Thursday, July 30, 2009

New York

I don't often get a chance to get away in the summer, but I had a few free days, and I felt like a little break was in order, so I hopped on the 401 with a couple of friends and we set off for the "Big Apple". Although this drive can easily be made in a day, I prefer to break it in two so that it is a little more enjoyable. The first night was spent on the eastern edge of the Finger Lakes in a pretty little town called Skaneateles. My friend the GPS lady took us through some interesting parts of Syracuse to get there, but we got there, none-the-less. I had booked us in at the Mirbeau Spa - always try to incorporate a little competitive analysis into every trip, if possible. This is a lovely spa in a lovely town, well worth the drive. I would love to pick the whole place up and drop it into the middle of Ste. Anne's property - I just love the feel of it, very well thought out. Next morning, got a good start to our day and made time on secondary roads so that we had time to stop in Old Greenwich, Connecticut - a town I spent 2 of my teen years in during my dad's stint at IBM World Trade in White Plains, New York. My sweet sister Anne welcomed us into her home in Westport for two nights. Anne was instrumental in helping me get the spa started back in the early 90s. She is a collector of many things, and she has a wonderful sense of humour. She and her husband Paul have two cottages in New Hampshire that they now rent out to wayward travellers, so that has kept them very busy fixing them up and furnishing them in Anne's very warm and inviting fashion. Paul drives a truck that runs on used french fry grease, so he spends early mornings on the prowl for fuel. Gives new meaning to "chip wagon". Seems there is a whole cult movement towards this kind of thing. I think he was planning to attend an event called "Greasefest" - interesting. Next day we took the train into Manhattan - a very civilized way to get in and out of the city. It was raining, so we decided to spend the day in museums - the Cloisters, way up town, and The Frick, in mid-town. Both were incredibly beautiful and a wonderful way to spend a rainy day in the city. The next morning we set out for home, but again decided to break up the drive with a stop in a charming little town, Dorset Vermont. All of the homes on the main street where white clapboard and neat as a pin. We also took note of the United Church where a sign humbly proclaimed that "all welcome" since 1784; what a concept! Of all the meals we had while we were away, dinner at the Dorset Inn was the best by far (not counting meals by Anne, or course!). For the last leg of our journey we headed to Montreal, always a favorite of mine. As usual, the city was alive with joie de vivre, and a plethora of street festivals. To get home we took the 401 to the Thousand Island Parkway, stopped for a quick gab fest with my friend Jacques, the ever gracious innkeeper at Trintiy House Inn in Gananaque, through downtown Kingston, then along "prison row" - the Bath Road to the Glenora Ferry, into Picton, Bloomifield, Wellington, Brighton and Highway 2 to Grafton. We are truly blessed to live in such a beautiful part of the world. I left most of the navigating to my GPS friend, and I can honestly say her route through Ontario, New York, Connecticut, Vermont and Quebec was, for the most part a full of eye pleasing scenery. You really don't have to go far from home to relax and enjoy a little time away.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The History of Ste. Anne's Spa

As told be Patricia Sullivan, 1991

"In the spring of 1858, Samuel Massey arranged two private mortgages totalling $1,000, and the construction of a stone house began on Lot 23, Concession 2. The home which Samuel and Mary named "Sunnyside" was built in the Georgian Style of balanced proportions. This style was so predominant in the province throughout the nineteenth century it became known as the Ontario House, also called the Loyalist Vernacular. However, the Massey house did adhere to one important principle of the Regency style then in vogue: the dramatic site for the house was well and carefully chosen. At the south edge of a plateau, it commanded a breathtaking view. The walls of the Massey house, 2 feet thick and made from locally quarried rose quartz and pink limestone support the roof, a technique usually attributed to Scottish stonemasons.The gabled roof provided more headroom on the upper floor than was allowed in the roof style of earlier houses. Chimneys, at either end, balanced the exterior, as did the placement of the double-hung windows. The original front doorway, located in the middle of the longer side, was surrounded by a square transom providing extra light for the main hallway. French doors, (which may originally have been tall windows) on either side of the front door continued the symmetrical appearance. The doors and windows were all fitted with shutters.

To be continued . . .

Friday, July 10, 2009

Recipe for chicken noodle soup

I've just returned from a funeral. One of my brightest, youngest stars on the management team at the spa lost her mother after a long battle with cancer. The service was held at a small church in a rural community just north of Kingston. Due to a truck colliding with a hydro pole, there was no power in the church, or so we were told. In fact, the church was full of power - the power that emanates from the life force -the power of love and the power of faith. The power of song and prayer, the power of showing support for friends at a time of need. The lights may not have been on in this church, but someone certainly was home. Our Nat stood up and gave a powerful eulogy to her mom - I was so proud of her. A few years ago she would have been terrified to stand up and speak publicly, let alone as her mom's body lay resting a few feet away from her in an open casket. Nat talked about what a giving and loving person her mother was, and ultimately what a great mother and friend she had lost. And yet Nat was not tearful - she was happy that her mom was pain free and at peace, and she was following her mom's directive "Don't you dare cry for me. Smile and laugh, just like I have through-out my life." It occurred to me that a living being is made up of so many elements, flesh, organs, hair, and yet without the life force, it really is just an empty shell. Like chicken noodle soup, which is really just a pot filled with water, until you add the essential ingredients that make it into a healthy, soothing, nurturing meal. And yet when someone passes from life to death, none of those essential ingredients leave the planet, they just aren't working together anymore. Nat's mom will live on in the many people whose lives she has touched, and in Nat who has become a healthy, soothing and nurturing human being of whom her mother is well proud. Congratulations Tudy, and God speed.