Our day began in the regular way – up at 7:00, shower, dress, breakfast (cereal, yoghurt, fruit, coffee), pack, and hit the road. Soon after 8:30 am we were heading south and east on the I-89, retracing our steps to Waterbury and beyond.
Our destination was Old Orchard Beach, just south of Portland in Maine and selected because my search for accommodation near Portland had been more difficult than expected. The direct route plotted by the GPS would have taken us down the I-89 to south of Portland, across a linking road, and back up the I-95 in an estimated time of about 4 hours. My preference was to go cross country through the White Mountain National Forest, a shorter distance but likely to take somewhat longer because of the twisting country roads. I set the GPS to travel via Conway, a New Hampshire town beyond the forest and located to force the route I preferred. The estimated travel time was about 5.5 hours which would have us at our destination around 2:00 pm without time for stops.
Majella decided that we should pause in Montpelier, the capital of Vermont, which, according to the Lonely Planet guide, is notable for the complete absence of McDonalds and for being small and rural. We arrived soon after 9:00 am and fed a meter for 30 minutes of parking – enough time for a quick look around. Although we had seen the gilded dome of the state house on the way in we headed the other way up the main street, intending to return to the state house. We had not gone far when Majella spotted what appeared to be a jumble sale in front of a church. It melded with, or may have been part of, a farmers market next door where we picked up a small baguette and a fig and anise panini for lunch. We added an unusually shaped tomato from another stall before moving on. I wanted photos of a couple of church spires further on so Majella headed back up the street while I got those and then caught her up. We were back to the car before the meter ticked over. Majella was on the hunt for fabric again and had asked so we headed back along the main street looking for a shop somebody had thought was there. We didn’t find it and followed the GPS out of town via a circuitous route back to the secondary highway we had been following.
The trees in this area and through to the mountains were showing appreciable colour and we enjoyed a succession of colourful vistas, especially the splashes of bright red. I regret now that we did not stop more often for photographs but parking by the road side was almost impossible and we expected to find more opportunities later in the day. We did stop by a covered bridge in the Plainfield area for a closer look and photos. It was one of few that had survived a flood some years ago and had been recently reconstructed to preserve it.
By that time our plan was to stop at St. Johnsbury for coffee and to check that we were on track. Even before we reached that planned stop Majella spotted a craft shop at Joes Pond and called a halt. While she checked the shop I got photos around a covered pedestrian bridge. When we did reach the main street of St Johnsbury Majella checked a craft shop while I hunted for coffee, which I found in Boxcar & Caboose, a bookshop with coffee bar and candy store which Majella also explored. The local craft store had not had any fabric but suggested we might find a store in Littleton further on.
I took over the driving and we continued on our way, arriving in Littleton after crossing the state line into New Hampshire without any further stops. We fed a meter for 12 minutes and agreed to meet back at the car. Majella went in search of the fabric store while I took photographs around an old mill and a covered pedestrian bridge. This time the fabric hunt was successful.
We drove out of Littleton and on toward the White Mountain National Forest and our passage through the mountains. Majella had plans to stop at a suitably scenic spot for lunch but none appeared immediately. We paused at Bretton Woods, best known for the meeting that established the agreement for the World Bank and IMF, for photos and at the rail station for the scenic tours. Then we headed through the top of Crawford Notch. Soon after we started down the eastern side we spotted an area off the road with parking and a table. We had lunch with a panoramic view down the pass but with less colour in the trees than we had anticipated. We thought that was mostly due to altitude and prevalence of conifers but later realized that there was less colour on that side of the mountains for some reason. There is a lot of variability in the colour change according to species, locations and other factors.
After lunch Majella took over the driving again. We stopped a few times for photos as we made our way out of the park and again in North Conway to pick up something more that Majella wanted. By that time we had reset our first destination for Portland where we arrived shortly before 4:00 pm. We found a waterfront park and spent some time there watching the boats on the water before setting off again for Old Orchard Beach where we found our hotel and checked in without issues.
Once we had dropped our bags we walked across the road to the beach. It was windy and there was a thick fog rolling in from the sea. We were a long way from the pier or any other activity so we did not wait around long but took the car down to the area near the pier. We walked onto the pier, wondering if we might eat there but it was already closing and the bar at the shore end did not offer lobster which we had decided was a must since we were in Maine and Majella is on a mission to eat local dishes (witness the Kentucky Brown and Poutine among others). The other alternative that we had seen on several boards near the pier was ‘fried dough’ but neither of us even wanted to contemplate what that might mean.
We looked around the pier area but found nowhere serving lobster. One place that looked promising had posted a notice advising customers that they would see them in Spring. We were about to head back to the road into town where we had seen several places offering lobster but Majella spotted Bell Buoy, a restaurant with several lobster variations on offer. Majella had stuffed lobster and I had the lobster dinner, which included clam chowder and a salad before the lobster arrived. We both enjoyed dinner but will probably reserve the lobster experience for the rare occasions when we are in Maine. It was more effort and mess than we usually generate over dinner.
Distance covered today was 365 km. That was not especially far but we crossed 3 states and crammed in a lot of sight seeing. Although the fall colours have not hit their peak there were places where entire hillsides were in colour and many places where there were intense shades to be seen. We are looking forward to seeing how much more colour might develop before we leave for home in 2 weeks.