Stingrays, Penguins and Otters!

We manage to do a lot in and out of Tennessee, but we have somehow never managed to hangout in the gorgeous town of Chattanooga. Last weekend, we decided to finally make the short two hour trip there and visit some touristy spots. There’s a lot to do in Chattanooga, but there number one tourist attraction seems to be the Tennessee Aquarium. Obviously, we hit ti up first.

The Aquarium is HUGE. It actually consists of two giant buildings: the Oceans Journey and the River Journey. We started in the Ocean and went to the stingray exhibit first. Why??? Because, hello, you get to pet them! I’m just like a child when it comes to animals and I can spend hours and hours in any sort of petting zoo. I was loving the stingrays, but poor Luna couldn’t reach them. We had to wait forever for one to swim up high enough for her to reach and as she innocently splashed in the water I pulled her hand towards the closest stingray and made her pet it. She did not enjoy it. Not at all.

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The butterfly exhibit was kind of like a petting zoo too. You couldn’t technically pet the butterflies, but they flew where they pleased, and often landed on one of us excited viewers. Luna, however, didn’t seem to notice any of them. She was more interested in  stomping in the flower beds.

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Penguins are in my top 3 list of animals. They are the coolest! (Hah! Get it? Coolest?) The penguins as the aquarium are all named and labeled with little colored bracelets. They swim, jump and waddle all around and are so stinkin’ cute. Even Luna’s attention was kept for a few minutes.

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The most beaitful exhibit in the Ocean Journey is the Secret Reef and Undersea Cavern. These large reef areas are full of giant sharks, colorful fish, sunbeams, turltels and more.

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I was excited to show Luna all of the cool undersea creatures, but to be honest, she was happiest just running around and climbing on any steps she could find. I think most of the aquariums seem like a giant TV to her. She didn’t quite grasp that there were real live animals swimming by her.

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jelly

As we were walking through the Undersea Cavern, Husband stared through a small round window for a while and then called me over to point out what appeared to be a dead turtle. There it was…upside down, pale, not moving, missing a leg. It looked so sad and lifeless. After waiting a while, Bella and I decided to tell someone before young children saw it and started crying.

We walked into the gift shop and discreetly told the cashier that there seemed to be a dead turtle at the bottom of the aquarium. She almost laughed and very nonchalantly said, “Oh no, that’s just Oscar.” I explained to her that the turtle seemed very dead, but another employee then pointed to a large display with a sign that described Oscar. He is an injured turtle from the Gulf of Mexico who must sleep that way in order to breathe and keep comfortable. He is not dead. The sign was surrounded by dozens of 3-legged stuffed turtles. Feeling a little stupid and humiliated we walked back to tell Husband the good news, just in time for Oscar to wake-up and swim away.

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The River Journey building has otters!!! Otters are the best, but the aquarium only has three. We need more otters!

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The riverside has lots more fishes, seahorses, gators, lizards, frogs, birds and more.

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Right outside of the aquarium are little water passages for water play. I stripped Luna down and put on her swimsuit, but most of the kids just played in their clothes. It was a little chilly, but how nice would this be on a hot summer day?

splash water

We had a fun day with the fish, the water, an amazing Latin restaurant and some ice cream, but we will need to make another trip because Chattanooga has so much to offer.

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Cheers!

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Easter + Passover = A Really Great Weekend

This weekend was Passover and Easter and it was such a nice weekend. It was full of food, friends, family, sunshine and spring-colored outfits. We did a lot of relaxing and spending quality time with people we love, and basically no time being productive. It was lovely.

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Passover was at a friend’s house who always host the most delicious and fancy Passover dinner. There’s wine, matzoh ball soup, charoses, yummy veggies and lots of decadent desserts. It was one of those rush around like crazy in the rain kind of days so we forgot to take one single photo. No worries, I made sure to make up for the lack of photos on Easter!

Easter basket! (She was way more excited about the fake Easter grass.)
Easter basket! (She was way more excited about the fake Easter grass.)
BFF's
BFF’s

highchair

 

We hosted Easter brunch at our house for the second year.  It was a potluck meal with about 16 people and SO MUCH FOOD. I attempted making eggs inside of hashbrown baskets. They were a little overdone, but they looked really nice.

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Luna had the time of her life. She skipped her morning nap and ran all over the yard climbing everything in sight instead.

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We spent the afternoon playing with plastic eggs at the park. We really couldn’t have had a better Easter. Unless, of course, our Texas family were with us.

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Hope you all had a great weekend full of nice spring weather, love and mimosas!

Cheers!

The Big Three

My happy little traveler.
My happy little traveler.

While we were in London, we took a few trips outside of the city to checkout lots of bucket-list type attractions. Our longest day trip was an 11-hour bus tour that took us to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Bath. It was a lot to cover in one day, but the rushed trip was very much worth it.

Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle

We booked the tour with Viator. They picked us up at our hotel, bright and early. We were ready with our cameras, snacks, packed diaper bag and carrier.  The first stop was Windsor Castle and it was about a 2-hour drive from London. Windsor Castle is gorgeous. My favorite part was Queen Mary’s enormous and elaborate doll house. I’m talking BIG. It took a good 15-20 minutes to look at quickly. I wonder if any kids were ever actually allowed to play with it… Interesting fact: Queen Victoria was often called the “Widow Of Windsor” after Prince Albert’s death because on the rare occasion that she was spotted outside she was always dressed in black and mourning.

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We rushed through our tour because poor Luna had broken out in horrible hives all over her torso for the second time in a week. I realized she was wearing the same wool shirt both occasions so we quickly scoured through a couple souvenir shops and bought her a touristy London kids cotton tee to wear.

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Next stop, Stonehenge! To be frank, I was not super excited about looking at a bunch or rocks. The fact, that Luna was refusing a nap (shocking, I know) and being a grumpus didn’t help. I wore Luna in her carrier out to the rocks and was blasted with the craziest winds. She was screaming and I just did my best to keep bouncing and to cover her with my scarf, neither of which helped. Too bad too, because those giant prehistoric mystery rocks stacked on each other were very impressive. They are a part of UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites, which is a good list to check off if you travel. After a few photos, Luna and I spent most of our time in the gift shop playing with stuffed sheep and trying the wine samples.

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Our final stop, and longest drive, was to Bath. In my opinion, they saved the best for last. Bath, yet another World Heritage Site, is gorgeous. The yellow stone, Georgian architecture and the river that runs through it is stunning. Just the sight of the city as you are getting close is breathtaking. Sadly, we didn’t get a lot of time to explore the city of Bath because we focused our time there at the Roman Baths. Somewhere around a million years ago, give or take a few, Romans turned bath into a spa town. They used the natural hot springs to create lots of baths and fancy places to hangout and relax. These Romans had the right idea. I just wanted to go back in time and hop into these hot springs while I walked around listening to the audio guide with my scarf and coat wrapped tightly around me. That hot water and skinny dipping sounded heavenly.

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So, drinking the water from the hot springs is  said to be "healing".
So, drinking the water from the hot springs is said to be “healing”.

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It took almost 3 hours to get home, but it wasn’t horrible. The entire day was fast and furious, but considering it was the only way we would have possibly been able to squeeze all 3 sights into our itinerary, I’m thrilled we did it. (Plus, even with all the driving, we still managed to get more than our 10,000 steps in for the day.) If you are ever in London, I highly recommend taking the day trip to all three sights. unless, you have lots of time. If you have the time then I would suggest spending a full day in Bath. I would love to go back and spend a day exploring!

Guess we will have to plan another trip to England one day…darn.

Cheers!

Edinburgh, the Last Stop

view from the train, apparently not as entertaining as T. Swift
view from the train, apparently not as entertaining as T. Swift

Our final stop on our United Kingdom vacation was Edinburgh, Scotland. It was the cherry on top of what was already a fantastic trip. The 3 hour train ride was a little long for Luna, but we had a nice view and Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” video on repeat to keep us (i.e. Luna) happy. We learned quickly that Edinburgh was going to be the coldest of all our stops, but also the most beautiful. Stop #1: Edinburgh Castle.

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It was very windy. So windy, that it was difficult to push the stroller uphill. I tried to stay inside the state rooms, exhibits and gift shops as much as possible. There was a minute where I went outside in a courtyard area… I sat Luna down, told Peter to watch her and walked ahead of them to study the map. A few seconds later, I turned around to ask Husband something and was shocked to see a Chinese woman holding Luna and her Chinese tour group of about 20 surrounding them and taking photos with their iPads. I then see Husband with this face…

charlie

But, really, who wouldn't want to pick up the cutie and take her picture?
But, really, who wouldn’t want to pick up this cutie and take her picture?

We walked around doing touristy stuff and exploring the dark and mysterious St. Giles Cathedral before hitting the sack that night. We had to go to bed early because I was making everyone wake up an hour before sunrise the next day. We got up with the moon, dressed in lots of layers, put Luna in the carrier and started walking.

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The goal was to walk through town, to Holyrood Park and hike to the top of Arthur’s Seat. It’s a very tall hill formed from an extinct volcano and is very popular for hiking, but is known for being a little difficult and often very windy. The plan was to hike to the top at sunrise, take in the amazing views, hike down and eat an enormous breakfast at a local family restaurant where I made a reservation. That was the plan…

Halfway up we could barely stand the incredible winds whipping us in the face, and poor baby Luna could not make it one more step. She was inconsolable and I felt like the worst Mom in the history of Moms for even attempting to hike with her to the top of a windy small mountain. In an attempt to redeem myself, I sent the boys up to the top and hiked back down with a baby strapped to me as the sun came up. I managed to find the restaurant where I had made a reservation and decided I’d have coffee until the boys made it down.

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At least they got to enjoy the views.
At least they got to enjoy the views.

Here’s a video that shows just how strong the wind at the top of Arthur’s Seat was, and of my Dad-in-law almost falling down.

I was confused to find the doors locked, and even more confused when I read on the door that they don’t open until 11am everyday, especially since I made a reservation online for breakfast at 9am. I began walking uphill on The Royal Mile back to our hotel feeling peeved that I missed the sunrise, the views, a huge breakfast and had yet to have any coffee. Luna was feeling like 50 pounds hanging from my shoulders and was sound asleep, but as I carried her and wondered the very quiet empty streets as the sun came up I began to appreciate the moment. How many people can say they walked the Royal Mile with their baby in their arms as the sun rose? Besides, we got coffee and breakfast somewhere else.

Okay, I have rambled a lot on this post, so let me speed through some other top spots in Edinburgh. We hit up Holyroodhouse Palace where Queen Elizabeth stays during the summer and where Mary Queen of Scots lived and watched her boyfriend get murdered! (Have I mentioned my new fascination with Mary yet?)

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We climbed the teeny tiny narrow 271 steps of spiral staircases of Sir Walter Scott’s monument, shopped and ate lots of good food. (Food blog to come!)

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view from Scott's Monument
view from Scott’s Monument

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We toured the Royal Yacht Britannia, the retired yacht of her royal majesty. It was impressive and interesting and oh-so very ridiculous. The queen would have the boat travel to somewhere, say Australia, then she would fly there with her forty-three palace workers and stay on the yacht like a floating hotel. That’s a little nutty.

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The queen's bed, surprisingly modest.
The queen’s bed, surprisingly modest.

Husband’s highlight of Scotland was the video game exhibit (no photos allowed) at the National Museum of Scotland. Luna loved the kids playroom, running around the video game exhibit distracting people and dancing with me to “Just Dance”.

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And, that’s the end of our amazing trip. No worries, though, there are many more travel stories to come!

green eyes

Cheers!

Running for a Cause

small things

I may have mentioned one or twenty times that we (“team workout buddies!”), have been running 5k’s every month in order to not only mix up our workouts, but to stay motivated when it comes to running. Well, we decided to skip the month of March because we have all just been too busy to even think about going for a run, plus winter just won’t go away. However, while searching for a race to do in April, I came across the “Free to Breath” 5k happening in Nashville on March 21st.

The Free to Breathe is a non-profit raising funds for lung cancer research. This hits close to home for me. I lost an Uncle to lung cancer when I was 17. I have a cousin who is a lung cancer survivor, and a friend who is also a survivor. Cancer sucks. Cancer sucks, and I want to do my part help fund research in order to find a cure. Sooo, looks like we are doing a race this month!

Our team of 5 will run in honor of our loved ones next weekend and there are a couple of ways that you can help support us and our cause, if you so choose.

  • Join our team! If you are in the area, then sign up here, join our team and run the 5k with us! Go Team Workout Buddies! (Yeah, I know, we need a better name… suggestions?)
  • You can click here and make a donation with just a click of the mouse. Any amount is greatly appreciated.

act of kindness

It’s been raining all week, so hopefully the sun comes out soon and I can squeeze in some runs before the race. Either way, I’ll cross the finish line feeling proud and hopeful that I made a difference.

Thanks so much for all your support!

Cheers!

The Noble Trip To York

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While planning our trip to the United Kingdom I knew I wanted to start in London and end in Edinburgh, but I was not sure where we would stop in between. In fact, I basically looked at the map and thought, York looks about halfway…okay, done. My handy dandy  Fodor’s travel book, as well at the Internet, helped me outline an itinerary for York while staying in London. I knew NOTHING about York prior to our trip, so I needed all the help I could get, especially since I was the designated tour guide.

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Our first stop was Grey’s Court, which is a magical country cottage hidden between the Minster and the city walls. It’s a home that is over 900 years old and is now a restaurant/hotel. We had lunch and coffee and it was oh.my.gosh. amazing. Great food. Great service. Great ambiance. And, a great view. Everything we ordered was delicious and when we finished our waiter offered to give us a tour of the rooms and the property. Let me just say this; if you ever find yourself in York, book a room at Grey’s Court.

grey's

No high chairs, but Luna enjoyed eating on the comfy couch
No high chairs, but Luna enjoyed eating on the comfy couch

Next stop was the York Minster and I swear to you this was the most interesting church I have ever visited. St. Peter’s Basilica is unbelievable, but there was something so captivating about the Minster. Maybe it was the lack of tourist, the stain glass exhibit or the underground rooms… whatever it was, it kept us there for hours. The boys got to climb the spiral staircases to the top in capture some amazing views, but it was “too dangerous for children” so Luna and I stayed down below.

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There was on room with dozens of these heads, each one different and so detailed.
There was on room with dozens of these heads, each one different and so detailed.

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poor baby was terrified to walk on the glass floor!
poor baby was terrified to walk on the glass floor!

We spent the rest of the day walking and touring. We went through the Shambles (old narrow street that was once all butchers and now touristy unique shops). We naively hiked to the top of Clifford’s Hill, only to learn that the tower was closed. We drank beer and cider at the Trembling House of Madness, a cozy pub adorned with dozens of stuffed animal heads and is apparently haunted, and did some shopping, of course.

The Shambles
The Shambles

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Day 2 we did some extreme walking. As soon as the sun was up we walked through the Museum Gardens before having breakfast in the gardens. After our huge meal, we spent a couple of hours walking the full loop of city walls. After that long walk (with a stroller) we earned a coffee break at the Perky Peacock, which is inside an older bridge tower. Then, off to the National Railway Museum! (Somewhere in here we went to the Yorkshire Museum..it lead much to be desired.)

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I am not typically interested in trains, but these trains were so very cool! We saw royal trains with complete designer bedrooms, living rooms, offices, kitchens, dining rooms and bathrooms. Fancy overnight trains for very wealthy people. (Why can’t we all travel by train these days?), bullet trains, very old mail trains, enormous engines and so much more. Every single person told us that the museum was “must-do” in York, and I now agree.

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Our last night in York was topped off with one of their famous ghost tours. Yes, York is apparently the most haunted city in Europe. The tour was cheesier than I had hoped, and we froze our butts off, but whatevs, we did it. Next stop, Edinburgh!

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Cheers!

‘Ello Gov’na

London was our first stop in Old Blighty, home of the queen, Paddington Bear and Big Ben. Honestly, I knew little of London before jetting off to spend a week traipsing about the city. What I did know, I learned from Mary Poppins, Harry Potter and Bridget Jones. I went expecting very rhythmic chimney sweeps, Diagon Alley, awkward single girls and not much else. However, I was chosen (by myself) as the tour guide/planner for the trip, which meant I needed to do a bit more research before taking my chaps on holiday.

I learned a little before we set off, and A LOT once we were there. I spent every night studying my guide book, city map and favorite travel websites in order to make sure the next day was planned to the max. We did, and saw so much that’s its absolutely impossible to write everything about London in one post. I’ll dedicate future blogs to more specific topics (food, shopping, Harry Potter, churches, etc), but this post covers the best of the best stuff you gotta see when you are in London.

must see

I used Fodor’s Great Britain tour book on this trip. Fodor’s is always my go-to. They tend to cater to the thrifty traveler and their suggestions are on point 99% of the time. For London, they offered a walking tour (yay!), and we did it the second we dropped our bags at our hotel.

Covent Garden Plaza
Covent Garden Plaza
Chinatown
Chinatown
Picadilly Circus is their "Time Square"... a pathetic excuse for a Time Square if you ask me.
Picadilly Circus is their “Time Square”… a pathetic excuse for a Time Square if you ask me.
The gates to Buckingham Palace
The gates to Buckingham Palace

The tour took us to Covent Garden Plaza, Chinatown, the theater district, Picadilly Circus, Green Park, Buckingham Palace,  the mall, Trafalgar square, passed the National Gallery and right back to our hotel at Charring Cross. We hadn’t slept in 30 hours, but it felt good to walk. The city invigorated us. Of course, when the walk ended, we had a little espresso break back in our hotel room before heading out for another walk through the city. This time we saw St. Paul’s Cathedral, Millenium Bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe Theater and the Tate Modern. Holy Cow, that’s a lot to see in one day!

Buckingham Palace, looks a lot like a big White House to me.
Buckingham Palace, looks a lot like a big White House to me.
St. Paul's Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Millennium Bridge
Millennium Bridge
The Tate Modern
The Tate Modern

Our next full day in London began with another early morning walk. This time we began by walking to the London Eye, to Big Ben and to Westminster Abbey (where we attended the first 5 minutes of a service, until Luna lost her patience). Finally, we took the tube across town to London Tower. There’s so much to see at the Tower, but the most popular attraction is the crown jewels, which you look at by standing on a large conveyor belt. After a lunch of fish and chips (fries), a walk over the Tower Bridge (NOT London), we took a rainy trip on the Duck Tours.

The London Eye, and no we didn't ride it
The London Eye, and no we didn’t ride it
Big Ben
Big Ben
entrance to Westminster Abbey, it's gorgeous
entrance to Westminster Abbey, it’s gorgeous
The four of us in front of Tower Bridge
The four of us in front of Tower Bridge
Aww. aren't we cute
Aww. aren’t we cute

The day we went to Harry Potter Studios, we managed to squeeze in a shopping trips to the most incredible department store, Harrod’s. And, yes, it’s bigger and more impressive than Bergdorf Goodman. We also had time to do some shopping at Hamley’s, which is a crazy old and super famous toy store in London that opened in 1760. Obviously, we bought souvenirs and gifts from both places. Luna and I both needed things.

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Our last full day of walking all across London was a record breaking day, as far as steps go. It began at Kensington Palace, home of William and Kate and former home of Princess Diana. We toured the state rooms and then walked to Victoria and Albert. I LOVED the Victoria and Albert museum and their incredible gift shop. We stayed and explored until we had to leave to make our reservation for afternoon at Fortnum and Mason. (More on that magical experience to come.) And, because we ate so much we decided to walk it off by walking a few miles back to our hotel after taking in the view of London from the Shard.

Kensington Palace
Kensington Palace
playing dress-up in the palace
playing dress-up in the palace
a little bit of  V&A
a little bit of V&A
mmm fancy tea
mmm fancy tea
someone massacred their first macaroon
someone massacred their first macaroon
The Shard
The Shard
view of London Bridge at night
view of London Bridge at night

If you managed to get through all of this, congrats. You just got my very long summary of all the best stuff to see in London, minus the food, the shopping and anything hip and trendy that the locals do (that will have to wait until next trip). After my fast and furious tour of London, I’ve got to say it’s awesome. It is a cleaner, more polite and beautiful version of NYC. Although, our friend in London feels the same way about New York… grass is always greener I guess.

Tower Bridge at night
Tower Bridge at night

Have any of you been to London, or do you plan to go? What was your favorite spot? What do you plan to see?

Cheers!