Monday, 30 June 2014

Cortland, New York State

After our not so pleasant cabin in Douglas, it was nice to know we were going somewhere that would be much better.  Hope Lake Lodge was actualy the first place I booked on our trip.  I got it on a Groupon deal, and it appears to come up quite regularly there.  

We got there in time to check in, and quickly went to our room, a loon suite.  It had a double bedroom, which Oliver and Isaac shared the bed.  We were able to order a pack and play for no extra cost for Sebastian.  Paul and I slept on a Murphy bed in the living area.  The room had a nice small kitchen area, which was perfect for our needs.  The boys had great fun playing on the bear footstool.  

We went for a little walk around the resort.  Hope Lake Lodge is a ski resort, so pretty quiet in the summer, though there were a few conferences going on while we were there.  

It has a lake nearby, with a man made beach and a swimming area we could have used, but decided not to.

After dinner we went and checked out the water park, which you had to access through the arcade.  The boys had great fun playing arcade games, and they pretty much had the place to themselves.  After we went for a drink in the bar.  The boys were very well behaved.

We all went to bed fairly early in preparation for the next day.  Luckily they weren't up to early, so we had breakfast and waited till 11 for the water park to open.

Cascades water park was a lot of fun.  They had life jackets for the younger two, and they were really good about using them.  Oliver went down one of the big slides, but most of our time was spent in the wave pool.

There was a splash area on decking with lots of levers to push and pool, plus a few small slides.  We were able to supervise the boys well from the wave pool when they were on the splash area.  There was a huge bucket at the top which tipped its contents about every 10 minutes.  Seb loved this!

We had a stop for some snacks about 1.30, paul and I even had a beer!  Then it was back to the water.  We discovered the hot tub, and the boys loved the in and out pool, where they were able to swim outside in the rain.  By 3.30 we were all starting to wane, so we decided to call it a day and head back to the room.

The boys had some computer time before we headed down to the restaurant on site, the Acorn  Grill.  We were early for dinner, about 5pm.  Paul and I both had a beer, and the boys had a lemonade each.  The service was attentive, not surprising how quiet it was.  Oliver ordered the kids pizza with pepperoni, and the other 2 went with grilled cheese sandwiches.  Paul had a Buffalo chicken pizza, and I had a steak, the Montreal Rib eye.  Our food arrived, the boys were more than happy with their food.  My steak was very tasty.  Paul's pizza was huge, too big.  He was a bit miffed that it was not clear on the menu how big the pizza was, it would have been better for 2 or more people to share.

We headed back up to the room, as it was raining all day, so no chance of going for a walk.  The boys went to bed a little later, but very happy.

Seb did not want to get out of his bed the next morning, we were all very tired.

We checked out, this is the reception of the hotel.

Hope Lake Lodge is a very nice place to stay.  We would quite like to try and go skiing here at some point.

Driving through Cortland we saw some amazing houses that appear to be sorority homes.  There was quite a few of them.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Lincoln Memorial and drive to New York City

Again, the boys had us up early for a nice breakfast. We packed up the room, and headed towards the Lincoln Memorial.  After driving past it yesterday, I really wanted to see it up close.  We found somewhere to park (for free) a short walk away.  The boys were actually able to run across some sports fields before crossing the road to get to the memorials.

First stop was the Korean War Memorial.  This features 19 statues that depicts solids on patrol facing an American Flag.  It is dedicated to 1.5 million men and women who served in the Korean War.  Thats a lot of people.  This was a pretty moving memorial.  

Next we walked to the front of the Reflecting Pool.  I had to hold Seb's hand very tight, as I was afraid he would make a run for the water.


It was a blazing hot morning, and was only about 9.30am.  There were quite a few people around, but not super busy.  My timings in avoiding crowds had been ace so far...


The Lincoln Memorial is something else.  It is so grand, and beautiful.  The memorial was dedicated in 1922, and has been the site of many famous speeches.  It is a tribute to Abraham Lincoln, and the 36 columns that surround the structure represent the 36 states in the Union at the time of Lincoln's death.  Around the top of the structure are the names of the states.  

Inside sits a 19ft statue of Lincoln.  Pretty grand.  The decor inside is amazing too, with the Gettysburg address and Lincoln's second inaugural address both carved into the marble.  


As I stated earlier, the Lincoln Memorial has been the site of many famous speeches and addresses.  Not many are more famous that Martin Luther King Jr's 'I have a dream' speech.  We had to wait for some tourists to move off the spot on the floor before we could get the photo below.

The Lincoln Memorial is amazing.  A kinda wish we had time to do more of the monuments/memorials, but the kids wouldn't have stood for it, no matter how much ice cream we promised them.  Washington D.C is definitely a place I want to go back to, but when we are older, and don't have the kids in tow.  

Now onwards and upwards to NYC.  It took about 4 hours to get there, driving through Baltimore


and around Philadelphia.  Those first few glimpses of the city were amazing.

The traffic, however was not.  We had to travel through Manhattan Island and out the other side to get to Brooklyn, where we were staying.  This is one of the times I was grateful we had an E-Z pass.  This is basically a prepaid transponder that fits in your car, and enables you to go through tolls at slow speed, and the cost of the toll gets taken off your account.  

Brooklyn is an interesting place.  Again reminded of parts of London, where one street looks dodgy as hell, the next is once as pie.  The urban density is immense.  We got to our apartment at dinner time and were greeted by the owner.  It was 2nd floor of an old brownstone, with one bedroom with 2 double beds.  The living area had a sleeper sofa, but there were no doors between the 2.  The owner is an artist, and his work was on the walls.  Very good.  We also had access to a balcony. We walked to the local store, and this was your old style corner store, like the one you used to get in England before supermarkets ran them out of business.

The view from our apartment

The boys had a toast dinner, while we indulged in beer.  As Seb was in a bed here, he was a nightmare, and it took Paul laying with him, then me laying with Isaac to get them to go to sleep.  But they went eventually.

They would need it for the mammoth day the next day touring the city

Full day in Washington, D.C.

Typically the boys awoke about 6.30 am, which enabled us to go down to breakfast fairly early.  Lucky for us, breakfast was included in the price of the hotel, and we opted for a buffet breakfast.  The kids loved it, and had at least 2 mini boxes of cereal each.  A gentleman at breakfast recommended the spy museum for the kids, he said it was really good, but unfortunately this was not in our plans for the day.  

We headed out of the car park from the hotel and went for a quick drive around the monuments.  We decided not to stop, as we had too many other things planned for the day.  We eventually found somewhere to park near L'Enfant metro station.  We may have been better off using public transport, but with 3 young kids, it is not something we are overly confident about.  It did cost us in parking though, about $25!  But we were able to park close enough to the museums, so the walk there took us past the Capitol Building

First stop was the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.  I would say this is probably equivalent to the Natural History Museum in London.  We got there about 20 minutes after it opened, so missed the initial rush, so the queue for bag searches wasn't too long.  The great thing about the museums we visited in Washington, they are all FREE (though a donation is suggested).  

Sebastian loved the elephant in the entrance hall

A particular hit with the boys was an interactive classroom, where they could look at many different things such as fossils, seeds, shells etc.  We entered the room when it was quiet, and left when one of the many school groups visiting entered.  

Another hit was the live insect zoo.  Isaac loves bugs, and was pleased to see so many in one place.  This is a really good exhibit, with plenty of creatures and staff on hand to give you information about the exhibits, and even let you hold the insects.  Here is Isaac with a Carolina tobacco caterpillar.  These things were big, and there was a display of them, some caterpillars, some moths.  

We spent most of the morning in the museum.  It is well worth a visit, very glad we were there on a thursday, so it wasn't too busy (running theme here…).  We were desperately hungry by the time we left, but there are few place to eat within walking distance in this area.  Thank goodness for a McDonalds hut.  We had noticed on our drive looking for a parking place, that there were many food trucks in the L'Enfant area.  I imagine McDonalds placed there hut outside the Air and Space Museum in the hope of generating business, and they certainly did.  

It is a short walk from the Museum of Natural History to The Air and Space Museum, walking back past the Capitol Building again.  There seemed to be some kind of protest on the steps, luckily we were far enough away from it.  

After lunch we ventured to the Air and Space Museum.  May have just been the time of day, but this was much busier, with big queues for bag searches.  Think we waited about 20 minutes to get in.  

So many aircraft in one place.  By now we were pretty museum-ed out, so this was hard going, even though there were may wonderful exhibits.

The boys loved this one, in fact they liked most of them.  

This museum didn't seem as good as the Natural History Museum.  It felt a bit mismatched and hard to navigate, especially with the number of people there.  May just have been tiredness kicking in….

We decided it was time to go.  We headed back to the car, and got back to the hotel in time to go to the bar to watch England get ejected from the World Cup.  

After a hard day museum-ing, our boys did awesome sitting in the bar, playing kindles while we enjoyed some sherbets.  

Thank goodness the bar was empty, and the staff were really good.  The boys even got their promised ice creams.

Having already eaten out at lunch (ok, it was only a McD's), we were in a quandary what to do for dinner.   In the end we decided, sod it, we are on holiday, and looked for a restaurant within walking distance.

There were loads of them….. We took a walk to the Logan Circle area of D.C.  Such an interesting area.  It reminded us a bit of parts of London, its own little mini town within a city.  

We had decided to try Logan Tavern.  We were seating quickly in a nice booth to the side.  This place reminded me a lot of Bacon Brothers in Greenville.  Lots of fresh local produce.  We ordered beers, I went with the Troegs Perpetual IPA, and Paul had the Heavy Seas amber lager, these were decisions made with the help of our server.  We all felt pretty comfortable in this establishment.  It had a nice relaxed atmosphere.  Seb and Isaac had the grilled cheese sandwiches, and Oliver went with a cheeseburger.   After asking the servers advice, I went with one of their signature dishes, the Crispy Chicken Paillard with garlic mash.  Paul decided on the grilled boneless pork shoulder.

Again the food was delightful.  Juicy, succulent and very flavorsome.  Empty plates all round.  Think we were really tiring the kids out, as they became very good at clearing their plates.


Logan Tavern is a good place to eat if you are in that area of Washington D.C.  I might even say it is worth traveling there, as the food and atmosphere are very enjoyable.  The servers were very good also, and it was not too busy.  

Logan Tavern on Urbanspoon

Logan Circle area of D.C was certainly interesting….. on the way to and from the restaurants we saw some sights….  men having their nails done…...gentlemen in ladies clothing…...few cross gender people.  Not sure if stumbled into that area of Washington, but it was well worth it!

It was fairly early to bed that night, after a crazy busy day.  We had to drive to NYC the next day…...

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The big trip is here!!!!

As the title suggests, we set off Tuesday morning.  We even managed to leave the house before 7.30!  The journey was pretty uneventful.  We traveled along I85 though Charlotte NC, and across the top of North Carolina, before crossing into Virginia.

We stopped for lunch at a McDonalds off I85 near South Hill Virginia.  Here is where Oliver broke his big burger virginity.  He had a quarter pounder deluxe meal, and pretty much ate the lot.

This is one of the most *special* McDonalds I have been in.  The air conditioning barely worked, there were flies everywhere, it smelled weird and had some thing growing near the drinks machine.  Not at all nice.

McDonald's on Urbanspoon

It has been very hot in the south east corner recently, and we saw our first 100 degrees Fahrenheit while heading to Norfolk.

We made it to the hotel about 3.30 and were able to check in to the Best Western Hotel and Suites.  I purposefully picked this hotel as it was right on the beach.  It was really nothing special, a room with a separate bedroom and a sleeper sofa, plus a kitchenette that lacked in crockery.  No matter, we gave the boys their kindles, and they played while we sorted out their beach stuff.  We got them dressed  for the beach and headed out.

The beach was lovely.  It sits at the bottom of Chesapeake Bay.  I don't know if this made a difference to the water temperature, or it was just the general heat, but the water was really warm, even for me!  Below is a picture of a plane flying very low over one part of our hotel

As I say, the water was really warm, and a consistent depth to quite far out, though we kept the boys relatively close.  They all had a great time splashing and playing.  We even saw some crabs!

Paul went out and got us Papa Johns pizza for dinner.  It worked perfectly.  He even had to pick up some plastic plates as the hotel too didn't have any.  This is a picture of the hotel.  Nothing special, but perfect for one night stop.  We didn't even go in the pool, it was a little busy, and the beach was great for a run around after a day in the car.

The kids went to bed a little later than usual, it is holiday after all!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Nearly holiday time

hey y'all

Just a quick one to say HI!  We are off on holiday shortly, and I shall be blogging from the road, so stay tuned.

We are all well, and I just about survived my first full week with both boys off.  Man, they are loud and demanding, but I think thats just kids for you.  We saw plenty of friends and took multiple trips to the pool which helped burn off lots of energy.  It is so hot here now that you can really only do outdoor things in the morning, as the afternoons are hot or thundery.  Best time fore the pool (not in the thunder though!)

I am still just about managing to keep up the #yearofoliver on Instagram.  You see this little camera icon on the right???  If you click on it, it should take you to my Instagram account, even if you don't have one yourself.  There you can see all the delightful photos of Oliver.

Thats it…. Just wanted to touch in before we go.  Only a couple of days now, and I am still not packed…..  My mum would be shocked……….

Monday, 9 June 2014

Summer switch up

So the summer holidays are upon us.  11 weeks off for Oliver, 8 weeks for Isaac.  About a month ago I got together with some friends to discuss what we should do.  Given that we are away for nearly 3 weeks, and another friend is going away for nearly a month, organizing things is tricky.  Despite this, I felt motivated after coming home.  The boys and I sat down and did this

This is a rough plan of what we can do.  Hopefully there will be enough to keep everybody happy.  Oliver is having his operation a week before he goes back to school but Isaac will already be back by then. I honestly don't know how I keep up with everything sometimes.  Seb will continue going to school through the summer.  His is a day care, and he gets more from being there than being home with 2 smelly brothers.  Plus, he only does 3 mornings a week, and it will be nice for the other 2 to be able to do things with me, without me having to worry about a 3 year old.

We went to the zoo last week, first time in ages.  But we had to.  Joy the elephant is off for a better life in Colorado.  Due to AZA standards, Greenville are unable to keep an elephant of its own.  They were running lots of different events around the zoo in celebration of elephants, which my kids loved. 

Here is Isaac signing goodbye.  It will be sad to not have elephants at Greenville zoo anymore.  I know Seb in particular will find it hard not seeing the elephant when we go.  It's his favorite animal, and I don't think he quite understands.


Another reason for going to Charlotte last week was to take a trip to ikea.  We had decided a while ago that it was time to get Seb out of his cot. I thought it best to wait till the boys were off school, so it wouldn't be too unsettling or tiring for everyone.  After a bit of debating around the store, we decided to invest in some bunkbeds.  They were not that much more expensive that a single, and when we move back to England, it will be highly unlikely we will have a house big enough for 3 single beds to start with.  Ikea was an absolute nightmare.  The queues were huge.  Paul queued while I took the boys for frozen yogurt.  He still wasn't at the front by the time they finished.  We went and got the car to wait for him.  It took ages, but we got the bunkbeds home.  Paul painted them last weekend, and we put them together in Oliver's room.  He has had bunkbeds before, so is used to them, it also gives us flexibility for sleep overs or if Seb is a nightmare when he goes to bed.

We went with garish yellow as we had it left over from the sandbox.  The thought is we will get some Kyle Busch/M&M stickers or decals to go on them, and make it into a Kyle Busch bed (next project!)

This then freed up Oliver's bed, which was the same as Isaac's before I decorated it.  I was going to stain it, but I don't have a lot of free time at the moment, so we decided to paint it.  Coat of white, followed by a coat of green (again left over from the sandbox).  The boys even helped to the green yesterday while I snoozed on the sofa.  Paul dismantled the cot (we will sell it), and put together the bed in Sebastian and Isaac's room today.  It has a new mattress and covers etc.

Seb loves it.  At certain times today he disappeared, only to be found in his bed, just lying there.  We put him to bed in it tonight.  He goes up at 7.30, Isaac at 8.  Seb was still awake when I took Isaac up.  This was followed by Isaac getting out of bed saying Seb was playing with the toys, trying to get in to his bed etc. The saving grace of bunkbeds.  Isaac got in the lower bunk in Oliver's room, we closed the doors, and they were both asleep with 20 minutes, with no issues.

Thank goodness for bunk beds.......

Friday, 6 June 2014

NASCAR Hall of Fame

Last Saturday we embarked on a trip to Charlotte, NC.  We had promised Oliver a trip to the NASCAR Hall of Fame as part of his birthday celebration.

We arrived fairly early, and queued to get tickets.  The queue was not long at all.

We decided on general admissions tickets, though they do lots of different packages that include things such as food, drink, audio tours and simulator rides.  The tickets are like little credit cards.

Once inside, you are ushered towards the Belk High Octane theater.  While waiting for the next showing, we registered out tickets, so we could use them at various other places around the building.  We were shown a movie on the history of NASCAR.  It was very interesting, though we knew quite a lot of it already.  After the film, you walk out into the great hall.  This contains different NASCAR's from the ages, starting with the Hudson Hornet in the 1950's, all the way to the modern era.  They are displayed on Glory Road.This is a replica of a track, with different degrees of banking.  At places, you can walk up the banking to see how steep it is.  They also have info on all the NASCAR tracks, and the different surfaces.  Very interesting (even to me!) 

The Steep Banking 

From there, you walk up the ramp to the Hall of Honor.  This is where NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees are honored.  It contains various cars and memorabilia from the inductees, and information on them all.  Again very interesting 

Pete Hamiltons famous Plymouth Superbird

Then it is on to the Race Week part of the building.  Here you get to see the goings on of a race team in the week leading up to a race.  There is a kids area, and lots of interesting things for adults to do.  This area is very hands on, and we were glad we went early, so it was no too busy.  We even got to walk through a big truck that transports the cars around, very cool. 

Daddy and Isaac working a pit stop

The bigger boys even got to have a go on an iRacing game, and set qualifying laps.  They loved it!  This is also where the race simulators were.  I thought that this would not be suitable for the boys, I thought they would be too little, but they may have been alright.  Plus you have to pay extra.  They are the iRacing games, inside actual size NASCAR's.  I kinda wish we had a go now, but hey ho! 

The simulator cars

From there we headed to the top floor, which contained Heritage Speedway, an area with individual exhibits about the history of NASCAR.  For people new to the sport, this was fascinating.  We then headed down in the elevator to the Great Hall, where we had missed the exhibit in the middle.  This was to do with women in the sport of NASCAR.  Again, fascinating.  The boys loved seeing Danica's car 

Danica Patrick's car

We really enjoyed the NASCAR Hall of Fame.  As a family who are just starting to get enthused about the sport, it was a great eye opener, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.  The staff were friendly, polite and courteous.  It is well managed and maintained, with a lot of modern touches.  I would quite like to go back again in about 20 years time, when the current drivers are the inductees!  

We don't normally buy photo packages or spend a lot of time in the gift shops of places we visit, but this time we decided to buy the photos the staff had taken as we walked in.  It was well worth it.