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France

An adventure along the Seine River and heart of Normandy

Jacob finished his last full semester of college and what better way to celebrate than an adventure to Normandy. Jacob is a WWII genius and has a passion for learning history, so my Mom and grandmother thought it would be an educational experience of a lifetime for him to step foot on the D-Day landing beaches. Luckily, they let me tag along! We spent 3 days in Paris and boarded the Viking Rolf for a week long adventure.

Thursday May 10

We arrived in Paris jet lagged x 100 but we were so happy to be there.  You could’ve found me in a lobby lounger with a blank stare and crazy looking smile. We checked in to the Marriott Paris Opera Ambassador hotel and that evening our guide, Fatima, gave us a brief 30 min walking tour around the area. My favorite building we passed was the opera house, or Palais Garnier. Interestingly enough, this opera house is the one that inspired the creation of The Phantom of the Opera. When the opera house was being built, they discovered the groundwater to be unexpectedly high. Long story short, they tried constantly to dry up the site but repeatedly failed until they incorporated an enormous concrete cistern. Hence, many said the opera house was built over a subterranean lake. If you ever have seen Phantom of the Opera, you know that the phantom lives under an opera house by a lake.

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Friday May 11

After breakfast, we met in the lobby around 9am and jetted off to the subway with our guide for a walking tour. We walked through the different areas nearby & received ALOT of history.

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Place des Vosges, built by Henri IV from 1605-1612, is the oldest planned square in Paris.

My favorite was the cathedral, Paroisse Saint Paul Saint Louis, which at the time was first of many to come. It was constructed from 1627 to 1641 by the orders of Louis XIII.

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Jacob & I inside Paroisse Saint Paul Saint Louis
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Breathtaking details of Paroisse Saint Paul Saint Louis

We also came across an old city wall that dated back to the 12th century!

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After the walking tour we ventured out and somehow found our way to the Seine river. It was at this moment that I realized how crippling it was for a millennial to be swiped of google maps & have to read an ACTUAL map.  Thankfully, super mom rose to the challenge and figured it out. What would we do without moms.  In the midst of this adventure, we passed a chocolatier shop and didn’t think twice about going in when the smell reached our nose. It was called Chocolot Macaron Auzou. My mom bought a few “Succès” pastries, which based off my tasting experience was meringue with some type of flavored cream on it. Were they good? By that night they were all eaten. Once we approached the Seine, we bought tickets (good for 24 hours) to ride the BatoBus, which is basically a river boat taxi that made multiple stops along the Seine’s most popular spots.

 

We rode it all the way to the other end and got off at the Eiffel tower stop. We admired the Eiffel tower from a distance and waited in line for about 30 minutes to get in under it. Our original plan was to go up into the tower but that soon changed when we saw the lines. I was told that the best time to go up into the Eiffel tower is early in the morning (8am-ish) before the mass crowds. So that’s on the list for next time! We then walked right down the street to Brasserie de la Tour Eiffel for a late lunch.

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We then walked along the Seine until we reached the Pont Alexandre III bridge. It is one of the most ornate bridges in Paris. It is named after Tsar Alexander III. His son, Nicholas II (Anastasia Romanov’s father!!), laid the foundation stone in October 1896.

 

 

After this stop, we trekked back to the hotel. We definitely got our steps in.

Saturday May 12

We awoke and prepared for a walking tour of Montemartre which was probably one of my most favorite walking tours. We took the subway to Abbesses and walked down the street to the funicular (basically an elevator that by passed hundreds of inclined steps). Once at the top, we explored  Basilica of the Sacré-Cœur and walked throughout the neighborhood and to the market where we had lunch and explored.

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Jacob & Grandma standing in front of the Basilica of the Sacré-Cœur

 

 

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It was here that we bought our French macaroons at Biscuiterie de Montmartre!

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When we arrived back to the hotel, we made our way to the mall just down the street called Galeries Lafayette. The mall had a wonderful city view terrace on the top floor.

 

 

Sunday May 13

We boarded our ship, Viking Rolf, on the Seine river in La Pecq. After we unpacked, we enjoyed a walking tour in the western suburbs of Paris known as St. Germain en Laye and throughout a castle that has undergone restoration, Chateau de St. Germain en Laye. This castle was built in 1122 and has gone through the hands of Louis VI, Louis IX, Charles V, Louis IX, Francois 1st, Henri II, Henri IV, Louis XIII, Louis XIV, Jacques II, Napoleon 1st…. I’ll stop here because it was early on that I realized I’m in need of a major French history lesson.

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Château de Saint Germain en Laye

Monday May 14

We did another excursion in Paris with a guide. We went to the Louvre and saw highlights like the Mona Lisa and Leonardo da Vinci paintings.

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Leonardo da Vinci painting of the Virgin Mary, her mother Saint Anne, & baby Jesus with a lamb.

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Leonardo da Vinci painting
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Leonardo da Vinci painting
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Mona Lisa & I!

We also saw ancient Greek antiquities from BC years!

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Venus de Milo created between 130-100 BC
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Winged Victory of Samothrace created in 200–190 BC

We then went to Notre Dame, it was as breathtaking as you’d imagine. The only disappointment was not meeting Quasimodo.

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After walking through, we snuck into a small café nearby, Les Euros Notre Dam, for some amazing hot chocolate. It was perfect for that cold and rainy day.

 

We quickly walked to our meeting spot to join the rest of our tour group and we all went to a restaurant for lunch called Flottes. We weren’t sure what we were being served exactly but we concluded it was similar to a burgundy beef type recipe with potatoes.

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After lunch, we stopped by the Eiffel tower one more time for a photo op. On the way there we passed by Napoleon Bonaparte’s tomb in Dome des Invalides. We didn’t have a chance to walk around inside but that is on the list for next time!

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Dome des Invalides

Tuesday May 15

We arrived in Vernon, a small village in the Normandy region in northern France. It also happens to be near Claude Monet’s house and famous Japanese gardens in Giverny. We took a quick 10 minute bus ride to the Foundation Claude Monet and walked around his restored gardens and home.

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Later that day we took a walking tour through the city of Vernon. We saw another amazing gothic cathedral built between the 11th and 17th century.

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Notre-Dame of Vernon, construction started in the 11th century & completed in the 17th century

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A castle “Keep” that dates back to Philippe Augustus (12th century)

Wednesday May 16

We enjoyed some morning cruising on the Seine. It was nice to take a moment and soak up the country side of Normandy. We arrived in Rouen around 1pm and took a walking tour through the city. There was alot of sight seeing revolving around Joan of Arc, a french heroine, burned at the stake in Rouen for heresy and perjury.

 

Thursday May 17

This was the day that we had all been waiting for, the opportunity to step foot on the D-Day Landing beaches. During the trip, I had the privilege to meet 2 women whose fathers stormed Omaha beach and I felt so lucky to have just done that. We started off the morning early (the bus trip to the beaches was about 2 hours) and arrived at the D-Day Museum on Gold beach. It was a great museum with so many interesting artifacts from the times of WWII. It was also in this area were we could view Mulberry Harbor remains.

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In the distance, you can see dark concrete blocks which are the remains of Mulberry Harbors.
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Jacob standing next to an 88 mm.

We then took a bus over to a German battery. The picture below provides more details.

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Jacob standing next to a Tobruk, you can see right behind Jacob that the gun exposes damage from the Allies.

We then headed over to Omaha beach. It was emotional as soon as you looked out the window of the bus as it drove along the shoreline highway. After we parked, we were able to go down to the beach and look out at the rolling waves. The US 1st and 29th division together suffered around 2,000 casualties at Omaha beach and though it was referred to as bloody Omaha afterwards, it now has a beaming memorial known as “Les Braves”. This experience will always remind me of the high price and sacrifice young men and women have paid for our freedom.

 

 

 

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“Les Braves” memorial
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Jacob walking along Omaha beach.

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Friday May 18th

We arrived in Les Andelys which was probably my favorite “little village” in Normandy. The big attraction was Richard the Lion Heart’s castle known as Chateau Gaillard, built in the 12th-century.

 

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Ruins of Chateau Gaillard
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Exploring the dungeon!

 

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Jacob with Chateau Gaillard ruins in the background

 

My favorite part was the view.

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Overlooking the Seine River & Les Andelys

Saturday May 19th

We arrived back in Paris. We took a walking tour of the Palace of Versailles. My favorite part was the Hall of Mirrors and amazing garden. We were lucky enough to arrive on a day when they turned on the fountains!

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Right before entering the palace (Look at that line! This was before it even opened!)

 

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exterior of the palace
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Hall of Mirrors
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Technically the “front” of the castle.
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Versailles Patrol that vainly loves attention.

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Later that day, we went to Château de Malmaison, which was a house bought in 1799 by Joséphine and Napoléon Bonaparte. We toured the interior of the home as well as the gardens which had black swans!

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Entrance into the house

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Napoleon Bonaparte’s bedroom
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Joséphine Bonaparte’s bedroom

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Black swans

Sunday May 20th

Time to head to the airport and back to Texas! (little did we know our flight would be cancelled due to a mechanical issue that could only be fixed by a part stored in the US… but we made it home Monday and were eternally thankful to arrive into the San Antonio airport.)

Below are some pictures taken from the ship along our voyage as well as the interior of the ship–

 

 

This was Jacob & my first trip to Europe. We are so thankful that we got to go & look forward to another trip some time in the future. France is rich in history and seems as though its truly another world. Maybe next time we’ll know a little more French.

Until next time!

love, chesney

Things for me to remember next time:

  • Try to book a flight back to the U.S. as early in the morning as possible (last flights leave around 1-2pmish)
  • Seats behind the bulk head are worth the extra $$ if you’re tall!!
  • Fill out the US Customs form if its offered to you so that you can bypass the kiosks.
  • If you book flights months in advance, follow up with it around 3 months before your trip (ours changed & we never got an email).
  • Make sure to bring an outlet adapter! The outlets are not the same as the outlets in the US. Heat products used on hair need to be dual voltage.
  • Make sure to have snacks on hand when you get to Europe. (Jacob woke up around 2am starving bc his body wasn’t used to the time change and there was not a single vending machine in the hotel.)
  • Before you leave the airport get your euros!
  • Be prepared to pay euros for taxi rides (they don’t like cards)
  • Take cross body bags to avoid pickpocketers.
  • Always have a plan B if you’re are doing transportation on your own, there are frequent French rail strikes.

 

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Charming Charleston

Where the tea is sweet & the accents are sweeter!

Spring break was upon us and you know what that means- time for an adventure! Originally planning to go to Savanah, GA, I leapt with excitement when I came across an amazing deal through Delta Airlines just at the right time to Charleston which has always been on the bucket list! The 2 women I love the most, my mom & grandmother, and I quickly planned the trip and flew into charming Charleston on Monday March 17th.

 

Why Charleston? Its the oldest largest city in the US. Founded in 1670! Its unique architecture makes you feel like you’re in a different country. It’s so different than any place I’ve ever been because I felt like the surroundings sent you back in time. During the 18th century, Charleston was a wealthy town. It thrived from its busy seaport, rice, cotton, & indigo. This wealth led to the building of amazing extravagant structures with such unique details and designs which I guess can be explained by the 8 different architectural phases the city went through in its history. I think my favorite was the Victorian, Greek Revival, & Gothic Revival homes.

Pictures above were taken on East Bay St during a walking tour we did.

Charleston hasn’t always been so prosperous. It’s actually mind boggling how it has stayed so pretty despite the many disastrous events. Here’s a quick over view: American Revolution (1776-1783), the 1804 Antigua-Charleston hurricane killing over 500, Civil War (1861-1865), The Great Charleston Fire of 1861 (burned down 575 homes & 540 acres of land), the 1886 earthquake (believed to be around a 7 on the Richter scale), and in more modern times-Hurricane Hugo (Category 5 in 1989). How in the world is it still here & why does it look the way it does. We were told that Charleston became quite poor in the 19th century due to these events (especially civil war which decimated plantations that drew in much of its wealth) & it wasn’t until WWI when it slightly propelled forward financially. So in saying that, they were too poor to tear down the buildings back in the day & their only options were to restore these buildings over the years. This is why Charleston is so unique. They have buildings that have been there since the American Revolution. Amazingly enough, St. Michaels Church, which is in the center of Charleston, was built between 1751-1761! 267 years old!! Another interesing thing is that Charleston is also known as the “Holy City”. When it was first founded, a way they attracted people to live there was by offering religous freedom which is perhaps why there is a church on almost every corner.

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My grandmother standing in front of the only active French Hugeunot church, for which we are descendents of on her mother’s side, in the U.S. After the picture she said “Mother would be happy with us.”
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St. Michaels Church
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Interior of St Michaels Church
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St. Michael’s Church graveyard

There is so much history that I could go on and on! Our visit to Charleston started on a Saturday evening. We took a cab from the airport to our hotel, The Hampton Inn-Historic District which used to be a burlap sack factory in the 19th century.

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After getting settled in we walked just a few feet down the sidewalk to grab a much anticipated dinner at Coast Bar & Grill. For an appetizer we ordered the coast crab dip that was served with grilled bread. I was obsessed and I think I ate around 4 bread slices. I had that “ohhhh great” feeling because I was already getting full before my main meal but there was no stopping or turning back now. For our entrees, my mom & I split the blackened sword fish (bottom left) and my grandma had the Mahi Mahi (bottom right picture) which was that night’s special… It was amazing. I can’t leave out their award winning mojitos either… we tried the strawberry mojito, mango mojito, and Hawaiian peach mojito. The Hawaiian Peach Mojito was our favorite!

The next morning, we had breakfast reservations at Poogan’s Porch. It was a little less than a 20 minute walk from the hotel. The food was just as amazing as the atmosphere. I ordered the chicken & waffles, my mom ordered the French toast, & my grandmother ordered the pimento BLT.

After breakfast, we dropped by the Historic Charleston Foundation shop to get our tour tickets that we had previously booked. We then headed down to King St to check out the shopping. Once 2pm rolled around we headed to the spot where we would start our first tour. Conveniently, the annual Charleston Home & Garden Festival was happening so we bought tickets to that. Basically what you do is get access into 10 homes, some with gardens, that aren’t typically open to the public. You have a map that shows you where each house is and there are volunteers strategically placed outside and inside each home who tell you a brief history of the house. Most of these old homes have been renovated to look absolutely beautiful on the inside while also trying to maintain the same original charm. However, this was quite the contrary when we got access into the Aiken-Rhett house. This house has been “preserved” rather than restored so in layman’s terms the interior was mostly all original which was absolutely amazing. Surprisingly this was my favorite home because it was filled with furniture, paintings, & artifacts that dated back to the early 19th century. It also still had the stables and living quarters of slaves for viewing and entering. This house was an absolute mansion and it was breath taking to imagine what it must’ve been like in its prime. Civil War and American Revolution battle artifacts were found on the property as well upon recent escavation. Touring the Aiken-Rhett house is something I would definitely do again. We did this tour from 2-5 pm and were absolutely exhausted. Below are some of the homes we entered, unfortunatley I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of the interiors or gardens because they are privately owned homes.

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The picture of the house above may not look like anything special. However, this tenement once belonged to a family of African Americans who left the plantation when they gained freedom after the civil war.

For dinner we were desperate to eat somewhere close because our feet were talking to us after our 7 mile walking day. We passed by SOL Southwest Kitchen and stopped in. It was a tex-mex restaurant with a Charleston twist on it. We orderd the SOL trio (guac, queso, & salsa with chips) for an appetizer. My grandmother had margarita shrimp tacos, I had the lobster & roasted corn quesadillas, & my mom had the sea bass. Of course we orderd some marvelous margaritas (Strawberry, Citrus, & Habanero Grapefruit)

The next morning we took the public transportation bus that was located just across the street from our hotel to the tour ticket offices again to start our morning history walk. This tour was amazing & I think it was due in part to our knowledgeable tour guide. Her name was Fran & she grew up in Charleston. You could tell she had a passion for sharing her knowledge of her beloved city. This is something I would definitely do again. She made a statement that I couldn’t agree more with- “the only way to truly see Charleston is on foot.” Pictures below are just a few of the many homes and historic sites we passed. Captions on the pictures have a little more detail.

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Rainbow Row
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Our guide informed us that a cannon ball was launched by the British during the American Revolution into this house’s attic. They never moved it, the cannon ball is still sitting in the attic!
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George Washington stayed here for 10 nights!
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It was common for owners to put these spike like structures above their fences towards the end of the civil war when they feared of slave uprisings.
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Wisteria in full bloom.

Above you’ll see at the top left stones placed in the cobblestone street for carriages. The bottom left picture shows a mounting block for the carriages that would stop at the residence.

After our 9:30-11:30 morning history walk, we went to Brown Dog Deli on Broad street for sandwiches and salad. We loved this little deli and it had quite a selection. We actually ran into people that were local & on our tour who applauded our choice of this deli. Mom & I split the Hawaiian salmon burger sandwich & my grandmother got the chicken salad.

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After lunch we took an Uber to a plantation called The Middleton Place. I have no words for how amazed I was with this plantation. With the short duration of our stay, we decided that we wanted to spend most of our day at 1 plantation to see it in its entirety. Rather than rush around and see only about half of it just to go to another and see only half of it. I had a hard time deciding which plantation to visit and although I haven’t been to the others yet, I was so happy that I chose Middleton. I’ve never been to Monet’s garden, Giverny, in France but I’ve seen pictures and agreed with our garden tour guide when she said this is the closest you’ll ever get to it in the US. With general admission you get 3 complimentary tours which I loved equally and feel like if we missed out on 1 it would’ve been a bummer. The first tour educated us on the life and work of the slaves, the second tour was of the plantation animals, and the 3rd was of the gardens (which is impossible to see all of it unless you spend the entire day there).

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Reflection Pond with 2 swans

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Mom loving on 1 of the 8-10 very friendly Berkshire horses.
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Water Buffalo Calves (Their names were Abraham and Isaac)
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The Plantation Patrol
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The front of the Middleton’s “guest house” that faces the Ashley River. This house was built for visitors of the family and for merchants who came to trade with the Middletons.  One thing that threw me off was that this house didn’t look “plantation like” to me. I was expecting more of the Victorian styled home with big white columns and porches. We were informed that this plantation was so old that it was built around 100 years before plantation homes in Louisiana that typically have the white pillar styled homes. Plantation homes during this time were built more to look like lavish and extravagant farm houses.
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The back of the Middleton’s guest house. Its unknown why the guest house survived the raid of Union troops when the main house did not.

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The original steps to the Middleton’s main house. It was burned by Union troops during the civil war.
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Eliza’s house was where some of the Middleton’s slaves lived.
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One of my favorite stories about the Middleton Plantation. This marble statue was brought back from Europe by one of the Middletons. Upon the start of the Civil War, Union troops were orderd to burn down all plantations in the South to rid all things that Confederate troops could use. During these raids, many valuable items were also stolen. Luckily, the Middletons buried this marble statue before Union troops arrived to burn their home & plantation. Once the war ended, they were able to dig this up and put it back in its place.

After our visit we took an Uber back to Charleston. Once we made it back we returned to Coast Bar & Grill for dinner. It was so conveniently close and the food was the best we had on the trip. We ordered the ceviche trio, my mom & I split the Seafood Paella (middle picture), and my grandmother had fried oysters. Yessss, of course we had mojitos. This day was actually my 25th birthday so the restaurant gave us a complimentary dessert on them,  we decided on banana pudding.

The next morning we were up and at it early. We took a cab service that the hotel had recommended back to the airport & we made these arrangements the night before. Our trip to Charleston was a dream and I would definitely go back. There are so many city & plantation tours available that we didn’t have the time to do but we felt like we made the most of our time. Great memories were made & I always treasure these times spent adventuring with my grandmother & mother. Until next time, Charleston!!!!

My bucketlist for next time:

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The Mills House

Tips:

  • Download Uber AND lyft; if these ride shares aren’t surging use these rather than cab services for transportation. (cheaper)
  • City Transportation- CARTA (we used this once to get to The Charleston historic foundation ticket office though its also within walking distance which I would recommend because its just easier to walk)
  • Make reservations
  • Check Uber AND lyft for ride sharing rates. Sometimes one will be surging & the other isn’t. (saves you some $)
  • When you are ready to leave the plantations allow 15-30 min for your Uber/Lyft driver to get there.

Alaska

An adventure to the last frontier!

Alaska is one of those places that reminds you of how lucky you are to live on such a beautiful earth. When you gaze out in any direction you’ll see snow capped mountains and evergreens growing on top of each other from the meeting of land and deep green water all the way to the tip top of mountains. I was lucky enough to see this amazing land on the Disney Wonder cruise ship with my family.

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Disney Wonder in Skagway, AK

Day 1: We left out of Vancouver Monday afternoon and set out to a day at sea.

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Day 2: During our time at sea, we spotted dolphins and whales from our balcony. My family & I spanned across 4 balconies & worked as a huge mega unit of whale watchers… excitingly passing the binoculars off to each other like a baton in a relay race. Laine and Bree spent time coloring and participated in activities at the “Oceaneers club/lab” (a space created for kids just their age on the ship).

Day 3: We arrived in Skagway, Alaska on Wednesday. The Beard family signed up for a zip lining excursion, the Mathis family signed up for a city tour, and the Dodson family signed up for a dog-sled adventure. My mom, brother, & I walked through the town which has kept its old town character. We stopped in a few places to read about the small town and its role during the Klondike Gold Rush.

Day 4: The next day we were supposed to cruise down the Tracy Arm fjord, however the water was iced over. Our captain took an alternate route down Endicott Arm fjord to Dawes Glacier. As we cruised down this fjord we spotted seals on an iceberg & a bear on the shore. Though our route changed, we were NOT disappointed. We were impressed with the scenery and glacier. We even got to see the calving process (chunks of the ice break off) take place also!

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Endicott Arm Fjord
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A Princess cruise ship on the other side of Endicott Arm Fjord
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Hanging glacier spotted along Endicott Arm fjord
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Endicott Arm fjord, one of my favorite pictures
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Where liquid meets ice
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Dawes Glacier
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Family selfie on our balcony. Missing Bree, Matt, & Eddie.

Day 5: The next day we arrived in Juneau, Alaska. We signed up to do a whale watching and hike excursion through Disney. We hopped in with Gastineau Guiding Company (they were great) and headed toward our whale watching boat. On the way we saw a massive amount of bald eagles!

After we boarded the boat, we went by the company’s crab pot to see what it had caught. Joaquin leaned over and pulled it out of the water to find a variation of fish, crabs, and snails in the pot!

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Joaquin pulling up the crab pot!

After learning about the different species in the crab pot, we set out to see some whales. Luckily it was a great day for it- we saw multiple humpback whales, harbor seals, & even dorsal fins belonging to a pod of killer whales! Thankfully the company provided binoculars for us to use.

After whale watching we were given snacks & headed to Tongass National Forest. Throughout our hike, our guide pointed out different types of plants and Laine, Bree, & Joaquin took water samples before we arrived at the beautiful Mendenhall glacier.

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Laine & Mendenhall Glacier in the background
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Mendenhall glacier
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Tongass National Forest

After our hike, the Beard family, my mom, brother, & I hopped off the van in downtown Juneau.  Jon, Laine, & Joaquin raced to the Mount Roberts Tramway lift while my mom, brother, & I went to the famous Tracy’s King Crab Shack.  Jacob & I ordered their #1 combo while Mom ordered the crab bisque for lunch. Sara ordered a crepe at the Alaskan Crepe Escape. It was worth every penny. 🙂

After lunch, we walked through the downtown area of Juneau. It reminded us of Skagway but just a little larger.

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Juneau, AK

Day 6: After Juneau, we cruised the next day to Ketchikan, Alaska. We debarked the ship and attended the Great Alaskan Lumberjack show. It was a competition between the US & Canada in skills requiring saws of all sorts (including chainsaws). Afterwards, we walked through the town & stopped into stores that looked interesting. My mom & I discovered a cute gourmet chocolate shop called KetchiCandies and bought an assortment box and chocolate covered mint patties… I will confess, they didn’t last long mainly because of me. IMG_2479

After exploring the town, my mom & I split fish & chips at the Alaska Fish House, conveniently right by our ship. It was delicious! We went during an off time so we actually found a place to sit inside. Other members of our family hung out & ate pizza at Fat Stan’s nearby.

After we had enough of shopping around, we called it a day and headed back to the ship.

Day 7: We had one more day at sea & luckily the weather was absolutely perfect- clear sunny skies with a perfect temperature. We made sure to enjoy every moment we had left.

We were also given a beautiful evening.

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Cheers to great times exploring beautiful Alaska with the ones you love most! Thanks, Disney!

-Chesney

 

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

A Voyage to Vancouver!

Vancouver reminded us of a mini, less crowded, & clean NYC. During our stay the weather was perfect- sunny skies with the temperature in the upper 60’s low 70’s (the locals said their winter season consists of constant rain & we chose the perfect time to come in late May when rain was less frequent… the only day we saw it was on our way to the airport to return home).

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View from the Hampton Inn

We stayed at the Hampton Inn on Robson St & by the time we arrived it was time for dinner. We went just around the corner to Fanny Bay Oyster Bar & Seafood Market. Mom & I ordered the Oyster Trio while Jacob had the Squid Ink Linguini. For dessert we all split the Lemon Semifreddo.

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Lemon Semifreddo

The following morning we ate brunch at Cafe Medina. It was an 1 1/2 hour wait by the time we got there (around 10 am) but it was totally worth it.

Mom ordered freshly squeezed orange juice, I ordered the  lavender latte (one of their most popular drinks), and my brother ordered a dark chocolate mocha.

For eats at Cafe Medina I ordered the Saumon Fumé, Mom ordered 3 Belgian waffles & chose the Fig Orange Marmalade, Dark Chocolate, & Milk Chocolate Lavender as dipping sauces, and Jacob had the Fricassée. Though they were all amazing meals, Jacob’s was the absolute best.

After brunch we caught a free shuttle to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. Luckily the bus picked up at the public library which was really close to our hotel & Cafe Medina. We bought our tickets online in advance so we were able to skip the lines once we got there. It was so worth going too! We walked the famous suspension bridge, “cliff walked”, did the “tree top adventures” which allowed us to walk at the tops of enormous Douglas-Fir trees (some as high as 110 feet!) , and walked throughout the trails on the forest’s floor. We came across 2 guides, 1 holding and teaching about a falcon while the other talking about an owl.

After the park, we were ready for dinner and walked to a Lebanese restaurant called Nuba (their Gastown location). For an appetizer we ordered the Najib’s Special (cauliflower tossed with lemon and sea salt, served with tahini). For our main course Mom & I split the grilled chicken which was amazing . Jacob ordered the stuffed eggplant and honestly wasn’t a fan of its slimy-ness but managed to eat it all anyway.

The next morning we boarded our cruise to Alaska!

When we returned from Alaska, we had one last day in Vancouver. For breakfast, Jacob & Mom ordered waffles at La Petit Belge which was close to our hotel.

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After breakfast, we decided to go to Granville Island. We took a ferry, located right behind the BC Place (Vancouver Whitecaps FC arena) specifically at the Plaza of Nations, to the island. We arrived at Granville Island around 9 am and fell in love with the Public Market (partially because no one was there yet).

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I immediately got some freshly squeezed grapefruit juice at Fraser Valley. 🙂

After exploring the island for about an hour, we sat out on the dock near the market to enjoy the view and sunny warm weather (quite contrary to our previous few days in Alaska so it was extra nice 🙂 )

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We made one last run through the market to purchase a few items to eat later- fresh cherries (sooooo good), roasted bbq chicken/baked mac n cheese/butternut squash, Chinese food, sushi, and of course a few freshly baked cookies.

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On our last night, my mom & I ate a light dinner on the bottom floor of the Hampton Inn at a restaurant called Bogart’s Bar. We enjoyed a glass of Pinot Noir and split a pizza. Jacob went down the street to a noodle house called Delicious Pho.  Afterwards, Jacob & I went to get nitrogen ice cream at Gelato Express N2. I got the Mint Moose Tracks and lets just say it was the perfect way to end our last night in Vancouver. 😉

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Until we meet again, Canada!

–chesney

Side notes-

  • Be prepared to use credit card. Most places, with the exception of 2 places at Granville Island, take American dollars “on par”, meaning its 1 for 1 rather than the current exchange rate.
  • Transportation:
    • Uber & Lyft do not exist here. Only thing similar is Car2go
    • The Hampton Inn downtown does not have a shuttle to the airport (taxi fee is in the $30s.)
    • Main means of transportation: Skytrain, bus, taxi.
  • One thing that threw us off with customs:
    • GOING THERE: American Airlines from SAT –> DFW –> YVR (went through customs @ YVR)
    • RETURN: American Airlines from YVR (went through US customs @ YVR. We had originally thought we would go through customs in Dallas.. thew us off) –> DFW –> SAT

Rosemary Beach, Fl

A quick dose of vitamin sea…

A beach bound road trip is always a good idea. Thanks to VRBO, I was able to find an amazing deal on a condo which I ended up booking through TurnKey (saved us a little $$ by eliminating tacked on VRBO fees). We arrived at our condo, which was within a complex called the “Village of South Walton”.  On our first adventure out, we discovered it was within walking distance to a beach access (or you could use the tram service provided by the complex), the center heart of Rosemary Beach, bike rentals, shops, and surrounded by amazing eateries.

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Interior of our Turnkey Condo

We walked down to Wild Olives to split a few appetizers- Crab Cakes with Red Pepper Aoli, Fried Green Tomatoes with Crab, and Wild Olives Fish Tacos. We then walked down Main St of Rosemary Beach which immediately captured my heart with the modern beach town architecture. We passed by The Pearl Hotel, which found its way on my bucket list the second I saw it.

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Courtyard in front of The Pearl hotel

 

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Main St
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Main St

After we explored Main St, we walked down to the beach and stuck our toes in the white sand. We brought beach towels down with us and watched a beautiful sunset.

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We returned to our condo to eat dinner at a restaurant on the bottom floor of our building called La Cocina. It was seafood with a Mexican twist to it. We ordered queso, La Cocina’s Fish Tacos, Snapper Veracruz, Seacrest Ceviche, Sangria Frezada, and Cielo de Chocolate.

On day 2 we ate breakfast at Grits and Grind. It was in the same building as La Cocina  but during the morning hours it transforms into a different restaurant. We ordered the Smoked Salmon Benedict with a side of cheese grits & fruit (pictured below), Colorado Omelet, & Belgian Waffle. IMG_1899

After breakfast we caught the tram and headed to the beach for our first full day. The weather was beautiful- sunshine-y with a cool breeze. However, the water was too cold for my mom & I. My brother courageously went in and enjoyed it… knee deep was as far as I could go. We made a short walk up to Crabby Steves, which was a beach bar right on the beach just up a few stairs over the dunes. I ordered a pina colada while my mom & brother ordered mojitos. IMG_1914

For dinner we walked back up to Crabby Steves. We ordered the crab dip (which was amazing) and their freshly caught fish of the day. I had a tile fish sandwich with sweet potato fries.

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We walked back to the condo and enjoyed dessert at Smallcakes Cupcakery and Creamery (they’ve been a past competitor on the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars). You order your favorite cupcake & they sandwich it between a scoop of ice cream of your choice.

On Day 3, we enjoyed our last day at the beach. Before breakfast, we did a little shopping at Hissyfits Boutique. My mom & I decided that if we had an unending amount of cash we could do some major damage in that store. Afterwards, we walked to Cowgirl Kitchen on Main St and enjoyed a nice breakfast. We ordered the Veggie Egg Scramble, Migas, and Praline Waffle which had bacon bits within it (pictured below). We then walked right on down to the beach.

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After enjoying our last full day we had dinner at a restaurant called La Crema. It was my favorite place during our trip. Located on main street, you can grab a table outside and enjoy the architecture and environment around you. We each had a half order of the Seafood Paella (pictured below) with champagne and red wine to drink. For dessert, we split the best Hot Chocolate Molten Cake (pictured below) I’ve ever had in my life. Fighting each other with our spoons for the last bite was the perfect way to end our trip.

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Hot Chocolate Molten Cake with Salted Caramel Ice Cream
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Seafood Paella- Lobster tails, shrimp, scallops, mussels, clams & chorizo simmered with slow cooked saffron rice

Until next time, 30A!

-Chesney

Side note– On our next road trip, we would like to make time to stop in Mobile, Alabama to explore the USS ALABAMA Battleship Memorial Park. We would also like to make time to visit the INFINITY Science Center which is right off IH10 on our way to Fl.