A Taste of What’s to Come

Last week, when our fall colors were still alive with the song of Fall, we were reminded of the fickle emotions of Mother Nature – that She still rules all.

We were hit with a meteorological slap in the face if you will, with snow. I know, I know – it’s a four letter for many of you (I call out my husband in that bunch).

But let’s look at this realistically.

Mother Nature was just tapping on our window, hinting at how things shall soon be. And She timed it to the preparations of the Holidays. Sometimes I think She takes a Florida vacation in the winter because we could have three inches of snow for Thanksgiving, but green grass present for Christmas.

What I can’t forgive Mother Nature for is the killing of our fall colors.

I just returned from a ‘Fall Colors’ trip and I took lots of photos that recorded them. All the while I worried that I would miss what palette would await me back home. When we arrived in Chicago, I was relieved that we were in time to see the Midwest catch up with the East Coast. For a couple weeks I basked in the canopy of yellow, green, rust, brown and vermillion as I drove to and from work. My drive is along Green Bay Road where at parts of the drive, the trees grow across the sky, giving oneself a feeling of cocoonment. (Yes, I did just make up that word – what’s your super power?)

This morning on my drive, I noticed that since Mother Nature’s nasty gift of the white stuff, all the colors are now dreary, muted past their prime. Yet many stay defiant, clinging to their branches lest they fall to the ground in a tragic death; their afterlife to be disturbed by the roar of leaf blowers. Its then they are momentarily lifted into the sky again, only to fall in a heap.

I am bereft at the loss of our colors! This was probably one of the best autumns in years. Even on our gloomiest days the explosion of color took my breath away. Now I am greeted in muddied colors of the season. I must come to terms with the changing of the guard – Winter replaces Autumn. I must tell myself there are other colors to be excited about – red velvet bows, forest green Christmas trees, the shining of gold, silver and brass. There is vibrant blue and hushful white (yes, I did create another word – get used to it) adorning Hanukkah-celebrating homes as well as the landscape after a snowfall.

In fact, now I’m reminded of stick figure trees laden with heavy snow, a brilliant azure sky backgrounding (yes, that’s three) a squint worthy sun. Those days are reserved for only the day after the gray skies open up to sprinkle snowflakes on us. It’s like being in a snow globe and you’re not able to tell what you have until the last of the snow has fallen.

So now that I remembered the romance of Winter, I’ll bid a sad farewell to the best Autumn ever, and hope She makes another appearance.

In the meantime, I’ll be counting the pages on my desk calendar until She does!

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Autumn’s Demise

How brutal snow can be

To kill the colors I love

To mute the vibrancy of

Yellow, orange, red and plum

Why take away my joy?

I needed more time

Never got to lay upon the

Bed of leaves –

To roll in the prism of Autumn

To sing of happiness

These leaves have given me

Snow – why did you

Have to be so mean?

I needed more time…

By Land and By Sea (Part 4)

Quebec City  has the feel of Europe without crossing the ocean. It is especially true of Old Quebec.

Its first home is still standing and serves as a charming restaurant. Parts of the city’s early protection device – a wall – still display canons, their rumble, smoke and explosions long gone. They stand as silent sentinels, ever ready to do their part.

The crown jewel of Old Quebec is the Chateau Frontenac (pictured above). To enter the lobby of this majestic overseer of the city, is like entering another time. A time when fur coats and long strands of pearls were the everyday wear of the wealthy ladies;  pocket watches and waistcoats for the the gentlemen.

Our walking tour of the old city was lead by a wonderful gentleman who did his best to direct us to other sites for later. We took a break on our trek to warm up and get to know our fellow trekkers over tea at the the Chateau. The tearoom that waited for us was paneled in rich wood, while the many chandeliers in the room chased the darkness of the wood away and left it burnishing in shades of whiskey and caramel in its light.

Several delectable treats accompanied our hot tea and while we talked to others and rested our weary feet.

Our last night on ship had us hugging our waiters, enjoying the show the kitchen waitstaff put on for us as their way of thanking the passengers for a great cruising experience.

Our adventures continued that night because we had to have our bags packed, ready and outside our door by a certain hour. That left decisions as to what needed to be packed, and what was needed for the morning.

When disembarking, it’s done in groups. You’re assigned a color and number (we get used to this for excursions) and a waiting place (usually one of the bars or the theater). Our original  time to disembark was 8:30 a.m. Normally I would say that’s perfect, but we had noon flights and when you’re accustomed to airport traffic (to and TSA lines) like there are at Chicago’s O’Hare, one likes to err on the side of caution and leave earlier. So

my sister-in-law and I went to the excursion desk to change the disembarking for my husband and I and Lady Rockford. We got an earlier time for the three of us with transportation to the airport. I could breathe a sigh of relief. For the Denver contingencies, they were spending an extra day in Quebec before flying home. They would be staying at the Chateau Frontenac!

Wednesday morning was cloudy and gray and we disembarked, grabbed our luggage and made our way to the airport bus. By 8:10 a.m. we were at the airport and wheeling our bags toward check-in.

When flying out of Quebec, Air Canada’s counters are open three hours ahead, other airlines are open two hours before a flight. With the aid of an Air Canada employee, we began checking in at a kiosk. Everything was going pretty smoothly until we had to scan our passports. I scanned my husband’s, then mine. I turned to Lady Rockford and asked for hers. She handed me the passport card – not the passbook. I attempted to scan, but the scanner did not recognize it.

I then turned to the airline aid who told us the passport card is only valid for sea or land – not air travel. If we were flying within the U.S., it would not be an issue, or if we were driving back to Chicago, we would be okay. But the airline would not let Lady Rockford onto the plane!

With our (mine & my husband’s) bags already checked in, we were in a conundrum. The airline aid directed us to the information desk. The woman behind the information desk connected me to the American Consulate. There, I was told they could issue Lady Rockford an emergency passport, but she would need new photos and it would take several hours. She also instructed us to re-book her flight. There was no way she’d have her passport in time for our noon departure.

The woman at the desk, gave us the address of a pharmacy and the Consulate. In the meantime, I now took my phone off airplane mode and sent a text to my sister-in-law. I figured, they still had their phones on airplane mode as well. I called them as well, but was only able to leave a message – (I don’t want to see how much this phone bill will be with roaming charges!). To make sure I covered all my bases, I sent her an email as well alerting her to the problem and they should expect Lady R at their hotel.

Then we went to work on re-booking the flight. Air Canada couldn’t help us because it was booked by a travel agent. I called United (their parent company) while Lady R turned her phone back on and called the travel agent.

The soonest flight was the same flight we were taking, only 24 hours later. We promised Lady R we would meet her at O’Hare the following day and escorted her to the taxi stand. I reviewed with her the written down tasks and where she needed to go. I told her once she got her passport, she should go to the Chateau Frontenac and wait for the Denver Contingency in the lobby.

Lady R turned to us and said, “Don’t worry about me, I’ll be alright.”

At that moment I felt like the world’s worst mother! I was leaving one of my little lambs in a foreign land! My mind leans toward the melodramatic, don’t you think?

The time I spent waiting for our flight I wrestled with what I could’ve done differently. Short of all three of us changing our flights, there wasn’t anything.

It’s here that I note there were several others on our ship that had the same problem. I don’t know if it’s seniors thinking ‘the card is cheaper, so I’ll get that’ or they didn’t take into account that they would be flying home on what is considered an international flight.

Two weeks ago, I included in my survey of the trip a note to the cruise line that they must do a better job of stressing the importance of a passport passbook, and NOT the card to its passengers on an international cruise.

This was the part about being open to the adventure that awaits – and you weren’t expecting! My husband said he was impressed with they way I charged through the rough waters of an emergency at the airport with Lady R. I was still feeling bad, even after we picked her up the following day. Everyone arrived home safely, and that’s all that counts.

Onto the next adventure…

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Land and By Sea (Part 3)

Oh Canada!

Now, here I must insert a disclaimer that this is not my first trip to Canada. During my Hockey Mom years, the team earned a position in a Canadian tournament called Silver Sticks. The victory in winning that spot was well celebrated by the parents, and I’m sure a few of the kids as well. Our trip was by bus – strong bloody Mary’s in hand as the excursion bus left very early one morning. I was comatose (from the drive and the alcohol) by ten. We had many adventures with this group and those will be told here on this blog – someday.

This time we arrived at St. John and the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, Canada. My excursion for the morning was not the average three hour tour – and yes, you should be humming Gilligan’s Island now – or at least have it running through your head. This tour of the island’s most picturesque areas was led by a commercial photographer.

As an adventurous group, we walked the beach, pink clouds still present in the early morning. We shot pictures at LePreau Falls, and caught the tumultuous waters as the Bay and the river fought for dominance. And of course, as pictured above, the mist fervently clinging to its existence as the sun did its best to burn it away.

I shot over 650 pictures on this trip. I am going through them slowly.

The excursion was mystical with its bright autumn sky and brilliant fall colors. Every morning, I snapped photos of where we docked, often before the sun has fully risen. From a photographic stand, it was a great trip!

Our next stop was Halifax, Nova Scotia. On our excursion, (my husband and I) we had a stop at Peggy’s Cove – the quintessential snapshot of a fishing village. Again, our weather was perfect – sunny and cool but cold. We toured the town of Halifax by bus, our tour guide pointing out the cemetery that held the remains of over a 100 Titanic casualties. The rest of the group had an all day excursion that included a tasty lunch of clam chowder.

In the town of Sydney, talented artists and another magical place. That night, we sailed up the St. Lawrence Seaway toward our final destination – Quebec.

It should be noted, other than losing and then finding my sunglasses, there were no calamities for a few days.

To be continued…

 

By Land and By Sea (Part Two)

I chose this picture of the Vanderbilt mansion The Breakers (compliments of Google), because we never got to see it on our excursion. It was cancelled.

Why, you may ask?

After we sailed from Brooklyn at sunset and watched the Statue of Liberty glow in the fading sun, we sipped our cocktails on the top deck of the ship taking in the NYC skyline as the sky turned from pink and peach to periwinkle, then inky indigo.

We dined – feasted really. We were introduced to our steward Dennis, our waiters Maida and Nemanja, the former from Serbia, the latter from Bosnia. Afterwards we merrily headed to our rooms to sleep off the excitement hangover.

At a very early hour (before 7 a.m.), the Captain announced to all (even us in our staterooms  – rudely interrupting my self) that although we arrived at our first port of call, Newport, Rhode Island, we were unable to enter the harbor due to a tall ship that was sunk or stranded in the middle of it, preventing us to dock. He was hopeful that the Coast Guard would be arriving and begin moving the craft. However, several hours later, way past the time for our planned trip to tour the Vanderbilt homes, we were stuck on-board and would be traveling ahead onto Boston. We felt let down, but we soon found the perfect activity. Trivia is what really makes this group bubble with anticipation. Oh, that and bingo and the casino.

Gathered around on of the tables in the lounge, we put our heads together to answer the most challenging of trivia questions. We all have our areas of expertise, but in most of the cases, pure dumb luck (and some form of logic) gets the right answer. This time, we were in serious competition with two other groups who would keep us on toes for the rest of the cruise. The gauntlet had been thrown that first day, and we gladly picked it up.

Lady Rockford (the cousin) was exhibiting signs of a reaction to the bee sting – her hand was beginning to swell and other than a headache from her fall, she seemed fine. However, in the morning, that was not the case.

The hand ballooned overnight and most of our group went in search of medical help on shore. A helpful Bostonian said the hospital was just a few blocks up the road. She was delusional – it was a couple miles. They walked to the hospital and got Lady Rockford tended to. In the meantime, my husband and I walked the Freedom Trail and then headed back to the ship to rest our tootsies!

Bar Harbor was our next stop and I had booked for myself an excursion in a boat to see lighthouses. I felt confident that I could survive this trip – I am prone to seasickness and had gotten prescribed the patch to wear behind my ear. I even put a fresh patch on that morning. It was working like a charm! But with little more than half an hour left in the tour, I did my best to watch the horizon to help ease my tummy. Instead, I had to rush to the on- board bathroom.

My husband however, was left without an excursion – the one he was really looking forward to – whale watching. It was cancelled because the tide was out and that meant the whales stayed away. He lagged behind the Denver Contingency while they shopped in town. It is his least favorite thing to do unless you get him in a hardware store, model train shop or a place that sells science lab equipment. I mention this, because even though he abhors shopping. the man will walk into a store and find something to purchase. In this case it was a fossil. I’m sure he did his own secret happy dance in the aisle of that shop when he came across this science nerd’s treasure. I wish I could see the security camera footage…

I joined the group for lunch – a must – the Nathan’s hot dogs of Maine – lobster rolls! I discovered at the restaurant we had our choice of ‘hot with butter’ or ‘cold with mayonnaise’. It was almost 50/50. I am told the cold was delicious – the hot was too!

After lunch, we hopped onto a trolley and heard how the Acadia National Park was created. I was childlike in watching the fall colors and Nature’s Beauty as it flashed past my window seat. It was breathtaking and I’ll leave it at that.

That night as we dined, we sailed on toward Canada!

To Be Continued….

By Land and By Sea (Part One)

I have returned from our vacation refreshed and ready. For what, I have no idea. But I’m used to that by now.

I left for vacation prepared to be on an adventure. This frame of mind is most helpful because you never know what’s going to come at you on a trip. One can plan all they want but Life has a way of nudging you back into reality. Take this trip for example:

We traveled as a group of seven. My husband and I,  his brother and sister-in-law, a sister of the sister-in-law, her best friend, and a cousin. The group was converging in New York City from two cities – Chicago and Denver. Traveling with us was the cousin who lives in Rockford.

For full disclosure, we have cruised with this group before and we have had a marvelous time! Now five years later, we were gathering together to see New England and Canada’s fall colors amidst the touristy things to do. We all read over the excursions, made our selections or not depending on the port of call. For instance – in Boston, my husband and I chose to walk the Freedom Trail – map securely clutched in our hands.

But much to my surprise, this adventure began at LaGuardia airport. To witness, then experience the taxi system was most impressive. The ride was another all onto itself. Now, being familiar with downtown Chicago traffic, I was still unprepared for the New York experience. I can say with firm conviction, that ride rated right up there with the Spiderman ride at Universal Studios in Orlando. I even slammed my foot on the floor of the back seat searching for an imaginary brake pedal. Several times.

Arriving at our hotel, we greeted the Denver Contingency like we just had a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Past, shoved our bags in our rooms and went in search of dinner. (I was hoping for a stiff drink!) We only had to walk two blocks before we came upon Roll n Roaster. Already packed with customers we joined the line, perusing the menu and getting suggestions from the locals. We wolfed down our roast beef sandwiches and tater tots and headed back to our hotel to discuss what we wanted to do with our day before boarding the ship. Our destination for the next day: Coney Island!

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Slow Fingers

I am plagued with a brain that moves faster than my fingers – or my mouth. The result is often half-cocked sentences. It’s down right embarrassing.

For instance, this morning I was typing a response to a Facebook post someone was kind enough to tag me in. My answer in my brain was : These are beautiful! What came out was: These new beautiful!

See what I mean?

My only excuse was I hadn’t had a cup of coffee yet.  I throw myself at the mercy of all gray matter.

But why are the fingers the so slow? Because I have bucked at all attempts to type correctly.  I know which fingers should be resting on which keys, and for the most part I do. But I have evolved from the hunt and peck method with both of my index fingers. This method seems to work for me, but it won’t earn me any “fastest typist” awards in my lifetime.

I can’t even claim arthritis as an excuse for slow fingers.

They are what they are – appendages unwilling to work with the ruler – the almighty brain. Even my phone is against me – autocorrect has caused more raised eyebrows than I care to admit to.

In fact, even Facebook’s autocorrect can throw words in there that don’t fit.

So, for now, I’m going to give my fingers a break and claim that little word mix-up was a fault of Facebook.