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The Train to Zagreb

Huge and modern Prague Train Station For the second time this trip, we caught a train. This time we headed for Zagreb in Croatia.  W...

Monday, November 18, 2013

Wings Over the Susquehanna

A bit of fall color near the Conowingo Dam Visitor Center
Yay! Today was Kirk's day off and he thought I might enjoy a little eagle watching. So off we drove, through the beautiful Maryland countryside, to Conowingo Dam, which crosses the Susquehanna River in the far northwest of Maryland.

When we reached the Dam, we drove over it and then back again, and that got us our first view of a Bald Eagle not far off over the river. Cheers! We decided to drop in at the Visitor Center to find out where the eagle viewing was best.

We had a lovely chat with a visitor center lady who told us the dam has an annual Eagle photography contest. We took some time to view contest entries on a TV. The photos were awesome!

I totally enjoy seeing the education exhibits; I'm a Visitor Center junkie.
The lady directed us to the eagle viewing area, a short drive down to the river front. There was not only immediately saw lots of Baldies, but loads of eagle watchers.

Kirk heading from the walkway down to the waterfront viewing area
Fans of Eagles on the watch
An adult Baldie winging past the dam
There were eagles everywhere. The eagle viewers - with their spotting scopes and huge long lens at the ready - would perk up any time one of the distant eagles flew in to our side of the river. I had my little long lens with me and was tickled to get a few shots of an eagle that successfully snagged its lunch.

 

Fish in tow, the eagle sailed into some trees and there, enjoyed its lunch at leisure.

I got at least a couple of dozen shots of eagles and that was enough to teach me the birds were not easy to photograph. It wasn't that they were all over the place and moving at a fast clip, but I noted while the dark brown bodies tended to photograph well. the same was not true for the white heads, which tended to look washed out. I had no clue how to adjust my camera for that, so I came to appreciate the skill of those who won accolades in the Dam's eagle photography competition.

Boomerang Shot
Screaming Juvenile Baldie
 On the entertainment committee were adult eagles, stealing fish from the yearling eagles. There was a wall by the dam where the juvenile baldies hung out. We got to see an adult snitch a fish from a flustered juvie. 

Three Adults and three juvenile eagles - fish thievery by the adults was rampant
Loved the time we spent at the dam. I happened to meet the guy who won the 2013 Eagle photo contest. He was very nice and shocked me by saying he is NOT a birder! He just loves photographing eagles for his entertainment. Should have asked him the secret of getting both an eagle's head and body in proper exposure.

After we left the Conowingo Dam, Kirk and I went to a couple of other birding spots. First we went to one where though we didn't see birds we did see this handsome fellow - can you see him?

This handsome White-tail buck was certain we couldn't see him
Next we visited Robert E. Lee park, where I've visited before. There is a dam there too, smaller but just as scenic as Conowingo.

Robert E. Lee Park




There were tiny surprises along the pathway which took all my self restraint not to pick up - particularly when I noted a few that had popped open contained chocolate candy bars and other tidbits.




The tots are carrying bags of candy
laden not-exactly-Easter eggs






Kirk and I must have spotted a dozen or more 'Easter eggs' as we walked along the pathways and past the dam. Finally it became apparent the eggs were not left over from last Easter, but were meant for a particular group of children, at the park with their guardians.







We had a nice chat with a Park Ranger who recommended we hike the wooden boardwalk that traverses Lee Park. We went along the path for a bit, and of course, I didn't get too far.  The afternoon was fairly chilly and it was surprising that the park was nearly bird-free. The only feathery park occupants in the park were a Tufted Titmouse, a Carolina Wren and one busy Great Blue Heron.

Loved this Heron and its shadow
All in all, I had a lovely time being outside today. As happens, with my having caught that awful cold and such, this was the only day of birding I've had on this east coast excursion. I have to thank Kirk for seeing I managed to get some time in with my feathered buds.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

An Early Thanksgiving


Yay! My entire Baltimore Family

This weekend Bea, my niece decided to serve up an early Thanksgiving for my benefit. I was floored and pleased she would go through all the fuss of preparing a full Thanksgiving meal just so I could enjoy celebrating the holiday with family. Wow...

The meal was wonderful - delicious and even regional, as several of the entrees, such as the greens, were southern style. I mean, imagine: even the collards - a veggie I'd formerly avoided like a plague - were so delish I had seconds.

Loading up on Thanksgiving Goodness
You would think celebrating Thanksgiving would have been enough for the day, and you would be wrong. November is a birthday month for the family and all the birthday boys and girl were celebrated too.

Birthday honorees Kirk, Avon and Sydney

Our Saturday Thanksgiving is so wonderful, it has been decided we will do a repeat tomorrow. Hey, there are more than enough leftovers to pull off a double header of turkey wonderfulness. Yum!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Nyquil, Annapolis and a Whole Lot of Sushi

Ah! The photo below is a shot from the perfect ending to a perfect day. Today is Kirk's birthday so tonight we all gathered at Bea & Avon's condo for a big ole' sushi celebration in Kirk's honor. Yum. That's all I have to say about that, YUM. Oh! And a very happy birthday Kirk!

My Niece Bea, Great-niece Ain and one-year-older-today, Nephew Kirk
But as my last post was a week ago, I think I ought to catch you up on what I've been doing.Uh... well, dear sweet potions of NyQuil; I was sick all week! Strongly suspect I picked up a bug on one of the two fully booked flights I took from the west coast. Seven hours breathing recirculated air in a cheek to jowl packed flight can do that to you.

My neph Kirk had a couple of days off mid week, and although there were plans for birding & sight seeing, I wound spent most of the week. lifeless on the family room couch, hacking & coughing. I swear, I was a fat Camilla in the last scene of La Traviata. Must say, visiting with people you love, even though I felt like crap, was still, for me, a delight. So all in all, it was a fantastic week. Uh... maybe not so great for those who got to listen to me coughing up my lungs and watching the sodden tissue pile up around me like a gentle winter's snow fall.
Still a couple of outings were had. Yesterday, Thursday, I went along when my v. sweet niece-in-law Nicole picked up my sister Dolores and drove us to the outskirts of DC to visit Dolores' life long friend Beegee & her kin. Dolores & Beegee have been BFF since they were knee high to whatever it is you have to be knee high to in Brooklyn.

Got no outstanding shots in Annapolis, but I love this drive-by shot
for the scarlet tree with the Historic Annapolis sign on the right
Today, Nicole decided to drive Sydney, James and myself out for an airing. She took us to a locale of much history - Annapolis Maryland. It was a lovely drive and we took a nice walk there over to the harbor. The first surprise was I'd forgotten that Annapolis' connection to Alex Haley and his famous book, Roots. There, by the port where Kunte Kinte set foot in North America, was a statue of Haley reading to children.
Of course, if he's reading portions of Roots to those tender little minds, there will be nightmares
James, Sydney & Nicole
James hitched a ride
A view across Annapolis harbor
We passed by a small corner of the U.S. Naval Academy
The architecture and colors on Annapolis' Main St. remind me of Ireland
Beautiful brick paved streets, plenty of shopping in Annapolis - if only I'd had the energy!
So, all in all, it was a beautiful day today, even if my tail was kind of dragging on the walk around the beautiful streets of Annapolis. Oh well; my tail may have dragged, but at least it was wagging.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Girlie Cousin's Weekend at an End

Carol, Idea, Wanda, Jacqueline, Yvonne, Donna, Rhonda, Dolores and Bea
Our Girlie Cousin's weekend is at an end. We all got together for the continental breakfast (meaning we faced enough food to feed an average sized continent). We took advantage of this very-nearly-the last meetup of the weekend to exchange phone numbers, addresses and take new photos to stuff on our smart phones. I say it was v. nearly the last meet up because those who were so inclined went on a mini shopping spree post breakfast.

Great Group Selfie by Ideaa
My favorite shot of our weekend together
Our Cousin's Reunion was over way to soon. I'm looking forward to our entire Family getting together for a reunion in 2014 - see you there Cousins!

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Visiting DC

Saturday morning, the contingency of girlie Carter cousins were off into the tunnels of the Hilton.
There, with the help of our younger & geekier cousins, train passes were purchased from the big confusing automatic machines. Soon we were off on a train headed for downtown Washington DC.

Down, down, down into the subterranean 
Once in DC we were onto one of the local bus tours that allows passengers on and off privileges.
Settled in on a Tour Bus of DC
Look Familiar? It's where great men & women go to nap.
Hum... I know I've seen this on a nickle...
The Washington Monument is getting a little work done.
Our first stop of the day was to pay our respects at the year old Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

Standing tall with Dr. King.

When we had taken enough photos to fill the Capital Mall, we were back on the tour bus, headed for our next stop - The Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

One of the gems of the Smithsonian Museums

By this time breakfast seemed as if it was days ago, so we started off our Smithsonian visit with lunch at its cafeteria. Once filled and feeling more human, we raced off to view the Inaugural gowns of all the first ladies of the United States - gowns from the 18th through the 21st Century. Here are my personal favorites. Please pardon the glass reflections.

Mary Todd Lincoln's plush purple velvet gown believed
made by her friend, African-American dressmaker Elizabeth Keckly
A blue satin flapper's styled gown, worn by Grace Coolidge
Beautiful yellow silk gown worn by Jackie O., but not at an inaugurate.
 And here is the most recent inauguration gown, worn, of course, by Michelle Obama.

Michelle's Jason Wu Gown
 By the time my cousins and I were out of the Smithsonian, we were whipped! We re-boarded a tour bus and headed back downtown. We were soon within a block of something I'd had my thoughts on since we arrived in DC - getting a chance to visit Ford's Theater and the Peterson House. I begged my cousins to hang tight while I ran into Ford's Theater to soak up a few minutes history and to get my first National Park Passport stamps for the Washington DC area. OH JOY!

We weren't quite finished... Rhonda had her heart set on visiting Madame Trusseau's Wax Museum. We futzed and fumbled outside the museum, then thought, 'what the heck!'. Soon we were rubbing elbows with the rich and famous.

Mr. Lincoln wondering how 'Our American Cousins' got up in the box with him
Idea and Dolores feeling a bit frisky with Mr. Freeman

Carol in good company with Samuel

Cousin Donna and Will Smith seem
a tad too chummy, don't they?
Whew! I was pretty tired by the time we got back to the Hilton. We rested up a bit, but we were, believe it or not, not quite done for the day. Around 6 PM all the girlie cousins were chauffeured by our Cousin Jackie and her husband, to their lovely Chevy Chase Home.

Let me tell you, Cousin Jackie outdid herself in preparing a dinner for all of her cousins. The meal was Caribbean in theme and quite drool worthy. Following the awesome feast, we settled into puzzling over where we might hold a Carter Family Reunion in 2014. The final local options were a bit of a surprise for me, as I visited the first two for the first time, only last spring.

  • Savannah, Georgia
  • Charleston, South Carolina
  • Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • Other possibility: Island local such as Bermuda or Barbados
Which site will be the venue of our reunion depends on what our honored elders have to say on the matter. Myself, I casting my hopes on either Savannah or, if the elders are up to it, a Caribbean adventure. 

Donna, Yvonne, Rhonda and one of my hairier smaller cousins
By the time we were all chauffeured back to the Hilton at night's end, we were all sated, happy and a little tired. I haven't had such a cousin filled day since the days before my family left New York City in 1967.

Friday, November 08, 2013

On to DC

My pretties: Cousin Rhonda and my Sister, Dolores
Early Friday morning, Dolores, my cousin Rhonda and I were in a taxi, driving along the Hudson River, headed for Penn Station. The station was full to the max with harried and hurried travelers. Dolores, a pro at traversing the distance between NYC and Baltimore, kept an eye on Rhonda and I so we didn't wind up on the tracks or on some train headed for parts unknown.

Our Amtrak ride was only about 3.5 hours long, and with loads of scenery flashing past my window, the time passed quickly.

Uh... a view out the train window in... New Jersey?
Well, OK, the scenery I enjoyed most was the nice big animal murals

Once in the Baltimore Amtrak station, my nephew Kirk - Dolores' son - picked us up. It's always a party seeing Kirk, he's got such a fun spirit about him. He had no sooner packed us into his family van then Rhonda put forward a request to see a museum she'd heard about - a wax museum of famous African Americans.Kirk agreed and soon we were headed into an old stone building that looked like an ancient white brick firehouse.



To me the museum had the air of a long ago side show. The exhibits were of great interest and my favorite was of Matthew Henson, the arctic explorer, though probably because his exhibit featured an enormous stuffed polar bear.

Personages from the Civil Rights era

African-American Writers and 18th Century historical figures
We enjoyed our quick tour of the museum which was both interesting, and in some spots deeply disturbing in its depictions of scarier aspects of Black history. We were delighted when one of the museum's representatives took the time to talk with us and tell us facts about the exhibits. We were all impressed and stunned to find out each wax figure costs in excess of $40 thousand dollars!

Following our wax museum tour of the , we headed off to Kirk's house. There we greeted Nicole, Kirk's better half, & I quickly condensed my luggage down to one weekender tote. Quickly we were off again, headed for Chevy Chase Maryland where Dolores, Rhonda and I had a lovely 2 room suite at the Hilton.

View of HUMONGOUS interior of the Hilton
with rooms, shops and offices galore
We were at the Hilton for a unique event - the first ever Reunion of the Carter Family Girl Cousins. The even was months in the planning by my cousins Yvonne and Donna.

It wasn't long before all the girl cousins were together in Yvonne's suite for our initial meet and greet. I was pleased to see my cousins Yvonne, Donna, Wanda, Carol and her daughter Ideaa. After our intial meet and greet we headed off to the Hilton's complementary cocktail hour for some libation. Then, with the edge off our appetites we headed for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory for dinner.  There we met up with Cousin Jackie, her husband, and little son and daughter. 
Waiting for our table at the Restaurant; Yvonne, Wanda, Dolores, Carol and Jackie
Donna, Yvonne, Ideaa and Dolores
Wanda with her niece & nephew cuties -  photo by Ideaa Brown
I can say we all enjoyed our dinner, no one left the table hungry I can tell you! Well, it was a wildly active and fun day, but with more to follow tomorrow. It seemed far later than it actually was when all my beloved cousins and I headed back home or to our hotel suites to get some must needed rest.