1. Old Orchard 2009

  2. P

    acking is never any fun. Packing for a camping trip, the beach and a major US city, even less so. Knowing it would take some time to sort it all out we started packing the afternoon of Sunday August 16th and finished only around 8 or 9PM. The hope was that we could set out very early the next morning and be at our destination in Old Orchard, Maine by noon. In fact, we left 40 minutes late around 6:40. Fortunately we didn't get caught in too much traffic crossing Montreal. Traffic is still light this time of year as many Montrealers like us are also on vacation. We managed to cross the Champlain bridge and hit autoroute 10 by 7:15AM.
  3. We made the border at Highgate Springs by 8AM and we waited only 20 minutes to cross. Once over the border we stopped another 20 in Stanton for fuel and nature. From there we faithfully followed our GPS into the state of Vermont, then New Hampshire and finally Maine. The valuable lesson we learned is that the most direct path is not always the best. We stayed on the interstate 89 only untill about Montpelier where we turned off on hwy 62 at 10AM. Then the GPS plotted a course mainly on route 25. This slowed us down to less than half our cruising speed.

  4. Between the roadwork in East Barre and East Corinth along with reduced speed when entering towns it took one hour to get from Montpelier to Bradford, another hour to West Plymouth NH and yet anoher hour to get to Center Harbor NH. The cruising speed was a dismal 50km/h average for these 3 legs. We got to Cornish Maine by 2PM and our campsite by 2:50PM. We drove for 5 hours between 10:00 and 15:00 at an overall average speed of about 60km/h. The roadwork stop in East Corinth was long enough for me to get out of the car and snap a picture of the General Store. Thank goodness for the DVD player we bought for the trip. It kept the children entertained most of the way. On a positive note the route did provide some nice vistas of the countryside and small towns. We drove past a beautiful scene of a barn and house on a hill and 2 horses grazing on the down slope.

  5. We entered camp Powder Horn and hurriedly put up the tent loaned to us by my sister. With only 3 fiberglass poles to setup the structure it was short work even with our first go at an unfamiliar tent. It took more time to peg down the tent and fly trying to avoid rocks in he ground. We were pleased to find our campsite was sheltered beneath trees and close to the showers and toilets. We had our own power oultet and water tap. The campsite was clean and well organized. There was a center of activity up front with mini-putt, shuffle board, and a pool. They also had some security with controlled entrance and exit using cards. The only negative was the occasional wafting smell that we could not figure out. It was either a nearby septic tank for one of the semi-permanent trailer homes, or possibly the dried up pond bed behind our site. Nearby campers were packing up their trailer tent and they left us two large logs for a campfire. Our immediate neighbor on one side was setting up a tent at the same time we were. The other neighbor was all setup but not in camp.

  6. Once the tent was up and we sorted out some of the gear. We decided to change into our swimwear and head to the beach. It was about a quarter to 5 and we were on the beach by 5PM on the north side of the pier. We walked past surf 6 Oceanfront Grille and Bar to touch down on our first sand. Parking was 5 dollars and immediately adjacent. The beach was only sparsely crowded with clumps of people spread out. As it turns out this time of day would be my favourite. The extreme 90 degree heat and harsh sunlight of the mid-day is gone and the day crowd had mostly packed up for the day. The waves seemed calmer and the water still warm from the long hot day.

  7. I was pleasantly surpised by how warm the ocean water was. My past brief experience with the Atlantic in New Brunswick was water in the high 50s to mid 60s. At this temperature you got in quickly moved, around vigourously and in a few short minutes came back out. Crossing the St Lawrence in mid-August sometimes requires a light jacket when on deck, the air being so much cooler than on land. I was not able to confirm the temperature but it seemed to me to be at least in the mid 70s. At this temperature our small children could go in with us and play for some time before coming out.

  8. The children ran around the beach, in and out of the water. This was a first for both William and Audrey-Anne and they were really enjoying the novelty of the sand and ocean. They both were very excited by standing in the water braving the waves coming to shore. I really enjoyed living this experience with them. People on the beach were throwing balls, lounging in beach chairs and some were having fast food dinners.

  9. When the food comes out the seagulls show up and if someone is careless enough to throw them some food they quickly crowd in and become a nuisance. I got a chance to snap some quick pictures of them including one with a pizza slice in its mouth and 3 others in hot pursuit of him. It was now sometime between 6:30 and 7PM and quite suddenly the light wind coming off the ocean had gotten cooler. We decided to call it a day for the beach and headed out.

  10. We were in need of supplies, some groceries, bottled water, ice, milk, batteries a tarp and a dinner for the next day to cook in camp. After touring the immediate area in Old Orchard we quickly determined that we would have to go a bit further afield to get what we needed. It was already 7:15 and now dinner was getting late. I turned to the GPS and just typed Walmart. Sure enough not five miles away from where we were there was a Walmart. It was located in the small town of Biddeford but the Walmart was nothing but! It turned out to be a Supercenter, the first I have ever seen. This was much larger than the Walmart we have in the West Island of Montreal. The store contains a full size grocery store within it including fresh produce, meats poultry and fish. A whole electronics section, outdoors section and the list goes on.

  11. Given how late it was we needed to remain focused and quickly get the supplies we needed so we could get back to camp and make dinner. We picked up the milk, the water, some salmon, some rice, wine, peanut butter and some bread. Additionally in the camping section we found a tarp and I found a little Coleman air pump which was perfect for filling the air mattresses. It did not have batteries, so I had to chase these down in the store. Last on the list was the ice. Much to my surprise this giant of a store only had two small fridges for ice, the kind you usually see at a regular grocery store and they were both empty...no ice. It was now 8:30 and really late and very dark.

  12. We got back to Powder Horn at quarter to nine, we went looking for ice at the camp store and were pleasantly surprised to see how well stocked the store was. It had plenty of ice and firewood along with other basic necessities for camping. We quickly set about making dinner. Fortunately we had planned for an easy and quick to make dinner of canned food. I fired up the propane stove and with the help of our new Coleman lamp and my headlamp and two flashlights we were able to see what we were doing. The kids would have chef boyardee type pasta in sauce while Chantal and I shared some Cordon Bleu Ragout de Boulettes with soft white bread. The canned ragout is a favourite from my childhood and I still find it very tasty as an adult. I think every person has some quircky food from their childhood, this one is mine. It has remained virtually unchanged in the 30 years since I first had it, so I suspect others like it too.

  13. While dinner was being finished a family of 5 from Ontario arrived next to us and started setting up their large tent in the dark. They made very quick work of it and I was impressed by their speed. After doing the dishes and taking our showers and brushing our teeth we put away our things. I inflated the mattresses with the new pump and it worked marvelously. It was still very hot so we slept mostly on our sleeping bags rather than in them.

  14. Morning came with the crows. At around 6:15 several crows showed up and started making a racket. As suddenly as they appear, they leave by about 6:30. Chantal was the first to wake and she discovered everyone else in camp was asleep. I awoke with the crows and found that my mattress had deflated to the point where I was sleeping on the ground. William was curled up in his sleeping bag and lying between the mattresses on the ground still sleeping soundly. Chantal's mattress had also deflated. We would have to re-inflate them for the next night.

  15. The camp site was pretty in the morning with early light filtering through the trees. Most of our fellow campers had still not gotten up. We all wanted to get to the beach early so we got breakfast going. The Coleman Stove was great for making toast. I could really get used to cooking on it. We brought out the milk, fruit loops and Jiffy peanut butter.

  16. We got to the beach early at about 8 and found that the cost of parking had tripled to 15$. We gathered up our beach gear and setup very close to our spot from the night before. The upper beach had coarse yellow sand with a few cigarette butts in it but not enough to make it look like an ashtray. The middle part of the beach had a fine white sand that seemed out of place. I suspect it marked the position of high tide. The lower beach was darker and the sand was wet and packed. Many of the sun bathers stayed on the upper beach while those at play were on the lower side.

  17. We setup on the upper beach with our beach mats and folding chairs and beach toys. The heat was already building in the morning hours. It was not long before we were at the 90 degree level again. I was very happy to have two cheap parasols. With my skin I am either in the water or in the shade.

  18. Some of the beach goers were veterans. They had setup not only parasols but some half-dome beach tents, folding tables, monster coolers. Some even had the faux straw umbrellas to get the feel of tropical destinations. The beach was awash with bright colors from bathing suits, parasols, and beach towels. By 11 the beach was dense with people.

  19. Some of the older children were taking beach construction porjects very seriously. I saw one boy up to his shoulders in a full-sized trench, complete with cubby hole dug out. Others had built up some fancy castles of various sizes. Still others had built little irrigation lines closer to the water. Some were writing out their names in huge letters. We discovered that most of the beach toys we had brought along were of not much use. All we needed were some good-sized spade shovels and a couple of buckets. The tiny plastic rakes didn't do really much for play. William and Audrey-Anne dug a small hole and built a small castle on one side.

  20. At lunch time I headed towards the food stands to get something for the family to eat. I had seen many people with Pizza and decided to get some with some ice cold water bottles. The stand I got to told me it would be 15 minutes for the pizza to be ready. In the mean time I walked around and took a few pictures.

  21. The sign on the pier indicates that it was established in 1898. From what I could tell the little stands selling trinkets must have looked much the same as they had back in the 70s. One guy who probably worked at Pier Pizza even parked his motorcycle up on the pier next to the restaurant window. I walked up the ramp and had a great vantage point for looking down on the beach. There were lots of people.

  22. The Pizza was ready and I headed back to the beach. William was lying on the beach mat asleep under a parasol. Audrey-Anne happily ate the pizza that was not very good. As we were lounging after lunch a beach police officer walked past in a bright yellow polo shirt and bermuda shorts. About 5 minutes later another beach police officer came by and I asked if I could take his picture. He was fully decked out in a motorcycle uniform with long sleeved shirt, pants and boots. I could not believe he was walking around in the heat on the beach dressed that way.

  23. We woke up William to eat and get a little to drink. Then we played some more in the surf. We stayed on the beach untill about 5 and then packed up our things and made our way to the oceanside shops to visit.

  24. Old Orchard the town probably has not changed much in the last 40 years. As you come into the main entrance near the pier there is an amusement park on the left and plenty trinket stores lining the street on either side. We stopped in one store and Audrey-Anne set her heart on having a beach board. We tried explaining to her that we were done with the beach and she would have no use for it but she wanted it nonetheless. She was very upset when we left the store without buying it. We dropped into a second store to try and get her attention with something else. The next store was filled with useless nick nacks, like shells, dried sand dollars, sea urchins and starfish. There were pirate ash trays and bottle holders. They had faux choral necklaces and many crudely worded signs intended for the frat party crowd. Some "personalized" street signs, and plenty of carousel type hangers loaded with keychains and other assorted things. Audrey-Anne settled for a clip you attach to a zipper pull tab. It had a dog cameo on it which appealed to my girl. She was quick to remind us that this was not her first choice and asked if we could go back to the other store and get her a beach board.

  25. Before leaving the town we took a picture at the "Welcome to Old Orchard Beach" sign and then headed back to the camp at 6PM.

  26. That evening we had plenty of time to setup dinner. I cooked the rice in a pot and the salmon we bought at Walmart in 4 pieces of aluminum on the side burner. We ate at the picnic table and were bitten by mosquitos. I did not think much of it myself as we have plenty of mosquiots back home. What I did not count on was the effect it would have on Audrey-Anne.

  27. We took our showers for the night and I re-inflated the air mattresses, being very careful to properly seat the rubber gasket in the spout before screwing the cap back on. As we were cycling in and out of the showers I gathered some twigs and crumpled some paper in the fire ring. I built up a large fire in it and William and I sat in folding chairs and watched the fire. Once we were all cleaned up we lay the wet towels on the folding chairs to dry them out with the campfire. We settled in for the night having left all the windows on the fly open to let as much air in as possible.

  28. This time it was not the crows that woke me up though they would make their apperance later that morning like clockwork. Instead I was awaken by Audrey-Anne crying and Chantal waking me up. Audrey-Anne's ankles were really swollen and she was very uncomfortable. I asked Chantal if she had a fever and was told she did not. I asked if her ankles were discolored but they were only red. We opted to just put some benadryl cream on it but Audrey-Anne did not want any. We had to insist to put the cream on.

  29. A couple of hours later the crows came around and woke us up again. This time however the mattresses had remained mostly inflated.

  30. We ate our breakfast. I got in and brushed the sand out of the tent. Once cleaned out we packed it up. Then we set about repacking the car. I left the firewood to our neighbor Ontarians and we left our camp at about 10AM.

  31. The next stop was Kittery. We started heading out on the interstate but Chantal wanted to take route 1 instead to see more of the beaches along the way. We drove through Ogunquit town but did not go to that beach. The town of Ogunquit is much nicer than Old Orchard. The houses and landscaping are very pretty. It looks more like a New England town rather than a beach resort town. I think if we head down this way again we will try out the Ogunquit beach and stay at one of the pretty inns.

  32. We got to Kittery at around 11:40. Chantal wanted to visit the factory outlets mainly to find good deals on childrens clothing. The factory outlet is huge and spread out on the main road. There are at least 6 separate parking locations. The heat was very oppressive walking between stores. We decided to target the Gap, Childrens Place, and Osh Kosh which as it turns out no longer existed. Our last stop in the outlets was Crate and Barrel. Ultimately we bought almost nothing as we did not find any real hot deals. We finished up by about 1:30 and headed for lunch.

  33. Leon had mentioned a nice restaurant called Warren's Lobster House on the outskirt of Kittery. We decided to try it out and drove a short bit to get there. It was about 2 miles from the Crate and Barrel store. The restaurant has been operating since 1940 and is set at a nice location on the waters edge. We did not get a table with a vista but the restaurant decor with huge specimen lobsters mounted on the walls made up a little for it. I drank an O'Doul's and had the famous quarter pound lobster roll. Chantal had the same. Audrey-Anne had some fried Haddock which was far too much for her to eat. William had a dish of shrimp with red sauce. We finished off with carrot cake and coffee. We each got a key with our meal to try our luck opening the treasure chest at the gift shop nearby.

  34. Of course the treasure chest key was the hook for getting us in the gift shop, but once were were there we did find some souvenir chowder bowls to our liking. We also bought a coffee mug which is something we do at every place we visit. We left Kittery by 3:20PM and hit the road to Boston.

  35. We got back on the interstate and paid the toll only to get back off the highway shortly after. Chantal wanted to see Hampton beach. We arrived at Hampton at around 4PM and stayed for about 20 minutes. Long enough for Chantal to get her toes in the sand and scope out the beach. I opted to wait in the car with the children. The beach at Hampton is lined with shops and looked like more of the same that we saw at Old Orchard.

  36. We arrived in Boston at 6:30. We got checked into the Radisson on Stuart street as it offered a pool and was within a mile of the New England Aquarium. As it turns out it is also very close to the John Hancock Insurance offices. JHI is the account I work for as a service manager. This was therefore an area of Boston I was familiar with and so finding a place to eat should not be very difficult

  37. On checking in we saw a very nice lamborghini parked in the valet spot of our hotel at the entrance. I thought to myself this person won't be flinching at the 30$ parking fee. We brought our bags up to our room on the 14th floor, we freshened up and headed out.

  38. It was suggested we take a walk on Newbury and so we took a casual stroll down this street at around 7 to see the scenery. It was very nice, sort of a cross between New York's 5th avenue and Montreal's St-Catherines street, but smaller and more intimate. Many of the big names were there like , Donna Karen, Burberry, Cartier and others. It was a pleasant stroll, someone was strumming an electric guitar at one of the corners playing something jazzy and light.

  39. We decided to head for a place to eat so the children could have dinner at a reasonable hour. After some walking around weighing different options, I decided to go for a sure bet with the Cottonwood Cafe. It was not really a family oriented restaurant but I knew the food was good. I opened with a chile relleno and an entree called seafood gunpowder. Chantal had the blackened scallops and an entree of beef that came apart with a teasing of the fork. We each had a classic marguerita. The children shared a plate. As expected the food was very good. I was pleasantly surprised by a couple leaving the restaurant who stopped at our table to compliment how well behaved our children were.

  40. We left the restaurant at about 8:30 and walked back to our hotel to check in for the night.

  41. The next morning we all slept in. No crows to wake us up at the Radisson and the extra sleep did all of us some good. Chantal and the kids put on their bathing suits and we all headed down to the hotel pool at about 9. I for once, did not feel like swimming and instead snapped some pictures of the children swimming and took a walk around the roof deck to catch some views of the city. We got back to the room, packed our bags and checked out. We left the car in the parking. I worried about leaving a car fully loaded with gear in a lot that had warnings posted everywhere about car breakins. I figured the camping gear would not offer an appealing target to would be thieves.

  42. For lunch we headed over to Maggiano's we got there a little early and had to wait 10 minutes for our table. The wood work around the bar was very impressive. This is another restaurant I knew was a sure bet as I have eaten here before with work. The restaurant is huge and has been well established in Boston for many years. There are celebrity photos of politicians and sports heroes hung on the walls and the restaurant is tastefully decorated in a retro style. The Sinatra songs playing in the background were at low volume and pleasant. I had an angel hair pasta dish with seafood, Chantal ate the lasagna and the kids shared a bowl of spaghetti. It was a nice lunch, Maggiano's is a sure bet. By a quarter to 1 we were on our way to the hotel to pick up the car.

  43. The aquarium was about a mile form our hotel. I thoght about just walking over as our car parking was covered untill 6. Unfortunately we decided to pull the car out and drive to the aquarium. This part of Boston has a significant amount of traffic at 1 in the afternoon but we made it to the New England Aquarium in good time. We parked the car at the multi-level parking and had to drive up to the Starfish themed 7th level. The view of the harbour from the parking was very nice.

  44. We entered the NEA at 1:30 and visited the exhibits. I really liked the setup for the penguins and we got to see them at feeding time which was very entertaining. The other highlight for me was the giant pacific octopus and of course the huge central tank.

  45. In the main tank there were several interesting fish including some rays and sharks, but the star was Myrtle the turtle. The huge green sea turtle has been in the aquarium for almost 40 years. when Audrey-Anne was up against the glass the turtle came in close to look at her.

  46. The children really enjoyed the tide pool where they could touch some starfish and hermit crabs. I really liked watching the leafy sea dragon swim around in its leafy appendages all over its body. The sea lions where interesting but they moved around so quickly it was hard to get a good look at them.

  47. We got a bit of a show when one of the handlers was trying to put a large boa in its tank and the snake refused to cooperate. The snake would curl around and slither up the handlers shoulder up to her face. It took a second handler to assist putting the snake in.

  48. We stopped off in the gift shop for about 20 minutes and picked up a book for William and a toy penguin for Audrey-Anne. We then took a final tour to see the last of the exhibits that we had not seen yet and we left the aquarium at 5. We were very surprised to see that the charge for parking was 30$ after a 5 dollar rebate from the aquarium. Next time we will do things a little differently. Sixty dollars parking for a day and a half in Boston was more than we expected.

  49. Leaving Boston at 5PM on a Thursday may not be the best time for traffic but we did ok. We got to Lebanon, New Hampshire by about 7PM and circled around for a place to eat but did not find anything that looked like a quick in and out. We settled on a McDonalds in White River Junction VT and grabbed a bite to eat at around 7:30. We gassed up the car and set out again at 8:20. We arrived at the border by 10:20 and crossed over ten minutes later. We arrived home at precisely midnight. The children had watched the Incredbles and the Shrek 2 movie 3 times and we were thankful for the DVD player. The line in the Shrek movie "are we there yet!" was so a propos.

  50. This was a great trip. There were lots of new experiences for the children and they seemed to have a really good time at the beach and camping. I am not a big fan of beaches generally and I really do not like sitting in the sun. The draw for me was really seeing how much fun the children had. I wish we had done a bit more sight-seeing in Boston but even the little we did was fun for all.

  51. Chantal finally got to go to the beach after all.