Visiting Family and Friends in the USA

There I was in my kitchen, shortly after 22h, mid April, getting the coffee machine set up for the morning, when our gate bell rang. What the heck, at this hour? I stepped outside on the terrace, squinting toward the street. No movement. I did, however, hear some high-pitched giggles and youthful laughter with the slap-slap-slap sounds of urgently retreating footfall. The neighbourhood “gang”! How sweet it is to be back home!

The trip we just concluded took us from Cognac via Paris to the USA. It began in a rather complicated and expensive fashion, when SNCF signalmen declared a strike and our train to Paris was canceled. After extensive deliberations of options of both transport and covid testing, we got tested on the eve of our trip and then took a limo to the airport the morning of the flight. We’re hoping the travel insurance will cover at least some of that cost, crossing fingers!

Arriving in the US, we did the obligatory immigration-and-customs-at-first-point-of entry in Atlanta, Georgia, then we continued to Austin, Texas, where our kids live. This was our main destination, considering that this trip was a departure from our customary travel objective. It wasn’t geared toward discovering new ports of call or landmarks, rather we were seeking to reconnect with loved ones we hadn’t been able to see for the duration of the cursed plague.

This presents a blog-related conundrum, as you no doubt understand. Posting pics of landmarks is one thing, pictures of grandchildren quite another, especially considering predatory creeps surfing far and wide.

On the other hand, I really wanted to post at least a few pics of our adventures during this multi-destination trip, because it was so wonderful to hug friends and family again and I wish to share that good feeling with you.

We had not been able to see our children and our one and only granddaughter for roughly three years. In order to spend an unencumbered and relaxed time with them, we took the whole kit and caboodle for a family vacation to a posh resort, the El Pedregal Waldorf Astoria in Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sud, Mexico, which one enters through a tunnel bored through a protective mountain.

Our apartment had exciting views over the Pacific and a small private pool. We even saw whales!
Apparently, infinity pools aren’t just for people …
A funky cilantro cocktail in an amazing setting ….

As you can see, we had a ball and then some, creating once in a lifetime memories.

Returning to Texas, I was able to hang out with my oldest friends in the Americas, Patricia and Carlos. We met them in 1979 on the island of St. John, US Virgin Islands. Both Pat and I were pregnant with our first and bonded immediately. Subsequently, in Houston, our boys splashed about together in the kiddy pool quite a bit. Carlos was my German anchor in those early years living in the US. Although he grew up in Mexico City, his family has German roots and he was raised trilingual, speaking German, Spanish, and English. Carlos works for NASA, he’s in charge of imagery on and about the ISS, and he’s shown us some amazing gadgets over the years, from space shuttles to rockets [this is a partially corrupted post, but still impressive: https://photoleraclaudinha.com/2014/07/25/the-universe-beckons/%5D. In The Woodlands, also near Houston, we spent several days with our cousins Linda and Cary, before moving on to the YO Ranchlands to visit with our friend and former neighbour Augustus, and another local friend, AJ and his wife Violet. We concluded this roundtrip with another week in Austin. So many happy hours!

Grandpa buried in plushies 🦄🦁🐻
Grandpa resting

Eventually, we had to pack our bags, say our farewells and move on to Boston, Massachusetts.

Barbara Jordan Terminal, Austin-Bergstrom Airport

A new adventure unfolded in and around Boston with our beloved friend and hostess Mary, her three Kangal dogs, her partner in goldsmithing, Caro-Gray, our new friend Karen who loves blueberry pancakes, Mary’s brother Robert-the-French-student, his wife, potter Anni*, and George and Ellen, and Lynne and Hans-almost-from-Blankenese, and so forth! Goodness gracious, all those special humans and dogs!!!!

An early Spring glimpse of Mary’s Hughes-Bosca treasure filled Side Street Gallery

It was great walking around Rockport and soaking up the town atmosphere!

The work of Gloucester outsider artist Jon Sarkin. We bought the one on the right, but I never asked him, if it had a title. What should we call it? “Prickly Wavelength”, maybe?

* We couldn’t resist these two exceptional cups thrown by Anni Melançon of Dogtown Studio Pottery in Gloucester, MA. Come to think of it, these particular cups were build rather than thrown.

Cape Anne with its many rocky coves and necks spoke loudly to my old sailor’s soul, very loudly! If I were younger, more fit, this is where I would like to live. It doesn’t even matter which harbour, which cove in particular, each has its own special attraction. But they all smell of the sea and of fish, they’re all windy and harsh and ever so, well, home.

Rocky Neck, Gloucester, MA

Mary and Caro-Gray had a couple more surprises in store for us. They took us into Boston for the IMMERSIVE FRIDA KAHLO exhibit at the Lighthouse Artspace:

and then there is this remarkable portrait of Frida:

Frida Kahlo, pensive

Textures and shadows …

There we are, the four of us. Frida, Mary, CG, Barry and I. https://www.immersive-frida.com/boston/

The light, the music, the images, the drama! It was definitely Frida! The show was at first disorienting and puzzling to me, largely because it was presented in an endless loop and I had no idea what I was looking at, or better, into which station of Kahlo’s life I was immersed. Gradually some clarity and harmony evolved, although I’d venture to say, unless one happens to be familiar with Kahlo’s life, its political connotations and romantic convolutions, the immersion would have remained a riveting mystery. My creative side largely depends on visual sensory input, so I hugely enjoyed the textures, patterns, and the vivid colour palette of the show.

After our Frida experience we wanted to do a little sight seeing around Beacon Hill, but the cold drizzle was getting increasingly too immersive. We fled into the cheesy “Cheers” bar -yeah, that one- near the Boston Common. Touristy, but what the hell, they had bathrooms and booze!

The rainy Boston Common, the oldest city park in the US dating from 1634

Our last surprise that afternoon was Mary’s invitation to the SRV, the Serene Republic of Venice, a Venetian wine bar, a bacaro, serving typical local, that is, Venetian fare. It was utterly delightful!!!

But all good things come to an end and Mary handed us over to The Cousins. Yes, yet another pair of cousins, cousins who had been visiting us in Cognac and with whom we undertook a fabulous trip through the Loire Valley in 2019: https://photoleraclaudinha.com/2019/05/17/the-loire-valley-le-chateau-de-chenonceau/ [This is the first of six posts covering several châteaux we visited during that trip. If you enjoyed this one, click on the “next post” button at the bottom of each post to see more!]

Now it was our turn to explore our cousins’ Cape Cod neighbourhood. We started right off with a short sight-seeing tour around their more immediate neighbourhood, followed by the arguably most important part of life, food. In this case, we dinned at the Inaho Restaurant in Yarmouth Port, warming up with miso soup, followed by a crunchy algae salad, and we didn’t stop for quite a delicious while …

I had last been on the Cape in the summer of 1977, visiting the MBI. I vaguely remember a sandy beach and a main street filled with sunshine and bustling crowds. This time around, there were no summer crowds but bracing sea breezes as one would expect of these shores!

Our cousins’ property boarders a tidal salt marsh overlooking Cape Cod Bay.

One can’t be in Cape Cod without walking on a beach or two …

Corporation Beach, followed by Mayflower Beach

… and collecting a few shells.

Two cousins

On our first full day on Cape cod it wasn’t only beaches, we also visited our cousin in his studio and show room @Ross Coppelman Goldsmith I enjoyed this visit very much, not least because Ross gave us such an intriguing tour through his workshop, but also because it was beautiful to see Ross come alive while sharing his knowledge and his passion with us. It was truly a gift, to spend time with two such talented and creative artists as Mary and Ross.

This, and the next few pictures, show the Chase Garden Creek estuary and embayment system, a salt marsh along the shoreline of the town of Yarmouth. The estuary receives a tidal flow from Cape Cod Bay (seen along the horizon) with a 9 foot fluctuation.
Bass Hole Boardwalk
The names of the boardwalk donors are carved into the planks
There’s a man made eyrie, an osprey nest, visible centre-left. Osprey [Pandion haliaetus, Pandionidae], known as sea-, river-, or fish hawks, have a wingspan of ~ 1.80m/71″

Such a gorgeous landscape! But staying home with our hosts, catching up on family news while enjoying local delicacies wasn’t bad either 😘

The following day, we set off for Brewster, the Cape Cod National Sea Shore in Wellfleet, and Provincetown – a full program! But first, I have some questions for you. Do you know what an alewife is? Or a shadbush? No? Neither did I. In Brewster, MA, they have both, although we saw neither.

And here we have the Brewster Herring Run at the Stony Brook Grist Mill, where one may or may not see the alewife run and the shadbush bloom.

The sign reminds visitors to not play with, pick up or touch the herring. It’s been a while since I played with herring ….

Alewife [Alosa pseudoharengus, Clupeidae] are more closely related to shad [Alosa sapidissima, Clupeidae] than to “real” herring, the Atlantic herring [Clupea harengus, Clupeidae] but they’re all in one big, happy family.

Stony Brook fish ladder, sadly without fish

I read in trip adviser that there may be as many as 20 000 fish per day climbing these ladders to their spawning pools during the hight of the herring run.

Apparently we were too early in the season since we didn’t see any blooming shad bushes [Amelanchier sp., Rosaceae]

Leaving the gentle brook behind, we approached an awe-inspiring coastline at Wellfleet where 100 ft tall dunes meet the unbridled force of the Atlantic Ocean.

Really impressive, eh?
Ditto this one …

Taking shots from the top of dunes down to the beach without any size reference is an exercise in futility (see above 😳). I tried and failed miserably, sorry. Where are the tourists when you need them?? Pretty much the entire rugged eastern coast of Cape Cod is included in the Cape Cod National Seashore national park, and with it an astounding diversity of biotopes. The CCNS was created in 1961 by President Kennedy.

Sooner or later, on Cape Cod, one winds up in Provincetown. The funky capital city of the Outer Cape, Ptown is the furthest away from the mainland both in spirit and in miles.

We walked the main drag, enjoying window shopping and glimpses of beaches, and even a couple of very brave bathing beauties, not to forget a large mural by Esteban del Valle.

The dell Valle mural:

But the most interesting find in Ptown was our accidental discovery of the Bob Gasoi Memorial Art Alley. Naturally, we had no idea what that meant.

Between two buildings in Commercial Street, Provincetown, MA, one finds the Bob Gasoi Memorial Art Alley
Jesse Helms satire, Bob Gasoi originals
Gasoi signature “Alice in Wonderland” design

Back at home, when I edited these photos, dear old google opened my eyes to the significance of Bob Gasoi, the artist, and Ronny Hazel, the patron regarding the intimate history of Ptown.

We, on the other hand, concluded our excursion to modern-day Provincetown with a lovely early dinner at The Mews Restaurant & Cafe, where I enjoyed their delicious version of Vietnamese shaking beef.

As it turned out, the visit to Provincetown also concluded our activities for this trip, because overnight I developed the first symptoms of a persistent upper respiratory infection, which is currently treated with cortisone and four further medications. We canceled all plans for the last day in the US in favour of some bed rest. At nightfall, we enjoyed a quiet dinner at home, en famille.

P.S.

This trip has been remarkable and rewarding for us on so many levels! Last, but not least, we’d love to thank all our awesome hosts, Pat & Carlos, cousins Cary & Linda, Augustus, Mary, and cousins Susan & Ross for their soft beds, their oh so many special treats, and delicious feasts, as well as their ever so generously shared cat and dog hairs! Hugs to all of you❣️

9 thoughts on “Visiting Family and Friends in the USA

  1. Hello Jutta! This is the first notice I got – as far as I know, anyway. I’m switching to email, less public. Bis gleich! Claudia

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  2. Dear Claudia , since I am not sure whether the first mail reached you, I try again.

    Happy Sunday! Jutta

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  3. Thanks, Mike! I’m so glad you still follow my words and our adventures. It would’ve been so much fun to travel together!

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  4. Claudia this was fantastic!! Thanks! Made me feel, wishfully, I was with you and Barry! What a wonderful adventure.

    Hugs,

    Mike

    T. Michael Jackson 217 Sixth Street Traverse City, MI 49684 H: (231) 922-9232 C: (231) 883-6272 tmjackson36@gmail.com

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  5. I was so much looking forward to see the pictures and report of your travel! Thank you, such a beautiful and eventful voyage! Loved the photos!

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