All posts by Denise

Waterfire, Sleepy Hollow, Villages and Mansions!

We drive from Camden to Providence, Rhode Island for Waterfire.  Waterfire is an art installation on the three rivers of Providence.  It consists of nearly 100 braziers with wood fires burning over the water.  Some small boats circulate with passengers and some tend to the fires.  There is music, food and entertainers.  There are 17 lightings scheduled for 2017 and we will see the second to the last.  


Once we reached our inn, Old Court B&B.  We were pooped out from the drive and it didn’t help that we were on the third floor, no elevators.  We just grabbed what we needed from the trunk and headed for the shower!  The B&B was an easy walk to Waterfire and we enjoyed the music and fun.  Though I wouldn’t fly out specifically to see this, it was fun to see.  It’s different.  Unfortunately, we don’t have much time to see Providence on this trip.  There are some interesting museums and the Rhode Island School of Design was just around the corner from our room.  I think it would be fun to visit Providence again.  


Sunday,  10/1/17 – Monday 10/2/17 Back to Newport, Rhode Island


It’s an easy 50 minute drive to Newport. We were here less than two weeks ago, on the Princess cruise.  That day, we spent by the harbor and on Rose Island.  Now we have a few days on our own! We opt for membership to the Preservation Society of Newport County which gives us admission to all their mansions and we hope to see several of them! We certainly made a dent in the list.  We toured:  The Breakers, The Elms, Marble House, Rosecliff, Isaac Bell House, and The Hunter House.  All were interesting to see, the first of the three are huge estates that were built during the gilded age.  They are lavish and over the top!  The conspicuous consumption here is a testament to wealthy Americans desire to be not just rich, but royal.  The homes say, “Feel impressed, and intimidated.”   Like Hearst’s Castle in California or the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. they borrow their bling from European palaces and chateaus.   The mansions were breathtaking.  It’s fun to imagine what it would be like to be that wealthy, but there was more than one quote that showed that at least for some of the owners, money wasn’t the key to happiness.  


The Isaac Bell House was a large, impressive house,  but much less grand than the previous three.  I imagined where I would put my furniture in this house.  It was human scale and really unique.  The last place that we toured, The Hunter House, was much older, 1748.  It was built right in the heart of the busy port of Newport during colonial times.  It wreaked history, the stories it could tell!    


We got a chance to walk along Cliff Walk.  It is a 3.5-mile (5.6 km) public access walkway that borders the shore line and is below some of the gilded age mansions.  The views are wonderful, and the walk is well used.  


Tuesday,  10/3/17 Historic Massachusetts – Deerfield


We have a drive back to Massachusetts today and plan a couple of stops.  The first is Historic Deerfield, which is unusual in that that most of the structures here were built here.  Deerfield shows what life was like 300 years ago, how difficult it was to stay alive.  Many of the reinactors talk about how the inhabitants survived a horrible Indian attack, and that they were on the edge of the wilderness.  We learned that the early settlers cleared 75% of the forested area to set up farms.  Today approximately 75% of the area is reforested.   I have a chance to card wool, spin it and try to weave.  Barry tries out tools in the carpenters workshop and admires the craftsmanship and labor needed to make the furniture that they have on display.  We both enjoy history and this place is the right scale and is relaxed and fun.  I love this geeky stuff and would recommend it!


Late in the afternoon we had planned to go to Amherst, (I had even researched a great pizza place there),  but we decide to save it for another trip.  We head back toward Sturbridge for a couple of nights. I learn that we are near Worcester and that I have been publicly pronouncing it incorrectly, it is  “Wister” – Geeze, really!?  That’s as bad as the Brits mangling location names just to make tourists feel stupid! 🙂


Wed 10/4/17 Sturbridge and Sleepy Hollow!


Our night in the well reviewed Old Sturbridge Village Inn and Lodges was OK, but by morning the noisy road noise was putting me out of my colonial mood.  We are cheered by the increased autumn colors that are arriving and looking forward to seeing another historical village.  Sturbridge is more theme park than Deerfield was, though not at all off putting!  It also represents a later time period, the 1830s. It is full of reenactors and great buildings to see.  One that really impressed me, food related:), was a typical breakfast for the farmers of the time.  It smelled delicious, but when we got close to it, it was filled with flies.  She said, well, that’s how it would have been at the time.  Geez, we just passed a farmyard filled with animal shit, I KNOW where those flies have been.  They were sturdier people back then!

This evening we are going to come back to Sturbridge Village for “The Sleepy Hollow Experience”.  As per their website:  Sleepy Hollow Experience is an immersive, outdoor theatrical experience that reimagines Washington Irving’s iconic 1820’s tale. They started it last year and every performance was sold out.  So, a few months ago, I set my alarm for 3AM (6AM EST)  so that I could get tickets for us for this evening’s performance as soon as they went on sale online.  


It is worth it!  This is so well done!  The performers are extremely talented, the production is very, very well done.  The sound and lighting were great.  The BEST part is that you can walk through the story in a village that is authentic to the settling of the book.  They have an intermission time in which you are the Van Tassel’s party.  The actors come into the audience and play period games.  The finale is the headless horseman galloping through the covered bridge after Ichabod, as the audience is lined up against the walls.  Chilling…






Thursday,  10/5/17 NYC and Home


An uneventful drive back to NYC, turn in the car at La Guardia.  A long, but not horrible flight and we get home just after midnight on Friday, 10/6/17. Such good memories, so many plans on what to see next!

Here’s the movie from the last leg of the trip.



Schooner Mary Day, 4 Days on Penobscot Bay

Schooner Mary Day
Denise walking in Isle au Haut, Maine

At 4pm we can go on board the Schooner Mary Day.  We will spend the night onboard, we can come and go as we’d like until we leave in the morning.  We will be on our own for dinner. The other passengers are nearly all retirees and there is one particularly charming lady traveling with her husband,  who I would guess is in her 80s.   She has been on this ship 13 times before.  She and the Captain, named Barry, have quite a flirty verbal back and forth.  Both my Barry and I find the other passengers to be of great good will and have shining outlooks.


The heads, two of them, are on the deck.  There is a “shower” in one of the heads.  The instructions are that we should step down into the head, cover the toilet paper and air freshener, use the shower head on the side wall (it has a flexible hose).   I don’t see how you could keep a towel dry in there, let alone maneuver around or have a robe ready when you need it.  MMmmmm When we go out to dinner, we make a run to the drug store in Camden to get a huge package of baby wipes.  I don’t think I will be showering for a few days.


Barry and I are below deck, down a ladder.  We are sleeping in head to head bunks.  The hull of the ship curves over us and the only light in our very small cabin is from a hatch on the deck above our door.  There is a very small sink, and small shelves for our “stuff”.  This is “glamping”, as their brochure says.  It’s pretty rough, especially after the cruise ship and the wonderful inns that we have been staying in.  BUT we are on a glorious ship in one of the most beautiful places on earth.


Wednesday,  9/27/17  Sailing Penobscot Bay & “Lobster Island”


Come morning, there is excellent coffee on deck and we have an amazing breakfast in the galley.  I am anxious to see what this will all be about.  It’s foggy and cooler today.  We are out of the harbor in no time. Members of the small crew climb up the riggings and glorious sails unfurl.  We, the passengers, are enlisted to pull lines to help.  Now underway,  photos do not do the scenery justice.  It reminds me of Puget Sound, but there are lobster floats all over and smatterings of light houses on small islands.  


Captain Barry warns us that there is no itinerary, but that we will arrive back in Camden on Saturday.  That’s all the information that he will give regarding where are we going.  In the early evening, he does let us know that we will be going ashore for a lobster bake.  He has a lots of fun about giving us a HEADs up in planning aHEAD before we GO ashore because there is no HEAD and so WEE should GO aHEAD and use the HEAD.   It is a small, uninhabited island. My Barry and I dig out the rubber boots that we purchased for this trip and are ready for the row to some island that Captain Barry will only call Lobster Island.  We are one of the first passengers there and I see our captain and cook add the live lobsters to the two huge pots of steaming sea water, throw in potatoes, corn and then use a pitchfork to pile seaweed over the top.  Too bad that not everyone could see this.


My Barry and I explore the island a little.  We step onto spongy ground, mushrooms at our feet, pines all around us.  It’s like a memory of a fairytale, a deep, dark forest.  When a fallen log blocks our path, we climb over and investigate more.  The fog is getting heavier and I imagine bears behind the trees.  We can also hear our travel companions popping wine corks and smell the lobster.  We get back to the beach to see some of the crew setting up the meal into a gourmet mandala – a bed of seaweed, a ring of lobsters, a ring of corn and potatoes.  We all worship at the sight of it. We aren’t given pliers to crack the claws, but I look around me and see other people digging in.  The shell is so soft that I can just peel it off.  This is the sweetest, most tender lobster that I have ever had in my life.  I could weep, that no other lobster will be as good.  When the crew is coming around to try to get rid of the leftover lobster (Leftover lobster, ha!), I take another claw and my Barry goes for another lobster and claw! He enjoyed his meal too.  


Back onboard, we somehow eat more.  Cookie has made blueberry squares that are slightly salty and not too sweet.  Some decaf coffee to warm our hands as we have conversations with fellow passengers about the Galapagos Islands, Bhutan and northern lights in Iceland. Barry and I return to our little, little cabin as the crew is singing and the woodfire stove is heating up the ship.


Barry on deck.


Th 9/28  Sailing Penobscot Bay & Environs

I have found that during the night I can make it to head on deck and not be grossed out!  For one thing, it is always spotless.  More importantly, there’s a great peacefulness that comes with climbing up the ladder to look up to see millions of stars above my head.  It. Is. So. Quiet.   I return to my snug, little bunk and can hear the low snoring of people in other cabins.  Smiling, contented, I easily go back to sleep.


Another great breakfast! Then, Captain Barry tells us that the sailing will be great today.  Though there is a small craft warning, we will have some great wind.  


“Wind will blow butter off a biscuit!”, says he.


Nearly everyone gets involved in raising the sails.  We work on the port and starboard sides, the throat and the foot.  There’s problem with the foresail, a line is afoul.  Crew member, Paul from the Bronx is up there for 20 minutes in a harness working lines and getting it straight.  It sure makes makes me nervous, but he fixes it and comes down.  


The heeling of the boat had everyone moving around in a stooped posture.  I hear things shifting in the galley and we are flying on the water.  The water glistens and we race past lobster floats and pine covered islands.  The sailing is transformative, a meditation, so brilliant and above care.


Later in the afternoon, we stop at Deer Isle for a walk.  Homes along the water look so picturesque. I want step inside one of them, and sit in a comfortable chair to look back at us in the sailboat.  After rowing ashore, it is great to stretch our legs and see the beginnings of change of colors on the trees.  That evening there is pork loin, a huge salad, fresh bread, home cooked pies. We are fed again.  


Cooler now, we return to our damp, small cabin.  The scratchy, red wool blanket from the foot of my bunk now makes it’s way up over my comforter to just below my chin.  


F 9/29/17 Sailing Penobscot Bay & Environs


The wake up call of the crew swabbing the decks above us is the familiar routine now.  It’s our last full day onboard.  The “shower” that they showed us a few days ago is looking slightly more inviting, but I think I can hold out until tomorrow.  There is the amiable morning chatter with the other passengers.  One fellow from Maine explained to me how to understand the Maine accent.  He said that they like to conserve their “R”s.  As the Boston accent that I’ve heard, Park your car in the Harvard Yard – use no Rs …..  pak ya ca in the havad yad


It’s another great day of sailing, terrific wind and not too cold.  Toward the mid afternoon, a lobster boat is spotted on a closeby island that seems to be in trouble.  I can’t describe how impressed I am with how quickly and professionally the Mary Day crew reacted.  The first mate took a dinghy out to help, the captain called the coast guard.  It seems that this lobsterman went out alone to check his traps, fell overboard and could not get back into his boat.  The boat was ramming the rocks, motor on idle.  The water is very cold and the captain later said that the lobsterman was getting weaker by the minute due to hypothermia.


To get a little stretch today, we anchored in Isle au Haut.  It has a population of 73, only about 40 stay through the winter and there are six kids in the school.  There’s a very, very small post office, a sweet New England church, a small lighthouse and a store that is opened a few hours a week.  The scenery, of course is great.


Sa 9/30  Our Last Morning on the Schooner, on to Waterfire in Rhode Island


How does “Cookie” do it on a small, WOODBURNING ship’s stove! I have the chance to talk with her a little.  She gets up at 4:30 to get the fire going and has learned to rotate things around so that they will cook evenly.  She is just a wonderful cook, among the dishes that we had that were great were:  Scrambled eggs with onion & herbs (she turns off the heat and adds cream cheese!), cranberry muffins, piles of fruit, amazing bacon, pies, homemade ice cream, tons of cookies, blueberry pancakes, soups, chili, terrific salads, and that lobster bake…All of it was better than the cruiseship and she does it on a wood stove!


We enjoyed our time talking with fellow passengers from Maine, Massachusetts, Illinois, Washington, and Florida.  Everyone was so easy to get along with.  The crew was stellar.  I have never seen people work so hard and have such wonderfully helpful attitudes.  They slept in bunks right off the galley, barely crawl spaces and always wore a smile.  The first mate was a real cutie and couldn’t have been nicer or more attentive.  Our little 80+ year old lady was catered to and helped all over.  The captain seemed to have a pretty dry sense of humor, but I wish that he has talked more about the areas where we were and maybe some stories about previous sailing trips.  This was the last cruise of the year, maybe he was ready to give it up.  The Mary Day would go into dry dock shortly and he did talk about all the work that he had to catch up when he was home.    




Mystic to Camden

Barry in Camden, Maine.

Sunday,  9/24/17  Getting Outta Brooklyn!


What joy to wake up in New York, the view is glorious from our balcony.  This is the stunning part of a cruise, to awake in a new place!  Boats are busy intersecting the river below us, Ellis Island with the Statue of Liberty is off just to our left, Governor’s Island right next to us,  Manhattan is out in front of us on this unseasonably warm morning.  We don’t even wait for breakfast, but grab our own luggage and disembark before the people who needed porters are scheduled to get off the ship.  We taxi to our car rental, passing joggers, bikers and walkers out enjoying a gorgeous Sunday morning.

OK, L.A. boy, Barry Hogan, can get us out of Brooklyn, through New York City!  We cross the Brooklyn Bridge, (where we walked across, was that last year?)  Google maps routes us along FDR Drive, we skirt Manhattan along the East River and the view is stunning.  We cross RFK Bridge, go through the Bronx, and we are nearly through.  However, I only partially appreciate it, as most of my attention is focused on navigating and clutching the armrest on my car door.  There’s lots of construction and the drivers are at least as crazy as the ones in L.A, weaving in and out.  We accidentally get off on to the wrong highway, but take a leap of faith that google maps “is on our side”, enter a bunch of road construction and then end up on the right highway.  Phew!  We made it into Connecticut, where everything is calmer.  My heart rate lowers.   Well, except that the EZ Pass that came with the car doesn’t seem to be registering as we drive by the toll booths.  I glance back more than once to see if police are after us for avoiding tolls.


We enjoy the Native American names that mingle with English ones on the road signs.  I admit to using  “ Tonto speak” to see how they feel in the mouth. “Woonsocket”, “Hammonasett”,”Naugatuck”.  I wonder if Easterners enjoy “La Jolla”, “Pennasquitos”, “El Cajon”.


It’s still before check-in time when we arrive at the Steamboat Inn in Mystic Connecticut, but our room is ready!  As advertised, we are right on the water, and it’s an easy walk to explore Old Mystic Seaport.  On the way, we pass some charming homes with such pleasant views of the water.  I note to myself to see how outrageous the prices are, and find later that they are pricy, but not outragous.  Wonder if we could rent one some summer?


Mystic Seaport is an open air museum, the largest maritime museum in the United States, I am surprised to find.  A 19th-century village is made up of over restored 60 buildings (many that were moved here) and a large collection of historic sailing ships.  They also happen to have antique cars on display when we visit, so Barry is especially pleased.  Though the displays and the scenery are wonderful, the heat and humidity are taking their toll.  We find a place with local ale and calamari.  Barry surprises me by ordering a pork belly sandwich and I take a “bite”.  


We have no room for dinner and decide to spend the evening relaxing in our sweet BnB.  This sweet inn is right on the water, RIGHT ON THE WATER. At 8pm, as I contentedly page through my Yankee magazine, sipping sherry and a wonderful chocolate cookie, enjoying the view of passing boats, when a large schooner arrives to dock just below our wall of windows. I can see a score of tourists eye to eye and hear full conversations. This is a little too close maybe?  


Sadly, we have to leave in the morning.  We have a 5.5 hour drive tomorrow, but there is more to see here.


Monday,  9/25/17  Checking Out More of Maine


Ogunquit, Maine is our first stop today.  It’s three hours away from Mystic.  It doesn’t disappoint, it’s really beautiful  We take the Walk Marginal Way footpath and swoon at the view of the coastline and homes along the way.  I would love to “summer” here.  Though on this particular day it’s cooler in Sacramento, I think.  The weather is still warm and humid, due to the hurricanes in the south.  


Barry is interested in stopping at the L.L.Bean campus in Portland, Maine.  I had stopped here almost 20 (!) years ago when Caroline and I were speakers at a conference in New Hampshire.  Since that visit, the huge store that I remember is now surrounded by several other huge L.L.Bean stores.  One is for home goods, one is for adventure/sports, and they have a mall of other national brand stores adjacent to them.  We bought a few souvenirs to be shipped home.  Then off on the road again.  We had planned to stop in Boothbay, but decided to just go to Camden where we would stay the night.  Boothbay will be on the itinerary for another trip, because it looks heavenly.


We are staying in the Maine Stay Inn in Camden, Maine.  It’s in one of the oldest houses in Camden and run by Italian innkeepers.  They’ve done a wonderful job of decorating and are very hospitable. We get some good suggestions from them for more things to see and do.  They suggest a restaurant on the water that we can walk to and we SPLIT the lobster dinner and add one lobster a la carte.  Just wonderful, so “Maine-y”!  


We have to repack our bags to fit into a traditional duffle bag, no wheels to board the schooner tomorrow.


Tu 9/26/17 Rockland and Camden, Maine and Board the Schooner


We go up to Mt. Battie to see the view of Camden and Penobscot Bay from above.  Just, just, beautiful! It’s a little too warm for a big hike, but we enjoy the view from up here.


Penobscot Bay

“All I could see from where I stood

Was three long mountains and a wood;

I turned and looked the other way,

And saw three islands in a bay…”

Edna St. Vincent Millay


We investigate the cute shops in Camden and then head over to Rockland, which isn’t too far.  We have a chance to stroll through the Farnsworth Art Museum.  It features lots of work done by Andrew Wyeth.  Another of the artists whom I enjoyed very much was Marguerite Zorach.  Her modern embroideries are so colorful, interesting and rich.


(When I got home I learned some very interesting things about her. She was born in Santa Rosa, just up the road from us!  She was one of a handful of women students who were accepted to Stanford in 1908.  She exhibited in Paris in the early 1900s and socialized with Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Henri Rousseau and Henri Matisse.  She traveled to Jerusalem, Egypt, India, Burma, China, Hong Kong, Japan and Hawaii during 1911-1912.  She did many paintings of Yosemite and is also known for her textile and embroidery works, which I was drawn to at the Farnsworth.)


I fell in love with a fabric shop, Clementine.  I purchased a bunch of fabric that I may never use.  Also In an antique shop down the street, I loved a wooden antique drying rack like one that I saw in the Rose Island Lighthouse in Newport, RI.  Deciding that it was too bulky and heavy to carry or ship, I, regretfully, leave it.   



7 Day Canada New England Cruise

Denise on deck


Saturday,  9/16/17 Red-eye and Boarding the Crown Princess

Barry and I are boarding a red-eye flight at 11:36PM from Sacramento to JFK.  The seats are cheap and we are too.  It really wasn’t a bad flight, but when we get into NYC, we are ready to settle into a nice stateroom.  The problem that we have encountered before and face again with this trip is that we arrive at 8:01AM and we are not scheduled to board the Crown Princess until 1:30PM.


I have researched things that we may do with our time, (store luggage at JFK and go for a tour, check into a local hotel for a few hours, go to a gym…)  but have that nagging understanding that we will be grouchy by late morning and no sight or activity will seem “ok”, except a quiet place to rest our sexagenarian bones in our cabin. Therefore we sit in the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal with other pretty grouchy sexagenarians, septuagenarians, some octogenarians and a sprinkling of youngins.  We wait until we can board, and they let us onboard at about noon.  


Crown Princess carries over 3,000 passengers and 1,200 crew.  If there is a line, one of us cues up and the other checks to see for what we are waiting.  Though we officially earn elite status in the Princess loyalty program at the end of this cruise, I can’t say it’s my favorite way to travel, but as Dad says, “It’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick”.  





Monday,  9/18/17  Newport, Rhode Island


I find Newport’s history is rich and filled with drama.  There are stories about Baptists, Jews and Quakers settling here to gain religious freedom.  (I pick up the book, American Jezebel in a shop to read more about Anne Hutchinson, a colonial founding mother.  I find it fascinating and inspiring).  Sadly,  the whaling trade is also part of Newport history.  Pirates?  Yes, they had those too.  Most detestable of all,  I learned that sixty percent of slave-trading voyages launched from North America originated from tiny Rhode Island during colonial times.  They were part of the abhorrent “triangle trade”, which  I remembered well from teaching fifth grade.  Caribbean sugar and molasses was grown with slave labor and shipped to Newport for rum production.  In 1764, Rhode Island had about 30 rum distilleries and 22 were in Newport.   The rum was then traded in West Africa for more slaves.  We are told during our tour later that the slave trade was ended first here.  


We are in port for just the day until we return on our own later on our trip.   We focus on the harbor, Narragansett Bay and Rose Island.  Barry and I walk in the Thames St. area to see oh so cute nautical themed shops and enjoy the ocean air and sunshine.  I text my BFF, to let her know that she would love Newport and could easily decorate her whole house with just a stop or two here.  When it’s time for lunch, we find a fairly touristy but fun place, The Gas Lamp Grille and have our first lobster roll of the trip.  Paired with a seasonal ale, it was glorious.  


In the early afternoon, we meet for our tour.  We boat around the harbor a little and learn about the America’s cup history.  Newport was the location for the America’s cup race from 1930-1983.  Our guide then made many disparaging comments about the Australians, who took (or stole, as he said) the cup in 1987.  I’m proud to say that we were living in San Diego from 1988-1995 and remember well Dennis Conner’s sunburned face all over town as he and his crew celebrated the San Diego Yacht Club wins, until the Kiwis took it.  


We went by the site of the Newport Jazz Festival, where over 10,000 people gather for jazz and folk music. We also hear about Goat Island, where 26 pirates were buried in 1723 after they were tried and hung.  There are homes that we see from the water that were built for the rich and famous.  We see parts of Fort Adams and think we may go back to tour it another time.  So much history!   The best part of the tour is going ashore to explore Rose Island.  It has a wonderful light house in which you can stay over night and be a lighthouse keeper, it also has spooky stone barracks that were built in the late 1790s.  These barracks were also used to store explosives during WWII.  Of course, the guide said the barracks were haunted.  (goosebumps) Today the island is a wildlife refuge and home to migrating birds including little blue herons, black crowned night herons, great and snowy egrets, and glossy ibises. It was a really interesting place, and I would like to consider staying in that lighthouse one day.


As we return to our cruise ship, the guide tells us that the coast guide has been issuing a tropical storm warning.  Boats are returning to harbor and their flags are coming down.  Though the devastating hurricanes in the south of the US aren’t expected to be anywhere near us in New England, the effects from them are definitely felt up here.  It is unseasonably warm and humid.   


Tuesday, 9/19/17  Boston


Being in port for just the one day, we decided to see two places where we haven’t visited yet,  Peacefield,  known as Old House, an historic home formerly owned by President John Adams and his family and is now part of the Adams National Historical Park and The Museum at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.  We are on an old geezer tour through the cruise ship, which is fine today because the cruise terminal is out in a new seaport area, not especially close to Boston downtown.  This area is full of new modern buildings and is a new desirable neighborhood.  To reach the Adams house, we travel through the “Big Dig” Tunnel.  This is part of a project that was planned in 1982, expected to be completed in 1998, but it wasn’t finished until 2007 and was estimated to have cost 22 billion dollars, 190% over the estimated cost. Cost and delays were attributed to design flaws, substandard materials, archaeological findings, criminal arrests and even the death of a worker.   I remember trying to drive through the construction years ago, and remember the controversy at that time. What a mess!   It goes underwater part of the route and a blue strip in the tunnel lets you know when you are underwater.  That isn’t especially comforting to me.  They are still experiencing massive leaks of salt water that need to be pumped out.  


Barry is a big John Adams fan, and we have to see the Adams home!  It is in Quincy, pronounced Kwin-zee, no c sound.  We are both surprised to find that Quincy is a manufacturing area.  In fact, Fore River Shipyard is in Quincy and it is possible that the “Kilroy was here” cartoon originated here.   During WWII, James J. Kilroy, a shipyard inspector, marked the rivets that he had checked on ships as they were being built.  His markings were in areas that were unreachable after the ship was completed.  Therefore the Kilroy markings fed the myth that Kilroy could go where others could not, and it also leant a measure of assurance that the ships were well inspected and safe.  


Our first stop on this rainy day is to the Adams house in Quincy.  Sadly, we are not permitted to take photos inside.  It looks like a prosperous home of the late 1700s, but nothing extraordinarily grand, as you might describe Jefferson’s Monticello or Washington’s Mount Vernon.  It is humble and very human.  I was impressed by its simplicity and Adam’s life of service to American ideals.  


Adams is very much a vague historical figure, so to be able to see the Kennedy Library was a stark contrast.    Kennedy was assassinated when I was a kid, but I do remember him as a living human being.  The museum is an elegant  I.M. Pei-designed building on many acres along the Boston waterfront.  The exhibits feature television footage and a theater with a film about JFK.  We happen to be there during a temporary exhibit of 100 items that haven’t been displayed before to commemorate what would have been Kennedy’s 100th birthday.   Though rushed, I enjoy learning more about him and about Jackie Kennedy. I know that he was a womanizer, but I do appreciate his support of space exploration and science, as well as his efforts toward equal civil rights.  


After we are near our cruise ship, we consider going to Boston Fish Pier on our own.  However, it’s rainy and there’s lots of construction in the area.  So, we save it for another time when we visit Boston.


Wednesday,  9/20/2017  Bah Ha-Ba (Bar Harbor), not to Be!


Well, crap!  The weather prevents us from making a call into Bar Harbor.  We are stuck onboard today and our tour of historic lighthouses and Acadia National Park via a 90-foot jet-powered catamaran.  Then we were going to take an historic and scenic walk on our own along the Shore Path and into Acadia National Park.  Crap, crap!



Thursday,  9/2/17  St.John, New Brunswick (not to be confused with St. John’s Newfoundland)


We are at our northern most point of this trip, and there is just a kiss of autumn here.  I fear that we will not be seeing much autumnal color on this trip.  However, I do just adore it here.  I am especially enamored with our tour guide, Fay.  She is as folksy and cute as they come.  Quintessential Canadian in my mind.  She says “sorwy” for the smallest thing and has the greatest little stories that entertain us as we bus through areas of St. John.  


Fay wants to be sure that we see the reversing rapids, a noteworthy phenomenon on the Bay of Fundy, during high and low tides.  Therefore our first stop is to Fallsview Park to take a measure with cameras of the collision of the ocean tide from the Bay of Fundy where it meets the Saint John River.  At low tide the river empties into the bay causing a series rapids and whirlpools, when the tide rises it slows the river current and there is a slack tide, reversing the direction of the river. The differences in the water level is approximately 50 feet from low tide to high tide, reached over a six hour interval.  It is safe to to pass through the area by boat during slack tide.  The Bay of Fundy is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.


We head toward the downtown area and see “Marigolds on Main”.  School children throughout the city plant marigold seeds in small paper cups and at an appointed time in June, the streets are closed down and all the kids come out to plan their marigolds.  It’s such a sweet idea.  In a small city with a population of 72,000, this seems like a wonderful idea.  I think that they especially enjoy the bright summer colored flowers since they have long, cold winters in which they average 9 feet of snow.  They recently had 15 feet in one year!  There are historic homes and modern buildings and McDonalds. Ugk


On the way to the next destination Fay continues to entertain us with stories about life in New Brunswick.  She beautifully describes tamarack trees that are covered with frost, and how they make homemade moose calls from tomato cans and skate laces then go try to find moose.  They have a tradition of  kitchen parties which are potlucks where everyone plays musical instruments and they all sing to keep cosy on cold nights. East Coast Canada has lots of musicians who credit their skills to these kitchen parties.  The small tight knit community in St. Martin, near where she lives, there are already two other women named Fay. One Fay was born there, so she is called Fay.  One Fay comes only during the summers so she is Summer Fay and our Fay is called Fay from Far Away because she was born in another Canadian province, though she’s lived in New Brunswick since college and has grown kids.  She talks about collecting dulse seaweed and how they use it for seasoning .  She talks about the retreat that she and her husband have started (He was a marriage and family counselor.  I found their website )  I am absolutely charmed by her stories.  


Driving for about an hour in lovely countryside, we reach St. Martins. It’s a 200-year-old village with twin covered bridges  (Covered bridge make a wish or steal a kiss) , a small harbor and a lighthouse, and a total population of  283.  We are one of the tour busses that has overrun this adorable little town, I am enjoying the ambiance, but am embarrassed to be part of the invading hoard.  We drive to St. Martins Sea Caves and Beach. Over time, waves have carved caves out of the cliffs. We have a tourist lunch of  seafood chowder, rolls and homemade cookies. The food is good, but we have a view of the parking lot, not the water and the meal is served in disposable paper.  We walk along the beach to gather “wish rocks”.  They tell us “wish rocks” have a full ring of an opposite color marked into the stone.  (Upon our return, our grandkids aren’t too enchanted by this story, but I still have a few on my kitchen ledge.)


We end our tour at Old City Market, in the heart of Saint John, it’s the oldest working farmer’s market in Canada.   The market first opened in 1876 and withstood The Great Fire of 1877. Shipwrights built the market with a roof in the shape of a ship’s hull. We buy some dulse seaweed and hope to get it through customs.  Then we head back shortly before we pull up anchor and head to Halifax.  

Friday, 9/22/17 Halifax, Nova Scotia

It’s great to be in Halifax, the weather is a little chilly and the air is so fresh.  It is just the cusp of autumn.  We are docked near the Lord Nelson Hotel, built in 1927 which is one of those iconic Canadian Railroad hotels.  Our tour guide tells us that it takes six days to go across Canada by train, to arrive in Vancouver.  That gives me a better sense of how large this country is.  I have read a little bit about the beautiful hotels which were built to encourage train travel during the late 1800s and have stayed in the Empress in Victoria, British Columbia, seen from afar the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec.  I spent a little time trying to work out a rail trip to see more of these and enjoy the scenery along the way.  The packaged tours would really smash our travel budget, but maybe I can do a work around for a future trip. It would be great to stay in a few of these hotels and enjoy some kayaking or hiking as well.  Mmmm


Halifax is nicknamed the “City of Trees”, as is Sacramento.  This is especially interesting because there is only 5 feet of topsoil here, most of the city is built on solid rock.  It seems that this is also the city of colleges, there are seven universities.  On our last trip here many years ago, we enjoyed heaps of seafood and saw lots of young folks.


Our guide is a former high school history teacher, God help us, and is so of information I think that my brain will explode.  After an hour, I have to turn him off, but awake for just long enough for some of the quirkiest stories.  For instance, there are tons of McDonald’s here, they look just like McDonald’s in USA, but they all have jaunty maple leaves on the arches.  The menu is different, as in some other foreign McDonald’s.   Until this year, they used to sell lobster rolls that were a real bargain.  However, lobster became just a little too expensive this year to keep it on the menu.  They have harsher penalties for drunk driving and driving while texting, and smoking isn’t allowed in the car is a child under 16 is also a passenger, smart.


We are driving to Lunenburg, billed as “The Prettiest Town in Canada”.  There is a very sweet town on the way that makes scarecrows every fall that look like the royal family and some other celebrities.  The guide tells us that last year there was one with orange funny hair that resembled our president.  There was a collective moan in the tour bus.  I am comforted.  


We make a photo stop at Mahone Bay. Upon approaching it, I can see three pristine churches, very close to each other, in the most picturesque location.  It looks like a movie set .  There are Trinity United Church, St. John’s Lutheran and St. James Anglican.   The guide tells us that they are very well maintained because they have ties to Boxing Rock Brewers.  Ah, Divine grace.  They each have musical concerts as well and have their concert schedule posted online.

Lunenburg is a small town with a population of only 2,263. The village was built by the British government for German settlers, whom they needed to colonize North America.  Those pesky French were the larger presence in that part of Canada at the time.   The English couldn’t find enough of their own so, the sponsored Germans who would be loyal to the English. However, today, it is overrun with cruise ship tourists.  To spite this, it is a storybook town with impossibly green hillsides surrounding it.  The sailboats and historic homes make it a wonderful place to spend the day.  Barry and I enjoy walking around the town and duck into a crowded pub for a lobster roll and a pint. An older, bejeweled and well dressed lady allows us to share her table.  She shares that she is from British Columbia and we come to find that she is well traveled too. She’s been traveling on her own for quite awhile and we discover that we have some favorite destinations in common.  For our upcoming trip to Whitehorse, she insists that we go to a town called Dawson in Canada in or near Yukon.  I will have to check out her recommendation.   


After short lull in conversation, she erupts,  “Geez, your president!”


Here we go again!   As happened so often in Australia earlier this year, we reassure her that we didn’t vote for him and we hope he is somehow outta here soon.


We will have a day at sea before we disembark in NYC.  We’ve been seated at a table for eight this week, but have only been joined by two other people each night that we were dining there.  This was disappointing because we have met some interesting and lovely dinner companions on past cruises. In fact, the dining room was very sparsely inhabited each night that we were there.  I would guess that with a port nearly every day, lots of people go for a quicker meal elsewhere and don’t go in for the longer formal dinner.  Our companions are Wei and Bill.  They are Chinese, but have been in the USA for 30 years in St. Louis.  They are still big fans of their native land and we spend more that one meal getting tips on what to see there – go to Shanghai, being their most adamant suggestion.  Wei was also very interested in Chinese cooking and gave us recipes, which I would like to try.  Generally, they were not impressed with New England, which was too bad and weren’t really interested in travel in Europe or the rest of the world.  They were nice, but we didn’t exchange contact information with them.  





Eclipse Trip – Baker City, Oregon

Eclipse Trip

The light is not like a sunset, but more, as Barry said, like lighting from a stadium.  It isn’t a warm glow, but cooler, eerie light.  The temperature also grows significantly cooler and both of us reach for jackets.  We look through our solar eclipse viewing glasses to see the moon slowing take an ever larger bite out of the sun.  We are standing across the dirt road, where we have parked in a line of cars, just outside of Baker City, Oregon.  This is within the Path of Totality. (TA-TA-TA!) We are in a very dry, sagebrush covered landscape, with craggy hills and a clear blue sky.  
Shadows are elongated and the moon nearly covers the sun to make a crescent, then a small sliver.  Next a shout comes up from our group of strangers-viewers!  The eclipse!  Barry takes a short video of the hills surrounding us, it is a 360° sunset and the sky has changed to a dark, dark blue.  We are able to take off our glasses to view the sun without them. There is a very bright red section of the ring around the moon and I try to pull my eyes away from the eclipse to look at the stars in the sky, here at 10:20AM.  I study the bright silver ring of the eclipse and the realization that this is real, not a film, makes me smile.  Quickly, Barry and I take a selfie and hope that something turns out from photos.  
So, so quickly, the sun returns.  Just a sliver opens up and the whole world is illuminated again.  Too short, too quick, it can’t be over!  
Later that day, Heather texts us:  “Good eclipse?  Worth the trek?”  I respond:  “Yes – No”.  Now that I have time to reflect upon the experience, I am very glad that we went to see it.  It was really a trek, though. 
I started planning this a couple on months ago when I looked into flights all along the Path of Totality (TA-TA-TA!) and also at hotel rooms.  Many hotels were already full and there were few flights.  Some hotels that still had vacancies were gouging people outrageously  for the eclipse viewing date.  We really weren’t up for a long drive, and had read that lots of traffic jams were expected, so we gave up on the idea.  Then, I saw an article just a couple of weeks ago that listed college dorms that were renting rooms.  
My first choice, Western Oregon University was filled, but I completed in an interest form for Easter Oregon University and heard back from them a few days later.  They had a package available. For three nights we could rent a dorm suite for $500.  I rechecked flights and drive times and we decided to do the 10.5 hour drive to La Grande, Oregon.  We planned to stop at 8.5 hours in Boise, Idaho for the night, check out Boise, then drive up to the dorm.  
We set off as planned, but got off on the wrong highway.  This added two hours to our first day’s drive.  It was about 10PM for us, 9PM Boise time, when we looked for a place for dinner. Boise’s population is 223,000, to compare Sacramento has 495,000 and San Diego has 1.4 million residents. Boise is,  by far, the largest city for miles around in this area of the county, but it isn’t a large city.  I was very curious to see what we would find in Boise.  I had never been there. 
After that long drive, I was cheered by $4.50 glass of Lagunitas IPA, a Northern California,  lovely beer,  at a Mexican place near the hotel. (We were at the Lagunitas Brewery just a couple of weeks ago and the beer there was $8, I think. FUNNY!)  However, when my “salad” arrived it was only shredded lettuce, that was it, shredded lettuce was a salad. This was not the house speciality, I suppose.  
Revived the next morning, we strolled through a unexpectedly large craft and farmer’s market in downtown.  The vibe was sort of hipster meets cowboy.  Truly, everyone we have met here is very friendly and it’s a nice people place to be.  Lots of fun to see local crafts and foods.  The downtown is mostly well maintained and handsome, with some old buildings and some monumental, modern ones around them.  It reminds me of Salt Lake City.
The Idaho Botanical Gardens are supposed to be interesting, so we made a stop.  It is advertised as a  local feature.  It was “Bug Day” and they had lots of fun activities and exhibits for kids.  Happy kids run around the gardens with small butterfly nets, capture insects and line up to show them to an entomologist. Craft tables are everywhere as kids wield scissors and glue sticks in the celebration of insects.  There are native gardens, which to my untrained eye look lots like the desert that we’ve been driving through for hours and hours.  It’s not a major destination, such as the gardens in British Columbia (Butchart), Portland, Denver, or even Phoenix,  but a pleasant diversion. 
Barry and I listen to NPR as an optometrist/ umbraphile (one who loves eclipses) is interviewed.  He says that seeing an eclipse is like falling in love, and that everyone should have the chance to, at least once in their lives, fall in love and to see a total solar eclipse.  Since, I am still gloriously in love with my sweetie, 42 years now,  the bar is pretty damned high for this eclipse.
On the road North, I see a sign:  “45 PARALLEL, HALF WAY BETWEEN EQUATOR AND NORTH POLE”.  The teacher part of me smiles – very, very cool.  
We stopped in Baker City.  This is the town where we will view the eclipse, it is within the Path of Totality (TA-TA-TA!).  It’s a cute little town, we stopped in all the shops that we could find, had lunch and sampled at a vodka distillery.  We thought that this was a good indicator that, perhaps, La Grande was even nicer.  We thought that a university town might me more artsy or something? 
A couple of hours later, we checked into our dorm suite.  Nice and clean, the suite had 3 bedrooms that each had a single bed on stilts, a living room, a kitchenette, bathroom and storage room.  They supplied sheets, toilet paper and two paper cups. Well, not the Four Seasons.  Barry moved the mattresses into the living room, so that we could be together.  We reminisced about the times when Barry visited me in my dorm at UCSB, moving mattresses and ..ah good times.  We hung up the towels that we brought from home, unpacked our cooler….  So, what’s there to do in La Grande, Oregon?  Well, NOTHING!   
The University did have the dining commons opened for visitors, but we weren’t invited to use any other facilities such as the fitness center or tennis courts.  I had read about hiking in the area, but we nixed the idea of desert hiking.  
Went to see a movie, read, walked on campus.
Tick off the box next to “View Solar Eclipse” on our bucket lists, and we just couldn’t face another day in the dorms, though it was paid for and the dining commons might have meatloaf tonight.  We decided to cut our trip short a day and book a hotel in Reno.  We will take our chances on what some said would be apocalyptic traffic.  
What we hoped would be a straight 8.5 hour shot to Reno turned into hours more.  There was traffic, but not eclipse traffic so much as a bridge out that wasn’t on google maps, and we were rerouted all over, then repaving in Nevada.  Ahwg!  
We stayed in Mount Whitney Hotel, a fun non-smoking, quirky place.  It has a climbing wall built onto the outside of its multilevel building!  The interiors are fun and unusual.  (If you have to go to Reno, I would recommend this place.  But, I wouldn’t recommend going to Reno to begin with.)  No one was climbing on the wall when we were there, but it looks really, really cool and frightening too.    
Interestingly, we were across the street from Harrah’s, which looks pretty dumpy.  Barry wants to see the Harrah’s car museum and we go into Harrah’s to find it.  The museum is actually a couple of blocks away, but I have time to take in the cigarette smoke and loud gambling machines and lots of incredibly sad looking people.  
Barry loves the car museum, and I am NOT bored out of my mind, so a win/win.  He wishes he had Jon with him so that they could have car talk.  
Today, finally home, I’m really glad that we went.  It really was a quite a trek, but it could have been worse.  I read that Trump is going to speak in Reno this morning. If we had stayed in the dorms and not come a day early to Reno, ugh, we would have been in the same city with him.  
 Thank you, Universe for the eclipse, it was stunning!

Hobart, MUST Come Back!

March 3-10, 2017
Lovely beginning of autumn days

Esther Shohet, Battery Point

Picture 1 of 16

OK, Hobart, I fall in love with you upon arrival at the airport.  A seal sculpture rotates around on the luggage conveyer belt as we await our bags.   A naughty group of bronze  Tasmanian devils climb all over some luggage in the lobby.  This place is going to be fun.

We enjoy our first views of Hobart with green hillsides, blue water, nestled beneath Kunanyi, or Mount Wellington.  (In 2013 Tasmania adopted a dual-naming policy as found in other territories in Australia and New Zealand, as a step towards broader recognition of Tasmania’s first peoples.)  Our accommodation in Battery Point is Pretoria House Apartment Air B and B, with hostess Nickey McKibben.  Charming cottages and stately larger homes butt next to each other over the harbor, just above Salamanca.  It is very charming. Also, Battery Point is the birthplace of Errol Flynn (for my Dad).  Another plus is the washer and dryer and getting all of our clothes washed.

We walk and swoon and walk and then enjoy a great dinner at  Blue Eye.  The server describes the wine that comes from her friends winery up the road and knows all about the fish caught today.  Ah!

There is an amazing breakfast/brunch cafe a few doors down from where we are staying.  It is Jackman and McRoss.  I adore it, the croissants are the best ever and all the food looks wonderful.  The coffee is great, the service is nice, ambience is just wonderful.  This is a new “happy place”.

Then, we meet Hobart Walking Tours.  It turns out that it’s just us today and we met our personal guide, Lisa,  in front of Henry Jones Art Hotel, at 10AM start to Hobart History, People and Places Walking Tour.  We learn the the Henry Jones is the best places to stay during the Sydney to Hobart yacht race every summer,  just after Christmas.   We learned that they claim to have the cleanest air on earth, the fittest people on earth, that it’s the cheapest Australian capital city in which to live.  More interesting yet were the stories of the people of Tasmania.  The earliest inhabitants are thought to have arrived in Tasmania 400,000!! years before the English colonists.  These Aboriginals were thought to have been separated from mainland Australia’s groups about 10,000 years ago when the seas rose to separate them.  Like many native people, they were wiped out due to violent conflict with Europeans and infectious diseases to which they had no immunity.  Barry and I were reminded of the US history of atrocities against native Americans and also the inhumane treatment of African slaves.   However, I was surprised to hear from the tour guide that many people now living in Tasmania do have traces of Aboriginal DNA.

In 1803 Hobart became a penal colony and the stories of the nearly 75,000 poor souls  who were sent there until its closing in 1853 are enough to give anyone nightmares.  According to the tales that our guide told, children as young as 11 were sentenced to prison from England to Hobart.  She told us a story of many innocent women who were framed of using counterfeit currency were brought to Hobart because they needed women on the island.  Even though many of the women were married and had children in England, they were told they were “divorced by way of distance”.  The punishment for crimes committed by prisoners in Hobart were especially grusome.  Grisly stuff, this!    Now, surrounded by such beauty, in another time, this was hell on earth.  After the end of the prison, it becomes a pioneer town, full of rough and tumble types.

Barry and I pick up another tour with Lisa at 2PM for The Alcohol History of Hobart.  This one includes wine, whisky, vodka and cider tastings.  Again we meet in front to the Drunken Admiral and find out that the hotel and restaurant is named for Lord Nelson, hero of Trafalgar.  He was killed in battle and his men was placed his body in a cask of brandy, lashed it to the Victory’s mainsail,  placed under guard.  This is how the “Drunken Admiral” returned home.

Tasmania is foodie heaven and is know for “Paddock to Plate”.  They are also known for their seafood, wines, produce, dairy products and more.  It is difficult to find a poor restaurant review and easy to see that they are blessed with local, high quality food.  Food centric festivals and events abound.  The biggest is Tastes of Tasmania Festival  at New Years that adds to the festivities shortly after the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.  Crowds in excess of 350,000 come for a week long celebration of Tassie food!

It is renowned for it’s wine, but Tasmanians and other Aussies drink most of it themselves.  They export very little.   We are able to sample several wines and see excellent displays at the Gasworks Cellar Door.

Our visit to Lark Distillery  in Hobart is very, VERY pleasant. As we sipped wee drams of delight.  The distiller whom we speak with gives us a great pitch on how the water is the best in the world and barley is phenomenal and their whiskey is better than any you would find anywhere, including Scotland.  We nearly bought a pricey bottle, but decided that we couldn’t take the risk of breaking it on our travels.

We are able to sample goods from Grand Ewe.    Their Sapphire Blue cheese that is out of this world and enjoy the whey vodka so much that we buy a couple of small bottles to lug home for sharing with Heather and Justin.  We also enjoy some Pinot paste, made from the marc of the pinot wine pressings.  This sweet fruit paste is nice paired with cheese.  We buy a couple of tubs of it as well.  Their farm sounds wonderful, they welcome visitors and we put this on our “Next time in Hobart” List!

The restaurants around the docks have gorgeous seafood plates and we had to stop for some ice cream because the line was so long, we knew that it would be good.  No regrets, it is Devine.

MOMA , The Museum of Old and New Art, is a “can’t be missed attraction” in Hobart.  However, we run out of time and miss it!  It is an eclectic mix of modern art and antiquities.  We had seen it on TV and we were looking forward to visiting it.  Visitors can drive there, pick up a minibus or even a catamaran from the waterfront to get there, fifteen minutes outside of Hobart.  Next time….next time….

We are a short walk to Salamanca from our apartment.  It is an area of former whaling ships’ warehouses that have been remodeled to become shops and restaurants.  We enjoy walking through the shops and pick up a few small pieces made of local Tasmanian timber, called Huon pine. I also get a small, colorful and whimsical print by Esther Shohet.  Her work is in a gallery that features the apartment where we are staying and the heavenly cafe which we enjoyed, Jackman and McRoss.  (  The print that we got is similar to this one> her work is so fun!

Tragically, we missed  Market Day at Salamanca.  It is on Saturday when we will have left and includes booths in the street in which artists and farmers sell their wares.

Next visit to Tasmania we WILL:

Our guide book says that Tasmania “encompasses the historic, the healthy and the hedonistic”.  I couldn’t agree more.  So, we have flirted with Tasmania, but must return.  What a magical place.