Oh goodness it’s been a while since I sat down to work on finishing this series of posts about our recent cruise to Canada and New England. We were saying goodbye to Halifax at the end of my last post, and today we say a brief hello to Bar Harbor Maine. I had never been to Maine before, but had always dreamed of going. In particular, I’d always wanted to see Acadia National Park. Bar Harbor is situated on an Island called Mount Desert Island. Our ship had to anchor out in the harbor/bay because the town is not set up to accommodate cruise ships of our size. Today’s tour was arranged by me, and not the cruise line. I know I’ve said it before, but it’s so typical that with a little bit of research you can find great tours on your own that are much more reasonably priced than booking with the cruise line. In this case, I booked with a company who has a fabulous reputation on Trip Advisor, called “Oli’s Trolleys”. Once on shore, we had a short walk to where the Trolley pick up was. It was a grey, drippy day, but we were determined to make the best of it. Here’s a pic I quickly snapped on our walk to the trolley –
It’s true, everything is about the Lobster in Maine!!! I know this may sound crazy, but neither one of us are lobster lovers, so nope, we never ate any. People did say it was delicious! After boarding the trolley, we headed into Acadia National Park. My photos from there were not spectacular – mostly because of the weather, but I will share a couple. One of the reasons I chose Oli’s Trolleys is because if the weather cooperates, they WILL drive you up to the top of Cadillac Mountain. Many other tours do not. In fact, I’m not sure any of the the ship sponsored tours went up there! We were very lucky…. while it was wet and grey, it wasn’t foggy, so our driver took us up the mountain! Here is a view from the top, looking down. You can see three cruise ships and the bay is called Frenchman’s Bay. The islands are called the Porcupine Islands. Apropos, I think!!
It really was a stunning view in person, and OH… if it had been sunny!!! Well anyway, we quickly realized how lucky we were to have had this view at all! Just as we were beginning our walk back to the trolley, the fog started to roll in. In less than 5 minutes, this view was TOTALLY obscured. Here’s how it looked as we approached the trolley:
Crazy weather, eh? We came on down the mountain and made a circular drive around Mt Desert Island, nearly all of which is in Acadia National Park. Some famous people live on the Island according to our tour guide – the most famous I think is Martha Stewart who has a summer home there. Here is a snap I took during one of our stops…
Ahh, the Atlantic sea breeze… It really is lovely there and we sure enjoyed finally getting to Maine! One thing I am fascinated with is the poem, Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I read this as a teenager and never forgot it. It’s about how the Acadian people were rounded up and marched south from Maine to Louisiana. It’s well worth a read and heart-wrenching the way Evangeline is separated from and searching for her love, Gabriel.
The next day we woke to sunshine and another “new-to-us” place, Gloucester Massachusetts. Gloucester is not too far from Boston (about 40 miles) and is mainly known for two things: Fishing and the movie “The Perfect Storm”. This tour was booked through the cruise line and whoa baby, did we tell the cruise about it later….. anyway, our first bus stop was at the iconic “Fisherman” statue (the Gloucester Fisherman’s Memorial). I don’t really know why, but I had always wanted to see this. Here is a view from behind the fisherman, looking out to sea…
This is a memorial (built in the 1920’s) to all the fishermen who have lost their lives at sea. There are plaques with the name of every unfortunate soul who died while fishing. Here’s a view of the front of the statue –
Oops, hubby is blocking the inscription. It says, “They That Go Down To The Sea In Ships 1623-1923”. Funny thing, I found what I think may be one of my distant relatives on one of the plaques of fallen seamen. I’ll have to do some research on that! Anyway, here’s one of me –
Oh, and that’s our cruise ship, the Holland America Zuiderdam way off in the background. Gloucester was another “tender” port. We went around a lot of Gloucester with our tour guide telling us stuff like, “there’s the beach I swim at every day of the year… yes every single day”…. or “there’s my family home — it’s for sale but we will keep it in the family” (what? that didn’t even make sense, but it’s just what she said!)…. or “over there is the pole they grease every year.. oh, well, we’ve gone past that now…..” You get the drift, she was useless as a tour guide. A nice woman and clearly a local, but being a tour guide was NOT her forte. Then there was the bus driver…. he kept driving into parking lots and other tight areas where it was nearly impossible to turn around. This guy was really struggling! John and I felt somewhat unsafe, but what could we do? We wanted to see the area, so on to Rockport Massachusetts we went! Rockport is a really cute, tiny, touristy coastal village. We had an hour and a half on our own, and really enjoyed exploring the small area. I guess the area is called “Bear Skin Neck” and I had to take a photo of this sign:
I was so caught up by the sign that I didn’t even notice (’til now!) that I walked right past a Pewter Shop! Hmmm, would have loved to have gone in there! We wandered down the streets and struggled to find a place that served fish and chips! Since we’re not lobster fans, we were rather put off by all the Lobster and Chips establishments, but did finally did find what we were craving – and it was so delicious! After our meal, it was time to wander through the little town that is truly so picturesque!
Our tour guide told us that the little red boat house (above) is “the most photographed building in America”. While it’s quite quaint and all that, I highly, highly doubt her words are factual. Oh well, we sure did enjoy Rockport.
As we approached our bus, we noticed another bus in the road, trying to pass our bus which was parked. We watched as the moving bus hit our bus and damaged the side mirror. Within 5 minutes another bus tried to pass by, but this time our bus driver started up the bus and moved it closer to the curb (where it should have been all along….) and avoided another bus to bus confrontation! Oh my. Needless to say, we did mention the less than adequate tour guide and the less than competent bus driver in the survey sent to us by Holland America after we returned home.
Our final port of call was Newport, Rhode Island. Again, a new place for both of us… 🙂 I’d always wanted to see “the mansions” along the water in Newport and so we arranged (for less than half the price!) a local tour that drove us all around Newport and then included a tour of one mansion. We had a small bus with only about 6 people onboard and a great guide. The walk from where the tender boat dropped us, to where we connected with our tour was about a block. The day was stunningly gorgeous with clear blue skies and bright sunshine.
Here are some mansions we drove past…
This one, fondly known to locals as the “Hurricane Hut”
Don’t know the name of this one, but love how close it is to the water!
Then we arrived at “The Breakers” the mansion we would tour. It was owned by the Vanderbilt family.
How’s this for a back yard??? Check out the sailboat in the distance. Wow. Just Wow.
We were allowed to take photographs inside the mansion, but without flash. My camera did the best it could in low light… which isn’t great. Here’s one that hubby snapped of me… this home of the Vanderbilt’s was quite opulent. For the self guided tour, we were given headsets that worked perfectly. By pressing a button as we entered each room, we could hear a description of the room, the pieces in it, and how it was used by the Vanderbilt family. Fascinating stuff.
Here’s one of the Music Room.
In a way, The Breakers reminded me of Hearst Castle. An ‘over the top’ home near the ocean, lived in and loved by it’s owners. Well folks, that wraps up our photos for the cruise. The day after Newport we were “at sea” and then the next day arrived at 6 am in Manhattan, New York City. We rode a pre-arranged Holland America bus from the cruise terminal through Manhattan over to JFK Airport. It’s about 20 miles of driving, but oh my, it took well over an hour! It was a VERY long day of traveling to get home, but we made it, safe and sound. Cruising is a lot of fun, and there’s a chance we’ll do one more – someday…. maybe. It’s just too soon to say. I do love traveling and seeing new places SO MUCH, but coming home… well, that’s pure sweet heaven to me.