Monthly Archives: June 2009

The Places I’ve Been: Gettysburg & Niagara Falls

After leaving DC and before heading to Niagara Falls, Jordan and I made a small stop at Gettysburg. He really wanted to see the battlegrounds and was on a huge history kick, especially after spending so much time in DC. From the time we’d left Texas to then I’d never felt so steeped in history, it was really amazing. I love Seattle and know the rich and dynamic history it has. But this city is so technological, it has a very looking toward the future feeling that the history gets gravely overlooked, except by tourists who go on the Underground Tour.

So we left for Gettysburg around 8:30am. We stopped at the visitors center to get a map, and a magnet of course. Have I mentioned yet that we are collectors of magnets? Every time we go on a trip we always try to come back with a magnet from that place. We got quite a few on this trip.

After paying for our magnet and looking over a few displays at the packed visitors center we got back in the car to follow the route for the auto tour. We only did part of the auto tour. The full tour can take between two to three hours depending on how often you stop to read plaques. We drove through several battlefields and stopped at a few landmarks.

We drove into the little town of Gettysburg and had lunch at a restaurant called The Avenue.  This place was delicious! I would highly recommend it to anyone in the Gettysburg area. There are tons of food choices, it’s a little small, but that adds to the ambiance. The staff is really nice and very helpful. I had some yummy sweet potato fries, for the first time ever, and Jordan tried corn fritters.

After lunch we climbed back into the car and drove to Niagara Falls. This is when our trip became international! We arrived on the Canadian side of the falls around 7pm. After checking in to our hotel and resting for a bit we got back in the car and drove down to see the falls lit up at night.  It was pretty, but difficult to see from the car. We would have parked and walked, but parking was really hard to come by and we weren’t willing to pay for parking for a quick glance at the falls.

The next day was going to be our big falls day. We had breakfast at The Continental Pancake House. The pancakes were delicious and we were two of the first people there, so the service was awesome.

After breakfast we headed to the falls.  They were really breathtaking. I had no idea what to expect. I’d never really seen them before, except once in a movie, but it was only the briefest of glimpses.  They’re huge and beautiful! It was such an amazing feat of nature. Our plan was to ride the Maid of the Mist tour, but once we got there we saw all the boats out of the water, which had huge chunks of ice floating in it. It seemed they were closed for the season, as were many of the walkways. So we didn’t get to see the falls up close and personal. But we still had a really nice day.

We walked for a long while admiring the falls and did some souvenir shopping. Jordan had learned about ice wine which we’d never heard of before. That part of Canada specializes in ice wines, so we went in search of that as well.

We found it at Pillitteri Estates Winery. It was cute place with wine everywhere! Seriously, there were huge floor to ceiling shelves full of wine. I’d love to go back and do a whole wine tour through that area; we passed at least five other wineries before arriving at Pillitteri Estates. We purchased a couple bottles of ice wine and then started to make our way back into the states.

Our goal for the day was to make it to Kalamazoo, mostly because we liked the name and wanted to stay there. We went to bed that night with the news warning us of snow coming our way.

So our trip is nearing an end. There are two more places I have to tell you all about. They will probably be combined into one blog post, since they are more like stops along the way rather than big time destinations like New Orleans, or Washington DC. After that I’ll probably have a son, which should open the door for a whole new set of topics.

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The Places I’ve Been: Texas

Before this trip I had been to one city in Texas and that is Houston and I hated it. So when I realized we’d have to drive through and stop in Texas, since it’s so freaking huge, I wasn’t terribly excited.  Jordan has family in Texas so I thought it would be fun to see them, but other than that, I wasn’t too excited about this stop.

We left for Texas right after exploring the Carlsbad Caverns.  I was a bit tired from walking so long, so I’ll admit, I slept through most of West Texas.  Jordan kept himself entertained by listening to talk radio and attempting to take photos while he drove.  Apparently West Texas is the worst part of Texas to drive through. I woke up and began to prepare myself for the dull scenery of nothingness. I took over driving and Jordan promptly fell asleep. I looked around and while some of the scenery did leave something to be desired, there were parts of Texas that were quite woody and beautiful.  It was sort of fun to sit there and try to imagine what was coming around the corner, more flat nothing or a random wooded area, full of green.

I meant to trade driving duties with Jordan before we hit San Antonio so I wouldn’t have to drive in city traffic, but I got in a groove and suddenly we were in the city. We went through San Antonio to San Marcos where Jordan’s family lived.  We arrived at about 8pm so it wasn’t too bad of a drive.

We sat up with Jordan’s Aunt Michelle, and Uncle Mark for awhile talking about the drive and life in general (we hadn’t seen them since our wedding, oh around 4 years ago). A couple hours later we crawled into a nice warm, soft bed, a relief after two days of camping in New Mexico.

I have to say we did a lot of eating in Texas. I can chronicle the day by what we ate. We got up around 10am and headed out to breakfast at the Cracker Barrel. I’d never heard of it before, but after our first encounter in Texas we saw Cracker Barrel’s along the freeway quite a lot. Dolly Parton is their spokesperson and there’s a little gift shop attached to the restaurant. Every choice on the menu is huge.  Most breakfasts came with grits and biscuits in addition to whatever was featured. Jordan and I probably could have shared, but we chose poorly.  We each had our own breakfast meal and I tried grits for the first time in my life. I probably won’t eat them again.

After our huge breakfast we went to the Alamo, which is in the middle of San Antonio.  For some reason I thought the Alamo was in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by that nothingness I talked about earlier.  After I got over the fact that this fortress I’d heard so much about was in fact in the middle of the city and fairly small, compared to what I had in my head, we rented a couple audio tours and did the tourist thing for awhile.  The funniest thing about the Alamo is there are signs here and there asking people to be quite and respectful of this sacred place, but it was one of the loudest places we’d been on our trip.  It was like the signs weren’t even there. I’m not talking a dull murmur; there were kids running around, people shouting across the room, it was loud.

But no matter! We walked around listening to our audio tours which were so chock full of information I don’t think I remember a thing I heard on it. But I’m glad I went, learned about the Alamo and attempted to retain something, even if I didn’t.

After we returned our audio tours we walked along the Riverwalk. Riverwalk is basically shops and tons of restaurants lining a natural river.  It was nice and cool in there and I was just starting to relax when Mark announced it was time for lunch.  I knew by the clock it was time for lunch, but I was still stuffed from breakfast.  We picked a BBQ joint and this time Jordan and I shared a meal. We still had a ton of leftovers. After lunch, we walked through the lobby of the Menger Hotel which opened sometime in the 1800’s. It had a few display cases full of little artifacts and pictures.

We walked back to the car and headed back to Michelle and Marks for a couple hours. I swear we were only home for perhaps an hour and a half when it was time to leave again and go get dinner with Mark’s kids. Jordan and I glanced at each other before we left wondering where we were going to put this meal. I thought maybe since we were driving quite a long ways to meet them and were told it was a fairly popular restaurant we’d be a little bit hungry by the time we ordered.  I was wrong. It was perhaps another hour before we ate, but I probably could have gone to bed that night and not eaten again.

For some reason Jordan and I got separate meals again and ate only a little of each. Everything at this place was deep fried. Including all the veggies, everything was deep fried. After dinner everyone insisted we get dessert as well so Jordan and I shared that. We left and took a tour of the water park Schittlerbahn, which is a very popular attraction in the summer, but now was totally deserted. We headed home after that, Jordan and I wondering if we’d ever be hungry again.  That was the first time I’ve ever gone out to eat for every meal.

The next morning we were heading out to New Orleans, but before we left Mark and Michelle made us a big breakfast. Surprise, I was still not very hungry after my day of eating out, but I had some of the breakfast they made. Then we drove to Molton, Texas where Jordan’s great great great grandpa Jackson Crouch is buried.  We found Jackson, his wife Sara, and 7 year old Orin. There was also Lydia Moore – Crouch, and one other daughter. We hung around the cemetery for a good while. Jordan and Mark found a separate cemetery where they think the slaves were buried. The headstones were much simpler and most of the time not made of stone. It was a neat old cemetery in a tiny little town.

All in all, I’m glad I went to Texas again. It’s such a big place to say you don’t like it because of one city is a pretty ignorant thing to say. I’d be interested to go back and visit Austin. Mark and Michelle said Austin is really eccelectic, lots of weird people there, so it might be fun to check out. It’s too bad that Jordan gets asthmatic whenever he goes to Texas. While we were in Texas, for two days, he started to cough a lot and got really wheezy. It’s really strange, once we got to Louisanna, after a day Jordan was fit as fiddle again. My hubby’s allergic to Texas.

The Places I’ve Been: Washington, DC Part 2

Our second day in DC took us to the Arlington National Cemetery. The weather that day could not make up its mind.  It was pouring down rain when we left, then got a little sunny, warm and muggy, only to rain again two minutes later. We browsed through a small Women in War exhibit, saw John F. Kennedy’s grave and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I liked the unknown soldier best. We got there just in time to see the changing of the guard. There were also some neat exhibits set up indoors. After browsing around the cemetery for awhile we left to go get some lunch.

We hopped on the Metro and took it to Chinatown where we thought there was a Subway, but we couldn’t find it.  We ended up having lunch at Five Guys.  It’s a burger joint that is only on the East Coast and it was delicious! The burgers were excellent and the fries were awesome!

After lunch we went to the Portrait Gallery. We stayed on the second floor mostly, looking at President portraits and American Art. After Jordan had seen the famous portraits of George Washington he wanted to see we went to the gift shop.  I’d been looking for a gift for my sister, who was house and cat sitting for us, but hadn’t been able to find anything.  For some reason this gift shop had about ten things I could have gotten for her, but everything was really expensive.

We took the Metro back, by a different route.  This one took us by the Pentagon.  We didn’t get out and look at it, but we went under it in the subway tunnels. We got our car from the Cemetery parking lot and drove to Georgetown where we hoped to find a coffee shop with free Wi/Fi.

We drove for a bit until we saw a place that said Espresso! all over it.  We parked a few blocks away and walked back to the “coffee shop.” We walked in and the place was totally deserted.  There was one person inside and she was the waitress.  She handed us menus, which said at the top that they had free Wi/Fi.

Once she came back I started to order a decaf latte, but they didn’t have decaf.  So I got milk.  Jordan got some ice cream and a regular coffee then asked if the Wi/Fi was working.  She looked at him like he was crazy person until he pointed to the little note at the top of the menu.  Then she shook her head and told us it wasn’t working.

So after we wasted some time and money there we left, still in search of a latte and Wi/Fi.  We came across a little coffee shop called Marvelous Market.  I ordered my decaf latte and Jordan set up the computer at a table.

The latte I got was the worst one I have ever had in my life.  There was no lovely foam, just huge bubbles. The milk was burned and the shots were over extracted.  I suppose living in Seattle has made me a coffee snob, but honestly it was the worst latte I’ve ever had.  Jordan drank most of it, I took a sip every now and hopeing it would get better.

We stayed at the coffeeshop for awhile before going in search of dinner.  We weren’t really hungry since Five Guys was so filling, but we ended up in a little bar in Georgetown.  We ordered some food and didn’t really stay long.  We got back to our car to head back home to plan out the last week of our trip.

The Places I’ve Been: Washington DC Part 1

Washington DC was a big deal for Jordan.  He really wanted to stop here and I did too, but this was really Jordan’s thing.  He loves history and talking about it, so this was a big deal for him.  I was excited too, because you always hear about DC and it’s really an amazing place.  We stayed in DC for two full days so I’ll have to break this post up a bit.

We arrived in DC around 8pm.  We were staying with Peter, a distant relative of mine and he had dinner all ready for us when we arrived. After dinner we hopped in Peter’s car and he showed us around the city a bit.  That was great because Jordan got a feel for the streets and where things were.  He’s much better at retaining that sort of information than I am. One thing I noticed about drivers in DC, they’re very aggressive; there’s no hesitation when they’re about to cut you off, they just do it.  But there’s not a lot of honking or angry yelling. That was interesting for me living in Washington State where it’s all about hesitating and waiting.

After our little car tour of the city we went back to Peter’s house, settled down in our room and went to sleep. The next day is when all the fun began.

We left Peter’s around 9am.  We drove our car to Union Station where we could park all day for $19.  We walked to the Capitol Building and took some pictures, then we started to make our way to the Smithsonian Museums.  We stopped by the Botanical Garden on the way. There were dozens of beautiful orchids and the air was so thick and fragrant.  It was really lovely in there.

The first museum we went to was the Space & Air Travel Museum.  It was interesting, but not my favorite.  They had some interesting exhibits but as a whole it wasn’t really my thing. After that we went to the Natvie American Museum for some lunch.  Jordan had some frog legs, which were alright, but not very filling and I had a huge “Indian Taco.” It came on fry bread and was topped with buffalo chili.  It was really delicious. Especially the fry bread.  Jordan went and got a piece for himself.

After lunch we stopped by the Smithsonian Castle for a gander at Mr. Smithson’s grave. We didn’t stay long, because our next stop was one of my favorites, the National Museum of Natural History.

I love natural history museums. I could spend hours in them, there’s so much to see and learn.  I love it. This one had some really amazing fossils and dinosaur exhibits.  We bought a couple of tickets to see the Imax movie “Dinosaurs in 3D: Giants of Patagonia.” Our show wasn’t until a bit later though so to pass the time we went to the National Archives.

The line for the “sightseeing side” of the National Arachives was practically around the block, so we went around to the research side. We signed in, which was a very in depth and lengthy process. We finally got in to use the computers, and started researching our families.  I had a hard time because I don’t know where my grandparents were born, so I made some guesses to see what would come up. I got a few things, but nothing I didn’t know before. Jordan had a bit more luck, but I was getting bored, since I didn’t really have anything else to look up and felt silly typing in the same names.

We signed out and went back to the Natural History Museum and watched our dinosaur movie.  It was interesting, but very archeologically based. There wasn’t much recreating of the dinosaurs world, which was what I was expecting. But it was still fun to see.

We walked to the Washington Monument and admired that for a bit. We couldn’t go up because it was too late in the day, they’d already closed up.  But we stood at the base and stared up at it. It’s amazing the size of it.

From there we walked through the World War II Memorial and down the Reflection Pool towards the Lincoln Memorial.  This was one of Jordan’s big highlights.  Lincoln is one of his heroes, so he was very excited to see this. After reading his speeches, which are engraved upon the walls we started to walk towards the White House.

Along the way we came across a pedi-cab, which is basically a bicycle with a seat behind it. We took that the rest of the way to the White House because I was getting so tired. It’s pretty awesome how pedi-cabs can weave easily in and out of traffic, which was pretty awful at that time of day. Our cabby was really nice and had some interesting things to say about the city. He was nice enough to take us all the way to the visitors center.

We made our way to the South Lawn and took as many pictures as we could before our camera died. After admiring the White House we trekked past the Department of the Tresury towards our dinner choice.

There was a large crowd outside the restaurant. It would be about an hour wait. We had chosen the Old Ebbit House, which is the oldest saloon/restaurant in DC. Based on that fact and the fact that I didn’t want to have to try to find another place to eat we waited.  We ended up waiting about an hour and a half. Apparently it’s a very popular place. It was worth the wait though. The food was delicious and the atmosphere was charged with enthusiasm and happiness.

After dinner we took a cab back to Union Station and to our car. We drove past the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial to see them lit up at night.  We made it back to Peter’s house and fell into bed exhausted.  I tried not to think of the next day and how much more walking we were going to be doing.