Category Archives: Travel

10 Year Anniversary Trip

Rebecca and I have just returned from a seven-day trip to Puerto Rico to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. It was supposed to be a five-day trip, but thanks to “Superstorm” Sandy, our flight home was canceled, the rebooked flight was canceled, and we ended up needing to stay two extra nights. We knew that the girls were fine staying at our house with my in-laws, but we missed getting to go home to them when planned.

Other than that, we had a great trip. I wanted to tell you a little bit about what we did, and share some of the photos that we took.

On Friday the 26th (our anniversary date), we flew US Airways from Boston to San Juan, Puerto Rico by way of Philadelphia. The trip was pretty smooth, except for the extra delay before our plane took off from Philadelphia, since they had to plot a route to get around Hurricane Sandy, which, at the time, was churning through the Caribbean. (pics of this leg of the trip: http://gallery.prwdot.org/Travel/Flight-to-Puerto-Rico/26307923_897XBq).

Flight to Puerto Rico

Flight to Puerto Rico

Once in Puerto Rico, we got our rental car at the airport and drove for about four hours from San Juan to Las Marias, a town in the middle of the eastern central mountains of Puerto Rico. Some of that time was due to rush hour traffic getting out of San Juan, but it also had to do with the winding, 25mph roads going through the mountains. They were quite challenging to drive, especially at night! By the end of the trip, though, I had become fairly proficient at navigating them.

Road near the guesthouse

Road near the guesthouse

We eventually reached our destination, Maravilla Mountain, after darkness had fallen. Maravilla Mountain is a vegan/vegetarian bed and breakfast in an incredibly remote location in the middle of the forest. We were the only people staying there at the time, so we had our bedroom, plus a sitting room and bathroom, all to ourselves for the duration of our stay. We had purchased their “all-inclusive DIY” meal plan, which meant that they prepared all of our meals ahead of time and refrigerated or froze them, and we simply heated them up whenever we were ready – breakfast, lunch and dinner. The hosts, Margo and Mark, were incredibly hospitable. Margo’s cooking was delicious and filling, Mark’s woodworking and decor was fascinating, and the house was very comfortable. It was particularly relaxing to sit on the porch hammock-swings at night, overlooking the forest. They also had a massive movie collection, which I learned that Margo had picked out herself, and a huge flatscreen TV, which was great for watching in the evenings. (pics, including photos of most of our meals: http://gallery.prwdot.org/Travel/Maravilla-Guesthouse-and/26307973_c487FW)

Journaling at the guesthouse

Journaling at the guesthouse

In general, each day of the trip followed a similar pattern: we would get up early to go out and do some adventuring, then return home in the mid-afternoon to relax, have dinner, and relax some more. πŸ™‚

On Saturday, we drove southwest to Cabo Rojo, a town on the far southwest corner of the island. There, we hiked up to the Los Morillos lighthouse, and down to a small beach in a cove. The views of the Caribbean Sea and the cliffs of Cabo Rojo were incredible, and the beach was very nice. It even had natural cabanas – the beach was lined with shade trees that provided a place to change into swimsuits and sit when a shade break was needed. (pics: http://gallery.prwdot.org/Travel/Cabo-Rojo/26308166_D57zPR).

Cliffs of Cabo Rojo

Cliffs of Cabo Rojo

On Sunday, we drove northeast to Camuy and Arecibo. In Camuy, we visited the Rio Camuy Caverns, a massive cave system formed by an underground river. We took a tram ride deep down to the entrance to the cave, and had a guided tour around inside the cave. It was very hard to capture in photos, but it was incredible in size and variety of rock formations. (pics: http://gallery.prwdot.org/Travel/Rio-Camuy-Caverns/26308304_hRTszQ)

Rio Camuy Caverns

Rio Camuy Caverns

We then drove to Arecibo to visit the Arecibo Observatory, the world’s largest single-dish radiotelescope. You may recognize it from such movies as GoldenEye or Contact. It’s a massive structure built out in the middle of the hilly northern country (“Karst” country) of Puerto Rico – a huge reflector dish in the ground, three massive towers surrounding it, with cables holding up an array of instruments designed to receive radio signals reflected by the dish. There is a visitor center that explains much of the history and science behind the telescope, and an observation deck that allows visitors to have a good view of the telescope. As a science geek, it was definitely a must-see for me! (pics: http://gallery.prwdot.org/Travel/Arecibo-Observatory/26308901_tnRc9b)

Arecibo Observatory

Arecibo Observatory

On Monday, we drove southeast to Guanica to visit the Guanica State Forest, a dry forest on the southern coast. After winding up a mountain road to a parking area, we took a hike down one of the trails. It started out looking much like our own forests and ended up looking more like a desert. At the bottom of the trail, we walked along a road and eventually came to a beach with a view of the Caribbean Sea. It was a sweltering day, and we ended up quite hot and sweaty, but we got to see some incredible plants and ocean views. (pics: http://gallery.prwdot.org/Travel/Guanica-State-Forest/26312477_BTvMwL)

Guanica State Forest

Guanica State Forest

After we left the forest, we headed back towards Las Marias and the guest house, but on the way, we stopped in Mayaguez to visit the USDA Tropical Agriculture Research Station (TARS). The TARS performs research and experiments in a variety of agricultural areas. They make a big point of saying that they are not a botanical garden, which basically means that the layout of their grounds was not chosen to be particularly aesthetically pleasing. It was still very cool to see all of the cataloged tropical plant species that they had. (pics: http://gallery.prwdot.org/Travel/USDA-Tropical-Agriculture/26312520_kNJc74)

USDA TARS

USDA TARS

Monday night was our last night at Maravilla Mountain, but our rebooked flights were on Thursday, so we still had to fill up Tuesday and Wednesday with activities. On Tuesday morning, we drove to our hotel in San Juan. We had booked a room at the Borinquen Beach Inn, a small motel in the Isla Verde area of San Juan. It was the cheapest hotel we could find that was near the airport. It also happened to be close to the beach – just one or two minutes to walk there from our room. It was definitely not a fancy beach resort, but it had the basics that we needed. It was also right across the street from Taco Bell and Walgreens, so we had access to cheap food to help save money during this unplanned portion of our trip. πŸ™‚ (pics of Isla Verde, the beach, and our hotel: http://gallery.prwdot.org/Travel/Isla-Verde/26312786_h829L7)

Borinquen Beach Inn

Borinquen Beach Inn

After checking in, we drove to Old San Juan to explore its historical sites. We visited Castillo San Felipe del Morro, a fort that was built by the Spanish in 1539 and occupied by them until it was won by the Americans in 1898. The views of the old city and the ocean from the fort are incredible. (pics: http://gallery.prwdot.org/Travel/Castillo-San-Felipe-del-Morro/26312569_bvczk5 ) We took a free tram from El Morro to Castillo de San Cristobal, another fortress in Old San Juan. Where El Morro was designed to protect against sea attacks, San Cristobal was built to protect from land attacks, right at the entrance to Old San Juan. (pics: http://gallery.prwdot.org/Travel/Castillo-de-San-Cristobal/26312618_WrqdMH)

El Morro

El Morro

We also walked around Old San Juan a bit, and had a meal at Cafe Berlin, a restaurant with Puerto Rican, international, and vegan/vegetarian cuisine. Rebecca had a veggie sandwich while I tried mofongo, a Puerto Rican specialty. It was tasty, although I probably wouldn’t choose to eat it often. (pics of Old San Juan: http://gallery.prwdot.org/Travel/Old-San-Juan/26312743_5kQ3cj)

Street in Old San Juan

Street in Old San Juan

On Wednesday morning, we drove to El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rain forest in the US national forest system. As the island goes, it’s a relatively small piece of land, but it seems pretty big when you’re driving through it. We went up an observation tower to get a great view of the forest, we hiked down a trail to a waterfall, where Rebecca took a dip in a natural pool, and we visited the El Portal Rain Forest Center, which had a video presentation narrated by Puerto Rico native Benicio del Toro. (pics: http://gallery.prwdot.org/Travel/El-Yunque-National-Forest/26312825_cvGtw7)

Peter in El Yunque

Peter in El Yunque

On Wednesday afternoon, we went back to Old San Juan again, as I wanted to visit the Pablo Casals Museum. We first went to the location as listed in our travel guides, but found a sign saying that it had moved to another location (or, that’s what I thought it said). So we asked around and tried to find its new location. We were pointed in the general direction of another art gallery which this museum was said to have moved into, but after walking around in circles for a bit, we finally learned the truth – the museum was in the process of moving, and neither the old nor the new location was open. In any case, we had a nice walk around Old San Juan. The architecture of the art museums we walked around was beautiful, and I’m sure that the next time we have a chance to take a trip to Puerto Rico, the new location will be open.

Future Location of the Pablo Casals Museum

Future Location of the Pablo Casals Museum

On both Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, and on Thursday morning before leaving, we spent time swimming, or rather trying to dodge huge waves, in the beach behind our hotel. The late afternoon was a nice, quiet, not too hot time to enjoy the warm Caribbean water.

The Beach

The Beach

At last, on Thursday morning, we drove to the airport, dropped off our rental car, and got ourselves to the gate for our flight. We had learned the previous day that our rebooked flight put us into first class, an experience that neither of us was accustomed to. We boarded the plane and sat in the first row (seats 1A and 1C), and enjoyed our first class experience… nice food, big comfortable seats, first on and off the plane… really nice, and at no extra charge, I assume due to the fact that we’d been bumped from our flights. (pics of the first class experience: http://gallery.prwdot.org/Travel/First-Class-Experience/26312992_vcNNrx)

Getting to know your first class seat

Getting to know your first class seat

We made a smooth connection in Philadelphia, had a quick flight to Boston (coach class, but still very comfortable), and zipped out of the airport, to our car, and drove home as quickly as possible. We arrived home to finally see our girls again, and to thank Nonni and Grandpa for hanging in there with the girls for two extra days.

Overall, it was a great trip and a great way to celebrate our 10th anniversary.

Father’s Day 2012: The Direction of Adventure!

The morning of Father’s Day started rather early for me, as I had to head in to work around 6:30 a.m. for an early-morning planned maintenance. The whole team was there early to help out, so at least there was some camaraderie. The maintenance ended after church had already started, so even though I drove like the wind, I still missed most of church. Luckily, this sort of maintenance doesn’t happen very often.

Early Morning Work

Early Morning Work

For Father’s Day this year, Rebecca planned a surprise outing for me. I had no idea where we were going until we got there, which is not typical for me, but was exciting!

The "Plans"

The “Plans”

After church, we headed over on Route 62 towards I-95. I thought we were going to get on I-95 North, but I was surprised as Rebecca went past it. I expressed my surprise, pointing at the I-95 sign and saying that I thought we’d be going that way, because “That’s the direction of adventure!”

As it turns out, we were just stopping to get gas. But shortly after that, we doubled back and, indeed, headed “in the direction of adventure!”

I-95 North: The Direction of Adventure!

I-95 North: The Direction of Adventure!

As it turns out, our destination was the Portsmouth, NH area. This marks the third Father’s Day that I’ve spent there. One year we went on a cruise out to the Isles of Shoals, and another year we visited the USS Albacore. This time, our first stop was for lunch at Street 360, a funky little restaurant that celebrates street food from all over the world.

Me and the girls at Street 360

Me and the girls at Street 360

In addition to enjoying the funky atmosphere of the restaurant, and noticing that they used a wall-mounted iPad as an order-entry device, we thought the food was great. I enjoyed a ‘Singapore Salad,’ which was a bowl of salad that had: “Daikon, cucumber, cabbage, carrot, celery, scallions, zucchini, cilantro, mint, Thai basil and peanuts with fresh and delicious sesame ginger dressing.” I also chose to add avocado slices and grilled chicken to the mix. It made for a very tasty, hearty and filling salad.

After lunch, Rebecca drove us to our next mystery destination, for which I had been instructed to pack ‘adventuring clothes’. I soon learned that we were visiting Odiorne Point State Park in Rye, NH. We changed into our adventure clothes, and then headed out for a nice long walk along the rocky shores, through the woods, and around the ruins of a World War II-era coastal gun battery installation.

Rocky Shores

Rocky Shores

Gun battery

Gun battery

Papa, Catherine and Esme are "sea monsters"

Papa, Catherine and Esme are “sea monsters”

Great food and great adventure was the perfect way to spend Father’s Day with my girls. I’m thankful to Rebecca for her efforts in helping plan out a great day, and I highly recommend Portsmouth, NH and the surrounding area for great adventures, Father’s Day or otherwise!

For all of the photos from the day, visit the gallery.

Honeymoon Photos, Revisited

Those of you who have been around our blog for a while may recall that we switched photo gallery software a number of years ago. When we made the switch, we started from scratch with the new gallery, without any of the old pictures. We have often missed having many of the galleries, since they’re linked in some of our older posts, but the process of re-uploading them and editing each post to include links to the new galleries is quite time-consuming.

That being said, there are some galleries that I miss more than others, and one of those is the gallery of photos from our honeymoon. For those who are counting, that was almost ten years ago!

We traveled to the Andalucia region of Spain and visited Marbella, Malaga, Granada, Italica, Seville, Ronda, and also crossed the border into Gibraltar. It was one of my favorite trips and I’m looking forward to having the gallery back online for easy access. We haven’t traveled quite so far abroad since we’ve had kids. I hope that we’ll be able to again some day, but for now it’s nice to have these photos to look back on.

Rock of Gibraltar

Rock of Gibraltar

The galleries are:

  1. Day 1, Charles de Gaulle airport (yes, we were there for a while)
  2. Day 2, Marbella and Malaga
  3. Day 3, Italica and Seville
  4. Day 4, Sevilla and Ronda
  5. Day 5, Gibraltar
  6. Day 6, Granada, the Alhambra and the Generalife
  7. Day 7, Benalmadena and heading home

I know we’ll enjoy looking at these photos again, and maybe you will too!

Museums and Tacos

Today, we were excited to become members of the Museum of Science! We went down to the museum early in the morning and signed up for a membership. We took advantage of our first day as members to see geckos, tamarin monkeys, bonsai trees, nanotechnology exhibits, and more. The girls even took part in a Harvard University research study.

 

Esme rocks out on the balcony. Longfellow Bridge in the background.

Esme rocks out on the balcony. Longfellow Bridge in the background.

View more photos from the Museum of Science.

Another great thing about today was the awesome turkey taco dinner I made tonight. We did it make-your-own-taco style, with separate bowls of seasoned ground turkey, black beans, brown rice, sour cream, shredded jack cheese, salsa, soft and hard taco shells, and a heaping pile of Xochitl chips. The girls loved making their own custom tacos, and ate plenty of them!

Turkey Tacos!

Turkey Tacos!

More turkey taco photos.

Finally, I experimented today by taking all of the photos for our visit to the MoS on my iPhone! Usually on this type of trip, I would bring my digital SLR, a few lenses, and some other supplies. This time it was just me, Rebecca and the girls, and my iPhone. I think the photos turned out pretty well. What do you think?

Weekend on the Vineyard

I spent this past weekend on Martha’s Vineyard, visiting with my in-laws at their cottage in the MVCMA campground in Oak Bluffs. It was a nice vacation (which I define as any escape from the ordinary, regardless of how long). Rebecca and the girls will be staying down there this week to enjoy the Grand Illumination, and then I’ll be going down to bring them home this coming weekend. Here are some of my favorite moments from this past weekend:

Ferry Ride

Ferry Ride To The Vineyard

 

Citrus Cooler at the Farmer's Market

Citrus Cooler at the Farmer's Market

The lemonade stand at the West Tisbury Farmer’s Market is one of our favorites. Definitely try one of their drinks if you can make it to West Tisbury on a Saturday morning.

Lunch Date at the Right Fork Diner

Lunch Date at the Right Fork Diner

This is a great diner located at the Katama Airfield in Edgartown. You can get a seat right on the edge of the airstrip and watch biplanes, turboprops, and other personal aircraft take off and land. The food is delicious, too. Rebecca’s parents watched the girls so that Rebecca and I could go out on our own to the farmer’s market and have lunch at the diner. Thanks!

Dinner with Nonni and Grandpa

Dinner with Nonni and Grandpa

Nonni (aka Dianne, my mother-in-law), makes the best food, and I always enjoy eating it when I visit. For Saturday’s dinner she made steak kabobs, rice, cole slaw, corn on the cob, and frozen banana for dessert. Yum.

Girls working together to build a pulley

Girls working together to build a pulley

Catherine builds an umbrella-tent

Catherine builds an umbrella-tent

I always love watching my girls be creative, and this weekend was no exception.

Taking Catherine to see kids from the campground put on The Wizard of Oz

Taking Catherine to see kids from the campground put on The Wizard of Oz

We couldn’t have avoided this if we tried. The cast came zipping around the campground on a golf cart, shouting that the Wizard of Oz would be starting at 7:30. Catherine and I, along with Ken and Dianne, went down to see it. The kids did a great job and Catherine enjoyed watching it, even if a few parts were scary.

You can see all of the Wizard of Oz photos here, and all of my photos from the weekend here.

Our vacation started with a bang!

We’re currently in the midst of a two-week vacation road trip. We’re having a great time with my family out here in Ohio, getting to see my sister Kirsten, my brother-in-law Mark, and their new daughter, Gracie, as well as my parents and various other members of the in-law family. Everything is just hunky-dory right now, but our trip didn’t start out so smoothly at the beginning!

We started our trip by driving to the Finger Lakes region of New York and pitching our tent in a campsite at Watkins Glen State Park. By Sunday evening we were all settled in and had hot dogs and s’mores around the campfire. On Monday, we hiked the Gorge Trail at Watkins Glen in the morning, and in the late afternoon, we drove over to Ithaca to have dinner at the Moosewood Restaurant.

We had just spotted a great parallel parking space right in front of Moosewood, and we were preparing to back into it. We had pulled up to the side of the car in front of the space, when all of a sudden our car shook and we saw that a huge passenger bus had collided with us! Its right front corner had collided with our left front corner. After verifying that nobody in our car was hurt (Catherine said: “The car shook and it woke me up from my nap!”), I quickly got out and saw that our car wasn’t drivable – the front left tire and wheel had been totally crushed in, and what was left of our wheel was tilted at a funny angle. I called the police to the scene and we gave them our side of the story. In the meantime, one of the kind staff at Moosewood had seen the accident and had rushed out to see if we needed any help. He got us some drinks, too. I began making phone calls to our insurance company and a car rental company. Our car was towed to a local body shop, and in the meantime, we went into the Moosewood Restaurant, since we had intended on eating there anyway! They sat us down at a corner table and let us conduct our business, providing some assistance with recommendations on car rental and giving their opinions of the towing company and body shop. They even took the liberty of picking out some appetizers for us. In fact, we soon learned that our whole meal would be on the house… Moosewood‘s way of comforting us and helping us out after our accident. They really were the sweetest, kindest people. I can’t think of a better place to have gotten into an accident! The food was delicious (I ordered a Thai vegetable curry), the service was gracious, the atmosphere was wonderful. I hope that we can return under better circumstances (and actually pay for our meal!).

In any case, we wound up taking a taxi out to the Ithaca airport, where I then picked up a rental car, drove it to the body shop (which was way out in the middle of nowhere), transferred the considerable amount of luggage (and car seats) over from our car, drove back to the airport, picked the ladies up, and drove back to the campground for the night. Phew! It made for quite a long and stressful day.

We initially thought that we’d just stick around until they could fix our car, and perhaps extend our stay for a few extra nights. But we soon found out that extensive repairs were needed, and they probably wouldn’t be finished until the end of THIS week. If we waited around for THAT, our entire trip would be eatenΒ  up. So, instead, we opted to extend our rental car and simply continue our trip as planned.

We left the Finger Lakes as intended on Wednesday, albeit a little bit later, and no longer driving our Subaru station wagon but a shiny new and huge Ford Explorer. I don’t particularly care for SUVs (and our insurance doesn’t fully cover something so expensive) – but this was the only car that was available that was also capable of carrying all of the luggage we had on our trip. If this had merely been a trip to the Finger Lakes, we may not have made the same decision – but the fact is that we still had a trip out to Ohio and back to come, and it was far more important to us to continue the trip and see our family than it was for us to be stingy. It doesn’t hurt that the Explorer was equipped with the surprisingly cool Microsoft Sync system, which easily hooked up to our iPods and allowed us to play any of our music using voice commands!

So anyway, we’re here in Ohio for a few more days, rental car and all. Then we’re headed out to Pennsylvania for a few days, then back up to New York to pick up our car which should hopefully be finished by the end of the week, then back home to Massachusetts. So far, with the exception of some unexpected expenses and a bit of stress, it’s been a great trip, and we’re looking forward to the remainder. I’m in the process of uploading photos from the trip so far; you can see them in our photo gallery, and check back frequently for new ones.

In closing, here’s the only photo I had the mind to shoot; a picture from my phone as our car was being towed away. You can’t see any of the damage, but there it is anyway.

Poor Subaru

Poor Subaru

Our Weekend Getaway

On Saturday, we dropped Catherine off with her Nonni and Grandpa, and headed down to Boston for a weekend excursion! πŸ™‚ We drove in and parked at the Boston Common parking garage ($22 for the weekend, not bad) and walked in the chilly weather down to our hotel.

Our hotel room
We stayed in the Marriott at Copley Place, thanks to a gift card we got from Ken and Dianne last Christmas.
Our hotel room
From our room on the 21st floor, we had a terrific view of the southwest part of the city, including the South End.
Relaxing
A good portion of our time was spent lounging in the hotel room, vegging out, watching TV, and relaxing.
b. good
We had lunch at b. good, a favorite stop of ours.
Stephanie's
We had a *very* nice dinner at Stephanie’s on Newbury, courtesy of a gift card I won at work last year. We brought our desserts back to the room and watched Wall-E on pay-per-view on the room’s huge TV.
Nighttime View
We also enjoyed the nighttime views from our hotel room.
More views
Did I mention the views from our hotel room?

Overall it was a very enjoyable weekend. Our main goal was just to veg out and enjoy good food, quiet rest, pleasant company, and comfortable accommodations. We were pretty pleased with the view from our hotel room, if you couldn’t tell. πŸ™‚ If we stretched, we could see the Charles River on the far right of our window, and the Southeast Expressway on the far right. This will probably be the last chance we have to take a weekend away with just the two of us for quite some time, what with baby #2 due to arrive in eight weeks or so. It was definitely worth it.

You can see all of the photos from our Boston Weekend.

It sounds like Catherine had a good time while we were away, too, thanks to Nonni and Grandpa!

Long Overdue Ohio Trip Report (LOOTR)

We’ve been home a couple weeks now and have yet to report on our excursion westward to Ohio. In hopes of inspiring some of you to visit Central OH, here is a photographic look at our week in the Buckeye State.

Thursday and Friday: Go West, Young Woods!

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Saturday: Lehman’s and Orrville Jumpin’ Punkin’ Train Ride

Sunday: Catherine’s New Dress and the Children’s Garden

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Monday: Columbus Zoo!

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Wednesday: Playground, Leatherlips, Corn and Friends

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Friday: Visiting the Lyttles

Saturday: Heading Home

We’ve arrived in Ohio!

On Thursday, we left the North Shore to drive out to Mount Vernon, Ohio for a visit with my parents! We stayed overnight in East Syracuse, NY, and then quickly headed out to Mount Vernon! We arrived last night, and had a great time getting settled in. My Dad and I both have birthdays in October, so we had a birthday cake. πŸ™‚

birthday cake

We’re looking forward to a week of relaxing and visiting with my parents, as well as some side trips to see friends in the Central Ohio area! We’ll be posting photos in our SmugMug photo gallery, so you can follow along there. Thus far, we’ve got photos from the drive, a collection of Photos Catherine has taken, and photos from our first evening in Mount Vernon.

You can also follow my periodic updates on Twitter.

Retreated

This past weekend, Rebecca, Catherine and I traveled down to Cape Cod to attend our church‘s retreat at the Craigville Conference Center. We had a great time hanging out with and getting to know the folks from our church. The three of us had a nice little private apartment in the bottom of a large four story cottage that housed a number of other families from the church. We had some workshops on the spiritual disciplines, ate all of our meals together, and had plenty of free time for playing games and chatting. The weather wasn’t the nicest, but we still enjoyed it.

Group Photo

You can see the photos from the retreat in our gallery.