PETER and ANN FROST visit New York and the beautiful east of the USA. They went in autumn when it is at its colourful best.
You may think they speak English in America but it’s not quite the same English as you and I. Have you ever heard of Foliage Freaks? Or even Leaf Peepers? No. Well nor had I until I met them in the maple forests of the Adirondack Mountains north of New YorkIn autumn, ‘fall’ to the Americans, everybody heads for the most colourful groves. The freaks and the peepers visit their favourite websites for the best locations, rather like twitchers finding where to see the rarest of birds.
As autumn comes the maples are rich in sugar and those sugars in the sap turn the leaves all kinds of reds, oranges, yellows and golds.
It’s the same sugary sap that the locals tap from the trees to make the local delicacy Maple Syrup which we learned to love on our pancakes with bacon and eggs on our huge campsite breakfasts.
Although we were here to enjoy the countryside in fall we couldn’t miss a chance to spend a few days in one of the most exciting cities in the world.
Anybody who has ever watched an American film or any transatlantic TV will already feel they have been to New York.
The sites are so familiar. We climbed the Empire State Building, sailed round the Statue of Liberty on the Staten Island Ferry and took the emotional tour of Ellis Island – gateway to a new life for generations of immigrants.
We caught a show on Time Square and admired our first golden trees in Central Park. We visited the Museum of Modern Art and were amazed that the first exhibit by the entrance was a real American design icon – a shiny 1960’s Airstream Caravan.
Best of all we took the three hour boat trip around Manhattan Island. Not only did we see all the views from Ground Zero to the amazing skyline but we realised that even Manhattan has some quiet rural waterways and peaceful countryside.
It gave us a taste for discovering some of that countryside and we picked up our rental motorhome and headed up country.
We were amazed how soon the city fell away as we headed up the Hudson Valley towards the Catskill Mountains. The colours really were breathtaking and we were amazed that we were still in New York; albeit the state not the city.
All along the way we found maple woods, vineyards and orchards and signs directing us to waterfalls. We stopped off at Taughannock where the falls are actually higher that those at Niagara.
The quiet countryside was a delight but we knew we were in America. At one roadside shop we met two charming young ladies, one dressed as a bee and one a raisin – how could we resist buying some local dried fruit and honey.
We drove on to Niagara. In the evening they floodlight the waters with coloured lights. Talk about gilding the lily; this impressive natural phenomenon needs no decoration and indeed no adjectives from me.
We crossed the border into Canada and found a huge lock on the Welland Canal which lifts mighty grain ships round the falls. Working through the lock was a ship bound with a cargo of corn from Thunder Bay on the Great Lakes to the Kelloggs grain terminal outside Liverpool. Now that’s what I call romantic travel.
Back across the border we headed for Boston. Our colourful few days route took us to Lake Placid and the Adirondack Mountains. We kicked up the ankle deep golden leaves like children on our many glorious walks through the woods.
Boston is rich with history. We visited the memorial to their favourite son John Kennedy and the Plymouth Rock. They even seem to have forgiven us Brits the little bit of bother that was the Boston Tea Party.
In Boston we ate lobster, remarkably in-expensive and steamer clams – simply the best shellfish we have ever eaten. It was our introduction to the seafood of the New EnglandCoast and that coast would be our destination for the last few days of our visit.
At Nantucket on Cape Cod we took a whale watching cruise and saw the humpback whales that made this one of New England’s premier whaling ports. Martha’s Vineyard is a stylish town serving the many film stars and politicians who make their homes on the Cape Cod Coast.
There was just time for a final visit to the amazing re-created colonial seaport of Mystic. We spent a long day here and managed to spend most of it out on the water in various antique sailing vessels.
All too soon we dropped off the motorhome in New York and flew home.
Highlights of the tour? For me sailing a hundred year old fishing boat at Mystic Seaport.
For Ann? The young man in a lobster shack in Boston who when she ordered a drink said “Sorry mam, you need ID to prove you are over 21”. Only in America.
This article first appeared in Camping and Caravanning Magazine in 2008