Hard on the heels of our trip to California, we set out to visit Judy and her husband, Bill, in Auburn, ME.
Tuesday, August 21, 2018
We got up at 3:00 am for our 6:30 flight to Portland, ME. Our friend Jenny Wertz volunteered to drive us to the airport and arrived at 4:30 to load up. We quickly checked in for our boarding passes and went to the security check. To our surprise our passes were marked “pre-check” which meant no taking off shoes or belts or removing technology from our packs. We got through quickly and headed to our gate. On our flight to Detroit we sat in the Economy plus section which meant more leg room. In Detroit we found that our gate for our Portland flight was right next to where we got off! Overall, our flight was painless.
Judy and Bill picked us up for our drive to their house in Auburn. On the way there, we stopped off at Popeye’s chicken for lunch. Lots of great chatting and catching up on the drive. We had not seen their current house and were completely charmed by all the hard work and improvements they have made. Every room in their house has been remodeled and their big yard is filled with flowers, a vegetable garden, blueberries and even wild areas.
That night our niece Jessica and her family came for dinner. We got a little reacquainted with Lorelei and Sagen and had a chance to catch up with Bryan and Jess. Judy had ordered cooked lobsters for a delicious Maine feast of lobster and corn on the cob. Jess gave Butch and I a refresher course in shelling and eating. After dinner we played a card game until we were too tired to keep our eyes open. What a fun welcome.
Wednesday, August 22
We were ready and packed to leave by 10:00 the next morning. The plan was to drive to Quebec City in Canada for a week in a condo there. It was drizzling when we left Auburn and rained pretty much the whole day. We stopped for lunch at Northern Outdoor Outfitters which was a lodge resort featuring white water raft trips among other activities.
We arrived in Beaupré just outside of Quebec City and settled into our condo. We had hoped for a ground floor unit but unfortunately had to climb 13 steps to our place with all our gear. We are very happy with the condo which has everything we need. We had a few glasses of wine along with bread, cheese and lunch meats and chatted through the evening. It was an early night and we were all tucked in by 10:00 pm.
Thursday, August 23
Part of our chat last night was planning for today’s activities. We decided to go to Iles de Orleans for the day which is across the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City. The island is largely agricultural but tourists visit to taste the products grown and produced there. Our first stop was at Cassis Monna & Filles which is a business that is based on all kinds of products made from black currents.
As we got out of the car, Butch unfortunately suffered a wardrobe malfunction that impacted the rest of his day. The zipper on his shorts broke! We did the best we could with an untucked shirt and two safety pins we scrounged up but it was awkward for the rest of the day.
We sampled lots of products like jams, mustards, compotes, and even olives flavored by black currents. The highlight was a wine tasting with a charming young French-speaking fellow who explained the subtleties of the wines and cassis liqueur. We bought some delicious things to enjoy for the week.
Next stop was a ciderey which produces many products from apples. There were mustards, butters, jams, salsas, vinegars and hard ciders to sample. Their specialty was Ice Cider which was tasty but a little sweet for me. Butch quite liked several of the varieties. We moved on down the road and visited a fromagerie for cheese where we bought some of their specialties for our dinner. After all of that wine and cider tasting we were quite enjoying ourselves. The weather was great and the scenery was beautiful.
We stopped for lunch at Le Moulin de St-Laurent which was converted from a very old stone grinding mill into a restaurant. A bus load of tourists were finishing up their lunch so it was very busy.
The hostess and all the waiters and waitresses were very welcoming and made our lunch extra nice. We declined the desserts on offer because our last stop on the island was one of the two chocolate stores there.
The chocolate shop was very crowded and busy because a tour bus had just arrived. Most of the people lined up for ice cream which is one of their specialties. We decided to skip the lines for that and went directly to the chocolate shop. Judy and I had fun picking out a box of chocolates each and two kinds of white bark.
We finished our circuit of the island. It was interesting how much the look of the scenery changed from one part to another. There were very charming villages, a lot of farm land, some small factories and lots of small businesses and galleries. We decided that our day had been full enough and after a quick stop at the grocery store headed back for a nap and some lounging time.
We ended the evening making a supper out of some of the treats we bought then playing cards.
Friday, August 24
Today we went to old Quebec City. Early settlers built their homes down in the flat areas on the banks of the St. Lawrence River. As the city grew, it spread up the bluffs and a defensive position was established high over the river. We drove to the top first and drove the car through the narrow cobbled streets to get a feel for it. Steep one way streets were lined with quaint old stone homes and businesses. Some streets were too narrow for cars.
We then went back down the bluff and found a parking space near the funicular that takes tourists to the top.
There we had a great view of the river and the old city below.
We walked to the Le Frontenac, a big castle-like hotel that is very swanky and a city landmark. Nearby there was a city park surrounded by shops, restaurants and, today, an artisan fair. Judy and I each bought a necklace from a jeweler there.
Back at the bottom of the bluff the streets are blocked off for cars so that tourists can visit shops and restaurants. We found a suitable place and had lunch. As usual, a few drinks were part of the routine.
As we came out of the restaurant we were presented with a great mural. The end of a building right next door was painted to look like the building was under construction in some by-gone time. Pretty neat.
Judy, Butch, and I decided to ride the ferry across the river and back for a different view of the old town while Bill did a little more exploring. We met back at the car and found our way back to the condo.
Since we are having a sedate and civilized vacation we adjourned to our separate rooms for a nap before dinner. Tonight we ate at the restaurant here in the resort. There was only one waiter manning the bar and serving tables for several groups but he was very efficient and we were served our dinners right away. The food was very good and we might even go back. Bill, Judy, and I settled in for our nightly card game after dinner while Butch checked his email and tried to distract us.
Saturday, August 26
Today our destination was Iles ou Coudres which literally means Elbow Island but could be named for crooked hazel wood sticks from hazel wood trees that grow on the island. On the way there we stopped at a Goose Farm.
Judy and I went into the shop and sampled and bought pates and spreads. All were very delicious. The drive to the ferry was particularly scenic with views of mountains and tidal plains.
We arrived at Gare Fluvial station just as a ferry for the island was leaving so we were close to the front of the line and had a chance to see the whole process. The ferry is free and the boat goes very fast which was surprising since there was very little sensation of motion.
We had lunch at Auberge de Facine and had a very cheeky, cheeky French waiter who told a story including the phrase “couldn’t remember his f***king name so I’ll call him Pablo.” I have to admit I never had a waiter who swore before! He was so charming and funny he probably gets away with a lot.
The drive around this island included different sorts of beautiful scenery depending on which side we were on. It really was not as nice as Ilse de Orlean but was also charming in a more modest way. At one place we saw a shop renting para sails and all sorts of other equipment for the water.
There were at least six colorful sails up at one time. When we arrived the places we saw were at low tide with grassy mud flats, but by the time we left, the tide was coming in which was a very different view.
Dinner that night was at Ste Bernard’s Micro brewery. Luckily, we found very nice restaurants close to our condo.
Sunday, August 27
Well, due to my dinner choice I had a sleepless night but had a chance to catch up on blog writing. One of the main tourist spots in the area is the Chute de Montmorency, a large waterfall with lots of side falls.
We planned to go up the bluff in a gondola but 4 seats with parking was over $80. We had already driven by it many times and that seemed like a lot of money for a 15 minute ride. Instead we drove to the top to the Montmorency Inn. You could not really see the falls without walking a mile out to the bridge which goes over the top so we sat in the cafe for beer, wine, cake, and/or coffee depending on the person. It was fun to people watch and enjoy the view of the gardens.
From there we drove on to the Plains of Abraham, which is a park in the center of the old city area of Quebec City. It is filled with historic cannons, beautiful gardens, sculptures, and swanky houses in the surrounding neighborhood. Judy and I strolled through a jewel of a garden with lush plantings on every side.
Big garden envy going on for me at least. Since I barely slept the night before, Butch and I went back to the condo to nap while Judy and Bill went to a cafe for lunch.
That night we had a light dinner at the Condo restaurant. We do nothing but eat!!! Then another game of cards – Five Crown, before bed.
Monday, August 28
On the road to return to Auburn by 9:30 am. The weather was very hot with high humidity and temperatures in the 90’s. We have an air conditioned car so no worries.
Our drive followed the Kennebec River and we saw some white water rafters near where we had stopped for lunch on the way up. Our rafting days are over. It just doesn’t sound fun to get doused with freezing water with the threat of falling in.
When we reached US customs the agent was much more thorough although he was friendly and pleasant. He checked each of our passports individually and looked in the windows of the car to match faces. Then he asked a few questions about purchases and asked Judy to open the trunk. He really didn’t search it but did spend a minute looking inside. This is a much higher level of scrutiny than it was going into Canada.
We stopped in the town of Jackman, Maine, for lunch at a nice little restaurant. Butch had an unusual dish which was a hamburger on a bun sitting on a pile of fries then covered with gravy with peas on top. It was called a hamburger platter and the description on the menu made him picture something a little different though he liked it all right. The Canadian dish featured in all restaurants is called Poutine. The basic version is French fries smothered in brown gravy with cheese curds on the top. It really did not sound appealing. There were lots of variations and I should have tried one but couldn’t bring myself to choose it over other offerings.
We arrived in Auburn at about 5:00 and Judy made us a nice homemade dinner. Butch and I have eaten in restaurants for far too long, though we have had lots of delicious meals.
[Butch] At home I have a shoe horn to help me get my shoes on. It’s hard to take it on travels, so when I was putting my shoes on one morning, I trod the heal down. I reached down to pull it back up but in doing so I pulled a muscle, or ligament, or something in my wrist. It hurt like a son-of-a-gun, but got better after a few minutes. Even though it felt strained. The next day I had a bruise right where I strained the muscle and the day after that, it had progressed to the point you see it below.
It didn’t stop there. Over the next few days it got worse. The purple part got even bigger and it wrapped around to the back of my wrist even. I tried to go to the doctor when we got home, but it was Friday afternoon and they take the phone off the hooks to avoid more appointments at the end of the day. In another week it was completely cleared up however.
Tuesday, August 29
Jessica stopped by on her way to work to drop off Hermione, Judy and Bill’s dog that she had been watching while we were in Canada. She said Brian would be dropping off the kids in the afternoon on his way to work. Judy and I made a quick trip to the grocery store to lay in enough food for the rest of our stay and included some treats for the kids. Judy has a huge vegetable garden so we have plenty of homegrown produce to choose from. After we got everything put away, Judy and I left again for the nearby town of Norway. Judy has a favorite art supply store there called 100 Acre Wood, and among other things was buying a few supplies for a drawing class she will be teaching in Senior College. It was a charming little town with lots of little shops on the Main Street. We took a route home that went by Brian and Jess’ house. Brian and the kids arrived shortly after lunch but it didn’t stop us from squeezing in a nap. The weather was very hot, in the 90’s with high humidity so we are very glad to have fans in our bedrooms which do a good job of keeping us cool. Jessica and Lorelei both had school open house that evening so Jess picked up Lorelei while Sagan stayed with us. We planned to go out for Chinese because it was way too hot to cook. Sagan is a big fan of sushi so he was looking forward to it. It turned out that Jessica and Lorelei were finished in time to join us. We enjoyed dinner together and I especially liked having Lorelei sitting next to me. We chatted like old friends for the whole dinner which I loved. After dinner we went our separate ways and we ended the night with more cards. This time Butch taught Judy and Bill the game of Hearts and then we played Five Crown again before turning in.
Wednesday, August 29
Today was pedicure day. Judy and I thought we had Butch talked into joining us but in the end he chickened out and decided to stay home and log in some computer time. Judy is preparing for several upcoming Senior College events so she had a number of errands to do. When we finished with them we headed to the pedicure place. After a short wait we got massage chairs right next to each other and enjoyed our relaxing pedicures. Since this is a rare treat we decided to get the best one which included removing callouses. It was heavenly. Judy had turquoise polish and I chose dark purple. When we got home we had a quick sandwich and then it was nap time again. Judy and Bill really know how to host a great vacation!
Since it was another beastly hot day and was our last night, we had Jessica, Brian and the kids over for pizza. It has been so fun for us to be around Sagan and Lorelei and of course Jess and Brian too. We miss out living half a continent away.
Our routine again was cards before bedtime. Tomorrow we will sleep in our own bed!