Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bonjour, Montreal!

They look like us, act like us and drink beer like us, but they are most certainly FRENCH Canadians, er, pardon', Canadien fran├žais!
Last September, Roger and I decided it was time to head to Canada again for vacation. We ventured up that way several years ago, covering Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. Not wanting to travel that far again, we chose Quebec, specifically Montreal which is only a 5 hour drive from Haverhill (correct pronunciation is HAY-vrill).

The city is beautiful and just like the guide books say, doesn't seem nearly as large as it is with 1 million plus in residence.

The guide books also say, don't worry about speaking French as they all speak some English. WRONG! I do know French, certainly not fluently, but as long as I practice beforehand I can manage pretty well. So, I took the guidebooks at their word and tossed the CDs aside until our next foray to France.

From the 1st pit stop at a convenience store after crossing into Quebec, we (I) realized we were in trouble. We were in search of an ATM and not even the teen-aged boy who worked there spoke English. That was only the beginning. Not to say that we didn't find any English speaking people here, but English is far from their first language of choice. Next time, I'll be much better prepared!

Montreal itself is very pretty with so much to do. Basilique Notre-Dame de Montreal, located where Vieux Montreal meets the financial district, is a must see.

Along with the church, where Celene Dion was married by the way, Vieux Montreal is the main tourist destination...lots of little streets to explore...
...with a multitude of stores for tourists,
but also many boutiques and art galleries.
And you can't miss Place Jacques-Cartier which rises above the St. Lawrence River. Street performers, outdoor cafes, artists...

...and of course carriage rides.
There are many other areas worth exploring, specifically near the Universities where kitsch and bohemia collide. Not to mention the endless row upon row of bars and restaurants.

Rather than stay in a hotel this trip, we decided to take our chances on renting from an individual and found this fabulous place in Vieux Montreal on homeaway.com. This unit specifically can be found at www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p163290. The place was a fabulous surprise, as the website photos didn't really tell the whole story.

The best part was the roof top deck with a shallow pool for ambiance, deck chairs and plenty of seating for lots of folks. We took full advantage!
So if you have a hankering for being somewhere on the slightly exotic side, but don't want to cross the pond, definitely head on up to Montreal and visit our North American Cousins!

All the images are even better when you click on them and get a much clearer view of the details in the scenery.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How Roger got out of Grocery Shopping Duty

I know times are hard, however, we have jobs and can certainly afford to swill something with a cork. The only thing missing is a jug handle on the side of the bottle and a bag of pork skins.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Still Snowing

Even as we're in the midst of our ninth winter in New England, we're always amazed by the beauty of the snowfall. The mulberry tree below was featured in "The Ice Storm Cometh". Hopefully in the next couple of months, we'll be able to get it inspected for any potential healing.
With the unmistakable winter, we're completely confused as to why the robins are still here. Previous winters, the arrival of the robins was to be celebrated as they gave us hope of Spring and the blooming of tulips and forsythia. Now, we're not sure what to look for.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Hoisting the Main Sail

Oops, I led with the wrong picture...
...Susan, hoisting the main sail!

Susan typically comes up once a year and we always find new things to do each time. Her trip this past August was no exception. On her final evening we sailed on the Ninth Wave catamaran out of Newburyport. The weather earlier in the day was very stormy, but fortunately the skies completely cleared, as did the seas.
The earlier storm had the unexpected benefit of keeping the larger crowds at bay.

The boat provided the beverages, so we packed a small cooler of cheeses, meats and homemade bread made by Roger.With, or without Susan or other visting guests, we'll definitely make this trip again. That's the beauty of living here - for Roger and I, this is just a typical weekend!But, like I said, this was Susan's final evening and we did plenty before that. Her first day out we had breakfast at Fish Tales, a small diner located directly on the waterfront of Salisbury, looking across the Merrimac River to Newburyport.
From there we took drove up Route 1A, where along the way the fog and mist set in, which led to some stunning scenery.

We stopped at Odiorne State park where we came across this lady enjoying a book by the sea.

From there, we went into Portsmouth for a drink, or two , (maybe it was three?) at Poco's Cantina on the edge of the Portsmouth Harbor where the tug boats dock.
The next day we slept in, then headed once again for the New Hampshire shoreline, but this time for a lobster lunch at Saunders in Rye Harbor.
Sadly, the restaurant, though literally yards away from the lobster boats, was still charging 2007 lobster prices. So instead we settled for casserole and salad, after I promised Susan we'd do our own lobster boil . Twice the fun, half the price.

Before heading home, we stopped at Cider Hill Farm. I'll share more about this place in a later post, but as you can see it was absolutely beautiful on this day.
We made one more stop at Jewell Towne Vinyards, one of several local wineries in our area, then headed for the fish market for dinner!

Susan and I almost spent all four days together without wanting to strangle each other!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Yowza!

Even with the brilliant sunshine, this is a bitter, bitter cold! No one said it would be easy living up here, but there's certainly no shortage of excitement.

Time for hot chocolate!

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Bevy of Birds

As mentioned earlier, the winter has been very snowy. Supposedly we're in the grips of global warming, but judging by the flocks of birds that are unable to easily find food on their own due to the already thick layer of snow, covered with ice, then covered with snow again, it's rather hard to be convinced. How many birds do you see in the image above. Click on the photo and count!

All images were captured on January 11, after yet another dumping of 8" of snow. There were several other breeds this day, but not all cooperated with being photographed. The first is of the black-capped chickadee, the state bird of Massachusets and the final image below is for all my mothers.



Back to the Ice Storm

I still love the anticipation of seeing what comes from a roll of film. It may not be the instant gratification of digital, but there's something about holding pictures in your hands and getting out your strongest spectacles to evaluate the details.

I can trace my love of pictures back to my grandmother's house in Amarillo. A top drawer in a bedroom dresser was crammed with black and white photos. I still see the dresser in my mind, set between windows at an angle in a corner of the room. In the drawer were photos of my mother as a girl, her sisters and brothers, photos of strangers I couldn't identify. I would spend countless hours looking at these photos over and over again. Mamaw posing on the little bridge in the backyard. My mother posing in her swimsuit with her leg kicked up. Pictures of Papaw with the current family pet. According to stories, his name was "Buster".

Today in our home you'll find much of what was at my grandmother's home, endless drawers and boxes of pictures waiting to one day find their way into an album. Others pictures were much more fortunate and are neatly arranged, in order of their appearance on the film (or disc) no less, so as not to interrupt the time line of when they were taken.

Most likely and very sadly, the days of looking back at old photos are probably nearing an end. Families and friends gathered around old photo albums, pointing and laughing at at each other. Even with our group of friends in Dallas, Sylvia has made a magnificent effort of being our unofficial "historian", but at a recent party we noticed suddenly the pictures in the album stopped and we realized they were now online. We soon found ourselves huddled around a computer rather than an island in the kitchen.

Fifty years from now, if not sooner, pictures will all be relegated to a hard drive that's been tossed aside, or thumb drives that have been lost. No longer will they be destined for a specially selected photo album to share with others. Or, to be stumbled upon in an estate sale or antique store.

Below are a few images that were taken with my non-digital Canon Rebel SLR of the ice storm in early December. My hope is that whomever ends up with the task of cleaning out our belongings, that they take time to look at our collection of photos, including the ones below, because they're not just photos, they're memories that we thought special enough to capture on film.

As a postscript - The juxtaposition of the still green grass and the ice covered trees in the picture above is a bit unsettling and actually seems to have been an omen for our very snowy winter.