If you’re beginning to think about where to travel this year, an early summer road trip through the New England states is a must for all who search for pieces of their soul around the world. Here are just a few reasons why.
New England is a sublime region peppered with historic small towns, bustling cities and breathtaking landscapes.
Last summer we began our journey in New York City, because I simply cannot be that close to this dynamic place and not visit. Our primary goal was to see the 9/11 Memorial and the Freedom Tower, haunting yet inspiring sights.
Tribeca is my new favorite place to stay in NYC. It’s close to SoHo, Little Italy, Chinatown, the Village, and just a short ride away from world-class shopping in Midtown, or the posh Upper East and West sides of the city. It’s also generally less expensive than hotels in Midtown or points north.
Bubby’s is another reason Tribeca is now my preference. Everyone knows Bubby’s, and that’s not an exaggeration. It’s breakfast mecca in the downtown area, and for me, after my beloved Carnegie Deli closed down, a huge void was filled when I discovered this quaint and comfortable nook to quell the craving for bagels with cream cheese and Nova lox. It doesn’t hurt that their platters are unashamedly huge, just like your Bubby (Jewish grandma) would serve you. You can save a few bucks if you share, and you still won’t leave hungry.
Our next stop was not on the itinerary, but I’m so thankful we made the time to stop in Mystic, Connecticut. Towns like these seem to exist to give life to postcards and Norman Rockwell images. Mystic was the first of several we found in our travels this summer.
I had a lobster roll in almost every city starting in Mystic, and this one from S & P Oyster Company proved to be the best of the bunch. I discovered that I lean toward the cold roll. As expected, the lobster was fresh, firm, and meaty, served in large rough-chopped chunks and lightly smothered in a citrus herb aeoli.
Our next stop was Cape Cod, and it’s a miracle I didn’t stay forever. Chatham has an elegant charm while retaining the feel of a cozy small town. Must-sees include Chatham Lighthouse near the “elbow” of Cape Cod, and the Eldredge Public Library. A walk through downtown, with its small shops, antique stores, coffee and ice cream spots, is food for the soul. The British Beer Company is a whimsical eatery where I enjoyed the English surroundings and a bowl of steaming, hearty New England Clam Chowder on a sunny but brisk day.
Reluctantly, we said goodbye to the Cape and continued on to Salem. If you want to see this town come alive and even become frenetic, locals say, come in October. What better place to be for Halloween? But for a lazy summer quick stop, the Salem Witch Museum offers a comprehensive look into the history and folklore surrounding this magical place.
In Salem, Finz offers a refined casual atmosphere for seafood lovers. I diversified and tried the warm lobster roll smothered in hot butter in a brioche bun. Every bite melts in your mouth.
Where do I begin to describe Boston? Being a New York Yankees fan since my teenage years, I was a little apprehensive about going into Red Sox territory. I had my shields up and my attitude ready. What I found were the nicest, most neighborly people, ready to help me enjoy their historic city. Shields down, attitude in check.
One day is most definitely not enough to fully grasp the charm and significance of this city, but we tried to take in as much of its flavor as we could. The Freedom Trail, a path marked throughout downtown Boston, is a brilliant tool that takes you to all the historic landmarks now surrounded by modern buildings. Old South Meeting House, Old State House, Old North Church, Paul Revere’s House – these are just a few of the stops on the trail, and finding each one felt like discovering treasure.
Boston’s Public Garden is a non-negotiable. All the charm and elegance of this city is represented in the sights and sounds of this park. And if you can, you must indulge in the Boston tradition of riding a boat on Swan Lake, the inspiration for that classic children’s book “The Trumpet of the Swan” by E.B. White.
I also allowed myself another classic Boston indulgence, lunch at the legendary Omni Parker House restaurant, home of the famous Parker House Rolls and the original Boston Cream Pie. I also sampled their flaky, savory Baked Boston Scrod, lightly covered in a lemon beurre blanc and white wine sauce and coarse cracker crumbs, and served with jasmine rice. A classic of the restaurant since 1906, I found the dish delightful and satisfying.
Established in 1855, Parker House is the longest running hotel in America, and still retains its 19th century style and atmosphere.
With only a couple of hours to spare before heading toward Maine, we stopped for lunch in downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire. If you have limited time, my opinion is that the Portsmouth Decks are excellent for a good meal looking out at this historic waterway. I enjoyed a sinful bowl of lobster mac and cheese at River House while watching the tugboats and sailboats that pepper the serene harbor. Then, I worked some of it off with a short walk around Market Square taking in the North Church and the many boutiques. If possible, visit the Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse in Fort Constitution, established in 1771 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.
I found two pieces of my traveling soul on this tour, one in Cape Cod, and the second in Portland, Maine. I could fill this post with pictures of Portland, but my zen moments came in the form of two stunning lighthouses. The first was Portland Headlight Lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth. Commissioned by George Washington in 1787, it sits majestically on a promontory overlooking the Gulf of Maine. From every angle, this structure enthralls. No wonder it is said to be the most photographed lighthouse in the United States.
Lighthouses have always given me a sense of hope, of light at the end of the dark tunnels of life, of a mystical eye watching over me. I’m drawn to them as I would be to a best friend. My second discovery was the Portland Breakwater Light, also cheekily called Bug Light. This stubby structure is elegantly Greek and so cute, I wanted to put it in my pocket and take it home as a souvenir. If you visit Bug Light Park, walk over to the memorial for the World War II builders of the Liberty Ships. As an immigrant, I never cease to be awestruck by the American grit and determination when freedom is in jeopardy.
And so, this idyllic tour, blessed with mild weather, came to an end as we ushered in the hot summer.