Living in Suburbia

Nicole Heath. Full-time Mom. Part-Time UI Designer. Wanna be Photographer. Travel Lover. Interior Design Enthusiast.

NCL Cruise on the Norwegian Dawn

Posted on October 22, 2005 in Travel

We arrived in NYC on Sunday, 9 October in about 4 hours from our house. We had no traffic problems at all on our way and even zipped through the Lincoln Tunnel and to the pier in no time. Before we knew it, we had parked and were in line to get on the ship. The parking was located beside the ship, so it was extremely easy to get to the check-in area. We ended up having to wait a bit in the pre-board area, but once the lines started moving we went fairly fast. All in all, it took an hour and a half to get on the ship.

Our first destination was our room, which ended up being much more spacious than I had initially anticipated. It actually could house 4 people, as there was a pull down bed and an additional bed under Bill’s bed. If need be.. you could have really packed a bunch of people into that room!!! The bathroom was a nice size as well, and the shower was plenty big. Overall, I was very happy with our room and the amount of storage available.

After we checked out the ship, we went exploring and learned that the elevators were stupid and that climbing 10 flights of stairs was tiring. The elevator situation really didn’t improve throughout the course of the trip, but we got use to it. The strangest thing was being in the elevator and having the ship rocking. It was a bit nauseating.

Over the course of our vacation, we ended up eating in all of the available restaurants. Half of them were included restaurants, while the others had a ‘cover’ charge. We felt that the food in the main, included restaurants was not all that good, and that the cover restaurants were extremely good. I thought that the cover restaurant food should have been the standard. The portions were small – but thankfully so, since each meal consisted of 5+ courses. I ended up having steak 8 of the nights, and pasta 2 of the nights. The best steak was at “Cagney’s,” a Chicago inspired restaurant that served great steaks and seafood. I had the Filet Mignon, with great garlic mash potatoes, fried onion rings, and béarnaise sauce – fantastic! Bill had Lobster for the first time, and didn’t find it all that great. The process of cracking the sucker became more of a hassle than it was worth! I found it rather disgusting to see this dead little Lobster on his plate.. at least with other things, you don’t have to see the animal… gross.

The entertainment was good for the most part. They had 2 nights with a dance company, that did ‘themed’ dance shows- one on South Beach, and the other which was “Bollywood” inspired. The Bollywood (Indian) was probably my favorite because the music was so cool and they had people swinging from the ceilings and all, but the other nights were good too. They had this one guy, called the “Skinny German Juggle Boy” who was just hilarious, and made all sorts of great German/American jokes. Definitely a show I wasn’t too thrilled about going to see, that ended up being probably 2nd to the best. Overall, it wasn’t quite the stellar performances I expected to see, but we were entertained, so I guess that counts for something.

The ports were another topic altogether. It poured in St. Thomas, and was sweltering hot in San Juan. I enjoyed St. Marteen the most, and thought it had the most ‘to do’ and the best scenic views. I also liked Old San Juan because of it’s artsy feel, with narrow cobblestone streets and clothes drying off of tilting balcony’s above the roads. The bad thing was that the city stunk horribly… but if you could just ignore that part, it was quite lovely. The shopping was about 85% jewelry, 5% clothing, 5% liquor, and 5% souvenirs on all of the Island’s except Tortola – which had pretty much nothing at all. I found that it was nearly impossible to find anything “authentic” in these towns, as most of their focus was on tourism, and how they could make the fastest buck. Next time around we would definitely do more specific adventures to get the most out of each island.

Our last stop was suppose to be Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas, which is owned by Norwegian Cruise Line, but because of a high-tide (the ship was going to anchor), the itinerary was changed to Nassau Bahamas. We ended up doing an excursion to Pearl Island, which was this really dinky, tourist specific island that you could spend the day. It had a beach, some pools, and some snorkeling areas. Unfortunately, we only got the chance to be there from 9:00-11:00 or so, which seemed really short. The snorkeling wasn’t all that good and we didn’t get to see much. Bill got a conch shell that was planted along the edge, as part of the ‘treasure hunt’ that we did. I took some underwater photos, but I didn’t see much. The only thing I saw was 1 stupid little yellow and black fish – and although lovely, it didn’t exactly feel like I was getting our money’s worth.

Overall we had a great time and I wouldn’t hesitate to go again – although I might go with a different cruise line just to see how they compare! The million photos I took are up in the photos area! Hope you enjoy them. =)

Valentine’s Day Weekend in Williamsburg

Posted on February 12, 2006 in Travel

Bill and I just got back a bit ago from our Valentine’s Day weekend with Fred and Lindsey. We jumped in the car yesterday morning and headed down to historic Williamsburg for the evening. Our first stop was Jamestown, where we took a tour of the way ‘life use to be’ when the English settlers first arrived back in 1607. Although it was pouring rain, cold, and muddy, we still managed to have a great time while learning a bit about the beginnings of Virginia and our country.

After we left Jamestown, we headed to Williamsburg to walk around and do some shopping. It was still raining fairly good when we got there, so we didn’t stay real long downtown. We did get to stop into the “Cheese Shop” where we had some yummy baked goods. We also walked through the main road of historic Williamsburg and saw the Governor’s mansion.

We left Williamsburg after going into a couple more shops and checked in at our bed and breakfast location for the evening: The Boxwood Inn – which was so cute. The atmosphere was great and the whole place had a very ‘warm’ feeling. We had our Valentine’s Day dinner in the Tea Room that evening – complete with yummy food, champagne and great desserts. We then toured the B&B – which was once a general store, a post office, and the local tax collector’s house – all ran by the same individual. The original owner had asked the government to assist him in building a larger home for his many children, and in return, the government asked if he could provide those various services to the town. Very interesting!

We had a real great time this week-end with Fred and Lindsey, and were very happy to share this weekend with them. Of course, we were a bit disappointed that we all missed the big snowstorm yesterday, but it appears some of the snow stuck around for us. Fairfax (Fred and Lindsey’s location) got about 12-14 inches, and we got about 8 inches here in Sterling. Enjoy the photos!

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Day 1: Charleston, SC

Posted on May 28, 2006 in Travel

Bill and I successfully arrived in Charleston this afternoon, after a long but fairly uncomplicated 8.25 hr trip.  Traffic was extreamly light and the actual directions to get to Charleston were a breeze – pretty much 95 the whole way.  We listened to an interesting audiobook on “The DaVinci Code” on the way down, so at least we were using that time efficiently.  More on that some other day…  Anyhow..

Once we arrived in Charleston – we checked into our Bed & Breakfast/Hotel (The Elliott House Inn) and did a little sight seeing.  So far, so good!  It’s dang hot here – around 96 this afternoon, but there was light breeze this evening which made for a lovely night on top of the Vendue Inn – a restaurant/bar area close to the waterfront.  Tomorrow’s itinerary includes a powerwalk along the river, a carriage ride and some general Charleston sightseeing.  The historic potion of Charleston so far seems great – quaint, charming, old-fashioned, etc.  However, it’s probably the most non-diverse place I have ever seen beside good ole’ Gaylord, Michigan – but maybe we just didn’t explore enough.  Tomorrow shall bring new adventures… 

I plan on posting photos as we go – since the cool places have discoverd Wi-Fi and I can connect and be on the internet the whole vacation….  ahhh..  freedom.

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Day 4: Charleston, SC

Posted on May 31, 2006 in Travel

Wow – this trip is soaring by quickly – but we are having a great time!  This morning we went for a walk, took a carriage ride, followed by a bit of shopping – then toured of the Nathaniel-Russell house.. then headed off to Patriot’s Point to tour an aircraft carrier and other ship-like-things.  This evening we had reservations at a restaurant called “High Cotton” – specializing in steak and seafood.  Tomorrow we pack up and head to Hilton Head for the day and arrive in Savannah tomorow evening.  We stay in Savannah Thursday night and Friday night and then drive back to VA on Saturday. 

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Day 5: Hilton Head and Savannah

Posted on June 1, 2006 in Travel

Today Bill and I left Charleston and headed to Hilton Head for a couple of hours.  We parked near Coligny Beach and enjoyed the sunshine.  However, somehow I actually look less tan than before.  Hum.  Anyhow… the beach was crowded and the temps were just below 90.  But an absolutely beautiful place – definitely a great place for some r&r.

After our quick beach visit, we headed to Savannah.  I must admit – Savannah protrays herself far different than Charleston.  I thought Charleston was extreamly quaint and beautiful, but a bit surreal – not a place I could ever picture living.  Savannah on the other hand, has a bit of a Baltimore feel to it.  Industrial feel… old buildings, taken over by shops and restaurants – but still maintaining a very city/factory feel.

Bill hasn’t taken quite as well to Savannah as he did Charleston.  I think because it feels like a city – has a bit of mystery/danger to it.  Exciting!

Tomorrow we head to some Fort and then on a trolley ride around the city.  We then will do a bit of shopping and end the evening at Window’s Chop House – overlooking the Savannah River for Bill’s 1-Day-Early birthday dinner.  If you did not know, he is turning 30 on Saturday.  This is big stuff.

I started a Part 2 of our photos since I’ve taken a zillion and one pictures thus far and I know y’all are sick of scrolling to the end.  So Hilton Head and Savannah are in a new section.

Ok, only one full day left.  Weep.  But it has been great and a truly enjoyable experience.  I think the free internet access really helped.  Ha. 

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Anniversary Trip to Rocky Gap Lodge and Resort

Posted on June 25, 2006 in Travel

Bill and I just returned from a week-end getaway at the Rocky Gap Lodge and Resort.  We did some sightseeing, hiking and relaxing and enjoyed the beautiful countryside of the Allegany Mountain range.  We did so to celebrate our big 6 year anniversary.  As you can see, we have learned to compromise quite well: a little bit of shopping, a little bit of hiking.  Fun was had by all, although the only wildlife we really saw was a chipmunk and a rabbit.  Not even a squirrel. 

The scenery was truly beautiful and although the weather was cloudy, I still got some good pictures.

View Photos

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Our Trip to the Northeast

Posted on September 10, 2006 in Travel

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Boston was as wonderful, quaint, and historic as I dreamed it to be. From the historic churches built into the rows and rows of businesses to the cobblestone streets – this charming city ‘had me at hello.’  As always, I captured our trip in photos, so if you would rather go straight to the pictures, go!  View Photos of Boston/Newport.

Day 1: Freedom Trail and Boston Exploration

Although Bill and I stayed in Boston for 5 nights, we still felt as though we missed out on huge portions of the city. We attempted to explore as much as we could and by each day’s end, our feet felt as though we could see no more. On the first full day in town, we walked the “Freedom Trail” which is a walking path designed to show visitors many of the most interesting and historic sights in Boston. We also took one of those highly overpriced trolley tours, but that did help us see a vast more than we would have on our own, such as Chinatown and Charlestown.

Day 2: Prudential Center and Cambridge

The second day we went up into the Prudential Center – the 2nd tallest building in Boston, which offers the only 360 degree view of the city. From this vantage point, it is easy to see why Boston is so deeply loved by many. Although Boston has a handful of skyscrapers and busy business districts, it also is home to quaint, heavily tree lined neighborhoods, such as Beacon Hill and the Back Bay. Across the Charles River we could see the prestigious campuses of M.I.T. and Harvard, located in the city of Cambridge. For those of you in the D.C. area who havent’t been to Boston, Boston felt like a gigantic Old Town Alexandria – both in terms of the narrow cobblestone streets as well as the waterfront location.

Following our aerial view of Boston, we jumped on the “T” (Boston’s Metro) and headed into Cambridge. Before I go on, let me add that the “T” appeared to be a much easier and cheaper ($1.25 per trip) system of transportation than our dear Metro. Instead of standing infront of a giant train stop sign trying to figure out where you wanted to go, at what time (rush hour/non-rush hour) and attempting to calculate how much you would need – Boston’s system is a simple buck .25 that you pay as you enter the first station. No stupid “Exit Fees” or other complicated calculations – you simply put in your token/pass at the first stop – navigate your way to your destination and leave. The way it should be!! Ok, moving onto Cambridge/Harvard….

Once in Cambridge, Bill and I joined up with about 20 other people for the “Hahvahd Tour” – a tour given by two current Harvard students going into their senior year at the University. This 45 minute or so tour gave us some background on the university and discussed the various buildings in Harvard Square. We found this tour to be highly informative and entertaining – especially toward the end when we learned that Harvard is trying to end the tour, since it is not official. However, the students ask only for donations at the end and are not requesting fees. Therefore, the students are fighting back with an attorney from NYC to allow them to continue giving the tours. History in the making!

Day 3: Trinity Church, Boston Public Library, Sam Adams Brewery

We spent our third day in Boston shoving in as many last minute tours and sightseeing as we could. We first visited the Boston Public Library, which was directly across from our hotel. This library was absolutely gorgeous on the inside and slightly resembled the National Gallery of Art… only better, here in D.C. The walls and floors were constructed in marble and each room had a variety of art, including oil paintings on the walls and full ceiling murals. The architecture felt more like a museum or mansion than a library – but what a place to learn! I would think one would become more intelligent just being encompassed by such surroundings. Well… probably not, but it was darn pretty.

We followed this tour with a tour of the Trinity Church. The tidbit of information that Bill and I found most interesting was the fact that it was built 4500 wooden piles, since it was built in Boston’s Back Bay (once water). Wikipedia gives some additional info. “Trinity rests on some 4500 wooden piles, each driven through 30 feet of gravel fill, silt, and clay, and constantly wetted by a pump so they do not rot if exposed to air.” Now that’s interesting!

After our tour of both the library and the church, Bill and I decided to see if we could make the 2:00 tour of the Samuel Adams brewery, located in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood. After sifting through about 50 different maps of Boston at Barnes and Noble, we found one that showed how we should navigate from our hotel to the brewery. This seemed easy enough. We would hop on the green line to Heath St. and then walk 5 or so blocks to the brewery.

Ding – Everyone needs to exit at this stop, as the rest of the track has been closed. Clock check: 1:35. Map check: We are really far away…. (Roughly 2.5 miles away) Motivation check: High. So… doing what all good members of society would do for a chance at a free cold beer sample, we attempt to haul butt to the brewery. Of course, it’s hot out, we don’t know where we are, and the clock is ticking by. Clock check: 1:55. Map check: Still really far away. Nicole’s Motivation: Sort of low. But… we continue on. Clock check: 2:05. Map check: Looks like we are headed the right way. Reality check: We are in the middle of nowhere. So… we continue to haul down some random road in some random neighborhood. At about 2:10 we see a big wooden sign with the Sam Adams seal plastered to it that reads “Brewery Tours” and has an arrow pointing to the right. The end is near! At this point, I am determined to fight my way into the tour at all costs since my feet hurt… I’m achy… blah blah blah. We manage to find the “Tours Here” door and enter – although no one is around. A minute or so later the tour dude enters and says we can trail on the back of the group. Woo-hoo! So we latch on and away we go. The actual tour of the brewery was about 20 minutes or less and it seemed as though we only saw a very very small portion of all that was to see, but I was simply content that we found the place. At the end we sampled 3 different kinds of brews – although the only one I remember was the Summer Ale – which tasted “less nasty” than the other two. Not my bag, baby. Getting back was much easier – although at that point, we weren’t in such a rush, so I didn’t care.  

Day 4: Shopping Day!!

On the last day of our trip, I did a little shopping (little = less than 4 hrs) and Bill and I relaxed in Boston Common. We also saw the movie “Talladega Nights” with Will Ferrell at the Loews Theatre on Tremont Ave. It was a typical Will Ferrell movie: dumb, but funny. We didn’t do much else on this day, but pack up and prepare for our next destination: Newport, RI.

Day 5: Newport, RI and Mystic, CT

Bill and I headed down the coast to Newport, where we toured two mansions from the Gilded Age: The Breakers (Vanderbilts) and The Elms (coal businessman). Both were unique and stood apart from the other, but obviously both very grand. Every last tiny detail was considered in creating these masterpieces and the result was remarkable. The Breakers, at 138,000 sq. ft. was only used 4-8 months out of the year, as a summer cottage for the Vanderbilts – whose main residence was in Manhattan, off of 5th Ave. Full rooms were constructed overseas and then disassembled and shipped to the U.S. for reconstruction in the homes. I found it interesting that many of these homes in Newport were destroyed some time ago to make way for shopping centers, businesses, etc. The cost to maintain these places is immense, so developers find it easier to wipe out properties and rebuilt for their needs. Luckily, many of the remaining homes are under care by the Newport Historical Society and are being maintained.

After we departed Newport, we headed to Mystic, CT, where we spent a small amount of time touring the downtown area. We had dinner on the patio of the restaurant S&P Oyster and watched the crowds of people roaming about for the annual “Taste of Mystic” festival. Definitely a quaint little town with a small town/seaport charm to it. It was also the town where the film “Mystic Pizza” was filmed with Julia Roberts and crew. We drove by, but did not go in to look at the memorabilia on the walls. Following our dinner in downtown Mystic, we headed to Foxwoods Casino and Resort – about 10 miles outside of Mystic. Although we had not planned to visit the resort, we were encouraged to do so, as we were told there was more to see than the casino itself. Although we didn’t actually try our luck out in the casino, we did get the chance to walk around the ‘mall’ type area of the casino and had dessert at the Hard Rock café – retiring for the evening afterward.

Day 6: Homeward Bound

We departed Mystic around 8:30 on Saturday morning and had a pleasant jam packed ride back to Virginia. The roads were horrible and it appeared that everyone was traveling in the same direction that we were traveling. And of course, the road crews were out doing construction and the handful of people not paying attention to the road managed to get in accidents and cause major back-ups. Needless to say, we did arrive back in Virginia eventually, although a good bit after we had planned.

Conclusion

Boston: I believe I can honestly state that I loved Boston more than Manhattan. Boston’s small town feel gave it a personality and a charm that isn’t as apparent in NYC. The history and architecture in Boston also separate from other locations we have visited.  

Newport: I would definitely love to return and stay a bit longer in Newport. The downtown area was cute, but the outskirts also had some great trails and scenic areas that we didn’t get the chance to investigate.  

Thoughts? I loved the Northeast and would love to check out Maine and Montreal next!!

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The Tides Inn: A Memorial Day Getaway

Posted on May 26, 2008 in Travel

tides_inn2.jpgBill and I just returned from a most-lovely and relaxing week-end at The Tides Inn, in Irvington, VA (Northern Neck). Even though I thought their web site showcased a beautiful resort – I became more and more skeptical as we continued to drive forever – and see very few cars. I mean – it’s Memorial Day week-end, where is everyone!? The town of Irvington itself is nothing much to speak of – cute, quaint and itty-bitty. The next town over, Kilmarnock, had more ‘stuff’ like a Wal-Mart, pharmacy, etc., but only a handful of small restaurants. My point being – we were in the middle of nowhere, but the resort itself proved to be beautiful and all we needed anyway.

The resort itself is small, consisting of one two main small buildings for lodging – one with balconies and one without. The property also had tennis courts, a golf course, 2 pools, and 3 restaurants. We enjoyed a dinner cruise on the historic “Miss Ann” yacht the first night and ventured into town the second night for dinner, so we cannot attest to the quality of the food in the restaurants. However, the food on the Miss Ann was outstanding and we did enjoy gourmet breakfasts in the main Chesapeake dining room each morning.

We chose to spend both days lying by the pool, which was ideal for me. It let me simmer a bit from just being in much-busier-Boston and also catch up on future trip reading. We did rent a kayak and paddle around a bit and that was a nice break from doing nothing. I came down with a stupid cold half way through but it didn’t really damper our trip. Today, on the other hand, I don’t feel so swell.

In retrospect, I would definitely return to the Tides Inn if I was looking for a relaxing, scenic break, without the hustle and bustle of some of the other waterfront areas. However, if I wanted more shopping/sights (which I generally tend to want), I think I would return to St. Michaels instead.

And as always, I took a gazillion photos: View The Tides Inn Photos

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Cape May Vacation

Posted on July 21, 2008 in Travel

Bill and I spent the last week in beautiful Cape May, New Jersey with Bill’s family, celebrating his parents 50th Wedding Anniversary.  This was our first visit to the Cape May area and we found that the area had a great deal to offer; from simple beach lounging to a cute downtown with shops that had more than the typical tourist fare.  In addition to the Cape May area, we visited Wildwood and Atlantic  City, both north of the Cape May area, and both offering a glimpse at the New Jersey boardwalk style town.  We rented a beach house just a block from the Ocean and shared the house will Bill’s siblings and their spouses. Hope you enjoy the photos!

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Labor Day Week-end – Lake Anna

Posted on September 1, 2008 in Travel

Bill and I enjoyed a lovely 2 days (1 night) with our friends Brad and Andria at Lake Anna over the Labor Day week-end. The weather ended up being beautiful and perfect for time on the Lake. We zoomed around on Jet Ski’s and cruised around in the boat – enjoying the nice weather and seeing the lovely homes on the Lake. It was a perfect way to spend the Labor Day week-end! Thanks again Brad and Andria for having us, it was a blast!!

View Photos

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