Archive

Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Nantucket Arrival

September 2, 2013 Leave a comment

wauwinet

We’re here. It’s beautiful. We’re happy. Need I say more?

(Click on photo for higher resolution view.)

Categories: Travel

At the Met

September 2, 2013 Leave a comment
The Fortune Teller, Georges de la Tour, 1630s

The Fortune Teller, Georges de la Tour, 1630s

We took a 7:00 am flight to New York Friday morning, leaving today on a noon flight. Not much to report, since mostly we were visiting and eating with family. But let me say a bit about our visit to the Met. First, a word about our arrival.

The flight into JFK was pleasant enough. Our first trip highlight was arriving in the new Delta home in Terminal 4. One of the wonders of Kennedy for years has been just what a dump Delta’s Terminals 2 and 3 have been. To think that Terminal 3 was intended to be a glory of air travel, when Pan Am opened it and ushered it a new era of international travel with its new 747s. It was a wonder all right. The baggage claim area was the biggest pit imaginable.

As for Delta’s new quarters in Terminal 4, our main impression as arrivees was that we sure had to walk a lot. I haven’t walked so far since the last time we changed planes in Heathrow. It took forever to get to the main terminal. Then we had to walk to the far end to get to baggage claim. Which wasn’t a pit at all, but it didn’t help that of the two carousels, one said Seattle while our bags came in on the other.

Saturday afternoon we left my parents and headed into the Met. Two current exhibitions that interested us were closing today, so we were fortunate to get to see them: Photography and the American Civil War, and The Civil War and American Art. I can’t share photos, since none were allowed, but you can see plenty of highlights at the websites for the exhibitions.

Here’s the blurb for the photography show:

More than two hundred of the finest and most poignant photographs of the American Civil War have been brought together for this landmark exhibition. Through examples drawn from the Metropolitan’s celebrated holdings of this material, complemented by important loans from public and private collections, the exhibition examines the evolving role of the camera during the nation’s bloodiest war.

And for the paintings:

This major loan exhibition considers how American artists responded to the Civil War and its aftermath. Landscapes and genre scenes—more than traditional history paintings—captured the war’s impact on the American psyche. The works of art on display trace the trajectory of the conflict and express the intense emotions that it provoked: unease as war became inevitable, optimism that a single battle might end the struggle, growing realization that fighting would be prolonged, enthusiasm and worries alike surrounding emancipation, and concerns about how to reunify the nation after a period of grievous division. The exhibition proposes significant new readings of many familiar masterworks—some sixty paintings and eighteen photographs created between 1852 and 1877—including outstanding landscapes by Frederic E. Church and Sanford R. Gifford, paintings of life on the battlefront and the home front by Winslow Homer and Eastman Johnson, and photographs by Timothy H. O’Sullivan and George N. Barnard. The exhibition at the Metropolitan coincides with the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1–3, 1863).

Frederic Edwin Church (American, 1826–1900). Our Banner in the Sky (detail), 1861.

Frederic Edwin Church (American, 1826–1900). Our Banner in the Sky (detail), 1861.

{Metropolitan Museum]

Three months ago, the Met opened a new installation of their European paintings.

The Met’s world-renowned collection of European Old Master paintings from the thirteenth through the early nineteenth century have reopened after an extensive renovation and reinstallation. This is the first major renovation of the galleries since 1951 and the first overall reinstallation of the collection since 1972. Increased in size by almost one-third, the space now accommodates the display of more than seven hundred paintings in forty-five galleries, including one rotating special exhibition gallery.

Eager to learn more, I tore out Holland Carter’s NYT review last May, but I still haven’t read it. Here it is. He writes:

When a monument wakes up, you notice. It’s been more than 40 years since the Metropolitan Museum of Art rethought what many considered its raison d’être, its galleries of European paintings.

The last reinstallation was in 1972 and encompassed a chronological span from Giotto to Picasso. Later, 19th- and 20th-century art was cut loose and sent elsewhere. The rest of the European collection, by then huge, easily could have filled the freed-up space. But the Met decided to reserve the emptied galleries for blockbuster shows. So five centuries of old master painting stayed where it was and fell into a doze.

Now comes a change. The blockbuster spaces have been given back to the collection, and all 45 European painting galleries cosmetically overhauled: new floors, fresh paint, walls put up or brought down, etc. For the first time that I can remember, pictures really have room to breathe. And there are many more of them. A few months ago 450 paintings were on view; now there are more than 700.

We are not talking revolution. Visitors familiar with the holdings will see a lot of what they already know, but encounter old faces in new places, which can produce revelations. There are novelties: items either new, out of sight for decades or just never shown. Best of all, some top-shelf private loans have been integrated, for a limited time, into the galleries in celebration of the reopening.

Most important, the geography of the galleries has been recalibrated. The old arrangement was eccentric. To get from Jan van Eyck in 15th-century Bruges to Rembrandt in 17th-century Amsterdam you had to go through Italy. Italy itself was all over the map. Judging from their Met locations, you might have thought that Caravaggio and Tiepolo came from opposite ends of Europe. To trace a coherent historical path, audio guides were useless; you needed GPS.

No more. Now painting from northern Europe, excluding France, is laid out by date in the regained galleries. Italian painting is consolidated in a two-pronged format, with early work from Florence and Siena running in parallel streams that flow into Titian’s Venice.

France is now unitary, as is Spain (Goya used to be stuck out in nowheresville), and all national blocs are broken up by thematic displays. The keen-eyed may note a Met obsession with framing. The subject is hot these days, as is the market. Vintage examples cost a mint, and the Met is getting its share. Finally, certain much-loved pictures have returned to view with a spa-toned glow, thanks to the tender mercies of conservation.

But what makes the reinstallation most stimulating is a subtle feature, what you might call a curator’s secret weapon: the power of placement. Keith Christiansen, chairman of the European paintings department, has brilliantly orchestrated the collection as a play of dramatic vistas, visual lineups of images — seen around corners or over distances — that pull you forward in time and immerse you in textured layers of European culture.

I’ve seen these paintings time and again over the decades, and we didn’t have much time to explore because we had to get out to the Island for more family visits, but I couldn’t resist exploring anew. I certainly noticed the coherence of the French painting galleries. (One highlight appears at the top of this post, Georges de la Tour’s The Fortune Teller.) And it was a definite surprise to find that Bruegel, Rembrandt, and Vermeer weren’t where I have long known to find them. But find them I did:

bruegel

rembrandt

vermeer

Another special exhibition was embedded within the new installation, occupying a single room: Eighteenth-Century Pastels. It was a special treat:

With the 1929 bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, the Metropolitan Museum acquired its first pastels—about twenty nineteenth-century works by Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, and Édouard Manet. For forty years, they were shown with our European and American paintings. It was not until 1956 that we were bequeathed a pastel by Jean Pillement (1728–1808). Between 1961 and 1975 we acquired a small group of works by John Russell (1745–1806), and there the matter stood until 2002, when the Metropolitan bought a pastel by the Venetian artist Rosalba Carriera (1673–1757). Since then we have purchased nearly a dozen others by Italian, French, British, German, and Danish artists. Most are portraits, and they are exhibited here with two vivid seascapes by Pillement from a private collection. Pastels are made from powdery substances that are fragile and subject to fading. In accordance with modern museum practice, they are exhibited in very low light or rotated to ensure their long-term preservation. This display is therefore a temporary extension of the new installation in the adjoining galleries for European Old Master paintings.

Benedetto Luti, Study of a Boy in a Blue Jacket, 1717. Pastel and chalk on blue laid paper, laid down on paste paper

Benedetto Luti, Study of a Boy in a Blue Jacket, 1717. Pastel and chalk on blue laid paper, laid down on paste paper

Leaving the European paintings, we rested a bit at a members lounge, then got our car and headed out the Midtown Tunnel to the Island.

So much more to see. But we were content.

Categories: Art, Museums, Travel

Never Go Back

September 1, 2013 2 comments

nevergoback

Lee Child’s eighteenth Jack Reacher novel, Never Go Back, comes out in just over 24 hours. Once I start a Lee Child book, I’m powerless to resist. This presents a conundrum, because our annual Nantucket vacation begins tomorrow. Will downloading and reading a new Reacher novel enhance our vacation, or will it get in the way?

Maybe the answer depends on the weather. Reading would be perfect on a stormy day. But if the sun shines, we should be walking on the beach, riding bicycles over to Sconset, touring historic homes.

It doesn’t help that Janet Maslin gave the book a rave review last Friday in the NYT. At least I think the review is a rave. I didn’t get too far into it, for fear that I’d learn too much. The first paragraph was enough.

Lee Child’s bodacious action hero, Jack Reacher, has already tramped through 17 novels and three e-book singles. But his latest, “Never Go Back,” may be the best desert island reading in the series. It’s exceptionally well plotted. And full of wild surprises. And wise about Reacher’s peculiar nature. And positively Bunyanesque in its admiring contributions to Reacher lore.

Gosh. With praise like that, how can I wait even a minute?

Okay, I’ve just pre-ordered it for my Kindle. Maybe if I’m lucky Amazon will make it available tomorrow night and I won’t even have to wait until Tuesday. Oh, and more good news. Thunderstorms with 80% chance of rain Tuesday.

Categories: Books, Travel

Roche Harbor 4: Ending on a Downer

August 31, 2013 Leave a comment
Roche Harbor

Roche Harbor

I still haven’t written Roche Harbor 3. When I do, I’ll describe our wonderful outing last Saturday in the waters of the San Juan Islands and the spectacular seafood feast during our break from boating. The outing ended with us being dropped at the Roche Harbor dock around 5:30 for our 6:00 Kenmore Air seaplane flight back to Seattle. (I took the shot above late in the afternoon, on our way back.) And what a beautiful flight it was, culminating as we swung from south to north by the top of the Space Needle and came in for our landing on Lake Union. We could see the faces of the people on the Space Needle observation deck. Well, Gail couldn’t. To my astonishment, she was looking at her iPhone.

Soon we were at the Kenmore Air Seattle dock, saying farewell to our companions, walking through the terminal, and out to our car. In my first Roche Harbor post I wrote about our arrival at the terminal the morning before:

Our flight was scheduled for 11:00 am. We arrived around 9:50 and spent some time parking. There’s a small free lot by the terminal, but it was full. The website spoke of a pay lot next door. We interpreted that to refer to the strip of public parking just off the street to the north of the terminal, found a spot there, paid for the day’s parking (Friday–it’s free Saturday), and checked in. I mention this detail because I will return to it in another post, the choice being a poor one.

The moment I spotted our car on our return, I knew something was wrong. It’s like the windows weren’t there. I could see right through. No tint. Gail’s reaction, as she would explain later, was different. She thought another car just like ours had parked next to our car and blocked the view of it. Sure enough, as we drew nearer, it was our car, and the windows were open. Or gone. Sunroof too. Once we got to the car, we saw that the glovebox was open and papers were strewn over the front passenger seat and floor.

Someone had broken in, obviously. But how did he (I assume he) open all the windows? Were the windows even there? Or had he carefully removed them all? Unlikely, but it seemed equally unlikely that he could have opened them all without starting the car. I suggested that Gail get her key out and start the car so we could at least verify that the windows were there. Which they were. Sunroof too. Everything was intact. Nothing was stolen.

I decided to go around and make sure each door worked. Only when I got to the final door, the driver’s, did I see that the lock mechanism had been punched out, with one piece on the ground. He must have hammered it in or broken it some other way, then gotten the door open. Did the alarm go off? Did he start the car to open the windows? If so, why not drive away in it? And anyway, why open them at all, unless the point was to inflict damage, in case it were to rain for instance? Or to give others access?

Anyway, as we relieved as we were that the car worked, that nothing was stolen, that the damage appeared confined to the broken lock, that nothing got wet, that no one malicious took advantage of the open windows and sunroof to vandalize anything, this was just about the most depressing sight imaginable.

Monday morning Gail called the dealer and prepared to drive the car up. I was talking to Bert, our remodel site superintendent and friend, about what happened when he mentioned that he knows some cars have a feature allowing you to (intentionally) open all windows at once. I went online to see how that might be done and read that you can hold down the unlock button on the key for 3 seconds to effect this. Maybe it’s hot and you want to get air circulating as you approach the car. Hold the button down and everything slides open. I went out and tried it on my car. Sure enough.

That made me feel a lot better. Presumably the miserable person who broke our lock didn’t intentionally open all the windows. Rather, his lock jimmying must have triggered the window-opening signal. He may have been taken entirely by surprise. Who knows? Maybe he even felt bad about it, wanting access to our belongings but not wanting the car left open to the elements.

Nonetheless, we had a broken lock. Gail drove the car out, got a loaner, ended up waiting three days for all the necessary parts to come in. She brought the repaired car home Thursday afternoon, just in time for our early morning departure the next day, yesterday, for New York, where we are now.

Categories: Automobiles, Travel

Roche Harbor 2: McMillin’s

August 31, 2013 Leave a comment

mcmillins

A week ago at this very moment we were just arriving home from our overnight trip to Roche Harbor, the first part of which I wrote about here. Now we’re in New York, on day two of our next trip. If I don’t say more about Roche Harbor soon, I’ll never get back to it. Here, then, a short follow-up post.

I left off as were were about to enter McMillin’s, Roche Harbor’s principal restaurant, for dinner with Russ and Tobae on Friday night, a week ago last night. A new menu was debuting that very night. Having not seen any previous menu, we weren’t well positioned to recognize what was new about it. The most significant feature was the plethora of small plate dishes. One heading explained that even the entree type dishes were served small, so that one could try several or a group could share several, though it further noted that those desiring more traditional sizes could request them. Thus, instead of a tiny halibut helping, one could have a standard halibut entree.

On the back page, though, was an alternative: McMillin’s classic 45-day aged prime rib. This was offered in three sizes, small, standard, and large. Gail, who rarely passes up a good prime rib, instead chose small halibut. The rest of us ordered prime rib. It was excellent. I ordered a salad with truffle oil dressing and the truffle oil was just too much for me. It overpowered any other flavor, except some fantastic tomatoes. Gail had a crab bisque, which I traded her for.

Our table was at a window, with a view out over the harbor. A seal showed up at one point. Later we had perfect seats for the over-the-top flag lowering ceremony. First the Canadian flag came down while the Canadian national anthem, then the Union Jack and God Save the Queen, then the US flag and taps, all this blasted over a sound system that ended any dinner conversations.

But the evening highlight came later. We parted with Russ and Tobae around 9:45 and went up to our room, which looks down on the restaurant from across the path. At 10:00 sharp, the cover band started up. It was playing by the bar outdoors, which meant everyone got to listen. Forget sleep. They stopped a little before midnight. I had forgotten the email sent to us in early July with the good news that there would be live music at the bar every Friday and Saturday night from 10 to midnight. I hadn’t quite understood that this was to be understood as a warning.

We did eventually go to sleep. We awoke Saturday ready for the primary purpose of the outing: our boat ride in search of whales and our feast across the harbor on Pearl Island at the home of our hosts. More on that in Roche Harbor post #3. As a preview, below is a photo I took during our boat ride of English Camp, part of San Juan Island National Historical Park.

englishcamp

As partial explanation, from the park website:

When Great Britain and the United States in 1859 agreed to a joint occupation of San Juan Island until the water boundary between the two nations could be settled, it was decided that camps would be located on opposite ends of the island.

Shortly after the British and American governments affirmed Lieutenant General Winfield Scott’s proposal to jointly occupy San Juan Island, the Royal Navy started looking for a home for its British Royal Marine Light Infantry contingent.

Capt. James Prevost, commander of H.M.S. Satellite, selected the site on Garrison Bay — 15 miles northwest of American Camp — from among seven finalists. He’d remembered the bay shore from explorations two years earlier as a part of the water boundary commission survey of the island. At that time, one of his officers, Lieutenant Richard Roche, had commented on seeing abandoned Indian plank houses nestled among a vast shell midden.

Roche described the ground as “well-sheltered, has a good supply of water and grass, and is capable of affording maneuvering ground for any number of men that are likely to be required in that locality…” He added that a trail, 11 miles long, led from this area to the Hudson’s Bay farm at Bellevue.

[snip]

The marines departed in November 1872, following the final boundary decision of Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany. They left behind a facility so solidly built that the Crook family (who purchased the site from the U.S. government) occupied several of the structures for more than 30 years.

Categories: Restaurants, Travel

Roche Harbor

August 25, 2013 Leave a comment

kilnmural

[Mural at Roche Harbor, Annie Howell-Adams]

[By the way, this post is long. If you get bored, you may wish to skip to the photos at the bottom.]

Last April, at the annual auction dinner for my favorite museum, we successfully bid for a day trip to Roche Harbor on San Juan Island. San Juan is the most populous and second largest of the San Juan Islands, which lie between the northern Washington State mainland and Vancouver Island. Just north are the Gulf Islands of British Columbia, with the US-Canada border snaking in between along a route settled in 1872 by international arbitration after years of dispute between the US and Britain. Roche Harbor sits to the northwest of the island, with Henry Island just to the west and beyond that the border, no more than three miles from Roche Harbor. Thus, it is just about the northwesternmost point of the lower 48 United States.

The San Juans are beautiful. I’ve observed over the years that they aren’t all that well known across the country, which is fine with us. Even though we do know and love them, Gail and I never get up there often enough. One reason is that it’s such a chore. Drive ninety miles to Anacortes. Get on a ferry, possibly after a multi-hour wait, then take another hour or two to get somewhere.

There’s an alternative: Kenmore Air and its fleet of de Havilland seaplanes. They fly out of the south end of Lake Union, just north of downtown and only three miles from home, landing in harbors through the islands (and Victoria, BC, too). We have never availed ourselves of this service—why, I don’t know—though cost and fear of flying in small planes certainly have something to do with it.

The day trip we bought was to consist of a flight up to Roche Harbor, an outing on the hosts’ boat, lunch at their cabin on Pearl Island just a few hundred yards across the harbor, then another outing, with the possibility that we’d see an orca whale pod along the way, the day ending with a return to the Roche Harbor docks and the flight home.

Since we so rarely get up that way, we decided we’d fly up the day before. Our companions, Russ and Tobae, agreed to do the same. Since they live a ways north of Seattle, they would drive down to Kenmore Air’s home base in Kenmore, at the north end of Lake Washington, and board the flight there. (Many flights to the islands originate there, make the short hop to Seattle, then head north.)

Our flight was scheduled for 11:00 am. We arrived around 9:50 and spent some time parking. There’s a small free lot by the terminal, but it was full. The website spoke of a pay lot next door. We interpreted that to refer to the strip of public parking just off the street to the north of the terminal, found a spot there, paid for the day’s parking (Friday–it’s free Saturday), and checked in. I mention this detail because I will return to it in another post, the choice being a poor one.

We were surprised by how crowded the terminal was. Why became clearer when they began to announce boardings for Friday Harbor (on the other side of San Juan Island), Friday Harbor again, Eastsound on Orcas Island, then Victoria. There must have been half a dozen flights leaving in a 15-minute period. I suppose this is typical of summer weekends, but I had expected us to be leaving early enough to beat the peak. With so much traffic, they were able to fill the plane in Kenmore with Roche Harbor-bound passengers as well as a flight out of Seattle, so Russ and Tobae flew there directly rather than coming to Seattle, which meant they arrived just about the time we were taking off.

I would have paid closer attention to some of the terminal details if I weren’t spending 40 minutes on the phone participating in a bi-weekly teleconference for a committee I’m part of. Gail was a little concerned that we were going to miss our plane. But they actually call out passenger names one by one when boarding time comes, so if we don’t hear our name, they don’t want us. They have planes of varying sizes, the largest being de Havilland’s DHC-3 Otter, and that seats ten. It’s what we boarded a little after 11:00.

Up front in the Otter is a small cockpit with room for the pilot and one passenger. Behind are three rows of two, a seat on each side by the windows. Then there’s the door on the left and a window seat on the right, and behind that one more row of two seats, with a small cargo space to the rear where bags are stowed.

Seats are small, legroom minimal. There’s a strict 25-pound weight limit for all belongings and a length-width-depth limit for each bag as well. When you board, the pilot and an attendant first get all the bags in the back, then board us, with seats unreserved. Gail sat in the seat behind the pilot, with a partition in between, and I sat behind her. The pilot got on last, stood in the doorway, and raced through a safety speech, pointing out also that earplugs were available in the seat pockets in front. I opened a bag and put in a pair. Soon we taxied out.

And taxied and taxied. Had we been taking off to the north, we would have taxied out and gone straight into our takeoff. Instead, because we were taking off to the south, we taxied all the way to the north end of Lake Union. It must have taken close to 20 minutes. Interesting views of the city from the middle of the lake, but I was eager to get in the air. Which suddenly we were.

Wow!

I don’t think we ever flew above 2000 feet. What views! We were in the air maybe 40 minutes. Once airborne, we cut to the west with downtown just outside our window to the left, then Elliott Bay, then we turned north, with Bainbridge Island across Puget Sound in full view. We know the island well enough now that we could pick out many landmarks. Indeed, there were familiar landmarks a good ways up, culminating in a fantastic view of Port Townsend and Fort Worden. Then we were over the open waters of the Juan de Fuca Strait, with Vancouver Island in the distance to the northwest. In a few minutes, we could make out the city of Victoria, as well as the southern end of San Juan Island. We began our descent, turned over Henry Island to line ourselves up for a landing to the south, and came down over the narrow channel that separates Roche Harbor from our destination the next day, Pearl Island.

Roche Harbor has an extensive dock system, the outermost dock of which is for Kenmore Air’s use. There’s no one there to greet the plane. The pilot pulls up, opens his door, jumps out onto the dock, and ties up, just as a boat pilot would. We got off, the bags were passed out to us, and Russ was standing amongst the outbound passengers waiting to greet us. There’s no terminal. Just the dock. The plane comes in, people get off, people get on, it takes off.

It’s a five-minute walk through the docks to shore, where Tobae was waiting. We walked up the hill to our hotel, checked in (Russ and Tobae were too late in booking to get space there and were instead staying in Friday Harbor), checked our bags—the room not due to be ready for a few hours—and walked down to the island shuttle bus to ride to Friday Harbor. The bus filled up another two stops down the road. It was hot, crowded, uncomfortable, and probably a poor choice all around, since four bus fares were almost equal to a taxi fare. But that’s what the woman at the hotel recommended when we asked about taxis, so that’s what we dutifully did.

Friday Harbor is home to the ferry terminal, which naturally is where the bus lets everyone off and which is nowhere near Russ and Tobae’s hotel. It was 1:00 and we decided to eat lunch, which we did at a bar and fish place looking out over the water. Then we walked a half mile or so to their hotel, they checked in, we all walked back into town, and wandered around. After an hour of that, Gail and I called a taxi and headed back to Roche Harbor.

We were in our room at about 4:00 pm, with three hours until our dinner reservation at McMillin’s, the resort’s principal restaurant. I suppose I should explain that unlike Friday Harbor, which is a real town, Roche Harbor is a privately owned marina and resort. There’s no downtown. No town at all. Just the marina amenities. One building has a large grocery store that was packed when I walked around the neighborhood at 5:30 or so. Also in the building is the main breakfast and lunch place, the Lime Kiln Café. It’s casual. You order at the counter, grab a booth or table, they bring the food to you. A post office. Public bathrooms with showers that you put coins in to buy time in. This building is right at the entrance to the docks. Off the docks is the historic Hotel de Haro, where we checked in, with a store on the main floor near the front desk, filled with the usual stuff–sweatshirts, t-shirts, hats, candles, knick-knacks. A newer building has a fancy home furnishings store, the spa, and guest rooms above. Then there’s the building we stayed in. It was the old McMillin house, moved a short distance to this site and divided into four suites. Beyond that is the chapel, higher up on the hill overlooking the water. Our suite was long and narrow, with an entrance on the end far from the water, then an entry area and bathroom, a closet, the bed, and a living area with table and couch, beyond which is a sliding door leading out to a wraparound balcony that looks out over the harbor. Between us and the water, as already noted, is McMillin’s, which is the more upscale dinner restaurant, and down below in the same building is the bar.

Photos would help. I’ll put some in. Keep in mind that if you click on any of them, you’ll get a much higher resolution image.

First, the building with the grocery store, restaurant, showers, etc. You’ll notice (especially if you click for the better image) a wedding rehearsal underway by the side of the restaurant.

limekiln

Here’s the historic hotel.

hotelharo

The spa building, with a corner of the hotel over to the left.

spa

Our building, with our room on the lower floor with the entrance to the front and the side of the wraparound balcony towards the rear to the left and the harbor in the distance below.

mcmillinsuite

The restaurant and bar, viewed from the water side, with our room on the lower floor of the building straight above. See the upper row of windows running from the left to just right of center? We ate dinner at one of those, probably the third from the right.

mcmillinrestaurant

Here’s a shot, a little too dark, of the harbor.

rocheharbor

I have yet to explain Roche Harbor’s rich history. It was a company town, the business being lime, as you might guess from that first photo if you clicked on it. The largest lime works west of the Mississippi, as is written on the building’s side. The island had imestone, forests with wood to burn, bricks brought from Vancouver Island brick makers, kilns, a harbor for boats to bring the lime down the coast. The lime was used in the rebuilding of San Francisco after the earthquake. There are some excellent history signs throughout the resort, from which I learned what little I know as I walked around before dinner.

One sign below (just click and you’ll be able to read the text clearly).

thekilns

Another.

thefleet

And this one tells of the building we stayed in.

mcmillinhistory

Take a look again at the first in this sequence photo. You’ll see that the building pictured there has a mural on the side. Here it is:

fleetmural

And here is the credit:

fleetmural2

I took all these photos while wandering around in the late afternoon. Then Russ and Tobae arrived from Friday Harbor, we all sat on our balcony enjoying the harbor view, and when 7:00 came, we proceeded across the way to McMillin’s for dinner. I’ll save the details of that for another post. Our activities yesterday can be the subject of a third post, with more photos. Eventually.

Categories: Travel

Still Down

July 25, 2013 Leave a comment

skagitbridge

[Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times]

A week ago, in my post Down But Not Out, I offered some of the reasons for my worst month of blogging (by far) in the almost five years of Ron’s View. I then intended to provide one more post, but it didn’t happen.

And then we had a weekend typical of why blogging has been on hold most of the month. Friday we packed up and headed north to Oak Harbor, on Whidbey Island. Gail had a sharp deadline for being there, in time for the rehearsal of a wedding she would be performing the next day. This meant we dare not risk taking the ferry over to Clinton on the south side of the island. Instead we drove north on I-5, the dullest stretch of road imaginable (though it did mean that we got to cross the newly opened bridge over the Skagit River in Mt. Vernon, the one that collapsed two months ago), then west to Fidalgo Island, over to the magnificent Deception Pass Bridge that connects Fidalgo to Whidbey on Whidbey’s north end, and down to Oak Harbor (home to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island). Just over 90 miles to Oak Harbor’s Candlewood Suites.

A short break, and then on to the wedding rehearsal and post-rehearsal dinner. No blogging that night. I admit, Saturday morning was free, but hey, that meant I could watch as dramatic a stage of the Tour de France as I can remember, the final day in the Alps, culminating in the climb up Annecy Semnoz. And after that, round three of the Open golf championship in Muirfield. It ended just in time for us to get to the wedding.

Wedding, reception, and south the length of the island to the ferry. Saturday late afternoon. No chance, I imagined, that there would be ferry traffic. Boy was I ever wrong. An hour and a half wait, which we got to share with what must have been a dozen vans filled with cyclists who had just competed in Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage. I hadn’t heard of Ragnar before. I know about it now. Click the link and find out for yourself.

ragnar

Long though the wait was, the ride across the sound to Mukilteo was beautiful, with mountain and water views and perfect weather. We were home by 7:00. A night of blogging! No, I just wasn’t up to it. And Sunday morning, well, we had to watch the final round of the Open. Phil! The subject of another post. And the final stage of the Tour. Paris at night! The first nighttime finish, celebrating 100 Tours, and magnificent it was.

No sooner had the Tour ended than we hit the road again, 45 miles south to Orting for wedding number two of the weekend. One of Gail’s cousins lives in Orting, and we’d been down to her house, but not the extra 2 miles to the center of town, and the two hundred yards more that brings you to the south end, with as magnificent a view of Mt. Rainier, looming less than 30 miles away, as I’ve ever had. When we arrived at 2:15, there was still some marine air around and all you could see was the bottom 2/3 or so, with the huge base. Two hours later, in utterly clear skies, the mountain rose in its full majesty, so much more dramatic than up here in Seattle.

Sunday evening is peak blogging time for me, but not this past Sunday. We were home around 8:00, with no energy. And no time Monday to make up for it, because Monday I attended the annual basketball game and barbecue of the summer program I run. Tuesday was new camera night (subject of another post), last night the weekly pizza dinner with my summer program. I tell you, this month just isn’t meant for blogging. Which is too bad, because I have no shortage of topics. Sorry.

Categories: Life, Travel

Gettysburg Revisited

May 5, 2013 Leave a comment

worldonfire

I’m still reading Amanda Foreman‘s mammoth history, A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War, despite interruptions since starting in late March to fit in three other books (Andrew Delbanco’s reflections on college education and Harvey Jackson’s short histories of the Florida-Alabama Gulf Coast and of Alabama). This morning I reached the five-eighths point and, at last, the Battle of Gettysburg.

As I mentioned last week, A World on Fire has “a Stoppardian Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead quality, with major events such as the Battle of Chancellorsville told through the eyes of minor characters, typically British observers or participants.” All the more so with the Battle of Gettysburg. I loved reading her account—can one imagine an account that is anything less than spellbinding?—but it isn’t the first place to turn for the basics. Nor does she intend it to be.

We visited Gettysburg three years ago this week, following stops in Harper’s Ferry and at Antietam. (See my entirely inadequate reports on the trip here and here.) Foreman’s overview of the battle, brief though it is, brought back the drama of those extraordinary three days a century and a half ago as well as the powerful hold our visit had on us. I wished as I read the book that I could walk and drive the battleground anew.

What we had as guide three years ago was James McPherson’s slim Hallowed Ground: A Walk at Gettysburg. Our first day, we visited the museum, then toured the grounds with a licensed battlefield guides. (The guide commandeers your car and drives you around for two hours, taking you through the battle day by day.) The next day, we retraced the steps on our own, reading passages from McPherson as we stopped along the way.

View from Little Round Top to Devil's Den, Gettysburg Battlefield

View from Little Round Top to Devil’s Den, Gettysburg Battlefield

Prior to our battleground visits, on the evening of the day that we arrived, after we had eaten dinner in town, we stopped at the downtown Friendly’s for takeout dessert. I pulled out of the parking lot, made a turn that I thought would get us back to our bed and breakfast, and soon we were driving in darkness down an unlit country road. After five miles, I made a U-turn and we went back into town.

Only the next day did I realize that the road we were mistakenly on cuts right through the battlefield, over the site where the Confederate troops lined up for Pickett’s Charge. And later still, I realized that one can stand at a point above, looking out over the ground, and see Friendly’s just to the right. The north end of the battlefield merges with today’s downtown commercial strip.

This morning, as I read of the charge, I couldn’t stop myself from picturing the Friendly’s and wanting a strawberry Fribble. From the sacred to the profane. That’s how it is, the two intertwined in my memory.

fribble

Categories: Books, History, Travel

A Day at the Masters

May 2, 2013 1 comment
We've arrived! On the first fairway, looking back at the tee box with the 9th and 18th greens to the right.

We’ve arrived! On the first fairway, looking back at the tee box with the 9th and 18th greens to the right.

[Photo by Dan Nakano]

I have written several posts about our trip to Georgia last month, such as this one about restaurants in Athens and this one about the Georgia Museum of Art, also in Athens on the UGA campus. But I have yet to write my promised post on our day at the Masters golf tournament, now three weeks past. It’s tough. There’s so much to say, I hardly know what to focus on. In this post, I will tell part of the story. Perhaps more will follow in a second post.

Some background first, lifted from a post I wrote last August.

Augusta National Golf Club … runs The Masters, one of men’s golf’s four major tournaments, and for many players and observers, the best. I have had the good fortune of attending the three other majors: The Open Championship (familiarly known in the US as the British Open) at St. Andrews in 1990 and Troon in 2004, the US Open at Bethpage on Long Island in 2002, and the PGA Championship here at nearby Sahalee in 1998. But I have never gone to the Masters.

There’s a reason. It’s just about the hardest US sports ticket to get hold of. Tickets for the other three majors are made publicly available, but the Masters is like season tickets for team sports: ticket holders can renew their subscriptions, receiving tickets for life. Since the club isn’t interested in making a ton of money through ticket sales, a modest number of tickets is sold compared to other golf tournaments, and ticket prices remain low. Thus, ticket turnover is low too.

Ticket holders are barred by Augusta’s rules from re-selling their tickets, but of course many do, and the resulting prices are high. Once you get on the course, food prices are low. Indeed, the food is flat out cheap. Not cheap just by the standards of a sporting event, but cheap like turning the clock back a few decades.

There used to be a waiting list for available tickets, but the club abandoned that recently. Intead, it makes a small number of tickets available by lottery. You have to set up an account, log in, give them some information, and apply separately for tickets on tournament days (Thursday through Sunday) and on practice days (Monday through Wednesday). There’s a limit, 2 tickets per day on tournament days, 4 per day on practice days. I applied for both a year ago for this year’s Masters and struck out. I applied again a few months ago for next year’s tournament, learning a month ago that I would not be getting tournament tickets.

Now for the big news: Last night, I got an email informing me that I had won the practice round lottery. I was asked to log in for details. On doing so, I learned that I’ve won 4 tickets for Tuesday, the second practice day. Only Tuesday. I need to pay by September 15 or release them.

Not exactly what I was hoping for. Imagine flying all the way to Georgia, finding a hotel, and staying just for one day. It hardly seems worth the trouble.

Then again, the Masters! I can go! I can see the 12th hole at last. And the 13th. And the 14th. All of them! The holes any golf fan has memorized from years of watching the coverage on TV. (I failed to make this point — the other three majors rotate among courses. The Masters is always in one place. Players and fans come to know the course intimately.)

As you know, Gail and I decided to go. We bypassed the problem of finding a hotel room in or near Augusta by staying 95 miles away in Athens. And with four tickets in hand, we invited our Athens friends Dan and RuthElizabeth to join us.

When the day arrived, we awoke around 5:30, and walked out of our hotel at 6:30, just as Dan and RE drove up. First stop, Jittery Joe’s Coffee for coffee, tea, pastries, bagels. Then on to Augusta. The early morning drive through rural Georgia was lovely, with alternating woods and fields, the fields supporting a light fog layer. As it got brighter and warmer, we came to Interstate 20, then turned east for the closing stretch.

Whenever I have pictured this day, arriving at the Masters, I have imagined horrific traffic. Nope. The I-20 exit to Washington Road, one of the borders of the club and a main street of the city, was closed. We were forced farther east, almost to the Savannah River and the bridge to South Carolina, where we exited and formed two lanes of traffic that wound around, crossed Washington Road, and entered the club grounds. This didn’t take much more than five minutes. (It was around 9:00 AM now.)

We were directed to an aisle of parking, about nine aisles away from the course entrance. As we walked through the lot (I should say that the lot is a field of grass; I don’t know what it’s used for during the rest of the year), we found dozens of people selling lanyards at $5 apiece with plastic pockets that could hold your tournament pass. I was content to tie mine to a belt loop. And there was a strange guy holding a post some 15 feet high with signs attached containing various messages about Jesus. (Three days later, he would be arrested for saying aggressively hostile things to some of the patrons as they entered. Or maybe just removed from the grounds by the Augusta police.) Then we formed one of a series of lines leading to bag inspection, metal detectors, and finally a device that reads tickets to verify that they are real. Beyond this last checkpoint, we were in.

But where were we? It took some more walking and map studying to get oriented.

It turns out that there’s a long entry path. You walk in at the far end of the practice driving rang and make your way along one side of it toward the near end, the end with the players. With the range to your left, there is a bathroom building to the right. This is another special feature of the Masters. Typically, a course brings in lots of temporary porta-potties for the spectators. The Masters, partly because they spare no expense and partly because they know they’ll be hosting spectators annually, has a large permanent structure. We decided to stop there first. As Dan and I entered the men’s side, we were welcomed by a friendly gentleman, akin to a Walmart greeter. Then a young man directed traffic into two lines, depending on where you were heading. Additional people kept us moving, and another man (though I only noticed this at the end of the day) was busily wiping down the sink counter as each sink was used. At the end, yet another staff member thanked us for coming.

As one continues to walk the length of the driving range, one reaches practice chipping greens on the left. One now has the option of walking to the end, turning left, and falling in behind the practicing players, or curving right and into a wide pedestrian area with the giant merchandise store to the right and the first food operation to the left. Again, in contrast to other tournaments we’ve gone to where the merchandise tent would be just that—a tent—the Masters has a permanent structure. They run you up a ramp with switchbacks to lead you into the store. There’s a bit of a traffic jam at the entrance, as you reach to grab a basket or bag in which to put your purchases. Beyond that, there are hundreds of customers, and the first few steps are slow, but then it opens up as people choose various directions.

Like the entry gate and the bathrooms, the store was a model of efficiency. The key is huge numbers of staff. There are hats, shirts, what-not, available to grab in assorted places as you walk by. And there are counters with dozens of people behind them ready to help. Want a knit shirt, for instance, with a Masters logo on it? High up on the wall are 15 versions, with numbers 1 to 15. Color choices, logo choices, etc. You find one of the staff—and as crowded as the store is, many staff are free—ask for a number and a size, and he or she reaches into the shelves on the wall, grabs what you ask for, and hands it over. Not what you want? Ask for another number. We got shirts, hats, worked our way to the end, and lined up in the massive checkout area. They must have twenty lines. But each line has perhaps four pairs of people working four registers. One takes your stuff out and organizes it, the other scans it, you hand over your credit card, you get a big plastic bag with your purchase, and you’re out. What we feared would take half an hour took less than ten minutes.

Surely you don’t want to carry all your purchases around, do you? Well, just turn left and get in one of two new lines. One line is for checking your stuff. Several more staff are ready with giant plastic bags that you put all your purchases in, then you get in line, go up to the counter, hand over your bag, and it’s checked. We joined this line first. Then we watched the activity on the second line in awe. They had boxes of every imaginable size from just a few inches square to feet, stacked up, and a few lines with scales, cash registers, and people. This was the onsite UPS Store! And there was basically no line at all. You walk up, one of several men eye your purchases, grabs a box, puts what you bought in it, you go to the counter, it’s weighed, shut, sealed, you give the woman your address, she tells you the cost, you pay, and you’re out. Six days later, the box arrives at home. Nothing to carry, nothing to pack, and no wasted time. It was faster than the line for checking purchases.

Finally, we were ready for some golf. We walked back past the store entrance on the right and food on the left, through an open area with tables and diners, and onto the grass, sacred ground at last. To the right was a giant scoreboard with every participant’s name. To the left, the clubhouse and some other structures. In front of us, the first fairway. The tee box was back to the left, the green to the right. We decided to turn right and begin our walk around the course. (See photo above.) It was near 10:00 am by now. We would spend the next six hours walking the course in order, holes 1 through 18. The thrill of a lifetime.

More on the course in a second post. Here, as long as I’m talking about the non-course experience, let me say something about lunch. Well, before that I’ll describe my principal discovery of the day. Then lunch.

1. Principal discovery. How to put this? Well, keep in mind, the people who run the Masters are a pretty traditional group, “traditional” being code for a very narrow-minded group whose decisions on assorted policy matters are not always welcomed as just. Examples: their long-time exclusion of African-American members; before that, the years it took before they invited African-Americans to play in the Masters; and, until last year, the long-time exclusion of women members. Not everyone loves the members of Augusta National.

But here’s the thing about them that I came to understand. You know about God and the Jews, right? The chosen people and all that? God gave us the Torah and asked us to follow it. In return, God promised to take care of us. More or less. Exodus 19:5:

Now therefore, if ye will hearken unto My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be Mine own treasure from among all peoples; for all the earth is Mine.

There’s an important point here. In return for God’s gift, his choice of us, we aren’t supposed to ask questions. Don’t ask why the commandments are what they are. Don’t try to make sense of the law. Just do it (as others would be told millennia later). Do it and God will provide.

Simple, no?

Do you see where this is leading? I’ll spell it out. The lords of the Masters are our gods. They have chosen us, the lucky few who get tickets onto the grounds of the Masters. They have rules. We follow them. Don’t run. Be courteous to other patrons (that’s what we are—patrons, not fans). Be very courteous to the players. RESPECT! Follow these rules and the lords of the Masters will provide.

Again, simple. The greatest spectator experience in the world is yours if only you obey.

We obeyed.

2. Lunch. This is a case in point. Boy do they provide!

I have never eaten a pimento cheese sandwich. I didn’t even know until recently what it consisted of. I didn’t expect to like one. But I knew one thing about them: they are a Masters tradition, priced at just $1.50. I would have to have one.

After we walked the front nine, we headed to the food center that lies between an open spectator area and the tenth fairway. There was a large crowd. But again, Masters efficiency rules. One enters through any of perhaps five chutes. Each chute has identical food choices right or left, yielding in effect ten separate lines. First one finds shelves filled with “snacks”, such as bananas, or potato chips, or popcorn with Georgia pecans, or candy. Just past the snack shelves are the sandwiches, all pre-wrapped in green Masters-logoed paper. The pimento cheese. Masters club. Ham and cheese. Chicken breast. Tuna salad. Egg salad. Bar-B-Que. The most expensive of the bunch are the two hot ones, the barbecue and chicken, at $3.00. Beyond sandwiches are beverages, shelves again with the choices arrayed. Beer or lemonade in Masters-logoed plastic cups. Water in Masters plastic bottles. I can’t remember what else. There must have been Coke.

I had read about their good egg salad. And about the classic chicken sandwich. And the barbecue. What to do? At these prices, who cares? Gail grabbed a banana. Me the popcorn and pecans. We took one pimento cheese to try together. We each got barbecue. I got the chicken, Gail the ham and cheese. We got two bottles of water. Beyond the food was an open area, then the cashiers. Like at the merchandise store, they were experts at moving people through. I was about to get on line when I saw a freezer case in front of them with Georgia peach ice cream sandwiches. We had to try that. This was the one place where the staff had slipped. There were boxes of sandwiches, but no loose ones to grab. Someone had to get in there and tear a box open. I had my arms filled with sandwiches. I put them on the cashier counter, dug in, tore a box open, and handed out sandwiches to other patrons, with one for us.

Time to pay. So that’s five sandwiches, two waters, one ice cream, one popcorn, one banana. Our cashier rang it up. $19! That’s nineteen dollars! What would you get for $19 at a professional football or basketball game? Or a baseball game? I was stunned. But, see #1 above.

Time to eat. Barbecue and chicken: great. Popcorn: great. Georgia peach ice cream: great. Pimento cheese: not my thing, but I have to say, I liked it. Some bite from the pepper. Pretty good. I was tempted to run the chute again so I could try the egg salad. But I was full, and there were nine more holes to see, the most famous back nine in golf.

We walked them, nine to eighteen. The eighteenth brought us up to the practice green. The close proximity of the first tee box, eighteenth green, and practice green is another Masters wonder. And with no grandstands to break up the open space. I peeked over three rows of people to see what was up. There was Phil, putting and hanging out with Steve Stricker. Good timing.

Steve Stricker giving Phil Mickelson a putting tip, on the practice green at Augusta

Steve Stricker giving Phil Mickelson a putting tip, on the practice green at Augusta

[Photo by Dan Nakano]

Then we wandered past the clubhouse, the pro shop, some other areas out of bounds to us, made a right, and headed into the area between the merchandise building and the first food center we had passed six and a half hours before. Back in the store Dan and I went, so I could buy two more hats while Gail and RE got some drinks across the way. Out in three minutes. To the checkout line so Dan and RE could get the goods they had checked in earlier. Over to the chipping greens near the driving range, where Phil and Ernie and assorted others would make their way as we watched.

I drank my lemonade, gaining a souvenir plastic cup in the process. We had another run at the fancy bathroom. Then we headed out the gate to our car, turned onto Washington Road (away from I-20, as we were forced to do), down Washington into Augusta, onto a highway that heads back north along the Savannah River, with South Carolina across the way, onto I-20, and home.

A perfect day. Thank you Masters gods.

Categories: Golf, Travel

The Good Life: Cadbury Fingers

April 24, 2013 Leave a comment

cadburyfinger

I mentioned in my post minutes ago that our friends Tom and Carol arrived from Edinburgh last night. They did not arrive alone. In their luggage was four boxes of Cadbury Fingers.

Whenever we go up to Vancouver—less often than we should—we make it a point to pick up a box or two of Cadbury Fingers. And when our friend Cynthia used to get up there a lot, she would generously do the same. But these are even better: straight from the UK. As described on the back of the box, they are

Delicious finger shaped crisp biscuits smothered in yummy Cadbury milk chocolate.

Or, from the website:

This little biscuit is a national treasure and with its delicious combination of milk chocolate and crunchy biscuit, along with its compact size, it’s the perfect treat for the whole family. But be warned, one is never enough!

It’s true. One is never enough. They’re so good that you might think Fred is singing about them in the video below.

Categories: Food, Travel