Saturday, April 9, 2011

Spring Break 2011

Last year for Spring Break we took a road trip down to North Carolina and had so much fun we decided to do it again and this time we made it all the way to Savannah, GA. On the way down we stopped in Virginia to visit cousins Sandy and Rob and their two little ones, Cory and Kyle. Roxy came along as far as Virginia and then spent the middle of the week with Sandy and Rob's two basset hounds (romping around their 10 acres of land) and then we picked her up on the way back north.

We ended up spending two nights in Savannah, a night in Charleston and a night in Hilton Head. We enjoyed some great southern food and wonderful weather in the high 70's most of the trip. Here are a few photos from along the way.

Here's a fountain in Savannah dyed green for St. Patrick's day.

Another fountain in one of Savannah's many squares.A sight along the waterfront.

This is what you do in Myrtle Beach - mini golf.
Here's where you hang out when not mini-golfing - the beach.

This is along the waterfront in Charleston, SC, we even saw dolphins right off this pier!
This was our one alligator sighting. It was at a historic plantation outside Charleston.
More wildlife at the plantation.
Here I am having a good time on Hilton Head Island.
Here are a couple scenes from a fascinating place right outside Savannah, the Bonaventure Cemetery.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Mele Kalikimaka and Hau Oli Makahiki Hou

We snorkled all around this rock--named Shark Fin (but didn't see any sharks)

A WWII Liberty ship made of concrete on "shipwreck beach" on Lanai

New Year's Eve

The sunrise on top of Haleakala Volcano

The Venus Pool on the Road To Hana

This is the oldest temple in all the Hawaiian islands

Some waterfalls along the Hana Highway

A curious visitor at the Garden of Eden (botanical gardens)

The rain forest on the way to Hana

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Who turned out the lights?

There are only a couple ways to fly through six time zones in four hours. You either need a very fast plane or you have to fly very far north to where the time zones get a bit ... narrower. In our case we flew to 66 degrees North, to Iceland.

This was a surprise birthday present to me from Liz. I left work on a Thursday and was instructed to meet her at South Station. Now from South Station you can get to restaurants, the train station or the airport so I really had no idea what to expect, but when I arrived Liz had our bags packed and our passports at the ready for a quick overnight flight to Reykjavik. We left around 8 PM, flew for four hours and arrived at the Keflavik airport around 6 AM. For the next few days we wandered around and toured the southwest corner of a truly fascinating country. Despite the darkness (the sun's only up about 5 hours a day during the winter) it was an incredible trip. I can't wait to go back and see more.

City Hall in Reykjavik

This church was huge and took 40 years to build--an impressive feat for a country of only 300,000 people.

The first light of the sunrise

This is where the American and European tectonic plates are separating and where the annual viking parliamentary meetings were held.

A frozen river

The sun about to rise at 11 AM.

Gulfoss waterfalls

Strokkur geyser (goes every 4 minutes!)

These were everywhere

Otherworldly terrain.

The Blue Lagoon. Geothermal spas where we swam and soaked in the various rejuvenating minerals (I need those now that I'm so old).

The water was 99 degrees and that's a swim-up bar in the middle there.

Special thanks to Liz for planning such a wonderful trip!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Kill your television

Have you ever watched one of your favorite television shows only to get to the series finale, realize it's over and then feel like you've lost a loved-one forever? It was sad when we got to the end of The West Wing (the greatest television show ever produced) but we just watched the worst ending for a television show ever: NBC's Las Vegas.

I still highly recommend Las Vegas to those who've never seen it. It wasn't intelligent TV like West Wing but every episode was creative and exciting, the characters were great and the scenes were spectacular. Las Vegas was a big budget television production, which in the end, was probably its downfall. I finally broke down and bought season five after giving up on having it come available to watch instantly on Netflix and also after mentally preparing myself for Tom Selleck to replace James Caan as top dog at the Montecito.

Thanks to the Hollywood writers' strike the series ended several episodes short of where it was intended to. They knew it was close to the end so instead of maintaining their enormous studio set throughout the strike they decided to use that time to shut it down. And no, the series didn't just end after a random mid-season episode, it ended after part 1 of a "to be continued ..." episode. HOW COULD THEY DO THAT?! So, the entire thing ends with a main character about to die during child birth and a bunch of other unresolved issues and all we have to go on is Gary Scott Thompson's (the series creator) twitter posts about how the final few episodes would have played out. Ahhh!

Going back to Cali

Liz and I spent Memorial Day weekend in California where she performed a wonderful wedding (for our Catholic friends!) at a beautiful winery in the hills near Saratoga. We stayed in Cupertino but traveled over to Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz and then spent Sunday driving up to Sonoma and Napa for some wine tasting. Here are some of the highlights.

The view from where the wedding was.

Santa Cruz

Wine Tasting

Our rental car!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Spring Break Road Trip

We had big plans for Spring Break this year but after they all fell through (mostly due to high airfare costs which we weren't willing to pay) we decided to take a spontaneous road trip. We set out with no specific plan and not a single reservation. Liz was a little nervous about this as she's an organized planner by nature but other than a smelly hotel room the first night everything turned out great. Roxy came along as she's an excellent car rider and we had very few issues finding hotels she was welcomed at (note, we stayed at a Comfort Inn and a Country Inn and Suites but we found La Quinta to be the best value overall and stayed at a couple along the way).

Here are some pictures and notes of our week-long journey.

First Stop: Washington, D.C. where we toured the mall and then had dinner at a great Thai restaurant in Georgetown with friend Rob who recently moved there to work in the admissions office at the University.
We stayed that first night after leaving D.C. in northern Virginia and then drove down through Virginia Beach (a lot like Seaside, OR but bigger) and Norfolk. We found Norfolk very interesting and toured the USS Wisconsin and a fascinating memorial to Douglas McArthur in the old city hall (also now his tomb).
From there we drove down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. If you're not familiar with this area it's a thin strip of land just off shore with miles of beaches, beach houses and little shops and restaurants. We stayed near Kitty Hawk where we walked on the beach and then toured the Wright Bros. museum the next morning.
Add ImageAbove is a picture of the marker where the Wright Flier first took off. You can see the markers in the background showing how far each of their first four attempts reached. The fourth is quite a ways in the distance. Below is the nearby hilltop memorial.
There is even a full size metal replica you can climb aboard to get a sense of what it might have been like.
After leaving the Outer Banks we drove all the way across North Carolina, stopping at Duke University to tour the gardens and Cathedral and then staying the night near Winston-Salem. Our destination was Asheville where we toured the largest house in America. The Biltmore estate was built by George Washington Vanderbilt II (grandson of "Commodore" Cornelius Vanderbilt) and is 175,000 square feet (250 rooms).

One of the highlights of the estate and grounds were the extensive greenhouses. There were several enormous spaces all connected together and each distinguished by a different temperature range or humidity level. Though not much was blooming in the Frederick Law Olmsted designed gardens the greenhouses were full of life and color.

Before leaving Asheville we stopped at the Tupelo Honey Cafe for fried green tomatoes and grits, catfish and fried chicken. After leaving Biltmore we stopped at a couple wineries, our favorite of which was called Veritas and was located in Virginia. Of course we brought quite a few bottles back with us (another advantage of not traveling by air). Also in Virginia we stopped at another of America's great estates, Monticello. It took Thomas Jefferson 40 years to complete and the thought and ingenuity that went into the house is still evident today.

Also on our way back North we drove 63 miles of the Skyline Parkway Drive in Shenandoah. It's slow driving as the speed limit is 35 and you're constantly stopping or slowing down for deer near, or often in, the roadway. We counted 25 deer while on this road.

Though Roxy probably spent more time in the car than she'd like I hope she had fun too. Here she is trying to smell the early spring mountain air.

Happy as a clam.