normandy.

There are over 9,000 US soldiers buried at this 172 acre cemetery.

Unlike the plaques and few black crosses in the German cemetery, the gravesites here are all marked with crosses made of Italian white marble.

A few of the crosses are recognized with a gold star, like this one for General Theodore Roosevelt Jr. Also marked are the graves for other Generals, Medal of Honor recipients and the Niland brothers who the movie Saving Private Ryan is based off of.

There are also 300 unknown soldiers buried here and also the Wall of Missing which honors the over 1,500 missing in action soldiers.

The cemetery is an actual site of one of the battles of the Invasion of Normandy as it sits overlooking Omaha Beach.

Our visit to the cemetery was very well timed as we were there to witness the daily flag ceremony.

There is something very moving hearing taps playing and seeing the flag lowered and folded while in a military cemetery. It reminds you that the flag holds as a symbol not just for our country but for all those who fought for the our country. Without them, we wouldn’t have the freedoms and rights that we have today.

If you have never witnessed this ceremony before, I highly recommend it.

The differences in the cemeteries were very apparent. From the location of the cemeteries to the scale that each cemetery was displayed. These differences reflect the differences in the countries themselves. America has always been a country that goes all out, the bigger the better with everything they do. While European countries are a little more subdued.

I enjoyed seeing both of these cemeteries and being able to pay my respects to the soldiers lost during the Invasion of Normandy in June 1944. Next week, I will discuss some of the sites where the Invasion took place.