Mama’s Fish House

There’s a funny story here. Patrick, my husband, has a friend named Jim who has an assortment of jobs, most frequently as a writer. Jim got the rather plum assignment a few years ago of reviewing various restaurants and other tourist destinations in Maui. I’m sure he did it enthusiastically. So, when he heard we were going to Maui for a short vacation, he had quite a few suggestions, including a visit to Mama’s Fish House. We planned to be in that area a couple days ago, and thought it would be fun to have lunch there.

http://www.mamasfishhouse.com/

We missed a few clues. We’re very early risers, and are ready for lunch by 10 A.M.(Or maybe we’re Hobbits looking for Second Breakfast.) So we arrived at the parking lot around 10:30, and talked to some nice guys in polo shirts who were parking cars. It seemed a little much to have valets at a funky restaurant, but they were friendly and helpful, and suggested what we could do until we returned at 11 A.M. when they opened. We figured they were there to keep the surfers from filling up the parking lot with their cars.  So off we went to the little town of Paia, and poked around for a bit, then returned, ravenous, around 11:15, and the same nice guys parked our car for us and sent us to the concierge to see about getting seated. The concierge had a stand in the parking garage, which seemed odd, and she implied that we probably should have had a reservation (for 11:30 on a Thursday? What is going on?) But she made an instant reservation for us, and sent us downstairs. I spent a minute looking at the menu near her desk, and was puzzled by the total lack of prices on the menu.  So off we went downstairs, still without a clue. This was what greeted us:p1020384

And this was the restaurant from the inside; remember,it’s a Thursday morning:

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We were warmly welcomed and seated, and offered drinks. The tiny bell is starting to ring that just because Jim, who must know that my husband is a total tightwad, recommended it, and the sign directing us here was very funky, perhaps this is not a low-budget operation. We took a look at the drinks menu and were totally shell-shocked by the prices. What to do? We’d already parked the car and been seated. We hadn’t found any place to eat that looked promising in Paia. oh no! So we gave the server the drinks menu back, with a “No, thanks” and she gave us the lunch menu. Here the sticker shock was even worse. This was very much a high-end restaurant, something we never visit. Speaking of visiting, the birds were totally part of the charm, and wanted to help with the meal. Some even flew in to a table after a diner left to scavenge some crumbs before the waiters cleaned up. Here was one trying to persuade me to feed her:p1020383

We dithered a couple minutes, and then decided to just go for it. Our wedding anniversary is next week, and we would celebrate it at lunch. Today. So we did. I ordered coffee (which wasn’t cheap either, though they kept the refills coming), we listened to the specials, and ordered. Okay. Let’s see what happened next.

What happened was they brought us a little amuse bouche that we hadn’t ordered, and I had to ask the server what it was. It was our bread for the meal, and some mushroom soup.p1020382

It was good. Holy smokes, it’s how the gods would make mushroom soup. I might have tried to fit my tongue in to get the last drops of soup.

I had ordered two appetizers, a crab aloha soup and some crab cakes. Here they were, and possibly even more delicious than the mushroom soup.That’s a sweet potato chip in the soup. I didn’t even offer a bite of it to my husband. See the orange roe on the crab cakes. And dream.

Thp1020386The crab cakes deserve their own photo, so you can appreciate the plating of the food.

When the server described the daily specials, they sounded totally scrumptious.  The bouillabaisse, especially, though I think the most expensive item on the menu, called to my husband, and he responded. Here’s the bowl that he was served. p1020385

I tasted the broth, and it was nectar. And he ate every bite. Look at that amazing slice of bread to mop up the broth.

The place was doing a bustling business, and diners walked through the open courtyard to the doorway, carrying umbrellas provided by the valets to protect them from the light rain. Servers bustled back and forth, filling my coffee, bringing us more bread, checking to see if we needed anything. They were cheerful, helpful, and very professional.

So, dessert. Surely we wouldn’t have dessert? No way! But we watched the two women celebrate a birthday at the next table, and the birthday girl got a cupcake, and each woman had a dessert, and a drink, and the birthday girl had some wine. So, surely that meant we should have dessert. And we did. It was SO HARD to figure out what to get. And we settled on this. It’s a chocolate mousse pearl, with some amazing flavors around the mousse. It was hard keeping our forks away from it long enough to get a photo.

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It was almost impossible not to lick the plate afterwards, and some spoon wars erupted over the final bites. There was  comfort in knowing I could never make this in my kitchen, so I could just eat it up and enjoy it.

When we finished the dessert, surely, that was all? Mais non! Here comes another little amuse bouche for dessert, and hot damp washcloths. The washcloths were scented with the same wonderful soap that I had enjoyed in the ladies’ restroom. I wanted to wash my face with the cloth.p1020392

It seemed a perfect way to end what is surely one of the most fabulous meals I’ve ever eaten. I also got a photo of the bill, but won’t be sharing that with you. We sent that photo to Jim, who wants more details about the meal.  On the way out, I grabbed the rest of the bread from the plate, and scattered the crumbs outside for the birds. It was good to share the blessings.

Ohio Museums, August 2016

Ann and I had two other delightful outings. They were both return trips, but we still found many news exhibits to enjoy.

The first was the Kent State University Costume Museum.

https://www.kent.edu/museum

The special exhibit featured dresses from the 1920s. It was fascinating to notice how very simple and unconfining the dresses (and even some trousers!) were for women, compared to what they were wearing even ten years earlier. But I was pleasantly surprised that the workmanship on the dresses was still fabulous–these were not hastily tossed-together frocks. Here’s some photos of my favorites: (Enlarge to see more details)

And here’s a photo of the type of dress they replaced:P1020324

Really: which would you prefer to wear? I noticed that the “flapper dresses” as they were called at the time (flapper had been a term used for British girls growing up–pre-teens, and they were still called that as young adults) were very tiny–slim and athletic was fashionable–even some team sports clothing was on display. Also, most of these dresses just slipped over the head. No buttons, no zippers, no closures of any kind. They were like the shifts from the 60’s that we just tugged over our heads, mussing our hair (but the dresses were much better made than our little cotton shifts.) P1020322

This was a certainly unanticipated treasure. It’s a copy of “La Belle Assemblee,” a very fashionable ladies’ magazine from the Regency era. I frequently recommended that my authors provide their characters with a copy. I hope you can enlarge the photo enough to read the print. I think it’s from 1818, or 1813, and I’m totally at a loss how something this old, and aimed at a contemporary audience,  ended up in Ohio 200 years later. Go figure. And they had TWO copies! Here’s a photo of the other:P1020323

For my last treat at the fashion museum, I found a genuine reticule, which is a corruption of “ridiculous” as these purses were so tiny as to be almost useless. So I had to get a photo of that, too. Too bad I didn’t have a ruler to show the scale.P1020325

Our next outing was to the Cleveland Museum of Art.

http://www.clevelandart.org/

We’ve gone there every visit, and this was our second trip this visit. Bob and Ann and I had gone to see a special display, “Art and Stories from Mughal India.” I know nothing about that area or era, so it was very interesting to learn about this restless land, which has seen so many political and military upheavals, and still is anything but serene today. It was all overwhelming, so I simply photographed some textiles that I found enchanting, and can share them with you. The exhibit ends in late October, so  you’d better get there soon.

On our next visit, I wanted to see the really, really old stuff. That and visit my favorite St. Gaudens. Here’s his “Amor Caritas” and a photo of his signature.

Then I took random photos of pre-Christian art that caught my eye. That was my only specification, and there was very much to enjoy. I’ll just plug them in here, and you can enjoy them as well. It led me to speculate about the societies that fostered such art, and perhaps if these societies hadn’t been overtaken by events and other armies…

So that was my annual trip to Cleveland. I’ll end with what was the featured image, which might not show up. These are the Smooch Brothers, Felix (pink nose) and Ivan, Ann’s kitties, who invariably are gracious, welcoming, and very patient with my continual assaults on their persons, caused by my prolonged cat-deprivation prior to landing in Cleveland.P1020288

Sir Paul!

Yes! Paul McCartney and his band were performing in Cleveland while I was visiting my good friends Ann and Bob after the Road Scholar adventure. We had already found a musical event for Thursday–some German exchange students were giving a free concert at a local church, which sounded like an excellent outing. But Bob had a different plan. We call him “The Concierge” for good reason–that man, armed with just his iPhone, can get a ticket for anything or to anywhere–a few years ago he scored tickets on his lunch hour for an NBA playoff game, featuring LeBron. Yes, indeed. So I guess Paul was scheduled to perform on Wednesday at the Quicken Loans Arena (removing the bad cess from the Republican convention there,) but tickets sold so well they added a Thursday concert. And Bob got tickets at a very good price.  We could see well enough, the sound was excellent, and the jumbo-tron screen was helpful.P1020317

You’ll notice that Paul still has that cello-shaped bass guitar. I wonder how many he’s had over the past sixty years. I’m putting up more photos individually, as I want them to be really big! P1020319

He played old songs–pre-Beatle songs, lots of favorite Beatle songs, some Wings songs, and some newer things. He organized a singalong with some songs, as everyone, but everyone, knew all the lyrics, and was happy to join in. He bounced around, played the piano, and put on an excellent show. He did some solos, just, I think playing the piano, and he had the entire audience, all thousands of us, in the palm of his hand. And it was obvious how much he appreciated the attention and adulation. He was just soaking it up. P1020316

When he sang “Let It Be,” it was as hushed and reverential as a high mass at a cathedral. The audience waved whatever sources of light they had, and we all worshiped together.P1020318

And when it was over, I think we were all a little surprised that we were still in Cleveland, and it was already 2016, not fifty years earlier. P1020314

Here’s one more photo. It’s supposed to be the “Featured Image” but they haven’t been showing up, and I really want you to see it. Sorry if it’s a repeat, but you can’t have too many photos of Sir Paul.P1020315

August 19 Stan Hywet

Good morning. This post is the result of two visits to Stan Hywet, near Akron, Ohio, in October of last year and August of this year.

http://www.stanhywet.org/

Most of the interior photos will be from the first visit, and the glorious landscape photos were taken this year. P1020083

Stan Hywet is Old English for “stone quarry” as much of the stone used to construct the house was quarried nearby. The owners were the Seiberling family, who were founders of the Goodrich Rubber Company, and hence, very rich. Mrs. S. was very artistic, and had the idea that she wanted their home to resemble an English Tudor manorhouse, and they took several trips to England to check things out (and bought parts of some houses to install directly in theirs.) Construction began in 1912, and soon ran so over budget that Mr. S. began camping out in the unfinished structure to keep an eye on costs. I never did find out how much it cost, in the end.

The faithful adherence to Tudor architecture is very obvious, and the woodwork is of extraordinary detail. I found I could look at any paneling, and be amazed. Look at these:

Even the kitchen/servants’ areas are beautifully made with lots of natural light:

Most of the many bedrooms have an en suite bathroom, which was an amazingly good idea so early in the 20th Century. There’re big tubs for soaking, and enclosed showers with huge showerheads. I wanted to try one out. Quite of few of the S. children returned with their families to Stan Hywet, as well as indigent elderly relatives, their own parents, and other strays that were welcomed and sheltered in such very nice digs.

They even had a swimming pool in the basement:

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Mrs. S. was also very involved in the gardens, and hired several noted landscape architects to help her out. There was even a young woman landscape architect, Ellen Biddle,  who designed Mrs. S.’s favorite, the English Garden.

After Mr. & Mrs. S. died, their children realized they didn’t have the funds, energy, nor interest in maintaining the huge estate. Arrangements were made, and a non-profit was formed to administer and preserve the estate. This was great because everything was basically left just as it was in the heyday–all the furniture, old telephones, kitchen equipment–visitors now see the house in the same way as when owners had lived in it.

Our visit in August had a lot more foliage than we saw in October. These two plants especially caught my eye:

The scarlet one is the inside of a very complicated blossom. I loved the little trumpet-shaped bits. The green globes looked like almost translucent lanterns–you could see light through the plant fiber; they seemed to glow. They were so amazing that I asked a gardener what they could be, and she, rather abashed, said softly “Hairy balls.” Of course everyone I tell this story to bursts out laughing. We looked up the Latin name, and it’s  so much easier in English. One more photo of the garden: P1020327

I want to grow sunflowers like these. I noticed lots of bees and bugs and winged insects having a wonderful old time with all the blossoms. The gardener told me they’re going to make a pollinator garden for the bees, a ways away from the rest of the garden, so the visitors and bees won’t have unpleasant encounters. There’s a good reason to come back and visit again.P1020095

Here’s a final photo of the estate, the birch allee. Enjoy a walk there.

Glen Sutton August 11

Good morning on the last full day of our adventure. Even for such a short outing, there’s definitely a tinge of sadness that it will all be changing soon. So that explains the photo above: it’s the group gathering for the map and instructions for our last ride. One member of the group, Siobhan, had left suddenly last night because of a family emergency, and that also made our time together seem more tenuous. So I took another photo of the grounds of the Lodge:P1020266

Elaine and I had discussed the possibility of pancakes or waffles for breakfast, something that could be prepared in quantity, in advance. But when I wandered into the kitchen, lo! Deby announced that these were “egg nests”–bread, salsa, egg, and cheese, baked. They were adorable, and she explained we could each only start with one. There was some etiquette confusion if they were finger food, or eaten with a fork and knife, but they were delicious in any fashion. Well fortified, we headed out.P1020265

Because of the heat and humidity (around 90F, I’m told) the route chosen was shorter and easier than initially planned. yes! We were driven out to what’s on our map as “the summit of Route 105,” told to check our brakes, stay away from the shoulder of the road, get downhill and gather at the base of the hill. And off we went. It was glorious and gorgeous. I was about fourth in the pack. I was passed by a huge truck, also heading downhill at an impressive speed, and it was a bit of a struggle to maintain my balance in the backdraft of the truck. I continued, and saw a body crumpled by the road alongside a bike, with someone else crouched nearby. It was Jurn, injured, and Delia who stopped to assist. We decided I would continue downhill and warn Jean at the base so he could notify the others. I’m not sure what all happened, but Jurn was whisked away to receive medical attention, and we, slightly shaken, continued on our route. We all rendezvoused in Troy at the Troy General Store. There we were delighted by an incredible series of wood carvings, which we ALL photographed. Here are the ones I took:

The third photo, the carving of the little bear trying to ease down the steep slope reminded me of my cat Bubba, who often seems more ursine than feline. So we used the bathroom and headed out again. We then stopped to regroup on a quiet street and were greeted by the resident and his elderly dog. The dog was quite pleased with all the attention–it was probably the most excitement he’d had all week. The doggy seemed especially pleased when Ryan took photos of him. I found a weathered old barn to photograph:P1020274

Notice the cheerful, modern-looking weather vane, featuring a horse, on top.

We then pedaled on, and were solemnly promised that there were just three more rolling hills, some flatlands, a downhill, and we would soon be at Paddie’s Snack Bar, a very funky and fun little establishment that had an amazing selection of foods on the menu. I only had a lemonade, but Mike thought the lobster roll was outstanding, and David enjoyed his ice cream. Sorry there’s no photo. At Paddie’s we were told Jurn was still at the hospital, but would be released soon, and we could either 1.) be driven to the Louis Garneau outlet store for a little light shopping, and either a.) be driven from there to the Lodge; or b.) be driven back to Paddie’s to collect bicycles and pedal to the Lodge; or 2.) pedal home and skip the shopping. Only a few chose that option, and left with Jean.

The outlet store was very interesting, though since I don’t wear ski or bicycling gear, I only found a pair of cycling gloves for me. It was fun to look at all the offerings. While we were shopping, Joy went to the hospital and picked up Jurn, then left him at the pharmacy while she collected the shoppers, then back to the pharmacy for Jurn. Jurn’s first remark was that he regretted it wasn’t Hallowe’en, as he wouldn’t need a mask at all to be scary. It was a rather solemn trip back to the Lodge, and the border agent, after taking one look at Jurn, sent us on our way.

So now we’re back, starting to pack, thinking about dinner and the concert, and realizing what a magical week it’s been. There’s even rain predicted for tomorrow. Stay tuned. For our entertainment, here’s the last obligatory photo of cattle:P1020275

Before dinner, we gathered in the lounge for what we hoped what a new tradition. People contributed wedges of cheese they had acquired during the visit, Stephen had picked up some delicious crackers, and folks brought bottles of wine, so we had appetizers while watching the Olympics and chatting. It was a very nice start to the evening.

The last dinner was as spectacular as ever. We started with a big green salad, with all sorts of interesting bits and a very delicious dressing. We were then served big bowls of spaghetti, with a dollop of pesto. Perhaps it was the anticipation of dessert, or the fewer number of miles cycled, but it was the first time I couldn’t quite finish my dinner.

I had seen the desserts being made, and was beside myself with anticipation.  They were these little chocolate pastry pillows, and when you broke one open, molten chocolate oozed out. These little treasures were served with some more delicious thimble-berries, dusted with powdered sugar and adorned with a sprig of mint. . Here’s a photo, and here’s some of the group at the table.

After dinner, Ryan asked me if he could do a video interview with me for Road Scholar. He had interviewed several other bicyclists, and explained the interviews would be edited and put on the Road Scholar site for this ride, so possible participants could hear what folks thought of it. Of course I agreed, and Ryan and I had a chat about the trip, and Road Scholar, and what I thought of things. It was a lot of fun, and good for me to verbalize my impressions (so I could use them in the blog.)

The cheese and crackers and dinner prep made things a little late, but we headed off, on foot, for the 8:00 PM concert. Here was the first indication that this would be a magical evening:P1020280

The concert venue, just a few minutes from the Lodge, had begun life in 1877 as a church, and was a working Anglican church until 1999, when it was sold to a famous music conductor. I think he stayed part of the time in the house by the church, and put on wonderful concerts for the neighborhood. The woodwork in the little church is just exquisite, and the acoustics are perfect. It was such a wonderful space to be in.

Maude Blondin Benoit works in the Lodge kitchen–I had been admiring her apron with the hilarious drawing of cats on it, but she vanished before I could compliment her on it. She had gone to open the church for us, and was the featured performer. Maude gave us the history of the church, and told the story of how she became a musician. It was lovely, though I couldn’t wait to hear her sing. She invited the audience to join her in singing, or just hum along. I think her first selection was Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and we all joined in on the chorus. It was just enchanting, and Joy and I agreed the next morning the whole concert was “magical.” There’s no other way to describe it. Maude performed some excerpts from “The Sound of Music” which was instrumental in her decision to be a performer, some opera pieces, some popular songs. They were all delightful. I’m sorry the photo I have of her is out of focus. Maybe it’s the aura of the music swirling around her.P1020283

Our next treat was a pianist, Ginette St. Andre, whom we all knew as another cook in the kitchen at the Lodge, and I found always so sweet and helpful when I had questions. Ginette performed a couple pieces by, I think, Borodin, then some Gershwin pieces that just about brought the house down. I think if we hadn’t been so tired we would have been dancing in the aisles. P1020284

Then there was a surprise artist. Somehow the rumor got around that Ryan, in addition to his other talents, had worked as a jazz pianist, so he was persuaded to sit at the big grand piano, protesting that he wouldn’t sound as good as Ginette. But he was very, very good. I’m not a jazz fan, but what he played was so sophisticated, so perfectly arranged, so tuneful that we were all dazzled. I think standing ovations were involved.

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After he played a couple pieces, the party started to break up, and I asked if I could try the piano. Maude invited me to sit, and I played a couple of my folk tune riffs. The piano was great, though a mosquito kept trying to bite my hands during the first song. My second selection was “Greensleeves” and Maude, in a haunting soprano, vocalized the melody as I played. It was a wonderful duet. Then Maude played one more piece, and Ryan sat down and played John Lennon’s “Imagine.” He couldn’t have picked a better song to end with. The arrangement was perfect, and all of us Baby Boomers knew all the words of hope, and love, and caring. It was exactly where our hearts were. And my last photo, of Lisa and Mike, shows just that.P1020287

By Friday morning, we were packed, a few folks had departed, and there was the bittersweet feeling of a special time coming to an end. As I brought my laptop from the chalet to the porch, I could feel the first rain drops. It increased to a heavy shower, and there was a distant rumble of thunder, and the internet went out. That was a fitting end.

We had one more yummy breakfast, and as Stephen drove us to the airport on the back roads, he pointed out various sites and locations that figured in Louise Penny’s books. That provided like an excellent excuse to come back. I hope to do that. Good bye.

Glen Sutton August 10

Good morning! Lots of sunshine and, I fear, heat, predicted for the weather today. They even modified the route to something shorter and easier (I hope), and today we’re scheduled to do “Aaron’s Ride.”

The breakfast, ho-hum, was again a huge pot of fabulous gourmet oatmeal, purple with blueberries and crunchy with nuts. I took such a huge bowl of it (with but a moment’s concern about the folks behind me in line) that I didn’t have room for the other treat, a soft-boiled egg. But the tea was good, the company excellent, and we filled our water bottles and set off. I perhaps hadn’t mentioned that one of the participants, Ryan, is actually a plant by Road Scholar.  He’s a photographer and gets to ride some, but also spends time in the van tootling after us and taking photos. This has the added benefits of 1.) Knowing a spot he’s picked to photograph is way cool; 2.) I’m NOT going to walk the bike up a hill if there’s a chance he’ll immortalize it; and 3.) He’s a really nice guy, and expressed an interest in reading this blog. Hi Ryan!P1020273

So I started the ride in a spectacular fashion. I was the only one who wanted to visit an old cemetery on the hill about Freilghsberg near where we started. By the time I was done checking it out, everyone was gone, and I started out by myself in totally the wrong direction. I was cosmically lost! I checked my map (as if that ever makes any sense to me!) and figured I could take an alternate route to rejoin the group. And the scenery was lovely, and there were lots of downhills. I stopped at a little park and asked a charming young French-Canadian couple for directions, and they cheerfully provided me with detailed instructions, even mentioning that the health clinic I was to turn at was for sale. I’m not sure why their little toddler kept kicking my bike. So off I went again, made two correct turns, and was feeling good about it when lo! there’s the van, with Bob and Stephen. I was quickly escorted into the van, my bike (“Honey”) was tossed on the rack, and I was driven to join the group. We had to cross the border in Vermont, and the border guard gave Stephen quite a hard time (he thought it might be his Che Guevara t-shirt.). I even showed my revised route plan to Bob, and he had do admit it would have connected me with the group’s route, approximately two hours later. hahaha.

The group expressed something between delight and relief when we showed up. Though I’m often last, I’m usually not lost. But no one wanted my autograph. So off we went again, though I think Joy never quite let me out of her sight.

So. Except for different road signs, and a little more roadside trash, Vermont is as gorgeous as Quebec. Here are the obligatory contented cattle photos:

 

I asked Joy what the non-corn crop that I suddenly saw growing everywhere, and she said it was soybeans. She also mentioned that she want to plant lots of milkweed, which the butterflies love. That seems like an excellent idea, so I think that’s the featured photo.

Lunch, when we finally rolled in, was at a gracious winery called Domaine du Ridge. They had brought out lunch sandwiches (herbed tuna fish salad?) there in a cooler, to keep them fresh. And lunch, as always was great. Some folks purchased wine or ginger beer.  Here’s part of the group enjoying lunch:   P1020254

After lunch was the big decision, whether to hop in the van or pedal the rest of the way to (or in my case, back to) Freilghsburg. I opted for the latter, as I had already done part of the route in the van. Jean lead the route, and of course, we were delighted with more gorgeous scenery, wonderful old Victorian houses, two cute little black and yellow birds, which Joy later told me were probably finches.. We crossed back into Quebec; I was thrilled to make the crossing by bicycle. We cruised through Stanbridge East, and headed to Freilghsburg. No huge hills, thank heavens. Jean promised we wouldn’t need our granny gear front socket, and we didn’t, and I was so grateful.

In Freilghsburg, Jean asked if I had seen the “Three Pines” which I’ve been nagging everyone about. That’s the name of Louise Penny’s fictional town in her mysteries, and I was frantic to see the real trees. So he took me to them. YES! OUI! Here’s photos:

P1020258I tried to show their height in this photo, as that was part of the legend:

Freilghsburg is a lovely little town, so I took these photos, too:

I think we ended up at a restaurant there called Lyvano. More folks ordered wine, beer, anything cool and liquid. I had iced coffee, and Al didn’t find many takers for his calamari. But I’m sure it was great. Lisa started taking a photo of the group, so then Ryan took a photo, and everyone else wanted to. But me.

We spent a half-hour at Sutton on the way to the Lodge, not sure why. It might have had something to do with buying crackers for cheese. It’s pretty cute, but very touristy. I spent most of it in the parking lot talking to Jurn. Then home. I can’t remember needing a shower so badly, or enjoying one so much. And then it was time to think about dinner.

While needing some inspiration when facing a long uphill, I had asked Joy what was on the menu for dinner. “Chicken Satay.” I’m not a huge fan of Asian food, but I suspected it would be delicious when it emerged from the Lodge kitchen. And it was. We started with a creamy soup. Elaine and I couldn’t figure out the ingredients. We were told cayenne and peppers, but that didn’t help, as it was almost too spicy for me. The pita bread helped calm it down. Then the chicken arrived on a bed of fancy rice, some greens, a tomato so intriguingly altered that we had a discussion regarding its provenance, which turned out to be “plumato,” and carrots that had been through an equally intriguing process. yum. There were a lot of members of the Clean Plate Club at our table. Here are some photos:

We pondered what would be for dessert, thinking the fork across the top of the place setting was a clue. hah! It was a red herring! We were offered bowls of orange sorbet or Cherry Garcia ice cream, and of course we all took the latter. We did suggest they just give us some spoons and put the carton on the table. The ice cream arrived decorated with blueberries and tiny little blackberries that I’ve never seen before, despite all the blackberries growing in the Pacific Northwest. Joy said she calls them “thimbleberries.” And it all worked together beautifully. We were wondering if we could lick the bowls without getting caught. Here’s a photo:P1020264

How could there possibly be a better way to end an evening with friends? Notice the cider in my wine goblet. That helped, too. The speaker for the evening was a guy talking about climate change. I decided to skip it, though other group members found it informative, if a little too graph heavy. So I worked on this blog until it was time for yet another shower, and then bed. Good night.

 

Glen Sutton August 9

Good morning! Another sunny day in Glen Sutton. Might be a bit warmer than desirable for intensive biking, but it’s lovely to be out in the sunshine.

The chosen offerings for breakfast today were hard-boiled eggs, smoked salmon pieces, and some assorted muffins and croissant parts. I discovered the almond butter and wild cherry jam, and made good use of both. We grabbed our lunches, and set off on our adventure.

The first stop was Jean’s apartment so he could pick up his water bottle. And that’s where I found the featured kitty, though there was some debate if it was a large cat or a small dog. The second stop, of frabjous day, was the monastery St. Benoit-du-lac in the little town with the same name. It had been Louise Penny’s model for the monastery Saint-Gilbert-Entre-Les-Loups in her eighth book of the Inspector Gamache series, A Beautiful Mystery. This is cool almost beyond reckoning. The monks were chanting in the chapel when I arrived there, so I waited until they turned to the altar to get some photos:

Joy said the original monastery had burned down, and they replaced it with a style that looked like a modern interpretation of high Gothic. Like this:

I especially liked this photo of the steeple matched by a tall tree, though Phoebe and I were wondering why the crucifix was sideways rather than facing forward.The outline of the various planes of the roofs is just amazing.P1020240 Most of the group made their way downstairs to buy the excellent cheese, chocolates and other goodies that the monks made. I settled for a package of chocolate-covered blueberries, and chocolate-covered fruit. Joy confiscated them as soon as I made the parking lot so she could store them in the cooler. I’m trying not to think about them while I’m writing.

So then we hopped on our bikes and headed out. Some of the groups climbed back into the bus to find  a better spot for starting, i.e., closer to the lunch spot. David said later he was impressed that I managed the route wearing just sneakers, not fancy cycling shoes. I confessed to walking up a couple hills. After many hills, some of them rolling, some radical, several encounters with road crews driving trucks belching black smoke, and a quick stop at a tiny market, P1020241

we ended up in a little park in Mansonville for lunch. It had the luxury of both a library and a visitors’ center facing the square, so we had bathroom choices. I had an interesting discussion with the person in the visitors’ center regarding French/English terminology for the room I was seeking. They also had a gaily-painted piano (loved the cat) in the bandstand of the square, and I was able to bang out a few tunes. That felt so good.P1020242

There was still time for a quick jaunt to the Owl’s Bread Boulangerie down the street. Here’s the owl that welcomed us in, and though they didn’t have many goodies left, from having been ransacked by hungry cyclists, these looked very tempting: I got a little almond tart that almost made it safely back to the lodge. Elaine was feeling righteous and resisted temptation.

We received various reports regarding elevation and distance for the trip back to the Lodge. There was also the possibility of tossing our bikes on the rack and getting a ride home in the van, but we resisted that, though some, perhaps, regretted it later. Joy showed me how riding back and forth across the road while going up a steep hill makes it (slightly) easier, and it helped. And Joy also joined me to admire these gorgeous cattle: P1020245

It wasn’t that late, a little after 2:30, when I spotted the driveway to the Lodge and turned it. It’s certainly an indication of my motivation to find my own way home. I’ve peeked in the kitchen and observed beets, purple cabbage and fresh thyme on the cutting board. Oh boy. Stay tuned.

There were sightings yesterday evening of beef being prepped, but not served that day for dinner. And there had been a mention of “boeuf bourguignon” that piqued our interest on the ride. And we were right. First there was a delicious salad I didn’t get a photo of, with the afore-spotted beets, cabbage, crisp greens, some crunchy stick of meat, and a little golden flower. Most diners passed on the flower, but it was edible. Then came the boeuf–we watched the kitchen staff spoon the piles of mashed potatoes into the bowls, then the meat, then a little sour cream and a sprig of fennel. It was really, really quiet in the dining room when we started eating. Reverential. How to top an entree like that? Consider blueberry pie with a scoop of Cherry Garcia ice cream. Consider it, and drool. That’s what we did. Here’s the photos:

I had really been looking forward to hearing tonight’s lecture about the history of Quebec. The speaker was Jim Manson, who had taught at various universities in the area and been with Road Scholar for more than 20 years.  Mansonville, where we had lunch, had been named after his family. He concentrated on the more recent history of Quebec, the Quiet Revolution and the Separatist Movement. I had done some readings about that, but he brought it all aspects of the situation together very well. As an observant adult who had lived through a lot of the recent turmoil, he was also able to add a more personal prospective. His listeners were very appreciative, and gave him a big round of applause when he was done. I chatted with him a bit about it, and he was most intrigued by my grandfather’s family’s move to New England, and how quickly, in one generation, all “Quebec” characteristics of language and culture had disappeared. I guess that’s often the case.

I’ll end with my sighting of wildlife, right on the grounds of the Lodge. It’s the only wild mammal I’ve seen so far, and it was really cute. Good night.P1020246