2008 was a milestone year, chronologically and longitudinally.
It started in January with a weekend whiz up to Toronto to check out the Canadian rail service and the Royal York Hotel for an upcoming fall trip.
The VIA-RAIL portion was fun but a wee bit wobbly. But the Royal York, now in snappy Fairmont corporate colors, was both handy (right next to the train station), and very dandy.
In April, we flew off to France for two weeks, staying first in Arles - the historic and gourmet capital of Provence (in our view anyway). Our hotel of choice, the d'Arlatan, is an old friend and provided "plusperfect" hospitality and atmosphere. No dust on this antique-filled 16th century manor house.
Highlights were a thrilling and nostalgic motorcyle ride, another gawp at Pont du Gard, the awesome Roman aqueduct outside of Nimes, browsing one of the biggest food markets in all of France, and a heartfelt effort to try out the cuisine of every restaurant in town!
A week later, a smooth high-speed rail trip took us to Paris. In April, Paris may well be heaven on Earth. And to our minds, it's still the most exciting and stimulating city in the world.
April always marks the opening of our "up North" cabin.
In mid-May, Roger flew off for a reprise attempt at the 200-mile, coast-to-coast trail across northern England. On a short glide path to 70, he wanted to make sure his movable parts were still moving. They were. He hiked. He came back. And now he's starting to mumble about 75!
The rest of the summer went by in a flurry of activity: music festivals, kayaking and fishing on the Au Sable, walking the woods, reading, family visits, nightly campfires, and noisy games of UNO and Clue.
For a little added excitement, we tiled the kitchen counter with the help of our caretaker, Orv, and Roger tipped his kayak in the river and lost not only cell phone, digital camera, and glasses, but also pride.
Skewered somewhere in between were trips to Northport on the tip of the Leelenau Peninsula for stays at the lakeside cottage of one of Claudia's school friends. We walked the beach with all the dogs, tasted lots of local wine, and provided emergency transport services as our hiker husbands completed the final leg of their hike along the Michigan shoreline between Northport and Empire - and then forgot their car keys.
In September, we boarded a train in Windsor and spent the next two weeks traveling up to Quebec City with stops in Toronto and Montreal.
While in our Toronto hotel, Roger found out that the concierge was an alum from his old English boarding school. Claudia passed her Medicare milestone with a big birthday bash. And the 25th anniversary of this column went unnoticed!
Our hotel in Montreal, the Bonaparte, gave new meaning to the word "congeniality. And we shared Old Quebec City with passengers of the QE2 on her last North American voyage before retirement in Dubai.
Roger's 40th reunion at Bowling Green State University came up in October, and we closed the cabin before coming back home to election fever.
As we hunker down to ride out the financial storm, we're planning our 2009 travel plans.
See you again next year. Hopefully!