Sunday, October 28, 2012

East Coast Trip -- Plymouth and Boston

Well, during the last 3 days of our trip, my camera was about to die, so we didn't take too many pictures.  Here are the highlights...

We woke up in the morning at Gilbert's Tree Farm B&B, and headed down to our home cooked breakfast. It was really neat, because Mario had found this particular B&B on a Christian lodging website.  Donald and Jeanne, our hosts, were both believers.  We ate breakfast with about 4 other couples, and one of the men asked for prayer for his mom since she was having surgery soon.  One of the guys suggested we pray for her right then and there, and so we all had an extended prayer and share time right there at breakfast!  It was so encouraging!  We left the house that morning feeling so refreshed.

Our first stop was the National Monument to the Forefathers in Plymouth--the same monument that was featured in the Kirk Cameron film "Monumental".  This was one the of the main sights we wanted to see on our trip, and we certainly were not disappointed!

It commemorates the Mayflower pilgrims and honors their ideals and values.

On the main pedestal stands "Faith" pointing toward heaven and clutching her Bible.  Seated under her are figures who represent the principles upon which the pilgrims founded their Commonwealth:  "Liberty", "Morality", "Law", and "Education".

While we were there observing and taking pictures, this man was teaching a group of tourists all about the monument.  We couldn't help but to overhear that he was teaching the truth about our country--that these men and women who came over on the Mayflower loved the Lord and strove to live their lives based on God's Word.  After his tour was over, Mario introduced himself and struck up a conversation.  We found out that he (Leo Martin)  and his wife are believers, and their business, the Jenney Grist Mill also serves as their ministry, as  they do everything they can to inject God's truths into their tours.  In addition to reaching out to residents of and tourists to Plymouth, they also reach out to schools, churches, and other organizations with education on the Biblical principles in the development of our country.  

We were so inspired by the work that they are doing here, that we decided to visit the Jenney Grist Mill so we could sign up for Leo's walking tour on Plymouth's history.  Their ministry just struck such a chord in our hearts.  They had so many stories to share with us about how God is providing for them daily to continue to do His work there in Plymouth.

We had some time to kill before our walking tour, so we drove over to a little recommended seafood restaurant for some clam chowder.  Wow!  It was the best we've ever tasted!!!  That bread bowl was scrumptious!!!  Too bad we got a parking ticket while we were here, because we forgot to put money in the parking meter!!! Ooops!

We didn't take many pictures on our walking tour since my camera battery was getting low, but of course I had to get a shot of Plymouth Rock.  It was so small!!!  Apparently, it was much larger in 1620, but erosion from wind and waves did a number on it, as did people chipping off small portions to keep as souvenirs.  Today it is sheltered by a pavilion built in 1921 and guarded by a rail as it rests on the sand of the shore.
Leo was an engaging tour guide, and we loved every minute of our walk throughout the city.  We gleaned so much great information from him--he was knowledgeable and hilarious!  This was our best day by far!

We finally made it to Boston later that evening!  We were starving, so we immediately went down to the area surrounding Harvard--because we knew things would still be happening down there late at night near the school!  As we were walking around, we struck up a conversation with some locals who, upon learning we were visiting from Texas, exclaimed, "You don't look like you live in Texas!"  Ummm, I guess we forgot our cowboy boots when we visited Boston!  Haha!  But anyway, this lady said we should go to Mr. Bartley's for a burger, and some young guy overhearing our conversation seconded her opinion....so to Mr. Bartley's we went!

It was crazy packed, but it was super yummy, so we were not disappointed!  What a quirky little college town burger joint!  It was so tiny, and there were tons of tables jammed in there!  There was memorabilia all over the walls, and each burger had it's own special name, including humorous topics, celebrities, politicians, tv shows, etc.  The sweet potato fries were great!

Do I look smarter?  
We strolled through the Harvard campus on our way back to our B&B.

The next day, we were severely disappointed with a walking tour of the Freedom Trail that we had purchased--so much so that we walked off the tour and went and got a refund of our money.  This guide was terrible!  He was boring; he was bashing Christianity, calling it a myth; he was jumping all over the place in the few historical facts he gave; and he really was doing more fable/storytelling than giving the actual history.  We had already been on two historical tours on our trip so far, so compared to those, this one really stunk!

We decided to buy a self guided tour book covering the Freedom Trail and go through it ourselves.  The trail is a 2.5 mile brick-lined route that leads you to 16 historical sites in the city.  Much of the trail has a red line painted right on the streets and sidewalks, so it's kindof fun to follow.  Doing it ourselves was a little tedious, but we were definitely getting more information than we did on the tour we left.  

This is Paul Revere's house, downtown Boston's oldest building.

We were a little over halfway through our tour when we stopped for lunch.  We headed over to the next site, Faneuil Hall for a bathroom break and quick rest.  We were sitting in some chairs on the lower level when a National Park Service Ranger walked up to a few others who were sitting around and said, "Well, did everyone get a little break?  Are you guys ready to go?"  We weren't quite sure where "we" were going, but we decided to join along and try to blend in!  Haha!  We got outside with the group and realized they were doing a freedom trail tour, and not only that--they were picking up exactly where we had left off doing it on our own!!!

We ended the tour at the Paul Revere Monument depicting his historic Midnight Ride as well as the Old North Church where the "one if by land, two if by sea" lanterns were hung.  Our tour guide was an endearing young man who had such a passion for the facts he was sharing.  Sometimes he would get into telling a story and just crack himself up!  He was just so funny in a lovingly naive sort of way.  We tried to tip him at the end because we didn't know if this was a paid tour or not, but he couldn't accept it.  Later we found out all the ranger tours are free, so that made us feel better.  We still would've tipped him if we could have though...he was great!

pretty pictures of the Boston coast

New England is so refreshing.
Unfortunately, we had gray skies the whole time we were in Boston, and we were constantly ducking out of the rain.

pretty arbor we ducked under. 

We didn't feel like we got a good feel for Boston because of the weather and because we just had such a short amount of time there--which was mostly focused on history.  It's a good excuse to make another trip back to see the city again!

With our last bit of free time, we went over to the Faneuil Hall Marketplace for some browsing, snacking, and shopping.  It was huge (and crowded since everyone else was trying to stay dry too).  There were a ton of shops and restaurants.  I had to get a picture in front of the Cheers restaurant since Mandy bought me a t-shirt from here on a cross country trip in college.  :)

The next morning we got up and headed back to the airport to fly home.  We said goodbye to our rental car and our fun adventures.  We really did have such a great and relaxing time.  It was so good to just be able to have some uninterrupted time to talk!  But, of course, we could not wait to get our arms around those boys again!!!  My parents were driving them back down to Texas, so we were counting down the minutes!!!
So long, vacation!  We're already planning our next one!!!  :)

Monday, October 15, 2012

East Coast Trip -- Mystic and Stonington, CT

Our day from Philadelphia to Providence was technically a travel day, but it ended up being one of our most cherished days of the trip!  We left Philly right after breakfast and drove until lunch time.  When Mario planned our trip, he had found this little "village" in Connecticut called Mystic.  It's this tiny little seaport town but the streets are lined with little boutique shops and restaurants.  He knew I'd love it...which I did!!!

We parked on the side of the street, and this port was the first one that greeted us!  
Hello, New England!!!

welcome to mystic!

We were starving, so the first thing we wanted to do was get some yummy seafood.
Just about every seat in this little restaurant looked out over the Mystic River.

The S&P Oyster Co...
They are famous for their lobster rolls.
We didn't even know what a lobster roll was!!!

Well, it definitely was not what we were expecting, but it sure tasted delicious!
Living in TX, you tend to forget what extraordinarily fresh seafood tastes like--YUM!

It was just so refreshing to see the water every time we walked out of a building!  We took the opportunity to walk around and relax for a few hours.

Mar had to run to the Bank of America inside this old bank building...love the architecture.
MUCH more fun than running to an ATM!!!  Haha!

This is the Bascule Bridge that crosses the river in the center of the village.  It is definitely in great shape because they use it all the time to let the big ships pass under!

We wandered in and out of shops, took in the views, and enjoyed an ice cream treat.

All the docks and harbors make everything look so quaint.

Mario got tired of shopping with me, so he sat down on a bench to chill while I continued on!

We drove on further to the little town of Stonington to take in some beach views.
Yep, that's me on shore line looking for pretty rocks.  Am I the only strange one who likes to take home "earthy" souvenirs???  (If you recall, I brought home a ton of rocks from our trip to Oregon last year too!  Haha!)

While I was rock hunting and wading, Mario was soaking in the sun and sitting alone with his thoughts.
It's so easy to be inspired in this place!!!

We could stay in this town for hours, breathing in the fresh air and enjoying the peacefulness.
We didn't want to  leave, but we had to get to our B&B for the night.

So, we hopped back in the car (after brushing all the sand off our feet) and drove just a few miles east of Providence, Rhode Island to Gilbert's Tree Farm B&B, an 1830's farmhouse, actually located in Rehoboth, MA. Our hosts were the sweetest older couple you'll ever meet.  I'll share more about their hospitality in the next post.  But for now, I'll end with a funny story...

We had worked up quite an appetite at the beach, so when we finally rolled in to the b&b, the two things on our minds were dinner and chilling out watching the olympics (gymnastics was on again!).  Sooooo, this b&b was way more "grandma and grandpa's house" than we were expecting--which can be good in so many ways, but as far as having a tv in our room, we were out of luck.  So, we asked our hosts for dinner recommendations, and they just knew we would adore this restaurant called the "Venus de Milo".  Well, we drive over there, and it's this HUGE banquet facility that must mostly be used for weddings and other events.  We park and walk in, and there is literally nobody there in the entrance...almost to the point where we wanted to yell, "hello?"  And it kindof smells like a nursing home.  Then we see some lights down the end of a hallway, so we make our way down to the lit room, and it's this bar off to the side which was completely empty except for the bartender.  We ask, "Is this where you are supposed to eat?"  (I mean, really, it shouldn't be this difficult to figure out!)  He points us down the hall further.  We walk into the main dining room where there is some horrid elevator music playing  in the ears of some 15 or so (elderly) guests who are almost silently eating their dinner--definitely not what we had in mind for our evening!!!  I think it was THE place to have dinner in town, THE place to have your wedding, THE place to have your reception or anniversary celebration, THE place to have your office holiday party, THE place to have prom, etc.  I soooo would've taken pictures, but I didn't bring my camera since we thought we were going to have an uneventful quick dinner!  Ha! So, we made a u-turn and headed back to the bar room to ask that guy where we might find a little sports pub in town where we could watch the olympics while we ate.  He directed us to this little hole in the wall pub, and that is exactly where we ate and watched the some of the men's gymnastics competition.  Haha!  What an ordeal!  But we ended up having a fun night anyway!

Our next day was our best day of the entire trip...Plymouth!!!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

East Coast Trip -- Philadelphia

On the morning of July 29, we made our way up to Philadelphia.  Our one goal (besides absorbing lots of US history) was to get the best Philly cheesesteak in town!  We interrogated asked our valet the moment we pulled up to the hotel where the best place was, and without hesitation, he recommended Jim's.  It was still early, but we decided to head on over since we were told it gets very busy very quickly around lunchtime.  We also knew parking was a nightmare in the city, so our best bet would be to take the bus to get close and then just walk the rest of the way.

Soooooo, here's what the place looked like when we got there...

mario is taking this picture, and you can't even see me--
i'm way back in the line around the corner!!!

getting closer, but we're still not in there!
we still haven't made it around the corner yet, but at least we can peek in
yes, it's definitely a little "hole in the wall"

this guy was the main cook of the meat...it was smelling pretty amazing
so, this is insane--some people actually get cheez-wiz on their philly cheesesteaks--
supposedly it's extremely popular!  blek!
we opted for provolone and sauteed onions on ours, which is the completely traditional way.

once we got inside there was a huge serpentine line (like while you're waiting in line for a ride at a theme park) winding all the way up to the counter!  we are so close!

finally, we get to order!!!  yay!

i must say, it was very, very good--delicious, even, but nothing spectacular.  i don't know what we were expecting, but it just tasted like a really good philly cheesesteak.  i thought my sandwich looked HUGE, then of course, i was able to polish off the whole thing!  we were completely satisfied with Jim's--just not blown away!

we decided to take the "Franklin Footsteps Walking Tour"--
somehow there was no one else in our tour group, so we got a private tour with our guide.
he was dressed in period clothing, very funny, very knowledgeable, and on a mission!

first sight on our tour--Independence Hall
The Liberty Bell used to hang in the steeple of this building.
This was also where the Declaration of Independence was adopted and the US Constitution was drafted.

Benjamin Franklin's grave--
people toss pennies on his grave for luck
the old cliche "a penny saved is a penny earned" is attributed to him

 a chronology of franklin's life--
hope you can read it...it's fascinating all that he accomplished

one of the oldest original streets in the city
some families who lived here in  the early 1700s still have ancestors who live here

As Benjamin Franklin organized the first Philadelphia Fire Company, he was also the developer of the first fire insurance.  Those insured had copper plaques placed on the fronts of their buildings.  They were used as a guide to the fire brigade.

of course, i had to get a picture with our guide before our tour was over!!!
we loved having him--he was so passionate!

we finished up our tour at the liberty bell, so we decided to go on in and see it

We love how it was cast with the words of Leviticus 25:10, "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof."  Another reminder that God's Word was a foundation for our nation's beginnings.

and then, we needed a sweet treat, so we stopped by a local ice cream shop--
look at the menu...it took me forever to decided what to get!

this was their sign in the doorway...
and, yes, the ice cream was very yummy!

mario stood in the middle of the street outside the ice cream shop to get this picture of some of the city's buildings

our view from the balcony of our embassy suites hotel room...
and, no, we didn't get a 7am wake up with the fire alarms, praise the Lord!
we had a beautiful suite--we picked up dinner to go, and we ate snuggled in our bed so we could finally watch some olympic gymnastics--our favorite!!!

one final pic of the city as we were driving out the next morning--
city hall with william penn, the city's founder, perched on top

bye, philly...we'll miss you!  we wish we had had more time in your city!
it was fun!!!