Mt. Megunticook – Camden State Park

We’ve had a beautiful mild Fall this year and even into mid October we are still in shorts some days!   Crazy as we’ve had snow in October in years past.   I won’t complain though as I’m not a fan of the winter and in Maine it’s a very long season.  This year I’m hopefully it’s going to be shorter than usual!

For the first weekend in months we had a free day.  Kids soccer has taken up most of the Fall weekends.

We opted to take a drive up to Camden Maine for hike up Mt Megunticook.   We did this hike around 6 years ago and really enjoyed it.  I’d always wanted to go back and today we did.

The drive is just 1.5 hours from Freeport Maine.  Heading up the coast on US Route 1 to midcoast Maine.   The drive is scenic in places and being Fall, lots of lovely foliage to take in along the way.

Camden itself is beautiful.  Nestled in Penobscot Bay, it’s a wealthy midcoast town with a beautiful harbor and quaint main street.   A tourist destination but with it being somewhat off season not too busy and many of the beautiful shops still open.

We headed straight to Camden Hills State Park where trail access to Mt Megunticook is.   The park offers a wide array of amenities with many hikes.  Camping is still open and the park was busy!

Mt Megunticook has an elevation of 1385feet.  The highest elevation in the park.   It’s a 3.5 mile round trip and I’d say we spent around 3 hours on the walk.  Note the Camden Hills State Park website states the trail is 1 mile and takes an hour.  On the trail, it is marked as 1.8 miles….

It’s an easy/ moderate hike – rocky and rooty throughout.   Our ageing dog (9.5 Golden Retriever) managed it but he will certainly sleep well tonight 🙂

While we reached the summit, its not really necessary.  Just before the summit is ‘ocean lookout’  at 1300ft.  That’s the best place to stop, take in the view before you head back down.  Views of Camden town, the harbor and neighboring Mt Battie and the auto road to the top.

PA210066.jpgPA210064.jpgPA210060.jpgPA210058.jpgPA210057.jpg

The summit is a little further up but has no view.  We followed the same route up and down but the map does show some alternate paths to take if you want to change things up!

PA210072.jpg

After reaching the base car park, we headed into Camden town for a stroll and treats.  We stopped in at Camden Deli which I highly recommend!  The treats we delicious and great coffee!  We strolled to the harbor to see the sun setting.  So serene and pretty…

22552316_10155582482755767_7410879110468088659_n

After a lovely day, we got back on the road South….

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

This last weekend, certain States in the USA were lucky enough to have a 3 day weekend.  Monday was Presidents Day – so a public Holiday or Maine and New Hampshire at the very least.

Presidents Day this year was met with some reluctance…with the state of the US Presidency and many rejecting Mr Trump as their president, folks seemed to take the day off but not really embracing the roots of the day.

For us, we opted to get out and about and explore a little.  Something we did a lot of in England but not so much since being back in the US.   So, after 50 inches of snow over the last week, Monday – the sun came out and we were ready to roll.

We headed to New Hampshire.  A State South and West of Maine.   When we first moved to the USA, NH is where we initially settled and even now, we consider it as our US ‘home’. For us, Portsmouth NH is just one hour drive from our current hometown in Maine so an easy straight run down the highway.   NH, the Granite State, is a funny state in that it has just 17 miles of coastline as its sandwiched between Maine and Massachusetts.  But those 17 miles are beautiful to explore and very scenic.  This general area of NH is generally known as the Seacoast.

Portsmouth is a major town in the Seacoast area.  Established in 1623, Portsmouth claims to be the nation’s third-oldest city and there is certainly history a plenty here with many of the old houses clearly marked as places of historical interest together with many museums such as Strawberry Banke and Moffatt Ladd House and Gardens.

For this trip, we wanted to be outdoors so we headed to a couple of coastal areas to stroll with the dog and take in the sea air.

First stop was Newcastle Beach/ Great Island Common.  Newcastle being a tiny coastal town connected to Portsmouth.  They have a small Beach/ park (32 acres)which is usually full during the summer months.  This weekend though, just a few families were strolling through and taking in the view.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cute artist/ frame to take photos with

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Kids being ‘painted’

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Newcastle Park

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Views from the park

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dog enjoying his walk

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Happy dog

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

View of Beach

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Views out into the ocean

Its only a small park so then we headed up to Odiorne State Park – just a few more miles down the coast.  A pretty drive along the coast and we always love looking at the palatial hpuses along the way!  This is another lovely coastal park and explored a number of trails.  Snow was pretty deep in places but we pushed our way through and had a snowball fight in the process.    This State Park is also connected to the Seacoast Science Center.  We haven’t visited there in years but in the past, its been a great place to take the kids.  Likely still aimed at 3-10 year olds with hands on activities such as shellfish touch tanks etc.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Trails at Odiorne State Park

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Trails at Odiorne State Park

After a few hours of walking, the kids were ready for food.  We headed back into downtown Portsmouth to check out the huge array of restaurants in town – from casual to fine dining, there is something for everyone and some are highly rated.

We opted for the Friendly Toast.  Its been in the town for many years and its a place we used to frequent when we lived nearby.  We thought it would be fun for the kids as it has a great Breakfast (all day) and lunch menu together with fun quirky decor that makes the place really casual and relaxed.

Between us, we selected items from both the Breakfast and lunch ments – yum!

After lunch, we opted to hit the town and browse the shops.  A great range of shops downtown ranging from high end to affordable fashions, jewelry and locally made products.  Also it has 2 great toy stores for the kids to browse in!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Section of Downtown Portsmouth

All in all – a great day to get out, shake off that New England Winter cabin fever and relax!

 

 

Fall in Maine

So we are lucky to live in a beautiful part of the world.  New England is beautiful in places and its famed for its Fall season and its stunning foliage.

This year is a particularly good year and the colors are spectacular.  We’ve taken a number of walks and today we ventured up Bradbury Mountain Sate park to take in the view.  Hope you enjoy as much as we did!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I used a little filter here to pop the color but not too far from the truth

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

No filter.  The water tower you can see is actually where our home is situated.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Splendid color – no filter!

 

Leaving ‘Home’

So its been awhile…and a lot has changed in our world.

Over the last 2 months, we’ve packed up one home and returned to another.   Its been busy and despite the lack of posts, we managed to squeeze in a little more travel before we changed worlds.  Those updates to follow.

Since we made the decision to return to the US (here), we kicked into moving mode.   We halted all purchases unless it was critical (such as food!), we began to pack up our belongings and anything not coming with us was to be sold/ donated.  We arrived in the UK with 10 pieces of luggage.  It was our aim to leave the UK with the same 10 pieces….and we did!  Contents differed slightly and brought back lots of momentos, but essentially, we traveled with just our bags.   Icelandair has a great baggage allowance which we used to its maximum!

I single handedly packed up our home over the last few weeks.  It was good to keep busy and have a focus and the prospect of leaving was depressing.  Thank heavens for Facebook groups for selling items.  Between 3 separate groups – I sold EVERYTHING!  Down to the cutlery in the drawers.   I honestly think we broke even in our home furnishings.   I priced to sell, built up a reputation of good quality and people were clambering to get a deal.  At the same time though, it was heartbreaking.

We got to the point where we had nothing left….what you see here was it!   The TV was sold at this point but not yet delivered…

13932683_10154275011345767_1736465234201410709_n

 

Packing to return to the US was much more difficult than packing to go to the UK.  Difficult in terms of needing to find a home for everything (no default of ‘put it into storage’), but mostly difficult as it marked the end of our adventure.   We knew a year (14 months in total) was probably not long enough, but it went by too fast.   Our year was up.   We did so much and including our planning, we had so much to look forward to for such a long period of time.  Now it was over.   We all held a certain level of excitement to come back to the US, the kids especially, but to be leaving family again was hard…so difficult.

We spent as much time with family as we could in the final few weeks.  With special time planned to make the fondest of memories.  If nothing else, the kids built strong bonds with family members allowing them to feel they belonged to a large family.

In addition to people, we had pets.  Sadly only 2 to make the return journey (the third was carefully boxed up in hand luggage).  No-one wants to put their pets through any stress, and knowing it would be a stressful moving day for them, I knew that it was important to keep them with us (vs re-homing).   Sure enough, they bounced back pretty quickly and have settled in well again back at home.

The process is much more simplified on a journey into the USA than into The UK.   A process I could manage myself but nonetheless, I worried about their travel. We booked the pets on Virgin Atlantic.  The outbound journey was smooth and hoped for the same on the return.  They were beyond excellent!  They eliminated the stress on my side with friendly and efficient service.  Also super flexible with us as we decided to hang out with the dog a little while longer before he was crated.   Additionally, they arranged for the Heathrow Vet to stop in and issue a passport for the dog.  It wasn’t needed but just in case we came back anytime soon :-).   Bizarrely, this service was HALF the price as if i had done it at our local vet.   For what should have been a highly stressful time, it proved to be a straightforward and laid back process.   For anyone considering pet travel, Virgin Atlantic comes highly recommended!

Even the cat got packed up (she had a temporary home for a couple of weeks)…..its was exhausting work for her too..:-)

13920730_10154277442275767_1177528981879809862_n

 

As we left the cottage, we took a few photos for the memory book.  We were very happy here and already miss the cosy nature of the home.   We even miss our friendly ghost (or so we thought there is there).  Its hard to tell but every time we went away, the new net curtains in a  front downstairs room were pulled down!  It was once a main room of the cottage that looks directly into the street.  I am sure our friendly spirit didn’t like the view obscured!  Aside from those times and her gentle hand on my shoulder one night, she was never really a nuisance!

13900349_10154284976500767_5346303688753764919_n

On our final stroll through the village, the sun was setting.  A poignant end to our time in this beautiful place.  One could say that life is about the journey, not the destination.  This time, I wish we could have lingered a little longer at this destination..

14102582_10154311049620767_2981490250114152412_n

Studland Beach – Dorset

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

View of Old Harrys Rocks from Middle Beach, Studland

Its been a busy week with family visiting…a lot to write about and STILL behind on prior travel I’ve wanted to write about!

So here’s a quick one as I wanted to share a new place we visited this weekend.

Taking advantage of the lovely weather we’ve had in England this week, we’ve done a number of beach days.  One was spent at Studland Beach on the South Dorset coast.

Studland is a National Trust Property and they maintain the coastline nicely.  As it is a NT site, having a membership is helpful as the car park is then free (usually £6).  There is no additional charge for the beach.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We visited Middle beach.  There is also a South Beach (with a great coastal walk to Old Harry’s Rocks) and a Knoll Beach….one section of the beach is also for naturists (further on the north side).

Middle Beach offers a nice sandy beach, toilets, cafe and ice creams!

Of course, with the weather being perfect, it was very busy.  Space on the beach was at a premium but we managed to find a spot and settle in.  In fact, we stayed all afternoon and opted not to make the walk to Old Harrys rocks this time.

13716029_10154227379145767_1374918051611627586_n

As you can see, dogs are allowed on the beach.  They need to stay on leash but we swam our guy far out and took him off leash so he could swim.   The water is shallow for a log way out so its perfect for kids and dogs alike!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Family Frisbee

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Family swim

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Great game of frisbee with the dog

13726658_10154227379155767_1535897115855614817_n

Cornwall – Carnewas

This is a follow up post to the Watergate post yesterday.   We rounded out our day after the stroll along Watergate Bay at another National Trust spot further North along the coast (just a few miles).   This was Carnewas.   This is home to the famed Bedruthan Steps.  Sadly we didn’t go this far as the crew was tired but for a short distance, the rewards were plentiful.  I’ll let the photos speak for themselves!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Idyllic setting

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Views from the coastal path

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

View south down the coastline

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Playing with camera filters allows for  moodier shot

Cornwall – Newquay

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Gunnel at Cranstock Beach

This last weekend, we went to Cornwall for the weekend.   It was a cheap getaway that we booked just a couple of weeks ago.  I had seen an offer in the Daily Mail to collect the tokens and get away for just £20pp.  I dont often do offers like this but as a family of five and copious amounts of travel draining the purse, I thought this would be a great deal for us…and it was.

We booked into a camping resort – Parkdean, Newquay.  Again, never staying in a ‘holiday camp’ type of resort before this was a new experience but pleasantly surprised.   The unit we booked accommodated up to 6 people.  It was sparkling clean and had everything we could possibly need for the short stay…2 bathrooms, fully equipped kitchen, living room, diner, tv etc.  We are at the beginning of the season so I wonder how well the units would hold up through the summer but for us, it was perfect.   We opted to bring our own sheets, although, they do offer these as an extra charge.   With the newspaper deal, we paid under £50 for a 3 night stay!  WOW!  This is a brilliant deal and highly recommend anyone looking out for the deals when they are done again.  We paid an additional £40 for entertainment passes.  Not critical for us but we did use them and they did check the passes so with such a good deal, happy to spend the little extra.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lounging around at the Camp site

Our first full day there was Saturday.  Having been weather watching all week, we knew that the weather wasn’t going to be great so we opted to do some driving/ touring around the area.

First stop was Newquay.  Don’t get me wrong, Newquay has some of the most beautiful beaches and best surfing spots in the UK but on a grey day we were less than enamored.  The town center/ promenade area was also disappointing.  Maybe we just didn’t hit the right spots?  Not sure…but with one way road systems, rain and no ease of parking we moved out of Newquay and headed South along the coast.

Our first pull over site was a National Trust location Crantock Beach.  We have an annual membership for NT so as it turned out, we were going to be fortunate to use it a number of times this weekend away.

We headed up and over the dunes onto a pretty sandy beach.  As I said, one of many in this lovely area.

We took a stroll along the beach watching the tide come in.   We opted to take a different path back to the car park.  There are many paths off the car park so by chance we opted to take an opposite path up and over into another cove.  This was beautiful!  Its clear where the water flows here and leads out to the ‘Gunnel’.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dogs playing on Crantock Beach

If you go, take a walk over to the wooden bridge and cross over to a series of steps up.  166 in all.   Perched at the top, there is a delightful cafe with fantastic views.  Naturally, we took some tea and cake – what we do best 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

View of the Gunnel at the top of the steps/ cafe

After refreshments we set out North again to find another adventure.   Next stop was Holywell Beach (National Trust).

We asked the car park attendant for his must do at the beach and he told us to head to the far end and explore the cave…so that’s what we did!

For the walk back to the car park, we ventured through the dunes….all very picturesque!

Two beaches down, we opted for a little change in scenery – we headed into Truro for a look around.  I wont spend much time here on it as we only hit the shopping/ center.  From what we saw, it would be worth a return visit one day to explore more.  Shopping was pretty standard but the kids enjoyed a change in activity.   We grabbed a bite of dinner at Sams Bistro.  I would recommend the restaurant – the food was good and reasonably priced.

Final stop was back at Parkdean in Newquay – our camping resort.  In true holiday camp fashion, the resort offered plenty of evening entertainment.   So Bingo and quiz night it was before we headed off to bed!

 

Buckland Newton, Dorset

To wrap up our weekend, we decided to stay local and take a stroll around a different village, Buckland Newton.  After a little research in the book Dorset Pub Strolls, we found a pub – Gandering Geese – that offered a 3 mile picturesque walk around the village.

Point #1 – make sure the pub is still open!  Book was published in 2001.   Things change in 15 years….Pub was no longer in operation!   It didn’t deter us from the walk though so we set off on the trail described in the book.   It was a gorgeous walk.  Sun was shining, mixture of meadows and trails and there’s always another pub to find at the end 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Springtime affords spectacular vistas of rapeseed fields

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

collecting daisies and dandelions

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

views across Dorset

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Trail walk

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Views on the way back down

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Plowed ‘ombre’ fields

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

the curious cows 🙂

The Best year of his life..

This post is dedicated to my boy, Chester ♥

IMG_1767

Chester is our 8 year old Golden Retriever who has breezed through this adventure in England despite change and constant new faces/ places.

While we have only been in the UK for 10 months, and he is 8 years old, how could this possibly be the best year of his life?

We got Chester at 12 weeks old…cute!  Let’s not forget, we had 2 year old twins and a 6 year old at the time.  What was I thinking?  Still not sure.  So a 12 week old puppy and general family chaos ensued.  He has always been loved and well taken care of…we just truly didn’t have a lot of time for him.   Don’t get me wrong, he got walked every day (well most days), he came on trips with us and was part of the family, but we just didn’t have time for him he deserved.

He has always been a very independent and well behaved dog.  A dog we could just throw the door open for and he would trot into the garden to explore.  In the US, we have 8 acres of land…he kept mostly close to the house, and only twice did he wander off.  I’ll never forget the call received at my office telling me Chester was seen walking down the street with a can of Pepsi in his mouth 🙂

In the UK, he has virtually no garden and the front door opens up onto the street.   He has lost his land and space but it’s still definitely his best year ever – because we have more time!

IMG_1598

This year, he has been walked 2+ times a day.  For hours at a time.  He’s explored miles of fields, coastline and farmland.  He’s had 2 people home with him every day…a change from being in the States being left at home while we were all at work each day.   He has traveled to see family and loved by everyone…more attention for a Golden is a dream come true!

To think, we almost didn’t bring Chester with us.  We thought perhaps it wouldn’t be fair to make him travel, or coop him up in a smaller house.  I’m glad I halted the re-homing process and committed to him for the long haul.   He’s part of our memories here in England – his first cow encounter, being terrified of the post/ mail shooting through the front door letterbox, learning not to bark at the milkman and learning to sit and watch the horses pass by the front door.

We wouldn’t have done it any other way….love you buddy x

IMG_1591

 

Glastonbury Tor 2

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Glastonbury Tor

I have written about our Tor walk before (here) but wanted to add a follow up st as we went back last week.

This visit was different. It was early evening and would recommend this as a time to visit.  It was free from crowds and at times, we were the only people atop the Tor.   This allowed for peace and quiet to take in the view and also afforded some lovely photos….enjoy!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The path up

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Solitude and views at the top

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Enjoying the ruins

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Used a landscape filter on the camera to pop the color…long path ahead

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Uninterrupted views