Tuesday, October 14, 2008

MA to Florida 10.08

We said goodbye to Amherst and our friends for 7 months and headed south.

Wednesday, Oct. 8, Middlebush, NJ; Philadelphia, PA. Middlebush is a village now part of Somerset near New Brunswick in central New Jersey. I have fond memories of growing up here. It's a little village where I walked a half block to elementary school and had lots of other girls to play with.

We parked at the old Colonial Farms restaurant now O'Connors Beef & Chowder House. I wanted to walk around a bit before lunch with some childhood friends. My first impression was that it was much smaller than I remembered. Of course, the trees had grown a lot in 40 years! I also thought it was a lot farther from my house to the school. I stopped to take some pictures of the house where I lived from birth until 19. What a surprise to see a man come out of the house. It turned out that he and his wife were the people (from Chicopee, MA) that bought our house in 1967 when my parents moved to Brazil for 5 years. What a wonderful surprise! John and Mary Vaughan were so nice to spend time talking with us and walking us around the property. Everything in our yard was smaller than I remembered.

Lunch with Betty Cunningham Lewis, Jackie Sander Griffiths and Lorie Weidner Carkhuff was great. We had been friends since we were little! During our 2 hour lunch we reminisced and just caught up with each other. We'll definitely keep getting together.
In Philadelphia we met our old neighbor and Julie's friend, Kate Gagnon, at Rosie's Yarn Shop, the yarn store where she works. We had a great visit over dinner before we headed off to a play, "Rock 'N Roll," by Tom Stoppard. Another person from our old Amherst neighborhood, Libby Woodbridge, was in it. She just graduated from Boston University as a theater major and this was her first professional role. It was an interesting play and Libby was great in her supporting role! We got to congratulate her after the play and visit a bit. We hadn't seen her for at least 4 years.

Oct. 9. Hawk Mt. This morning we met Peg and Mike Ross, friends from Shutesbury, MA at Hawk Mountain in Kempton, PA. The mountain is a fly through for birds because of the thermals caused by the warm air next to the mountain. We went to North Lookout where there was a guide with a powerful scope ready to help all of us spot and identify the many hawks. (He even had a stuffed owl as a lure for birds to come closer to us.) There were school groups coming and going all morning. It was a beautiful day with the morning fog being burnt off as the sun warmed the air. The valley on both sides was lovely despite the continued haze. About 10% of the trees had changed colors. We saw about 35 sharp-shinned hawks and a number of other birds of prey. The visitor center was excellent. One short video showed the sky (at the end of September) when the hawks were flying in full force, hundreds at a time. (We saw maybe 2 or 3 at a time.)

Oct. 10. Gettysburg, PA, the location of the turning point in the Civil War with the north winning. We had a bit of a drive so didn't arrive at Gettysburg National Military Park until 11 AM. We were really surprised to see so many people! But then I remembered that they just opened up their new Visitor Center last month. It was really well done! First there was background info on the Civil War. Info on the battle (July 1, 2, and 3, 1863) was organized into Day 1, 2, and 3 with a short movie as well as artifacts. All the battles left over 51,000 soldiers dead, wounded or missing. What a horrible battle! And, of course, this is where President Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg address at the dedication of the cemetery in November 1863. There are a number of tours and we took advantage of one about the battle on Day 3. We could have done a self-guided car tour of the battlefields but that will have to wait for another visit.

We spent the night at Sandy's sister's house in Stanardsville, VA.
Oct. 11-12. Fredericksburg, VA. We visited with Gail and Dale Ganott and arrived in Fredericksburg by mid afternoon. We visited a friend of mine from Middlebush. Kathy Sellers Wilson and her husband, Rob, took us on a little tour of the town. After dinner we went to a concert at their church. (It was Julie's birthday and she's in Vancouver, BC filming 2 episodes of "Supernatural" on the CW network. We called her but had to leave "Happy Birthday to you" in a message.)

Our first stop on this gorgeous fall day was the Fredericksburg National Military Park Battlefield Visitor Center. They had a small museum with a movie. The major battles here were in December 1862 and May 1863, so before the Gettysburg battles. We took a guided tour as well which was very helpful. He helped us visualize the soldiers and the actual battle at that site. The Confederates won this battle mainly because of geography. They were hidden from view in a sunken road behind a stone wall. We walked around the battlefield and found a small cemetery which was from before the Civil War. The gate showed the impact of cannon fire.

Before we left there Julie called to say she and Michael were engaged!!! We're so happy for them!

We walked down to the Kenmore House which was built in 1775 by Fielding, a wealthy merchant, and his wife, Betty Washington Lewis, George Washington's sister. The interior had colorful paint and wallpaper and beautiful decorative plaster ceilings. No one knows who did the gorgeous plaster work.

We walked downtown which has been renovated and filled with shops. The last stop was really fun. The Hugh Mercer Apothecary was a museum of 2 role players from 1784. One explained all the liquids and herbs that Dr. Mercer used to heal people. The other showed the other tools of his trade, including live leeches! (We had hoped to visit the Rising Sun Tavern which has a tour but we ran out of time.)

Thanks to Kathy and Rob for their hospitality! Kathy's mother lives nearby and we all had dinner together on Sunday. I think it was especially fun for her seeing me "all grown up." As we drove south from Fredericksburg we saw a number of fields of cotton on the side of the road. Wow! My first thought was seeing pictures of slaves picking cotton in fields like this.

Oct. 13-14. St. Augustine, FL. This city has really pretty Spanish architecture. There are lots of things to see in America's oldest city but we only had one day. (I had read that parking was scarce so we parked in a lot behind the Visitor Center.) We started with a tour of Flagler College, the former Ponce de Leon Hotel built in 1888. There was a short movie followed by a student-led tour. What an amazingly beautiful woman's dorm! It's one of the finest examples of Spanish Renaissance Architecture in the US. Henry Flagler made his money in real estate, railroads, and as a partner with Rockefeller in Standard Oil. He wanted to build a place for rich northerners to come down by train for January through March. There are Tiffany stained glass windows , murals, and gorgeous architecture. Even the dining room chairs were amazing.

The fountain in the front courtyard was a creative sun dial. It was surrounded by 12 frogs spouting water. The frog in the right picture is saluting. He represents 12 o'clock. It really was accurate but off by an hour because it was daylight savings time.

The Lightner Museum (old Alcazar Hotel) across the street was the playground, and also a small hotel, also built by Flagler. It was built in 1887 and is one of the earliest poured concrete building. It has a beautiful courtyard with a stone arched bridge over a pond. It housed the gym, sauna, and the largest indoor pool where swimming competitions were held. It closed in 1932 and was purchased by Chicogoan Otto Lightner in 1946 to house his collections of antiquities from all over the world. Two years later it became a museum. The three floors had a little bit of everything including a mummy and a shrunken head. We saw a demonstration of mechanized musical instruments, the precursors to the juke box and player piano. And I really loved this cradle! The museum definitely has something for everyone!

The St. Augustine Visitor Center had an interesting video about the struggle of the early peoples of St. Augustine focusing on one family.

The Old St. Augustine Village Museum and the Fort will have to wait until the next visit.

Wednesday morning we had a great visit with friends from Amherst, Patrick and Dianne Smith. Patrick was the middle school orchestra leader and string teacher. Dianne taught voice and was Julie's voice teacher at Holyoke Community College. They also lived below us in Greenleaves for a year. They retired to Jacksonville but continue to teach in the area.

It was a great week reconnecting with friends and family and seeing historical areas of our great country.

Next stop: our home in Fort Myers, Florida!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

San Francisco, Davis, Sacramento 9.08

Saturday, Sept. 20-Wednesday, Sept. 24. Hearing that we were heading for San Francisco, our friends George and Scott told us we shouldn't miss the Dale Chihuly exhibit at the de Young Museum, part of Golden Gate Park. Fortunately for us he told us in plenty of time for me to look at the website and get a timed admission ticket. (This was a very popular special exhibit!) Chihuly is a glass artist who makes incredibly gorgeous pieces. We first saw his work in the Bellagio Hotel ceiling in Las Vegas last summer. We spent a long time admiring his work and I took lots of pictures. We loved it so much we bought a poster showing his glass in a boat that we'll put up in Florida. They were also showing an interesting movie about a workshop he did which showed him creating on paper and other artists implementing his design. It really helped us appreciate the glass pieces knowing a little bit about how they were created. We poked around at other exhibits but the Chihuly exhibit really was the best! Since there are a lot of things to see at Golden Gate Park, next time we'll make time to visit the arboretum and conservatory of flowers.

We left San Francisco and drove north to Napa and dinner with Jim & Dianne Rubins. We had a wonderful visit!

Scott and Libby let us use their apartment since they were in Duluth vacationing with her parents. We enjoyed taking long walks through the UC Davis campus and downtown. The weather was great - sunny skies with cool temps in the morning and then up to the low to high 80's. Sunday night we wanted to see how "Mad Men" did in the Emmy's but they have no TV. We could have gone to their club house but it was on from 8 to 10 PM and decided not to. Instead we checked out the winners online. We made a good decision. Julie watched with friends and said it was so boring, that is, until "Mad Men" won for best drama. Yeah!!

Monday we had a really good tour of the Sacramento Capitol building and saw a movie about CA history. That night we picked Scott and Libby up at the airport. (Here also is Scott's and Libby's apartment. Do we have enough laptops?)

Tuesday we took a scenic drive through Napa to Santa Rosa. First stop was the Luther Burbank Home & Gardens. The town and home and his gardens were beautiful. We were happy to be able to get in on a tour. We learned that Mr. Burbank was a horticultural genius born in Massachusetts. Over his lifetime he introduced more than 800 new varieties of plants. Among his varieties still popular today are the Russet potato and the Shasta daisy. He developed so many varieties but had patents for none since he died in 1926 before there were patents for plants. Here are just a couple of flowers in his garden.

Libby hadn't seen the redwoods yet so we headed to Armstrong Redwoods State Park in Guerneville. It's north of Muir Woods and is on a smaller scale. We checked out some huge trees and then went on a pretty steep 4 mile hike. It was fun just visiting with Scott and Libby. We topped off the day at a Thai restaurant in Santa Rosa.

Wednesday was convocation for UC Davis at the Mondavi Center (funded by Mr. Mondavi of the Mondavi wine family). We decided to go at the end and saw the marching band play. After there were great refreshments! We noticed they were really into making sure that people recycled properly. The plates and utensils were made from corn starch! We wandered through campus (lots of bikes!) down to the weekly farmers market, bought some things and then saw a band and singers at the park where the market is. It was fun to see so many people, families, kids, and students just out enjoying themselves. Scott said they don't usually buy much here since the Dixon market has better prices.

We really enjoyed our time in Davis. Thanks to Scott and Libby for letting us use their apartment! We said goodbye to California until December when we'll visit again.

Friday, September 19, 2008

LA to San Francisco 9.08

Friends had told us to take our time driving up the coast since there were so many beautiful vistas and places to visit. And they were right!

Tuesday, Sept. 16 - Friday, Sept. 19. Santa Barbara, Solvang, Hwy 1, Salinas, Monterey, Carmel, Santa Cruz. From Santa Monica we took the 405 to 101 to Santa Barbara. What a beautiful town! We took a guided tour in a van where we sat up high. We saw the pier and the waterfront with its tall palms, lots of bikes for rent, Old Town, the Santa Barbara Mission, and the Courthouse among other things. It's an expensive town to live in but great to visit.

We love the look of Norfolk Island Pines!

It was an informative tour and helped us get situated and decide where to go next. We chose the courthouse. It was built in 1926. The tile work was beautiful. There was even a huge room filled with murals of historical events. The last picture of the white building was the jail. Pretty nice looking jail! It isn't used anymore though.

The view from the top (3rd floor) of the courthouse where the clock is was great!

How nice to see tiles in the sidewalk and benches.

We took a detour to see Solvang, a Danish town. One article said to be sure to try out one of the bakeries. We liked the Danish style architecture downtown and the pastries were really good! A nice afternoon snack.

Between Santa Barbara and north of Solvang there were brown hills and cattle as well as fields of crops and grapes.

We spent the night in San Luis Obispo and drove off to our scheduled tour at the Hearst Castle the next morning. It's farther north on the coast with an amazing setting. John Randolph Hearst, of Hearst newspapers and magazines, was quite an entrepreneur. He also was very conscious of appearances. He often entertained movie stars and directors and people in the highest social class. His home was built on 40,000 acres that his father had originally bought in 1865. It was very pretty Spanish architecture and not over-the-top like we had anticipated. (He did drive his architect crazy since he changed his mind a lot!!) It has 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, 19 sitting rooms, 127 acres of gardens, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, a movie theater, an airfield, and a private zoo. We saw the zebras grazing with some horses near the road. Getting an invitation to the Hearst home was coveted in the 1920's and 30's. His wife and children preferred Long Island. So he had a mistress in California! First we saw a National Geographic movie called "Building the Dream" which gave us a lot of info on Hearst and the actual building of the house. A bus took us to the top so the views were awesome just driving up there. There were a number of different tours offered but ours was just a general one.

Hearst was big into recycling before it was even a word. He collected used chairs, panels, doors, lamps, etc. to use in his home. The indoor pool was pretty amazing with a high dive which Johnny Weismuller, Olympian swimmer and "Tarzan" used.

Elephant Seal Point was just north of San Simeon. We saw lots of seals but you couldn't get very close. There were also many places to stop along the road to take in the beautiful scenery!

We drove up Big Sur and took a hike at Molera State Park. We saw the results of the fires that had burned in September.

Seemingly never ending beautiful scenery!

We spent the night in Salinas and learned a bit about that city and its location in a lush valley. It's the salad capital of the US. The majority of US lettuce greens are grown here. We also saw acres and acres of broccoli. Castroville, north of Salinas, is the artichoke capital. We found a great authentic Mexican restaurant for dinner in Salinas.

Monterey Aquarium (in Monterey) is on Cannery Row, the old fish canning factories made famous by John Steinbeck. We were here with Scott and Julie 17 years ago and thought it was fabulous. Now they've added to it and it's even better! We watched them feed the cute little penguins. And the jellyfish were really interesting to watch.

The starfish in the touching pool were such pretty colors and shapes. And the sea anemones were fun to watch. I had never seen so many live sand dollars.

Here's my favorite tropical fish, the Moorish Idol and an outdoor porch at the aquarium where we watched the sea lions and birds.

The last time I drove the scenic 17 Mile Pebble Beach Drive was with my parents in 1964. I don't remember much except the Pebble Beach golf course on the cliffs. It also goes through the Del Monte Forest. We paid $9.25 to drive it. We could use that money as credit in a restaurant on the drive but they're very expensive so we didn't. People live on these roads but you just follow the red line. There are 21 stops. The drive was once a trail on which covered wagons carried guests from the Hotel Del Monte to picnic grounds along Pebble Beach over 100 years ago. We loved the beach with all the cairns. The appropriately named Bird Rock was covered with sea lions, harbor seals, and birds.

We saw some unique houses and estate homes.

I had to get a picture (the one on the right) of the famous "lone cypress" whose picture is actually copyrighted. (I can't sell the picture.) It's a symbol of fortitude and is the eternal symbol of the Pebble Beach Company.

We stopped at the Lodge at Pebble Beach to check out restaurant prices - a bit steep for us but there were lots of people. We enjoyed the view from the outdoor cafe overlooking the 18th hole. Quite a golf course!

We drove through Carmel and then down Ocean Avenue to Scenic Road to check out the beach. Of course the town and beach were beautiful! This is where Clint Eastwood was the mayor in the 80's.

Santa Cruz beach boardwalk has the oldest beach amusement park in California. We were there too early for the rides to be going but there were lots of people playing volleyball. Under the pier rested many sea lions on the pilings. They're fun to watch and are they loud!

If you've never heard a sea lion, click on the video.

More beautiful scenery between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay.

Half Moon Bay Golf Links is near San Francisco. We took a walk to the beach at the Ritz Carlton and enjoyed the golf course, the nice houses, and the beautiful scenery. We thought it was nice that they let the public enjoy all this!

The drive up the coast was gorgeous. We saw clouds, sun, fog with most temperatures in the 60's. Unforgettable! On to San Francisco!