Vacating

Jul. 10th, 2017 05:37 pm
malinaldarose: (Default)
So...last week turned out to be a Very Busy Week, Indeed, even with Tuesday off. I spent days teaching the new girl at work. She is smart and a good student. Bonus: she was looking forward to working with me, because she thinks I'm a good teacher. (I also trained her for the other portion of our caseload.) So...bit of an ego boost there.

In the evenings, I was getting things organized at home in order to leave for my vacation. I spent all night Thursday getting my suitcase packed, among other things, then spent a large portion of Friday night loading the car so that Saturday, all I really had to do was get the dog's stuff into the van, walk the dog, brush my teeth, and get on the road. As it was, I was awake at 3:00 and managed to stay in bed until 3:30. The alarm was set for 4:00. I still only just managed to be on the road by 5:00 a.m.

The trip out wasn't too bad. There was rain close to home; as I was going over the Chautauqua Ridge, there was a godawful deluge -- I wasn't sure whether I was going to have to pull over or not. It rained so hard that it completely scoured the bug guts off my windshield. Getting around Cleveland -- the usual worst part of the trip -- wasn't too bad, but I got there around 8:00 a.m. I think I may have figured out the work around for Cleveland and may try it on the way back home. Of course, if it's not raining, I shouldn't have any trouble following I-90.

And then I got to about LaGrange, Indiana, driving down the road, singing along with my tunes (filk and musicals for road trips), and with a bright bong! the idiot light for my tires came on. It blinked at me for a bit, then settled into a steady light. As I had just passed a rest stop (next rest stop 58 miles, or some such), I wasn't quite sure what to do. I still had about an hour and a half to go...so I turned off the tunes so I could concentrate and just...drove. I had no idea whether I had an actual tire problem or not. I should have stopped, but....

So I got to South Bend, got off I-90 and when I pulled out of the toll plaza, the idiot light was off. MyNuncle has since checked my tires for me and found them all to be slightly over-inflated, so...I dunno.

It was almost exactly 1:00 p.m. when I pulled into Auntie and Nuncle's driveway. Auntie and I talked for a bit, I had some lunch, and then we went uptown to the art show. I do love that art show, and there was some gorgeous work. There was also some work that you could only shake your head at and say, "Art." I bought a beautiful photograph of bare trees in mist, printed on...ginwashi? paper. Rice paper, anyway. Beautiful. And I know exactly where I'm going to hang it when I get it home.

Speaking of art, Auntie gave me a gorgeous parquet frame that my great great grandfather made, and which currently holds his centenary portrait. I thought about putting my new photo in that frame, but I think it wants a plain black frame.

Yesterday, we didn't do anything. We talked a lot, and we were going to go to the ice cream social attached to the art show, but just never made it. It was actually nice, because we're usually running around like crazy when I come out here.

Today, we went to a huge rummage sale and bought a paper box full of books, mostly biographies for Grama. She really likes biographies. For myself, though, I bought a 1932 edition of Nancy's Mysterious Letter, one of the early Nancy Drew novels, in pretty good condition, a French phrase book (just because), The Devil in the White City by Erik Larsen, and Bringing Tuscany Home by Frances Mayes. That latter has been on my wishlist for a while, so I was pleased to find it.

It looks like the weather for this week is supposed to be rainy (it's raining right now), so I'm not sure how much of our usual stuff we will actually do, since a lot of it is outside stuff, but we shall see. But just now, dinner is nearly ready, so I need to get my laptop off the table.
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We reached Skagway, the third stop on our Alaska cruise, about 6:30 a.m. on Friday. The weather had been fine -- if cooler than we were used to for August -- but it had changed overnight. We were up early enough that the ship wasn't quite at the dock yet, and it was foggy and cool. J2 knocked at our door a little earlier than BFT and I had expected, but she was summoning us to go down to the Promenade Deck with her and J1 who had seen a seal from their window and wanted a closer look. So we all went down and watched the seal for a while before heading out in search of breakfast.

We discovered, when we disembarked, that it was not only cool and foggy, it was drizzly, too. I was glad that I'd packed a rain coat, and glad that I wore it over the fleece jacket that I'd purchased aboard ship. The excursion we had booked for Friday was a White Pass Summit bus tour, but we couldn't find the bus, and eventually J1 called the charter company, only to find that the bus was on its way. It was a small bus with only about a dozen seats driven by an elderly fellow named Joe...who actually told the Italian couple up front to keep their kid quiet so that the people in the back of the bus could hear his commentary without him switching on his microphone. I wasn't sure whether to be impressed or appalled.

Joe drove us through Skagway, pointing out various sites of interest -- including the small camper he lived in during the tourist season before he headed back home to...Montana, I think he said. Our first stop was a Gold Rush-era cemetery built into the side of a hill. It was damp and muddy and Joe told stories about a couple of the residents, then sent those of us who were interested on a trail up the hill a little way (a steep trail, I might add) to see a waterfall. We were the first tour group to get to the graveyard, despite being picked up late (or maybe we got there in a lull), so the waterfall wasn't crowded, and I didn't have to wait long to get decent photographs. I also got photos of very picturesque red and orange mushrooms with white spots on the way down; I looked them up later and found that they were fly agaric, which is quite poisonous.

We then drove up over White Pass, stopping in a couple of overlook-type spots for photographs, but not for very long. It was a pretty miserable day for photos -- the fog got thicker and the rain went from mist in Skagway to drizzle the higher up the mountain we got. When we got to the summit, the fog pretty much closed in and we couldn't really see anything at all. On the way back down, we stopped at Bridal Veil Falls...which was extremely unimpressive, really, being just a small waterfall at the edge of the road. I seem to recall that there is a section of Niagara Falls called the Bridal Veil Falls, too.

When Joe dropped us back off in Skagway, we hit a couple of gift shops, then checked out the Red Onion Saloon, which is apparently haunted and was featured on one or another of those ghost-watching reality shows. Both BFT and J1 had wanted to have lunch there, but the place was packed, and J-Mother really didn't want to stay there. (The place was so packed that I loitered outside and took street photographs, waiting for everyone else to make up their minds about whether or not we were staying or going.) Eventually, we wandered on to a souvenir shop, then walked the mile or so back to the ship.

One of the interesting things about Skagway is that there is a cliffside along the dock that hosts a lot of graffiti, and ship captains commission bits of it themselves to commemorate the first time their ships stop there. We found the marker for Ruby Princess, which was kind of cool, and then we hustled to get back aboard her because we were all chilly and damp by that point.
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The morning after we stopped in Ketchikan, we were supposed to go up Tracey Arm Fjord to see the glacier there, but it was calving and there was too much ice in the water -- or so I gather -- so we went up Edward Arm to the Dawes Glacier. I wasn't on deck for the maneuver (because we got there Really Early), but apparently the ship went up one way, then delicately turned on a dime to present her aft end to the glacier. In any case, BFT and I got dressed and were out on deck early enough that we didn't feel we could knock on the others' door(s). We got a little lost, I think, wandering the top decks, but we had some spectacular views of the glacier, and we saw...not the sunrise itself, really, but the sun clearing the mountain behind the glacier. We'd gone up around 6:00 a.m., so around 7:00 a.m., we went in search of breakfast, then wandered up top to take some more photos. Eventually, we met up with the others, and found that J1 and J2 had been up just about as long as we had and had apparently witnessed the ship's turning.

That was the morning. About noon, we reached Juneau, which is huge. If I understood correctly, what is considered "Juneau" covers a vast area, with lots of wilderness interspersed with pockets of civilization. We drove through the city (and the governor's mansion was pointed out to us; Sarah Palin clearly didn't see Russia from that building as it faces a mountain directly across the [narrow] channel) to the Mendenhall Glacier, which, according to Wikipedia, is twelve miles from the city center. It's a beautiful area; there is a lake at the foot of the glacier, and a waterfall sort of around the bend. There's a park on the opposite shore of the lake with a visitors center (and the all-important bathrooms) and walking paths. It's really pretty.

I missed the bears. Apparently, there was a mother bear with three cubs. J2 saw them, but I was busy fiddling with my camera and looking up at the visitors center and hoping for bathrooms. I did see some ducks and some salmon, but that's not quite the same thing.

The one thing I noticed about the glacier was the deep blue in some pockets of the ice. It's a glorious color, and it's apparently produced by minerals in the ice. We walked around the paths to the shore of the lake where I picked up a pebble (to join the bit of rock I picked up in Avebury). We did not walk around to Nugget Falls, which is apparently farther away than it looks. We only had a couple of hours there, anyway, then we had to get back aboard the bus and head out to for the highlight of the cruise (for J1, anyway, whose bucket list trip this was): the whale watch.

We booked the whale watch with the same company that did the Mystic Fjords tour in Ketchikan, so we were aboard the same type of jet boat. Because we were not going as far, though, the boat never got going as fast (so it was much warmer). We also got seats in the enclosed cabin on the top deck, where it was pretty warm because of all the glass.

As we headed out, we could see where a whole bunch of boats were basically sitting in a circle around a group of humpbacks, and were somewhat surprised when our boat just headed on past them, but then the captain announced that we were headed out a little farther to see if we could find the pod of orcas that had been sighted earlier, and we'd get back to the humpbacks.

I'm not quite sure how it happened, but J2 and I ended up in the bow of the boat on the upper deck, leaning over, and an orca surfaced practically under our noses, and probably only six feet away from the boat. The captain jigged to the side pretty quickly, then brought the boat back around. I didn't get a photo, though I think J2 got a bit of a black and white blur. After that, we couldn't have left our spots if we'd wanted to because there were so many people standing around us.

We circled the pod for a while, but they were just doing their thing, so all we ever really saw were backs and dorsal fins. After perhaps half an hour, the captain circled the boat back toward the humpbacks. There were at least a dozen other tour boats of varying sizes around them. I can't believe all the motors running basically over their heads didn't bother them, but apparently not.

Humpbacks do not, apparently, travel in family pods, but they will come together in unrelated groups to hunt, and that's what we were watching. There were twenty-one whales in the group -- though we never saw more than six or seven at a time. (Heh. Only six or seven at a time...how boring it all sounds....) What they do is to herd the fish they're interested in into a ball (scare them into a ball, probably), then they dive and blow bubbles and force the fish-ball to the surface, and follow it up. What we saw was a flock of gulls sitting on the water -- because the gulls know what's going on and want their share -- then the gulls would fly, and shortly thereafter, this group of huge mouths would break the surface, looking rather like sandworms surfacing in Dune. Then the whales would mill about for a bit (all dorsal fins and tail flukes) then they'd start over. We saw them break the surface twice. It's more exciting than it sounds.

J1 was a bit disappointed, I think, that we didn't see a breach, which would certainly have been spectacular. We did see one small whale-watching boat that looked like it was in danger of capsizing; it was a ponton-style boat and one pontoon was up out of the water as everyone aboard crowded to the opposite side....

After the boat docked, we did a bit of souvenir shopping in Juneau proper. I had been sort of hoping to buy a matroyshka for my mother as I'd seen a couple in the ship's gift shop. On the way out to our excursions, I'd spotted a Russian gift shop, so we went in there. I adore Russian lacquerware, but the only piece I inquired about (a small box with the firebird painted on it) was $250, which was just a little out of my range. I ended up buying some small brooches with flowers for my female relatives and a really pretty Madonna icon for myself (not for any religious reason, but because I liked the style and colors).

Our next stop was a shop selling jade. I have never particularly cared for jade -- never really thought about it, actually -- but I'd bought a small pendant on the ship, which I really love, and BFT wanted to buy something, so in we went. Holy cow -- jade is expensive! I'd had no idea. BFT bought a pair of earrings, but I didn't buy anything, though I looked at a few pieces.

This past weekend, after I showed her my pendant, MyAuntie told me that she really, really, really likes jade, and that many years ago, she gave up getting a piece for herself to buy one for my asshole brother, instead -- a move she now regrets. Now she tells me? (Which just meant that I spent a chunk of Sunday shopping for jade pieces for her for Christmas and ended up ordering her a small jade heart this morning because a) it can sit next to her computer or ride around in a pocket, and b) it was more affordable than, say, a jade buddha.

Anyway, after that, we reboarded the ship....
malinaldarose: (Default)
When last we left Our Intrepid Heroine, her luggage had arrived in Seattle, but her ship was on its way to Alaska, necessitating that Delta send the luggage along after. Fortunately, the airline had allowed OIH and her friends to go shopping on their dime (though we're still awaiting reimbursement), so there was some clothing.

Actually, the shopping was something of a saga in and of itself. First, because it was Sunday, we had trouble finding someplace that was open. Our transfer from the hotel to the port was scheduled for 11:00, but that was pushed back to noon -- fortunately. That still left us very little time, and we couldn't wait until 11:00 for the mall to open. We found a nearby Kohl's and went there, instead.

Which... Have you ever tried to figure out what you need for a week's vacation on the fly? There was no guarantee at that point that we'd get our luggage before we even got home, so we had to consider what to get, but we had to do it quickly, and with basically no time for trying things on. First of all, I couldn't find any underwear to fit. I could find sizes on either side, but nothing in my own size. I finally found a package of panties a size larger than I was looking for. I grabbed a couple of bras labeled in my size (whether they would fit or not remained to be seen, but I could always return them when we got home).

Then it was time to find actual clothing. I shop pretty much in the plus-size department now -- but I couldn't find it. This Kohl's wasn't laid out like the one at home -- it's bigger, for one thing -- and though it was much the same size as the one near MyAuntie's house, the plus-size department wasn't in the same spot. So I began to panic as it got later and I couldn't find any clothing. Because J1 and BFT are shorter than I am, and shaped a bit differently (and don't mind tight clothing), they can shop in the Misses department, so by the time I finally found the Women's Department, they were both loaded down with what they wanted, and so they helped me find some things. (The departments weren't marked, either.) So here it is getting later and later. BFT comes up with a black t-shirt dress. I know I've tried on something similar at home and hated the way it looked, but she brought a larger size. "It'll be fine," she said. I was trying to find a blue skirt that I'd bought at home, but couldn't, so gave up on finding anything suitable, and started looking at shirts. I finally found the clearance t-shirts and started loading up -- just tossing various colors over my arm -- then moved on to tank tops for layering, then grabbed a grey cardigan off another rack, then a couple of floaty tops. There was no point in trying to find pants -- I can't get away without trying those on and there simply wasn't time. I would have to make do with the charcoal-grey knit pants I wore on the plane (Lands End Sport Knit -- very comfy) and the jeans I had in my carry-on.

In the end, I had five t-shirts in various colors, four tank tops in neutral colors, three floaty short-sleeved tops, one black t-shirty dress, one marled grey long cardigan, a package of panties, two bras, and -- damn! I forgot socks! So I had to run back to the underwear department to grab some socks and by the time I got back to the cashier's line, two people had gotten in ahead of me, so we had to wait even longer.

And when we got out to the parking lot, we couldn't find Chester. We found the cab, but he wasn't there, so J1 called him -- he'd gone into the store to see where we were because he actually had to get back home so he could go to church! Apparently, he's an independent driver....

Anyway. So that's how we ended up with lots of extra clothing that we are still waiting to see if Delta will really reimburse us for.

Once we boarded the ship, and after we had lunch, we had to report to the Passenger Service desk to let them know that our luggage had been lost and that we were hoping it would be delivered to the ship at our first port. (This was before we actually sailed and before BFT got the phone call that our luggage had, in fact, made it to Seattle.) There was a lot of paperwork to be filled out for each of us, and it was complicated by the fact that the desk was on the ship's Atrium and that someone thought it would be a good idea to have a singer start a set just about the time we got to the front of the line, and she thought it would be a good idea to have her mic and amps turned up to eleven. So we were trying to talk to Eugenie and Giulia, while not being really able to hear them. It took a while, but everything got sorted out and they gave us these really nice pouches full of toiletries, offered us robes and slippers (which we turned down), told us that we could avail ourselves of the laundry facilities if we needed them, and offered us formal wear rentals (hopefully at a low, lost-your-luggage price) since our first formal night would be Monday, which was before our luggage could possibly be delivered as we didn't reach Ketchikan (our first port) until Tuesday morning. We turned that offer down, also, as we all had something suitable -- though I did later peruse the offerings in the ship's gift shops, and did in fact, buy a fleece jacket which I was extremely grateful to have (and which I did submit the receipt for) on Tuesday when we took the jet-boat tour.

To Be Continued....

So. Tired.

Jul. 16th, 2016 09:33 pm
malinaldarose: (Default)
I am so tired right now. I got to bed around 11:15 last night and woke up at 1:00 a.m. My alarm was set for 4:00 a.m., but from 3:00 a.m. onward, I was basically just counting minutes until the alarm was due to go off -- and staying in bed because it would've been really rude to be packing and making noise when my aunt and uncle were trying to sleep. As it was, they were up at 4:30 with me. (I think Auntie was up and got Nuncle up.)

I got onto the road a smidge after 5:00 a.m. -- just as I did to go out there. The drive was okay, though Cleveland tried to kill me. There was no rain anywhere except in the Cleveland metro area. In the suburbs, there were sprinkles, but the worst, hardest, heaviest rain was on the part of the road where I really needed to be able to see and interpret the road signs and see the rest of the traffic. I nearly missed my exit, and as it was, ended up sitting in the hatched area between two ramps waiting until I could get on the right one and I nearly caused an accident because there was another car in my blind spot when I dove for the wrong one. My watery, watery blind spot. Which might not have been a blind spot had it not been raining so hard.

The rain got lighter and lighter as I climbed away from Cleveland -- and if you've never driven through Cleveland on I-90, as you're driving west, you descend from the remains of Appalachia into the city, and as you're going east, the road starts rising immediately. You literally climb out of Cleveland like ascending from the depths of... Yeah, I'm not going there.

But. I got home around 1:15 p.m. and we survived the trip, so I guess it's all good. I really need to figure out the way around Cleveland, though. MyNuncle can't remember the route unless he's actually driving it. I suspect that I want to take 271 when it diverges from 90, but then I need to meet back up with 90 on the other side of the city. I'm sure I have a map somewhere. Nuncle says that the bypass ends up being only five miles longer.

I puttered around for a couple of hours after I got home, then went to see Grama and deliver all the stuff I had for her. Dinner was from McDonald's, then I unpacked my suitcase and put everything away. Now, it is finally late enough that I can justify going to bed....
malinaldarose: (Default)
There was a shooting here yesterday afternoon. Well, not here. Uptown at the courthouse. I know it's been all over the news because when MyAuntie talked to Gram last night, the first thing she asked was about it. Auntie was kind of hoping that it wouldn't make the national news, but of course it did. Anyway. Apparently what happened is that a prisoner being moved from a jail cell to a courtroom got hold of a deputy's gun and started shooting. The deputy is in the hospital, as is another person. Two bailiffs and the shooter were killed. I see that they've released their names this morning; they hadn't last night. That'll make Gram happy -- she was obsessing about not having enough details last night.

I also learned this morning that my office building was evacuated last Friday morning for a couple of hours because of a suspicious package (which turned out to be misplaced mail). When I saw the headline, I was confused because I was there on Friday and certainly didn't remember being evacuated, but then I remembered that I actually had a doctor appointment Friday morning and then took an extra hour to get a start on packing, and by the time I went in, the building had been cleared. Funny that no one mentioned it.

Anyway. Yesterday, we were planning to go uptown early to take the dogs to the Dog Bakery, but the guy that MyNuncle is working with on a software project called and didn't let him off the phone until almost noon. MyAuntie and I ended up taking the dogs for a quick walk by ourselves around 11:00 before it got to be too terribly hot.

Saturday when I got here, it was lovely, but it has been getting steadily hotter. It was 90° yesterday and extremely humid. My aunt and uncle have air conditioning, which I normally can't stand, but for which I was very happy last evening. The back part of the house gets especially warm because they leave the back door open so the dogs can come and go as they please. (And that also explains why I just had a mosquito try to bite my freakin' eye. Little bitch is dead now. (No, I did not squish her into my eye. Ugh.))

Anyway. There is a huge rummage sale to benefit a private school and we went out there yesterday afternoon. I spent nearly $20 on books and some bracelets, and Auntie spent nearly $20 on books for Grama. It occurred to me this morning that I want to go back out there to clean out their Sci Fi books (they had most of the Darkover books, a good chunk of Piers Anthony, and lots of other good stuff) for Niece. She is going to be 16 this year, so I think she is finally old enough for Darkover and Xanth and Earthsea. Well, I think Earthsea is YA, anyway, but....

Nuncle is already on the phone with the Software Guy. Auntie isn't up yet, but probably will be soon, as it is just after 9:00. I've been up for two hours, and will probably switch from noodling on my laptop to reading on my tablet. I finished Season 1 of Shadow Unit yesterday evening, other than the last few deleted scenes. I will probably start Season 2 today. I did bring a book to read, but probably will stick with Shadow Unit.

I'm not certain what our plan is for today. We would still like to take the dogs up to Fuzzy Butz, but I see that there's going to be some sort of memorial walk for the bailiffs that were killed yesterday, so getting uptown might be problematic. Maybe we'll do stuff in the opposite direction, like going back to the rummage sale or out to the used book store. (I never buy a lot there; they have terrible prices for used books.)

It's supposed to be hot again today. I let my hair air-dry yesterday (which meant it was still slightly damp at bedtime), and I straightened it this morning because even if it's hotter than sin out there, if my hair is straight, it somehow feels cooler....

Vacay!

Jul. 10th, 2016 09:24 am
malinaldarose: (Default)
So, here I am at my desk away from home: the far end of my aunt and uncle's dining room table. I am about to have to go scrounge up an adapter for the outlet under the table so I can plug in my laptop. (I'm not certain when this house was built, but all of the outlets are for two-pronged cords.) Hopefully, MyAuntie will be appearing soon (she's always the last to get up in the morning), so that I don't have to disturb MyNuncle down in his Evil Computer Genius Lair...though I did disturb him once this morning when I took Jack down to investigate.

After spending Friday evening in a sweaty, sweaty swivet (it was so humid; I was just going to rewear Friday's clothes for the trip, but I got so disgustingly sweaty that I had to rethink that) getting packed and ready to leave first thing Saturday morning, I managed to get out only seven minutes behind schedule, and made it here by 1:00 p.m. Not too bad. It is an eight-hour trip, but I always delude myself into thinking it's only seven, and that it's the two stops (for no longer than twenty minutes each) that make it so much longer. We did only stop twice, at the usual places (the first and last rest stops in Ohio; interestingly, on the way home, I sometimes stop three times; by the time I hit Ohio, I generally need to stop, then I have to get gas before hitting Cleveland, then I stop just outside Erie).

The trip was relatively easy; traffic wasn't too bad, and it occurred to me after I got here that they have finally finished the couple of long-term reconstruction projects between Erie and Cleveland; I had sailed through without even noticing. There was, of course, construction; there always is. And, in fact, a new project started on Thursday (according to the signs) around South Bend which is where I exit 90.

Jack was wonderfully behaved the whole trip. He got up onto his seat and pretty much stayed there. He did get a bit restless around the time we crossed into Indiana, but I promised him that we were nearly here and he settled down again. (Though, in fact, we still had a couple of hours to go.)

We arrived at 1:00 p.m. (almost precisely), and the first thing Jack did was go looking for Wishbone, who died in February. Ah, well. Jesse was enthusiastic about having another dog in the house and they settled right in with one another so well that we weren't in the last nervous about leaving them in the house to go uptown to the art show -- the whole reason I always pick this weekend to come out here.

The art show is held in the park on the bluff overlooking the lake. The park is half a mile long, and the sidewalk is lined with artists. Where the sidewalk splits at one end of the park, there are artists on both sides of both tines. It's fabulous, and it can be almost as much fun just watching the people, as seeing the art.

I've already spent Entirely Too Much Money -- half of the cash I brought went to tolls and art. There was an artist with wonderful Indian-styled art from whom I bought two small prints (a mandala in purple and gold and a phoenix in flame colors; they will look surprisingly nice paired in black frames). I also bought a 3-D print of Mr. Eiffel's Tower from an artist who is actually from Rochester (NY, not MN or wherever the other one is), only two hours from me. "Western New York, represent," I said to him. It was a little pricey at $60, but for the work...not so much. He takes the photographs, then cuts them out and layers them into 3-D images. It's gorgeous work.

Speaking of Mr. Eiffel's Tower, I sent MyNuncle a copy of one of my own photos for his birthday last September...and apparently I framed it upside down without realizing it. So it is displayed that way. They thought it was funny. Well...so do I, really. The photo I bought is from pretty much the same spot, as near as I can tell.

It turned into a beautiful day on the bluff yesterday. It was cloudy when we got there, but it was also just on the border between breezy and windy and the clouds blew through and it became sunny. The temp was in the low 70s (I actually wore a jacket and I'm glad I did). There was surf breaking on the pier, and MyAuntie looked at the lake and said, "It's a rip current day." And then we got home later and the news said the same thing.

Last night, we didn't even walk the dogs because everyone's feet were hurting -- which will probably mean extra-long walkies this afternoon after lunch and before we go back uptown.

Today's plan is to go back up to the bluff and try to catch a band concert, either this afternoon or this evening. I'm not especially keen on that; I'm expecting that no matter how talented they are, they'll be playing music I don't care for. Ah, well. I'll take my camera.
malinaldarose: (Default)
I really wish I'd said fukkity-fukkity-fukk-fukkit to this week's training. I have taken it before, after all. Then I could've taken the rest of the week off. As it is, I did call in (well, email in, because the building's telephone system appeared to be down this morning) and take today off. By the time I got home yesterday, I'd been up for nigh unto twenty-four hours and even though I had a full night of heavenly sleep in my very own bed, I was still dragging this morning.

A broad overview of the trip: It was fabulous, but we walked, and we walked, and we walked, and we walked, and my foot hurts quite a lot. Quite a lot. When I deplaned yesterday, I had to yell at the girls to slow the fuck down because they were speeding for Customs, and I simply couldn't keep up with them. Which meant that we had to stand in line longer, but.... We averaged twelve miles of walking per day (and on the day we went to Versailles, we probably did a mile in the courtyard alone, as the entry line snaked back and forth); on one day we did fifteen, and on one day, I had to discuss with J2 the definition of "walking distance."

In the airport in Toronto, waiting to fly out, I suddenly started having intestinal issues (not pleasant) which meant that a) I refused the "dinner" that they began serving at midnight on the plane, and b) I didn't take my doses of Arthrotec on our first day in London. Which was okay as far as my foot went, but by dinner time, I had a practically blinding headache, hadn't had any food since the "breakfast" on the plane at 6:00 a.m. local time, hadn't had any caffeine since dinner time the night before, and was feeling really wretched. BFT slipped me some ibuprofen, and I managed to down about half my chicken pie and a bottle of diet Coke, but couldn't even attempt what I am told were excellent chips. By bedtime, I felt better, but didn't want to mix my NSAIDs, so ended up getting along by just mooching BFT's ibuprofen the whole time. My foot today is swollen and painful, but I have been mostly staying off of it. Though it is almost time to go pick up Jack, so there will shortly be a walk....

Anyway, misery aside, it really was a great trip.

Side note: Half the people we talked to about flying out of Toronto couldn't believe that we'd drive there to fly out. The people who couldn't believe it clearly didn't know anything about the geography of NYS and thought that we'd just drive to NYC to fly out. Yeah, no. It's a three-hour drive to Toronto from here, and a seven-hour drive to NYC, and that, I am told is if one is really lucky with traffic. (J1 and BFT have both lived downstate, so I trust their opinions in this matter.) The other half we talked to, including the customs guy at the airport yesterday, agreed that it made the most sense to do it that way because it was cheaper and we could get a non-stop flight, which you can't get from Buffalo.

Other side note: We ran into three separate groups of people from Toronto. ("How did you know we were from Toronto?" "Well, we can hear your accent....") Also lots of Aussies.

More details later, probably, as well as photographs, as I get them edited. I took nearly 1,900 photos. I probably won't post that many, though. Well, definitely not, because at least two of them were of the inside of the lens cap....
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This morning began with a bit of excitement: when I took Jack outdoors first thing, we heard small noises and rustling from under the deck. There is a space behind the porch glider where one of the boards is missing from the deck. A blue jay had gotten down in there and become trapped. I went to get my uncle, and while we couldn't persuade the jay to come up, we got it to wander around under the deck and perhaps helped it to find a couple of exits. We decided it would come out on its own eventually, so, as it was first thing in the morning and my dog, at least, had not yet attended to business, we opened the back door and let two of the three out. (The third dog was still in bed.)

As Jack was wandering around the yard attending to business, my uncle suddenly started yelling at his dog. It seems that the jay had found an exit and was just sitting there. Jester had noticed the jay....

The jay did escape but it was a close thing: Jester pulled out what looked like all of the bird's tail feathers. When I saw them lying on the ground, I first thought that it was a wing lying there, and that there had been another bird. Stupid, as I had stepped in that spot myself trying to figure out what was making the little noises to begin with.

So somewhere out there is a jay with a tale to tell about getting trapped in the dark space and then escaping the maw of the ravening spotted beast, who can fly, but can't steer....

Home Again

Aug. 16th, 2014 07:03 pm
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I am Home From The Fair. It was.... Well, it was a disappointment, to be honest, even though I didn't have any expectations to begin with. The weather was (is) too cool and it was (is) overcast. I dressed for last weekend (when it was beautiful) because according to the last forecast I read, today was supposed to be similar. Fortunately, J2 gets cold as easily as I do, and before we entered the fairgrounds, she ran back to the car to get her sweatshirt and brought my sweater.

We watched some Native American dancers for a bit, then wandered farther in and father up (there are a couple of slopes, and there might even have been a lion in the live animal display). BFT wanted to see the Stars of the Peking Acrobats, so we headed in that direction, noting all the various vendors of deep-fried foods and foods on a stick and deep-fried, chocolate-covered, stick-impaled foods...and good for you gelato. Hm. (BFT bought a deep-fried cheesecake which she said was totally worth the $9 she paid for it.)

The acrobats were marvelous, though they were all very, very young, except for one fellow from whom I got a distinctly Faginish vibe, which is almost certainly my own imagination, but he appeared to be ten to fifteen years older than the rest, seemed to be in charge, and just reminded me of all of those episodes of my favorite television shows when I was a kid where the Russian gymnast defects and must be protected by Steve Austin or Jaime Somers or Diana Prince or Thomas Magnum or whomever.

BFT wanted to go mainly for the shopping; there is a purveyor of sterling-and-semi-precious-gemstone jewelry from whom she purchases pieces (!) every year. She kept pointing me to earrings and telling me I totally needed to buy them. When she pointed me at one pair, the vendor tried to get me to buy them, too, and I made a joke about how BFT was spending my money and we weren't even married yet...and the vendor actually thought I was serious. Which amused all of us.

Sometimes I open my mouth and things fly out that should probably not....

Anyway. I didn't buy any jewelry because I didn't have the cash and I didn't want to charge anything. I actually showed restraint! Go, me! (There were at least three pairs of earrings and several necklaces that I wanted.)

We had lunch (pizza), wandered through the historical display, got BFT's mom the required bag of kettle corn, and found ourselves wandering back toward the gate. A quick trip through the rabbit and sheep buildings, a few bites of J2's funnel cake, and we headed on out. I was home by 4:00 p.m.

So, I didn't buy anything other than a ticket and lunch and had no deep-fried anything. So when I got home, I went to WickedMart and bought a pile of junk food. And now I'm going to go munch on some of it while watching a movie.
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Yesterday, I picked BFT and J1 up at 6:30 in the morning and we went to the Sterling Renaissance Festival (site auto-plays music). BFT hadn't been there in nearly twenty years, and it had been about four years since my last trip. J1 had never been to a ren faire before, so we had to warn her that therein she would see terrible sights that could never be unseen...mostly involving improperly worn corsets and cinchers. Before we even got in the gate BFT saw one woman hit herself in the face with her own cleavage when she bent down to pick something up off the ground. And one poor unfortunate looked like she had two water balloons bobbling away atop her cincher (made worse because she was wearing it over a sky-blue t-shirt). What else? Oh, there was the overweight couple in their late 50s (or so) dressed in black robes (for certain values of "robe"); he had a collar and chain 'round his neck, and she had the other end of the chain. There was a tallish teenager in an excellent faun costume. There was a guy dressed all in black with a skull-face mask who was apparently just practicing his lurking. (We laughed at him because he was kind of ridiculous.) There was a guy we thought was Sauron, at first, but BFT said that the character was from a video game. There was a Danaerys (sp?) that I recognized from photos. (I haven't seen the show.) There was an Eleventh Doctor, who, if I hadn't been chatting with someone at the time I saw him, I'd've asked to pose with my TeenyTinyTARDIS.

Well, it was fantasy weekend, so there were a lot more costumes even than usual.

We got there about fifteen minutes before the gates opened, though we didn't manage to get our tickes until after the Queen had led the company inside. That worked out, though, because it meant that we didn't have to stand in the crowd to get in. They don't stamp hands anymore, just mark your ticket and hand it back to you, so don't lose it.... (There were a few changes since the last time I was there.)

First stop, as always, was the privies. Yay?

When we were planning the trip, I told BFT that my only stipulation for the day was that I wanted to see Don Juan & Miguel. I have seen their act every time I have gone to Sterling, and though there are portions of it I can quote, I still love to see it. So we headed down the hill to the Chessboard Stage (now called the Court Pavilion or some such; the first change that I noticed) to get seats. Don Juan actually passed us on the way down; he was saying something about red and black burlap denoting "renaissance" to him, and since he was right next to me (even though he was talking to someone else (or himself)), I said something back about it being more early-modern-Colonial. He laughed. Anyway, it was a hoot, as always, though I managed to pick a bench that was lower than the others, so I couldn't see very well, despite being relatively close to the stage.

Next up, J1 decided she wanted to see what was listed in the schedule as "Filthy Irish Stories," but turned out to be Crannog playing tunes that were anything but filthy. Fun, but hardly filthy. (Filthy came later in the day.) I have to say that of the two groups I've seen at Sterling whose names begin with C, I prefer Crannog. After that, since we were already down at that end of the grounds, we stayed for the glass-blowing demonstration, though there is a new glassblower since the last time I was there. She's a tiny thing, but muscley. I couldn't tell if her assistant was the same person as assisted the last fellow (indicating that they might be related) or not.

After the glassblowing, we decided it was, perhaps, time for lunch. (And we missed the noon joust, too, which was disappointing, as I wanted to see it. Well. I wanted to take pictures of it.) As we were wandering in the general direction of food, I felt a tap on my arm, and there was My Twin and her husband! "I wondered if we'd see you here today," she said. We chatted for a bit, then they went off in one direction and we went in another.

Lunch was accomplished and then it was getting on toward time for the Queen's parade, so we located seats near the parade route. While we were sitting there, a fellow advertising "wildly inappropriate" poetry came along handing out cards. He stopped pretty much in front of where we were sitting and started accosting people, talking about his poetry including the hit "I Built My Love A Menstrual Hut." He was pretty funny, so we decided we'd see his show later. Anyway, while all this was going on, I noticed a pair of stuff falcons sitting on the wall not five feet from where I was sitting, so I snapped a couple of photos...and then one of them shook its head and ruffled its feathers.... I hadn't seen the falconer, but she was sitting there (in a wheelchair with a boot on one foot, poor thing). Someone came up and asked her about the birds, so she coaxed one up onto her glove, unhooded it, and started to give a small demonstration. I hope my photos turn out. (I was having trouble with my camera.)

After the parade, we did some shopping, then went back down to the Grotto Stage for Arthur Greenleaf Holmes and his Wildly Inappropriate Poetry. He had attracted a lot of people with his cards; by the time we got down there, the benches were filled and we had to stand through the show (which was not pleasant for me, let me tell you). The poetry was not just wildly inappropriate, it was downright filthy. He did make a point of mentioning that it probably wasn't right for kids, but there appeared to be only one in the audience and he was there with his father who declared that he'd heard worse at school. I don't think he really had...and Dad was pretty red a couple of times.

That was the last show of the day for us. We had already determined that we'd leave around 4:00, and that show ended just then. The Grotto Stage is nearly at the opposite end of the grounds and down the hill from the gate, though, and I really had to sit down for a bit before making the trek up to the van, so it was closer to 4:20 before we left, and just after 8:00 p.m. that we got home because we stopped at another McDonald's to get a bite for supper.

And then I got home and found out that my parents hadn't picked up the food I'd left in the breezeway for Nick or the books I'd left for Nephew, so I had to get back in the van and drive back across town to drop them off. The food wasn't so urgent, but the books were, as Bird and Nephew will be currently sitting in a NYC airport (don't know which) waiting for a flight to Germany. (They left town at 2:30 a.m. to get to Buffalo in time to check in for their 6:30 flight to NYC.)
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We made it to the beach yesterday. While there was rain in the morning, the rest of the day turned pretty. Cooler than I liked (I was wearing a sweatshirt over my t-shirt, and with my hair pulled back to keep it out of my face, had to twist a light-weight scarf around my neck), but pretty. So I have many photos of the lighthouse. I even walked all the way out to the end of the pier, so I have photos of the lighthouse from both sides. The walkway along the side of the inner light is not as narrow as I was remembering it, but I would definitely not want to be out there in bad weather.

I was also, unfortunately, a bit sick. Not in any way that interfered with going out and doing things (other than I didn't go for walkies after lunch yesterday), but in an intermittent sort of way. Hopefully, it's better today. I just had breakfast, so we'll see....
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The weather is disappointing me. From the long range forecast, I already knew that there was going to be one day of cold weather. But it's shaping up to be two. The high temperature for today is only supposed to be 65°, and it has already rained a couple of times -- even though the doppler map is showing no rain at all. Figures, right?

We had planned to go to the beach yesterday because there were supposed to be waves high enough to break pleasingly over the lighthouse...but while we were out walking the dogs it rained. A lot. And didn't appear to be in any mood to let up. I actually had my umbrella with me, since I wasn't encumbered with a leash, but I still got pretty wet.

So instead of the beach, Auntie and I went errand shopping -- which is to say that we didn't go to the quaint and charming uptown shops, but to the other end of town and Target, Jo-Ann's, Pier 1. At some point today, we have to make a run to WickedMart, too. (Ugh.) I did get to try out some chairs at Pier 1, though, and I think that when I get home, I will go ahead and order the chair I have been thinking about for the living room. I'd like to order a second chair -- and a couch! -- but, well, no.

We may make it to the beach this afternoon. We may not. It looks pretty grey out there right now....
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Apparently all the walking finally got to me because instead of getting up early on Sunday, I was still in bed with everyone else when J1's phone starting shouting the circus-theme sound clip from the latest Madagascar movie. I was amused by it when I saw the trailer at the cinema, but it is somewhat less amusing when being used as an alarm clock. (On a side note, her text notification is the whizz and thock of an arrow followed by Patsy saying, "Message for you, sir!")

I can't remember what we had for breakfast on Sunday...since we were headed to the Musée des Beaux-Arts, we probably stopped at Tim Horton's, since it was on the way. The museum was up the street from our hotel; we had passed it several times during our perambulations. What I had not realized any of those times was that the museum is actually contained in four or five buildings on both sides of the street; they are connected by tunnels. Pretty cool.

The big draw at the Museum right now is the Chihuly exhibit. I'm not certain whether the exhibit is called "Utterly Breathtaking" or whether that was just the tagline, but it was entirely deserved. Wow. I mean, no, really. Wow. The guy is a blown-glass artist, and his work is amazing. Some of it is also quite disturbing, like the things that looked like piles of intestines with tentacles (possibly the Flying Spaghetti Monster), or what I would have to call the Highly Magnified Orange Microbe (Probably Not Thoroughly Educated)¹. Some of it was really gorgeous, like the room that had glass sheets for a ceiling and above the sheets, loads of blown glass objects -- platters, flowers, vases -- with light shown through them to wash on the walls. My favorite though was called "Floats," and had blown glass globes of all sizes settled in a dinghy resting on a highly reflective black surface. The globes looked like planets. Gorgeous.

After we completed the circuit of the Chihuly exhibit, we headed back downstairs and started looking for the other sections that interested us. On the way, we passed a modern section which included a wooden dresser shaped like a hand grenade, and an ATV tipped on its side, "leaking," and shot full of arrows. J2 remarked that it looked like a normal weekend around here; we laughed, but she's pretty much right.

One of the sections we toured was a different modern art section featuring furniture. We all stared in puzzlement at the used Dyson vacuum cleaner.... My favorite items in that section were the Tiffany lamp and the Tiffany stained glass panels. Gorgeous. We also toured the very small medieval art section (just a couple of rooms with a few paintings, a couple of sculptures and some more stained glass that I haven't decided if it was real or not, and the Belle Epoque paintings. Some of those paintings are huge. I had no idea that they'd be so large....

After a couple of hours in the museum we hit the gift shop (of course!), then headed down a couple of blocks toward the area where we'd been eating dinner (lots of restaurants) so that BFT could get chocolate for her mother. We all bought things at the chocolatier (and here is where I confess that I actually preferred to Cadbury bars to what is supposedly "good" chocolate), including gelatos for lunch.

BFT asked if we couldn't hang out at the hotel for a while during the afternoon as it was quite warm and humid -- and her feet hurt. Hmph. On the way back, we finally got to stop at the bookstore we'd passed several times across from the entrance to McGill University. It's a Paragraphe, very similar to a Barnes & Noble. Ridiculously small SF/F section, but a ginormous YA section. I was able to get a Quebec patch there for Nephew (who collects them, just as his sister collects souvenir spoons) and several books. I really wanted one of the Pride & Prejudice cover tees, but they didn't have one in my size. Of course.

We actually spent the rest of the afternoon -- about two and a half hours -- in the hotel, and my feet were so glad for the respite. So glad, in fact, that I hardly minded the walk to our final Fun Thing, a comedy show at Club Soda. "It's only six or seven blocks," J2 said. "We'll walk it." Yeah. Six or seven blocks in Montreal is not like six or seven blocks here....

Before that, however, we headed around the corner and up a little bit to a tiny hole-in-the-wall Chinese place where we had the Best Chinese Food Ever. Really. Best. Ever. The only comparable Chinese food I've had was -- oddly enough -- in Toronto on my honeymoon with my first husband. Unfortunately, there was a bit of a delay in getting our bill, so we started out for the show about fifteen minutes later than we had planned, which meant that we got there much later than we had planned...and the place was packed.

It's small to begin with, and it had to be past-capacity. It wasn't auditorium seating, either, but four chairs to teeny-tiny tables barely big enough to hold four drinks. We had to wedge ourselves in with complete strangers, and I ended up sitting not-quite-perpendicular to the stage, looking over some old guy's shoulder, with my ankles nearly wrapped around the feet of his chair. "If there's a fire in here," J2 said, "we're screwed." It was too loud (I really don't like loud), too crowded, and I really didn't like it. The acts weren't particularly funny -- though I have to say that the last guy was really hilarious -- and I think I prefer my stand-up on TV.

Afterward, we walked back to the hotel and started to pack up, and we were on our way home by 8:30 the following morning.
---
¹ Name that book.
malinaldarose: (Default)
All of our third day in Montreal was spent out. After a breakfast of crèpes (mine were chocolate, and entirely too sweet), we caught a bus to St. Joseph's Oratory, which is a sizable church on a steep hill. Fortunately for my poor legs, there is a shuttle from the base of the hill to near the top, and there are escalators everywhere.

I have to say that I did not like the church. It's very modern, very plain, and what decoration there is tends toward the spiky. It seems like it's all concrete and wrought iron thorns. Ugly.

We wandered around a bit, checking out the sanctuary, and Brother Andre's chapel/home, and then back into the Oratory building to check out the lower levels where there is a [very warm] votive chapel. There was another sanctuary, but we didn't get a good look at it as there was a service going on.

We stayed there for about an hour, then headed for the subway to catch a train to take us to Notre-Dame and Old Montreal. And here is where I show my ignorance...or, at least, my not-thinking-clearly. BFT kept saying that Old Montreal would be our taste of Europe for this year. She said it numerous times. And so I was expecting Old Montreal to be like the medieval center of any of the cities that we visited in Italy, especially Lucca.

It never occurred to me until we got there that there weren't going to any buildings older than a couple hundred years. Duh. Moron, that's me.

Notre-Dame was closed for weddings when we got there (well, it was Saturday) and not expected to open until evening when there would be a light show inside, so we went wandering. The first place we stopped was a Christmas shop right across the side street from the basilica. There were some very interesting ornaments in there (a whole section of sexy merpeople ornaments, which was very strange). After that, we just more or less wandered, snapping the occasional picture. We hit one tourist-trap store (where I looked for souvenir spoons for my niece and a patch for my nephew and came up empty), and then another branch of the amber store we'd been at the evening before where I bought a pair of earrings and a pair of sunglasses because I'd foolishly left mine behind in the van. We had a late lunch/early dinner, wandered some more, and ended up back at Notre-Dame just before they reopened for the light show, so we bought tickets and went inside.

The sanctuary was hidden behind vast drapes onto which blue polka-dotted lights had been projected. We were handed headsets for the show; we had our choice of English, French, or Mandarin. The show got started and it turned out to be pretty hokey -- and then it got worse. There were little vignettes showing the history of Montreal and of Notre-Dame, and, wow. They were clearly written in French, so maybe they were better in French, but I have to say that the English was pretty...stupid. I mean, we're talking talking-dinosaur elementary-school film strip stupid. I was really quite annoyed at having paid to get in to see that. But. The technical stuff was flawless. At one point, the main drapes were pulled back, and it was really unobtrusive because at the same time screens dropped down at the sides, so your attention was drawn away from the middle of the sanctuary. The altar was still hidden by drapes at that point. Eventually, they pulled those back....

Notre-Dame more than makes up for St. Joseph's. It is absolutely breathtaking...and none of the pictures I took did it justice, because it just wasn't bright enough in there, and we were rather hurried because they only gave us fifteen minutes before they started setting up for another show.

Afterward, we headed back to the hotel. The plan for the evening was to find alcohol, snacks, and a movie on TV, and let the other three get tipsy. Turned out that there was a grocery store right around the corner from our hotel, so alcohol and chocolate were achieved (and we marveled at all the different Cadbury bars that were available there that are not available here). Sharnado was once again missed, but we did find Red about halfway through and watched that to the end. Then it was off to sleepy-bye-land....
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After leaving the Botanical Garden, we walked back down the hill, past the Olympic Stadium to the subway station, and headed back to our hotel. By this time, my feet were killing me, as we'd already been walking (or standing in line) for five or six hours. I even did something I'd never have otherwise done: used the handicapped seat on the train. Well, no one else wanted it; I'd've stood otherwise.

Unfortunately for my feet, we weren't done for the day. We spent about an hour at the hotel, then we were off again. Montreal is hosting an international fireworks competition this summer, and Friday evening was Spain's entry. We had been planning all along to watch, so the plan for the rest of the day was to find the Underground City, find dinner, and find a place to watch the fireworks. Fortunately for that latter, we asked at the hotel desk where a good place might be, and were told that the hotel's own pool deck faced in the right direction. Score! We didn't have to try to figure out how to get to the waterside where the fireworks were being let off, and then try to get public transit back to the hotel...along with everyone else at the waterfront.

So, off we went. We walked and walked and walked and walked and walked and walked and walked and walked for blocks, but the entrance to the Underground City did not seem to be at the address that J2 had found, so we wandered some more. We eventually found a shopping center, and asked a clerk. She directed us to the store's lower floor and told us to look for an exit to the Promenade. By this time, my feet hurt so much they were burning, and I was actually stumbling, and all I wanted to do was go back to the hotel. I didn't even care about dinner. I'm sure the other three thought I was just being bitchy, but, jeez. I do have a lot of problems with my feet, and...well. It was not pleasant for me, not even when we found the shop that sold nothing but items made from amber. Mostly jewelry, but there were ornaments and even a lamp made of amber. Looking at all the pretties did distract me for a bit, but I didn't buy anything. BFT did, though; she adores amber.

There didn't seem to be any city to the underground place where we were, though, so we gave up on that and decided to look for dinner. We found a wonderful Italian place just half a block from where we'd had dinner the evening before. I kept wanting to say "grazie" instead of "merci" to the waiter. The food was really, really good...and I got to sit down for a while. That was even better.

After dinner, we headed back uphill a couple of blocks to the street our hotel was on and then the several blocks down. I really wanted to take pictures of the Ritz but decided not to try it. I figured the doorman would tell me off or something. We got back to our hotel around 8:00 p.m. and decided to head straight up to the pool deck and grab seats, figuring that there'd be a lot of people up there to watch the fireworks, but in the end, there really weren't. Still, it was pleasant enough. The pool deck was on the eleventh floor and we were up there before dark, so we got to watch the city change as the sun went down, and try to figure out what was going on a couple of blocks over. There appeared to be a concert, given the lights and bouncing things. (We figured out later that it was the Place des Arts where a variety of things were going on.)

Eventually, it got dark enough and the fireworks started. The only problem was that they were being let off behind another building off in the distance (we think it was a Sheraton, based on the logo on the side), and we couldn't see most of what was going on. Plus, the wind was carrying the smoke in our direction, and that further obscured the view. Drat. Oh, well, I think everyone was glad that we didn't try to go down to where they were actually being let off. I'm sure they were pretty spectacular; even the little we could see was several orders of magnitude better than the local shows, and they lasted quite a long time, too.

Eventually, though, they were done (right about the time the wind finally carried the smell of gunpowder to us), and we went back downstairs to our room....
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The second day of our trip, the first full day in Montreal started very early for me. The alarm clock had been set for 7:30, I believe, but since I hadn't slept a single bit, I gave up and got up around 6:00 a.m. and sat at the hotel room desk with the desk lamp pulled as low as I could get it so I could write in my journal and read and hopefully not wake anyone else up. I resolved then to get a tablet at some point (because we will undoubtedly continue to travel together) and to get a booklight as soon as we passed a bookstore. (As it happens, we passed a bookstore several times, but didn't go in until Sunday afternoon, at which time there was no point in getting a booklight.)

The alarm clock, as it turns out, never went off. The others eventually woke up, but it was 8:30 before we realized that the alarm had failed us. I did think I'd been writing an awfully long time....

So it was about an hour later than we'd planned that we set out for the Montreal Botanical Garden. We walked up the street a few blocks to the Tim Hortons across the street from the entrance to McGill University. As it was Friday morning, it was extremely busy, and they ended up giving J2's breakfast sandwich to someone else. I did the old point-and-ask-in-English thing from Italy, as the counter-girl seemed unwilling to speak English (though she could, and she was the only person who seemed so disinclined all weekend) and ended up with a muffin of some sort and an orange juice with which to take the first dose of my Arthrotec (the pain reliever that I was given before the Italy trip, which I had refilled just for this trip).

Although much of what we had planned to see during our trip was within walking distance (more or less) of the hotel, the Botanical Garden was not, so I had another first: First Subway Ride! Yay. I had a problem getting my pass to work at first, so the others were halfway across the station before I could get the turnstile to work. (There's a trick: you have to hold the chip still right above the sensor, not just wave the cards about, like I do with my ID at work. There's an outline of both card and chip on the turnstile, but it was my first time...be gentle.)

I wonder if it's a common phenomenon for first-timers to feel as though the platform is slowly tilting toward the tracks? No? Just me, then? I was startled by how little time that is given to board and disembark from the trains -- no more than ten seconds. But I was quite pleased to be able to understand the French announcements of the station names. Of course, I could also read them on the map, which helped a great deal. (Must go upstairs and dig out my French texts, as our next trip will be to France.)

We disembarked at the Olympic Stadium stop, and from the station, we went up a rather steep hill (which is where the weekend-long "I was promised no hills" joke (because Italy seemed to be all hills)) past the Olympic Stadium (1976, I believe), and across a very wide street (which ended up being the same street our hotel was on, as I recall) to the Garden. I have to say that the stadium is really pretty ugly. I'm not even sure how to describe it properly, but it looks sort of like a bowl covered by a tablecloth that is being suspended by numerous cables from a tower that curves over it the bowl. You can see the tower from many parts of the Garden (which is basically across the street). It looks sort of like the prow of a ship. Ugly, ugly, ugly.



As it was already midmorning, we waited in the admission line -- in the sun, staring at the stadium tower -- for around forty-five minutes before we could get tickets to enter the garden. It was interesting listening to people talk. I heard one set of Australian accents, and the people nearest us were from Boston and visiting friends or family members in Montreal. Their conversation was mainly in English, but every so often, the man would try to practice his French. When we finally got to the windows, we discovered that there was a deal: one ticket entitled us to a second admission to the garden before September 30. Somehow, I don't think that's going to happen.

The Garden is currently sponsoring an international plant sculpture contest called Mosaïcultures Internationales. Some of the entries were fascinating. Some were just kind of...interesting. Of the ones we saw, I liked the set that included Cernunnos, a miniature White Horse of Uffington, and Mother Earth the best. Those may or may not have been built by the same countries, but they were all on the same winding path.

We spent hours in the gardens and I took over three hundred pictures (with both cameras). We missed the formal Chinese and Japanese gardens, which I had really wanted to see. I should've insisted that we go in the Japanese garden when we were right by the entrance, but we figured we'd get back to them....

Eventually, around midafternoon, we went to the restaurant for lunch. Alas, the cafeteria-style food was pretty awful, though the carrot-raisin salad wasn't too bad. Not like I make it (no pineapple), but better than the sandwich. We hit the gift shop, where I manfully did not spend money (though I wanted to!), then the milk bar (where none of the ice cream looked worth the effort, though J1 and J2 each got a cone), then we headed back to the subway station and thence back to the hotel....
malinaldarose: (Default)
I have finished editing the Montreal photos, so I can do my trip report. Photos will appear only on LJ, though, as I have not figured out how to post photos to DW. (Well, I know how to do it, in theory, but since the one time I tried to use photos that were in my LJ Scrapbook and it didn't work...I haven't found a suitable solution.)

We left town at 8:30 -- only half an hour later than planned. It was a lovely day, and everyone had packed car snacks. Some time was spent trying to figure out how to set the clock in the van; BFT and I had tried once before, but couldn't figure it out (and it's not in the manual...which I do not have, anyway). J2 talked BFT through it, though, and now, after a year, the clock is set. Until EDT ends, anyway.

Quote of the day: "I spent $14,000.00 on a carrier for my dog." (Me, after J1 complained about how expensive carriers for her itty-bitty four-pound dog are (and re: Das Woofenwagen).)

We reached Watertown around noon and decided to stop for lunch; we ate in the coldest TGIFriday's ever. It didn't help that we were seated directly beneath the downdraft, either. I hadn't realized that the border was quite so close; about half an hour after getting back on the road, we reached it. The border guard was downright surly; though she did thank us for anticipating her and removing our sunglasses before she asked. I was a bit nervous about driving over the bridges over the St. Lawrence -- I don't like bridges to begin with, and these are steep, high, and narrow. The only times I've crossed into Canada before have been on either the Peace Bridge or the Rainbow Bridge, both of which are wide and have a comparatively shallow grade. So that was a little nerve-wracking for me, and I didn't get to see the river at all, because I had to keep my eyes strictly on the road. BFT tried to snap a picture of the river, but managed to get only a picture of a bridge girder.

I experienced several firsts on this trip, and crossing into Canada as the driver was the first of the firsts. The next was driving in a foreign country; I have always been a passenger whenever venturing into Canada before. Turns out driving is driving. (Big surprise, I know.) I did pull over forty-five minutes or so later at the first rest stop we came to, and J2 offered to drive the rest of the way. Third first: being a passenger in Das Woofenwagen. (Strictly speaking, Das Woofenwagen II.)

Most of the trip was pretty smoth, but apparently the TripTic that I got from the AAA website decided that we needed to go right through the busiest, most congested areas of Montreal, and we hit them right at evening rush hour. We were making great time...and then we weren't. It took us about two hours to drive the last five or six miles. We could see our hotel in the distance, but we...couldn't...get...there....

Much like Venice, we were in the low-rent district again; our hotel was a couple of blocks away from a Ritz-Carlton, a Tiffany's, Hermè, and so on. And we got to see them all as we crept past them in stop-and-go bumper to bumper traffic.

It did give us time to see the people, though, like the woman of more than a certain age, walking along near the Musée des Beaux-Arts. Her hair was short, either poorly-dyed or growing out, and she was wearing a weird muu-muu sort of thing in black with garish streaks of color. There was a matching wrap. Even from the van we could see the bright, glaring hunter orange of her lipstick. The absolutely astonishing thing is that four hours later, as we were walking back to the hotel after dinner, we saw her again, going in the opposite direction. She appeared to be somewhat tipsy; her hair was dissheveled, and that distressing lipstick was gone, probably wiped off after dinner. She'd obviously had a good evening.

I saw a woman wearing a pair of black, high-heeled pumps with huge, cream-colored polka-dots and red rims.

A car occupied by two cute young guys pulled up next to us; they were miming how frustrated they were with traffic. J2 caught their eyes and mimed that we were equally frustrated. There was some suggestion of a race...we all laughed.

But we got to the hotel at last. Our suite turned out to be a single room with only two beds -- augh, sharing! I am not used to sleeping with anyone else in the room, let alone sharing a bed with someone else, and so I did not sleep at all that night. Not a single bit; I was too afraid that I'd keep BFT awake, or roll into her, or end up spooning her or something.

Anyway, by the time we got to our room, it was around 6:30, so we ditched our stuff and walked out in search of dinner. There was a tourist trap right across the street, so the first thing we did was exchange money, then headed on up the street. I managed to fall off the edge of some bad pavement and twist my ankle, and couldn't stop myself from going down in a heap, much to the consternation of the woman possibly without domicile and certainly without front teeth who rushed to help me get back up. Nothing was really damaged except my dignity, and that's got enough holes in it that one more hardly makes a difference....

While looking for dinner, we ended up walking back the way we had driven...and we walked in around fifteen minutes what it had taken us about an hour to creep along....

When we got back to the hotel, we discovered that we were going to miss Sharknado completely, unless we wanted to watch it at 2:00 a.m...which, oddly enough, we did not....
malinaldarose: (italy)
Most of my photos from Orvieto are of the duomo (arigato), which was really quite gorgeous.

The front, which had to be taken with Cellino (my little camera) because I couldn't get back far enough to take a photo of the whole facade with Marcello (my big camera, whose name used to be Marcel, until we went to Italy).

cathedral_80092

Image heavy )
malinaldarose: (italy)
Orvieto was our last stop on our way back to Rome. Basically, we goggled at the duomo, had lunch, and boarded the bus back to Rome. Orvieto was also at the top of a hill, but unlike Siena and San Gimignano and Assisi, it was pretty flat once you got there. But getting there involved escalators, a funicular, and a shuttle bus....

The wall from below:

orvieto_80086

Pictures, of course )

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