Windermere and the Peter Rabbit Museum

Back in October I Visited the lake district

Windermere, to be exact. At 7:45 AM on a Saturday and with a slight hangover, I trudged up the stairs of the bus that was packed with foreign exchange students and travelers leaving their hostels for a day. I picked a seat as close to the front as I could and fastened my seatbelt (proof that I’m becoming an adult?). The ride there took four hours.

When we arrived

We piled off the vehicle and into the parking lot, happy to escape the confinement of the bus on which we’d experienced more than our fair share of hairpin turns and curves that weaved a little too closely to cliffs’ edges. I forced down the rest of my ham sandwich from that morning to keep the nausea at bay and headed over to the kiosk where we were told we could purchase tickets for the ferry on the lake.

Marina in Windermere, UK

The Marina in Windermere, a few steps from the parking lot

I paid my £9.00 for a 90-minute tour on the Yellow Cruise, then headed off to explore the town while I waited for the boat to arrive.

Cafe Latte in WindermereI grabbed a quick bite to eat at a cute cafe called Café Latte and worked on some writing. The soup and bread was incredible, and the serving staff very pleasant. The place was packed with locals and tourists alike.

Tea aboard the Windermere FerryWhen it was time to embark

I found a nice seat on the upper deck of the boat and indulged in another pot of tea (ubiquitous in this country).

Sailboats on Lake WindermereThough beautiful, the tour was a bit monotonous, and I grew a little bored of the scenery. With more time, I’d have rented a row boat or a kayak and gone out on the lake myself. As is, though, sitting on the ferry drinking tea and watching sailboats go by was not an altogether bad way to spend an afternoon. We reached Bowness and the ship’s majority disembarked. Sailboat on Lake Windermere

One-day Vacation

I relocated to a quiet seat with a table and a window on the lower level. A middle-aged couple sat in the booth in front of me – a woman with dyed blond hair, garish blue eye shadow and fuchsia lips. Her husband’s gray head occasionally blocked her face from view. She seemed tired and frustrated. Maybe she’d been there too long. It’d be hard to find things to do in this town for more than a day.

Streets of WindermereSurprise attractions

When we docked in Lakeside where we’d started, there were still a few hours before we had to get back on the claustrophobic death-trap the Brits call a coach, so I decided to take a walk around town. As I strolled, I encountered a sign with a large brightly colored arrow pointing down an alley. “BEATRIX POTTER ATTRACTION” it proclaimed. I followed it.

Cultural Experience

As I arrived, I was greeted by a very unexpected sight: directly in front of the ticket desk to the Beatrix Potter Attraction, several men and one woman were performing Zulu song and dance in costume. I stood and watched for a little while, clapping my hands along with the beat. I watched until they began demonstrating dance moves piece-by-piece and encouraging the audience to repeat them. Then I suddenly felt self-conscious and slunk off to the exhibit.

Peter Rabbit in the Beatrix Potter AttractionThe exhibit itself was an elaborate walk-through of many of Beatrix Potter’s books. There was a short informative film at the beginning to give some background information to the ignorant tourist (me), and after strolling leisurely (or at a brisk pace due to time constraints) through the various houses, ponds, and garden plots of Potter’s characters, there was a large room dedicated to the timeline of the author’s life.

A Scene from Peter RabbitMy favorite feature by far was the massive screen stretched across one wall providing panoramic views from many of the real-life Lake District settings in Potter’s books. If I’d had more time, I’d have spent the rest of the day virtually traveling to castles and lake beds, and getting lost in the woods.

Hayley Peter Rabbit CardOf course, the icing on the cake was finding a Peter Rabbit Birthday card in the gift shop with my name spelled correctly in block letters across the front. I stocked up on gifts for my young niece and nephew and headed back to the coach for the four hour journey back to Edinburgh, satisfied I’d decided to explore the small lake town of Windermere.

Portland, Maine: I’m on a boat

After another long day in Quebec City, Kim and I jumped in the car and drove 6 hours to Portland, Maine. Our original plan had been to stop by Bangor, ME to see Stephen King’s house, but we ended up driving through a little late and didn’t have the time to stop. We did, however, see a moose. And it wasn’t just chillin like moose do, eating a branch or something, it was galloping alongside the highway – no joke. The customs guard told us that it’s their mating season, “The moose have been going craaaazy lately!” He said, “they’ve just been runnin all over the highway, so make sure you keep an eye out!” For some reason, he was amazed we’d seen one in Canada, despite all the moose crossing signs, “Yeah, I only ever see ‘em in Maine! Never hearda somebody catchin site of ‘em cross the border.” Maybe it’s because you never cross the border, I thought.

Econolodge in New Brunswick, Maine

We arrived a little past ten at our comfy Econolodge one town over (we quickly found that it’s not easy to make last minute reservations in a vacation town over labor day weekend), spent the night and headed into Portland the next day.

We decided to take a cruise on a sailboat at 1pm with Portland Schooner Company and headed down to find some Maine lobster before getting on the boat. The cruise suggested we bring a picnic or bottle of wine to enjoy on board, so we stepped in the wine shop across the street from the pier. On our way out, we asked the cashier where the best place to get lobster was. “You see that guy dressed up in a lobster suit across the street?” We nodded. “You should go to his place.”Three Sons Lobster in Lobster Suit Portland Maine

“His place”, Three Sons Lobster and Fish, was a dingy, dirty looking place with a few inches of water gathered on the cement floor. It wasn’t a restaurant, it looked more like a mini fish warehouse that sold whole, live lobsters, and frozen lobster tails by the pound. Three Sons Lobster and Fish in Portland, MaineIt looked like a cool local place, but not exactly a sit-down restaurant, so Kim and I moved on. After another swing and a miss, we ended up at this little place called J’s Oyster. J's Oyster in Portland, MaineIt was exactly what we were looking for. We just barely beat the lunch crowd and ordered, were served, ate, paid and left in less than 45 minutes. Definitely try the lobster roll.

Windameer with Portland Schooner CompanyWe made it to our cruise with time to spare, and waited around until the launch. Finally, we got on the sailboat and were off! The crew found some adorable little kids to help them hoist the sails, and then wandered around talking to people the rest of the time. Kim and I pulled out our bottle of wine and I went in search of a wine key. Turns out there was no bottle opener to speak of on board (either that or the crewman I spoke to didn’t feel like going through everything to find one). That was a bit disappointing, since they had advertised on their site and brochure to bring wine or beer. The group next to us had the same problem.

Our inability to partake of our wine did not prevent us from enjoying the scenic views, however. It was so calming to be on a sailboat cruising around the beautiful bay for two hours. It wasn’t exactly a historical tour – there wasn’t a tour guide or somebody dressed like a pirate, but it was exactly what we wanted that day – relaxation and some pretty things to look at. That’s what vacation should be, right?

Scenic Views on a sailboat in Portland, Maine

After the cruise, I drove Kim to the airport, and she went home. Then I headed back to the Econolodge where I had left my camera charger. On my way back to Portland from Brunswick, I stopped on a whim at this cute little diner called the New Brunswick Dinerand had dinner there.

Historic Brunswick Diner in Maine

Photo Cred: Spoon & Shutter

I ordered the Lobster roll – which is apparently what they’re famous for – and it was delicious! I asked for some cocktail sauce on the side for my french fries and the waitress scolded me, thinking I was going to put it on the sandwich, “And what exactly are you going to put the sauce on?” she demanded. “The fries!” I squeaked, a little intimidated. “Well OK then,” she said, and brought me the sauce. In the end, I did sneak a little onto my sandwich when she wasn’t looking.

Eventually, I made it to my airbnb hosts’ house in Portland and spent the evening doing a (much needed) load of laundry. In the morning, one of my hosts, Martha, made incredible scones with blueberries and yogurt for breakfast. As it turns out, she is a fiber artist, and she gladly answered my questions about her work, even going so far as to demonstrate how to use a spinning wheel!

Streets in Portland, Maine

After completely repacking my car in Martha & Joe’s driveway, I headed back downtown to explore, then took off to Boston, my next destination.

Streets in Portland, ME

[travelthursday] This town called Burlington

A week or so ago, I visited beautiful Burlington, VT right alongside Lake Champlain. I didn’t realize this, but apparently Burlington has been suffering from massive amounts of flooding lately. Due to the snow melt and a ton of rain, Lake Champlain has gotten up to 3 feet over its normal level, flooding neighborhoods, the beaches, bike paths, piers, et al. I have some pictures below of the flooding – there is actually a couple kayaking through a neighborhood right next to the Winooski River.

Luckily, my one day stop in Burlington happened on a beautiful sunny day – one of the first of the season according to my host, Nathan (who I found through Airbnb btw). He handed me a touristy map and explained that there is a ten mile long bike route that encircles the downtown Burlington area. “I think some of the path is swamped because of the flooding, though,” he said, mentioning that every one of Lake Champlain’s Burlington beaches was underwater as well. “The New York side of the lake is on much higher ground, so they didn’t get the worst of it.”

So I headed down to Ski Rack in the downtown area and rented a bike. Next time I think I’ll rent a kayak. Check out my pics below of the bike tour I took until the water level forced me to turn around. I also took a quick peak at Church Street, Burlington’s pedestrian shopping/dining street that was lined with food carts, souvenir booths, and musicians busking for money.

On my next trip, I hope to find somewhere to take sailing lessons!