1 August - 19 August 2018 (Guest Blogger - Ellie - Part 2) Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland (Washington DC), Virginia

August 19, 2018

 

Day 22 – Wednesday 1st August – Acadia National Park

 

The plan was to spend the day at Acadia National Park. When we arrived Cath and I watched a short film in the visitor’s centre on the background and history of the park.

 

 

 

 

We then met up with Tony and the dogs.to explore the parks features: Cadillac hill – the highest peak on the eastern coastline, Jordan’s pond and the Sandy beach. However, it was so busy it was impossible to park, so we ended up just driving to the top of Cadillac Hill and back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frustrated, we decided to try and park in Bar Harbor to have lunch, this was also an impossible task. In the end, we found a Lobster Pound BBQ called Maine Luau on the side of the main road near our campsite. It was a simple, outside, picnic bench type set up but the food was really nice as was the homemade blueberry lemonade I had.

 

 

 

From then we returned to the RV for the rest of the day. It was a shame because a lot of people had recommended Acadia to us, saying how wonderful it was, but it was just too busy.

 

Day 23 – Thursday 2nd August – Travelling South

 

We were up early and drove the reasonably short journey down to Saco, a small town a few miles north of the Maine/ Massachusetts boarder.

 

 

We settled in to the Saco KOA and headed for Old Orchard Beach. It was a nice, local, sandy beach with many motels on its edge as well as a big pier. I got straight in the sea which was refreshing, followed by the dogs and Cath.

 

 

 

 

 

We spent an hour enjoying the coast and we had a drink at the local beach bar,

 

 

 

before going back to the van for pork chops and Tony’s homemade chips!

 

 

 

 

Day 24 – Friday 3rd August – A day at the Beach

 

Cath and I spent the day relaxing on the beach, whilst Tony explored the town and its high street. Cath and I had lunch at the beach bar before returning to the beach for some more vitamin D. The beach was busy but not uncomfortable, we enjoyed people watching all day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It started to rain at about 4:30pm, which scared the locals away, they all scurried off the beach like ants – even the lifeguard. That’s when Tony met us and brought the dogs, Cath and I went back in the sea which was so nice as no one else was around – it was a fab end to the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The heavens opened once we got back to the campsite, so we rinsed the sand off us in the rain... like true Brits.

 

 

 

 

Day 25 – Saturday 4th August – Shopping/ Boston

 

We had an early start today to make room for a detour on our way to the Boston/ Cape Cod KOA.

 

We stopped at the Merrimack premium outlets in New Hampshire, just north of the Massachusetts boarder.

 

 

 

It was a bit of a disappointment for me as I didn’t buy anything, but Cath and Tony bought clothes/ shoes so it wasn’t a wasted trip. It chucked it down for the whole day, so the drive wasn’t fun, we arrived at the KOA mid-afternoon and were bumped up to a premium site (not sure why).

 

 

 

 

The rain cleared early evening so we ventured out to an English pub not far from Middleboro – where we were staying. They’d made an effort to recreate one of our pubs, with lots of English beers/ ales and it even had carpet! Cath had bangers and mash, Tony had shepherd’s pie and I had a Shepard’s pie pasty, we demolished the lot.

 

 

 

  

On our return home, we found a note on the door of the RV from Graham and Moira, who were (un)surprisingly staying at the site as well; so, we went to their van and had a drink with them as they were leaving the next day.

 

 

 

Day 26 – Sunday 5th August – Boston

 

Today the three of us caught the train into Boston, it took an hour which wasn’t too bad.

 

 

 

Once we arrived we tried to get on a trolley bus, but all were full so we opted for a ‘city view’ river cruise around the harbour. We were on a busy boat but it was nice to see the city from the sea, Boston was smaller than I was expecting, which was nice. The guide told us about the history of the city, the settlement of it in 1630 by the English, making it one of the oldest US cities. Locations of many historic events were pointed out whilst on the boat, such as the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, and the Battle of Bunker Hill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another unusual fact we learnt was that Boston has the biggest population of Irish people outside of Dublin. After the boat tour, we walked down Faneuil Hall Marketplace which is home to Quincy market and many shops and restaurants. It had a lovely feel to it, it kind of reminded me of La Rambla in Barcelona, only nicer. Despite Boston being a big city, it had a small town feel and was very walkable.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had lunch at the ‘Cheers’ bar, a recreation of the bar from the 1980’s sitcom, which was fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From there we walked a portion of the Freedom Trail, the top attraction in Massachusetts. The freedom trail is a two and a half mile long walk through the centre of Boston, that leads you to 16 historically significant sites, including museums, meetinghouses, churches and monuments. During the walk, we stopped at a shoe shop and Cath bought me some trainers for my past three birthdays and my 21st (which is seven months away), she then sang happy birthday to me in the shop. We then caught the train back to Middleboro and were reunited with the pups.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 27 – Monday 6th august – Whale Watching

 

We were up early today and drove to a town called Barnstable, at the start of Cape Cod to go whale watching! We boarded the Hyannis whale watching boat at 10:30am, it was very busy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It took about an hour to get to the feeding ground, just off Cape Cod bay, staff then opened the top deck which was for over 18’s, we spent the whole time up there as it was much quieter. Almost immediately after we reached the feeding ground we saw a Humpback whale and a Minke whale, these were smaller than the Humpbacks, almost like oversized dolphins. Speaking of which, shortly after the first whale sightings, we saw dozens of white sided dolphins, along with a school of babies.

 

 

It was amazing to see so many of them all at once. We also saw common dolphins and Finback whales, but these weren’t so close as the other species. From then on, the whales and dolphins were everywhere we looked, it was a complete success and exceeded my expectations. We spent about an hour and a half observing the animals before returning to the harbour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After returning to the dogs,

 

 

 

we went for dinner at the Boston Tavern, which was enjoyable – a good end to a good day.

 

 

 

Day 28 – Tuesday 7th August – Plimoth Plantation - an old spelling of Plymouth

 

Today we went to the coastal town of Plymouth to visit the Pilgrim settlement, a recreation of the town built by the first English Pilgrims that crossed the ocean over to America. The experience explained how the first English settlers made the journey on the Mayflower ship, rented by a London stock company, to escape the religious constraints in Britain at the time. After three attempts, the Mayflower arrived in Cape Cod in the winter of 1620. The reconstruction showed what the Pilgrim village would have looked like,

 

 

 

 

 

 

as well as the homes of the native Americans, who signed a peace treaty with the Pilgrims.

 

 

 

 

 

The reconstruction was realistic and had actors playing the roles of the pilgrims, who were very knowledgeable, although their English accents were questionable!

 

 

 

 

 

From there we went into the town of Plymouth to see ‘Plymouth Rock’, a symbol of where the pilgrims first set foot on American soil, it was quite underwhelming to be honest, just a rock with a barrier around it.

 

 

 

 

We were also hoping to see the Mayflower replica, but it’s undergoing restoration, so on that note, we went home. For dinner, we had homemade chilli and chips – best meal I’ve had since being here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 29 – Wednesday 8th August – Travelling to Connecticut

 

Today we travelled south, via Rhode Island,

 

 

  

to the Mystic KOA in Connecticut, which only took about two hours. We arrived at midday, and Kira’s travel crate and bed had arrived finally.

 

 

The afternoon was spent settling into the campsite, and taking Kira to the vet. Good news – Kira no longer has heartworm, the vet thinks she’s well enough to fly, we have to go back tomorrow to start the travel process.

 

 

For dinner, we met up with Moira and Graeme who were also staying at this site (not a shock that we keep bumping into them anymore). We went for dinner at an Italian restaurant called ‘Buon Appetito’, our Romanian waitress was lovely and so was the food.

 

Day 30 – Thursday 9th August – Exploring southern Connecticut and Rhode Island

 

We returned to the vet this morning, however she didn’t sign the health certificate as we don’t have a flight booked for her yet, so we said we’d return tomorrow after contacting Dad. From the vet we took the dogs to a small beach just past the town of Mystic in a place called Noank, this was one of the only beaches where dogs are allowed and we met a family who were training their 5 month old black lab – very cute.

As the beach wasn’t really fit for swimming and sunbathing, we dropped the dogs home

 

 

 

 

and went to Misquamicut beach in Rhode Island, about a twenty-minute drive. We spent the afternoon their and had our picnic, it was busy but not overcrowded and the sea was so warm and inviting, much warmer than the beach in Maine.

 

 

 

 

 

After topping up our tans, we headed back to Connecticut via the shop and had proper steak and chips for tea! Tony also assembled Kira’s crate this evening, and she slept in it through the entire night!

 

 

 

 

Day 31 – Friday 10th August – Vet visit No. 3

 

Cathy and Tony took Kira to the vets again this morning as Dad had secured a flight for her, so the health certificate can now be signed, although there was another load of complications, so still no confirmation of her departure! Three hours later, they returned, so Cath and I went to check out the pool for half an hour as it was too late to go out. For dinner, we went to 84 Tavern on Canal in Westerly, a town near the coast in New Jersey. It seemed to be an old industrial village, with lots of old buildings and factories, and the restaurant looked to be an old diner, very pleasant!

 

 

 

 

 

Day 32 – Saturday 11th August – Travelling to New Jersey

 

We had a long day travelling today, the weather was terrible and the route wasn’t much better, we travelled through New York, the skyline was great but the same can’t be said for the roads – so bumpy!!!

 

 

 

 

 

After a tedious drive, we arrived at Philadelphia south/ Clarksboro KOA at around 5pm. We weren’t impressed with the site at all, all the rigs were packed in like sardines. We went for dinner at a place called Cinder Bar in the local town of Clarksboro, as it was Saturday night it was fun and lively – seemed like the place to be.

 

 

 

 

Day 33 – Sunday 12th August – Philadelphia

 

Today we headed into Philadelphia which was only 12 miles from our campsite, and we began our exploration of the town with a visit to Eastern State Penitentiary, located Northwest of the city centre. The prison was built between 1822 – 1836, designed by English-born John Haviland, and opened its gates in 1829.

 

 

 

 

The tour was amazing, we had our own headsets and were free to walk around at our own pace.

 

 

The structure of the prison was 10 cell blocks leading off one central circular guard hall, with the idea that one guard could stand in the centre and turn around, with a full view down every cell block.

 

 

 

As we walked through the prison, we could see into each cell, most still had furniture in like the bed frames and toilets, and some were renovated to look how they would have when the prison was in use.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was really eerie to walk down the cell blocks, because once the prison was closed in 1971, it was untouched for 20 years, so when it was turned into a museum, most things were left untouched – it had the feeling that time had stood still in those 20 years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the early days of operation, the prison was centred around solitude, so that prisoners could reflect on their actions; this was practised to the extent that inmates were hooded every time they left their cell, ensuring no contact with anyone else. This type of prison went on to be a model for over 300 prisons worldwide. As the 20th century approached, times and technology changed, meaning inmates began interacting with one another, playing sports and watching TV. Voices from ex guards and inmates on the audio guide also explained that there were very few bullies/nasty guards at Eastern State, which goes against stereotypes of American prisons. We also saw the entry hole from Eastern States most famous escape, executed by Clarence Klinedinst along with 11 others, including Willie Sutton – the famous bank robber.

 

Coming to the end of the tour, we got a look inside the cell of Al Capone, who was at Eastern State Penitentiary for a year; the recreation of his cell was full of nice furniture and personal items, it was even said that he was allowed women in his cell – it’s difficult to separate the truth from romanticised stories.

 

I really enjoyed looking around the prison, it was a true insight into what life was like here in the 19th century.

              

After exploring the prison, we took the tour bus downtown and had Philly Cheesesteaks at Campo’s on Market Street (I didn’t think much of it), then continued the tour. 

 

 

 

We saw the Independence building where the official declaration of the independence of the USA was signed, as well as Elfreth’s Alley – the oldest (still inhabited) residential street in the US, and Betsy Ross’s house – the woman who made the very first American flag.

 

The statue of Rocky at the bottom of the steps leading up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Known as the "Rocky Steps" after a scene from the 1976 Rocky movie was filmed on the steps. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After finishing the tour, we headed back home, Philly has a lot of history, it would be nice to go back one day and stay a bit longer.

 

Day 34 – Monday 13th August – Atlantic City

 

Today we headed an hour east to Atlantic City, the town famous for its boardwalk and casinos!

 

 

 

It was less built up than I thought it would be, and I wouldn’t describe it as pretty, but the boardwalk had a really nice, fun feel to it. It was lined with many gift shops, restaurants and hotels, such as the Hard Rock, on the one side, and the beach on the other side. We also walked along the steel pier, which is full of fairground rides and games.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We caught the little tram and rode down the boardwalk, stopping at the bungalow café for lunch, then caught the tram back to the carpark.

 

 

 

It was a very chilled day out! The rest of the day was spent in the RV, Cath and I played Mexican trains and ate cheese before bed.

 

Day 35 – Tuesday 14th August – Travelling to Delaware, 50th STATE!

 

We left Philadelphia South KOA late morning and after three and a half years, headed south to Cathy and Tony’s 50th and final state Delaware!

 

 

We crossed the border at 11:15am and celebrated. Another significant happening on our journey today was the Presidents plane - Air Force One - that flew over us, Tony spotted it (I thought it was just any old plane), I don’t reckon the president was in it though!

 

 

We arrived at Big Oaks campsite in the town of Rehoboth beach mid-afternoon, it’s a nice, quiet privately owned site which did the job for us. Cath and Tony had their pictures taken next to their USA map, of which all the state stickers where on, hurray!

 

 

 

 

 

 

To celebrate Cath and Tony’s 50th state, we went to a British pub (ironic) called the Rose and Crown in the next town along called Lewes, which was quaint and pretty. Dinner was good, Cath and Tony had a few celebratory drinks and I watched with my water, Cath was definitely a bit pissed by the end of the night! 

 

 

 

 

Day 36 – Wednesday 15th August – Beach day

 

Our one full day in Delaware was spent at the beach, my last beach day of the trip in fact. But before that, Tony signed up for Netflix in the morning so we were sat watching Dexter until midday... oops! When we finally stopped being couch potatoes, we braved the outside and went to a dog friendly beach in Cape Henlopen State Park. The beach wasn’t occupied by a lifeguard and was more of a natural beach compared to the usual holiday resort beaches, so it wasn’t too busy; there were a few people fishing though and other pooch owners. It was nice to have one last dip in the Atlantic before the end of my trip, and Cath and I finally had a game of Bocce which we’d promised to do for the past six weeks! I think the dogs appreciated not being left in the van this time too, although the flies on this beach were driving Kira insane, and us humans – we all must have been smelly except Sandy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We returned to our cave and watched Dexter for the whole evening... the obsession has begun.

 

Day 37 – Thursday 16th August – Last travel day  ☹/ Exploring Washington DC

 

It was an early start today to get to Washington DC – my final stop!

 

 

 

We arrived at Washington DC/ Capitol KOA late morning, Cath and I then took the train into town whilst Tony took Kira to get her health certificate in Chantilly, about an hour and a half away. Once in DC, Cathy and I walked the length of the National Mall, walking to the Capitol building first – it was as amazing as I thought it would be!

 

 

 

 

 

It was 32 degrees (I only know Celsius) but it felt hotter, so we ran for shade and air conditioning in the Native American Smithsonian, which I was a little bit disappointed with to be honest. The building itself was amazing, built with what looked like sandstone or something, with loads of curves – Mom you would’ve loved it if you’re reading this! But I think we were there on the wrong day, there were no interactive exhibitions or anything, so was a bit boring.

 

 

 

Moving on, we walked over to the National Monument, pretty impressive as it towers 555 feet above ground, and much higher than any other building in Washington.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We carried on down to the WWII memorial, and walked along the reflective pool to the Lincoln memorial – I could have easily jumped in the water as I was dying of heat at this point. We walked up the steps inside the memorial, with the huge statue of President Lincoln staring at me on one side, and the best view of the National Mall on the other, with the monument being mirrored off the water. All I could think of is Forrest Gump’s speech at the Vietnam rally (if you haven’t watched Forrest Gump, you should). We sat on the steps for a while and watched all the tourists coming and going, it was nice to just sit and take it all in.

 

 

 

From there, we walked round to the White House, which was literally just a white house... much smaller than I had imagined, after seeing it in movies etc. Nevertheless, it was charming and quite modest, for America.

 

 

 

After seeing all the main attractions, we slowly (very slowly, our feet were killing us) made our way back to the train station. What I loved, and wasn’t expecting about DC was the amount of greenery in the centre of all the madness. It was like the eye of the storm, a peaceful haven to enjoy whilst the hustle and bustle of the capital city goes on around you. Despite being absolutely knackered by the time we got home, I’m glad we walked the mall, I feel like that’s the best way to properly experience all the sights. For dinner, we went to a local gastro pub called Libations Tavern, in Millersville.

 

Day 38 – Friday 17th August – Exploring Washington DC part 2

 

We returned to DC today, this time with Tony, on the KOA shuttle bus; once there we hopped on the Old Town Trolley bus which took us all the way around town. We saw all the main sights again, along with the Thomas Jefferson memorial, the Franklin Roosevelt memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr memorial, the National Theatre and many of the Smithsonian’s.

 

 

 

 

 

We hopped off the tour bus and went to the International Spy Museum, which was entertaining, it was like a maze of information, it supplied spy training, international history of spies, as well as a James Bond exhibition!

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also stopped off at Union Station, the 2nd biggest railway station in America, behind Grand Central Station in New York City; it was like a big dome inside with big arched beams on the ceiling, I was very impressed!

 

 

 

 

 

For lunch, we sniffed out yet another British pub (not that we’re missing home or anything), we sat at the bar and chatted to the staff, Cath and I then left to do some more sightseeing, Tony stayed in his comfort zone – the pub. We got the trolley bus to the Museum of American History, it was a shame because we were on a time limit for the shuttle bus back home, so we dashed around the museum like headless chickens. We saw the star-spangled banner, the 200-year old, 30 by 30-foot flag, with 15 stars and 15 stripes, the flag that inspired the American National Anthem. I was hoping to see Dorothy’s ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz, but they were away for refurbishment ☹. After spending no more than half an hour in the Smithsonian, we made a dash down the mall to the Capitol building and caught the shuttle back to the KOA. A day well spent!

 

Day 39 – Saturday 18th August – Last full day!

 

My last full day was spent at Grumps for breakfast, which I’ve wanted to squeeze in before going home, all the staff were in pyjamas which was a nice theme, I had blueberry pancakes with a lot of maple syrup which were very tasty and filled me to the brim, I feel sick now.

 

 

 

In the evening, we went into Baltimore, a few miles north of our campsite, where we had a walk around the port before dinner at Rusty Scupper – a seafood restaurant overlooking the harbour. Baltimore seemed very lively, it was more built up than I had imagined, but they’ve kept all the old factory buildings which is an authentic touch to the city. Dinner was a lovely way to end my trip and to celebrate Cath and Tony’s completion of the fifty states.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 40 – Sunday 19th August – Home Time

 

After six amazing, jam packed weeks, today is home time. Thanks Cath and Tony for letting me see what life’s been like for you over the past three and a half years, we’ve had a laugh! Leaving for the airport in about an hour, so on that note, see you on the other side of the pond!

 

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