Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Home again, home again

I have been SO slow getting this up!!! Blame it on all the photos.

On that note, I feel compelled to warn: In a couple of these photos, I am in vacation mode, am wearing no makeup, and therefore have no eyebrows.

Much like this:

There. I said it. Deal with it, people. Being able to let my hair down (and flying around) like this makes me beyond happy.

I got back in the wee small hours last Sunday night/Monday morning rather than Tuesday - I'll get into it in a sec, but let me just say up front that the Thursday before I was supposed to fly to London, then to Slovenia for my darling friend Varja's wedding, after a week at the beach in Delaware and a cabin in the woods of Quebec. The very same day that whole terrorist plot thing was foiled, and traveling became a nightmare. Stupid terrorists.

Anyway, here's the gist of the rest of my travels:

So, this was a first - my family (mom, stepdad, oldest sis, bro-in-law and their kids) all got a house together at the beach in Delaware. We used to go down to the Outer Banks all the time in the 70s, but haven't done anything like this since my oldest sis and I were adults. I've been to NC a couple of times with Andy's family, but mostly just for a night - and very informally (as god is my witness I will never sleep on an air matress again). Sadly, Andy wasn't able to be with me on this trip - but we managed to keep him with us, regardless (more on that later...)

ANYWAY, the rest of the family got there over the weekend, and I drove up solo on the Wednesday. Thankfully I got my own room, bathroom, and balcony. The balcony was overlooking the highway, but what can you do? There was at least a little estuary on the other side. The aforementioned definitely helped with the whole relaxing process. My sis came from France with Fred and the kids, which was blissful - my niece is a fearless little 4-year-old sprite, and my 9 m.o. nephew was about the smiliest, sweetest little bub ever. Very little made him fuss vocally - he would instead vent his frustrations by blowing raspberries at us. CUTE.

Here's our merry little cast of characters:

Princess Gabrielle


Babies together

Gabs and her daddy Fred

Tim and my sis

My lovely mom and stepdad

The typical day involved leisurely tea drinking; alternately playing in the waves, building sandcastles, and fending off mammoth bitey blackflies with my niece; eating; laying around; and playing drunken games of Uno with my family (babies were not invited). Yippee!

From Delaware, I bid farewell to my family and continued up to the home of Andy's and my friends John and Jana, who live with their twins Harry and Hugo in a great little town in the berkshires called North Adams - which is also home to Mass MOCA, one of the largest contemporary art museums in North America. The plan was to stay the night at their place, then the 5 of us would head up to Quebec, to a lovely cabin we've stayed in for the past 2 years outside of a little town called Saint Sauveur.

As a personal aside, I am now going to gush about my pallies for a moment: Not only are they two of the best storytellers I've ever met, but they are unbelievably cool, very funny, and the perfect couple for Andy and I to vacation with - they love to lay around, do some nature stuff, go see oddball sites, and drink copious amounts of sangria while consuming delicious treats. Yay! Their kids are ridiculously smart, very silly boys, who are absolutely delightful to be around, whether you're talking with them about the DC Comics universe or stuck in a car with them for 8 hours (more on that later... ugh...)

Anyway, as I mentioned, the original plan was to go to the cabin for about 4 days, then back into Montreal, where I'd take a flight over to Europe via London for Varja's wedding. I was to stay in Europe for about 4 days, then come back last Tuesday.

The days in the cabin were all blissful - it's a beautiful place, nestled in the woods by a lake - this is the 2nd year we've come to stay in the cabin, although Andy couldn't come this year. No worries, though - with the help of Harry, we were able to keep him with us:

Here he is, "reading" the paper:

And spending a little time kayaking:

My pals brought 2 kayaks with them, so we spent our days kayaking on the lake and taking day trips into town, or to the local organic farm for produce. It was windy as hell most days, so I'd fight the wind to paddle up to one end of the lake, then simply let the wind spin my kayak around, and lay back as I was pushed gently back to the other end. Yay. At night we roasted marshmallows by the fire pit and told stories with the boys - it's amazing how much that stuff can still freak me out... :) Once the kids were in bed, we'd just get drunk and silly until we eventually passed out.

Harry and Hugo

John and Jana

Here are some pics of the cabin and lake:

Harry on a rock in the middle of the lake (don't ask...)

Me, chillin
Here's me in the 'yak, letting the wind blow me back home while I just laid back and let it all go by.

The day I was supposed to go to Europe, my flight wasn't until 9:30pm, so my friends and I decided to take my rental car back and have them hang with me in Montreal until the flight. Montreal is a beautiful city, and definitely worthy of a visit if you haven't been there. Our intention was to go to the Science Center, however by the time we got there, it was almost closing time. Should have seen the omen for what it was...

Regardless, here's scenic Montreal, ironically from the parking garage of the Science Center:

About 5 minutes from the airport, I got a call from Andy, who had been frantically trying to reach me for about 5 hours. Because we'd been in virtual isolation for the last 5 days, we had no idea what was going on in the world. Andy gave me the news about everything, and advised me about the possibility of needing to cancel my trip. Varja has been one of my closest friends for almost 20 years, so it most certainly ranked up there as one of the most difficult decisions of my life. That said, with all the flight delays and cancellations (including my own), I also knew that there was no way I was going to make it - and would likely be stuck in Heathrow Airport for an indeterminate number of hours / days. I was heartbroken, but also thankful that my friends were with me, and offered to take me back to the cabin that day.

Once back, I spent several days not only cancelling all of the reservations I'd made, but also trying to get refunds, etc. I won't even get into it, cause it was so friggin exhausting. Suffice it to say, I owe a debt of gratitude to Andy and my friend Lisa, who made all of the calls from the states that I was unable to make from the cabin, and the agents at Travelocity, who were able to get a credit on my non-refundable flight. Being a persistent nag DOES pay off, kids!!!

So, after 2 more days in the cabin, we came home that Sunday. It turned out that Lisa was visiting her family in NY State, so she offered to pick me up stateside and take me the rest of the way home from John and Jana's place. We spent 3 hours at the border, y'all - it was NO joke. Border security was checking every car, every passenger, everything. It was crazy. So, all in all, after 18 hours in the car total (did I mention that my friends RULE), I was home.

WHEW, indeed.

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