18th: drive all day, arrive at 11:30pm in the midst of an amazing fog that looks right off the cover of a Nancy Drew novel. It smells like the ocean: salty & pungent with seaweed. The roads are twisty & the houses are age-old, it's like we've been dropped into a time-tunnel to 2 centuries ago. Arrive at the house & unpack quietly to sleep for a few hours.
19th: it's sunny & absolutely beautiful out! There are so many options everyone gathers around a breakfast of bagels & spreads (cream cheeses, peanut butter, jelly, etc) To discuss the options, preferences & plan a day. We decide to visit the kids museum in town, which also has a good deal about the history of Portsmouth on display, and is wonderfully creative. We then go to a delightful diner for lunch: a host of 50's decor is tastefully displaying the cheesiest aspects of the era, and the food is spicy & orgasmic. I have a Thai Tofu Scramble: many others have burritos of various spices (sweet Indian burrito, spicy southwestern take , etc).. it all seems wonderful.
Afterwords we go to the cities historic buildings district Strawberry Banke & tour the houses which have been restored & set up as a group of 30 historic buildings, with extensive history in each one: there's a historic store, with displays full of food as it would have been eras ago: signs and flooring and cases to match. There's the first Masonic Lodge & it's also the start of the carriage line to Boston & the hall where politics where discussed with such famous folks as George Washington, Adams, and the whole crew. There are games set up at tables that are all historically accurate. Upstairs the Masonic history is displayed and the room is set up as it would have been for a meeting. There are historic gardens, individual's homes, and many other places of interest.. we spend hours there & it's all really quite fascinating.
When we leave it is roiling hot & we're all sweating under our sunhats & we take a brief walk amongst the extensive flower beds and fountain features of the surrounding area by the bay & then head back to the house to go swimming. there is a toss-up for the beach or the pool, and the pool wins, as we can snack lunch by the pool & swim for hours... and we vote for an all day venture to the beach the next day. The pool is wonderfully cool in the heat of the afternoon. Cousin Izzy (almost 7) shows off many dives (jumps) as she makes them up ("twisting dive", "backwards dive", "walking the pirates' plank", "swirling dive" and more..) her dad (my older brother Todd) tries to invent one, and we all name it "the butt flop" -yikes! Aurora practices going underwater (which is a Huge Step for her in her swimming steps) and she also swims around the pool on noodles, holding on to Grandma Freya's toes to practice: great progress & lots of cool fun is had by all.
After a wonderful grilled dinner of salmon, shrimp & whole chicken is put on to cook, Angelo & I run out to get a board game to play: we can't find 'Puerto Rico' & settle on the European version of 'ticket to ride' which is a fun trains-game which is a mixture of strategy & luck & a rail building game which is more colorful & much shorter then 'rails', and which drops the delivery of merchandise in favor of the goal of completing randomly drawn carded 'routes'. We start a game with Todd, Grandma Freya & the older cousins Izzy & Aurora (Athena watches intently from her playpen).. but it gets too late & dinner is ready to eat, so the game is cleared. After dinner my brother still wants to learn how to play the game, so we play a quicker game just the three of us & Todd triumphs in his first game. We each head off to read some 'Harry Potter' before bed (which also Grandpa Mike has started as has Grandma Freya, and our host's (my second cousin Peter Dick's)18 year old daughter Sarah, has already finished. It's a houseful of Harry Potter readers! The kids, too are fans.
July 20th: we breakfast again in a sunlit kitchen & dinning area that overlooks the front deck, and is a skip & hop away from the pool & all gather & pack for the beach: sunscreen is being avidly applied to all, and hats, swimsuits & a picnic is being packed. We hit the first beach & it's packed: so packed jokes are cracked that from the car the sand cannot be seen. We pull over & our 2 vans of family crew mutually decide to go a mile further & check out the next beach. It looks great! Still lots of people but equal to more sand is available, as the beach is much large, and the waves are also!
We set up a tent (not an umbrella) on the beach & unpack quickly, running out into the cool surf. Todd & I try our hand at body surfing & manage to catch quite a few large waves. The girls go wading out to the first row of small waves with the help of their dads (Todd & Angelo) and of Grandpa Mike. Grandma Freya holds down the fort & keeps Baby Athena happy, as she soon discovers the joys of digging in the sand. Then a massive castle building project is started, and Sue leading with tools at hand, Izzy & Aurora test the various types of dry to moist to wet sand to find the best mixture for building towers: and the game is on! Two huge domes are constructed, as well as a wall of small and large turrets. Shells are gathered, and quartz & mica rocks: the sand is glittery from the amount of mica in the areas rocks. It's a gorgeous castle. A moat is added which connects the castle to the 'lake' from which is was dug & a row of towers goes up all along the river-like moat. At this juncture most head back to the water, while Sue & Sarah start to smooth & decorate one of the main domes into what eventually looks like a professional sand-castle.. with delicate ridges boosting carefully placed rows of shells, and smoothed doors, and turrets worthy of a magazine photo. The swimming continues as the tide goes out & reveals the rocks we've been tripping over underwater (which are mostly in our section of the beach: no wonder we had more room here!) and the kids descend to climb the short rocks & soon many are admiring finds in the tide pools: crabs, and especially hermit crabs, are prevalent, and the barnacles are watched under water as they cast out green leaf-like tongues (?) for catching plankton or other edibles in the salt water. More swimming & sand is to be had, and baby Athena tries out a bit of swimming, to follow up the sand digging, and then she enjoys a whole container of organic spinach lasagna on the beach before she is again ready for a dip in the salt water which she is thrilled to try out, but gasps & then grins widely at each dip or splash of the cool water.
The day at the beach is a great success: Aurora & Athena get their first 'day at the beach' together (Aurora has been to a few beaches in Oregon, but never on a warm day) & Angelo is reunited with the Ocean beaches for the first time since early childhood (except for a quick jaunt in early winter one year to Cannon Beach, which is a rather rocky Oregon beach) and I as well, have not enjoyed a full day at the beach in over a decade. It is truly blissful.
We return to a dinner of more grilling after a vote on options: and hamburgers, hotdogs and chicken is grilled & served with a giant salad. I forgot to mention the salads!! We've been indulging in salads at almost every meal on our vacation: it is truly wonderful! Salad: it does the body good.