Monday, November 22, 2010

License plate tribute to our friend Jack Walker

Preceding our east coast trip by several weeks, our friends Jack and Belinda Walker took to the road, crossing the country, discovering new wonders. We benefited from their travels and also took on their challenge of seeing all the license plates in the Union on this trip. This became a sort of fun obsession for us and we ultimately garnered 48 out of 51 plates (includes D.C.). The elusive ones were Alaska (Sara Palin has something to do with this), West Virginia (do they ever drive out of state?) and Idaho (no excuse). Thanks to Jack for coming up with something other than crossword puzzles to keep us busy on the road.

Signing off for this trip.
Sonja and Patrick

Monday, October 25, 2010

And it all ends at Yale

Our final destination was New Haven and Parents' Weekend with Claire. Always a fun trip, somewhat nostalgic this time, as she is a senior and this is our last Yale Parents' Weekend! We drove here from the Hudson Valley on Thursday and are just getting around to leaving today. If pressed for our activities while in town, mostly we sat around in coffee houses, drinking cappucinos and reading or doing crossword puzzles. We enjoy this activity so in many ways it was a perfect weekend. Interspersed with seeing Claire for meals or other events, it was ideal.

Highlights - Friday afternoon seeing Edward Albee in a conversation in a lecture hall with students and drama types. He talked for a good hour and answered questions for 30 minutes more. Fascinating. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but he exceeded my expectations. He was charming, engaging, funny and witty. None of that is surprising, but it is truly impressive at 80-something to be so on top of things.

Couple this with seeing A Delicate Balance the next night with Kathy Chalfant, followed by drinks with her and her artist husband, Henry, and it was exquisite.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

On to the Berkshires and Hudson Valley

Lake Placid Lodge is a place you could stay for a long time. Our little cabin was ideal. Still we dusted
ourselves off and headed out for the Berkshires with the lure of theatre at the end. In Pittsfield, MA at the Barrington Stage Company, we had the privilege of seeing Maggie Donnelly perform in The Crucible. She stole the show. It was an excellent production, lots of Broadway experienced actors. Arthur Miller amazes me. How was he able to write like Nathaniel Hawthorne? (speaking of whom, I just finished House of Seven Gables, very Salem-like and entertaining).

Pittsfield has not much to offer. Smallish town, bit down at the heels. We took off to explore more of the Berkshires and found a fabulous hike in the Pittsfield State Forest called the Hawthorne Trail, which seemed a good sign given my reading material. We had our doubts after going what felt like straight up for an hour or so. But then the trail ended and we turned around and went back down. Surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable. This was my fantasy of fall foliage. Walking under the canopy with all colors of trees and leaves around us.

Ate at the Red Lion Inn (no relation to Fess Parker), rumored to be one of the oldest inns in the country. The tavern looked and felt the part. Worth a return visit. Dinner at Bistro Zinc in Lenox, which is a really pretty little New England town (and expensive per our Pittsfield chatty innkeeper).

Next route - stay off the interstates and find our way to Hudson, NY. Now we are there, staying just across from Olana, Frederick Church's gorgeous homestead which outshines his art in my opinion. He virtually painted with trees of all types all around his home, Moorish in style, and beautifully furnished in every way. We ended up spending a goodly part of two days in and around Olana. The first day touring the house, and the second hiking the grounds. More walking on leaves under colorful canopies.

Thanks to Susan, who has a house in Hudson and knows it well, we found the Spotty Dog -  a bookstore and beer place - yes, they have both. Does it get any better than that? Great beer and books all around. This is our second day here as well. (We tend to return to a good thing.) Had dinner at a restaurant called Da Ba last night, with a Swedish chef. Tonight is Italian at Ca Mea, super yummy. We were all geared up to go see Prairie Home Companion HD at local theatre until we figured out today is Wednesday and not Thursday as previously thought. Aging is such fun. Ended up at PM Wine Bar where Pat got to drink real absinthe!

Still trying to figure out how to see Susan and John. Tomorrow we are off to New Haven to see Claire Bear!

Saturday, October 16, 2010


For reals. It snowed on us as we drove from Woodstock to Lake Placid (backtracking through New Hampshire to see the Shaker Village). A few tense moments as we are not used to travelling in snow and our little bright blue Toyota Corolla rental has no special equipment for same. The trip was beautiful nonetheless. Still amazing leaf vistas as we crossed Vermont on highway 4 (staying off the big interstates has served us well).

We are at the Lake Placid Lodge, right on the lake, with incredible views. The snow is melting, and it is still raining. A fabulous rainbow landed smack in the middle of the lake. This lodge is glorious. We have a cabin with a wood-burning fireplace, couch and comfy chairs, and views to die for. The building is old craftsman and every touch is perfect. Turned this into a zero mile day. Why leave?

Tomorrow we are off to Pittsfield, MA, and a production of The Crucible with Maggie Donnelly, daughter of L&W friends, Jean and Tim of same name.

Here's a picture of our new friend from the bar at Lake Placid.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Leaves, leaves, leaves

From Maine to Vermont there is a beautiful parkway called the Kancamagus. It goes through the White Mountains and beautiful leaf changes. Which were our favorites? The red ones spoke most to me. I think they are maples. Put them in a row with yellow/orange hues and wow. The mountains have a fair number of pines in between which add a fantastic evergreen background to the excitement of the fall changes. The funniest bit, as we reached the top of the range and started down towards Woodstock, we tried to figure out what was up with the forest. Why is it grey? Was there a fire? No city kids. This is the end of the leaf season. The leaves have fallen off already! Sheesh. How did we manage to miss that? As we pulled into Woodstock, it was dark and the Woodstock Inn is big! We were thinking smaller, oh well.

Next morning we took to town--a cute New England village that somehow didn't speak to us as much as other places. Still we found a terrific lady at Laundry Room who would actually do our laundry by the pound! Yippee! From there we shopped for coffee shops and tried out a couple before heading out to Simon Pearce where they make glass things using hydroelectric power from the river next door. They also have a restaurant with great food and killer views. Yum. From there we sat on the green nearby and did the crossword before heading out to explore.

The Quechee Gorge was our unexpected find of the day. Billed as the Grand Canyon of Vermont, I wouldn't call it that but it's amazing and stunningly beautiful. There is something I really love about a gorge. Deep and dramatic, with textured cliffs on the sides sprinkled with trees
and a river running through it all. Breathtaking. We started walking along the path to the dam and then to the bottom of the gorge. Hey, this is why gorge is the root of gorgeous, right?

Tomorrow we are off to Lake Placid NY. Mixed emotions because we would both love to be in Amherst with friends Susan and John. Cancellation policies are a bitch!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kennebunkport - really!

We've landed at the White Barn Inn in Kennebunkport, Maine. So far no sightings of my least favorite President or his family. Guess he spends his time in Texas these days. Our drive to Maine from Cape Cod took us on some interesting frolics and detours. On the Presidential trail, we went looking for the Kennedy compound at Hyannisport and got close. It's pretty unassuming as neighborhoods go, but then I may still be recovering from the excesses of the Vanderbilts and Astors along the Newport shore. We spent a nostalgic 30 minutes in the JFK Memorial, a small museum of mostly photos and videos of JFK, some with his voice, others his mother Rose, and my favorite, Walter Cronkite. Best thing in the museum for me - a quote by E.B. White: (to be added when found). Took my breath away. Best photos: the young JFK and Jacquie with Caroline and John John as fun-loving little kids. Carpe diem.

We exit the Cape after a final lunch of fried fish and french fries and beer. Next stop Walden Pond - how can we drive by the place that Thoreau found so inspiring. Google maps tells us how to get there and we arrive at what we think is Walden Pond, but find no signs. Walk down to the lake and think, oh this is kind of interesting. Must have been more powerful when Thoreau was here. Go back to the car and look at Google again. We are at the wrong Walden Pond. Ours is by Lynne, MA. The real one is by Concord, MA about 30 minutes away. Come on Google! Why would you send us to the fake Walden Pond, when the real one is nearby (but not that nearby). This leads us to reconsider our route. It's already 5:00 pm (based on our rigorous travel schedule). We decide to save the real Walden Pond for another trip to Boston and head off to Marblehead, MA and Salem to look for witches.

This turns out to be a good choice, as our route takes us along the coast of Masssachusetts just as the sun is heading down. We have late afternoon light on assorted bays and ports filled with sailboats. The best of these is Marblehead, the quintessential sailors' paradise. My sailor guy is happy in these parts. Every time we get near a bay filled with boats, his spirits lift and I can almost see him travelling back in time to when he sailed these waters as a college boy. Quite fun to share. We spend enough time at Marblehead for the sun to set before heading off to Salem. There we find the House of Seven Gables, which indeed looks to have 7 gables. The Salem Witch Museum is closed, so we just have to imagine what it was like.

Our current lodging has a window out to the woods with leaves beginning to turn. It's another beautiful sunny, crisp fall day. The plan is to bike or hike or do something outside. Some movement is definitely required as the food here is plentiful and fantastic.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Cape Cod has a lot to offer

Sunday, perfect Sunday. The sun shines again. Each of these mornings I think about the Fun Club and our wet biking week in Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. Dampness now past, we spend Sunday morning enjoying Newport Rhode Island, home of the perfect view of the perfect port from the roof of Vanderbilt Hall. A fun breakfast with Willie Brien, vacationing with his buddies from Harvard 1L, and we leave town across the famous Pell Bridge headed to Jamestown, which provides another angle on the now well-loved views of Newport Harbor (the east). Unexpected - we come across a girls' softball team playing ball in mid-calf length skirts! Fantastic.

Next up, a drive to Cape Cod, to the very tip to see the windswept beach where the Pilgrims first landed (before Plymouth Rock - who knew?). Apparently the water supply wasn't to their liking, so they soldiered on to Plymouth for the famous landing we learned about in school. Gorgeous space out on the tip, windy, filled with sand dunes and grasses and a bit of forest remaining. Also a great place to see whales (although we didn't see any). From there we drove back a short way on MA 6A to Provincetown (called P-town by those in the know), a rainbow sanctuary which was a little too crowded for our taste. Stopped for coffee at the Wired Puppy (I'm loving the names of coffee shops in this part of the world). Then started looking for our dinner place - scored big time with Blackfish in the town of Truro, on our way back down the Cape towards Orleans where we spent the night at A Little Inn on Pleasant Bay (yes, that is really its name, and yes it is a place to come back to).

Our room has windows on three sides, one side overlooks Pleasant Bay and the row of Adirondack chairs on the lawn for enjoying the view. The other side overlooks a beautiful English garden filled with flowers and birds and chipmunks (feeder hung low to take care of both). We woke to the sound of birds bathing in the gutters outside our room.

Today we drive to Maine and Patrick is anxious to get on the road.