2015 New England Fall Foliage

Insight AENE

On the Insight trip we do more in Vermont and New Hampshire but don’t get up to Bar Harbor. Insight has better bus coaches also. Insight provides hotel names but no further information about them. They also don’t say anything about optional excursions so I’m not planning on any.

** Boston: Follow part of the Red-brick Freedom Trail which brings to life the story of the American Revolution.
** Stockbridge: Visit the Norman Rockwell Museum, a wonderful snapshot of Americana, built to showcase the amazing artwork produced during his long career.
** Billings Farm and Museum: Explore one of the finest operating dairy farms in America and also a museum of Vermont's rural past.
** Vermont: Visit Cold Hollow Apple Cider Mill and taste fresh cider in the making, then sample flavors of a different kind on a guided tour of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Factory.
** Montpelier: Visit Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks and taste a Vermont tradition: “sugar on snow” - maple syrup served with a doughnut and pickle.
** Franconia Notch: Enjoy superb panoramic views aboard the aerial tramway.
** North Conway: From black bears to bobcats and beavers, learn about the wildlife of the North Woods from a local expert.
** Quechee Gorge: Stop for fall foliage picture-taking.
** Woodstock: See the famous covered bridge.
** White Mountains: Travel through Crawford Notch. Stop for photos at the Silver Cascade Waterfall and Bretton Woods. Enjoy views of Mount Washington.
** Rockport: Stroll down flower-filled lanes of this charming seaside town. See the wooden fishing shacks, quaint stores and art galleries.
** Scenic Drives: Berkshire Hills, the Kancamagus Scenic Byway and the rugged scenery of the Maine coast.

Day 1, Sunday, Oct 11 - ARRIVE BOSTON
With a mid-morning flight, getting the StuporShuttle won’t be hard – 8AM pickup. At least it was scheduled between 8 and 8:15 but didn’t show up until between 8:40 and 8:45. StupidShuttle

United UA 768Houston - Boston10:50A - 3:43P3:53

Welcome to Boston! On arrival at Boston Logan International Airport, there is a voucher for a transfer to our downtown hotel. However the cab driver didn’t want to accept it – long argument, but he finally did give the ride to the hotel. I got there about 4:45 for the 6PM meeting. Maybe take a stroll to Downtown Crossing or historic Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market. Quincy Market would be nice but there isn't enough time for that. At 6.00 pm, join your Tour Director (Gary, driver is Ira) for an almost worthless Welcome Deception and an opportunity to mingle and get to know each other (there is the max herd of 40 cattle on this trip) over drinks and just maybe a “light meal” (aka evening snack/munchies; nothing hot = very poor!). With Insight we do have about half the meals included. The room is only fair, and as usual, very dark – minimal lighting. Hotel: Hyatt Regency Boston.

Day 2, Monday, Oct 12 - BEANTOWN - WILLIAMSTOWN
After a better breakfast than I had expected, leave the hotel at 8 (make that 8:30 since one couple was late) and then take a long borinng drive-by-shooting of some more or less uninteresting places in town. Definitely NOT the usual stops. We did get a "pit-stop" at Quincy Market but that was about it.

Then enjoy the colorful scenery (the color is definitely beginning to show) as we travel west to Stockbridge for lunch. The town is about 2 1/2 blocks long and there were 4 or 5 other tour busses in town so the very few places to eat were crowded. It is a nice little town and I wouldhaveliked to get some pictures, with some nice color) but it was too crowded. Next visit to the Norman Rockwell Museum, the largest and most significant collection of original Rockwell art. It was my third visit so not as interesting as the first time.

Next, travel through the stunning rolling hills of the Berkshires to our hotel in the college town of Williamstown. Hotel: The Orchards Hotel 5-star but not-so-great dinner! My bed is very high - the surface is just barely below waist level which requires a steps stool in order to clumb up into the bed. I guess something like this is the source of the sayinng, "climb into bed."

Day 3, Tuesday, Oct 13 - THE LEGENDS OF THE FALL and STOWE
The hotel building/room was great, but the food and food service were very poor. Breakfast was a half-hour late which messes up our schedule. That causes me to downgrade this hotel quite a bit.Also after two beautiful days, the weather is very overcast and, somewhat windy and "cool". That causes me to downgrade this hotel quite a bit.

The schedule has been revised. Our first stop is at an apple orchard/farm where we get to sample some of the apples and get a lecture from one of the staff about raising apples but we didn't get the tour of the orchards since large trucks were being loaded as part of the harvest time. Leave Massachusetts to journey through the legendary fall foliage of Vermont. Next is the (repeat) quintessential Vermont village of Woodstock with its picturesque covered bridge. We have lunch there (a couple of nice sandwich shops) and have time to stroll the streets before heading to visit of the Rockefellers' renowned Billings Farm and Museum, a working dairy and farm life museum. I've been here before and so it was not fantastic.

After a photo stop at Quechee Gorge where it is way too overcast and dark to take any pictures, we start out in a light rain as we head to Stowe for a two-night stay. It was the breathtaking alpine setting that attracted the Von Trapp family, of 'The Sound of Music' fame, when they arrived from Austria in the late 40s and built their wonderful hideaway. It is still raining slightly as we arrive at the hotel.

At tonight's Highlight Dinner, each of the three inspired (?) courses. One, the steak entree, should be very good; the 2nd is a desert which I'm skipping on all the dinners; the 3rd, a salad, has lots of dressing so I'll have to skip, and of course I don't drink so I'm down 3 of 4 parts before we start. They are "perfectly paired" with an very unwanted lager tasting from our resort's on-site microbrewery. Soft drinks are NOT an included option. Then I don't even get that. The hotel has placed too many people at each table, and the two over-sized people supposedly sitting "next" to me take over almost then entire side of the table and keep shoving and taking up more space. Rather than cause an argument, or make a "scene," I just get up and leave, letting our tour director know I'm leaving, thus skipping the entire meal.

Hotel: Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe (2 nights) It is a huge, spread out place, a real maze with corridors and stairs going in all directions but I/we get rooms close to the main part of the building. My room is very nice, has a small balcony, and a fairly nice view despite the overcast.

(new) More schedule changes. After our mandatory group photo at 8, today, enjoy not beautiful but gloomy overcast weather which masks scenery ablaze with peak fall colors and views of Vermont's tallest peak, Mount Mansfield. Visit Cold Hollow Apple Cider Mill and taste fresh cider in the making which turns out to be very good. Then sample flavors of a different kind on a guided tour of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Factory. The tour is not so great and having two noisy kids incuded just about ruined it. However we do get HIGHLIGHT #1 of the trip: as we finish our not-very-imformative tour, there is a youth "choir" (grade school) singing songs in the lobby. Definitely a highlight.

We next head to Montpelier for an "extra" - a photo stop at the state capitol to see the (wind blown/long gone colors) but we luck into HIGHTLIGHT #2 of the trip. There is a group of young students handing out complimentary copies of a booklet "Leaf Peeper Poetry" by students of the River Rock School in Montpelier. The poetry is written by students aged from 5 to 14. It is very nice (I've already read most of it) and the very delightful young lady who gave my a copy also included some specially chosen pretty fallen leaves. I really enjoyed talking with her and a couple of the other students. Definitely, very definitely, a highlight!

Next is visit Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks and taste a Vermont tradition: "sugar on snow" - maple syrup served with a doughnut and pickle! It is VERY, VERY over-rated. More like Bah-Humbug! Return to Stowe for a very late lunch (2:45) on our own, and then return to the hotel. Overall, I'm not impressed with Stowe. The rest of the day is free to enjoy the lodge's amenities. At least it stopped the intermittent rain and the sun actually finally came out. The two HIGHLIGHTS saved the day.

Grumble, grumble. We had been "promised" that "Weather Permitting," we would be far enough away fromm any town or city lights to have a great view of the heavens and stars in a long band. But the weather didn't permit - both nights were overcast.

(new) The schedule is indefinite as we finish up yesterday - so ....

Since we visited the Morse Maple Sugarworks yesterday, after a so-so breakfast, we can get a late start (9AM) for today's excursions. At least it is starting off with clear skies. First we stop for pictures at the base of Mount Mansfield, then head for New Hampshire's White Mountains and enter Franconia Notch. Get our cameras ready for a ride on the Loon Mountain Aerial Tramway offering "superb" panoramic views. The weather has stayed clear and bright so the colors, which are at their peak, are great. Later, journey through the "dazzling crimson and orange hues" of the famed Kancamagus Scenic Byway for two nights in North Conway.

Once we find the hotel (we got lost for about 20 minutes), this evening, we are offered a selection of restaurants - correction: we dine at the hotel restaurant at time of our choosing (reservations required) and can order from the menu. Hotel: White Mountain Hotel and Resort, North Conway First estimation: very nice.(2 nights)

This stop was deleted from the itinerary: Learn all about cheese-making at the Cabot Creamery and nibble on the "World's Best Cheddar."

(~new) We had a light rain overnight and this morning it looks like we may get some more rain today. Breakfast here is not a buffet - it is sit-down waitress service, individual prepared in a short-staffed kitchen. To make it even slower, another tour group of about 50 was let in just before us. Result: a very long, long, long breakfast. Before we get loaded into our cattle wagon for the morning drive-by-shootings, we have an excellent and entertaining interpretive presentation by a naturalist on the NorthWoods' wildlife and ecology.

Another morning of what was supposed to be brilliant fall foliage colors - but the clouds never cleared until we got back to North Conway - as we journey through Crawford Notch. Stop for pictures at the beautiful Silver Cascade Waterfall Trickle and Bretton Woods, offering (no) chances for pictures of the invisible (in the low cloud cover) of Mount Washington, the tallest peak in the northeast at 6288 ft - and not only due to the total cloud layer on the mountain, but also since it is 39 degrees outside, I'll skip the pictures.

On the way back to North Conway Ira and Gary make a wrong turn and we end up spending about an hour just finding our way back. We were supposed to be in North Conway for lunch about 1PM but didn't get there then; lunch was about 2:45. Then on the way back to the hotel, Gary offers an extra walk but again wrong turns take their toll. What is left (very little) of the afternoon is free. Tonight is free time to repack for the next couple of days.

Breakfast at 7 and depart at 8:45. At least the weather is again nice. Leaving New Hampshire's fall foliage, enter the deep green pine forests of western Maine. Travel (repeat) along Ocean Drive with stunning views of the Maine coastline and the homes of the rich and famous. Then spend a totally wasted two hours in KennyPunkPot's many wall-to-wall pure fleece-the-tourist-trap galleries and shops, and walk along the waterfront. After escaping from there, stop at a historic lighthouse for some pictures before continuing to Portsmouth. Tonight, (DON'T) enjoy a Celebration "lobsta" Dinner served at a harborside restaurant. There are other options but none of them appeal to me very much - not bad, just so-so. Hotel: Sheraton Portsmouth Harborside Hotel

Continue south to the seaside village of Rockport on Cape Ann. Shiver down flower-filled lanes lined with wooden fishing shacks, stores and art galleries before heading back to Boston. Basically it is a wasted hour and a half.

The next stop in in Salem for lunch. Best laid plans, etc. – they are having their annual Halloween downtown fair and we can’t get to where we want to park due to wall-to-wall people and a few hundred motorcycles. Eventually we find a place where we can illegally park the bus for another totally wasted hour and a half. Several of us got off the bus – soon decided that it was just too cold and windy, and spent the remaining very boring hour just waiting to get traveling again.

We finally get started back to Boston to finish off a boring/wasted day. We are dropped at the airport where I'll catch a Logan Express bus to Framingham to meet Russ. We made it to the airport about 2:45 and I caught the 3PM bus to Framingham where Russ met me at the terminal. We stopped for an early dinner then on to his house. I hadn’t expected that he and Ann would already be living in the house he was been re-working for two years, but it was quite nice. Unfortunately, the weather forecast is for very cold weather: 27 at night (make that about 25); about 47 as day-time highs.

Day 9, Monday, Oct 19 - SPEND 2 DAYS WITH FRIENDS
It did get down to very cold this morning – there is a heavy coating of ice on the car windows. Once we got that off, Russ took me to Plymouth to the Burying Place – the oldest continually maintained cemetery in the US – from 1620. There is also an interesting story there about a ship that got caught in a storm and all the crew died. We made a couple of other stops and had lunch, then back to the house for some interesting conversation. Spend the night in Mendon and catch the Logan Express back to the airport tomorrow. That makes it a 10-day trip rather than just 8. Another cold night is forecast but it didn’t get as cold as this morning.

Day 10, Tuesday, Oct 20 - DEPART
After going along with Russ on some errands, I caught the 2PM Logan Express bus from Framingham back to the airport for the flight home. With a 5PM departure flight, the 2PM shuttle worked well. As for the flight – we pushed back from the gate on time but it was 28 minutes before we started our takeoff run. Despite that, we did make it to Houston on time.

United UA 1248Boston - Houston5:00 P - 8:16 P4:16

Maybe I'll be home about 9:30 but the luggage carousel got jammed and it took an extra 30-40 minutes to get our luggage. So instead of 9:30, it was a bit after 10 when I got home – to 74 degree temperatures. What a change! But it has been a great trip, both for the peak fall colors, and the extra days with Russ and Ann.

Selected pictures
Click to enlarge


Trips ranking so far this year:
1: SeptemberPacific Northwest & Olympic PeninsulaRoad Scholar excellent
2: AprilAlbuquerque, Taos, Santa FeRoad Scholar very good
3: AugustAlaska & Yukon Bus & Beds onlyCheapmos(t) fair, sorta
4: January:Guatemala & Costa RainGlowbutt so-so
5: JuneEngland / UK missed all the good stuffCheapmos(t) very poor
6: FebruaryMississippi Cattle BargeAwful Queen omit

COMMERCIAL trips to the region:
2010 Road ScholarRoutes American Revolution12 days, Oct 17 – Oct 28
2013 GlobusClassic Fall Foliage + 312 days, Oct 7 – Oct 18
2015 Insight New England Fall Foliage +310 days, Oct 11 – Oct 20
2016 GlobusEastern US & Canada13 nights, May 10 – May 22
The following are tentatively planned but not booked
2017 Road ScholarBoston Freedom Walk6 nights, ~May
2017 Road ScholarBerkshires/Hudson Valley8 nights ~October
2018 CosmosHistoric Trails Blue Ridge14 days, ~October
2019 GlobusAmerica’s Historic East12 days, ~October
2020 GlobusClassic Fall Foliage9 days, ~October

INSIGHT trips:
2008National Parks West +218 days, Sept 11 - Sept 28
2010Scandinavia North Cape21 days, May 29–Jun 18
Ranking #7 of 87
2011Eastern Discovery16 days, Apr 30–May 15
2015New England Fall Foliage10 days, Oct 11 – Oct 20