I love planning vacations. It probably is not an exaggeration to say that my absolute favorite way to pass the time is sitting down with my calendar, scouring through tons of reviews and friend recommendations, booking flights and hotels, and creating lists of things to do on a trip. I get very excited and distracted when I’m in full trip-planning mode.
One of my other favorite things to do is share my travel experiences with friends and family that are traveling to the same places as I did. I’ve been known to write extremely lengthy emails full of suggestions for a perfect vacation. Basically, I probably should have become a travel agent. Maybe I still will “when I grow up”.
While I am not a travel agent today, I thought it would be fun to take my passions for traveling, planning trips, and sharing trip ideas and combine them to create a fun series for the blog. So, today I’m going to kicking off a series called Travel with Me. In this series, I will recap trips that I have taken and will offer honest reviews of each hotel, restaurant, and activity that we did. At the end of each post in this series, I will list out the things that I would have done differently on the trip if I did the same trip over again. My hope is that you can take my stories and opinions and use them to help build your own trip.
For the first few posts in this series, I’ll be discussing trips we have taken in the past back before I started this blog or had any intention of writing up reviews. I’ll do my best to remember all that we did on those past trips. In the future, I’ll take notes and pictures during vacations with a blog post in mind, so those will probably be more detailed and more helpful.
To start off this series, I’m going to recap our recent trip to New England. To reach my goal of posting at least two times per week, I’m going to break up this post into two parts in the interest of time. This post will cover the basic when & where, where we stayed, and what we ate. Part II will cover what we did, my tips and tricks, and what I would change if I could go back in time and do the trip over again.
When & Where:
Daniel and I took an early October trip to the New England area. We spent about four days exploring Boston; Portland and Kennebunkport, Maine; and Newport and Westerly, Rhode Island. We both had been really wanting to get up to that area during the fall since we have heard how beautiful it is this time of year. While this trip was short, we wanted to squeeze it in before a big work project of mine started that was going to take up most of the rest of October.
On our first day, we flew into Boston mid-afternoon and spent our evening exploring Cambridge and Harvard University. On Day 2, we spent the whole day walking around all different parts of Boston. On the third day, we rented a car and drove an hour and half north to Portland, Maine, stopping at Kennebunkport, Maine on the way back to our hotel in Boston. For our final full day, we drove the rental car an hour and half south to Newport, Rhode Island and then another half hour to Westerly, Rhode Island. We flew home the next day.
Where We Stayed:
We mostly stay at Hilton hotels because I have a Hilton Gold HHonors membership due to work travel.
For my hotel rating system, I’ll use a ranking from 1 to 5 (1 – absolutely terrible, 2 – mediocre, 3 – good, 4 – great, 5 – fantastic).
2.5 out of 5
It was important to us to stay our first night within walking distance to all of the activities we wanted to do in Boston.We chose this hotel for its location to public transportation and because it was one of the only Hilton hotels downtown that I had enough HHonors points to book one night free.
When we checked in, we were immediately given an upgraded room along with very friendly service. When we arrived at our room, we were slightly disappointed. While the room was very large, it was old and worn looking with tiny windows. The hotel building used to be a high school, so walking around the building definitely took me back to my days at Aledo High. It’s not exactly the homey feeling I would hope for in a hotel.
The bed was very comfortable. The hotel offered a wonderful-looking breakfast, but we did not get a chance to eat it because we ate breakfast in the city . The location is great- it is connected to a Starbucks, and it is very close to bus and subway stops.
Overall, I wouldn’t stay here again, but it was a decent place to stay for one night in Boston.
4 out of 5
For the remaining three nights of our trip, we wanted to stay at a hotel at the airport for easy access to the rental car center for our drives to Maine and Rhode Island.
This hotel was very clean and comfortable – probably nicer than any Hilton I’ve stayed at before. The breakfast was delicious (and complimentary for Hilton Gold and above). The hotel provided a shuttle to the different airport terminals, the rental car center, and the water taxi. The shuttle was slightly delayed both times we used it, but it wasn’t a big issue. Parking is provided but it was a hefty $30 daily fee.
My absolute favorite perk was the view from our room! We selected a city view room (versus a harbor view), but we had a fantastic view of the city and the harbor. It was gorgeous at all times of the day, but it was particularly beautiful at night with the city lights reflecting on the water in the harbor and the boats lit up. We got to see the same view from our breakfast in the HHonors lounge.
I would definitely stay at this hotel again for the comfort and convenience it offered.
Where We Ate:
For restaurants, due to the variety of types of restaurants and food, instead of giving each a star rating, I will just offer a Thumbs Up! for the restaurants I highly recommend, a Meh... for restaurants that aren’t bad but I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way for, or a Thumbs Down rating for the restaurants that I believe you should avoid at all costs. Keep in mind that we usually eat at restaurants highly recommended on sites such as Trip Advisor, so it won’t be very common for me to give a Thumbs Down rating.
Please note that at several places I don’t remember what we ordered or the prices of the order. These are the details I’ll remember to write down on future trips, but I probably won’t have much information about when I’m reviewing past trips.
Right before touring around Harvard’s campus in Cambridge on our first day of the trip, we wanted to get some ice cream. We had read really great reviews about several Cambridge ice cream places, but the first of these places we came across was Lizzy’s Homemade Ice Cream. It is a small shop with only one table to sit at outside. I can’t remember what kind of ice cream we had, but I do remember it was delicious. We were very glad we tried this place, and it was a perfect snack to have while walking around the campus.
We found this spot right next to Harvard’s campus. It was a very fun, very casual atmosphere. We were seated outside on the patio which allowed for people-watching. Daniel ordered a crabcake sandwich with fries, and I ordered a tuna melt. Both were enjoyable.
The Paramount – Boston, MA (Beacon Hill)
While exploring Boston’s Beacon Hill area, we stopped at The Paramount for brunch. I had read tons of Trip Advisor reviews recommending this place, so we were very excited to try it. It was a more casual atmosphere than expected, but we really enjoyed it. When you walk in, you are directed to wait in line to place your order at the counter. They offered a variety of breakfast options such as omelettes, pancakes, waffles, scrambled eggs, etc. I ordered the pumpkin apple pancakes along with some coffee, and Daniel ordered an omelette. Once we paid for our food, we were seated by the window. The place was very crowded, but we didn’t have to wait for a seat, probably because it was a weekday. According to other reviews I have read, brunch on the weekends requires a long wait.
We ran across this pub after our group city tour in Boston ended. It was right in the middle of the busy marketplace we were in, and we really just needed a place to eat quickly and move on with our day. We walked in and were seated right away next to the bar, away from the dining area. I was not impressed by the atmosphere, but being secluded from the other diners might have contributed to that. Our food was some sort of sandwich and a burger. It was fine, but there was nothing impressive about it. My husband would like me to point out that he really enjoyed the restaurant and disagrees with my rating.
Daniel and I usually pick out one nice restaurant to go to while traveling to new places. For Boston, we chose Atlantic Fish Co. We had made a reservation several weeks in advance, so we were seated right away when we arrived. They seated us right by some open windows, so we were able to people watch but enjoy the indoor ambiance at the same time. Immediately, our server offered us drinks and told us the specials of the day. We both ordered a fish dish, but unfortunately, we can’t remember what type of fish. You can see in the pictures below how delicious the meals look! After dinner, we ordered a slice of key lime pie with blueberry drizzled on top to share. We paid much more than usual for this dinner, we had a fantastic time.
After taking the city and lighthouse tour in Portland, we stopped off at Portland Lobster Co. to try our first lobster rolls! When we walked in, we ordered our lobster rolls at the counter. They were much more expensive than expected, but the price fluctuates with the market for lobster. We then made our way to find a seat. The majority of the seating was out on a dock. It was a really fun atmosphere and the weather was great. When we got our food, we were starving and excited to try it. Unfortunately, both of us were pretty disappointed in the lobster roll. For some reason, we expected them to be warm, but they were cold and just a little too fishy tasting. I’m unable to give this restaurant a rating because I think we just dislike lobster rolls in general. We loved the environment and wish we could go again to try something else.
While walking around the city on our own, we stopped at this little cafe for some coffee and macaroons. It was a very cute cafe with friendly servers and the homey environment you would expect from a coffee shop.
Not long after our coffee break, we spotted this cute popcorn storefront. We decided to drop in and check it out. We ended up tasting several flavors of popcorn and walking away with one small bag each– Daniel with key lime and me with cheddar cheese. This was a great little “mom and pop” shop.
Most of our time in Rhode Island was spent in Newport where we snacked at several places that I can’t remember enough to review. However, in the evening, we headed over to Westerly and had dinner there at 84 Tavern on Canal. This might just be one of my new favorite restaurants. We did have to wait awhile, so I would recommend making a reservation. Once we were seated, we looked over the menu and had a really hard time making our dinner choices because everything looked so great! I ordered the Whole Wheat Penne “Avondale”, and Daniel had some type of fish with pumpkin risotto. We enjoyed our whole evening. I have no idea why I didn’t take pictures while eating here!
Click here to see what activities we did and places we visited in New England!