Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Weekend In Seattle - spoiler: it rained

Last weekend I took a little trip up to the place I used to call "home", Seattle. As was typical, the weather forecast was this:

So typical, as I had made a hair appointment for Friday, and planned to have the nice hair-do girl flat-iron it. Flat-ironed hair makes you look skinnier. Of course it was going to rain, and undo all that visual hocus pocus. I came close to investing in one of these:

But then did not. I did, however, pack these:

I love shoes, and it's impossible to pick a favorite pair, but these boots have done me proud, ever since I purchased them last November. Living in Seattle (or other Pacific Northwest city) and not owning proper rain boots is just silly. It's the difference between grumbling about ruined suede pumps and happily splashing through puddles in your protective armor.

My friend Ellen was flying in from San Francisco to meet me, and we needed a cute but mostly convenient hotel. I gambled on a cheapie Hotwire mystery hotel (4-star only with the gambling, though), and was rewarded with the Hyatt Olive 8:

Excellent, central location, and there were robes. We were just a few blocks from one of my all-time favorite eat-y/drink-y places, Tango. We sat in a booth, clinked our sangria glasses, nibbled on bacon-wrapped dates and laughed like this, "Ha! Haha!" After enough sangria it seems perfectly logical to order a calorie-and-fat-laden dessert, even when your hair is not making you appear any skinnier.

I dragged Ellen to all the must-see spots in Seattle, and would post photos of those, if we had any that weren't ruined by rain. We stuck to indoor pursuits like consignment-shop shopping at My Dressing Room in Queen Anne, and Fury in Madison Park. I refrained from spending (back pat).

Later, we met up with friends and indulged:

Wine bars are my favorite thing, and the Local Vine is one of my favorite-ist. Ellen plans to return to Seattle when the weather is nicer. So, next August.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I Changed the Header Photo

You know, because it's fall and such. You shouldn't wear heeled sandals while kicking through colorful leaves.

Friday, October 14, 2011

I Just Can't Get Left. Or Right.

To wrap up my two-week genealogy road-trip extravaganza, I drove from Providence, to the Catskills, then back to Syracuse to return my rental car. The fall foliage complied.
What did not comply was the New York state highway system. Traffic was moving at a zippy pace, and there was nowhere to pull over and photograph all the splendor. I was Clark Griswold caught in the roundabout in London. "I can't seem to get over to the left, honey." There was no left, there was no right. There was no side.

The dashboard is an unwelcome frame for my masterpieces. I was gasping and marveling at all the splendor, and then feeling abnormally panicked that I would not have proper opportunity to share said splendor with everyone else, shrieking aloud to no one, "Why are there no gravelly shoulders for pulling over?!" So, keeping my eyes on the road, would hold out my right arm with camera and click intermittently. I do not recommend this. 

Please just try to imagine how beautiful the leaves looked. The camera adds ten pounds, and also seems to subtract ten times the prettiness of the colors. It was a stunning, stunning drive. Happy fall! 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Divine Providence

When traveling you should always try to ignore the things that irritate you about a new place. Irritatedness (I know, not really a word) is probably not close to Godliness. (And although "irritatedness" is not a word, I would still like to see that cross-stitched on a pillow.)  
  1. Ignore the fact that Google maps directions failed to take into consideration the Gloria Gemma 5K for Breast Cancer Awareness, when suggesting you take Exit 22A to reach the Hotel Providence, in Providence, R.I.
  2. Ignore the fact that, once you've driven ten blocks out of your way, you discover that the street your hotel is on, Westminster, is broken up into two separate sections. The one you've finally managed to erroneously find yourself on is in a somewhat sketchy neighborhood. 
  3. Ignore the fact that, once you finally locate the correct section of the street, you find it is a one-way, and nearly impossible to access going the right way. 
  4. Ignore the fact that although your hotel's address is 311 Westminster Street, the entrance (and visible sign) is actually half-way down the cross-street of Matthewson, which, as far as you are concerned, could also be called Not Westminster. 
  5. Ignore the fact that you later notice, while walking several streets up, that there is a sign for Hotel Providence on Westminster St., although it is placed far too high up on the building to be visible from the street - where you were driving and desperately searching for a hotel sign
  6. Ignore the fact that the hotel offers valet parking for $26 overnight.
  7. Ignore the fact that you have not eaten in five hours.
Come on, Sunshine! Turn it around! Find that silver lining!
  1. The Gloria Gemma 5K provided an awesome visual of a sea of pink shirts against the red brick of downtown Providence. Plus, it was for a good cause. 
  2. The somewhat sketchy neighborhood had a Shell station where gas was $3.49/gallon. That was the lowest you've seen in two weeks, and you needed to fill up. 
  3. You got an unplanned tour of the city. 
  4. You are now intimately familiar with the location of Aspire Restaurant, because it's location (and massive signage) is precisely where the hotel would have been, if it's address had actually been 311 Westminster.  
  5. Should you arrive via helicopter next time, that sign (that is placed far too high on the building) will be invaluable.  
  6. You find a nearby parking lot where the guy agrees to let you park overnight, for $20, and you don't have to leave the lot until around 10am the next day. 
  7. You walked down one block, and found this:

This is your new Providence Happy Place. Today, Korean food is providing the comfort and solace you need after too many hotels, too many Google maps and too many weeks of road-trip travel.

It looks messy, but that's only because you've already consumed half of it. It is delicious, and there's enough left over to eat later for dinner, when you are relaxing in your hotel room
which is not on Westminster Street.

And after blustering on and on about the hotel's address, you check the hotel's website and see that they list the address as 139 Matthewson St. However, you made all your arrangements through Tablet Hotels, which lists the address as 311 Westminster, and that is the address you had written in your daily planner, and it is the address you typed into Oct 9 in Microsoft Outlook, and it is the address you plugged into Google maps. 

You might now direct your rage toward Tablet Hotels, if not for the melodic bonging of the bells from Grace Episcopal church, right across the street. Please refer to your cross-stitched pillow.

*If the Tablet Hotel's link to Hotel Providence shows the address as 139 Matthewson, it is only because I have (possibly politely) notified them of their egregious error.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Plimouth Plantation

This hotel was awful.

*UPDATED 11/4/2011

Kara's comment made me laugh really hard, and then think "Yes, I should probably explain further."
These photos were taken at one of the homes on Plimouth Plantation, in Plymouth, Massachusetts. It's an amazing recreation of the first Pilgrim settlement - an entire village with thatched-roof houses and gardens and livestock and people dressed in old-timey 1620's garb, talking in old-timey 1620's fashion. 

It was one of those experiences I wish I could have had on an off-day, when everyone else was somewhere else. It's too hard to get into the 1620's spirit when you're surrounded by sweaty tourists in football jerseys and Crocs. I, on the other hand, was appropriately clad in my apron, full skirts and sensible shoes [falls off couch laughing].

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My Ivy League Background

I'm getting deeper and deeper into the ancestry, and deeper and deeper into New England. Settlers and Puritans and Pilgrims, OH MY. I had to visit a few places in Connecticut so I chose New Haven, specifically the New Haven Hotel, as my base for two nights.

This is one of the worst hotel room photos I've ever taken, but I was tired and couldn't find a good angle without stringing myself from the ceiling. There was no string in my suitcase.

The hotel itself was a relief, after having to drive through a moderately sketchy neighborhood to reach it. It was very W-esque. Not charming or quirky, but very efficient and comfortable: good bed, good water pressure, fitness room, free Wi-Fi, and was big enough to accommodate my luggage explosion without infringing on my relaxing space.

I wandered into town with the express purpose of buying sweats. Sweatpants, sweatshirt. I realized I really didn't have a proper "I give up" ensemble at home, and the best sweats are university sweats. The ones I got have pockets - you know, for snacks and stuff. I'm especially looking forward to wearing them and having a random person ask, "Oh, did you go to Yale?" and I'll say, "Yes I did." Only for about twenty minutes, but yes I did.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Hopefully Haunted Berkshires

I had moderate success today with two cemetery visits in Upstate New York. I found a few ancestors on my list, which is always exciting, and I was able to photograph the headstones for extra assurance that my names, dates and places are correct in the family tree. Although most of the older headstones just look like this:

 Stupid two-hundred years of weather and mold, obscuring all the details.

New Scotland Cemetery was my favorite, and my people had a beautiful spot under a big tree - possibly oak, possibly something else. I'm not an arborist. 

This was by far the coolest headstone I've seen yet. It was as if the tree grew up right around it, and was sheltering it with a big hug.

I gave my long-gone ancestors a mental hug (not as snuggly as the tree hug, I know), and departed New Scotland. I headed down I 87S toward my next destination - Sheffield, Massachusetts, The Berkshires. Now, I know I described the Saratoga Arms as being "just like Granny's house", so please extend that description - but further back in time - to Staveleigh House:

Staveleigh House is just like Granny's house, if Granny had kept house in the early 1800s. I walked through the front door and into the 19th century, with original 1813 floorboards and everything. As I was creaking up the old stairs

 I gleefully thought to myself "OH, I hope it's haunted!"

Little old-timey dolls are oftentimes an excellent indicator of "haunted". I asked my cute little proprietess Ali (emphasis on the "i") if my suspicions (hopes) were correct, and she paused a moment before assessing that my expression was more excitement than trepidation. She pulled out the drawer on the little writer's desk and withdrew a framed newspaper article titled "Bed and breakfast ghost". She explained it had been written by a very straight-laced woman who had spent a night in the same room I would be sleeping in tonight. Ali confided, "She and her husband were very Archie and Edith Bunker-type people", alluding to the fact that the story was more likely to be legitimate coming from them, as opposed to some goth witchy chick.

An excerpt from the article (which I could not find on Google):

"The bedroom door was closed but suddenly and forcefully swung open. The house being over a 100 [sic] years old, the floors slant. However, our floor slanted in the opposite direction, that is, towards the hall and not to our room's outside wall...I had to explain [to the proprietors] what had happened.
Dorothy [one of the previous proprietors] noted that their cat had been acting strangely and that one evening when they were entertaining, one of their guests, upon leaving, indicated that they had 'friendly spirits' residing in the house. She also related that on several occasions she had experienced fleeting sights of 'something' in their hallway."

(Do the italics add an element of spookiness? That's kind of what I was going for.)

I was thrilled, and wondered if the ghosts were watching me right now! Do they find me curious and perplexing? Are they impressed with how efficiently my suitcase is packed? Do they think I'm a really fast typist? Do they think these jeans make my butt look big?

I wonder what they think of Facebook.

Then I saw that the article was from 2000, and at the bottom the author had added, "We continue to return to the B&B every October, but have not experienced our 'ghost' again."


Ghosts, if you have internet access and are reading this, remember this room?

Come visit! But no door slamming, and nothing too scary. Maybe a little murmury chatting, and if you could conjure up a sweet 19th century dream for me (I never dream in past centuries, which bums me out), or if you happen to know my ancestor ghosts, and could provide the details of those worn-away headstones, that would be great.