Sunday, 1 August 2010

Scrapblogging: USA holiday

As I bit into the gigantic whoopie pie, the sweet, creamy frosting oozing out between the two slabs of rich chocolate cake, I finally accepted that, yes, I was on holiday in the United States of America. The United Cakes of America, more like. And if you can't scoff whoopie pies on holiday, when can you? Unless you live in the States, of course, and presumably you eat nothing else but whoopie pie given that it is probably the yummiest foodstuff ever to grace the face of the earth.

To clarify, I recently returned from a fabulous fortnight in the USA, where I spent a week in the state of Massachusetts, and another week in Ohio. This was no ordinary holiday, as I was accompanying a friend of mine as she embarked on a fact-finding mission about her incredible and dramatic family tree (but that's her story to tell). As a result of this adventure we didn't stay in hotels, but instead resided in two extremely welcoming all-American households, both connected to my friend's family history.

Although we were close to Boston during the first week, and not too far from the city of Cleveland in the second (I'll write a bit about Cleveland in a separate post), we were keen to explore as many non-touristy areas as possible...and to see whether our accents would cause any kind of stir in smalltown America (spoiler: they didn't). 

The Charles River in Boston
Sure, we did some normal sightseeing stuff like the Boston Duck Tour, Plymouth Rock, MIT & Harvard, a trip to Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the city's fantastic Museum of Art, but for the most part we explored the suburbs, hunted out independent diners and rummaged in secret shops. Since the pastime of scrapbooking is so popular in the USA, I thought I'd create a virtual version here as a memento of my favourite places that I visited. So here are some recommendations of places to go and things to see if you ever happen to find yourself in MA or OH:

The best bagels in the world? Nomably
Cape Cod Bagel Company, Falmouth, MA
Where I acquired the whoopie pie referred to above. However, as the name suggests, their main area of expertise is in the realm of bagels. They freshly bake every kind of bagel imaginable, and it's a great local spot for brekkie or lunch. No website but here are the details.

Kimball Farm
Kimball Farm, MA 
Back in 1939 the Kimball farming family had a lightbulb moment and decided to turn their woodshed into an ice cream parlour. Over the years word spread about Kimball's until they eventually stopped farming altogether to focus on the ice cream. It turned out to be a good decision, and today you could quite easily spend a whole day at Kimball Farm playing crazy golf, pitching and putting, shopping in their cute country store and filling your bellies at the seafood shack. But a visit wouldn't be complete without sampling the ice cream. A word of warning: the portions are HUGE. A 'small' tub consisted of three massive scoops and, much like everything in the States, the 'kiddies' size was more than sufficient.

Outside Tiny's
Tiny's Restaurant, Ayer, MA 
Tiny's is perfect and embodied everything that I wanted to experience on this trip. It's a roadside restaurant which is well off the beaten track tourist-wise but really well known in the community. I inhaled a delicious bowl of clam chowder followed by a tasty lobster roll. You can't get more Massachusetts than that.

Goodwill, Shaker Square, OH
A very stylish colleague of mine asked me upon my return to work whether I'd managed to shop in a Goodwill store, and unbelievably (and quite accidentally) I had! We stumbled across this gem of a place in Shaker Square; a lovely area of Cleveland packed with cafes, galleries and a gorgeous cinema. Goodwill's is basically a charity shop, but on a much larger scale. They sell an endless array of things, including some high-end clothing labels if you're prepared to rummage (which we very most certainly were); my friend bought three things for a mere $12, and I picked up a top for $2.

Tommy's in Coventry

Tommy's Restaurant, Coventry, OH
Coventry is a quirky "village" just outside Cleveland, which is where all the hippies used to hang out back in the 60s and 70s (and we should know since we were staying with two of them!). Coventry is very proud of its liberal heritage, as demonstrated by the psychedelic street signs and street benches depicting various peace/love-related symbols. The heart and soul of Coventry is Tommy's, a permanently-packed restaurant which arguably serves the best milkshakes in the world. Their chocolate peanut butter malt blew my mind despite the fact that I'm not even that keen on peanut butter. Seriously, it has to be tried to be believed.

Munching corn at Taste of Tremont
Taste of Tremont street festival, OH
We were lucky enough to be in the environs of Cleveland to coincide with the annual Taste of Tremont festival. Tremont is an arty little neighbourhood renowned for its restaurants, and every year in July all of the local eateries set up stalls on the streets and sell their delicious nosh at knock-down prices. It was loads of fun. I ate too much. I also shopped in a great Tremont boutique called Banyan Tree.

How 'diner' can you get?
Silver Spartan Diner, University Circle, Cleveland, OH
This was probably the most 'dinery' of diners we found on our travels. Located in Cleveland's university and cultural district, Silver Spartan is so retro and American that it's almost a parody of itself (check out this video for evidence). The food was classic diner fare but sadly we didn't get to sample the shakes, which are meant to be pretty good (though surely not as good as Tommy's).