Sunday, October 21, 2018

Colorado - out and about heading home

We slept in... I don't know that we meant to. I could blame it on the time zone as Colorado is Mountain time, but more likely we all just needed a little extra sleep. We missed breakfast at the hotel and decided to just check out and run by Panera for a little something to hold us till lunch.

After Panera, we headed back to Boulder. We had talked about doing the Celestial Seasoning Tea Factory Tour. But the factory isn't actually running on the weekends, so instead we decided to just buzz over and check out the shop, and see where it was for next time.
The shop was filled with delightful bits and bobs. Many adorable tea lover trinkets and LOTS of tea. We picked up a few boxes of flavors we don't have at our local store.

We decided we will return the next time we are in the area on a weekday and do the whole tour experience. On our way out I spotted something in the field... what could that be... Prairie Dogs?
Yup... soooo many!!! I was totally taken back by how many, how close to us, and well them just being there, to begin with. Once we spotted them there, we saw them all over the place. Amazing.

From here we were off to the Denver Zoo.. you know us and zoos.
It was an easy drive but parking was insane... it was clear that something was going on at the zoo.... and it involved people in costumes and candy from what we could tell. We were lucky enough to notice the Denver Museum of Nature and Science almost next door and decided that was a better fit... It really was!

Parking was easy peasy and the museum was WONDERFUL. We saw quite a bit of it and really enjoyed our time.

This wrapped right into time to head home. We returned our rental, checked our bags, and picked up some dinner before boarding our flight home. An uneventful three hours later we were waiting for our bags at baggage claim.

We had a bit of unwanted excitement getting to the car when our oldest rolled his ankle. It was a first for him (not for me or sister), but we got him through it and home for ice and rest. He will be on sprain ankle protocol for a few days... I think it is just strained, but the difference is currently lost on him.

Besides the ankle, it was a great weekend adventure. We all enjoyed Colorado and look forward to going back.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Colorado - Another beautiful day with a train

We had a weird night last night... either one or the other kid was up for one reason or another. It was a bit like a really sleepy game of whack-a-mole. As soon as one was quiet, the other would pop up.
So this morning, we decided to eat a big breakfast.... we ventured out to a local place called The Egg and I.  You may have guessed they do a lot of egg based dishes. We each ordered something different from French toast to Huevos Rancheros. Overall it was tasty.
After breakfast, we ventured over to Boulder for a short driving tour of the town. We may go back tomorrow for more exploring.

Another beautiful day in Colorado.

Then we enjoyed about an hour of rest in the room, which I really needed after my night of whack-a-mole

Our afternoon plans involve a train ride in Georgetown, about an hour away. Another beautiful day for driving through Colorado. We noticed that we were going higher and higher into the mountains and began to wonder how high we would get today. HIGH, is the answer. Very very high for us sea-level people.

The Georgetown Loop Railroad is currently doing an Oktoberfest themed round trip ride from Georgetown to Silver Plume and back. See pictures for elevation!!
We also got to sample some local root beer, which hubby enjoyed on the train.

The hour-long ride was very nice and we were glad we took the time to go. Back in town, we picked an old family favorite for dinner - the Old Spaghetti Factory. This location, Westminster, is just a year old .. so all the bread knives are still sharp. After eating our fill we spotted something on the way to the car.... balloons! 
There was some event across the highway and they had about 8 hot air balloons doing a balloon glow. We hung out for a bit to enjoy the sight. 

Back in the room, we all wound down... The bed is calling.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Colorado - Caves, Animals and a little shopping

Well, the title pretty much tells our day, so....

Just kidding, I will go into more detail ;)

Amazing landscape!

We breakfasted at the hotel, which is the Holiday Inn Express Broomfield. Plenty of seating for breakfast which I always appreciate. Food was fine, nothing to really talk about one way or the other.
And we hit the road. We are off to the Colorado Springs area for a few activities today.
We drove about an hour and a half to our first destination, The Cave of the Winds.

Check out that view!

Entrance to the Cave of the Winds area

None of us did the crazy zip-line ride or swing - this time. We all did the Discovery Tour of the Cave. It was a really nice tour taking us and a dozen others through the intricate tunnels and caves. The path was paved and it was all lit. Even had ample handrails along the way. I am not one who would look forward to caving.. neither is our son. But this tour looked like something I could handle and we have all ridden enough trains over the years for him, we figured we could make it today. Our young lady and hubby really enjoyed it and hope to return again someday for a more adventurous tour.

On the tour we were told to remember that on the tour "right is right and left if lost", in hopes of not losing any of us along the way. I found the phase delightful and have been using it a lot.... a lot a lot. At least one of my kids is already sick of it.

Some pics from in the cave...

After the tour and customary stop at the gift shop we headed to lunch at Noodles and Co. Still don't have one at home, so it's always a treat.

Next stop - Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

Before we get into the zoo can we talk about elevation?
We live in LOW country... we are talking sea level people, so the Denver area is quite a change. I knew this going into the trip and driving past Mile High Stadium twice today, I commented on it.
I really felt it in the cave. We had some steps here and there on the tour... not too many, but we were all winded.
And now we get to the zoo......

6714 Feet!
So, this zoo is on a mountain. And instead of being spread out horizontally, it's vertically, up the mountain. Which is cool... but, hold on, let me catch my breath.... tiring.

Our young lady was feeling the elevation/altitude when we got to the zoo. So we paced ourselves and worked on getting her hydrated.
Being zoo fans (you know we are) we really enjoyed this unique layout. Starting with feeding the giraffes.

This was soo cool.

Soo Amazing!

We followed the path around. The zoo closed early today for an evening event, and by the time they were closing we were ready for a rest. I'd love to come back someday and spend more time.

View back towards Colorado Springs from the Zoo


On the way back to our hotel we made a stop at the Castle Rock Outlets. I was interested in a specific store we don't have back home and picking up a pair of shoes for one of the kids. We got our items and continued on our way.
Dinner tonight - Infinitus Pie. This place only makes single person size pizzas. So you get to pick exactly what you want . It turned out to be great. The kids both thought the red sauce was a little spicy, but they had a train running around the restaurant, so somehow that made up for it a little.

Dinner Venue

We picked up some cookies on the way back to the room and were able to relax and plan tomorrow.

All in all a really fun day. We all need to drink more, but we will get the hang of it.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Colorado for the weekend!

Hubby spent the bulk of the week in the Denver/Boulder area for work, so we decided to join him for the tail end and make a long weekend out of it.

The kids and I flew into Denver this afternoon and hubby picked us up. It was cool to see a bit more of the Denver Airport, we have had a handful of layovers in Denver over the years, but today we got to see baggage claim! Already it's a trip of firsts ;)
Ok, sarcasm over, I promise.

From the airport we headed toward Boulder. Our residence for our mini Colorado adventure is actually in Broomfield. The first thing I was struck by was the landscape. I think I have always assumed this area would have a similar feel to the northwest, but it feels a lot more like Albuquerque to me - high dessert, and HUGE sky.

We more or less missed lunch so an early dinner was our only real plan for today. We hit the local CPK for a familiar meal. The restaurant was hosting the local police department and their fundraiser for the Special Olympics. We had a really nice conversation with a few of the officers about it and after our meal our young lady got a tour of one of the squad cars. The officer who talked with her was wonderful. It was a real treat.

Tour of the police vehicle.
They carry a lot of stuff!

After dinner, we picked up a few items and returned to the room to relax. Looking forward to getting out and exploring Colorado tomorrow.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Europe - Day 25 (Headed home)

I can't decide if this trip went fast or not. It did not go slow..... it seems like a long time since we left home. But we are just now really ready to be home again.
So, today we do it... last flight of the trip.

We had breakfast at our hotel.. with a ton of other people. I was amazed at how many people were having breakfast this morning. Our hotel is much larger than it seemed yesterday. We scored a table in the outside courtyard.
The view up at breakfast. 
Check out wasn't til noon, so we had a nice lazy morning. We decided we were not going to try and get any more sight seeing in today. We have a 4 pm flight out of Newark, so we could have squeezed something in... but at least half of us, need a slower pace. [Editor's note: Turns out that after 25 days of traveling, you aren't as concerned about filling every minute of your time away.]
So we relaxed, took our time repacking and checked out at noon.

We left home with two rolling bags and four carry-on bags. Returning home with three rolling bags and 5 carry-on bags. Is that good or bad for a 25 night trip? Additional rolling bag was purchased, carry-on bag was a pack-able we took with us. 
The part I was the most anxious about today was maneuvering all our stuff from the hotel to Penn Station, where we get the train to the airport. It was a handful of blocks and I find the pace of the NYC streets a bit quick... add the bags and I wasn't sure about this plan. But it all worked out fine. We slowed our pace a bit... didn't try to keep up with the locals in crossing streets and were at the station with no issues.
escalator to the train. 
We took a train out to Jersey, then caught the airport monorail to the terminal we needed at Newark Airport. After checking our suitcases and an easy lunch, it wasn't too long til we boarded our plane. Hubby was feeling a bit worse today. I am feeling almost normal again an our young man is congested, so we decided I would sit with the kids and he could have the other isle for a slightly quieter flight. I sat between the two and we had a nice 6 hour flight home.
Hubby watched some movies, our young lady played games on her kindle and listened to music and our young man and I got half way through a book on audible. With some mild ear pressure coming down, we landed and were headed home right on time.

We did the whole rent a car for the day trick again.... And home was right where we left it. Apparently the local spiders have decided our front door was too exposed, and were working on a nice web to cover it. Luckily I spotted it before I walked right into it.
Ahh. home and bed... let's All get some sleep. We are not up late local time, but its past midnight in NYC, and we are feeling it.

Final stats from the trip
3832 Nautical Miles sailed - From Dover to NYC
Flights: 4
Rental Cars: 5 (2 were at home to get to and from the airport)
Trains: 4-7 (Depending on whether you count light rail: TGV, Eurostar, Paris RER, London Underground, TFL Rail, NY Subway, NJ Transit Rail)
Counties: 6 (Germany, France, England, Ireland, Canada, US)
Oceans crossed: 1 (both ways)
Hotels: 7 (not including the floating hotel, ie: Disney Cruise Line) 
Additional suitcases purchased: 1
Afternoon teas enjoyed: 4 
Number of pictures taken: 1947 (hahaha - oh wow, thank goodness for digital cameras right!)
Castles visited: 3 (if you let me include the castle at Disneyland Paris) 
Cannons fired: 2 (we didn't fire them ourselves...)
Currencies used: 4 (US Dollars, Euros, Pounds, Canadian Dollars)
New Languages attempted: 2

You Are Here Mugs purchased: 5 
[Editor's addition: On this trip, we pre-paid for as much as possible and took currency with us for everything else and basically didn't use any credit cards in Europe. These are the Euros and Pounds that we had left over.]

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Europe - Day 24 (New York, NY)

Back in the USA. We leave our floating home for good today. We are not entirely sure we want to, but the process of packing everything up has us all ready to move on.
The Magic is in NYC at Pier 88. We took a few pictures form our balcony of the sights.

I spy the Empire State Building!
Next to us... cool! 
We are glad to be late seating, as it means we get to sleep in a bit longer and go to the second breakfast seating. We were out of our room, with all our stuff at 8, and breakfast, back at Rupunsel's at 8:15 am. [Editor's Note: We had our final time change from the Atlantic to Eastern time zone, so 8:15 am felt like 9:15 am. It was still earlier than I would have liked, though.] A quick breakfast and final goodbye and hugs to our serving team. Maria and Marco were wonderful!
Once breakfast was done, all disembarkation groups were cleared to leave the ship, so we were able to walk off with ease. Suitcases were found and we moved through customs/immigration pretty quickly.
Now for the adventure of getting a taxi (or the like) to our hotel. This was my first real experience with the loud and fast pace of this city... oh, and the number of people!
At least 30 of us were all trying to cross the street to get to the taxi stands (all with suitcases). There were a few guys walking the crowd offering rides places. These guys had nothing indicating they were drivers for a cab company, or Uber or Lyft....just guys walking around... "hey, where you going?" [Editor's note: Some of them had printed out the Uber logo and were carrying it with them to make them seem more legit.] Then a nearby construction worker (hard hat and vest) started yelling at all of us "don't get into any car unless it's a yellow cab!" "Don't talk to those guys" "Keep walking to the taxi line".
Okay... so we all hustled across the street and queued up, but the taxi lane with filled with black SUVs.... more of these non-taxi guys. We waited for a bit and exchanged looks with others from our cruise. Then decided this wasn't how we wanted to spend the next half hour... so we walked about a block a way to give some distance from all the commotion, and hubby called a Lyft.
The other guys could have been Uber or Lyft drivers [Editor's Note: Probably not, since NYC requires Uber and Lyft drivers to have a special license to operate in the city], but we were more comfortable going the official route. Soon we were rolling to our hotel and getting checked in.
The Homewood Suites in Midtown Manhattan was prepared for us and several other families from our ship. The room wasn't ready yet (note: it's still before 10 am) but they tagged and stored our luggage so we could head out to see some stuff.

We headed to the American Museum of Natural History.

Funny, it's another museum with ties to the Night at the Museum movies. But we enjoyed the regular exhibits we were able to explore plus the Unseen Oceans exhibit we added on. Here come a ton of pictures.

This was the coolest! a huge kinetic sand table! with a dynamic projection on top, so as you move the sand... the color of it changes. (Video below) 

This was just what our young man needed... He really enjoyed it. 
The table was set up so people could visualize different ocean depths. They had a cool projector above that changed the color of things based on how high or low the sand was built up. So you could make islands, or trenches. They asked that you stay no longer than 10 minutes if people were waiting. [Editor's note: Lucky for us, there weren't too many people around so no one was waiting.] We want one at home.

After the museum, we took the subway back to the hotel and got into our room. We were able to take a hour or so break before dinner and our evening show!

This seems like real NY pizza to me
Tonight we have tickets to see Frozen on Broadway. We decided on Frozen several months ago and picked up the tickets. But this evening as we make our way around town to get to the show... the kids seem unsure of our choice.

But after the show, they were very glad we did it. Both enjoyed it. Our young man pointed out all the differences from the film and our young lady had the soundtrack on her phone before bed. 

One last stop before we call it... a glimpse at Time Square. 

A glimpse was all I could handle.... Apparently I am not a city girl. 
We had a short hop back to the hotel - now to unwind and get to sleep. Tomorrow home.