Greetings from Berwick ME!  I am sitting in the lovely sunroom of friends Chris and Linda Hanson. This is the last leg of a month-long journey that took me to a 50-year high school reunion near Milwaukee WI, and visiting friends and family across the state. Finally after a 3-hour layover in Charlotte NC, our plane landed at Logan Airport in Boston where I was headed for a reunion in Maine with friends I’ve known 50-plus years.

Hanson sunroom

Earlier at 3:45 AM, my dear friend Gretchen drove me to the airport, though I could have hired a Lyft driver. But Gretchen was firm—Lyft would have been too costly. The day before, I spent my last day in western Wisconsin with Gretchen’s daughter Teddy, who drove me to downtown Hudson, where we sat by the Hudson River people and boat watching.

When waiting at the American Airlines gate at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport, Saturday morning, I noted the ease of checking in through security—only five minutes, compared to an hour’s wait at Seatac—perhaps because I arrived at MSP at 4:30 AM? I was surprised to visit the airport’s roomy, award-winning bathrooms—floored and walled in quartz with alcoves for purses and suitcases. So much nicer than the typical cubicles where it’s a challenge to wedge the suitcase in and latch the door.

On my flight to New England, I was the first to arrive. Chris picked me up, and Linda drove to Logan separately for our remaining three friends who flew in from Nevada and California. Hurricane Hilary was brewing and delayed friend Bridget’s flight.

Traffic congestion that late Saturday afternoon was thick and we were caught in gridlock in the Ted Williams Tunnel, named for legendary Boston Red Sox outfielder Ted Williams. The tunnel is part of Boston’s $24.3 billion ‘Big Dig’, involving steel and concrete sections of freeway partly submerged underwater beneath the city of Boston.

When traffic finally thinned, Chris suggested we eat in Newburyport MA, an historic seaport town popular with tourists. I Googled Thai restaurants and found Brown Sugar by the Sea, located in an upscale former tannery on Water Street with views of the Merrimack River mouth before it flows into the Atlantic.

Looking out over the garden planted with hydrangeas and purple coneflowers, framed by the Merrimack, we enjoyed our meals made with delicious fresh ingredients. Later that evening, Linda arrived with Patty, Bridget and Carolyn, and we exchanged gifts. Patty had asked her daughter-in-law Robin to design T-shirts celebrating our reunion. The last time we were all together was in 2017 for Patty’s son’s Ryan’s wedding to Robin.

Wearing friends’ reunion T-shirts gifted to us by Patty, are from left, Kate, Linda, Carolyn, Bridget and Patty
Golden champagne bottle, and in pink: Celebrating Friends, Berwick Maine
Patty gifted us girls with friends reunion T-Shirts. Chris was given a shirt printed with “Cabana Boy.” He helped make the reuinion memorable by driving us all around and keeping the pool sparkling and swimmable. He is an admirable dry humorist.

The following day we drove out to pick up farmstead corn on the cob, berries, plus fresh lobster from Off the Boat Lobster in York, and steaks from Carl’s Meat Market in nearby Kittery ME.

We arrived home to find the Hansons’ daughter Katie and husband Henrik had arrived with their three daughters, including a newborn, born July 4th. Also joining us were Kyle Hanson, Katie’s younger brother from Vermont, and Linda’s brother Rick Van Hoorn and his wife Rene from near Santa Barbara. I’ve known Linda and Rick since I was five years old, when my family moved across from hers on Navajo Trail, in Buffalo Grove, IL.

Kyle, with chef experience from Sonoma County CA, where he once lived, prepared the steaks for grilling, the already cooked lobster was shelled, and Patty and I shucked the just picked corn on the cob with Rick. The boys prepared the food, and played in the water with the kids. I played with Katie’s young daughters, all three of us built a fairy world from the flat stones, crystals and mica-studded rocks in the garden that Linda created for them. How fun to imagine rainbow-haired fairies and dragonflies taking them to a party that night. The following morning we learned the fairies had visited. Little trinkets were left behind to greet the little girls next time they visit.

Rick shells lobster for family and friends feast at his sister Linda and husband Chris Hanson’s gracious home

We feasted outdoors framed by tall evergreens and oaks. Birds flew through the garden. All in all, a festive, fun evening.

The following morning we rose early for a day trip to Boston. First, we all met at the Roundabout Diner & Lounge in nearby Portsmouth NH. It’s map-lined booths are impressive. Joline our server achieved outstanding balancing skills negotiating tables with a huge tray of plates held on one hand high above her head. Great breakfast to send us on our way. We said our goodbyes to Katie, Henrik and their family, as well as Kyle, and drove to downtown Boston, where we had an appointment for a tour of historic Boston.

Great breakfast served by Joline–who took the photo– at the Roundabout Diner in Portsmouth NH
Roundabout Diner’s own maple syrup

Boston Duck Tours is a privately owned company with a fleet of 28 vehicles, built to resemble amphibious DUKWs, used in WWII and the Korean wars.

The hour-plus tour aboard our vehicle, the Nadia, featured a pair of ConDucktors—Coast Guard certified sea captains, one who drove and one who carried on a steady repartee citing Boston history, current facts, and miscellaneous comments. Before driving into the Charles River, our six-wheeled tour took us through Boston, with our guide instructing those on board to say “Quack quack,” when he said, “Taxi.” We quacked greetings to other Ducks we saw as we drove around the city. Rick and Rene joined us for the tour.

Playing real good is a sax player who stood outside our green Boston Duck Tour vehicle, the Nadia.
Our group of 8 aboard the Nadia while we get set to take a Boston Duck Tour. Photo taken by a Duck passenger

The tour includes these sites. Highlights are:

  • 5 people were killed in the Boston Massacre on King Street in March 1770.
  • A Giant Steaming Teakettle is a reminder from the 1870s, first posted outside the Oriental Tea Company, and now a Starbucks.
  • John Smith, an English explorer, who was saved by Pocahontas from execution, was the first to map Boston. Later, the Pilgrims used his map when building the city.
  • Boston is home to the original Parker House Rolls and Boston cream pies.
  • Paul Revere, a folk hero, known for his famous 1775 midnight ride alerting the Boston townsfolk that “The British are coming!” — was buried in 1818 between his two wives at the Granary Burial Ground. Our group visited this historic landmark later as we walked around the city.
  • Boston’s underground subway was built between 1895-1897. To learn more, watch PBS’s The Race Underground.
  • Boston is a young city, comprised mostly of college students. Nearby famous colleges and universities include: Harvard, Yale, MIT, Emerson College, Berklee College of Music, Tufts University, Boston Architectural College, Brandeis University, Wellesley College, and New England Conservatory of Music.
  • Fenway Park was built in 1912. It is the home of the Boston Red Sox.
  • Trinity Church, stands on 4,500 wood pilings, which are kept moist to avoid drying out. The Episcopalian Church was built in the 1880s.
  • The Paget family built the nation’s first botanical garden in 1877 with ponds that now float swan boats.
  • Healthcare is available to everyone who lives in the state of Massachusetts.
  • Beacon Hill is an über wealthy neighborhood whose street is lined with gas lamps that must remain lit always, otherwise they cannot be relit.
  • Boston is the state’s capital and its building The Massachusetts State House, built in 1877, features a dome covered in 23 carat gold. It appears in the 1989 film Glory.
  • Boston was once the center of a thriving molasses trade. It was sent to Great Britain as liquified sugar in exchange for munitions and alcohol.
  • Humpback whales are seen in the nearby Atlantic, typically from May through October. They spend winters in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
  • The The Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge, part of Boston’s Big Dig, which built underwater freeways, is one of the world’s widest cable-stayed bridges.
  • The 80-mile-long Charles River is exceptionally clean and is used strictly for recreation. It uses a series of locks which permit entry into the Atlantic.
23 carat gold Massachusettes State House Capitol built in 1877

Hot and sticky from our tour in the August summer sun, we walked over to the Quincy Market. Inside the historic building are international food and bling stores. I ordered a raspberry strawberry smoothie, and cooled in the shade on a wall outside of the historic building by the Salty Dog Square.

Quincy Market, Boston

We took a walk to see Paul Revere’s statue and visited the Granary Burial Ground. After four miles of walking, we returned to our cars, said adios to Rick and Rene, who were spending the next two days in Boston, and headed for dinner.

Walking toward the Granary Burial Ground, where famous historic Bostonians are buried, including Paul Revere, along with participants of the 1773 Boston Tea Party

We enjoyed fresh delicious meals at Loretta in Newburyport MA. Ted Epstein, its friendly owner, greets guests outside and walks around the tables visiting. The restaurant is named for his beautiful mother. He joked that friends teased him when he was a teen, wondering how someone with a mug like his, could have a mother as beautiful as Loretta. Later as we thanked Ted on our way out, we complimented him on running a tiptop friendly place with great staff.

Ted Epstein, owner of Loretta on State St., Newburyport MA
Customer beneath Loretta, a Newburyport Restaurant named for the owner’s beautiful mother

The next morning, Chris drove us to nearby Rollinsford NH, where we visited a former 1848  textile mill, which once ran its sewing machines from the nearby Salmon Falls River. Home to residents and artists now, we chatted with Carrie Armstrong Ellis, a children’s book illustrator. Downstairs we met a Hungarian gentleman, who runs a clothing business with his wife, Bling Bling Artwear. Its unique clothing collection can be found at various shows.

Bridget at Textile factory in Somersworth along Salmon Falls River, 1880s
Purple Loosestrife grows wild along rural roadways.

We arrived home to have some lunch, and then headed for the super popular Old Orchard Beach, established in 1883. Folks swam in the Atlantic. Patty and Linda took a dip. Patty and Bridget braved the Sea Viper Roller Coaster, which ascends 70 feet  and speeds up to 42 mph on 1500 feet of track. It is the first of its kind in the United States.

Linda and Patty in the Atlantic at Old Orchard Beach ME

Suddenly filled with the power of too many people, I took myself for a walk away from the crowd’s throng. I needed help from my friends to navigate back to the car. Later we enjoyed Sunday’s leftovers, along with farmstead tomatoes and green beans.

I leave to fly home Aug. 24. We will visit Salem before my flight. Stay tuned for that adventure.

Bridget relaxes poolside after a swim
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