31 Oct The things we love about New England
Unbelievably, we’ve been in New England for nearly two months now; the time has flown by in a whirl of scenic drives, golden foliage, forest walks and pancake breakfasts. This week finds us in Portland, Maine, facing the tail-end of our journey in this incredible corner of the country. Although we’ll be moving on to other parts of the US in a week or so, my heart still breaks a little at the thought of leaving. With that in mind, here are some of the things we’ve loved about New England.
Our Favourite Things about New England
*Update: you can read our complete 2016 New England Fall Foliage Guide here. This includes tips on where and when to see the best foliage, what to eat, which festivals to visit, how much our fall trip to New England cost and our favourite destinations in New England.*
This time last year I remember sitting in our little apartment in Vietnam with the air-con on, sun blazing through the window, while I dreamed of a crisp, golden autumn and began planning this very trip to New England. I’d read that the foliage here was spectacular but it really has surpassed our expectations, especially in Vermont. Some freakishly warm weather in September caused the leaves to change colour later this year, which has fortunately meant that we’ve seen some incredible foliage in almost every state we’ve visited.
New England’s scenic highways are in a league of their own; in the last two months we’ve spent hours driving countless miles down some seriously beautiful roads. I know some of my strongest memories of this trip will be of us driving down windy forest roads lined with autumn-painted leaves while Keith Urban’s John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16 plays on the radio. Some of our favourite routes have been the Kancamagus Highway, the loop in Acadia National Park, routes 9 and 100 in Vermont and route 1 in Maine.
Lighthouses and the Sea
The sea has played a big role in our New England trip. We took a very successful whale watching trip from Gloucester, sailed over to Martha’s Vineyard for the day, visited numerous beautiful seaside towns and walked along windswept beaches and jagged cliff-tops. We’ve explored dozens of harbours and eaten delicious clam chowder, fresh fish and lobster rolls. One of my favourite things about New England has been the dazzling-white, picture-postcard lighthouses that we’ve encountered dotted along the coast line.
Tiny towns and independent shops
I’d heard the phrase ‘small-town America’ before but I didn’t realise exactly what that meant until we came to New England. Many of the towns here really do consist of just a handful of shops, perhaps a pharmacy, grocery store, book shop and café; all the locals seem to know each other and there’s a real sense of character and community. The towns are full of unique, independent, locally-run shops, restaurants and cafés, which I love. In the UK I feel like many towns have the same, soulless feel these days, sporting an endless repeat of chain coffee shops and big name stores.
Farms and local food
In the same independent, local spirit, much of the food in New England is locally grown, caught or handmade and sold in nearby stores, restaurants and at farm stands. Seafood is freshly caught by fishermen, cattle and chickens graze in huge open fields and milk and cheese comes from locally-run co-ops. Particularly in Vermont, we had an amazing time sampling all the cheeses, apples and produce from the area.
Lakes, mountains and forests
We came to New England expecting beautiful, unspoilt scenery and that’s exactly what we got. We’ve trekked through forests and national parks, hiked up mountains, kayaked on a lake in New Hampshire and strolled along scenic coastal paths. Some of our favourite hikes were in Acadia National Park in Maine, where we experienced a mixture of New England’s treasures: coastline, mountains, lakes and forests.
Breakfast, Brunch and Diners
Breakfast and brunch appears to be a big thing in America, particularly at the weekends when we’ve had trouble finding a table in many eateries. Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day so I’ve taken to this aspect of American culture easily, relishing trips to local diners for piles of blueberry pancakes, bowls of granola and yogurt, eggs and bagels and steaming mugs of tea. Some of our meals probably haven’t been the healthiest though, so this brunch habit is one we’re going to have to curb when we get back the UK – particularly the pancakes!
We haven’t just been stuffing our faces with pancakes in New England, we’ve also found plenty of healthy food here and we’ve fallen in love with Whole Foods. This supermarket is packed with healthy food and produce, we love their salad and hot food bars and have picked up takeaway food for dinner from there many times. Yes, it may be a bit pricey but we love shopping there; I know a couple of Whole Food stores have opened back in London, I hope they spread throughout the UK.
Pin Me For Later!
From the minute we arrived in Boston we were taken aback by how open and friendly the local people were and that has continued as we’ve travelled through New England. We’ve stayed with some lovely Airbnb hosts who’ve been interested in our travel tales and have invited us to eat meals with them; some fellow guests in Vermont even invited us to stay with them in the future. While we’ve been out and about exploring people in cafés and shops have asked us where we’re from and offered help and advice – it has been a pleasure travelling here.
We used Airbnb for all of our accommodation in New England and stayed in some amazing places, we found this option much cheaper than booking standard hotel rooms. If you’ve never used Airbnb before, you can get £20 free credit to spend on the site if you sign up using this link.