A View from Car Window, not from a Terrace!
Charleston, South Carolina
If you have followed this blog, you will already know that Les & I are firm Francophiles! We have spent every summer in France since 2012, when I started writing this blog. In one of the 3 small French houses we've owned, enjoying a terrific view from each of our terraces. We've thoroughly enjoyed "viewing" French life not only from the terrace, but from our many incredible experiences down below, in the thick of things, these past 9 summers.
But, as we all know, last summer was different.
Alas, last summer's view, for June & July, was from our Charleston balcony, or from the window of our car. Every Sunday, Les & I, to escape the monotony, got in our car, & drove to some spot in SC within 2 hours, had lunch, walked around a bit, & drove home.
We explored a variety of places, & learned a lot, returning to our favorites. We also enjoyed listening to books while we drove. Eric Larsen's "the Splendid & the Vile" got us through 4 or 5 Sunday trips* as we learned a lot about Churchill & his family & his heroic effort to keep England safe during WWII. Another favorite was "Just Mercy" by Bryan Stephenson, an incredible tale of how he created the Equal Justice Initiative to help people unjustly imprisoned on death row. We even were lucky enough to talk with someone (via Zoom) whose work there set up her career. It was all quite timely, as our listening coincided with the Black Lives Matter Demonstrations all over the country.
*If you are interested in our SC Sunday Covid Tours, check out the picture album labeled "Sundays in SC, 2020".
August 2020 Adventures in Covid Land.
Having changed our flight plans to Paris 3 times, we finally realized we would not be participating in our normal French summer this year. We knew we needed a change, & were very lonesome for our families, so Chicago was the destination choice. We loaded the car on July 29, hugged Buster Brown (our 3 year old labradoodle) goodbye, wished our wonderful dog sitter Maggie good luck, & headed north, with a good supply of masks ready to go.
Getting there: Chicago, here we come.
Car packed with all kinds of stuff (art supplies & games for the grandkids, golf clubs for Les, my sewing machine "just in case", our tech stuff, plus the luggage we knew we'd need), we headed north. Our plan was to stop at 4 spots in 3 different states en route to Chicago. Each one of them involved friends, lunch, & a "Covid tour, all unique to the situation. When we invited ourselves to each of the 4 "hosts", we stressed that due to us coming from a Covid HOT SPOT, we would be wearing our masks, & social distancing to protect them, as well as to protect ourselves. It was interesting to see how the attitudes to the virus were different, depending how far north we got.
1. North Carolina's stop was in Burlington, NC, at the home of our best man at our wedding, 51 years ago. Definitely a more relaxed attitude towards entertaining: no masks, small table set for 5 people, INSIDE! We gulped, & when they realized that we were hesitant to sit that closely, rearranged the seating. We had a wonderful lunch with them, & did some catching up since last we saw them. I also experienced the first "Covid Tour", when I followed one of the 5 to her house, she in her car, me in ours, speaker phones on. It works.
2. Our second stop was in beautiful & charming Columbus, Indiana, famous for its world-famous architecture, due to the presence of the Cummins Company, & the town's "we can do it" attitude towards modernity. We were met at the door by our friends, in masks. Whew! It was raining & cool, but their welcome was warm & inviting, & we spent a lovely hour on their screened porch overlooking their beautiful property, & the man-made river running through it. After lunch (2 small tables , spaced 6 ft apart) we did another "Covid Tour", with them driving in front of us, giving us the scoop by speaker phone on each beautiful building we stopped in front of. From the Visitors Center to the final church, we didn't miss a thing. We will never forget it. See our album titled "Columbus, Indiana Architecture Tour for pictures.
3. Our third stop was in Elkhart, Illinois, surrounded by fields of corn. Our guests greeted us in masks, & we had lunch (again 2 small tables, spaced well apart) on their farmhouse front porch, & after a look at the garden, started our third "Covid Tour". This time we were following a pick-up truck, & bouncing over farm roads, while we heard stories of our friend's grandmother & drove by her church, her personal bridge (to the church), her mauseleum, & the cemetery surrounding it. We ended that tour with a look at another 1847 house (this one brick, the first one was wood) owned by the family, as well as a corncrib restored into, of all things, a modern art gallery. See our album titled "Elkhart Covid Tour" for pictures.
4. Our fourth stop was to see my sister in Chillicothe, Illinois. We enjoyed her beautiful garden, a lovely dinner outside along the river that evening &, a hike through a nearby nature center with her the next morning, before we headed to Chicago.
As we drove, we encountered all kinds of roads, but SO MANY BRIDGES! Maybe I am just more aware of bridges these days, due to some Zoom sessions with grandson Henry, where we studied bridge design, & after having tried a Spaghetti bridge (not as easy as it looks!), successfully built the 3 main kinds of bridges: Roman (arch), Truss, & Suspension, all from a clever kit. My phone was full of pictures of the many bridges we passed through between Charleston SC & Chicago Illinois. And when we got to Chicago, we planned a Chicago Bridge tour along Chicago's River Front. See our album "Bridges" for pictures.
Fun in Chicago:
We were rewarded with beautiful weather, & enough time (3 weeks) to enjoy a Midwest August. We saw everybody we wanted to see, & many of them quite often. And due to the heartwarming generosity of my brother & his wife, discovered the delights of 2 weeks of living in a beautiful house in a lovely suburb, enjoying their varied outdoor spaces. We walked to dinner, parks & museums, & even survived a "derecho" (the only "weather event" we encountered during our August adventures. After they returned from their RV trip (with 5 of their 6 grandchildren), we left that beautiful house with fond memories & grateful hearts. Even looking for matches in a blackout (due to the Derecho) didn't dim the good memories we had during those 2 weeks.
The next week found us in a nice "suites" hotel in nearby Schaumburg, half way in between where our 2 families live. We were quite comfy there, & were able to share the beautiful outdoor pool (with NOBODY ELSE IN IT!) with them during a sunny, cloudless day. They were in that pool for 5 whole hours. See "Fun in Chicago Land for a pictures that might make you smile.