Thursday, October 28, 2004

Report from Bah Hahbah

As someone who only accidentally falls into any sort of trendiness, I'm probably unnaturally impressed with myself that I'm sitting in a woodsy, kitschy-cool combination coffee shop and internet cafe in Bar Harbor, Maine. (We non-Yankees on the cruise ship insist on doing the fakey New England accent and calling it "Bah Hahbah" every single time we say it, but now that I'm here, I haven't heard a single "a-yup" or "clam chowdah". Blast! Do I have to pay for the privilege of local stereotypes? Who knew?)

The husband put us into a bit of a pickle by not having all his work done before the cruise (Bad husband! No biscuit.), but as it turns out, this may not be so bad. It's just a lovely, lovely day out today for the first time so far, but dividing my valuable tourist hours between blogging in the little place with the chocolate-chip cookies, high-speed access and walkthroughs from a black-and-white dog (I'll bet he'd give me an "a-yup" if I asked him nicely), and trolling the little gift ships and hilly, tiny streets may be a fine way to spend the day. Actually, of the two, the former may get the bulk of our patronage. As I mentioned to Greg, there's something really similar about the fare in all the tiny little stores everywhere. The Canadian and Maine ones have more to offer by way of moose, bear, puffin and lighthouse stuff than your basic Corn Belt little-town store. (Missouri not being exactly rife with cultural landmarks, our chotchkes (sp?) tend to feature cows, rivers and the state outline. Not exactly a tourist mecca, the heartland.)

Here's a brief report on the trip so far:
* Oct. 24 -- home to New York: After my near-fatal mistake, I made it to Philly and from there to NY Harbor without any problems, and from there onto the Grand Princess.

I'll say this about the cruise experience -- they really do pull off that feeling of walking onto a four-star hotel. Walking out of the loud, ugly port onto the boat was almost shocking. Suddenly all is clean, posh and plush. Live musicians play away quietly. Elevators sweep along without a sound. Polite little notices await you in your trim stateroom from the purser, the captain, your cleaning staff.

MY cleaning staff? I know it's a bit much, but if you've decided to take a cruise, you've usually already made your peace with it.

* Oct. 25 -- at sea. This day could've been better. Captain Andy had told us in his lovely Scottish accent that we might be expecting some rough weather. Well, we got it, and Gracie the ever-prepared hadn't even thought to bring along the seasickness patches I got for the last cruise. I was kind of amazed to find that I made it to the end of the day before I had to just take to my bed. I belong to the unhappy fellowship of people who get really, REALLY seasick -- watching "Blair Witch Project" made me toss my cookies, and not just because of poor acting. The action of the 15-foot swells Cap'n Andy told us about (I really didn't need to know that, Cap'n Andy.) on the planet-sized boat were naturally not a constant roller-coaster, but when a ship that big is being rocked about, the rolls are very slow and have a lot of weight behind them. So you had to adopt a sort of straddle-legged gait to make it down hallways, ready to put all your weight on one side or another and occasionally just abandoning attempts at sophistication and grabbing for hand-rails on both sides. Going up and down stairs was slow and annoying work, but the elevators could be troublesome as well -- Greg was caught in one for 20 minutes.

* Oct. 26 -- Halifax, Nova Scotia: So it was a bit of a mercy to wake up with the boat docked and NOT moving. It was overcast and cold, but we had a fine adventurous day in town. The guys had hit on the idea of renting a car sometimes and just taking off. This seemed to work well for us. Halifax itself didn't merit a day's worth of sightseeing, but getting away from town and into the country was grand. One of our traveling companions, Donna, is a lobster-nut, and was disappointed because she had heard that the McDonald's in Canada have McLobster. (!! -- words fail me.) It turned out that it was a seasonal thing, and she missed it. Similarly, the locally-ballyhooed Tim Horton donuts didn't turn out to be all that. But just in time to save our tourist dollars from leaving with the tide, we rounded a turn and saw The Arcadian Maple Shop dedicated to all things maple-y, including some that should've been left alone (maple-rhubarb jam?), and a cry went up from all four passengers. Maple is one of those flavors that comes around like a favorite old uncle and everyone's glad to see it. As divergent as the four of us are in other tastes, we happily sniffed, tasted and bought maple stuff. Go, Canada!

* Oct. 27 -- St. John, New Brunswick: I found this town really delightful, in spite of wickedly cold winds that kept anyone from staying out for the whole day. Part of that good impression might really have come from our horse-drawn trolley tour, starring long-suffering Clydesdales Jill and Molly. We were told before we had even quite settled into our seats and adjusted our lap-robes that Jill slacked off and made Molly do all the work on the hills. This information came from our guide Brenda, a charming and entirely unselfconscious woman in her fifties who was ideally suited to tourguiding since she could talk in a constant stream without ever having to draw breath. And all things were good to talk about -- the weather, the landmarks, the gritty realities of riding in a horse-drawn trolley ("We just say that the trolley is powered by natural gas."), her snooty daughter, the price of cigarettes and gasoline in Canada (astronomical), and so on and so on. The benefit of the patter was that as you thought about the possibility of moving to a delightful town like St. John (the oldest city in Canada, named because it was founded on the Forerunner's nativity day), you were also able to imagine what life would really be like. Saint John was hilly, dotted with houses of widely varying eras and quaint. The people seemed unhurried and genuinely friendly with us and each other, as Canadian people so often do. But there's no use even contemplating the dual-citizenship life if you're not willing to accept the weather, the high prices and the limitations of small-town life that come along with its joys. I know something of that last one from the Missouri life, but I might still be in for some surprises.

* Oct. 28 -- Bah H.. oh phooey, Bar Harbor: And here we are again at the cafe. I've gotten some of the Mexican blend coffee, just to broaden the mind, though I eschewed the cinnamon rolls that Greg gave big thumbs up to. I'm starting to find that part of the trick to surviving a cruise without bloating up like a dirigible is being able to say no to 4 out of 5 food opportunities. Greg has found now that he's here that he can't complete his work anyway. We run our own server and it's been knocked out, probably with a little bad weather back home. This necessitates a low-tech solution in the person of Laurie the Pet-Sitter having to schlep to our house, unplug something (the router?) and then plug it back in. Laurie won't be able to do it for a couple hours, so there we are. Funny thing, the internet. Wires and electrons flowing and flying everywhere, but all at a standstill waiting for one switch to be toggled off and then on.

Tomorrow is Boston (I mean it, you guys. I don't want any freaky stuff from gleeful baseball fans.), and then Newport, Rhode Island to look at rich-people houses, and then back to New York on Halloween.

If I get another good window of time, I'll report as needed, but blogging on the boat is a little problematic (for reasons that are worth another entry), so I may just have to wait till I'm back at home-base.

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