When we went up to the seacoast in May last year, the old truss bridge that for 88 years had spanned the Piscataqua River from Portsmouth, New Hampshire to Kittery, Maine had been torn down and a new one was under construction. Yesterday we saw that the new one was not only up and running but there was people walking across -- something I never saw with the old bridge. I don't know if there was no pedestrian walkway before or not, but the new bridge seemed to encourage people on foot or bicycle to cross the river and enjoy the gorgeous views of Portsmouth Harbor.
[Memorial Bridge placque]
Like the old bridge, the new bridge is dedicated to the sailors and soldiers of New Hampshire who participated in WWI. They saved some slabs of granit from the old bridge and put them in a small Veterans Park just before the entrance of the bridge.
[Veterans Park, entrance to the new Memorial Bridge]
It was a beautiful day and we couldn't resist the call to cross and take in the views up the harbor towards the Piscataqua River bridge, which carries Interstate 95 into Maine. The mighty Piscataqua River is a tidal estuary that empties out into the Atlantic east of Portsmouth.
[Piscataqua River, Portsmouth Harbor]
[The view from Kittery, Maine back towards Portsmouth, NH]
Oddly, on the other side of the bridge in Kittery, we found tied up to a little dock the Niña and the Pinta, or "the most authentic replicas" thereof (according to a sailor manning the parking lot) of Columbus' sailing ships that "discovered America." We didn't go on board.
[Niña and Pinta, in Kittery]
The Memorial Bridge is still a working truss bridge, or lift bridge, and we had to wait before walking back while the counterweights dropped and the center span of bridge lifted to allow a sailboat with a tall mast to pass. It lifted again after we'd crossed back and watched from Prescott Park.
[Memorial Bridge, lifted for sailboat passing]
Anyway, it was a lovely, if too brief, visit to Portsmouth. We'll have to go back soon.
Work continues to be a whirlwind, though I'm still happy with it. We have deadlines end of next week and end of August. I'm hoping things get more sane after that. Of course in the meantime D is in the process of moving - or throwing out stuff and fretting before the move, which will likely be within the next couple of weeks. We spent some time last weekend measuring the new apartment and getting it down on graph paper, which I think helped him feel more comfortable just knowing what he has to work with. We also went sofa shopping - big Ikea trip on Saturday and a walk over to Crate & Barrel just a couple of blocks from the apartment on Sunday. The old couch is big and unweildy and not wel liked, so the prospect of a new sofa is a treat to make up somewhat for all the stuff getting thrown out for the new, smaller apartment.
At any rate it was a break from work for me. And we did get out for a couple of nice al fresco meals -- the patio of our favorite local Italian caffe on Saturday evening and the patio of an excellent French restaurant for a delicious late lunch on Sunday afternoon.
[D at La Voile on Newbury St, Boston; 8/4/13]
I'm hoping to get another trip to the beach before the end of the summer. My folks lived at the beach when they retired and I've always spent lots of time at the seacoast most summers, so I feel bereft if I don't get enough salt water and sea air before the fall arrives. I can smell it now and feel the sand between my toes. We drove up in ungodly bad traffic a couple of Saturdays ago only to find that the beach we usually go to was closed due to too much bacteria in the water. Ugh. Fortunately we drove up the coast a bit further and found a rocky but clean beach and I was able to get in for a icy cold dip. Ah, the North Atlantic! So hopefully D will get moved in and settled and we can get there again. I'm also thinking of booking us for a long weekend in September while it's still warm, maybe on Cape Cod. Just need to find the time...
My friend C has lived in the funky little Pawtuxet Village in Rhode Island for the past 13 years, in a historic neighborhood of old Victorians, many of which sport enviable front porches. C, being an outgoing person, knows many of her neighbors and a walk from her house down to the cove often involves a stop or two to chat with someone sitting on their porch or tending their yard. Those who aren't long-time RI locals (who never leave this tiniest of US states if they can possibly help it) are often artists who went to the renowned RISD in Providence or writers like my friend C. She also has family roots in the state, though she picked out her neighborhood from the air while flying into TF Green (if you're in her yard in summer you can be fully engulfed in jet shadow as one passes overhead, like a field mouse under a coasting hawk).
When I visited on Saturday, many of the houses were still decked out for their annual Gaspee Days parade, which happened earlier in June. It commemorates the 1772 looting and burning of the British revenue schooner HMS Gaspeein the Pawtuxet River, leading up to the American Revolution. I had never heard of the incident before C moved there, but it is a Big Deal in the area, and they are already planning next year's events. C told me she just got on the planning committee for the first time.
[Porch in Pawtuxet Village]
I used to visit more often when I lived in Grafton, which is a bit closer than where I am now, and I was single and footloose. With D away this weekend, and my weekdays about to be consumed by the new job, it was a nice opportunity to visit with C. We had a delicious lunch at L'Attitude, walked a bit, then took separate cars to go to a backyard barbecue at a friend's place about 20 minutes away (not to eat again, though!). That was fun, too, as there were several people I knew and hadn't seen in many years - although, thanks to Facebook, we'd been keeping up with each other in the meantime. They're all appropriately oddball Rhode Islanders -- artists, writers and geeks (brought together by their science fiction devotion) -- smart, interesting and unpretentious. I had a great time. I left for home just before sunset, taking advantage of the long summer daylight.
[C's new kitten, Brigitte Althea (for Althea officinalis - marshmallow)]
It's looking to be a hot week in Boston. D has invited a few people to a 4th of July barbecue on his deck (last chance as he'll be moving next month), but it will not be especially comfortable out there. I'm recommending it start as late as possible to wait for shade and hopefully some cooling. I have today to myself, trying to get projects wrapped up and the house in order before my free time shrinks. Then we'll go food shopping tomorrow and prepare for the party, then maybe go see some of the pre-4th Pops rehearsal over on the Esplanade, and figure out a plan to find someplace cool to go during my remaining free days.
Faced with hot, sticky 90º+ weather last weekend, we considered going to the beach. But the forecasts for the coast showed equally hot, sticky weather -- just add sand. Seeing that the winds were running from the southwest, I checked the forecast for Newport, Rhode Island -- ah, 72º! Perfect! D has been mentioning taking a day trip there at least once a summer since we went when we were first dating. So we dressed for cooler climes, got in D's air conditioned car a little after noon, and headed southwest. Two hours later we were in Newport, searching for parking. Every lot, most charging $20, was full and the traffic was barely moving, but we turned away from the waterfront and after a few blocks found a free spot on the street with no meter! Not a long walk at all, and comfortable in that lovely cool air.
[View from The Landing restaurant]
[D's lobster crepe]
We ended up at what we think was the restaurant we went to on that gray day in early May 2009 (I posted one photo - I wasn't wielding my camera much on those early dates). It had been a little hole in the wall then, serving a small menu of basic fare, or maybe it was just off-season and off-hours. But it was dockside, right on the harbor. This time it had blossomed into a sprawling venue with two bars, a dance floor, and two levels of outside seating. After some table hopping, we settled at a good spot with a view and ordered from a somewhat expanded menu with scaled-up fare. D had a beautiful lobster crepe with gorgonzola (I'm not a stinky cheese fan) and I had a nicely prepared fish and chips, along with a pint each of the local Newport Storm Hurricane Amber Ale, which they had on tap.
[Enjoying the breeze]
Aside from the lovely cool breezes and harbor views, I was, as usual, put off by the tacky tourist shops along Thames Street (pronounced Thaymz, by the way). It was also quite crowded, possibly more so because of a chowder fest going on. There are many more things to do in Newport than stroll the tourist strip along Thames and America's Cup Boulevard, but with only a few hours to wander on a day trip that's the place to go, especially to enjoy waterfront dining. We really should go for the weekend sometime to enjoy more of the town (see this 36 Hours in Newport article). D and I did wander some lovely side streets lined with old colonial cottages back in 2009. I've also been with friends many years back, once taking the ferry from Providence, another time staying out on Jamestown and bicycling around the island.
My family also had our last family vacation there back when I was in my 20s. I remember escaping them to go to the bars one night, my brother apparently declining. We also toured one of the famous Newport mansions, went to the beach, and my dad and I took a wonderful boat ride one afternoon out around the harbor filled with luxurious sailboats. It is ultimately the harbor that draws everyone.
I spent most of last week visiting my father, who is still residing in a rehab center 6 weeks post hip replacement surgery. My brother was out of the country and there was some initial thought that my dad would be ready to be released and would need help getting re-settled in his apartment, which is why I went when I did. Alas, he needs more rehab time; at 85 years of age, progress in strengthening one's weakened muscles is very slow. His hip pain (no fall, just recalcitrant hip pain) kept him even more sedentery than usual for the past year, so although the surgery dealt with the hip pain, it's slow work getting him strong enough to be mobile again. My dad hopes to go back to using a cane in place of the walker he's had to use. We keep our fingers crossed.
The day I flew back home -- Sunday -- they discovered some (hopefully) surface-area incision infection and carted him off to the emergency room, which was distressing all around. My sister-in-law went and stayed with him through the ordeal, thankfully, and they sent him back with antibiotics that night. He's scheduled to see his surgeon tomorrow, accompanied by my brother. Deep infection is very bad because it would most likely require removing the prosthetic joint. Bad enough to deal with in a young person. Let's hope that isn't necessary.
[Meadow, Nichols Arboretum]
I didn't get much spare time while out there. I brought my laptop and had work to do, plus getting food for myself every day, errands, and driving across town to visit my dad twice a day for as long as possible. The weather started out ungodly hot and humid, then dropped to near freezing and drizzly, finally clearing a bit on my last day there. That last afternoon, when my dad fell asleep in front of the ballgame, I left to find someplace to go for a walk and luckily found an entrance to the Nichols Arboretum, which belongs to the University of Michigan. I found parking on a side street and went for a lovely walk in the woods dotted with spring blossoms. Just lovely. I'd left my camera in the apartment, but took a few pics with my droid phone - not stellar quality, but still I hope captures some of the scenery.
I got to spend at least the rest of the holiday weekend with D in town. Then this morning I had an on-site interview for a potential new job. It went well. Will see what happens...
We went out to Cape Cod over the weekend with friends from California who had rented a large B&B suite for Saturday and Sunday night out on the outer Cape. Unfortunately, it poured rain for most of Saturday and Sunday, but we had a nice time anyway.
[Nauset Farms store, Orleans; 9/30/12]
I took a walk on Sunday when the rain let up and the others were watching the football game. It was a quiet neighborhood, no doubt more so being off-season, but likely a welcome respite from summer tourist traffic.
[Cape Cod chair lift?; Orleans, 9/30/12]
Orleans is about 25 miles south of Provincetown up the mid-Cape highway. D and I left around half-time to drive up to Ptown in the rain, but we arrived just as the skies were clearing. We'd spent two vacations in Ptown in summer in 2009 and 2010, staying at a motel at the quiet West End near the moors, so we went there first to take in the scenery.
[Moors, Provincetown West End; 9/30/12]
The West End is about a 15-minute walk into the center of town on Commercial Street, which is lined with cafes, galleries, shops and B&Bs. In summer, Ptown center is bustling with tourists and, if you go during one of the gay festival weeks, some ebullient men in drag. An evening stroll is thoroughly entertaining. Off-season is obviously much quieter and walking along the street much quicker without the crowds. We parked in the center and had time to wander awhile before our friends came up to join us for dinner.
[Provincetown Harbor; 9/30/12]
[Clouds over Provincetown Harbor; 9/30/12]
Monday morning we woke to clear and bright skies as we packed up to return home. We stopped first at Nauset Beach, down the road from the B&B, finding big waves and strong winds.
[Boardwalk to Nauset Beach, Orleans; 10/1/12]
D and I also stopped for lunch on our way back at the Chatham Bars Inn, a rather posh resort that has a restaurant with a spectacular view of the bay. We'd discovered it in August 2009 while looking for any eaterie on the water in Chatham -- not easy to find. It was a bit nippier this time around. The sun was warm, but the wind was strong, with gusts blowing over furled table umbrellas. We had to hold onto our linen napkins to make it through our rather pricey lunch, but it was nice to be outdoors with the lovely blue skies and the view.
The oppressive city air was far behind us, replaced by the cool briny breath of the ocean. The tide slipped forward wave by wave, greeting advancing layers of blue-gray clouds until finally they met and crossed, leaving for a long while a bright band at the horizon. Later, light rain washed the port of excess tourists, leaving locals to slide into worn grooves, cozying into familiar chairs and menus. I let it all spill over me, softening edges honed by the work week.
After circling much of Boston Harbor on foot this summer, following various pieces of the Harborwalk, we finally got on a ferry on Monday and headed out to the Harbor Islands. I had a day free, which was perfect timing given Monday's forecasted fair skies after an intermittently cloudy/rainy weekend. We decided not to try to fit in more than one island visit in the day and picked Spectacle Island, which boasts a cafe, a visitor's center, a beach, 5 miles of hiking trails and panoramic views of the harbor and the city from the highest point. It also has a pretty interesting history -- from its origins as two small drumlins connected by a spit of land (hence the name "Spectacle" for its shape like spectacles, though the spit was later filled in), its earliest use by Native Americans for fishing and camping, use by early Europeans as a smallpox quarantine, a site for hotels (later shut down for gambling), then site of a horse rendering plant followed by a trash incinerator and eventually, forgoing incineration, a place to dump trash (until it reportedly swallowed a bulldozer). It was finally cleaned up, capped off with clay from Boston's Big Dig project, and opened as a recreational area in 2006. It's come a long way.
[Spectacle Island Visitor's Center, beach and pier]
The ferry only took about 20 minutes to get out to the island, then we had almost 3 hours until our scheduled ride back (ferries leave on the hour). We grabbed a sandwich in the cafe, then trekked to the top of the North Drumlin to take in the views, which included Boston, Castle Island and Fort Independence in South Boston, Logan airport, and the nearby islands Thompson Island, Long Island and its bridge from Moon Island. The summit seemed to be inhabited primarily by red-winged black birds (I didn't even try to get a shot of them, but D got a remarkably sharp one - his efforts well paid off).
[Boston Harbor from North Drumlin on Spectacle Island]
We walked back to port by way of the west side of island, which has a seawall in place of the beach on the eastern side. It was all lovely, although we were wishing we'd worn hats to protect us from the sun. It was comfortably breezy and dry, but apart from a couple of shade shelters and an occasional pine tree, there wasn't much protection from the sun.
[Queen Anne's Lace at the seawall, with view towards Long Island]
When we got back to the Visitor Center, we had time to rest in the Adirondack chairs on the porch a bit before our ferry arrived to take us back to the city. We stopped for a nice bowl of chowder and a cool beer/wine at Legal Seafood on Long Wharf to top off the day.
Here's the photo set from the ferry ride and the island.
This is the August photo in my Provincetown calendar this year. Taken during our first vacation together -- three days in Ptown in August 2009 -- I can still feel the heat and that long climb back up from Race Point beach in hot, deep sand. (More photos from that trip here).