Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Boo !

Today is, of course, Halloween. The signs of it are everywhere, including in the North Carolina aquarium in Pine Knoll Shores, NC.

Fish bones carved into a jack-o-lantern.

A large sculpture of fish with their masks on outside the aquarium entrance.

An unfortunate soul in Davy Jones' locker.

Another fishy pumkin carving.

We're on our second full day in Alabama. We haven't taken many photos yet, but perhaps we will today. This evening is dinner at the home of friends of our hosts. Buddy and Charlotte visited us in France, and they are the owners of the condo we stayed in while in Atlanta last week.

Tomorrow we head up to Kentucky for a stopover before getting to our Illinois friends' house on Thursday. That will be our last stop before heading back home to France on Sunday. I think we will be ready to get home.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Kite Festival

A stars-and-strips kite at Atlantic Beach.

The Atlantic Beach Kite Festival took place on our final weekend in Morehead City, NC. We had no idea, of course, until the loudspeakers they had set up out on the beach started blaring Beethoven early Saturday morning.

Surf's up!

The previous night's storm had blown by leaving us with warm temperatures and plenty of wind. The surf was up and we were curious as to what was happening down on the beach. We got dressed and walked down to see.

People gathering for the kite festival.

It was early, but there were some people gathered on the beach nonetheless and we saw several kites up in the air. Others were getting ready to launch. The kites were up all day and into the night - we saw several kites that evening that had on-board lights. Some blinked, some spun and others were just multi-colored shapes in the night sky. It was a nice send-off!

A multi-colored kite rises from the dunes on Atlantic Beach.

On Sunday morning we got up early and packed out of our condo for the ten and a half hour drive to Anniston, Alabama. We arrived around 6 pm at the beautiful home of our friends Evelyn and Lewis and were welcomed with open arms, a couple bottles of Vouvray to make us feel at home, and a supper of Brunswick stew and home made cornbread. Yum!

By the way, just so you know we're in the South, here's something you can find in the local supermarkets:

Bubba Burgers on sale in the local supermarket; original and onion flavor!

Speaking of supermarkets, I was suprised to see in one local market that the section where you find butter was actually labeled "Margarine." There was every kind of fake butter spread you can imagine, but only two kinds of real butter (store brand and Land-O-Lakes). And only one of those came unsalted. There must have been twenty varieties of butter-like spreads in various kinds of containers/shapes/tubs. I CAN believe it's not butter...

Friday, October 27, 2006

Weekend Outlook

It's Friday and the weather is changing. It's warming up and the rain is moving in. It should be raining by this afternoon and it's forecast to continue through Saturday. It will be an interesting change.

This morning, as the clouds began to move in, Ken and I walked over to the beach to see the sunrise.

There were a few people out walking or fishing, and we could see, as you can in the photo above, the lighthouse out on Cape Lookout. It was a brilliant morning and I'll put more photos up later.

Today our plan is to run some errands (we're sending a box back home through the mail) and try to hit the NC aquarium this afternoon. Our attempt to go there yesterday was thwarted by a private event that closed the aquarium for most of the afternoon. Something fishy was going on...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Photo Du Jour

A shrimp boat plies the waters off the coast of North Carolina. This photo was taken from the balcony of our rented condo on Atlantic Beach.

We're planning to take advantage of sunshine to visit Fort Macon this morning and this afternoon we're going to the newly expanded North Carolina aquarium. Our friend Peter from Washington, DC, drove down yesterday to spend a few days here, so he'll be accompanying us on our adventures.

Our colds are getting better, but some symptoms are lingering. I'm sleeping much better now and that makes a great difference.

Last night we went to the Sanitary Fish Market for dinner. Ken had fried jumpin' mullets, Peter had fried grey trout, and I had fried shrimp and scallops. Yum! I love good fried seafood, and they make it good down here!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A Day At The Beach

Well, not exactly. More like a ten minute walk on the beach. We're still trying to get over these colds and they just keep hanging on. Ugh! We walked outside at the warmest part of the day just to be out in the sun and see the beach and the ocean. It was worth it! We saw many birds, among them sandpipers like this one. I took a little movie of a sandpiper running along the beach, but I have yet to figure out the video upload thing, so you can't see it yet.

Other sights from the beach:
Tire tracks make interesting patterns on the low-tide sand.


Beach cans.

This is the view of the Atlantic Ocean from our condo.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Views From The Westin

After visiting the aquarium, we rode up to the 72nd floor of the Westin Hotel in downtown Atlanta for a drink and views of the sprawl. Atlanta has some cool buildings, many of them skyscrapers. It's also a classic sprawl city that chokes with traffic every day. Still, it's pretty to look at on a clear day from over 700 feet up!

Looking north from the bar, the Peachtree Street corridor, or perhaps more aptly named the I 75/85 corridor, stretches out toward the horizon. Georgia Tech is on the left of the freeway.

In the center right of this picture is large area of trees; this is the neigborhood where the condo we were staying in is located.

We left Atlanta on Saturday, spent the night in Rock Hill, SC, then made it back to Morehead City, NC, on Sunday. Our condo on the beach is comfortable and we are recuperating, slowly getting over, I hope, our head colds.

I watched Monday Night Football last night. At least, I watched the first half. What a spectacle. I haven't seen much American football lately, and I was amazed at what I saw. It's much less about the game and more and more about pure hype, selling products and selling people. At one point they had the guy that sings the opening song for MNF (Hank Williams, Jr.) in the booth talking about what it's been like singing the MNF opening song for so many seasons.

The game seemed more like a reality show about a selected group of players. We heard more about their off-the-field exploits than we heard game analysis. The actual plays on the field were interspersed with interview clips of these star players. One was called the player you love to hate and his bad-boy reputation was hyped and hyped and they showed clips of him interacting with other players on the sidelines. Since he was excited we were told he was yelling at team mates, coaches and other staff. I'm not convinced.

The game was presented as a set of personal battles. We were encouraged to watch how certain players interacted with other players during the game. The camera work has gotten much closer to the players and you can see their facial expressions on the field in a way that you never could even five years ago. It was a show about individuals. Maybe fans enjoy this, but to me it seemed that the whole concept of a team effort was missing.

The opening plays of each team featured the introduction of the respective offensive and defensive lines, which is normal. But instead of one of the commentators doing it, they had a pre-recorded, obviously scripted semi-comedic reading of the introductions by one of the star players from each team.

Oh yeah, and there was some football, too. I went to bed at halftime.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Rain In Rock Hill

It was a pretty bad night of coughing and generally not sleeping. And now it's raining. I think I've gone through a box of kleenex a day for the past few days. Ugh.

And, we have a whole day in the car ahead. Double ugh. The good news is that this evening we'll be in our own condo for a whole week and can hopefully recover. Ken said he's feeling better this morning, so that's a good thing. In fact, he's almost chipper. I hate chipper.

As promised, here are some more phishy photos.

Jellyfish at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta.

Like Monterey, there is a jellyfish exhibit at the Georgia Aquarium. Unlike Monterey, it's pretty small and there aren't many varieties of jellies.

A whale shark high above my head.

The big draw at the GA is the open ocean tank that contains many varieties of sea life. And the star attraction here is the collection of about five whale sharks. They are truly amazing creatures and they impress you as they glide by the big window or above your head when you're in the acrylic tunnel under the tank.

One of the smaller whale sharks comes close to the window of the big tank.

Thanks for keeping the comments coming. Our connection to the internet depends on the availability of wireless networks where we're staying and internet cafés when we can find them. The connections are not the best and our laptop is old and we often lose the connection in the middle of doing things, so it's a slow and frustrating process. Thanks for sticking with us!

We have two more weeks in the USA before heading back to France. We miss home, but we're enjoying seeing friends, family and the sights. I do long for my own bed...

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Georgia Aquarium

Yesterday Ken, his mom, and I went to the new aquarium in Atlanta. We stayed in a friend's condo (warm thanks to Buddy and Charlotte) which was very, very comfortable. After a quick lunch with our friend Evelyn, we headed down Peachtree Street to the big fish tank.

This is the central atrium of the Georgia Aquarium. Very patriotic, eh? A red, white and blue wave.

This is the beluga whale tank. I didn't get pix of the whales but I did get some of the crowd watching a diver clean the inside of the tank.

The large show tank includes skates among the many fish above your head and behind a huge acrylic window.

That's all for today. I'll post some more phish photos the next time we get an internet connection. Today we're on our way back to NC from Atlanta. We're spending the night in Rock Hill, SC, just south of Charlotte, NC. Tomorrow we'll do the rest of the trip back to the coast where we've rented a condo on Atlantic Beach for a week.

Ken and I have both been sick with head colds and need to stay put for a while to rest and recover. Many thanks to Evelyn and Lewis for recommending OTC medicines that worked (and continue to work) to relieve our symptoms!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Special Photo

This is a special photo for Amy H. at Chitlins & Camembert. While in Washington DC's Eastern Market we saw this butcher catering to local Washingtonians. We, however, did not partake.

Here are two more familiar sights from Washington:

The Lincoln Memorial.

The Washington Monument seen from the Tidal Basin.

Tomorrow we head to Atlanta for a few days and a visit to the new Georgia Aquarium. We're back in North Carolina on Sunday for a week in a condo on the beach. See you soon!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Maybe George Bush should take a walk through the FDR Memorial in Washington and read some of the quotes, like this one, actually written in stone. We all might be better off...

The trip continues, although we're relying on trips to an internet café to check e-mail (which isn't working all that well due to our provider's site having problems right now) and to put up some photos.

We had eye exams this morning. I need new glasses and I'm getting them next week.

Here's a gratuitous pumpkin shot in honor of the October holiday coming up. It was taken in Washington's Eastern Market, nearby where Ken and I lived in DC way back when...

Monday, October 16, 2006

New York to Washington

We left Albany on Friday morning and stopped for lunch in Manhattan at the Sevilla restaurant in the West Village. It's a Spanish restaurant that we've gone to a few times over the years. The last time, however, was way back in 1985!

Our table at the Sevilla.

Friday, October 13, 2006


We spent Wednesday evening in Lake George and visited Fort William Henry (a log fort) on Thursday morning. Then we drove down through Luzerne and Corinth to Saratoga for lunch.

Fall colors in Lake George.

Saratoga is home to a thoroughbred race track and every August the town is ablaze with racing fever. It was a bit quieter yesterday...

A neon sign in a downtown Saratoga bar gives to a hint as to this city's obsession.

We had a nice lunch downtown and made our way back to Albany and Delmar for a last dinner with our friends here. This morning we hit the road again... Manhattan for lunch then Washington, DC, to meet friends we haven't seen in many years.

Saratoga Town Hall.

Again, travel may mean spotty posting, depending on internet availability, so do stay tuned for updates.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Fort Ticonderoga

The view of southern Lake Champlain from Fort Ticonderoga.

At the southern end of Lake Champlain stands the restored Fort Ticonderoga orgininally built by the French in 1755 to help guard the trade corridor from Québec to New York. The fort played a role in the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars and then fell into disrepair until it was restored in the 20th century.

Spanish-made cannon stand ready to defend the fort.

We left our friends' house in Delmar yesterday morning and drove up the Hudson River through Troy. We continued up route 4 along the river and the Champlain Barge Canal to Glens Falls. We were supposed to meet my mom for lunch, but we missed a turn and ended up an hour late. Luckily, she waited for us and we had a good lunch together.

Black cannon poke through the stone walls of the fort. (Note: for some reason, part of the photo is missing in this view - if that's the case for you, click on the picture and you can see the whole thing)

Next, we drove up to Lake George and on to Ticonderoga. The fort was nice, but not as impressive as I remember from my childhood. Still, it was a beautiful drive and the setting was quite pretty.

For my French speaking friends, this is one of many plaques in the fort dedicated to the original occupants.

We drove back down to Lake George Village and found a hotel with free wi-fi internet access (yippee!) and had dinner in a rib place that was pretty good. After dinner we took a walk along the lakefront and through the village and made it back to the room just before it began to rain. The rain lasted all night, but it's clearing now. We can see Prospect Mountain from our window and the top is obscured by fog.

Engraving on one of the small Howitzer cannon in the fort.

Today we're going to look around for postcards, tee-shirts and maybe check out Fort William Henry before heading back down to Albany.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Photo Du Jour

A yacht cruises down the Hudson River after passing under the Rip Van Winkle Bridge between Catskill and Hudson, NY.

The next few days will be travel days, so our posts may be spotty. Stay tuned for updates.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Delmar, NY : Police State ?

George Bush's culture of fear has really taken hold. It's come to this: Ken and I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood yesterday. The friends we're staying with live in a nice Delmar residential neighborhood with a beautiful mix of architectural styles and large mature trees.

This is a town where I spent much of my youth; I went to day care here, I went to elementary school here, I graduated from the local high school. My parents and grandparents are buried here.

Many of the houses in this neighborhood have elaborate halloween displays in their front yards. It was Columbus Day and many residents were out working in their yards, raking leaves and pruning.

A front yard halloween display in Delmar, NY. Perhaps there should be another headstone with the following inscription: "Here lies Freedom - Killed by Fear."

We took some photos of houses and holiday displays like this one (above). Suddenly two police cars drove up and parked in front of us. One officer got out and I said hi. He scowled and barked, "What are you doing?" I replied that we were taking a walk, not knowing what was going on. I mean, he could have said, "Excuse me sir, we've had a call and we're just checking it out." But no, he was agressive and rude.

He told us to step in front of the car and proceeded to interrogate us about our identities (asking for ID) and then ran us through a police check. I told him I was visiting my friends on such-and-such a street and that I had grown up in this very neighborhood. He said that someone called them because they saw two men taking photos of houses. He said that this was a nice residential neighborhood where the people, you know (I don't know - he didn't finish the sentence). After about ten minutes consulting by radio with headquarters, he told us we checked out and we could go, but not to take any more pictures.

We were quite upset. I cannot believe there is a law against taking pictures on public streets in Delmar. We were not trespassing on anyone's property; we were in the public right of way admiring the elaborate holiday decorations in the yards. And, it must be said, we are just two average looking white guys in a average white neighborhood.

This experience kind of depressed me. Are people here so afraid that they call the police when someone they don't recognize walks down their street? Don't the police tell them that walking in a neighborhood is not a crime and to just calm down? This is not a gated community. It's a relatively affluent suburb of Albany with a population of well over 16,000 and it's part of a larger metropolitan area of over 700,000 people. We were two blocks from the little downtown, and we could see the Town Hall from the point where the police stopped us.

Amy H. talked about the fear in America in her blog last week. Now I've experienced it, too. This is not the same Delmar, nor the same America, that I grew up in. And it hasn't changed for the better.

Monday, October 09, 2006

New York State Wines

While in upstate New York we have, of course, been sampling the local wines. Back in the day, NYS wines were not considered to be any good. There was a lot of sweet stuff around and it was pretty awful.

Our current favorite white is this one from the Finger Lakes region of New York. It's dry and fruity and very tasty. This winemaker has been around for a lot of years and was one of the pioneers of New York State wines.

These days, however, wineries old and new have been improving their techniques and the resulting wines can be quite good. We've tried a number of them and have found three favorites so far.

I should say that our wine taste is very much influenced by French wines, particularly those in our region in the Loire Valley/Touraine. Whites are sauvignon blanc or chenin and reds are gamay or cabernet franc. These are light, fruity wines that are meant to be drunk young.

This is a Hudson Valley winery that we visited and toured on our way upstate from NYC. We tasted several of their wines, but this one was the best by far. It's a blend of several varietals and while it's alcohol level is at 13%, it's not too strong at all.

We do enjoy a good full-bodied red like a Bordeaux or Bourgogne of course, but most of what we drink is local to our region. While in California, we often bought French wines, although we did have our local favorites there, too. We found that many California reds were too bold for us and much too high in alcohol. Often those wines were 14 or 15 percent and while they paired well with certain foods, they were nonetheless very strong wines.

An old Finger Lakes favorite of mine, Walter Taylor's Bully Hill Vineyard always has something interesting to try. This chardonnay was dry and crisp in the French style; it may not have spent any time on oak since there was no hint of that buttery flavor that I really hate in a white wine.

Our local stuff in France is usually 11 or 12 percent and we find that those couple percentage points make a big difference in the "drinkability" of the wine. The NYS wines we've been trying are closer to the 11 to 12 percent range, they're fruity and drinkable at a young age, and we have been quite pleasantly surprised at how much we like them.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Half Moon

On Saturday morning, Ken and I ate breakfast at the Four Corners Luncheonette in Delmar. Ken had crab cakes with 2 eggs, potatoes, and white toast, and I had a mushroom omelette with bacon and pumpernickel toast. It was delicious!

Next it was on to Indian Ladder Farms to buy apples, then we drove up to Thacher Park in the Helderberg Mountains for views of the Mohawk and Hudson valleys. The fall colors are starting to look very nice.

The leaves are changing! This view is from Thacher Park.

We ended up walking around downtown Albany in the afternoon and made our way to the waterfront on the Hudson River where we found the ship Half Moon tied up. This is a replica of the ship sailed from the Netherlands by Henry Hudson in 1609 when he "discovered" New York Harbor and the river that bears his name.

The Half Moon docked at Albany on the Hudson River.

He sailed as far inland as Albany (about 150 miles), met the native people, and claimed the region for the Dutch.

The bow of the Half Moon and the forecastle.

The ship is a working ship and it goes out with crews of students who learn to sail it and find out what life may have been like on an exploration vessel nearly 400 years ago. We took a tour and saw just how tiny this little ship was, and how Hudson and his crew were either very brave or very stupid for sailing it across the Atlantic.

Half Moon's main mast (there are three upright masts), crow's nest, and rigging.

Later in the evening we met some old friends of mine for dinner in a downtown brew-pub and had a great meal and a fun time.

The main deck, called the weather deck, is less than 18 feet across. You can see a person standing in the doorway of the forecastle for some scale. This was one tiny boat!

Half Moon on the Hudson; view of the stern.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Beautiful Downtown Albany

Well, at least it's not Burbank... Ken and I did a little walk around Madison Avenue yesterday; our first bit our tourism while in town. Our primary destination was the cathedral; my pictures inside didn't turn out so well, but Ken may be posting some of his soon. Here's some of the stained glass:

Stained glass in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Of course, this scene caught my eye because it includes grape pickers. I don't know the significance of the scene for the catholics, though. Anyone?

A close up of the stained glass grapes.

We also went up into the observation deck of Corning Tower to get a look since it was a nice clear day. The tower is the tallest building in Albany, at about 45 floors and contains various state offices.

Corning Tower, named for the late longtime Albany mayor Erastus Corning.

The NY State capitol (red roofs), the Egg performing arts center on the bottom, and city hall on the right (with the bell tower). The design of the capitol was inspired by the Hotel de Ville in Paris.

Ken doing his photo thing on the observation deck.

The restored Delaware & Hudson Railroad building now serves at the State University of New York's administrative headquarters.

Today we plan to take advantage of a good weather forecast to go out to an apple orchard and do some other outdoor things. Stay tuned!