Category Archives: Travel

Off the Shore Line

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We have had the coldest winter in a loong time.  While I love soups, snow days (with in reason) hot drinks, flannel sheets and the sporadic 65° days NC is so kind to throw in there, I have summer (and spring!) on my mind. And today it is supposed to sleet/freezing rain/snow?

Lets get planning. As I mentioned in my beach round up, beach vacations are one of my very favorites.

When you have more than a few children, or are traveling with extended family, a beach house can be a great way to go.  Plenty of room to spread out, excellent access to the beach, and a good deal for a 7 night stay (usually they only book a week at a time).  Staying in one location for a week truly feels like a vacation to me, so relaxing.

I have some posts about the logistics: packing, sun protections and most importantly, crabbing! But today I thought it would be fun to discuss activities that are fun to do when you want to venture from the surf and the sand.

click through to see what we do when we’re away on the North Carolina shore.

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Vacation Concierge — San Diego

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My parents took us to San Diego when I was 14 years old, and since then it has been one of my favorite places on earth.  Imagine my immense relief to find it was a fantastic place to take kids, too.

When we went we stayed at, yes, Embassy Suites.  To be honest, it was my least favorite one we’ve been to.  They way they served breakfast (one side only) made the line SOOOO long.  And it was especially noisy, waking the kids up in the front room in the morning (and for a family that is nearly all up at 6:30, that is saying something) But, alas, we lived.

Following are my very favorite San Diego activities to do as a family.

Children’s pool and La Jolla.  It is crazy to me, but seals live in this cove and hang out on the rocks, just feet away from the swimmers.  If you get super close they will swim away, but it is incredible.  This entire stretch of beach at La Jolla is one of my favorite views of all time.

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USS Midway.  All time favorite.  Each visitor is given a handset that gives information about each room when the corresponding numbers are pressed.  I LOVE these things.  I always want to know the details.  I love I can stand there listening to each and every gory details while the kids are using theirs as cell phones and we’re all having a great time.  So fun to see how they fed a city of people three meals a day, took care of the sick and landed planes on a boat.  We explored every single nook and cranny and I loved it all.

Balboa Park.  Full of interesting museums, a great place to check out the Mission architecture.

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Old Town San Diego.  Kitsch at its best.

Coronado Island.  Taking a ferry to coronado island and walking the main Boulivard to the Hotel Del Coronado.  Even if you aren’t staying there it is fun to explore the fun shops on the way, gape and the jaw dropping prices of real estate, and check out the Del.

Sea World.  I am remiss to include this after watching Blackfish. I do find it disturbing.  I always thought it was the perfect blend of rides, shows and education and hope they find a way to continue operating while removing the dangers to people.

Eating fish tacos.  I took this seriously.  And found the best fish tacos and onion rings in the state.  Getting take out and eating it facing the sun as it set over the water — jeez, someone take me back now.  Love it.  (we may have overdone the tacos.  I’m pretty sure the kids had recurring nightmares about being force fed one more taco.  I loved it)

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Sunsets over the Ocean — a real treat for East Coasters.

Road Tripping with Kids

One of the many joys of living on the east coast is being in driving distance of so. many. fabulous. places.  And I am determined to see and do them all.

This however, does involve getting to and from places with the little people, and still loving life on the way.

I thought it would be fun to discuss some road trip coping strategies we’ve employed.

Prenote:  My number one goal while driving is to get where we are going, with minimal stops and complaining. I definitely bend our normal expectations 🙂

1.  Electronics and movies are heavily restricted under normal circumstances. On road trips, it’s pretty much all you can take, but I like to do it in a way that increases the suspense (which helps pass the time, I think)  We pass the iPads around in 20 minute increments, read 30 minutes in between each movie going, etc.

Passing around the iPad gives you pictures like this.IMG_0499

And even this, not bad.

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Click through for more on how I attempt to make the time pass in a civilized fashion.

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Vacation Concierge — Carolina Beach Comparisons

Yesterday we had a snow day off from school, ironically with no snow.  Thanks to lovely friends we had a fantastic day.  Not that we wouldn’t have rather been at the beach then peering out the window searching for snow.  

 IMG_6530 We do love a beach vacation.  About four years ago I realized it was the perfect vacation for our stage in life.  No keeping people quiet, no tearing people off their schedules, no trying to synchronize being at somewhere decent to eat at the same time everyone is ready to eat, ETC.  You are surrounded by such beauty, and everyone can do pretty much anything they want. (read, yes! play football yes! lay under an umbrella and rainbow loom, yes! Pretty much fun and relaxation for all.

I thought it would be fun to do an overview of beaches in the Carolinas and look at the pros and cons of each (are there cons at the beach? barely)

From the North, moving our way down.

DSC_1370Duck, NC (northern Outer Banks) 

Pros

  • The town is darling
  • Lots of things to that our family enjoys, other than just the beach: bike rides along the sound, crabbing on the public pier (all time favorite activity), shopping, eating at restaurants, nice playground
  • Light House near by you can climb (Currituk)
  • Wright Brothers not too far away
  • Not Crowded at all, ever (there is no public beach parking in the town)
  • Convenient Crabbing (two mentions because it is worth it)

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Water is colder — for the east coast
  • The sand is not as fine — perfectly acceptable to play in but not powder soft
  • The waves can be rougher

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Click below to see more — see if you can detect our favorite

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Vacation Concierge – City of Brotherly Love

On our way to Canada, we spent a few days in Philadelphia.

Getting there was a bit of an adventure.  And when I say adventure, I mean I thought we were going to die for sure in a wreck.  Having lived in DC, I’m no stranger to traffic, but at some points getting into the city, I had to close my eyes and think of the beach (no worries, I was not driving) to avoid making sounds and gestures that would (understandably) drive the driver insane.  But we made it with out incident.*

We stayed at (guess) Embassy Suites Philadelphia.  We were on the top floor and it had probably one of my favorite views of all time.  I had heard from a friend that it was a hassle waiting for an elevator staying on a middle floors, so if you do find yourself here, ask for as high a floor as possible.

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Our first stop was the National Constitution Center.  With out context, historical sights are a major drag for kids, so I like doing the supporting museums first, so they are more jazzed about seeing the real thing.

So how was it received?  Click below to see the rest of the trip!

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Vacation Conceirge — Chetola

There is no better way to pass a dreary winter afternoon than vacation planning for spring break or summer, so, lets do this.

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Chetola

Blowing Rock, NC

Crisp mountain air, tennis, hiking, boating, fishing, shopping, fine dining, collapsing into bed at 9 pm and sleeping like a rock, welcome to Chetola.IMG_7571       

We can’t bear to let a summer go by with out visiting Chetola in Blowing Rock, NC. Chetola is a old-school mountain resort in the mountains of North Carolina.  It is a 2.5 hour dive from Raleigh (perfect).  It is a great location for couples or families with children ranging from babies – I’m not sure because we haven’t maxed out yet.

The Chetola resort offers three kinds of accommodations: a very fancy Inn, a hotel, and lots and lots of 1, 2, and three bedroom condos.  We always stay in the condos. (but once we were walking though the Inn, and Dolly held the door open for a worker and they returned with a warm cookie they were distributing to the rooms, so warm cookie fancy) Chetola is perpetually offering stay 2 nights, get the 3rd free, which is their best deal. Each condo has a full kitchen.  I LOVE being able to make simple breakfasts, and pack lunches (or dinner) allowing us to eat out one GREAT meal a day.  Always my ideal situation.  And there are lot of excellent restaurants in Blowing Rock — nice pay off.  You can see the condos when you are booking on line.  They are individually owned and decorated so each one is different.  They are not fancy but very cozy and clean with a nice vibe.  Very enjoyable.

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People around us pull fish out every two minutes (and I am for once not exaggerating on this) and we’ve caught ONE in all our visits! What is wrong with us, we don’t know. Same bait, same poles.

The grounds are, by far, the best part.

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Oh Canada

Oh Canada, you stole my heart, and my sanity.  All in a week.

Our original Canada plan was: Montreal, Toronto, Blue Jays, Niagara Falls.

This would be the first time we’d be in a big city with all the kids and the first time out of the country.

IMG_8240Montreal was absolutely gorgeous.  We had read beforehand it is one of the most European cities in North America.  I was very excited to check it out.

We stayed just outside of Old Montreal at the Embassy Suites Montreal, and it could not have been more lovely.  The rooms were modern and it was with in walking distance of many of the activities we wanted to do. Embassy Suites always does a great breakfast, and the addition of the Montreal specialties, including the Montreal Bagel, was a real plus.  (unbeknownst to me, Montreal has their own bagel.  Slightly sweeter, chewier, and with less salt than their American counterpart.  Very good, I really enjoyed it)

Montreal was filled with fun things to do.

We saw Chuilliy at the Montreal Museum of Fine  Art which was as amazing as expected. Everyone loved it.IMG_3124

We ate snails at lunch.  They were met with mixed reviews.  I loved this.

We enjoyed the Biodome, which while small, was very well done.

The best part of the hotel was it right around the corner from the Basilica Notre Dame and it was gorgeous.  I tried to walk by it every chance we got, and we attended an evening service on Sunday.

IMG_8176In addition to Notre Dame there were many other beautiful cathedrals in Montreal.  Seeing them was my favorite (tied with the food? Another post!) part of the city.  It really did feel like I had stepped onto the cities of Europe. The kids not so much.  I’m pretty sure they made a list of things they didn’t like on the trip just so they could put, “being dragged to churches,” on the list.

What didn’t I love? And the highlight of the trip?  Click below to see more!

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