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  1. #21
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    Aug 2008
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    Day 13 – Friday October 9th

    A late start today, our first stop is Yale University….. the famous institution attracts so many tourists that it pays its students to conduct hour long tours… being run by students however, they don’t start until 10:30am!!
    These tours start in the visitors centre with the showing of an excellent student produced film… I won’t link it here in case it breaks the rules, but search YouTube for “That’s why I chose Yale” and watch the first video – it’s well worth the time.



    After the video, the student guide takes you on a walk around the campus, imparting knowledge of both Yale the University as well as Yale the student’s home and life…
    The campus is just beautiful, although the University itself has around 200 buildings in New Haven, the tour sticks to the original central area.
    Sadly we don’t get to inside any of the lecture halls or residential colleges (like we did in Madison a few years ago) but we do get taken into the library.





    This building is interesting in that the original architect wanted to design a church for the University but they told him that as they weren’t really a religious institution they didn’t want a church but did need a library, what they got is a church with books!

    Envy is an ugly emotion but I leave the tour more than a little green…. The facilities on offer here and the quality of an Ivy League education is something that I wonder whether those who matriculate here will only truly appreciate in the years to come.

    When I was researching the next stop on this trip I was advised to call ahead as foreigners are not always admitted… accordingly a couple of days ago, I called and after e-mailing passport details for my Mum and myself I received confirmation that we would be admitted and given a personal tour.

    Our destination….?



    The United States Coastguard Academy at New London, CT

    I wasn’t kidding about foreigners being admitted… when I called them on the phone I was told that “As Brits you should be OK, you should have Grandfather rights because we haven’t been at war with you for a while!”

    The security on this academy is impressive… after having our passports inspected and copied at the guardhouse we’re directed to the museum building where the curator herself takes us around, explaining the history of the Coasties as well as their current role.
    Unfortunately there is no tour or access to the actual academy (which is what I really hoped to see) but the museum is interesting enough.

    Next up is a drive to Rhode Island…. This takes in some stunning bridges, sadly no way of photographing them though and the lateness of our start today means that we’re chasing our tails a little so it’s straight to the John Brown house as it’s already 3pm and they close at 4.



    As the first mansion in Providence, when it was built in 1786 this house was incredibly opulent, subsequent remodeling in 1901 added luxuries such as a walk in shower directly off the master bedroom at a time when most didn’t even have indoor plumbing. The audio tour is interesting and touches on a lot of small facts like this both about the house and about John Brown himself (a slave trader and patron of eponymously named Brown University) it’s an interesting way to pass an hour.



    Culminating in the famous Washington Wallpaper room… this hand stenciled wallpaper is a one of a kind and as the stencils wore out whilst making it is classified as irreplaceable….. George Washington was a visitor here, taking tea in this room with John Brown…. If walls could talk!



    A quick dash across a rapidly darkening Providence brings us to the Rhode Island State House… we were actually here in 2008 but late into the evening so were unable to go inside.



    No such problems today, parking is easy just opposite the entrance and we brave the rain shower to run inside for a look at another Capitol (I don’t know how many we’ve seen now but my “Capitol Collection” book seems to have a large number of stamps in it!





    The NeoClassical design of the building’s exterior, complete with the 3rd largest self-supporting marble dome in the World, gives way to a thoroughly modern interior, with probably the most technologically advanced House and Senate chambers that we’ve seen.



    The State Library is housed here as well, with a fantastic atmosphere and a really helful docent who, even though he’s closing up for Columbus Day weekend is only too happy to impart some knowledge.



    Our final activity today is probably the stupidest thing we’ve ever done….. in all honesty I suspect Mum would have been quite happy to forget it, but I was determined and bless her, she’s game for a challenge too.

    Whilst in the State House the weather has really closed in and it’s absolutely lashing with rain… a small issue since we have a 2 mile architectural walk around the city to do… ah well, we’ve got jackets on!

    This walk is actually fascinating (you can find the details on the ‘Net, just search for Providence Trail) and it passes such gems as the first First Baptist Church, whose steeple has stood, unaffected by nature, weather or time since 1778.

    We get back to the car just as the rain gets even stronger and after a few wrong turns find a back way into the shopping mall car park in order to get dinner before heading to tonight’s hotel in Niantic.

    Disaster when we get there though… somehow it seems I never actually booked this hotel, I have no idea how that happened, but either way they have no rooms for us and are full… memories of Bismarck a few years ago come flooding back but luckily another motel a few miles away has rooms so off we go.

    A good day.

  2. #22
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    Aug 2008
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    Day 14 – Saturday October 10th

    We’ve been rather darting all over the map for the last couple of days, the reason being that the opening hours of some of the places we want to go were not compatible with a straightforward route… That explains why, this morning we are in Groton, CT.



    The USS Nautilus and Submarine Force Museum tells the story of the Submarine and its role in the US Navy from the time of the first submersible all the way through to today’s nuclear powered articles.



    Split into two parts, the land based section is a detailed museum containing, among other things several lifesize replicas of the various torpedos carried aboard submarines.. (If you’ve read Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October then these will be of interest) as well as a detailed analysis of all those Submariners who have received the Congressional Medal of Honor including



    This man, who… being in command of a wounded sub, knowing that he would be captured and interrogated by the Japanese and aware that he had knowledge in his head that should not fall into Japanese hands chose to stay on the stricken sub and ride her into the depths. I cannot imagine the strength of character it must have taken to make that decision. A worthy medal recipient indeed, his story (and the fact I have an active imagination) keeps me pretty subdued for the rest of the time we spend here.



    After finishing the land based displays, it’s time to head outside and enter the Nautilus herself… the self guided audio tour is excellent though it doesn’t really convey what it must have been like living in a cramped tube under the sea with only a tiny bunk space for privacy…. It is really interesting to look around though and again, brings certain fiction books I’ve read to life.



    From Groton it’s a short drive to our final stop of the day…. Mystic Seaport.
    Mystic is a fabulous recreation of life on the New England cost in the 1800s, complete with tall ships, working costumed docents, boat rides, seafaring demonstrations and dozens of hands-on activities for kids…. It really is a full day location but we manage to see it all in 7hrs
    We start by taking a trip on the water, the captain gives a little commentary as we go along and it’s a lovely gentle introduction to the site and what’s here.



    Next stop is the boatyard… in addition to being a tourist attraction, Mystic is also a working yard, with much of their time taken up with restoring and conserving wooden boats.
    They have a mini-cam set up within some of the wooden planking on a boat they are currently restoring that shows their number one problem (check the image above, you should be able to see it)
    You’re looking at a Gribble… a small sea-worm that burrows through wood, leaving it weakened and subject to collapse. Mum’s rather taken with Gribbles and they remain a topic of conversation for most of the rest of the day.





    A Rest of the day spent variously…Watching demonstrations of early forms of rescue from stricken vessels (breeches buoy) Learning how rope is made and, most spectacularly, watching a crew of staff/volunteers from the Seaport furling the sails on the Joseph Conrad.. a vessel that was restored here to such a high standard that last summer she took to the seas again, visiting many of the old New England ports she used to call home.

    This is one of the undoubted highlights of this holiday, a cracking day out with something for everyone to enjoy. Very Highly recommended.



    Mystic is also famous for something other than the historical village….. it is home to a Bascule Bridge that is raised every hour or so to allow sea traffic to pass the roadway.
    It’s impressive watching the two 40hp motors pull up the 85ft wide and 660 tonne weight bridge.

    From here, we’re off to Newport for the night.

  3. #23
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    Aug 2008
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    Day 15 – Sunday October 11th

    Unusually for us, today is going to be spent pretty much in all in one place.

    When I started researching Rhode Island, all the advice I read said to spend a day in Newport, so that’s what we’re going to do.



    We start by taking a 90 minute trolley tour around the town, beginning at the visitors centre… there are a number of different trolleys available, including ones that you can hop on and off.

    The route takes us past many of the famous mansions located here, as well as some smaller, but no less interesting houses.



    As most will know, Newport is most famous for its mansions… built in the run up to, and during the gilded age, these fabulous homes were the summer residences for the elite of the elite of New York society….. most are now run by a preservation trust and are open to the public for tours.

    We head to the Breakers Mansion (pictured above)

    The Breakers was the summer home of Cornelius Vanderbilt and his family, indeed when the family gifted the mansion to the preservation trust in 1965 one of the conditions of the gift was that the family could continue to live there… they maintain the entire 3rd floor as a family residence (it’s not open to the public) they are in residence today, here for the long weekend.
    The Vanderbilts and their ilk built vast houses like these to demonstrate their wealth, they had no pedigree or history of family money, so estates like this served to tell the world just how wealthy they were – the original Nouveau Riche if you like.



    Sadly there are no photos allowed inside the mansion which is a real shame as it’s interior is something else – rather over the top yet at the same time you can tell it’s been a family house. The audio tour even interviews some of the staff who worked here to gain their insight, fascinating stuff.

    The photo above is the view from the back 2nd floor terrace of the house – not bad!



    Although most of the famous mansions are open for tours, you’ll not fit more than 2 into a day, they’re not open for long, tour times are limited and it takes over an hour to go round each one.
    Fear not if (like us) you only have a day though…. It’s possible to see many of the mansions from the cliff walk – not to mention spectacular views like the one above.

    The walk is around 3.5 miles one way and parking at anywhere other than either end is very difficult so either use the hop-off trolley or plan accordingly.
    It is lovely though and we walk for a long way before going back to the car and heading into town for another stroll.



    The town itself is a bustling little place, full of tourists enjoying the lovely evening. We stroll about for an hour walking through a farmers market before looking at the church (above) where JFK married in 1953

    All too soon it’s getting dark and it’s time for us to head for the car and off to Hyannis.

  4. #24
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    Aug 2008
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    Day 16 – Monday October 12th

    The original plan for today (our last day on this holiday) was to visit Hyannis before heading back into Boston to see the State Capitol.

    Unfortunately it’s Columbus Day, a National Holiday and so (as confirmed by a phone call last week) the State House is closed, as are many of the roads in Boston to allow the Columbus Day Parade to happen.

    If we didn’t have a flight to catch today I would probably have voted for heading into the city anyway as seeing things like parades are not something one can do everyday. Unfortunately the risk of getting caught up in traffic and missing our flight are too great, so we needed a new plan for the latter half of the day…. Mum came through in fine style as revealed later.

    There are no photos allowed at our first stop of day… the Cape Cod Chips factory produce hundreds of thousands of potato chips each year (I’ll note it here… this is a factory that produces an item called Chips in America, Crisps in the UK, it does not produce French Fries)
    It’s basically a walk through the factory alongside the production line, sounds boring but is actually really interesting. It only takes 15 minutes and you get a free bag at the end!



    Onward to the JFK museum in Hyannis… I had thought that this would be located in JFK’s house here but it’s actually in an old bank on Main Street… it’s good though and gives a real insight into JFK the man, the president and the family he came from. Marilyn Monroe is not mentioned!

    Mum’s idea for the rest of the day now… last time we were in this area although we made it to Martha’s Vineyard, we both really wanted to see Cape Cod but were unable to do so… today, we’ve 7 hrs so it’s off we go.



    Initially to the visitors centre at Provincelands, where the view is great. We soon grab a couple of flyers and head off to Provincetown itself for a visit to the Pilgrim Monument



    This monument to the first landfall by the pilgrims in 1620, with its hundred plus stairs to the top is a great way of getting a stunning view of the Cape Cod Seashore, note that (much to the disgust of one lady present) there is no elevator to the top!





    The views are definitely worth the climb though…. Wow

    A hour long stroll on the beach to the water’s edge and along the high street to have an ice-cream completes our time here in Provincetown. We’re leaving a little early for the airport as Mum picked up a flyer for a Lighthouse earlier and we both want to go and climb it!



    It may not look like much, but this lighthouse was built in 1797 and has stood here ever since, through every type of weather thrown at it.
    For part of the year it is open to tours, which include the option to climb the steep steps and ladder all the way to the top whilst learning about how lighthouses work and their function from the very passionate docent.



    Looking seaward from the top of the lighthouse there’s a small plate noting that England is 3150 miles away……

    Sadly that’s where we’re headed now, back to Logan to return the car before checking in for our flight home. It’s been a shorter trip than either of us are used to and the bad weather at the start meant that we were unable to do several of the things we’d planned. All in all though it’s been a fun trip.

    Only Alaska, Hawaii and Arkansas left for me to complete all 50.

  5. #25
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    Aug 2008
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    So that's it then.... the end of another trip

    3743 miles
    $339.31 fuel cost
    154.03 US Gallons
    $2.20 average per gallon
    24.3mpg (US) ave

    See you all at some point in the future!

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