Archive for August, 2009

Our final day

Well, that’s it.

Tomorrow (maybe today by the time anyone reads this) we’ll be on our way home. By breakfast time on Friday we will be back in the UK and by Sunday I hope to have recovered from the flight well enough because I have a business meeting at lunchtime and on Monday I have to discuss and then plan a gig for Wednesday. I suspect that another gig pencilled in for next week will also pop out of the woodwork at some time too.

Yesterday, Tuesday I think, we went out for a drive around Rhode Island and Connecticut and for lunch in Mystic: See http://www.mystic.org/. We just had to have a pizza in Mysticso we did. The town is pretty and could have done with a longer coat of looking at but the weather was just too hot. I was still feeling the heat in the A/C’d car and needed to drink some water just to stop feeling sick. Sharon had to buy a new ‘T’ shirt because her shoulders were burning – and we’d only been outside about 20 minutes. It must have been touching the high 90’s. Mystic is famous (probably) for its bascule bridge (see: http://snipurl.com/qjw63) and I would have loved to have seen it open because the first thing you think when you see it is “what on earth?

Apparently it opens every hour during summer – but we missed it. Doh!

We went on to look at other small towns along the Long Island Sound, Connecticut coast: Towns such as Stonington and Westerly and each one was just as pretty.

Today (yesterday – whatever: Wednesday) we did the shopping thing, but not before we had a brunch out in Providence. I had an omelette with home fries (well seasoned Pomme Bataille), which was very nice – if filling. That’s the thing about breakfasts here – they don’t have the same fat and grease content of ours (mainly poached eggs and omelettes) but they are very filling and still carry a fair few calories – e.g. French Toast, thick pancakes and maple syrup!

Whilst shopping, we stopped off at the cinema. I think we would all have liked to see The Time Traveller’s Wife but all were fearful of the film spoiling (or at least not doing justice to) the book. So we went to see Julie and Julia http://www.julieandjulia.com/ instead. This is a charming and funny film about two real lives: Julia Child (http://snipurl.com/qjybm),who is an American Institution along the lines of Fanny Craddock. She wrote an influential French cookery book (http://snipurl.com/qk0ev) and Julie Powell http://juliepowell.blogspot.com/ who wrote a blog in 2002 about her year long challenge to cook the book’s 500+ recipes in 365 days. It was a great way to spend a couple of hours away from the intense heat and a film I will gladly watch again.

And that’s about it. On Thursday (today/tomorrow) we will set off on a 4-5 hour drive to Newark. On a clear day, this could be a 3.5-hour journey but even giving ourselves this length of time, we may still eat into our 2-3 hour before-the-flight arrival time. Fingers crossed we won’t be. If we’re early we have some tickets to a ‘lounge’ so we should be ok.

That’s it. Any updates will be on http://eduvel.wordpress.com although I plan to add a page to this blog later about my ‘observations’ – this will be linked from http://eduvel.wordpress.com.

Many thanks to all those of you who have read the blog and especially to those of you who commented. Thanks too, to everyone that followed the Flickr pages – I think that’s probably about 50 of you. Thank you.

David Sugden

20th August 2009 (English time)

screenshot of some flickr statistics

screenshot of some flickr statistics

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Whales

We didn’t do much on Monday, as Sharon needed to finish her draft dissertation. This involved much reading and re-reading and re-typing and screaming. But in the end she managed. Not however, before we were taken out to an Asian Restaurant in Providence.  Not Just Snackshttp://snipurl.com/qg2sd is the nearest thing (apparently) that you can get to a real Indian taste in Providence. For me, it was the nearest thing I’d seen or tasted to anything in Bradford – except it was clean and visibly hygienic. Simple tables, simple plates: fabulous selection. Very tasty (and non-tummy threatening). See: Rhode Island Food

Then, on Tuesday we set off for Plymouth, Massachusetts for the 11.00am sailing of Captain John’s whale watching trip. http://captainjohnboats.blogspot.com/. We were out at sea almost 5 hours, despite the advertised 3.5 – 4. Hours. This was because we’d had to sail so far out into the Atlantic to catch sight of some Humpback Whales that were in the area.

Now, I’ve been on three previous whale watching trips before (one off the Great Barrier Reef, where I saw nothing at all and another off Cape Cod – in these same waters – where we saw basking sharks and small Minke Whales (http://snipurl.com/qg36z) but this trip blew both of the others away. This time we saw the whales leaping [breaching] out of the water (I’ll have to wait for the correct firewire cable [at home] to lift the video of this activity from Sharon’s Cam-Corder ), whales beating their tails on the water (presumably to attract food) and whales simply playing. And big whales at that. Despite the long sail out and back (at least two hours each way) the weather was great and we managed to grab a little time in the sun. What a great day.

We’d planned a picnic lunch and didn’t really consider the consequences of time – so lunch was at 4.30pm under the shade of a tree alongside the Plymouth Harbour. We finished the day at home playing Quelf.  Be warned!


Nime Chow

I’m writing this on Sunday, the day after Sharon’s birthday. Last night we ate at Angkor Restaurant in Providence and had Nime Chow [brief description at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nime_chow – follow links for further elucidation] for the second night running. They were nice – but wow, they didn’t compare with those we’d had the night before (Friday).

On Friday evening we drove over to Danielson in Connecticut to join Jamie for dinner at his house. Jamie is vegetarian, verging on but not entirely, vegan. We’ve stayed with Jamie previously and have therefore eaten here before so we knew we were in for a good meal. He prepared Nime Chow (This was our starter in Bandon, when we had the Thai meal) as a starter and it was superb. The trick with Nime Chow (the ‘e’ seems to come from being Cambodian – it being missing from the Vietnamese version – Nim Chow) is to fill the parcels with tasty, fresh, raw ingredients (or at least those requiring no further cooking – prawns, cooked chicken etc). The parcel itself is made of rice noodle (or in Jamie’s case – tapioca noodle). The result is a fresh tasting combination of flavours. Jamie’s Nime Chow contained his home grown Thai Basil (‘bay-zel‘) and no meat. It was delightful and I think that what made it more delightful was the dipping sauce he’d made. I don’t do the whole “can I have the recipe” thing as a rule but on Friday I did. We also had other very tasty courses at Jamie’s; far too much food – but great food. Thank you Jamie.

We spent Sharon’s birthday touring the east side of Narragansett Bay: http://snipurl.com/q3zx7. The area is mainly farmland and vineyards (we visited the one at Sakonnet) and the scenic drive is very pretty. We stopped at Bristol for a walk round on the way down and it was a real pleasure to see the birds and the boats on the water and around the comfortable little town.

We had a coffee at Newport – after we eventually found the Starbucks. The town is now so quaint that it has Tea shops, candle shops, restaurants and tic-tac shops but nowhere to buy coffee. I’d have been happy to try the tea shop but over here Tea is an art that has yet to be mastered. Mostly, our Starbucks visits have been to take on a Frappuccino [http://snipurl.com/q4g9x] to cool us down.

Then we went out for our Cambodian meal.

Boston Massachusetts

I’m writing this on Thursday. It’s raining outside – so there’s plenty of reading going on. I can’t remember what we did on Monday, other than visit very hot Malls (outside they were hot, inside they were air conditioned). Tuesday we went to see Harry Potter (6 or 7!) and yesterday Sharon and I went to Boston for the day.

It was a little overcast and the entire day in Boston was plagued with low cloud and mild precipitation. Gail dropped us off at the station in Providence and we went to the kiosk to buy tickets (like you do). However, the kiosk men pointed at the café opposite and said “Boston Tickets” with a flurry of pointing and arm gestures that seemed to imply that we should buy our tickets at the café.  As the café looked inordinately busy we were reluctant to do this, but felt obliged to do so by the constant gesturing. At the café itself there appeared to be two queues so we joined the shorted one only to realise that the longer queue did in fact lead to tickets for Boston. This was ascertained by reading the cardboard and marker pen signs above the till that said: ‘MBTA (Metropolitan Boston Transit Authority – I think) Boston tickets – CASH ONLY’.

Being cosmopolitan travellers and used to the ubiquitous acceptance of credit cards for travel (and an alarming sparcity of cash) we didn’t believe this final instruction until we were told face-to-face “cash only!” “But”, I asked “surely there’s a place we can buy tickets with our credit card as we are travelling and only have a small amount of cash”. “Yes”, I was advised, with a fairly puzzled look – “in Boston”. I started to explain the ludicrousness of that but the puzzled look became increasingly scary – so we paid (cash) and left.

But I ask myself, in this day of national databases and when I can go to Huddersfield Station and buy tickets for any rail line in the country – why can’t I buy an MBTA ticket at an Amtrak desk? At least then I would have realised that I could have travelled quicker and more comfortably via one of the Amtrak Acela speed trains than the two-storey commuter chugger we did catch.

Boston was busy. It is one of those towns, like San Francisco that seems to be able to get on with its everyday life and still accommodate thousands of tourists. We did a spot of wandering and a spot of browsing statures and shops etc but the most interesting thing for me was lunch at Durty Nellie’s. We’d not wanted anything elaborate (or expensive) for lunch and thought a good old Boston pub might just do it. And it did. We read the menu and accepted it for what it was: brief and to the point. We entered and asked, because no one else was eating “are you still doing food?” and I was answered – “it’s only a small menu!” Well, we knew that so we ordered and had one of the hottest and probably most under estimated meals of our visit. One burger with egg and one burger with cheese and a ‘side’ of fries (“we don’t have fries – they’re home-fries”) was hot (cooked to order) tasty and appropriate to our needs. All cooked to order.

We were going for a drive around the bay today but the rain put that off. So, we may do that tomorrow. What we’re doing next week, until our return flight on Thursday is still being discussed: it could be Maine or it could be Delaware. It could even be something entirely different.

Providence

It seems, and it must seem, that we have now been away from home for a long time. But we’re nearing the end – we’re now firmly ensconced at our final destination and it is here that we will take the time to both wind-down and start winding up again.

We’re in Providence, Rhode Island and staying with Gail and TJ. Respectively these people are Sharon’s sister and Sharon’s sister’s husband. Here, the Internet is SOAS and I’m relegated (Mmmm – that’s Freudian) to the XP laptop (David’s Tosh). Sharon has finally settled into an ‘I must finish my final MSc dissertation’ mode and has taken the Mac Book Pro for its ease of opening and reliability. Not that there’s anything unreliable about the XP but being PC it takes and age to get going and constantly needs to access the internet for upgrades – which also tend to take over the machine.

The weather is pleasant. Apparently it’s been very humid and in the low 90’s but is currently a pleasantly cool high 70’s. We have no plans other than to celebrate our wedding anniversary (Friday) and Sharon’s birthday next Saturday. Everything else will fall into place. I have a few work things to do and will use the plentiful free time to do just that – and as luck would have it, that work is on the Tosh!

Our anniversary meal on Friday, at http://redstriperestaurants.com/?page_id=26 was fine. Noisy and warm – but fine. We’d shared our appetisers and then Sharon had a fairly unappetising to look at but tasty Tilapia. I had Meatloaf because I’d never had it before. It was tasty but TOO big a portion. TJ had Scallops, which can never be too big. Finally and most impressively Gail’s Salmon came sat atop a huge sweet potato cake. The food was very nice, tasty and well served. But we were too full for dessert.

On Saturday (yesterday) we had a late breakfast and when ‘boy’ Jamie came up from his home in Connecticut so that he and I could go for a walk. We drove down through Rhode Island for about half an hour and set off with Herman (dog) for a couple of hours around random trails in what is now a huge forest. This part of the world was formerly farmed but sometime mid 20th century was abandoned. I’m sure that there are all sorts of political and social reasons for this and as yet I’m unaware of them but I understand that most of the forestation around here is second growth and (according to an aside in a book I’ve just finished) often third.

New England has certainly got its own share of history but not one we’re ever taught in the UK.

Last night we attended Waterfire. http://www.waterfire.org/. This was interesting. There were far too many people around to make it comfortable but the evening was warm, the atmosphere was pleasant and it might be nice to do it again one day in the same way we used to ‘do’ Galphey (a BHF charity Jazz Picnic) – with picnic, tables and lots of booze.

Monte Carlo

I’ve been to Monte Carol several times.

This was back in the early nineties when Sue and I took the kids (Ben and Emma) to Stephen’s mobile home near St. Tropez. We’d set out for the day and call in at Cannes and Nice on the way and then spend a few hours gawping. However, years later when I took Sharon and the girls (Betony and Chloe – and this time to Stephens house near St Tropez) we never made it. We tried but we never made it. The journey we made was surreal, no matter how we tried and which route we took; we hit traffic jams, blockages and frustrations beyond belief. In the end we just dropped down the hill, turned around at the first roundabout in Monaco and came back.

Today’s trip to Tallahassee brought this all flooding back.

We’d spent yesterday (Monday) driving into Apalachicola for lunch in the café on the veranda opposite Tamara’s (which was closed) and then doing a little shopping. Lunch was what we’d ordered and reasonably ok but the coffee was still bad. Like Gail says in her earlier comment – I really will have to wait until we get to Providence for a good cup. We spent the rest of the day just lounging and reading.

So today [Tuesday], we’d decided to drive up to Tallahassee, about an hour and a half away and take a look at it. We managed to easily find the Capitol building, pretty close to where the hotel we’d stayed in was, but couldn’t see any parking. We’d been told that anything like ‘food’ or ‘coffee’ would be “five minute’s” away – but in the end we couldn’t find that either. We drove around for two hours in horrendous traffic trying to find something like a city centre but in the end gave up. It’s not a big city and it looks quite compact and quaint – but signage (like most places around here) is not aimed at incomers.

We eventually ate a late lunch on the way back in a ‘Subway’ in a ‘Wal-Mart’ near Crawfordville. And – oh what trouble we’ll be in now with our Providence hosts.

We ate this evening at the house owner’s restaurant ‘That Place on 98’. http://www.thatplaceon98.net/ (He also has a place called ‘That Place in Appalach‘ up the road in […] I had six delicious oysters (this small stretch of Florida produces 90% of the oysters landed in the state and something like 10% of those nationwide) baked with bacon and mozzarella and followed these with Grilled Grouper (and a mess of topping I had to remove) with fork-mashed (skin on) potatoes (nice!) and soggy courgette. Sharon had steak. The setting is marvelous and sat outside on the decking which overlooked one of the inner oyster beds was fabulous – as the sun set and the moon came up. Fish were leaping out of the water and the oysters we could see were spitting at all comers!

Wednesday – we will just swim, eat, drink and sleep.  Thursday we will set off at 7.00am for the airport and our holiday’s penultimate flight to Providence (Rhode Island), where we will be based at sister (in-law) Gail’s until our return to blighty.

Alabama

Saturday/Sunday

So, pretty much nothing much going on here at the moment. What else do you do when you are within miles and miles of silver sands, a warm sea and not too many people? You do nothing much except a) seek shelter, b) drive for miles and miles to see ‘new’ laces or c) swim (sunbathing is out because we have no brolly or seats). We sought shelter on Saturday at an ice cream parlour on Cape San Blas. Having only the ice creams in Slaithwaite [http://snipurl.com/ojuhn] to go by, we ordered double scoops – big mistake. Eating these made us cancel lunch. Port Saint Joe is miles away, so I had a swim.

On Sunday, we drove up to Alabama to spend the day with Sharon’s mum and dad.

They live about 15 miles inside the border, just outside Dothan. It’s just 110 miles from where we’re staying (we might have stayed with them but when we were booking – they were moving house and had no idea where they would become August) and took us 2.5 hours. The roads were empty and although we had to drive through one horrendous rainstorm, the trip was uneventful. When we return however, much of the journey will have to be in the dark as Alabama is 1 hour behind Florida and we’re not cooking tea (BBQ) until five o’clock.

For Gail and for Lilian – I’ve just had the best cup of tea this side of the Atlantic. Well done Sharon’s mum.