Birthday Weekend at Christmas Town!

This weekend, I went to Christmas Town at Busch Gardens with Gary. It was nice chilly weather in the 40’s, perfect for the Christmas feeling.

They had lots of lights and Christmas trees. Each section had different light colour themes. Italy was mostly gold lights, Germany was multi coloured, etc.

We waited in line for a really long time, like an hour to see the penguin ice palace which was basically a few penguins in small pens. So not worth the wait, but everything else was great.

Most of the rides were closed but they did have their new Verbolten roller coaster open which was awesome. It made us want to go back in the spring when all the rides are open 🙂

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Sunday, we went to the Colonial Pancake House for breakfast and then went to historic Jamestown and Yorktown.

At Jamestown, we saw the ships, the Powatan Indian Village, had a long conversation at the armoury with a really knowledgable guy about guns, cannons, etc

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Afterwards we went to Yorktown and saw an artillery demonstration which included a canon demo. Then we learned about what was available medically for the troops, and Gary got his picture with George Washington 🙂

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We saw the homes, kitchen house, tobacco building, and kitchen garden that they actually use and cook over the fire with or dry the vegetables at the kitchen house

It was a really fun trip overall and really nice to spend time with Gary since he has been working a lot lately.

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Northern Richmond VA

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Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
I started at the Robins Visitor Center to get my ticket.  The normal price to get in is $11, but this weekend it was $6.

I’m not sure if it was because of the season or for their Valentines Day special with Tea House Valentine’s menu, but the guy at the desk was very nice and gave me a map and a sheet of flowers to look for that were in bloom or to note.

I wanted to get a bite to eat for lunch, and there are two options . The ‘Tea House’ or the ‘Garden Cafe’. I wanted to check out the Tea Room which was only a few minutes walk from the entrance. When I got there, there were about 6 couples at tables, but no hostess and no servers. I waited for a few minutes, but since no one showed up I left.

I walked around the entire estate, except for the Conservatory and Library, and went back to the Robins Visitor Center to get a bite at the adjoining Garden Cafe. The prices were much better here, around $8 for a sandwich, where as the tea house meals were around $16. I had a grilled salmon sandwich that was quite good. I ate the pickle, but not the chips.

Afterwards, I went to check out the conservatory and the Library.

The conservatory was one reason I was drawn to this Botanical Garden. It is quite lovely and impressive from the outside.

The inside however was pretty, but surprisingly small. The main entrance had a tall glass ceiling and a pretty fountain adorned with plants. To the left was a cute cottage surrounded by flowers, such as pink cyclamen (in the picture).

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To the right wing was a section of fountains and orchids. The back section was under construction -no plants yet.

Overall, I liked the garden, but feel I need to give it a second chance in the spring. There looked like covered walkways that would be covered in lovely flowers, a rose garden that would be lovely in bloom. There were sweet little bridges and streams that ran into ponds. The Snydor Lake, I’m sure is more picturesque with flowers in bloom around it.  It seems like a nice place for weddings.

I was a little disappointed in the overall size of the place, but I think it would have taken me longer had there been flowers to look at instead of bare branches, and had I not had to think about how my face and fingers were freezing.

http://www.lewisginter.org/

 

Science Museum of Virginia
About 20-30 minutes away, I went to the Science Museum of Virginia.  It was a neat building that was originally an old train station.  The museum was more geared towards children, a lot of hands on displays.  I think it was a bit pricey for an $11 ticket but  I think it would have been better with kids.  I walked around for about an hour . . . I think I liked the building mostly -lol

http://www.smv.org/

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Virginia Center for Architecture

After the science museum, I went to the Virginia Center for Architecture.  Partially because it was only a few minutes away, but also because I appreciate good architecture (The small museum section was interesting).  I loved the building, inside and out.  It was small-ish and quaint, and I loved its character.  The grassy garden area enclosed by a brick wall, the style of the house, the windows, the rooms.  So lovely.  I would love to live in that house.

http://www.virginiaarchitecture.org/vca_index.html


Monuments

In a few steps walking distance, I saw the Jefferson Davis and Stonewall Jackson Statues.

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Virginia Museum of the Fine Arts
About a 5 minute drive away, I went to the Virginia Museum of the Fine Arts.  Parking was $3, but it was Free to see the museum, unless you wanted to see their featured collection (Mummys) or their special exhibit (Photos of Elvis).  My feet were a bit tired from walking all day so I just did the free tour.

I really liked the hallways, corridors, and rooms.  It was a nice layout for exploring and showed off their statues in center areas really well.

I liked their Ancient section with Greek and Roman pieces, the statues, the coloured walls.

I want to go back when their new East Asian Collection opens up.  It will feature Chinese, Japanese, and Korean art.

The photo to the left was the outside section of the Cafe with the reflecting pool

http://www.vmfa.state.va.us/Default.aspx

Dinner
For dinner, I found a Korean restaurant and had bibimbap.  It was nice, but I still like my local fave Korean restaurant ^^

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Last Stop: Nassau

We arrived in Nassau and we all did the ‘Sea and Sea’ Excursion.  We had a somewhat 10 minute brisk walk to our first boat for a 15/20 minute boat ride with a bit of a tour on the way where we saw celebrities homes and yachts on paradise island.

20111215-220436.jpgWe then shimmied up to a second boat that had a bottom that had seats and windows.  They called it a “glass bottom boat” so I was expecting something else, but this was a neat experience too.  It was like being in the aquarium but with a better view.  We saw a lot of fish varieties, corals, and a sea turtle.  Our underwater tour was about 30 minutes.  Back on the other boat to transport us back to land where we got on a van/bus for the “see” part of the tour.

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We saw government buildings, plants, rocks, statues, etc. (above)

20111215-220429.jpgWe went to the top of a hill and saw the water tower in the first picture above on the left.  The images to the right were taken of a fort there across from the water tower.  It was $1 to go in, but we only had about 20 minutes there.  Mostly we were brought to some shops there with expensive prices.

After the tour we went to the straw market that was near the cruise ship where there were hand made goods.  We got a few things, my dad got a hat.

Back at the ship, we had to pack so we could leave our bags outside of our rooms for the next day and leaving.  We saw a ‘Legend of the Stars’ show where other cruise-ers dressed up as stars and sang.  The best performance was of the cruise director dressed as dolly parton doing the song “nine to five”.  It was a great comical skit.

20111215-220536.jpg this towel animal was actually from another night, i dont remember which.  The last day we got a seal, but this was definitely the coolest one we got.

It was fun having live music to listen to, and just doing nothing but read, nap and relax.  Spending time with my parents, making a memory that will last, and seeing new sites is something we should all do 🙂

note: the airport is about 5 minutes from the cruise ship.

Stop 1: St. Thomas

20111215-195907.jpgWe learned later from other cruisers, that our trip originally had Puerto Rico as the first top but it was removed, so that’s why we had 2 days at sea instead.

The boat arrived at St. Thomas in the morning. We Got up around 8:30/9:00 and had breakfast. The gangway opened at 10:00, so we planned on leaving at 10:30 to avoid the rush, but they announced that they were going to test the elevators at 10:20 for a few minutes, but it lasted until 11:10, so we finally left after that.

20111215-195928.jpgWe got outside and took a taxi/open van ride with other cruise members. It was $4 per person, which is the standard rate set by the government, which wasn’t bad. The drive was about 15 minutes into the main part of town where we walked around a bit, looked at some of the shops, etc for a couple of hours. Then we took a taxi/van back to the ship and had lunch on the Lido deck.

20111215-195933.jpgGary went back to the room to read and rest, my dad wanted to explore the ship, and my mom and I went back out to check out the shops that were right outside of the boat in easy walking distance.

My mom spotted this neat flower planter that looked like a big wicker basket.20111215-195945.jpg

Afterwards we went back to the ship and I took a nap.

After dinner we went to the ‘MoTown Show’ with Marcus Anthony who has worked with the Supremes, opened for Patty LaBelle and some other musicians. His Website: http://www.themusicandthemaddness.com/

20111215-200128.jpgThe towel animals for the evening . . . my parents had gotten a piggy towel animal.  Gary and I got a different kind of elephant than my parents the other night that was sitting on the top of our couch.

The Cruise Begins

We had breakfast at the hotel, and left the hotel around 10:30am.

A taxi van picked us up from the hotel and we arrived at the cruise ship around 11:00am. Checked in and got on the ship around noon. The rooms weren’t ready until 1:30, so we had lunch on the lido (deck 9) and checked out the rest of the ship.

the ship decorated for Christmas

We showed my parents to their room around 1:30 and Gary did some work in ours while we were still at port. Both sets of rooms have a balcony, which Gary and I did not have on our last Cruise. We did have a window last time which is good so you know what time of day it is. ^^

the ship, and leaving port

The mandatory safety briefing was at 3:30pm where we had to go tour assigned muster station where they tell you what to do on case of an emergency and what life boat you would be getting on to.

The ship left around 5pm and we all sat on the upper deck 11 to watch as we took off. We saw some of the other cruise ships leave, some cargo ships leave with tug boats assisting, and the police boats and coast guard boats with armed machine guns on the front.

Afterwards, we went to level 5 to get some sushi and hang out. Around 6:00pm we went back to the rooms to unpack our luggage that was dropped off and hang out until we met my parents around 8:00pm to go to the late seating dinner.

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After dinner, we dropped my parents off at their room. Gary and I went back to our room to change and then went to pick up some facial cleanser on deck 5 where the shops were for me since I didn’t have what I needed.

We saw a bit of the ‘Welcome Aboard Show’ in the theater since it was right next to the shop we were coming out of, and afterwards we sat down for a bit to hear one of the musical entertainers in the lobby play.

We then went to our room to read, hang out on the balcony, and go to bed for the evening.

Cruise Tips

We went on an 8 day cruise to the Caribbean.  Our 3rd cruise total, our 2nd with Carnival.
The first was to places in the Western Caribbean on the Carnival Valor, this one was to the Eastern on the Carnival Freedom.

I love the service on the cruises, your room gets cleaned in the morning, and then they clean your room and have a turn down service in the evening when you go to dinner which includes towel animals!  Everyone is so friendly, and the food is so great, especially the sit down dinners, and there is no limit.  If you don’t like something, you can send it back and get something else.  The entertainment is fun and the shows are professional, there is always something to do (or not do).

I will be posting about our trip with photos, but here are a few tips I thought of on cruising on this trip:

  • Bring stamps, there is a Postal Box on board ship in the lobby (3rd floor)
  • Water, tea, lemonade, hot tea, and coffee are free, but if you like sodas or juices, it’s worth getting the ‘Bottomless Bubbles’ card.  You get unlimited sodas and juices . . . if you use it twice per day, it pays for itself, otherwise you pay for drinks each time.  It does not give you unlimited alcoholic drinks though.
  • Sit down breakfasts and lunches are a great way to meet new people
  • For girls, bring a wristlet – all you need on the boat is your ‘Sail and Sign’ Card which is your room key and what you use to buy anything on the ship, and your credit card (for locking the room safe).  Leave the wallet and the cash in your room safe.  I also brought my point and shoot camera with me (of course) ^^
  • Bring some sort of anti-seasick pills
  • Don’t forget about the Medical center on deck 0 if you do forget your seasick pills.  They were about $3 per packet versus
  • Get a room with a balcony or at least a window.  The balcony is great for the view without having to go up on deck, to sit and read or get some fresh air when at sea, to get pictures from your balcony after docking, and for seeing when its day time or night time.
  • Room Service is free!  Don’t use the room service card for breakfast, just call the room service number when you want food, it will arrive in 15-30 minutes and is the freshest/hottest.  It’s also 24 hours and included, so why not get spoiled 🙂
  • Go to the shows, they are fun and are really well done.
  • You might want to bring a waterproof camera (if you have one, or get a disposable one) if you are going snorkeling or swimming.

That’s all I can think of right now.  I’ll update if I can think of anything else ^^

Vacation Begins in Ft. Lauderdale Florida

(Updated post)

post card sent to the grandparents

Today we started our vacation!  We are going on a cruise to the Caribbean.  We started the trip in Ft. Lauderdale Florida around 1:30/2pm and had lunch at the TGIF Fridays which was a few minutes walking distance from the hotel.

Afterwards, we went back to the hotel and took a nap since we went to bed late the night before and got up early in the morning to pack.

a funny sign at TGI Fridays

After the nap around 7pm, we went to my parents room which was a few doors down from ours and watched all of ‘Despicable Me’ which had just started when we turned the TV on, and my mom and I played an iPad game.

After the movie, we went back to TGI Fridays for dinner and then went back to the hotel for bed time.  We saw this funny gas station sign on the wall.

We leave for our cruise tomorrow!

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our hotel in FL, our view, and flowers outside of the hotel