We ended last year in Paris and will do the same thing again this year. Needless to say, the time in between our two visits to Paris
has been FILLED with travel, family, joy and some sadness. What has been planned as a “gap year” of travel has continued a second year. Using our son’s home in Springfield VA as our base, we traveled up and down the east coast of the US and Canada, back and forth to Macomb Illinois and across country twice – once by plane and once by car.
The first several months of 2018 were spent caring for Janeen’s dad in Macomb Illinois.
After living in a Senior Independent Living situation for 10 years or so, it was time to move into assisted living care. He spent his 101st birthday
(March 5th) in Wesley Village surrounded by friends. Janeen got to spend her birthday in Macomb too (March 6th) where we had a celebration at the local Mexican restaurant and a Margarita (no salt, over ice please).
After celebrating birthdays, we were back in Springfield for a brief visit and a flight to California.
We had planned on returning to CA to visit our various doctors and getting checked up to make sure all systems were continuing to operate as designed. While there we visited with close friends, ate great foods and visited the Huntington Gardens.
We returned to Virginia in time for D.C. Cherry Blossom time.
It seems the day we decided to go to the Tidal Basin was ideal – blossoms floating in the air, nice breeze and a beautiful day. We didn’t stay in VA long as we head back to Macomb to check on Janeen’s dad before turning South towards Savannah Georgia. Stops along the way included Cincinnati Ohio, Maysville Kentucky, Bourbon country, Nashville TN
and Savannah Georgia. Coming back north we stopped in Charleston, and Asheville NC before getting back to Virginia.
After getting our clothes clean, the car washed and helping Jason (our son) do a batch of home brew beer, we packed up again and headed north. This time through Pennsylvania stopping at Longwood Gardens
and Bethlehem before continuing on to the Finger Lakes of NY. I admit to not being impressed with the wines we tasted in the Finger Lakes but it was beautiful all the same.
Next stop Niagara Falls.
Boy, that’s a lot of water falling over the edge around Horseshoe Falls!
We spent a couple of days on the Canadian side of the Falls and had a enjoyable time. From there a stop in Quebec City (it was hot which seemed to surprise the locals) and then a long drive to Prince Edward Island.This is the local of Anne of Green Gables – we didn’t actually make it to the “spot” but we certainly saw a lot of the countryside and they do raise a LOT of potatoes!
Winding our way south through Saint John New Brunswick and into Portland Maine we stopped in Boxford Mass to visit with friends then
found our selves back in Virginia in time for Hamilton the Musical at the Kennedy Center. I’m really glad we had listened to the sound track a couple of times as it really helped to hear what was happening on the stage. The soundtrack includes virtually all the songs and dialogue of the entire play so following along wasn’t difficult as we had heard the songs previously. Some lines made more sense after reading the book, as well.
Business accomplished in VA, we turned around again and headed to Macomb. We were there for the better part of July leaving the first week of August. We had things to get done in California and needed to be moving along. Traveling along route 66 for most of the way was interesting – sites you see from various commercials and movies would flash by from time to time.
While we overnighted with friends in Chandler AZ, we received word that Janeen’s dad had passed. Yes, it was sad news but not unexpected.
California called us.. When we arrived, the goal was to complete the removal of all our household possessions from the home we had owned for 40 years. We kept only those items that mean something – artwork, pieces of solid wood furniture, kitchen items to set up a working kitchen, a few tools but nothing we couldn’t easily replace.
After a quick trip to Santa Barbara for the Carnesale wedding,
we got back in time to meet the movers to have all our stuff placed in storage. The house sold at the end of November – we are OFFICIALLY Houseless.
Our trusty Mercedes Benz (MerCBlu) continued to provide us with our transport as we headed to Northern California and visited with friends of 50 years in the Bay Area prior to pointing it East ;back to Illinois for an October memorial service for Janeen’s dad. Our entire family was present which was a great comfort.
Continuing to Virginia, we once again got all our clothes clean, packed our bags and flew to Paris for the month of December.
So this year (2018) started in Paris and will end in Paris. We are here with our entire family to enjoy being in the City of Lights with all that means. As for celebrating the New Year? Who knows. It’s only 3:30 on the 31st as I write this so the plans for this evening are not yet set.
This “gap year” that started so long ago (we started on this adventure in June of 2017) seems to be continuing. We return to Virginia in a week but come back to Southern France in March and have two different river cruises (Holland at TulipTime and The Remarkable Rhine) in April returning back stateside the middle of May.
From us to you – Bonne Année – The Lee Blog Continues in to the new year of 2019.
It’s been a year since we started this adventure – Update #3:
We flew back from Europe to Virginia moving back into our ‘room’ at Jason’s home. The first part of our return involved spending a good deal of time with our granddaughter
and submitting paperwork for new drivers licenses, income tax returns and transferring the title of the Prius to Jason.
We hadn’t been back more than a day or two and we were notified that our car, which we had dropped off in Paris in November, was available for pick up at the dealer. It was nice to have our new wheels back and allowed us to be ready to go at a moment’s notice. This was very fortunate as we got a call that Janeen’s dad had fallen and was on his way to the Hospital. We left the next day for Macomb, Illinois.
Fortunately, he didn’t break anything but he did have a case of pneumonia that needed to be addressed. By the time we arrived,
Harold had been moved to an assisted living arrangement for more direct attention. While we were there, Harold had a relapse of the pneumonia and went back to the hospital and upon release, went into a different assisted living arrangement that was much better.
While we were there, Jason, Terri and KB came for a visit which was a great boost to Harold’s well being.
After being there about 4 weeks, we drove back to Virginia and made arrangements to fly to California. It had been 8 months since we had been back to our “old homestead” and while the house
was rented we have some great friends who allowed us to stay at their place during our visit. The primary reason to return was to check in with our various doctors and have a general check up to make sure we were still good to go on our continued travel plans.
It was great to see our friends,
visit some eating establishments we have enjoyed in the past, and of course for Janeen to get to the
Huntington Gardens. We also got a few things out of our storage in the garage and a couple of cases of wine to bring back when we returned to Virginia. All in all a wonderful 4 weeks in the sun!
When we arrived back in Virginia, the cherry blossoms around the tidal pool were in full bloom!
We could not have planned a more beautiful day to visit and see the cherry blossoms and enjoy spring! When we left, in mid March, it was still WINTER – cold, snow and wet. When we got back it was SPRING with trees leafing out, flowers blooming and beautiful sites all around. It was now time to return to Macomb and check on Janeen’s dad and plan our southern loop drive.
We returned to Macomb late April and stayed for a couple of weeks making sure Harold was getting all the assistance he needed.
Once we had confirmed that, we packed up our car and started our way south. Our first stop was to Cincinnati. Neither of us had been there and it was a beautiful day to enjoy the sites along the Ohio River.
We also took in a visit to the National Underground Railroad Museum.
This Museum covers all aspects of the anti-slavery efforts and also pays tribute to all efforts to “abolish human enslavement and secure freedom for all people”.
From there we drove to Maysville Kentucky. My father grew up in Maysville
and Janeen and I visited once while my grandmother was still alive in the early 70’s. We were able to drive by both the house my dad grew up in and the home my grandmother was in when we visited. After driving around the town a bit we headed out to try and find the old family homestead.
It is a fact that Lee’s have been in Maysville since the late 1700’s. General Henry Lee purchased the house and land in the late 1700 and his descendants include my grandfather – my dad’s father.
The major farm building still exists (no longer in the family) and we were able to find it.
Referred to as Leewood it is a two-story home with twin chimneys with a balcony between. I also learned that the family graveyard was close to the property and it was my goal to try and find it. Once we found the home, we noticed some folks behind the house working some cattle. I stopped and asked if it would be OK to visit the graveyard and was given permission – fortunately there were no cattle in the field we had to go through to reach the graveyard.
The earliest grave markers date to the early 1800’s and include both direct decendents (Lee’s by name) and the related families. Unfortunately the graveyard is really overgrown and many of the stones are unreadable. It would be an interesting project to come back and clear all the weeds; clean the stones and general refurbish the place. Maybe another time we can come back and do that.
After leaving Maysville, I visited with Cousin Bonnie –
the daughter of my dad’s adopted sister. I don’t recall having meet Bonnie previously, but it could have happened sometime in the past. It is always great to reconnect with family.
Bourbon – Whiskey – stuff made in Kentucky that people drink a lot – that was the mission today. First stop, Jim Beam Distillery
for a tour and tasting. Located just off interstate 65 south of Louisville is the place where they make a LOT of this bourbon. It was an interesting tour going over the entire process and into their aging barns holding hundreds of barrels and finally into a tasting room where we were able to sample the final product. Being a scotch drinker, bourbon is not my first drink of choice but it was a great tour and we are glad we made the stop. Next stop – Nashville
Music City USA – Nashville the city where a lot of music has been recorded, played and enjoyed. Before we checked into our hotel, and toured downtown Nashville, we stopped at Cheekwood Estate and Garden. Once the family home of Mabel and Leslie Cheek, this extraordinary 1930s estate, with its Georgian mansion and 55 acres of cultivated gardens
and expansive vistas, today serves the public as a botanic garden, woodland sculpture trail, and art museum. We spent the better part of the day touring the gardens (a must for Janeen every so often) and the home of the family. Much of the interior of the house has been restored
to the original condition and a lot of the original furniture has been acquired and placed throughout. Nice visit to a lovely spot. We also visited the Belle Meade plantation – which was a ‘big’ race horse place for a number of years. The place has been restored and is a good example of the period.
When you think of Nashville you cannot help but think of the Grande Ole Opry that really put the place on the map.
The Ryman Auditorium was home to the Opry for many years before a new facility was built.
We did a tour of the place and enjoy the history very much. From there it was off to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Sure, I’ve listed to Country Music from time to time but the breath and depth of this museum is beyond comprehension. Spending a few hours going through the building is just the beginning.
Our goal, when we left Macomb on this southern loop, was to get to Savannah, Georgia and connect with Bob and Linda. Bob was my boss when I worked at Lehigh University in the late 70’s. When we left we lost contact but reconnected last June. They have a lovely home in Skidaway Island just south of Savannah and graciously hosted us for several days.
Nothing like catching up after 40 years while visiting an interesting part of the world. Bob gave us a quick motor tour of Savannah and the following day we took the hop-on-hop-off bus to get a more in-depth view of the City.
Lots of old homes, great restaurants, city parks, and a lovely city. You know that stuff that hangs from trees called “Spanish moss”? Well, it’s everywhere.
From Savannah we headed to Charleston and stayed at the French Quarter Inn. This was like taking a vacation while on vacation. I had decided we needed a true break and spent the bucks to be able to stay at a really nice place, have some great meals and enjoy the City.
Fortunately in both Savannah and Charleston we were not overwhelmed by the heat and humidity – both of which can be murderous particularly in the summer.
Leaving Charleston we headed to Asheville, NC and a visit with our friends Gloria and Jerry. Readers of the Blog will remember they were the couple that joined us in Portugal for the River Cruise. It is always a treat to visit with them and see the sights of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We spent a day visiting the state Arboretum,
having lunch at a spot along the Blue Ridge Highway and dinner in town. They kept suggesting we could move to Asheville and who knows, it could happen. After Asheville back to Springfield, Virginia for a few weeks to recoup and figure out what’s next.
It’s now been a year. We have travelled a lot, visited old friends and generally had a good time. During this last year Janeen and I have been together virtually the entire time and with very rare exceptions have gotten along well. We continue to learn about what we need to have available to us when we are driving around (how many changes of clothes do you really need; how many shoes can you really wear?) and stayed in a bunch of different hotels (mostly Best Western actually) and had all kinds of weather – sun, rain, snow, everything as far you can imagine. Over the next several weeks we are going to do a Northern Loop – through Pennsylvania, the Finger Lakes of New York, Niagara Falls, drive through some of Canada on our way to Prince Edward Island, visit friends in Boston and return to Springfield. Once we return its go west time, checking in on Janeen’s dad, then all the way to California.
Only time will tell where we end up, but so far the Gap Year Adventure has been fantastic. The Blog will continue!
It’s been a year since we started this adventure – Update #2:
Over the last dozen years or so we have taken a number of river cruises and had booked one on the Douro River with our friends Gloria and Jerry.
We met them several years ago on a tour of the UK and been able to convinced them to join us several times on various river cruises in Europe. Starting in Lisbon
and moving to Porto with the group was enjoyable. We have been to both areas previously but it was nice to be able to share it with Gloria and Jerry.
The cruise up the river was relaxing and filled with fun times – we became part of a group of 12 or 13 passengers
who all dined together and exchanged experiences.
Once the boat returned to Porto
we had a chance, for about 10 minutes, to connect with Janeen’s old high school friend Cherlyne
and her husband David, who live in Eastern Oregon. They were with a different group and we caught them just before they went to taste Port wine!
From Portugal we flew to Stuttgart Germany. The prior December (remember this is now late September) we had ordered a Mercedes Benz for foreign delivery. It was now time to pick up our new car!
There really is something special about buying a new car and picking it up from the factory. After several days in Stuttgart we packed everything up and headed to Venice stopping in Igls Austria for the evening and continuing through beautiful vistas of the Alps and Northern Italy.
In Venice we picked up Jason and Terri from the airport as they were going to join us for several days in Venice
after their adventure drinking great beers as part of OctoberFest.
After Venice we really didn’t have any plans other than to head south through Italy along the Adriatic side (east) with the intent of trying to get all the way to Sicily.
We stopped along the way and enjoyed the sights of Silea, Padova, Barietta, Campoposto, and Torre di Palme to name just a few places we stopped. We took a tour of a
Balsamic producer and learned how long it takes to really make the aged stuff – like 50 years! We toured various gardens learned about the local cultures, ate great meals and drank wonderful wines. Along the way we met any number of interesting people – both fellow travelers and locals.
As we got further south in Italy, around Bari (just above the “heel” of the ‘boot’) we decided to turn north and head to France. Along the way we stopped at Paestum and walked some Greek Ruins,
visited Tivoli Gardens near Rome,
Neive in the Piedmont region
and stopped for a few days in Genoa along the Mediterranean.
On our way to France we passed through an 8-mile long tunnel – half way through it we went from Italy to France.
Our goal in France was the Loire Valley. We found a fantastic VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) in a small village of Rochecorbon. I loved this place – out the door and about 50 yards down the road was a boulangerie where I would walk down and pick up a warm baguette and croissant for breakfast. Fantastic! During our stay we visited several
Chateau’s and gardens – wonderful time.
From there we went to Brittany – northeast France for a few days and then to Bayeux
and the Normandy Beaches plus
a day trip to St Mont Michel
. Then off to Paris, via Rouen, to drop of our car for shipment to the dealer in Virginia.
Next stop London! We went from Paris to London via the Chunnel
taking all of 2 ½ hours or so with average speeds of well over 160 Mph. We had another VRBO apartment this time in Covent Gardens. Over a week, we saw 3 plays,
shopped in Harrads,
had a fantastic meal
and generally appreciated being in a country that speaks English!
A flight to Dublin
to got us set for a 10-day introductory bus tour with CIE Tours around Ireland.
After the tour we spent Thanksgiving in Kilkenny a town south of Dublin . We had not been to Ireland it was amazing. Stops in Waterford,
County Kerry, Blarney Castle to KISS THE STONE,
Galway, Cliffs of Moher,
Belfast and lots of other places. There is one thing that there are a LOT of in Ireland – Sheep. We visited a place where we were treated to a sheep guard dog demonstration – really neat.
We will be back to Ireland!
Scotland – Glasgow
and Edinburgh and LOTS of scotch. It was Christmas Market
time and we visited several in both cities along with the historical sites of course.
From Edinburgh we flew back to Paris and connected with Ryan and Chris in the apartment I had leased for the month.
Christmas in Paris!
Our friend Claudia joined us and we all had a fantastic time touring,
visiting various places,
taking in the sites
and of course eating and drinking great foods and wines.
New Years Eve was spent at a traditional French Bistro where we expected to be done in a couple of hours,
but were there for over 5 hours and rang in the New Year over an extravagant dessert!
OK, we have now been in Europe for four months and it is time to fly back to the States. During our time in Europe we had visited 9 countries collecting a number of stamps in our passport. We boarded our flight back to start part 3 of our yearlong adventure.
It’s been a year. Yup, a full year since we drove away from our house in Alhambra and started our Gap Year Adventure.
Since that time we have traveled through 20 different States of the Union (California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina) and visited 9 European Countries (Portugal, Germany, Austria, Italy, San Marino, France, Great Britain, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland). While in the US we have visited with great friends and seen wonderful places and travelled over 8,000 miles before heading across the ‘Pond” to Portugal. In Europe we traveled over 5,500 km (3,417 miles) in our new car prior to dropping it off for shipment to the dealer in Virginia.
A good part of the drive across country was reconnecting with friends and family. When we left our home our first stop was in Morro Bay to visit with our friend Claudia
at her B&B where we invited her to join us in Paris for Christmas – which she did! We reconnected with a friend, Myrt,
from when we lived in Bethlehem PA 40 years ago and she reconnected us with another friend from that time frame living in Savannah who we visited too! The drive through Northern California was beautiful visiting with friends, seeing the sights and relaxing.
We tried to stay off the interstate and took the local highway as much as possible.
Sure there was roadwork and single lane situations but it was a grand drive.
Once out of California we made our way to a Cousins’ reunion – cousins and family we have not seen in years. A week on the beach with good family was wonderful. It didn’t hurt that both of our sons and their family were able to be there too.
Of course Oregon for us means the Willamette Valley and wine.
We were fortunate to have close friends at Stoller Vineyards and were able to stay in one of their cottages on the property for 2 weeks! After leaving the International Pinot Noir Celebration, held each year, we drove to Seattle to celebrate our 48th wedding anniversary.
A visit to the Chihuly Glass Exhibit prior to dinner at RN74
made the day very special. A visit to Bainbridge Island to visit with some of Janeen’s childhood friends, a tasting of great Champagne at Fat Cork
and off we went heading east.
We had planned to stopping a couple of times going East from Seattle but the smoke from the various forest fires in Canada and Montana made the air unpleasant, so we pushed through to Bozeman, Montana and a visit with Bonny and David.
Bonny was matron of honor at our wedding so we have known them a VERY long time…and it was wonderful to reconnect with them and catch up. Sure we exchange Christmas cards and calls, but being in their home was wonderful.
Throughout our trip, thus far, we had not stopped at any of the various National Monuments or Parks. Well, as we were driving along, there was a sign for the Battle of the Little Big Horn
and it was just off the road! Seemed like the thing to do and we did. Our ranger guide was very knowledgeable and brought the entire battle to life with his discussion.
Sometimes the world becomes incredibly small. We made a snap decision to drive through the Sand Hills area of Wyoming. After cruising along for a couple of hours, it was time for lunch so we stopped at a Subway in Lusk, Wyoming for a sandwich. Nothing special about the place and the sandwich was as good as any other Subway provides. Just as I was about to close the car door and drive away, I noticed two people we actually know! Dale and Roxanne live in Arizona.
We first met them in Oregon at IPNC but they haven’t been to the event for several years. Turns out they are on vacation. Roxanne’s mother lives in Nebraska and having completed their visit, they were heading to Mount Rushmore when they too decided a break and a sub would be a good idea. What a treat to find friends literally in the middle of nowhere!
Back on the road through miles and miles and miles of cornfields, we made our way to York, Nebraska where we reconnected with friends from Michigan – John and Lora.
We have not seen these guys since we left Michigan in 1973! Sure Christmas cards exchanged most years kept us in touch but meeting up with them again after all these years was fantastic. It was like we had seen each other only yesterday. Great visit. From Nebraska, through a lot more cornfields, we got to Macomb, Illinois and Janeen’s dad.
We stayed a couple of weeks visiting and getting everything together for our next hop to Virginia – stopping at Fallingwaters (Frank Lloyd Wright)
which was specular and our final stop – Springfield, VA and our son Jason, his wife Terri and most importantly our granddaughter Katie Beth.
Our friends Jessie and Phil from Pasadena made it to the East Coast and more particularly to be with us for my birthday!
It was really a treat to have them with us for several days prior to our taking flight to Europe
Two weeks after arrival in Virginia, we boarded a plane
and flew to Portugal; the beginning of our planned 4 months in Europe. Look for Update #2