In Transit


The drive between Boston and New York City was basically, as we say in the sport of rallying, a transport section. We really just wanted to get from point A (being Boston) to point B (being NYC), although we stopped to see a few things along the way. We were looking for a place to overnight for a day or two as our NYC accommodation was booked for August 1 and we had a few days up our sleeve. Kate in particular was very keen to go somewhere she could swim, so we headed for the beachside area of Hyannis on Cape Cod, made famous as the holiday playground of JFK and the Kennedy family. Our track to there took us via Plymouth Rock, the site where the Pilgrims first landed on American soil (well, stone) The stone itself was remarkably unremarkable, with the inscription "1620" engraved into it, oddly and apparently placed there sometime during the 1800s.

Pushing on to Cape Cod, the traffic was unbelievably bad! It was like everyone in the greater Boston area had decided to spend the weekend on the cape. After battling our way onto the island, we took a back highway and finally found our way into Hyannis where we booked into a very nice resort-style place for a couple of nights. We swum, played tennis, went to nearby Mayflower Beach, and generally had a great time. I must send a special G'day to Steve, a nice fella from Boston I met by the outdoor pool who was so impressed at meeting an Aussie in Hyannis that he insisted I take his Tshirt and cap as a souvenir gift!

From there we drove south, via Newport, Rhode Island. Man! There is some serious, serious money in this place! We took a drive down Bellevue Avenue past all the mansions, then out on Marine Drive and back into the town, where we parked and went for a walk. A quick visit to the International Tennis Hall of Fame and the yacht marina, where I got the chance to remind a few locals that Switzerland, not the USA, is the current holder of the Auld Mug... :-)

From Rhode Island, we pushed on further to Connecticut and stopped for the evening in a very nondescript litttle city called Stamford, only about 45 minutes away from NYC itself. Our plan was to leave after rush hour and try to get an early start into the big city.

New York City, here we come.

Claim to Fame


Boston is another city full of history, really being the birthplace of the United States. This is where the War of Independence took place, where Paul Revere did his famous midnight ride to warn that the British were coming, the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence, and so on.

We arrived into Boston quite late in the day, and found it very confusing. We took a chance on getting some inner city accommodation, but after getting quite frustrated at the options we headed back out of town. Strangely, I thought I was heading west but by the time we managed to find a Holiday Inn Express we were somehow in Cambridge, which is not west but north of the city. No idea how I managed that! After negotiating a room, we headed down to the nearby Galeria Mall, for dinner and a visit to the Apple Store. How convenient is that? The hotel was also nearby to two other local icons of higher education, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, both of which we got a chance to have a look at.

With such a convenient location, the next day we decided to walk down to Lechmere station and catch the transit train into the city where we picked up a Boston trolley bus tour. This tour took us on a 1.5 hour loop around the city although we got off at the Boston Harbour to do a harbour cruise. Perhaps it's an unfair comparison, but when you live in Sydney other harbours of the world have a lot to live up to... and although Boston has lots of interesting history, visually it seemed to lack real character. I didn't find it had a particularly distinguishing skyline, and really, to look at, it was just another big city. We cruised out to the docks, past the US Coast Guard ships and the USS Constitution. Nicknamed Old Ironsides for the way the cannonballs apparently bounced off her sides, the Constitution is an old rigged tallship that is still commissioned as an official member of the US naval fleet, although I can't see here going to war anytime soon.

Back in the city, we spent more time looking around, and caught to trolley for the rest of the city loop. To finish off the day, Alex and I went out to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for a look around... I was particularly interested in visiting the world famous Media Lab. We found the Media Lab and, being late in the day on a Friday, we just walked in and had a look around, no questions asked. We didn't see a lot, and when I did eventually ask someone for some help, they told me the lab was not open to visitors and we had to leave. Just goes to show that it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission... we should have continued to poke around on our own. Oh well, at least I can say I have been to the MIT Media Lab, even if I never got to meet Nicholas Negroponte or Seymour Papert!

The next day we took a drive through Harvard Universtity then went up to Salem, site of the infamous Witchcraft Trials of 1692. The whole witch thing in Salem is played up in a very cheesy way, and really is Salem's only claim to any sort of tourist interest at all. The Salem Witch Museum was reasonably interesting, although way overpriced I thought. What happened in Salem all those years ago was a disgraceful display of fear and mistrust against a handful of people, although I can't help thinking there are a lot of parallels with the way the current US government is creating fear and mistrust with Iraq and the "War on Terror", but that's another story altogether...

Back in Business


I finally picked up a new power adapter for my laptop, so we're back in the blogosphere again. I rang the hotel in Sydney, Nova Scotia, and the nice lady there found my other adapter and is going to send it to me back in Oakville. I got the new charger at the Apple Store in Boston, but that's a whole other funny story. Oh well, I wanted a spare power adapter anyway and this just forced me to get one. I reckon laptop computers should always come with two power adapters anyway... one for home and one for work, so you don't have to climb around under your desk at work every morning trying to plug it in and then do the same every afternoon trying to unplug it. No extra charge for that tip.

Anyway, back to the blog!

PS, the guy in the Apple Store laughed when he saw my "I'm blogging this" T-shirt, and asked me to mention him in my blog... so, hi there Apple Store guy!

Maine Course


So here we are in the United States of America again, this time at Bar Harbor, Maine. Bar Harbor is a cute little village on Mount Desert Island - an odd name for an island that looks remarkably unlike a desert. Mount Desert Island is mostly taken up with the Acadia National Park and a large mountain called Mount Cadillac. As the CAT ferry approached the shore it was quite impressive to see Mount Cadillac rising sharply out of the misty shoreline.

Once in the village we did the usual ritual of checking out a few hotels to find somewhere reasonable to stay the night. I cringe every time I convert the prices back to Australian dollars, but I guess that’s just the price of travelling in another country. Accommodation costs are not cheap, especially when you really only want a place to lay your head for the night, and will not be in the room much anyway, but there’s little that can be done about it so we just accept it and will worry about it later. Ce la rue.

Bar Harbor was nice, but almost seemed a little pretentious. There are only so many souvenir shops, T-shirt shops and outdoor bar and grill places needed in a small village, so perhaps after seeing an endless stream of such places over the last couple of weeks it all started to look just a little overdone. Or maybe it really was overdone, in ways that only Americans seem to be able to overdo. Either way, it was a nice place but there was not a lot there to convince us to stay beyond the next morning. We took a drove up to the National Park gates, but decided not to pay the entry fee to go in so we hit the road for the drive south.

Steve from PEI had suggested a few places to see as we traveled south through Maine, and we tried to stop in to look at a few of them as we moved down the Maine coastline. It was a pretty drive but traffic along the coast road was ridiculous, crawling along through the towns and villages, so eventually we got back onto the main highway and just wanted to get through to Boston for the night. We did take a small detour through to Old Orchard Beach, a small beachside town that reminded me of what Surfers Paradise looked like 40 years ago. Kate was really keen to go for a swim at the beach, but we decided to press on. Parking was difficult and expensive, and although we parked illegally in a hotel carpark for a quick walk down to the water, we didn’t want to come back to find our car had been towed away. We really don’t realise how lucky we are in Australia to have our beautiful beaches and the freedom to enjoy them... The beach at Old Orchard Beach was ok I guess, but made us realise just how spoilt for beaches we are back home.

The other exception to our run to Boston was to visit Kittery, a town known for virtually nothing except the fact that it has dozens and dozens of outlet stores. Lots of big name clothing and footwear stores have outlets here, selling their wares at “discounted” prices. There was probably a few bargains to be had, but mostly I didn’t think things were particularly cheap, although the girls enjoyed the thrill of the chase and spent a good couple of hours on the hunt for a bargain.

We eventually kicked on, travelling though New Hampshire briefly before entering Massachusetts and aiming for the heart of Boston.

See you later, Canada!


We thought we'd try to save some time and money so we caught the high speed CAT Ferry service from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada to Bar Harbor, Maine, USA. Although it wasn't exactly cheap, this high speed catamaran ferry service gets across the Gulf of Maine in less than 3 hours, saving around 600 miles on the road. If we had driven, the extra costs in fuel, an extra night's accomodation, plus and extra day's meals, etc, would have probably cost more, so in the long run it was a good idea.

Besides, the trip is a very cool one to do. The CAT is a large boat, carrying up to 250 cars, busses and motor homes. The inside of the craft is very luxurious, with 4 onboard movie mini-cinemas, restaurants, bar areas, mini-casino, giftshop, yadda yadda... It cruises along at around 90km/h, throwing two huge rooster tail sprays behind as it travels. It was a good experience. And we were very pleased to find that the CAT is built in Australia! And the prerecorded safety message explaining lifejackets, etc, was done with an Aussie accent!

We waved farewell to Canada for a little while, and before we knew it we arrived in Bar Harbor, Maine. Welcome to America!

I'm pleased to say the US Customs officials were almost pleasant. Almost.

Foggy Peggy


We stopped at Peggy's Cove on our way out of Halifax to Yarmouth. Peggy's Cove is a picturesque little fishing village by the sea, with a permanent population of only 40 people. The area is very rugged and rocky and has a lighthouse built on the headland. When we were there, the fog was quite thick and soupy, which was bad for visibility, but wonderful for atmosphere. I'm sure the place would look very different without the fog.

We only stayed for a quick visit, but I thought the photos were worth it.

The Halifax Maze


We had a quick overnight stop in Halifax as we travelled south to Yarmouth to pick up the CAT... More on that to follow. Halifax is a nice little town, much bigger than I expected, but just a ridiculously complicated place to get around. Streets are cut, freeways pass back and forth, lots of no-turns and oneway streets... we even had to drive through a residential pedestrian walkway at one stage in sheer frustration! Thank goodness for the GPS, although I am now back to just having a basemap, as it didn't have enough memory to load in all the detailed maps for all the places we are travelling. Still, thanks to some great Suzuki Club navigational skills, just having a basic map, a few well placed waypoints, and a reasonable sense of direction all came in very handy.

We drove around in circles for a bit, but eventually found a place to stay. After settling in, we went back into Halifax proper for dinner at a nice little Italian place, Donna called home, and then we walked along the harbourfront for a while. It was pretty lively, and included such highlights as playing King of the Castle on the giant wave. Well, most of us realised it was a wave, although Donna thought it was a giant tongue.

While walking along the dock, we nearly betrothed our Kate to a nice young Canadian boy who had spent the last year living in Australia, and whose plan it was to marry an Aussie girl so he could move to Australia permanently. Sorry Katey... not in Halifax!

A Bit More History


What would you say was the busiest city on the North American eastern seaboard? New York? Boston? Well, back in the 1700s, it was Louisbourg. Yes, Louisbourg.

For most people, the name Louisbourg probably means little, but this protected little bay near the northern end of Nova Scotia was the location for one of the busiest and most valuable cities of the new colonies. It also has a fascinating history. Louisbourg was founded and settled by the French, but the British decided they wanted it too, so they battled for it and defeated the French in 1745, then deported all the French inhabitants back to France. A few years later a peace treaty was reached and the British handed Louisbourg back to the French. The French came and resettled the place, then just 13 years later in 1758 the British decided to invade again, they won again (Do the French even have a word for victory?? They never seem to win anything!) and deported everyone back to France again. Again, a new peace treaty was reached a few years later, Louisbourg was handed back, again, only this time the Poms decided to torch the place and blow the crap out of it before handing it back. Talk about sore losers. Anyway, most of the French folk were pretty ticked off with the whole thing by this stage and went elsewere... some headed south to settle in St Louis, USA. A few went elsewhere, Quebec, etc.

Anyway, the thing about Louisbourg is that it was an amazingly large and busy port city, complete with a large military fortress, with lots of cannons but a strikingly poor strategy for self protection. The city was safe from attack so long as the attack came through the main harbour entrance and not the land approach from the south, which, of course, both times it did.

Today, the fort and old city has been well restored , although not in full, and hosts a historical re-enactment of life in 1744, back in the good old days of Louisbourg's heyday. It's an interesting place to visit. It also really made me realise what a pigheaded bunch of people the Poms were... I find it so presumptuous the way the British, and also the French for that matter, felt they could just land in another country and "claim" it for the king. The fact that there were already people living there - in this case the local Mi'kmaq people - seemed to matter not a jot. The Poms did the same thing to the indigenous people in Australia, and I still find it amazing that one race of people can sail to a new land, find a existing race of people already living there, but claim it as their own anyway and use whatever force was required to make the claim stick. When you start to see some of real bastardry perpetrated by the British over the years, especially in North America, it makes me quite embarrased that Australia also has a British heritage.

We left Sydney to drive out to Louisbourg in the morning, spent a few hours there trying to take it all in. If you were open to really absorbing all the history and seeing everything, you could easily spend a whole day here, but we only had a few hours since we wanted to be in Halifax by that evening. Still, it was well worth the visit.

More info on Louisbourg here if you're interested.



Doh! I can't believe I left my Mac power adapter at the hotel in Sydney!!!

Might be a few days before I can get power to my laptop, so maybe no blog posts for a few days. Sorry! :-(

Road Trippin’


Another big day of travel today as we leave PEI and head towards Nova Scotia. We decided not to travel back over the Confederation Bridge and into New Brunswick, but rather to drive to the southern edge of PEI at Wood Island and catch the car ferry directly to Caribou. Nova Scotia. We figured this would save us an hour or two of travel time, and deliver us closer to the part of Nova Scotia we were aiming for. The cost to get off the island via the Confed Bridge is $40.50, and the cost on the ferry was $59, so once you take the savings in fuel and time into account it was a pretty clear decision to go the ferry. Incidentally, it costs nothing to get onto the island - both the ferry and the bridge charge a one way fee to get off PEI, but both are free to get on it.

Once on firm ground again at Caribou, on Pictou Harbour, we GPS’ed our way to the freeway and headed north. The roads here are excellent and apart from a bit of roadworks was a quick trip up onto our destination for the day, Cape Breton Isand. Our plan was to drive the famous Cabot Trail and get as far as we could before we decided to stop for the evening. The weather was not ideal - it was intermittently drizzling and raining, with low cloud and fog, and quite a dull light. Although it would have been nice to have a bright blue sky and sunny day, there was a certain beauty to the misty, foggy day as the thick cloud hung around the mountains. In fact, it was unusual to see mountains like these, as most of Canada that we’ve seen so far has been fairly flat. Ontario is very flat, and although some of the other provinces we’ve visited have had a few mountains, these mountains in Nova Scotia were much more dramatic, rising sharply with deep valleys and glens between them. Alex commented that Nova Scotia looked a lot like what he imagined Scotland to look like. Of course, the name Nova Scotia translates literally as New Scotland, so the early settlers must have agreed with Alex.

After a quick stop at an Info Centre we got onto the Ceilidh Trail (pronounced ‘Kayley’, rhymes with ‘daily’ - Celtic spelling is weird) The road wound its way north along the coast, darting back into woods every now often, then emerging back onto the coast. The scenery was beautiful and the drive was a lot of fun. We stopped at a small pub in Mabou for lunch - the Red Shoe Pub. The Red Shoe was highly recommended by Kevin H at work, so we couldn’t resist taking a peek. The pub is owned by the Rankin Sisters, a local musical group who figured that instead of trying to find pubs to play at, they may as well buy their own. They perform there regularly, although unfortunately it was too early for live music as we passed through. The Ceilidh Trail eventually became the Cabot trail as we snaked our way up the amazing coastline.

We headed further north to the township of Cheticamp and the start of the Cape Breton Island National Park, and the most scenic part of the Cabot Trail. The Cabot Trail is listed as one of the 10 Great Drives in the world, and I can see why. Once within the National Park, the scenery along the road increases in interest and drama, with stunning vistas of mountain and ocean. The fog and mist shrouded the tops of the range, cascading through the valleys and adding an impressive and almost theatrical visual impact. Our photographs don’t do it justice - although the muted colours and delicate chiaroscuro layers of tone created by the fog looked amazing to the naked eye, it was far too subtle for the digital camera’s CCD.

The road ascended sharply up through the fog, twisting around the edges of the mountains and onto the flats of the highland plains, before plunging steeply back down to the ocean again. To say it was stunning scenery is a vast understatement. I’d love to come back here and drive it in the sunshine, but the overcast and foggy conditions was still a very special way to see it.

After a quick fuel stop on the tip of Cape North, we carried on down the road to find some accommodation for the night. In typical Betcher-travel fashion, we kept saying “just a bit further”, and before we knew it we’d come off the Cabot Trail, crossed a ferry and a bridge and ended up in Sydney for the night. We thought it funny that a family from Sydney, Australia would be staying in Sydney, Nova Scotia. It was even funnier when the arch bridge we crossed on the way to this Sydney looked suspiciously like the famous coathanger back home in our Sydney.

After nearly 13 hours on the road we found a lovely little hotel, the Royal Hotel built in 1895, and called it home for the night. What a day!

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