Baltimore / Washington, D.C.: National Aquarium (Part I)

With the cancellation of our Walt Disney World trip due to my pregnancy, we decided instead to put Jordan’s vacation time to good use and visit Washington, D.C. He’s always wanted to go there as an adult since he doesn’t remember his family trip there as a child. And I figured I would be able to handle this trip at 26 weeks along. I think I underestimated how hot it would be in September! The dates we chose for our trip were September 7 – 14, 2013. We planned to stop in Watertown and Syracuse, New York for shopping, then spend a night and full day in Baltimore, Maryland before ending up in Washington, D.C. for the rest of the week.

{September 7 – Syracuse, New York}
Our first stop was Syracuse, New York. Once we reached the US border, we stopped to register my DSLR camera, lenses, and ASUS tablet. By the time we reached the Quality Inn, it was close to 11 pm. The first room we were given smelled heavily of cigarette smoke even though it was apparently a non-smoking room. We switched rooms and that one had a toilet with flushing issues. But we were so tired that we just dealt with it and went to bed. We spent the next day shopping at Target (maternity clothes!) and the Carousel Centre. The long day of walking was hard on my feet and back but I managed alright. Dinner that day was at “Ruby Tuesday’s” and it was delicious! The following day we checked out of the budget hotel and drove 5 hours to Baltimore, Maryland.

{September 8 – 10:00 pm – Baltimore, Maryland}
We made it to Baltimore by the evening and struggled with finding a hotel that included parking. Finally we ended up in a crappy Days Inn on Whitehead Court with what looked suspiciously like mold in the bathroom and a wobbly toilet. My allergies acted up quite badly when we were in the room. For dinner we found a tiny Chinese restaurant called “China Garden” that had the most amazing chicken lo mein!

{September 9 – 9:50 pm – Baltimore}
After breakfast, we headed down to the Inner Harbour to visit the huge National Aquarium. First we parked the car at the Lockwood Parking Garage; you get a discount on parking when you show the Aquarium ticket upon leaving. We spent from 11 am to 1:30 pm at the Aquarium. Entry was $34.95 USD per person. After the discount, parking for the day cost $19.00 USD.


Baltimore Inner Harbour

National Aquarium Sharks National Aquarium

Seahorse

Beautiful coral Turtle Two frogs sitting on a branch Jellyfish Cloudy skies 26 weeks pregnant

For late lunch, we ate at “Potbelly”. Then we braved the harrowing drive to Arlington, Virginia, where we checked into the very affordable American Hotel at $63 per night (including parking). I’m SO glad I found that hotel! After settling in, we walked the five blocks to 23rd Street and had dinner at “Cesar’s Diner”. If I wasn’t so pregnant, the walk from the hotel would be easy, but I kept getting a cramp in my belly.

***Continued in next post.

A whole lot of playing “catch up”

After two weeks of living in our new house, Jordan was sent away on an exercise in the U.S. until the first week of March and I was left on my own. I don’t know anybody here, which made it kind of lonely. I ended up going back to Kingston for four days, staying at my mom’s house and visiting my family and old co-workers. I was really missing my nephew Ashe, so it was great to get to spend so much time with him. He’s such a happy child!


Playing iPhone games with my buddy!

Playing iPhone games with my buddy!


I’ve noticed that it seems to snow every day here, even if it only lasts a few minutes. The snow is also heavier and sticks to the ground much longer than I’ve seen in Kingston. I hate shoveling. Now that it’s April, the snow is finally melting.

When my darling husband returned, he used up the rest of his leave and ended up with the majority of March off work. We spent a weekend in Kingston staying with friends and I got to visit with Ashe again (in the above photo). Little monkey was 20 months old in that picture, and as of yesterday he’s now 21 months. He’ll be two this July, which is insane!


Ashe @ 20 months old

Ashe @ 20 months old


My mom came up for the second last weekend of March. We painted the master bedroom:


Before

Before

After

After


I am SO excited about moving our furniture into that room. I’ve always wanted a purple room and Jordan said he didn’t care what colour our bedroom was. 🙂 While my mom was here we did lots of cooking and baking. She showed me how to make mushroom risotto. OMG, delicious! I am not a fan of rice, and her risotto was like eating dessert. We also used my Kitchen Aid mixer for the first time (she wants to buy one) and made caramel sticky rolls from scratch and applesauce muffins.

We also spent Easter weekend in Ottawa at his sister and brother-in-law’s. Our niece, Zoë, is just over a year old now. She’s still shy and takes awhile to warm up to us. She’s pretty cute. We didn’t do anything fancy, just hung around the house or went shopping, and had Easter breakfast at their church on Sunday morning, which I think we did last year as well. On the drive home, we detoured through Fort-Coulonge because Jordan wanted to see the red covered bridge:


Standing with the covered bridge in Fort-Coulonge, Quebec.

Standing with the covered bridge in Fort-Coulonge, Quebec.

Snapshot while driving through the covered bridge (iPhone).

Snapshot while driving through the covered bridge (iPhone).


Received a chocolate package from the Attewell’s in Germany:


Chocolate stash from Germany (iPhone).

Chocolate stash from Germany (iPhone).


I’ve begun learning how to use my Canon 60D camera on Manual mode. With the help of this book:


Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson

Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson


It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I’m now taking the time to teach myself. Doesn’t seem as difficult as I expected, but I’ve still got lots to learn. My camera came with a Canon 18-200mm IS lens and I have been saving up to purchase the Sigma 17-70mm OS lens. One more week and I should be able to buy it. I’m really excited! Not only for a new lens, but for Walt Disney World!

That’s right, we are going to the World where dreams do come true! We are booked into POP Century, a value resort, for 8 nights/9 days in October. We are planning to drive and will also spend a night and full day in Washington, D.C. I’m a little obsessed with Disney World right now. I’ve done so much research and planning already. I even have an itinerary done up in Excel. Okay, I’m crazy. But anyway, I’m going to master Manual mode on my camera and take amazing photos on our vacation, I just know it! 😉

Germany – Part II

***Continued from previous post.

{November 7 – 10:00 am – Berlin}
Another dreary day. It’s cold outside; I’m thankful for my mittens and warm winter coat. Having breakfast at a small cafe just down the hill from the hotel. Scrambled eggs for myself and a bread/meat/cheese platter for Jordan. Reasonably priced. There’s only 2 little tables in the cafe.


Jordan's breakfast (Nov 7) Neue Synagogue City toilet

{November 7 – 7:45 pm – Berlin}
Eating dinner at “Kilkenny Irish Pub” at Hackescher Markt. Splitting a BLT sandwich, which is huge, some water, and pumpkin soup. (Cost: €10) Another long day that I’ll write about when we return to the hotel.

{November 7 – 9:00 pm – Berlin}
I think this is our earliest night! My whole body aches from walking and carrying my DSLR all day. My feet are sore. But it’s been a good day, despite the weather. So, after we finished breakfast this morning we returned to the hotel and filled up our empty juice bottles with water. That will save us a bit of money (mostly for Jordan, as he drinks a lot more than I do). Then we caught the tram to Hackescher Markt and walked over to Museum Island to the kiosk for the Neues Museum. The lady told us it was an extra €4 per person to enter the museum. Jordan was mad about that as we had already paid for the Welcome Cards that included Museum Island. We ended up not paying the extra money. I really wanted to see the Egyptian collection, including the bust of Nefertiti, but we are trying to save money here and there.


Reichstag government building

Next we hopped onto a double-Decker #100 bus and got off in front of the Reichstag building. Nice to finally see this place in the daylight. Took some pictures and Jordan took a couple with me standing in front of the building. Left there and walked back to get some daylight photos of Brandenburg Gate. And then finally continued walking until we reached the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. We walked through the stelae until we found the main entrance to the underground museum centre. We went through security (they scan our bags, coats, etc just like at the airport) and entered the free museum. The warmth inside was wonderful. We spent some time inside, walking through the Holocaust exhibits room by room but there was so much information and things to see that we just skimmed through. I don’t know how to describe the feeling I got from seeing the exhibits….


Brandenburg Gate in daylight Stelae Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in daytime

Jordan replicating a postcard we saw

Moved on to the Topography of Terrors building to use the free washroom and to see the Berlin Wall in daylight. So far we haven’t had to pay for use of a toilet! By then it was raining and we decided to make our way to the Natural History Museum. Took awhile to find Invalidenstrasse but I remember we took a U-bahn and then walked some. On the way, since we were getting hungry, we bought some fries from a currywurst stand. They were so good! While walking by Potsdamerplatz I spotted waffles so we stopped for one of those too (nutella and whipped cream). I ate the whole thing myself! Once we reached the museum we got reduced admission with the Welcome Cards. We spent an hour and a half there. The first exhibit room is filled with dinosaur replicas. As we continued through, there were many neat things to see like precious rocks, replica animals, solar system, etc.


Berlin Wall Fries from currywurst stand Belgian waffle with nutella Naturkindemuseum Jordan with a dinosaur Earth

Zirconia

Tiger Jordan at the museum Amorak truck

After that museum we made our way back to Hackescher Markt to the Irish pub for dinner. Jordan was determined that we would locate the Volkswagon dealership we had walked by on Friedrichstrasse the other day, so off we went again! We did find it, after asking a local who Googled on his smartphone, and spent some time looking at the Amorak truck. Boring for me, but fun for Jordan.

{November 8 – 12:00 pm – Berlin}
So jet-lagged still! I don’t remember feeling so tired and achy the last time we came to Europe. Ready to head out for the day. The original plan was to go to Charlottenburg Palace today, but it will depend on how we’re feeling after lunch. We should have been up early in order to spend a good amount of time at the Palace.

{November 8 – 1:30 pm – Berlin}
Still haven’t made it to Charlottenburg Palace. Took us forever to find a place to eat, like usual. I don’t know why that is. We seem to wander around for ages before agreeing on a restaurant or cafe. Finally we settled on “Cancun” in Alexanderplatz. I ordered the chicken quesadillas and Jordan’s having chilli. We shared a banana milkshake. (Cost: €15) Before we found the restaurant, we wandered around Alexanderplatz and viewed the giant World Clock. At a store just off the main square I bought a pink Berlin bag (Cost: €6), keychain (Cost: €4.44), and deck of cards (Cost: €3.95). The cards are for Angela.


World Clock Quesadillas at "Cancun" In front of Marienkirche and TV Tower Posing with a giant seahorse Grosser Stern Sculptures in Grosser Tiergarten

{November 8 – 8:15 pm – Berlin}
At the Landsberger Allee S-bahn station having pizza and chicken schnitzel cheap. I don’t know the name of the restaurant. We didn’t make it to Charlottenburg Palace as I wasn’t feeling well after our Mexican lunch (although it was delicious at the time). I felt better in the late afternoon and it didn’t make sense to go all the way out there by then. Mostly we just walked around and explored the city. Took a few pictures of the Rathaus (city call) and Marienkirche with the TV Tower in the background.


Funkturm (radio tower) Motorbike sculpture Pizza for dinner (Nov 8)

Ended up on an S-bahn to the Zoologischer Garten station, then bus #100 to Großer Stern (in Großer Tiergarten) to view the giant Victory column. We spent a bit of time there, but as it was raining and getting dark we wanted to keep moving. After taking some pictures, we caught the bus back to the Zoologischer Garten S-bahn station. Jordan had found something called Funkturm Tower (radio tower) on our map and wanted to see if we could find it. So we got on another S-bahn and headed over. We did end up finding it after a lot of walking. I’m not even sure which station we got off at. If I wasn’t so terrified of heights, we could have gone up the Tower in an elevator. I’m not so fond of elevators that you can see out of.

***Continued in next post.

A successful HHT

On November 30th we started our House Hunting Trip (HHT). I drove up to Petawawa and checked into the Comfort Inn & Suites. Shortly after I arrived Jordan showed up. That was the longest drive I’ve done on my own–3.5 hours–and boy was I ever stiff after getting out of the car! At least I know I can do the drive.

That evening we met our realtor. Throughout the weekend we looked at many homes in the Petawawa, Pembroke, Chalk River, and Deep River areas. Only a couple really appealed to us. We offered on one home but, due to structural issues that were discovered during the inspection, we decided it would be in our best interest not to purchase that house. Luckily there was one other home that we liked and that was in our price range. After a second look through it, we decided to make an offer. The inspection went well and now we have a home to move to in February. 🙂

A few iPhone snapshots from our trip:


Deep-fried brownies with toffee dipping sauce

Deep-fried brownies with toffee dipping sauce

Deer on the base

Deer on the base

Mochaccino from a cafe in Deep River

Mochaccino from a cafe in Deep River

Shawarma from "Madameeks"

Shawarma from “Madameeks”


Yesterday I headed over to JYSK for the half-price drapery event and purchased 6 full rod kits, a pack of finials, 2 long rods on their own, 10 drapery panels, 2 picture frames, and this cool light-up tree for $200. I think I hit the jackpot! Now I’ve got all the rods and curtains I need for the new house.


Sakura tree that lights up

Sakura tree that lights up


Christmas is just around the corner! I’m pretty sure I’m finished Ashe’s gift. I just need to pick something up for J.D. and something else for Jordan, and then I’m finished.

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic – Part III

***Continued from previous post.

{February 14 – 1:10 pm EST – Punta Cana}
Went down for breakfast at 10:00 am. Had my morning donut, yum! After eating, we headed out to the hotel shops to check out some prices on souvenirs. Cloudy sky, very warm, yet with a lovely breeze. Then we walked down the long, winding road that led to the resort gates, and left the property. Crossed the street to the “Steve’s Bar” side and continued to the right, passed Plaza Bavaro, and found ourselves at another plaza called Bavaro Shopping. Prices a bit higher here. If the vendor didn’t like our haggling, they shook their heads and just waved us away. Only bought one item here, a lovely picture frame for $15.00 USD. We decided to give Plaza Bavaro another shot.



We returned to the shop there that had originally asked $65.00 USD for a purple Punta Cana beach bag I really liked. Ended up buying the bag, 3 magnets, and a shot glass for $35 USD. No other good deals so we left. Crossed the street and looked in some more shops, trying to ignore the pushy vendors. Jordan struck up a conversation with one guy, who ended up giving us a magnet, playing cards, a shot glass, and a pretty stone turtle for $10 USD! I would have spent more money in his shop since he was being so fair but we were getting very warm and wanted to move on. Another young man asked us into his shop so we shrugged and followed him to his stall. I was definitely in a shopping mood as I hadn’t spent much on souvenirs, and that’s one of my favourite things to do while traveling. Bought 3 small paintings for $35 USD, which Jordan picked out. This guy told us he was from Haiti, but he was a little hard to understand. We talked to him for awhile. I picked out 2 larimar stone bracelets for $15.00 USD and he ended up giving me a set of matching earrings included in the price.



We made it back to the resort by almost one o’ clock. Stopped in the lobby for a “Melisa” cocktail, which turned out to taste very good! Back to our room to change into swimwear. Had a delicious pannini for lunch.

{February 14 – 5:50 pm EST – Punta Cana}
No available loungers on the beach so we laid towels in the shade of a tree by the main pool, close to the pool bar. Both of us read, napped, ate some French fries as a snack. Then around 4:00 pm we packed up our stuff and went back to the beach. We found a couple empty chairs.


Ron Barcelo advertisement


Back in our room now. The fan is on but the room feels humid still. I don’t think the air-conditioner is working. It’s our last full-day so it’s not a big deal. We have reservations at the Oriental restaurant at 6:30 pm tonight. It’s Valentine’s Day.

{February 14 – 9:20 pm EST – Punta Cana}
Dinner was rather disappointing. The grouper fish in my first course was too chewy and tasted like a block of salt. The sweet n’ sour pork was very tough to chew. Jordan also didn’t like his meal. We skipped out as fast as we could and went to the buffet for banana crepes. Valentine’s Day theme everywhere, including a guy dressed up as cupid running around the grounds. We ran into the couple who had been on the excursion with us the day before, and talked to them for awhile. They were from New Brunswick, no wonder they were so friendly.



Had our last “Victor’s Special” drink and one more mochaccino from the lobby. Back to the room to pack!

***End of journal.

We spent check-out day lounging around, waiting for our bus to pick us up. It was very hot and sunny. A few pictures from that last day:


Leaving the island

And some souvenirs: