Monthly Archives: October 2014

North Carolina

October 24 – Slow Drive to Ashville

 We broke up our drive to North Carolina with a couple stops. In Farmville, Jennifer took me to a store with gorgeous Amish furniture; I’m temped to order a chest I saw there. We walked through the historic section of Winston-Salem and drove through the Wake Forest campus where one of my niece’s attended college. By the time we got to Ashville, it was dinnertime. We managed to get one of the last tables available at Blackbird, where we had the best meal I’ve eaten on this trip, a vegetarian farm dish with mashed sweat potatoes, grilled Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, and asparagus, with each item deliciously prepared. Our airbnb, the basement of someone’s home, was cute and comfy, but we both felt that one of the closets was haunted.

 October 25 – Train Ride through Nanthala Gorge

In the morning, we returned to Biltmore Avenue and got in line at the Green Sage Café so Jennifer could get coffee. We then visited the Folk Art Store on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which had a great variety of beautifully crafted items by local artists. Afterwards we drove to Bryson, where we had pre-purchased tickets for ride with the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad through Nanthala Gorge.

Our slow half-day train ride wasn’t as scenic as either of us anticipated. There were nice views of the river and some colorful foliage, but nothing that wowed us. (The views were a bit better on the left side of the train). However, it’s a pleasant ride for train buffs. The weather was perfect and we kept the windows open; the same type as the yellow school buses from my high school days. When we took an hour break at the Nanthala Outdoor Center, I went for a short walk on a segment of the Appalachian trail; I’d like to hike more of it some day. A guitarist played blue grass music on the train and at our rest stop.

Back in Bryson, the restaurant was crowded so we shared a table with a young couple from Tennessee. Our lively conversation covered many subjects, from atheism to politics, child rearing, and the benefits of travel. 

October 26 – Blue Ridge Parkway

The morning started our cool and foggy, but soon cleared and warmed up to t-shirt weather. After another stop in Ashville for coffee, we spent much of the day driving a 100-mile segment of the parkway, something best done with someone more patient than my sister. It’s a beautiful drive, especially at this time of year. At the beginning, it felt like we were driving through a colorful tunnel with an amber glow. The trees were a mix of yellow, ochre, and orange with a splash of red now and then. As we climbed in elevation, there were more brown leaves and at the highest point, near Mount Mitchell State Park, the trees were barren. At one stop, overlooking a multi-colored hillside, a local told me that this is not a good year, with much less color than usual.

We took a break for a two-mile round-trip hike to see Linville Falls. It felt good to stretch my legs, but the trail was quite crowded with people and dogs (that’s what we get for selecting one of the shorter hikes and going on a Sunday). Our last stop before departing the parkway was the crafts center at Moses Cone Memorial Park. It was a smaller, less impressive one than the Folk Art Store, though I bought a handmade wooden spoon.

We had planned to stop in Roanoke or someplace else along the way, but instead decided to drive all the way back to Powhatan, covering almost 1000 miles in three days. We stopped for dinner along the way and listened to the fifth game in the World Series on the static-filled radio. Go Giants!

Hello Virginia

October 21-22 – Powhatan and Richmond

 I relaxed at my sister’s place in Powhatan, a rural county in central Virginia to which she recently moved. She and her partner live in a spacious house surrounded by acres of deciduous trees; theirs are just beginning to turn color. Her younger daughter is living with them, along with three dogs and five chickens, young hens just beginning to lay eggs. Jennifer has a part-time job at the YMCA teaching swimming and lifeguarding. I met her one day after her shift and we swam laps in the pool now covered in a bubble for winter.

On Wednesday, Jennifer’s birthday, we drove into Richmond, about a hour away, and visited Carytown, a hip street lined with restaurants and shops. We had a delicious Thai lunch at Mama’s Siam, bought sweets at I Love Chocolate, a giant candy store, and pet a small pig at The Stolen Pig, a shop with an eclectic mix of stuff. We also stopped at the Tredegar Iron Works where canons and other munitions were manufactured during the civil war. Richmond was the capital of the Confederate States of America and it’s capture lead to the end of the war.

 October 23 – Crabtree Falls

We drove a couple hours to the George Washington National Forest, southwest of Shenandoah, and took a four-mile round-trip hike along Crabtree Creek. The trail, covered with fall leaves, led though a beautiful yellow-leafed forest. Along the way we saw many cascades and waterfalls, cumulatively forming the highest vertical-drop cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi.

Apparently I damaged more than the lens when I dropped my camera in Pisa. The automatic functions have been failing one at a time and I’ve now resorted to using it in full manual mode. Fortunately the light meter is still working; I hope it lasts until I return home and can send it in for repairs.

New York City

October 17-20

I took Amtrak from Boston and met my sister, Jennifer, at Penn Station in NYC. The Airbnb apartment we had reserved in Hells Kitchen was so bad we left immediately and have submitted an appeal for reimbursement. Jennifer got online and quickly found us a nice room at the Manhattan at Times Square for less money. We stayed on the 22nd floor and were thrilled to discover a deck outside our room. Nice.

Surprise, while in Time Square we ran into a couple I know from San Francisco, Dan and Marie, who I haven’t seen in several years. We had them over for drinks on our deck; they brought Lebanese leftovers including very delicious Brussels sprouts. I enjoyed our visit and look forward to getting together back home.

According to Jennifer’s fitbit, we walked about 26 miles during our three-day visit. I had wanted to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, but it’s closed due to construction. Instead we took a ferry to Brooklyn and walked back across the Manhattan Bridge. I loved the views and took photos in between rumbling trains. The Freedom Tower makes a beautiful addition to the skyline; I like how it reflects the sky and clouds.

The next day we walked the High Line, an elevated railroad track that has been converted to a park: a delightful variety of gardens, art, benches, and views. That was also the day the temperature dropped and an icy wind blew, so we walked briskly.

After dinner, a variety of food from mediocre Cuban to yummy Italian, we saw a show each night. Partway into the musical Once I started to feel déjà vu and by the end I realized I had seen it in it’s original movie form. Overall pleasant; I loved the voice of the lead woman singer, Jessie Fisher. Cinderella was our favorite: great cast, great sets, great music, and a few small twists on this familiar story. We left This is Our Youth after intermission; maybe it redeems itself in the second half, but we were both falling asleep.

We also got to MOMA, where I saw Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs. It was interesting to read about how he transitioned to this art form and to see the 3D originals rather than reproductions. On our final morning, I went to the 9/11 Memorial, while Jennifer went shopping at nearby Century 21. The museum, built around remnants of one of the twin towers, tells the history of the World Trade Center and has lots of displays about the event and aftermath. I viewed a short time lapse video of the ongoing reconstruction. Overall it was sad and I didn’t stay long.

After shopping, we headed back uptown to collect our luggage, stopping at a deli to pick up food on our way, and took a cab back to Penn Station for a train to Richmond.

Tip: If you’re near there, get your discount tickets at the Seaport TKTS booth; it opens earlier and the lines are shorter than at Times Square. If I weren’t going to the theatre, I wouldn’t stay near Times Square; it’s literally wall-to-wall people. Next time I’ll avoid the weekend.

A Bit of Boston

I spent a rainy day in Boston, transitioning from the wilds of the coast to bustle of the city, heading next to NYC. I stayed at an airbnb in Roslindale where I was able to leave my car, and took the Orange Line downtown. I walked across a bridge to the Institute of Contemporary Arts museum where I saw a beautiful fiber sculpture show and enjoyed watching the end of The Visitors, a music video installation. After lunch at Durgin Park, adjacent to touristy Quincy Market, I took the train a couple stops back so I could walk through the Boston Commons. It was quite pleasant, until the drizzle turned to downpour. I returned to my room to dry off and finally uploaded my first post for this trip (leaf peeping in Vermont).


Cape Cod

Cape Cod is a narrow arch of land longer than I realized, 64 miles from Cape Cod Canal to the point. I spent five days on the outer cape. Miles and miles of beaches, many of them deserted at this time of year. Sea breezes, sometimes soft, sometimes biting, especially after sundown. The sound of seagulls and waves rhythmically lapping the shore. If you avoid touristy Provincetown, this is a very peaceful place.

We stayed in a tiny cottage in a place called Beach Point, where the cape is narrow and low (wouldn’t want to be here in a hurricane). There was a very lovely boardwalk leading through the dune grasses to the beach, where I walked a couple mornings, once when the tide was low. Though WiFi was promised, there was none, so my technology fast continued.

October 11-13 Art Class

We attended an art class called “Layered Media: Expanding Your Vision” at the Truro Center for the Arts; a more descriptive title would be “Oil and Cold Wax, the Lisa Pressman Method”. It rained the first day, so it was a good day to be indoors, though the classroom was so cold I kept all my layers on. I wasn’t familiar with the materials or techniques, so it was a bit of a struggle and initially I created a muddy mess. I’m drawn to abstract landscapes and organic forms that evoke nature, but I’ll need to practice more before I’m satisfied with the results.

Each day after class we picked a different beach for a walk. The light here is amazing and the water was beautiful. One day I ate a lobster dinner at Moby Dick’s. It’s only the second time I’ve eaten one; I apologized to mine and promised not to eat another. On another day, I had a delicious, rich, expensive dinner a Mews.

October 14-15 – Sea and Shore

Arlyne departed this morning. After dropping her off at the tiny airport to pick up a rental car, I went to explore a few sections of Cape Cod National Seashore. This long park is scattered around the cape. I love the grass-covered dunes; I wonder if this is what San Francisco looked like before the dunes was covered with buildings and roads.

I hiked each morning, and then headed back to Provincetown in the afternoon. Since it’s Women’s Week, I checked the program and selected one activity each day. On Tuesday, I went on a sunset sail in Cape Cod Bay aboard the Bay Lady II. There were less than a dozen passengers, plus one dog, and the weather was perfect. On Wednesday, I attended a half-day memoir-writing workshop, which has triggered an interest to find a writing group when I get home.

Leaf Peeping

Ahh, I’ve finally got WiFi and can begin catching up with my blog. My trip to the East Coast started with a fall color sampler.

October 7 – Getting to Vermont

As is typically the case with travel, the first day was spent getting “there”.  A cab picked me up at 4:00 a.m., and then we stopped a few blocks away to pick up Arlyne, a long time friend and neighbor. We met decades ago when we were both on the parent board where our sons were in school (trying to budge an entrenched administration). Her boys now live on the East Coast so we decided to take an art class and see a little foliage together before heading in separate directions to visit relatives.

I seem to be a bit jinxed when it comes to personal belongings and travel because I managed to drop my retainer trays after eating breakfast at the airport. Fortunately, I had the next set with me and was able to cram them on, though they are very tight. We rented a car in Boston and headed out just in time to hit commute traffic. They would have had to give us all tickets if they enforced the sign stating Minimum Speed 40; we were going much slower than that for the first hour or two. It was dark by the time we reached our cabin outside Barnard, Vermont.

October 8 – A Pleasant Fall Walk

While Arlyne toured a nearby farm and museum, I went for hike in Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park, the only national park in Vermont. Apparently the peak color in this area came a week early and recent rain and wind knocked most of the red leaves off the trees. I thoroughly enjoyed my walk, on both trails and carriage roads, through the green and yellow forest. The names of the trails on the signposts did not match the names on the map, but the lines were drawn correctly so I was able to find my way.

We had lunch in Woodstock. Not the Woodstock, but the one in Vermont; it’s confusing to have so many common names for cities in nearby states. It was market day and I bought some really delicious garlic and pepper cheese and tasted maple butter.

October 9 – Slow Route to Weston

The 50-mile scenic drive from Barnard to Weston (Hwy 12 – 106 – Fletchville-Tyson Rd – Hwy 100) took us most of the day, thanks to stops for covered bridges and other scenic spots. My favorite was a short walk to Buttermilk Falls. Columbus Day weekend is obviously the peak for fall tourists; every town we went through was setting up for a harvest festival, arts and crafts fair, or some other special event. I was glad to be there a few days early and avoid the pending crowds.

We spent a couple hours in charming Weston before heading back north to our cold cabin. It’s been in the 50’s during the day, 30’s at night, and the only heat we have is a wood stove. Fortunately there’s a good supply of wood and kindling so I’ve been building a fire each night. I jumped up and lit one this morning too, otherwise it was too chilly to get up.

October 10 – Getting to Cape Cod

Another day essentially spent in travel, with a well worthwhile detour to western Massachusetts to see the Norman Rockwell museum. I learned a bit about Rockwell’s life, he lived nearby, and saw his studio, relocated a few miles from where it once stood. I was impressed with the values that he depicted in his later work. Along the Mass Pike, as I-90 is called in this state, we saw some beautiful red trees, but there’s no getting off that speedy toll road. Once again we reached our destination in the dark.

Walking in Tuscany

When I imagined Tuscany, I pictured gently rolling hills covered with vineyards and tall, narrow cypress trees. That may be true for southern Tuscany, but the north, where I spent a week hiking with thirteen other women (eleven Brits, one German, and one Canadian) is hillier and more forested. I’m glad I wasn’t the only North American bumping into language differences. I learned to refer to my vest as a gilet (“g-lay”), half nine means 9:30, not 8:30 as in German, elevensies is break time, and route is always pronounced “root”.

We went on five “8-mile” hikes in the Garfagnara Valley. The first several were through forests, vineyards, villages, and fields with an occasional vista. The last two involved 750-meter (almost 2,500’) assents, first to the highest point in Tuscany, Monte Prado in the Appennines Mountains, and then to Monte Sumbra in the Marble Mountains (Alpi Apuane). During the steepest parts, in beautiful Beachwood forests, conversation ceased and all I could hear was my breath and the rustle of dry leaves beneath our feet. There were hints of fall color, but most of the trees were still green. When we popped out of the forest, the views were wonderful.

One day we got back early enough to enjoy the swimming pool, but usually there was just time to shower before rejoining the group for drinks before dinner, most often Prosecco or Aperol Spritz. With all this exercise, I’d hope to be losing weight, but given all the bread, pasta, and liquid calories consumed, I’ll be lucky to stay even. Our fourth day was free. Most of the women took the train into Lucca; a few of us stayed behind and enjoyed a relaxing day doing very little.


It took two days to get home, thanks to my desire to use mileage points for my flight and misreading the train schedule before I booked it. After getting dropped off in Tuscany, I had lunch with a fellow hiker and then took the train to Geneva (three trains, almost eight hours) where I spent the night. In the morning train service was disrupted due to “an accident involving a person” so I shared a cab to the airport with another stranded passenger. I transferred at the Dullas airport, with a four-hour layover, and got home late Monday. Zelda, Timbre, and Abby (my dog and cats) greeted me at the door. I’ll only be home for a week, and then I’m off again, this time traveling domestically.