Saturday, April 30, 2016

When You Gotta Go

So, Quiltcon is going to be held in Savannah this coming February and the people of Philly Modern are excited to the point that they are considering hiring a bus to get us there. I mentioned this to Himself who thought it might be nice if the two of us went to Savannah at that time, eschewing the fun of the bus in favor of driving ourselves. He'd enjoy seeing the show and finding out what the fuss is all about, and if I should decide to take a class, there would be stuff in Savannah to occupy him during that time. 

The more we've thought about it, the more a few days in Savannah seem like a perfect remedy for a Philadelphia winter. Not to mention visiting our sons and grandchildren en route. The B&Bs that I've considered in Savannah are most inviting. And then there's South of the Border which we visited in December of 1967 on our way to his first duty station in Pensacola, and we'd most likely need to experience again. Oh, yes, we are warming to this idea!

And then the thought occurs:  Do we need to bring our birth certificates along in case we must make a pit stop in North Carolina? Will there be [same sex] sentries at the restroom doors demanding to see them? Will we be denied admittance without them? Or just take our chances?

We have a couple of friends in that state who would undoubtedly share their facilities with us, but Pfafftown and Winston-Salem are a far piece from the dreaded I-95. Oh, dear. Perhaps all of this nonsense will be history by February. If not, we'll plan to pause in Emporia (Virginia) and then high-tail it to South of the Border.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Primary Day 2016

Over the past two weeks as I've driven around Near Philadelphia, I've been intrigued by the dearth of lawn signs for the various presidential candidates. Our area is usually vociferous about these matters.

Honna and I had some time in the car during a long drive on Friday, and I mentioned it to her and asked if she'd noticed. She had. We pondered what the reason might be and she suggested that people are fearful of retribution from non-like minded individuals if they publicize their choice of candidate. I think she's right.

Ordinarily, during the week and particularly the weekend prior to an election, we have to take our house phone off the hook to avoid the plethora of robocalls. Not this year.

Today I'm going to go vote after work. I can't help thinking back to Pennsylvania Primary Day in 2008 when I was so very excited to cast my vote. I'd been working for weeks at the Obama office closest to home and had been exhilarated by the experience.

It is so different this year, where I'm considering which of the current candidates is the least offensive. I've taken the bizarre step of changing my registration to Republican in order to vote against He Who Must Not Be Named. In a conversation with an acquaintance whose strategy is different, I learned that he's voting for that most dreadful of all candidates because of a strong belief that the man will be easily defeated in November.

It's going to be a long summer, folks, and a long and unpleasant early fall.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Three Quilts

Just before we went to France, I picked up some quilts from the machinist and bound them. What a good feeling that was!

This is a close up of one block of the quilt I made for a donation. I work three mornings a week at a small, private school for autistic kids. Each spring the school holds a Fiesta Fundraiser because the tuition paid by the school districts doesn't cover all of the costs. The fundraiser is a fun evening with good food, loud music, and lots of lavish raffle baskets.  This will be the third quilt I've donated to the fundraiser, and it's one of the best causes I can imagine.

We're unable to attend this year's event because I'll be away at our semi-annual Black Rock quilt retreat.

Here's the whole quilt. The solid blues, greens and purples were a GFNO* from my buddy Julie.

I'm tickled red, orange and yellow with how this quilt turned out! The blocks were from when I was Queen Bee last year. I asked for Churn Dash blocks in yellow, orange or red with black-on-white as the contrast. Each participant made two (or more in generous Pat's case!) and I made a couple myself. This quilt is going to be a high school graduation gift for a fellow heading off to college.
It's a good thing I really like the expectant mom who is going to receive this quilt for her baby girl. Otherwise, I wouldn't be able to give it away. Hand buttonhole stitched for the appliqué and hand quilting on the blocks. I liked it so much that I began another to donate to our church's Oktoberfest. 
This isn't a quilt, obviously, but rather a pair of blocks for May's Queen Bee. I hadn't paper pieced in several months, so I got off to a rocky start with the first block. Eventually things settled down.
*GFNO: Gift For No Occasion

Friday, April 22, 2016

Basel or Bust!

After our morning at Notre-Dame du Haut, our most obliging host delivered us to the bus stop in Ronchamps. We were very glad that we had managed to get our tickets the day before, as this bus stop consisted of a sign and little more! No building, no computer, no ticket agent! The bus ride again was scenic, and before long we'd been delivered to the train station. When we were planning our trip, we had two options from Ronchamp: Back to Paris or on to Basel (Switzerland). It seemed to be six of one/half a dozen of the other, and on to Basel we went!

Hotel Basel is a contemporary hotel located in an ancient area, right near the marketplace. It was larger than our usual kind of place, but we liked it very much. The reception people spoke excellent English and were helpful. The room was almost big enough and had a nice shower. Breakfast was extra; we had it the first morning and it was very good.

Basel is situated on the Rhine, a more attractive river than the Seine had been. We saw a Viking ship or two. And we also saw this little boat which intrigued both of us. Its purpose was to carry people back and forth across the river using only a rudder and a cable. No sail, no motor.

On Friday morning our destination was the cathedral (of course), so we walked down to the waterfront, crossed the river on foot by bridge, and strolled down to where the ferry docked. We had acquired a handful of Swiss Francs, paid our fare and climbed aboard.

The trip across the river was short and pleasant. The boatman was pleasant and easy-going. There were just a few passengers.

Once back on "our" side of the Rhine, we climbed many steps to get to the cathedral; it had been built during the Middle Ages. While we were there someone climbed up behind us into the loft and began to play the organ. What a treat!

Then it was back into the marketplatz area where we had a terrific sausage sandwich lunch.

We had just two nights and one day in this charming city, whetting our appetite for a return to Switzerland. We walked and wandered in and out of shops and found prices to be higher than in France (nice fabric at $25-$35 per meter did not tempt me). We ate rosti one night for dinner and Joe did make some purchases at a wonderful stationery shop.

We'd had a wonderful two weeks away, and it was time to come home.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Another Sacred Space and the Real Purpose of the Trip

Sometime in 1968, when we'd been married for not quite a year, were very poor, and living in Navy enlisted housing that had been built around 1940, Himself showed me a picture in an architecture magazine. It was a picture of a church (this is when it all started, I guess) that he liked, by an architect that he admired. He thought I would like to see it; he thought I might like it, too. He was right on both counts. I liked it. A lot. It was different from other churches. I remember our mentioning right then and there that we thought we might like to go visit that church one day.

One day came. About forty-eight years later.

Swiss architect Le Corbusier's masterpiece, Notre-Dame du Haut, located in Ronchamps, France, was completed in 1954. Located adjacent to a Poor Clares convent, it was created to replace a chapel that had been destroyed during the Second World War. Joe discovered it fourteen years later. And forty-eight years after that, we visited.

This chapel is a world-renowned architectural masterpiece. It is a pilgrimage place for both the faithful (August 15 and September 8 are the feast days) and for architects from all over. In a few months UNESCO will announce the decision about whether it is to become a World Heritage Site. Notre-Dame du Haut is visited by thousands of people every years.

And yet the day we visited, we were alone for almost the duration of our stay. A small group of young elementary school students was finishing their visit as we arrived and a larger group of older students came as we were leaving. But, incredibly, for about an hour, we were alone in and around the church. Forty-eight years. Is anything ever worth that kind of a wait?

Yes. Oh, yes.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Au Revoir, Viking -- Bonjour, Ronchamp!

On Wednesday morning, we had our final delicious breakfast (Eggs Benedict, anyone?) aboard Rinda. We'd been well-fed and well cared for during the week we spent with Viking. I'd unhesitatingly recommend them to anyone. Then it was into a waiting cab and off to the main railway station. Our first task was to find a computer kiosk and enter our credit card to retrieve our tickets for the day. We did that with more ease than we'd anticipated. We'd be needing tickets again the next day, but decided to let that wait.

The train terminal was very interesting. This gorgeous woman was seated across from us much of the time that we were there. She didn't know I was taking her picture, but I couldn't resist. Every now and again a group of three French army soldiers would walk by, just perusing the scene. We had a lunch and then it was time to board the first of two trains to our next, long-awaited destination.

The French countryside was very pretty and the train ride was comfortable. When we got to the junction where we needed to change trains, we had just five minutes to spare. We looked around and then asked an official-looking person who told us that the train we wanted had been replaced by a bus! We followed him down the steps to the street level and he helped us find our bus. There weren't many people aboard, and we settled in right near the driver. And then began a long, winding journey through the country, seeing many, many cows, sheep, chickens, darling houses, and lovely scenery.

When the bus made its first stop at a modest little station, it occurred to us that perhaps we should have obtained tomorrow's tickets from that kiosk. What if the station in the morning were to be like this one? The next stop had a building, at least, and the driver said there was a six-minute wait until he'd pull out. So we went into the building in search of a kiosk or a ticket agent. There was none to be found. We were to do this at several more stations before we discovered -- on a four-minute stop -- a place with a ticket agent who had approximately as much English as Joe and I had French, i.e., twelve words total. With great difficulty, Joe was able to explain to him that we needed to get the tickets for tomorrow's journey; I was watching the clock and was very, very nervous. At last I went outside to the bus and waited there with my eye on our luggage. The driver looked like he was getting ready to pull out and I implored him to honk the horn. He laughed a little and honked. And before much longer, Joe came running out of the station, tickets in hand. The driver asked us if we were planning to stay at the bed and breakfast inn once we got to our destination, and when we told him we were, he offered to take us right there rather than leave us at the bus stop. When we got out, Joe offered him a tip -- he'd been so kind to us -- but he declined and just helped us unload our luggage. We thought he'd have a good story to tell at dinner that night.

And then we got to the bed and breakfast.

Hotes du Parc, not to put too fine a point on it, is simply the most exquisite place we've ever stayed. The house is beautifully restored and decorated. The breakfast is delicious and ample. The gardens are gorgeous. The host, Emmanuel, is hospitable, accommodating, and charming. Our regret is that we did not book more than one night at this enchanting place. After a very nice dinner at a nearby restaurant, we opened our window and fell sound asleep listening to the stream below.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Louis and Marie's Place

Our last day with Viking found us going on the optional excursion to Versailles.

Viking very wisely had us get up early and we were among the very first to arrive at the palace. Our wonderful guide -- the same one who had accompanied us on one of our Paris excursions -- entrusted me with her guide-stick while she went in to get the tickets for the group.

You can see in the background that this palace is a popular place for those hordes of Chinese tourists and, as usual, once we were inside, they were pushing and shoving and taking selfies in every room.

There isn't a whole lot to say. If you've ever wondered what "over the top" really means, go to Versailles.

It seems that the palace has more than 1000 rooms (we visited about fifteen), and acres and acres of gardens.

So I'll just leave you with a handful of photos. 

That evening we had the task of packing everything up for our 9:00 a.m. departure. We've learned to be light travelers. Neither of us likes to deal with retrieving checked luggage so we travel with a carry-on and a backpack apiece. My small purse goes inside of the backpack. When we are packing to go away, I'll say to Joe, "Do you like this shirt?" When he says he does, I tell him, "Good, because you're going to be seeing a lot of it!" I always take along a little tote bag that folds up into practically nothing in case we buy a lot of things to bring home. Then we check my carry-on and I carry the tote. This hasn't happened in a while. 

So we packed and went to bed fairly early. As wonderful as our time aboard Rinda had been, the very best part of our trip was still to come!