I was sick Sunday and yesterday, alas, but on Saturday my friend Judy drove me to Westport, where we ate fish and chips and we went to the Maritime museum where I got to see their magnificent first order Fresnel lens before I went back to her van and took a nap, while she toured the rest of the museum (I’d been there several times before and I was pretty tired after the 2-hour drive), then went out to the promenade where I actually walked all the way to the first bench, which has a wonderful view of the ocean.
Then I slept most of the way back, but that’s okay.
Here’s the usual photographic proof! I have a video I want to post as part of this as soon as I figure out how to crop video, too.
And the next morning, Judy and I started the process that will end with her taking over the distribution of my books and the upkeep of my website when I’m gone. So my legacy will live on without me. This makes me so happy.
Yesterday, my quilting friend Kathy came over the mountains and took me to Paradise on Mt. Rainier. We ate lunch (divine mac and cheese) at the National Park Inn at Longmire, then headed on up. It was absolutely beautiful, and here is the proof:
A couple of plant close-ups.
And some little critters.
A view headed down the Mountain.
And the absolutely lovely quilt I was given by my fellow members of the Washington State Internet Quilters (WASIQ). Thank you so much to all of you!
It was a long but glorious day. I darned near slept the clock around last night, I was so tired, but it was so, so, so worth it…
It was in the van, and Christine drove us. Anyway, this morning, Christine and I went to the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, which had been on her “I want to get there” list and which, especially after the Turquoise Mountain exhibit in DC, sounded right up my alley. It’s a museum of Arabic art, with a heavy dose of history to help interpret it, and it was one of those things that I’d never have seen on my own because I’d not have known it existed (it only opened a couple of years ago, and it’s not in any of my guidebooks – I checked). The art was gobsmacking. Even the lobby art – which was this huge gold-on-red rug-looking thing that was hanging from the ceiling. It looked very finely stitched, and Christine and I were both admiring it, when the fellow who took our tickets said, go around and look at the backside. It wasn’t stitched. Each one of those thousands of “stitches” was a tiny brass straight pin, and the backside looked like it was furry, there were so many pins so close together. It was incredible. And gorgeous.
Then we went inside to the exhibits, which were full of antique pottery and metalwork and painting and stitchery and all sorts of gorgeous things, including pictures of animals that were like those paintings of clouds or mountains or trees, which, when you look at them closely, have faces in them. These animals were filled with other animals. Huge rugs, and candlesticks that must have had six-inch diameter candles in them, and at the very beginning of the exhibit, a film projection on the wall sort of like the credits at the beginning of the movie Mulan, where the art is being drawn in front of your eyes. Which made it so much more interesting to look at the art itself.
And then there was the history that went right along with it, Iranian and Egyptian and Moorish and all the others, giving the art context. That’s my kind of art museum. The kind that actually tells the stories, and doesn’t just hang the pieces up to admire.
The rest of the day was part resting and part practicalities — grocery shopping, among other things, since Monday is a federal holiday in Canada (Labour Day, just like the U.S., except that they actually close all their stores down). And chatting, and enjoying the company of all four Forbers, which I did, very much.
September 2nd was a more or less catching up with life day, thank you so much, Christine and family. In the morning we went to one of the best needlework stores I’ve been in for a very long time, and I bought more patterns than I probably should have. I would give my eyeteeth to have a needlework store like that near me. In the afternoon I went and got my hair cut (third time on the trip, and the lady who cut it, bless her heart, fixed the disaster the lady in Quakertown, Pennsylvania created a month ago), and went to a quilt shop Christine had told me about, where I bought some completely unnecessary but adorable quintessentially Canadian fabric. And then they took me out to dinner at a very tasty Italian restaurant (well, the food was delicious, and the service was good – I didn’t try to eat the restaurant [g]).
Yesterday we got up at the crack of dawn to deliver Christine’s oldest son, Colin, to a boathouse down near Niagara for a regatta, then she and I went down to Niagara Falls. One wonderful side effect is that we arrived at the falls at about eight in the morning, before all of the crowds arrived. The first thing we did was do a tour called Journey Behind the Falls, which was exactly what’s on the label. We donned those funky plastic raincoaty/poncho things that keep everything dry except your head (yes, there’s a hood, no, it doesn’t stay up), your arms, and below your knees, and took an elevator down to tunnels that lead to the underside of the Horseshoe (Canadian side) of the falls. Thunderous is the word I’m looking for, I think. A solid wall of water pounding down just feet in front of your face, vibrating up through your feet and in through your skin and everywhere else. I had done the Hurricane Deck on the American side on my last Long Trip 17 years ago, but this was something else entirely.
After that we walked along the promenade (I think it’s got another name, but anyway) for a ways up above the falls to the rapids, and down below the falls to where we could see the American Falls, which apparently only account for 10% of the water (according to at least two sources). The rest of it goes over the Canadian Falls, which explains why the view is so much more impressive on the Canadian side!
By the time we finished at the falls, the crowds were getting thick, and we had other places we wanted to go. We drove downstream towards Lake Ontario (the Niagara River flows north, which confused me no end), and stopped at the southern terminus of the Bruce Trail, which runs along the entire length of the Niagara escarpment (I’ll be passing by the northern terminus in a couple of days). Then we went to the Printery, which is all about the history of newspapers in Canada, among other things, and I got to operate a printing press, which was fun.
Then there was Fort George. Fort George was all about the War of 1812, and played havoc with my so-called knowledge of North American history again. Plus we got to talk with some fascinating docents, see a scene from a play associated with the fort, and learn about the lot of a British soldier’s wife. Only 6% of them were allowed to travel with their husbands (chosen by lottery), and since the soldiers were conscripted for either 7 or 21 years all over the world, with no contact during that time, the wives left behind were considered to be divorced once the men were gone. Legally, from what I gathered. Talk about a hard choice.
We were about walked out at that point, and Christine’s parents live nearby, so she called and asked if we could come over for a cup of tea. That turned into a really pleasant couple of hours’ chat plus dinner [g]. Thank you so much, Christine’s parents!
And then we went back to the falls to see the lights. That’s a spectacle and a half. Crowded as all heck, but what they do, once it gets dark, is play spotlights all over the falls in rainbow (and patriotic) colors. Staying that late to see them is not something I’d have done on my own (I don’t like driving in strange places late at night, and we didn’t get back to the house until almost midnight), but I am so glad I got to see that. It was beautiful.
So, Fannish Night was a great deal of fun. I met Marna, and Ian, and Lorayne, and Cat, and the six of us (including Elizabeth and me) ate chicken and veggies and fruit and dessert, and watched a really funny movie called Bon Cop, Bad Cop, which is a buddy cop movie with a very Canadian twist. Well, a couple of them. Let’s just say that after six days in Quebec, floundering with my non-existent French, the whole French vs. English thing in the movie made things make a whole lot more sense. And there was hockey, of course. And there was Rick Mercer doing his Don Cherry imitation. It was laugh out loud funny.
When Elizabeth and I went out to the car afterwards, however, it was to find a parking ticket under Merlin’s windshield wiper. Since I’d not seen any no parking signs anywhere, that was a bit disconcerting. Also, when I tried to go online to pay it the next morning, neither the website nor the automated phone thingy would recognize the ticket number, and there was no way to talk to a human that I could find. I suspect it just wasn’t in the system yet, and I will try to remember to check it again before I leave Toronto, if I don’t lose the darned thing in the meantime. Anyway, it was more than a bit frustrating.
Elizabeth had a genealogy project (that’s part of what she does for a living) due yesterday afternoon, so I went ahead and left Ottawa yesterday morning, after stopping at an optician’s office that my friend Christine looked up for me. That was the other thing that went wrong this week. Continuing our theme of being nibbled to death by ducks, I lost my sunglasses the other day. I’m 99% sure they’re still in the van somewhere, but I can’t find them for love or money. They’re magnetic, made to fit my prescription glasses, and my prescription glasses are very small (I wear the absolute smallest adult frame size), so I hadn’t been able to find a clip-on pair to fit them (I find Fitovers very uncomfortable). Well, the ones the optician sold me are just a bit too big, but they work, and now I won’t get a headache driving the 3000 miles (not counting dawdling around) I still have to go to get home. Speaking of which, Merlin turned over 13,000 miles today.
Somehow I ended up on the wrong freeway headed west out of Ottawa, which actually turned out to be a good thing, because the drive was scenic, and it was six of one, half a dozen of the other which way would be faster to go to the provincial park I was aiming for that night, anyway. I like Ontario. I particularly like the fact that I can read the road signs [wry g]. But the scenery is lovely. Lots of rockfaces and woods and rolling hills and lakes. The provincial park was pretty, too, and the campground was very nice. Somehow, however, the only three photos I managed to take that day were of clouds, and none of them are post-worthy.
This morning, I drove down to the main highway across southern Ontario, and then promptly got off it again to take a drive down along the lakeshore, on an island or a peninsula, the map wasn’t all that clear. Whatever it was, it was called Prince Edward, and it was peaceful and bucolic and pretty, and it was nice to see Lake Ontario.
Then it was lunchtime, and time to get to and through Toronto before rush hour. I was headed for Bujold listee and needlework friend Christine’s house in Mississauga, a western suburb of Toronto, and, she tells me, the sixth largest city in Canada in its own right.
Toronto has freeways like Crocodile Dundee has a knife. The one I was on had two sets in each direction, each set about six lanes wide. One set is express lanes, and the other has the exits, and they intertwine back and forth every couple of kilometers so you can get to the exits from the express lanes and vice versa. It’s very impressive. And I’m saying that as someone who grew up in Southern California. The traffic could have been much worse than it was, too.
I found Christine’s house without any trouble, and I’ll be here for several nights before I head north, and then on west again. We’re going to go to Niagara Falls among other things while I’m here, and it ought to be interesting!
So, yesterday I drove back down to the main highway, where I crossed it and went to the Manoir Papineau National Historic Site. My friend Christine had recommended that I go here. At least I think this is where she meant. There’s also a big fancy hotel nearby, but I’ve seen more than my share of big fancy hotels (not to stay in, mind, just to look at) for a while, and the historic site looked interesting, so I decided this was what she’d wanted me to see.
And I’m glad I stopped. Another bit of Canadian history wrapped nicely in an elegant 19th century house that reminded me a lot of Washington Irving’s Sunnyside – minus the vines, thank goodness. Mostly, I suspect, because of the riverside frontage, but still. Anyway. Louis-Joseph Papineau was a mover and shaker in 19th century Canadian politics, who got himself in trouble in the 1830s for helping to ringlead a group that wanted to break away from England. He ended up in exile for a number of years in the U.S. and France, and then got pardoned or something, came back, and built this pretty house on the Ottawa River. It was very elegant so that his visitors would be impressed, and the tour guide told stories about how they tried to keep it warm in Quebec winters, and how Papineau’s wife was not impressed with being so far away (two days of steamboat trip) from Montreal, and so forth and so on. Unfortunately they wouldn’t let me take photos inside, though.
After that it was on to Ottawa, where I ended up having to call Elizabeth because the street I thought was the right one didn’t go through to where I needed it to. But eventually I got there, and we had a good conversation, then went out to go buy her a new rotary cutter (she’s a beginning quilter!) and out to dinner at a very nice café. Then we came back and watched the Branagh version of Much Ado About Nothing, which turns out to be a favorite film for both of us [g].
I’ll be here at her place until Thursday, when I head for Toronto.
This morning I went to the Canadian History Museum. And I found it without having to backtrack once! Unfortunately, their main exhibit is being redone and won’t be open again until next year, but the other exhibits really made up for it. They had a whole floor devoted to the First Nations of Canada, which was fascinating. It was odd to see west coast things like totem poles here [g], but the whole exhibit was enormous and well done.
Then there were the three temporary exhibits. One of them was about Napoleon Bonaparte (of all people, my fingers keep typing), mostly relating to his time in Paris. The second one was about the gold rush in British Columbia in the early 1850s, right after the California gold rush. I’d known a little about it, having run across it in my Okanogan Country research for Sojournand Reunion(one of the trails to the Cariboo, which is what the gold country in BC was called, went through the Okanogan), but not nearly as much as I do now. I want to go up there and explore it one of these days now [g]. The third temporary exhibit was called Horse Power. A man in Montreal collected carriages and sleighs most of his life, and donated them. It was a seriously impressive collection, and fun to stroll through.
By that point I was pretty much done for the day. Tonight Elizabeth and I are going over to the house of Marna and her family. Marna’s another listee, and I think a couple of her family members are, too. We’re having something called fannish night, which is apparently a regular occurrence here [g]. I’m looking forward to that very much.
Then tomorrow I’m going to run a couple of errands, and maybe hit another museum. I’ve heard wonderful things about the War Museum, even if the subject matter’s not exactly my cup of tea.
This morning I got up and out and made it out of the parking garage and Quebec City without any mishaps. Of course, the day I decided to leave, the weather turned off nice and dry and sunny and cooler, but oh, well.
I didn’t take a lot of photos. Basically what I did was drive down to Montreal, although I did get off the freeway for a little bit just to explore on some backroads. This did not turn out to be the brightest move on my part. Getting out of the tourist areas in Quebec has been problematic for me at best, and it was a challenge to make my way back to the highway, especially after I apparently got in the way of a fellow who backs around that particular corner every day and why didn’t I know that? (at least that’s what I think he was conveying with his gestures when I beeped politely at him because I was afraid he was going to hit me)
I spent the night in Montreal, and if you read my FB account, you’ll know I was dithering about whether to spend the next day there or to go up to the Laurentian mountains. By the time I went to bed I’d about decided to go to the botanic gardens and a fur-trading historic site in Montreal, then head on to Ottawa, but when I woke up in the morning, I changed my mind and decided to go up to the Laurentians.
Which turned out to be a very good idea. The Laurentians aren’t really mountains – as I’ve said too many times, I’m a mountain snob – but what they really reminded me of, in a very pleasant way, were the Adirondacks in upstate New York, which makes sense, as I don’t think they’re more than 150 miles north of the Adirondacks. Montreal itself is a lot closer to the U.S. border than I’d realized, only about 60 miles. I sorta did a doubletake when I turned on the radio in Montreal and found a station that was not only in English, but was doing weather reports in Fahrenheit [g].
Anyway, the Laurentians were really lovely, even when I noticed some of the leaves just starting to turn. Already! And it’s not even September! Rolling hills just covered with heavy woodlands, and rivers and lakes and a ski area (at Mont Tremblant) that really reminded me of Sun Valley, Idaho, or Jackson, Wyoming.
I found a campground in the little town of Brebaux, just south of Mont Tremblant, and I’m camped on a pretty lakeshore. The town has one of those “no franchises here, sir!” fast food joints, and I ate a smoked meat sandwich there, which sort of reminded me of pastrami, with lots of mustard. It was good. The town also has a really pretty waterfall right under the main road.
Tomorrow I’m off to Ottawa, and Elizabeth, who is yet another listee friend. I’m looking forward to meeting her in person.
Well, and a listee who is also my copy editor and a friend.
Anyway, I got a late start this morning, since I only had about an hour’s drive and only had to be there by noon. It wasn’t a bad drive at all, although there was a slowdown just before I crossed over from Massachusetts into New Hampshire. It didn’t last long, though.
I stopped at a welcome center just after I crossed the border to ask about campgrounds. The gentleman behind the counter was very helpful and told me about a state park about half an hour from Portsmouth, which is where I want to go tomorrow. After crossing over into New Hampshire, though, I started seeing the weirdest freeway signs I’ve ever seen.
My copy editor lives in Dover, New Hampshire, just before you cross into Maine. She had asked me to meet her in the parking lot of a local ice rink, because a) convenient, and b) free parking. I got there a little early, and sat and read for a bit until she came up to Merlin’s window.
We went out to lunch at a nice little café, where I ate veggie quiche and salad, with a piece of the excellent blueberry pie for dessert. New England blueberries are better than blueberries from just about anywhere else, including home (we have better blackberries, though [g]). Beth also insisted, once she found out I’d never heard of such a thing before, that I take a whoopie pie with me for later. Whoopie pies look like Oreos on steroids (about four inches around and an inch thick), except that the cookie part is more like cake, and apparently they are a New England thing. Although our waitress at the café appeared to be surprised that I’d never heard of them before.
Beth and I had a nice long lunch with lots of conversation, and I enjoyed myself very much. She’s my last person to visit until I get to Ontario. Afterwards, I headed just a bit west to the state park, the name of which starts with a P and is centered on a swimming lake. The campground is huge, and heavily wooded, and the site I was assigned to has this long driveway, down a slope between trees. I thought I could turn around at the bottom, but I couldn’t, so I ended up backing up all the way to get out of it this afternoon when I couldn’t find my bug dope and had to go buy some at the park’s little store. I know it’s in the van somewhere, but it’s nowhere to be found, and there are mosquitoes here.
Anyway, when I came back, I backed down into the site, so at least I won’t have to back up again first thing in the morning. It was easier backing down the hill into the site than backing up out of it, too.
I got here about the middle of the afternoon and just read and kicked back in the pretty woods, until about an hour later, the lady in the site next to me exclaimed, “Turkeys!” I was like what? until I looked up, and lo and behold there was a whole flock of wild turkeys strolling through our campsites. I literally could have reached out and touched some of them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them so close up before. I grabbed my camera and took a bunch of photos, which was fun.
Tonight there seems to be a party going on a ways off, including music. I hope they obey the quiet hours that are supposed to begin at ten pm (they did, about fifteen minutes after i wrote this).
Other than that, this is just about the perfect campsite. Oh, and I ate about half of the whoopie pie for dessert with supper. It’s tasty.
Tomorrow I’m doing more living history at a place called Strawbery Banke (yes, that’s the correct spelling) in Portsmouth, which is one of the oldest towns on the eastern seaboard (why is it the west coast, but the eastern seaboard? just curious). Then across the border into Maine! I keep saying that, but this time I mean it [g].
Today I left Cape Cod. It was a lovely couple of days, but time to move on. Before I did, though, I stopped in Hyannis and went to the JFK museum, which wasn’t, as I’d thought, his presidential museum and library (which turns out to be in Boston), but is about his connection to the Cape – among other things, he signed the bill creating Cape Cod National Seashore (thank you very much, Mr. President!), and of course, his whole family has had homes here for generations (his father bought their first house here).
And so back over the Sagamore Bridge and north on I-495, which is a pleasant if monotonous drive (lots and lots of trees and gentle hills, but not much else). There’s really no other efficient way to get around Boston, though, and that’s pretty much what I’d decided to do at this point (I have been to Boston before, honest).
I did turn off the highway once, though, and that was to go to Concord, to see Walden Pond. I’d been to Concord once before, and had gone to Louisa May Alcott’s house and the Minutemen Museum, but I’d somehow missed Walden. Not that I’m a huge Thoreau fan or anything, but I just wanted to see it. Turns out Walden Pond is now a state park primarily used for its swimming beach, which I found rather amusing. But there is a trail around the pond which leads to the appropriately-marked cabin site. Most of the people visiting it seemed to be young Asian men, for some reason. There was also a replica of the cabin next to the park’s parking lot.
Back on the freeway, I was only a few miles from my destination for the night, the town of Lowell, Massachusetts. Lowell was one of the places where the industrial revolution got started in the U.S., with the Merrimack River giving it water power for textile mills. It has a very interesting multicultural history, and the visitor center downtown has its own free parking lot (a rarity in New England in my limited experience [wry g]).
And then there’s the New England Quilt Museum just down the street, which had some gorgeous quilts, as well as an exhibit of presidential wall hangings.
Unfortunately, the Textile History Museum had closed due to lack of funding, but the rest of the neighborhood was fascinating.
This evening I met Ann, another listee, and her husband Ben for dinner at a little place called the Eggroll Café in Lowell. It wasn’t easy to find – Lowell does not appear to believe in street signs – but the food was good and the company was fun. I enjoyed myself very much, and when it was time to go, Ann rode with me to my motel (no campgrounds nearby and I didn’t want to go searching for one in the dark) to help me get back out of Lowell, and Ben picked her up there.
Tomorrow I get to have lunch with my copy editor (who lives in Dover, New Hampshire), and then it’s on to Maine!
As my mother would quote at me whenever it rained. Which it did, most of last night and well into the day today, although it had stopped – and cooled off, down to around 80 for the high, amazingly enough – by mid-afternoon.
I left Irene’s around nine, and headed southeast towards the Connecticut coast and New Haven. It was a pretty drive, which could have used more pullouts for photo opportunities. New Haven itself was something of a rabbit warren. I’d had sort of vague ideas (not terribly concrete ones because DC sort of museumed me out) of stopping at the Peabody Museum of Natural History and the New Haven Museum (local history), but parking was a pain in the rear so it just didn’t happen.
Once I got to the coast, I kept trying to get off of I-95 and onto U.S. 1, but wow, were the roads badly labeled. At one point I was so lost I wound up flagging down an extremely nice FedEx driver, who let me follow him out of the labyrinth of backroads – and back to I-95 instead of U.S. 1 [sigh]. So I pretty much gave up at that point and didn’t try to get back off of the Interstate until past New London, where U.S. 1 was labeled, and went on to Mystic.
The only real reason I wanted to go to Mystic is for the Mystic Seaport Museum, which I’d been to once 35 years ago, on the same trip that I saw Washington Irving’s house. I had good memories of it, and I love maritime history, and I wanted to see it again.
I didn’t arrive in Mystic till the middle of the afternoon, though, so I parked Merlin (who parallel parks much more easily than you’d think) on a side street and walked the touristy little downtown, where I also got to watch the drawbridge over the harbor entrance go up. Which was kind of cool.
Then I went looking for a campground, because it was, hurrah! cool enough to camp. Well, barely. And my rib is finally healed enough, too!!! I ended up in the RV lot of a local Indian casino with everything from huge fifth-wheelers to one family with a tent trailer, and at least two other vans, of which mine was the smallest. I fit right in, thanks much. It was either that or pay forty bucks for a campsite, and I’m sorry, that’s ridiculous. I paid less than that for my motel room in Williamsburg, and it was the principle of the thing.