The Sabra got her travel documents yesterday. That means we have cleared yet another hurdle in this arduous Green Card process. This is good news; she is now free to move about the world, and she is already talking about going back to the Holy Land for about a month (this, too, is good, as I will go for 2 weeks to visit--I could use a vacation and a good fixin' of Shawarma!).
We're thinking sometime in November, but I have a launch then, so I'm not sure how that will play out.
Now we are waiting for the temporary work permit (which will be temporary for 2 years...then we will have a second interview and it will be permanent). We are also waiting for the first interview.
So, we wait. But in the meantime, thanks to ICE for not forgetting about us.
I was, again, stuck in Florida with a shuttle that wouldn’t launch. So, again, after several days, the Sabra decided to come down and join me. And, again, she proved to be the good-luck charm we needed, and that little Shuttle launched.
Since she was in FL anyway, we decided to take a vacation, and we stayed in Orlando for a week. It was nice; we went to Disney World, which was pretty fun. We only had one day there, so we just went to Magic Kingdom. Then we spent the next morning listing to the benefits of buying a timeshare. We were strong and didn’t buy, but we DID get a free breakfast and 2 one-day passes to both Universal Orlando parks, so I guess we did OK.
I started back at work this morning, and I noticed that even though schools are all officially back in session, the Metro was surprisingly empty. Then I got off the train at Gallery Place/Chinatown to transfer. As I walked down the platform, there was a mass onrush of people walking the opposite direction. Someone had opened the floodgates and people were pouring out and over the walkway. It occurred to me that this is exactly how salmon feel as they fight their way up against the currents of the raging rivers of the Pacific Northwest. Where once I felt like drone in the subway, today, I better appreciated the plight of the salmon. Unfortunately for me, I did not spawn at the end of this river of people; however, fortunately, I did not die as do the fierce salmon who make the difficult trek to perpetuate their species.
I merely went to work.
I recently received an email from LtL. He decided that he needed a respite from the hustle and bustle for New York City; he needed to rejuvenate, renegotiate, and recreate himself. Like cars, we all need to pull off the freeway of life and refuel once in a while. Many of us have a special place where we can sit and let our batteries recharge (or refill the tank if you’d prefer I didn’t mix a metaphor—unless you have a hybrid). For some it’s going back to their childhood home, or a grandparent’s house. For others it’s communing with nature by hiking and camping. I prefer to go to London or Jerusalem. There is something about those two cities that I really like. A nice vacation in either city will allow me to come home and be able to deal with all the bullshit that is my daily life.
This is not so for LtL. He has decided that in order to fulfill his calling he must leave NYC, break up with his partner of a number of years, sell what he has, quite his job, and drive ½ way across the country to a state and city he’s never been to. His special refilling place is the American Southwest, and the desert. As such, he has decided to head out to New Mexico with no job prospects, no housing, not even any friends.
I think it’s insane. He’s not getting any younger, and still he’s willing to quit his job and seek out a new one with no prospects. I continued to think of all the things I’d say to him when we talked about this decision…like that I thought he was absolutely crazy and it was pretty much one of the dumbest things he’d come up with yet.
Then, in one of those rare moments of introspection that I have, I realized 2 things: 1) I still thought that he was absolutely insane for doing this, and 2) the only reason I was planning on being so disparaging was that I was in fact jealous. I wasn’t jealous of his decision to go to New Mexico in the hopes of working at Spaceport America, but rather, I was jealous of LtL’s courage. I know that he isn’t the type to make rash decisions, and if he did in fact decide to do this, then a lot of thought went into it. I was jealous that I’m not as brave or adventurous as I’d like to be. Every night I lay in bed with the Sabra, and we talk about moving to San Francisco or Boston or Jerusalem or Tel Aviv or London, and every morning when the alarm goes off, we both get out of bed and trudge back to jobs we hate.
But not LtL. He put is money where is mouth is, as the saying says, and got off his ass and did something about his unhappiness. Do I still think he’s crazy? Yep. But I also think that whether he finds what he’s looking for or not, he will be happier for having tried it. I wish him well. I support him to the fullest I can. I hope that his courage and conviction will inspire me to do more of what I want to do than my comfort level will allow.
His journey reminds of a great line from an otherwise mediocre song:
Somebody once asked could I spare some change for gas
I need to get myself away from this place
I said yep what a concept
I could use a little fuel myself
And we could all use a little change
-- Smash Mouth
So the weekend went pretty well.
I took Friday off, and lounged around, cleaned a little, packed a little, and finally made my way to West Falls Church-VT/UVA Metro station. I hung out there doing a crossword for about ½ hour to 45 minutes before the Sabra arrived (she couldn’t get time off work). We boarded the Washington Flyer and headed to Dulles International Airport. All went smoothly until we got to security. Now, I have flown a lot in my life, and I’ve very rarely been searched; in fact, I am pretty sure that I do not fit any of the current profiles. On the other hand, there is the Sabra. True, her accent is Hebrew and not Arabic, but do you really think the Haitian, Dominican, or Ecuadorian TSA agent really knows the difference betwixt Hebrew and Arabic accents? I don’t think so. So, as you have guessed, the foreigner with the Middle Eastern accent was able to walk right on through without any problems.
So, yes, I—who is, I might add, 100% pure-blooded American—get stopped at security, and they require a baggage check of me. I expect that they are going to pull out my backpack, which was loaded with all kinds of electronic equipment, any of which could have been pieces of some unconventional weapon. But no, my computer, camera, lenses, cables, iPod, headphones, cell phone, blackberry, electric razor, adapters are all OK. What are these brainiacs who are protecting American skyways looking for in my bags? What weapon of mass destruction did they want to confiscate? Would you believe it wasn’t anything electronic, nor sharp, not even anything ticking. No, it was in fact my nearly empty tube of Crest. Admittedly, it WAS the new Pro-Health kind. They also took my nearly empty tube of shaving gel.
So, as I’m retying my shoes, and putting my tighty-whities and socks back into the suitcase, I was free to go and ponder this recent event. The first thing I thought was that if I actually knew how to take a plane down with nothing but an almost empty tube of toothpaste and an equally almost empty tube of shaving gel, I’d probably be a very wealthy man. Instead, I was in reality nothing more than an embarrassed average joe. Oh well.
We finally made it through security, found our gate, and just had time to get an Auntie Anne’s pretzel. Our plane was a little delayed and moved to a different gate (one down) because of some problem with a flight completely unrelated to ours. Once we get onboard, we sit down, and meet a very nice guy who was on the last leg of his journey. He had been flying for 20something hours from Singapore. One row ahead and on the starboard side (we were on the port side) was a screaming baby. I was ready to kill, but the Sabra kept calming me down. We finally roll out to the tarmac and get in line to take off when we learn that there are major delay due to electrical storms somewhere over New York. We ended up sitting on the tarmac for over 2 hours. The pilot came on and said that they were considering returning to the gate, but then we would lose our place in line. Before he could make up his mind, we got the all clear, and off we went into the wild blue yonder. It really wasn’t so bad, we ended up getting in around 7 instead of 5.
The Little Sabra’s brother and sister-in-law met us at the airport, and off we went to dinner. As we drove from the airport to the restaurant, I got the rather entertaining tour of the town. Beside the fact that it was dark and I couldn’t see anything, I’m not so sure they really had their bearings, the Bro would say look to your left, and the sis-in-law would say no, that’s further down, and the Sabra would say “are you sure we didn’t just pass it?” Like I said, very entertaining. If they weren’t pointing out landmarks, we were all chatting and getting to know each other. They seem like fun people, and we spent most of the ride laughing.
Dinner was at a frou-frou Indian restaurant. I had, of course, a biryani. It was quite delish. Believe it or not, I couldn’t finish it. The Sabra also had biryani, but her’s was vegetarian (of course). We got doggie bags. After dinner, we walked over to an ice cream shop, but only the sis-in-law got anything. So, back into the car. I was offered a quick driving tour of town, and as I’ve never been to Beantown, I took them up on their offer. We drove past Cheers, and Boston Common, and over the Charles River, and other places until we finally got to the hotel. It was way late, and we went to bed.
Saturday morning, we got up, ate breakfast, and walked. We walked all over town. From Beacon Hill to Little Italy, and then over to some water and into a produce market (a la Machnay Yehuda in Jerusalem), and back to the hotel. I honestly have no idea where all we went, but there are pics on the Photoblog. We were out and about all day. It was so nice to be a tourist. We met some interesting people, some not so friendly people, and some just odd people.
We eventually made it back to the hotel, where we refreshed and met her kinfolk again for dinner. We went again to a frou-frou place, this time for sushi. I think we all really liked the restaurant: it had great atmosphere, the service was good, and the food came out in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, as is the case in the more expensive restaurants, it was rather over priced, and the portions were very small. Nevertheless, as I said, it was quite tasty, and I think we all enjoyed what we ordered. From the restaurant, we drove back to her sibling's apartment, left the car, and headed into their neighborhood, and proceed to drink. We were all pretty toasted, and the Sabra and I got a cab and headed back to the hotel to go to sleep.
Sunday arrived, and we set out for the retirement party that originally brought us to Boston in the first place. We took the T from the hotel to her brother’s apartment, and that was cool because I love subways. There was construction on the track, so we had to get off and get on a bus and get back on the trolley. We got back on the trolley at the wrong station and the guy tried to make us pay again. We didn’t. We finally got to her brother’s and we all set out to find the place where the event was. That, too, was a drama as he and his wife had no idea where we were headed, and we got sort of lost (sort of because they still basically knew where we were going).
So, once we got to the event, it was quite nice. Even though I didn’t know anyone, it was still pretty emotional. It wasn’t hard to see that at least 200 people showed up to wish this woman good-bye. She apparently built the organization and ran it for 15 years. The program was pretty good. Most of the people who spoke were entertaining. Her replacement spoke, and it truly boggled my mind that someone so bad at public speaking could be the one selected to take the reins. I don’t mean to imply that he was inarticulate; quite the contrary in fact, he seemed sharp as a tack, but he was clearly not comfortable speaking in front of that many people. They showed a video that someone had put together. I think if I knew even 1 person in the video it would have been good, but since I didn’t, I watched with a more technical eye, and could see that it was entirely too long. I understand that these projects are made with emotions running high, but even the folks who know everyone in the video were getting bored because it was running a tad too long.
We walked around a bit talking to some fascinating people. There was one professor who was married to another woman and their daughter seems to have some personal problems (imagine, with 2 professor, hippy, wacky moms, I’d be shocked if she DIDN’T have problems). There was another woman who was excited to tell us that she had taken her wife’s name. Then there was the woman who lives down the street from the Sabra, tried for the Sabra’s job, and runs a business not unlike one of my ideas. These were truly interesting characters, and I think someone like LtL could have found a mother lode of material for his writing.
We finally said our last good-byes and headed to the airport. We were running late, and time was of the essence. So, naturally, we hit mad, mad traffic. The long and short of it is that we missed our flight home, and after much debate, we decided that it was worth paying an extra $100 each and getting home Sunday night instead of getting a hotel and being back at that airport by 5 am on Monday.
We flew into Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport around 7 that night and were back at my apartment before 9. Even with the strip search and delay and screaming kid and traffic, I had a great time meeting her brother and sister-in-law and seeing Boston and riding on the T and taking pictures. All in all, it was a fun weekend, and I do hope that we do more of these weekend excursions.
Last week, RC and I went on vacation…WHOOOOT VACATION!! This year, we went north again, but actually ventured out of the country this time round.
Friday, July 21, 2006
RC flew in late in the evening. I was actually impressed because Southwest was on time for a change, and I thought that we would be home at a reasonable hour. (She usually comes in on the flight that gets in around 11:30 in the evening, but said airline doesn’t seem to ever actually land until after midnight.) I knew that it was too good to be true, and sure enough, the conveyor belt that the luggage comes in on decided it had had enough and quit. So, while Southwest finally cooperated, the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport didn’t. We got home late, went to bed late, and of course…
Saturday, July 22, 2006
woke up late.
RC told me (not suggested, not implied, not recommended—TOLD ME) to call Budget and let them know that we were running late. “No, it’ll be fine,” quoth Jo Cose. “OK, but you really should call,” saith RC. So, right, moving right along, we get to Budget 2 hours late, and of course the car is gone, and RC is kind enough not to say “I told you so,” which, I kept telling her that she should say.
We decide to get breakfast and head over to Silver Spring. We went to Caribou Coffee, where RC got a bagel and coffee. I stayed in the car and called Budget to see what they could do to help me. Well, it turned out that there were still cars available at their store at BWI. Since RC has AAA, we got a bit of a discount.
We had some time to kill, as I told the woman on the phone that we would be picking up the car at 2 pm (so there would be no reason that we would miss the time). We headed back to my apartment, played on my computer for a bit, and then we finally headed up to BWI to get the car: a Ford Fusion. RC told me that we should follow the signs to the car rental return. No, I insisted, we need to go the terminal first to do the paperwork. We walked the entire length of the concourse and didn’t find the rental offices (you see, once upon a time, they were all in a row on the luggage claim level). So, I asked someone and discovered that we needed to take a shuttle over to another building, which incidentally, was the same place that you return the cars. Once again, RC had the perfect opportunity to throw a big ole “I told you so” into my face, but again she held back. RC drove the rental and I drove my car over to the ’rents’ apartment, where we dropped off my car (as a side note, I’d like to mention that the ’rents were kind enough to get my tire fixed [there was a nail in it] and rotated while I was away—kudos to them). Since we were there, and RC was once again hungry, I invited the ’rents to join us for lunch. They met us at Noodles & Company in Pikesville. They didn’t eat, but wanted to spend time with us.
We finally got on the road around 4 pm. Not too far off the mark as we were planning to leave around 9 am. Everything was going well until I made the mistake of letting RC drive. Now, please don’t misunderstand. I love her dearly, and very honestly, I admit that she is a very good driver; however, she apparently doesn’t do too well at toll plazas. We were in the middle of the plaza heading for the tollbooth when she decided that she wanted to be at the far right of the plaza. So, without warning, she decides to cross multiple lanes for traffic. All I remember is us being pretty much perpendicular with traffic and a big-ole pickup heading straight for us. I was screaming “BRAKE!!” as loud as I could. We survived just fine.
We drove and drove and drove and drove some more. We stopped at many a rest area where we could consult large maps on the wall that told us how far we’d traveled and how far we had to go. Finally, around 11 pm, I couldn’t take it any more, and we pulled off the road and got a room at the Comfort Inn & Suites. The room kind of smelled a little funky, but it was cheap, and breakfast was included.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
We were up early and partook in the aforementioned free breakfast. I played on my computer trying to get a bunch of MP3s onto a disc so we could listen to them in the car. I wasted a lot of time, but whatever…we were on vacation.
We got back on the road heading north. We stopped in Lake George, NY. It’s really lovely there, and we had thought about either going parasailing or taking a boat ride, but in the end, we just walked around town. RC had to get coffee, and then she had her fortune read in an arcade. It started to drizzle, but that didn’t stop us. We walked down to the water and found a restaurant to have lunch: King Neptune Pub. We sat on the patio, which afforded a beautiful view of docked boats, the lake, and the mountains on the far shore. We heard the tour boat’s horn blast as she came back to her berth. The sun had returned, and it was perfect…if only the food was as good. RC got a Reuben, and I got a ham and cheese. Sadly, our meals were mediocre at best. While our waitress (server, sorry, didn’t mean to be politically incorrect) was friendly and acknowledged the delay, we sat for a ridiculously long time waiting for our sandwiches to come. In fact, I had to go and feed the meter before we were fed because we were concerned that it would expire before the meal came.
Once we paid the bill and left the restaurant, we walked around some more of the shops. I got a sample of birthday cake ice cream. It was AWESOME—real icing, real birthday cake (and the white kind, not yellow!). RC wanted a caramel apple, but they didn’t have any. So, she decided to get a candy apple instead, even though this was not what she wanted. Needless to say, she took one bite and decided that she didn’t really want it.
Next we walked up the hill to the Fort William Henry Resort. We just sat there for a few minutes taking in the view of the lake. I tried to take a picture of the two of us with the self-timer on the camera, but I’m not sure if turned out or not.
We finally got back in the car and headed north.
After another eternity behind the wheel, we finally got to the American-Canadian border. We were very lucky that the young lady who processed us at the border was quite attractive, and she had that sexy French-Canadian accent that we would hear time and time again during our stay. She started out asking questions as all immigration officers do, and in usual fashion, RC took over and answered them before I could. Now, I know that when RC reads this post, she will be annoyed with me for saying this, but the truth is that it was humorous, and I had absolutely no problem with it. The only caveat to that is that the immigration chick didn’t stamp my passport, and since RC was running the show, I didn’t get a chance to rectify this…c’est la vie.
We’re finally in Canada, and they are very nice there: there were several signs reminding me that the speed limit signs were in kilometers per hour and not miles per hour. With little warning, we crossed the bridge and were in downtown Montréal. With less effort than I expected, we found our hotel, the Hotel Omni Mont-Royal. It was way swank, and RC loved it. I think she was sadder to leave the hotel than to end vacation…but I’m getting ahead of myself. We pull in and begin to remove our luggage. The doorman practically grabbed my suitcase out of my hand. Now, RC and I are in agreement that we don’t like others touching our luggage, and we are completely capable of taking our own cases to our room. I said to the guy, “it’s no problem, really.” He put the cases on the trolley and said, “Now it’s less of a problem.” Of course, by the time the baggage arrived in our room, they knew who I was, and called me “Mr. Cose.” This greatly impressed RC.
Once we settled in, we decided to go out and walk around to get our bearings (well, OK, so I could get my bearings anyway). We walked down to Rue Sainte-Catherine where all the nudie clubs are, and found our way to Rue Crescent, where all the restaurants are. We settled for Allo Inde and it was a damn good choice (NOTE: The website says that they are on Rue Stanley, but it was actually on Rue Crescent—1437 to be exact). We went with a prix fixe menu for 2, and when it came, I was a little concerned because it looked like there was very little there. In fact, we couldn’t eat it all. I made a poor choice with the wine (but in my defense, I know fuckall about wine), but the meal was great.
We headed back to the hotel and had a nightcap at the hotel bar, Le Petit Opus Café Bar. We were the only ones in the bar, and after bringing our drinks (a piña colada for RC and a G&T for me), the bartender came over to make sure the piña colada was OK—he’d never made one before. After our drinks, we called it a night.
Monday, July 24, 2006
We were up once again bright and early. Because I was with RC, we of course began the day in typical fashion: at Second Cup. I swear, it’s like she can smell out a coffee shop from a mile away. We spent a good deal of time getting her coffee at what seemed like every Second Cup in Montréal. Oh, we also got an awesome blueberry muffin there (the last one in fact!).
RC loves to buy and read travel books, so she had her Frommer's Montréal & Quebec City 2006 with her. Chapter 8, “Montréal Strolls,” has 4 walking tours. We did “Walking Tour 2: Downtown” today. It was pretty fun. We walked all over the downtown area and saw a bunch of cool looking buildings. As the tour took us back to Rue Crescent, we popped into Thursday’s for some food (OK, another NOTE: I just checked the receipt to make sure that this joint was on Rue Crescent [yea, I’m that much of a geek] and it says that it’s located at 1430 Rue de la Montagne…I give up on trying to figure out the addresses in this damn town). I got le croquet-monsieur (a toasted ham and cheese sandwich), and RC got la baguette au jambon et brie (a ham and brie on a French baguette). They were pretty good, but mine was loaded with toasted butter. I’m not sure how to explain how this is different from toast with butter, but it is. This type of bread usually upsets my stomach, so RC was kind enough to trade ½ her sandwich for ½ of mine.
We headed back to the hotel after finishing the walking tour. RC wanted to play in the pool, so she headed down to the pool while I worked on my crossword for a bit (yes, that’s a euphemism, but I’ll leave it to you to figure out). She was so excited at the pool because they asked her for her room and name. She gave them the room and said she was Mrs. Cose. I’m not really sure why she was excited about this, especially given the fact that she doesn’t want to change her name when she gets married. I joined her at the pool, and no one asked me for my name or room number…hmmmm. We played in the pool for a while. There was a young, overweight child in the lane next to us who kept yelling, “Daddy, Daddy, watch me” or “Daddy, Daddy, time how long I can hold my breath.” RC, in her usual way, pondered what it was about pools that makes kids beg their parents to watch them do things.
Once we were bored with the pool, we headed upstairs, showered, and dressed for dinner. We walked down Rue Sherbrooke O to Boul Saint-Laurent. We walked up Boul Saint-Laurent to Rue Prince-Arthur, a pedestrian walk (at least the direction we went) that was lined with restaurants. As usual, we couldn’t make up our minds and ended up walking back down Boul Saint-Laurent to a quaint place named Restaurant Cafétéria. I got a filet mignon that was awesome, and RC got some kind of pasta (imagine). She got a sour apple-tini, and I got a gin and tonic. We sat at a table that was against an open window, so we had the breeze, got to see the people walk by, and I was asked for money by a bum. RC really liked the restaurant because the waiter was cute…whatever.
After dinner, we walked back to the hotel. We stopped at a candy store for RC to ogle the merchandise. The proprietor wouldn’t let us leave until we tasted his gelato. It was worth it! When we finally got back to the hotel, we went to bed.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
For some reason, I was in a particularly good mood this morning, and I walked down to Second Cup and got RC coffee. This is an even nicer effort on my part when I inform you that I try very hard to get RC to quit her caffeine habit. When I got back to the hotel, she was almost ready. We walked down to Boul De Maisonneuve and had breakfast at Eggspectation. While I would normally complain since there is one right down the street from my apartment, I have come to discover that they originate in Canada, so it’s OK.
After breakfast, we walked down Rue Sherbrooke to Boul Saint-Laurent and headed over to the Old City. We walked through Chinatown (what they call Quartier Chinois). At this point, we began “Walking Tour 1: Vieux-Montréal.” We walked past La basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal and down to the water, but it was hot, and RC doesn’t do so well in hot. So, we decided to bugger off on the tour and just sort of walked a bit on our own. We were getting hungry, so we found a nice place to get out of the heat: Le Pierrot Express. It had a water fountain in it. We didn’t sit near the fountain, but it was still cool. We sat upstairs, outside overlooking Rue De La Commune and the water. We both got wraps, and had a good time eavesdropping on the folks next to us. It was an older man and woman (I would guess a couple) and two early teen-aged boys. From the way they were talking, it didn’t appear that they were the kids—it was rather odd, but fun to listen in on.
After lunch, we walked down to the water to see about a boat ride. I was a little disappointed to learn that the boats were the same design that one finds on the Seine. That is, they are glass enclosed; so basically, you are sitting inside. I wanted to be on a real boat and feel the breeze and smell the water. Also, it looked like rain, so we decided that the boat ride wouldn’t be worth it. We walked over to the Centre des Sciences de Montréal and had our picture taken. They have digital cameras mounted to the side of the building and Xs on the ground where you should stand. For CAN$2, you can get your picture taken and download it from their website a few days later. That’s pretty cool. RC is always complaining that she doesn’t have any pictures of me without my sunglasses on, so now she does.
From there we walked up to Place Jacques-Cartier. RC’s Spidey senses started tingling, and she sussed out the Ben & Jerry’s. Fortunately, she came to her senses in the nick of time and realized that she would be better off to get something a little less American. So, we went next door and got a crêpe with a scoop of pistachio gelato inside and French vanilla on top. The vanilla was good; I don’t think RC really liked it, but since she put that nasty pistachio in it, I couldn’t finish it for her.
I’m not sure the sequence of events, but at some point, we ended up, once again, in a coffee shop, and RC got some kind of chocolate croissant. I didn’t want to, but I broke down and got some gelato.
On our way back to the hotel, it started to rain, so we ducked into the Place-des-Arts Metro Station. Now, I’m all for taking the Metro (in fact, I have a small obsession with subways and metros, particularly the London Underground, but that’s a different story), but what lay before us was something out of a fantasy. If you like shopping malls, you will have an orgasmic rush of excitement when you experience La ville souterraine. Now, I love malls almost as much as I love metros, and I was like a kid in a candy shop. We walked from the Old City to right near our hotel completely out of the rain. It was awesome! Unfortunately, we only stopped when RC wanted to (which means we stopped at a coffee shop so she could get coffee—but I got a Clearly Canadian Blackberry so I was happy.
When we got back to the hotel, we called a restaurant that a friend of mine recommended and got reservations at Laloux. This time, we drove to the restaurant. I had printed out directions from Mapquest, and of course they were out of date. There was construction, and the major road we needed was closed. But, we made it there just fine. In the end, it was not far from where we had walked the day before, so we could have easily walked it again, but that’s just how it goes when you’re in another country.
RC liked it better than I did, but it wasn’t bad. We started out with some kind of fusion egg roll. It wasn’t bad, but it was ridiculously expensive for the size; two small pieces came on a small platter. They were really good, but we could have stood for a few more. We each got a glass of the house wine: me red, her white. For our entrees, RC got the filet mignon, and I settled for some kind of chicken. I didn’t realize it was going to be full of sauce (tasty sauce mind you, but lots of it nonetheless), and my chicken was somewhat dry. RC got dessert (of course) and coffee (of course). After hearing about all the cheeses they had for dessert, she settled for crème brûlée. She had ordered a café au lait, but a little teeny, tiny cup showed up. As this was coffee, she was content to drink the espresso. When the waiter realized the mistake (about ½ way through that teeny, tiny cup), he brought the café au lait over and exchanged it for the espresso. Obviously, RC was flying high for quite some time. So, we did the only thing one should do when they are doped up on caffeine: we went gambling.
We drove back to the hotel and got a cab out to the Casino de Montréal. There were lots of flashing lights, lots of people, and lots of noise. The highly caffeinated RC was like a playful kitten; she didn’t know where to look first and everything caught her attention. We played the slots for a while, and then we headed upstairs where there was this big ole horseracing track in the middle of the room. Upon the track were miniature horses and jockeys. On the wall was a monitor that played animation of the race. You bet on the horses you think will win. It was kind of hokey, but all the tables were full. The young woman next to us I think was getting annoyed at our jabber: “how does this work?”, “What’s this button for?”, “Where do I put the money?” Then on our 3rd race, we won about CAN$2. I’m sure she wasn’t happy about that, but then again, she seemed to have been doing all right.
We got a cab back to the hotel, and enjoyed the ride as we got to go over a bridge and see Montréal at night. It has a great nighttime skyline.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
We were again up and out early. We headed over to get RC a little hair of the dog that bit her the previous night. So, we went to her favorite spot in Montréal: Second Cup. After that, we embarked on “Walking Tour 4: Mount-Royal.” Now, if you are reading this entry, then you know me well enough to know that I’m not much of an outdoorsy kind of guy. But, I have to admit that I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. We quickly ditched the walking tour because the trails were not clearly labeled nor was the tour in the book. Nevertheless, we made it to the top and got a majestic view of Montréal. I took some pics, so once I’ve processed them, we’ll see if they turned out. We got an Asian tourist to take our picture, but she got scared because she held the shutter release down too long, and the camera is set for continuous shots if you hold the button down. It was pretty funny—not that we could understand what she was saying to her companion. We went into the pavilion and got drinks and a snack before venturing back down the hill.
On the way down, we paused at the little lake and walked around that. Then, even though we were following the signs, we seem to have taken a wrong turn and ended up further over than where we started. Of course, it was even hotter in the baking sun than it was on the shaded trails, so RC wasn’t doing too well. Fortunately, I have a very keen sense of direction, and I was able to get us back on track, but not before making her walk in the sun much longer than her melanin-challenged skin should be exposed to the sun. We paused along the way on someone’s stoop in the shade, and she was good to go.
To escape the oppressive heat, we ducked into the Underground City to have lunch. Even though we had no idea how we actually made it from the Old City to the Hotel, somehow, today, when we randomly entered the Underground City to have lunch, we ended up at the same café that we had stopped for coffee the other day.
After lunch, we went back to the hotel to freshen up, but were soon off again. We walked down Rue University to Rue Saint-Jacques and headed over to the Old City. We went directly to the Pavillon Jacques-Cartier to get tickets for the ghost tour. After we bought the tickets, we headed out to get some dinner. We popped into the café St. Paul, which coincidently was on Rue Saint-Paul. RC ordered a burger avec fromage, and I got a smoked meat sandwich, apparently a delicacy in Montréal.
After dinner, we headed back to the Pavillon Jacques-Cartier to meet up with the tour. While we were waiting, we decided that it would be prudent to get money so we could get a cab after the walk. I left RC in the shade and ventured off to find an ATM. Since all the ones I found were the independently operated ones that you see in stores, none would accept an international bankcard. I met a very nice American couple along the way. They were at 3 of the 4 ATMs I tried; they were having the same problem. I went back to see how RC was doing, and she decided that she wanted an ice cream from one of the local vendors…we bought one for CAN$4. With still more time to kill, we walked along the promenade and watched all the street performers sing, dance and do whatever else they were doing as they tried to separate passers-by from their money.
Finally, the tour began. There were two guides who broke the group up into the tour in English and the one en Français. Our guide was dressed as the long deceased wife of a British general stationed in Montréal. I think that without the wig or make-up, she may have been cute, but it was hard to say. She was a little creepy, though, in that she was without shoes. How she was able to walk that far over cobblestone, grass, concrete, and the occasional manure is beyond me. I think I liked the walk more than RC did, but we were in agreement that it was relatively hard to hear the guide. Also, while she was good and animated, she was clearly French-Canadian, and her accent coupled with her attempt at a cockney accent didn’t help. We had a few rather obnoxious children, but kudos to their parents for doing something about it.
After the tour, we headed, once again, back to Pavillon Jacques-Cartier to enjoy the fireworks. Apparently, there was some international competition going on, so we watched that. I was amazed that the show lasted over ½ an hour. I wish I had brought my camera and tripod. But then again, I would have had to shlep them, so when I think about that part, I don’t really regret it too much.
On the way back to the hotel, we found a bank. I got money and we headed for the nearest cab. The guy took us to the wrong hotel, but since it was around the corner, we didn’t think he was really trying to rip us off.
After all that walking in the heat, we were beat and went straight to bed.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
If you guessed that we were up early again today, you’d be right. But this time it wasn’t for good reasons: we had to pack.
Before leaving, we still had one more thing to do: get bagels that are apparently unique to Montréal. We walked over to get them, and they turned out to be pretty good. On the way back, we stopped in a pastry, and RC got her pain au chocolat that she had been looking for the whole time. We went back to the hotel to finish packing and check out. She finished her bread before we left the room. Apparently, she took a small bite to taste it, and the next thing she knew it was all gone.
We checked out and got on the road heading south. It was pretty easy going until we got to the border. Not that it was bad there, but it was about a ½ hour wait until we finally got to the immigration officer. After looking at our passports, asking if we had anything to declare, and checking our trunk, he welcomed us home and wished us a safe journey.
As far as I can tell, Waterbury, VT is really only famous for 1 thing: the Ben & Jerry’s Factory is located there. We stopped and took the tour. It was absolutely amazing to me how many people were there. At the end of the tour, we got free samples of Apple Pie ice cream. We started to stand in line to get full scoops, but it was long, slow, and disgustingly hot. So, after the tour, and after seeing the Flavor Graveyard, we again hit the road.
We drove and drove and drove and drove some more. Since we were doing this side of the trip during the day, it was much prettier than when we drove up through New York (which is pretty as well when you can see it). RC liked all the mountains and trees. Finally, somewhere in Massachusetts, we stopped for dinner at an Uno Chicago Grill. Once sated, we drove a little longer. I felt that we shouldn’t drive into the middle of the night and get a room, only to sleep for a few hours. So, when we got to Connecticut, we stopped at a Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell, CT. On our way up to the room, RC noticed some errors in the sign for coffee in the elevator. I took a pic of it for the GrammarBlog.
We went to the bar for nightcaps. RC had a martini, and I had a gin and tonic. She was pretty drunk…it was quite entertaining and fun.
Friday, July 28, 2006
Friday was pretty quiet. We returned the car (now that we knew where we were going), and headed back to my apartment. We got biryani from Tiffin, a great Indian restaurant near my apartment. We watched TV, ate our rice, and went to bed.
Saturday, July 29, 2006
Finally, we slept a little late. RC wanted to go to Annapolis, but somehow or another, we ended up going over the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial (Bay) Bridge (or just Bay Bridge, as we affectionately call here in Merlind). We were going to go over and come straight back, but the traffic was insane going the other way, so we kept driving east. We finally ended up in St. Michaels, so we got out and walked around. We ate lunch at some dive diner called Chesapeake Cove Restaurant. RC got a cream of crab soup and a BLT (but turned it into a BL), and I was set to get the cheese steak, but our waitress (and she was definitely a waitress, as were all the chicks working there—but more of that anon) talked me into getting the lump crab omelet. The crabmeat was good, but the omelet was only so-so.
After lunch, we walked a bit more: through some shops and down to the water. RC got lemonade from some kids that were selling it on the street. The little girl started to cry because she drank out of the cup instead of giving it to RC. The one little boy took over her job as her mother picked her up and started holding her. The other little boy was dressed as a mage (not my word—that was what the sign said “get lemonade from a mage” or something similar). RC asked him to do a magic trick. He had good form for the first part, but still needed practice for the second part.
Our drive back was a piece of cake; there was no traffic at all.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
We’ve already started talking about the next vacation, so stay tuned. I’m hoping for Europe, but we’ll see.
It’s official. RC and I finally decided definitively where we’re headed for vacation this summer: Montréal, Québec. She is flying out on the 21st, and we are renting a car and heading up on the 22nd. We actually booked the room last night, as well as reserving the car. So, it’s for real! I can’t wait for vacation. The only thing is that I will have to come back at the end of it. Oh, well. C’est la vie.
For those paying attention, you will notice that I have not posted anything about RC's and my trip to New England last month.
Well, I have been working on the entry for ages, and I finally finished it and now it’s posted in the right place, so please check out A long deserved vacation to read all about our adventures in New England.
We flew out of BWI Sunday (June 5) morning on Southwest Airlines and landed at Manchester Airport in New Hampshire around noon. We went to the Enterprise counter and picked up our rental, a Mazda 3. It’s not the most expensive car they make, but it was really nice, and I got to drive most of the time (OK, so the one time I navigated, I missed a step and we passed the turn. RC decided that we should more properly use our skills and I got to drive). Anyway, we picked up the car and drove about 5 hours north to Bar Harbor, ME (although it’s pronounced “Bah Ha-bah,” we never actually heard anyone say it that way). We stopped along the way so we could see the ocean. The tide must have been about to come in because it seemed like we could walk a mile out before we touched the water…not that we did since the water temp was in the high 50s. We ate lunch at McDonald’s. As we drove to Bar Harbor, ME, we got hit by torrential rains; it was not fun. Fortunately, we made it to the hotel without any problems.
We stayed at the Acadia Inn, which wasn’t too bad. The folks were somewhat friendly, the room was a pretty good size, and the bathroom was huge. We had a free continental breakfast both mornings, so that was very nice—I had blueberry muffins and Froot Loops both mornings. Unfortunately, things turned ugly the second morning: no hot water … but, I’m getting ahead of myself. We went out to dinner the first night at a lovely little place downtown called Galyn’s Restaurant. A little, hunch-backed man who definitely blipped my radar as being a member of the Tribe seated us in the back, away from the door and windows as it was rainy, damp, and cold. As RC has lived a very deprived life and never had lobster before (OK, so she is from a landlocked state, but still…), we ordered the Lobster Cocktail for an appetizer. It was quite yummy, but a little over-priced (but she enjoyed it, so it was worth it). I got the Tarragon Chicken, and RC got Garlic Shrimp Linguini. We skipped dessert.
The next morning (June 6), we were up bright and early. She went to read the paper and drink feculent coffee while I showered and watched TV. Then we were off to Acadia National Park. I am not normally an outdoorsy person, but it was very pretty. We went to Thunder Hole, but it wasn’t very thunderie (we were going to go back the next day, but we didn’t). We drove through the park, over mountains and ponds and to the ocean. We also did a little hiking. We walked all the way round Jordan Pond, and then we went to Jordan Pond House where RC had blueberry tea, I had chai, and we both had popovers. They were friggin’ awesome! Then we drove all round the island (well, our part of the island anyway). That night we dined at the West Street Café. They had specials like clam chowder or mussels for appetizer, whole lobster with 2 sides, and blueberry pie for dessert…mmm blueberry pie. I got the mussels and RC got the clam chowder. She also had a blueberry beer (it just tasted like beer to me).
Tuesday (June 7) began with the aforementioned anecdote of no hot water. The cold water wasn’t just cold, if was friggin’ frigid. I washed my hair and the important bits (arm pits and crotch). It wasn’t the cleanest day, but what can you do? RC did pretty much the same. We originally planned to go to Isle au Haut but instead decided just to eat at a small cafe on Main Street in Stonington. RC had grilled cheese and soup, and I had a burger. Both our meals cost less than the lobster cocktail two days before. Then we went to Rockland where we checked in at the LimeRock Inn (LimeRock is correct, BTW, it’s not Lime Rock). We stayed in the Petit Manan, which was a nice enough room, but rather odd. The toliet was in a little vestibule between the door to our room and a pocket door that didn’t actually work. The oddest part was that the shower was in the closet (I guess that is what the Brits mean by Water Closet). Other than that, it was fine. After checking in, RC took a shower and I sat out on the porch swing reading a Bed & Breakfast trade magazine. I found what I thought were good deals on buying a B&B, but RC overruled it. Next, we walked into downtown, and before I knew it, something came over me like a fast moving dark cloud on a sunny day. I think I was just dehydrated, but I really have no idea. We went to a Mediterranean restaurant called Amalfi, and once I had some food in me, I began to feel much better. We had mussels for appetizers, then RC got a spinach manicotti like dish, and I got the House Paella (chorizo, chicken, shrimp and mussels). We rounded dinner off with a very enjoyable crème brulée. We walked around town a little more and went back to the LimeRock Inn and sat on the porch swing before going to bed.
Wednessday (June 8) found us eating waffles for breakfast. It was sort of weird eating breakfast with the other guests, but RC assured me that that is all part of the B&B experience. I guess…
We drove back to Camden to go to the Camden Hills State Park. The view was truly spectacular! We saw the ocean on one side (Camden was far, far below us). You could also see the harbor and Penobscot Bay. On the opposite side was Cadillac Mountain. I wanted to have our picture taken with the Bay in the background. A random woman was kind enough to offer, but sadly, a photographer she was not. She managed to get a lovely picture of her thumb rather than of RC and me. Also, frighteningly, I somehow got a big ole tick on me. He was on my head and I picked him off. I tried to throw him out the window, but the bugger managed to get back in the car. On our way out of town, we stopped at some random hobby shop on the side of the road. I was hoping that they would have a cool ship model, but they were more geared to radio-controlled airplanes. Oh, well. We pointed Camden to our stern and headed down the sea of concrete to our next destination: Bath, ME. In Bath we went to the Maine Maritime Museum. It was pretty cool. We had a nice demonstration of how a ship is launched off the ways by some old geezer who seemed very excited to have someone to talk to—but, he was very monotone, and I had a hard time paying attention…and there was a big ole spider crawling around. We had a snack out of the candy machine, and I bought a CD of sea shanties at the Museum’s shop (it wasn’t very good).
After the Maine Maritime Museum, we headed out to lunch. We went downtown, and after giving up on a restaurant RC wanted to find, we settled on a BBQ joint that smelled a whole lot better than it tasted. It wasn’t bad, though, and we had a nice lunch.
We ended the day by driving into Portland, ME. We thought we were lost, but as we turned the corner, there was The Inn at St. John where we stayed. After checking in, we walked around downtown and had dinner at Soffritto Creative Italian. We started the dining experience outside, but as the sun went down, it got very cold. By the time our food came, RC and I were freezing, and we asked the waitress if we could move inside. After that, the rest of the dinner was fine.
Thursday (June 9) we woke up and headed downtown again. We found a great parking space in a parking garage that was about an hour’s walk from the water. But it was a great location for when we finally came back. On our walk downtown we stopped at a coffee shop and I got mad because it appeared that no one was working on my order. Fortunately, our next adventure was good and that made up for the lousy service at the coffee shop.
We went on a boat cruise around the harbor and got up close to many of the lighthouses that dot the harbor. After taking almost an entire roll of film on lighthouses and islands, we retired to a great little restaurant called Duck Fat. Everything that they deep fry, they deep fry in, obviously, duck fat. I had the Wolfe's Neck Farm Maine Meatloaf Panini. RC had the Ham & Cheese Panini. We also got some fries and for dessert, we had Beignet, which was, of course, fried in duck fat. It was so very yummy.
After lunch we walked over to the Portland Art Museum. It was a pretty neat museum; they had all kinds of exhibits: paintings, sculptures, statues, and a house museum. RC particularly liked the impressionist paintings. After the museum, we went back to the hotel to freshen up a bit before going to dinner. We rounded out the great eating day with dinner at Street and Company. After dinner we walked around town and browsed a bookstore around the corner from the restaurant.
On Friday (June 10), we went to the famous Becky’s Diner for obvious reasons. We bought the tee shirt. We took the ferry over to Peaks Island and walked around the island, but it was very hot and after a short time and an ice cone, we headed back to Portland and once again got on the road…this time heading to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. We checked into the hotel, the Anchorage Inn, and then headed down to Hampton Beach. We walked along the boardwalk (well it wasn’t a true boardwalk in that it was cement and not wood, but you get the idea) and we ate great beachy junk food like saltwater taffy. I also had the privilege of ogling hot underage girls in skimpy bathing suits. We ate at some not very good restaurant on the beach. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t great either. After dinner we headed back to the hotel and went swimming is the very small swimming pool. After swimming a bit and freezing, we headed back to the room and watched the Food Network.
On Saturday (June 11), we woke up and headed into Portsmouth, where we discovered that there was a really cool street festival going on. Almost the entire downtown was blocked off and there were booths lining the streets. RC thought the festival was put on just for us! We walked all around and got free hats from the Portsmouth Regional Hospital, looked at cool paintings with maritime themes painted (supposedly) by local artists, and ate some Indian food from a street vendor (although the food stalls were run by restaurateurs). RC had a virgin piña colada, which made her very happy. Sadly, she also got sunburnt. After walking around the town and watching a really cool lift bridge in action, we decided it was time to move on to our next destination. We got back in the car, got back on the road, and drove to Manchester, NH. we got severely lost trying to find the hotel, and then all of a sudden, it was right there in front of us…it was most amazing. After we checked into the Comfort Inn, I wanted to head back up the road a piece to the porn shop we passed, but RC nixed it. Instead, we went out for pizza (it was sit-down pizza, not carry-out). We had a calamari appetizer first. It wasn’t too bad. Then we went back to the hotel and went to sleep.
Sunday (June 12) was the worst day of our trip by far. We woke up and headed back to Manchester Airport to return the Mazda 3 to Enterprise. RC was worried that we would be charged for the big dent in the license plate that we noticed back at the LimeRock Inn. I was, of course, right, and they didn’t even notice it. After returning the car, we headed into the terminal and waited for our flight back to BWI.
We are already planning the next trip; probably for New Year’s. When I say “we,” I really mean “me”—RC did all the planning for this trip, so I get to plan the next one. I can only wonder at this point where we will go next…
You have to put them in their place. RC sent me an email, from which I quote:
We have a senior staff meeting today, and it's the first meeting we've had since my boss has been back from her vacation. I'm a little afraid, because when she's on vacation she tends to cook up all sorts of stuff.
My advice was as follows:
My suggestion is to shoot down every suggestion she brings up at the meeting. Say things like, ‘What? Are you on crack?’ or ‘That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard’ or ‘Yea, whatever’ or, when it's particularly ridiculous, look her straight in the eye and say ‘Shut the fuck up, bitch. No one asked you.’ Trust me...it works like a charm...you'll probably be promoted by the end of the day.