Saturday, July 30, 2011
Friday, July 22, 2011
I've had several people complain that they've looked at my blog and there STILL isn't a post about Montreal! Well, I hate to disappoint my readers, whoever you are, so I'm putting off my house-cleaning just for you. I hope you fully appreciate the sacrifice I'm making!
Unlike the recent post about our sailing trip, this vacation is described in a single post.
Tuesday, July 12th - Harper and I drive to Logan and pick up Sarah. Our first stop is to drop Harper off at Diane's. As usual she is delighted to be there but I feel vaguely guilty, leaving her again so soon. She was so happy to see me when I picked her up after our trip to Missouri, and here I am, leaving her again after only 2 days. Oh well it can't be helped, and I know she's in good hands.
The drive up 93 and then 89 is green and hilly. The Green Mountains and then the White, are not quite mountains, but are more than just hills. The border crossing into Canada is uneventful. Almost immediately the hills turn into flat farmland, the interstate into country roads. Just outside Montreal the traffic grinds to a halt. Construction, road repair, we crawl into the city.
Le Petit Hotel, Rue Saint Paul in the Old City. I remember this from our last trip with Gail and Michael. Dinner at Cafe Boris, outside on a leafy terrace. It dawns on both of us that thanks to the New York Times we have somehow managed to snag a wonderful boutique hotel in the heart of the old city of Montreal. Our location couldn't be more perfect for the things we like to see and do.
Wednesday, July 13th. Bikes! Along the river, then across the bridge, past Habitat, to the Biosphere. Such wonderful memories of Expo 67, the pavilions belonging to all the different countries, Labyrinth, an elaborate exhibit featuring one of the very first split-screen movies, the food, the lines, the bus... Wet clothes and sleeping bags, Niagara falls, James bond movies. Back to biking...we have a bit of trouble figuring out the way back to Montreal from Ille Saint Helene where the World's Fair was held, but a bus driver honks and waves us in the right direction over the bridge safely. From there we bike over to the Latin quarter. A curtain of bright pink balls makes it clear exactly where we are. We sit outside for lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant. We intend to bike along the Lachine Canal but clouds and rain dissuade us, so we turn the bikes back in.
We have dinner at Pinxto, a restaurant which serves basque tapas. They are all delicious. We order an entire bottle of wine by mistake. Its a good thing Sarah has her father's genes, but I do my part, to the point of feeling a bit hungover the following morning.
Thursday, July 14th. Bagels and Mont Royal our goal. We buy a day pass for the metro since we are ready to venture further afield in this city. Our first destination is Viature Bagels for our first taste of real Montreal bagels. These are not the same as New York City bagels, but they are good in their own right. I'd describe them as slightly sweeter, and more cake-like. Don't turn up your nose until you've tried them!
My idea is to take the bus to the top of Mont Royal, but our waitress pooh-poohs that so we walk. It's not steep at all, I was afraid it would be something like The Peak in Hong Kong, but this is a gentle incline, runners are jogging up it. Only thing is, is HOT. We are very sweaty by the time we reach the top.
Beautiful views of the city, but we decide to take the bus back down. After a break at the hotel it's off to the Latin quarter again to do a little shopping. Retro sixties design stores, graffiti, piercings, trash. We decide to take the metro a few stops over to McGill and enter the massive city underground. After pedicures and a short nap, I'm rejuvenated.
We have dinner at a real French bistro. Sarah has quail, I have calf livers. Heavenly food.
Friday, July 15th. Shopping day. Sarah does the initial research, I plot our course. First up to Sherbrooke Metro stop. For a second day we buy 1 day metro passes. A great bargain since it includes the buses. We wander up and down Saint Denis, Saint Laurant, and all the little streets and shops in between. Its fun talking to shop girls, marveling at how easily they switch back and forth between English and French.
We find a little sandwich shop for lunch, sitting in the shade on the sidewalk. Its cool in the shade but the sun is fierce; we have to move our chairs to avoid it.
Then over to the Peel Street Metro stop. This is an area more like 5th Ave. We suddenly get in the mood to buy instead of merely browsing. With a silk blouse for me, and yellow shoes for Sarah, our shopping day is complete.
Dinner is at a charcuterie. Half glasses of wine, meats, olives, cheeses. Many dishes passing by look great but we simply can't eat any more.
Our taxi ride back to the hotel goes past a cheering soccer stadium surrounded by dozens of buses and bathed in the light of a glowing full moon. Late at night a fight breaks out near our hotel, but it only wakes me briefly.
Saturday, July 16th. Off we go to the Laurentians. I have vague memories of only French being spoken and misty mountains from my trip to Expo 67. The first difference I notice is the traffic. Apparently it's not unlike Minnesota or even New England, but everyone in Montreal seems to be headed to the mountains. We just crawl along, and the drive takes twice as long as it should. Oh well, what are you going to do?
Second difference, the Laurentians are Not the Swiss Alps, by any means. Think Ozarks, with a heavy French accent.
It IS very French, although most people speak English, quite a few of them struggle to find the right word. Funny since half the time if they tell us what the word is in French, we can figure out what it should be in English. Rutabaga? Same. Eucalyptus? Why, pretty much the same too! Go figure.
Our b&b is quiet, serene and a bit new age-y. Crystal Inn, Mont Tremblant. Maggie and John are as nice as can be, and their breakfasts are awesome! Portabella mushroom omelets one day, berry crepes the next.
Here Sarah and I outdo even our ability to consume vast quantities of food, with two traditional French dinners. The first night's dinner is very fancy with boulliabase and a chocolate dessert that just about does me in. The second night is much lighter, with some of the best lamb I've had in a long time, and fruit compote for dessert.
On Sunday we go kayaking on the Rivere Rouge. We choose the 3 hour trip. There is not much current, but its such a nice change from the city and a good upper body workout! Afterwards we go to a place called Spa Scandinave. This is a Nordic spa. You might have heard of these places. The idea is to spend 15 minutes in a hot environment - a steam room, a sauna, a hot tub, etc. Then 10-15 minutes in a cold environment - a cold waterfall, pool or even the river. THEN 15-20 minutes relaxing. Repeat this as many times as you want! Well we have a fine time. Sauna-cold pool-solarium. Hot tub-cold waterfall (yikes!!!!)-chair by the fire. Steam room-river-yoga mat in the sun. By the last circuit I could barely make myself rise from the chair, so I decided that was enough. It was wonderful though and I would love to do this again. I wonder if there is one somewhere in The Boston area?
And so on Monday I took Sarah to the airport in Montreal and drove back to New Hampshire by myself. I was happy to see Harper, and actually very relieved to know that I would be home and going nowhere for the next 2 and a half weeks! And I have to say, the mountains in Vermont and New Hampshire are really beautiful and deserve more of our attention in the coming months and years.
Saturday, July 9, 2011
My mom has a sweet friend that she plays mahjong with every week. Elsie just turned 95, still lives in her own home and takes care of the flowers in her yard.
Last week while I was in St. Louis visiting my mom, we went to visit Elsie. My mom wanted to take her some flowers for her birthday, so off we went.
Elsie was delighted to have visitors. She and my mother are good friends. We put the flowers in a vase, admired Elsie's garden, and chatted for a bit.
Then my mom said to me, "did I tell you about Elsie's box?" I said no, I didn't think so. "Elsie, tell Lynn about your box!" my mom exclaimed. "it's just the most incredible story."
This is the story that Elsie told us.
Elsie came to the United States in 1938, the same year as my mother. Her story is similar to my mother's in that she had relatives that had emigrated to the US in the 20's, thereby making it possible for Elsie to escape from Nazi Germany. She joined her brothers in St. Louis, fully expecting her parents to join them shortly. But Elsie's father was ill, and was denied a visa by the Germans. Elsie's mother would not leave without her husband. Eventually, they were deported, and died in the Theresenstad concentration camp.
This would be the end of the story of Elsie's parents, I suppose, except for one thing. Before they were deported, Elsie's mother filled a large box with cherished family photos and a set of gilt-edged prayer books. Then she took the box to one of her non-Jewish neighbors and asked them to keep it for her.
Of course, Elsie's parents never returned to claim this box. But the woman that they gave it to kept it. She wasn't sure what to do with it. She didn't know that Elsie's parents had living relatives in the US, or if she did, she had no idea how to find them. So she continued to keep the box safe, until she passed away in 1987.
Her children found the box among her things. They had no idea who the box belonged to either, but the Jewish prayer books were a clue. They decided to try to find their rightful owners if they could.
They enlisted the help of Joachim Hahn, an expert on the history of the Jews of southern Germany, hoping that he might be able to point them in the right direction. He helped them figure out that the box must belong to a Jewish family from the small town of Buettelborn. They went to Buettelborn, intent on finding someone that was alive before the war, who might know who the people in the photos were.
Now, the series of events connecting Elsie with the long lost box gets increasingly amazing. Joachim Hahn finds Marie Beisswenger, who just happens to be a dear childhood friend of Elsie's, still living in Buettelborn. Marie Beisswenger takes one look at the photos and exclaims, "but of course! That's the Hirsches! I've just returned from visiting their daughter in the United States!" It wasn't too long afterwards that Elsie received a letter informing her of the existence of the box.
One day in May Elsie opened her front door to find a package from Germany on her doorstep. It was the box, over 70 years after her mother had given it to her neighbor for safe keeping.
My mother and I sat there silently, as Elsie finished her story. There were tears in all of our eyes. Finally, my mother asked, "could we see your box, Elsie?"
Elsie smiled through her tears, "why, of course! Come with me."
Elsie led us into the family room, where a large yellow box sat on the floor next to the fireplace. Tenderly she took out the old photos and the prayer books, and passed them around for us to view. There were pictures of Elsie and her brothers with their parents, cousins, aunts, uncles and friends. The prayer books were beautiful and in very good shape.
I don't know what Elsie's mother was thinking when she packed up this box, but I can guess. It was no secret that Hitler would have been happy to see the Jews erased from the face of the earth, although even in the late 30's no one really suspected that plans for the Final Solution were already being put in place. But what better way to try to insure that even if all the Jews disappeared, their memory would endure. Here we are, those photos say. This is our religion, this is who we are. Recognize us. Remember us. We refuse to be forgotten.
Elsie's story, and the contents of the box are being preserved the the St. Louis Holocaust Museum. The story of Elsie's box was featured in the May 25th issue of the St. Louis Jewish Light, and I used the story in the Jewish Light to make sure I got the names and details right in this story.
Many, many thanks to Elsie for sharing her story and her box with us, and permitting me to write about it here. By writing about Elsie's box and sharing it with my readers, I am honoring the memory of not only Elsie's parents but all of those that were murdered 70 years ago. Yes we are still here, and no you will NOT be forgotten. I promise.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Sailing Day Six - Back to Fairhaven
So this is it; the last post about our trip. Unfortunately I don't have pictures for this last day; I guess I was busy! My niece and my sister-in-law took lots of pictures too. Maybe I will be able to post Some of their's eventually.
We have lots of wind for our last day of sailing. Five days of experience mean that we start out with only our mainsail raised. Once we are out in the bay, we even put a reef in the mainsail, to decrease the amount of sail even further. The wind is blowing 17 knots, or more, and there is some chop as well. This makes for a bit of a bumpy ride, as we head upwind.
It's clear and sunny, and the wind is good. Navigation is surprisingly confusing though, because there are SO many navigational aids in Buzzard's Bay, since it has a large shipping channel, and lots of ports. And because of the chop it's hard to keep the binoculars steady so that we can read the numbers on distant buoys. So we have to keep double-checking our position, using both the chart and the gps. This requires frequent trips below. I actually start to feel a bit queasy between the chart and the chop and the binoculars.
We make it back to Fairhaven and unload the boat by 3:30 pm. It's been a great trip, but I think we are all ready for showers and a regular kitchen. Lee and I both learned a lot on this voyage. My confidence has increased, even if my nervousness is not yet much diminished. I'm willing to try this again sometime, and I'm sure if Lee has anything to say about it I'll get plenty of opportunities.
Monday, July 4, 2011
Sailing Day Five - Wood's Hole and Hadley's Harbor
Wood's Hole is the main passageway between Vineyard Sound and Buzzard's Bay. It is relatively narrow, with several turns, and a strong current. Worrier that I am, I make sure to read all about it in our navigation book the night before. This has both good and bad points. It's good because I know what we should and should not do. It's bad because the scary-sounding warnings put me on high alert. No fog! Avoid times of maximum current! Okay, let's go.
We don't get very far toward our first mark as we head across Vineyard Sound before we head into what appears to be a large fog bank. "I think that's fog", I comment anxiously. Lee isn't convinced, and besides we're still quite a ways from Woods Hole. I'm like the boy who cried wolf to him on a sailboat, since I nervously see danger at every turn.
Of course it IS fog, so we have to turn around. Our plan at this point is to zig and zag between a couple of marks until it lifts, which fortunately doesn't take that long.
The second thing that happens is that the wind picks up. It's not long before it's blowing 15 knots or more. We have both our jib and mainsail up, and this turns out to be a little much for our group of inexperienced sailors, not to mention the dishes that we left drying all over the kitchen counter that proceed to go flying across the galley when we start to really heel. Well, sheesh, Lee and I ought to know better than that!
Once we drop the jib and sail with only the main, things become much more manageable. We sail the remainder of the way across the sound without incident.
I'm steering, so Lee goes below to plot our course through Woods Hole. There's a series of markers, and two different passageways we can choose. Lee chooses what appears to be the larger passage. He has been through Wood's Hole before during his cruising course and for this I'm very glad, because at first glance it is intimidating indeed. The ferries streaming past us in the narrow passage don't help.
Lee has written navigational notes on a post-it note, but when we change positions and he takes that helm they make no sense to me and of course I have to go look at the chart. But we do okay. We check off the markers one by one, changing our heading at each turn until we are through the hole. Yay! We made it! The entrance to Hadley's Harbor is now in view.
Hadley's Harbor is quiet and serene. A string of small private islands surround the harbor, where a few mooring balls are available for free, first come, first serve. We have no trouble getting a place to moor, however, since it is still early in the season.
It's beautiful here. Rustic old houses peek through the trees. Children swim and play on a distant dock. Little wooden boats and grand yachts calmly share this space.
It's time for Harper's evening walk, so Lee and I jump in the dinghy and head to shore. There Harper encounters her first live horse, as it comes ambling down the dirt path. No bridle and no human accompany the horse, but then I guess on a quiet little island there's no need to worry about it running away.
Harper watches the horse with interest, and respect. Then the horse snorts loudly as it passes by. Harper jumps about a foot, and then trots on nonchalantly, preserving her doggie dignity.
A little further on we come upon a doe and her fawn. They see us right away, so I stop and watch them for a bit. When we continue to walk toward them they turn and disappear from our view.
I don't think Harper ever sees them, but when we get closer she can certainly smell them. She goes into a bit of a frenzy, sniffing madly, but the deer are long gone.
The wind rocks the boat gently this night. Our last day will be a 15 mile trek back across Buzzard's Bay to Fairhaven. With the amount of wind we're getting, this should take no time at all.
Sunday, July 3, 2011
Sailing Day Four - Bicycles and Bluefish
The first difference we noted was the traffic. There are so many more cars now than there were back then. Some places we could find bike routes that made our ride much more pleasant, but some places there was no choice except to share the road. Fortunately drivers on Martha's Vineyard are used to bikes.
Saturday, July 2, 2011
Sailing Day Three
We have a long way to go today; all the way to Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard. We decide to just motor until we get through Quick's Hole, the nearest passageway between Buzzard's Bay and Vineyard Sound. We check the tide tables, because we don't want to go through the hole when the current is going against us, or when the current is with us, but going at full tilt. The median point between full ebb and flow is best. There isn't much wind, so that isn't a factor, and we're getting more confident about navigation. I know how to find our direction on the chart, and set a bearing on the compass.
We make it through the hole without incident. Once we are clear of the land it's time to raise the sails. But guess what? There's almost no wind. We end up turning on the motor and motor-sailing, because otherwise at less than 2 knots it would take us all day to reach our destination.
Past Vineyard Haven we find our destination, the tiny harbor of Oak Bluffs. We have a slip reserved here for two nights. That means shore power, showers, and a day off the boat, exploring the Vineyard. Lee and I have been here many years ago, before we were married. We took the ferry from Woods Hole and rented bikes for a day. But that was 34 years ago and things have changed. There are many more cars, people and tourist shops, it seems. Well, we're ready to be tourists instead of sailors for a day; at least I am!
Sailing Day Two
We wake up in the morning with big plans to get on our way by 10 am. Only one problem; we discover that the dinghy does not have a motor. Because we do not want to have to row to shore when we are on a mooring ball, the Boston Sailing Center has to bring us one from Boston. Oh well. Harper needs a walk, and we all need showers.
One walk and several showers later the motor finally arrives. We head back to the boat. As we are making plans for this day's adventures we discover that we can't find the life jackets. We systematically tear apart the boat, searching for them. An hour and several increasingly furious calls to the sailing center go by. We eat lunch. I'm for a sailing rebellion, where we depart life jacketless and let them figure out how to make us legal. Lee is more practical, noting that if we are stopped by the Coast Guard we are the ones that will get in trouble. Finally we find them, stuffed into the upper inner cushions in the main cabin, not a likely or appropriate place. But thankfully only a couple of hours later, we head off on our next sail.
But then, rather suddenly, the fog starts to roll in. It goes from somewhat foggy to "I can't see anything" in a manner of minutes. At first we use the navigational headings and as long as we arrive at the next buoy appropriately we're not too concerned.
But then it's time to change our heading and head toward Cuttyhunk harbor. The fog is getting worse and it's just not a good idea to continue to sail. So down come the sails and Lee starts following the gps. Thank goodness for modern technology! Lee says "we should see xyz in a moment" and then like magic, xyz appears out of the murk. We even make it through the channel and into the harbor without being able to see a thing.
It's easy to pick up a mooring ball here; they have big sticks attached to them. And it's nice; this harbor is very well protected. Lee and I take Harper in for her walk; Cuttyhunk is just as cute as can be. We enjoy a good dinner of steak tips and salad quietly floating on our mooring ball in the fog. Tomorrow we sail across Vineyard Sound to Martha's Vineyard. With two days of experience under our belt we should be ready for our next challenge. We have to watch the tides and currents to get through Quick's Hole. Wish us luck!
Sailing Day One
To get our sailboat, We drove to Fair Haven, a small port south of Boston on Buzzard's Bay. Our first task, besides loading and checking out the boat, involves educating everyone on sailing basics. Lee has taken the cruising course, and has been to most of our destinations before. I have taken the beginning sailing course, but the only experience anyone else has is lake sailing years ago with us in Missouri. Navigation in Buzzard's Bay is not really hard, but you do have to pay attention. There are lots of little islands, rocks and obstructions, and tides and currents. As soon as we feel fairly comfortable, we set out on our first sail.
We sailed to south Dartmouth, the New Bedford Yacht Club. To pick up a mooring here we have to get on the VHS radio on channel 68 and hail the yacht club. There are all kinds of things that I've never really learned to do on a boat, and using the radio is one of them. But with a little instruction I managed to hail the yacht club and request a mooring ball. For some reason this makes me fell more like a real sailor.
I'm on a boat with two excellent cooks, that are vieing with each other for what meal they can entertain us with next. We have Monk Fish and edamame and artichoke salad and roasted fingerling potatoes for our first meal. Pretty good for eating on a boat!
I take Harper for a walk before dinner. The town of South Dartmouth is just as cute as can be, and everyone seems to love Westies. Harper is so happy to see grass and go for a walk. She's happy to be on a boat, she's happy to be off a boat. We just have to watch out for seagulls. They've become her new squirrels.