Long Diary entries this week, and I’ll warn you now that I’m overlapping here a little with last week’s Scent Diary. I didn’t talk much about the trip in the Diary last week, and this week is all about the trip, with a sprinkling of food descriptions too. If you’re just here for the perfume, I wore the following: Le Temps d’une Fete, Chanel No. 19, Kiss Me Tender, Diptyque Eau Rose, L’Eau de Chloe, Kiss Me Tender again, Chanel No. 19 again, Le Temps d’une Fete again, and Amoureuse. Pretty boring, but hey, this week was not all about the perfume. Feel free to skip if you don’t happen to care about our travels and trials along the Eastern seaboard college tour route (not everyone will care, and that’s fine, it’s no skin off my nose if you’d rather go watch YouTube).
Sunday, June 24 – The boys will be spending the week at my parents’ house (we call this arrangement Camp Nana in the summer). They packed up and headed off yesterday. Today we finished packing, loaded up Cameron – who gets far better gas mileage than Eddie Van, at about 33 mpg – and headed north on I-81, planning to drive alllll the way to the metropolitan Boston, MA area.
We didn’t get there.
I had done a MapQuest search previously, and although the trip should have taken twelve hours, which was grueling but doable, we were held up by a number of things. First, we left home about 45 minutes late. Second, there was some extensive construction taking place on I-81 in Pennsylvania, which led to an extensive detour. It wasn’t listed on MapQuest. Nor was it taken into account by the GPS system we borrowed from my parents. So that put us behind another 45 minutes.
And then… MapQuest was being sensible and trying to send us on an alternative route around New York City. However, the Garmin lady told us to keep going east on I-40, and The CEO wanted to stick to the GPS directions, so where did we end up? Newark, NJ. And where did we go from there? Straight into NYC via the George Washington Bridge, complete with snarled traffic, rising tempers, and an unexpected twelve-dollar toll! Aarrrrrrrgh.
At this point, we decided that we would stop in New Haven, CT, and rearrange the trip somewhat, to visit Yale on Monday morning and the two Boston-area schools on Tuesday. (This actually turned out far better than we’d expected, and we probably should have planned the trip this way from the beginning.)
We ate a hasty fast-food dinner and slept in a ratty EconoLodge with, supposedly, WiFi in the rooms. However, I could only pick it up on my laptop in the lobby. And it was so slow that I couldn’t manage to post anything. SOTD was Le Temps d’une Fete. Which I love love love. Sigh.
This is essentially the same route that The CEO and I took on our honeymoon twenty years ago, north on I-81 through Pennsylvania and into New York, and I have to admit how surprised we were at the improvement in road quality. On our honeymoon, we were practically jolted to death by the asphalt patches and potholes on the interstate road in those two states. The road is much, much better now (I still don’t recommend the George Washington Bridge if it can be avoided).
Monday, June 25 – the NOAA weather service on my computer predicted heavy rain in the morning all over New England. We ate a continental breakfast at the hotel and drove into New Haven proper, at which point the skies opened up and buckets and buckets of rain poured down. Also, I had programmed the GPS to take us to the central point of the Yale campus instead of putting in the address of the Admissions Office, so Bookworm and I got wet trying to walk around and find it. Poor us.
Once we found the admissions office, which was a rather daunting task given the road-and-building construction taking place, we were more comfortable. We rather liked New Haven, at least the downtown area. And the campus is very attractive. We enjoyed our tour very much, and the admissions tour was helpful. As we were leaving – the weather having turned to sunshine, finally! – Bookworm came out and said what The CEO and I had been thinking: that we thought Yale, the third oldest college in the US, might be a good place for her. She likes the small-city atmosphere, she likes the opportunities for undergraduate research, she particularly likes the organization of the residential colleges within the university.
I know, I know – these Ivy League schools are extremely, maniacally, competitive. And we have no “legacy” status with any of them. Yale receives 30,000 applications each year, 80% of which are from academically eligible students, and their acceptance rate is about 6%. Yes, we know that there’s zero likelihood that she’ll be accepted. But we feel that she’s got the academic chops (excellent grades in the most difficult classes offered in her school system, excellent standardized test scores, community involvement, leadership in a range of extracurricular activities, and an ability to express herself well), so she might as well apply. It might not hurt that we live in an economically disadvantaged area (our county is classified as Appalachian), though that might bear no weight at all with an admissions office. Who knows? We’ll find out.
SOTD: PdN Kiss Me Tender (look for a mini-review soon). We bought Gaze a Yale Football t-shirt.
We ate lunch at a little pasta-and-pizzeria in New Haven (I had an enormous slice of white-bean-garlic-and-kale white pizza, Bookworm ate a similarly-sized slice of sausage-and-broccoli rabe white pizza, and The CEO ate stuffed shells with spinach and sausage) and headed on to Boston. The trip was an interesting eating experience for Bookworm; we made sure to give her some options we don’t usually get at home.
Our attempts to find a hotel room in or around Boston came to naught, since the Red Sox were playing in town. He was disappointed, but since it was a last minute plan, not devastated. We found a hotel in Natick, not too far from Wellesley, and ate delicious seafood. Bookworm enjoyed her grilled salmon with lemon-caper sauce (she’d never had capers), and also enjoyed the new-to-her tastes of crab, sea scallops, and grilled swordfish. Yum.
Tuesday, June 26 – After a sad little breakfast of bad coffee (for me), watery juice (for Bookworm and CEO), bowls of Raisin Bran and cold bagels, we drove into Boston and found a parking space. Unfortunately, The CEO kept having to go back and feed the meter because of time limits on it, and he missed most of the nice promo film shown to us at Harvard before the information session and tour. (I enjoyed it, though. It had a few clips of Tommy Lee Jones talking about his Harvard experience, and I lurve me some Tommy Lee. Wrinkles or no, I think he’s sexy.) The weather was warm and bright, considerably better than Monday’s downpour.
As we were leaving the campus to make our scheduled tour time at Wellesley, having formed opinions of our own on the matter, we asked Bookworm what she thought of the country’s oldest and most prestigious university. She was noncommittal. Ehhh, it’s all right, I guess. She liked, again, the residential college concept, but did not care for the big-city setting, nor for the way that the university buildings are scattered amongst city buildings. She also commented that it seemed to be a relentlessly liberal place in terms of social issues, and a conservative person such as she is might feel very much unwelcome there. Oddly enough, both her father and I had come to the same conclusions. SOTD: Chanel No. 19, modern EDT, which was cool and refreshing and self-possessed in the heat.
We were a few minutes late to the info session at Wellesley, but got plenty of information there and a lovely tour from a rising sophomore who just adores the place. It’s a very attractive school, and the students seem to be very bright and articulate young women who make the most of their opportunities there. But Bookworm commented that although she liked the campus and the students she talked to, she didn’t feel strongly about all-girl education, and she wondered whether it would be a great choice for her. She also felt that it was a little odd that Wellesley sends its students to MIT for engineering or higher-level math classes instead of teaching them directly. Too, she thought that the boutique-type shops in this small picturesque town signified people who have “more money than sense.” The CEO and I tended to agree with her, although I did point out that the shops were only one aspect of what appeared to be a very nice, mid-level-income area with modest homes.
After our Wellesley tour, we were starving, and stopped in at a Chinese restaurant at 3pm for lunch. We ate Chicken with Vegetables in Oyster Sauce, Moo Shu Pork, Pork Fried Rice, and General Gau Chicken (we’re not sure, but it seemed to be a more tangerine-y version of General Tso). Delicious. And there was so much of it left that we asked for it to be boxed up, and we packed the leftovers into the cooler on ice, and ate it for dinner, once we got to Princeton, NJ.
Which was, again, a ridiculous trip. We kept trying to avoid I-95 through NYC, and the GPS kept sending us there. Wound up again crossing the Geo Washington Bridge, and it would have gone fairly well except that there was construction (when is there not construction on such a major road?), and the single lane of a merging on-ramp was blocked for about fifteen minutes by a pedestrian who seemed to be either drunk or reality-challenged (crazy, if I may be so blunt). Only the intervention of a beefy Italian-looking truck driver mollified the pedestrian to the point that we were able to continue on our way.
We were exhausted by the time we got to our hotel, but the beds were extremely comfortable, and there were Big Bang reruns on TV, and we had Chinese leftovers YUM. I slept very well.
Wednesday, June 27 – If it’s Wednesday, it must be Princeton… this town looked very much like one closer to home. It’s strikingly reminiscent of Blacksburg, VA, the site of Virginia Tech where The CEO teaches (and, indeed, received his undergraduate degree in Agricultural Economics). That is, except for the tanned-and-groomed yummy-mummy contingent in Lilly Pulitzer dresses and enormous diamond rings, picking up their children from Vacation Bible School at the Presbyterian church. (I mean, we have plenty of well-groomed suburban moms picking up their children after VBS in Blacksburg, but they don’t tend to wear such obviously designer clothes and such large diamonds. And the big church in downtown Blacksburg is of course the Baptist church, this being the South.)
SOTD was Kiss Me Tender again. And it was HOT. Whew. And this was an even more-crowded admissions tour/info session than the one at Yale, which surprised me.
That being said, this was the most enjoyable, honest, and informative session with an admissions officer of the entire trip. The tour was less successful, in that our student tour guide was possibly the least thorough of the trip. We passed by building after building with no mention of what they were. It didn’t matter so much, because he was personable and spoke knowledgeably of many things.
We did some exploring after the official tour was over, and even ate lunch in the Princeton dining hall. It was adequate, if not impressive (as long as I’ve already mentioned Virginia Tech food, I’ll comment that their food service underwent a huge transformation for the better about seven years ago, and the dreadful institutional food they used to have at the dining halls is entirely gone, replaced by restaurant-quality stuff). Bought Taz, the Animal Planet Addict, a Princeton t-shirt with a tiger on it, as well.
Bookworm liked the small-town atmosphere of Princeton, the lovely campus of the fourth-oldest college in the country, and the residential colleges, and was particularly impressed by the study-abroad possibilities, and the rigor of the required Junior Paper and Senior Thesis (which no other university mentioned on this trip).
We drove to The CEO’s sister’s house in Northern Virginia to spend the night with her, spending too much time in rush-hour traffic on the Capitol Beltway but still getting there in time for dinner (roasted potatoes, herb-baked chicken, salad, and mixed berries, delicious – thanks very much, E!) and with time to talk to Bookworm’s cousins Curiosity and Primrose.
Thursday, June 28 – Headed out early for our admissions tour at Georgetown, not far from the in-laws’ house. It was ridiculously hot, 99F at noon when our tour ended, so we were glad to visit the air-conditioned food court for Taco Bell and KFC. SOTD: Kiss Me Tender again.
Bookworm liked Georgetown pretty well, ranking it below Princeton and Yale but on a rough par with Wake Forest, which she had visited with The CEO in March. She was disconcerted by the apparent rigidity of majors within the various schools of the university, and the inability to double-major across school lines, and also by the separate application Georgetown uses. But she was intrigued by the wealth of internships available to Hoya students, and she liked the atmosphere of the small campus within the nice-area-of-DC city feeling. (She’s been to DC several times, and has enjoyed it, but then we’ve tended to stay well away from the scary parts of town.)
We had toyed with the idea of staying with E & K another night, but it became apparent that we really needed to move on closer to Williamsburg so we could make our morning tour. So we made good time getting there, and found a nice hotel in Williamsburg, one with a pool that we all enjoyed very much before dinner.
Dinner was Memphis-style barbecue at Red Hot and Blue, a wonderful chain restaurant we like a lot and never visit except on trips to Northern Virginia. Bookworm and I ate pulled pork, and The CEO had dry-rub ribs. It was wonderful.
Friday, June 29 – We fought our way through crowds at the hotel’s continental breakfast buffet, probably mostly people visiting Busch Gardens and perhaps Colonial Williamsburg, before heading on to the College of William and Mary.
My sister attended W&M, which is the second oldest college in America, and so did The CEO’s ex-girlfriend (they dated several years, and I knew her, we were all at the summer-program Governor’s School together), so The CEO and I were pretty familiar with the place. We were pleased to see that the dorms, which are largely traditional in style, had been considerably renovated since the late 80s/early 90s. I well remember visiting my sister in her sophomore dorm and getting dripped on from a ceiling leak in the middle of the night, which she said was unfortunately a common occurrence!
It was even hotter here than it had been in Georgetown the day before, with temps reaching 104F and a greater heat index than that. Urgh. SOTD: Chanel No. 19 again. Gosh, this is good stuff, even the modern!
You might be surprised that we didn’t consider any of the other Ivy League schools, but perhaps I can explain: Virginia has excellent state universities, and we feel pretty strongly that if any of our kids are going to go out of state, there is very little point in attending a state university elsewhere. University of Virginia and William and Mary are both terrific schools, and because they are state-supported, Bookworm has good likelihood of being accepted there, with at least some credit for her dual-enrollment classes (via the magnet school/community college). Virginia state universities are required by law to accept higher percentages of in-state students, with W&M’s percentage of in-state students at about 67%, VT’s about 70%, and UVa’s just over 50%. (I don’t know about Virginia Commonwealth, Old Dominion, and James Madison University.) There are other good universities and colleges in Virginia as well, and we might consider the University of Richmond.
Bookworm really liked the setting of W&M, embedded practically in the middle of Colonial Williamsburg, and although she was not particularly impressed with the student housing, she felt she could be at home there. We haven’t toured UVa yet, but I attended it and I predict that when we manage to get there, she’s still going to prefer W&M by a long shot. We also found out that W&M operates a satellite campus in Rosslyn, VA, just across the Key Bridge from Georgetown, and multiple internships in DC are available through this campus; as Bookworm says, “That sort of negates the benefits of Georgetown, doesn’t it?” I agree.
We swung by my parents’ house and ate a lovely dinner of homemade lasagna and salad (thanks, Mom!) before stuffing the boys’ luggage into the truck and them into the backseat, and heading home. Just before reaching our exit, we ran into a horrendous windstorm that was tossing tree limbs onto the road. It was truly frightening, and we got home as fast as we could and dashed straight into the house without any luggage. We fully expected that there would be hail and that we would lose electricity, because we usually do in a windstorm. We also suspected that we might be in for a tornado, so we parked the vehicles in the farm shop and went straight to the basement just in case.
As it turned out, there was no tornado, and the storm dissipated about 10:30 pm, so after checking the NOAA website for storm warnings, we sent the kids to bed and collapsed gratefully into ours.
Saturday, June 30 – My mother-in-law B has no electricity, so we persuaded her to leave her house and come stay with us for the day. I washed and hung out and folded seven loads of laundry, and I’m not done yet! SOTD: Le Temps d’une Fete. For dinner, I grilled hamburgers on the gas grill, which still absolutely thrills me with its ease and speed of use. Our highs were 97F today with 37% humidity, leading to a heat index of 104F, ridiculously hot for this elevation. Bleargh.
The CEO admitted that it had been sort of fun making the GPS recalculate, by going a different route than we were directed to go, and asked me to find him a fairly cheap one. I have obliged and ordered one via Amazon.
Sunday, July 1 – Hot by 10 am, though not nearly as hot as it was in Williamsburg (which is notorious for its heat/humidity combination). Electric power is still out all over the area, and due to power issues our church service was moved from its usual time and place to a slightly later time at the Baptist Collegiate Ministries building at Virginia Tech. I made biscuits and sausage gravy for breakfast, thinking I had plenty of time… but didn’t unload the dishwasher or even make up the bed before we had to leave for church. SOTD: DelRae Amoureuse, which is delicious but strangely never loud on me. I swear, I think white florals sink in on my skin and get all cuddly. Four spritzes this morning, and the kids could not smell me from the back seat of the car.
PETBoy came over for lunch and dinner, and he and Bookworm went off this evening to see Men In Black III at the (lone) drive-in theater in the area. I’m really glad to see that he survived two whole weeks without seeing her; I know she missed him too, but she was busy with Girls’ State and then with the tours. It’s harder when you’re not the busy one.