Roadtrip.7.2015

Cape Breton. Cape Breton, Cape Breton, Cape Breton. Road signs in Gaelic that I can almost read, winding roads through sea and cliff, Edward ordered mussels twice in one meal, acoustic guitar, great singer-songwriter, glass of red wine, Steve has taken the kids back to the room, every inhalation brings the sea and roses.

Possibly the happiest I have ever been in my life.


RoadTrip.6.2015

We just had the one night in PEI and I freely acknowledge that we are not spending nearly enough time in any of these places.

Patrick said, "Wait, what, we're leaving Price Edward Island? We just got here! And I'm still hungry!"

Edward compared our whirlwind tour of Canada to a tasting menu (charmingly butchering the word in the process; degust, disgust) - it's been a little bit of a lot of different things. 

True. But there is only so much time and when I first discussed the idea of this trip you guys were pretty adamant in saying that a person can go here OR there OR yonder but it is madness to attempt all three. So I settled on visiting northern Nova Scotia and everything up until now has been the sugary icing. I think it is all to the good since there are so many places to which the children want to return; Patrick loved the city feel of Montreal, Caroline liked Quebec and Edward imprinted upon PEI, channeling a culinary John Paul Jones, "I have not yet begun to eat!"

Steve flies in tonight to meet us in Halifax and then we will spend the next week in and around Cape Breton and the Bay of Fundy. It will be lovely to see him and have him be able to enjoy some vacation time too.

In the meantime, I am proud of myself. I went so far outside of my comfort zone that I am surprised there is breathable air here and, I think, the children have had a really good time so far. I know I have.


RoadTrip.5.2015

I went to check into our hotel today only to discover that I had inadvertently booked the room for last night. Ah. Ha ha ha HA. Since I had used one of the internet booking sites (booking.com in this case) I was utterly flummoxed; I had already paid for the room and the hotel had held it for me despite the fact that I never arrived. They then charged me for the room as a no-show; since it is not their fault that I am the human equivalent of a radish. So I stood there gaping at them and they looked blankly back at me and I think at this point we would have been at an impasse - what with me saying that I do not know how I could have been so flaky and them saying yeah we don't know either - when the desk clerk and the desk manager and the general manager who happened to be standing there all took pity on me and gave me the room. Just like that. No charge. They were even nice enough to say it could happen to anyone; which was, of course, a complete lie.

[Hey social media savvy people - I'm not on facebook but is there a twitter appropriate way to say thank you? Obviously I can tell you right now that The Grand Holman hotel in Charlottetown, PEI is the bee's knees but that only gets them, ah, so far. Do I just say thank you for x @whatever? Please advise.]

Apart from that, Prince Edward Island. Preeeettttty. So pretty. We would have seen more of it but we couldn't stop eating. Edward alone has consumed at least two pounds of mussels and another two pounds of lobster in the past six hours (John Browns and Rowhouse were great) and Patrick and Caroline - who have previously been mussel adverse - tried one each at lunch and then dove face first into the bowl.

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And there is always the hotel pool

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RoadTrip.4.2015

Heh. Yeah. Sorry about that. I splurged on a very nice dinner at the hotel last night and splurged still further by ordering the tasting menu (say it with me: le menu degustation - looks kind of gross when you write it in French, doesn't it?) for all four of us. This wound up being a very long process - which is generally dining with children suicide - but it was made much easier by the fact that there was an honest-to-god fire juggling acrobatic street show going on underneath the window and our waiter was a miracle of service and tact. Also, and this was the point, he paired my entire meal by saying, "I think Madame would enjoy the sweetness of a sauterne with this course, complimentary, just a small taste" and then he would bring me a giant urn full of wine. Repeatedly.

It was extremely enjoyable but by the time I got everyone back upstairs and into bed I was ready for bed myself. Or the floor.

"Quebec!" I shouted (typed) before I fell onto my face and slept until morning.

Anyway.

We left Montreal two days ago but prior to leaving I drove through downtown; got detoured by the comedy festival; went in circles; managed to find a parking lot; negotiated with the parking lot attendant in French, alone, and without a leader; and took the children to the Contemporary Art Museum (hi Elena!) where I got confused about when I was supposed to present the tickets I had purchased - I thought she was asking if we had tickets and I was, like, yep! sure do! nod nod, mais oui, bien sur! and kept going until she gently clarified her need to be handed the tickets.

[Edward loved David Altmejd's Flux exhibit. A lot. So much that he has brought it up repeatedly since then. Caroline, in contrast, looked around and said, "We aren't really going to look at this stuff are we?" and when her brothers gave her a hard time she said, swear it, "OK! I don't know anything about art but I know what I don't like! Which is all of THIS and especially THAT!" then she sulked from room to room.]

Then Montreal to Quebec which is the teddybear pomeranian of cities. It is so ridiculously charming and scenic and lovely and olde worlde that you get things like this when you glance down from the sidewalk:

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That would be a cannonball around which the roots of a tree have been growing for two hundred years; which is interesting enough in its own right but Quebec is so secure in its charm that there is no fuss about it. No plaque. No Here Is A Relic. The only reason we knew to go look for it is because our cab driver in Montreal suggested we try to find it and when we asked the concierge about it at the hotel he marked an X on a map.

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Patrick devised three person human chess and very graciously - I think - tried to let the twins win.  Edward took it in straight sets; Caroline was more interested in hopping.

In conclusion: Quebec City is adverb adverb positive visit exclamation point.

PS On the drive to New Brunswick we saw a moose and a baby black bear. Not together, alas, but still very exciting.


RoadTrip.3.2015

I love love love Montreal. I love it like a first boyfriend. But there were a couple of moments today when I began to worry that Montreal might be out to get me.

First, Edward's Kindle got shattered and if you have ever spent five seconds with Edward you know just how grievous a blow this was to him. While the other two suffered through my music selections Edward sat in the backseat with his headphones and the Terry Pratchett he is listening to on his Kindle (Diggers.) Sorry. Was listening to. So that sucked.

Then, I could not get into the city.

I could see the city. It was right there. I was on a major highway that one might reasonably assume has multiple arteries that could get me... there... but an exit was closed so there was a detour and then the car navigation system freaked out and pulled us into some (very nice just not the old port) first-tier suburb and kept us there; literally driving in circles. For an hour. I'm not a good driver. I am unused to driving in cities and Montreal is especially busy and - forgive me - the drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians here are all stark staring mad. I watched a woman on her cell phone step blithely off the sidewalk into moving traffic, chatting away as cars swerved around her or screeched to a halt.

It was all incredibly unnerving and Patrick became increasingly urgent in pointing out WE JUST COMPLETED ANOTHER SQUARE so I finally switched to google maps, which had no problem getting us to the hotel in a remarkably straightforward fashion (take note, Toyota navigation.) We had a very late lunch, checked in and then went off to buy some maple sugar candy, which is when I discovered that my wallet was missing. I almost had an apoplexy. Now, in the cool of the evening, I can see that it would not have been that big of a deal. It would have been inconvenient but the credit card company could have overnighted me a new card and in the interim we could have subsisted on room service charged to our eventual hotel bill. In the moment, however, all I could think was that I had zero cash, no credit cards and therefore no way to buy food or gas. Ever again. Alarming.

Fortunately Patrick remembered that I had tipped the guy who carried our fifty bags up three flights of stairs so we retraced our steps and found the wallet on the floor in the room. Patrick suggested I might want to keep better track of it going forward as I had seemed very distressed by its potential loss. Thanks, Patrick.

Never did get the maple sugar candy but decided to take the ferry over to the island with the Biosphere et al. We didn't have time to do much at the park but I like a good boat ride and the children seemed pleased with the novelty of it. We got off the ferry, started walking around and then the skies opened up and poured rain down upon us. It felt just like the Grand Prix when Steve and I accidentally walked eight miles trying to get off of that same island in the rain. Oh, and the Biosphere closed as we got there.

Reading over it sounds sort of dismal but - apart from getting lost and worrying about being destitute in a foreign country - it was awesome. We took a cab to the Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood for dinner, I felt very grownup in the process and during the course  of the day I had two TWO (2) conversations with francophones who did not switch to English. Granted, I only understood a third of what that guy on the boat was telling me but I nodded a lot and waved my hands around murmured ah and bon and merci and he seemed satisfied; and the cab driver took us to where I wanted to go and accepted the money I handed him so I guess that was ok too.

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Now that I look at it, maybe those gathering clouds should have given me a hint.

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Edward, like the Thomas Haynes Bayly hero hurried from sport to sport, momentarily putting a brave face on his grief.


RoadTrip.2.2015

Today I drove from one side of Ontario to the other. We are now in Pembroke and I am so tired. But along the way we spent a couple of hours at Science North, the science museum in Sudbury, and it was really, really great. Far and away the most interactive of the science centers we have ever visited. Well worth the drive.

I let Patrick have my phone to take pictures; he was most interested in the architecture.

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As far as we could tell they built directly into the rock and in Sudbury that is saying something - so. much. rock - and I can see why Patrick would be fascinated but the rest of us preferred all of the animate, tactile things: bins of rocks in which you could find your own fossils, a race track for the cars you could build, an orphaned porcupine, and an honest to god Blanding's turtle swimming in a tank. A Blanding's turtle! Right there! I could have stolen him, if I were that sort of person - which I am not - and if I had any links to the rare reptilian underground; which ditto.

We easily could have spent another two or three hours there but for the sake of expediency we cut it short. The rest of the day was spent scanning the lakes for moose, listening to Bartimaeus and stopping at gas stations where I got the credit card system wrong every single time. As earnestly as I attempt to pass as a Canadian, my inability to master those little credit machines has been the undoing of me - I might as well be wrapped in an American flag with a bald eagle perched upon my shoulder.

Montreal tomorrow.


RoadTrip.1.2015 B

Oh how exceptionally annoying! I wrote a whole post last night. I swear I did. What happened to it?

Sum: Les Miserables, Gaelic music, mutiny, started Bartimaeus trilogy, drive drive drive, Ontario and so to sleep.

Back tonight and I will make certain that it doesn't disappear again.

Oh and if you missed it I am (possibly temporarily) on twitter @juliahippogriff.

 


A Single Step

I said I wanted to go to Nova Scotia, and you said how wonderful but be advised it is much farther away than you think it is, and I said hmmmmmmmm.

Based upon that discussion Steve and I decided that we would fly to Halifax, rent a car, drive around for a bit and then head off to Vermont for our usual August week. I read all of your suggestions and made copious plans and even booked a hotel in Cape Breton before Steve said something like, my sweet treasure, you have, of course, made sure that we can rent a car in Canada but return it in the States? And I said, hmmmmmmmmm.

Do you know what it turns out you cannot actually do? That.

I mean you could because one car place (not Hertz or Enterprise... Avis maybe?) was willing to tell us how much it would cost and I am only exaggerating very slightly when I say it would have been cheaper to buy a used car in Canada and abandon it in Vermont; including whatever fines I assume the proud descendents of Ethan Allen associate with that sort of profligate behavior.   

So that was not going to happen.

But I really wanted to go so I thought about it some more and finally said, "Road Trip!" meaning we would drive our own car to Nova Scotia through Montreal and Quebec and then scoot around The Maritimes before hitting Maine and Vermont.

Steve said he would see me in hell first. So we compromised on Halifax.

So tomorrow bright! and early! the children and I will be getting into the car and I will be driving us to Nova Scotia. Not all at once, of course, but gradually, over stages, no doubt stopping along the way to solve mysteries and soak up all that Canadian goodness. Oh and for the love of maple leaves would someone please tell me the name of that creamery restaurant on the Trans-Canada highway (who gently rebuked me all those years ago for calling it the Trans-Canadian; it makes me giggle) in Ontario. I think it was Ontario. It had the best blue cheese dressing I have ever tasted in my life and when we stopped there when Caroline and Edward were two (two? we must've been insane) one of the customers got up and went into the bus hole to get us some crayons, just because.

I will check in tomorrow night but in the meantime it occurred to me that I can also try Twitter. I got an account when we to the Grand Prix in June because I wanted to better follow le racing but I was going to close it because - quite frankly - I have never heard of a single person and or thing Twitter keeps urging me to follow (right now, hand to my heart, it is suggesting Mascotas Nutrecan which appears to be a dog food that advertises solely in Spanish, a language I do not speak. also, I don't have a dog) and on the flip side I honestly don't think I could write Happy Birthday Grandma in less than 140 words.

But - look how optimistic I am; in stark contrast to the UPS guy who greeted the news that I was driving the kids to Nova Scotia with a blank "Why on earth would you do that?" - I expect there will be all sorts of wonderful and amusing things that will happen tomorrow, on the nine hour drive, through Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula, and then the next day with another delightful nine hours but this time through the vast expanse that is southern Ontario... why, it'll be like you're right there in the car with us, enjoying the uncluttered view, listening to Caroline and Edward as they struggle to smack each other from the confines of their booster seats, reveling in Patrick's thirteen year old ennui.

I am @juliahippogriff and why I didn't put an s on the end when there is an s everywhere else I have no idea. I expect I will find myself inspired to explain, among other things, how we figured out that the phantom of the rest area was really just Old Man McGillicuddy trying to scare tourists away from secret poppy fields and I expect I will have to use Patrick as my scribe; seeing as how my hands will be firmly clenched at 4 and 8.

And speaking of Patrick, he returned from camp today looking bronzed and fit. Actually it was an engineering program so he returned looking pale and slightly pompous but the point is that he returned. I asked him what his favorite tour was (they were taken to a number of different places; including a guided tour by boat around the pilings of a partially constructed bridge) and he said he liked the creamery. So I said, oh, do you think you might be interested in going into food science and he said, "No, I have decided that I am going to grow up to become an ice cream cone."

He's in that sort of post-camp mood. He also said, "I think individually we were all smart enough but collectively we were idiots."

And when I asked what he meant he explained that out of the thirty of them there were three really tall guys and three really short guys and they invented a game called Titan which involved the tall guys shouting, "Suit up!" whereupon the short guys would hop onto their backs and then they would race toward each other.

"And then?" I asked, not really wanting to know.

"Well, and then they would try to kick each other in the nuts."

"Ah."

"Like I said, idiots."

I think he had a GREAT time. 


Etiquette

Oh, sure. I've been felled by stomach bugs many a time but to me that's more like when your head hurts because someone hit you with a brick. Cause, effect. Yesterday I just had a stomachache (how can that possibly be one word- which reminds me of my beloved former boss who once said "Julia! Can you have alittle? Then you cannot have alot." I miss him.)

I realized after I told you that I was going to a birthday pool party (a fancy costume pool party - Mo Willems anyone? genius) it was reasonable to assume that it involved children but no. It was my friend's birthday and she invited a bunch of women over to her house to eat nibble-y things and swim. Also, she made hurricanes which were very refreshing but reminded me of...

can I tell this story? Should I ask him first? Nah. I'm sure it's fine. Besides, I've probably already told you at some point.

One Christmas - before we had children - my brother planned to celebrate the holidays with his inlaws so it was just going to be me and Steve and mom and Papa Stan at our house. I said something like, hey, instead of spending four December days in Minnesota eating our weight in butter, why don't we go somewhere... fun?

Thus began the Great Debauched New Orleanian Christmas of Aught-Whatever.

Good.

Grief.

It was a veritable baccahnal. We ate so much and drank, you know, alittle, and had so much fun and we were so silly and I only have to mention New Orleans for all four of us to start laughing.

And yet, strangely, none of us have the same memories of any of it.

In my version I know that we went to dinner at the same restaurant twice in one night and the second time Mom poked Stan with her finger and he fell off his chair and everyone in the entire place turned to stare except Steve who just sat there placidly eating oysters. I know that we went to tour an old convent that Anne Rice had purchased and filled with dolls and it was just as unbelievably creepy as it sounds - now closed; more's the pity. I know that I have a photograph (somewhere) of Stan in a Valkyrie helmet complete with long blonde braids, smoking a cigar. And I do know that we somehow managed to convince my mother that we should all go see a burlesque show (ahem) on Bourbon Street and when Stan asked if there was a cover charge the guy looked at us and said, "You're in luck. It's Family Night."

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHA!

Whew. Sorry.

Right. Hurricanes.

At some point we went to Pat O'Brien's to hang out at the piano bar. Steve tried one of their World Famous Hurricane Cocktails. Then he tried another. I am pretty sure he had a third because eventually he turned to me and said, "Hey, honey, this guy," and he jerked a thumb in the direction of the person next to him at the bar, "is in the Navy and he's just here for a night and he needs a place to stay... ."

I smiled and excused ourselves and hustled my charges out before my husband in his sweet, generous, entirely befuddled way misunderstood the intentions of anyone else at the bar.

This has become an enduring standard of measurement: intoxicated? excessively? I mean, accidentally-picked-up-by-a-sailor drunk or just a little well to go?

Good heavens. How I do ramble on, to be sure.

I went to a party and I just had the one hurricane and it was very fruity and refreshing but my point was before the party I found a pair of swim shorts which were fuschia but otherwise unexceptionable and I wore those with a bikini top under a t-shirt. It was fine - a little casual but fine - but I noticed the rest of the women came with their swim gear in a tote bag or something.

So to answer my question in much the same way you all did: when one is a grownup invited to a pool party it is probably best to wear clothes and bring your suit.    

PS I should state, categorically and for the eternal record, that my mother is, in general, abstemious and a pillar of rectitude. It's a large part of what makes it so funny. Imagine, oh, a younger Betty White interlaced with a bit of Doris Day.