We've dubbed the summer the Visionary Reunion Tour - our trip across the US in 2012 was the Farewell Tour as we said goodbye to friends and family, not knowing when we'd be back from our travels. Not knowing that illness and a death in the family would bring us back, not knowing that it would be easier to deal with our own medical needs while back in familiar territory.
It turned out that yes, we're aging travellers. Yes, it's easier to deal with chronic (but manageable) medical conditions in a place where we can speak the language, and we know the brand names of the medications we need. Go figure.
So we've adopted a new routine. We'll travel for 10 or 11 months of the year, and return to the US for medical checkups and prescription renewal and ongoing stuff during the summer. Okay fine. No problem.
Thus the Reunion Tour concept was born.
Well, this turned out to be the summer that Richard was ready for cataract surgery - and he now doesn't need glasses, for the first time in 60+ years. Hence this has become the longer-than-planned summer visit, dubbed the Visionary Tour.
With all the extra time in the Pacific Northwest, Richard had plenty of time to relax and recuperate from his surgeries. I had numerous visits with friends, both in Seattle, in Bellingham, and in the small town of Mount Vernon, somewhere in between as a compromise meeting spot. Friends and I visited a lovely nursery full of gorgeous fall flowers, just perfect for a rainy late summer day. And I met Bamboo, a huge fuzzy black cat who begged to be carried around from greenhouse to greenhouse, meowing if I didn't pick him up. He was cuddly and friendly and heavy, so I finally sat on a bench and he purred on my lap. Kitty therapy!
I also had plenty of time for photographing some of the gorgeous houses in Bellingham. I mentioned, way back in 2012, that Bellingham, WA was settled originally by the Lummi tribe, and in the mid to late 1800s explorers and settlers arrived. The town was originally four smaller villages: Whatcom, Sehome, Fairhaven, and Bellingham. As these villages grew, they merged into the larger town we now call Bellingham, which is the capital of Whatcom County. One of the old but trendy neighborhoods is still called Fairhaven. And the "new" high school I attended is, of course, Sehome High School. See how nicely it all comes together?
The original four towns ringed Bellingham Bay, so the streets were oriented based on the shoreline in the area. As the towns grew and merged, streets were lengthened and merged, but often meet at oblique angles. (So it really didn't come together all that nicely!) Navigating around Bellingham isn't easy, as streets seem to turn corners, or disappear and reappear out of nowhere. It definitely is an adventure.
But there are houses that date back to the late 1800s and very early 1900s, and they're clustered in the oldest areas of the four original towns. I like to walk around and take photos of these beautiful old homes, which often boast signs: "Imhoff Home, Built in 1892" or "Roeder Home, Built in 1886." The styles range from Victorian to Craftsman, with oval windows, turrets and towers, decorative balustrades, gingerbread, stained glass or leaded glass windows, and all sorts of architectural ornamentation. Houses range from stately mansions for large and well-to-do families to more modest homes to small bungalows that look ready to greet Hansel and Gretel. And of course each home has huge trees and beautiful gardens and, often, fruit and vegetable gardens.
So it was fun to have about six weeks in Washington. I probably enjoyed the time more than Richard did, but his time was definitely more productive in the long run. (Having a husband suddenly stop needing to wear glasses makes it seems as if I'm married to a new man!)
After Richard received a clean bill of health from his doctor, we took the train to Seattle, schlepping along our luggage (which we left at the train station - and I have to add that the King Street Station is one of the most incredibly beautiful train stations ever. Just look at all that gleaming white carved wood, with pillars and ornamental panels on the walls and ceilings - just gorgeous!). I found some new manhole covers, we both discovered a few new coffeeshops and chocolateirs, and we had a quick day to wander the city, then catch our red-eye flight east.
Our time on the east coast is basically for fun, family, and friends. We're currently staying with Richard's brother and sister-in-law, in south New Jersey.
We spent our first day at the Cape May County Zoo, which is a small but very nice zoo. According to their information, they've been voted the 13th best zoo in the world. (I know, such an odd number!) They also have been certified to have breeding programs for certain endangered animals, so there were some rare animals as well as baby animals here.
And there were some fascinating animals, like the scarlet ibis - what a beautiful flame red bird!!! They were running all around inside their aviary, with a few roseate spoonbills, sacred ibis, cattle egrets, and a blue crested pigeon or two. But the scarlet ibis really stole the show!
The zoo has several white deer - these are the normal white-tailed deer, but they have a recessive albino gene that appears frequently. The stag was white, the mother sort of half white and half brown, and the fawn was a magical white deer, looking like Harry Potter's petronus - doesn't this white fawn look like it has mystical, magical powers?
The baby buffalo was one year old exactly, although he didn't have a birthday cake. He was just hanging out eating his usual straw or prairie grasses.
The African savannah exhibit had wonderful animal cutouts for photo opps, so the zebra and I look like intrepid explorers on safari. The real zebras were more normal-sized, and were more interested in lunch than exploring. We heard that the giraffes were on vacation - no one was sure where, but they weren't on the veld.
The lions and cheetahs, in separate enclosures, were great to watch - the large cats are always my favorites. And as a special treat, the zoo has a pair of snow leopards, who had a pair of cubs (or kittens?) about a year ago. One of the adolescent snow leopards was napping, but woke up in time to clean up and then pose for me - what a gorgeous face!
And of course I had to ride the carousel - it was just a little one, and I was the only rider at that point so I had a private carousel ride - after careful consideration I chose the fierce tiger as my ride, and he promptly knocked one of my Birks off so I had to ride him barefoot. (Which isn't as bad as bareback, until one tries to dismount. Carousel stirrups aren't made for bare feet.)
It was a great day, topped by lunch at the food truck festival! Really, some 20 food trucks were invited for this festival on the barrier island of Sea View. (Or maybe Sea View is the name of the town, I'm not sure.) But food trucks featuring seafood, or sausages, or waffles, or Cajun, or peanut butter. It was fun, and we chatted with both food truck owners as well as eaters as we tried a few items.
Today, Saturday, was the long drive out to Lancaster to visit a niece, a nephew, their spouses, and the assorted great-nieces and nephews, all six kidlets. Great to re-connect with the youthful adults, chat and play with the kidlets who get more verbal and taller every year, and share stories about what everyone has been up to. And of course to have the three-year-old, who is my birthday twin, agree that next year we'll celebrate together. Tomorrow night is the Jewish New Year dinner with the nearby niece, husband, and another three kidlets, including the newest baby whom we haven't met - as I said, this is the Reunion Tour, and we're catching up with family on both coasts.
Special thanks to Sandy, who has been driving us all over, especially considering the horrible rain we schlepped through today!!!!! (I was SO glad to not be the driver!)
That's the summary for the past two weeks or so. We'll be busy, but doing more fun and exciting things that are blog-worthy.