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Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

I’ve returned from Canada, dear readers! Ottawa, to be specific.  Yes, Weretoad and I finally got our passports in order and took advantage of our extreme proximity to our northern neighbors.  Ottawa was an absolutely beautiful city.  I could compare it to other cities I’ve been to, but that wouldn’t be fair.  It would be easy to say how similar it is to London due to the Parliament, references to Victoria, and red-coated guards,  but that overlooks the obvious influence of France, Ireland, the Netherlands, America, and many other countries.  I felt really at home in Ottawa.  There was so much culture!  The city was surprisingly very bilingual.  I’ve never been to an urban area that was so, so friendly to pedestrians and bikers.  Weretoad and I stayed in a beautiful bed and breakfast owned by a Swiss couple.  It was in an excellent area near the Byward Market – a place similar to Boston’s Quincy Market.  We were close to organic/fair trade/local groceries, cafes, restaurants, and boutiques.  I was in heaven.  I want to live there.  Oh if only immigration weren’t so daunting…

Some of the ancestors on my father’s side, including the woman whose grave I recently visited, came to Ottawa from England and Ireland.  Some of them moved to NY State, but others undoubtedly stayed there and worked on the Rideau Canal.  As we toured the various historical sites, we learned that many Irish immigrants came to Ottawa for work – hundreds died there and were buried in mass graves.  They were honored with the beautiful statue pictured above near the Bytown Museum – a building that many insist is haunted by Irish ghosts (myself included after a frightening incident Friday evening!).

The Celtic spirit was not buried beneath the streets with the bodies.  Although the English and French fusion is often most noticeable, the Irish influence on Ottawa is still alive and well.   Walk towards any destination and you’re likely to run into a pub.  I was thrilled to stumble across this lovely little place in the Byward Market area – The Druid Pub. The photo is a bit small on the blog, but if you look you can make out the awen on the sign.  Weretoad and I visited The Druid after dinner on Saturday night.  I had a pint of Harp beer* while Weretoad sipped some coke – we watched a hockey game and listened to a band play – mostly contemporary stuff.  I wish there had been some traditional Irish music – but I suppose we’ll have to go back for that another day.  The closest we got to Irish ditties were U2 covers.

Follow Rue Elgin towards the Museum of Nature, and you’ll come across The Manx Pub.  Clearly the Irish aren’t the only Celts with a hold on Ottawa!  Although we weren’t able to visit the pub this visit, I had Weretoad take a photo of their amazing signs.  Look at the Manx cats and the beautiful Manx triskelion!  I definitely want to check this place out next time.

* Guinness isn’t vegetarian…

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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As of August 6th, Weretoad and I have been residents of Northern NY for a year.  We moved up here from the Mohawk Valley last year.  It’s been a bit of a transition.  I’ve been meaning to write about it.

In many ways, the North Country is similar to the Mohawk Valley.  It’s still NY and therefore we witness similar plants and animals.  Each area enjoys productive agricultural areas and lovely rivers and/or canals.  We’re a couple hours away from the Utica/Rome area, so I’m not seriously removed from my family and friends.

That said there are differences.  Few people see wild bears in the Mohawk Valley, but they’re quite common up here, as are bobcats*.  There have even been lynx and cougar sightings.  This is probably because life up here is more agriculture than in the Mohawk Valley which is heavily urban and suburban except for a few happy exceptions.  The bigger animals haven’t been driven out yet.

The rivers in the North Country seem more appreciated.  They are a central part of life here and not just something discussed in 4th grade social studies.  People celebrate our rivers.  Schools incorporate them into their songs.  The St. Lawrence is huge to our tourist industry, and many people who reside in this area enjoy it for sport, beauty, and sustenance.

The urban and suburban centers, while spread apart, have grown on me.  Alexandria Bay is kitschy but the views are beautiful and the swimming area is great on a hot day.  Clayton is one of my favorite places to go.  It seems to be the artistic center of Northern NY with its textile museum, antique boat museum,  studios, galleries, opera house, and art classes.  The view of the St. Lawrence is just as spectacular there.  The dining is also wonderful and vegetarian friendly.

Potsdam, an hour away from us, is a lovely college town full of cafes, international cuisine, boutiques, and access to the Raquette River.  There is art and academia, and it seems very pedestrian friendly.  I wish it were closer so I could live there!

Our city is Watertown.  While smaller than Utica, it seems cleaner and more alive.  There are many shops, restaurants, a huge and ornate library, and a thriving farmers market that is right in the middle of everything on Wednesdays (although parking is hard to find…) and a second, smaller one closer to the community college on Saturdays.

I am finding things to keep me busy outside of work and home.  There are a lot of classes that I would like to take advantage of when I have a little more money – yoga, sustainable/organic gardening, tai chi, weaving, drumming….  I’ve even found belly dancing classes a few towns away.  The CUUPs chapter is now providing me a place to practice Paganism more regularly with others.  A second New Age shop just opened up here.  The Mustard Seed in Watertown is my vegetarian cafe.  We have an amazing Thai restaurant, a decent Indian restaurant, and now have hibachi!  We are super close to the Saranac Lake, Lake Placid, Ottawa, and Montreal.  The military presence originally gave Northern NY a conservative feel, and I’m sure a majority of people here are very conservative, but the area is more diverse than that.    I’m feeling happier here and more at home, and that’s even without me waxing poetic about how I have an amazing job with wonderful people!

There are things I miss.  The proximity to my family and friends is one of them.  My parents, especially my father, keep talking about moving up here.  They really like it.  I wish they would.  I miss seeing them as much as I used to.  There are things about Utica I miss as well: the amazing Stanley theater and the art museum mostly.  The Stanley gets Broadway shows and MWPAI has a spectacular collection as well as their affordable film series.  Weretoad and I used to take advantage of that all the time.  We also miss Minar, the Indian Restaurant in Utica.  The place in Watertown isn’t bad – it’s quite good really – but the environment at Minar was special.  The staff knew us and the decor was warmer feeling.  Utica also had more independent cafes.  I’ve found some in Clayton, Canton, and Potsdam, but Watertown only seems to have Paneera and the closest thin in my hometown is a Jrek’s Sub Shop.

I also miss how close everything was in the Mohawk Valley.  Unless living in the extreme outskirts, it only took 15-20 minutes to get anywhere.  Up here, we have to drive 30 minutes to Watertown, 30 minutes to A Bay, 40 minutes to Clayton, 40 minutes to Canton, 1 hour to Potsdam…  It’s annoying and stressful to someone who wants to be more environmentally friendly.  But even if I were to move to Watertown so I could be closer to everything there, I would then be 30 minutes from my job.  I can’t win, aside from moving in between – which is what we’d like to do.  But, as the author of F that S says in her latest blog entry, living in the North Country comes with a lot of driving.  Her entry assuaged my inner guilt, reminding me that the little things one does to help the environment do add up.  Thanks for that!

While I’m certainly not close-minded to moving elsewhere down the road, I am finding myself happy here.  I have days or moments when I am annoyed by the driving, but that’s really the worst part, and I want to focus on the best parts, of which there are many.

Here’s to another year of exploration and growth in the North Country!

* I’ve not seen either yet, but my place of employment was on lockdown due to a bear once.

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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My husband and I, rather spontaneously, decided to visit The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, NY.  It was the second time we’ve been and was just as fun as the last time!  There were a few new additions, such as an impressive, stuffed moose in the great hall, a farmers market (open only on Thursdays), and a dry area for the otters to play in.  Ah, the otters.  They really are one of the best parts!  I also enjoyed rummaging around the naturalist cabinets.  As you can see in the photo at left, I’m holding a raven skull.  Not pictured is the crow skull.  It’s amazing to see the difference in size!

We took a walk around the pond but decided not to visit the other, longer nature trails.  Unfortunately we dressed for warm weather and it was a bit chilly at times.  We went to the farmers market on sight, though, and that was nicely sheltered from the wind.  There were a lot of artisans there and I received a lesson in spinning yarn with a drop spindle which I bought, along with half a pound of roving.  I’ve already spun my first small skein!  It was a tad frustrating at first, but I think I’m getting the hang of it!  I cannot wait to order more roving!  In the meantime, my first skein is setting in the craft room.  What should I do with it?

After our adventures in Tupper Lake, we made the short drive to Saranac Lake.  I hadn’t been there in a couple years and I really missed it.  There was a time when I really wanted to live there.  I won’t lie and say I wouldn’t consider the opportunity, but the winters must be horrific with all the steep, hilly streets, and we would be even further away from my tribe in the Mohawk Valley.  It’s still a favorite place to visit.  I would have liked to stay longer and swim or kayak in one of the lakes, but it was late so we made do with browsing the boutiques and eating dinner.  We found an amazing shop specializing in eco couture.  I only ever see fashionable eco clothing online.  Everything sold in health food stores is always really, really casual and not work appropriate.  I can’t wait to visit again with a good paycheck in my pocket!  We ate at Nori’s Village Market which is Saranac Lake’s health food store and cafe.  We had vegan borritos, soup, and ice cream sandwiches.  Mmmm…  
Following that, we decided to drive to Lake Placid, NY.  It’s a very busy, very popular Adirondack destination.  We just drove through.  There are some new shops and restaurants since the last time I was there.  Sadly, the old used bookstore is now gone…  The trip was worth it to see some of the high peaks in the distance.  Weretoad and I have this fantasy of climbing them all one day.  Considering how much mountain climbing and camping we’ve done, we’re not well on our way to meeting that goal…  
The day was wonderful.  It felt great to be back in the Adirondacks, even if we weren’t as “outdoorsy” as either of us would have liked.  We’re already conspiring to go back for swimming, kayaking, and hiking.  Another perk to living in Northern NY – we are SO much closer to the heart and the majesty of the Adirondacks!  

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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