Welcome to my blog!

This is blog is about me dabbling with a little bit of everything, and not being particularly good at anything. And about the places I've been either on vacation or SAG:ing my husbands bicycle trips.

You can click on the pictures to make them bigger and/or click on the links to open another window for more info.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Trip to Maryland for bicycling reunion

On Thursday 10/17/13 we headed out to Maryland for a small ABB bicycling reunion ride. Mark and Karen were very nice to organize this and let us and Joe and Karen stay at their lovely house in Braddock Heights. Other riders who joined us the next day were Leo, Barb and John, Mark and Susan, Garry and Karen's brother Dave.

We arrived there after a long trip, there was a truck fire on I-84 in Danbury, CT that slowed us down, and "the Geldings" headed out for a ride right away. While they were riding us ladies went to check out the downtown Frederick area. Frederick is an old town, with cute little stores and restaurants and a canal/park area.

Mighty happy looking Joe and Jeff 

Mark, Mark, Jeff and Joe . . . and the Geldings ride again . . . 

. . . and off they go . . . 

Carroll Creek, Frederick, MD

Carroll Creek, Frederick, MD

After their ride the rest of the gang had arrived and we all met at one of the hotels some of them were staying at and then headed out to a restaurant for dinner. I think it was called Alexander's  in Buckeystown.

at Alexander's Restaurant
Next morning, Friday 10/18/13, all the other riders came to Idlewhile and they headed out right from there. I don't know exactly which way they went since we ladies were the official SAG team and we had to get to the first SAG stop. We left soon after them and drove more or less straight to the first SAG stop. We went past Burkittsville, where "the Blair Witch Project" was filmed. It did look a bit spooky, bus is  a cute, old small town. Our SAG was set up by the War Correspondents Memorial in Gathland State Park . Some of the Civil War Battle sites are close by and the Appalachian Trail  runs right through it.

Official Group Picture @ Idlewhile, Braddock Heights
back row: Gary , Joe , Leo
middle row: David , Mark , Mark , Jeff
front row: John, Barb , Susan 

getting ready

still getting ready 
War Correspondents Memorial at Gathland State Park, MD 
@ Gathland State Park

@ Gathland State Park
From there the cyclists headed out and we drove towards the Antietam Battlefields where we caught up with them again. We followed them through some of the fields and then headed towards Shepherstown  in West Virginia and our lunch place. While we were waiting for them to arrive we looked around a little bit and found the Little House . It is a two story building that is only 9 1/2 feet (2,9 m) wide and 10 feet (3 m) high. We had lunch close by at the Blue Moon Cafe , highly recommend it.

Getting close to Antietam 

Contemplating the battlefields

Cornfield Battlefield at Antietam

The Watchtower at Antietam

Mark, Gary, Leo, Karen and David at Antietam
The Little House at Shepherdstown, WV
Blue Moon Cafe at Shepherdstown, WV
After our relaxing lunch break the cyclists headed back home, except Susan and John who decided to take a ride in the car instead. We didn't have to do any other SAG stops so we headed home also, via Boonsboro. Author Nora Roberts had bought an old hotel and renovated it and is operating it now. It is called Inn BoonsBoro and looks absolutely lovely. I wouldn't mind staying there sometime.
Inn BoonsBoro, owned by Nora Roberts

Inn BoonsBoro, owned by Nora Roberts

We arrived home before the cyclists. Susan and John headed to their hotels for some relaxation. Both Karens and I met the rest of the cyclists at the house of the self-proclaimed "the queen of f'ing everything" and her husband. She is an artist, mostly mosaic and he seems to be a bit of an inventor. We had a private tour of their house and studio. Their house and yard had a lot of interesting and neat stuff.

The artist, Karen and the inventor. I think he might have made that bike.
It sure is different.

Kitchen mirror mosaic 
Bathroom mosaic

Leo goofing with the big chicken

Staircase mosaic
Later in that day, after everyone had showered and rested from their ride, we gathered at Idlewhile for some appetizers and drinks. Then we walked to the Home at Braddock Inn  for dinner.

Get-together before dinner 
On Saturday, 10/19/13, we all met at the Utica Park just north of Frederick. From there the cyclists headed out for the day, but they didn't even get out off the park before Susan's chain broke. Jeff was able to fix it for now. Karen and her sister-in-law Molly, who had joined us for the day took Gary's car since he would be leaving us after lunch.
Saturday's group picture
Leo, Barb, Dave, John, Mark, Joe, Gary, Jeff, Susan & Mark

Gary and Jeff contemplating something . . . 

Karen, Joe and Susan

There they go again . . . 
. . . but not for long . . .

Susan's chain broke before they even got out off the park

We set up our first SAG stop at a park by the Loy's Station Covered Bridge . There were several artists meeting for a day of plein air painting. After a quick snack we all headed out again.

An artist trying to decide where to set up for her plein air painting
@ Loy's Station Covered Bridge

Loy's Station Covered Bridge
The riders were on their way so we drove towards the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seaton . We had a lot of time to look around, both at the Basilica, the museum, we even saw a short movie about her life and the Cemetery by the Mortuary Chapel. Soon we got a call that the riders were close by so we set up lunch by some picnic tables. All the other riders arrived, except Susan and Mark and Jeff told us that Susan's chain broke again. Mark had stayed with  her, but she would have to walk back. Jeff and I hopped in the SAG wagon and went to pick her up while Mark rode back. Karen had prepared an outstanding lunch for everybody and if the weather would not have looked a bit iffy, we would have stayed even longer. We did have to say goodbye to Gary who was heading back to Connecticut from there. Susan of course couldn't ride anymore due to the chain and took a ride form us back to Utica Park.

 The Basilica of the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

The Basilica 

Altar of Relics 

Mortuary Chapel and St.Joseph's Cemetery, resting place of many Sisters

The White House (. .  no not THE White House. . )
or the original St. Joseph's House
Lunch on the grounds of the National Shrine

Lunch on the grounds of the National Shrine
The riders headed out but opted not to do some extra hills due to possible rain. Us ladies headed up towards the National Shrine Grotto of Lourdes in Emmitsburg. It is part of Mount St Mary's University. We walked around a little bit and the grounds were really beautiful.

Gardens at the Grotto of Lourdes - Our Lady of Esplanade

Corpus Christi Chapel

John Hughes Cabin

We all met again at the Utica Park. We didn't even have to wait for them too long. The riders did see two other covered bridges which we didn't see. For dinner we went to downtown Frederick to the Brewer's Alley . After dinner we said goodbye to Susan and Mark who were heading out early the next morning and Dave and Molly who were driving back home that evening.

Mark and Karen's dog Mason

Mark & Karen's dog Rocky
Sunday morning, 10/20/13, everybody who was still around came to Mark and Karen's for brunch. Karen had outdone herself again and provided us with a very lovely brunch. John and Barb were heading out soon after, same with Joe and Karen. Leo was staying an extra night and he and Mark had planned on doing another ride that day. Jeff was heading to Raleigh NC and we went to a car rental place to pick up his car. He headed out straight from there and I drove back home.

I had some problems getting on the highway (Joe had the same problem the night before while driving us back from the restaurant), apparently Garmin's maps are not quite up to date. The GPS said there was an entry to the highway but there was only an entry to COSTCO parking lot. I had to circle around a bit to find another entry. Otherwise the trip back home was uneventful, as was Jeff's, except a lot of traffic around Washington DC.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Day 17 - Paris to New York - Thursday - July 18, 2013

Time to head home today. After breakfast we finished what still needed to be packed and headed out. We walked from our hotel to Gare du Nord. It was only a 15 minute walk, which we didn’t realize earlier, we could have walked here when we arrived in Paris. We took a train from Gare du Nord to Charles de Gaulle airport. The train didn't come in couple of minutes as the board said, nor was it the express train either. It took about 20 minutes before the train arrived and it stopped at every single stop and was packed when we got in.

We flew back on Iceland Air via Reykjavik. Their counter was not open when we got to the airport but was supposed to open in 10 minutes, that turned out to be closer to 30. Luckily we got to the airport on time, since the line-up was huge later on. Nor did the plane leave from the gate they told us. Hmmm there’s starting to be theme in here. . .  Charles de Gaulle airport is actually really nice. I have to say that the European airports puts American ones, especially JFK to shame. JFK looks so dirty and outdated. Going through the security check at de Gaulle was a breeze, no line-up at all, we just walked there and were checked right away. At JFK we would be still standing on line. And the reason for this is that the security was not right there where you check-in with everybody who comes to the terminal going through it, but it was on the wing where your gate is, so only the ones whose flight leaves from those gates will be screened in there. Why can’t American airports do that and avoid all that lining ups. Since we knew that Iceland Air doesn't serve (free) food on the plain we had our lunch there and brought a sandwich with us too.

The flight from Paris to Reykjavik went well, but this was the first time I've heard them ask if there was a doctor on board. That happened when we still had an hour of flying left. There was a doctor or some sort of other medical person, but I don’t think it was anything too serious. There was an ambulance waiting when we arrived to Reykjavik. We got off the plane and found our next plane. While they were checking our next boarding passes the lady said something to me, but I had a bit hard time of understanding her, but then it hit me. I've been asked to go through a separate security check. For some reason I've been pulled over quite often, more than others. Maybe I look like a very suspicious person, or maybe it is that my first name backwards is an Arab name, or maybe it’s just my good luck. Anyway, Jeff had to wait while I went to a separate room where they checked out my purse and carry-on and then I have to step up on a platform where they patted me down. We finally were able to board that plane and we took off. The flight was a bit choppy with turbulence, but nothing too bad. I felt like lots of the people on the plane were restless, getting up and down and the girl behind me kicking my seat, the guy on the window seat was opening and closing the shades all the time, he was the most restless. He couldn't figure out the TV screen and got frustrated with that too, luckily his daughter who sat next to him helped him out.

We finally got to New York. The flight from Paris to Reykjavik was 3 hours and the flight from Reykjavik to JFK was 5 ½ hours, plus about an 1+ of waiting time, so it’s a bit longer than the direct flight, but it also costs a lot less. We took the Airtrain to the car rental. For some reason Jeff’s name was not on the list of cars that were ready, but the car was there waiting for us. We started driving home and the rental car was making this weird grinding noise, like metal on metal. We were already on the Van Wyck and didn't want to turn back to get another car. Sometimes the noise was really loud and then it went away just to start again. We were wondering whether we would  get home OK without the car breaking down. We did, but it was doing it on and off the whole time. We had one happy dog waiting for us at home, but I don’t think she slept well while we were gone, since she’s been very tired.

P.S. When Jeff returned the car the next day and mentioned the problem to them, they gave him a free car rental since he is a good repeat customer.

Day 16 - Paris - Wednesday - July 17, 2013

After breakfast we headed back to the Montmartre area. I really like that part of Paris. I decided that since I didn’t see it on the first time, I would go and see the Musee de Montmartre this time. We took the metro to the Abbesses station. This metro station is one of last original Art Nouveau stations left. Even the glass roof is still the original one. We walked past the other windmill that is still there, the Moulin de la Galette. And then we also went by Au Lapin Agile restaurant where lots of famous artists used to go. I went to see the museum while Jeff went shopping and looking around the area. The museum was not as good as I thought, but still nice. They had a lot of paintings, sketches and posters from Toulouse Lautrec and other painters from that era. Several used to live in that building and the one next to it, some of them were Renoir, Valadon and Utrillo. The building next door is not yet available for touring. They also had a small vineyard right next door. There used to be several vineyards a long time ago, but this is the only one left. They have about 2000 vines and they sell the wine they produce for charity. From there we did some shopping and then decided to walk to the Chateau Rouge metro station, since it was the direct line to where we were heading. The area from Sacre Coeur to the station was not the nicest in Paris. It was run down with lots of ethnic families living and working in the area.     

Climbing up from the Abbesses Metro station

Abbesses Metro station

The Moulin de la Galette

Au Lapin Agile

Au Lapin Agile

Montmartre Vineyard

Musee de Montmartre

Musee de Montmartre

Musee de Montmartre

Musee de Montmartre
Montmartre sightseeing train

We got off at the Cite station which is on the Ile de la Cite. We had a lunch at the same restaurant we ate when we were here a year and a half ago, just across the Ste Chapelle church. After lunch we walked to the Crypt near Notre Dame church. It was neat to see all the old ruins underneath the street level. Paris was occupied by Romans and they used to call it Lutetia. Both Ile de la Cite and Ile St Louis were several islands and the Seine shores where all marsh. They still had ruins from the roman baths and other buildings, same as some medieval ruins and old wells. We went to see the Notre Dame but the line was too long and we didn’t want to wait in the heat. The temperature must be again over 90. We ended up taking the metro back home and just cooling down before getting something small to eat.

Cite Metro station

Flower Market, Ile de la Cite, Paris

The Crypt, Roman ruins

The Crypt, Roman ruins

The Crypt, Roman ruins

The Crypt, Medieval well

The Crypt, Roman baths

The Crypt, Roman baths

Tribunal de Grande Instance

Now we have to finish packing  since we are heading back home tomorrow morning. Poor Casey must be missing us a lot and wondering what happened to us.