Two States – Both Starting with M.

Salem – Massachusetts! Some pretty horrible stuff went down in this town in the 1600s and it was definitely one of the more darker moments in human history. The town has certainly not forgotten the events and there is plenty of memorial like places located along the Heritage Trail that winds through the town. Again marked out with a wide red line painted along the footpath so it’s very easy to navigate.

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The memorial to the 20 lives taken here in the Salem Witch Trials time. All but one was hanged, there was one that was pressed to death.

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Kennebunkport followed by Portland both in Maine 🙂

Some very excellent Blueberry Pie consumed at a Restaurant named Alisson’s.

In Portland we stopped in at the International Cryptozoology Museum. Cryptozoology is the study of hidden animals. It was an interesting little place to check out. I even bought a book by the guy who owns the Museum (hes authored over 20 books on the subject). Many animal species have turned up after being spoken of in stories by native peoples and it’s definitely an area of study for the most passionately keen. Big Foot is the most well known member of this area of study.

I can recommend it if you’re ever in the area 😉

On our last night here we went in for a one off screening at the local cinema celebrating the release of Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 2 on Bluray. It was a couple of episodes with extra footage, plus features like a cast reunion, bloopers and the making of the restoration. The bluray treatment certainly makes a vast difference and the episodes were good. We’re not Trekkies but we’ve always enjoyed the show when it’s been on. It was a nice way to while away a few hours. Next up: CAPE COD!

 

Huzzah!! It’s BOSTON! Home of the Celtics, Old Ironsides and Paul Revere

We spent from Monday the 20th to Sunday the 26th of November in Boston and decided it could definitely go on our list. That list we have prepared in case we ever win gazillions of dollars and need to purchase holiday homes around the world – so far we’d have a house/apartment in San Diego, San Francisco, Portland OR, Vancouver, Banff, Homer AK, Austin or San Antonio TX, Chicago, and Washington DC. Boston is getting added to it.

Things we loved about Boston:

#1 The public transit system – unlimited use of buses and trains for $18 a week? YES PLEASE and thank you very much.

#2 HISTORY in the making. America’s oldest tavern is here The Bell In Hand. The Freedom Trail a 3.5 mile walking trail that covers a number of fairly significant locations in the making of America. Highlights include: Paul Revere’s House, USS Constitution, Bunker Hill and the Bunker Hill Monument, the Holocaust Memorial. I think the idea of paving the road with red bricks so you know where to go is a simple but genius measure which should be employed in all cities which have walkable sight seeing.

#3 The Architecture. I must admit the descriptions of the brownstone buildings first spoken of in the Robert Ludlum books I read years ago always made me a little fascinated to see them up close and the Boston buildings certainly do that. There’s just something about the buildings here that make you want to look at them a little more closely, wonder about them and ultimately think – that’s a nice style.

#4 Quincy Markets – it’s like Fremantle Markets on crack food wise. So much good food, reasonably priced and freshly made as you wait. Spoilt for choice we were and just enjoying the looking let alone the eating. Tim tried the Lobster Mac N Cheese and I went with the Philly Cheese Steak bun.

#5 The food variety, availability, quality and choice all extremely GOOD. They take advantage of being on the coast and the seafood is plentiful and so much cheaper than back home. We ate at Turner’s Seafood for Thanksgiving Day dinner which is based in the Westin hotel and it was an excellent buffet with all the trimmings – not a fan of the glazed yams but definitely a fan of what they do with sweet potato and the turkey. Tried my first piece of Pumpkin Pie. Maybe my Australian is showing but the Pumpkin Pie didn’t work, the Sweet Potato did…but the Apple was best. The Northend of downtown is one of the hotspots for Italian and have to say I had some of my best Italian at a restaurant we queued up for an hour for. Called Giacomo’s – cash only, but BEST mussels and pasta ever.

And lastly Harvard and Cambridge. It was good to have some fun pretending to be one of the fortunate clever people who get to go to this campus/University and live in this area. Made me nostalgic for my Uni days. If I lived here in Boston I would do my utmost to see if I could attend some classes here. Loved the Harvard Books Shop and a number of the quirky little old fashioned leather, boot cleaning, barber stores – they even sold Mason and Pearson brushes.

Things you overhear in Boston:

Homeless Person 1: Hey man did you get my email?
Homeless Person 2: Nah man you should have just sent me a text.

True story – straight from Tim’s incredulous mouth. See if he wasn’t waiting on me outside yet another shop he would have totally missed that whole exchange. Surreal Homeless interaction experience DONE!

And now…onto SALEM!!! The real one…with the Witches and everything. EXCITING!!!

Oh CANADA!!! We can’t stay out of you!! NIAGARA FALLS

We headed north and decided that we would do the Falls from the Canadian side.

But before we got there we stopped overnight in a very special place in Pennsylvania.

HERSHEY! The suburb/town is actually called Hershey and it has The Chocolate World in it. Clearly it is the home of Hershey chocolate and of course as foremost chocolate critics (in our minds) we could not pass up on the opportunity to visit the Hershey Chocolate World and partake in some samples 😉

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The entire town does have a lovely scent of sweet chocolate to it, and this place was definitely a buzz to investigate. We got to try a free sample of the Hershey chocolate drops after getting to ride in the Hershey cart through the factory. I had no idea they were responsible for Kit Kats as well. That’s some good quality candy right there and they are also responsible for my most favourite candy in the whole wide world – Reeses Peanut Butter Cups. This was a good spot to stop. But I do have to say – Lindt is still my favourite chocolate. It’s nummy.

Then it was on to Niagara Falls – after a little bit of research and also hearing a lot of different peoples’ opinions on the topic – we decided this wonder of the world should be viewed from the Canadian side.

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It was a quirky little touristy town Niagara Falls Ontario. Has a main strip filled with stores and attractions all geared no doubt to a very VERY busy summer season. The Falls are spectacular and are definitely worth a look at least once in a lifetime. I can cross that one of my bucket list now.

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We had a couple nights there and then headed over to the other side so that Tim could capitalise on a local concert given by one his bands Megadeth. Gave me the opportunity to take a walk along the Falls from the NY side. It’s still a very nice walk however the area is not quite as geared towards tourists which is not a bad thing at all. I do think you get to see more of the Falls from the Canadian side though and if you go at the right time then the Maid of The Mist boat ride which takes you in close to the Falls is definitely worth doing and only able to be done from the Canadian side.

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This was a building I noticed on the walk back to the motel. I have no idea what this building is for only that I dubbed it “Angry Raven”.

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From Niagara Falls it was off to BOSTON! Home of the Red Sox and Harvard and lots of very old places.

WASHINGTON DC!! The Home of…All the Very Important Things

We drove into Washington DC Sunday evening the 4th of November to begin our adventure in the Nation’s Capital. It just so happens we timed it for that magical 4 yearly event called a National Election. In the home of The Whitehouse, Capitol Hill, the Lincoln Memorial, the Library of Congress we are sightseeing at Election Time! I know probably 97 per cent of Americans are sick and tired of this by now and I feel for them I really do but I’m gonna go ahead and admit that I find it all endlessly fascinating to watch. Perhaps the fact that this is not my home, not my politics combined with the whole American way of doing everything bigger, brighter, longer, louder, flashier with more money, more adverts, more debates, more passion, more strident fervour has enabled me to be a disconnected observer to the whole show (and it is entertainment when the decisions don’t affect you directly) and to marvel at the diversity of thoughts, opinions, at the open and blatant use of money to help win elections. But enough of that!

Onto more important things…Day 1 was Monday and a day of walking.
We started off my familiarising ourselves with the public transit system and catching the train to Arlington Cemetery. Which is in Virginia. The DC bit? District of Columbia? Turns out it’s pretty small and every time we catch a train we cross state borders. Cool huh? So anyway Arlington Cemetery in Virginia. Can’t say I have seen a plethora of cemeteries in my lifetime but of the ones I have seen? This one is the most poignant, visually appealing, most memorable cemetery I have ever been to. I have over the past few years developed a great respect for those who choose a career in the military – I may not respect the reasons behind them going to war but I do respect those who do go to war. It was pleasing to see such a respectful and beautiful resting place to honour those who have given their lives over for their own beliefs. We visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier which has an armed guard patrolling 24-7, 365 days per year. Full dress uniform, with a rifle, white gloves everything. They don’t even stop in a Superstorm apparently.
We also saw the Kennedy Memorial – resting place for Joseph, Bobby, John, Jackie, Patrick and Daughter. Some great quotes lined the area and I wondered how the world might have been different if John or Bobby had lived. It was a sombre but still strangely satisfying visit. I’m not sure why. I think I like the idea of the solace such a beautifully kept and clearly well attended place can provide for the living. I wonder if it’s of comfort to the living to know that they will be placed there amongst their friends and family when they pass. I don’t know but it felt right to me.

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We moved on to walk across the famous Arlington Memorial Bridge to go check out the Lincoln Memorial. This is a massive marble building that would have felt right at home in Rome. Huge columns surrounding the place and inscribed at the top are the names of the 48 states present at the time of the Memorial’s dedication below that are the names of the 36 states in the Union at the time of Lincoln’s death and the dates in which they entered the Union.. It’s impressive. I was indeed impressed. Even more so by the 19 feet high statue sculpture of him sitting on his chair with the the words “IN THIS TEMPLE
AS IN THE HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE FOR WHOM HE SAVED THE UNION THE MEMORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN IS ENSHRINED FOREVER” inscribed above him.
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The reflection pool is also huge. I kept envisioning the scene out of Forrest Gump as I looked upon the reflection pool. It’s certainly a site of quite a few auspicious occasions not the least of which was Martin Luther King’s I have a dream speech.

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I wanted to know more about this place, so I purchased a book. I want to get informed about Lincoln before I go watch the film. That’s how English teachers are supposed to do it – not the other way around. I read a picture book written by Obama whilst I was in the store. He has some cool people as role models – Georgia O’Keeffe, Cesar Chavez, Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King, Albert Einstein…the book dedicated to his daughters. The illustrations were great.
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Great movie! We saw it in DC which was kinda cool.

Next stop was a bit of a walk – the Washington Monument – the gigantic obelisk, a gift to the USA. It’s very tall and made me feel very small. The monument, made of marble and granite is both the world’s tallest stone structure and the world’s tallest obelisk, standing at about 170m high.

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We carried on to the left for the walk up to the Whitehouse fence. I gotta say my perceptions of this were all wrong. I think I just expected it to be sooo much bigger. Like Capitol Hill type size. I’m sure it’s more than spatial enough for the POTUS and his family ( and probably hundreds of staff) but still I envisioned bigger, so apart from an entertaining squirrel doing his best impression of an African Spring Bok bounding across the grass and me subsequently entertaining the idea of training up spy squirrels to infiltrate the Whitehouse to gain insightful knowledge like whether the Pres prefers oatmeal or cheerios in the morning we moved on fairly quickly from this after snapping a few pics through the fence.
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We started the long walk up to Capitol Hill walking through what I believe is called the National Mall – where many of the Smithsonian Museum buildings are present. Sussed out where a few things were along the way for future visits.

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So Capitol Hill is where the US Congress meets and where the Federal Government legislates stuff. I’m calling it stuff because I really am not informed enough to pretend to know what all the important terminology means. This place is actually a neighbourhood of around 35 thousand residents. That I did not know. Biggest neighbourhood in DC too apparently.
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We came, we saw, we tooks some photos and by that time we were hungry having not bothered by lunch so decided to do our obligatory Hard Rock cafe visit and have dinner there. Our server was very kind and informed us to get outta dodge early as we could see from the clientele in the restaurant that it was full of teenaged girls and their mums from about the age of 8 upwards all having a feed before heading over to the Verizon centre to see Justin Bieber. Caught in the middle of a Bieber fever concert crowd completely! We escaped to the movies and saw Affleck’s Argo which was excellent. Finished the night off catching up with The Walking Dead and Dexter. All in all a very productive day.
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Day 2 and we were heading to the Smithsonian again but this time to the National Gallery of Art. It took us all day to do both the East and West Buildings of this Gallery – and it’s not something I can just encapture here in a neat and tidy couple of paragraphs. It’s a great Art gallery and the Lichtenstein exhibition and Augsburg exhibitions were just fascinating. And all free.
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My predisposition to enjoying graphic novels and comics has certainly meant I’m a little biased towards the art of Roy Lichtenstein. It’s clean, colourful, simple yet can be full of action and emotion. I’m definitely a fan and this exhibit was a pretty comprehensive coverage of his life’s work. I was interested in seeing what his other, lesser known projects and experimentation phases looked like.

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The Natural History Museum was just as entertaining. It really does blow my mind how everything here is free. It’s like the Utopian Educational Historical environment. If you want you can just come for a casual look over, giving passing glances to the things that catch your eye or you can really take in each exhibit in detail, reading the information and simply teaching yourself about history in all kinds of areas.

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We stopped in at a Texas implant called Hill Country and had BBQ for lunch. Deliciously tasty but no Austin’s Franklins BBQ.  But definitely hit the spot.

National Air and Space Museum was a great way to spend a number of hours.

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The Hubble!! What a BRILLIANT idea this was…especially once they fixed it 😉
Out in space. Most expensive service on a piece of space craft ever 😉
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I don’t think I’ll ever quit wondering if I’ll make it into space one day. If advancements in such travel will progress far enough in my lifetime.

And so we headed home and managed to get caught up in the Election news…surprisingly out on the streets of DC there was very little fanfare – a couple of corners had people encouraging people to go vote and offer bus lifts to those who needed but other than that it was pretty low key. I guess I notice election days more back home because they are always held on Saturdays and so everyone is usually not working, this country always has them on a Tuesday. Strange but no doubt grounded in some sort of motivations way back when it was decided. And so we stayed up and watched the news, followed it on Twitter, watched the reactions online. I’ll be honest and say I was pleased Obama got in…I just felt there were way too many Republicans running for office in this race that had made way too many public errors of judgement when it came to their choice of words. I can see why many people are upset as well. I think it’s very idealistic to assume all is well now that the candidate I would have voted for has won. All the same problems and disappointments are there, there’s still going to be the mud slinging and muck raking, gridlock in congress etc etc. But what it came down to was the thought of which of these two candidates instilled less fear in me for the future of my friends that I’ve made in the US. For me that was Obama. I do know that no matter what, the people I’ve met here have the strength of spirit and the tenacity of will to see them through in spite of their government. And trust me – I wouldn’t move to Australia just based on who is in charge despite that trend on twitter. Come for our lovely beaches and beautiful weather instead.

And that’s it for my political two cents…which you can have in America – it’s five cents in Australia. First post on Washington DC done! And don’t forget to watch Supernatural. It’s a great show I may have mentioned before.