Archive for the ‘Where they Went’ Category

Small town north of Rome is worlds away

October 27, 2010
 This was first published Feb. 21, 2010, in my Boston Globe column “Where they Went.” Hmmm, I wonder if they returned this year?

Karen Lynch and her sons Owen (left) and Henry on the road to Civita di Bagnoregio

WHO: Karen, 46, and Fred Lynch, 48, and their sons Henry, 14, and Owen, 12, of Winchester, Mass.

WHERE: Viterbo, Italy.

WHEN: Month of July.

WHY: For Fred Lynch, a professor of illustration at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, Mass., to teach in the school’s study-abroad program.

THAT ‘IN’ FEELING: Last summer was the third the family has spent July in Viterbo, a small city about 80 miles north of Rome, and they hope to keep returning. “The first two times we were in an apartment just outside the city, but this time we were inside the walls,’’ Karen Lynch said of the historic center, which is surrounded by medieval walls. “It was louder, but very fun.’’

Karen and Fred Lynch in Sorano, Italy

IT’S UNDERSTANDABLE: “It’s a big adventure for all of us,’’ she said. Everyone in the family speaks some Italian. “Henry is like a dictionary. He’s not that talkative. I am, but my vocabulary isn’t great, so with the two of us together, we do pretty well. Owen loves to go to classes with Fred, so usually Henry and I go off exploring during the day.’’

TOOK ITS TOLL: “I always rent a car,’’ said Lynch, mentioning she had recently received a $50 ticket through the rental company, several months after the trip. “I think it was when the toll booth ate my card to pay. The gates went down in the front and back of the car. I pushed a button and someone spoke back to me, but I don’t know what they said.’’ They let her go, but apparently not without consequences.

Henry and Owen at the Door of Hell in the Park of the Monsters in Bomarzo

FAMILY FEAST: Each summer they accept an invitation to visit several generations of a local family at their summer house in Tarquinia, a coastal town to the west. “We get there at noon and first spend time at the beach. It’s hotel after hotel, with a sea of umbrellas. Then it’s time to eat: salad, pasta, pork, chicken, vegetables, then fruit. All with wine, of course. We eat for like five hours, a little at a time.’’ In Italy, Lynch continues her usual exercise regime. “I look terribly American when I’m running because no one there runs.’’

LAUNDRY LESSONS: Mastering the Italian washing machine has been challenging. “It’s so complicated that you’re glad there’s no dryer. Once the cycle went for 17 hours. The one we had this last time took maybe two or three hours.’’

Owen (left), Fred, Karen and Henry at a Viterbo restaurant on Owen's 12th birthday

BROUGHT TO HEEL: The evening stroll, or “passeggiata,’’ is her favorite part of the day. “Everyone goes out for a walk, to look in shop windows, have an ice cream. If you’re a woman, you wear your most uncomfortable shoes. I do wear heels, but I can only manage the chunky ones on the cobblestone. All the Italian women are in high-heel strappy sandals. How do they do it?’’


Seeing America at World’s Largest Yard Sale

October 5, 2010

This was first published Jan. 17, 2010, in my Boston Globe column “Where they Went.”  Now that the 2010 yard sale has passed, it’s time to make hotel reservations for 2011. Seriously. Do it now. Take it from the Dianes.

Diane Bouvier (left) and Diane Cormier at the giant yard sale

WHO: Diane Bouvier, 50, of Athol, Mass., and Diane Cormier, 51, of Ashburnham, Mass.

WHERE: Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio

WHEN: Four days in August

WHY: To tour part of The World’s Longest Yard Sale along 654 miles of US Highway 127 from Alabama to Ohio.

Diane Cormier tries out a really big lawn chair for sale in Ohio

THRILL-SEEKERS: “We both like going to country auctions and poking around in antique stores. It’s the thrill of the treasure hunt,’’ Bouvier said. The two nurses have been friends since working together at a Worcester hospital 15 years ago.

SHOPPING LIST: “You have to plan ahead to go,’’ she said of the event started by a man in Jamestown, Tenn., in 1987. “Diane figured out the amount of driving it would take each day and looked for the closest hotels. We booked them and the flights in April. We used the sale’s website to get little tips and a feel for what was going on.’’

TRASH TO TREASURES: “Sometimes, fields were set up on both sides with tons of tables, and the whole community was involved, and other times it was personal yard sales along the way,’’ Bouvier said. “There was a huge variety of stuff for sale. It ran the gamut from flea market to high-end dealers.’’

Diane Cormier with popular Southern game of Corn Hole in Kentucky

DOG DAYS: The friends set off from Nashville, cash in hand, in their rented box truck, heading for Crossville, the nearest town on Highway 127. “The traffic picked up heading there, but mostly it was totally spread out. There were license plates from all over.’’ They would typically get out of the car at least 10 times a day, and walked a lot during stops. “It was pretty hot. I liked that people put water out for dogs,’’ she said. “You could really tell that everyone was getting into it. Bargaining was expected, but it was all good-natured. Everyone was having fun.’’

CHECKED ITEMS: On the second day, in Kentucky, both women found things on their lists. “Diane was looking for an old fireplace mantle, the top and the sides. She was also looking for two old cowbells for her camp, and she found those, too. I got a lampshade for an antique lamp I’d been looking for.’’ They were happy with the prices, too.

FRIENDLY FOLKS: “I got a little taste of the culture there,’’ she said. “Southern hospitality holds true. One man pulled us out of the ditch we got the truck stuck in.’’ Other shoppers were friendly and chatty. “At the hotels at breakfast, everyone would ask, ‘Are you yard-salers?’ We met a lot of mothers and daughters.’’

NICEST NICKEL: Bouvier’s “best bargain’’ came on the final day. “For five cents I got a 6-inch ruler stamped with the name of a company – and Route 127. It was the perfect souvenir.’’

In China, darkness before the light

July 2, 2010

This was first published Dec. 13, 2009, in my Boston Globe column “Where they Went.” It’s one of my favorites!

Mike Foote (left) and his mother Alice Foote riding in a rickshaw in Hangzhou

WHO: Alice Foote, 65, of Wilmette, Ill., with sons Mike Foote, 30, of Montpelier, Vt., and Jesse Foote, 30, and his wife, Beth Huston, 29, of Jamaica Plain, Mass.

WHERE: China.

WHEN: Two weeks in July.

WHY: To view the total solar eclipse on July 22. “It was my mom’s idea,’’ Mike Foote said. “She’s a retired teacher and an astronomical phenomenon chaser.’’

Mike (left) and his brother Jesse Foote with eclipse glasses at an eclipse viewing point at a reservoir outside of Anji, China

FAMILY AFFAIRS: The Footes have seen other heavenly events. “As a family we saw the total solar eclipse in Mexico in 1991, and we were on a ship in the Pacific to see Halley’s Comet in 1986.’’ The Footes, from the Chicago area, frequented the Adler Planetarium there. The eclipse tour was organized by the Adler and led by China Advocates.

FELLOW TRAVELERS: On a whirlwind tour, the group visited attractions in Beijing (including the planetarium) and Xian, before the big day a week later. From their hotel in Hangzhou, the group of about 20, including a planetarium director from Australia, was bused to Anji, the best place in the country to view the eclipse. “We drove for hours up into the mountains to this big reservoir,’’ Foote said. “There were about 6,000 people, from all over the world.’’ Groups seated around their respective bus tours lined the reservoir, with leaders holding distinguishing items. “Our leader carried a yellow umbrella with a red rooster on it, and we wore Adler T-shirts.’’

Beth Houston (left) and Jesse visiting the Bird's Nest (National Stadium) in Beijing

THE CLOUDS PARTED: “It was cloudy out. We were all nervous, not knowing if we’d be able to see anything. But the clouds parted enough where we were. It starts off with ‘first contact,’ when you see a teeny shadow over a teeny part of sun. In ‘second contact,’ the moon starts to move over the sun and you get a 360-degree sunset. Right before the moon covers the sun, you see a diamond ring, a brilliant spot. Then there’s a wall of shadow that sweeps over you, and it’s completely dark.’’

Mike (left) and Jesse climbing the Great Wall of China

DAY AND NIGHT: ’’When the moon is over the sun, you can see it with the naked eye, and we saw a solar flare. All the night animals start making noises, and the stars come out.’’ The total eclipse was exceptionally long, at more than five minutes.

MADE IN CHINA: At ‘third contact,’ when the moon starts to leave the sun, viewers were expecting the usual second diamond ring, but not a waterfall. “Across the reservoir was an island, and we think the Chinese released a waterfall at third contact, because no one noticed it before. That’s China – capping the eclipse with something spectacular and manmade.’’

Jumping for joy in Tanzania

May 21, 2010

This was first published Nov. 1, 2009, in my Boston Globe column “Where they Went.”

Veronica McCormack dances with a group of Masai women

WHO: Veronica McCormack, 57, of Watertown, Mass.

WHERE: Tanzania

WHEN: Three weeks in June

WHY: “A colleague had told me about Amani Children’s Home for street kids and he got me involved in fund-raising, so I wanted to see it firsthand; also a friend invited me to visit,” she said.

FAMILIAR FACE: McCormack’s friend in Tanzania was Mustafa Mohamed, who teaches at Roxbury Community College, where McCormack heads the language department. “He was there for the summer and invited me over,” said McCormack.

SAD SIGHT: With Mohamed, she visited Bagamoyo, a former port in the slave trade in the late 1800s. “We found a local guide who took us through the village and to the fort where the slaves had been kept before being shipped out. It was very chilling.”

Giraffe on the road as seen from a bus

WITH WILDLIFE: Together they toured the Ngorongoro Crater. “It’s a huge, huge crater with nothing in it except all this wildlife and a few Masai villages. It was a really beautiful, majestic feeling to be with the wildlife,” she said. “We saw four of the big five: rhino, elephant, buffalo, and lions mating. I couldn’t believe I was seeing it with my own eyes.”

Dancing Masai women. Well, really jumping; that’s what they do.

JUMP BACK: “With a guide from the local cultural center we visited a Masai village,” she said. “We got to go inside the mud huts, and then, much to my surprise, I found myself dancing with a Masai woman. Well, really jumping; that’s what they do. She approached me and put this necklace around my neck. She had this smile as bright as the sun, held my hand, and she just started jumping, and I started jumping. They jump really high.”

Sight from the ferry to Zanzibar

ISLAND RETREAT: On her own, McCormack took the ferry to historic Stone Town in Zanzibar, the former center of the spice trade. “I visited a spice farm and walked around the city, which is like a labyrinth, narrow streets of cobblestones and surrounded by water. It has all this Muslim history. The women are veiled. It’s totally different from the rest of Tanzania.” She also stayed in Kendwa, “a beautiful beach with very few tourists. The fresh fish was fabulous.”

One of the children at Amani Children's Home blowing bubbles

SUCCESS STORY: “A major highlight was the last four days, when I volunteered at the Amani Home. I wanted to see the kind of work they were doing if I’m going to make a commitment to supporting it,” she said. “I was there as part of the ambassador program, which you apply for. I spent some time teaching English but mostly spent time with kids. I’d brought bubbles and had kids climbing over me to have their turns at blowing bubbles. I felt encouraged because what they are doing there works, and it’s run by Tanzanians.”

Friendly Turkey won her over

February 12, 2010

This was first published Sept. 27, 2009, in my Boston Globe column “Where they Went.”

Rob and Cindy Walsh at a restaurant on the Bosphorus strait in Istanbul

WHO:  Cindy, 57, and Rob Walsh, 63, of Wales, Mass.

WHERE: Turkey.

WHEN: Six days in March.

WHY: “We started traveling together out of the country about 12 years ago,’’ Cindy Walsh said. “We first went to London, then France, and Rob thought Istanbul sounded really interesting.’’

CHANGE OF HEART: “I kind of put him off; it sounded a little too exotic for me. Then after Bush attacked Iraq, I thought people wouldn’t be too fond of Americans anywhere where there was a Muslim population. Then I saw a great airfare, and someone on the forum had come back and written a glowing report, and I thought, what am I waiting for? I felt really stupid when I saw how friendly everyone was. The Turkish people are the friendliest people I’ve met.’’

Galata Bridge fishermen, with the famed New Mosque in the background

TERRACE WITH A VIEW: Following the online advice of travelers, Walsh booked a room at Hotel Empress Zoe. “We loved it. It was very old-Turkish style but boutiquey. We decided to get the penthouse suite. It wasn’t luxurious, but it had a terrace with beautiful views.’’ They looked onto the Bosphorus, the strait that separates Europe and Asia, as well as Istanbul’s famed Blue Mosque, the national mosque of Turkey.

FERRY TO FREE TIME: Their favorite outing was a ferry trip up the Bosphorus. “It’s a regular state ferry run, and they stop at different ports on both sides. The river traffic is crazy, ferries crisscrossing each other and honking, freighters going through, pleasure boats, fishing boats, even sailing boats.’’ Their ride ended at the mouth of the Black Sea (which the Bosphorus connects to the Mediterranean), in Anadolu Kavagi, where they had a few hours free. “It was beautiful, forested with steep hills going down to the water and towns built into the sides of the hills. At the top of the hill there’s the ruins of a castle you can walk around.’’ Back in town, where stray dogs and cats wandered by the dozens, waiters worked to reel in tourists for lunch.

Rob on a Kadikoy ferry, with the New Mosque in the background

THE SHOPPING SPIRIT: Initially the couple was reluctant to bargain in the Istanbul bazaar. “The first time we even went out of the hotel a carpet salesperson followed us all around, even waiting for us to come out of the Blue Mosque. I kept yelling at my husband, ‘Put your head down, don’t look at anyone.’ But finally we started to get into the whole aspect of shopping and how to have fun with it,’’ Walsh said.

ONLINE FIND: Again following online advice, the Walshes sought out the restaurant Ziya Sark Sofrasi. “We were really impressed. It was small and good and very Mediterranean.’’

Back in Japan, with husband in tow

January 14, 2010

From my column “Where they Went,” first published in the Boston Globe on Sept. 6, 2009

Newlyweds Rick Walter and Kerri O'Neill Walter in Yokohama, Japan

WHO: Kerri, 36, and Rick Walter, 51, of Derry, N.H.

WHERE: Japan

WHEN: One week in March

WHY: “I taught English in Japan from 1998-2002 and wanted to go back and visit some friends and have Rick see where I lived,” said Kerri Walter. “We picked March because we wanted to try and see cherry blossoms.”

In front of the Meiji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo

HONEYMOON VOYAGE: In what was also a belated honeymoon (they were married last summer), Walter was eager to show her husband around on his first trip out of the United States and introduce him to friends there she has stayed in touch with.

TEEN ATTRACTIONS: The first few days, they toured Tokyo, especially the teen fashion sites. “I took him to Shibuya, which is a famous, huge intersection with neon signs where Japanese teenagers shop.” On Sunday they watched the famed scene at Yoyogi Park in Harajuku. “Young people come on Sundays and wear costumes; like there’s a famous group of them that dress up like 1950s greasers.” What amazed them both was that the scene has stayed constant for years, as had most of the places she lived and worked. “It didn’t seem like I’d been gone long at all.”

In Kyoto near the Kiyomizudera Temple

FRUGAL FUELING: Staying on a tight budget, the Walters often ate at an izakaya, a bar that serves food. “We had things like fried noodles, rice balls, little fried shrimp, curry rice.” Another destination was yakiniku, where diners cook their own meat on a tableside grill. “Rick’s favorite drink was plum wine. You can get it straight up or in a drink called an ume sour.” To save on transportation, they preordered Japan Rail passes, which cover most trains and buses in the country. “It’s an incredible deal.”

The Genbaku Dome was one of the few buildings left standing after the atomic blast in Hiroshima

FROM HIGHLIGHT TO HARD FLOOR: A bullet train took them to Hiroshima, where “my husband really wanted to see the peace park. That was the highlight of his trip.” There they stayed at a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn. “They have bath areas with really hot water and you sleep on a thick, thick blanket, like a futon. Rick liked the bath but not sleeping on the mat.” They stopped by nearby Miyajima to see the iconic pi-shaped orange shrine.

Mount Fuji as seen from the Hakone region

FUJI TIME: In Kyoto, they luxuriated at the Weston Miyako. “I got an insanely cheap rate on Expedia.” A view of Mount Fuji opened up to them on the final day. They took a well-known route by car, boat, and “ropeway” (cable car) in Hakone to bring them closer to Japan’s tallest mountain, at 12,388 feet. “I’ve been there a million times, but I really wanted Rick to see it.” The one thing Walter couldn’t show her husband were the cherry blossoms. “My friend said they were beautiful about 10 days after we left.”

Partaking in a Polynesian party

December 17, 2009

“Where they Went,” published in the Boston Globe on Aug. 9, 2009

Girls on a parade float during the annual Tapati Rapa Nui festival on Easter Island

WHO: Vicki Maxant, 67, and her husband, Stanley Murphy 62, of Harvard, Mass., with Elenita Brodie, 66, of Casselberry, Fla., and Paula Laholt, 66, of Schwenksville, Pa.

WHERE: Easter Island and Santiago, Chile.

WHEN: Two weeks in February.

WHY: “Elenita has traveled with Buz a number of times and she told me we had to do Easter Island,” Maxant said, referring to Buz Donahoo, owner of Condor Adventures, the tour operator.

While Vicki Maxant and her husband, Stanley Murphy, had their faces painted, they chose not to don the local dress

PERFECT TIMING: The foursome went on city and vineyard tours in and around Santiago before and after Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui. But the trip to the island, five hours by plane, was the highlight. The 14-member Condor tour coincided with the annual Tapati Rapa Nui festival, a two-week celebration of Rapa Nuian culture and history. About 4,000 people live on the Polynesian island.

REAL DEAL: “What impressed us most was the festival’s totally native character,” Maxant said. “The people there were perfectly happy to share it with tourists, but it is their festival. It could easily become commercialized, but it’s not. I’m sure there were other tourists there, but it didn’t feel that way.” The group stayed at Hotel Manavai in the island’s one village, Hanga Roa.

Paula Laholt (left), Elenita Brodie, and Vicki display their Easter Island colors

TURNING RED: Every day they watched a different festival activity, which the entire community usually participated in. One day locals “bathed” in vats of a red clay-like substance that covered their bodies. The men wore slight coverings over their painted bodies, and the women donned skirts of flowers. “Some people in our group did the bath,” Maxant said. “I only got my face painted.” Later, islanders gathered for a parade. “We went to the hotel and drank pisco sours and watched the floats go by.”

FISH FOR ALL: “There was music and dancing every night, with an outdoor stage by the water,” Maxant said. “One night all the men in the village went out fishing and had a huge fish fry. Anyone who showed up with a plate or a banana leaf could have a piece.”

Moai, the island's famed statues

MAGICAL MOAI: Guided tours took them around the island, including the quarry where the famed moai, monolithic human figures, were carved from rock. “Standing in front of the moai was just awesome,” Maxant said. They picnicked on various beaches, and boated to uninhabited islands. “The water was the bluest I’ve seen, like melted sapphires.”

LASTING IMPRESSION: Maxant passed on the group’s top choice of a souvenir – tattoos. “Buz had told us, by the time the week ends, you’ll want to get a tattoo. Many of us did, including Stan and Elenita. He got a very stylized turtle on his shoulder and she got a seahorse on her ankle. They’re very, very artistic.”

‘Going home’ to Thailand

November 19, 2009

(“Where they Went,” published July 19, 2009, Boston Globe.)

Amanda Johnson with parents Jo Lynne and David at Ta Prohm in Cambodia

WHO: David and Jo Lynne Johnson, 59, of Stratham, N.H., and their daughter, Amanda, 26, of New York.  To see traveler Amanda’s photos from the trip, go here.)

WHERE: Cambodia and Thailand.

WHEN: December to March.

WHY: “We fell in love with Asia, and Thailand specifically, and we wanted to go back to teach,” said Jo Lynne. This was the couple’s third trip in four years, which included two archeological tours with Earthwatch Institute and two teaching programs through Volunthai.

FAMILY OUTING: The first three weeks in Asia were spent with their daughter, who had just received her master’s degree in teaching English as a second language. “We offered to show her some of our favorite places,” David said.

HAPPY NEW YEAR: They started in Siem Reap, Cambodia, to visit the famed 12th-century temple complex of Angkor Wat. “We planned to be there for sunrise on New Year’s Day,” Jo Lynne said, “but there was no sun. Still, it was beautiful.” During a previous trip, the couple had befriended a tour guide, who took them around again. The Johnsons are helping his children attend English classes.

The family hitches a ride at Mae Taeng Elephant Camp in Thailand

PACHYDREAMS: “The one thing Mandy wanted to see were the elephants,” David said. Her wish was fulfilled at Mae Taeng Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, where visitors can view elephants bathing, feed them, and ride them through the jungle.

Amanda shows students their photo on her digital camera at Beungkumku School in NonJaDee, Thailand.

A HOST OF IDEAS: “Before Mandy left, we took her to meet the family,” David said, referring to the Volunthai host family they stayed with a year earlier in the small northeastern village of NonJaDee. “When we came before, we were the first white people the villagers had seen. Our purpose is to expose them to pronunciation. They never hear English spoken by native speakers. We taught school with Mandy for a few days. She went home with her head reeling with ideas.”

NEXT ASSIGNMENT: After their daughter left, the Johnsons went on to a larger school in Pakdee Chumphon, where they taught for a month through Volunthai. Not only is learning pronunciation challenging for the students, Jo Lynne said, the culture does not encourage independent thinking, so students are often reluctant to speak. “They’re so afraid of making a mistake. They’re not used to being individually responsible.”

The Johnsons with teacher Khru Tiu

TRULY CONNECTED: Their last three weeks were spent teaching back in NonJaDee. “It was like going home,” Jo Lynne said. The couple they’ve become close to, their host family through Volunthai last year, also are teachers. Communication is halting but doable, she said. “We keep the dictionary at the dinner table.” When the Johnsons are back in New Hampshire, they keep in touch through e-mail. “The people are just the nicest, warmest, most wonderful people. They’re really what drew us back to Thailand,” David said. Though another trip isn’t scheduled, “they know we want to come back, and we will.”

Civil rights road trip through Alabama

October 1, 2009

(“Where they Went,” published July 5, 2009, Boston Globe)

Mary Plummer (left) and Maddy Entel dining outside at Nancy Paterson's Bistro in Montgomery, AL

Mary Plummer (left) and Maddy Entel take a break from touring in Montgomery, Ala.

WHO: Madeleine Entel, 58, of Wellfleet, , Mass. and Mary Plummer, 67, of Worcester, Mass.

WHERE: Alabama.

WHEN: A week in January.

WHY: “We’d talked about doing a civil rights trip for some time,’’ Plummer said. “We were particularly interested in visiting the Southern Poverty Law Center. We’ve both been members for quite a long time, at least since the ’80s.’’ The coincidental timing of their trip, the week before Martin Luther King Day and President Obama’s inauguration, made the visit even more meaningful, she said.

Mary walks into the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery

Visiting the Civil Rights Memorial Center in Montgomery was a highlight

NO PLACE FOR HATE: Because the women are longtime members of the center, known for its tolerance education and legal battles against hate groups, they were able to get a tour of its Montgomery headquarters. “It’s a beautiful modern building down the street from the capitol. There are no signs on the building, which is highly secured, but when you go in, you get a wonderful welcome and the building inside is very open,’’ Plummer said. “We were there two hours and our guide took us to all four floors. We saw where they do the publication Teaching Tolerance and where the lawyers work. They deal with specific cases of hate crimes and intolerance. We even got to meet Joe Levin, one of the cofounders. That was quite something. It was all very impressive. All the other things we saw all week were memorialized in the past, but here it’s an ongoing process, working in the present.’’

Maddy in front of the Civil Rights Memorial

Maddy poses in front of the memorial, designed by famed architect Maya Lin

MOVING MEMORIAL: Across the street, they visited the Civil Rights Memorial Center, sponsored by the Law Center and best known for its memorial designed by architect Maya Lin. “Water rolls down over a quote of Dr. King, ‘until justice rolls down like waters,’ and over a round slab with names of people honored. You’re encouraged to touch it,’’ Plummer said.

Historic sign commemorating Rosa Parks` role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott

Historic sign commemorates Rosa Parks` role in the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott

SITES OF RIGHTS AND WRONGS: Other stops in Montgomery included “the First White House of the Confederacy,’’ the former home of Jefferson Davis, head of the Confederacy; the historic Cloverdale neighborhood; Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts; the Troy University Rosa Parks Museum; and Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where King once served as pastor.

BIRMINGHAM BOUND: A 90-minute drive north took the women to Birmingham, where they spent hours at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, a museum covering the history of civil rights, and visited the 16th Street Baptist Church, where four girls were killed in a racially motivated bomb attack in 1963. They found time for culture, too, visiting the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame and the Birmingham Art Museum. “We really enjoyed the quilts from Gee’s Bend.’’ After a week in the South, she said, they were getting used to warmer weather, lower prices, and “a lot of y’alls.’’


A brrrrthday to remember

August 18, 2009

If you’re melting in the heat of August, as we are in North Carolina, here’s a lovely story to cool you down.

(”Where they Went,” published June 14, 2009, Boston Globe)

Mary Kae Marinac (right), with her mother Barbara Marinac

Mary Kae Marinac (right), with her mother, Barbara Marinac

WHO: Mary Kae Marinac, 50, husband Paul Quirnbach, 49, their children, Jenn, 17, twins Will and Jeff, 15, of Andover; and her mother, Barbara Marinac, 75, of Bethel Park, Pa.

WHERE: New Hampshire

WHEN: A weekend in December

WHY: To celebrate Marinac’s 50th birthday

A snowshoe trek was meant to be

Have snowshoes, will travel

IDEAS AFOOT: “We were driving home from a particularly great hike last summer and the moon was coming out. I thought, wouldn’t it be great to do a full-moon hike? We love hiking and snowshoeing, and it’s one of the physical activities my autistic boys can participate in,” Mary Kae Marinac said. “Then I thought about my 50th birthday and looked it up and discovered there was a full moon that day, Dec. 12. I literally cried. It was a gift from the heavens. I knew a snowshoe trek was meant to be.”

Husband Paul Quirnbach and Mary Kae helping mother Barbara don her snowshoes

Husband Paul Quirnbach and Mary Kae helping mother Barbara don her snowshoes

MORE PARTYGOERS: “I spread the word, not expecting much interest,” she said. “I was amazed that my mother said she would come, though she kept mentioning how a cruise would have been nicer.” In time, siblings from Cleveland and Atlanta signed on, along with a friend from South Carolina, and others closer by. “In the end we had 20 people, ages 8 to 75.” Marinac settled on Lincoln Woods Trails in Lincoln, off the Kancamagus Highway. “The trails were basically flat along an 1870s logging road, and there was a huge parking lot where we could meet, and restrooms.”

Bridge across the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River in Lincoln

Bridge across the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River in Lincoln

GETTING INTO HOT WATER: An après-snowshoe party and overnight stay were planned at Indian Head Resort in Lincoln. “It has a year-round heated outdoor pool, and the kids love it.” As it turned out, the resort had electricity when many places did not, as Marinac’s birthday coincided with the ice storm. “We lost power at our house, as did most partygoers. I thought people might not come, but some said, “Oh, my god, I get to take a hot shower.”

Barbara Marinac (righ) with granddaughter my daughter Jenn Quirnbach

Jenn Quirnbach with her grandmother

MOONLIT MAGIC: The group convened at the hotel and caravanned from there. “I prepared a care package for each guest. Jeff painted little Shaker boxes and inside were headlamps, snacks, and a local tourist map. When we got to the trail it was like a party atmosphere, everyone with headlights on, teaching people to put snowshoes on, with the younger people helping the older ones.” They walked a little over 3 miles, and everyone loved it, Marinac said. “Just before we started, around 6 p.m., the moon broke through the clouds. On top of the full moon, it was a time when it was closer to Earth, so it was bigger and brighter. I have this image of looking at the full moon from the suspension bridge across the Pemigewasset River as it swayed, filled with all the people I love.”