Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Cute and quirky

We came home with tons of photos from our Virginia trip. Some of them don't really illustrate anything in particular, but are too good not to show off. Here's a selection.


OK, so I know squirrels are just tree rats really, but they are cute. Especially when they're trying to eat a piece of bread as big as their head.

Me in one of my favourite poses. We encountered a lot of pets on our trip. I was happy.

Real birds in a fake tree. This was an art installation in Pittsburgh, and even close up it was hard to tell that the trees weren't real.


The quintessential American country church.



My aunt and uncle are renovating a house up in the mountains, and this newspaper, dated August 31st 1919, was pasted to one wall. Doesn't it seem incredible that the "fight for women's suffrage" happened so recently?



Graham chillin' out with Mr Jefferson.



Ummm... I seem to have got the Washington Monument stuck in my head...



My new sister-in-law persuaded me to go with her for a pedicure. Don't my toes look pretty?

Monday, 17 August 2009

Highlights from the rest of the trip

1. Spending time with friends and family.
As well as seeing my parents, grandparents and assorted other close relatives, we also visited some of my mum's brother's wife's family (got that?!) who live in an incredibly beautiful part of the world in the western Virginia mountains. John and I got to know them when we came to America by ourselves as children, and when I calculated how long it was since I'd last seen them I wished we'd planned a much longer stay. However, we were en route to see more friends whom I knew from Bristol, now residing near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We were greeted not only by the Ewings but also a couple more Bristolians, so it was a veritable reunion! I'm always touched by how warmly American families welcome you into their home, sit you down in front of a delicious meal, and offer to lend you anything and everything that might make your stay more pleasant. Thanks y'all!






2. Enjoying the James River
via canoes, kayaks and our own two feet! In Richmond we saw bridges, dams and a wealth of industrial history; in Scottsville we paddled past birds, trees and beautiful scenery.





3. Taking the Duquesne Incline in Pittsburgh.
Built in 1877, this still uses the original cars to give you an awesome view over the city. Downtown is packed with interesting buildings and an old graveyard, where there is a tombstone to a lad who died at the age of 23, a week before his wedding, of a broken leg followed by a "swift and fatal mortification". Just as we were about to suffer a fairly severe mortification ourselves, due to lack of food, an Indian restaurant appeared like an oasis before us, rounding off a pleasant afternoon perfectly.


4. Eating ice cream by the Potomac River.
We went to Washington D.C., as all good tourists do. It was hot. And busy. And contained lots of big buildings which look exactly like they do in the photos. After viewing large hunks of stone commemorating everything under the sun, a cold ice cream and a park bench was all I could wish for.


5. Sampling some local brews.
If you're ever in Richmond, go to the Capital Ale House. It has a beer list that runs to about 6 pages, and the coolest thing ever - a stripe of ice down the centre of the bar to keep your drink cold! Virginia has a fair scattering of micro-breweries, and of course trying the local delicacies is an essential part of the travelling experience. And an enjoyable one.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Marriage in Mathews County (2)

Believe it or not, we've now been married for over a year! In honour of our first wedding anniversary, John and Kristal (and Kristal's mom) very kindly arranged for us to stay in a beautiful little cottage over their wedding weekend. It was a fantastic place with everything you could possibly want, including cinnamon raisin bread in the fridge for breakfast. The large lawn just outside ran down to the Piankatank River, with a long jetty from which we spied ospreys and jellyfish.








After the wedding on Saturday, we strolled along Bethel Beach, a narrow strip of sand between the Chesapeake Bay and some protected wetlands. We helped a kite surfer launch his enormous kite and were amused by the antics of some fiddler crabs. These lopsided critters have one claw bigger than the other. They sit in little holes in the sand or mud, and if you stand still for a few minutes they all start popping out to take a look around.







As we drove back into Mathews we wondered what an evening's entertainment might consist of out here in the sticks. We soon found out: it's a crowded pizza place with handmade pies and local beer, crammed full of music from a five-piece band. Both the musicians and the customers were having a great time, and so did we. We thought for sure we'd found the most happening place in Mathews that night... until we drove home past Donk's Theater, which was offering a "Salute to Jimmy Buffett". There were cars and people all over the place!

It was hard to leave the next morning, so we took it gently and drove cross-country to Williamsburg, once the capital of Virginia. The big attraction here is "Colonial Williamsburg", a whole network of streets and buildings preserved as they were in the 18th century. You can pay some extortionate price to go in all the buildings and talk to all the people in period costume, or you can do as we did and just wander around for free. I rather felt for the interpreters dressed up in hot-looking 1750's fashion. You have to have some admiration for the people who settled a whole new country wearing 3-piece suits or 6 petticoats.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Marriage in Mathews County

Once you get to a certain age, you suddenly start going to a lot of weddings. Gradually they all tend to fade into a white-dress-pretty-flowers-dancing-music-best-man's-speech kind of blur, but a few still stand out. Some for good reasons, some for bad, and some for just being an altogether lovely day.

Of course, when it's your brother getting married, that automatically makes it stand out from the average, but John and Kristal's wedding definitely fell into the "altogether lovely day" category. With my grandfather officiating, they made some simple and beautiful vows under a shady tree in the garden of Kristal's honorary grandparents. The Chesapeake Bay shimmered in the background while a soft breeze kept things cooler for the guests seated on gingham-covered hay bales. After a few family photos by the cheerful photographer, John and Kristal departed for the reception venue, perched up on the back of a red convertible (don't worry, the roads are very quiet!)




The reception was at a yacht club just down the road, and featured flowers grown and arranged by Kristal's parents, strawberry daiquiris made with berries that John and Kristal had picked, and a handsome cake baked by Kristal's sister. This wedding took family involvement to the max, and the result was really relaxed and happy. A description which also applied to the bride and groom and spilled over to all the guests. They'd found a great duo to provide the music and had obviously rehearsed some moves for the first dance! Later Graham and I were prodded onto the floor and got an unexpected round of applause for our rather rusty rendering of LeRoc - I guess we haven't completely lost the magic!


John and Kristal left in a cloud of bubbles, and after signing the hand-made quilt and picking up a jar of home-cooked strawberry jam (you would not believe how much effort these two put into the wedding!) their friends and family headed home as well. What an altogether lovely day.