It was so wet that I was wading for half the walk. I made the mistake of walking off the gravel road into the grass — and running water — around the edges of the vineyard. My hiking boots started taking on water pretty fast, and my pants were dripping wet from the knees down. At least my raincoat kept the rest of me, including my head, dry.
Albany's downtown and the state government's Empire Plaza
Just 36 hours ago, we left Massachusetts under bright sunshine. We walked all around Provincetown, out at the end of Cape Cod, where the weather was warm and almost arid. We had driven the length of the state west to east wearing sunglasses to cut the glare. We were stuck in bridge traffic on the way, because the fine weather brought people flocking to the coast.
The day before our departure from Albany, also under sunny skies, we had lunch outside at McGeary's Pub downtown. It was like summertime, and the sun on our shoulders and head was rejuvenating. The turkey Ruben sandwiches, which were called Rachels on the menu, were tasty and filling. The waiters and waitresses were funny and efficient.
Albany is Washington DC's stand-in.
On just the second day we were in Albany, President Obama came to town. Even though we didn't see him, it was an extraordinary occasion. Two days later, the day of our ceremony, a movie about Mohamed Ali, starring Christopher Plummer and Danny Glover, was being filmed downtown. (It seems that New York's capital city often stands in for Washington DC as a movie-making location in these days of heightened "national security.") Then we went to Montreal, and finally Hyannis and Provincetown. My head spins.
Albany's old neighborhoods
In Albany we had some rain, but it was warm rain, and we didn't have to bother with raincoats or even umbrellas because we were in the car. We parked in vast parking lots and the stores and restaurants were just a quick dash on foot, splashing in puddles on pavement, from the car. For two weeks my feet hardly ever touched unpaved ground. My shoes never felt wet.
Walt and I remarked on how the concept of the expressway actually works in a place the size of Albany, which is only a medium-sized city. The place is ringed by big highways with no stoplights or intersections where you actually have to stop the car. You just go with the flow. Even though the roads take you on circuitous paths, you get there faster than you would on more direct routes because traffic just rolls along unimpeded.
Albany's cathedral and its big parking lot
I think that because Walt did all the driving in and around Albany — he knows the streets and highways of his home town, after all — it seems all the more unreal to me. I just glided passively, stresslessly around on freeways and city streets, admiring the exotic scenery.
150 feet? Actually, I don't see any.
Maybe this is jet lag talking, but it all seems like a dream now. Here we are back in the French countryside, with its narrow paved lanes and rutted gravel tracks instead of multi-lane expressways. Other realities here make being there seem like a dream too. Yesterday I cooked food in the kitchen for the first time in more than two weeks. This morning I turned on the heat, because the house was chilly and felt damp.
Albany's port seen from the top of a tall building
In two weeks in the U.S., I went to the supermarket only once, and that was a pleasure trip to a big store called Price Chopper in Albany for a quick look around. I found prices very high, but the selection of products was a little dizzying. Today or tomorrow I'll run over to SuperU to re-stock our refrigerator and kitchen cabinets. It will be a different experience, but not necessarily in a negative way.
Life here in Saint-Aignan is definintly less of a whirl. Instead of zipping around in a big car, covering miles and miles every day before you sleep, here we trudge along the gravel roads with the dog, unaccompanied by crowds. Montreal, with throngs of hip but scruffy-looking young people on all the streets, really seems like a dream. There, my legs got sore from walking miles and miles on concrete and asphalt.
More wall art under a bridge that spans the Hudson River
Here, there's no shopping to do besides getting milk, lettuce, and eggs at the little grocery store that's two miles from the house. All this peace and quiet will take some getting used to again.