Wednesday, September 16, 2015

And on to visiting an old friend... May 1-4

About 100 years ago, really only in 1967, my parents decided I needed to go away to school.  My father wanted me to learn French. He and my mom had tried sending me to spend a summer in Montpellier (France) with my best friend, at her cousin's, but as he said later,  I returned "after teaching the people of Montpellier to speak English but speaking only a few words of French." It was decided "away" would be a boarding school in Lausanne, Switzerland.  As petulant a teen as ever lived, I pouted and fussed... but I went. (I would have a brilliant time, learn French that I have been using since, make friends from all over the world but it would take me YEARS to truly appreciate how valuable this experience was and how much of a selfish little twit I was.  My mom even took me to London, Paris and Geneva on the way!)

In any case, my roommates-Jeannie and Nan-were ironically both from Chicago.  Ironically, because it was an international girl's school with 104 girls from all over the world and only 2 from Chicago. Jeannie, who called me Squirt, was fluent in French and Spanish and was as cool as I wasn't. I was a bit in awe of her but at the end of the year,  I returned to St Croix and she changed to a school in MA.  Jean and I stayed in touch for awhile but after some years lost touch.  Then, thanks to Facebook, I found her and we have stayed in touch since.  2 years ago she came to NY City and we spent a day at the Cloisters.  Since we'd planned to visit her a few years ago and were deterred by rain this time I was determined.  As luck would have it, Jean would be home, along with her husband Paul, and they have a "lot" next door where we could park.

But first we had to get from College Park MD to Phoenixville, PA and we were not going to take the Chesapeake Bay Bridge since it was a bit windy and stormy.  Instead, we decided upon a longer but more scenic route taking us from the outskirts of DC and Baltimore into PA farm country. The ride was beautiful but we had to stop for gas and trying to make it around a sharp curve coming away from the gas pump we managed to knock the gas "gun" out of its holster and break the holster.  But, a quick exchange of insurance info with the gas station manager and we were on our way.  We arrived midday quite calmed by the rest of a beautiful ride.

The Conowingo Hydroelectric Plant and dam
Looking down the Susquehanna River                             

As we drove over the bridge we could see hundreds of birds sitting on the rocks below!

     We drove up and down gentle hills 

and along long flat stretches

past people, tractors and buggies

farmers plowing their fields

cows standing in them

a horse grazing in his pasture

and signs of the times.  Many small farmers sell their products at small roadside stands (even if you can only get one egg at a time ;-) ) but the last thing on the list to the right is "Second Farm."  It saddens me to see these small farmers forced to either sell or go with a huge corporation.

There were times we knew we were entering urban areas as well
 The lot at Jean and Paul's turned out to be a field that they bought with their house but which the local fire department uses for their annual fair and in return keeps it mowed.  Private, grassy and FLAT it was perfect.  So was our visit.

Paul was still at work but we had plans together that evening and decided to go right away for a walk at French Creek Park.  It was a welcome change from sitting and sitting and sitting... After a delicious dinner we drove to see a play that we all agreed afterwards was very disturbing but with incredible acting.


A walk in nature is the best medicine there is... 
(keep scrolling down...)

As difficult as it may be to believe, with all the signage, this bridge was badly damaged and had to be rebuilt last year because a driver of a 13 ft tall truck ignored the signs and drove onto it.

Phoenix enjoyed the walk especially because she kept finding little treats to munch on.

The next day, we went up to the Kimberton Waldorf School annual fair, where we enjoyed several gastronomical treats-fire baked pizza, a peppermint orange sipper (a tradition at the fair) and some baked goodies as well as watching a Maypole dance.  We then drove to the Seven Stars Farm of the BEST yogurt I have ever tasted (Lemon and Maple are the best) and then to Camphill Village where we walked through the house and small shop and then ate lunch at an excellent cafe with fresh baked (on the premises) bread.   


                 It was May Day so there was a Maypole.  



Stone hearth baked pizza-DELICIOUS!

Traditional treat at these fairs-a peppermint stick sipper in an orange

The great sheep escape
and the Headmaster catching and returning them.


Note: ALL dairy cows have horns.  It is only at farms like Seven Stars where they are not removed

Home of the best yogurt I have ever had


From this...

...on this... this.

Even the speed bumps are creative

After stopping to shop at the Kimberton Whole Foods (No, it is NOT that Whole Foods but a separate and much better store.) we came home to enjoy Jean and Paul's Peruvian exchange student getting ready for her first high school prom.  Her friend came over and helped with her hair and then it was time for picture taking when the dates arrived.  There was much laughter as the 4 young people tried to figure out the art of pinning a buttoniere.  Paul was not home for this merriment as he was practicing for the next day’s entertainment, so Jean, Don and I went over the Station Bistro, a local restaurant that was incredible.  

When we got back to the house Jean and I started reviewing her old year books from Switzerland while we managed to put a good dent in Paul’s excellent wine collection.  We finally decided that with another full day ahead rest was prudent and we all sallied off to bed.

The next day dawned beautiful and once again we got going early.  First, it was over to visit Jean’s older daughter’s to meet her and take a short hike in the woods behind her house.  

Yellow violets are not nearly as common as the violet ones so they are a treat when I find them

Then we drove over to Pottstown to the Hill School.  My dad graduated from The Hill and I had never been there.  Although there were many new buildings since his time (early 40s) it was eerie walking in the same place that my dad had and a place about which I had heard so much as a child.  It was like so many other places in the states: I knew all about them except experiencing them.  My dad has been dead for 41 years so it was especially poignant.

Next it was time for Paul’s concert. He is a member of the Chester Co. Concert Band and they were presenting a program of Springtime music. What a delightful program it was!  Some of the pieces were familiar, others were not.  ALL were played extremely well and had the audience clapping and dancing in their seats.  It was a perfect counterbalance to the play on the first night, though both were so well done.  There is so much talent in so many places!  I wish more people knew about and supported the local arts because everywhere we have gone we have seen art, museums and concerts that rival what one sees in the “big cities” and are so important to the life of that community.  

Michael Pettis the 2014-15 Composition Award winner 
He conducted his winning piece.

What I would like to play...

...the only instrument I have ever played with any success.

The band stood for  well deserved applause

Our cultural fulfillment was not yet complete, however.  After a quick dinner we 4 piled into the car and drove to the People's Light Theater  in Malvern to see Biloxi Blues, a Neil Simon play, which we all enjoyed immensely.  Once again, excellent acting in a small local company with guest artists. Full to the brim with good cheer returned to the house and had a last glass of wine with our incredible hosts.

The next morning, Paul was off to work and Jean was doing some paperwork (she is a doctor) and Don and I both needed haircuts.  We ran over to a nearby mall, had quick, and cheap haircuts (there are many benefits to being seniors and this is one), Don picked up his medications and had some bloodworm done and we returned for lunch and to spend a little more time with Jean before leaving to visit Valley Forge to spend some hours before continuing to Don's middle son David's, in NJ... or so it was planned.

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