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What next?

Thursday,  October 28, 2013

Back in town, we check our mail. A letter arrives from RacTrac. There was an issue with one of our gas fill-ups at a RacTrac while on the trip. It was possible the hose bumped into the fuel pump and caused the mistake, but the rep went ahead and sent us a gift card with the difference. A check arrived and I have to say that RacTrac knows how to maintain a good rapport with customers!

We’re staying with a relative in the Houston area as we look for a short-term apartment or extended stay lease. (We plan on traveling early next year.) Looked at house sitting sites, but there are more people looking to house sit than looking for sitters. We’ve visited over twenty different properties and find a few that fit our schedule. As we narrow down the list, I glance over at my husband. He looks back. “I don’t want to stop traveling.”

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iPhoneography People Travel

Ashton Villa in Galveston, Texas

Saturday,  October 26, 2013

At least we get bagels and biscuits with gravy for breakfast! Other friends are getting powdered donuts and milk!
At least we get bagels and biscuits with gravy for breakfast! Other friends are getting powdered donuts and milk!

Yesterday was our first day back in seven weeks! We only had time to change out clothes for others and spend the night with relatives. Today, we take care of some business before driving an hour to Galveston. A good friend’s daughter is getting married this evening and we just made it home in time for the event. It’s the weekend before Halloween and hotels are packed. There are ghost tours and all sorts of activities during this time. When my husband made the Priceline online reservation, he wasn’t using the mouse. Somehow, scrolling down, a one star hotel in an adjoining city was confirmed. It’s the first time we have ever hit a one star. Eeek! What are we in for?!? After talking to a friend who also couldn’t get the room they wanted, we don’t feel so bad. They wound up with a one star in Galveston because everything else was booked. 

Perfect day for a wedding
Perfect day for a wedding

 

The wedding is a beautiful affair! It’s held in the circular garden next to the 1859 Ashton Villa, an elegantly restored Victorian home.

Victorian style and gold filigree touches enhance this Texas Historic Landmark
Victorian style and gold filigree touches enhance this Texas Historic Landmark

 

 

 

 

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, nowadays the villa’s only available for private events.

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Day 51: Little Rock

Thursday,  October 24, 2013

Arkansas State Capitol rotunda chandelier is enormous and takes a half hour just to lower it
Arkansas State Capitol rotunda chandelier is enormous and takes a half hour just to lower it

 

 

We go by the state capitol. The rotunda is being renovated and we’re able to get an up-close view of the massive electric chandelier that usually hangs as a focal point in the rotunda. Made around 1914, it weighs over 4000 pounds.

Fists full of dollars
Fists full of dollars

 

 

 

 

We visit the state treasurer’s office to hold $140,000 in bills. We also receive special coins as a memento of our visit.

Memorial to the Little Rock Nine on the grounds of the the Arkansas State Capitol
Memorial to the Little Rock Nine on the grounds of the the Arkansas State Capitol

 

 

 

Outside, we walk around the memorial to the Little Rock Nine. They bravely stepped through the doors of Central High School in 1957. The Arkansas governor had tried to prevent the school integration, but President Eisenhower intervened and the students were admitted. 

Mason sits and wonders why people toil under the hot sun for many hours
Mason sits and wonders why people toil under the hot sun for many hours

That GPS did it again!!! It sent us down a narrow dirt road that deadends. We get the correct directions from a local business and go two miles down to the Crater of Diamonds State Park. A couple we met in West Palm Beach were the ones to tell us to check it out if we go through Arkansas. It doesn’t look like a crater to me, but it is – a long ago volcanic crater. It’s the ONLY diamond producing site in the world where the public can search for diamonds and keep their finds. Basically, it’s a big field (37 1/2 acres) divided by a raised dirt path and marked by sections. People are scattered about, carrying their tools – buckets, sieves, shovels, knee pads.

Look at my pretty rock!
Look at my pretty rock!

I use the recommended technique. Walk along and just keep your eyes open. Just two days ago, a teenager from Oklahoma found a 3.85 carat yellow diamond just sitting atop the dirt! She named it “God’s Jewel.” That makes it about 400 diamonds found here this year. (The largest diamond ever discovered the the United States was also unearthed here. It, “The Uncle Sam”, was a whopping 40.23 carats!) Lonnie stays up at the center. He thinks that’s a low yield and not worth his time. I tell him that if God wants me to have a diamond, I’ll find a diamond. Well, God didn’t want me to have a diamond. That’s fine, I have everything I need and even a memento of my diamond search.

We get into Dallas and go through two construction jams on the highways before arriving in Fort Worth. We’ll be staying with relatives tonight before heading home!

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Day 50: Memphis

Wednesday,  October 23, 2013

Central BBQ gave us delicious food with a dollop of southern hospitality!
Central BBQ gave us delicious food with a dollop of southern hospitality!

We make it to Memphis, Tennessee in time for lunch. The search for a good barbeque place pops up Central BBQ, 2249 Central Avenue. It’s pork has been voted #1 over and over. It’s the typical barbeque place. We can’t decide on sides. The sweet young woman taking orders at the cash register passes us a basket of handmade potato chips with a small dish of chunky blue cheese dressing and says it’s on the house, try it. If we like it we can order it next time. Now, doesn’t that just ring of true southern hospitality?!? We split a three meat platter and roll out happy!

Mysterious motorcade
Mysterious motorcade

Leaving town, we pass what could be six motorcycle cops and a line of black SUVs waiting at the beginning of the bridge. We cross over the bridge into Arkansas and suddenly see a l-o-n-g line of black jacketed motorcyclists with lights on, cruising toward Memphis. At the end of the procession, an ambulance with lights on flies by. If anyone knows what happened at 2:35p today, please fill me in!

West Memphis, Arkansas visitors center is a great place for a break
West Memphis, Arkansas visitors center is a great place for a break

We stop by the West Memphis, Arkansas visitors center. It has some of the cleanest restrooms and the nicest staff!

West Memphis, Arkansas visitors center staff is efficient and friendly!
West Memphis, Arkansas visitors center staff is efficient and friendly!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We arrive in Little Rock with plenty of time for a good night’s rest. For dinner, we walk through a Chinese grocery store to get to Mr. Chen’s restaurant. How interesting. That gives it character and the security guard for the store makes me feel protected!

The Gai lan, beef with noodles was good.
The Gai lan, beef with noodles was good.

 

Mr. Chen's restaurant's appearance was a pleasant surprise
Mr. Chen’s restaurant’s appearance was a pleasant surprise

 

Fried Soft Shell Crabs must have been fried in old oil. Not a good flavor.
Fried Soft Shell Crabs must have been fried in old oil. Not a good flavor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 49: Pigeon Forge, Nashville

Tuesday,  October 22, 2013

We did see a gaggle of geese in a nearby river
We did see a gaggle of geese in a nearby river

The Old Mill area in Pigeon Forge is part of one long stretch of touristy amusements, shopping centers, restaurants and hotels. Reminds us of Las Vegas. Drove by the Dixie Stampede, but did that in Branson. Didn’t feel like going to Dollywood, though my husband did talk about it being one of the amusements to see when we got here. Well, after wandering through shops and eating at one of the restaurants, we’re done.

Bigger-than-life at the Hollywood Wax Museum!
Bigger-than-life at the Hollywood Wax Museum!

We drive a bit into the Smokey Mountains, but decide we’ll check it out another time as we have driven through and hiked up a few national parks on this trip already. We do stop and take a photo of the Hollywood Wax Museum entertaintment center. That, the Castle of Chaos and MagiQuest are s-o-o-o Las Vegas!

America Adventure teams are serious about winning, but have fun too!
America Adventure teams are serious about winning, but have fun too!

 

 

On the way to Nashville, a roadster passes us. It’s one of the teams competing in the annual America Adventure! This year, it’s from Nashville to Savannah, a kind of scavenger hunt-road rally. Sportscars to sedans to rental cars race like mad in the three-day rally.

A nicely renovated  La Quinta
A nicely renovated
La Quinta

 

Praise God! Due to the time change,

we gain an hour and get into Lebanon, just outside Nashville, when it’s daylight! This La Quinta just underwent six months of renovations and is nicely updated. Everything looks clean and fresh. Water and a snack are waiting for us and the bed has added softness with a pillowtop cover.

Bangkok Pad Thai's food is way hotter than it innocently looks!
Bangkok Pad Thai’s food is way hotter than it innocently looks!

 

As with most of our stops, we don’t have a set schedule and often book a room the same day. Well, today is not our day for entertainment. The Grand Ole Opry is standing room only for a special “Pink” performance by country stars Amy Grant, Pam Tillis, Lorrie Morgan, LeAnn Rimes, etc. We check out mystery theatres/dinners and none are open during the week. So, we go to Bangkok Pad Thai for a #2 level that blows serious heat and reminds me what a wimp I am!

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Day 48: Mount Airy

Monday,  October 21, 2013

Today is Mayberry Monday! We have the complimentary breakfast and chow down on sausage patties, biscuits & eggs, cereal and yogurt. During checkout, I tell the front desk how really pleased we were with the room. It was previously part of another hotel chain, then fully renovated and is now only two weeks old as a Comfort Inn.

Andy & Opie will be forever endearing to many!
Andy & Opie will be forever endearing to many!

Walking around Mont Airy, North Carolina, AKA Mayberry, is a very positive experience. The locals are ALL so sweet to us. A woman out for exercise greets us as she strides by. We need a little help with directions, and walk into a local bank. The lady is happy to help us. She has a charming drawl as she gives directions to our next stop.

A moment with Barney and Andy
A moment with Barney and Andy

Standing in the long line for Snappy Lunch cafe, I see someone getting a haircut in the barber shop next door. Lonnie’s holding our place in line, so I walk on over. A man with an oxygen tank sitting by the door asks me, “Where’s your horse?” At first I’m a little taken aback. Then, “Oh!” I’m wearing my western-style straw hat. I say that I don’t have one but that I AM from Texas. He asks if I can sing “San Antone Rose” (made famous by Bob Wills). I say I can sing “The Eyes of Texas are Upon You” and sing the first stanza, to which I add a rousing, “GO LONGHORNS!!!” People in the barber shop get a kick out of that as I walk over to the barber chair. I ask for permission to take a photo and they agree.

Jokes and laughter abound at Floyd's Barber Shop when visiting 89 year-old barber, Russell Hiatt!
Jokes and laughter abound at Floyd’s Barber Shop when visiting 89 year-old barber, Russell Hiatt!

 

Then, the barber, Russell Hiatt, starts telling me a joke about a cop, a driver, a bottle of alcohol and Jesus’ first miracle. Russell is said to be the inspiration for Floyd, the barber, on The Andy Griffith Show. He even changed the shop name to Floyd’s!

Snappy Lunches, since 1923!
Snappy Lunches, since 1923!

 

A meal at Snappy Lunch is rather uncomplicated. Sandwiches arrive wrapped in paper, the chips in a bag. My thin grilled cheese sandwich tastes like the sliced processed cheese that comes 20 to a pack at the store. Lonnie has the world famous pork chop sandwich: 1 fried pork chop, coleslaw, chili, mustard, onion and tomato and an iced tea. I know Yelpers and all just LOVE this sandwich, but it’s a like for us, though the coleslaw is really good. One thing that can’t be beat, though, is the total price of $7.06!

 

Our tickets to the Andy Griffith Museum also get us into the Siamese Twins exhibit and The Old Time Music Heitage Hall at Earle Theatre.

A highlight is the squad car ride. The “deputy” takes us around town, pointing out areas of interest – Andy’s childhood home, school, church and Wally’s Gas Station, etc. It was an interesting 30 minute tour, and you could tell the deputy loved presenting his dramatic interpretations. Lonnie asked about Andy’s first wife. (We’d speculated about that earlier in the day after visiting Andy’s museum. There wasn’t much mention of her after the early years.)

Breathe in the mouthwatering aromas of Miss Angel's Heavenly Pies!
Breathe in the mouthwatering aromas of Miss Angel’s Heavenly Pies!

We step into Miss Angel’s Heavenly Pies and take a moment for a big whiff of deliciousness! Here is the rich, full-bodied smell of real baking, not the overly sweet smell of pure sugar. Lonnie has a baked turnover, I have a slice of (I think) cinnamon sour cream cake. Then, for a late night treat when we get to Pigeon Forge, we add a huge piece of luscious, creamy German chocolate cake!

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Day 47: Painesville, West Virginia, Mount Airy

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Yes, America IS beautiful!
Yes, America IS beautiful!

It’s our first breakfast in a Waffle House on the trip. Not my fav, but Lonnie wants a cooked-to-order breakfast before hitting the road. Yaay! We’re going to “Mayberry!” Well, Mount Airy, North Carolina – Andy Griffith’s real life hometown. On the way, we stop at the West Virginia visitors center off of I-77. The front desk tells us we missed the New River Gorge Bridge Walk, West Virginia’s largest festival, by a day. It’s the third Saturday in October each year and everyone is invited to walk on top of the New River Gorge Bridge. There are arts & crafts, food, BASE jumpers, rappellers and gorgeous Fall views.  They also offer daily guided tours of the the long catwalk below the bridge that looks straight down 876′ to the New River.  

Visitors center staffer, Bonnie, shares her vision of the perfect West Virginia day!
Visitors center staffer, Bonnie, shares her vision of the perfect West Virginia day!

One of the center staffers, Bonnie, is touching up her autumn chalk drawing. She was an art therapist for 25 years and has been delighting visitors to the center with lovely scenes like this. When it comes time to change the chalkboard, Bonnie takes a photo of her seasonal art before erasing it to create another engaging scene for all to enjoy.

We back up in reverse on this narrow bridge when time runs out
We back up in reverse on this narrow bridge when time runs out

We are persuaded to take a detour to see a couple of area falls.  We get to Highway 19 and agree that the twisting hairpin turns are eating into the time allowed to get to the Gorge before sunset. The large waterfall requires a 3/4 turn onto a wooden bridge and down a steep, narrow dirt trail. This detour is taking too much time,

so we back up in reverse on the country bridge and then head out to the main road.

Kanawha Falls
Kanawha Falls

There is a brief stop at Kanawha Falls before we arrive at New River Gorge lookout as the sun descends.

New River Gorge lookout
New River Gorge lookout

The lookout is said to be a 600′ descent into the Gorge.

New River Gorge
New River Gorge
Obstructed view of the bridge. It IS a nice tree, though!
Obstructed view of the bridge. It IS a nice tree, though!
We're SO glad to see Comfort Inn!
We’re SO glad to see Comfort Inn!

Leaving the gorge so late is a problem as night falls and Lonnie has to negotiate curving mountainous roads in complete darkness, with the occasional headlights of another lonely vehicle. We FINALLY arrive in Mount Airy and the Comfort Inn looks s-o-o-o good! It welcomes us with fluffy pillows and plenty of space to lay our things.

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People Travel

Day 46: Toronto

Saturday, October 19, 2013

It’s laundry day again. I only mention it if Lonnie makes me go with him when there’s no hotel laundry room. When the hotel charges $6 to pick up, launder, fold and deliver just one t-shirt, it’s time to find the laundromat. (Along the trip, we stayed with several different friends and family and used their machines.) Lonnie googles area laundromat reviews and finds one that’s “very clean” with shiny front loading machines, etc. that’s just down the street. A nice man shows us how much to load and how long to dry the different size loads.

 

Several of the recipes were created by Milestones chefs!
Several of the recipes were created by Milestones chefs!

Lunch time! We go to Milestones, a Canadian franchise. It’s like a nicer Cheddar’s. We’ve been to several Canada-only franchises along with independants. Then, more shopping with our son before he’s dropped off at the airport. Bye, Baby Boy.

Boo! I’m back to navigating. No more long naps and less mindless daydreaming.  😦  😦  😦

 

This part is a lesson in being prepared and consequences:

A rainy, windy trip to the U.S. Border
A rainy, windy trip to the U.S. Border

It’s pouring rain all the way to the American border. We’re asked for proof of vehicle ownership. We can’t produce it! We had it when we started this trip and it’s nowhere to be found. After more scrambling around, we’re told we have honest faces and we’re let through. “But … if a trooper pulls you over and you can’t prove vehicle ownership, it will be impounded.”  Needless to say, my husband becomes an even more careful driver than he usually is.

Redhawk Grille's cod

We pull up at the Redhawk Grille in Painesville, Ohio for a late dinner. It’s been a long drive from Toronto and a light meal is in order. The menu sounds so creative. I have high hopes for the chef. Well, maybe their specialty is steaks and chicken, but Lonnie’s cod is overcooked and dry.

 

 

There are more than 5 dozen sweet scallops in this dish!
There are more than 5 dozen sweet scallops in this dish!

 

 

My scallops are the tiny sweet ones. There are more than enough, but they don’t taste sweet or fresh. Sigh … another dish I don’t finish.

 

 

 

 

Quail Hollow Resort's lobby
Quail Hollow Resort’s lobby

We arrive next door at the Quail Hollow Resort. It’s a well-aged beauty. (Sorry for the distortion of the long back railing. It isn’t curved, but a straight rail across.)

 

 

Ice cream any time you want it!
Ice cream any time you want it!

 

We had read negative comments on Tripadvisor, but our fears are groundless. Issues we’d heard about are resolved and the room is fine. What’s even fine-r is the choice of ice cream for purchase in the lobby! 

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Day 45: Toronto

Friday, October 18, 2013

Tasty Ramen Noodles with Satay Chicken Wings soup!
Tasty Ramen Noodles with Satay Chicken Wings soup!

 

 

We don’t usually eat at a place more than once, but we enjoyed yesterday’s breakfast so much that we go again. I fancy a richly flavored soup and cup of sweet Hong Kong tea.

On the way to Niagara Falls
On the way to Niagara Falls

 

 

Now we’re ready for Niagara Falls! It has been raining, but the sun breaks out as we arrive.

We don super thin yellow plastic ponchos before going down the elevator.

View from the Canadian side
View from the Canadian side
Perpetual rainbow
Perpetual rainbow

 

 

There are plaques with historical facts along the tunnel to the second level lookout – oh yeah, look out for heavy mist coating the camera lens!

Along the Wine Country trail
Along the Wine Country trail

 

 

Once we have our fill, it’s on to the wine country trail. Lots of winding country roads. We get to a small town overrun by tour buses and shuttles. People pack the sidewalks, going in and out of cute little shops. It’s Bar Harbor all over again and no place to park. We don’t stop. Another day, Niagara-on-the-Lake!

Woo! Hoo!
Woo! Hoo!

Heading back, our son wonders if diesel truck drivers still pull the stack cord if you motion pulling it. We slowly pull even with an 18 wheeler with a shiny diesel stack. Our son waits to catch the driver’s eye, then pumps his fist up and down. The white mustached driver looks a little startled, then reaches up and gives the horizontal cord a quick pull. We cheer loudly and clap!!! It still works for a 20-something. Thank you, Grant Haulage, for such accommodating drivers!

A sweet break
A sweet break

Back in the city, Lonnie & I have our first visit to Tim Hortons. There are now Tim Hortons in the states, but we want to try it in Canada. I bite into a chocolate glazed donut. Hmm … it’s okay. I prefer a Shipley’s donut. I like to think that it was Shipley’s that ran Crispy Creme out of Houston. I probably prefer Shipley’s due to the fact that our dad would come home from an occasional all night mah jong game after the restaurant closed. If he did well, we might get a bit of his lucky money. Other times, he would bring home a white box of freshly glazed Shipley’s donuts and wake us up. It’s hard to beat a melt-in-your-mouth, still-warm Shipley’s!

Beet salad
Beet salad
Award-winning poutine
Award-winning poutine
French Onion Soup
French Onion Soup

 

For dinner, we go to Coquine, a restaurant recommended by a friend. My beet salad is very good. Lonnie’s $28 cod is not a generous serving, as our server claimed.

 

 

 

Our son enjoys his the most. He ordered French Onion Soup and … you guessed it, poutine!

 

 

 

 

 

Both have been voted Best of Toronto two years in a row. The poutine is especially tasty. The gravy includes a duck comfit and is rich and savory.

 

 

 

Back at the hotel, our son catches up on his social media while we go downstairs for dessert. The crème brulee is the best I’ve ever eaten! It’s creamy, rich with flavor and most importantly for me, not too sweet. If something is too sweet, you can miss the dish’s true flavor. Ah, the perfect end to a full day!

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Day 44: Toronto

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Marathon Cafe

 

Marathon Cafe is a typical no-frills place, but they have an award-winning milk tea and decent food. They offer western-style breakfasts with bacon, eggs & toast. They also offer Chinese noodle soups and dishes.

 

Rainy Toronto
Rainy Toronto

We do a lot of window shopping at Eaton Centre before going to their huge food court. It must have over 50 options! We go in three different directions and meet over Chinese, American and Indian dishes. Bellies full, time to drive by Casa Loma, the local castle. It’s taken over by multi-story scaffolding. Cross that out for another trip. It’s raining. Cross out the CN tower.

Nicely wrapped vegetables are so different from those in most U.S. Chinatowns
Nicely wrapped vegetables are so different from those in most U.S. Chinatowns
Roast pig with slivers of pickled vegetables
Roast pig with slivers of pickled vegetables
Thought we had ordered the Mayonnaise Shrimp ...
Thought we had ordered the Mayonnaise Shrimp …

 

 

 

To the biggest of the five Toronto Chinatowns, the one downtown. Canadian Chinatowns are the cleanest!

 

 

 

 

Then, to the House of Gourmet Seafood BBQ and Noodle Restaurant. It’s packed with Asians, a good sign.

 

 

 

 

Again, we order in English, are misunderstood and get a different dish than expected. Still, the food is flavorful.

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Day 43: Montreal, Toronto

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Yesterday, a lovely Dutch woman greeted me in her native language at breakfast. Today, I try to repeat it and I mangle it badly. The man next to her smiles and repeats it. I do better the second try. He invites me to join them. I do! They are brother and sister, in for their older brother’s 50th wedding anniversary. They show me a photo of a happy group and we share family stories.

WelcomInns Hotel has a simple and nicely presented continental breakfast
WelcomInns Hotel has a simple and nicely presented continental breakfast

WelcomINNS is a simple, clean hotel that has a simple breakfast. The difference from the average American hotel that has complimentary breakfast is the way guests are treated. There are bright white tablecloths, silverware, ceramic mugs, juice glasses and trays to carry everything. The petite blonde who maintains the dining room greets everyone with, “Bonjour!” and a sunny smile. She hums as she bustles about stocking foods and condiments and cleaning off tables. A co-worker pops in to get a muffin and stays to help her re-stock some supplies, cheerfully chatting away in French. You can tell this hotel has great team chemistry!

Our sweet daughter has been calling us throughout the trip to see how we are doing. It is good to hear her voice.

I do not do well connecting with tweeters on this trip. @AnnTran_ , @earthxplorer @DanielHebert, all a miss! They agreed to meet with me, but it always depends on schedules. Ann Tran had just returned from hosting a tweet-up in Maui, Hawaii. She hosted a tweet-up in Washington, D.C., her home base, that Thursday. I had planned to attend, but we were still in Virginia. Then, she was playing catch-up when I was free. She tweeted me later to see how I was doing. What a lovely person! She has over 350,000 followers and still makes time to connect one-on-one. J.D. Andrews, was exploring the earth in Paris when I came to Miami, but took time to wish me safe travels. Daniel Hebert was coming back home to Kingston, Ontario but I couldn’t be sure when we’d be going through that day. Oh, well … there’s a reason for everything that happens and I accept that.

Montreal's underground shopping experience
Montreal’s underground shopping experience

Everyone’s back from their Canadian Thanksgiving holiday, so it’s harder to find a parking space. We ask for directions to a tunnel entrance and a kind woman walks us to the nearest one! It’s a BIG underground system and we go to the area with lots of shopping. (Most of the businesses provide services for the downtown workers: eateries, cleaners, convenience stores, shoe repair, etc.)

One of Montreal's underground eateries
One of Montreal’s underground eateries

Eureka! After looking for the past two years, I find my winter jacket! Most quilted jackets make me look like the Michelin Man – puffy. Or, they are short ones. I want one that gives a little more coverage. This one does that. It’s on sale and its slim-fit sillouette doesn’t make me look like a marshmallow. Happy, happy!

 

Biodome's version of the Antarctic
Biodome’s version of the Antarctic

We enter the Biodome. It reminds me of Galveston’s Moody Gardens. The dome houses everything, whereas Moody Gardens’ three pyramids are separate buildings.

A beaver chews wood in the North American wilderness
A beaver chews wood in the North American wilderness

The five ecosystems represented in the Biodome are rich in animal life and flora & fauna.

Leap frog!
Leap frog!

We’re too old for the kids’ activities, so we make our own!

Tour the Biodome with us!

Toronto, here we come!
Toronto, here we come!

Tonight we lay our heads in Toronto. We’ll be based at the Delta the next three nights. It’s near the Markham Chinatown and is a former Radisson. It could use some updating, but right off the bat, I love it here – there’s a big view of the city lights, recycle trash bins, soft beds with fluffy pillow tops and a separate switch for the bathroom fan!

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Day 42: Montreal

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

In the car, we listen to the CD of an older man who sang on the boardwalk yesterday. He sang French songs beautifully, but only had American songs on the CD. Our son can’t stop laughing as the man used an over-the-top Louis Armstrong voice in ALL of his songs!

Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal
Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal

Even with the GPS, we take a wrong turn and finally figure out how to get back on track. We visit the visitor’s center on Rue Notre Dame and get a walking map of notable landmarks. We view many, including Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal. In the chapel at the back of the basilica, world renown songstress, Celine Dion, was wed.

Notre-Dame Basilica chapel
Notre-Dame Basilica chapel
Lighting a candle in the basilica
Lighting a candle in the basilica
Inside Notre-Dame Basilica
Inside Notre-Dame Basilica
Restaurant Oh! Dumplings
Restaurant Oh! Dumplings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My son pops into Restaurant Oh! Dumplings for a quick snack on the run. He says it’s, “Oh-kay.”

Les 3 Basseurs
Les 3 Basseurs

 

 

 

Lunch at Les 3 Brasseurs (The 3 Brewers) was alright. My goat cheese flatbread was good. Lonnie’s schnitzel with bratwurst was average. Our son’s beer-battered poutine was good.

Decorated pumpkins take over the Botanical Garden greenhouse!
Decorated pumpkins take over the Botanical Garden greenhouse!

 

 

Tonight, we go to the Montreal Botannical Garden. We visit the greenhouse and Insectarium first and are disappointed to have not gone to the Mosiacultures Internationales first!

Unusual insects such as this lovely winged specimen fill the Insectarium
Unusual insects such as this lovely winged specimen fill the Insectarium
A sad fact ...
A sad fact …
Watch out!
Watch out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mosiacultures Internationales is winding down, with exhibits being dismantled.

Love is all around
Love is all around
Catch a ride!
Catch a ride!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canada 3We walk over to view The Magic of Lanterns. Hundreds of handmade silk lanterns from China illuminate the Chinese Garden. This year’s theme is “The First Emperor’s Procession.”Canada 1

Canada 4

In the teahouse, a talented performer creates magic!

Meat lovers could be happy here!
Meat lovers could be happy here!

For dinner, our son takes us to a friend’s recommendation, Schwartz’s Deli. It has got to be the best meat sandwich I’ve ever had! Must be the authentic atmosphere and teasing waiters. It was special enough to have a musical made of it. For a quick dessert, a walk over to Ripples to enjoy Mint Oreo and Cardamon ice cream! My cardamon scoops are chock full of nuts – pistachio, almond, etc. and tiny bits of savory cardamon. It was great at the beginning, but a bit strong toward the end. A good choice for something different and a piquant end to a satisfying day out!

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iPhoneography Travel Uncategorized

Day 41: Quebec City, Montreal

Monday, October 14, 2013

Mapping out Quebec City
Mapping out Quebec City

 

We head for Old Quebec City, a designated United Nations World Heritage Site. By foot is the best way to see what is purported to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. We park at Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac and take a short walk through the lovely historic hotel. My early-to-rise husband is right. We always get out of the hotel too late to make the tours. Our son and I say it’s vacation and we shouldn’t have to get up at 7am. So, we wander the streets with maps in hand, drinking in the atmosphere of days gone by.

Quebec style Crusty Cheese sandwich!
Quebec style Crusty Cheese sandwich!

 

Lunch at Le Petit Coin Latin is a simple, yet quite enjoyable experience. My spinach lasagna is good, but Baby Boy’s deliciously Crusty Cheese (with thinly sliced mushrooms) sandwich is better!

 French is a beautiful, melodic language. Everywhere, we are greeted with a delightful “Bonjour.”

The narrow cobbled streets with their colorful shops are so inviting. The city draws me in to discover a quaint gift shop or the perfect chocolate bite!

There are wonderful art galleries to explore. Along Dufferin Terrace you can see so many parts of the city.

Picturesque Old Quebec
Picturesque Old Quebec

 

On a drizzly afternoon, staring out across the St. Lawrence River is calming. It’s like an old French village painting. Striding along, we check off the Fortification of Quebec, Dufferin Terrace, Place Royal and a little urban park, presumably the Plains of Abraham. There are more on the list we don’t get to, but I don’t mind.

On watch over the St. Lawrence River
On watch over the St. Lawrence River

 

 

 

No need to rush around like crazy people so we can say we saw all those things. We can see more on the next trip here. More important is the time we have with our son, enjoying the moment.

 

 

 

Montreal foliage
Montreal foliage

 

 

 

We’re off to Montreal! There seems to be more fall foliage here than in Maine.

 

 

We have diinner at a Portuguese restaurant with nice white tablecloths and a quiet atmosphere. Should have Yelp’d and Tripadvisor’d it. The complimentary olives were a nice appetizer, but the paella was mediocre and the pork dish was a little tough. Just shows that a presentable full service restaurant does not always equate good food. Should have gone to the casual poutine place that had high marks and roasted chicken. Still, we’re here in Montreal and lovin’ it!

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Another break …

Still sorting through my notes, photos and videos.  I’ll be taking a break as we are heading out of town for a week and it’s difficult to get affordable WIFI and cell service.

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Day 40: Belfast Harbor, Bar Harbor, Acadia National Park, Bangor, Quebec City

Sunday,  October 13, 2013

Good morning from Belfast Harbor, Maine!
Good morning from Belfast Harbor, Maine!

I took an iPhone shot of Belfast Harbor from the deck of our little inn. It’s one of my favorite shots, so I tweet it out!

We go over the expansion bridge to Verona Island on the way to Bar Harbor. Or as the locals say, “Bah Hah-bah.” Acadia National Park surrounds Bar Harbor on three sides. President Woodrow Wilson established the park in 1916. Thanks to the efforts and generosity of dedicated citizens like Charles W. Elliot and John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the park grew from 6,000 acres to today’s 49,000 acres.

Seal Harbor
Seal Harbor

The park is closed due to the government shutdown, but we’re given directions to the different coves around it that are accessible. We go through bays such as Seal Harbor, Northeast Harbor, Southwest Harbor.  Rockwall Pork Chop Lane has a gorgeous view of mountains rising behind the lake!

Northwest Harbor
Northwest Harbor

When you can enter the park, there’s something pretty cool that you can do. Go up to Cadillac Mountain before sunrise and be among the first in the United States to greet a new day!

Bangor on a lazy summer afternoon is quiet. Driving out, we hit another lobster roll place. It was good with crunchy french fries.

Rock art in the harbor
Rock art in the harbor

It’s nice having our son with us on this leg of the trip. He adds another dimension – like wiping the inside windshield and then pretending to wipe his father’s ear. He always opens car doors for me, unlike his father who will do it if someone’s watching!

As we drive through Jackman, Maine, the last rays of a glowing sunset hit the lake’s water and creates a magical moment with hazy, purple Appalachian Mountains. Wish there was a place we could easily pull over and record that moment!

We come over the bridge into Quebec City in Canada. Lights along the water’s edge dance in happy welcome! After checking in at the Clarion Sainte-Foy Hotel, we have a 9:30pm dinner at Paris Grill, a five minute drive down the “rue.” It’s one of six different types of restaurants listed together. Reminds me of Laundry’s Restaurants based in Houston. They too, often place them together. 

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Travel

Day 39: Boston, Portland, Freeport, Belfast Harbor

Saturday, October 12, 2013

It’s 60° and overcast. We’re back in Boston. Our son caught a bus in this morning. We pick him up in Chinatown and go for lunch at Gourmet Dumpling. We share a table with two strangers, which is a common practice in popular Chinese restaurants. The positive about this place – it’s filled with Asians so it must be good. The negative – if you don’t speak their dialect, your order in English might be misinterpreted and you get a wrong order (a 15 minute longer wait for us!). It was a decent meal. For a snack on the road, my husband picks up Chinese pastries (a beef curry bun, several char shew bows and don tot) from the bakery next to the restaurant. Our son goes down to another to get his favorite, Char Shew Bow (bao). We compare. The bow, a bun filled with Chinese style barbequed pork in a savory sauce, from the first bakery is not baked in the signature red barbeque sauce. It’s more like the pork is boiled and dunked in brown sauce with little bits of chopped fat added. Hmmph! Bow from the second bakery is better. They mix red tinged barbequed pork with regular pork in a thick sauce. To me, they are not true bows like we get in New York and Houston.

Bite Into Maine food truckYaay!!! Baby Boy rides shotgun so I can snooze/read/write in the back seat! He plays Navigator for Lonnie while I work on a blog entry and gaze occasionally at the passing scenes. Our son’s app finds an award-winning food truck, Bite Into Maine, known for their lobster rolls! The truck is in Fort Williams Park.

Portland Head Light

 

 

 

It’s by the Portland Head Light, the oldest lighthouse in Maine.  I think it’s so cool that in 1787, George Washington directed this lighthouse to be built!

 

 

 

Sea winds make it easy for children flying kites in Fort Williams Park
Sea winds make it easy for children flying kites in Fort Williams Park

 

 

It’s a beautiful scene and a little strange to see a food truck there. I forego a lobster roll to rush down and take as many photos as possible.

 

Enjoying lobster stew on the back deck of Portland Lobster Co.
Enjoying lobster stew on the back deck of Portland Lobster Co.

 

 

 

Next, our son guides us to Commercial Street to check out the local trends. We split up and I go straight for a tasty cup of Lobster Stew! As Rachel Ray would say, “Yum-O!”

 

 

 

 

I got the green mini photo album propped up of Maine moments!
I got the green mini photo album propped up of Maine moments!

 

Enjoying the moment. I pick up a handmade mini photo art book by local photographer Anna Karlina Peplowski. On to Freeport and the L.L.Bean stores! Lonnie has been looking forward to seeing the 24 hour store. We get there and I decide the jackets are too puffy for me. I am also not into plaid and oxford shirts, so I save my money.

Time for a reno!
Time for a reno!

 

It’s pretty late when we arrive in Belfast Harbor, to a quiet little inn by the bay. It sorely needs a major renovation, but maybe that’s supposed to be the charm of the area. It’s the first room on the trip that has two entries, to the inside hall and to the parking lot. It’s also the first one to have a separate switch for a bathroom fan. I love good circulation! We eat left over dim sum. The Salt & Pepper Chicken Wings taste just as good as the others we ate in the restaurant!

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Travel Uncategorized

Day 38: Gloucester, Rockport, Bear Skin Neck, Manchester-by-the-Sea

Friday, October 11, 2013

Gloucester, MassachusettsGloucester, Massachusetts is America’s oldest seaport. It’s the setting for the book, “The Perfect Storm”, a real life storm that hit Cape Ann in 1991 and caused massive destruction all along the coast. (George Clooney starred in the movie version of the book.) We stop by the visitors center and I find a thick sweatshirt with Cape Ann, Massachusetts embroidered on it for $25. That’s a good deal and it helps the center too! We decide to take a chance and go by Gorton’s Seafood and ask if there’s a tour. The nice lady at the desk says they no longer give tours and hands me a little bag of goodies – Gorton’s coupons, Gorton’s magnet and a fish shaped toggle clip. I’ll take it!

Seaport Grille
Seaport Grille

When asked for suggestions for a good local restaurant, she recommends the $10 lobster roll at Seaport Grille. It’s away from the main tourist area and by the bay. She says it’s s-o-o-o good! We get there and miss the $9.95 Lobster Roll special by a day. Friday is $9.95 Fish Taco Day. Wanna see someone sulk?!? My husband is so upset! His taste buds were all set for a mouthwatering lobster roll with all the trimmings for less than $10. That’s on top of not finding the restaurant that has a double lobster deal. Poor baby. So, if you’re going through Gloucester on a Thursday, check out the $9.95 Lobster Roll!

 

This Rockport crafter stitches between sales at the Pink Armor, a shop specializing in handmade gifts
This Rockport crafter stitches between sales at the Pink Armor, a shop specializing in handmade gifts

 

 

Rockport is nice and Bear Skin Neck has an interesting name, but Manchester-by-the-Sea is my favorite of the three towns.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Manchester-by-the-Sea
Manchester-by-the-Sea

It’s cozy. The cove is smaller and easily accessed from several different vantage points. There is an abundance of art galleries that makes me wish I’d packed my watercolors! The narrow streets that lead up to the water create anticipation for the glorious views that will unfold! So far on this trip, today has been the most beautiful for me.

 

Courtyard by Marriott                                                            A huge platter of cookies and coffee greet us as we arrive at the Courtyard by Marriot.  Some of the Marriotts we have stayed at on the trip have recylce bins, but not so this one. 😦   Still, it is a lovely room. I swear the curtains are the same as the ones at the Courtyard in Coconut Grove!

We Yelp the list the front desk gives us and drive five minutes to Garrison’s. A big Friday night dinner crowd is waiting. We’re tired. We look across the street and see a Wendy’s. Hmm … let’s go! We happily munch on crispy salads and small sandwiches. To my salad I add the tortilla chips and nuts that they provide and make my chicken sandwich lighter by removing the top bun. This is the first time on the trip that we eat fast food and it’s the perfect light dinner!