Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Chincoteague

August 27, 2013

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Eric in the garden, 1848 Manor House

Life’s a beach, Every vacation should end at one.

I booked the suite at the 1848 Island Manor House on Chincoteague Island. It was all that was left when I booked three weeks ago. Everything is relative, the cost of the suite per night was expensive compared to the other rooms in the B &B and extravagant compared to local motels, but no more expensive than the bare minimum we would have paid for a adequate motel room on Cape Cod or in the Hamptons. It was three beautiful rooms, our own screened sun room and it came with delicious breakfasts and lovely people.

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We borrowed bikes and tooled around the island, Friday morning. Behind the carnival park we found a corral with a “wild ponies”. We did see from a long distance, the herd of wild ponies at the Assateague Refuge, but the young foals and there mothers were spending some time in town, which afforded us the opportunity for close up photography.

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We took advantage of the rainy Friday afternoon to visit Wallop’s Island, currently used by NASA. We read a letter from a teenage George H Bush, who was stationed there for a short time during WWII, he complained about the food to his mother and described a landing accident to his father, begging him not to tell his mother who would be worried.

Rocket that sent the first monkey into space

Rocket that sent the first monkey into space

We ended the vacation at the beach, along with the obligatory hike, to the Light House.

We took a picnic dinner to the downtown dock park and had a fine evening listening to Chaz Dipaola and his New York City Blues Band.IMG_1572

They had started their road tour in Quebec, had played Greensboro North Caroline, and were driving back to New York City directly following the show.

We got ice cream at Island Creamery, went to sleep and drove back to New York City the next morning.

Manassas to Chincoteague Island

August 27, 2013

Thursday, August 23,2013

Eric wondered several things, had I ever been to Arlington National Cementery? I had with my parents a skillion years ago? Do they always have the changing of the guard?- they do once every half hour during the summer, once every hour the rest of the year and once every two hours at night.

Then he wondered if it would be disrespectful to go dressed in our t-shirts and shorts? Outside, the uniformed soldiers, and the Mennonites dressed in gingham long-sleeve, high-neck, knee length dresses- that was the only dress mode we saw. We found out that the traffic on DC area rush hour mornings, is just what we are used to in New York, so it took us close to 40 minutes to cover the eight miles to the Cemetery. Between parking and getting through the Visitor’s Center we hustled up the hill to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to make the 11 o’clock change of guards (we did not yet know that there was another one in half an hour), We were instructed, in no uncertain terms, by a guard sergeant, that we were to respect the solemnity of the occasion by keeping quiet and remaining silent. We did, we stood and remained silent through the very elaborate, very formal ceremony- twice actually, since it was summer and they occurred a half hour apart. In the interim we listened to a guide who explained although the tomb had been created after World War I as a place for the families whose loved ones remains, remained in Europe to mourn, the guard did not start until the 1930’s. Arlington Cemetery was a beautiful place, and families would come in nice weather and even picnic at the Tomb. She explained the guard was placed there to prevent such disrespectful behavior. I  disagree, I am not sure I think that families going on with process of being alive while being close to their dead is a terrible thing.

But someone does. Since the changing of the guard is taken very seriously. Even at night when the grounds are closed to visitors. Who would know, if you didn’t go through the ceremonial steps at night? A journalist asked a guard member.

His answer- He would know. (He being the unknown soldier)

In a country without royalty or palaces – guess we need to change the guard somewhere.

Ladies and Gentlemen:  Please stand and remain silent –

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(for any reader who doesn’t know us- I most absolutely give Eric credit for the above pictures)

 

We headed off to Chincoteague, we would have passed Washington DC on the bypass, if Eric would have listened to my translated directions from the Google Map  app, but that didn’t happen so we drove through DC.

At the Bread-and- breakfast, Cecil, one of the many lovely people we met there asked me had I been to DC.  Yes, many times, the Union brings us down often enough for various protests.  I suspect no other one sentence would have given such a succinct self-description of this middle-aged New Yorker.

We stopped in Stevensville, Maryland for a nice lunch and then made our way down the DelMarVa to Chincoteague.

I must include at least one sunset.

I must include at least one sunset.

 

 

We arrive at Chincoteague in time to catch the sunset over the bay.

We went on with process of living.

 

Luray to Manassas

August 26, 2013

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August 21, 2013

Eric found a book at a book-sale, called the Dictionary of the Civil War. It was published in 1959, and though it is almost as old as us, unlike us it shows no signs of wear. The author explains on the first page, that his wife wrote at least half of the book, but refused to be listed as an author. I don’t know why I mention that here except that it is so amazing to think about.

The Civil War is (was) a big deal in Virginia. If we were totally unaware of the fact that we are approaching the 150th anniversary of the war in New York, we were well aware of that here. The middle part of the vacation, between the mountains and the sea, was devoted to Civil War sites.

Well two, anyway.

The first stop on the way out of Shenandoah, was New Market. The fact that it is on the road between the mountains and the sea, is not coincidental. The road in some form or another was always the east west road that brought supplies from the west to the coast. The Northern army understood the need to cut off the supply chain and the Southern army understood the need to keep it open. So this big battle happened. It involved the cadets from the Virginia Military Institute, who just so happen to run the museum. Actually, a VMI graduate, left the funds for the building and the running of the place which houses the Museum of the Civil War.

We watched movie, Field of Lost Shoes, which tells the story of the battle from the point of view of several of the cadets. The one who became most famous was Moses Exekial, the first (and presumably only ) Jewish cadet who survived the battle and moved to Italy and became a famous sculptor.We only saw a picture of sculpture Virginia Remember’s Her Dead. The real one is in a nearby town.

Strained glass window from the museum

Strained glass window from the museum

We walked around the field explored the preserved house (including a surgery, with the frightening surgical tools of the era)the guide reminded us that there were no antibiotics in the era, and wounds to limbs often ended in amputation.

Jacob Bushong's Farm, which was around during the 1864 Battle of New Market

Jacob Bushong’s Farm, which was around during the 1864 Battle of New Market

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We browsed the exhibits in the Museum of the Civil War,which made me wonder if what the taught me in school about the North wining the war was really correct

I had noticed on the way in a Frozen Custard stand. I have long mourned the loss of frozen custard in New York. Not since they closed Gertz Jamaica in the late 1970’s have I had a reliable source. So it was worth the trip back to get a cone.P1010475

Alas though the stand itself was worthy of my nostalgic reveries, the ice cream tasted like regular old soft serve.

We ended our day in Manassas- I started the day in the laundromat in Luray. (actually- another distant memory of my childhood- doing laundry in a laundrommat) and Eric was in charge of figuring out where to stay. He picked Manasas, or Bull Run. Now that we are Civil War mavens, I can explain that the North and the South named the same battle grounds with different names.

We entered the park after sunset and long after the Visitor’s Center had closed, so we browsed the old homestead, the replica canons and the battle fields without period- costumed re-enacters or very much more explanation than what was available in a 1959 dictionary of the Civil War.

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Shenandoah to Luray

August 26, 2013

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August 20,2013

I told my hiking partners at Lake Louise that the good part about hiking up, was the return trip involved hiking down. Shenandoah was designed on the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountain. the many overlooks adjoining Skyline Drive, allow anyone in their Chevrolet (or any other make of vehicle) to see the panoramas without taking more than a few steps. the park literature does remind you, that there is much natural beauty to be observed beyond the parking lot, but it involves hiking down. which means of course, the return trip is hiking up.

Rose River Falls

Rose River Falls

We hiked down the Rose River trail, to see the falls, then we hiked along the river to see the Dark Hollow Falls. We had our lunch on large concrete block that proved the existence of habitation in the hollows long before the National Park. Later at the Visitor’s Center we learned it was the remains of a copper mine.

The remains of a copper mine where we had lunch

The remains of a copper mine where we had lunch

Then we hiked up, and up and up some more. I am not ashamed to say, that like Lake Louise, people considerably older than us, passed us more than once. But we made it again. The last leg of the hike consisted of a flat gently inclined road. I spotted a flag pole in a clearing and figured we had returned (although the parking lot where we started contained no flag pole) but no, we had reached the Cave Cementary. Cave referred to the name of the family buried there, not anything like Luray Caverns. The most recent grave was less than a year old and many graves had markers dating back to the Civil War. An explanatory plaque noted that more than half the graves were children. Eric peppered the rangers in the Visitor Center with so many questions about the Cementary, that she ran a documentary for us called The Gift.   It was about the people who “gave” the land to the government for the park. No editorial comments here. The rangers did tell us that there were more than twenty family cemeteries in the park and that families had the right to maintain them. I guess its okay to be a dead resident in the park, not a live one (oops no editorial comments allowed)

Cave Cemetery on the Dark Hollows Fall Trail

Cave Cemetery on the Dark Hollows Fall Trail

A grave stone in the Cave Cemetery

A grave stone in the Cave Cemetery

The grandparents we met the day before had told us about a reasonably priced pleasant little motel, The Hillside, on route 211 the road that led out of the park. After one last overlook session, which involved me photographing a lot of insects, we left Shenandoah.

A cooperative butterfly

A cooperative butterfly

Not far from the motel the Page County Agricultural Fair was going on. So that became our evening activity.

Page County Agricultural Fair(Eric thinks it looks like Something Wicked This Way Comes)

Unlike the Queens County Farm Fair (yes it does exist) the Page County Agricultural Fair is just that. A very little girl looked longingly at her pumpkin on display and was told. no she couldn’t take it home, they had brought it there to be judged. Weary teenagers hung out with the cattle and hogs, some listening to hip hop, some to Christian Rock. We passed the fraternal order of police whose raffle advertised a prize of a four night Tennessee Vacation- in a premium cabin. There was no one was there to take my money so I didn’t have to debate whether or not to purchase a ticket. I played some Bingo, didn’t win, and ended the evening at the Star Family Circus. On a trip to Russia, we attended a performance of the Moscow Circus. Eric recalled the family (also tourists as evidenced by their North American accented English) behind us being horrified that the circus contained animal acts. The Star Family Circus had only human performers, but Eric wondered if the Russian bears had it any worse than the woman who raced a motorcycle around an iron dome, frequently checking the carburetor and wheels for safety, during the performance at the county fair.  Who knows? I don’t speak Russian, I can’t ask the bear.

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Shenandoah National Park, Monday August 19, 201

August 26, 2013

Shenandoah, Monday August 19,2013

We had breakfast again in the dining room with a view, and the view was yet again the fog. we took it on faith that there was a town in the valley below.

Summit of Stony Man

Summit of Stony Man


The benefit of taking the ranger’s walk is there are lots of people to take your picture at the summit.

By ten, the fog had cleared enough that we took the ranger walk to Stony Mountain Summit. The ranger, who used to live in Williamsburg,( the one we knew, the one with bridge not colonial houses.)  had a masters degree in poetry. Today, however, he talked a bit about the flora and the fauna of the park.
P1010362We left the group at he summit, hiked over to Little Stony man Summit where we ate lunch while, a family of three boys from Toronto skiddaddled around us. we continued on the Pasaquamody trail for a good while until miraculously we ended up in the parking lot where our at was parked.Interesting Tree Mushrooms along the Pasamaqoody trail

We needed rest, wine and showers (not necessarily in that order), but after obtaining all three we were up for another hike. This time we picked a trail that was wheelchair accessible. one mile on flat terrain, Limbrelost was perfect for our weary feet, and a grandmother and grandfather and their four grandsons. The hike ended in the parking lot (again, gratefully, the one where our cat was parked), where a bear cub was busily inspecting the garbage can. we approached very quietly as not to scare him away. he was not impressed with our stealth. he looked straight at us with the what, people again look of disdain,and continued with his business. we took lots of pictures.

Parking lot bear cub, observing us observe him

Parking lot bear cub, observing us observe him

We found the cafe, at Big Meadow and revitalized yet again we took the last ranger walk of the day, the meadow walk at sunset. this ranger, an environmentalist, answered a young man’s question about why all the rangers were so young. “we’re all summer interns, the real rangers work in the offices,” he told us, “They are jealous of our outdoor work and we are jealous off their health insurance.”

Zach, our ranger, had us read quotes from the Hobbit, sketch the sunset and observe the many deer that , like us enjoyed Big Meadow at sunset

Sketching sunset in the Big Meadow

Sketching sunset in the Big Meadow

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Hiking through the Big Meadow at dusk

Hiking through the Big Meadow at dusk

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Shenandoah National Park, August 17-19, 2013

August 22, 2013
Skyline Drive

Skyline Drive

To Shenandoah National Park

The good thing about air travel is the plane has a very specific time. Not that we haven’t missed flights or used  the entire energy devoted to the vacation to making it to the gate before it closed, but generally that boarding time printed on the ticket motivates us out of the house.

Not so we with auto travel. The Byrd Visitors Center in Shendandoah National Park played the See the USA in your Chevrolet over and over. I spent a childhood seeing the USA in my parent’s Chevrolets, before they switched over to Toyotas, and though we hadn’t traveled liked that in many seasons, Sunday morning had us loading up our Toyota, slowly.

Then we found out what could go wrong with auto travel. A fire on the 59th Street Bridge made all the exits from the city crawl at a snail’s pace. It took us an hour and a half to hit New Jersey. A piece of tire from a truck hit us as we drove on  I-78 taking with it a piece of the car’s bottom. Eric laid down on the pavement in a rest stop and with a variety of tools unearthed from below the luggage, did something to make the rattling stop. We drove on with part of the underside of the car now located on the back seat, but the engine hasn’t fallen out yet. The waiter got our order wrong in Easton, and instead of serving us the wrong order which we would have happily wolfed down, we waited an hour for very nice, very little, newly hipsterized Easton Mexican food. We ran into a traffic jam below Harrisburg on a sunny afternoon, and we drove up the twisting turning road to Skyland Lodge as the summer day faded into night.

Hungry and tired from the ride and a lunch created for the much more hipster (read skinny) than us, we had dinner in the Skyland Lodge, watched a bluegrass band that had either turkey or possum in its name (they explained, I was too busy eating) and had a piece of blackberry ice cream pie that would have fed ten Easton and Brooklyn hipsters. It was good we were well fortified, it was hard to find our room in the cold and dark.

Monday August 19 , 2013

I picked Skyland Lodge for the view. here is what I saw Sunday morning, nothing .  Except for the rain on the patio. We donned our rainwear,and hiked to the dining room. We would have had breakfast with a view , but we were  located inside a rain cloud (minus Ms Frizzle and the Magic School Bus). instead we ate breakfast and chatted with retired teachers, principals and a special education director from Westchester and California.

We drove the park, visited the Byrd Center, which exhibited an abbreviated history of the park. It appeared to be a fair history, without an over-glamorized testament to the beauty of the National Parks. The fact that more than 400 families were evicted from the area so that the middle class could see the USA in their Chevrolets was given adequate space as was this Southern State’s struggle with segregation.  At one time, people of color could only picnic on Lewis Mountain, and white people could picnic anywhere else.  The park displayed a letter from a white man, angry that he was being discriminated against by not being allowed to picnic on Lewis Mountain.

Oh- those Jim Crow Laws

In the cave

In the cave

With no decrease of the rain or increase in visibility we headed for Luray Caverns.  We didn’t exactly take a direct route, but we made it.  Luray Caverns is another remnant of the  see the USA days  before cruises, Disney World and Caribbean vacations became the popular mode of family vacationing.  (at least for us),

Illuminated Stalactites in Luray

Illuminated Stalactites in Luray

Here’s the deal. We drove up. Got on line. (It was late in the day, so the line was not nearly as long as originally reported.
Paid an exorbitant amount to see a pretty fantastic natural wonder. Of course this natural wonder is paved and electrically illuminated and the guide takes you around and makes corny jokes (for which we tipped him $1.00 each, even after the exorbitant admission). But I am not complaining- it was a rainy vacation Sunday.

The School House at the History Musuem at Luray  Caverns

The School House at the History Musuem at Luray Caverns

Our breakfast companions were in the parking lot when we arrived, and they assured us it was a real museum. It was, like the Mexcian Restaurant in Easton, what it served up was not overwhelming in scope, but excellently prepared and pleasant to consume.

The museum had exhibits on early 19th Centurystove plates, pottery from the area, the memoirs of a former slave and other mementos of the local past history. Eric chatted with a blacksmith who sung the praises of mercury. “How could we tell temperature without mercury thermometers?” he asked. I didn’t feel the need to explain the digital age had dawned. There were also a nice one room school house built be local freed slaves and moved to museum property.

We had dinner with intermittent views of the valley below as the clouds shifted. We could see the lights twinkling in the valley, then we would look down to cut our meatloaf, (yes – just the mention of meatloaf on the menu was enough to make Eric order it-) and the world would disappear at the moment we looked up.

Life in the mountains.

Around the Canmore

August 7, 2013

Thursday, August 1

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Dudley Do -Right, of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police lives next to the Condo where we stayed . Actually I don’t recall his real name and nobody remembered my reference to Dudley Do-Right from the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon of my childhood, but the neighbor told us on Tuesday that he would be dressed in his full dress uniform on Thursday and we could take pictures.

The neighbor, had been a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for twenty years before retiring and now had a gig in his retirement, where he dresses up and gives talks to various tourist groups. He was off to one such job Thursday morning but allowed us the opportunity for photos. He didn’t have time for his whole shpiel but he did tell us that there are at any given time 17,000 Royal Canadian Mounted Police and 33 of them ride horses. He was one of the other 16,967 – he rode a Lexus.

Wendy, luckily was too tired for another hike, but had a full day planned nonetheless. We spent the morning at the local market, then took a walk (as opposed to a hike around the local park (I thought sitting on the bench and watching the river flow by would be a fine idea, but as always- I was encouraged onward.

Hundred year old railroad bridge in the park in town

Hundred year old railroad bridge in the park in town

It looks gentle now but this is the river that caused all the flooding

It looks gentle now but this is the river that caused all the flooding

I would have called it a day and perched myself on the inside side of the glass doors as the Three Sisters shifted in and out of the clouds. Weather is funny in Alberta, one peak can be in full sunshine while the next is cloaked under dark gray clouds.

Storm clouds gather as we picnic at Quarry Lake

Storm clouds gather as we picnic at Quarry Lake

But resting is not an option. I convinced Wendy that putting on a bathing suit was just a state a mind-so we did and we were off to the Hot Springs in Banff. No pictures of that experience since I was either afraid to get my camera wet or not willing to document it.

But it felt great. parts of my body I didn’t know I had hurt. But the healing, rotten egg- smelling waters of the hot springs were just the right remedy
And so concluded my outdoor experience in the Canadin Rockies.

Little stories I want to include

Yeah yeah I booked these tickets late and without professional help  but I was willing to spend the money I earned pouring over curriculum all year and sit on planes until steamy New York City became chilly Canada.  I went to bed early before the first flight only to be awakened by Delta who had moved back the first of three flights one hour therefore ensuring I would miss the next two. Somehow they got me on American flight to Las Vegas, with only enough time in the airport to show my passport and reschedule a  conference call with work so the slot machines called my name, but I could not answer their beckoning.

On the Westjet flight to Calgary I met Marcy who was returning to Edmonton. She had been in Las Vegas for a basketball tournament (her son’s not her’s).  She told me to watch out for bears on the hiking paths, I told her not to pay full price in the Museum of Natural History on her upcoming trip to NY,

I am an early riser, so I would listen to the eclectic morning radio station in Canmore.  The deejay explained that he was very tired one morning.  I figured the excuse would be that he was up late listening to a local band, but no, he told in detail the story of his speech delayed son who had woken in the middle of the night screaming. He explained how difficult it was to comfort someone who could not explain what was wrong.  He apologized to the half of Canmore who were  woken by the screams.  And then he returned to dejaying and played some hip hop.

The airport bus back to Calgary airport transported several people returning from a conference in Banff, among other interesting topics was conundrum Mahler had written about concerning the relationship of the volume of spheres.  (And Mahler never had to concern himself with Common Core standards).  The man explaining it had found it in old leather bound book a mathematician at his university had bequeathed to him when he died.  I told him I enjoyed listening to the conversation.  He asked me if I was a mathematician.  No- just a high school math teacher.

Close enough- he replied.  (Little does he know that turn to page 545 challenge enough for many of my students.

A pilot sat across from me on the plane ride back to LaGuardia.  He was taking a ride home, I assume there were two additional ones in the flight deck.  The joy of returning to NYC on clear night was not lost on him.  He wondered out loud what the facility surrounded by triple rings of barb wire, we flew right over, could be.

It’s Rikers Island – our jail.  I told him.  Its good to be home and back in the know.

As I waited for the last flight in Minneapolis, a man sat down next to me and asked me if I was going to Albany.  No – LaGuardia I told him.  We chatted.  I told him I was a teacher.  He told me he ran a charity for wounded soldiers.

I thanked him for his service.

No- he told me, thank you. without teachers none of this is possible.

Cue the God Bless America music

Good to travel- good to be back home.

Lake Louise- Alberta Canada

August 7, 2013

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Lake Louise

Wednesday- July 31 , 2013

I didn’t matter much that I believed I could not move because the plan for the day was another hike. I hobbled to the car and we were off to Lake Louise. Actually that is the name of the town. We went to Lake Morain, because Daniel thought it would be less crowded. It was pretty crowded.

Which is not a bad thing since the rule is you can’t hike any trail without a party of four. We met a nice Australian couple who joined us on the straight uphill jaunt. Thirty yards into the trail I decided I couldn’t do it. That’s when I found out the Australian couple consisted of a gym teacher and a first grade teacher. Is there anyone more encouraging than a first grade teacher and gym teacher? Maybe Daniel and Wendy. Its like the old joke about smoking -quitting is easy to do – I did it repeatedly for the first 1000 feet of elevation. But don’t forget you must hike in a party of four so I needed to continue until I could join a descending party.

I also found out the bug spray sold in Australia is far more effective than anything sold where I can buy it. The gym teacher gave me a few handfuls to rub into my exposed skin and the black flies bothered me far less than they did the South Calgary Rotary Club. But I get ahead of myself.

At 1000 feet there is a bench. And a little sign. I was about to wait at the bench for the next descending group (you can’t hike alone – or I suppose you will be eaten by a bear). But the bench was occupied by two young men who told us it was a short flat walk to Eiffel Lake. Daniel decided that was a good idea for me, since the group would still have four and they continued their ascent.
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That’s where the South Calgary Rotary Club comes in. Five members of the South Calgary Rotary Hiking club happened by at that moment and I made the decision to join them on what I was assured was a short, flat hike to a glacial lake.

By short, they meant only one mile longer than the steep ascent I had just completed and by flat they meant a much gentler, though continuous incline. Never the less – although these people had some years on me, I greatly enjoyed their company and their much reduced pace.

And so after a couple of hours of hiking through a snow field (don’t think I didn’t fall into the snow- I did several time) and fields bursting with wild flowers, a side effect of the rains that caused the terrible flooding in Calgary-we arrived at Eiffel Lake.

wild flowers

wild flowers

And it was nice. And the walk back was even nicer- all downhill. I met Wendy and the Australians going to the lake as we returned. They had done their upper climb and now were going to lake. Did I care to join them- I did not – see above for my opinion about going uphill when downhill is a choice.

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Luckily- Wendy was very tired as well so dinner was at a lovely Tapas restaurant in Canmore- called Tapas.

Canmore Alberta Canada

August 7, 2013

I used to take a notebook and a pen on vacation.  I  have books as far back as 1969 of my travels. that way if I want to look at a twelve year old’s first impression of plane travel or if I can’t think of the name of the pizza restaurant  in a cave in Seville, I just go to the books. but then of course technology took over and I found myself torn between taking the little notebook computer or the IPad on my four day trip. I spent so much time wrestling with the various merits of each item, I took both.

the Canadian Rockies

the Canadian Rockies

I arrived in Canadian Rockies and little bits of technology seem so insignificant to the scheme of thing. (And that’s not just because I couldn’t get my cell phone to work.)

it was pouring rain when Daniel, Wendy and I left the airport.image

We passed Olympic Park in the rain. When the girls were little we watched Cool Running, the story of the Jamaican bob sled team They  freeze their tootsies off as they arrived in Calgary for the 1988 Winter Olympic Games. In the summer rain we saw the park where they carried their damaged sled past the finish line to the amazement of the crowd.

The Three Sisters the peaks that tower over Canmore, were shrouded in the mist. I knew to go to bed early- (By early I mean 18 hours after I left the house in the morning, and 22 hours after we had scrambled with the Delta reservations desk, for a flight to replaced the one they cancelled).P1010284

Tuesday
Wendy had emailed me to bring hiking shoes. I replied I had not owned a pair since 1977. I thought of buying a pair in New York but Julia said, any mountain I needed hiking shoes for I didn’t belong on. And anyway I wouldn’t have enough time to break them in.
Daniel is not Julia. The weather bug on the Ipad insisted that it was a sunny day but the Three Sister Peaks were no longer shrouded but completely hidden in the morning mist. It was around noon when we head off for a “little hike”.

Spray  Resorvoir

Spray Resorvoir

I ended up on one of the trails that Julia said I had no business being on. In sneakers and then in sandals, and a variety of changing back and forth we hiked up a mountain 1475 feet.We didn’t exactly reach the summit, but a pass between two peaks, well above the treeline.P1010214

We took pictures, I am sure there are those who still believe I took a gondola or something like that- but I have the blisters to prove I did it on my own power.

I made it!

I made it!

I only got slightly lost at the very end of the hike. Wendy and Daniel were sitting on a rock – I was  bringing up the rear, and they told me to go ahead they would catch up. So I did, and somehow lost the trail. But old girl scout that I was, I figured that there was only one sensible thing to do and the was go down. There was a road and a reservoir in the valley and sooner or later I would hit them.

P1010208I did. Far closer to the where the car was parked, then I feared. And there was Wendy waiting. Daniel had gone back up the mountain to look for me. Like – I would have ever chosen to go up given the choice. But I supposed they feared I could have been hurt somewhere.

But we reunited and returned to town.

Jamaica

April 4, 2013

March 29, 2013

Jamaica

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The Jewel Resort, Runaway Bay Jamaica

 

St. Mary's Harbor

St. Mary’s Harbor

I joined a group of friends one evening, in the Christmas season, at a Caribbean restaurant in Southern Queens, New York.  The music system played such favorites as I saw Mommy kissing Dreadlocks, and the Little Reggae Drummer Boy.  I leaned over and mentioned, that we were the only members of the group without Jamaican roots.

“Speak for yourself,”  Eric said, he grew up in Jamaica.

I grew up on the Flushing side of Union Turnpike, so technically I was the only who had no ties to Jamaica..

Of course our Jamaica got cold in the winter, had a series of subway trains and bus terminals and yeah mon only got you strange stares from the recipient.

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Noel Coward, Firelfly

Wednesday we flew from Jamaica, New York to Montego Bay, Jamaica.    We are staying in the Jewel Resort, and have a room with a private swimming pool, all the liquor and food we can consume and round the clock entertainment.  But today was overcast and when Eric asked the Dive Shop for the third time, if they anticipated running a dive trip, they suggested he consult with the excursion desk.

We booked a trip to Firefly, the mountain top home of Noel Coward.  We invited another couple, Dan and Kathleen, two college professors from Buffalo, and we hired a driver .  Bugsy arrived with a Toyota bus capable of carrying at least ten more people, but the excursion manager told us that Firefly was a beautiful trip but she hadn’t booked it years.  We had Bugsy and the bus to ourself for a price.

We drove, disconcertingly, on the let side of the rode.  The driver from the airport had told us that in Jamaica the right side was the wrong side, and the left side was the sui-side.  I dug out my seat

belt and buckled in.

 

We passed the ruins of an old sugar mill, too quickly to get a picture, and a bauxite plant as we made  our way toward Firefly.  Bugsy  gave us a short history of the Island, but the conversation in the back and the frequent ringing of cell phone kept it pretty short.

 

We past James Bond Beach and Ian Fleming airport, our companions recalled Ursula Andrews emerging from the Jamaican  sea-surface and an hour into the ride we reached the turn off for Firefly.

The road up the mountain competes with excursions in Belize and Mexico for our trip up the most unpaved road of our travels.  We passed a gasoline truck on the wrong side or sui-side,making me tighten my seat belt our driver insisted it was- No problem.  Somehow arrived safely at the top of the mountain where the museum guide met us. I am not sure if it was the harrowing road or the assumption that Jamaica tourist attraction require water sports and beaches, but we again had the place to ourselves.

Noel Coward bought the property in 1956 for 150 British pounds and designed Firefly himself. He worked with local carpenters who built him the mountain retreat where he spent three to six month a year until his death in 1973.  He died and is buried there.

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The floors of Firefly

The house  today, is a museum run by the Jamaican government.  It remains as it did when Noel Coward lived there, decorated with his paintings and photos of famous who visited him there including the Queen Mother.  I did not take photos of painting or photographs, though no one was prohibiting he practice, so much faded I did not want to aid in the decline.

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Inside Firefly

 

The house had a small kitchen with equipment that hardly looked dated to me but the guide assured us it was only for warming food,  all meals were prepared in town.  The second floor contained the famous room with a view.

Even on a gray and overcast it is to see why.

We wandered around the grounds which afforded one spectacular view after another.

 

 

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The Living Room at Firefly

 

 

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We pose in front of the view

 

Back down the road, we returned through the village of St. Ann, and got to see how people who don’t spend there time in Five Star Hotels, live. Earlier in the day Bugsy had us that there is no need for lawn mowers,  in Jamaica, people just sen the goat out.  When one of our traveling companions asked if they don’t disappear he told us, no they are trained to come home.  He explained when a kid is born she is sent out to graze with her mother and learns to go home at the end of day and so the tradition continues.  As we drove through the town we passed lines of goats going home.  It was 4 o’clock.  No human kids traipsing home in school uniforms, it was Good Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We stopped in Scotches for traditional Jamaican food, (something- living in Queens, we are not unfamiliar with) before we returned to the hotel and the life of a pamper tourist

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The Jerk Grilling

 

 

 

 

We spent the remainder of the vacation mostly at the resort.  I did realize at one point, that we spent almost the majority of our time lying around.  I reported that to the security guard at the front of the hotel, who looked quite jealous, but reported it was safe to walk either left or right.

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A fishing device

The first day we went left.  We went down a little alley and there nestled between the over the top resorts meant for the tourist was, what was left of a Jamaican fishing village.P1010053

The end of March and the Easter weekend provided a spate of kite flyers. We watched a variety of  flying and almost flying objects, some made with pieces of garbage bags and some purchased from pop up street vendors.

The next day we went to the left.  The beach on the far side of the resort’s boundary was filled with people enjoying the Easter Sunday free-time.  The smell of barbecue emanated from many different steel drums.   A short walk past the beach we met a young man with a small propane tank carved out to work like the large fifty gallon drum barbecue only  in miniature .  When we passed him the first time, he said something I could not make out, so we gave him a dollar and moved on.  Then we passed him on the way back.  This time I got the gist of his communication.  He wanted enough money to buy meat to grill on his baby barbecue.

So we gave him four more dollars.  Hey, we’re venture capitalists.

We spent the rest of the vacation of the vacation enjoying the resortP1010085

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The Silverbird steel drum band.

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