We’ve come, we’ve gone, and we’ve returned; and I am forced to confess that I am barefoot once again. It seems that I have become one of those people who only wear shoes when they have to (when I say I have to). While you might not think it strange in itself, you would if you knew me.
There was a time in my life (for thousands of years) when I didn’t walk around the house without makeup and goodness knows there were always shoes on my feet. It is not as though I don’t own enough shoes to make wearing shoes an adventure each day, it’s the fact that I love going barefoot (I also LOVE shoes, go figure). How did this happen? I am certainly the one at loss here.
Not even the fact that my feet look as though they belong to a monkey traipsing through the jungle for hours on end can make me put shoes, or at the very least slippers, on in the mornings.
We returned a few days ago from another cross-country trip, this time to New York City and Niagara Falls. I assume the trip could be called cross-country. It seems like cross-country would mean left to right, east to west, so what would up and down or south to north be called. We traveled from Southern Louisiana to the northern portion of our country. And, believe it or not, I wore shoes the entire time. My feet didn’t squawk they didn’t rebel – well, maybe a little. They were actually very happy.
I bet you are wondering when I’ll stop talking about my feet and tell you about my adventures – yes, it wouldn’t be a trip with me, Lucy, if there wasn’t at least one adventure to be told!
The trip up began with removing the back seat in the suburban (the waaaaay back seat) in order to fit two huge ice chest (and two small ones) filled to the brim with prepared shrimp. It seems that you can take that little Cajun girl out of Cajun country, but she needs her fix of shrimp to tide her over until her return. So, like any good dad, Hubby trawled just for her, had shrimp peeled, packaged, and frozen JUST for Katie-Beth. In fact, unbeknownst to her, she has her own freezer here at the house (just for her shrimp.) Those shrimp filled one ice chest. The other was filled to the brim with containers of de-headed jumbo shrimp. It is now safely ensconced in her freezer in Manhattan now, and her drawer full of shrimp recipes.
And, when she doesn’t feel like cooking, there is Mom’s spaghetti sauce, Mom’s chili’, Mom’s chicken potpie, and Mr. Jimmie’s shrimp and crawfish etouffee, as well as fish. We also brought up boiled shrimp and crabs. You can only imagine the feasting going on! We had a good laugh just thinking about the garbage and wondering if the New York sanitation workers would be able to identify the strange smells. Can you imagine? That must be an awfully strange smell for someone not from the South.
The Friday we were there, we ventured out to visit Katie-Beth’s new school. The fifty graders treated us to a recorder concert.We witnessed her fourth graders receiving their tonets and playing them for the first time. We also observed several of them “accidentally” making sounds with them and having them taken away for three and five minute intervals (yeah – accidentally – as in how did the sound come out if the recorder is standing on your knee? The kids were seated on the floor.) It was too funny.
Katie-Beth is very fortunate to be part of this particular school. The principal is very involved and believes strongly in the arts. The children have a full-time music teacher – Katie-Beth – and are learning tap dancing and have extra music lessons – all provided through teaching partnerships. Each semester, the children experience different elements of the Arts. Katie-Beth has been very aggressive in obtaining monies through programs such as Donor’s Choose in order to provide the children with music instruments and opportunities to go to Carnegie Hall. You will always see me posting her projects on Facebook and Twitter for help with donations. This great program allows teachers to solicit funds to pursue worthwhile projects. Please check the site out. The site is http://www.donorschoose.org/
Getting back to our trip, we did the usual things like eat pizza at Patsy’s Pizza, and of course. I had to get my chocolate chocolate cookie from Levine’s Cookies. We also witnessed the New York Marathon. That was interesting. I admire these people for running twenty-six miles, but I have to be truthful. Why would you want to run 26 miles if you “look like crap” when you finish, and you “feel like crap” when you finish, and you “look like crap” when you finish. I’m just saying….:) But, if that’s what you want to do, go for it.
Getting back to the food, I do not think I have ever eaten so much food at one time in my entire life. Thursday, we had boiled shrimp and crabs. Friday night was a shrimp and fish fry, along with REAL fried potatoes. Saturday, there was shrimp and crab omelet with croissants for brunch (who could eat breakfast!) and shrimp pasta for supper. The in-between hours were filled with fresh fruit, and – oh yeah – Hubby’s peanut butter fudge and pecan pralines, not to mention Southern Sweet Iced Tea! The four of us had a marathon of our own that involved eating, eating, and more eating and watching as many episodes as we could of “Lie to Me.” Anytime someone asked what the next meal was going to be, we promptly dissolved into laughing fits.
We did take a short break from eating on Saturday so Katie-Beth and Jude could teach a few music lessons. Hubby and I took the opportunity to walk to Riverside Park and then along the Hudson River to the little red lighthouse. It was a beautiful day for a walk.
Hubby and I attended Sunday morning mass at a beautiful little church on the Columbia University campus. There was a beautiful grotto located behind the alter. I am posting a picture of it, but it is really something you want to view in person.
We had a lovely time visiting with daughter and son-in-law. On Monday morning, we hauled an elevator full of luggage and ice chests back down to the lobby, loaded up the suburban, and began our trek across state to Niagara Falls. Once again, we were blessed with beautiful traveling weather. We drove through two wonderful little towns that reminded me of Stars Hollow from The Gilmore Girls (my all time FAVORITE show.) I told Hubby to drive slowly because I didn’t want to leave the town. I decided on the spot that I wanted to live there. Hubby even liked the town. There were flags blowing in the breeze everywhere you looked. It just looked like a town where everyone liked each other. When I described the town in those words to my best friend, she laughed. Anyone following my blog knows it ain’t so around here. I guess one can always project what you want onto something you know nothing about. I still stand by my thoughts that everyone must like each other in those two little towns we drove through.
There are times here in South Louisiana when we think we are just going to die from the awful smell emitting from the sugar mills as grinding season goes into full swing. I honestly didn’t think there was a smell that could rival the stench – that is – until we drove along some of the back roads of New York. We passed through cattle country. There were pens where the cattle were fed and did their “pooping” (there is NO delicate way of putting it). THEN, that manure is recycled into the adjoining fields for fertilizer. It was pretty bad, and just might beat out the stench of bagass. I would say it is a very close race.
Friends gave us hotel recommendations based on their stay in Niagara Falls, so I called the Four Point Sheraton and reserved our room. We did learn a few lessons along the way. When you use the recommendations of others, first find out WHEN they stayed there, AND check to see if the hotel is still in the SAME location. Just sayin’…..
The trip there was easy, finding the hotel was another story altogether. First, Sheraton did not register on the GPS in the US, only in Canada; and we could actually see the big bold letter of SHERATON! We found a Sheraton, but it was not the Four Point. We followed their directions, which led us down a deserted street, through some type of industrial plant, before the road got so rough I made Hubby turn around. The Falls were in the opposite direction, so it didn’t make sense that we were headed away from them; especially since our friends said you could walk to them from the Four Point Sheraton. We rode around some more, checked out directions and ended up back in front of the Sheraton. Hubby went in again (I was NOT going in) and asked again.
Sure enough, they told us to go back down the deserted road, assuring us that the Four Point Sheraton was there, on the riverfront. Off we went. We left the lights behind. We left the Falls behind. We left civilization behind. We bumped along an almost impassable road. We locked the car doors. We double-checked the locked doors. We drove and we drove (for seven miles). THEN, what do you think we spotted, in the middle of who in the hell knows where, the Four Point Sheraton, standing in all of its brand spanking newness, on the riverfront. It was a beautiful hotel, but we wouldn’t be walking to the Falls from there.
I always ask for either the lowest floor available or the highest. I have a policy that I go by. I either want to be able to jump to the ground or be the first rescued by helicopter. We had the seventh floor. If you travel to Niagara Falls, it is a beautiful hotel to stay at; it’s just out of the way.
The next day we headed out to see the Falls. We were so excited. We decided to cross over into Canada and see the Canadian side first; especially since everyone we talked to recommended the Canadian side. It seems everyone thinks the Canadian side is prettier – more on that later. This was our first time actually driving across the border so we were a little nervous. The border patrol takes their job very seriously. They asked for our passports and then proceeded to stare us down. It was a little intimating, but hey, I can play that game. I stared right back!
He asked why were crossing the border. I was thinking, duh – aren’t the falls splashing right behind you? Now, I didn’t voice my opinion, but I have a really hard time with seriousness. I tend to laugh – at the most inopportune times! He wanted to know where we were from and when we said Louisiana, a strange look crossed his face.
He then wanted to know if we had food – no on that one. We left it all in Manhattan. He asked if we had weapons and Hubby and I exchanged looks. Hubby was thinking he had a pocketknife and I was thinking about the sawed off broomstick I had. We looked at him and then back at each other. Hubby finally told him he had a pocketknife. By this time, I am barely holding it together. After asking if we were transporting liquor, he gave us directions to the Falls and sent us on our way.
We drove along the river towards Niagara Falls. It was beautiful. The school of Horticulture maintains the gardens and they were gorgeous, even for this time of year. There is a very nice welcome center with shops and restaurants right there, literally, where the water falls. We parked and began our walk. There are nice walkways along the river and you can view the Falls from afar or close up. We spent a couple of hours doing just that. You can see by the pictures just how close to the Falls you can get. We were within three feet of the edge, just watching the water go over. It was truly amazing to see.
Once we had taken a gazillion pictures, we headed back across the border. Once again, we were stopped for passport inspection. The US Border Patrol takes their job seriously as well. He took our passports and examined them and examined us, and began his questioning. He could not get a reading on our license plate so he asked the state. Why does Louisiana garner such strange looks? Is there something we don’t know? Once again, he is so serious, and I want to burst out laughing. He begins his questioning. Why are we here? Why are we so far from home? Do we have any liquor? Do we have any weapons? By this time, I am staring out the window trying to remain serious. THEN, I hear my name. I looked over and he says, “Ms. Donna, would you remove your glasses?”
I am so used to wearing sunglasses that most times I forget I have them on. At that moment, I realized that in my passport picture, I have blonde hair, and here I sat, with red hair and sunglasses! I started feeling like a fugitive trying to cross the border – and you know what that means – I was about to start laughing! I was thinking, oh my goodness, I am going to laugh, and he is going to ask me to step out of the car and I’ll be cuffed and detained at the border – because I was laughing and giving the impression that I was hiding something! I slowly turned toward him, and with the biggest, stupidest grin on my face, removed my sunglasses. He then looked at me, looked at the picture, looked at me, and after the longest second, closed the passports and handed them back to us. I think every scenario of every movie involving a border crossing went through my mind.
After all that, I still do not have any stamps on my passport! I’ve been in and out of Canada on different occasions and have yet to have my passport stamped. I want a stamp saying I have been out of the country!
After some more driving around, Hubby and I found the Niagara Falls Park on the U.S. side. I quickly concluded that one side is not better or prettier than the other side. They are completely different and actually, in my opinion, cannot be compared.
The Canadian side offers astounding views of the Falls, but the United States side offers a serene park setting. If you wish to view the Falls, you do need to venture out on the elevated walkway that is located in the park, but you can still view the American Falls and Niagara Falls up close.
The park offers walking trails and the chance to visit three little islands that are connected by stone bridges. There are also benches for sitting and viewing along the trails. You can even picnic in the park. I hope that my pictures will show you that one side is as beautiful and majestic as the other is. Altogether, we spent the entire day at Niagara Falls and had a wonderful time.
Hubby, of course, had to venture down to the water “to touch”. He even tried to get me to go with him. We all know what would have happened – Lucy would somehow have ended up going over the Falls. Hubby finally cupped his hands, filled them with the Niagara River, and brought it to me to feel how cold it was. He’s so sweet!
After a long day at the Falls, and an evening spent tasting their local brews, we called it a day. The twp day trip home, surprisingly enough, seemed to go by rather quickly – or so I thought – until Hubby informed me I kept falling asleep. I honestly did not think I slept much, but maybe I did.
Meanwhile, Louisiana was not without its adventures either. We found out on the drive home that Calypso had created some of her own chaos. The day we left, someone was driving by on the highway and noticed a water gusher in our front yard. That person called another person, who called another person, who called another, until finally someone called Hubby’s brother, who then left work, turned off the water, repaired the damage, and turned the water back on.
Hubby has all of the water faucets wrapped with insulation and taped up with duct tape and electrical tape (he means business). There are four or five down our long driveway. Calypso decided that she was going to chew and pull the insulation off the faucet at the end of the driveway. With all of the wrapping and tape, it would take a human with a sharp knife to unwrap the faucet – which is why it stays wrapped all year! Not so for Calypso, the mighty dog! Judging from the insulation and tape that I had to gather from around the yard upon our return leads me to believe that next time I need a sharp knife, I will just call Calypso. Anything eye level is fair game to her.
I hope she outgrows her chewing stage SOON! Hubby had to tie old paint cans around the taillights on his utility trailer. I was summoned quite early one morning by an angry Hubby to see where Calypso had left teeth marks on a taillight along with chips along the bottom (this is a brand new utility trailer.) The smile was there, but I didn’t dare laugh! My life and Calypso’s were at stake (remember me in serious situations.)
Tuesday afternoon, we again explored New York via the tour bus, this time, uptown. It was partly cloudy and threatening rain when we boarded. Jessica was murmuring about it raining on us and I was ever the optimist claiming it was going to wait until the end of the tour. About half way through the tour, we felt drops of rain, but still the weather held. The rain held off through the tour of Harlem. As we began our trek around Central Park on the way back to Times Square, the rain came down in earnest (the one day I left the umbrella home.)
The people who were boarding the tour bus about this time were given rain ponchos (or Garbage Bag Couture as I refer to them.) Jessica and I actually had to ask for them. Before we garnered up enough courage to ask for the “Garbage Couture”, an elderly gentlemen (and there are some left in this world, and this was one of them) turned around and offered us his poncho. Who says chivalry is dead? It may be in New York, but this gentleman was from Arizona. Not only did this kind gentleman give us his rain poncho (and proceeded to get drenched himself) but when we acquired an additional poncho, he opened them up and guided us into them. He made sure our heads found the hoods and our arms found the armholes (such as they were.) He then tied the little drawstring under our chins so our hoods would not blow off.
Anyway, we made our way to Battery Park to catch the ferry out to Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty. In October, my husband and I stood in line for the longest, but this time, Jessica and I breezed right through security and onto the boat in no time. We were on the wharf at Liberty Island waiting on the ferry to take us to Ellis Island when the security guards started evacuating the wharf. We had to walk to the flagpole in the park, which is quite a distance away from the wharf. We then saw the Harbor Police and their German shepherd (yeah Shepherds!) board the ferry. After a thorough search, we were ushered back onto the wharf and onto the ferry. Talk was that there was a package left unattended.