Fall in love with the Emerald Necklace

You may be thinking, “is this a blog about a piece of jewelry?” Nope, it’s about the 1,100 acre park system located in Boston named the Emerald Necklace. Why was this park system named this? Well, the original vision of the parks were that they were planned as if they were hanging from the neck of the peninsula of Boston. The shape of the parks were originally planned to be in the shape of a U to make a necklace but the last portion of the parks never came to fruition.

In the late 1800s, landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted designed this linear park system which goes from the Boston Common in downtown Boston to Franklin Park in Dorchester. While these parks are beautiful any time during the year, fall is a perfect time to visit the parks and take in all the beautiful fall foliage.

Boston Common: Starting in downtown Boston the first park along the Emerald Necklace is the Boston Common. Dating back to 1634, it’s the oldest city park in the United States. The park has had many uses over the years: cow pasture, British camp during the American Revolutionary War, site of public hangings and a site for protests. Now people visit this park to enjoy the outdoors, have a picnic, take a walk, go ice skating on frog pond, play tennis and so much more.

Boston Public Garden: Next is the Boston Public Garden which is the first public botanical garden in the United States. Famous for the Swan Boats and the Make Way for Ducklings Statue, this is a popular park for families to visit. To learn more about this beautiful park, check out the following post: https://beyondthemilestravelblog.com/2020/08/09/make-way-for-the-boston-public-garden/

Commonwealth Ave Mall: Commonwealth Avenue runs from the Public Garden to the suburb of Newton. The section in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston from the Public Garden to Kenmore Square has a park in the middle of the road known as the Commonwealth Avenue Mall. This portion is part of the Emerald Necklace. Walking along the mall, you will come across many statues and memorials including the Boston Women’s Memorial.

Back Bay Fens: Otherwise known as The Fens, this park is located in the Fenway-Kenmore neighborhood of the city and is very close to the historic MLB baseball stadium Fenway Park. In The Fens you will find the Shattuck Visitor’s Center for the Emerald Necklace, World War II Memorial and the James P Kelleher Rose Garden.

The Riverway: This park follows the Muddy River into the neighborhood of Brookline. Nearby this park are many colleges and well known hospitals. The park includes some of the most beautiful bridges in the Emerald Necklace and is a very quiet and perfect spot for a social distanced walk, run or bike ride.

Olmsted Park: Originally named Leverett Park, this park was renamed in 1900 to honor the designer of the Emerald Necklace, Frederick Law Olmsted. This park includes athletic fields and 3 ponds that were created dredging the swampy Muddy River.

Jamaica Pond: Located in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, this 68 acre pond is 53 feet deep at its center. It’s the largest body of fresh water in Boston. It’s a popular area for walking, running, fishing, rowing and sailing. And up until 1929, it was a popular place to go ice skating in the winter.

Arnold Arboretum: Established in 1872 as part of Harvard University, this is the oldest public arboretum in North America. Within the park is the visitor center located in the National Historic Landmark Hunnewell Building and the Weld Hill Research Building. While the Arboretum is beautiful in the fall, it really shines each May when the lilacs bloom. I might be slightly biased as lilacs are my favorite flower.

Franklin Park: The largest of all the parks in the Emerald Necklace, Franklin Park is often considered the “crown jewel” of Olmsted’s work in Boston. It is actually named after Boston born Benjamin Franklin. Within the park there is a golf course, tennis courts, baseball fields and basketball courts. It’s also home to many high school and collegiate cross country meets each year. A popular draw to the park is the 72 acre Franklin Park Zoo. Founded in 1912, it’s the second largest zoo in New England.

If you are visiting Boston, I highly recommend taking a walk along the Emerald Necklace, even if you just check out one or two of the parks. These parks really are a great way to escape city life for a moment.

A historic stroll thru Boston’s Beacon Hill

A couple of weeks ago I took an audio walking tour of Beacon Hill. This historic neighborhood has been home to both politicians and poets as well as some of the most beautiful streets in the city of Boston.

Gas lit lamp post

One distinct feature of the streets of Beacon Hill are the lamp posts. To this day, these lamp posts continue to be lit by gas as they have always been. It definitely adds to the historic charm of the neighborhood.

Walking up the hill, the first stops on the tour are on the beautiful Mt. Vernon Street. This street is home to many historic homes.

A fall day adds to the beauty of this street.

Mt Vernon Street

The first stop on the street is the Nichols House Museum located at 55 Mt. Vernon Street. This home was built in 1804 by architect Charles Bulfinch. Since 1961, this house has served as a museum which gives you a look at the life of Beacon Hill over the 19th and 20th centuries. Landscape architect, peace activist and suffragist Rose Standish Nichols live here her whole life and her family’s original art and furnishings are on display in the museum.

Next door is 57 Mt. Vernon Street, which was home to two different politicians. Daniel Webster who served as both US Senator and Secretary of State lived at this address. You may know him as a character in Mark Twain’s “The Devil and Daniel Webster”. Charles Francis Adams, Sr. also resided in this house. He was grandson of the 2nd US President John Adams and son of the 6th US President John Quincy Adams. He was also in politics himself, serving as a state senator and an ambassador to the United Kingdom during the Civil War.

Next up is 65 Mt. Vernon Street where yet another politician lived. Senator and first unofficial Senate Majority Leader, Henry Cabot Lodge lived in this house. He is best known for his disagreement with President Woodrow Wilson over the Treaty of Versailles. While President Wilson wanted to join the League of Nations without any reservations, which could force the United States into war without the approval of Congress, Lodge was in favor of reservations. These reservations were incorporated into the League of Nations’ successor the United Nations and hence gave the US veto power.

The Harrison Gray Otis House at 85 Mt. Vernon Street is the last remaining freestanding house in Beacon Hill. It was home to Harrison Gray Otis who was the third mayor of Boston as well as a US Congressman and US Senator.

At 88 Mt. Vernon Street, we come to a house, not known for a politician but instead for a famous poet. From 1938 – 1941, Pulitzer Prize winning poet Robert Frost lived at this home. Across from this home is one of the most expensive streets to live in the United States, Louisburg Square. Louisa May-Alcott, best known for her novel Little Women, once lived on this street.

From Mt. Vernon Street, it’s off to the most photographed street in Boston, Acorn Street. The view from the bottom of the street looking up is the best. Being that it’s the most photographed street and with everyone being a photographer nowadays with their smartphone, it’s difficult to get a photo without a lot of other people around. You will definitely see plenty of people there trying to get that instagram worthy shot or the perfect selfie.

What makes this the most photographed street, you may ask? Well, it’s one of the few streets in the city that has the original cobblestones. These cobblestones and the brick buildings definitely make for a beautiful street, throw in a US flag and some seasonal decorations and it definitely makes for a great photo!

Cheers

Located at 84 Beacon Street is that place where “Everybody knows your name”, the Bull & Finch Pub, otherwise known as Cheers.

This is a great place to grab a drink and some food. But don’t be shocked when you walk inside, it’s ALOT smaller than the bar in the tv show!

44 Charles Street

Another great place to stop for a bite to eat is at the Paramount at 44 Charles Street. Although this is an absolute great restaurant, it’s not the restaurant that makes this building famous, it’s the second floor apartment.

This apartment was home to Mary Sullivan. At 19 years old she was the last and youngest victim of Albert DeSalvo, otherwise known as the “Boston Strangler”. On January 4, 1964, just three days after she moved in, Mary’s body was found in the apartment.

Although the scene of this murder was similar to the other victim’s scenes, there was a striking difference. Next to Mary’s foot was a note addressed to the Boston Police that said Happy New Year. There were not notes left at any of the other crime scenes. Her family argued that she was killed not by the “Boston Strangler” but by an ex boyfriend.

In 2013, they compared DNA from the crime scene with a living relative of DeSalvo’s and it produced a match so they exhumed DeSalvo’s body and ran a DNA test, results of which stated that the odds of the DNA belonging to someone other than DeSalvo were 1 in 220 billion. I guess it’s safe to say Mary Sullivan was in fact his final victim.

Charles Street Meeting House

The Charles Street Meeting House at 70 Charles Street was a major part of Boston’s Abolitionist movement. People such as William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth and Charles Sumner all spoke here.

It became the Charleston Street African Methodist Church, which was one of the largest of the black churches in Boston after the Civil War.

Sunflower House

The Sunflower House is located at 130 Mt. Vernon Street near Charles Street.

In 1904, watercolor artist Gertrude Beals moved into this house. Her studio was located on the third floor of the home. On the outside of the house on the third floor is a sunflower. This sunflower is what gave the home it’s name.

One of Gertrude’s paintings was of her in the third floor studio and it was titled “The Artist’s Studio-Sunflower Castle”.

Close up of the Sunflower

The final stop on the tour was the Liberty Hotel. The hotel is the former site of the Charles Street jail. It was a jail from 1851-1990 and housed inmates such as Malcolm X and Boston Mayor James Michael Curly.

Forced to close in 1973 due to overcrowding violating prisoner rights, it finally shut down in 1990.

It then became the luxury hotel, The Liberty Hotel. It’s a beautiful hotel with a jail theme. The two lounges in the hotel are called The Clink and Alibi’s. At Alibi’s, which is located where the former drunk tank of the jail was, you can enjoy a drink behind steel bars with mug shots of popular celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Mickey Rourke and Lindsay Lohan.

If you’re looking for a place to stay in Boston, definitely check out the Liberty Hotel.

Beacon Hill isn’t normally top of people’s list when visiting Boston, but it is definitely worth a visit. I’ve been to the Liberty Hotel and checked out the restaurants and shops on Charles Street many times, but I never knew much of the history of the Beacon Hill neighborhood. If you are looking for a great audio tour, check out the Atlantis Audio Tours app and let it lead your thru this beautiful Boston neighborhood full of history!

25 Years of Eating and Drinking Around the World In Epcot

It’s been difficult missing travel this year especially the trips to new places and different countries. But it’s the trip to Disney during Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival that I will miss the most, especially since this is the 25th year of the festival. I should be starting to pack now to leave later this week, but due to a combination of my state’s travel restrictions and me being hesitant to fly just yet, here I am reminiscing about past years instead.

There has always been something special about Epcot. Alot of people think of this as an inferior park compared to the other Disney Parks. For me it has always been my absolute favorite! I could literally walk around the world showcase every day and never get bored with it, it just brings me such joy!

I’ve always loved to travel so before I was able to travel to other countries, Epcot was how I experienced other countries, their cultures and their food and drinks. Granted, Epcot is in no way the same as traveling the world, but to young, poor 20 something living an hour away from Epcot, it was the closest I could get.

Epcot is host to 4 different festivals each year that all have their own special qualities, but The International Food and Wine Festival is definitely my all time favorite. Each year it seems to grow in popularity. The dates of the festival get longer and longer and the number of different food and drink booths increase each year.

This year’s festival is longer than past years, but there are not as many food booths as prior years. Less food booths for such a big anniversary, covid-19 certainly knows how to ruin big plans!

The festival offers tasting size food that range in price from $4 – $9 and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks from $4 – $11. This is on top of the daily admission price to the park.

It can definitely end up being quite an expensive day, but in mind it’s totally worth the price. Definitely something you should set aside some extra money for if you want to be able to try a little bit of everything.

Some of my favorite food and drinks from the prior years of the festival include:

Ireland – Guinness Baileys Shake (seriously craving this it’s my favorite!) and the warm Irish cheddar cheese and stout dip served with Irish brown bread

Canada – Canadian cheddar cheese and bacon soup served with a pretzel roll. As if you can’t tell, I love cheese! Even though it’s soup, it’s still really good in the hot Florida weather.

France – La Passion Martini Slushy – Vodka, Grey Goose Le Citron, Cranberry and Passion Fruit Juice.

Hawaii – Kalua Pork Slider with pineapple chutney and spicy mayo.

Italy – Baked ziti and Italian Margarita, who wouldn’t love a Margarita made with Limoncello?!

Mexico – Pork Belly taco and a Mexican craft beer with a liquer floater.

These are just a few of the tasty foods and drinks you can try.

At certain booths you can also get flights of beer, wine or champagne. They come in these not so classy cardboard flights that I think are a pain in the butt to carry. I’ve definitely had my fair share of accidental spills. But hey it’s great to try the different beers if you can’t choose from just one.

Along with the food and drinks to try they have exhibits (normally based on who sponsors the festival) like art sculptures made from chocolate and other candy, cranberry bogs, etc. These are always fun to check out.

Included with your admission to Epcot is the Eat to the Beat concert series that also occurs during the food and wine festival. There are some great performers from the 80s and 90s that they have play each night. Such as Boyz II Men, Starship, Tiffany, 98 Degrees, Smash Mouth, Kenny G and Billy Ocean. It’s so much fun seeing these concerts especially for those of us who grew up when these musical groups/singers were popular. There are three shows each night and they fill up quick. A great way to guarantee a seat is to book a dining package for lunch or dinner that includes guaranteed seating in the show. Otherwise, if you don’t get in, the show is outside, so you can still hear the performance.

Check out my video (sorry for my awful background singing) from seeing Boyz II Men last year, they are so good in concert, if you’ve never seen them and have the chance, definitely check them out!

With so much to eat, drink, see and listen to, who wouldn’t love to check out Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival. The festival usually runs from just before labor day thru mid November each year.

My biggest tip would be to avoid the weekend if you can as it tends to get pretty busy then, a week day visit has much more manageable crowds.

Anyone else hungry after reading this? lol

Ghost sighting and ghost stories in Salem

Growing up about 20 miles from Salem, I have visited this popular tourist city multiple times over the years. There were many school field trips to places such as the Witch Museum, Witch Dungeon and Witch House. I took this for granted as a kid, but now that I’m older and see how many people travel from all over the country and world to visit Salem, I realize how lucky I was to be able to visit these wonderful places so many times as part of school trips.

Visiting Salem during October and specifically on Halloween may be a bucket list item for many, but it’s also the perfect place to visit any time of year. Crowds don’t bother me too much but the crowds in October can get pretty crazy, especially the closer you get to Halloween. If you want to avoid the crowds, I highly recommend visiting in the spring or summer.

Bewitched Statue

There is so much to see and do in Salem. If you are staying in Boston and don’t have a car, there is a train that goes to Salem. It takes about a half hour and it drops you off right by downtown. The first thing you will come to when you walk from the train is the statue of Samantha from Bewitched. This is definitely a great photo op!

From late spring thru October you can also take a ferry from downtown Boston to Salem. This is a great way to get to Salem and enjoy the beautiful weather, who doesn’t want to take a boat ride? When you get off the ferry, check out the waterfront and the historic Custom House which has been in Salem since 1819.

About a year and a half ago, one of my closest friends was visiting from Florida. We headed up to Salem for the day with no plan on what we would do. Little did we know we would possibly see a ghost while we were there.

It all started when we headed over to check out the House of Seven Gables. My friend’s father’s family was from Salem and his aunt had worked at the House of Seven Gables for years.

The House of Seven Gables was made famous by the Nathaniel Hawthorne novel of the same name. It was built in 1668 by merchant and ship owner John Turner and is now one of America’s most beloved historic homes.

We had a late start getting up to Salem and by the time we got over to the House it was closed for the day. We took some pictures of the outside of the house and then walked a couple of blocks away to see the outside of the house that my friend’s great aunt lived in.

Later that night while looking at pictures we noticed a small orb in a different location on each picture. Maybe it was a reflection off of something but it was in a different location in each picture my friend took even though she was standing in the same spot taking the pictures. We really think that possibly it was the ghost or spirit of my friend’s great aunt as it was moving away from the House of Seven Gables towards her house a couple of streets away. It was like she knew my friend was there to take her home. Check out the pictures below and tell me what you think of the glowing green dot in each picture (ghost or reflection?)

Some of the tours can be hit or miss in Salem. One year I took a nighttime trolley tour that spent more time pointing out all the supposedly haunted Dunkin Donuts in town (which there were a lot, anyone who’s been to New England knows there’s a Dunkin or two on just about every corner) than telling any information on Salem. Well luckily we found a much better tour to take this visit. We took the Salem Night Tour which was a walking tour and I highly recommend it.

The tour went to the typical tourist spots The Witch Trial Memorial and the Burying Point Cemetery. This cemetery is the oldest in Salem and is definitely worth checking out both at night and in the daylight.

It also included a stop at the Old Town Hall which was featured in my favorite Halloween themed movie, Hocus Pocus.

We also visited St. Peter’s Church. The present church has been here since 1833, but it’s the chapel that was added on to the rear of the building in 1871 that has a somewhat creepy history. The rear of this church was a graveyard and while the gravestones were moved to the front of the church, the buried are still under the chapel. Sounds like a risky move to build on top of people’s final resting place, I mean we all saw what happened in the movie Poltergeist right?

One of those buried under the chapel was Salem merchant Phillip English. Phillip and his wife Mary were accused of witchcraft in 1692. Being that he was a wealthy merchant, he gained the support of two Boston reverends who helped him and his wife escape to New York. They returned to Salem in the summer of 1693 to find out their belongings had been confiscated. Phillip would spend the rest of his life suing to try and regain his lost property. When he died in 1736 he was buried at St. Peter’s Church, although his remains are under the chapel that was added in 1871, his gravestone was never moved. As this is one of the most haunted places in Salem, it stands to reason he may be the one haunting the place?

My favorite part of the tour was actually the last stop. The Gardner-Pingree House was built in 1804, is considered a National Historic Landmark and is part of the Peabody-Essex Museum.

In April 1830, wealthy retired sea captain Joseph White went to bed one night. His relatives that lived with him awoke the next morning to find a window open and went upstairs to find Captain White bludgeoned to death.

It turns out his nephew by marriage and his brother hired someone to murder him as they snuck into his room and stole his will. They figured if they steal the will, all of his money would have to be divided up amongst all the heirs. The murder and trial was something that really shook up the city of Salem. It also inspired two literary works, Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”. The house also inspired the Parker Brothers (which was founded in Salem) board game Clue. Does anyone have Captain White murdered in the bedroom with a club?

Since his death, there have been numerous reports of hearing footsteps in the house. The ghost of Captain White lives on.

I won’t lie, I swear I saw something in the windows while listening to the story. Might have been my imagination getting the best of me or just a reflection, but maybe Captain White was just saying hello.

Definitely an interesting day in Salem. Who says it has to be October for fun visit with witches and ghosts?

Have a Happy Halloween!

Fall Activities and an actual in person race in New Hampshire, state 32!

Last weekend, I headed up to the capital of New Hampshire, Concord for a weekend full of fall activities! I’m so eternally grateful that living in Massachusetts means there are so many states close by and also on the very short list of states we can visit without having to get tested or quarantine for 14 days when we return. Also, very thankful to my parents who drive their car over to me so my carless self has a way to getaway for a few days.

Start line photo

As some of you know, I’ve been trying to run a half marathon in all 50 states, with a goal of completing this before I turn 50. Covid has definitely messed up the timeline of this goal, depending how 2021 goes, the date to complete the goal may be pushed out. Anyways, I had been keeping my eye on smaller races to see which ones in the New England states I still had left might end up happening in person this year. As luck would have it, I found one in New Hampshire which was originally planned to be my final state, but I’m now going to do Rhode Island as my final state since my race there this year went virtual.

The New England Half Marathon was being held by Millenium Running who had just held a successful socially distant 10 miler the week before I signed up. On their website, they had a very detailed plan along with a video that showed all of their safety protocols. These included things like face mask requirements at the start and finish of the race, a time trial start where each runner would start by themselves every 10 seconds and marked cones 6 feet apart to line up at the start. After watching the video, I felt very comfortable with signing up for the race. State 32 here I come!

I am so glad that this was my New Hampshire race, October is the absolute perfect time to run a race in New Hampshire. Who wouldn’t want to run thru the beautiful fall foliage? It was like accomplishing two things at once, running a half marathon and leaf peeping at the same time. If you are planning to run all 50 states, definitely pick a fall race for New Hampshire.

Not only was the scenery amazing but the weather was great for running. It was pretty cold waiting to start, the temperature was 48 degrees and it was really windy, but once I started running, it was just perfect, in the 50s thru the entire race. It was good it was a cooler day, due to the timed trial start and me being on the slower side, it was almost 10:30am by the time I started, had it been a warm day, it would have been a little too warm by the time I finished after 1pm.

We were all given an estimated start time and a time to load the bus from the finish to the start area. It was all extremely organized and I never felt like there were too many people around me. Millenium Running definitely did an excellent job and have proven that smaller races can happen during this time.

Check out the gorgeous fall views during the race below:

View from Gould Hill Farm

The race started at Gould Hill Farm in Hopkinton, NH, not to be confused with Hopkinton, MA where the start line of the Boston Marathon is.

This beautiful farm has been around since the 1700s and is a great place to go for apple picking, checking out the farm store, getting some apple cider donuts and also cider samplings. I definitely have to get back there some day for the cider sampling!

NH State house in Concord

The race ended in the state capital of Concord right in front of the New Hampshire State House. Opened in 1819, it is the oldest state capitol in which both houses of the legislature meet in their original chambers. It was a beautiful site to see at the end of the race. Oddly enough, even though it’s only located an hour drive from Boston, I think this may be the first time I’ve ever been to Concord. With the amount of time I’ve spent in New Hampshire over the years, it’s crazy to think of how many times I’ve driven right by the state capital without stopping.

Clock Tower

Concord has that small town New England city feel. One of the striking features of this downtown that I saw was the clock tower.

In 1873, this clock was installed on the top of the 4 story Board of Trade Building on the corner of School and North Main Street. In 1950 the top two stories of the building were taken off the building and the parts of the clock were lost.

Years later, local architect Duncan McGowan decided to bring back the history of the downtown area and went for a search for the missing parts of the clock. The bell was found thousands of miles away at a flea market in Michigan. In December of 1998, the bells of the clock tolled once again 48 years after it’s removal. What an amazing story on how important history is to a city.

Now that the race was over, I was ready to celebrate with all the New England fall activities!

Carter Hill Orchard

First up was my favorite fall activity, apple picking! Like everywhere else in New England there were multiple orchards to choose from. I checked out all the websites and settled on Carter Hill Orchard in Concord. Carter Hill is family owned and has been around since the 1700s. The current family that owns the orchards lives right on site. The orchard includes apple picking, farm stand, bakery (cider donuts!), observation tower, playground and a cider mill.

After picking apples I headed into the farm stand for my post race treat! What better way to celebrate finishing a half marathon than the true fall classic, an apple cider donut! (I also celebrated walking 4 miles today by having two of them, so running a half marathon not required to enjoy these delicious donuts lol) I also bought some fresh maple syrup and pancake mix, since I don’t feel comfortable going out to brunch, I started treating myself to brunch at home this weekend!

Medal photo in the corn maze

Another great fall activity which I have always wanted to try is a corn maze. Beech Hill Farm & Ice Cream Barn is a great place to check out in the Corncord, NH area.

Another family owned business, this farm has been owned by the Kimball family for 9 generations since 1800! If 2020 has taught us anything it’s that we should all be supporting small family businesses more than ever.

There was so much to do at this farm! They have two corn mazes, an ice cream barn (which seems to be a big draw, it was in the high 50s and the line looked so long, you would have thought it was a hot 90 degree summer day!), country store, gardener’s barn, farm museum, picnic area and all sorts of farm animals! It’s definitely a great place for families to check out!

I had more fun than I thought I would in the corn mazes. They had signs within the maze to make it a little scavenger hunt where you learned some interesting facts on the theme of each maze. It definitely made it more fun and who doesn’t love learning some interesting facts? The corn mazes run from August thru October each year and are then harvested and fed to the cattle in the winter.

After finishing both corn mazes, I checked out the farm animals, they had cows, horses, sheep, goats, alpacas and even baby goats and a baby alpaca, they were so cute!

I’m a total city girl and I don’t have a car, so it’s rare that I make it out to a farm, but I must admit, I was very impressed with this farm it was just beautiful and definitely what I needed for me to be excited about fall since I’ve been spending too much time mourning summer ending.

If not for covid, I would have been doing my typical busy fall traveling and probably wouldn’t have been able to appreciate a true New England weekend. It was definitely a weekend I needed, along with the fall activities and the race, I also met a good friend for some shopping at the outlets. This was the first friend I’ve seen since March and it was definitely something I needed. What a great fall getaway!

Have you taken any wonderful local trips that you normally wouldn’t have taken if not for covid?

Liebster Award

I’ve been nominated by Salsa World Traveler’s Blog for the Liebster Award. What a wonderful surprise! Please check out the blog for all sorts of interesting travel all around the world!

Rules: 

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you. 
  3. Nominate 11 bloggers.
  4. Ask your nominees 11 questions.
  5. Notify your 11 nominees .

Salsa World Traveler’s Blog’s Questions and my responses:

  1. Describe the best vacation you have taken? My best vacation was to Maui in 2011, Hawaii has been the one location that I have always dreamed of visiting since I was a child and it beyond lived up to expectations! At some point I’ll get around to blogging about it, it will definitely end up being a few posts, so much to see and do there!
  2. What is the best vacation you want to take? I actually want to go back to Hawaii and visit the other islands, especially Kaui! I’m planning on hopefully taking this trip to celebrate my 50th birthday, that’s still a few years away, so hopefully covid will be a distant memory by then!
  3. What are the three best blog posts you have published? My most popular blog post was on Glacier National Park, Acadia National Park and White Mountains in New Hampshire . Obviously my readers love the outdoors!
  4. How do you measure success with your blog? I’m fairly new at blogging, so my biggest success so far is getting over 100 followers! I also measure my success by seeing if my views are increasing each month, which they are, yay!
  5. What do think about using miles and points for travel? I love using points! I just used some Marriott points last week for a free two night hotel stay. I want to feel more comfortable traveling again, I have so many JetBlue points waiting to be used!
  6. Are you no longer travelling?  If so, what will it take for you to resume travelling? I’ve done a couple of trips to neighboring state of New Hampshire. I’m a little hesitant when it comes to being indoors during covid and although I have faith in the airflow on planes, the airports are what bothers me most. Plus my state of Massachusetts is requiring either a negative test or a 14 day quarantine when returning from just about everywhere with the exception of a few states, most of which are nearby. They are going to put a testing site in the airport though, so I’m starting to book trips for 2021 though, a year without travel is about all I can take!
  7. What do you look for in deciding which blogs to follow and read? If they are things that interest me or things that will help me grow as a person and/or a business.
  8.  Who is your favorite author?  Stephen King
  9. What is favorite musical album? My all time favorite is Slippery when wet by Bon Jovi. I’m a total 80s music girl!
  10. If you had a favorite sports team in the city you lived in and moved to a new city with its own team, who would you root for? Definitely my hometown team. I am from Boston and moved to Tampa for about 11 years, never stopped rooting for the Red Sox or Patriots, they will always be my teams!
  11. What is your favorite non-blogging activity? Well obviously travel, but also running and I of course combine the two and am trying to run a half marathon in all 50 states, 32 done, 18 more to go, hopefully before that 50th birthday trip to Hawaii.

And now I nominate the following 11 blogs:

  1. Brizzy Mays Books and Bruschetta
  2. Lannie’s Food and Travel
  3. Jojo’s Cup of Mocha
  4. The Gen X Travels
  5. Carpe Diem Eire
  6. Lyssy in the City
  7. Travel Bugs World
  8. Adventuring Woman
  9. Meandering My Way
  10. Chalk and Cheese Travels
  11. WattWhereHow?

My Questions:

  1. What made you start blogging?
  2. Have you been blogging more since covid started?
  3. What do you miss the most about pre-covid times?
  4. Has anything changed for the better for you since covid?
  5. What do you do for a living?
  6. How many places have you lived?
  7. What is your favorite type of vacation to take?
  8. Do you tend to take one or two big trips a year or multiple smaller trips?
  9. Do you plan your own travel or use a travel agent?
  10. Is there one place that you continue to travel to on a regular basis?
  11. Will your holiday plans later this year be different due to covid?

No obligation to answer if I tagged you. Thanks again for the nomination Salsa World Traveler’s Blog!

Fall weekend in Acadia National Park

Going way back in the travel vault for this post. About 10 years ago in search of some beautiful fall colors, a few friends and I made the almost 300 mile drive north for a weekend at Acadia National Park.

We picked a weekend in mid October after the busy long Columbus Day holiday weekend in hopes that maybe we would be there during peak foliage with maybe less crowds. Well, fall foliage is unpredictable and doesn’t always peak at the same time each year. A lot of it has to do with summer weather. For instance this year, it is peaking earlier than normal due to the fact we experienced a very dry summer here in New England.

We ended up visiting after the peak foliage, but did luck out with lower crowds. Please do not let past peak foliage cause you to change your mind on visiting as the colors were still beautiful and vibrant and it was definitely worth the long drive there. It also was rainy and windy the day we drove up there, but luckily that did not cause too many leaves to fall off the trees just yet.

As you can see there was definitely no shortage of vibrant fall colors even though it was past peak. Even though we get the fall colors here in the city of Boston, something about being out in the wilderness just makes it so much more amazing to see!

After driving around for a bit and taking in the foliage we decided to hike to the summit of Champlain Mountain. On this 6.5 mile hike, you will gain over 1,000 feet of elevation and the views are so worth it, even on a cloudy day. I can only imagine how far you can see on a clear day. There are some great views of Frenchman Bay and you can see all the cruise ships coming in. This is a popular stop on fall cruises out of Boston heading up to Canada.

The hike up was pretty uneventful, but the hike down was pretty difficult! There were a lot of rocks with fairly smooth surfaces, that were made extra slippery from the rain the day before. I think I spent more time sliding down on my butt than actually walking on two feet to get down the mountain. Lol I’m a bit clumsy and tend to get overly cautious whenever I’m hiking down a mountain, but this was definitely something else. Thankfully we made it down in one piece!

Most people stay in Bar Harbor, Maine when visiting Acadia National Park. We checked out this cute New England town while grabbing some dinner to reward ourselves after finishing the difficult hike in one piece. After dinner, we went back to the hotel and relaxed with some local beers we picked up.

While enjoying our local beers, we were researching what to do the next day before we headed back to Boston. We found the absolute perfect way to end the trip, although when our alarms went off in the very early morning hours we weren’t too sure about our choice.

But thank god we did force ourselves to get up and out the door. Cadillac Mountain is the tallest mountain in the park and it just so happens to be the first place in the Continental United States to see the sunrise from October to early March. How can we pass up saying we saw the sunrise in the first place in the continental US?

For the sunrise, you can get up extra early and hike to the summit or you can still get up early, just not quite as early, and drive up to the summit. We chose to drive up and were so surprised at how crowded, there were so many people out there with tripods, so we then knew this was going to be quite the greet view! Words of advice, leave earlier than you think you should so you can get a parking spot and bring something warm to wear, it’s definitely cooler and more windy at the summit! I wish I had been dressed for January weather not October!

The sunrise was probably the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, so it was more than worth getting out of bed so early and freezing my butt off waiting for the sun to rise. This is definitely a must do when visiting Acadia National Park!

A quick weekend definitely isn’t enough time to fully explore this park. No matter the season, there is so much to see here. Some of the activities include hiking, kayaking, canoeing, camping, beach, whale watches, puffin watches, leave peeping, scenic drives, cross country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling to name a view.

I most definitely need to go back in the summer and take a puffin watching cruise! More to add to the bucket list!

Seattle Coffee Crawl – All the coffee and so much more!

In honor of International Coffee Day this week, I’m thinking back on probably the best tour I’ve taken while traveling, a coffee crawl in Seattle, Washington.

A number of years ago, I visited Seattle with a friend of mine to run the Rock n Roll Seattle Half Marathon. As big coffee lovers, we decided to start our trip with Seattle By Foot’s Coffee Crawl. This was the best decision we could have made, as it is still to this day the best tour I’ve ever taken!

Seattle weather is often grey and rainy, so it’s not surprising that people in Seattle consume more coffee than any other city in America. Seattle is known for it’s coffee, specifically their most famous coffee chain, Starbucks.

The first Starbucks opened in 1971 in the Pike Place Market at 2000 Western Avenue. In 1976, it moved just a short 1 minute walk away to 1912 Pike Place where it still operates today as the Original Starbucks. The store features the original logo and has kept it’s original appearance over all these years. It’s quite the tourist attraction and there is often a line to get in. But definitely worth visiting, as a major Starbucks fan, I was pretty excited to say I’ve been to the original Starbucks!

Original Starbucks

Now on to the Coffee Crawl. It was a small group, it was just me and my friend and 3 or 4 other people from what I can remember. The tour gave us some interesting history about coffee in Seattle. One thing we were surprised to learn was that the Seattle’s Best Coffee chain is actually owned by Starbucks. Here I always thought they were competitors, I guess I didn’t know my coffee chain trivia as well as I thought! Even though Seattle is known for these big giant brand name coffee shops, they also have alot of great independent coffee houses as well and we explored a few of these on the tour.

From lattes to mochas to espressos, we got to try it all at these wonderful Seattle cafes. It was interesting to hear more about the different types of coffees and cafes as well as see the large roasters that are used to help bring us these delicious coffees.

Our favorite shop was Caffe D’arte https://www.caffedarte.com/. If you are in the Seattle area, definitely check it out. Their latte was one of the best I’ve ever had! We definitely visited them again during our trip!

Waterfall Garden in Pioneer Square

Another great thing about this tour was the sites of Seattle that were pointed out to us along the way. While visiting Caffe Umbria in Pioneer Square we stopped at the Waterfall Garden for photos. Pioneer Square is the neighborhood that took over the area that was once the headquarters of UPS, back when it first started and was known as American Messenger Service. The Anne E. Casey Foundation which was started by the founder of UPS still maintains this beautiful city park which features this 22 foot man-made waterfall.

The tour guide also told us about the local transportation options in the city, suggested restaurants and told us about some lesser known sites to see. It was definitely a perfect way to start off our first full day in Seattle.

Per our tour guide’s suggestion, we headed over to the Smith Tower after the tour. After taking the historic elevators that have been in operation since 1914, we got off at the 35th floor for the observatory. When you get off the elevator you enter the China Room, home to the Wishing Chair. Legend has it if an unmarried woman sits in this chair she will be married within a chair. As someone who wasn’t (and still isn’t) in any rush to get married, I steered clear of that chair!

The views from the observation deck were pretty amazing, even on a typical grey day, this city is absolutely beautiful!

Beignets at Toulouse Petit

The absolute best recommendation we received from the coffee crawl tour guide was a restaurant recommendation. She said we just had to go to Toulouse Petit located in the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle and try the beignets. Say no more, if there are beignets, I’m there! The hotel we were staying at was located in the same neighborhood so we headed over there for breakfast the following morning and it exceeded expectations! The beignets were amazing, the coffee was delicious and the service was outstanding. We enjoyed it so much, we headed back there for dinner the following night and dinner was just as amazing as breakfast. I recommended this restaurant to a friend who visited Seattle the following year and her and her husband loved it as well. I will forever recommend this restaurant as one of the best in Seattle to family, friends and travel clients! If you like New Orleans type cuisine, you must check this place out! http://toulousepetit.com/

It’s so great when you go on a tour to try some coffee and you end up learning and experiencing so much more during the rest of your trip due to one tour. A good tour guide can definitely make or break a tour. I feel our tour guide not only made the tour, but also made our trip! If in Seattle, definitely check this tour out! http://seattlebyfoot.com/seattle-walking-tours/seattle-walking-tours-coffee

Do you have any tours that you’ve taken while traveling that stand out to you as some of the best?

Spectacle Island

Did you know there are 34 islands and peninsulas in the Boston Harbor? These islands and peninsulas make up the Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park. They make the perfect way to get away from the city life for a day. Some are accessible by public ferry while others are only accessible via private boat. This summer, due to covid-19, only Spectacle Island was accessible via public ferry, and I decided to revisit this island one Saturday in the beginning of September.

The round trip ferry costs $25 and leaves from Long Wharf in Boston, not far from the New England Aquarium. The Island is a great place to have a picnic, so stop at Faneuil Hall or the Boston Public Market and grab some sandwiches, drinks and snacks to take with you.

The ferry ride takes about 20 minutes and includes some really beautiful views of the harbor and the city of Boston. It’s a nice short relaxing trip to take in the views of this gorgeous city.

Spectacle Island is 114 acres and is located just 4 miles offshore of downtown Boston. It’s named Spectacle Island as the island is composed of two drumlins connected by a spit which make it resemble a pair of spectacles.

Back in 1847, two hotels were built on the island. Sadly they were closed just ten years later when police discovered the hotels were being used for gambling and other illegal activities. In 1857, it was used as a horse rendering plant and after that it was used as a landfill. The dump on the island closed in 1959, but the trash remained there until 1992.

In the 1990s, the main highway thru Boston started to go through a major reconstruction. They basically took the highway which originally went straight thru the city and instead built a tunnel for the part of the highway that went thru downtown. It took years and was a big nightmare for locals and visitors alike. They called it the “Big Dig”. I mean it is quite the Big Dig to build a tunnel thru a busy downtown. Well when the Big Dig took place, they decided to use the land that was dug up in the Big Dig and take it to Spectacle Island to fill in the landfill

Then finally in 2006, the beautiful Spectacle Island we know today was opened to the public. Visiting there today you would never know that it was a landfill for all those years.

There are many activities that you can enjoy on Spectacle Island, as I mentioned earlier, it’s a great place to have a picnic with views of the Boston skyline in the distance. There’s a small beach, hiking trails and plenty of beautiful areas to sit and enjoy your surroundings.

During pre-covid times, there was even more to do on the island including a small visitors center with some history of the island and a snack bar.

The island would host many events over the summer months, such as a yoga classes, kayaking, clam bakes and live jazz music to name a few.

As most of you know I’m an avid runner, so one of my favorite events on the island is the annual 5K. Nothing better than taking a boat to a race! Due to the island being pretty hilly and the lack of shade, it’s definitely a challenging 5K, but also a lot of fun!

Definitely make sure to walk around the entire island to take in the views from all sides of the island, I honestly could not get enough of the gorgeous views. So close to Boston, yet I still felt so far away, which in a year lacking travel, that definitely felt really nice.

Have you ever visited one of the Boston Harbor Islands? If not, and you will be in Boston during the summer thru the beginning of fall, definitely put this on your list, it’s a great little break from the hustle and bustle of the city.

More to do in the White Mountains of New Hampshire

There is so much to see in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. From hiking trails to covered bridges to waterfalls and kayaking or tubing down the river, you will not run out of things to see when visiting this region. It’s actually the perfect covid trip since there is so much to do outside in the fresh air where it’s safer than indoors and so much wide open space making it easy to social distance.

Flume Gorge

On my first full day of my trip to New Hampshire last month, I visited Franconia Notch State Park. I started the day visiting the Flume Gorge. If you have limited time in this area, this is a great place to visit to get a taste of quite a few of the highlights of the area. While visiting the Flume Gorge, you can see the gorge itself as well as a couple of covered bridges, a waterfall and beautiful mountain views. It’s suitable for families, but some of the uphill parts may be difficult if you aren’t in the best shape. Even though I run all the time, parts of it had me out of breath.

The first site you will come to is The Flume Covered Bridge. It was built in 1886, making it one of the oldest covered bridges in the state. It stretches across the Pemigewasset River. This was an easier part of the walk, as you started high above and made your way down to the bridge.

You then make your way up into the gorge. The gorge is absolutely beautiful and makes life seem small while walking thru with the 70-90 foot tall granite walls along side you.

Once you make it to the top, you will reach Avalanche Falls. Spend some time listening to these relaxing falls.

As you make your way down, you will come to the Sentinel Pine Bridge and Pool. The Pool was formed at the end of the Ice Age some 14,000 years ago. by a stream flowing thru a glacier.

It’s a great experience to walk thru the covered bridge and look down at the pool below.

There were definitely some gorgeous views on this hike thru the flume gorge.

After the Flume Gorge, I decided to take a short hike nearby. I hiked up the Artist Bluff Trail and the views were just amazing! It was just a 1.5 mile hike with only 390 feet elevation gain. Hiking this trail reminded me of how much I miss traveling. I started talking to a guy on the trail who had been making the best of the bad situation that is 2020, he was from California and had been laid off and decided to take a solo road trip across the country. It was interesting to hear his experience and it reminded me what I absolutely love about solo travel – meeting new people and hearing their travel experiences!

The trail was a little more strenuous than I thought it would be since it was pretty rocky. The whole way up I imagined my clumsy self slipping on the rocks on the way down. Luckily I made it down in one piece without falling and boy were those views worth it!

Old Man of the Mountain

When I was a child we spent many summer vacations in New Hampshire and one of the highlights of the ride there was to stop and see the Old Man of the Mountain. The rocks at the top of this mountain jut out in a way that it looked like the profile of a man and it was a big tourist spot right off the highway. Sadly in May of 2003, the rocks collapsed and the old man was no more. They have since created a memorial to the Old Man and have these steel profilers that if you stand behind them it makes it look like the old man is back on the mountain. Definitely needed to visit this for nostalgia purposes.

Kayaking the Saco River

The next day I headed east over to North Conway. North Conway is located not far from the New Hampshire-Main border and is a busy town with lots of restaurants and shops. The Saco River flows thru here and is a great place to go tubing, kayaking and canoeing. There were so many groups of people out tubing together. Since I was alone, I decided to take a 5 mile kayak trip. It started off as a beautiful day but a little over halfway thru, it started pouring so hard I had to go to shore and get out of the kayak because I could not see! After about 20 minutes of trying to take cover under a tree (which didn’t really help much), the rain stopped and the sun came back out. The ironic thing about this is that according to the weather app on my phone, this was the one day there wasn’t a chance of rain on my trip and the only day I got stuck outside in it! It was a great kayaking experience but even though it poured during it, there has been a lack of rain this summer and the already shallow Saco River was even more shallow. There were parts I had to get out of the kayak and push it down river to deeper water. But it was a lot of fun and after I had a late lunch and did some shopping at the outlet mall.

Echo Lake State Park

My last day of the trip, I headed over to Echo Lake State Park. This beautiful park has a picnic area, swimming and kayaking in the lake and hiking. There was a beautiful easy hike around the lake. There was also other more difficult trails that went off of the lake trail. I took one of these up to Cathedral Ledge and it was so nice to hang out by the lake in the picnic area after the hike to relax and have something to eat.

The Cathedral Ledge Hike was 2.8 miles round trip and had 669 feet elevation. Every time I do these hikes, I wonder how I ever managed hikes that were in the 1000s of feet since these ones in the 100s make me feel so out of shape! I guess things were easier when I was younger.

It was really a beautiful hike and the views from the top definitely made it worth it. I could have sat up there all day taking in these views!

On my way back to the hotel I stopped in Crawford Notch State Park to hike up to Ripley Falls. This hike was just 1.1 miles roundtrip with 308 feet elevation gain. It was definitely well worth it! The falls were beautiful and the hike wasn’t too bad. It started by crossing some train tracks which had me thinking of the movie, Stand By Me, which I ended up watching this weekend for the first time in forever and I had forgotten what a great movie it is!

Although summer is a beautiful time to visit the White Mountains, I wish I could head up there in the fall as well to see all the colorful leaves. But even though it was only August, there were definitely some signs of fall already.

Thankfully the leaves get beautiful here in Boston as well so I’ll still get some beautiful fall views just without the mountains.

I hope you enjoyed my few posts on New Hampshire, this is just a few of the many things to do in this wonderful state. There is so much more to see! If you are ever planning a trip here, remember Beyond the Miles Travel is here to help you plan that perfect New England getaway. http://www.beyondthemilestravel.com