31 October 2017

Automne devient hiver

So somehow my Crédit Agricole debit card, a MasterCard product, has been de-activated. I don't know why. Last Friday, I tried to place an order with Amazon.fr and the transaction was declined when I went to pay with the debit card. I called the bank's SOScarte help line and was told I need to go to my agency and have them explain what happened and why. Maybe I'll do that this morning.

A snowball bush, or viburnum

Meanwhile, it's my morning to go walking with the dog. Now that we are on "winter time" here in Europe, we can go out earlier. It's still too dark to take many photos, however, until eight-thirty or nine o'clock, especially when the sky is overcast. And it has turned cold now. Our low this morning is 5ºC — 41ºF — making it the coldest morning since last winter.

Sunset over the Renaudière vineyard at the end of October

The November rains haven't started yet, but they are predicted for the coming week. So far, the fall colors are pretty. All the leaves will soon be on the ground, of course. If you look closely, you can see that the vines in the parcel closest to our back gate have already lost all their leaves, while most of the vineyard parcels are sporting bright yellow foliage.

30 October 2017

Lundi 9 octobre au soir

I was up at 4:00 this morning, because I heard the dog whimpering and her claws clicking on the floor. We went outdoors and walked around the back yard. I was admiring the clear, crisp night sky full of stars — the Big Dipper, especially, was brilliant. For some reason, when I went back to bed a few minutes later, I starting thinking about the last walk I took in Paris.

Au Petit Lutetia on the rue de Sèvres, not far from where CHM lives

It was Monday, Oct. 9. I had reserved a room at a hotel out at CDG airport. I had a free evening and I thought it would be nice to spend it with my friend CHM — I hadn't seen him a single time in 2017, for a variety of reasons, even though he spent the summer in Paris. Coincidentally, we were both flying out of Paris CDG airport the next day, headed for the U.S. East Coast.

Leaving on a jet plane

I took my suitcase to the hotel, left it in my room, and at 5:00 I got on an RER train that would take me into central Paris. The fare was 24 euros for the round trip, but including the dinner CHM and I had in a little Japanese restaurant in his neighborhood the whole evening cost us less than 50 euros. At 9 p.m. we said our au revoir and I headed back toward the Saint-Michel-Notre-Dame RER station for the return trip out to the airport.

Stylish shop windows

I decided to walk. From CHM's neighborhood to Notre-Dame cathedral is not a really long distance, on streets that run more or less diagonally from southwest to northeast across a big section of the Left Bank. The weather was warm and clear. The shop windows and café terrasses, all lit up for the evening, were picturesque in a couleur locale kind of way. A lot of people were out enjoying the warm weather.

The Hôtel Lutetia (boulevard Raspail) is undergoing major renovations, hidden behind this tarp

The route took me up the rue de Sèvres, where Walt and I had stayed, in two different apartments, on vacations some 20 years ago. Those are good memories. Then it took me up the rue du Four, where Walt lived for a few months, in a boarding house, back in 1981. More good memories. This was a neighborhood I worked in as a teacher back in the 1970s and 1980s.

Le Restaurant Allard, a Paris institution founded by a woman from Burgundy in 1932

Finally, I crossed the boulevard Saint-Germain and, a few meters farther along, turned into the narrow, bustling rue Grégoire-de-Tours, full of restaurants that were full of young people. On the rue Saint-André-des-Arts — I was in the home stretch by then — I walked past the Restaurant Allard, where Walt and I had a memorable meal one evening 11 years ago, when we were on our way to the U.S. together for a long road trip. I had walked about 2 miles and enjoyed every minute. By 10 o'clock, I was on an RER train that whisked me back out to the airport at Roissy.

29 October 2017

Sunday surprise: rain + beef burgundy and a tamale pie

Rain hadn't been predicted, so I was surprised when I went outdoors with Tasha at 4:30 this morning. The rain was really more drizzle than downpour, so we were able to wander around the yard for a few minutes. Her "official" morning walk, a longer outing, will happen in about 90 minutes, after the sun comes up.

Beef, shallots, garlic, carrots, thyme, and mushrooms cooked in red wine

We changed our clocks overnight, so now in addition to jet lag I have to deal with another time adjustment. Actually, the jet lag is nearly over, and we stayed up "late" last night, not turning in until 10 p.m. Well, actually, that was just 9 p.m. on today's winter-time clock, if you see what I mean — falling back and all. To cope, I made Bœuf bourguignon (above) on Friday, and we are having it for a second time at lunch today. It's comfort food for this dark and damp season. (Here's an unconventional take on Bourguignon, with boulettes de viande — Meatballs Burgundy.)

Since butter is scarce in France according to press reports, I bought a 250 gram block of lard (saindoux, pur porc) yesterday and for lunch we made a tamale pie with masa harina, lard, chicken broth, corn, and some chicken chili con carne from the freezer. Over the past few days, I've done shopping in our two main supermarkets, Intermarché and SuperU, but both times I forgot to look around in the dairy department to see how much butter there actually was or wasn't on the shelves. We have five 250 gram blocks of butter in the freezer anyway. That will last us for a while.

28 October 2017

Chard not charred

This past summer, a volunteer chard plant came up out in our vegetable garden. Walt noticed it first and started watering it. It grew huge leaves with thick white ribs.

Then, while I was in North Carolina, Walt moved a four-year-old burn pile — branches, limbs, twigs — over to the garden plot. And yesterday he burned it. Earlier, I had gone out and dug up the Swiss chard plant, which was close to the burn pile, so that it wouldn't be charred by the heat of the fire.

The weather was foggy, verging on misty. Officially, people here are encouraged not to burn yard trimmings and clippings. Everybody does it, however. I see plumes of smoke all around the area at this time of year. Compared to the pollution produced by hundred and thousands of fireplace fires over the winter, a feu de jardin like this once every few years can't possibly have much or any effect on our air quality.

Here's the not-charred chard after Walt cooked it yesterday afternoon. It will be good as a side dish or in a quiche or omelette.

27 October 2017

Time and place

I had less severe jet lag yesterday than on Wednesday. I slept later yesterday and even later this morning. I'm coming back to life. For me, jet lag is worse coming east toward France than it is going west toward North America. It has something to do with going against the direction of the sun instead of going in the same direction as the sun. Or maybe it has to do with spending a sleepless night on an airplane coming toward France, and not just spending an extra-long day on the plane as when going toward North America.

Here's where I came from: the salt marshes of coastal Carolina. My mother lives on the edge of this one, which covers the "headwaters" of Calico Creek. It's a tidal marsh. It might look like land, but it's not really land. It's salty mud, with seashells embedded in it but no rocks. And it's covered in tough grasses.

Here's where I wound up. It's the Renaudière vineyard outside Saint-Aignan-sur-Cher, in the Centre-Val de Loire region of France. This is real land. It's very dry land right now. But it will start raining soon and this will be muddy land — clay with lots of rocks embedded in it. In prehistoric times, this whole area was sea bottom, and people sometimes find fossils of mollusks among the local rocks.

26 October 2017

Barbecue taste-off

On my 3½-hour drive from the coast up to RDU airport on Monday, I made just one stop. I got off the new high-speed highway at Goldsboro, N.C., and I headed for Wilber's Barbecue restaurant. It's one of the best in North Carolina, in my opinion. I've been going there since the late 1960s, because back then my father would drive me from Morehead City up to Duke University in Durham, where I was a student. He loved Wilber's pit-cooked, eastern N.C. barbecued pork, and so do I. The whole cuts of pork are basted with sauce as they barbecue, and then the meat is shredded ("pulled") and sauced some more while warm.

Wilber's barbecued pulled pork from eastern North Carolina

I bought a pound (450 grams) of the spicy, pulled pork and asked the man selling it to put it directly into a zip-top bag that I had put in my suitcase for the purpose. I flattened the barbecue out and put the bag in my suitcase for the trip back to Saint-Aignan. Coincidentally, Walt had taken some of my home-made pulled pork out of the freezer over the weekend, and there was some left over. So today we are going to taste Wilber's barbecue side by side with the pork I make in the slow cooker using eastern N.C. sauce, and we'll see how different they are.

My Saint-Aignan slow-cooked pulled barbecue made with French pork shoulder

It may well be that I am too jet-lagged to be objective about the barbecued, pulled pork. Wilber's barbecue is cooked for 8 to 10 hours in a smoke house over oak and/or hickory coals. My barbecue has been frozen, while theirs has not. Anyway, Walt also made a batch of his good cole slaw to go with it, and we have French fries to cook. It'll be a good meal, whether or not the difference between the two versions of barbecue is clear or not.

Side by side — Wilber's on the left, mine on the right

I also brought back a bottle of eastern N.C. barbecue sauce made by the Scott's Sauce Company, also located in Goldsboro. Scott's used to operate a restaurant, but it went out of business a few years back. Now it's a company that makes and sells Scott's sauce in N.C. supermarkets. The ingredients listed on the label are vinegar, water, salt, peppers, and spices. Don't think the pork tastes vinegary, though. It's spicy hot.

I wonder how many people in France have a bottle of Scott's BBQ sauce in their pantry or fridge...

Think of N.C. pulled pork as a kind of French pork rillettes but with less fat and more spice, served hot. Or as Mexican carnitas without the cumin.

25 October 2017

Electrical problems and solutions

In most ways, my trip back to France — my 89th Atlantic crossing since 1969 — was one of the easiest that I can remember. My drive up to Raleigh-Durham airport, which now has a daily non-stop Delta flight to Paris, was uneventful and the scenery was pretty. The check-in process at the airport took some time, because nowadays the airline's automated kiosks reject me, since at the point of departing I don't have a round-trip ticket. I have to go see an agent, which means standing in a long line as special cases like mine get authorization to board the plane. A human ticket agent has to examine my French carte de résident, and then I'm good to go. Normally, Americans are not allowed to fly to France without a round-trip ticket, and the maximum stay is 90 days unless you possess a long-term visa or a residency card.

I still had time to have a chicken Caesar salad in an airport restaurant before it was time to board the plane, which was scheduled for take-off at 5:30 p.m. and was on time. One of the best things about it all for me was that the plane was only half full. As soon as everybody was on board, I spied an empty row of seats and quickly moved myself and my carry-on bag there, leaving the two people who were sitting with me in the row I was assigned to some extra space, and giving me the luxury of being able to lie down for part of the overnight flight if I decided to. And the empty row I occupied was in what Delta called a Comfort + area of the plane, which meant I had much more legroom than in a regular economy seat. I was sittin' pretty.

The plane landed at 7:30 a.m., 15 minutes early, at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport after a smooth eight-hour flight over New England, Newfoundland, the North Atlantic, and Brittany and Normandy. Once off the plane, I walked for what seemed like a mile to get to passport control, where the immigration agent scanned my residency card but didn't even look at my passport, and on to baggage claim. Surprise of surprises, there I saw my suitcase already riding around on the conveyor belt along with half a dozen others, so I didn't have to wait 30 minutes or more for it to come out as I normally do. I sailed through customs, where nobody paid any attention to me, at about 8:15 a.m.

Since the old 10:15 a.m. high-speed TGV train from the airport directly to Tours has now been taken off the SNCF schedule, I had decided to take an RER commuter train from CDG through the middle of Paris and on to a station about 15 miles south of the city, where Walt would come and pick me up. That seemed like a better plan than hauling my heavy bags to a train station in central Paris and waiting hours there for a train to Blois. The only other solution was to stay at the airport and take the afternoon TGV to Tours, which was scheduled to depart at 2:15 p.m. I didn't relish the prospect of spending six hours hanging around in the airport waiting for that train.

There were RER (Réseau Express Régional) commuter trains scheduled to leave every 15 minutes starting at 8:45 a.m. for the 90 minute journey down to the Gare du Guichet in the suburb of Orsay. The RER trains leave from the same station as the TGV trains in CDG terminal 2. I went there and tried to buy a ticket from a machine for the train to the Gare du Guichet in Orsay, but the Gare du Guichet didn't appear on the list of stations served by the RER. It must be too small. I had to go to a ticket office with human agents and buy my ticket there (it cost 14 euros). I rode an escalator down to the departure platform at about 8:50 a.m., thinking I'd get on the 9 o'clock train and arrive in Orsay at about 10:30.

I was surprised to see an RER train sitting in the station with people on it. The list of stations where it was scheduled to stop included the Gare du Guichet. Oh, it must be the 8:45 train running a little late, I thought, so I got on, found a seat, and waited. After a few minutes, a woman's voice on the station's public address system announced that trains were immobilized in RER stations all around the region right then because of an electrical problem, and nobody knew how long it would take to get it fixed. All we could do was wait. More and more people were getting on the train.

Finally, at about 9:20, the woman's voice came back on the PA system and announced that the electrical problem wouldn't be resolved before 11 a.m. She "invited" passengers to get off the train and find some other form of public transit for the trip into Paris. Hundreds of passengers disembarked and got on the escalators to go back up into the station lobby. I sat there wondering how I was ever going to be able to call Walt on the phone and tell him where I was. He had left home by then and I didn't have a cell phone with me. How would I ever be able to get to the Gare du Guichet before he gave up hope of finding me? What would Walt do when he couldn't find me? Drive back home and wait?

And then just as nearly all the passengers got off the train and disappeared up the escalators, a man's voice came on the PA system and announced that the electrical issue had been resolved. Suddenly the overhead lights in the train car came on for the first time and the train's motor started running. Attention au départ!, the voice on the PA system advised us. And off we went, leaving behind the hundreds of passengers who had just disembarked in search of other transit options.

The train ride through Paris was slow but comfortable. A lot of trains were backed up, I think, and the system must have had to have a lot of kinks worked out of it after the stoppage. There were very few passengers waiting on platforms along the way into Paris and even in the city, either because they had left to find other means of transportation for their morning commute, or because all of France is on school vacation right now. By about 11:10, I arrived at the little Gare du Guichet, where I had hoped to be by 10:30. Walt and Tasha were supposed to be waiting for me there, after a two-hour drive from Saint-Aignan.

However, there was no sign of Walt, Tasha, or our Citroën car. I walked through the little station and looked around the surrounding streets, but didn't see our car. I went back into the station and asked the woman on duty if there was a pay phone anywhere. There wasn't. (Earlier I had been unable to find a single pay phone in CDG airport. I had however been able to send an e-mail to Walt to tell him when I expected to arrive at the Le Guichet station.) I asked the station agent if she had seen a man with a small Shetland dog earlier in the morning, and she said she had not. I asked her if a man with an American accent like mine had come in and asked her about the late trains. She said no. So there I was, wondering if Walt had had an accident or a breakdown on the drive up to Orsay from Saint-Aignan, or whether he had given up on finding me and driven back home.

The station agent let me use her phone to try to call Walt, but I just got the answering service. I left a message and waited some more. It was raining outside, so I had to stay in the little train station lobby, where there was no place to sit down. Just when I was about to give up and go to a nearby café for something to eat or drink and a place to go to the bathroom (no toilets in the train station), I spied the Citroën driving by out front. I ran out and waved at Walt, ran back into the station to get my suitcase and carry-on bag, and ran back to the car. It was after 11:30.

Walt of course thought I had been waiting there for an hour or more, when I had in fact been there for less than half an hour because of the late trains. He probably thought I'd be exhausted and pretty grouchy. He hadn't heard about the electrical problems on the commuter train network. He had taken a wrong turn off the autoroute when road work and a big truck in his way had blocked his view of the signs along the road, and had had to drive a long way before he found a traffic circle where he could turn around and get back on the right road. And there he was. What a relief! I had been wondering how I would ever get home. And two hours later, we arrived and enjoyed a nice lunch of lasagna that he had taken out of the freezer, with a glass or two of wine. I went out for a walk in the vineyard with Natasha at about 4:30, and was in bed asleep by 9. Isn't France fun?

24 October 2017

Rentré, j'espère

By the time you read this, I should be back in France. I hope I had a good flight! And a good train ride and car ride. Je vous raconterai tout ça demain matin.

These are two old photos of our house outside Saint-Aignan, in the Loire Valley region of central France. I'll of course be glad to be home again, after spending two weeks in my other home, coastal North Carolina.

23 October 2017

Salt marshes, and a tractor on the beach

This is the salt marsh behind my mother's apartment complex in Morehead City. There's a little bridge over the creek (Calico Creek) that runs through the marsh. The egret in the picture took flight as I arrived on foot at the bridge. It had been hidden in the marsh grass.

Less than a mile downstream, the tidal creeks looks like this. It's lined with oyster beds, and a longer bridge crosses it at this point. The town cemetery, where my father and all four of my grandparents are buried, is on the south bank of Calico Creek.

I don't believe this is the same egret as the one in the photo above. Who knows? I took the pictures on the same day but hours apart. I don't know if it would be safe to eat the oysters that live on the mudflats that line Calico Creek.

Below is a shot I took from across the sound toward Morehead. I was standing on Bogue Banks looking toward the extreme eastern edge of the town on the mainland, near the state port. There's a yacht basin with a lot of nice boats, and two big apartment (condominium) buildings. And salt marshes on the north shore of Bogue Banks.

Finally, I saw a tractor on the beach at the eastern end of Bogue Banks. It's mullet season here, and the tractor does double duty hauling a skiff the fishermen can use to set out nets and then hauling the the nets up onto the beach, hopefully full of mullets.

My last full day in Morehead City is winding down. I'll drive the 3 or 4 hours up to Raleigh-Durham airport (RDU) tomorrow for my flight back to Paris and then on to Saint-Aignan by train and car. With any luck, I'll be at home in Saint-Aignan by early afternoon, French time (EST +6).

22 October 2017

Ships in port or out at sea

Water, bridges, boats, and ships. That's life here. Morehead City is a small town with a small port, but it's one of the deepest ports on the U.S. east coast, according to information I've found.

This ship was in port yesterday. The bulbous blue water tower stands on land, not on the ship.

The boat above, the Capt. Stacy IV, is what is called a "party boat" — fishing parties on day trips make up most of its passengers, who were impressive in number this afternoon.

This green ship was in port today. There's that water tower again.

This very small fishing boat was cruising along not far off the beach this afternoon.

This ship has been offshore for a few days now, and I'm not sure why. Yesterday I thought it might be waiting for high tide to come into port through Beaufort Inlet. But it was still out there today.

Notice how beautiful our weather is. Tomorrow will be my last full day in North Carolina. On Monday I'll be on the road and then in the air, flying back to France.

21 October 2017

The new Beaufort bridge

The town of Beaufort (pop. 4200) was founded in the early 1700s. It's the third oldest town in North Carolina, after Bath and New Bern. Morehead City, my home town (pop. 9000), was founded in the mid-1850s, just before the American Civil War. Beaufort was always isolated by its geography, while Morehead was better connected to inland centers of population by road and by rail.

The first bridge between Morehead and Beaufort was built in the 1920s. It was two bridges, actually, and a causeway between them. Before that, boats were the main link between the two towns. The drive over unpaved roads involved going pretty far north and then back south, around a coastal river and estuary.

The original bridges between Morehead and Beaufort were drawbridges. As boat traffic on local waters increased over the years, the bridges became major bottlenecks. I got caught by the drawbridge yesterday afternoon, and traffic coming the other way was backed up for a couple of miles. The bridge on the Morehead side was replaced by a high-rise, fixed-span structure decades ago. Problem is, it carries only one lane of traffic in each direction.

Now they are finally replacing the little drawbridge on the Beaufort side with a high-rise, four-lane structure. It's only three or four miles, by the way, from the center of one town to the other. But the two towns were in different worlds for generations. I don't remember knowing anybody from Beaufort when I was growing up.

Above is the new Beaufort bridge, seen from the old Beaufort drawbridge. The new one is not open yet, but will be by next summer, they say. Maybe people in Morehead and Beaufort will get to know each other better. Tourists will certainly have an easier time visiting.

20 October 2017

A Sears Wards “kit house” in Morehead City

I don't know who mentioned it or in what context, but I learned a few days ago that there is at least one "Sears house" in Morehead City, N.C. The house is on the block I grew up on, and my sister actually lived in it for a while 35 years ago. Actually, now I've learned that it's a Montgomery Wards house...

Early in the 20th century, people could order pre-fabricated "kit houses" from the Sears or Wards catalog. I know the people (or at least one person) who lived in this house, but nobody seems to remember exactly when it was built here. It was slightly famous around town because it has a basement, whereas most of the older local houses are built on brick pilings with just a crawl space under the main floor. Newer local houses are often built on concrete slabs or, more and more often, on tall stilts.

Maybe Judith ("seinejudeet") will know what kit house model this is. [See Judith's commen below.]

P.S. Our water service was re-established yesterday at about 2 p.m. That means we didn't have running water for 30 hours. It was nobody's fault, I'm sure. Just bad luck. The management brought us a couple of gallons of water in jugs that we could use to flush the toilet. Anyway, things are back to normal now.

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


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.