Clayton Murals

Do you need a vacation location this summer? Are you planning on trips closer to home? If you live in the Northeast one option is a visit to the Thousand Islands area of New York. One beautiful town right on the St. Lawrence River is Clayton, NY.

Besides a really nice walkway along the river in town, this town has some interesting murals to view. Below are the ones I found.

A modern ship mural by Kelly Curry.
Back in the day the railroads brought many tourists up to Clayton. This was a long mural close to another building so I had to take photos in sections. Mural by Kelly Curry.
Picture two- Kelly Curry Mural
Picture 3 Kelly Curry Mural

The back of the same building.
Another modern ship by Kelly Curry

By the end of June, Clayton was in phase four ahead of areas in New York City, the Hudson Valley , and Long Island in opening up. Museums were about to open in the area in June. Most places are open for business including boat tours.

If you visit the Thousand Islands or plan to take a tour or fishing boat out of Clayton, wander around the town. They have wonderful shops, nice restaurants, a walkway on the river, and beautiful murals depicted the area.

#ClaytonNewYork #streetart #murals #ThousandIslands #NewYork

Bryant Park in Winter

Where can you skate for free in NYC if you bring your own skates? What rink has a holiday market around it? Which rink has several food choices close by? Bryant Park in Manhattan has all of these.

Bryant Park borders 42nd Street and 41st Street behind the main branch of the NYC Public Library. It is about two blocks from Grand Central Station. Between Thanksgiving and the beginning of January the park also hosts a Holiday Market. There are a booths outside carrying a variety of items from clothing to food and gifts.

Yes, if you bring your own skates it is free. They have a changing area. Skating starts early in the morning. There is food available in the lodge, an indoor area near the rink. There is also a Whole Foods across one of the streets it borders and other restaurants and shopping nearby. There are also permanent food kiosks in the park.

Bryant Park- behind the fountain is the ice skating rink. The park is behind the main branch if the NY Public Library. You can see some of the vendor booths for the Holiday Market on the left.
The fountain in the park
The Zamboni smoothing the ice on the rink. The rink clears for about 15 minutes when it is time to resurface the ice.

It is a rink with some nice views of Midtown Manhattan. It does not get the crowds that the rink at Rockefeller Center gets. I recommend this rink over the others because of that and the close proximity to food and shopping.

One of the permanent food kiosks at the park.

Whether you ice skate or not, it is worth visiting Bryant Park in winter. Watch the action or catch a bite to eat and enjoy the scenery of Midtown Manhattan.

Lobster Trap Christmas Trees

Many towns put up a large Christmas tree somewhere central and have a tree lighting to mark the start of the Christmas season. Some towns in New England have a tree lighting, but the tree may not be pine or spruce. These trees are made of lobster traps in homage to the local fishermen.

Plymouth, Massachusetts

Plymouth started their lobster trap tree tradition in 2013. This one is on the town wharf.

Gloucester, Massachusetts

Some say Gloucester started the lobster trap Christmas tree tradition. They have the oldest tradition in New England. Their tree is stacked with 350 lobster traps. The tree has buoys hand painted by local youth.

Newport, Rhode Island

This tree is next to the harbor. It had buoys, lights and garland.

More New England towns are starting to put these up instead of traditional Christmas trees. There are others in Maine and elsewhere. If you are in New England in December, see which towns nearby have one. These towns put a local flair to Christmas.

Beauport Hotel

What hotel near Boston has a lot of Christmas spirit? Are you looking to plan a trip to the Boston area or North Shore in December? I highly recommend the Beauport Hotel in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

Downstairs near the front entrance
Another tree in the lobby area outside the bar.
The tree near the fireplace in the bar area.

The Beauport has a nice location. Its on the beach in Gloucester. Its a short drive to Rockport, an artsy town on the sea. Marvelous sunrises and sunsets are to be had in their rooms facing the water. It is really a great location all year long.

The Beauport had numerous holiday displays. They had multiple Christmas trees up stairs and down. The seating around the two fireplaces, one in the bar area and one outside the restaurant is grand. The mantles are decorated beautifully for the season.

Nautical theme- trees in a boat
It was hard to capture these fireplaces. They were popular sitting spots.

The Beauport is about the only gig in town on Christmas Day for food. I was told the only other option was Chinese. They had the choice between a four course meal or something off their menu. They were booked at the restaurant in advance, but no worries. I was able to order food at the bar which included the four course dinner if that is what you fancied.

The service at this hotel is top notch. They have doormen that will assist you. They have a van service. The drivers will take you to where you want to go locally for free. I used them twice since I messed up my foot prior to my trip and wanted to walk as little a possible. It also helped me get to know the area from a local before I tried to drive around and explore. You woke up Christmas morning to a large candy cane hanging on your door and they came around at night offering chocolates. They had a nice store within the hotel that was open even on Christmas selling snacks, lovely gift items, clothing, etc.

This trip was last minute so to speak. I am trying to finish some photo projects for a class. I may have booked the room a day or two in advance. What I paid was much less than their regular rates in the warmer months.

If you want a quiet vacation with lovely decor, great service, delicious food, and marvelous views, stay at the Beauport Hotel in Gloucester, Massachusetts. I highly recommend it.

Newport Doors

Where can you see some great doors leading up to Christmas? Head to Newport, Rhode Island. On the streets intersecting Thames Street in the historic waterfront area you will see some nice old houses and buildings. Some date back to the early 1700s.

Trinity Church

The doors are perfect paintings; a relief from the picture world I’ve created for myself. Gary Hume

I am partial to doors and windows. I enjoy seeing unique ones on my travels. Are you partial to doors?

Scituate Lighthouse

Are you looking for lighthouses that are readily accessible? Are you looking for one right on the ocean with nice views? Are you interested in one associated with an interesting story from history? One such lighthouse is the Old Scituate in Massachusetts (the c is silent in Scituate).

History

This lighthouse was built and activated in 1811. It has an interesting story behind it. During the War of 1812 the first lighthouse keeper, Captain Simeon Bates and his family lived at the house. During the war Scituate was attacked and some of its vessels were burned in the harbor. Months later while most of the family was away, two of the keeper’s children, Abigail and Rebecca saw two barges approach filled with red coats from a British warship. The girls sent their brother to warn the town and gathered a fife and drum. They hid behind some trees and made such a noise that they were mistaken for an entire regiment and the British made a quick retreat. The girls were credited with preventing the British from ransacking the town. The fife is said to be on display in the keeper’s house.

The keeper’s house is on the left of the lighthouse tower. I was standing on the beginning of the jetty for this shot. The harbor is the body of water on the left. The ocean is on the right.
Location

When I had trouble finding lighthouses to get up close to open one area north of Boston someone nicely recommended this one and ones nearby. Scituate is south of Boston on the South Shore. It is on Lighthouse Road on Cedar Point in the town of Scituate. The area around the lighthouse is mostly residential but nearby is the town. They have some nice restaurants and shops.

Accessiblity

The grounds around the lighthouse tower are accessible all year. It has a large parking lot which was quite empty on December 26th. You can walk around the lighthouse, but not on the property of the actual house where the keeper would have lived. Someone resides in there today and that part is not open to the public. The tower is open the few times a year they have open house. There is a stone wall you can climb which is a buffer between the house and the ocean. If someone has issues walking or is in a wheelchair they can take the path around the grounds. It is fairly flat.

You can faintly see two people on the jetty. The jetty is walkable, but I would not recommend walking it if you see water on it. That means waves are capable of going up on them. You can see a Christmas wreath hanging on the side.

There is a jetty going out from the lighthouse into the ocean. People can walk on that, but I do not recommend doing that when the waves spray up onto it.

It was windy and the waves were going over the jetty in places here.
This is Scituate Lighthouse from the other side of the harbor. As you can see, they decorate it for Christmas.

The story behind the lighthouse makes it interesting to me. Some say if you listen, you can hear a fife and drums playing in the waves. Regardless, it is one that is nice to look at and is accessible.

Newport Lighthouse

How easy is it to view New England lighthouses? I found it is not as easy to get a peak was you would think.

There are many reasons they are difficult to view. Some are on islands off shore. A few I tried to get near in Massachusetts or Rhode Island are on private land or rich people own the land with the best views of them. You have to get permission from the landowner or try to find a spot to view them from a distance. In one area of Massachusetts the roads were private in these areas of mega mansions. You were allowed to drive on some of those roads, but you were not allowed to park on them or walk in the parks in their neighborhood, which most likely gave you a good view of a certain lighthouse.

This lighthouse is on private land near Newport, Rhode Island and I asked permission to walk to it on an island. They allowed access starting around 7 a.m. That happened to be good timing sky and light wise.

This lighthouse was decorated for Christmas, which made it all the more special.

I am glad they do allow access to this one if you ask during certain hours but I wish more were accessible to view. If you get to Newport, Rhode Island, check this one out, but ask permission first.

Rockport New England Christmas

Most small towns have their Christmas celebrations in the weeks leading up to Christmas. With the exceptions of some church services, there is not much going on Christmas week in most small towns. I drove around Rockport on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and found out they were the exception.

I was surprised many businesses and restaurants were closed December 24th as I was traveling in Massachusetts. From locals that sounds typical. For many stores and restaurants in New York December 24th is important and they stay open at least part of the day. I found that some Rockport businesses were open on December 24th.

Santa arriving in the back of a vintage Chevy truck.

I also discovered that Santa arrives to visit the townspeople by the tree on Christmas morning. He arrives in vintage Chevy pick-up and passes out bags of fruit and candy to everyone. He even poses for a picture. I was told this is a favorite yearly tradition.

People in Rockport welcomed Santa on Christmas.
Santa gave out bags filled with fruit and candy.
Santa’s helper
People and their pets arrived in festive attire.
This dog has his own Instagram-Whatnorthseas. He is a very friendly border collie.

No businesses were open on Christmas as expected, except one, a coffee shop. The owner would not accept payment. Coffee, tea, and a pastry was free that morning while she was open. Many were leaving tips in the jar regardless.

The shop that had free coffee, tea and pastries. I believe this was Helmut’s Strudel.
Most painted building

Rockport is a wonderful little coastal town. It has many shops with a vibrant art community. One fishing stage in the harbor is said to be the most painted building in art classes in the United States.

It was fun walking and driving around town looking at holiday wreaths and decorations. Some used local plants or shells.

Many visit Rockport in summer. It is also a nice destination in winter, especially during Christmas.

French Christmas Market in NYC

New York City has several Holiday/ Christmas Markets that are currently running, but did you know this year there is one straight from France? It’s the Christmas Market of Strasbourg, Colmar and Mulhouse. This was the first year this market was held in the city.

Each stall was in a little chalet style hut.

This market was sponsored by the cities of Strasbourg, Colmar, and Mulhouse. The Alsatian tourist board set up the market that included 30 chalets brought over from the French region of Alsace. The city of Strasbourg actually holds the oldest Christmas market in France.

Location

This market was located in Bowling Green Park in front of the entrance to the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian in Lower Manhattan at Broadway and Whitehall Streets.

What Was Available

This market had a variety of foods and crafts from the Alsatian region of France. Unfortunately today was the last day. It ran from December 5-22nd. Drinks included mulled wine and other alcoholic drinks such as champagne. Other food items included jams, chocolates, pastries, chestnuts, soup, and tarte flambé among other things.

Some of the handcrafted items for sale. Other craft items included ornaments and pottery.
Jams- some of which I was told include the ingredients commonly found in fruit cakes.

Tarte flambé is an iconic Alsatian dish. It had a very thin crust with a mixture of cream and soft, smooth cheese. You could choose to have onions and bacon on it or cinnamon apples. This was wood fire grilled in an outdoor oven. Everyone who bought it seemed to be very pleased with this offering. This booth had a long line.

Tarte flambé with cinnamon and apples.

Santa was available in a tent. Most of the people I saw posing with him were adults. Most of the items in the market were geared towards adults, however, I did see some families with children who seemed to be able to go outside the box on food choices.

Posing with a French Santa , Father Christmas or Papa Noel

They did have a seating area near where the alcoholic drinks were served with tables.

Payment

This market only accepted credit cards. That was a disappointment for me as I like to pay cash. I feel others need to be aware of that.

This market was a nice way to have access to another culture and its offerings. It was a good way to experience a European Christmas market on a small scale. Let’s hope this one returns or another region from Europe brings in their own products and experiences next year. For those of us who have always wanted to experience the European Christmas markets, but are unable to go, this was a nice introduction.

People of New York- Holiday Spirit

The residents of New York get the reputation of being rude. Are they all Grinches at Christmas time? I saw plenty of locals in the holiday spirit.

This couple sells Christmas trees on 8th Avenue. They are from London, England, but now call New York home.
This is part of their stand on 8th Avenue.
This is the doorman at the Playwright Tavern- a pub on 49th Street. They have a great vegetable curry. He is a very friendly chap. I had a nice conversation with him and plan to return. Incidentally this pub has four TVs playing different games. If you are visiting NY and want to catch your game, this may be the right spot.
This fellow is an actor on a tour bus. The tour is called The Ride. It is an interactive tour.
This gentlemen I caught near Rockefeller Center. He was full of holiday cheer. He has lived in Manhattan most of his life.

Sometimes New Yorkers get a bad wrap. Manhattan is one of the best places to get some holiday spirit and the locals contribute to that.