Archive for the '6. Quebec to Washington D.C.' Category

Days 52-55 – The Magic of Quebec, Shopping in Maine, Breaking and Entering in Newton

Saturday September 27 (Muriel)

When it was time to leave Montreal we got into our car for the first time since arriving at our hotel here.  The Lady of the Dashboard helped us navigate our way out of town, taking us on freeways and through tunnels.

Eventually we were in the countryside, driving through flat countryside.  The terrain was flat, full of tidy fields with frequent patches of woods that displayed striking fall colors.  There were scattered farm houses and frequent villages, some of which had large industrial or commercial areas.

We arrived in Quebec mid afternoon.  It didn’t look all that different from Montreal, although less compact and with fewer highrises.  That is, not until we got into our hotel room on the 16th floor.  We looked down at the walls of the old city and into the old city and the harbor along the St. Lawrence.  Wow!  We set off on foot for the old city.

VIEW FROM OUR HOTEL WINDOW

We crossed through the old city wall through a gate that looked like part of Cinderella’s Castle in Disneyland.  We passed shop, after shop, after restaurant after shop, all in lovely old buildings.  Eventually we were walking through old residential neighborhoods in light drizzle.  It reminded us of wandering through neighborhoods of Bruges in drizzle in July of last year, except that it was much hillier.  Among the pristine, centuries old multi-story houses we walked past was one where a woman was watering flowers in window boxes through open windows.  The scene was picturesque, but more eye-catching were the statues of a bride and groom suspended over a doorway, skulls and similar goodies decorating the front of the building.  It will be Halloween in just over a month.

HALLOWEEN SCENES  (Whole building and detail)

SCENES FROM OLD QUEBEC (Narrow Streets, Gate, Chateau Frontenac, Mural)

SCULPTURES ON THE STREETS OF OLD QUEBEC

(Enlarge to see what is under the chairs)

We continued wandering, returning to the commercial streets.  We passed Catholic and Anglican cathedrals, the town hall, the fantastically elaborate Frontenac Hotel, and other public buildings.  Eventually we were above the old city walls, passing through the park below the Quebec provincial parliament building, with its beautiful gardens and statues.  We returned to our hotel to clean up.

Cleaned up, we walked back to the old town to dinner in an outstanding restaurant.  We had excellent meals in trios of related items.  Fluffy and Thumper, forgive me, but one of the trios I enjoyed were an appetizer of three forms of liver of lapin (rabbit).  This was followed by a trio of game meats from the environs of Quebec.  It was a lovely and sumptuous meal, which we hoped we counteracted by walking back up through the old town, past the town wall, and up to our hotel.

Sunday September 28 (Muriel)

In the morning we set off through light drizzle and chilling winds.  We wandered back into the old town and turned left into Artillery Park.  The drizzle lifted and the wind was blocked as we wandered downhill, passing old cannons, barracks and other historic military buildings.  The military buildings were much more attractive than their modern versions.  We left the park and soon were walking down a road to the lower town, the old commercial and shipping area of the old city.

We found a beautiful starkly modern fountain in front of Victorian era railroad buildings.  Turning right, we wandered through streets with stores and restaurants in the lower old city.  We found ourselves at a museum celebrating the 400th year of Quebec City where we watched a film about “The Face of Champlain,” one of the founders of Quebec. The film was 3-D, very French, and very weird.  It was engaging, although we learned much less history than we expected.  We wandered the attractive museum, looking at assorted artifacts and interactive displays.  Deciding we preferred to spend our limited time here on broader approaches and the feel of the living place, we headed out along more of the commercial area.

We lunched at the Restaurant Lapin Saute – again forgive me, Thumper and Fluffy.

Then we puffed up many steps to the upper old town and walked up through the old town, through the gate, toward the Plains of Abraham where the British forces defeated the French in 1759.  Because of the British victory there, Britain took control of Canada.

We returned to our hotel in the late afternoon, exhausted.  It began to rain, and we elected to have dinner at a hotel nearby, rather than trudging to the old town through the rain.  Since the rain stopped while we were having dinner, that may have been a mistake.

Monday September 29 (Muriel)

The skies were partly – only partly – sunny in the morning.  We had to pick up a misplaced credit card at the Lapin Saute, so we headed directly for the stairs to the lower city.  Down the stairs and to the restaurant we went.  They correctly checked Allan’s ID before returning the card.  Then we panted back up the stairs to the upper old town.  We stopped for a bit of souvenir shopping and found something I had been looking for.  Allan noticed a terrific purse with shoulder strap for me, so I now have my birthday present from him.

We got back to the hotel, finished packing, retrieved the car and set off toward Maine.  The countryside southeast of Quebec City was much hillier than it was to the west.  The fall colors were fantastic!  We stopped for lunch in a restaurant in an old windmill that was painted vibrant orange.  Actually the food was excellent and the interior décor was surprisingly attractive and tasteful.

FALL COLOURS IN CANADA

Eventually we crossed the border into Maine, by which time light rain was falling.  The fall color continued to be amazing as we drove through very hilly countryside, along fairly wide rivers.  Allan had scheduled a critical conference call and there was NO cell signal.  We finally got a signal in the very small town of Moscow.  After a boring and slightly surreal  hour stop during which I listened to a complex negotiation of a ground lease in Los Angeles amidst the growing dusk of the north woods, we continued south.  It was dark for the last couple of hours or our drive to Freeport, ME, home of L.L. Bean.  Tomorrow would be my chance to try on clothing at the largest and one of the few outlets of my favorite clothing catalog.  Meanwhile, we had a very late dinner at a pizza joint across from our motel.

Tuesday September 30 (Muriel)

We spent most of the morning in the clothing building of L.L. Bean’s flagship store in the shopping mecca of Freeport.  It was a great opportunity to try on styles that otherwise we can only see in catalogues or on the web, although there was no way that even this huge store could carry all of the items the company carries.  We both augmented our travel/casual wardrobes.  We wandered through some of the other outlets and on to lunch.  We ate lunch in an old tavern where an 1820 agreement separated the state of Maine from Massachusetts.

We spent the afternoon on the road to the home of friends in Newton, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston.  Driving through Maine and briefly New Hampshire was pleasant.  Once we were in Massachusetts, the road widened, tollbooths became frequent, and traffic increased hugely.  Most drivers were fine, but a surprising number of them seemed crazy.  Some enjoyed speeding into the fast lane, passing us in lane 2 and then the cars in lanes 3 and 4, in order to get to their exit at what must have been at least 20 miles over the speed limit.  Others barreled up to about 3 feet from our rear bumper, cutting around us, and slowing down to our speed or even less once we were properly terrified.

We got to our friends’ home with the help of Our Lady of the Dashboard.  Our friends had left their front door unlocked, as they were at Rosh Hashanah services and a special dinner gathering afterwards.  Newton, a community of large Victorian homes on large lots, they assured us, is one of the safest communities anywhere.  Door locking is optional.  We went into their house.  We weren’t sure which bedroom we would occupy, so Allan spoke to our host on cell phone.  Our host said the front bedroom.  We couldn’t figure out which, so we left our suitcases and computers at the top of the stairs and went to our car for more stuff.  On our way back in, a woman introduced herself as Nancy.  We said something like “Oh, we didn’t know there were other houseguests.”  Nancy replied that this was HER house.  She was very kind, assured us Allan did not look like an axe murderer, and told us our friends’ home was two doors down.

We moved our car to the right driveway, hauled our stuff down the stairs and over to our friends’ house and up the stairs, and went to dinner at a seafood restaurant.  After we returned to our friends’ home, Nancy knocked on the door to be sure we were OK.  Or maybe she wanted to be sure the invaders of her home were for real.  We chatted a bit with her.  She left.  We settled in and waited for our friends to get home.  They did.  We had a pleasant visit and settled in for the night in the right house.

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Days 56-59 Leaving Boston, Providence, New York – Good Friends and Nice Relatives but Terrible Traffic

Wednesday October 1 (Muriel)

Our car was almost 1,000 miles overdue for its very major 90,000 service.  We rushed out without breakfast to take it to the closest Lexus dealer, a 10 minute drive away.  Even with the help of the GPS, we were so confused by the Boston area streets and poor signage that we missed a crucial turn.  We ended up on the turnpike by mistake.  Not only were we ripped off $1.50 for a one mile drive in the opposite direction of what we wanted, it took us half an hour to get to the dealer.  The big 90K service was a very time-consuming, expensive proposition.  We explained to the service manager that we would really appreciate if we could get our car back later that same day.  He promised to do all he could and to phone us in the late afternoon to let us know when we could get our car back.

We got a brand new Lexus sedan as a loaner.  It drove beautifully and still smelled of new leather.  But it did not have a GPS!  Allan was going to have to navigate the old fashioned way through the wilds of Boston and vicinity, aided only by road map, scribbled notes of what the employees of the dealer were kind enough to advise us, and Allan’s having a few recollections of the area from his college days.  Major streets in the Boston area meander around.  The intersections very often are not at right angles.  There are Y’s and circles, 4-way, 5-way, 6-way intersections, and sudden stretches of one-way street that are almost always the wrong way for your purposes.  There are very few raised directional signs except on freeways.  The traffic circles don’t label the streets for their exit spokes.  The turn arrows painted on the roadways must have all been last painted at least ten years ago.  It’s impossible to distinguish between a right-only and a right-or-straight-only until you are about a foot from it.  Street signs are often missing – or hidden behind foliage.  Vehicles are often double parked, occasionally triple parked.  The drivers are reasonably courteous when off the freeways, although they fairly often make weird maneuvers to contend with the weird conditions they encounter.

Enjoying the relaxed drive (hah), we found our way from the dealer in Watertown, past Harvard, and to University Park, a large mixed-use development next to MIT.  I sat in on Allan’s fascinating meeting with the Boston-area head of the development and learned a lot about city planning issues.

After the meeting, we walked in light rain to a restaurant in the development.  While we enjoyed our first food of the day, the rain became a downpour.  We found out how to get into the parking structure where we had parked the loaner car without going out of doors.  By the time we left the parking structure the rain was over, although there were deep puddles on the streets.  Allan did a masterful job of navigating us back to our friends’ home with only a few unplanned detours.

The service manager phoned to say we could pick up the car at 5:00.  I interrupted visiting with our hostess and doing laundry.  Allan again managed to navigate us back to the dealer, this time avoiding the unwanted detour onto the turnpike.  Our bank account much leaner, we returned to our friends’ home with help from the GPS.  We enjoyed going out to dinner, our friends doing the driving.  They think driving in Boston is much more pleasant than in L.A.  I guess it’s what you’re used to.

Thursday October 2 (Muriel)

We had a leisurely morning before setting off for Newport, Rhode Island.  This town is famous as the location of summer “cottages” of the super rich of the late 19th century.  The central area and wharves today are full of facilities for tourists.  Despite this being a Thursday afternoon in October, the place was swarming with tourists.  After a disappointing lunch in a restaurant that was crowded at 2 PM, we drove past the famous “cottages” on the hillside overlooking Narragansett Bay.  None were quite as huge as the Hearst Castle, but a few came close.  We decided we were more tired than interested in touring the palatial “cottages” and headed for a motel in West Warwick, RI, between Newport and Providence.

We spruced up and drove into Providence, where we met my cousin Barbara for dinner.  She and I are less than a year apart in age and lived across the street from each other in Chicago for a goodly chunk of our childhoods.  The only times I had seen her in recent years were a couple of times that I tagged along with Allan when he taught at an executive training session at Harvard.  While he taught, I took a train from Boston to Providence to have lunch with Barbara.  We enjoyed a long chat over dinner, catching up with over two year’s events.  Then we drove back to our hotel.

Friday October 3 (Muriel)

We drove west and south through Rhode Island and Connecticut into New York.  We went through the Bronx and over the George Washington Bridge to New Jersey around 5 PM on this Friday afternoon.  The traffic was not really as horrendous as we expected.  We settled in a hotel in Ridgefield Park, NJ and headed to Teaneck. Perhaps it was the traffic or maybe the oppressive feeling of being in really big cities, but we took virtually no pictures.  Allan did capture a Hudson River view as we crossed the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey.

Maitland and Doris Hardyman’s son Hugh and his wife Susan had just bought their first house and were settling in there with their toddler, Leia.  Maitland and Doris (of Port Townsend, WA) were visiting as well.  We enjoyed seeing our friends in their comfy new home in a very pleasant neighborhood.

Saturday October 4 (Muriel)

We drove over a totally confusing maze of freeways to Howard Beach, in Queens, where we met Allan’s cousin Nina and her husband John at a restaurant for lunch.  We met John for the first time and had our first visit with Nina in many years.  After a delightful visit, we headed back over the maze of freeways, aided of course by the Lady of the Dashboard.  To our surprise, the fairly long trips each took under an hour, although we spent $18 on bridge tolls for the round trip.

After brief down time at our hotel, we picked up some dessert at a local supermarket and wine at a liquor store.  Then we returned to Hugh and Susan’s home for dinner and another visit.

Days 60-62 – Travelin’ South

Sunday October 5 (Muriel)

We left our New Jersey hotel fairly early, having been warned the highways would jam mid morning with vehicles heading for a NY Giants game at the nearby stadium.  We beat the jam and headed for Washington, DC.  We drove south by southeast through New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, the cool, rainy weather becoming warm and sunny.

The Lady of the Dashboard had us get off boring old I-95 well before we reached Washington.   On the Washington Parkway, Allan spotted a sign for the National Wildlife Visitor Center.  We decided to check it out, and found ourselves heading through the woods for the Patuxent Research Refuge.  I had visited the refuge on a guided field trip during a National Audubon convention over ten years earlier.  It’s the place that coordinates bird banding programs.

The visitor center building was closed for remodeling, but we wandered some of the nature paths.  It was wonderful to be walking through a natural area after spending our time in cities.  Near the entrance to the Goose Study Path, we found a young man taking pictures of something near the ground.  He had seen a snake spring on a frog.  We had interrupted the snake’s attack.  We waited a bit, and the large tan frog, bleeding from his back end and leg, turned around and faced its attacker.  The gray snake with lengthwise pale lines sprang and grabbed the frog by the forehead.  The snake was less than an inch in diameter, while the frog was at least 5 inches wide.  We watched the slow motion dance, fascinated.  Very gradually the snake’s mouth reached around more of the frog’s head, as the frog’s eyes gradually closed and then disappeared into the snake’s mouth.  The frog did its best to claw the snake with its rear legs.  A young couple joined the audience.  Eventually Allan and I decided to tear ourselves away from the slow-motion drama and look for birds.  We saw a number of waders, including an immature Little Blue Heron, an Eastern Bluebird and Field Sparrows.  We saw our first Northern Mockingbirds in over a month and realized that on our way from New Jersey we had again begun to see Turkey Vultures above the highway.  Except for a few flocks of robins, the only birds we had seen since South Dakota had been crows, European Starlings, House Sparrows and gulls.  We found a snake enthusiast who identified the snake of the drama as a Garter Snake.  He explained that Garter Snakes are neither venomous nor constrictors, which is why the drama was so slow moving.

We drove to our hotel in central Washington without incident.  Having skipped lunch, we enjoyed happy hour in the hotel and walked to a pleasant dinner in a nearby Thai restaurant.

Today marked the end of our second full month on the road.

Monday, October 06, 2008

We walked to the Foggy Bottom (shades of old spy novels) Metro station.  We figured out how to buy tickets and took the metro to the Capital Mall and Smithsonian Museums.

We spent much of the day visiting the new National Museum of the American Indian, a museum devoted to telling the story of the Native Americans of all of the New World, more accurately the native peoples of the entire Western Hemisphere, since native Hawaiians were included in at least one display.  This is a tremendous task.

The NMNA, which is housed in a lovely modern building, tries to tell the story of the native peoples from the perspective of the Native Americans themselves.  Some displays emphasize commonalities among all Native American cultures, while other displays tell the stories of specific cultures.  Every statement is attributed to an individual who is quoted.  There is no mention of the Los Angeles region’s Chumash or Tongva whatsoever, apparently because the museum focuses on larger tribal groups.  We enjoyed a multi-media film presentation and some of the displays, although we found the lighting made viewing difficult to impossible.  Reflections were often more visible than the displays.  There was no information about the relationships or migrations of the various groups or of the language families.

We had lunch in the Native American Foods Café, where the cafeteria was divided into food from various regions.  It was a great idea, the food descriptions appealing, and the food was not bad.  Unfortunately the café didn’t have its act together, with poor service, items that were supposed to be ready in 5 – 7 minutes indefinitely, and water dispensers that didn’t work.

IMAGES OF AND IN THE NEW NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN

After fairly thorough explorations of the NMAI, we walked to another part of the Smithsonian, the Freer Gallery.  We viewed some of its Asian artifacts and its James McNeill Whistler paintings.  Then we headed back to our hotel via the Metro.  En route to the Freer we passed the Smithsonian “Castle”, the first permanent museum to be built with Smithson’s gift.

We quickly cleaned up and took a taxi to the offices of the International Economic Development Council.  Allan was active in its predecessor organization in earlier years.  After a tour of the offices, we had dinner with the director, an old friend of Allan’s, at a nearby restaurant.  En route to the restaurant with Allan’s friend Jeff we did some unplanned and rather unusual birdwatching as shown below:

Tuesday October 7 (Muriel)

We headed south through Virginia and into North Carolina where we stopped for lunch at a buffet style restaurant that specializes in vinegar pulled pork, a specialty of eastern North Carolina.  They also had red-sauce (sweet tomato) pulled pork and other southern specialties.  Delicious.

Our next stop was a South Carolina visitor center where we got information from a helpful staff.  We stopped at Santee National Wildlife Reserve shortly before sunset but enjoyed strolling along its lawn with large trees festooned with Spanish moss, reading plaques about Revolutionary War battles there, and views of the setting sun.  It was too dark to positively identify the birds we glimpsed, but we enjoyed the setting and the chance to stretch our legs.

After 520 miles of driving for the day, we got to our hotel in the historic section of Charleston, SC.  The driving had been fast and pleasant, except for some stretches in Virginia where we encountered an intimidating number of homicidal truck drivers. Less exhausted than we were after some drives on the trip covering fewer miles, we had an excellent dinner at a seafood restaurant less than a block from our hotel.