We were early — maybe one to two weeks before peak fall foliage. So instead of colors that scream, we had hillsides that whispered with hues perhaps more subtle than we had hoped for, but achingly beautiful in a restful way. More earth tones — umbers and russets and coppers, punctuated by yellows pale and golden. And then there would appear one lone sugar maple turned aflame, drawing all the attention like the woman in red, passionate and dramatic, who captivates, as all eyes momentarily are diverted from the subtler beauties.
And so it was on a week-long Fall Foliage Tour with Great Train Escapes, as we viewed nature’s palette of color splashed across hillsides and mountains, reflected in New Hampshire’s multitude of lakes, rippling in Vermont’s flowing rivers.
Yet fall foliage was but the raison d’etre for a week of adventure, education and fun, always with a backdrop of picture postcard beauty. The journey, by train and motorcoach, took in all six New England states.
We gathered in Boston for an overnight hotel stay and briefing, then appropriately began our journey through Yankee territory at the Boston Tea Party ship. Under tutelage of a rabble-rouser leading us in an 18th century meeting, our quiet well-behaved tour group was instantly revolutionized by the unfairness of British taxation without representation.
After yelling “fie” with a downward thrust of the fist to a litany of injustices suffered, we agreed to dump the entire cargo of tea overboard. This important revolutionary act transformed and exhilarated our group, who spent the rest of the week laughing and bonding as we shared New England’s wondrous bounty.
We tasted it all — from Yankee humor — dry — to Vermont apple cider — tart — to Maine and Cape Cod lobster — sweet — then we laughed and went back for more. We watched cider pressed from fresh-off-the-tree Macintosh apples as we sipped and learned the sugaring process while tasting maple syrup, from light amber to the darkest richness. We strolled across covered bridges, explored centuries-old cemeteries and photographed those irresistible white church steeples in the middle of every village.
Each day was packed with experiences, new and nostalgic alike. From the gleaming towers, rich history and cosmopolitan sophistication of Boston, we headed north to Portland, Maine, that evening’s destination. En route we hugged the coast of Massachusetts, New Hampshire (only 18 miles long!) and southern Maine, stopping in the Yorks — the “poor man’s Kennebunks” — to view the Nubble Lighthouse at Cape Neddick, off on its own island. Artists were painting, bikers biking and the birds were diving for lunch.
In Kennebunkeport, after viewing the Bush hideaway, we took time to poke around town. I headed to The Clam Shack for a quick fix — a small bowl of chowder thick with clams, watching fellow diners toss oysterette crackers to the screeching gulls and patient ducks. In one shop, I was captivated by an elegant kaleidoscope that turned the world into a sea of melting aquamarines, amethysts and rubies.
In Portland, a free night on our own led us to a $13 dinner I’d been craving all day — a whole sweet lobster, steamed clams and corn — eaten overlooking the water, lit by a harvest moon.
To read more about my Fall Foliage trip with Great Train Escapes
Click here for Part 2.
Click here for Part 3.
Click here for Part 4.
For current trips, expect some variation from the itinerary detailed here.
For further information: contact Great Train Escapes at 888-544-RAIL.