Encore America

I’ve  lived in Europe for 35 years – and I love it here. But, it’s always interesting to return to the US. This time (May), was a treat with visits to Michigan for my high school reunion, then New Orleans, New York City, Cape Cod and Boston.

Boston Town Hall

During those first few hours after arrival at the Detroit Airport, I felt I was in culture shock. Our first experience with a “native” was the woman driver of our shuttle van who drove us from the airport to the rental car agency. She helped with our heavy suitcases. She was delightful and chatty, and offered advice on rental car procedures. The woman at the car agency was equally as accommodating, going out of her way to see what discounts she could arrange for us, then giving detailed instructions on how to find our way to our destination. During our travels, we often encountered extra friendly and helpful people like these. It’s rare to find such extra “service with a smile” in Europe.

On the streets of New Orleans

Detroit is car city, so I suppose it’s not unusual to encounter super, super highways – often four lanes in each direction. It all seemed so vast and modern. The buildings along the highways appeared new and sleek. Everything is clean. Our room at a Holiday Inn was another surprise. The room was huge, with a king sized bed, a coffee maker, ironing board and iron, and of course television and Internet. Breakfast, including eggs, was included in the very reasonable price. I guess I’ve lived in Europe too long, but I was in awe of it all.

 It’s a treat to be served water in a glass with ice at restaurants and not have to pay for it. And, coffee refills at no extra charge. The coffee may not be the greatest, but you can drink as much as you want. Shopping is another plus. While in Michigan, we visited the Great Lakes Crossing Mall, Michigan’s largest outlet mall. Mind-boggling.  Twenty-five stores under one roof. I’m not into power shopping, but prices for clothes, shoes, linens and more are usually much less in the U.S. than in Europe. The only problem these days is bringing it back, but we planned ahead and left extra room in our suitcases, and carried the heavier items with us.

It’s not all paradise. Restaurants are often very loud and noisy, the atmosphere less than inviting for lingering over a delicious meal. In the states, you are not supposed to linger. Usually when dessert is served, you are presented with the check and expected to pay and leave promptly. Not pleasant.

 However, reuniting with high school friends after 50 years (I’m old) was more than pleasant. There were only 29 girls in our 1961 graduating class at the Academy of the Sacred Heart in

Class of 1961

Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Four, sadly, are deceased. Fourteen attended the reunion coming from 14 different states and me from France. We had a lovely evening supper at the home of one of my classmates, another evening cocktail party and buffet dinner at the home of one of the women’s amazing 99-year-old mother, then a cocktail party at the school followed by dinner in a restaurant. I am so glad I did not miss the festivities and meaningful visits.

My husband Bob also celebrated a reunion with some of his eight brothers sisters at the home of his sister Kathy who lives in Romeo, Michigan, about an hour from our hotel in Birmingham. Another sister and brother and their spouses drove all the way to Romeo from their homes in Wadsworth, Ohio (a 4-hour one-way trip) to see brother Bob for a day. A great testimonial to family togetherness.

 On to New Orleans – a fabulous place. Details will follow in a future blog. Then New York City where my stepdaughter Kellie lives in Soho. My stepson Rob and two step grandsons came

Rob, Lang, Kellie, Sam, Bob at Bronx Zoo

from Winchester, Va., to spend four days with us there. We took a ride on the Staten Island ferry, visited the Bronx Zoo, walked and walked, ate great burgers, cooked delicious meals in Kellie’s brand new state-of-art kitchen…New York is exhilarating.

 Last stop Cape Cod where Bob’s sister Susan and husband Brian have a beautiful home. Susan was tour guide extraordinaire, driving us all over Cape Cod and Boston. At Provincetown, we joined a whale watching cruise and spotted two whales. We were bowled over by the Cape Cod seafood – delicious lobster, scallops the size of peaches, and a wide variety of fish. Compared to Europe, the prices seemed downright cheap. We took the opportunity to visit nearby Boston where we admired the stunning architecture, followed the Freedom Trail, a walking excursion in the city past historical sites, and, for a special end-of-journey meal, dined at a classy restaurant atop the Prudential Building with spectacular views – courtesy of Brian. Indeed a “bon voyage.”

14 thoughts on “Encore America”

  1. Hi Leah – Very crisp and attractive blog site. I like it — it seems easier on my aging eyes! Since PC days, I love to hear tales of culture shock. It’s so refreshing to have ones assumptions and prejudices shaken by reality. B>)


  2. Coucou Leah,
    I love the new format-crisp, clean & professional and your wonderful recipes will be so much easier to use and find. How will you incorporate all your images? Your reactions to the U.S. were interesting and I agree that customer service is impressive there. My list of pluses (which isn’t terribly long) also includes people bagging your groceries and…Trader Joe’s!


  3. As always Leah, another interesting, informative post. Thank you for the hospitality you and Bob showed to Tom & Melissa. They had a wonderful time in Europe and you were very instrumental in helping that happen!


  4. Bonjour Leah ! always very interested in reading your adventures ! This time une belle surprise de savoir que vous étiez au Michigan. We lived in West Bloomfield and Birmingham 20 years ago and we enjoyed very much our stay there. I really hope you’ll come visit us some time in French Brittany ! To morrow we are heading to Stutgart/Tübingen (our daughter is studying there) and we’ll be spending 2weeks with our son Xavier coming from Melbourne(Australia). à bientôt bisous Odile &Joaquin Vagedes(F 29170 Fouesnant/Finistere)


    1. Bonjour Odile et merci. I had forgotten how beautiful Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham are. The homes and gardens are exquisite. We’d love to visit you in Brittany someday. Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog.


  5. Leah: Another great blog! Good to see your “culture shock” comments…we felt the same way when we came back from Germany 6+(!) years ago. I hope Europe (and us) survive the Greek tragedy.


    1. Thanks for your remarks. The only thing good about the Greek tragedy is that it may help the dollar, and it needs all the help it can get.
      Perhaps a selfish comment, but living in Europe on a dollar income is trying, to say the least. Besure to subscribe to the blog.


  6. Well done ! Your blog looking very professional.
    I found your observations about America informative. It is so true how we hurry through a meal. I didn’t realize a glass of water is not free in Europe or coffee refills.
    Interesting that you found Americans in the service industry friendly.

    Today, like a lot of Americans disappointed that we seem stuck in an endless war in
    Afghanistan. The lives and money this is costing .


    1. Glad you like the blog. A clarification on water — you can get free tap water in France if you ask for it. Many, however, go for mineral water which you must pay for. And, it Germany if you ask for tap water they act as if you’re scum. Everyone drinks mineral water — at a cost. Europeans don’t put ice in their water.


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