A September 2003 trip
to United States by shaunandtrish
Quote: After three days sightseeing we hired a car for eight days and set off on a tour of New England sights. This took in Niagara Falls, the Green Mountains in Vermont, New Hampshire via the Kancamagus Highway, southern Maine, Salem, MA, and finishing off back in Boston.
Hotel | "The Ramada Hotel, Geneva, NY"
It looked good on the website - nice standard of facilities, lakefront setting - but you can never tell what you're getting until you arrive. We were not disappointed - especially at the price.
The room we got was on the fourth floor, very clean and spacious (even the bathroom), with good temperature control, tea/coffeemaker in the room, and a wonderful view of the lake. Just the thing after a long drive. The quality of the food in the restaurant was very good - more restaurant-quality than hotel, if you know what I mean. Good choice of interesting and fresh meat and fish dishes. The menu seemed to change regularly. Very friendly and helpful staff and reasonable bar prices. View of the lake when you're eating too.
The hotel provides free hot coffee in the reception area from 6am. This actually enabled one of the highlights of the stay. I woke up early on the first morning, went downstairs for some coffee, and brought it back to my room just in time to open the curtains, put my feet up, and watch the sun rise over the lake. If you stay here, you must try to get a lake-facing room so you can do this.
The hotel stands more or less on its own. Geneva is a small blue-collar sort of a town, set back a little from the lakefront.
It's ideal as a base for a trip to Niagara Falls (about a 90-minute drive), but next time, I'd stay a bit longer in the Finger Lake area. It's worth a visit on its own.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 19, 2003
Ramada Geneva Lakefront
41 Lakefront Dr. - Rt. 5 and 20
Geneva, New York 14456
Hotel | "Marshfield Inn and Motel, Vt"
It is set back above the 2E (not too busy or noisy), with a stunning view over the Winooski River Valley and the mountains across the valley. There are some really nice short walks to be had just by walking straight out of the motel-room door and leaving the car behind.
The rooms are basic, but spacious and clean. Pretty much what you would expect of a family-run motel, with bathroom, shower, and TV.
I'm told that if you're lucky, you may see the occasional moose or bear outside, but we only saw a skunk.
There are no facilities for evening meals at the motel, only breakfast, so we drove the 8 or 9 miles into Montpelier each night, which was fine. The breakfasts are made fresh each morning by the owners, and you can more or less get what you want: eggs, bacon, pancakes, cereal, oatmeal, etc. The breakfast area is quite small, but that means you can talk to the other guests and get their tips for places to go.
The motel is very convenient for Montpelier, Stowe, St. Johnsbury, and Burlington. We found the motel listed on the Central Vermont Tourist Board website, www.central-vt.com (THIS IS EXCELLENT!!!!), and the motel's website is www.marshfieldinn.com.
I believe the motel is only open April to November.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 19, 2003
Marshfield Inn & Motel
5630 U.S. Route 2
Marshfield, Vermont 05658
Hotel | "Jeremiah Mason House, Limerick, ME"
The house itself is a 150-ish-year-old tall red-brick affair, which is quite unusual in itself, and set in the small and sleepy little village of Limerick, which is about 20 miles inland from Portland. It's quiet and in the middle of a forested area, with no particular attractions save for the lovely walks on your doorstep.
The rooms are large, with high ceilings, small bathrooms (after all, it wasn't built to house a bathroom in every bedroom), and really comfy and clean beds.
Downstairs, there are a couple of large living rooms with period furniture and interesting literature lying around. You also have Tom and Kyle Osbourne, the nicest and most helpful people you could wish to meet. They will either leave you alone, if that's what you want, or spend time talking to you about what's in and around the place, where to go, where you've been, etc. At the time we were there, Tom was mulling over the idea of using the house for murder/mystery-themed events - could be interesting.
Breakfast was a filling affair, consisting of a variety of hot and cold offerings prepared fresh and brought to you by Mrs. Osbourne (Kyle). Great stuff.
Unfortunately, this is a spot that you may only discover by accident when your're on your way from A to B. But if this place happens to be on your way somewhere, you could do a lot worse. Personally, I'd detour to take it in.
The website is http://jeremiahmasonhouse.com
Jeremiah Mason B&B
40 Main Street
Limerick, Maine 04048
Restaurant | "Sarduccis, Montpelier"
We went on a Sunday night about 6:30pm and it was full. We had a 20-minute wait for a table, and it got busier later, seemingly with locals, which is always a good sign.
I can't remember for the life of me what our pasta dishes actually were, but we were impressed. The decor and atmosphere of the place and the friendly staff made it a great place to spend an hour, the food was really good, and both the menu and drinks not too pricey. I think our check for two people, including wine, came to a bit less than $50.
It's right on the riverside, and there are some good river-view tables (which we didn't get).
This was a good place for price and quality.
3 Main Street
Montpelier, Vermont 05602
Restaurant | "House of Tang, Montpelier"
It's quite a large Chinese restaurant that has as its centrepiece an all-you-can-eat buffet for about $9 a head. They also did a proper menu, and also take-out, I think. We were hungry and went for the buffet (like most everyone else, from what we could see). The quality of this was surprisingly high--there was a good selection that was kept fresh by hardworking members of staff.
It's a high-volume, low-price, informal, bustling type of place, so not the spot for an anniversary dinner, but great for tourists on a budget and locals who can't be bothered to cook tonight. I'd eat here again.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 19, 2003
House of Tang
114 River St.
We paid a visit to the American side of the falls from our stopover base in Geneva (recommended - see my accommodation review). The drive each way is about 90 minutes and quite straightforward. All you have to do is resist the first few exits directing you to Niagara Falls - this is the town, not the falls.
Anyway, when you get there, you find ample parking (about $5 to park), which will put you about a 10-minute walk from the falls.
A few people told me to anticipate the noise of the falls (deafening, apparently) - this is rubbish, especially when you are viewing the falls from the rim. You can easily have a conversation without shouting. When you're on the Maid of the Mist, however, that is a different matter.
The Maid of the Mist ride is about $8, takes about 30 minutes and is worth every single penny. Like a roller-coaster ride, it may not be for everybody, because you do get tossed about a bit and you do get wet (the disposable plastic coats that are included in the price are good, but you'll find your feet and ankles will get thoroughly drenched - so don't wear your best suedes). You get really close to the foot of the falls. At this point, the noise is significant, and so is the mist. If you go on a sunny day, you'll find that all you can see when you get to the closest point is a weird white haze all around you (like in a film when someone who dies is being pulled towards heaven - stay away from the light!!), but it is truly an exhilarating experience.
Views from the top are more camera-friendly, and there's a footbridge over the Niagara River so you can see things from the USA and Canada side. This is, in fact, quite a walk - so be prepared.
Up top, there are also good facilities for refreshments, souvenirs, ice cream, etc. So if the weather's good, you can easily spend a couple of hours here without getting bored.
That said, when you HAVE taken in all you can so far as the falls are concerned, you may as well move on. Spectacular though the site is, you don't need to allocate more than 2 hours of your itinerary to it.
In summary, great site, great ride, good value, and very accessible. I was not disappointed.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 25, 2003
Niagara Falls, Ontario
As it turned out, this idea turned into little more than a semi-desperate photo stop, and I don't think we did that area of southern Maine justice. In hindsight, a two-night stopover in Maine would have given us a better opportunity to take in the Kennebunkport area. This was sacrificed as we sped on towards famed Salem, MA. We expected this to be the highlight of this leg.
In reality, we found Salem to be a strange place. The source of the "problem," if there is one, is that it allows itself to get pulled in two directions that I'm not sure sit that well together. On the one hand, it has its interesting and disturbing past, with plenty of sites (like the burying point) and exhibitions (like the Peabody Museum) that put you in mind of those times. It also has a beautiful harbour with tall ships to view. On the other hand, it has a load of tacky-witchy-Hallowe'en-y shows and sideshows that are so prevalent that they totally cheapen the place. I reckon that if you're Roswell, New Mexico and these sideshows are all you have to draw in the crowds, then good luck to you, make the most of it. But Salem has more to offer, and the good stuff is being stifled. These so-called "attractions" are in fact reasons NOT to visit. A bit of a shame.
On a more positive note, parking the car in a central multi-storey pay car park was relatively easy, and Salem, like Boston, has marked out its routes on the sidewalk, making it quite easy for you to tour on foot and take in good stuff like the Peabody Museum, which is great for setting the history of Salem in context and separating the fact from fiction for the visitor. The harbour is well worth a view and very picturesque with its tall ships. There's also the eerie sites such as the Burying Point and House of Seven Gables,. All in all, worth a visit, but not as good as it SHOULD be.
The weather wasn't great all the time, so you need to be prepared. You also need to think about the things that a bit of rain will and won't spoil. Stowe is OK on a rainy day, for example. You've got the indoor attraction of Ben & Jerry's with its humorous $2 tour of the factory, and the quaint and interesting craft and coffee shops in Stowe itself. Stowe is also smack bang in the middle of some lovely scenic drives. Drive north from Stowe in the fall and you'll find the foliage more advanced due to the higher altitude.
Burlington and Lake Champlain is a great visit, but needs better weather. It was cold and wet when we visited, which made taking in the sights quite difficult as the wind roared in off the lake. It does have a good indoor mall and good bookshops and coffee shops where you can dive in for sanctuary.
Montpelier is small and its State House is worth a photo stop. But it has few other remarkable sights that would make it a must-see. It is a good place to eat if you're staying nearby, though. Being so small, you can drive in and out and park up easily enough. It's the only state capital without a McDonalds (bonus point). See my dining entries for a couple of decent places to eat. One is cheap (House of Tang), the other is more expensive (Sarduccis), but still good value for its quality. We also ate in a pizza/American diner place, directly opposite Sarduccis over the river, which was OK, but I can't remember its name.
St. Johnsbury is a small, un-commercial but well-presented town with lots of churches and a few bookshops. Again, it's on a good scenic driving route and offers a good place to stop and have coffee. It's a nice enough place, but we visited on a Sunday morning and there was not much going on save for lots of people going in and out of the many churches. There's a filling station on the way out of St. Johnsbury towards Montpelier that also acts as a free book exchange. You'll find a big cardboard box on the forecourt full of books that you can browse through and take away for free. Presumably people, also drop in used books to replenish the stock (we didn't -- sorry!).
Peacham is a real chocolate-box affair. On a junction between a few small, almost dirt-track roads, it has a pristine white church as its centrepiece, and is surrounded by impeccably well-kept houses, farmsteads, and craft shops. Good foliage spot during the fall, cameras at the ready. . .
If you're thinking about taking in the sights of this area, you could do worse than try the Marshfield as a place to stay, but for a wider choice of B&B's, go to www.central-vt.com for over 100 direct links to a wide range of privately owned accommodations.
Durham, United Kingdom