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November 26, 2008

Seeking Romantic Room & Repast Near Newark Airport (!)

by Wendy Perrin

Yesterday reader Jslpig wrote in asking where she and her husband should sleep and eat en route from Newark International Airport to Stockbridge, Massachusetts:

"Wendy, my husband and I are landing at EWR early evening and will be eventually headed to Stockbridge, Mass.  I would like suggestions of where to stay upon arrival that would offer easy driving should the weather be bad (don't want to go into Manhattan).  We don't want to spend a lot of money for one night stay, but it is our anniversary and would like to have a good dinner and a nice hotel before heading out the next day on a road adventure.  Suggestions?"

Not a one. So I asked the team over at Daily Traveler to look into this. Lo and behold, they've got a solution. Click to learn where to celebrate your anniversary.

If anyone has a better suggestion, we're all ears.

May 23, 2008

Hitting I-95 in the Northeast This Memorial Day Weekend?

On sunny summer weekends there's no better oasis off traffic-snarled I-95 than Captain Scott's Lobster Dock.

by Wendy Perrin

So here's my holiday-weekend tip for anyone New England-bound: Just five minutes off Exit 83, on the water in New London, Connecticut, sits a hidden-gem pit stop that I finally discovered last summer, after having driven this particular highway between New York and Massachusetts literally hundreds of times. (For those who haven't had that pleasure, I can assure you that this stretch of I-95 is particularly unappealing in summer, as it gets backed up with beach traffic, and its grimy, outdated rest areas offer little more than gas stations and McDonald's.)   

From left to right: Captain Scott's fish 'n' chips, hot lobster roll, and cold lobster roll.

What I love about Captain Scott's is that, unlike most road-trip rest stops, it's both fun for children and civilized for parents. The grown-ups get to sit down to delicious fresh seafood with lovely views of a cove and marina, while the kids get plenty of space to run around, look at boats, and burn off their pent-up energy from the car ride. And who wouldn't love the selection of unusual ice cream flavors on offer?

Charlie's favorite flavor is Lobster Tracks; Doug likes Dinosaur Crunch.

Anyone else have a hidden-gem Interstate pit stop to share?

October 04, 2007

Did This Moose Deserve to Die?


 Photo: Wikimedia

by Sara Tucker

Leafers touring Vermont highways this fall will see a lot of signs proclaiming "Moose Crossing." They'll be lucky to see a moose. Any moose with any sense is hiding deep in the woods, especially since last week, when a three year old bull wandered into somebody's backyard in Burlington and was shot dead by animal control.

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department has been taking heat for the killing ever since, and the Burlington Free Press has been running a poll on its Web site with the question "Did the authorities make the right decision?" (The last time I checked 5,693 votes had been cast, 58 percent of them for the moose.), a Burlington based Web site, has also been collecting opinions on the controversy.

Before you weigh in, you might want to check out a video that depicts the moose's final hours (minus the blood and gore). I'm no expert and I wasn't there, but it's hard to imagine such a docile-looking creature going on a rampage, which is what wildlife officials feared. Their pre-emptive strike consisted of four blasts from a shotgun. That's right, a shotgun. Four blasts.

As a former safari guide, I've been around a lot of dangerous game. None of the guides I knew ever had to shoot an animal, though many routinely took clients into the bush on foot. When people get in trouble with wild animals, it's usually because of inexperience and fear. On the part of the humans, I mean.

I say we all (game officials included) need to become a whole lot smarter about the way we relate to wild creatures, especially since we tout them so often as part of our natural heritage.

What do you think?

October 04, 2007

Vermont Leaf Advisory: Is It Peak Yet?

The maples are late this year, but the sumac is right on time.
Photo: Sara Tucker

by Sara Tucker

It's leaf season in Vermont, and the foliage hotline is ringing. Call 1-800-VERMONT, press "1," and you may be told, as I was on Monday, that the Northeast Kingdom is one of your best bets this week for seeing "near peak" color. The Kingdom is my favorite corner of the state (I'm a native, so my vote counts extra), and so remote that most visitors never see it. From now through Sunday, seven towns are hosting the region's annual fall foliage spectacular--this is your big chance to attend a winery tour in Plainfield, a chicken-pie supper in Groton, or a band concert in St. Johnsbury. Just don't get all hung up on whether St. J's leaves are peaking or not.

The truth: The leaves are late this year, and many parts of the state are still green. Yankee Foliage blogger Jeff Folger drove 727 miles this past weekend to check out what was happening in the Kingdom and found that "good color was limited to the very upper northern part of the NEK." As an expert leafer, however, Jeff didn't let a little off-peak color get him down, and you shouldn't either.

At the Stowe Visitor's Center they hear the "When's peak?" question so often they've started a "Guess the Peak" contest. The correct answer is, as always, a matter of opinion--the opinion of the folks at the Stowe Area Association, that is. (To enter, you've got to walk into the center and fill out an entry form in person. Winner gets a free five-night stay at a resort in Stowe.) The contest ends October 22.

Former governor Deane Davis used to say that Vermont's foliage peaks on October 4. That's tongue-in-cheek for "Ask a silly question, get a silly answer." My advice: Don't worry about it. Peak is more a state of mind than an actual phenomenon. Read on to find out everything you need to know for a peak leafing experience:

Continue reading "Vermont Leaf Advisory: Is It Peak Yet?" »

August 27, 2007

Fun in Newport, R.I., Part 3

In the annual Fools' Rules Regatta in Jamestown, R.I., locals start constructing their "boats" only two hours before sailing them. Aug. 18, 2007.

by Wendy Perrin

In my earlier posts about last week's "vacation" (ha! does such a thing even exist for a travel blogger?) in Newport, Rhode Island, I never did tell you where my family stayed.  That's because we didn't stay in Newport. 

Here's the secret that every smart traveler should know: Want to enjoy Newport's attractions but avoid its traffic and tourist crowds?  Make next-door neighbor Jamestown your base.  A quick drive or an easy ferry ride from Newport, on an island right across Narragansett Bay, Jamestown is a low-key, quaint, surprisingly rural haven.  We rented a house there and ended up catching the Jamestown Yacht Club's hilarious 30th annual Fools' Rules Regatta.

Sailors in the Regatta have from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. to build their "boats" from scratch.


No manufactured nautical equipment may be used. That means no masts, sails, dinghies, or surfboards. So what do you construct your hull from?  "Hull examples might be beer cans, auto bodies, bathtubs, trees, or an old worn-out sofa," the rules read. "Sails could be made of old sheets, old rugs, burlap bags, or your grandma's petticoats. Bystanders must not steal materials from crews they have no bets on."


"Vessels shall be propelled by nature's wind only," the rules continued.  "There shall be no mechanical means of propulsion. Because of the possibility of gales, hurricanes, and such during the competition . . .


Continue reading "Fun in Newport, R.I., Part 3" »

August 22, 2007

Fun In Newport, R.I., With Kids, Part 2

Sunset drinks at Newport's schmancy Castle Hill Inn & Resort is a surprisingly kid-friendly experience. Aug. 11, 2007.

by Wendy Perrin

Remember my surprise at learning, when I was in Rhode Island last week, how child-friendly Newport's historic Gilded-Age mansions can be?   An even bigger surprise was how kid-welcoming some of the town's most sophisticated restaurants are.  The Castle Hill Inn & Resort's outdoor tables, for instance.

At Castle Hill, the kids can run around to their heart's content . . .

. . . while grownups sip sundowners with a killer view of Narragansett Bay . . .

. . . and then enjoy a gourmet dinner. (Do not try this in the Inn's indoor dining rooms.)

Continue reading "Fun In Newport, R.I., With Kids, Part 2" »

August 20, 2007

Summer Fun in Newport, R.I., With Kids (Yes, Really)

The Breakers, a Vanderbilt mansion, offers tours specifically for children.
Photo: The Preservation Society of Newport County

by Wendy Perrin

Who woulda thought that Newport's elegant turn-of-the-century mansions, built by the robber barons and their descendants as "summer cottages," could be child-friendly? But last week in Rhode Island I happened upon two that anyone sightseeing in New England with tykes should know about. 

The Breakers, the 70-room palazzo built by railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt II in 1895, actually has a family tour geared specifically to children.  Offered daily in summer, the tour starts at the Children's Playhouse. (Imagine having McKim, Mead and White design your kid's playhouse!) 

The Vanderbilt tots used to hang out here in the Children's Playhouse. Our tour was led by the fabulous guide Ellen Sadlier (right). Aug. 14, 2007.

Our guide must have been a kindergarten teacher in a former life. Charlie, 5, and Doug, 3, were riveted by her stories about the Vanderbilt children, and especially by the silk-carpeted grand staircase down which the kids used to slide on sterling silver trays. (Speaking of Vanderbilt progeny, a bit of trivia I learned:  Did you know that CNN's Anderson Cooper is Cornelius Vanderbilt's great-great-great-grandson?) A parent-friendly bonus: For ages 5 and under, the tour is free.

More on Newport's kid-friendliest "summer cottages," after the jump.

Continue reading "Summer Fun in Newport, R.I., With Kids (Yes, Really)" »

October 01, 2006

How To Beat Priceline At Its Own Game

My friend Marc's wedding in Beverly, Massachusetts, Sept 17, 2006

By Wendy Perrin

Remember a couple of weekends ago I was in the Boston area to attend a friend's wedding?  (That was when I had the high-speed Internet access nightmare at the Boston Marriott Peabody.)  Been meaning to post this ever since but got too busy:

The rate for wedding guests was $129 . . . which seemed reasonable until my friend Marc, the groom, told me he'd managed, six days before the wedding, to get a rate of $54 through Priceline.

Continue reading "How To Beat Priceline At Its Own Game" »

September 19, 2006

Maine Shopping Expedition

By Wendy Perrin

I loved this comment that came in during my Boston-area trip last weekend:

"Wendy: As long as you're stuck in Peabody with no Internet access, ankle on over to the Peabody Essex Museum with the kids. There is a great new wing, Moshe Safdie is the architect, and it's a very user-friendly place, bright and cheerful." 
                                                                  Betsy Shequine

Thanks for the thoughtful suggestion, Betsy. I'm afraid we didn't get to the museum, as we were too busy hitting the L.L.Bean Store in Freeport, Maine.  I'm also afraid my two- and four-year-old whirling dervishes are not quite ready for such a civilized outing.   Take a look:

Doug and Charlie attack the L.L. Bean flagship store. Sept 15, 2006
Inside the L.L. Bean Hunting & Fishing Store next door.

The boys storm the Factory Outlet.

Continue reading "Maine Shopping Expedition" »

September 19, 2006

Desperate To Connect (Part 4)

By Wendy Perrin

If you slogged through the saga of my fruitless efforts to get high-speed Internet access at a Boston-area Marriott last weekend, or if you've ever found yourself in the same boat, you'll want to know this: 

Just got an e-mail from tech guru David Rowell of The Travel Insider, who had the polar-opposite experience with in-room high-speed access at Marriott's Residence Inns.  "My guess is that there was a problem with the wiring in the walls up to where it terminated at the outlet in your room," he writes.  "The last time I was in a similar situation, I demanded and was given a second hotel room to save moving from the room I was all unpacked and settled in, and so I had an Internet room and a regular room."  What a great idea!  Wish I'd thought of that myself. "Not a perfect solution with kids," acknowledges David, "but I guess you could call from one room to the other and leave the phone off the hook as a sort of baby monitor."  Love it!

September 17, 2006

Desperate To Connect (Part 3)


By Wendy Perrin

Day Three at the Boston Marriott Peabody.

The bad news: We still have no high-speed Internet access in our room. 

Here's what's advertised on our electronic key card: "Wired-for-Business: Complete connectivity.  One smart price."  And here's what's printed on a placard on the desk in our room: "Work faster. Relax faster.  Up to 50 times faster than dial-up!  Simple to use."

But after five calls to the front desk, four conversations with the STSN (Marriott's high-speed access provider) help center, three visits from the hotel's engineer, replacing the STSN box, replacing the high-speed cable, and even replacing the phone, and testing all of this on two different laptops, we still can't get a flashing green light on the STSN box.  According to the friendly but helpless STSN help center in Salt Lake City, the room is offline and nothing can be done about it.  The call-center guy suggested we move from room 234 to 235 or 237, since those rooms are online (he can tell this from Salt Lake City!).  When we said we're traveling with our two-year-old and four-year-old and can't bear to move all their accoutrements, he totally sympathized.  He has three children himself.

That is why my laptop and I are back in the lobby (where there's wireless) in the wee hours (the only time I can sneak away from the kids is when they're snoozing), wondering when my "vacation" in New England will start to involve less work and more sleep.

Paul, the nighttime front-desk guy and my new buddy, just came over and told me that for some ludicrous reason my room has been charged for two days' worth of high-speed Internet access ($9.95/day).

The good news:  Paul says he's gonna wipe the fees off my room bill, and as compensation for my troubles he just handed me a certificate for a free breakfast for two in the hotel's restaurant.  Hopefully I'll go back to bed and sleep through it.

By the way, tech whiz David Rowell of The Travel Insider had a totally different experience with STSN high-speed Internet access when he tested it at Marriott's Residence Inns. He says it was "truly convenient" and "every bit as good as their claims."

September 16, 2006

Desperate To Connect (Part 2)

By Wendy Perrin

The bad news:  My laptop and I are back in the lobby of the Boston Marriott Peabody in the wee hours, using the WiFi, because even after I decided to bite the bullet and pay the $9.95 per day for in-room high-speed Internet access, it didn't work. I wrestled with the STSN (Marriott's service provider) equipment in my room for an hour and a half last night. Ultimately the STSN help center and the hotel's front desk determined that the STSN box in my room is broken and an engineer must come replace it.

The good news: An engineer is supposedly coming this morning. was right when it said about Marriott, "You need a PhD to comprehend the Internet policies at some of their flagship hotels."

September 15, 2006

Desperate To Connect (Part 1)

By Wendy Perrin

The bad news: My laptop and I have been hanging out in the lobby of the Boston Marriott Peabody since 5:30 this morning because high-speed Internet access up in the room costs a whopping $9.95 per day (plus tax).  The good news:  The lobby's wireless connection, which used to cost $9.99 per day, is now free.  Maybe this means Marriott can climb its way off's 2006 list of the worst hotels for WiFi.

Why am I here?  When on the road with my family I usually stay at child-friendly motels with free in-room high-speed Internet access, such as Country Inns & Suites. I'm here instead because a friend is getting married nearby this weekend and this is the hotel where the wedding guests are staying. Since the kids were invited too, Tim and I decided to turn this trip into a fun-for-the-whole-family long-weekend getaway. Tune in later for photos of our adventures in New England.

August 25, 2006

Last-Minute Beach Vacation

By Wendy Perrin

Question posted by a reader:

"Help! We forgot to schedule a vacation this summer but at the last minute realized we would be able to get away. We'd love to try to get to the beach somewhere in the northeast, next week! Do you have any suggestions about how we could find a nice place to stay? Thanks!"

It's tough to find last-minute availability at a New England beach hotel the week before Labor Day, but I doubt it's impossible.  I just came back from Cape Cod . . .

Me and the kids on Madaket Beach, Nantucket, August 18, 2006

. . . and can tell you that, while most hotels were full on weekends, a number of vacancy signs were posted on the weekdays.  You'll have less trouble finding a place to stay this Monday through Thursday than next Friday through Monday (Labor Day Weekend), so here's what I'd do if I were you: 

Choose a resort area with plenty of accommodations. Find a hotel that appeals to you and has a room available Monday through Thursday.  Once you're at the resort area, it should be much easier to find a hotel with availability over Labor Day weekend. First, you can go to the local visitors' bureau or tourist office and get a list of lesser-known inns and B&Bs with availability.  Second, your hotel manager or proprietor will probably have friends at other hotels that he can call. Third, if you stumble upon a couple of properties you love, you can go to their front desks and ask when cancellation penalties set in.  In other words, find out at what point guests must pay a fee if they cancel their reservation.  If cancellation penalties set in, say, 72 hours in advance, and you want to check in on Friday, then call Tuesday morning (72 hours beforehand) to see if anyone has cancelled.  Better yet, stop by. If someone has cancelled, even if you're not on the waitlist, it will be hard for the front desk to say no if you're standing right there.
Charlie and Doug on Madaket Beach, Nantucket, August 18, 2006

August 22, 2006

Cape Cod Scrapbook

Me and the kids at Nobska Lighthouse near Woods Hole, August 19, 2006

By Wendy Perrin

Just back from a family vacation to Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Spent most of the time in Woods Hole and Falmouth, reliving memories from my own childhood trips there.


Six lobster rolls, five ice cream emporiums, four miniature-golf courses, three historic lighthouses, two ferry crossings, and one torturous Nantucket bike ride later, I've got a four-year-old who wants to be Tiger Woods,


a two-year-old who insists on captaining his own ship


and putting on his own sunglasses,


and extremely sore leg muscles.


My favorite ice cream shop is still Smitty's in East Falmouth.  Favorite fish 'n' chips joint?  Still The Clam Shack on Falmouth Harbor.  Favorite lobster dinner?  Still at The Chart Room in Cataumet.  But my favorite Nantucket activity has changed.   After towing the kids by tag-along bike (see photo above) and Kiddie Kart (see photo below) from Steamboat Wharf to Madaket Beach and back (a 15-mile roundtrip),


we've decided that next time we're renting a car.

The Falmouth Road Race as viewed from Woods Hole, August 13, 2006