Saturday, October 26, 2013

Leg 5: Central PA - Hershey's and Lancaster County

We left Baltimore and headed north-west to Harrisburg and immediately beelined for the town of Hershey. Just in time for cold front. Lows in the low-30's, high's in the low 50's. Brrrr.

I know that Cici knew what it was, but Isabel was confused all the way up to the entrance to the town. When she saw the theme park, kiss street lamps, and other signage, she became excited.

We first went to lunch at the Chocolate Avenue Grill. Everything we are there was delicious. I order the roast beef wrap, while the others ordered burgers. The best part was the hummus trio that was devoured by all in attendance.

After that we headed to the downtown museum. Since it was later in the day, we were snuck in to the Chocolate Lab a few minutes late, but we didn't miss much. We learned about the growing and harvesting of chocolate in several countries. We taste tested chocolate from several areas of the world, and then we created our own flavored candy bars.

Isabel dumped every available spice into her, which has made for a very spicy chocolate bar. She was left it for me to consume.

Next, we headed to World of Chocolate, on the Hershey property. There we found a chocolate wonderland. We participated in a packaging line for kisses. We then headed to the Candy Bar Creation Line. We each were able to digitally choose our filings and watch then head down the conveyor belt. After that we rode the Hershey ride, which is reminiscent of It's A Small World.

^^Hee-hee... Chris has to wear a beard net!^^

My chocolate bar on the conveyor

Last, but not least, we headed to the candy purchasing floor. If you think it was overwhelming before... bring two kids to TONS of candy for sale. We have POUNDS of kisses at the hotel...

The next day was "Mommy Day." Or, as I was calling it, "Time to go Amishing."

My father had recommended we head to Intercourse and Blue Ball (interesting names abound in Lancaster). Right off the bat, we stopped at a farmer's market that WAS AWESOME!!!

We purchased huge quantities of beef jerky, various cheese cubes, homemade bologna, fudge, and other treats. We snacked on these in the car as we cruised around the countryside.

^^Awesome Cauliflower^^

We stopped at two petting farms for the girls and allowed them to pet the caged animals (somewhat creepy) and then drove to a farm where quilts are sold.

The quilt farm was the best part of the day. It was a picturesque farm that one only imagines is in movies. A German Shepherd wandered up to our car to great us. The yard was filled with holstein cows. Heaven.

The girls gained permission to explore the farm and animals, while I looked through the quilts.

The quilts were extremely expensive, but all hand made. I hadn't splurged on myself yet this trip, so I bought one. YAY!

I think I could have definitely spent another day in this area, exploring the culinary delights, but alas! off to Carlisle!

In Carlisle, my Father recommended we visit the base he was stationed at while he was in the army. I had looked it up online, and knew that there was an outside park with military equipment to look at. By the time we got there, the museum had closed, but the park was open to visitors.

Cici, at this point, cold and tired, opted to stay in the car.

Isabel proceeded to make the rounds and pose with all of the equipment. It took 45 minutes, but it was fun.

Next stop!!! Philadelphia!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Leg 3 & 4: What?!? No government shut down??? Washington DC/ Baltimore

Williamsburg is only two hours from my brother's home in the D.C. suburbs. We arrived earlier than expected and chilled out on the couch for hours.

At this point, we were exhausted. We vegged.

The Government got it's act together just before we arrived.

I know... collective "awwww!"

I have protests planned. I was going to host a poster making night. We were going to participate in the government process by being active citizens and utilizing our right to gather... alas! This was not to happen.

Instead, we grabbed dinner in Falls Church (Vietnamese of course!) and then did an evening round of the monuments.

We did get out of the car for the new WW2 memorial. It was amazing! Isabel practiced her reading with each of the engraved plaques. We had a lesson in being respectful in war memorials. She learned it quickly and beautifully. I was quite proud.

The next day Megan (my sister-in-law) and I headed to The Four Seasons DC for a luxurious spa day. 

We started at breakfast in which Megan proclaimed that THIS is the best thing she ever placed in her mouth.

This is a CRONUT. It is a cross between a doughnut and croissant filled with cinnamony custard. 

We enjoyed an amazing omelette filled with boursin cheese and crab. We also had a salmon dish with miso soup. Everything was amazing!!!

^^ See all the mirrors in the Four Seasons bathroom? ^^

We headed off to the spa to enjoy the facilities. We booked a facial and massage. My facial was great! Megan wasn't too sure if she liked her facial, but loved the arm and foot massage.

Next, we were in for massages, but ACK! Megan's masseuse left due to a family emergency. 

Megan has never experienced a massage before, so I WAS NOT taking her massage. Megan wasn't going to let me go without. We worked out two 30 minute massages. YAY!!!

After our massages, we spent time in the whirlpool and the other facilities.

Our last day was spent shopping, cooking, and pumpkin carving. I was quite impressed with the ingenuity of my brother's foster daughter, who took my salmon and made a sandwich out of it.

Isabel broke out her face paint kit again to set up Jackson with some army face.


Next, we spent one night in Baltimore. 

Yes, we stayed inside the Inner Harbor... Apparently anywhere outside is a war zone.

We didn't see anything particularly unsavory other than a few more homeless individuals than usual.

We DID see something awesome! The National Aquarium!!!

I was very impressed with the presentation format of the aquarium. It was dark, so sorry about some of the pictures...

Then off for some famous Maryland crab!!! Yes! My favorite!

Isabel's legs gave out, so Cici helped us get to the bus.

Public transporation >>>>>>>

Now, the good stuff!

We really enjoyed Baltimore and would have loved to spend more time, but ONWARD!!!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Leg 2: Colonial Strife in Williamsburg

Our next stop was Williamsburg. I underestimated the drive. I had planned on stopping in Raleigh to meet up with my Brother-in-Law, and I knew that was 4 hours. I didn't account for the other three hours it takes to get to Williamsburg.

We were impressed with the scenery. We literally ripped the power cord out of the DVD player to make the kids stare in awe of the "cotton fields." They oohed and awwwwed.

I then made Chris pull over onto private property to steal a puff. One little puff...

The girls acted like they were trying to traverse the jungles of Vietnam as they crossed the two feet of brambles to the cotton. After what seemed like ten minutes, I yelled at them to get back to the car, "We are breaking the law!!!!"

We booked it back to the car and stopped in Florence, SC for Mexican food. The kids both ordered the required vegetables to earn churros. We love churros.

We arrived in Williamsburg in the early evening and decided to camp out at the hotel. Pizza ordered. Check. Homework to complete. Check. Sleep. Check!

The next day we headed to Colonial Williamsburg. I met up with my brother Scott and my nephews Hunter and Jackson.

Jackson is closer in age to Isabel than any of the other cousins, so I have been hearing a refrain of "when will we see Jackson?" and "Are we going to be with Jackson?" for the past four days.

Finally! We found Jackson.

Now one of the things you can do in Williamsburg is rent a period costume. I insisted we dress up Isabel and Jackson in period garb. I was so excited!!!

Isabel was not.

It actually turned into tears. This went on for 45 minutes until we realized that it was the mob cap that was upsetting and embarrassing her. (For my diverse friends, I DID offer her the choice of the male costume instead. She turned me down.)

We strolled the grounds and met the actors. Isabel seemed pretty interested in some of the demonstrations. Jackson was more interested in "shooting" random people with his musket, and Hunter was hungry the entire time.

Cici was the only person who genuinely enjoyed every moment of the trip. She was upset that they did not have period costumes for her to rent. Instead we bought her a cap that she wore the entire day. Poor baby...

We gave up around 3:00 due to a limping Isabel and headed back to the hotel. That evening we went to a seafood restaurant and then went to swim... again...

Overall, this was not my favorite stop. I feel that Isabel wasn't as interested as she could have been if Colonial Williamsburg was a bit more interactive for Isabel.

My nephew Jackson solved this interaction problem by accosting other people at the park who were ALSO dressed in period garb (re-enactors???).

Jackson with his "random stranger." When asked "Who do you think that is?"
 He replied, "An American!"