Our favorite moments from Colorado

Andrew and I spent a week in Colorado with my brother last month ….

Here are just some quick notes before I forget them – some highlights of our week in Colorado:

  • The 16+ hour drive to and from – Andrew’s absolute favorite
  • touring the Stanley Hotel
  • touring the brewery – I just love guided tours
  • seeing elk so so close to the road
  • getting out and hiking in gorgeous weather
  • meeting Kevin’s girlfriend, roommates, and seeing where he’s been living for the last couple years
  • Kevin’s throne-like toilet
  • taking Andrew on his (first) trip to Rocky Mountain National Park!
  • driving in the rain and stopping for coffee

Check out our favorite moments from past vacations too – Scotland and Alaska.

More photos and stories of Colorado to come.

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coming home

travel - coming home

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Big Bear weekend away (part 3)

Sunday morning of our weekend away in Big Bear …. We both woke up at 730a or 8a or so. I’m sure part of that had to do with going to bed early, but we’re both morning people, for sure. Andrew went and got a little (sad, weak) coffee from the lobby, we both showered and got ready for our day and then decided to venture out for breakfast before deciding what else to do.

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Andrew got on his phone again and Yelp’d breakfast nearby. Even though there were closer places to eat, we decided to head over to the North Shore (on the other side of the lake) and eat at the North Shore Café. We happened to get there right at at the exact right moment and were able to sit down immediately. Only because we were a party of 2, of course. The only table available was a table for 2 on the front porch (in the sun).

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The North Shore Café is basically a house – tables inside (in the ‘living room’ and ‘dining room’ and tables outside (on the ‘front porch’ and ‘front yard’). That particular Sunday morning there was 1 waitress for the inside and one for the outside. And they both seemed a little frazzled. The indoor-waitress took our drink order, because the outdoor-waitress was too busy. She ended up bringing us only half a cup of coffee each because they were brewing more (and then neither of them ever got around to bringing us more). We also got soup spoons instead of regular spoons because they were in the middle of doing dishes.

So, yea. Busy.

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Breakfast is my favorite – and breakfast with Andrew is even better. And then add in the fact that Andrew got breakfast tacos which is his favorite and (aside from the lack of coffee) it was a pretty perfect morning.

After breakfast we just drove around. Nothing special, no idea where we were going. But the views and the scenery and even just the sides-of-the-road around Big Bear Lake are gorgeous.

Andrew always drives whenever we go anywhere.  I don’t like to drive and he LOVES it, so it works out well. We’re a good team.

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I handled the music and my camera, while he drove back around to the south side of the lake. Once we got over there, he decided to keep driving farther east, past the edge of the lake … just to see what to see. From my maps app on my phone, it looked like just residential to me, but he wanted to see.

Eventually he turned right (south) on some street or other and we started to climb a hill in a residential area. We passed a city sign indicating we were entering ‘Sugarloaf’ and kept going. Stop sign and then what looked like more residential.

Except, after we passed the Stop sign Andrew got pulled over. Allegedly he didn’t stop at the Stop sign … but we both know he did the classic ‘California roll’ and came to an almost-complete stop before (safely) driving through the intersection. Officer Sugarloaf was nice about it though … didn’t give us a hard time. Didn’t seem to mind all that much that our insurance and registration didn’t have our current address on it (and was also expired). Politely explained what was up ahead when Andrew asked him.

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Clearly this guy had nothing better to do at 10:30a on a Sunday morning than lay in wait for drivers at this completely residential Stop sign.

Oh well. It could have been worse.

We more or less decided to just go back to the room after that, though.

And relax.

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Relax so thoroughly that we both took some pretty substantial naps.

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We also read (in the room and on the beach) …. And somehow put in 4 or 5 hours … But we really didn’t do anything productive or touristy or what I usually think of as vacation-y. We just relaxed.

Because of all this relaxing we skipped lunch… So around 4:45 or so we headed out for an early dinner. Yep, Sunday night dinner at 5p. Like a couple of old people.

We had already planned on dinner at Captains Anchorage, the one place in town that Andrew could find that claimed to be haunted.

I love me some hauntedness.

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We walked in and were seated right away – next to some old people on either side, served by an old person, and we were easily the youngest ones in the restaurant by 10 years or more. Captains Anchorage is priced a little bit fancier than we usually do, but the entrees ALL include soup and a trip to the salad bar. Deal city. I got a steak, Andrew got (delicious) Orange Ruffi with a salsa-like sauce on top.

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And it was still plenty light out when we got done with dinner….

Too late in the day to do anything like hiking, of course, but plenty of daylight still to relax and read. Have I mentioned yet that we spent most of the weekend relaxing and reading?

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Around 8p or so I got a sugar craving, so we drove over to The Village to get some ice cream and people-watch. Being Sunday night, of course, there weren’t a whole lot of people around, but that almost made it nicer.

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By the time we got back to the hotel it was dark- though not too late. We half-heartedly searched out a movie on TV (weird feeling, actually looking for something on a channel), but ended up just reading for a bit and falling asleep early. EARLY. Like 930p or so.  Super early considering on work nights I don’t even get home til midnight.

Monday morning we woke up around 8a or so … checked out, got some coffee, and headed back home.

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I (unfortunately) had to be at work later that day.

Thus ends the whole of our “vacation” for 2012. Bummer.

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Big Bear weekend away (part 1)

Andrew had a month off work this summer – that corresponds exactly with the month that I’m not allowed to take time off from my job. So there goes any vacation plans we might have had.

Instead, I resolved that we would do a little weekend getaway – we live in Southern California, after all. There are endless options for weekend vacations.

By the time Andrew knew for sure which weekend would work for him, it was already a couple weeks before. I had originally hoped we could have rented a beach-town condo or similar on the central coast and had Christian and Avalon come meet us. But of course, by the time I started looking everything was either WAY out of our price range or booked up.

Sad. So what are some other non-beach options? We eventually narrowed it down to Palm Springs and Big Bear. Since we had already been to Palm Springs (a couple years ago) and since it was bound to be 140 degrees or something equally ridiculous, we decided on Big Bear.

Andrew hadn’t ever been, and I hadn’t been since 1998 or so – with the high school group with my church. I should dig out those photos!

I had solicited ideas on Twitter and Facebook and several people recommended Big Bear, and one even provided a specific hotel recommendation. My friend Kam has been to Big Bear several times and gave me some more ideas….. But after a little bit of research, I was able to book a little studio private cabin basically right on the lake for less than a hotel room elsewhere.

Deal city!

So I made sure Andrew KNEW without a doubt which days I had booked us rooms for (he’s not great with dates), and then started daydreaming about how we would spend our weekend. I didn’t do a whole lot of research. It’s not as if Big Bear was high on my list of places to visit because of such and such. I just figured we’d hike or maybe do something a little more involved like kayaking or so. But no definite plans.

Which honestly was kind of nice. All of our past vacations I have WAY planned to the hour. And loved all of them (Italy, Scotland, etc). But this weekend-away was not necessarily going to be like that. It was just a weekend to be together away from home.

The night before we left, I was at work and Andrew did a little bit of research into any places around town that might be haunted. Because that is ALWAYS a fun touristy thing to do. He also looked at some other options – kayaking, horseback riding, fishing.

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We left home Saturday morning around 8a or so. As per our tradition, we treated ourselves to Starbucks on the way out of town. Big Bear is about 2.5 hours away, and we spent the morning listening to Marc Maron’s WTF podcast.

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I had no idea that Big Bear was ON the mountain range. We got into the San Bernardino National Forest and started climbing the windy switch-back road up the mountain. Slowly, of course, and stopped once to take in the view from the shoulder. But just kept climbing and climbing. I guess I assumed Big Bear was in a valley on the other side of the mountain, but no. It was created actually as a reservoir with a dam at one end. So we climbed the mountain, rounded the corner and there it was.

From Wikipedia:

Big Bear Lake is a reservoir in the San Bernardino Mountains, in San Bernardino County, California, United States. At a surface elevation of 6,750 ft (2,060 m), it has an east-west length of approximately 7 miles (11.2 km) and is approximately 2.5 miles (4 km) at its widest measurement, though the lake’s width mostly averages a little more than 1 mile (1.6 km). These approximations are based on the lake having an optimum retainable water level. At dam’s end Big Bear measures its deepest water at 72 feet (22 m). It is a completely snow-fed lake, having no other means of tributary or mechanical replenishment.

We got to Big Bear around 11:30a or so, which was too early to check into the hotel, so we ‘Yelp’d’ some restaurants nearby.

When we got into town, we drove around the lake a little bit, just to see what there was to see and get our bearings in the area. We stopped by Vons to get some water bottles – since we both pretty much only drink water and especially if we were going to go on a hike.

I noticed several places to pull off and park, but they all required an “Adventure Pass”. We came across the Big Bear Discovery Center where we were able to pick up a couple maps of the area and an Adventure Pass for parking. We bought the Annual Pass, so now we need to go visit other National Parks so our $35 doesn’t go to waste!

I don’t know what it is about being in the outdoors or the mountains like that, but I was totally craving a burger. A nice, cheesy, home-style burger. We found a parking spot near Teddy Bear Restaurant and went there for lunch.

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Fun little sidenote: We were seated out on the patio for lunch, and the family at the table next to ours was debating politics and the validity of the Electoral College. And by “family” I mean parents and a 14-ish year old and an 11-ish year old. I LOVE that!

I got my burger – exactly what I wanted – and Andrew ordered tacos. He always orders tacos. If there are tacos on the menu he has to have them. I don’t really get it, but if he wants to have tacos I’m not going to stop him.

Turns out he should not have gotten the tacos. No cilantro, I think the meat was mixed with scrambled egg. Not really his thing at all.

But now I feel like I have to make a mini scrapbook about all the places Andrew has eaten tacos.

Next up: hiking and our hotel!

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Scotland: Stirling Monday night

After visiting Stirling Castle and the nearby cemetery … by this time it was far too late to go on to Edinburgh so we headed home.

This time Kevin drove the car with GPS and Mom and Dad rode with Andrew and me.

Now, I’m pretty good at reading maps. Without the GPS to confuse me, I’m sure I could have gotten us around the country just fine with the AAA map Mom and Dad got.

But for whatever reason … we followed the car with GPS.

On the way TO Stirling we ended up going way out of the way on a highway parallel to the one we wanted.

On the way BACK from Stirling, we’re following Kevin (who is following GPS) … who goes on the MOST DIRECT route back to Aberfeldy. Which is NOT the route on the larger (faster) highways.

Nope. Instead we spent SEVERAL miles on a one-late road.

One-lane for BOTH directions. The kind of one late when you’re praying the whole time you’re not going to encounter any other cars, because then either they or us will have to back up til we find some kind of turnout.

And considering long stretches of this one lane had waist-high meadows on either side, I’m not so sure how easy that would be.

But, like I said … It was the most DIRECT route.. Straight north instead of east-north-west.

(landscape photos all taken from the moving car)

By the time we got back to Aberfeldy I was hungry-hungry! I had barely eaten anything for almost 3 days now (from being sick) …

We got home and agreed to walk into town to find some food.

Since Andrew had already (basically) scoped out the route and the restaurants he led the way.

Aberfeldy is teeny tiny but there is a little ‘square’ – what feels like the center of town.

 

Located there is a little takeaway fast food restaurant called ‘A Place on the Square’ that serves pizza, burgers and (among other things) “Donner meat” …

For someone who grew up in California, Donner meat can only mean one thing: The Donner Party of 1846, known for cannibalism.

Aweome.

(we found out later that Donner meat is lamb).

We settled on dinner at “The Fountain” – a pub that was more affordable, but whose kitchen was about to close so we were hurried through our order.

Still on the lookout for vegetables, I ordered “vegetable lasagna” thinking at least I’ll get some tomatoes… (even through the lasagna is even served with ‘chips’). Everyone else ordered some version of meat and potatoes.

Sadly for me … my ‘vegetable lasagna’ was mostly cheese, cream and noodles. Very few tiny pieces of veggie, no tomato sauce at all … and far far too rich fro my sensitive stomach.

(It would have been funny if I wasn’t so hungry!)

Luckily for me, Andrew came to my rescue (again) and gave me half his meal while finishing off the lasagna I couldn’t eat.

Then it was a walk home in the dark ….

We got back to the cottage and Andrew ate some of his carrot cake and they opened a bottle of whisky they had bought in Oban ….

Then to bed for our early morning the next day for Edinburgh!

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Scotland: Church of the Holy Rude

After Stirling Castle …we walked a *little* bit down the hill to the cemetery at the Church of the Holy Rude.

The church of the Holy Rude dates from 1129, founded as the parish church of Stirling.

King James VI was crowned King of Scots here in 1567 (Mary Queen of Scots’ son). This makes the church and Westminster Abbey the only churches in Britain still in use that have been sites of coronation.

Andrew loves cemeteries – can’t get enough of them.

As we walked back up the hill after lunch, we walked right by the cemetery at the Church of the Holy Rude and promised ourselves that we would come back.

After Stirling Castle closed, and right about sunset, we wandered over to the cemetery and wandered around.

This is a REALLY old cemetery – with gravestones dating from the 1600s or so.

It seems to be a bit sprawling, with additional plots and corners tacked on here and there.

It also *appears* that people are STILL being buried in this cemetery.

It was certainly pretty and striking and a bit haunting (in the non-literal sense).

Andrew likes to go to cemeteries to sit with a book and I can definitely see the appeal.

The Church of the Holy Rude cemetery also gave rise to Kevin’s second made-up song.

To a very similar tune to the William Wallace song, Kevin started singing some of the names and dates on the headstones near us …

♫  Mary McMurphy; Died 1860; Age 76!

John Roberts; Died 1812; Age 34

Michael Magness Died 1840; Age 8 months  ♫

-        then interrupted himself to say, “Oh, that’s sad!”

I feel like that song will be in my head forever…

We stayed for awhile …. until almost sunset …

One of several cemeteries we visited while in Scotland

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Scotland: Stirling Castle

Once we finally got to the castle … we had bathroom breaks and postcard shopping and ticket buying.

Completely out of the blue and as a surprise, Dad bought the entrance tickets for all six of us.

And not just entrance tickets, but an “Explorer’s Pass” for ₤25 each, giving us entrance to 3 different castles or sites run by Historic Scotland.

SUPER generous and extremely convenient for the rest of the week …. Except, now I had to keep track of these big, unwieldy tickets (turns out they fit nicely in a Rick Steves book)

 

FROM RICK STEVES:

Stirling Castle

“He who holds Stirling, holds Scotland”

‘These fateful words have proven, more often than not, to be true. Stirling Castle’s strategic position – perched on a volcanic crag overlooking a bridge over the River Forth, the primary passage between the Lowlands and the Highlands – has long been the key to Scotland.

This castle of the Stuart kings is one of Scotland’s most historic and popular.

Offering spectacular views over a gentle countryside, and a mildly interesting but steadily improving exhibit inside, Stirling is worth a look.

Stirling marks the site of two epic medieval battles where famous Scotsmen defeated huge English armies despite impossible odds: in 1297, William Wallace (aka Braveheart) fended off an invading English army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. And in 1314, Robert the Bruce won the battle of nearby Bannockburn.

Soon after, the castle became the primary residence of the Stuart monarchs, who turned it into a showpiece of Scotland (and a symbol of one-upmanship against England).

But when the Crown moved to London, Stirling’s prominence waned. The military, which took over the castle during the Jacobite Wars of the 18th century, bulked it up and converted it into a prison – damaging much of its delicate beauty.

Since 1966, the fortress has been undergoing an extensive and cost costly restoration to bring it back to its glory days and make it, once again, one of Britain’s premier castles.’

It was at Stirling Castle that Kevin started singing his first (of many) made up songs…. About “William Wallace, greatest Scotsman ever: … who apparently accomplished such feats as white-washing all the buildings in record time, and riding all the horses and other such nonsense…

According to Wikipedia, Stirling Castle has only recently been restored. The Royal Palace building *just* reopened in June of 2011 – 6 royal apartments have been restored to how they looked in the 1540s, when the castle was the childhood home of Mary Queen of Scots.

Further restorations aren’t scheduled to be completed for another couple years still …

 

{more from Wikipedia}

The first record of Stirling Castle dates from around 1110 (900 years ago), when King Alexander I dedicated a chapel there.

Stirling was also the site of 2 major battles during the War of Independence (with William Wallace and Robert the Bruce)

Almost all the current buildings were constructed in the 1500s by the Stuart kings (James 4 to 6). Mary Queen of Scots was crowned in the chapel royal in 1543 – and later (1565) nursed Lord Darnley through an illness there.

Their son (James VI) was baptized at Stirling Castle.

After 1603, Stirling Castle became principally a military center. Until 1964, the Castle was owned by the War Office and used as a barracks for the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Many of the buildings have since been restored.

Once inside the castle (just past the ticket takers), the first part of the castle-proper is called the Forework. There are outerwalls and cannons to one side of you, a garden and small museum in the other direction, or you can just go straight into more and more courtyards with hidden hallways and many corners and plenty of places for ghosts to hide.

(interior of the Great Hall)

It’s pretty hard for all 6 of us to stay together. Between Dad reading everything that is posted, Andrew with his 360-degree photos and mom/Chelsea/me with our dSLRs, we’re all going at VERY different paces.

I just made sure to stick with Andrew.

I feel like everywhere in Europe has the potential to be haunted.

There are just centuries and centuries of history and untold accounts of death (including murder, assassination and other sudden deaths).

We didn’t see any ghosts at Stirling Castle, but apparently there is a “green lady” ghost who is said to be the ghost of one of Mary Queen of Scots’ servants.

After milling about all over the castle – there is no audioguide or real cohesive plan of how a visitor can see everything. I fell like Andrew and I missed something – the castle was closing. And by then it was too late to visit the William Wallace Monument…

So, instead, we walked a *little* bit down the hill to the cemetery at the Church of the Holy Rude…..

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Scotland: arriving and Edinburgh

So here begins our Scotland story!

This vacation was (my brother) Kevin’s idea! Genius.

He proposed that we all (me and Andrew, mom and dad and K’s girlfriend Chelsea) meet him in the UK during his month off from his government contracting job in Afghanistan.

Between various finagling – it turned out our parents were able to get a timeshare in Scotland for a week!

And then our parents, Kevin and Chelsea went on to Ireland (and Andrew and I went home)…. So since Andrew and I only had 1 week there, I volunteered to plan the Scotland week.

I’m a planner.

I got my Rick Steves Scotland book – he has never steered me wrong – and read it cover to cover.

Since everyone else was pretty non-committal, I didn’t want to plan anything too rigidly.

Not like when we went to Italy and had very specific times for guided tours and things … Nope.

This trip I had rough days planned out … a long with ONE guided tour booked for the afternoon we were planning on going to Edinburgh. The rest of the time was totally flexible – which is good since my dad finally gave an opinion once we were over there.

So! Thursday, August 11 Andrew and I left LAX about noon, headed to Edinburgh (via Newark, NJ) with only a rough idea what we would be seeing, how we would be getting around and how we would be spending our time ….

7 days in Scotland with the Hann family …..

Our flight landed at Edinburgh International airport around 930a….

We landed at Edinburgh about 930a -> breezed through customs -> picked up our luggage and then off to find our ride.

For an international airport, Edinburgh is surprisingly small. Almost like Burbank.

There is really only 1 terminal. Only 3 or 4 doors in and out of the airport (for both arrivals and departures) and the car rental hub is a short walk away. So easy.

Kevin met us at the airport …. at the car rental hub.

I wish I had a photo of our first glimpse of him:

Tall, lanky guy in shorts; red-blonde hair growing out a bit in loose curls (the ‘Hobbit hair’ he had in high school); red-blonde goatee getting a bit long with a definite need of some trimming and cleaning up on the sides.

I love my brother. He’s always a joy.

The car rental hub is just a short walk away from the airport, and Kevin was sitting waiting for is in the small waiting area.

He had been in Edinburgh for about 4 or 5 days already, but didn’t rent his car until this Friday when we arrived.

Which means we got to witness him trying to figure out how to drive on the “wrong” side and roundabouts! PLUS he rented a manual transmission! He only got honked at twice on that first driving day….for drifting into the other lane or going too slow. Or both.

Once we met Kevin and got the car, it was still only about 11a and we had several hours before we were due to meet Mom, Dad and Chelsea (all flying together) at the airport/car rental.

Kevin drove us into the city of Edinburgh, passing the pub (The White Lady) where he had been staying and telling us all about hsi time: seeing shows at the Fringe Festival, making friends at pubs and walking around town …

So, we decided to park, walk around and find some coffee.

Parking in Scotland is … interesting.

It’s unclear if there are any rules or guidelines. It seems like (unlike in the United States) you may park on either side of the street. Which means that if there are any 1-way streets it is potentially impossible to identify them at a glance.

So the trick was to to find street parking in Edinburgh… but not anywhere that Kevin had to try to parallel park. Luckily, I still had some British pounds from my trip to England in 2009 so Andrew and I had plenty of $ to help with the paid parking.

We parked and walked a blog or two and found a cute little coffeshop serving breakfast.

Called Mercat

coffee, scrambled eggs, toast and fried tomatoes

then back to put more money in for parking!

We walked a bit further into the city ….

(it was drizzling on and off this morning)

(that’s Edinburgh Castle on the top of the hill in the distance)

 

We found a park just next to a church (St. Cuthbert’s, I think), just at the foot of the Edinburgh Castle rock.

Of course, Andrew wanted to walk through the church’s cemetery. That boy cannot get enough of cemeteries.

I think we were around Prince’s Street.

 

Once the three of us decided we didn’t want to pay any more for parking, we still had 3 or so hours to kill.

…. so we went to find a pub, of course!

Some place out of the city proper where we could get some drinks and sit and relax for a few hours without paying for parking.

Kevin found a place called “Centurion” just outside of town, and parked in a residential neighborhood nearby.

I got a coffee, Andrew got a Guinness and Kevin got a sandwich (or “stuffed roll”) .. .. mostly because he asked about food, the bartender went through the trouble of bringing out the tray of sandwiches and Kevin felt obligated.

So, there we sat for almost 2 hours with horse racing on the TV….

Eventually, it got to the point that I could barely keep my eyes open (approaching 24 hours awake) and there is only so much we can drink.

We had about an hour still to go, so it was off to the airport.

Short-term parking log.

Parked and slept in the car.

True story. I got just enough sleep to make it the rest of the day.

At one point, Kevin and Andrew got out to go meet the others … and I stayed in the car. I woke up again when they came back (with Chelsea) and the 4 of us drove together to Aberfeldy and to our ‘cottage’ at Moness Resort.

Keving got GPS for the car – which was helpful – but for whatever the reason, it took us on tiny winding roads (assuming that it is ‘shorter’) rather than on the larger main highway (which HAD to be faster).

That first night driving to Aberfeldy it rained.

Between the rain, the driving on the left and the tiny (tiny) winding roads, it  very much felt like this was going to be a high-stress trip. At least in terms of getting around town.

We got to Moness… checked in… found our ‘cottage’ and tried to settle in….

(Where we stayed – Aberfeldy – is in the middle)

We got there first, followed shortly by mom and dad in the Mercedes he rented.

The resort has a formal(ish) restaurant and a pub (and takeaway) …. along with typical resort-y things like a pool, DVD rentals, etc.

Seeing as it was 8p by the time we all finally got there… we elected to eat at the “pub” (before they close at 9p) and go to bed…..

Side story:

At dinner, Andrew and I decided to share a ‘ham and pineapple salad’

Salad it was NOT

Instead, we got a plate with a few leaves of lettuce, a slice of tomato and a couple slices of cucumber in the corner.

Plus a scoop of coleslaw, a hard-boiled egg, pickled beets, a big slice of ham and 2 slices of pineapple.

What?


No set plans for Saturday – just sleeping in and then “we’ll see” …

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Alaska souvenirs

So I know you’re sad, but …We have now reached the end of our Alaska vacation posts….

It’s OK. … You’ll be OK…. Scotland blog posts begin next week….

As a last good-bye (at least until I get my film from the trip developed) …  I wanted to show you the souvenirs Andrew and I got from our trip!

We tend to get the same souvenirs on every trip – and all are pretty much stuff my parents get on their vacations. I can’t imagine leaving a vacation without at least one of the following:

Playing cards:

I like getting souvenirs that are *technically* practical … even if we don’t play cards all that often!

Drinking glasses:

(Actually, we get coffee mugs more often)

In our last port in Alaska, we ate lunch at the Skagway Brewing Co … Andrew had really been wanting a nice sturdy beer stein he could keep in the freezer, and I love this style of drinking glass, so we each picked one out.

I liked this particular glass (above on the left) because of the color, and because of the image (that nice tree line + ship)….

….. it wasn’t until we got home that I actually read the tagline…

and now I love it even more!

I call it the ‘scurvy glass’ …

Ornament:

Christmas ornaments are a Hann-family tradition! We picked out this bald eagle ornament in Ketchikan after seeing so many of them on our wildlife tour!

But, of course, the most important souvenir from our trip is our memories that we made and the stories we can tell about the trip.

I spent a little bit of time ON the trip, and quite a bit of time AFTER the trip jotting everything down in our Alaska travel journal. We included ticket stubs, pamphlets, Instax mini photos, hand-written journaling and more! (I even got Andrew to journal a little bit).

I love that I have all of this in one little book (all the journaling from the Alaska blog posts are taken from the journal)

 

 

and just a quick example of one of the pages…

What kinds of souvenirs do you bring home from your vacations?

If you missed any of the posts, click the banner below for the full Alaska travel archive:

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Alaska: Seattle

After the aquarium …. we walked uphill (several flights of stairs) to Pike Place Market ….

(crowded. SO crowded. But it was a Sunday morning, so what do you expect…. )

 

 

 

Once we started getting a bit hungry, through the magic of technology Andrew used the Yelp app on his iPhone to look up a place for lunch with an overwhelming number of good reviews. … Obviously this was our choice – we just needed to find it!

So we walked a bit more … through Pike Place Market, visited a harbor pakr … and tried to get our bearings and figure out where to walk to find this restaurant …

 

 

It turns out Kaitlin had dropped us off EXACTLY in front of the restaurant, so we ended up walking in a big circlr.

For lunch we had Rodizo at Ipanema Brazilian Grill

 

All-you-can-eat at a Brazilian grill … . One plate of salads and sides (fruit, pasta, potatoes, etc)…. One plate for the meat samples brought to us at our table …

… On MEAT SWORDS.

True story….

We had a little green-red tag on our table :

– turned to green when we wanted them to bring us meat (pepper steak, bacon-wrapped steak, sausage, chicken sirloin, and on and on and on)

– turn to red when you have more food on your plate than you can possibly eat and need a break from the meat.

 

 

 

 

It was so so so good and we were SO full afterward that we didn’t really eat for about 24 hours!!

The rest of our Seattle story involves walking around in another big circle looking for a record store so Andrew could spend his birthday money!

 

 

 

…. and then bravely seeking out and figuring out the Seattle transit to get to the airport.

$32 cab or $2.75 each for the light rail…

We got to the airport so early that they actually changed the flight’s gate while we were there. Luckily we were paying attention ….

Landed at home at the Burbank airport at about 9p PT … then home.

THEN SLEEP!

…. and then back to our “real” life…. sad…

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Alaska: Seattle Aquarium

Sunday morning …We docked early early early in Seattle and had to be off the ship by 8a.

Due to flight options in and out of Burbank airport, Andrew and I had about 7 or so hours between when we got off the ship in Seattle and when we had to be at the Seattle-Tacoma airport.

Luckily for us, Kaitlin and Julie were driving home and offered to take the bulk of our luggage with them. We kept our laptops and cameras and books, but that was pretty much it … so we could walk around town *mostly* unencumbered.

Kaitlin dropped us off downtown early enough on a Sunday morning that there was hardly any one out and about….

We walked down to the shore …. and had time to treat ourselves to a leisurely coffee… but unfortunately where we happened to be there was only Starbucks.

Just a few days prior, Andrew and I had talked about how we hadn’t been to an aquarium in awhile. Andrew loves aquariums and we always try to go when there’s one nearby….

… Well, wouldn’t you know it? Seattle has a (small) aquarium right by where Katie dropped us off!

Fate, I tell you…

 

 

 

Aquariums are such fun places to take photos …

The Seattle aquarium has 1 building (1 and 1/2?) of tank-displays (which also includes the you-can-touch tidepools) and 1 building of outdoor exhibits (seals, otters, birds, etc)…

 

 

 

 

Disappointingly, no sharks or rays but Andrew and I got our aquarium fix for a little while…. and I decided I need a pet otter. Sea or river. I’m not picky …

 

After the aquarium, we headed up to Pike’s Market and to wander Seattle some more ….

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Alaska: Victoria (part 2)

(Continuing with our excursion to Butchart Gardens in Victoria, Canada on our last day of the Alaska cruise):

I don’t really have a lot of stories of visiting the Butchart Gardens …

Just lots and lots of photos of flowers.

It was pretty crowded and we mostly felt like we had to rush … to make sure we caught our shuttle to take us back to the ship on time…

… but it really was gorgeous ….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

… we DID get some (expensive) gelato at the end. From this little gelateria in the ‘Italian Garden’ …

 

Then back to the ship by 11:30p to go to bed to get up at 6a to finish packing to be off the ship by 8am…

 

Even though our CRUISE portion of the trip was over … Andrew and I still spent a good bit of the next day in Seattle ….

stay tuned!

 

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Alaska: Victoria (part 1)

Our final day of our Alaskan cruise …. was primarily spent at sea.

We were headed back down to Seattle (all day Friday and most of the day Saturday) – one of the downsides of doing a round-trip cruise instead of 1-way.

We spent the morning/early afternoon reading and playing games. More Mexican Train and more Shang-hai

 

 

Still celebrating Andrew’s birthday a little bit …. He got to open up a bday present at lunch!

 

 

Saturday night we actually docked at Victoria a little early. … .about 5:30p instead of 7p as scheduled.

Good thing, too … Otherwise it would have been a REALLY quick trip.

As far as I can tell, the only reason the ship docks in Victoria at all is so the ship can open up the casino in international waters – since we are visiting an international country.

Anyway, once we docked…. We caught an (expensive) shuttle into downtown … and once there spend more money for another shuttle from the same company out to Butchart Gardens… and back to the ship. A bit annoying to overpay like that … but I guess that’s what vacations are for?

 

The #1 highlight that Julie wanted to see was Butchart Gardens, but that is several miles out of town.

So we jumped on the shuttle – with a narrated drive – out to the gardens …

We learned all kinds of things…. Like that Victoria is the retirement capital of Canada.

Mostly because they have perfect weather pretty much year-round and no poisonous snakes or spiders…

*jealous!*

But homes are correspondingly expensive, I guess.

Locals in the suburbs are encouraged to use their land for agriculture and such… .so apparently some of them will leave a vegetable cart of sorts at the end of their driveway with a cash box and just depend on the ‘honor system’ to sell their goods …

Kind of adorable…

We got the Butchart Gardens before sunset …. but not much before sunset ….

 

 

 

Holy geez this place is gorgeous ….

This is about the time on our walk when Andrew started talking about how he wanted to get wooden coffins to use as benches in our garden one day. Awesome.

 

 

 

More photos of Butchart Gardens to come …..

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Alaska: Skagway and the ship

continuing our Skagway excursion during our Alaska cruise ….

After our wilderness/Gold Rush tour, we were dropped off back in town about 1:30p or 2p. Just about time for lunch – at the Skagway Brewing Company.

Beer-broth chili was filling and warm and great for how cold it was outside ….

We also got a couple Alaska souvenirs while we were there (more on this in a future post)!

After lunch, Julie and Kaitlin did a little bit of shipping before heading back to the ship.

But Andrew and I sought out some more history!

waaaaay way back when Skagway started to be settled, Captain Moore stated a claim for the whole town, but when some 200 or so miners showed up, they just took it over and declared Moore’s log cabin to be in the middle of State Street – so they dragged it aside!

That log cabin is still in town (in the image below) …. and TINY!

 

(man, my husband is soooo handsome :)  )

We really didn’t o a whole lot more before heading back to the ship.

It was CRAZY cold and SUPER windy on the mile or so walk, so by the time we got back to the ship, we crashed and took a nap for a couple of hours.

(continuing our streak of a nap-a-day on this vacation)

Then up to the deck for some reading and relaxing before dinner ….

 

 

 

 

 

And we closed out the day with this GORGEOUS sky on our way out of port:

 

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