01 Dec Cape Cod and Leaving New England
By the time we reached Cape Cod, our last stop in New England, it felt like we’d come full circle. The sun was shining and the air was almost as warm as it had been when we’d first arrived in September. As always when we travel, time seemed both long and short; although the days had whizzed by in an idyllic whirl, I also felt like we’d been in New England forever.
*Update: you can read our complete 2016 New England Fall Foliage Guide here. This includes tips on where on when to see the best foliage, what to eat, which festivals to visit, how much our fall trip to New England cost and our favourite destinations in New England.*
Cycling and Exploring on Cape Cod
Cape Cod branches off the coast of Massachusetts, curling upwards like a thin, scorpion tail. The Cape is becoming perilously narrow, washing away at a rate of three feet a year, and locals are working hard to slow down the erosion and preserve this slice of holiday heaven. In the summer, Route 6, which runs the length of the Cape, is choked with holiday-goers, all bound for its famous stretches of sandy beach.
Cape Cod is dotted with small towns which live off the summertime crowds. As we were visiting in early November, most places were shut off for the season and the beaches were eerily quiet, frequented only by dog walkers and locals. Some might prefer the bustle of high season but we loved the peaceful autumn vibe, cheaper costs and cooler weather.
Through Airbnb we were able to find a cheap but lovely room in Harwich; if you’ve never used Airbnb before, you can get £20 free credit to spend on the site if you sign up using this link. Our host was a long-time resident of the Cape who gave us tips on what to see and lent us bicycles so we could ride along the bike path, which was once an old railway line. The air was a perfect autumn cool and leaves crunched under our wheels as we sped down the tree-lined paths before stopping in Chatham for hot tea.
We explored Cape Cod more thoroughly by car, snaking our way upwards, stopping off at towns and lighthouses along the way. Eventually we reached the very tip, Provincetown, which is the bustling gay capital of the Cape, something akin to Brighton in the UK. Halloween decorations still adorned the houses and a few shops selling saltwater taffy and seaside souvenirs were open for business.
Leaving New England
The weather turned the day we left Cape Cod, signalling an end to our perfect road trip through New England. As the wind whipped up and rain began to fall from the leaden sky, I began to feel pangs of longing for the places we’d left behind; the wild, rugged coastline, national parks and white lighthouses of Maine, the jagged mountains and vast lakes of New Hampshire, the vibrant University cities of Boston, Providence and New Haven.
I thought of blueberry pancakes, steaming cups of clam chowder and crisp McIntosh apples. I smelt sea salt and conjured images of crashing waves, sandy beaches and golden hues of the falling autumn leaves. I remembered watching the Labour-day fireworks in Boston when we first arrived and our road trip still stretched tantalisingly off into the horizon. Memories of long hours in the car, tracing roads on the map with my fingertip, of a freezing cold Halloween night, hiking in Acadia, standing at the top of Mount Washington and spotting humpback whales flashed through my mind.
Our New England road trip was the best I’ve ever taken. Above all else though, it was Vermont that stole a chunk of my heart. It wasn’t just the perfect fall foliage and the acres of forest dotted with rolling fields and red farmhouses that made Vermont so special – it was the feel of the state. I loved the independent, home-grown vibe, the local cheeses, syrup farms, orchards and vegetable stands on every corner.
In particular, I remember our time in the tiny, former-industrial town of Bellows Falls as the happiest of our entire road trip. I loved staying with our interesting, slightly eccentric host in a house without locks on the doors. The days we spent there seemed never-ending – we’d drive out to nearby towns, revel in spectacular foliage, bake apple pies and sip tea in the town café. The memories of our time in Vermont are so perfect they make my heart ache.
Moving on from New England, the pace and feel of our trip changed and what followed was an intense three weeks of city sightseeing in Philadelphia, DC and New York City – more on this to come.
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