2017 Birthday Trip

OK, I’ve finally made it to the last item on my 2017 birthday list: my birthday trip to Sandwich, Massachusetts.

This is the 13th year that I’ve traveled to a new place for my birthday. I decided to go to another town on the Cape (Cape Cod for non-locals), since I’ve lived in Boston for 18 years and can count on one hand how many times I’ve been to the Cape.

Sandwich caught my eye, because it’s the first town on the Cape, and I found an Airbnb that was within walking distance of the town. The trip had a rough start. I took a bus from Boston, which dropped me off at a Park and Ride lot a few miles from Sandwich. I planned to pick up a regional bus from there that would stop in downtown Sandwich. It was raining very hard as I waited in a bus shelter at the Park and Ride lot for an hour until the regional bus arrived.

Well, the regional bus arrived and blew right past me. The next regional bus would be coming by two hours later. In a panic, I tried to find a local taxi service. All I could find were charter airport buses. I was unable to download the Uber app because there is something wrong with my Apple ID. I contacted my Airbnb host to ask if she knew of any taxi services, but she didn’t respond immediately because she was out running errands.

She did respond eventually and offered to pick me up. I was beyond grateful! She was lovely as was her house. It was built in the 1700s, and our room had a secret panel that an owner built in case he had to run from the Tories during the Revolutionary War.

The rain finally stopped, so I was able to walk around downtown and get afternoon tea at a teahouse. The downtown was very small, but I enjoyed walking past a beautiful church that was featured on an Elvis Presley album cover and seeing the Dexter Grist Mill, which was built in 1637.

My partner Allen drove down the next day, so we were able to see some sites that were farther afield from the downtown area. The Heritage Museums and Gardens was fantastic. The rhododendrons in bloom were beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is also an impressive car collection on display as well as a gallery of American art and a working carousel! You could easily spend an entire day there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had an early dinner and then drove to the Sandwich Boardwalk to watch the sunset. The boardwalk is 1,000+ feet long! Part of it does not have a railing, so I started feeling dizzy while walking to the beach at the end of it. But it was totally worth it. The sunset was breathtaking, but isn’t it always?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before we left town the next day, we went to the Sandwich Glass Museum. Sandwich was a major hub of glass production in the 1800s. We were lucky to catch a glassblowing demonstration when we first entered. Then we spent more than an hour learning about the history of glassmaking in Sandwich and seeing hundreds of glass pieces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plates, glasses, vases, salt cellars, chickens…all different colors and patterns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sandwich was well worth a visit and I was glad to spend a birthday there. So now I’m counting down to birthday list #43, which will commence in about 1.5 months. !?!??!

Advertisements

DC in Springtime

I finally made it to DC to see the cherry blossoms in April. I stayed with a friend who had an appointment one morning, so she dropped me off at the Tidal Basin, where I spent almost two hours rambling and enjoying the cherry blossoms. The Jefferson, FDR, and MLK Jr. memorials are along the route, which was a bonus. Here are a few of the many photos I took:

cherry blossomscherry blossomscherry blossoms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later that day, my friend and I visited Anderson House, which was first owned by Larz and Isabel Anderson and is now the home of the Society of Cincinnati. I was excited to visit this house because the Andersons had a summer home in the town where I live. All that remains of their summer home is a carriage house with their car collection and a small exhibit about their backgrounds and travels.

Theirs is a privileged and romantic story. They both had more money than they knew what to do with, and Larz was a diplomat in several countries. They traveled everywhere and bought a new car each year. I learned at the auto museum that Isabel was the first woman in Massachusetts to get a driver’s license. Badass! Larz was a bit of a showman so their homes in DC and Massachusetts were opulent and housed many beautiful works of art. Here are a few photos of their DC home:

Anderson House

The mural depicts their gardens at their Massachusetts home.

 

Anderson HouseAnderson House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve only been to DC a handful of times, and I need to rectify that! There is so much to explore there…

Travel as a Political Act

Rick Steves is my spirit guide when it comes to traveling. He encourages people to travel off the beaten path, mingle with locals, and travel thoughtfully. If you haven’t heard of him, he has his own travel company and guidebook series and also has a PBS TV show and radio show. He is out there, spreading his important message of travel as a political act.

I’m the kind of traveler who rarely takes time to relax when I’m traveling. I love the idea of it, but I always end up hitting as many museums and cultural sites as possible, taking public transportation vs. taxis, and walking around as much as I can. So I can relate to Rick’s travel philosophy.

He sometimes does speaking tours, and my friends are I were lucky enough to attend his talk in Boston this spring. I think the talk was slated to run an hour or an hour and a half, and he spoke for almost three hours! Talk about getting our money’s worth.

He spoke about his travel background and gave tips on traveling in Europe and how to pack for trips. At the end of the talk, he announced how he would be handling the book signing afterward. I was impressed by how innovative it was. Instead of him sitting at a table while a long single-file line grows, he stood in the middle of the venue’s lobby and attendees formed a circle around him. Then he just moved around in a circle, signing as he turned. This method didn’t leave much time for chat, which might disappoint people. But it sure was efficient.

If you ever find yourself planning a trip to Europe, visit the Rick Steves website and/or pick up one of his guidebooks. You’ll thank me for it.

Sunshine State

I went to Florida in March and it was GLORIOUS.

I attended a conference in “St. Pete” as the locals say, and then my boyfriend Allen met me and we spent a few days in his hometown of Tampa. I had never been to these lovely cities before, so I did many new things. Here are the two that made the birthday list:

  1. Eat a devil crab.

In the weeks leading up to the trip, Allen shared his fervent love of devil crabs, which can only be found in Florida. As he spoke, I would nod my head as I pictured us eating crab meat out of a shell…as one would with a mussel or oyster.

I searched for restaurants that served devil crabs and came across a place that ended up being a trolley alongside a highway. We decided to check it out because it was named Seabreeze, which was the name of a seafood restaurant that Allen and his family frequented during his childhood. It turned out that it was the same family of owners; the restaurant was torn down for an undisclosed reason and now the husband and wife sell live devil crabs and also serve cooked ones out of a trolley.

Imagine my surprise when I was handed my devil crabs:

 

 

 

 

 

 

What? They looked like potatoes! But they were, in fact, balls of shredded crab meat in some kind of red sauce and breaded. That’s hot sauce in the plastic container. Once I got over the surprise factor, I enjoyed these tasty breaded balls of fish.

We had devil crabs again at Brocato’s. The breading was completely different but the inside tasted the same.

Cuban sandwich, black beans and rice, and devil crabs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Visited Big Cat Rescue sanctuary

When I’m planning a trip, I always check TripAdvisor for recommendations. Big Cat Rescue is #4 of 196 things to do in Tampa. I am a cat person and love all animals, so I added the sanctuary to our itinerary. Visitors go on a guided walking tour with a staff member. There are more than 80 cats at the sanctuary, so we walked around to see who was out and about. We were given ear buds and an audio device, so whenever we came across a cat, the staff member would play us that cat’s story.

We saw at least 20 cats. They were all beautiful and they all had heartbreaking stories. The cats come from all over the country. Usually they’ve been kept in horrible conditions and have become sick, etc. Many were in shoddy circuses or were kept as exotic pets.

The cats seemed very well taken care of at Big Cat Rescue. They even get to  go “on vacation” a few times per year in a large area that’s designated for vacationers. The organization is also involved in advocacy, which is wonderful. If you’re ever in Tampa, I highly recommend a visit here. I’ll leave you with a few of the dozens of photos I took of the cats…

 

 

20–Year Love Affair

I realized the other day that I was wrapping up my semester abroad in England 20 years ago this month. I chose to study in England because I didn’t have proficiency in another language…and I’m convinced that I was destined to start a love affair with England.

I went from studying at a small state college a 30-minute drive from my family to studying at a large research university with tens of thousands of international students thousands of miles from my family. It was the opportunity of a lifetime and I’m eternally grateful for it. I studied at the University of Leeds with my two friends, Sam and Ellen, which eased the homesickness.

Many of my experiences were those of a typical college student. I remember that the coursework was tough and I was glad that my grades didn’t factor into my GPA at home. I joined the chorus and sang Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols in the city streets in December. Ellen and I joined a musical theater club and performed in the musical Chess. I subsisted on jacket potatoes with shredded cheese at the refectory (dining hall) and spent hours at a time doing this new thing called emailing in the computer lab. I lived in Clarence Dock, a dorm that was far from campus, so I spent many nights taking the “women’s minibus,” a shuttle that departed from campus and dropped people off at their dorms/apartments.

Not-so typical experiences included weekend trips to Liverpool, where we consumed everything Beatles; Dublin, where we drank Guinness in pubs and saw The Book of Kells at Trinity College; and London, where my wallet was stolen (I don’t remember anything else from that trip).

I consider that I started on the path to adulthood during my semester in England. Even though I had traveled abroad in high school, it was here that I really grasped that there was a whole world outside of the United States. I gained a newfound appreciation for my family and friends. I learned from people of other cultures and they learned from me.

Another opportunity of a lifetime tied to my semester abroad was the three-week trip around Western Europe that I took after the semester ended with Ellen and my friend Daisy. Twenty years ago at this very moment, Ellen and I were sitting in a bohemian bed and breakfast in a frigid Corfu, Greece, watching American movies with Greek subtitles and listening to Radiohead’s The Bends album with a small group of new friends.

We had just come from Rome, where we were blessed by the Pope on Christmas Day. We would be meeting our friend Daisy in Milan next and heading to Venice for New Year’s. And then back to Rome and on to Spain and France. Armed with Eurail passes, a thirst for adventure, and not enough clothing for one of Europe’s coldest winters, we visited countless museums, ate delicious and sometimes strange food, and made friends of fellow travelers along the way. If I could turn back the clock and do it again, I wouldn’t change anything.

As I sit with my Twinings tea and McVittie’s Ginger Nut cookies, I insist that if you are thinking about studying abroad or know someone who is thinking about it, you/he/she/they DO IT. It’s worth every penny of the extra student loans.

England now feels like a second home to me—and my mother! She visited me when I worked in London for six months after graduation (that 20th anniversary is next December). And the rest is history, as they say. We’ve visited England five or six times since and have many wonderful and funny memories. I feel lucky that we fell in love with the same place.

img_4355

 

Previous Older Entries

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

40 things to do on the birthday list!

BirthdayJune 1st, 2015

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Archives