Thursday, 25 September 2014

House Swap Holiday in New England: Part IV, Massachusetts

Massachusetts was our final destination for this summer's holiday; it was just a brief two-night stopover and two of hubby's friends very kindly put us up. We didn't arrive until early evening on the Wednesday and by lunchtime on the Friday we were heading to the airport, but that still gave us all day Thursday and we decided a trip to Boston was in order.

And what better way to entertain a small boy who has quite a thing for Octonauts, than a visit to the New England Aquarium

We found Dory, but no sign of Nemo

piranha - scary!
not a ghost, but a ray

our friends' house - like something from Desperate Housewives
the last supper
sign on the way to the airport - all well and good as long as you're not late for your flight!

homeward bound after a fantastic holiday; already looking forward to the next one!

Monday, 22 September 2014

Book Review No 11: A Year in the Merde by Stephen Clarke

I seem to make a habit of reading these sort of books when I'm on holiday. I've mentioned before that I tend to take books away with me that have languished on the bookcase for far too long; books that I'm clearly not sure about and ones that I might be happy to leave behind. And this fitted all those categories.

There was a time when books about people living overseas, travelling the world, or just doing odd/different things with their lives appealed to me. Perhaps it was a phase I was going through where I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my own life, and I looked for inspiration in these sort of books. Now I'm older and I still don't know what I want to do with my life, but books like this don't inspire me, instead they tend to annoy me (my reviews of this book, this one and especially this one are cases in point.) Mostly they seem to be trying too hard to be funny or outrageous or both. I don't mind funny or outrageous, but I do object to the 'trying too hard' bit. So, why do I keep reading them? Well, they're on my bookcase, they're great for holidays (see reasons above), and maybe, one day, I'll find one that I really enjoy.

I'm afraid I can't add the usual 'blurb from the back' here as I left the book in Spain (which just goes to show how far behind I am with my reviews since we were there at the end of May...), so I'll just crack on with my thoughts/review. The book is definitely very readable; it's the sort of book you can fly through in a couple of days if you're in the zone, although I admit it took me probably three or four days to finish (at home it would probably have taken a good couple of weeks, if not longer.) There are quite a few laugh-out-loud moments, a few snigger-to-yourself sections and also some interesting points to learn about the French. However, the author clearly had such a bad time living and working in France that it does beg the question: why did you stay there for a year then?

I think it's fair to say that I enjoyed the book, but I certainly didn't love it and certainly I won't go hunting for any other books by this author. If you have an interest in France or have ever lived, worked or travelled there, perhaps the book would be worth a read; but, then again, it might prove extremely annoying to anyone who knows France well and who sees this Englishman as a complete moron and xenophobe.

Friday, 19 September 2014

House Swap Summer Holiday in New England: Part III, Vermont

Without wishing to offend any of the other states that make up New England, I think Vermont is my favourite. I can't put my finger on exactly why that is, perhaps it's a mix of lots of things like the pretty villages and towns, the people, the green-ness, the vistas. Who knows? But whatever it is, I like it.

As with New Hampshire, this was a fairly fleeting visit as we spent just three nights in Woodstock (a favourite town from our previous visit to Vermont) before moving on to Massachusetts.

Yes, it's a year-round Christmas shop

Hours of fun splashing in the river


There was a book sale at the library and I may have bought just a couple
Three billy goats gruff

View from the maple syrup farm

Old school diner

Hubby and I were VERY excited to make a return visit to this fantastic bookshop - Mystery on Main in Brattelboro
The weather in New England sometimes mirrored that of old England!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

House Swap Holiday in New England: Part II, New Hampshire

Saying 'au revoir' to Maine
After spending two nights with our friends on their return from our house in the UK, we set off on a road trip through New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts. Here are the photos from the New Hampshire leg; we spent just three nights in the state, all based at Christmas Farm Inn & Spa in Jackson, which was absolutely lovely. We had a little two-bed cabin set up high on the property (but handily located close to the spa where I had a fabulous facial one evening), which was just right for us.

Our first stop in New Hampshire was at the fabulous Castle in the Clouds, a large Arts and Crafts style country house built by a millionaire shoe manufacturer in 1913-14. We all absolutely loved our visit, and we were so glad to have fitted it into our trip. The grounds, house and, probably above all, the views were all stunning. On the way up to the house you drive through shady glades with the opportunity to stop off to visit 'The Pebble' and the waterfall; a little further along there's a scenic spot where you can look out over some of the 5,200 acres that make up the estate.There's a lovely restaurant with fantastic views in the old carriage house; we had to give it a try. Then it's a short journey in a trolley car up to the main house, which was just stunning. I love the Arts and Crafts style, and ooohed and ahhhed my way round practically every room, suggesting to hubby that perhaps we should move to a house built in that period and style. DC had fun filling in the scavenger hunt card and collecting his prize at the end from the treasure chest. All in all, it was a great day and I'd thoroughly recommend a visit if you happen to be in the area.

And now I'll shut up and let the photos do the talking!
This is 'The Pebble', a lesson in understatement

The beautiful 'Castle in the Clouds'

Imagine that view from your back garden!

Someone took a shine to his reflection
This made me want to put a table in our bedroom for breakfasting in style!

Our place of lodging in New Hampshire

Making 'smores round the nightly campfire

Yup, it's steep

The weather changes by the second

At the second time of trying, we made it to the summit!
I'll explain the caption to the photo above that says 'at the second time of trying, we made it to the summit'. Back in 2008 when hubby and I went travelling for six months (oh, to be able to do that again!), we spent some time in around New England. One day we decided to drive up Mount Washington, except that not far into the journey along the very narrow, gravelly, hair-pin bend-y road I had a bit of a funny turn/major meltdown and insisted that we turn the car around and head back down pronto. Unbeknownst to be, but clearly well known to my hormones, I was pregnant. Looks like my body had gone into 'protect the baby at all costs' mode and realised that we were undertaking a perilous mission.This also happened again when we were due to get on a flight to Australia about four weeks later, bags checked in, waiting in the departure lounge, etc, but that's a whole other story...