Off to Niagara Falls

Off to Niagara Falls, we first stop at a RV park in Herkimer Falls, NY.  This is a great place if you’re traveling with kids—there are diamond mines here!  Who knew.  You can pick them up on the river bank beside the camp or actually go excavating in a mine.  The afternoon we were there I saw several large diamond chunks people had found.  (Needless to say, these are not top quality stones.  They are about a 7 on a hardness scale of 10)  But it was fun watching the kids and their families really get in to this.

Once in the city of Niagara Falls we wasted no time getting to the main attraction.  The area around the water is a beautiful national park—we loved walking through it. 

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The view from Bridal Falls was spectacular.

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The first day we rode Maid of the Mist—this is a must and was fun.  We dutifully donned our blue rain ponchos and took pictures beginning at American Falls. 

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The water was beautiful with the emerald green of the Niagara River crowning the top of the falls.

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 The high rise city perched on the Ontario side made a great backdrop for Horseshoe Falls.

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Plus we got a great view of the Observation Tower.

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Back on shore, we were able to get very close to the falls and had a great overview of the park and falls from the observation tower.

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The next day, we drove around the local area before heading back to the falls.  This is an area with a large Native American population, including several tribes of the Iroquois Nation, as well as Seneca, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Huron, Petun, Erie and the Susquehannock.   The name actually comes from the Indian name for Thundering Waters.  There were many tribal stores selling tobacco and gas.  And the area is a mass of electric lines tied to the power grid at the falls.

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On our second trip, we went back to The Cave of the Winds and were amazed how close we could get to the water.  Here we put on a yellow poncho and special shoes—unlike the boat, this was a definite necessity. 

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We walked through walls of HEAVY mist, generating great rainbows.

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We went back later for the weekly fireworks show.  I’m adding a picture from the observation tower to show what they do to the poor falls at night.  (Not my favorite look) 

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 Fireworks on the Canadian side were pretty. 

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And I did get a more simple night shot of the falls after the light show.

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Next, we’re crossing the American border and heading to Toronto and Montreal.  Tonight I’m cooking.  Remember all the great foods I found at the Cohasset Farmer’s Market?  Well, I need to freeze any of the fresh fruit and veggies I want to keep.  We will be heading into a foreign country–Canada.  Really?–and a neighbor in the RV park reminded us all the rules for transporting fresh food apply.

 

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On to Massachusetts–revisiting childhood memories…

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Now we’re starting the major part of out trip.  We’re going to visit my childhood haunts in Cohasset, Massachusetts, then take the RV out of the US and tour Canada for a month.

The trip got interesting right away—remember the kid’s book Make Way for Ducklings?  Our first stop that morning was a fuel stop that was home to about 50 feathered friends.  Somehow, the birds figured out the truckers are good for some easy chow so they wander between the rigs and the big 18 wheelers were unbelievably careful when they left.

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We skirted New York–no RVs on the Jersey Pike– then went through Hartford with its great old buildings—

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We camped at Normandy Farms RV park in Foxboro, MA—a great stop and right by the Patriot’s Gillette Stadium.   And it had the best dog park ever–it really was a park.  We immediately headed off to Cohasset to see if I could find some of the places I remembered from grade school.

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I found the first home locked in my memory.   Not having been back to the area since third grade, I was amazed– I did recognized it.  But  Geeze—it seemed like the lawn was so much bigger.  (Or maybe I was just smaller….)

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Down the road we came to Black Rock Beach.    Still a beautiful location. 

 

I remember watching a rescue from that island house during high seas.  Before cell phones, they had to fly the Stars and Stripes upside down to signal they were in trouble.

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We also found my second house.  It  had an interesting history–it was on a huge estate broken up for houses.  The animal buildings had two foot rock walls with roof lines reminescent of Old English thatch.  Ours was the renovated chicken coop and we shared a cul-de-sac with the duck house.  Who were these people?  As one of the first families on the place, the whole estate was empty back them–now the massive rhododendrons and grape arbors I loved have been replaced by houses…You can go back, but it sure ain’t the same!

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Following along memory lane, I found the local swimming beach, Sandy Beach.  Old New England—again before indoor rec centers, I remember freezing in Red Cross swimming lessons here.  Check out the sea grass—so different from what we saw in South Carolina!

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Cohasset harbor was still packed with boats. 

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The Minot Light, however, was a newer addition.

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We headed down to the center of town and immediately came to St. Stephens Church on the promontory overlooking the Common. 

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 What’s a Common?  The name probably comes from “common area” but in my mind, and it still seems today, it’s the center of the town.  Meeting House Pond used to be the local ice skating spot.   It’s pretty spiffed-up now so kids probably can’t skate here any more.   

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Still a center for many town activities, the Town Hall and various churches ring hte area.

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This day we found a farmers market—great organic produce.  Unfortunately, I forgot we were going to Canada in two days—more to come on that!

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Back at the RV, we catch Mother Nature’s curve ball…

Our plan was to head to Maine and enter Canada, first touring the Maritimes, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.  Hurricane Isabel changed all that.  As we were getting ready to leave, she was forcast on a path to catch up with us and shadow—or drown—our eastern trip.  High winds don’t mix well with a big cheese box on wheels–plus our sight seeing would take a huge hit in all the rain.

Luckily, traveling by RV gives us max flexibility.  So we headed west toward Niagara Falls, reversing our trip to escape Isabel’s wrath.  On the interstate, we passed huge convoys of utility trucks heading to help storm-damaged areas.

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Next, we’ll see you at the Falls!

 

August in Charleston—our last stop in South Carolina Lowcountry

From Hilton Head, we head north to begin our next RV adventure.  Yes, we’ve been in our RV for a week at a great resort in Hilton Head, but now we’re starting our month-long journey.  We really like being on the road with changing scenes, new people and places.  We’ll make one last stop as we leave South Carolina–Charleston–to visit with family and tour another beautiful old city.

Then we’re off to a stop in Massachusetts then on to Canada. 

Our drive to Charleston was beautiful.  I think the marshes are one of the things I like the best about the area.

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When we got to Charleston, I wanted to check out the intricate sweetgrass coiled basketry I had heard about.  These have been made by generations of Gullah women and we met Geneva Monroe weaving at a roadside stand in Mount Pleasant.  Ms. Monroe said her family was brought here from west Africa and has made the intricate baskets for generations.  She said she is the last in the line to make them.  Her sisters and children have rejected this art.   The baskets aren’t cheap, but they are amazing–each is unique.

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Inside historic Charleston, we walked streets cloaked in Spanish moss.  We were quite drawn to this place—the original “Charles Towne” dates back to 1670!  The city is a mosaic of islands (Sullivan’s Island, Daniel Island, Isle of Palms, Dewees Island, Wadmalaw island, Edisti Island, Kiawah Island, James Island, Johns Island, etc.) at the confluence of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers.  And, oh yes, there’s another beautiful bridge, the Ravenel.

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The bridge gave us a great vantage point to view Fort Sumter.  This is a small island in the harbor, seen here behind a docked Navy ship.  We knew this place had an important place in history so we did some homework…after Lincoln’s election in 1860, South Carolina voted to secede from the Union.  In April 1861, SC troops took the Union-held Fort Sumter.  This was the start of the Civil War.

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The town has a rich history, beginning with an English settlement in 1670, as a center of activity in the American Revolution, an important port and a hub of the slave trade.  

 The cranes in the modern port look like the AT-AT walkers in Star Wars—and there is a story that George Lucas was inspired by the cranes at the Port of Oakland when creating his movie….

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The city is a treasure trove of great parks

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And wonderful old houses

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Some with alleys leading to secret gardens.

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Rainbow Row was a must-see.  It was once a run-down area of town—but Baby, look at you now!

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In 1886 a 7.5 earthquake hit 25 miles from Charleston.   It was felt from Cuba to Boston and destroyed many houses.  Steel rods were placed in those left standing—the earthquake bolts are now famous history icons.

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Down at The Battery we found more old cannons and the statue of Col. Moultrie, credited with saving Charleston from British occupation in the Revolutionary War (1780).

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As we were leaving the old town we walked the Arthur Ravenel Bridge.

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Leaving downtown, we toured Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms on the way back to the RV and a great dinner at SeeWee Diner in Awendaw—best seafood EVER! 

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 Put this place on your to do list if you’re in Charleston!  It’s been featured in Southern Living magazine so it’s rep is building.  It was a general store back in the ‘20s and still has shelves filled with cans you saw in your grandma’s kitchen.  The restaurant is in the back and even has an open area with a live band.  Spectacular on all fronts!

From Charleston, we headed north the next day…one night in Fancy Gap, Virginia (it felt like a spot right out of Justified), then two nights in Hagerstown…one was planned.  And the other?  Well, stuff happens. 

We had a RV issue and stopped at the Freightliner repair center just off the highway.   Does the day August 23rd ring a bell?  We were in the waiting room when the Virginia earthquake hit.  Definitely felt it there.  I went to the window to see what huge truck was rolling by.   It caused no real problems, except it slowed our repair—all the workmen were caught up in the chatter!  So we stayed the night in our RV at the truck center (luckily, we can be totally self-sufficient).

Check back as we head to our next stop outside Boston where I went back to my childhood haunts on Massachusetts’ South Shore.  And Mother Nature throws us another curve….

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August 15th, Day trip to historic Savannah, Georgia

From our base in Hilton Head, we took a quick trip to old Savannah.  We first jumped on a trolley tour, then walked the city to catch the top spots in and out of the Victorian Historic District and learn a few new tidbits.

For example, Savannah is the 4th busiest seaport in the country.  (Any guesses for 1,2 and 3?  LA, Long Beach, then NY&NJ).  We saw a huge container ship head under the Talmadge Memorial Bridge over the Savannah River on our tour while the cranes in the background looked like Star Wars giants.

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Savannah was built on a ridge along the river, with an eye on defense.  It has a long, fascinating heritage (the movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was based on real residents!), dates from 1733, and has earned the title of most beautiful city in the USA.  It’s been a home to pirates, had key roles in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, the first of the Cotton Gin and steamship were built here, plus it’s the home of songwriter Johnny Mercer (Moon River), Flannery O’Connor and Conrad Aiken.  

Along River Street is an area known as Factor’s Walk, the original center for cotton trading through the port beginning in 1817.  (“Factor” was the name given the men who estimated the amount of cotton in a shipment.)  With bottom floors along the river and additional storage warehouses rising up to the cliff behind, the upper floors were accessible by the web of narrow iron pedestrian bridges.  

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The long wall built along the cliff at the edge of the river was made from the ballast stones discarded from trading ships.  It stands as a beautiful mosaic snaking along the river. 

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This bustling area is now the home to all types of shops and restaurants.

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At the northeast end of the riverfront, we passed the Waving Girl Statue. Florence Martus waved a hankie or lantern to greet each and every ship entering and leaving the port for 40 years, until 1943.  According to legend, she fell in love with a young sailor and wanted to be there when he returned.  Guess hope really can spring eternal…

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Currently Paula Deen, and her restaurant, are really big draws here.  We opted to eat at a more rustic local haunt–if you make it here, check out Clary’s Cafe.  Great food and lemon meringue pie like Mama used to make.  Terrific!

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Another hot spot is the premiere Savanna College of Art and Design.  We saw SCAD mentioned in many of the projects preserving historic areas.  It’s ornate brick style was eye catching.

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As we toured the city, we learned there is a building COLOR code in the historic district. These two homes sit just across the line and obviously relish the opportunity to flaunt their independence.

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The city is laid out in a series of 22 immaculately manicured squares, creating a canopy of spectacular ancient live oaks draped in Spanish moss. Most have monuments to Revolutionary or Confederacy heroes and beautiful fountains.

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This one, at one end of Forsythe Park was created for performances and has a flat area to encourage kids to gather.

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The most famous is probably the Forsyth Park fountain. 

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We found this was a city of layers, what you see and the history and story beneath.  No exception, this beautiful icon of Savannah was originally ordered from the Sears Catalogue and located here in 1854.  Sears Catalogue…REALLY?

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The Mercer-Williams House is preserved in Monterey Square.  The family home of Johnny Mercer, this was the setting for the fact-base novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

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And Jim made himself comfortable as Forrest Gump look-alike (remember the Savannah bench scene…Life is like a box of chocolates?)

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The Telfair Academy of Arts and Science is housed in the old Telfair Hospital, the original women’s hospital—the only way a male could get inside was to be born there.  And then they had to get out in three days.

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Great old churches were everywhere.  No expansive grounds, they are in the neighborhoods, often on the edges of the Squares.

Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church, first established in 1807, was the first Methodist church in the city.  This building was completed in 1890 and patterned after Queen’s Kirk in Amsterdam.

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The Cathedral of St John the Baptist has a history from the 1700s and the “new” building was dedicated IN 1839.  Beautiful inside too.

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Mickve Israel, the third oldest Jewish congregation in America, was built in 1876 in neo-Gothic style.

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And anyone an old Girl Scout?  Savannah was the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low.

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Great historic homes were everywhere…

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The Sorrel-Weed House is another famous example.

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The famous Bonnaventure Cemetary, featured in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, is a was the original home of the Bird Girl sculpture and is the final resting place of notables like Mercer and Aiken.

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Leaving town, the City Hall building glowed in the afternoon sun.

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Crossing the Talmadge Bridge was a perfect way to say say good bye.

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Heading back to Hilton Head, we stooped in Bluffton, SC and the Church of the Cross.

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As usual, we ended the day at the beach…and found a horseshoe crab, brilliant in the setting sun .

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Our favorite time of the day!

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Next, we’ll head to historic Charleston as we begin our trip north to Canada.

Hope to catch you next time.