19 October 2017

Une journée d'enfer

The first setback was the announcement that our water would be turned off at 8 a.m. yesterday. A water main burst, and much digging and repairing had to be done. I was able to make some coffee and get a shower before 8 o'clock, but here I am typing this between 5 and 6 p.m. and we still don't have any water flowing. No flushing. No bathing. No cooking. Now I have to run to the store and buy 2 or 3 gallons of water for this evening and tomorrow morning, since it's unlikely the water will be turned back on today.

And then, when I went out to go do some shopping, the warning light came on in the car. There it was on the instrument cluster: something that looked like a tire seen in profile from the front. And it was flat. So I came back inside, got on the internet, and found the owner's manual for the car, which was not to be seen in the glove compartment. It said one of the tires needed to be pumped up, but it didn't say which one.

I went out at 9:30 and drove around to find a gas station that had a working air pump, and preferably one that didn't cost more than 50 cents. I only had two quarters. I finally found such a pump at the gas station near Walmart, and it only cost a quarter. Problem was, it didn't work.

So I drove over to an Exxon station with a Handy Mart convenience store attached. There I could get some more quarters. I pumped up all four tires, and all seemed well. It cost 6 bits (three quarters). At that point, I drove over to the gas pumps to fill up the fuel tank. With a full tank, I turned around to get back behind the wheel and immediately saw that the front tire on the drivers side was almost completely flat. I could hear air hissing out of the tire valve. By then it was noon.


I don't have a cell phone here. Luckily the woman at the register in the Handy Mart store was very helpful. She let me use her cordless phone to call the rental car office about three miles up the road. (It seems there are no coin-operated phones any more.) She let me use her phone again to call the rental company's roadside assistance number (1-800...). She let me use her phone again to call my mother to tell her I'd be late for lunch and why. She let me take the cordless phone out to my car, marooned at the pump, to get the rental contract out of the glove compartment. She then agreed to receive a subsequent call from the roadside assistance line telling me who would be coming to repair the tire and how long I would have to wait.

The repairman showed up about 30 minutes later. He quickly changed the tire, putting on the little "doughnut" spare tire in place of the flat. He told me I needed to go to the rental office, where they'd surely exchange the doughnut-tired car for one with a full set of refull-size tires. No luck there, though. We don't have any cars available today, I was told. "Zero cars." You need to drive 35 miles to New Bern, where the rental counter at the airport should be able to take care of the car exchange.

So I went and picked up my mother and we headed for New Bern at 45 mph, which was the speed the doughnut tire was rated for. We had another errand to run in New Bern anyway. At the airport, the rental agent quickly and efficiently processed the exchange and took me out to inspect the replacement vehicle. (She asked: Is there anything you need to get out of the disabled car? Just my 87-year-old mother, I said.) The disabled car was what they call a "standard compact" but the replacement car is a much more luxurious hybrid vehicle. It took me a minute or two to figure out how to get it started (it's keyless) and how to shift gears (there's a round knob for that). I like it. I think.

Now it was getting close to 3 o'clock. My mother and I went and ate some lunch in a restaurant, and then we went to the office where she had some business to take care of. Office was closed for the afternoon. Figures, doesn't it? We drove back home, where we found out we were still high and dry — sans running water. What a day! Busy for hours, but nothing really accomplished.

P.S. 6:15 p.m. I just ran out to the grocery store to buy three gallons of drinking water. When I came back into the apartment, I found that the overhead light in the kitchen no longer works. So we are high and dry and in the dark.

P.P.S. It's nearly 11 p.m. here and still no water flows from the taps.

18 October 2017

Oops

Speeding through Beaufort Inlet

Time is speeding by faster than this boat I saw racing through the inlet down at Fort Macon. Yesterday was a shopping day. I bought Texas Pete and other hot sauces, bags of dried field peas and small red beans, and other items at the supermarket to take back to France.

Then my mother, sister, and I went shopping at one of my favorite stores. It's called Roses and it's over in Beaufort. It's like what in France would be called un bazar — as in Bazar de l'Hôtel de Ville (le BHV) in Paris — where they sell a little bit of everything. They had a huge bin of nice T-shirts on sale. They were $1.50 apiece or four for $5.00. They were just stuffed into the bin and you had to rummage through them to find the colors and sizes you wanted. I bought six of them. Then I found some nice, sturdy-looking flannel shirts with long sleeves (of course) and I bought two of those. Total cost for eight shirts: $20.79 (includes sales tax). That would be way less than 20 euros.

17 October 2017

Out to the beach again

This is one end of what we called "the main beach" when I was growing up in Morehead City. It's the beach in the town of Atlantic Beach (pop. 1500), founded in the late 1800s. The first bridge from Morehead City to the beach was built in 1928.


Sometimes I think Europeans must wonder why ice, and not just drinking water, is such a big deal in the U.S. when there are power failures — after hurricanes, for example. Well, it's because of the hot climate. Europe is basically a cold place compared to the southeastern U.S., where ice is not a luxury.


Off the beach are the trawlers. This one was just barely visible to the naked eye, but my camera's zoom lens could see it. In fact, there are two of them. I don't know if they are fishing or shrimping.


Not all beaches are as hospitable as the main beach on Bogue Banks. Down at the eastern end of the barrier island is Beaufort inlet, the break in the islands that lets boats and ships enter the port terminal at Morehead City. Swimming, surfing, or even wading in these waters is forbidden.


We are still busy after the move, unpacking and organizing the new apartment. I'll be here in North Carolina for another week before flying back to Paris and continuing to Saint-Aignan. Leaving home to go home, as I like to say.

16 October 2017

Flying over and into N.C.

Unfortunately, the sky was very cloudy last Tuesday when I flew over coastal N.C. on my way to the Raleigh-Durham airport. I got only a very few pictures. Here are four of them.

Clouds over North Carolina
 

The image above is of the Alligator River and the canal that lets boaters float directly to the Pungo River near the towns of Belhaven and Bath, N.C.

A slightly wider view of the Alligator River and the canal


The last shot is of an N.C. landscape farther inland. Speaking of N.C., my mother's move is now complete. We removed the last odds and ends from the old apartment and carted them over to the new one this afternoon. We cleaned the old apartment fairly thoroughly. Tomorrow we turn in those keys and a 12 year era ends. Now we just have to keep unpacking boxes and deciding where to put things in the new apartment. Some of the stuff will likely be donated to charities or given to friends and neighbors.

15 October 2017

On Bogue Sound in North Carolina

Bogue Sound is a body of salty water a mile wide and 25 miles long on the central North Carolina coast. It's shallow, and on each end — east and west — the sound is open to the ocean. It's part of the Intracoastal Waterway that runs from New England to Florida, and it's not a canal but a natural body of water.


What separates Bogue Sound from the ocean is a barrier island called Bogue Banks, and the southern shore of the island is 25 miles of unbroken sandy beach. There's a state park on the east end, and there are four or five resort towns along the length of the island.


The two main towns on Bogue Banks are Atlantic Beach and Emerald Isle. There are bridges like the one above on each end of the island. On the north side of the sound is the mainland (if you can really call such low-lying territory "land") with the town of Morehead City on the east end and Cape Carteret on the west end.


Morehead City (pop. 8,000) has grown up quite a bit since I lived here in the 1950s and '60s. One of its main features is its port terminal, one of the two deep-water ports in North Carolina that can accommodate ocean-going vessels. The big brown building in the photo above is a hotel that stands on the site of the little hospital where I was born in 1949.


A lot of the big houses along the shore in Morehead at along the Bogue Banks beach are what we've always called "summer cottages."  The first cottages built in the area, 60 or 75 years ago, were for summer use only and didn't even have heating of any kind, I believe. Or air conditioning either. Now they are equipped with all the modern conveniences, of course.

14 October 2017

Indulge me

I enjoy taking pictures out the window of the passenger planes I fly on. On the way from Europe to North America, I often choose a window seat just because using my camera this way is fun. The other passengers probably think I'm a rube. Tant pis. Below, we were sitting on the runway at CDG, waiting to be cleared for takeoff.


You might just skim these really fast because I don't have a lot to say about them. I don't know what town or towns I photographed, but I do know they are very close to Charles de Gaulle airport, which is a few miles northeast of Paris, and we were still pretty close to the ground.


We flew north out of France. I expected to fly over Normandy, but instead we flew to the east over the Picardy region. That's according to the flight tracker you can call up on the seatback entertainment screens.


We were above the clouds pretty fast. I saw on the screen that we flew over the Baie de Somme, which is part of the English Channel, but be then clouds blocked my view. Walt and I are talking about going to spend a long weekend on the Baie de Somme next spring.


What is interesting about these photos (maybe) is that they show how compact and densely built-up the French towns are. The maximum amount of land is left for agricultural use. Urban sprawl is much less prevalent than in the U.S.

13 October 2017

Départ / Arrivée

Leaving Paris

Arriving in Raleigh

Both of these photos show suburbs of the cities mentioned, seen from the air. Click on the images to see more detail.

Things here in Morehead City are getting serious. Today is moving day #1. We have until Monday afternoon to get everything transferred to the new apartment. Did I tell you that Coast Guardsmen will be helping us? They could see we might be swamped. Wish us luck.

12 October 2017

Au revoir, Paris

Au revoir means "until next time" — not adieu, meaning "good-bye forever." Tuesday morning, my plane took off about 30 minutes late. The Delta Airlines pilot came on the intercom and explained that because of bad weather in Raleigh NC, where I was headed, he had two choices: Leave later than planned to give the bad weather time to move on before we were landed on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, or off-load some passengers and baggage before takeoff so he could take on more fuel be sure to have enough to either circle the Raleigh-Durham airport as long as necessary before landing, or fly on — diverted — to a different airport. I thought it was a little odd to hear that, and not especially reassuring.

Then we taxied out to the runway and had to wait even longer because an Air France plane taking off just before us had collided with a bird or flock of birds and maintenance crews had to be given time to go out and clean up the bird debris. Again, what an odd thing to tell us. Oh well. They are fastidious, those airport maintenance crews.


When we finally did take off, I could see the older terminal at CDG airport out the window. It's the round building in the photo above, and it was ultra-modern when it was built in the early 1970s. It's the terminal with giant conveyor belts inside glass tubes that carry passengers up and down through the middle of the circle between the departures and arrivals levels. It used to be called an aérogare — Aérogare numéro un — but they seem to have stopped using that term in favor of the more international terminal [tehr-mee-nahl]. I think I preferred aérogare. "Terminal" sounds so, well... terminal.

11 October 2017

The Bonner house in Bath

The Bonner house in Bath, North Carolina's oldest town, was built in the 1830s in what was then the latest architectural style.


I read here: "The house retains many of its original features, including the small blown-glass window panes; wide-board pine floors; and delicate hand-carved mantels. Decorative paint treatments of the period — such as wood graining on interior doors and 'marbelizing' on baseboards — are evident throughout the house."


By the time you read this, I should be in North Carolina... physically, not just in my mind.

10 October 2017

Potted ferns, red roof, blue shutters

I don't know anything about this house except that it is in Bath, North Carolina. I like the porch, the rocking chairs, and the potted ferns.


Flying today...

09 October 2017

Where we came from

I've been reading about the origin of the "Scotch-Irish" settlers who came to live in N.C. in the 1700s. They were mainly Protestants (Presbyterians) from Ulster who over the years became fervent Americans, not "loyalists" — in other words, they didn't feel loyal to the British crown at the time of the war of independence. They weren't Irish, but Scots who lived in Northern Ireland for a few generations before continuing to move westward.

The Methodist church in Bath, North Carolina

A lot of people had left Scotland and settled in Northern Ireland in the late 1600s and early 1700s. England's king at the time was a Protestant and he encouraged Protestants to settle in Ireland. An economic depression and wars over the course of the 1700s led many of those settlers to leave Ulster and move to North America to seek a better life. I know that a number of my ancestors emigrated to America from Ulster in the late 1700s and ended up settling in North Carolina.

08 October 2017

Bath B & B

This is a B & B (chambres d'hôtes) in Bath, North Carolina. Bath, founded in the early 18th century, is the oldest town in the state. When I took the photo, the inn was called The Pirate's Den. Now it's called The Inn on Bath Creek — with new owners, if I'm reading the internet correctly. You can find it on TripAdvisor and other sites.


As of today, I'm in minimalist blog mode. The trip is coming up, and I'm busy packing. I don't know if I'll have a steady internet connection in N.C., so I'm programming a series of posts that you'll be able to see for the next few days.

07 October 2017

Water, water, everywhere... on the Carolina coast

Can you believe that another hurricane is headed for the U.S. coast? Nate. Great. Selfishly, I hope it stays away from eastern North Carolina. I'll be flying from Paris to Raleigh-Durham in a few days, and I don't want to land in the middle of a windstorm. Or have my plane diverted to some other airport. Sigh.


Here are few more of the photos I took on a September visit to coastal Carolina 15 years ago. Some of these show scenes of the Neuse River estuary. At least one is of the Pamlico River estuary. And the one with pelicans in it shows the Atlantic Ocean seen from Bogue Banks, near Morehead City, on a calm day.


As I've said before, the N.C. coast is more water than land. Pamlico Sound alone is 80 miles long and 20 miles wide. The North Carolina sounds (Albemarle, Roanoke, Core, Bogue, Currituck, and Croatan, along with Pamlico) together form a 3,000 square mile estuary complex, second-largest in the eastern U.S. after Chesapeake Bay. The waters teem with fish, oysters, crabs, conchs, clams, and scallops.


The salinity of the sounds varies from north to south and west to east. Overall, the waters are about 50% as salty as the Atlantic Ocean. The water is shallow, averaging only 5 or 6 feet deep, and there are a lot of shifting shoals and sandbars. The deepest water in the system is in Pamlico Sound, where in one place there's a "hole" 26 feet deep. Pronounce it [PAM-lih-koh], by the way.


So the sounds and wide rivers of this coast a great for small boats, but treacherous for larger vessels. The port in Morehead City is very deep, actually, at 40 feet, and is maintained by constant dredging so that ocean-going ships can dock there. I've never owned a boat myself, but one of my summer jobs for 2 or 3 years, many years ago, was renting little sailboats to tourists and teaching them the rudiments of sailing. That was a great job, and a lot of fun.


Meanwhile, here in Saint-Aignan we got much garden work done yesterday. Walt pulled out all the tomato plants (30 of them). I helped a little. The tomatoes remaining out there were rotting on the vines. Also, I tilled up a small part of the vegetable garden plot so that I can plant some winter greens. I don't know if they'll grow, but such plants have done well in past years. Everything depends on the weather.

06 October 2017

“The Beach”

"I think I'll go to The Beach today." That's how it sounds to me now. The Beach, with a capital B. We spent so much time over there, on the hot sand and in the warm water. This is The Beach at Morehead — Morehead City in North Carolina is my home town. I was born and raised there — from 1949 until 1967, when I finished school and went to college several hours inland.

The house I grew up in was (still is) about 2½ miles from The Beach by car or bicycle. As the gull flies, it was about 1½ miles. When there was a storm offshore, with my bedroom window open I could hear the surf pounding on The Beach all night. When the wind blew hard from the southeast, the waves would wash up seaweed the came from the Sargasso Sea, east of the Gulf Stream and west of Bermuda.

When I was a young boy, my mother and her friends would put all us children in a car or two and drive us over to The Beach. Their husbands — our fathers — would join us at the end of their work day, and we'd have grilled hamburgers and hot dogs for supper right there on The Beach. We get home at dark, sunburned and exhausted, and wash off in the spray of the garden hose to get the salt off our bodies before we went to bed.

The main town on The Beach is called by the generic name of Atlantic Beach. Nowadays there are other towns on the barrier island called Bogue Banks — Pine Knoll Shores, Indian Beach, Emerald Isle. One of the older villages on the island is the unincorporated community called Salter Path. You could go to any of those places and be at The Beach. There are a lot more houses on the island now than there were back in the 1960s.

When I was in college, I had a summer job working at one of the fishing piers over at The Beach. It was called Sportsman's Pier, and it has since been torn down. I sold bait and tackle one summer. The next summer, right after my first trip to France (1970), I worked the night shift in the pier's grill and snack bar, flipping burgers at night and cooking eggs for people who wanted to start fishing at dawn. I remember gorgeous sunrises and huge schools of fish swimming by.

So 1970 was my last summer at The Beach. After that, I worked on the mainland, in North Carolina and then in Illinois. And in France, including years in Rouen, Paris, and Metz. I can only remember going to The Beach in summertime a few times over the years. Walt and I went to Morehead one summer (1990), and we once went to Cape Hatteras and Ocracoke (1985 or so). We went swimming in the ocean. We went crabbing in the sound and cooked and ate blue crabs for dinner.

It's fun to go to The Beach in spring or autumn, and even in winter. But there's nothing like being at The Beach in summertime, especially when you're young. I remember that my grandmother was still going to the beach when she was about the age I am now — closing in on 70! — in her bathing suit, sunbathing. We all loved The Beach.

05 October 2017

The lighthouse, etc.

In my mind I'm going to Carolina. Or getting ready to go. Everything I'm doing right now is part of preparing for the trip. All my tickets were bought and reservations made weeks ago. I've been shopping for a few little presents to take home. And thinking about what I need to take with me in the way of clothes. Not much.

The Cape Lookout lighthouse and the old lighthouse keeper's residence

I can't take much anyway because I'll be traveling with a small suitcase this time. I used to go to North Carolina with two big suitcases, back in the day when you could check two big suitcases at the airport without paying anything extra. I took the cases over there almost empty and brought them back full. Morehead City is a kind of shopper's paradise compared to Saint-Aignan.

This is a ghost crab's burrow on a North Carolina beach. I can see that a bird has recently walked by.

As we've settled in here in the Loire Valley over the past 15 years, we've felt less and less need to bring so much stuff back from the U.S. However, the fact is that we live in a place where there's really good food and wine, but not much else to shop for. Unless you're willing to drive 45 minutes up to Blois or an hour over to Tours, and I'm not — at least not often. I spent so much of my U.S. life behind the steering wheel of an automobile, either commuting daily or driving really long American distances, that I'm not eager to live like that any more. I do most of my shopping on the internet now.

Cape Lookout lighthouse is 50 meters tall. The bell towers of Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris are 69 meters tall.

Because you need to try things on before you buy them, I still buy clothes and shoes on my trips to the N.C. You can't try on an Amazon purchase. In the U.S, clothes and shoes are a lot less expensive and of very good quality compared to what I see here. Really, about the only place to buy clothes or shoes in Saint-Aignan or nearby towns is at the supermarkets. And they're not huge stores like a giant Walmart (for example), so the selection is limited. There's nothing like a K-Mart here. The clothes aren't really cut to fit my American body, either.

I've posted this photo before. I took it on the shores of North River near the Down East N.C. community called Otway (pop. 400).

Anyway, here are some photos of Cape Lookout lighthouse in the area we call Down East in Carteret County, N.C. Living in Saint-Aignan is a little bit like living Down East in a place like Atlantic or Cedar Island. You have to drive an hour or so on curvy roads to get anywhere. You'd have to live there, or here, to understand. It's a different reality.

You can walk from the sound side to the ocean side of Core Banks on a wooden boardwalk. That's my mother on the left, sitting on the bench.

On this trip, I'll be helping my mother move from one apartment to another in her retirement complex, so I probably won't have a lot of time for shopping. Or cooking. Or driving around (except the three-hour drive from the airport down to the coast, and back). I'm looking forward to being there, and already looking forward to coming back to Saint-Aignan in a few weeks.

04 October 2017

The old town of Bath, North Carolina


 Bath is of course a famous and beautiful town in England. It is also the name of the oldest town in North Carolina. Bath NC was founded in the year 1705, 120 years after the first attempt by the English to set up a colony in North America. That colony was also in North Carolina. The English had better luck with colonies in Virginia and Massachusetts, to the north, in the early 1600s.






Bath was a port town in the days when boats were a lot smaller than they are nowadays. The town is located on NC's "inner coast" — the shores of all the sounds, creeks, rivers, and estuaries that are protected from ocean waves and storms by the NC Outer Banks barrier islands. It was known for pirate activity, including that of part-time resident Edward Teach, known as Blackbeard, who was killed at Ocracoke in 1718.




Bath has a population of fewer than 300 people these days. There are a few historic buildings in the town, including the oldest church in NC. The Saint Thomas church is a brick structure — remember, the NC coast is all sand, with no stone or rocks — and was built in 1734.





Bath was gradually eclipsed by two other towns that were founded a little later in the 18th century. The nearby town of Washington turned out to be a better port, and Bath saw its traffic decline. A little father south, the second oldest town in NC, New Bern, on the Neuse River, was chosen as the capital city of the North Carolina colony by the British authorities.





I took only a few photos on the day in September 2002 when my mother, sister, and I drove up to Bath from Morehead City. The drive included at least one ferry ride. I can't remember if we also took the ferry that crosses the Pamlico River near Bath, or whether we drove around through "Little Washington."

03 October 2017

Birds and somber thoughts

Some birds. Shore birds. I don't know about you, but I'm feeling pretty numb this morning. I remember a couple of trips to Las Vegas when Walt and I still lived in California. We had such a good time there — to my surprise, the first time. I didn't think I'd like it, but I did. I'm not a gambler. We didn't go to any shows. We just wandered through the big casinos, taking in the scene, and we had two or three nice meals in good restaurants.


Of course the fact that my sister (Joanna) and my cousin Ginger were in Las Vegas when this latest horror happened makes it feel even more real to me. They told me that they decided at the last minute not to attend the concert because they were worn out after spending a busy week in Vegas. And the fact that Walt's cousin Kim lives there now too. Our first trip to Vegas was to meet Kim and couple of her friends there. They'd come from Orlando to spend a few days having fun, and we wanted to join in.


These shore birds were ones I saw a photographed in North Carolina in 2002. I know that posting just a series of photos with no captions or other text to read can be kind of boring. Text stops your eyes so that you don't scroll through the photos so fast.


I love the color of the water in several of the close-up shots here. It looks so clean and clear. Even so, a lot of the photos in this set were far too blue. I decided that the two photos featuring pelicans looked better in black and white. Pelicans look so primitive. Prehistoric, really. In both pelican shots, there are gulls lurking nearby, as if they are hoping something to eat might fall out of the pelicans' pouches.


Okay, nothing more to say, really. When I got up to take Natasha outside at five a.m., rain was coming down so hard that the puppy refused to go outside. She might never have really seen rain like that in her short life. It has slacked off a little now, but it's still raining. It's my morning to walk Natasha, but rain may cut the walk short.


Then I have to go get my hair cut at nine. Yesterday I saw my doctor, and I got a good report and a renewal of my prescription drugs. This is all in preparation for my trip next week. The doctor said I should probably make an appointment to see a cardiologist next year, since my last cardiology exam was four years ago. My father and his father both died of heart failure, and my mother had a heart attack some years ago too. So I have what the doctor called des antécédents — a family history.


I don't know what bird built or occupied the nest above, on top of a channel marker in the Neuse River estuary east of New Bern, but it looks like it might be a big one. An osprey? Some kind of eagle? Anyway, you can see how wide the estuary is.


Events — atrocities — like the one in Las Vegas this weekend, make you contemplate your own mortality. Oh, and I apologize to the bird above for cutting its tail off. I didn't crop it that way; I accidentally framed it that way when I took it. Doesn't the water look pretty, though?