Saturday, June 30, 2012

If you're fond of sand dunes and salty air

We only spent a few hours in Provincetown, a fishing-village-turned-resort town on the tip of Cape Cod. It was Friday night, but it was also the week before Memorial Day, so while there were people out and about, the town was far from crowded. I know how crowded it can get; I've seen pictures.

A large pier in Cape Cod Bay at Provincetown. You can see the cape curling southward on the horizon.

We found a place to park the car about two blocks from Commercial Street and set out on foot. With our limited time we just walked up and down the street looking at all the shops and thinking about where to have dinner. At nearly every intersection there is a view toward the bay and at a couple points we went down to the beach for a closer look.

A pier that's seen better days, but still lovely.

The shops, galleries, and restaurants along Commercial Street are colorful and inviting. The weather was perfect and, as I said, there were people strolling everywhere but I never felt crowded, so taking pictures was fun and not frustrating. The sun started to set and Ken and I were getting hungry.

We felt welcome and right at home in Provincetown.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Another fine bugaboo

We left Albany on Friday morning and headed east toward Cape Cod. We had made reservations at a hotel in Hyannis and planned on driving up to Provincetown that evening for dinner. Neither of us had been to P-town before. Just outside of Boston, somewhere along I-495 near Milford, we stopped for a quick lunch. Not knowing where we were, we looked for shopping centers alongside the interstate exits where we were likely to find a collection of national chains to choose from.

The Highland Lighthouse in Truro, Massachusetts, on the Atlantic side of the Cape.

It didn't take long for us to find a restaurant that looked promising, although we'd never heard of it before. It was called the Bugaboo Creek Steak House. This one corner of a shopping plaza, right there in the heart of New England, was done up to resemble a mining lodge from the Canadian Rockies. It looked as though Walt Disney himself had directed the design. We were greeted outside by a huge carved wood statue of a moose. Inside, an imposing rock fireplace commanded the center of the dining room. The stuffed heads of such northern critters as bison, deer, and caribou hung here and there on the walls among all manner of north country memorabilia. The chandeliers were made to look like they were crafted from antlers. Snowshoes dangled from the rafters. I think I remember seeing a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Mountie) uniform and the characteristic hat somewhere.

Ken's photo of the steak house. There's Mr. Moose on the left.

The food choices were pretty much what you'd expect in a rugged Rockies-themed steak house: Classic Steaks! Big Mountain Burgers! Summit Sides! Mountain Outfitters' Specials! I suppose even the most dyed-in-the-deck-shoes New Englander needs a change from his near constant diet of lobster and scrod now and again. Ken and I resisted the larger meals (although the Moosebreath Burger was tempting) and we both ordered something called a Lodge Chicken Salad. The salads came garnished with the grilled breast of a free-range Canadian Snowbird Chicken (I hope it's not an endangered species). It turned out to be mighty tasty, eh?

Ken's photo of the interior. Yes, that's a stuffed raccoon on the left. Appetizing. See the bison's head on the wall?

After lunch we looked forward to the short drive out to the Cape. As it was a Friday afternoon and the weather was beautiful, there were a few other people looking forward to the same thing. And all of us chose the same moment to converge on the two bridges that cross the man-made canal that separates the mainland from the cape itself. There we sat. And sat. And crawled a little. But mostly sat. For about an hour. The bridge we had chosen was down to a single lane because of construction. The other was backed up just as bad handling the overflow.

But we made it. We got checked into the hotel (the staff were very friendly and helpful) and headed up the cape to Provincetown, about ninety minutes away, for dinner.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

What a sendoff!

On our last night in Albany, Ken and I were treated to a terrific evening with our hosts, Lorraine & Lou and their friends and neighbors Tina & Joe. If I remember correctly (wow, it's been well over a month now), we started out with nibbles and wine while Lou got his barbeque grill fired up.

Left to right: Tina, Joe, Lorraine, and Lou.

Lou cut up a gorgeous tenderloin of beef and grilled it to perfection. Ken, Joe, and I watched the master at work (but I took no photos, d'oh!). We enjoyed steaks, wonderful kale, an amazing salad, and other tasty dishes with some local New York and some California wines. It was a fantastic evening and a great way to end our stay.

At one point, Tina grabbed my camera and took a few shots.

Lorraine made place settings for the party. In keeping with the wedding theme, she printed out a photo of each of us and attached them to little tuxedo stands. After a little wine, I lined them all up for a group portrait.

You see? It was a formal dinner.

We had a fun-filled visit and are grateful to have such wonderful friends welcome us so warmly into their home.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The south front

Here's a gratuitous shot of the south facade of the state capitol in Albany. This is the side that faces the Empire State Plaza. I liked how the group of school kids walking by is dwarfed by the architecture.

The reflecting pool where that fountain is becomes an ice skating rink in winter. Click to capitolize.

Part of the effect is the result of using my camera's telephoto lens from the southern end of the plaza, I think. The larger white building on the left is the Legislative Office Building where New Yorkers can visit their state senators and assembly members.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Otherwise known as the shorter of Albany's two towers: The Alfred E. Smith State Office Building. I posted a few of photos of the exterior of this building in 2009 here. When I was a kid I thought that this was the Empire State Building. Ha!

The Smith Building viewed from the south along Swan Street.

The Smith Building was completed in 1928 in the Art Deco style of architecture. Its thirty-four floors top out at 388 feet making it the second tallest building in the city. There used to be an outdoor observation deck on the 31st floor. Well, there still is, but it's been closed since the Corning Tower observation deck opened. And that's a shame because, as I mentioned, the Corning deck doesn't offer 360º views as the Smith deck did.

A glimpse of the Smith Building between two of the Plaza's agency buildings.

One of the distinguishing features of the building, and one that I did not photograph, is the engraving of the name of each of New York State's counties on an exterior frieze that runs around the building above the first floor. I always thought that was cool; it was fun to look for particular county names. Well, it was for me.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Erastus Corning Tower

I've mentioned Albany's Corning Tower a few times, so I thought I'd do a little post about it. The tower is the primary office building in Albany's Empire State Plaza, an office and cultural complex designed in the Modernist style. Completed in 1966, nearly ten years before work ended on the larger complex, the building was known simply as the Tower Building.

Looking up from the base of Corning Tower with a telephoto lens.

In 1983, the tower was dedicated to Mayor Erastus Corning 2nd, who died that year. Corning was mayor of Albany for forty years. His great grandfather, Erastus Corning I, founded the New York Central Railroad (he was a big railroad mogul) and the town of Corning, New York, home of the famous glass manufacturer.

Corning Tower seen from across the Hudson River.

The building has forty-four floors, with an observation deck on the forty-second. I think the two floors above the observation deck are machine rooms and don't contain any offices. The rest of the building serves as offices for two state departments: Health and General Services.

It's not what you think; he's reading a newspaper. At the base of the tower on the plaza level.

Corning Tower has the distinction of being the tallest building in the state of New York, outside of New York City. I also read that it's the tallest building between New York City and Cleveland, Ohio, although I wonder about that one. In any case, it's certainly the tallest building in Albany and it dominates the skyline.

Weather instruments, communications antennae, and traffic cameras are installed on the roof.

The tower sits prominently on the eastern edge of the plaza. Behind it, four identical (to each other) twenty-three story towers (creatively named Agency Buildings 1, 2, 3, and 4, respectively) mimic the taller tower's shape. They are all clad in white Vermont marble and glass. You can see all five towers in this shot from earlier in this series.

The base of the tower (just to the left of center) sits on a six-story platform, the roof of which is the exterior plaza that connects all the buildings. Inside the platform are parking garages, machine rooms, offices, a convention hall, and an interior pedestrian concourse.

I never worked in Corning Tower, but my first job as a state employee was as a clerk for the state's Insurance Department on the seventh floor of Agency Building 1. I loved working in the plaza; in fact I chose that first job because of the location. I had been offered jobs at other state agencies, but they weren't in spiffy downtown office buildings and that's where I wanted to work.

Inside the observation deck, view looking north.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Albany on the Hudson

Did you know that Albany is a port town? Henry Hudson sailed up the river to this point in 1609. He found out that it's as far as you can go up river in an ocean-going vessel. To this day, ocean-going ships still make the trip up to Albany's port to unload and load and return south.

The Port of Albany on the Hudson River. View looking south toward New York City (150 miles away).

Albany was the point at which lumber, harvested from forests in the state's interior, was processed for shipment to points south (primarily New York City). Back in the early nineteenth century, the Erie Canal was dug, the first locks of which begin at Albany, to open up the west and the Great Lakes region to barge traffic. The railroads came quickly after and relegated the canal to mostly leisure traffic.

Port activity. Such as it is.

The Hudson experiences significant tidal effects as far north as Troy (just north of Albany). The Mahican Indians called the river muh-he-kun-ne-tuk, the river that flows two ways. If you watch at the right time, you can actually see the tide moving up river.

When I was a kid, the river was seriously polluted. Nobody wanted to have anything to do with it. A huge freeway was built between downtown and the river, over the old railroad tracks and the old lumber district, cutting the city off from the foul waters.

These days, the river is very much cleaner thanks to decades of environmental legislation and cleanup efforts, not to mention the decline of industry in the river's valley. I remember the Hudson being brown; these days it's a beautiful blue color. It's too bad that freeway still blocks access to the waterfront. Although, in the 1990s, the city built a pedestrian bridge over the freeway to reconnect downtown to a newly created riverfront park. That's better than nothing, I suppose.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


We're getting toward the end of our trip photos. I keep asking myself. "Self," I say, "how many more pictures of Albany can your readers stand?" After all, I live in France and my blog is ostensibly about my life in France. But part of my life in France is a trip home now and then, isn't it?

Townhouses in the historic district along lower Clinton Avenue. Clinton as in DeWitt Clinton, 6th Governor of New York.

I took these pictures from up in the observation deck of the Corning Tower, the tallest building in Albany at 44 floors (589 feet, 180 meters). Not all that tall, but still. The old neighborhoods downtown have withered a bit over the years. Suburbanization and white flight took many people away, leaving the old townhouses to the poor and mostly black population.

These well-maintained townhouses face the capitol and include the headquarters of the New York State Bar Association.

A lot of the building stock is gone, but enough of it remains. Many of the old townhouses, especially those closest to the capitol, have been renovated. Some have been converted into offices, others into nice residences. Most are doing duty, as they always have, as homes to the people who live downtown. I'm struck by how green the city looks in these pictures.

The church on the lower right is Sweet Pilgrim Baptist Church. The big church on the upper left is St. Joseph's.

So I offer you a few views of townhouses. I have a bunch more photographs to share from downtown. After those, I have some photos of our evening in Provincetown, Massachusetts, followed by a few shots from Plymouth in the same state. That was the last day of our trip before coming home to France.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Back in Albany

We got back to Albany on Monday afternoon and spent the next few days seeing family and doing some last minute errands. My new glasses came in so I went in for the fitting. Some other paperwork got done, and we shopped a bit more.

My cousin Mark's painting, with the wine bar in the basements of the yellow & green buildings.
And that's a self-portrait of the artist pushing a dolly of wine cases.

In addition to seeing my mom and three of my aunts, we spent an evening having drinks with one of my cousins and his wife. They're the ones who came to Paris on their honeymoon last year, and he's the one who painted this scene (above), which is now hanging in my house.

And here's the actual scene, from a slightly different angle.

Ken and I met up with Mark and Julie at a wine bar downtown which just happens to be in Mark's painting. I couldn't resist taking a real-life shot of the scene the next day. It was great fun to see them again!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A lunch stop

We drove south from Burlington on route 7, with a quick swing through Middlebury, and made our way to Bennington, where we planned to have lunch before heading west back to Albany. As we approached Bennington, however, we got snarled in a small traffic jam due to some road construction.

A rather picturesque general store in North Bennington, Vermont.

We finally made our way into the middle of town, but didn't find an appropriate spot for lunch. After a little detour to avoid riding through the construction site a second time, we found ourselves in North Bennington. It's not much more than an intersection, but there were several restaurants and a general store.

Kevin's Sports Pub & Restaurant, North Bennington, Vermont. I recommend it.

The place we decided on for lunch is called Kevin's Sports Pub and Restaurant. A charming little place with a bar on one side and a dining room on the other. We had a chuckle listening to the waitress deal with an elderly couple who couldn't seem to get their order together. "Just tell me what you DON'T want," was a sentence we heard her repeat a few times. Our food was very tasty and after we were on our way "home" to New York State.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Above Lake Champlain

While we visited Battery Park high above Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vermont, a sailboat glided in toward the marina. I posted a photo of it back in May (while we were still in the US), but I thought I'd post a couple more.

Northern Lake Champlain, looking west toward New York's Adirondack Mountains.

Burlington was a fun stop. We stayed less than twenty-four hours, but were happy to walk around the center of town on Sunday afternoon. Our lunch was good; we had chicken caesar salads and white wine from California while sitting at an outdoor table on Church Street.

We weren't the only ones enjoying the view.

That evening, we were in a Motel 6 just north of town. The place was pretty much brand new and it was comfortable. Across the parking lot was a Burger King where we got some fries and some burgers for an in-room snack. We also had a bottle of wine. The fries were good, but the burgers were... not. We got up and out and headed south on Monday morning, just in time for rush hour.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Another immaculate conception

This is the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Burlington, Vermont. Very modern and very different from the one in Albany. The original cathedral, a much more traditional churchy-looking building, was destroyed by fire in 1972.

Is it a barn? Is it a grain elevator? Is it a church?

I like the muted colors of this building as well as its geometry. It's very modern, but uses some traditional New England forms in its design. We didn't venture inside, but there are probably some photos out there on the internet.

Two-toned brick and metal (copper?) sheathing.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Wile E. Coyote shops here

All those years, sending away for mail-order items in his attempts to catch the roadrunner, that crafty coyote (eatibus anythingus) was reaching out from the Arizona desert to... Burlington, Vermont. Of course, these days, he'd use Amazon or e-Bay.

This is actually a glass store. They don't sell anvils any more.

I saw a few more interesting signs in Burlington. In case you aren't sure what this building's address is, it's spelled out very nicely. Twicely.

I think there are more than one.

And then there's this one. Guess who it's all about?

I have no idea what this means.

Ok, enough about me.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The land of maple syrup and cheddar

I know what you're thinking. Isn't Canada maple syrup country? Isn't Cheddar in England? Well... yes and yes. But the maple trees don't stop growing at international borders and, after all, Vermont is in New England. So it all makes sense. Doesn't it.

The Church Street Marketplace in Burlington, Vermont, where we had Sunday lunch outdoors.

Maple syrup is produced throughout New York and New England, and Vermont is the largest producer of syrup in the United States (Québec is the largest producer overall, making three quarters of the world's supply). You can't go into a store in Vermont without seeing syrup for sale.

The church at the end of Church Street, Burlington, VT.

American Cheddar cheese (the name Cheddar is not yet protected) is manufactured in Wisconsin (the nation's largest producer), California, Oregon, New York, and Vermont, among others. Vermont Cheddar (also referred to as "white" Cheddar) contains no added coloration as other American Cheddars can. Canada, Australia, and South Africa are among the other countries that produce Cheddar-style cheeses.

Sunday afternoon in a Burlington sidewalk café/restaurant.

When I think of Vermont, I think of maple syrup and Cheddar cheese. It's always food with me.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Burlington bound

We left Montréal at mid-morning and headed south, passing through St.-Jean-Sur-Richelieu on the way to the US border. It's a town that Ken wanted to see and maybe have lunch in. We drove around and saw the place, but nothing really grabbed us for food so we decided to wait until we got to Burlington.

View from an island in northern Lake Champlain, in Vermont. Click to champlify.

The American border guard was slightly less than polite. I know they're trying to trip up the bad guys, but why do American immigration and customs agents always make me, an American citizen, feel like a criminal suspect every time I come back into the country? The Canadian agent smiled and welcomed us. The worst I get in France is a Gallic shrug.

Island lodging, North Hero Island, Vermont.

I've never had a problem getting back into the country, it's just that the agents seem to start with the assumption that we're up to no good. This time we just got the twenty questions, including why did we pick this particular "podunk" station at which to cross the border. Ummm, because it's there? Because we've been through all the others and this is the last one before we're eligible for a prize? Because we're carrying a shipment of illegal drugs in the trunk and we thought no one would notice?

None of the above. It's always best to tell the truth: we're on our way to Burlington and we wanted to drive on the small highway over the islands in Lake Champlain. We're tourists. The agent let us go without looking in the trunk. The only reason I mention that is because he looked in the trunk of the car just ahead of us. They must have been foreigners.

Friday, June 15, 2012

France interlude

Just a short break from my photos of our trip to the U.S. to remind myself that I'm still in France. Despite all the complaining about rain and chilly weather, there have been a few nice moments. I took this picture of our hamlet on Wednesday afternoon's walk with Callie.

There have been some recent breaks in the clouds. Click to renaudiate.

We really do need for things to dry out a bit now so we can finish digging in the vegetable garden. And the plants that are already in the garden need some warm sunshine. And I need to get the weeds dealt with before they deal with me. At least I got the grass cut before the latest deluge.

Tomorrow I'll go back to the second week of our trip, starting in Burlington, Vermont.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Parting shots from Montréal

Ken and I were in Montréal for less than forty-eight hours, but I've been posting about it for over a week. I'm amazed at how much we saw and how much of it was not planned. We did plan our dinner Friday night (at le Hangar down in a gentrifying industrial district near Old Montréal) and our lunch with friends on Saturday.

I don't know if these are caricatures of famous people or just random faces.

We also planned a brief meet-up with fellow blogger Tornwordo and his husband Serge for Saturday evening. It was great to meet them after reading about them for several years. But the rest was just wandering, either on foot or in the car.

On the rue Saint-Catherine. It's closed to cars in the summer in The Village. Must be great!

We both enjoyed Montréal a great deal and would love to go back. We're already talking about how it would be fun to find an vacation apartment rental for a week one of these years and spend some more time exploring the city. The list of things to do "one of these years" never seems to get shorter.

Serge (left) and Tornwordo (right). You can find his blog here.

On Sunday morning we checked out of the hotel and set off to find a bagel place for breakfast. Our friends told us about two famous places: St.-Viateur and Fairmount up near a traditionally Jewish neighborhood. We found them, but they're just bakeries with take out, so we didn't stop in. We also learned that St.-Viateur has a bagel café on Avenue du Mont-Royal in the Plateau neighborhood that we found without too much trouble and enjoyed breakfast bagels and coffee.

St.-Viateur bagel shop and café. I had smoked salmon and cream cheese. Delicious!

After that we said salut! to Montréal and headed toward Burlington, Vermont.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Parking for dogs only

I saw these curious posts at the Jean-Talon farmers' market. I can only imagine that they're places to tie up your dog. But I would never leave my dog tied up to post while I went shopping. The dog either goes in with me or stays at home.

Are these really intended as tie-up points for your dog while you shop? Anyone know?

Dogs aren't allowed in supermarkets in France, but they are allowed in farmers' markets. The only problem is that the markets can be a little crowded and dealing with a dog on a leash while standing in line, ordering, and paying is way too much trouble. Callie has been to markets, but only rarely.

After our little market tour, Ken and I drove out to have lunch with blogger friend and frequent commenter "The Beaver" and her husband. We enjoyed a terrific lunch and fun conversation. Ken took along some cherry tomatoes from the market and T.B. added them to her delicious watercress salad. They were very tasty.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

More from the market

I don't have much more to say about the Marché Jean-Talon, so I'll just share a few more pictures.

Tomatoes from Ontario, $2.00 (Canadian) per basket. So perfectly arranged!

Poires (pears)!

Aubergines (eggplant) and poivrons rouges (red chili peppers).

Baskets and bags of pommes de terre (potatoes) grown in Québec.

Italian plum tomatoes imported from Mexico.

Bunches of asperges vertes (green asparagus).

Haricots (beans), carottes (carrots), et champignons (mushrooms).

Miel (honey), vinaigre de cidre (cider vinegar), et pollen (bee pollen).

Citrons verts (limes) et tomates cerises (cherry tomatoes).

Are you as hungry as I am, yet?