Tuesday, October 30, 2012

On the Other Side of Sandy

Wow.  What a weekend.

First and foremost, I am happy to say that Claire, Amanda, and I made it through "Super Storm Sandy" just fine and dandy as we sat warm and comfy in Walt & Juli's living room in their Salem home which was built in 1795 and has survived more than its fair share of storms over the years.  As the wind whipped around outside and whistled down the chimney, we were dry and warm, well-fed and quite happy to be sitting where we were.

Watching the news this morning and seeing the devastation along the New Jersey shore, the Connecticut coastline, and the streets of New York City, I am thankful that everyone I know is safe and sound  and suffered no catastrophic losses but I know that there are a lot of folks out there whose lives will probably never be the same as they assess the damage that this super storm wreaked.

Personally I feel somewhat like we've all dodged yet another bullet and I am very grateful for that as the news reports certainly made it feel like the end of the world was coming and even though I was hoping that once again the news media would be wrong and just whipping everyone up into needless fear and frenzy, there was always the underlying fear that maybe this time they were going to be right and the sky really would be falling.

Even though forewarned is certainly forearmed, all of this "Boy Who Cried Wolf" weather-forecasting is a bit much.  Yes - we all need to be prepared; no - we all don't need to be in sheer, bloody panic. And honestly, I don't need to see some news person and camera crew standing on the coast where the waves are furiously breaking over a seawall to grasp the fact that yes, we are having a storm and yes, the tide is higher than usual and things are getting dangerous.

Watching the news yesterday until I decided I'd quite had enough, I kept wondering whatever happened to responsible journalism and why we all have to see to believe rather than be able to use common sense to understand that it's not fit outside for either man nor beast. How do we get regular folks to stay home and away from dangerous areas when news stations are telling viewers to "send us your photos of the storm" and they're seeing news reporters standing out in the weather so why can't they?

I don't know.

Nor do I know where I'm going with this particular post as it was certainly never my intention to go from saying, "Hey, we're all fine here and heading home to Connecticut shortly" to grumbling about the media's coverage of Sandy but obviously I did!  I guess I'll chalk it up to the surrealistic feelings of the last few days and the slight twinge of guilt that I feel at not having been at work to help out there though I have no doubt that my co-workers did a marvelous job in keeping the City of Norwich and surrounding areas safe.

For now I'm going to pack up the car and we're going to head home - thankful that we have an intact home to head back to, thankful that we had wonderful friends who shared their home with us during the storm, and more grateful than grumbeful no matter which direction this post took! 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Greetings From the Roof of the Hawthorne Hotel!

This weekend finds Claire and I in one of my very favorite places ever as it's the weekend of the big Halloween Ball at the Hawthorne Hotel where Claire will be doing her best Simon Cowell impression and even though there's a potentially major storm bearing down on us in the form of Hurricane (or Tropical Storm if you prefer) Sandy, Friday was an absolutely gorgeous day on the North Shore as evidenced by the following photos that were taken from the roof of the hotel.

View to the west and downtown Salem
View to the south, Hawthorne Boulevard
Essex Street and the Peabody Essex Museum 
View to the east, the Custom House and Salem Harbor
View north with Salem Common on the right
The Salem Witch Museum and the Roger Conant Statue
I'm sure that Claire enjoyed the view of Salem that most visitors to the city will never ever get that was made possible by my friend Juli - hope you enjoyed it too!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

From Boston On Beyond!

Let's see if I can do a quick catch-up on what Claire and I have been doing since she arrived in the States on Wednesday evening and I left her standing abandoned at the airport while I sat in traffic in God-knows-where-downtown Boston because in spite of the fact that I had actually gotten to the airport on time, the parking lot for the international terminal was closed and I somehow ended up driving the wrong way and couldn't get turned around.

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  Have I ever mentioned that I hate driving in Boston??

After finally making my way back to Logan, I ran into the terminal and found Claire who was looking a bit lost and then it was off to Bangor where we spent the night in a cheap but comfortable Howard Johnson's Inn before setting out the next morning to stalk Stephen King's house ... or at least take some photos like the one below, more of which you can see at The Distracted Wanderer where I actually managed to write a short post for once!

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After admiring the Mansion of the Master Macabre, we did some quick necessity shopping, grabbed lunch, and then continued east towards our next stop for several days - Lubec, Maine which is one of the most lovely little towns that I've seen in a long time and a great place to see several very cool lighthouses which - as anyone who knows me knows - I just love!

West Quoddy Lighthouse with some truly wonderful evening light to show it off in.

East Quoddy Light aka Harbour Head Light which is actually in New Brunswick on the northern end of Campobello Island where Franklin Delano Roosevelt had a lovely summer home. More to follow on all of that on The Distracted Wanderer once I've had a chance to catch up more.

As for those of you who are waiting anxiously to see a photo of Claire - anyone who knows Claire knows that she doesn't under any circumstances like to have her photo taken so don't expect to be seeing any full-on shots of her. That said, she did allow me to post the two of her below - enjoy!

Tonight we've landed in Hopewell Cape, New Brunswick where tomorrow morning bright and early we'll be setting out to explore some really cool stuff at Hopewell Rocks where we'll take a walk on the ocean floor and make sure we're safely back on land before the 42-foot tide comes back in.  Trust me, there will be photos! 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Let the Fun Begin ... In A Few Hours, More or Less!

It’s funny how something that you’ve been planning for years and years can still somehow manage to catch you a bit by surprise when the event finally arrives even though while you were in the middle of the planning, you more or less felt like the day would never arrive when that which you were planning for so long finally happened.

That’s rather been the case with Claire’s second trip to the United States; a trip that we’ve been talking about for over four years and planning quite extensively for the past year. Through a major series of emails and Facebook messages we’ve plotted with meticulous detail the what/when/where/how/why of her jump across the pond and I’ve got to say that even though we’ve got things hammered down to almost the nth degree – it’s still rather surprising to me that the day has finally come when she’ll actually be here. But it has and in just over four hours, I’ll be tossing stuff in the car in the hopes that I’ve not forgotten anything important as I set out to first pick up Claire at Boston’s Logan Airport and then we head north to Maine and further on to New Brunswick, Canada in search of the world’s highest tides at Hopewell Rocks.

Wow. How did that actually get here so fast? Well, sort of fast, but not really I guess when I look back over the past four years and all of the planning that has gone into this trip – as well as the others that we have planned while Claire is here. I get the feeling that the next six weeks are simply going to blow by and I’ll be sitting on the other end of Claire’s journey wondering “Wow, how did the time go by so quickly??”

In the meantime, though, I’m watching the clock creep ever so slowly towards the time when I can get out of work, say good-bye to my co-workers until next Wednesday, and wrap up a few small errands before loading up the Caliber, dropping Amanda off in Quincy at a friend’s for her weekend plans, and then continuing on to the international terminal at Logan to await Claire’s arrival and the start of Phase One of our big adventure.

And trust me, time is moving awfully slowly right now!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The British Are Coming! The British Are Coming! Well ... One of Them At Least!

Ever since I had the pleasure of first meeting one Miss Claire Rachel Pitt a bit over four years ago, we've been planning on her coming back over to the States for another visit.  We've talked about places to go, things to see, people to meet while tossing out one itinerary in favor of another several times over but with only two weeks before that long-awaited and much-talked-about visit actually becomes a reality, I think we have finally settled on a rather busy agenda which will pretty much fill up every moment of the six weeks that Claire will be a guest in the United States.  Six weeks packed full of activities and honestly, we could have probably easily planned out another six weeks chock full of things to do and still had more left over on our list!

So, what do we have on that oft-changed, rearranged, and busy agenda?  Read on and you'll see that I need to put vitamins on the top of the list of things I gotta pack!

October 17th - While on her side of the Atlantic Ocean Claire will arise at the crack of dawn, get herself to the airport, and travel back through time as she hurtles towards Boston at about 500 miles an hour, I'll be doing my usual work routine having hopefully gotten all of my packing done so that when quitting time comes I can run home, change clothes, toss my suitcase in the car, and head north to greet her on the other side of Customs with her requested "coffee and vodka".  Lots of coffee, a little vodka, and maybe one of those silly little signs with her name on it just to make her feel important.  Hmmm, wonder if I can find a limo driver's hat by then??

Once we've got Claire's cases tossed in the boot along with mine, I'll point the car north and set out for Bangor, Maine about 4 hours northeast of Boston.  Upon arrival we're going to check into a cheap motel that will hopefully at least be clean and comfortable, let Claire attempt to sleep off some of her jet-lag, and then head out bright and early the next morning for an early morning jaunt past the home of horror writer extraordinaire Stephen King who reportedly has some wicked cool gates that I just gotta get a photo of!  

October 18 -19th - After hopefully not being arrested as stalkers, we are then going to continue through Maine to the most northeastern town in the United States - Lubec, Maine. While there we will be staying for two nights at the lovely Peacock House, a historic bed and breakfast overlooking the Bay of Fundy!  While there we've got lots of exploring planned including a tour of the local lighthouse that has long been on my list of lighthouses to see!

October 20 -21st - Passports in hand we're going to continue heading east and cross over the Canadian border driving through New Brunswick to Hopewell Rocks - home of the world's highest tides.  During our time in Canada, we'll be guests of the Innisfree Bed and Breakfast who have promised to make sure we see all there is to see in the area - sending us out with our bellies full from a hearty breakfast first.

October 22nd - 23rd - Leaving the wilds of Canada behind, with hopefully the closest encounter with moose or bear being from a safe distance, we'll start homeward bound stopping first for a night in the area of Acadia National Park with the hopes of catching the sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain before we make our way back to Connecticut.

October 24th - 25th - Claire will hang around the house chatting with the girls and keeping Tesla company while I go to work for a few days and rest up for the next phase of our wanderings.

October 26th - 28th - Back to Massachusetts and the North Shore where Claire will get her first glimpse of my beloved Salem - right smack at the peak of the Halloween madness that is the hallmark of Salem in October.  We'll be staying at Chez Lederhaus - home of my friends Walt and Juli whom I can't wait for Claire to meet and vice versa.  On the 27th of October Claire will be doing her best Simon Cowell impression as she takes on the role of judge at the uber-cool Hawthorne Hotel Halloween Ball.  As she gets to take a guest, that will be me along with my trusty Nikon and I'm sure it will be just as much fun - if not more so - than last year's Halloween Ball.  Hopefully there won't be any snow this year but you just never know!

October 29th - November 1st - Back in Norwich, Claire has talked me into a visit to Dark Manor which is supposed to be THE #1 haunted house in Connecticut. Fortunately it's located not too far from home so in case anyone needs to change clothing before heading out to the Harp and Dragon for a pint afterward, it will be easy enough to just pop by the house! I'm sure that on Halloween night, Amanda can find something spook-tacular for Claire to do - zombie makeovers may be included!

November 2nd - November 4th - We'll be trundling southwest to Hazleton, Pennsylvania and staying at the Ramada while meeting up with one of Claire's blogging buddies from Pittsburgh as well as Lisa and her Macs (both big and little!), whom I have already had the pleasure of meeting up once a few years back - of course, that was pre-Little Mac! I believe a coal mine tour and a tour of America's oldest operating brewery are on the current agenda while there, as well as meeting up with Mod Betty from Retro Roadmap who is going to point us in the direction of some of the true Americana that Claire craves!

November 5th -10th - Back in Connecticut for a breather while I'm once again off to work and Claire keeps the home fires burning as she prepares some Doodologist-type things which she'll be attempting to peddle at a craft fair in Rhode Island being held at the Scottish Rite Masonic Lodge in Cranston from 10am to 3pm on November 10th.  We've rented a table at the annual event sponsored by the Rhode Island Chapter of the National MS Society and I'm sure as long as we have Claire do all the talking and mention that the crafts are from England, she'll sell out completely!

November 11th - Off for tea and luncheon at Mrs Bridges' Pantry in South Woodstock with Princess Patricia of Ansonia in the Valley and my friend Paula who is an amazing art teacher and occasional distracted sidekick joining us. Mrs. Bridges is an authentic British tea room but we won't know exactly how authentic until Claire gives it her authentic British seal of approval! I anticipate a jolly good time though I still think we should consider wearing proper hats!

November 12 -14th - A little more hanging around in Norwich while I work and Claire possibly meets up with another blogging chum of hers from nearby New London.

November 15th - 19th - Back up to Salem and the lovely Hawthorne Hotel for five awesome nights with lots of wandering planned so that I can show Claire exactly why I love the North Shore as much as I do.  Depending on if we can fit it into the schedule, we might even get down to Plimouth Plantation for a visit with the Pilgrims if our timing works out and we don't get distracted visiting too many retro-diners and sampling pie and coffee while Claire checks out one lunch counter after another and drops the occasional quarter in a jukebox. Diners, drive-ins, and dives are definitely on her list of "must-sees"!

November 20th - 25th - Off to the lovely Sunset Hill House located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire for five nights of ...  free! As Claire says, "Who says social media doesn't get you lovely things?"  Again lots of things penciled in, but nothing concrete other than helping them to decorate for Christmas and being able to take advantage of all the wonderful hospitality of the innkeepers and their staff as we take on the role of "embedded Facebookers".  Make sure you like their page, Sunset Hill House on Facebook, as we'll be live-blogging on both their page and ours during the time that we are there.

November 25th - 26th - Before heading home to Connecticut we'll be spending one night in a place that has been on my bucket list for a very long time, the beautiful Omni Mount Washington Resort which is a member of Historic Hotels of America as it has a truly impressive history - one that Claire and I will be learning all about on our private tour of the resort on Monday morning.  As excited as I am about everything else - and trust me, I am! - I am really looking forward to our one night in Bretton Woods as it will be the perfect way to end our whirlwind touring of the northeast.

We'll be arriving back in Connecticut probably late in the day/evening on the 26th with just enough time for me to catch a few hours sleep before it's back to work for me and a couple days rest for Claire before I have to take her back up to Boston and Logan Airport on the 29th so that she can climb on a plane and jet back to jolly old England. Provided she manages to get back through Customs of course!

Like I said, Claire's going to be here just about six weeks and I've got no doubt that the time will fly but hopefully not so fast that we don't get a chance to enjoy all of the things that we've got planned.  And yes, we do have a lot but you should see the list of things we had to shelve for another time! Yikes!

Hopefully Claire won't wait another four years before she gets back here so we can start work on that next list but in the meantime, I also want to start working on my own list of things I want to see in England as it's my sincere hope to get over there before Claire gets back over here.  Provided she doesn't like it so much that she finds a job and moves over permanently!  If that happens, we'll be making even more lists!