Monthly Archives: July 2014

#Schummer14: Day 13-14 recap of Summer of Schnyder ~ New Hampshire & Portland, Maine

#Schummer14 New Hampshire

Sunset in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Day 13: Franconia, New Hampshire

We stayed a couple of nights at Gale River Motel in Franconia, which gave us access to many outdoor activities around the White Mountain range. We spent most of our time in the Franconia Notch State Park. I’ve become a fan of driving through the narrow notches in the mountains … well, Lee is driving and I’m taking photos from the car!

The best way to tell you about New Hampshire is to show you what we did while there:

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A stop under a covered bridge during the rain while hiking at Flume Gorge.

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A covered bridge in the Flume area.

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Walking into the Flume gorge.

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Main waterfall in the gorge.

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in front of the Avalanche waterfall at the Flume gorge.

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New Hampshire was famous for the Old Man in the Mountain natural rock formation but it crumbled in 2003. They have a cool exhibit where you can stand and look at a profile that shows you what the formation looked like.

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Here’s what the Old Man in the Mountain natural rock formation looked like before it fell, through the profiler.

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Franconia Notch, looking over Profile Lake.

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Cool stuff near our motel along the Gale River in New Hampshire.

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Across from our motel, one of the few remaining iron furnaces still standing that at one time was used in the iron industry here. You can see a bit of an iron bridge then the furnace in the background across the river.

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We hiked a few hours on some paths like this one in the Franconia Notch State Park.

Saw lots of birds, a few chipmunks and this guy ... but no moose :(

Saw lots of birds, a few chipmunks and this guy … but no moose :(

#schummer14 new hampshire

Lots of Moose Crossing signs in New Hampshire and Maine but no moose sightings.

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The hikes took us to views like this one.

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It was hard to beat the view from our Gale River Motel room — here’s dusk on our last night, with Buddy the mutt on the lawn.

Day 14: Franconia, New Hampshire, to Portland, Maine

We had a hard rain for the drive over to Portland so we didn’t stop anywhere along the way. Once we got to our hotel in downtown Portland, the rain let up so we walked around the waterfront and Commercial Street’s shops and restaurants. We had lunch at a seafood shack, then we relaxed at the hotel for the afternoon (brand new Courtyard by Marriott that has huge rooms with a very cool, modern vibe).

We went to the Portland Sea Dogs minor league baseball game in the evening. They are the AA affiliate for the Boston Red Sox, which explains why the stadium has a big green wall outfield in honor of Fenway’s green monster. We were lucky to see two home runs early in the game; the team celebrates homers with a lighthouse popping up in the center field fence.

There was a rain delay where it poured for about 15 minutes and then the game resumed. Our observations on weather and other New England so far:

  • it can pour for an hour and then be beautiful the rest of the day, you just have to try to NOT be out on a hike during that hour!
  • no accents in Vermont or New Hampshire (will wait until we’ve gone further into Maine to decide on this state)
  • we are still amazed at how quickly we can drive from destination to destination out here. At breakfast we are in Franconia, New Hampshire, and at lunch we are in downtown Portland, Maine.

Some photos from Portland:

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Lunch on the dock at Portland Oyster Company,

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Hadlock Field, home of the Portland Sea Dogs, a AA team for the Boston Red Sox.

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Courtyard Marriott room in downtown Portland, Maine.

~~~

#Schummer14 – Lee & MeLinda Schnyder are turning their home in Wichita, Kan., over to a friend and taking a month-long road trip. They’ll travel from Kansas to Ontario and Quebec, Canada; then through Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The trip home will include stops in Ohio and Missouri. Beyond the blog, you can follow #Schummer14 on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Posted in Lee, travel

#Schummer14: Day 11-12 recap of Summer of Schnyder ~ Vermont

#schummer14 vermont

View from Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak.

On Day 11 of the Summer of Schnyder, we rented bicycles to ride the Island Line Trail that unites the Burlington Bike Path, the Colchester Causeway and the island community on South Hero into a 14-mile trail that travels along and over Lake Champlain. It was the perfect way to get a flavor of Vermont – we saw the lake, the coastline and the Adirondacks in the distance; we stopped at a few beaches and rode through several neighborhoods, including farmland on the island; we also got to eat some local food while having lunch at an apple farm on the island.

We made great time – one hour – riding the 10 miles from the bike shop to the end of causeway. From there, we took a short – like five minutes – bike ferry that gets bicyclists across the gap in the Colchester Causeway (allow boats through). We spent a couple of hours on the island riding the roads and stopping for lunch at Allenholm Farm, where The Accidental Farmer fed us a yummy grass-fed burger and mac & cheese made with Vermont cheeses.

We shared lunch so that we didn’t eat too much, since we had a good 14 miles to ride back to the bike shop. Still, the return didn’t go quite as quickly. After we got off the return bike ferry and rode for about five minutes, it felt like I was riding through mud even though this is a rails-to-trails flat, easy path. The back tire was flat. Since we were 10 miles from the shop and close to the ferry, the bike shop had us go to the ferry for a fix. The guy there fixed it but after about 10 minutes of riding it was clear he didn’t do it right. We had to call the bike shop again and they sent a mechanic out on his bike to take care of it. That did the trick but by now we’d been out much longer than expected and were pretty wiped out. It was overcast most of the day but it seemed like the sun popped out when we were stranded!

We finished up the ride about six hours after we started! We cycled a little more than 30 miles. It was steady terrain except on the island so it wouldn’t have been as tiring without the long delays with the bike tire issue.

That night we met Gray, a Vermonter I met at TBEX travel writer/blogger conference, for a well-deserved local beer at Vermont Pub & Brewery in downtown Burlington. She showed us Church Street – a cool pedestrian area full of art, shops and restaurants with lots of outdoor seating – and then we had pizza at American Flatbread. The restaurant is right next to a parking lot that used to be home to the original gas station building where Ben & Jerry’s got their start scooping ice cream. We also checked out a new place called Tilt, a bar/restaurant with a collection of pinball machines and old video games.

Day 12: Burlington, Vermont, to Franconia, New Hampshire

We made sure our route to New Hampshire took us through Waterbury, home to one of the Ben & Jerry factories … the one with the tour. It was $4 for a short video about the history of the company and a tour of the operations area (since it was Saturday, there was no ice cream being produced while we were there). The final stop on the tour was the tasting room, where we tried a Sweet Cream & Cookies flavor.  Then we walked through the outdoor flavor graveyard, which honors fallen mixtures that are not longer offered. It was a fun stop and well-organized.

From there, we visited a local apple cider mill, bought some maple syrup and went for a drive up the auto toll road to see the views of Mount Mansfield, the highest peak in Vermont, and the Stowe township. We drove through Smugglers’ Notch before heading east toward New Hampshire.

Views from our time in Vermont:

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Taking a rest during our 30-mile bike ride in Vermont.

#schummer14 vermont bike path Lake Champlain

View of Lake Champlain along the bike path we took from Burlington.

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Loved riding through farmland on South Hero Island near Burlington.

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Fun at the Ben & Jerry’s factory tour in Waterbury, Vermont.

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On the Ben & Jerry’s tour.

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Have ice cream for lunch — Lee got a flavor only offered at the Ben & Jerry’s factory: a new Saturday Night Live collaboration called Lazy Sunday. It had cake batter ice cream with pieces of cupcake and a frosting swirl. I had the half-baked combo of cookie dough & fudge brownie.

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Hiking at the top of the auto tour near Stowe, Vermont, that goes to the top of Mount Mansfield.

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Another view of the beautiful mountains from Mount Mansfield.

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The green mountains of Vermont.

~~~

#Schummer14 – Lee & MeLinda Schnyder are turning their home in Wichita, Kan., over to a friend and taking a month-long road trip. They’ll travel from Kansas to Ontario and Quebec, Canada; then through Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The trip home will include stops in Ohio and Missouri. Beyond the blog, you can follow #Schummer14 on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

 

Lee has now had pizza in every state where we’ve overnighted during the trip except Michigan.

Posted in Lee, travel

#Schummer14: Day 8-10 recap of Summer of Schnyder ~ Montreal

#schummer14 montreal

Three days isn’t enough time to do everything for first-time visitors in Montreal, especially when you’re staying at a hotel so comfortable you want to spend time there, too. (See my post about the Ritz-Carlton Montreal.)

We had two partial days and one full day in Montreal. Since we didn’t have a lot of time, I booked a five-hour bicycle tour called Montreal Highlights. It was a small group and through an outfitter called Fitz & Follwell. We don’t do a lot of group tours but we really enjoyed this one – we covered a lot of area on the bikes and learned a lot from our guides. And as the tour name implies, we saw many of the major areas of Montreal.

Two other activities in Montreal stand out:

Moishe’s – a restaurant that was recommended to Lee by a friend in Houston who grew up in Montreal. It’s a steakhouse on Saint Laurent Boulevard, a main street full of restaurants, shops and culture that geographically divides the city east-west. We were eating a little later than usual and decided to split a steak. The menu didn’t list sizes and we were so glad we split this ribeye! It was 22 ounces!! Plus, they serve house made pickles, coleslaw and bread. The steak had a great taste but my favorite part of the meal was the twice-baked potato that comes with it.

Mont-Royal – I had no idea until I started researching our trip that Montreal was named for the mountain that is west of the city and called Mont-Royal or Mount Royal. It was visible from almost everywhere in the city and not far from our hotel. On our last morning there, we climbed the 256 steps to an observation area. The climb was worth the amazing views of the city.

We had other meals (tradition poutine: French fries and cheese curds covered in brown gravy), saw many historical buildings and even managed the Metro on our own (we usually have our buddies Charlie & Kim with us when we are navigating mass transit in large cities).

I can’t believe a full week of #Schummer 14 has already passed! Montreal was our last stop in Canada before heading to the U.S. for a tour through many tiny little states I always got wrong when filling in blank maps in grade school. Maybe experiencing them first-hand will set them straight in my head for once (I hope there’s no geography quiz at the end of our trip).

Photos from our time in Montreal:

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The view of Montreal from Mont-Royal.

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The Mont-Royal chalet.

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Our room at the Ritz-Carlton Montreal

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The McGill University campus was just a few blocks from our hotel so we walked through several times.

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We took a full day bike tour of Montreal highlights, including Notre-Dame Basilica.

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Sculpture in Old Port Montreal.

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Starting point for all the bike routes that run through Montreal — it’s a bicycling city!

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Lots of murals along our walks on Saint Laurent Boulevard in Montreal.

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One of my favorite buildings in Montreal: Mary Queen of the World Cathedral.

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We visited the Biodome (nature museum) and next door was Parc Olympique — Montreal Tower and Olympic Park where the Expos used to play baseball.

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Had to have some poutine — french fries and cheese curds covered in gravy.

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Our favorite meal in Montreal was a steak dinner at Moishe’s.

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Berries at Atwater Market, where our Montreal bike tour stopped for lunch.

~~~

#Schummer14 – Lee & MeLinda Schnyder are turning their home in Wichita, Kan., over to a friend and taking a month-long road trip. They’ll travel from Kansas to Ontario and Quebec, Canada; then through Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The trip home will include stops in Ohio and Missouri. Beyond the blog, you can follow #Schummer14 on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Posted in Lee, travel

#Schummer14: Summer of Schnyder settles in at the Ritz-Carlton Montreal

#schummer14 Ritz-Carlton Montreal

I’m able to walk into a Residence Inn by Marriott like I own the place. I hand the front desk attendant our Marriott card, they have our preferences for King bed and quiet room on file, I know about the free breakfast in the morning, let’s get our bottled water in the room’s full-size fridge and the cooler’s ice system in the freezer so it’s ready to use for tomorrow’s portion of the road trip.

Driving up to the Ritz-Carlton in Montreal was intimidating. I wondered if my t-shirt and shorts from an afternoon spent at a nature museum would suffice or if we should stop and change before pulling up in front of the hotel.

We aren’t Ritz-Carlton folk, much the way – as Lee once said – “we aren’t Lexus people.” We tend to stay at Hampton Inns, Courtyards, Holiday Inn Expresses or whatever last-minute deal we find on Hotwire, Priceline or Hotel Tonight. A few months ago, though, we signed up for a Marriott credit card in preparation for our month-long road trip. We had decided to not spend valuable vacation time searching for hotels along the way, so we booked all of our accommodations in advance. Lee found that many of the hotels we would want along the way (based on location and TripAdvisor reviews) were Marriott properties. One of the perks of the card was receiving 60,000 Marriott points after spending a certain amount on the credit card.

When we were looking for places to stay in Montreal, Lee noticed that the Ritz-Carlton was available to book with reward points. It would zero out our points account, but it sounded like a fun way to splurge at what is ranked as Montreal’s top hotel on TripAdvisor.

Was it worth the 60,000 points? Absolutely!

Would I pay the regular $575 U.S. per night (plus taxes) that the room would have cost for the two days we stayed? No. {she says with a frowny face} But only because we need to make our travel dollars stretch, not because the experience wasn’t spectacular.

The Ladies and Gentleman of Ritz-Carlton had emailed us in advance to find out when we would arrive so our room would be ready. We pulled up to the valet on one of Montreal’s busiest downtown streets a little after 4 p.m. The doorman welcomed us as he opened my door and asked if we had luggage. We opened the back of the vehicle loaded strategically with all of our long-road-trip stuff and out flew my MacBook onto his foot, followed by the kitten notebook I’ve been using for Summer of Schnyder planning notes. {awkward}

#schummer14 kitten notebook

Thankfully things went much smoother the rest of the time. After giving the doorman our name, everyone who greeted us inside referred to us by name. Lee had mentioned in his email response about our arrival time that we were on a month-long road trip and celebrating my birthday during the trip. Guest relations had taken note and everyone at the front desk wished me a happy birthday. When we got to the room, there was a birthday gift waiting for me from the general manager (a book on the history of the Ritz-Carlton brand).

#schummer14 Ritz-Carlton Montreal book

Oliver, who checked us in, also accompanied us to the room. As we rode the elevator to the 10th floor, he explained that this was the very first Ritz-Carlton in the world (opened in 1912) and that it had closed from 2008-2012 for major renovations. Once in the room, Oliver spent 10 minutes showing us all of the features and instructing how to use the sensors for lighting, window shades and the toilet. Ahhh, the toilet – it was one of those Japanese intelligent toilets that automatically opened when you stood in front of it and did things you didn’t even know you wanted done.

#schummer14 Ritz-Carlton Montreal intelligent toilet

Oliver showed us the coffee maker and when I told him I only drank tea, he had a tea kettle brought up with a complete serving tray. When the soap was too strong of a floral scent, a call to the front desk resulted in delivery of a tray of three alternatives.

#schummer14 Ritz-Carlton Montreal soap options

Our room was large, it had a comfortable mattress wrapped in ultra-soft sheets and so many conveniences that we weren’t expecting. Heated towel rack, heated bathroom floor, heated toilet seat. A bottle of room spray near the bed, a personal loofa in the bathroom, a small container of office supplies on the desk. Turn-down service featured chocolates on the bed the first night, eye cream on the second night. You know you are in a fancy place when the housekeeper folds a t-shirt you leave laying on the bed or puts dirty clothes left in a pile on the floor into a Ritz-Carlton laundry bag as a reminder to clean your room. One night we returned from dinner and all of our shoes (dumped from a bag we needed to use) had been neatly lined up on a towel to restore order to the room.

#schummer14 Ritz-Carlton Montreal room

The entire staff was friendly and constantly looked for ways to help. Our first night, the concierge booked our dinner reservations. When we came downstairs five minutes later to head to the restaurant, he had printed precise Google map directions sealed inside an envelope. At dinner our waiter served us a piece of birthday cake as the concierge had mentioned to the restaurant that we were celebrating my birthday while on our road trip.

The common spaces at the Ritz-Carlton were beautiful as well. We spent time at the rooftop saltwater pool each of our three days there, reading on the deck, which was small but never crowded. Everywhere in the hotel you went, they offered you complimentary bottles of water. Wifi was included and worked very well. We rarely heard another guest on our floor although they were sold out our last night.

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On our last day, we stored our luggage before checkout time and told the staff we were going to walk up Mont-Royal for a view of the city. They gave us two bottles of water as we headed out. That walk only took about an hour round-trip but we decided to go have lunch in another part of the city while we were out. When we returned to the hotel about 3.5 hours after we left, the concierge seemed happy to see us and relieved to hear we hadn’t gotten lost. He gave us more water and once we had loaded our luggage in the car, two more waters for the road.

I’ve told Lee that now I’m going to expect a higher level of service when we get back to Wichita; I hope he learned a few things from the staff at the Ritz-Carlton Montreal ;-)

#schummer14 ritz lee in room
~~~

#Schummer14 – Lee & MeLinda Schnyder are turning their home in Wichita, Kan., over to a friend and taking a month-long road trip. They’ll travel from Kansas to Ontario and Quebec, Canada; then through Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The trip home will include stops in Ohio and Missouri. Beyond the blog, you can follow #Schummer14 on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Posted in Lee, travel

#Schummer14: Day 7 recap of Summer of Schnyder ~ Toronto to Thousand Islands

 

#schummer14 1000 Islands canada flagAfter dropping our friends Charlie & Kim off at the airport to fly home to New York just before lunch, we left Toronto to head toward Montreal. It would have been an easy trip to drive the whole route that afternoon, but we decided to stop along the way at the Thousands Islands (or 1000 Islands) area and spend one night outside of Canada’s two largest cities.

We could have explored this area a lot more than we did (observation tower, hiking, etc.) but we were pretty wiped out after a lot of walking and constant activity in Toronto. So we opted for a peaceful boat tour of the Thousand Islands from Rockport, Ontario, and then settled into our hotel fairly early.

For about 30 minutes, we were back in the U.S.A. The 1000 Islands are actually 1,864 islands that span both the U.S. (New York) and Canada (Ontario). They are in the St. Lawrence River where it flows into the northeast corner of Lake Ontario.

We saw islands with huge mansions and one with a castle (Boldt Castle), and we saw tiny islands where the entire surface area was taken up by a modest home. To be officially considered an island in the Thousand Islands, it has to stay above water 365 days a year and support a living tree.

And about the name … yes, Thousand Island the dressing has a connection to this area. Legend has it that an operator of luxurious hotels in New York in the early 1900s, George Boldt (who built the castle), vacationed in the 1000 Islands. On one of his trips, he asked his chef to whip up a dressing with ingredients they had on hand. Boldt liked it so well he started to serve it at the restaurants as 1000 Islands dressing and it became a thing.

MeLinda & lee in 1000 islands

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#schummer14 1000 Islands Boldt Castle

#schummer14 1000 Islands small house

#schummer14 1000 Islands span U.S. and Canada

#schummer14 1000 Islands dressing

~~~

#Schummer14 – Lee & MeLinda Schnyder are turning their home in Wichita, Kan., over to a friend and taking a month-long road trip. They’ll travel from Kansas to Ontario and Quebec, Canada; then through Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The trip home will include stops in Ohio and Missouri. Beyond the blog, you can follow #Schummer14 on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Posted in Lee, travel