More New England Fall

After a month in Hull, we continued north; yep, even further north for October. No we’re not crazy! We’ve driven through Maine on many occasions but we think it should be spectacular with all the fall color and hopefully, we’ll be out of there before the first snow falls! The drive along the ocean as we entered Salem was gorgeous even on a gloomy day. We had hoped to visit the Essex Museum but as luck would have it we were there on a Monday and the museum was closed.  The Salem Witchcraft Memorials were far more moving than I had expected.  They have a memorial to each person who died after being convicted of witchcraft.  I hadn’t realized that there were men among them and I also I didn’t know that they weren’t all hanged but that some were pressed to their death.

 

I continue to be fascinated by the age of buildings.  True, it’s not old by European standards but it is given how young our country is.

 

The tags on many of the homes indicate the pride locals feel in owning a bit of history. It’s not a long drive from Boston to Portland and even stopping along the way, we arrived at our new residence by late afternoon.  Kathryn, our host, greeted and gave us a tour of how everything worked. She lives in the front half of the house and we have the rear apartment.

 

It has a great outdoor area and is conveniently located right in the city.  Portland’s population is only a bit over 65,000 but it lives far larger than that and we were pleased to be close to shopping and restaurants.   We usually spend our first day getting settled, unpacked and some basic groceries in.  Then we head out to dinner. We had been told by many that Portland is known for their great restaurants and boy, were they right!  Kathryn had suggested DeMillos in downtown Portland.  Wow!  What a great introduction to Portland!  Right on the water and a great menu of Maine seafood.  We could even feel the slight sway of the boat on the waves. Seafood, be it lobster, clams or crab is ubiquitious! My favorite throughout our stay was the lobster salad.  I must have had it in at least half a dozen locations as well as at home.  What a shock it’s going to be when we leave the coast.

 

When I think of Maine, rocky coasts, light houses and lobsters come to mind. And with good reason, all three are everywhere. The iconic Portland Light was at the top of our sights to see.  About a fifteen minute drive from our apartment we found Fort Williams Park.  And the lighthouse looks just exactly like it I expected.  Even though it’s early October the weather was comfortable and we we didn’t have all the mobs of people that I’m sure are here in the summer.

 

The shoreline drives both south and north of Portland are lovely.  We particularly enjoyed Two Lights State Park.  This park is popular with Maine residents.  There are lots of benches; a great place to read a book or just sit and reflect. And nearby we found a fabulous hole-in-the-wall restaurant, Fisherman’s Catch.  20181009_154329_HDRhttps://www.fishermanscatchwells.com/  Like so many other places along the eastern seaboard, they were just getting ready to close for the season but the day that we were there it was in the 70’s and felt more like a summer than a fall day.  I think I may have mentioned previously in this blog that Rachel Carson grew up in the same small Western Pennsylvania town as my husband’s family.  In fact, Rachel’s mother was a good friend of Bob’s grandmother.  That said, we obviously are very interested in Ms. Carson’s research and try to visit all things Rachel when we come upon them. When we saw the Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge was nearby we knew we had to visit. Starting in 1952 Ms. Carson spent many of her summers in Maine studying the beaches and the tidal pools. The refuge consists of a small building providing visitors with a brief history of the area along with biographical facts about Ms. Carson.  There are numerous trails that lead out from there.

 

Acadia National Park is about a 3 hour drive north.  This is one of our very favorite national parks but we’d only been there in the summer. The drive up was a bit drizzley and we weren’t sure we had made a good decision but it turned out to be a perfect day. The rain ended by the time we entered the park and the overcast skies made for some great pictures.  Even though we knew it was going to be beautiful in the fall, we still were amazed by the blazes of fall colors and the less crowded shorelines.

 

We love Thunder Hole where at high tide the water often rushes in and out with a thundering sound so we were a bit disappointed when it wasn’t “thundering” while we were there.  Because of the distance from Portland to Acadia we decided to spend the night in Bar Harbor and the next morning we returned to the park, but still no thunder. Guess we’re lucky to have heard it when we first visited with the kids so many years ago.

 

Closer to our Portland home was Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in Gloucester. This is the last active Shaker village. Its meeting house was built in 1794.  And at its height it had more than 200 members.  A museum was established in 1931 with the goal of educating the public about Shaker beliefs. In the museum we saw examples of their woodenware, their tools, as well as descriptions and photos helping us understand the Shaker lifestyle.  We also met a woodworker who was carving little figures that would sell in the gift shop. We had noticed highland cattle, what were called “Hairy-coos” in Scotland, and the woodworker shared a lot of information about the farm and its history. The “Hairy-coos” we later learned, thrive in harsh Maine winters and are being raised in increasing numbers because of their healthy meat which has less fat than traditional beef and less cholesterol than a chicken.

 

We never tire of Maine’s shoreline so we also made additional trips along the coast to visit small fishing villages.

 

Again, we found that while we were on the tail end of summer, many sights were still open…just without the crowds.  Kennebunk and Kennebunkport are lively places just because they were the summer homes of the senior Bushes.   What a gorgeous location!IMG_0258

Within the city of Portland there’s lots to see and do as well.  We had heard about the Portland Whaling Wall which is a 950 foot mural painted (I believe spray painted) on the side of the Maine State Pier.

 

The mural was done in 1993  by Robert Wyland as one of 17 marine murals he completed in 17 cities on the east coast in 17 weeks.  Later he went on to complete 100 murals in 79 cities in 13 countries around the world!  Really impressive!

We also got tickets for the Portland Symphony.  Isn’t it wonderful a city of 66,000 has its own symphony? They were playing Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in D major the night we were there! Wow!  A message included with our tickets suggested we arrive early to see the beautiful architecture of the building!

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Not only does Portland have its own symphony but it also has a wonderful museum of art that dates back to 1882.  I particularly wanted to visit the exhibits of NC Wyeth (father of Andrew Wyeth), Frederick Remington and Maine’s own, Winslow Homer. But it was the art of Ashley Bryan that most interested me.  I knew Bryan best as an illustrator and writer of children’s books. The ones I knew are based on African folklore and proverbs.  Bryan was born in 1923 and after serving in a segregated US Army during World War II he settled in Maine not far from Acadia National Park. He is also a sculptor and much of his work is created from “things cast off.”  It’s his puppets that I love most.

 

Not far from the Portland Museum of Art, we found the Wadsworth Longfellow House and Garden. This was the boyhood home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  It was built for his mother’s parents in 1786. The last person to live there was Henry’s sister who stayed there until her death in 1901. And what a good caretaker of the home she was.  Because the home is small we waited in the gift shop (where else?) until our group could enter. We particularly enjoyed the little “behavior reminders” posted throughout the home.

Once in, a docent gave us a brief history and then we were allowed to go on our own self-guided tour.  In each room there was another guide who would provide us with details about what we were looking at as well as answer any questions. Bob and I aren’t big on touring homes where the furniture is replicas of the original, but here we were looking at authenticity:  the actual desk where Longfellow wrote as a child, his rocking horse, his favorite portrait. We were looking at the real thing.

 

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, an interesting challenge we have monthly is getting our hair cut.  I often go to Yelp for some help and it’s usually a good resource.  But this time it led us to a most unusual experience.  When I began to hunt for barbershops for Bob, one jumped out at me, Forest Avenue Barbershop.  Not only did they have great reviews they also have gorgeous golden retrievers in their shop.  Definitely the barbershop for us!  What a great choice!  The dogs greeted us; they are extremely well-behaved.  Both the barbers are very friendly.  It turned out to be the most inexpensive haircut and beard trim Bob’s had in four years AND it was also the best.  This is definitely a place to return before leaving Portland!  Thank you Yelp!

 

Periodically, our host would stop by and share some warm apple bars out of the oven or drop off some fresh flowers for the table. The night before we left, she invited us to dinner.  Just one more reason why we enjoy staying at Airbnb’s.  We get to meet such nice folks who also share with us interesting stories as well as suggest places to see in the area. Maine has been a really fun stay.  And while we have  enjoyed Portland, the city,  it’s also been a good base for exploring surrounding areas.

More interesting signs we’ve enjoyed in Maine:

Return to Massachusetts

A little more than a year ago we visited Boston for a month.  We didn’t stay right in the city but rather in a beach town on the south shore and close to the train that could get us into downtown Boston in 40 minutes.  We loved it so much that when we were thinking about destinations for our 2018 trek across the US and back we decided we wanted to return but this time our plan was to spend more time visiting sights outside the city.  We were thrilled we were able to rent the same Airbnb in Hull.

Hull is located on the tip of the Nantasket Peninsula which sticks out into Boston Harbor. Plymouth Colony first established Hull as a trading post in 1621.  Today a big draw is Nantasket Beach which is reportedly one of the nicest beaches in New England. We arrived on Labor Day weekend when the summer population balloons far beyond the 10,000 people who regularly reside here.  But just a few days later it turned into a much quieter, and to our way of thinking, nicer community.

One of our first stops was the Hull Public Library, and my initial experience wasn’t very pleasant.  I was told abruptly by the clerk that no, as a visitor to the area I could not get a library card.  This seemed odd to me so I sent a note to the contact on their website and quickly got an apologetic response saying of course I could use their library. When we went back in, not only did I get a library card but Ann, the person in charge, gave us a lovely tour of the building describing the building’s history which dates back to the middle 1800’s. IMG_0266The home’s original owner, John Boyle O’Reilly, was born in Ireland but later moved to England. He had been a member of the Fenian Revolutionary Army and when he was found out, he was convicted, and served in several prisons. Eventually he was sent to Australia where he somehow managed to get on a ship and escape to the US.  He arrived in Boston and became the editor of The Pilot advocating the rights of the working man and African Americans.  This home was the O’Reilly family summer residence until he died in 1890.  It was purchased in 1913 by the town to use as the library.  Fascinating…the things we learn by random connections with locals!

We continue to be amazed by how immersed we are in history.  Driving out to Hull from Boston we drove through various towns one indistinguishable from the next.  One afternoon we were coming home from the supermarket in heavy traffic passing business after business on both sides of the street when in among all this twenty-first century chaos, we were astounded to see a small sign indicating Abigail Adam’s birthplace.  Wow! We learned the building is presently in its third location and find ourselves wondering how long until it’s moved again!20180913_170351

We wanted to venture out to Cape Cod again having enjoyed previous trips to Provincetown. We finally decided on Sandwich, situated right at the entrance to the Cape making it a shorter drive (in what is usually very heavy traffic). We were also fascinated by the fact that Sandwich is the oldest town on the Cape and also the home of the oldest continuous Quaker Meeting in the country.  In Massachusetts, we’ve found several sights that boast being “the oldest continuous…” including schools and churches of various denominations.

20180907_125444_HDRDowntown Sandwich is lovely. We decided to stop at Beth’s Bakery and Cafe for a quick lunch.  Great choice! check it out! https://bethsbakery.net  I chose the haddock chowder with a lobster salad!  (Can you tell I just cannot get enough of the east coast seafood?) We continue to be fascinated the way New Englanders use crushed shells as a ground cover in much the way midwesterners use wood chips!

Glass making was a big thing in Sandwich until the Civil War, and so we decided to visit the Sandwich Glass Museum.  After a short video explaining the history of glass blowing in the area, we watched a demonstration.  The museum had two particularly interesting visiting exhibits.  The first was from The MIT Glass Lab…we had no idea MIT has a glass lab dating back more than 40 years.  They also had a special exhibit of Christopher Belleau’s.  His work reminds me a lot of Chihuly.

We were thrilled that our youngest son, Patrick and his friend came to visit for a long weekend.  While they were walking the Freedom Trail, Bob and I decided to return to the Boston Public Gardens.  We couldn’t have chosen a better day to be there…75 degrees and sunny and unlike our previous visit, this time everything was in full bloom!

Breathtaking! Later we met up with them for dinner at the Union Oyster House!  20180914_190944Yum!  We had a long wait for a table but were entertained by the guy who while serving as bartender, was also shucking oysters.  He said he could do about 60 an hour.  He went on to say he’d been doing it for more than 20 years…calculate that: 60 an hour for 8 hours times 5 days a week times 50 weeks a year times 20 years!  UNBELIEVABLE!

On Monday morning as we drove the boys back to Logan, we decided to stop and get a glimpse of John and Abigail Adams’ retirement home in Quincy.  John Adams named the estate, “Peacefield” remembering the Peace he helped negotiate in 1783.  We knew we wouldn’t have time for the whole tour, but I particularly wanted to see the beautiful Adam’s library building and the garden.  When I explained to the park ranger that I knew we had to be part of a tour to enter the buildings but could we just wander through the garden. He not only said yes, but proceeded to let us into the library where he gave us a bit of history of the building. Here we were standing in the same room where John Adams read and wrote; looking at all of his books!  One  John Adams quote stands out to me: “Posterity!” he wrote, “You will never know how much it cost the present Generation, to preserve your Freedom.  I hope you will make good Use of it.”

On our train trip into Boston, Bob struck up a conversation with a man who asked if we’d visited Hingham. And while the town was right next door to Hull, and we’d driven through it routinely, we’d never stopped to explore. So we added it to our list.  We began at the Historical Society which is housed in what was the original Derby Academy Building, the first New England co-educational school established in 1791 and still in existence (although in a different location).  The docent at the Society shared much of the town’s history and explained that Hingham is known as “Bucket Town.” During the 1700’s and 1800’s the boxes, buckets and other woodenware that were made here were known throughout the country.  She explained there was a museum upstairs (in what had been the school) that would explain the town’s history in greater detail. When I suggested that they were closing soon and perhaps we should come back the next day, she dismissed that idea and told us to go ahead and explore!  Again, I am stunned at the thoughtfulness of the people we meet; the librarian, the Ranger, now the docent. Upstairs we saw a plaque on the wall explaining that the Lincoln family were all related.  Samuel Lincoln was born in Hingham,  England, and was the 4th great grandfather of Abraham Lincoln.  Now I understood the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the city center!

As we were leaving we asked what else we should visit in Hingham and both she as well as another woman, suggested, “The Ordinary.”  Hmmm… we later learned that “ordinary” was a term during Colonial America that indicated a tavern that served a complete meal at a fixed price.  Another interesting fact learned!

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The Old Ordinary

The Old Ordinary turned out to be a fascinating place particularly because of Ellen, our guide.  At one time, distant relatives of Ellen’s called the Old Ordinary home.  After spending so much of our time in New England learning about the Patriots we were surprised to learn this house had been built in1688 by Thomas Andrews, a Loyalist, for his son Thomas. In the days of the Revolution, the house was owned by the Barker family and legend has it that the two paintings of the owners hanging on the front room wall both had knife marks in them suggesting the frustration the Colonists felt when they realized the owners had managed to escape.

The garden was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1906 as a wedding present for the Reverand Cornish  and his wife who were then owners of the Old Ordinary. Olmstead was famous for many gardens including:  the Biltmore Gardens in Ashville NC, the Jackson Park Gardens in Chicago, Central Park in New York City, and the grounds around the US Capitol; the list goes on and on! IMG_0107Inside the house were authentic pieces, not replicas, of many interesting items including a leather fire bucket. We learned that firebuckets had family names on them so that after dousing a fire the buckets could find their way back to their rightful owners.  We also found out that because all commerce was regulated by the English and materials imported directly from them,  fabrics, at this time in history, were among a family’s dearest possessions, in many cases worth more than the furniture.

IMG_0276We spent a day in Plymouth.  We had visited Plymouth Rock on previous occasions and were underwhelmed, but we learned that the Pilgrim Hall Museum was built in 1824 and is the longest continuous operating museum in America.  (There’s that term again!) It was interesting and we liked that it wasn’t huge.  Lots of Pilgrim artifacts…some that actually came over on the Mayflower and lots of information about the Native Americans in the area.  We also visited the Brewster Gardens.  They date from the 1920’s and contain several pretty sculptures.  My favorite was the stainless steel sculpture, “Immigration” honoring settlers from 1700 – 2000.

We also visited Scituate which we remembered hearing was hard hit by a nor’easter that literally had waves washing over many of the houses.  Looking at the houses lining the sea we understood how that could happen.  Here we also saw the Scituate Lighthouse that was built in 1810 for the sum of $ 4000.  During the War of 1812, two young girls, daughters of the light keeper, who was away at the time, are credited with saving the community by playing their fifes when they heard British troops approaching.  The British troops thought it indicated a whole regiment of Colonial troops and quickly retreated.

I didn’t realize how many tidbits of history I have learned from literature, Longfellow in particular.  This had been the case when Evangeline has led us to Grand Pre in Nova Scotia. Now it was happening again in Lexington.  Lexington, we knew was the beginning of the Revolutionary War so Bob suggested the Lexington Green would be a good place to start exploring of the area.

There we met a volunteer dressed in his Colonial finest who explained the happenings of the morning of April 19, 1775, how when Paul Revere and William Dawes had learned the British were going to Concord with the intent to destroy weapons, they rode to alert the countryside.

Later in the Concord Museum we saw one of the two lanterns that hung in the Old North Church.  (We were also told that the picture on the Sam Adams beer bottle is really Paul Revere because he was better looking!  Interesting!)

What we didn’t know was that Revere had been captured…and later released.  (Ah… Longfellow didn’t tell us that! ) As we stood on the green we could look at the actual house where Samuel Adams and John Hancock spent the night of April 18.  IMG_0214On this green on the morning of April 19, 73 Patriots faced nearly 800 British troops  The guide went on to explain that while the Colonists’ battle on the green was lost, they won the remainder of the battles that day. We went on to Minute Man National Historic Park in Concord, where we walked across the North Bridge and the spot where the “the shot heard round the world” was fired.  And where it all began.

Concord had another draw for me.  I am fascinated by the Transcendentalists of the early 1800’s. They included: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bronson Alcott (and his famous daughter Louisa May), Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau (whose name rhymes with “furrow” we learned) and my favorites: the Peabody sisters: Eliza, Mary and Sophia. Concord was the center of the movement.

As we walked the streets and grounds of their homes we could almost hear their converstations. Orchard House was the home of the Alcotts and Bronson’s progressive school. Amos Bronson Alcott is among my favorite people from history. His school stands behind the house. He was influenced by Peztalozzi. His assistant, Eliza Peabody, is credited with creating the first kindergartens in the United States.   He treated his students like adults and abhorred corporal punishment; his school was based on the Socratic Method and he stood strong behind his ideals believing that all students, boys and girls, Black and White should be educated. When he admitted an African American student to his school, he wouldn’t back down even as parents complained. He counted among his many students, Emma Lazarus (who wrote The New Colassus engraved on the base of the statue of liberty). We found the folks at Orchard House to be very helpful sharing with us many interesting facts about the Transcendentalists and offering suggestions about other things to see in the area.

Among those places, of course, was Walden Pond and the replica of the cabin that Henry David Thoreau  built and lived in for two years, two months and two days. William Ellery Channing was another Transcendentalist and frequent walking companion of Thoreau.

It was Channing who had first suggested to Thoreau that he use Channing’s land and go out to Walden Pond and build himself a hut. And it was Alcott that Thoreau borrowed an ax from to build his cabin! And it was Emerson who mentored Thoreau…such connections boggle my mind!

Finally we visited Sleepy Hollow Cemetery where for all eternity most of the Transcendentalists remain neighbors.  In 1855, the original cemetery was extended when the town of Concord bought additional acreage including a pretty park-like area that the locals called, Sleepy Hollow, probably named after Washington Irving’s short story, The Legend Sleepy Hollow.   Emerson had suggested that cemeteries like Sleepy Hollow could serve more than one purpose acting as places for contemplation and reflection as well as honoring the deceased. We hunted until we finally found Author’s Ridge, where lay the remains of the Alcotts, the Hawthornes, the Emersons, the Thoreaus, the Channings, two of the Peabody sisters.

The other Peabody sister, Mary, is buried with her husband Horace Mann in Ohio.  We passed the Horace Mann home in Concord but it is a private residence.  Imagine living in Horace Mann’s home! And it’s not far from the Wayside where Nathaniel Hawthorne lived with his wife, Sofia.  But later the Alcott’s lived there.  And then, as if that’s not enough, Harriet Lothrop, the author of The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew later lived there.

What an impact these thoughtful minds could have on our lives today.  Of course before leaving Concord, I had to visit The Thoreau Bookstore at Walden Pond hunting for another book to learn more of the Transcendentalists.

We often encounter sights that make us smile, or make us think…or just make us wonder.  Here are a few from the past month:

Massachusetts has such a rich history, even with a second month, there still remains places we want to visit.  Guess that means one day we’ll have to return!  For now, we’re headed next to Portland, Maine, and fall colors!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Slower Pace

For Bob and me summer is synonymous with water.  Last winter we had coordinated all our family schedules and managed to find a week in July when everyone was available.  After lots and lots of searching I finally found a place that was located right on the shore of Lake Michigan, just south of Grand Haven, that would accomodate all 14 of us!

And what a great place it was.  It had an open floor plan so folks could be in the living room, dining room or kitchen and yet all be together.  The whole front of the house was windows.  The house sits atop a dune so there were about 50 steps down to the beach. But just a few steps down there was a great deck with chairs so those of us who didn’t want to make the trek down could still enjoy the view.

Our family ranges in age from 2 to 72 but it doesn’t matter at the lake. There’s always something for everyone.  We played miniature golf, rode go-karts, explored the streets of the tourist town, visited local wineries, swam at the gorgeous Lake Michigan beach, and in the evenings after watching sunsets, there were s’mores over campfires and games to play. What a fabulous week we had!

Bob’s 55th class reunion was in August in nearby Michigan City so we decided to spend the month there.  Again right on the shore of Lake Michigan.  Sometimes I think you have to move away from your hometown to fully appreciate it.  At least that’s what we found. We had opportunities to attend musical events including the Michigan City Chamber Music Festival, now in it’s 16th year, and featuring free musical performances. We also enjoyed “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” presented by the Dunes Summer Theatre. We took in an Andy Warhol Exhibit at the Lubeznik Center for the Arts. We visited the Old Michigan City Lighthouse and Museum.

The “new” lighthouse was constructed in 1904 and is the iconic image of the city. It was electrified in 1933 and we’ve watched many sunsets from the pier that extends out to the lighthouse.  The Old Lighthouse, and now museum, was constructed in 1858.  We found it interesting that the light had a woman keeper from 1861-1904.  It is believed that she served longer than any other keeper in the country and most impressive is that her light never went out. http://www.oldlighthousemuseum.org/colfax_hartwell.html

And while The International Friendship Gardens has been an institution in Michigan City since 1930’s when it was modeled after gardens at the World’s Fair in Chicago neither Bob nor I had ever been there.. The original park consisted of 14 ethnic gardens.  Queen Wilhelmina donated 200,000 tulips. The King of England sent plants as well as a gardener to create an English garden.  The King of Persia sent roses for the original rose garden.  There was even a theatre for concerts and plays located on an island created in the creek in the park with seating for the audience on a nearby hillside.  In the 1960’s the Gardens suffered from neglect, but in the past five years a dedicated group of volunteers is working hard to restore it to its previous grandeur.  It’s a very peaceful place. We encountered kayakers on the creek that meanders through the garden. We followed the Path of Nations which took us by the Irish Garden, the African Garden, Romanian Garden as well as the Polish, Scottish, Lithuanian, German, Italian and Norwegian Gardens. And of course, the original Persian Rose Garden. A great way to spend an afternoon.

One of the highlights of our trip was the Washington Park Zoo. The zoo was founded in 1928 and is built on a large dune near the lake.  For our 50th wedding anniversary a year ago our kids had given us a bench honoring our years together.  We were amazed when we entered the zoo and as we approached the tiger exhibit, lo and behold there it was. How cool!  We asked a passerby if she’d take our picture.  “Oh wow!” she exclaimed, “You’re the people in the picture on the bench!”  What a cool gift! IMG_0022 (1)

We had allowed a few days travel time between leaving Michigan City and arriving at our next destination: Hull, Massachusetts, located on the southern shore just south of Boston.  Besides catching up with friends along the way there were some sights we wanted to see. We tried to avoid the interstate system much of the time so we could see more of the small towns. We initially thought we’d take Highway 20 (the longest highway in the US) from Michigan City to Boston. But traveling through eastern Indiana and northwest Ohio made us realize perhaps we needed to be more selective. We found it interesting to travel along the Erie Canal across much of New York.

One of our stops was Rochester, New York, where our daughter-in-law, Sadie, suggested we visit the Mount Hope Cemetery.  We found it very helpful that the cemetery had an office where I picked up a map.  We visited Susan B. Anthony’s grave as well as Frederick Douglass’.  Interestingly, Bausch and Lomb are buried there.  I found it odd they were buried on the same site.  As German immigrants they had begun producing monocles in 1853.  They eventually went on to lenses, binoculars and camera lenses which makes us wonder if there isn’t a connection between Eastman Kodak and Bausch and Lomb.  In any event their grave site is really lovely, located under the branches of a huge tree as though protecting their eyes from the dangerous rays of the sun.

In LeRoy, New York, just outside Rochester we visited the Jello Museum. 20180829_102516_HDRHere we learned how Peter Cooper,  the inventor of Jello, got a patent for it in 1845, but could never get it to catch on with the American public so he sold the patent to a fellow townsman for $450.  We saw Jello molds, learned about the most popular flavors.  On display were lots of Jello posters (All presence of Bill Cosby has been removed.) and saw recipe after recipe for salads and desserts made with Jello.  It took us back to the 1950s and 1960s when it seemed like every home served Jello regularly.

We really enjoyed the pastoral views across New York state and Massachusetts.  The area around the finger lakes is particularly nice. Our first stop in Seneca Falls was at the Women’s Rights National Historical Park. Central New York was the home to many Quakers so it was a natural location for the birth of women’s rights given that most Quakers favored gender equality…well, a bit more than others at the time. My favorite tidbit: When Elizabeth Cady  married Henry Stanton in 1840, the vows omitted the word, “obey.” How cool too that she is known more than 175 years later by her given, maiden and married name! I particlarly liked the statue depicting Amelia Bloomer introducing Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1851.

20180830_133456We learn so much in our travels.  I had no idea until we visited the Women’s Rights National Historic Park that there was a 19th Amendment Victory Flag. The purple represents justice, and loyalty. The white, purity of intent of the movement and the gold is the color of the torch that guides the women. Whenever a state radified the amendment a star was added to the flag. 36 were needed.

The National Women’s Hall of Fame is very much alive.  While we read the biographical sketches of each individual we understood that this is an evolution.  The present and the future are building on the shoulders of those women who have gone before.  I was also struck by the number of women who were connected to important men.

Before moving on we drove past Harriet Tubman’s home. I think we often forget what her freedom cost her.  She indeed was free but her family was all in Maryland and she was forever separated from them. It’s difficult to comprehend that she died just 34 years before I was born.

We continue to be entertained by signs and bumper stickers we see along the way…some amusing; some a bit deeper!

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We continued our drive east stopping the next day in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, at Norman Rockwell’s Museum.  What a great surprise to learn we were there on “Free Fridays.”  My very favorite works of his are the Four Freedoms that he completed during WWII. Freedom from Want, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship and Freedom from Fear.  It seems unbelievable that he completed all four in just seven months.  Having spent the past 10 months traveling across the country from DC to California and back again, Rockwell’s illustrations of everyday American life struck a special chord with us.  It was like a synthesis of all we’ve seen and experienced.  After leaving the museum we had to drive down mainstreet Sturbridge to compare his painting with the actual Main Street.

Just a few hours away from our destination, we decided to stop in Springfield at the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden.  When Dr. Seuss (Ted Geisel) died in 1991 his widow authorized the creation of the memorial that Geisel had envisioned.  His stepdaughter, Lark Grey Diamond-Cates, a noted sculpturer, created more than 30 statues.  It’s such a joyful experience walking among the characters.

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Airbnb in Hull

About 3 pm we pulled into our driveway.  We’re staying in the same Airbnb we stayed in when we were last in the Boston area.  We’re out on a peninsula, a two block walk one way from the ocean and a long block the other direction. We look forward to exploring lesser known sights in the area this time.  It feels good walking into a known place remembering the little things:  the couch that sinks a bit, the floors that aren’t quite level.  Ahhh…it feels good to be home!

 

 

The Best of the Maritimes

This wasn’t our first trip to Nova Scotia, but we’d never stayed more than a week previously and this time we really wanted to experience life in this eastern maritime province.  I had found an airbnb apartment that was located in Dartmouth, just across the harbor from Halifax and this turned out to be a perfect location.  It was a quick drive into Halifax or to other parts of the province and there was even a ferry that was within walking distance and took us across to Halifax in just 10 minutes for the grand sum of $1.75 Canadian.

The apartment itself was perfect as well.  The owners were a young couple who are currently living in the DC area and so their mother met us and showed us around.  I had to laugh when she told us it was really small:  

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Looking at Halifax Harbor from our living room

two bedrooms, two baths a large living room and kitchen with an island and a separate laundry room. Obviously, it’s all relative.  To us the place was huge!  All the rooms had views of the harbor.  We watched sailboats, cruise ships, container ships, military ships, every kind of water vehicle we could imagine all while never leaving the comfort of our living room.  And while the weather tended to be cool while we were there, there was even a balcony to enjoy a glass of wine on those days when it was warm enough.  It truly exceeded all our expectations.

 

 

Our first jaunt took us to Grand Pre which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012. It’s located on the Bay of Fundy’s Minas Basin in the Annapolis Valley. This is the area the French Acadians settled (by reclaiming the land from the sea) in the 1680’s.  It retains its rich farming soil today. But in the second half of the 18th century the Acadians were forced to leave.  When the English defeated the French, there was fear that the Acadians would continue to pledge allegiance to the French. And as a result a decree was issued that all Acadians would be deported and shipped to English colonies, or France or the Caribbean.  Many were attracted to Louisiana because of the familiar language.  Between 1755 and 1763 nearly 10,000 Acadians were forced to leave and thousands of those died.  When Longfellow published his poem Evangeline, the story of a young woman searching for her love, the English speaking world became aware of the forceable removal.  The deportation cross, erected in 1924, marks the actual spot of the Acadians’ departure. Today a lovely park in Grand Pre traces the history for visitors.  There is a statue of Longfellow’s Evangeline, as well as a bust of Longfellow.  The park has a bittersweet feel to it.

 

 

On our way back to Dartmouth, we stopped at a sidewalk cafe in Wolfville, a small quaint village close to Grand Pre.  Here was our first of many reminders of the importance of hockey in Canada.  I ordered a beer, and since this was Stanley Cup time, it was served in a glass hockey skate mug! img_20180607_155616534  Later in our travels around the province, we encountered: a collection of hockey jerseys on the wall of a restaurant, hockey icons on Canadian food brands in the grocery, Cole Harbor city sign advertising they’re the home of Sidney Crosby. We saw additional posters of Crosby and other NHL players’ pictures from Nova Scotia on the walls of buildings throughout the province.  Given our love of hockey we found this really fun! We were surprised to find a liquor store just outside Halifax advertising, “Cold Beer Drive Through.”   Wow!  Beer and hockey.  The Canadians get it!  

 

 

We decided to take three days and explore Cape Breton which is connected to the rest of Nova Scotia by the Canso Causeway.  The Cabot Trail is a spectacular road that circles the island.  The views at every turn are more beautiful than the last.

 

 

We started up the sunset side, also known as the musical coast. We were aiming for Cheticamp for our first night. This again is the land of the Acadians. And Cheticamp remained a fishing village until the 1930’s when tourism in the area began with the creation of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

 

It’s still a blend of tourism and fishing today. We stopped in at the Celtic Music Interpretive Center where we enjoyed a local ceilidh (pronounced ‘ka lee) while we lunched on seafood chowder and a local beer!

 

Signs and literature are in both French and English. And we noticed more French spoken in the little villages.  Acadian flags along with Nova Scotian flags and Canadian Maple Leaves fly everywhere.  When we left Cheticamp in the morning we stopped at a local donut shop for coffee and donuts.  It was a cozy place with four or five tables. As we sat down we realized that the table to our left was speaking English while the table to our right was speaking French.  We get the impression, however, that they both understood the conversation of the other.  

We headed next toward Sydney, the second largest city in Nova Scotia, with a population of about 31,000. Sydney is on the tip of Nova Scotia. (This is where in 2004 we caught the ferry for Newfoundland.) Previously we were in Nova Scotia in August, but this time we decided to visit in June.  We were a bit taken aback when we first arrived that snow, significant snow, was predicted for parts of Cape Breton and Newfoundland. And many of the summer festivities don’t begin until July. But we enjoy not having to contend with huge crowds. And luckily the snow never materialized where we were!

Sydney has a lovely boardwalk with a huge fiddle and monuments to those who made their livlihoods from the sea.

 

And we spotted various  interesting signs throughout the province.

 

  

Heading down the other side of Cape Breton we stopped at The Fortress of Louisbourg.  It was a cold blustery day, especially for our expectations of June. We tried to quickly grasp the general history of the fort and move on. We learned that there is a difference between a fort and a fortress.  A fortress encloses a town while a fort doesn’t. The Louisbourg Fortress was the home of the first lighthouse constructed in Canada. The fortress was founded by the French in 1713 and then fell to the British twice.  It was finally demolished in the 1760’s. After it was destroyed, some of the stone was used for building in Sydney, Halifax and suprisingly Boston.img_0222

I had read in several places about Rita’s Tea Room in Big Pond.  Given my very best friend is Rita; I knew we had to stop!  It turns out that this tea room started as a one-room school house back in the 1930’s.  Canadian singer and song writer, Rita MacNeil, lived closeby with her family.  And in the 1980’s she was able to purchase it and later converted it into a tea room.

 

Wherever she performed, Rita would invite her audience, if ever in Big Pond, to stop by for a cup of tea. Rita needed tea cups so she went out and started buying them but she was particularly touched when people would come by and donate all sorts of them.  The cups are displayed throughout the tea room. Rita died in 2013 but her tea room is lovely!  Definitely worth the stop if you’re in the area!

The Bay of Fundy is known for its incredibly high tides.  After consulting a guide of tide times we drove to Truro to see the bore. A tidal bore is the reversing of a river’s current by the force of the tide.  It is amazing.  You have to be there at the right time and then you can actually see the bore coming up the river. img_0321-1We knew that the Bay of Fundy has the highest tides in the world and while we had seen them on a previous visit this was definitely something we wanted to do again.  We consulted our guide again so we could see both high tides and low tides during daylight on the same day.  And then we headed out early in the morning for Burntcoat Head Park. We got there just at high tide.  While the views were breathtaking  we were also careful not to get too close to the slippery edges.  We visited the interpretive center and then toured the area.  Everywhere we drove we saw fields and fields of gorgeous lupine and huge stacks of wood as folks readied themselves for the cold long winter  ahead. 

 

We returned to the park a few hours later at low tide!  Wow!  Even though we knew it was going to be different.  It’s hard to comprehend.  People were walking on the ocean’s bottom where just a few hours before were under more than 30 feet of water!  

 

Whenever you see pictures of Nova Scotia, the lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove seems to be the ubiquitous icon.  We thought that perhaps Father’s Day would be a good day to visit thinking that most families would be celebrating with their relatives at home.  WRONG!  I think that perhaps half of all the residents of the maritimes had decided to visit Peggy’s Cove.  Parking lots were overflowing; tourist busses and cars were everywhere.  Mobs of people were walking down the streets.  We were glad that we had visited years ago at a much quieter time; we took a couple of quick shots and then high-tailed it out of there. 

 

Following the slower road along St Margaret’s Bay we enjoyed the scenery and then came to The Finer Diner where we decided to stop for lunch. http://www.finerdiner.ca/  What a great choice.  All of the crowds left behind, we sat on the front porch looking out at a quiet cove.  The menu gave us lots of seafood choices.  I finally opted for the lobster roll and Bob got the seafood platter.  Prices in most Nova Scotian restaurants tend to be reasonable but the exchange rate allows us as Americans to discount the price by 25 per cent.  Boy, it’s going to be tough going back to the States! 

 

 

The south shore of Nova Scotia is very different from Cape Breton but equally lovely.  We drove down to Shelburne on the highway and then worked our way slowly back along the coast.  In 1783 loyalists from the American colonies settled in Shelburne Harbour lured by promises of free land. img_0435 The city grew larger than Halifax or Montreal. And not far from Shelburne we found the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre.  This is the place where Black Loyalists came seeking freedom at the end of the 1700s.  At that time this was the largest Black settlement outside of Africa. We came to the Old Schoolhouse and were surprised to find the door open but no one inside.  We spent about an hour in the one room reading the stories of this settlement that we had never before heard of. As we left the schoolhouse we found the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre next door and here there were guides who invited us to see a short film and then view additional exhibits. There was even a book entitled, Book of Negroes that listed the names of many who had made the journey.

 

We then drove into Shelbourne itself where we toured the Ross-Thomson House; it’s the only original store building remaining.  We also toured the dory factory; dories are small fishing boats with flat bottoms and sharp sides that have been used for centuries for fishing off the southern coast of Nova Scotia.  We were shocked to learn from our guide that most fishermen didn’t know how to swim because the water was so cold that if you didn’t swim, drowning would shorten the amount of time you were in the water. And fishing was so dangerous that brothers or fathers and sons were never allowed to go out in the same boat! 

 

After spending the night in Shelburne (in a motel that made us feel like we were back in the 1950’s) we headed along the shore traveling from fishing village to fishing village. img_0461The landscape was beautiful. Old Town Lunenburg is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was recognized for having the best surviving example of a British Colonial grid-pattern street layout as well as for its authenticity as a working city. It is also the home of the Bluenose II,  a gaff rig schooner, which is featured on the Canadian Dime.  And from Lunenburg we headed to Mahone Bay, which is well known for the beautiful churches that border the water. 

 

Having seen a lot of the rural areas of the province there was a lot we wanted to see within the metropolitan area. We were pleased our Airbnb location gave us such easy access into Halifax.  The city has a lot of great shopping and eating areas right along the harbor. And we particularly wanted to visit the library downtown.  In 2008 a joint venture between a Halifax architecture firm and a Danish firm won the international competition for the library. The resulting design resembles a stack of books.  And since its opening in 2014 it has become a major gathering place for folks downtown.

 

It’s a very modern typically Danish design with open bridges connecting various departments on every floor and beautiful views overlooking the city.  There are cafes as well as meeting areas, and the upper floors are designed as quieter areas.  It is filled with water saving devices and designed to be energy efficient as well.  Wired Magazine named it to their list of the 10 most beautiful libraries in the world.

The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 is located in an old ocean liner terminal where the majority of immigrants entered Canada between 1928 and 1971.  img_0664Our guide was an immigrant from Scotland. There were exhibits of the ship’s cabins as well as recorded interviews of immigrants, even a display of the items a person had packed in their trunk.  Moving on to the other part of the museum, which we toured independently, were explanations of the trends of immigration and how they’ve changed over the decades.  There were places for comments by those touring the museum and we were saddened to read the feelings of at least one person:  img_0656

We also found the Halifax Public Gardens to be a relaxing place to spend an afternoon. They are the oldest Victorian gardens in North America and date back to the middle 1800’s. Once again we were surprised to learn that there was no charge to access them.

 

On a rainy day we decided to head to the bookstore, Chapters.  It’s a large Canadian chain.  I had just finished reading Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule, an historical fiction work  by Jennifer Chiaverini. So when I saw The Spymistress, a story she wrote about Elizabeth Van Lew who was a spy for the Union during the Civil War, I knew I wanted to read it.  And it was discounted! I asked a clerk where I’d find it and she told me that while they didn’t have it, it was at a nearby store. So I put the address in my phone and off we went. When we arrived at the store the clerk there apologized but said it was in their warehouse and they’d go get it and she could call me when they had it.  Okay, that was fine. We hadn’t been home for more than 10 minutes when I got a call saying that they had the book at the store and we could pick it up the next day.  Great! We were going to go right past that store on our way up to watch the tidal bore. But she added it wasn’t $5.00 but $2.00.  When we got to the store the next day, the clerk told me it wasn’t $2.00 but $1.08 with tax.  We figured with the exchange rate the book cost me about 80 cents American.  What a find! And the book was great!

In Holland in the 1600’s a military signal would indicate to pubs near military garrisons to stop serving beer, to turn off the taps.  That Dutch phrase over the centuries has turned into “Tattoo.”  If you’ve read my previous blogs you’ll know that two years ago when we were in Scotland we attended the Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle. That is the greatest of all the tattoos.  But when we realized that the Tattoo would be performed during our stay in Nova Scotia we knew we had to see it.  Unlike Edinburgh this Tattoo was performed inside so we didn’t have to worry about whether we’d get rained on or not.  And among the participants in this tattoo were a police band from Singapore, a Jordanian drill unit, circus performers from Brazil and an American Military band. I don’t know how anyone can listen to a military band and not feel patriotic!

 

It had been raining most of the morning so we decided to take a taxi to the performance.  (Ubers don’t exist in Nova Scotia.)  But the skies had cleared when it was over so we walked down to the water, ate at an outdoor cafe and then walked to the ferry terminal and took the short ferry ride back to Dartmouth, just a couple blocks from our apartment. What a fun day!img_20180629_1827041141

On Canada Day, July 1, we went downstairs and in front of our apartment building we could watch sky divers with parachutes displaying the maple leaf!  We went to a nearby park in the afternoon and enjoyed a band that played music from the 1960’s.img_0010 The woman who managed our apartment building had suggested that we had to try “John’s Lunch” while we were in Halifax.  https://johnslunch.com/  She said it was a real dive but had the best fried clams and is a favorite with the locals.  Sounded like our kind of place.  It turned out the diner had a single row of seats at the counter and about 6 booths and I got the idea that people were always waiting no matter the day or hour.

 

Everyone was very friendly and when the waitress found out we were Americans I got a big hug and then she pointed out that Nova Scotians LOVE Americans it’s just our president they can’t stand!  At the end of the day we headed back to our apartment and right outside our front door we had a marvelous view of the fireworks!  What a perfect end to a perfect stay in what turned out to be both Bob’s and my favorite province!  In the morning it’d be a stop at Tim Horton’s for a cup of coffee and then we were headed back west.

Bits and pieces along the way…

img_0247As Bob and I reflect on our peripatetic lifestyle of more than three years, we’ve come to realize little things often seem to fit together into larger generalities. For instance, we never realized how attracted we were to the water until we went back and looked at how many of our stays were close to the oceans…many within direct sight.  In the United States there was Boston, Seattle and two locations in Florida. Beyond that was Gosport, England, both the southern tip of Portugal and the northern coast of Spain, Lanzarote in the Canaries as well as Sicily, Panama and now Nova Scotia. We find the water provides a peaceful, relaxing environment and we often wonder if growing up on the shore of Lake Michigan has anything to do with our attraction to large bodies of water. The draw continues as we have reservations to spend next January and much of February in the Caribbean before heading to Lecce, Italy not far from the coast and the rest of spring in Antibes, France, on the Cote d’Azure.

We also have found the food to be generally wonderful wherever we go.  Because we’ve spent so much time near the water we have devoured delectable seafood dishes in more places than we can count. We’ve had endless lobster and mussels in the northeast and Canada; our fill (well, almost) of shrimp in Florida. We find ourselves comparing favorites:  “Okay, how would you rate this seafood chowder compared to…? Or I think this lobster roll is even better than…”  We had never tried food trucks until in DC and it’s now become one of my favorite venues.  And the Mexican restaurants in the southwest were amazing!

We try to get recommendations from people we meet for suggestions where the locals eat. Sometimes it’s the setting not just the menu. For instance in Nashua New Hampshire we ate at “The Common Man.” img_20180531_183605693_hdr http://www.thecman.com/restaurants-and-menus/common-man-restaurants/common-man-merrimack.aspx Not only was the food scrumptious, but the restaurant was the former home of Matthew Thornton, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence!  The restaurant seated groups throughout the small rooms of the home making it feel very cozy.  There were crackers and two kinds of dips as you entered the front door of the restaurant as well as a large cheese round upstairs for all to try.

In Saint John, New Brunswick we found ourselves in a lovely casual restaurant, (http://www.lilylake.ca/lilys.html) Lily Lake Cafe that featured local food made from scratch and to our amazement it was listed as a charity.  When we inquired, our waitress explained that the restaurant proceeds benefit community programs in the area.

On the surrounding grounds are biking and hiking trails.  There are nearby statues honoring the Canadian worker.

More than a hundred years ago, Lily Lake was a major source of fresh water for the area, and there was a huge dispute between the ice cutters and the skaters which the skaters eventually won.  Our waitress explained that this was the lake where she had learned iceskate and also where she taught her granddaughter to skate as well.

If you’ve read my previous blogs you know that historical sites are a major destination for us wherever we travel. We traipse around battlefields, and stop to read monuments, often of people we’ve never heard of. We wander through cemeteries reading names, dates and interesting quotes. We find the architecture of churches interesting but were a little overwhelmed by the sheer number in Europe so while we still check them out, we are less apt to go inside unless.  We also like to visit sights off the beaten path like an old residence of a famous person or the Thomas Hart Benton murals in rural towns in the midwest. Or just random things we read about. We enjoy museums of all sorts.

We enjoy art. And we take advantage of local festivals whenever we can.  We were in Ireland during the Galway International Arts Festival.  The Fringe, along with the Tatoo, were among  our all time greatest experiences when we were in Edinbourgh. (We loved the Tatoo so much we got tickets to go to the Halifax Tatoo next week. More about that in my next blog.) We love music so we seek out concerts, particularly those reflecting local heritage, wherever we travel.  So far it’s ranged from the waltzes of Vienna to the Celtic Music of the Cape Breton Highlands.

We like trivia games though we’ve not tried them in a foreign country yet. We did find an interesting one at Politics and Prose  one of my “must stop at” bookstores whenever we are in DC.  The night we went they had one topic, “Broadway.”  Wow.  I can’t think of any topic we might know less about than Broadway.  But it was still a fun and enjoyable evening.img_20180519_200434822

We are often asked how we decide where to rent and what to take with us. Over time, we’ve become more attuned to what we need in our rentals. A washer is really important for us, but after living in Europe for a while we realize while a dryer is nice, not having one is not a deal breaker.  We like the car for getting from one destination to the next but it’s really nice to have a supermarket, parks and restaurants within walking distance.  We get a better feel for the neighborhood on foot. img_20171121_1040540631And a really big plus, is proximity to public transportation.  DC has become a second home for us, I believe in large part, because it’s so easy to get around without a car. We take advantage of discount cards when available.  We have senior metro cards for DC which allow us to ride the metro for half fare and the bus for $1.00.  We also have senior Charlie Cards for Boston with similar discounts. When we have a car, it’s nice to have a place nearby to park (even when we leave it there for days or weeks at a time).

We’ve found dollar stores to be a real god-send as they provide an inexpensive way to acquire those little things that sometimes aren’t provided in our rental. With only one exception, Wi-fi has been available everywhere we’ve traveled.  I generally don’t access wifi in hotels as I’m nervous about being hacked, but I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it would be to make travel arrangements without a computer. We have found that virtually no rentals provide a good can opener, and the ones at the dollar stores just don’t cut it. So we carry one with us. We have found, with our age, that futons are definitely not comfortable over time.  They’re not bad for a short term stay but since we are doing this full time, we generally look for places that have REAL couches.  And a side chair or two is really nice. We’ve been pleasantly surprised by how good the beds have been in almost every place we’ve stayed. An added bonus is a place to sit outside, either a patio, balcony, deck or front porch.  (And it’s really nice when the weather accomodates such activity!)

Another thing I really enjoy is doing the grocery shopping.  It’s so interesting to see the variety of foods. Meatmarkets and seafood counters are particularly intriguing.  Octopus, squid, tongue…so many things we don’t have in our usual markets in Michigan.

The variety of fruits and vegetables are wonderful as well and so tasty! But even in the US things supermarkets are very different on the coasts than they are in the midwest. We particularly loved the “clip your own” herbs we found in a supermarket in Raleigh.

By traveling on the shoulder seasons we are able to avoid the crowds and things are generally less expensive.  But as lovers of summer, this often means for us cooler temperatures.  We lucked out in Palm Springs by having r warm unusually warm weather in January but other places including Portugal, Spain and Quebec have been chillier.  Still we’re generally able to get by with just spring/fall wardrobes with an emphasis on layers.

Where next is always a question we have in mind. We have crisscrossed some countries several times. (France, Germany and the US come to mind.) And while I’m sure there are more efficient ways of traveling, part of the thing I love best about our lifestyle is not planning too far out. And we always find new and different things to see wherever we are…whether we’ve been there before or not.

We find that we travel with “more stuff” in the US and Canada than we do elsewhere.  Our car sort of takes on the role of a closet and just as when we owned a home we tended to fill any closet we had, we tend to take more with us when we have the car to put it in.

But when we’re using trains, planes and boats, we’ve found that traveling light is the only way to go. Using brightly colored suitcases also makes it much easier to find our luggage among the ubiquitous black cases. We have learned when we leave a location to drop off our remaining can goods at a local food pantry instead of just leaving it in the house. Often our rentals have very little storage space in the kitchen and we know that the food pantry will be glad to get our donation. When we move from one destination to another and it’s more than a day’s drive, we pack the clothes we need in one suitcase and all our really valuable stuff (like passports, computer, tablet) in our rolly bag so we only have two bags to take into the hotel.

We have stored a few bins of things in our kids’ homes. To simplify things, I created a spreadsheet that lists the location and bin number, and then I list the specific items in  each bin.  Then too I have a list in the same folder, called, “Things with Us.” Whenever I take something out of one bin and move it to another, I update the spreadsheet.  This way, if I need to ask one of the kids to mail something to me I can tell him or her exactly where to find it.  Makes it much easier for all of us.  Also, whenever we leave one location, I go through my “Things with Us” list and ensure that I have everything on the list. Whenever we visit one of the kids, I take the opportunity to update this list, as well as pitch anything that we no longer need.

Our kids have a difficult time remembering where their parents are or where we’re headed next so I found that creating an itinerary for them with dates and phone numbers is helpful. I share that with them on Google Sheets.  Also in case of an emergency, that would be helpful information for them to have. Generally we set aside one day a month to balance the accounts and pay our bills (all online). I also have electronic copies of our passports and credit cards.

Even after three years we  continue to get mail through the postal system. Ugh! Since we use our oldest son’s address as our residence, it all goes to him. Every month or so he boxes it up and sends it on to us. (Sometimes that entails sending it to one of his siblings’ addresses where we pick it up.) I had truly thought by this time we’d be done with that but no luck!

Traveling fulltime requires a lot of organization and planning but we’re continuously refining the process and in doing so I think we’re becoming more efficient which gives us more time to have fun and enjoy our everyday travels.

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The Tar Heel State

Tar Heel State!  We asked around and were told that there are varying explanations regarding how the state got its nickname.  But there was one that was repeated several times. Because of the vast pine forests throughout the state, North Carolina has from its beginning been a large producer of tar, pitch and turpentine.  And legend has it that during the Civil War North Carolinian troops were referred to as “tar heels” because of their ability to stick to their guns like tar on their heels!

We have visited North Carolina before, but we’ve really only seen the seashore except for traveling across on the interstate in route to other destinations.  So here we are for two months in Raleigh.  We’ve visited museums, gone to an NHL game, visited county parks as well as state parks, traveled to nearby towns, strolled through battlefields and made new friends.  It’s been a relaxing and interesting eight weeks.

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Raleigh skyline

Raleigh is a relatively big city by US standards.  Population of the metro area is well over a million but it doesn’t feel that big.  It’s an easy city to maneuver.  Traffic isn’t bad. (Well, we don’t drive during rush hours and that probably makes a difference.) The couple of times during the week that we’ve gone to a big mall near us we’ve been flabbergasted by the number of people.  The mall is huge and it’s always difficult to find a place to park.  During the week?  When do people work? We thought malls were dying out but perhaps that’s not the case everywhere.

Because we’re here for two months and are both avid readers we decided to check out the local library. (We often get library cards in places where we’re staying for more than a month.)  The folks were most accommodating and there was no charge for a temporary card.  The reference librarian made it seem like he had absolutely nothing better than to help me locate the subjects I was interested in.

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Sign in the Garner branch of the Southeast Regional Library

They even have a service where you share with the librarians your interests and they select books for you so you can just pick them up.  I think that’s really amazing.  Talk about promoting readers!  And when the woman behind the check out desk learned that I was returning books for the final time, she said she hoped we had enjoyed our stay in Raleigh and added, “Ya’ll come back and see us sometime, ya hear?”

We found a lovely place to stay in a wooded area outside the city complete with free range chickens!

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That’s the home for the chickens NOT our apartment!

One thing that sold me on the place was the fact it has a piano in the living room.  Not since Galway have I had a piano.  In fact that might have been the selling point on this place. It’s a bit more rural than we’re used to but we love how everything has come into bloom during our stay and wherever we turn there are bursts of pinks and whites and reds!  On the other hand, we’ve never lived in a place where cars, steps, sidewalks, literally everything is coated with pollen.  It’s as though the landscape here has a canvas covering it that has been swept with a light green brush!  We even saw on the news that on their weather cam pollen shows up like snow!  It’s crazy!

 

This is an area of parks and we’re often struck that just like the library, parks, including state parks, are free. Raleigh is also home of the Charlotte Hurricanes, an NHL team, so when we learned that shortly after our arrival they were playing my Pittsburgh Penguins we got tickets.  The guy next to me, from Pittsburgh, said the Raleigh area has lots of retirees from the north as well as younger northern transplants in general.  That combined with the fact that Pittsburgh is less than an eight-hour drive away must have contributed to the fact that nearly half the arena was filled with Penguin fans. What a fun night!

 

Raleigh is only a short drive from Mt. Airy, the town that the Andy Griffith Show was based on and given that’s probably Bob’s favorite show of all time we definitely had to make a side trip there.  Driving into the town was like entering a time warp.  It’s easy to forget that this is a fictional place.  The downtown has everything from Floyd’s Barber Shop to Wally’s Filling Station.  We stopped at The Snappy Lunch and had a hot dog and root beer.  It claims to be the “oldest continuous eating establishment serving Surry County (and Mayberry) since 1923” but we were most amazed  with their 1950 prices.  After lunch we went to the Andy Griffith Museum that houses a lot of memorabilia from the show complete with the jail.  We were surprised by how busy the town was on a Saturday in early March; obviously, the show had a huge following!  Maybe we’d better go home and watch some reruns on Netflix!

 

We often associate North Carolina with the Civil War but we were surprised to find out that there were many Revolutionary Battles fought here as well.  On our way back from Mt. Airy we stopped in Greensboro and meandered through the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park. This is where Green and Cornwallis met up.  The British were victorious but lost over 25 percent of their men.

 

I was most impressed with the statue of Kerenhappuch Norman Turner who lived in Maryland. ( The plaque says she was married to one Maryland’s early settlers, James Turner.  Wait a minute!  I don’t get it.  Wasn’t she one of the early settlers as well?)  Anyway, her son and several of her grandsons were fighting in the battle of  Guilford Courthouse when she got word that her son, James, had been badly injured in battle. She rode on horseback from Maryland to care for him. Imagine! Then she attached tubs to the rafters of a building and filled them with water from the nearby river. She bore holes in the tubs and the constant dripping of the cool water on to James lying below lowered his fever and saved his life. She then continued to care for other wounded soldiers. After the war, she moved to North Carolina where she lived with her son and her daughter.  She continued to ride and hunt but in 1805 she fell from a horse, broke her neck and subsequently died.

We spent the night in Greensboro because we wanted to tour the International Civil Rights Museum the next day.  We went down to breakfast and struck up a conversation with the woman, a couple of years older than us, who was staffing the breakfast area. She said she continued to work because one of the perks of the job was that she could stay for free at the hotel chain when she traveled; we concurred that’s a pretty nice benefit. When we told her we were headed to the Civil Rights Museum she began to tell us what she remembered about growing up Black in Raleigh in the 1950’s and 60’s.  It was like a history book coming alive. She explained that she could recall her parents often going without food so that she and her siblings could eat. And if it hadn’t been for their farmer neighbors, she said, they would have starved. She explained how as teens they could only sit in the balcony of the theatres (and then added with a smile, that of course, as teens that where they preferred to sit)!  She also told how Blacks could only order food to be carried out of places, never allowed to sit and eat at the counter or in the restaurant. She was a junior in a high school in 1960 when the sit-ins occurred.  And the amazing thing to me was the gracious way, without rancor,  she told these stories that she must have found very humiliating.  We chatted with her for nearly half an hour and  I wished it could have been much longer!

The museum is housed in the F. W. Woolworth building where in 1960 David Richmond, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, Jr. and Joseph McNeil, all freshmen at North Carolina A & T, an historically Black university, courageously decided to sit at the counter to be served, thus,  breaking local laws at the time.

 

When we got to the museum a tour was just beginning and we were told we could tag along with them.  It turned out to be a group of high school students with their two teachers.  I found it a really emotional experience to see the artifacts including the original lunch counter, and watch videos retrace events that I could remember…remember like they happened yesterday also knowing that many of the parents and grandparents of these students were directly impacted by these protests. Robin, our guide, did a great job of making the tour interactive and relevant for the students.  (Interestingly, just as we were leaving, a group of student wearing CMU shirts entered the museum.  I asked one if he were from Central Michigan University, a university about half an hour from Big Rapids, where I used to teach and where my daughter-in-law, Andria, graduated from college.  Yes, indeed, they were.  According to the museum director, a group from CMU comes every spring break to volunteer at the museum!  Again, small world!)

We continued to find more Civil War battlefields in the area.  Both Bentonville and Averasboro Battlefields are close by.  We encountered two delightful and knowledgeable volunteers at one of the battlefield museums.

 

We knew that Averasboro Battle had resulted in Sherman’s army defeating the Rebels  and had been a prelude to the bigger battle at Bentonville. But I was taken aback as the volunteer explained, “We did our job when we slowed Sherman’s army down just as we were supposed to.”  Some people are obviously still fighting the Civil War down here! I wonder if she knew that both General Sherman, from the Union, as well as Johnston, an important general for the South, were pallbearers at Ulysses S Grant’s funeral.

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Lebanon House near Averasboro Battlefield

 

One of the more interesting sights near Averasboro Battlefield is the Lebanon Plantation so named because of the number of cedars on the land.  This home was given to Farquhard Smith by his father as a wedding gift in 1824 along with more than 3000 additional acres.  During the Civil War the home served as a military hospital.  Jane Smith penned a diary that tells of the horrors of war that she experienced while living there.  But most amazing is this house has remained the property of the Smith family since its construction and descendants still reside there.

There’s a huge dispute going on right now about whether to move statues of Rebel leaders from various locations around the city to the Bentonville Battlefield.  Many are saying these are local heroes and their relatives died fighting the cause.  But I don’t get it.  To me that’s like saying my German relatives died fighting for the Nazis so we should maintain statues of the Nazi regime holding them in a place of honor.  On the other hand, I think it is important to maintain landmarks reminding us of less than honorable times in our American history like the auction market we saw in Fayetteville.  Remembering and honoring are two different concepts to my way of thinking.

 

We took one weekend and drove up to suburban DC to surprise our son Stephen on his birthday. Because of our interest in the Civil War and the fact that I am currently plodding through Ron Chernow’s, Grant, we took the opportunity to stop at the battle field at Petersburg, Virginia, and also at General Grant’s Headquarters at City Point.

 

Wow!  Looking at the land where the fighting actually happened and knowing the horrible conditions they endured is overpowering!  We visited one of the first national cemeteries.  Many of the parks have apps for our smart phones enabling us to understand the significance of the various events that occurred there. How awful the siege of Petersburg must have been for all involved.

 

Raleigh also has some beautiful museums.  We enjoyed the North Carolina Museum of Art.  It is in a lovely location and has a lot of nice exhibits  but is small enough that we could view the whole museum in less than three hours. Lots of sculptures as well as paintings.  I particularly enjoyed their variety. Among my favorites are the very modern works of Kehinde Wiley  and the more traditional works of Auguste Rodin. There are also lovely outside exhibits and trails.  We went on Easter Sunday an absolutely beautiful day!

 

The North Carolina Science Museum was also recommended by several people.  And we enjoyed it too.   We timed it just as a docent was showing a variety of local animals.  She walked among the people (probably about 35 or so) carry various animals and letting us pet them.  It was really fun.  But we probably only got through half of the museum before we ran out of steam.

As usual we found some great places to eat.  We had read about and then someone suggested Moonrunners to us.  This saloon was featured on Spike TV’s Bar Rescue in 2013.  It’s has a prohibition theme to it, complete with still in the corner of the bar. (It’s functional too!)  We had just arrived in Raleigh when we went there and when we shared our peripatetic lifestyle with our waitress, Natalie, she went out of her way to be helpful even calling her mother to get ideas of what we should see and do in the area. And in addition to our charming waitress the food is amazing and their Wednesday night trivia game is fun too!

 

Another favorite restaurant we found was Irregardless.  Yep, that’s the name.  As teachers “irregardless” has always made us cringe so to see a restaurant by that name we just had to try it.  The menu had lots of vegan as well as other healthy choices.  And the restaurant is located in a pretty little neighborhood.

 

When I inquired, the manager explained that the name came from the owner who is Jewish and whose grandmother always used the word, “irregardless.” She said according to Jewish tradition a way of  honoring a deceased relative is by associating their memory with something about them.  Thus the name, Irregardless.

When we drove up to DC for the weekend we found another fun place to eat, Uncle Julio’s in Gaithersburg.  Instead of a birthday cake, they had a birthday pinata.

 

There was a hollow chocolate ball in the center and when broken fresh fruit and churros rained down amid the chocolate!  Talk about scrumptious!

One of our goals this year is to meet more locals as we travel.  We joined Weight Watchers while we were in Palm Springs and found that going to their meetings really helps us get a glimpse into the people who live here (not to mention getting healthier as a side benefit).  Folks in the meeting we attend in Garner are absolutely among the friendliest we’ve met anywhere.  After just a few moments we’ve felt like we’ve known them for years.  And when we walked into our second meeting I was greeted with a hug by a woman I had just met the week before.  People call us by our name…even without name tags.  Southern hospitality really is something special!

We had thought about taking a side trip to the ocean but decided instead to save that for our trip to Florida where we are going to spend our last month before heading north. So as we leave here we’ll spend a couple of extra days and check out some things still on our list to see.  One more trip to the Atlantic; something just keeps drawing us back to that ocean!

Our plan for 2018 has been to spend the better part of the year in the United States.  We camped a lot when the kids were young and have also visited them in various locations in recent years.   This has enabled us to see much of the country visiting 49 of the 50 states.  But even with all these trips there still remains a lot we want to see.  We’ve learned a lot during our stay in North Carolina, a place despite its similarities is very different from our home state of Michigan.  It’s been a great two months.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Sea to Shining Sea

IMG_20180110_110804039.jpgPalm Springs turned out to be a lovely choice for a month…wish we would have booked here even longer.  The palms were among the highest we’ve ever seen and the population is less than 50,000, much smaller than we had anticipated.   We had read that the weather could be cool but compared to Michigan we knew we’d find it enjoyable. As it turned out the weather was in the high 70’s and 80’s for the entire month we were there.  Now that’s January weather I can get used to!  We rented our Airbnb apartment from a guy who lives in New York and it was perfect.  The two bedroom apartment was spacious, great cooking facilities, comfy bed, lots of stores were nearby and just a short drive from downtown.  Couldn’t have been better!

Our apartment faced the pool with two chairs and a table on our balcony making it a perfect location for an afternoon glass of wine to go with our cribbage game. The complex was divided into eight separate units each with its own stairway which was covered by a profusion of bouganvilla.  

 

One afternoon as Bob was sitting there reading he swatted what he thought was a fly away from his ear.  How surprised he was when he realized it wasn’t a fly at all but a hummingbird!

One of the jaunts we enjoyed most was a side trip to San Diego.  It’s about a two and a half hour drive through the mountains from Palm Springs and oh so beautiful.

 

Our route took us over the San Gorgonio Pass one of the windiest places in the US, and which acts as a wind tunnel between the coast and the Coachella Valley, so it was understandable that we would once again encounter the ubiquitous windmill.  And wide-lane highways made it possible for even the driver to take in the sights!

 

Our first destination was the San Diego Zoo.  It was warm and sunny, just as we would expect in San Diego, and we saw a baby giraffe, pandas, koalas, even a zoo medical assistant applying lotion to a flamingo’s feet because just like people their feet dry out in the desert climate.

 

We had made reservations to spend the night in San Diego so we could see a bit more of the area.  We asked locals about suggestions for a  seafood restaurant and Kings Fish House seemed to be the place. http://kingsfishhouse.com/.  Yummy! Bob had the seafood platter and I had the fresh salmon and both were wonderful. But I was a bit surprised that the menu marketed my plate as British Columbia Atlantic Salmon. Hmm… Last I knew BC was on the Pacific!

We woke up the following morning to unusually warm weather and headed for the boardwalk in Coronado where we watched the surfers. Then headed back to Palm Springs travelling first up the Pacific coast to La Jolla where we strolled along the water enjoying the sun and surf just like the sea lions on the beach.

 

In August we had been in Seattle for the solar eclipse and were a bit disappointed by how little it affected the daylight, but on January 31 we were treated to a wonderful view of a lunar eclipse.  We got up about 4:30 am, took our coffee outside, and had a seat on our balcony for an amazing show.  For nearly an hour we watched as a shadow slowly covered the moon. Then much to our surprise, it quickly disappeared as the moon went down behind the mountain.  We hadn’t anticipated that!

 

Another place on my “must see list” was the Salton Sea.  We had captured glimpses of it from the interstate on our initial drive into Palm Springs.  We were thrilled to find friends from Michigan were also visiting Palm Springs so we decided we’d make the trek together, about 60 miles. The Salton Sea is a really fascinating place.  It’s 236 feet below sea level and located directly over the San Andreas fault.

The sea is only a little more than a hundred years old and was formed when the Colorado River broke through irrigation gates in Yuma, Arizona, and the entire area around the main line of the Southern Pacific Railroad community was flooded.  This flooding went on for two years and wasn’t halted until 1907.  Now the Salton Sea is the largest lake in California.  In the 1950’s this was a big resort area; it has since deteriorated in large part due to the pollution of the lake.  We encountered many dead fish as we walked along the beach.

 

And although we had read there is a stench associated with the sea, we didn’t find that to be the case.  We also read that there are mud pots and mud volcanoes on the eastern shore but we didn’t see either.  There are some unusual man-made sights, however.  For instance, there’s a banana museum which was unfortunately closed.  Hmm…and bananas don’t grow in California; well, at least aren’t commercially grown. Then there’s Salvation Mountain near Slab City.  This mountain was the idea of Leonard Knight who constructed the mountain from adobe, straw, and lead free paint.  The mountain is covered with biblical sayings.  Hard to explain.  You just have to see it!

 

Driving back we came upon the now all too familiar sight of border patrol checking cars driving north. They gave us a smile and waved us on.  I can’t quite decide if this is racial profiling or credible security. IMG_0041

Palm Springs is also about a 45 mile drive from Joshua National Park.  I had seen where in the summer the temperatures can reach 115 degrees or more.  Winter is definitely the time to visit.

 

The park is particularly interesting because two distinct deserts meet there. The northern part of the national park is in the Mohave Desert and much prettier, I believe, than the southern part of the park which is part of the Colorado Desert (part of the larger Sonoran Desert) and much more barren. We didn’t realize there was such a difference between the deserts. The Joshua Tree is a yucca and  we were told seeing them is a good indicator that we were in the Mohave Desert and as we left the high desert and moved into the Colorado they indeed disappeared.  (But later we were told some Joshua Trees  do grow next to the saguaro in western Arizona. It gets confusing!) There is also an abundance of boulders which makes the park a favorite place for rock climbers!

 

We were lucky to be there on a clear day which made the stop at Keys View (in the northwestern part of the park) spectacular. Just as we walked to the top of the viewing area a ranger came up behind us and explained what we were looking at. We were standing at just over 5,000 feet.  Wow! We could see Palm Springs, the San Andreas Fault and the Salton Sea.

 

He also explained that the small cut outs in the road, which I had assumed were for water runoff, provided a way for desert turtles to cross the road! And while we saw lots of cut outs we never sighted a turtle! We also liked the Cholla Cactus Garden.

 

We’ve seen other cactus gardens but this one is natural and wild.  There’s a flat trail less than half a mile long that winds through it.  I can only wonder how gorgeous it must be when it blooms! We didn’t encounter large crowds anywhere. Perhaps because we were there on Super Bowl Sunday? And with all our stops it was about a three hour trip through the park.

Time again to move on.  As we began our trip back across country we decided we wanted to see Las Vegas.  The drive there would take us a little over four hours across the high desert.  We were reminded that we were entering desolate country when we came upon a sign indicating no services for the next 96 miles.  The vast barrenness of the land is beyond description.  As far as the eye could see…nothing…  Then in the middle of no where we came upon a row of mailboxes, here in a place where we saw no evidence of a community.  I can’t begin to imagine how self-sufficient you’d have to be to live here. Surprisingly, and perhaps reassuring, we regularly encountered vehicles traveling in both directions.

 

Las Vegas just appears!  This huge mecca of entertainment seems to rise out of nowhere. Evidently Las Vegas really sprang to life in the 1930’s when Boulder (now Hoover) Dam was being built.  We stayed at the Excalibur, and we walked down the steps, up the escalators along the strip and saw the famous fountain of the Bellagio, tried our hands at the slots in the Venetian.  We took in a wonderful show that was a tribute to the Bee Gees. (And were flabbergasted at how old Bee Gees fans have become!) But after a day and a half  we were ready to say enough and move on.

 

We drove through Lake Mead National Recreation area toward Hoover Dam.

 

The dam is amazing.  It is truly hard to imagine how this massive project was ever moved from a vision to a reality. Then there’s the impact it’s had on the area.  We forget that it’s created recreation areas, provided hydro electricity and irrigation. American ingenuity at its best! We also had to stop at Lake Havasu. Really London Bridge in Arizona? We were surprised by how very beautiful it is and how natural it seems in the desert environment.

 

The forecast continued to be good so we decided we could take a shorter, more northern, route east as we headed for our next stop North Carolina.  We spent the night in Flagstaff, elevation 6900 ft,  and asked our waiter at dinner if this 50 degree weather were typical for this time of year; he shook his head and said last year at this time they had a foot and a half of snow.  As a snowboarder he was pretty frustrated, but added that it looked like in a week they should get some snow.  Great!  We’d be far far away by then!

The next morning we continued our drive through the desolate west. We stopped in Winslow Arizona, to see the construct of the Eagles’ “Standin on a Corner.”

 

Then we stopped at the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest spending little time there as we remembered both from camping trips when our kids were young. IMG_0376We felt like we were making progress as we crossed the Continental Divide just 25 miles east of Gallup, New Mexico.  We’ve been surprised by the number of trains we’ve encountered throughout the west.  And they’re long…often more than a hundred cars, mostly hauling containers.  Can’t help but wonder where are they coming from?  And where are they going?

 

Every so often we’ve seen sights that make us laugh right out loud.

 

And we were always on the look out for a place of historical significance.  So when we came to Fort Smith, Arkansas, we had to stop. Fort Smith was established in an attempt to restore law and order to the area. Under the Indian Removal Act the Cherokee Indians were forced to move onto lands of other tribes, and not surprisingly the other tribes, in this case the Osage, objected. Disputes arose between the tribes as well as between the tribes and greedy businessmen who wanted the land. 

The visitor center provided a lot of information about the disputes and how as the frontier moved westward, the fort was changed to the site of a federal court.IMG_20180211_141147387.jpg  An interesting character, Judge Isaac Parker–often referred to as “the hanging judge”–presided over the court for 21 years.  During his tenure 86 men were hanged for murder or rape and once sentenced had no right of appeal. The jail was one large room where all prisoners lived together.  One can only wonder how that worked out! 

One of the Osage leaders was Chief Bad Tempered Buffalo–wouldn’t those sorts of names be helpful in the professional world of today?  Particularly in education?  They could give us some sort of preview of what communication issues may arise.  Think of it:  as an elementary principal I could have been called Chief Bad Tempered Tall Woman.  I think it has real possibilities.

IMG_0453But the greatest stop for me was the Central High School Historic Site in Little Rock, Arkansas. The school is spectacularly beautiful with stunning architecture. The high school (grades 9-12) still operates with an enrollment of about 3,000.  Since we had stopped here in 2008 they’ve constructed a visitors center commemorating the integration of the high school in 1957. 

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Looking at picture books I came upon a story I had never heard.  The book, Ruth and the Green Book, by Calvin Alexander Ramsey,  tells the story of a family traveling south from Chicago and how they are given The Green Book describing for them restaurants, gas stations and motels where they could safely stay. While the story is fiction, the guide book is not.  It was written by Victor Hugo Green, a New York City postman.  It was published annually from 1936 – 1966.  1966!!! Unbelievable!

IMG_0451We came upon an exhibit that shows the literacy test that Blacks had to pass in order to be able to vote. I wonder how many Americans could pass that test today! The ranger asked if we had any questions and I think he was surprised when we responded that no, we both could remember the event.  We then drove to the Capitol to see a sculpture of the nine very brave students who on that day in 1957 made such a difference for the future of so many!   How far we’ve come!  How far we’ve yet to go! 

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Moving on to Tennessee the landscape changed dramatically becoming much more lush. Yep, we were definitely in the east…we entered the eastern time zone, crossed the Appalachian Trail! And finally we crossed into North Carolina, the state that will be our home for the next two months.

 

We managed to drive across country twice, in November and again in February, avoiding bad weather! I’m not sure I even thought it was possible. Once again we are  feeling VERY lucky! And while technically we hadn’t driven “from sea to shining sea” we started out just 100 miles from the Pacific and 10 days later we’re just 130 miles from the Atlantic!  We’ve traveled a distance of 2707 miles!  Wow!  After spending so much time in Europe in the past few years, we are reminded of just how vast and diverse our country is!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tucson for the Holidays

20171222_172522Although I’ve been to the southwest several times we’ve never spent any length of time here and we’ve never visited in winter before.  I loved Tucson from first sight.  The saguaro cacti, the symbol of the West, are everywhere. They’re huge; some grow as tall as 40 feet and they’re gorgeous.  Our Airbnb is unusually expensive, the highest we’ve paid anywhere in the world, the rest of Tucson seems very reasonably priced. And we love our location.  We’re in the middle of a residential area with folks who appear to live here year round. It’s the weather that I’m loving the most right now.  I had been worried; our Michigan son and his family are flying in; our son from DC is coming; our daughter and her friend are making the trek from Italy, so when I saw that the typical temperatures are in the high 60’s I began to panic.  What if it’s really cold?  Someone on-line even commented that they have only had snow once on Christmas in the last eight years.  OMG, what if after paying horrendous prices for flight tickets, it snows?  But instead the weather is exceptionally warm…in the 70’s and 80’s.  Whew!

The house is fine for our large group.  The backyard a bit on the small side but the view of the mountains is spectacular and the pool is great and amazingly warm!  With so much to do, we don’t swim often.

 

 

Checking out Trip Advisor online and then finding the nearest AAA office are among the first things we do when traveling to new places in the US.  We met a great clerk, Amanda, in the AAA office who went out of her way to help us.  She got out a map and highlighted her favorite places.  Gave us suggestions for things to see, places to eat, nice day trips. We want to do it all.

Mount Lemmon stands at over 9,000 feet and is the highest point in the Santa Catalina Mountains.  From bottom to top there are six climate zones, starting at the desert scrub and ending at the pine forest. And the rock formations are just as varied as the flora.  The winding road is very safe offering numerous pull-offs and the views are spectacular. Summer Haven is at the very top and we were surprised by the number of people we saw with sleds along the road.

 

 

Given the rocky and forest-like landscape, I asked the clerk at the general store in Summer Haven  where people went sledding.  He looked at me like he had absolutely no idea idea what I was talking about.  I tried to explain, we saw lots of people with sleds in the snow, where do they sled?  “Anywhere they want,” was his response.  I guess maybe in Michigan we just take clear snowy hills for granted!

Two people had suggested we check out Bisbee Arizona, about an hour and a half southeast of Tucson.  We decided if we were going to make the trip we’d like to go a bit further to the border and see the wall. On the way down, we stopped at a remote gas station to fill up.  IMG_0286As we were leaving the parking lot, Patrick suddenly put on the brakes and backed up saying he saw something on the ground!  I had to jump out of the car to get a picture of possibly the biggest tarantula I have ever seen!  I had no idea that the wall or at least fencing dates back to 1993 between San Diego and Tijuana.  Then under W the Secure Fence Act was proposed in 2006.  And as of 2011 Homeland Security built 350 miles of pedestrian fencing and almost 700 miles of vehicular fencing.  Also, in 2011 it was decided to use more mobile surveillance and unmanned drones in attempt to provide security in a more financially efficient manner. Border security has obviously been the subject of disputes for years! About 30 miles from the border we could see something in the sky but weren’t sure what it was.  As we got closer I got a picture of it.  The US uses blimps to monitor the border. img_0271.jpgAs we came close to the border we could see the dark fencing in the distance against the sandy colored landscape.

 

 

We encountered border security vehicles at nearly every turn. But as we got closer to the fence it just felt  wrong.  All of us, except for Native Americans, are here as immigrants and to fence people out just seems to be contrary to all that we were taught to believe of American values.

Just a five minute drive from Naco, Arizona and the wall we came to Bisbee, an artsy mountain town.  Mining began here in the late 1800s and grew to be one of the richest mines in the world.  By the early 1900’s Bisbee was the largest city between St. Louis and San Francisco.  The open mining of copper began in 1917 and the mine operated until 1975.  After the mine closing, the hippies moved in and the town took on a creative folksy feel.  We parked the car and decided we needed to stroll the main street of this interesting downtown, filled with musicians, shops where the local artisans make jewelry…I found a ring made with local turquoise too pretty to turn down.  We also found  a great salsa shop.  We passed another store where they were selling local honey.  So much fun!

 

 

Leaving Bisbee we had to stop in Tombstone, the home of Wyatt Earp and the shootout at the OK Corral.  Dusty streets complete with boardwalks and stage coaches, it was about as cheesy as you could get. IMG-20180204-WA0002 We passed on the reenactment of the shooting but Cary and Claudio (her friend from Sicily) did have their picture taken with the gun fighters on the main street.  Claudio looked the part…perhaps in a previous life, Tombstone was his home!

 

 

And of course we had to stop at Boot Hill, a cemetery that had been ignored until a private citizen purchased it, cleaned it up and even provided a guide to the tombstones.  A couple of my favorites: Here lies Lester Moore, 4 slugs from a .44, no less, no more!  Or: Here lies George Johnson, hanged by mistake, 1882.  He was right; we were wrong, but we strung him up. Now he’s gone.  We’ve read online these are both fictitious, but they’re still fun to read!

 

 

Nearer to Tucson, on a warm Christmas Eve Day, we enjoyed The Desert Museum which isn’t a museum at all but more like a zoo.  We had been told to make sure we got there in time to see the free flight Raptors and boy was that right.  We walked about half a mile down a dusty trail until we came to a woman who offered interesting information about raptors.  Then we, with about another 30 people, moved forward as a guide began to tell us about the birds we were going to see.  These birds are not tethered.

 

 

The guide described a bird, and then the bird would zoom over us so low we felt we could touch it.  Then just as quickly it would zoom to great heights coming back to a nearby perch where food was offered by other volunteers.  We saw a Peregrine Falcon, a barn owl, a gray hawk and a red tailed hawk.   We were absolutely captivated.

In 1949 CB Richards started a water co-op and built a residential neighborhood in Tucson known as Winterhaven.  He also started a Festival of Lights based on a neighborhood he had seen in Beverly Hills in the 1930’s.  Richards purchased pine trees to be placed at regular intervals throughout the neighborhood and had electrical connections installed at the base of each tree.  The festival has gone on every year since 1949 with the exception of one year in the 1970s when the residents voted to not have it due to an energy crisis.  I had read about the festival on line and purchased trolley tickets for us for Christmas Eve.  IMG_0432For an hour we gazed at more lights than I have ever seen.  We found ourselves turning from one side to the other and still unable to keep up.  There were Christmas displays, sports displays, cartoons, just about every theme imaginable.  We can’t figure out how people do this year after year…do they just add an additional tweek?  And how overwhelming it must be if you buy a house there.  The previous owner must leave his lights.  I’m not sure how it works but we’re sure glad we saw it!

Tucson has many many places with great Mexican food.  But two stand out as favorites: one is Mi Nidito http://www.minidito.net/  They don’t take reservations and we were there on a Friday evening. The wait was long but the group was really chatty and many were locals so we met some interesting people and  learned a lot about the area.  Our other favorite was El Charro. https://www.elcharrocafe.com/

 

 

This is the oldest Mexican restaurant in the country that’s run by the same family.  There were nine of us and we had quite a wait for a table but again it was well worth the wait. We had our own room and the waiter explained everything in detail. He pointed out some favorites he had comparing them to food his grandmother made.  And of course, with our Italian guest we had to make a stop at Waffle House, a true American institution.  We didn’t realize the chain extended beyond the southeast.  What a pleasant surprise!

Javelinas (also known as peccaries) are sort of an icon for the area. We saw toy javelinas, Christmas ornaments with javelinas, stuffed animals, every sort of souvenir imaginable! We hadn’t heard of them.  They reminded us of wild pigs.  They are common to Central and South America.  We had read that they usually travel in groups and that they particularly like prickley pears.  Imagine the shock Kris and Andria must have had when they, along with their teenagers, took a morning walk around the neighborhood and came upon a live one.  Talk about up close and personal!download_20180205_094756

We spent one afternoon at Old West Tucson.  Many Hollywood westerns were filmed here with the likes of John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Gary Cooper, etc.  We attended a short western play, went to a saloon show, took a train ride through the back lots and watched as stunt men staged fights and falls from tall buildings.

 

 

There is so much to do in the Tucson area.  We even spent an afternoon touring wineries.  What a surprise! Wineries in Arizona!  I think it’s a relatively new industry and most that we visited appeared to be run by young people who were friendly and eager to show off their distinct wines.

 

After a month in Tucson we were ready to head to Palm Springs.  It’s about a 2 hour drive to Phoenix and then another four hours to Palm Springs.  We decided to stop in Blythe California on the way. There was a storm predicted and because we are unfamiliar with desert driving we decided that we’d spend a second night in Blythe.  We were glad we did.  The rain was significant with ponding on the highways and leaving a lot of snow in the high desert.  I think the total rainfall from the storm was about half an inch but we are in the desert, not Michigan, and that’s significant when you get 5 inches or less in a year!

So nice to be in another warm location as we listen to horrendous weather reports from the midwest and east coast!  We are so lucky!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Driving Cross Country

Christmas rentals are always in high demand so I usually try to plan far in advance.  And because we’re a pretty large group…16 of us when all of us can make it, it becomes quite a challenge. To further complicate matters when I made the reservation last May we were unsure exactly where we’d be before and after the holidays.  So when we left Washington DC after Thanksgiving we had quite a drive to our holiday destination:  Tucson.  And then we decided we’d like to go by way of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shelbyville, Indiana, so we could connect with good friends and relatives adding 250 miles to our trek. But hey we were already committed to 2256 miles so what’s an extra 250 miles.  We had allowed nine days for driving so we could stop see sights along the way.

We both love Pittsburgh and it was extra special because we were spending the night with one of my best friends, Rita.  After a delightful dinner meeting up with her son and girlfriend, we headed off to see the Winter Light Show at Phipps Conservatory.  The rain let up; the weather was unusually warm for late November and the show was amazing!  What a wonderful time we had! I always love it when we can meet up with those special friends who no matter how long since we’ve seen each other, we just pick up where we last left off.

 

The next morning we headed for Indiana where we met up with my cousin and had a great night catching up with his family.  We hadn’t given much thought to our route to Tucson having made many trips across the country when our kids were young.  But then Bob sugested that we travel via Route 66!  What a great idea.  We stopped in Bloomington long enough for me to run into Barnes and Noble and find a book suggesting stops along the way.  I had no idea there would be so many to choose from.  The clerk suggested Moon’s Route 66:  Road Trip by Candacy Taylor.  So my decision was made.  Great choice.  We found the book offered lots of suggestions and she gives specific directions to reach the sites. (This is a great help when GPS fails to recognize destinations like The Blue Whale in Catoosa!)

 

I had no idea that Route 66 doesn’t exist any more except for an historic road.  In some states, the book said we’d find it more difficult to follow than in others.  Boy, were they right!  We first caught up with Route 66 in St. Louis. We spent our first night in Arnold, Missouri, and spent the evening poring over the book and choosing the highlights we wanted to see.  There were so many things to choose from:  historical sites, kitschy things, birth places of famous folk, the list semed to be endless.  We decided we’d like to see a blend of things keeping in mind that we wanted to be in Tucson on December 7 and it was already December 1.

Our first stop was Laumeier Sculpture Park in Kirkwood.  This is a collection of 80 sculptures including a giant eyeball (by Tony Tassett).

 

From there we drove on to Cuba, Missouri, known for their wall murals.  The murals were painted as part of a revitalization project and they depict the town’s history.  My favorites were the Blue Bonnet Train from World War II.  And also the one of Amelia Earhart.  Evidently in their hey day  many important personages visited Cuba!

 

Not far from Cuba we came to the World’s Largest Rocking Chair.  IMG_20171203_122916845Wow, a giant eyeball and the world’s largest rocking chair in the same day.   I couldn’t help but wonder how they ever got that rocking chair up to that height!

Driving on to Waynesville we came to highway signs marking the Trail of Tears.  We thought it was a long trek to drive from DC to Tucson.  But here was the reminder of the thousands of Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek), Seminole, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Ponca who after being moved to Ft. Cass, Tennessee were then forced to walk to Oklahoma under horrific conditions.  Nearly 800 miles!IMG_20171203_131844433We had hoped to visit the Trail of Tears National Historic Site but as we came into Waynesville people were lining both sides of the street with police managing traffic.  Waynesville only has a population of 4800!  Where did all these people come from? Finally, we realized we were driving down the middle of the main street where everyone was waiting for the Christmas parade! This was obviously a really big deal! No way were we going to be able to turn into the memorial!

Our next stop was Marshfield the hometown of Dr. Edwin Hubble.  Taylor had told us in her book that there is a replia of the Hubble telescope in front of the courthouse and we wanted to see it! IMG_20171203_150409884 And although there isn’t much else to see in this quiet town we were glad we stopped! Having seen the World’s Largest Rocking Chair we decided we could pass on the World’s Largest Fork in Springfield and instead moved on to Carthage, Missouri, to spend the night.

We didn’t use Taylor’s suggestions for places to stay as we always stay in Choice Hotels.  They’re clean, easy to find and include breakfast, and we save an enormous amount of money by staying in the same chain and taking advantage of bonus points. For our trek to Tucson we had accumulated enough points to stay free for three nights.

We generally ask the hotel clerks for suggestions where to eat and this time she was a bit stumped because it was a Sunday.  She directed us to El Charro, a fantastic Mexican restaurant not far from the hotel. We again looked over our guide book as we ate and realized that our stops were taking longer than we had anticipated and the fact that Route 66 is sort of a “on again, off again” route that too was adding to our time.

Our first stop the next morning was to be closeby near Diamond, Missouri, to see the George Washington Carver National Monument.  Unfortunately we came to a sign that told us the bridge was out and we weren’t able to get there.  So instead we headed on down the road to Joplin where we wanted to see Thomas Hart Benton’s Mural. IMG_20171204_100440780I don’t know a lot about art but I love the realism of Benton’s murals and remembered how he was commissioned to do a series of murals representing the state of Indiana for the Chicago World’s Fair in the 1930’s.  This was a definite must see! It didn’t disappoint!

Commerce, Oklahoma, the home of Mickey Mantle was next.  Again, Taylor’s directions took us right to his modest childhood home. The plaque on the house describes how as a young child Mickey’s father would come home from work and pitch baseballs to him in the side yard. The shed with the dents from missed catches still stands.  Not far from his house, near the high school baseball field, stands a monument to number 7.  As a kid growing up in the 1950’s the Yankees and Mickey Mantle, in particular, make up my first memories of baseball.

 

Even though it wasn’t listed in our Route 66 information, we wanted to stop in Claremore to see the Will Rogers Memorial and Museum.  As luck would have it the museum was closed on Mondays but we did enjoy the beautiful grounds! From there it was on to Arcadia and its more than 66 feet high pop bottle lit with LED lights.  And although we didn’t see it at night, it must be quite a sight!

 

My favorite stop on all of Route 66 was the Centennial Land Run Monument in Oklahoma City.  There are horses, wagons, men, women and children, even a dog and they are literally larger than life. Paul Moore is the sculptor and his great grandfather was one of those who participated.  I hadn’t realized there was more than one land rush in Oklahoma.  This monument represents the first in 1889 but others took place later in other parts of the state. The huge procession, one of the largest bronze sculptures in the world, is over 350 feet long and protrudes into the river!  It truly defines the word, “Sooner!”

 

We spent the night in Elk, City, which is located on the Great Western Cattle Trail.  It’s been called by different names and there’s a lot of controversy between the Texans and the Oklahomans about its exact name but the bottom line is that from 1876-1895 this was a major cattle trail! Not that long ago!

Murals are also a favorite of mine.  So in Sayre, a quiet almost ghost town sort of place, we stopped to see the WPA mural on the wall of the post office. This mural is by Vance Kirkland, but has a Bentonesque sort of feel to it.  IMG_20171205_093908268It also represents the Oklahoma Land Rush.  We found it sad that we encountered virtually nothing along the way that talked about the impact on the Native American displacement.

As we crossed into Texas we began to realize how sparsely populated the area is when we encountered a sign that said, “No gas between Shamrock and Amarillo” a distance of nearly 100 miles.  Not far after we entered the panhandle of Texas we came upon The Leaning Tower of Texas. (Little did we know when we were in Pisa in September that we had our own leaning tower right here in the US!) Some people think it was caused by an earthquake or other natural event or that it was struck by a plane but it appears that it was just a marketing idea!  Not much further down the road we stopped west of Amarillo to take a picture of Cadillac Beach, a place where 10 Cadillacs from the 50’s and 60’s are buried nose deep.

 

Today the cars are covered with graffiti and it’s become common place for tourists to add their individual marks with spray paint. (We saw several doing just that when we were there.)  I wished I could have been there after they were first buried before all the defacing.

Continuing down Route 66 this sign seemed to say it all: IMG_20171205_101224989Shamrock, Texas, is where Native Americans herded bison until the late 1880’s.  When Route 66 came through here in the 1920’s The U – Drop Inn cafe was built.  One of the few art deco buildings of its kind.  Today the building is the home of the Chamber of Commerce we met a delightful woman there who shared with us a lot of the area’s history. We found it interesting that there are four Tesla chargers in their parking lot.  The woman at the Chamber told us that the town had approached Tesla about making Shamrock a “Tesla Town” and Tesla agreed!  She went on to say that every week or so a few cars stop by to be recharged! (We did find the tow truck from the late 1940’s or early 1950’s to be an ironic touch.)

 

This would be our last night on Route 66 and we thoroughly enjoyed it.  But at the same time it’s a bit overwhelming.  It’s as though every town along the way has their own mark to try to attract tourists.  For us the best sites were those that had historical significance, those sites that helped us understand the people who had lived there for the past hundred years.  What a lonely existence it must have been before modern transportation and communication.

Our next stop was Santa Fe.  We had planned on spending a month here after the first of the year until we realized its altitutde and the cold weather we’d encounter.  So we decided an afternoon would have to do and we’d try to come back in a warmer season.  We headed to the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, the largest collection of O’Keefe’s work in the world. IMG_20171206_124759323  The museum is relatively new having opened in 1997 and was designed by Richard Gluckman (who also designed the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh).  We spent about two and a half hours there and that enabled us to see it all.  I like smaller museums where I can wander  leisurely but don’t have to make decisions about what I’m going to see and what I’m going to skip.  Although O’Keefe didn’t move to New Mexico until 1929 it had a major influence on her work.  We would have liked to visit her home, Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, but time didn’t permit.  We’ll definitely have to come back to this beautiful area.

When we got up in the morning we were not pleased to find the ground covered wittih snow!  It didn’t last and by the time we had arrived in Las Cruces the temperature had reached the high 60’s.  We spent the night, stopped to see the Road Runner and headed for Tucson.   IMG_20171208_094456545

Nine days and more than 2700 miles after leaving Washington, DC we arrived in Tucson! It’s been a fantastic trip! We were surprised by the topographical changes we encountered virtually every day of our drive.  The desert itself changes from location to location; sometimes filled with cacti, other times with brush. We had no idea that the southwest produces cotton! We passed signs between Las Cruces and Tucson about every 15 miles that warned us to be alert for dust storms and if encountered we should:  pull off the road, turn off lights, take foot off the brake and wait in the car! Luckily the sky was clear all the way! We now have a week to relax and get into a routine before much our family will arrive for the holidays

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Prague, Paris and Home

It wasn’t a long drive from Krakow to Prague but the dreary weather continued and we were disappointed that even though we had to backtrack about a hundred miles, traveling the same road we had taken from Bratislava to Krakow, we still didn’t see much through the haze and gloom.  We continued to be amazed by how green the fields were.  drive from luxembourg to paris still green And we were thankful for good roads and once again we were pleased with our Airbnb.  The location was amazing.  We were on a main street less than a block from the tram that would be our transportation for the next week.  And between us and the tram was a tobacco shop where we could buy our daily tram tickets costing us less than two dollars each for limitless travel for 24 hours.  prague tram stopWe have found tobacco shops throughout Europe to be a convenient stop to purchase stamps and public transportation tickets.  They are also very good at answering basic questions about the area.  (Where is the nearest bank, post office, etc.)

At the top of our sightseeing list was Wenceslaus Square.  The square is named after Wenceslaus, the patron saint of Bohemia, best known for giving alms to the poor on the Feast of Stephen (as the Christmas carol tells us). It’s the main square of demonstrations. In 1968 this is where the protests took place after the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia. Protests became violent and first Jan Palack, a university student, set himself on fire followed a month later by Jan Zajic.

It was here too, in 1969 that the Czechs celebrated their victory over the Russians in Prague’s Ice Hockey Championship Games. The celebrations were short-lived and soon put down by force. I can remember seeing pictures of the crowds during the protests of the Velvet Revolution in the late 1990’s just a week after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Memorials throughout the area serve as reminders of the cost Czechs have paid for their freedom.

We made a couple of visits to Old Town Prague.  The Astronomical Clock built in 1381 and installed in the tower in 1400 is complete with calendar, clock dial and the twelve apostles who parade hourly.  But honestly trying to tell the time is no easy feat!

The Astronomical Clock sits at the edge of Old Town Square where we saw some unique buskers.  It’s amazing how energetic these folks are for what must seem like an endless day.  We were also amazed by their entertaining antics that followed whenever anyone put coins in their containers. Buscar Prague BEST Across the square from the Astronomical Clock we found  a small art museum.  Each of their three floors was devoted to a different artist:  Dali, Warhol and Mucha.  I find Dali interesting but confusing.  His unusual work always reminds me of Alice in Wonderland. We have encountered Dali and Warhol museums on various stops in our travels.  Mucha is a famous Czech artist.

Another must see for us was the Charles Bridge,  named for King Charles IV who initiated its construction.  It was built in 1357  (known as the Prague Bridge until 1870) and was the only way to cross the Viltava River until 1841. It’s an interesting stone bridge that contains more than 30 statues of saints.  On the way to the Charles Bridge we jumped off the tram for a quick stop to see the Dancing House by Frank Gehry.  The museum is nicknamed Fred and Ginger! (Gehrey also designed the Biomuseo in Panama City as well as the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.)

We loved the Czech food.  Around the corner from our Airbnb we found the Andel restaurant, a wonderful authentic Czech restaurant.  We decided by the number of locals that it must be a pretty good place. We were not disappointed.  The menu had lots of traditional Bohemian dishes including: sausages, goulash, pork hocks and schnitzels.  authentic czech restaurantWhen we realized the three individuals sitting at the next table were Americans (They were discussing Big Ten sports.) we asked where they were from.  Turns out, they were in Prague to recruit international graduate students to their respective universities:  Indiana, Purdue and the University of Colorado.  How surprised we were to find out the Indiana recruiter was from Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, just 40 miles east of our address in Big Rapids.  Small world!

Markets are everywhere in Europe and Prague was no exception.  We enjoyed strolling through the Havelske Trziste (Havel Market).

The market is named for Vaclav Havel who was the last president of Czechoslovakia serving from 1989 – 1992 when it first broke away from the Soviet Union. Havel was also the first president of Czech Republic from 1992 – 2003.  He was a politically active playright whose work was banned because he had participated in the Prague Spring.

Everywhere we turned in Prague the architecture was particularly interesting.  The Powder Tower, so named because it held gun powder, was completed in 1475.  This was the starting point for the Royal Route, the route of the Coronation Parade.  Not far from there we came upon the House of the Black Madonna.  This was the first example of cubist architecture in Prague and was built with the specific goal of fitting into the existing neighbohood.  The designers had to get government permission before they were allowed to construct it.

After a week in Prague it was time to head back to Paris and turn in our rental car.  But there were a couple of places we wanted to see on the way.  Nurenberg, Germany, was our first stop.  The weather continued to be miserable.  In addition to the rain it was getting really cold.  We layered up in all we had:  tee shirt, sweater, jacket, scarf.  We decided to splurge and stay in a hotel right in the center of the old town so we could limit the amount of walking time to get to the sights!

But even with the inclement weather, both Bob and I fell in love in Nurenberg and wished we had more than a night there.  The views from the bridges were lovely and the market square was surrounded by new buildings and old.  There are interesting sculptures scattered across the area.  My favorite was the Ship of Fools which is based on a satire by Sebastian Brant.  He created St. Grobian, the patron saint of vulgar and coarse people.  This conception allowed him to use his voice to criticize the church.  sculpture nurenberg

We were looking for a place for lunch and the woman in the Tourist Information Center suggested the Bratwursthausle Werner http://die-nuernberger-bratwurst.de just around the corner.  We went in and found it was very crowded. Thinking there was no availability we were ready to leave when a waiter came to seat us at a table where four people were already seated.  I had read about “community tables” but never before experienced them.  Already seated was a young couple from the US who had been recently married.  The husband had just completed his tour of military service and his wife had quit her job and they were touring Europe for a month.  There were also two older men seated at our table. And while they spoke only a little English, their English was far superior to our German.  They were from Cologne and part of a tour group.  While their wives were out visiting the sights of the city these interesting guys had chosen to avoid the lousy weather and enjoy some refreshment in the tavern instead!

We learned from the American gentleman that there’s a legend that the small bratwursts, about the size of your pinky finger, were made to a specific size so that if folks returned to Nurenberg late at night and found that the city gates were already locked, citizens could pass these little sausages through the keyhole so that while the city was inaccessible at least they could get food!  Interesting, don’t you think?

From Nurenberg, we wanted to pass through Luxenbourg and decided Luxenbourg City, the capital of the Grand Duchy of Luxenbourg, was a good place to spend the night and do a bit of sightseeing.

While it’s a lovely city we found it extraordinarily expensive. It has the second highest cost of living in Europe. Because of this many who work there choose to live in France and commute.

From Luxenbourg City it was on to Paris.  We had arranged to return our lease on the way into the city not wanting to have a car in Paris. turning our lease in in paris Now that we were back to using public transportation we had to be far more careful about how we packed our things not wanting to have to lug around more than our individual suitcases and carry ons.

The woman who ran the Airbnb was extremely accomodating telling me to text her when we got in the taxi and she would meet us at the bar right in front of the apartment.  Manuela, our host, was both helpful and friendly. Her husband owned the bar in the same building as our Airbnb and he was just as outgoing as she.  We felt like we had known them for years. cary-and-good-friend-from-paris-and-the-woman-we-rented-from.jpgWe were pleased that our apartment was on the main floor very securely located behind two gates and located in a great gentrified neighborhood with close proximity to many of the sights we wanted to visit.

While we only had a week in Paris, there were a couple of places missed on our previous trip that were at the top of our list for this visit.  Cary was able to fly in and spend a long weekend with us and she, like us, had never been to Versailles.  Since both the Louvre and Versailles are known for their long lines I decided to order the tickets online.  (As it turned out because we were there in November it wasn’t necessary to prebook but I didn’t want to take any chances.)

We were a little taken aback by our Uber driver on the way out to the palace.  While he knew the roads well, he cut from the far right lane across several lanes of traffic to make a left turn. And when we got to the Arc de Triumph I just closed my eyes and hoped for the best.  As we came into Versailles the palace dominated the landscape. It’s difficult to comprehend that it was actually a residence.  We were able to walk directly into the castle and while there were still hundreds of people touring, we in no way felt overwhelmed by the crowds.

In one room we were amused to see the place where the King ate publicly.  It’s hard to imagine having a place to eat where people can come and watch!  Also there was a sign in the king’s bedroom that read: “Here the Royal Rising and Going to Sleep Ceremonies Took Place.” But my favorite part of the palace was the Hall of Mirrors.  Having seen it in movies and in books didn’t matter; it still took my breath away. Of course since it was November the gardens weren’t in bloom; I’d like to go back in the summer or fall and just tour the gardens.

On IMG_20171116_163651247the way back we really lucked out with a fabulous Uber driver.  When he saw me taking pictures, he immediately slowed down and even opened his moonroof so that I could better pictures along the Seine and particularly of the Eiffel Tower.  He obviously loved what he did and was very much a people person!

Because our Airbnb was so conveniently located we could walk to the Louvre. The Louvre is the largest art museum in the world. When Napolean was in power he had it renamed Musee Napolean. Of course he did! In 1793 it was first opened as a public museum.  We knew there was way too much for us to try to see in one visit so Cary had searched and  found several lists of “must sees” on the internet and from those we made our own list.

The building itself is just as impressive as the art on display.  It’s difficult to comprehend that we were actually viewing the Venus de Milo or The Coronation of Napolean.  But perhaps most surprising for me were the mobs around the Mona Lisa.  People pushed and shoved to get up front in order to take a selfie of themselves with the portrait.  It made absolutely no sense!

I don’t think I could ever spend enough time in Paris but it’s an expensive city so we have to carefully plan our time there.  On the morning we were to leave we found a scrumptuous Sunday breakfast buffet at the https://www.letoiledunord.fr/letoile#. This seemed a perfect way to end our Paris visit just before Cary flew back to Rome and we took the train to Amsterdam.  With the exception of what to do with our luggage, I find train travel exceptionally enjoyable.  It’s generally inexpensive, we see the countryside, and we meet interesting people. It did give us pause, however, that as we pulled out of the station a group of four men walked through the train with signs on their back indicating they were police.  Given that we were traveling at a high rate of speed we could only wonder what they might be looking for and what would happen if they found it!

We stayed at the Amsterdam airport Ibis just as we had on our first night in Europe a couple of months earlier.  We met two interesting older couples at dinner who were from Friesland, Netherlands and were familiar with Michigan, particularly Holland.  It seems whenever we travel we continue to make Michigan connections.

We were really lucky in that our flight home departed Amsterdam at noon and arrived back in the States seven hours later at 3 pm DC time.  We’re beginning to know the routine of coming through customs and reentering the country.  With new technology the process is becoming more and more efficient but I have to admit I really miss the customs agent’s greeting of “Welcome home!” After checking in to our Airbnb   we met up with Patrick for dinner and were able to stay awake until a reasonable bedtime allowing us to make an easier adjustment to the time difference. It was now time to relax and take a break before heading out to Tucson via Pittsburgh, southern Indiana and then following Route 66 west.  But in the meantime we had 10 days to catch up with our DC/Maryland family and enjoy Thanksgiving together.

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