Amelia Island, Florida

When we learned that Clay would actually be home over President’s Day weekend, we made plans to fly down to Florida so we could checked out my parent’s new beach condo on Amelia Island. My dad retired this past summer so my parents decided to really lean into their new phase of life and get a second place on the ocean. However, due to Lucy having some health issues, we scrapped our initial plans and decided to drive down to the sunshine state to avoid having to board her. And that is the story of how ended up spending 24 hours in the 4Runner in order to spend 60 hours at the beach. Yes – we’re slightly bonkers, as evident by the wide-eyed looks we received when people found out about our plans.

IMG_4260

She’s worth it though.

We left Thursday night after Clay battled holiday weekend traffic on the commuter bus. We drove for about four hours and spent the night in rural North Carolina where pet-friendly hotels are not readily available but we managed to find one with good reviews on Trip Advisor (no murders!). After breakfast at McDonalds (it was slim pickins’), we fought our way through I-95 traffic and were driving onto Amelia Island by early afternoon in 70-degree weather.

IMG_4196

Advertisements

Our New England Adventure – Newport, Cape Cod, and Ogunguit

During the summer of 2014, we took a weeklong tour of the New England coast. We returned to northern Virginia with bellies full of fresh seafood and as much of a tan as the Massachusetts and Maine sun allowed.

IMG_5544

We’re apparently machinists because we chose to drive through New York City and Connecticut on a Friday afternoon. In June. It quickly became obvious that we weren’t the only ones heading to the shore that weekend. I’m sure the big city hotshots in Maseratis (we spotted five!) were rolling their eyes at our Subaru with a car top carrier but that’s how we roll – we’re so pedestrian that it hurts. After about 10 hours, we finally arrived in Rhode Island.

IMG_5550

The next day, we drove over the largest suspension bridge in New England to Newport and spent the morning exploring one of the oldest cities in the United States. Newport also has a strong Navy presence so as is the case with most Navy towns we visit, we cursed the majority of Army locations throughout the world (Fort Polk anyone?).

IMG_5568

We ate on the water, enjoying a lunch consisting of fresh steamers, grilled shrimp, and a hot lobster roll.

DSC_0135

IMG_5557

img_5565

After lunch we walked around the harbor some more before getting back on the road. We left fans of the smallest state and hope to return someday. After leaving the Ocean State, we rolled up the coast along Route 6, marveling at the quaint architecture found in New England, specifically the Shingle Style, Colonial Revival, and of course the Cape Cod. Before long, we were in Massachusetts.

4861174652_08b01eede3_z

I’ll admit that before this trip, my knowledge of Massachusetts was pretty much limited to American Revolution history, The Departed, and Mitt Romney but not surprisingly, we fell in love with Cape Cod.

IMG_5648

One of the first things that struck us was just how large Cape Cod is – for some reason, I pictured it to be much smaller. We learned that Cape Cod originally only referred to the very tip of the peninsula, but over time the name become synonymous with area known today. After crossing the Cape Cod Canal, we drove along Route 28 until we reached our resort in South Yarmouth – a Red Jacket Resort.

IMG_5728

 We checked into our room and promptly changed for the beach.

IMG_5669

 Where this little girl proceeded to take her first steps.

Go Violet, go!

IMG_5775

The little guy spent his time on the beach building sand castles and digging holes.

IMG_5679

We absolutely loved staying on the beach. There is nothing I like more on vacation than being able to walk to the water. While the resort wasn’t anything fancy, it had a private beach, an outdoor pool with a splash pad area for kids, an indoor pool, and plenty of chairs, umbrellas, and toys free for use.

IMG_5730

We did leave the resort to eat at local restaurants and explore the area but we spent the majority of our time at the beach.

marconi-beach-cape-cod-national-seashore-john-burk

We were only in Cape Cod for two days so seeing the Cape Cod National Seashore was our top choice for an afternoon outing. We never made it to Provincetown or the tip of the cape but I know we will travel to Cape Cod again at some point. We were able to visit Marconi Beach free of charge due to our National Parks Pass courtesy of the military, which was a pleasant surprise. Marconi Beach is known for its sand cliff (also called a scarp) that fills you with a sense of solitude because there is not a building to be seen on the horizon.

IMG_5792

We had a wonderful time in Cape Cod (even if Weston’s face tells another story) and had trouble wiping the drool off our chins when seeing some of the available real estate. Having a vacation home in New England does sound quite nice, doesn’t it? But Maine was calling our name.

23696361

As we crossed the Piscataqua River Bridge, we were welcomed to Vacationland. A quick drive up Route 1 and we reached our destination – Ogunquit, Maine, which means “Beautiful Place by the Sea”.

IMG_5902

 Quite deserving of the name, right?

IMG_5944

IMG_5932

We checked into our hotel and immediately walked to the beach. Clay grew up vacationing in Ogunquit every summer and has many childhood memories tied to the seaside town. Continually voted one of the best US beaches, Ogunquit has three and half miles of white sand beaches along with rocky cliffs overlooking the ocean. We sat on the beach with our toes in the sand, watching the tide come in before heading back to hotel for dinner. After putting two tired kids to bed, Clay and I sat out on the balcony watching the waves while savoring a cocktail or two.

IMG_5969

Weston and Violet had us up early the next morning so we set out to walk the Marginal Way soon after sunrise. A little over of a mile walkway from downtown Ogunquit to Perkins Cove, the Marginal Way came to be when Josiah Chase Jr. donated his land back in 1925. Described as rocky, rugged, and wild, the path itself is paved but there are plenty of rock-lined coves to explore along the way.

IMG_5971

Obligatory family photo.

IMG_6005

One of the many coves on the Marginal Way we enjoyed climbing up and around.

IMG_6016

Gorgeous Perkins Cove.IMG_6120

Once in Perkins Cove, we found a lobster boat departing with the hour and quickly reserved seats. We ate breakfast at a cute little coffee shop on the water while waiting to come aboard and before we knew it, we were off on our very first family lobster adventure.

IMG_6041

IMG_6093

IMG_6073

 Being out on the water in Maine was about as amazing as you’d imagine it to be.

 

IMG_6013

After our time on the water, we ate lunch at The Lobster Shack and the meal was easily in the top three of our entire vacation and they won our award for Best Clam Chowder (it is obviously a highly coveted award – ha!). The restaurant is unpretentious, casual, and the epitome of Perkins Cove. Go there. Now.

IMG_6110

 Photographic evidence.

IMG_5955

 We spent most of our afternoons in Ogunquit at the beach.

IMG_6250

IMG_6162

One morning we drove south to York and checked out Nubble Light, the Cape Neddick Lighthouse.

IMG_6199

IMG_6186

IMG_6202

Thankfully there was only one afternoon/evening of rain. We didn’t mind too much because it gave us the perfect excuse to drive around and explore. We ended up in Portland, walked around the harbors, and ate lunch at Duck Fat, which will now make every fry I ever eat again pale in comparison.

IMG_6206

Clay was also super excited to introduce us to Congdon’s Doughnuts. I am happy to report that they live up to the hype and are every bit as delicious as Clay’s family herald them to be – simply marvelous. I had the maple cream and I am still dreaming about the delicious morsel of perfection.

img_6210

IMG_5999

IMG_6265

Coastal Maine is magical. I will forever hold the memories of this vacation close to my heart. I can’t wait to go back and explore further north on the Maine coast. And I don’t just want to return during warm weather because as Paul Theroux writes, “Maine is a joy in the summer. But the soul of Maine is more apparent in the winter.” I’d love to find out for myself.

Daydreaming on National Plan for Vacation Day

Did you know that today is National Plan for Vacation Day? I didn’t either until two days ago (thanks Sarah!). According to Project: Time Off, “individuals who plan are more likely to use all of their time off, take more vacation days at once, and report greater levels of happiness in every category measured.” I know that I am happiest when traveling and thankfully, my adventure-mates are too! Looking back, we’ve had some wonderful trips and even those that we deemed busts at the time make for some great stories after the fact. Over the years, we’ve dined on chicken feet with Chinese mobsters (we think…) in Montreal, gotten sick on the Staten Island Ferry, hiked to secluded beaches in St. John, ate reindeer in Alaska, been woken up by drunk groomsman in kilts in a remote village in Scotland, caught lobsters off the coast of Maine, and so much more.

fullsizerender-235

Unfortunately, Clay’s current position prevents him from taking more than a week of leave this summer but as of yesterday, Clay blocked out his leave so we can partake in National Plan for Vacation Day – hip hip hooray! He won’t be around much until then so we want to make sure that this vacation hits the spot without breaking the bank.

IMG_7770

We’re 99% positive that we will not be moving this summer, which will make it the first summer in four years that we haven’t had to plan a trip around a PCS. This is cause for celebration in itself. Woohoo! We’re currently trying to determine the magic number of what we can reasonably afford for our big vacation in addition to our smaller trips planned thus far. While we’ve never regretted spending money on vacations, the reality is that Clay is the military, I don’t work full-time, and we’re not independently wealthy so a trip to Fiji is simply out of the budget. However, some places that we’ve tossed around this year include…

sunrise-2074295_1280

{source}

Acadia National Park, Maine. Four years ago, we took a 10-day vacation to Newport, Rhode Island, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and Ogunquit, Maine. We look back fondly on our little tour of coastal New England. We were unable to squeeze in a trip up to Acadia National Park that year and we’ve been talking about going there ever since. Perhaps we could combine our time in the park with a trip to Mount Washington, New Hampshire or Boston or take the car ferry over to Canada. A plus is that we’d be able to drive, which will help keep the cost of the trip more reasonable.

london-530055_1280

{source}

London, England. We asked the kids where they’d like to visit this summer and Weston was quick to say London. He has been wanting to go for years and to be honest, the rest of us want to go as well. Unfortunately, it just isn’t in the budget for the four of us to go to London this year. Sorry kiddo!

architecture-1842324__340

{source}

Disney World. Violet’s contribution to the conversation was Disney World. While we had an absolutely fantastic three days at Disneyland last spring, Clay and I have no desire to go to Disney World during the summer months. There is something about being in Orlando in July that sounds utterly unappealing. Therefore, Disney World will not be happening this summer. Sorry baby girl!

img_8134

St. Thomas and St. John. When Clay and I spent a week in the USVI a few years ago, we left the kids with my parents. We’ve been wanting to go back with the kids and I love the idea of putting money back into the economy after the destruction that Hurricanes Irma and Maria left in their wakes. I’ve been following updates about the progress of the repair and restorations on the islands and time will tell if this is the year that we go back with the kids.

peggys-cove-631782_1280

{source}

Nova Scotia, Canada. The CAT runs from Portland, Maine to Nova Scotia in 5.5 hours so we could spend the day in one of our favorite New England cities before setting sail. Clay and I have always wanted to travel to Nova Scotia by sea and perhaps this is the summer to do it! We could also hit up Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. Once in Nova Scotia, we could spend our days whale watching, hiking in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, kayaking in the North River, catching lobsters, and more.

colorado-1677110_1280

{source}

Colorado. Even though we haven’t spent a ton of time in Colorado, every time we visit, Clay and I leave feeling like we belong there. It’s far too early for us to think about where we want to settle post-Army life (we change our minds way too much) and the thought of putting down roots somewhere is absolutely terrifying. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we ended up in the mountains of Colorado. Perhaps we should vacation there this summer. Boulder? Breckenridge? Ouray? Estes Park? The possibilities feel endless when it comes to vacationing in Colorado.

astronomy-2297212_1280

{source}

British Columbia. Sigh. Have I ever mentioned how much I love Canada? Clay and I spent a lot of time there during our Fort Drum days and we’ve been wanting to visit British Columbia every since. We could spend time in Vancouver and then head to the mountains. The Canadian Rockies are consistently on Most Beautiful Places in the World lists – maybe this will be the summer we finally get to experience their grandeur in person.

IMG_2543

Where are you going this summer?  Please share so we can all travel vicariously through your adventures! Are you celebrating National Plan for Vacation Day? While I think we do a fairly good job at vacationing on a budget, I am always open to tips and tricks of the trade so feel free to pass them along.

Old Windmill Farm

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that if the kids have a school holiday when Clay is TDY or deployed, we’re happiest taking advantage of the break and getting out of town if our schedule allows.  So when I realized that the kids has off Friday and Monday and Clay was going to be TDY, I made plans to visit my sister, Megan, outside of Philadelphia. We brainstormed outings and when we learned that the Herrs Factory did not give tours on Saturdays (boo!), Megan suggested Amish County and came across Old Windmill Farm after a simple Google search. My sister communicated with Jesse, the owner of the farm, via email to coordinate our visit so when we arrived at 1:00pm, he was waiting and ready to give us a tour of his family’s working farm.

IMG_3561

Lancaster County is known as Pennsylvania Dutch Country. The rolling hills are peppered with horse and buggies and non-electric working farms. The Pennsylvania Amish of Lancaster County are the oldest Amish settlement in America and the area is known as a destination for visitors wanting to step back in time and experience a slower pace of life.

IMG_3468

Seeing as how it is January, the landscape wasn’t as lush as it may be for those who tour the farm during the other three seasons, but we still throughly enjoyed our visit learning more about the Amish way of life.

IMG_3434

Daisy, a pygmy goat, followed us around for the duration of the tour, much the delight (and terror!) of the kids.

IMG_3499

Jesse was the perfect tour guide, maintaining a low-key presence and answering all of the questions we had about his farm. The amount of work that goes into maintaining the land and his family’s way of life is astonishing and the tour gave us real appreciation for their dedication and astonishing work-ethic.

IMG_3463

We held roosters.

IMG_3522

We milked cows.

IMG_3482

We held 10-day old piglets.

IMG_3541

We collected eggs.

IMG_3431

We visit turkeys.

IMG_3511

And we chilled with some horses.

IMG_3566

This farm is totally worth a visit and after experiencing it ourselves, it is obvious why it is so highly rated on Trip Advisor and Yelp. Whether you’re local, driving through, or visiting Amish Country, be sure to check out Old Windmill Farm. It’s a great family-friendly activity that gives you a glimpse into the Amish way of life. And you may leave wanting a pygmy goat. Like me.

IMG_3547