Thursday, June 16, 2005


Not that the ten or so people who stop by here every day (presumably by accident) are clamoring for it, but I thought I'd share a couple of our family vacation's particularly high points:

The Roger Williams Park Zoo. With lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Just south of Providence is one gem of a zoo, the third-oldest such institution in America (founded in 1872), built amidst the beautiful grounds of Roger Williams Park. Having undergone a major renovation in 1980, the zoo is perfectly suited for a young child, affording close-up and dramatic views of animal habitats that older parks--such as the Philadelphia Zoo--lack. In particular I was struck by the snow leopard exhibit, which allowed the big cats to perch atop a rock that was adjacent to the main path in what in the wild would have been a perfect ambush position. When my daughter ambled ahead of us one of the leopards broke into a slow trot, then leapt up to the high ground as if to pounce, or at the very least to say, "Yeah, I know there's a steel-reinforced fence in the way, but if there wasn't..."

Old Orchard Beach. A slice of the Jersey Shore in Southern Maine, OOB is about an hour and half from Boston by car (slightly less from Cape Ann!) but well worth the trip for its long, sandy beaches with a decent ocean surf and water temperatures quite often a little higher than those along the chilly Massachusetts Bay. Although Old Orchard Beach had its real heydey at the turn of the last century, with a small city of amusements and piers for public entertainment, there's still enough fun to go around today in the form of roller coasters, carnival rides, and a delicious overabundance of fried food shacks.

Stonewall Kitchen. You've seen their jellies and jams in the supermarket, but you haven't really lived until you've been to one of this company's several stores (they have three locations in Maine--we frequent the one in York--as well as two in New Hampshire and even one in Newton, Massachusetts!) and sampled your way through their cornucopia of products. My wife always thinks I'm a freak, but I can't leave without having tasted pretty much everything out on display. On our visit last week we picked up our favorite Wild Blueberry Jam as well as several other newly-discovered delicacies, including a Basil Pesto Mustard which is out of this world. Even my wife, who is not by any means a mustard fan, loves this stuff!

Wingaersheek and Good Harbor Beaches. When you live in Gloucester, you don't have to go far to enjoy some of New England's most beautiful beaches. Wingaersheek lies on the mouth of the Annisquam River as it flows into the Ipswich Bay, a broad and shallow beach peppered with large rocks and sandy tidal pools perfect for small children to explore. Good Harbor Beach, on the other hand, faces the open ocean and offers a small tidal creek on one end of the strand and a goodly-sized island for rock hopping which becomes accessible at low tide on the other. Both of these places charge a king's ransom for parking during the high season ($15 weekdays, $25 weekends), but believe you me either beach is well worth the cost.

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