South Miami, FL

We spent two weeks in the South Miami Florida area. This post is going to be a big one, guys!

Our very first night in the area we decided we should try some Cuban food. Y’all know we love to try the local flavors. We found a spot called La Carreta. I kind of wish we hadn’t. Cuban food is kind of…awesome. We spent the whole two weeks there wanting more Cuban food.

Our main focus in the area was the Everglades National Park. It took us three very full days to see what we wanted and we still didn’t see it all.

We started our Everglade exploration in Shark Valley where the main thing to do is take a tram tour. I was skeptical. The tram tour is extra. But, it was the only way to really see this part of the park unless you want to walk the 15 mile loop…with all of the gators…and the heat. Um, no thanks. Can you spot the gator in the photo above?

The tram tour is guided by one of the National Park Rangers. Our ranger braved the muck and the gators to teach us about the sawgrass prairie. She went out there bare foot. With the gators.

She brought hand fulls of the soil and the periphyton (the stuff that floats on the top) for everyone to feel.

We saw tons of birds.

Please don’t ask me to name all of the birds we saw…

our ranger named them all…but, I’ve slept since then.

And we saw plenty of gators!

These guys were laying right by the road where the people who didn’t want to do the tram tour were walking.

We took an airboat ride. This place is one of only four companies allowed to go right into the Everglades National Park!

I could put up tons of the pics I took while on the ride, but sometimes a video does the job better. So here’s a little peek into our airboat ride through the Everglades National Park.

The airboat place had a restaurant that served gator and frog legs. We had to try them. I’ll be honest, I wimped out trying the frog legs. I just couldn’t get pass the frog part. But, the gator was excellent!

We spent an entire day making our way to the Flamingo Bay part of the Everglades NP. We stopped and did some of the hikes on the way down and some on the way back. If you go…take bug spray. They were really bad during one of our first hikes. We forgot to spray down for that  first hike, but you better believe we didn’t forget on the second hike!

We saw several trees we hadn’t seen during our travels yet. The red barked tree is a gumbo limbo tree. We also saw tons of mahogany trees.

We made it all the way down to Flamingo Bay right about lunch time. We stopped by the marina there just to check it out and was rewarded with our first salt water crocodile! And he was a big one!

We also got our first look at a manatee! They kind of look like a huge floating potato.

I took this shot quickly as we were leaving the marina area. I didn’t notice the crocodile in the bottom right corner until I was looking at the shot on my computer.

We’d heard there was a campground down at Flamingo Bay so we went to check it out and scout for future trips. We found this great place for a picnic. It was pretty deserted there.

We stopped by the Royal Palm area for the last hike we wanted to do. We got there and noticed tons of these guys. Then we noticed there were tarps on most of the cars there.

Apparently, the vultures are destructive.

The NPS provided tarps and bungee cords for everyone to use while in the area.

We also made it to Biscayne NP. This NP is mostly underwater. We did get to walk the one small trail at the Visitor Center.

We had to be quick since the little spit of land the trail takes you out on was disappearing as the tide came in.

We were treated to a storm cloud and a rainbow while we were making our way off the little spit of land.

We were in the Miami area for Christmas. Our Christmas tradition is tamales. We searched high and low for Mexican tamales and came up with a big fat nothing. Nadda. But, we did find this place. El Palacio De Los Jugos. This Cuban market is awe-some!!

Our Spanish revolves around food items, but that didn’t help us here

because we weren’t familiar with everything here and there weren’t any labels. I’m pretty sure we were the only ones there who didn’t fluently speak Spanish. We got some of this and some of that. All by pointing and gesturing. We were pretty confident that we were in the right place because the line went out the door. Everything we got was excellent. We ended up with some Cuban tamales with some fixings for our Christmas dinner.

While we were looking for Mexican tamales, we asked around at the RV park we were staying in. One of the ladies in the office offered to try and find some for us and when she couldn’t she offered to bring us some that her mom was making. I should mention here she’s from Mexico. We were thrilled with the offer, but unsure if she would follow through. The day after Christmas she delivered with about a dozen homemade tamales. Guys, they were the best tamales we’ve ever had! I meant to snap a pic of them but they were devoured before I could think to stop and take a picture of them. So, you’ll just have to take our word for it. They were wonderful!

Since we’re talking about Christmas, I’ll mention here what we did on Christmas. We started our Christmas morning at Miami Beach.

We weren’t really impressed with Miami Beach. There were tons of jellyfish and more trash than I like on a beach.

We got there early and pretty much had the beach to ourselves for awhile. Right about the time we were ready to go the crowds started to come out.

We stopped by a fruit stand called “Robert Is Here” one afternoon.

It’s an avocado. I sat a lemon and a key lime next to it so you could see the size difference. We bought one. We haven’t eaten it yet, so I can’t tell you if it’s good or not.

We got suckered into buying some of this fruit. I’m not sure where this guy is getting his cotton candy, but he needs to find a new place. This fruit was nothing like cotton candy. It was kind of a slimy gel texture that made me want to go brush my teeth. Mr. Man and Littlest both liked it.

We also bought one of these. It’s not ready yet, so I can’t tell you if we got suckered again. I’ll let you know.

We did find some really good Mexican food.

A good friend of mine met us at El Torro Taco! I got the plate above. It did not disappoint! So. Good! It was so fun spending time with another of my HP friends! *waves to friend and her fam* Her kiddos and my kiddos are all about the same age and into the same nerdy stuff. They all hit it off. My boys have already asked when we will see them again. It’s been fun this year meeting up with so many of my HP friends!

There are flower stands all over the place. People also sell them on the street corners.

Are you ready for some pretties? The pic above isn’t the best, but I wanted to share it anyway. The purple flowers and the bright orange/red seed pod are the same plant! Whhhaaattt…. mind…blown…

I took so many

pictures of pretties here.

I could have done a post

on just the pretties.

We love this area. We’re already trying to figure out how soon we’ll be able to come back…and spend more time.

See y’all down the road!!

#easternloop2016

Categories: EasternLoop2016, Florida, Foodie Find, National Park | 2 Comments

Harry Potter And Some Other Stuff

Hey Guys!! I have a confession to make. I pretty much planned this whole loop so we would get to Universal Studios before Christmas Break started for most of the country. So, yeah…I planned this year around Harry Potter. There…I said it…it’s out there. Now let’s move on.

I could do an entire post on the awesomeness of the Universal Studios Harry Potter sections of the park, but I won’t . I’ll try to keep my Potterhead geekiness to a respectful level. No promises though. I took hundreds of pictures…be warned.

Welcome to Harry Potterverse!

Officially known as Universal Studios.

It will always be Harry Potterverse to us though. We spent four very full days soaking in the magic of Diagon Alley and Hogsmead. We got there when they opened and didn’t leave until they closed. I might as well throw in a disclosure here…this post is not in order at all. I’ll be jumping back and forth between the two parks. The pic you see above is at the Dragon Challenge Ride on the Islands of Adventure side. Here’s a little tip…if you can find all four golden eggs on the ride, they’ll take you on a tour of the ride queue. Which for photo bugs like me is awesome because…there are no cameras or phones allowed on this ride. You go through an metal detector before you get to anything good.

 The amount of detail that went into creating Diagon Alley and Hogsmead is astounding. They’ve really thought of even the smallest details. The pic above is of the Hogsmead main street.

Speaking of details…check out the dragon. Pretty cool, right?

If you stick around Diagon Alley long enough, you’ll get to see the dragon breathe fire!

And…as impressive as it is during the day…it’s even more so at night. You know he’s gonna flame up when he starts growling. Check out all of the people in the pic above just standing there watching. That was pretty common to see through out the day. Everyone wants to see the dragon breathe fire.

One of the things I was looking forward to was trying the Butterbeer…in all it’s forms. How many ways can they make Butterbeer you ask! Well, there’s the regular cold soda, there’s the frozen (this one was my favorite), there’s the hot (this one tasted like butterscotch hot chocolate),

there’s the ice cream, there’s the fudge, and then there’s the creme de potte. Yes, we had them all! And yes, we had some of them daily. Yum!!

There are two Harry Potter themed restaurants. One in each park. You’ve got the Three Broomsticks on the Hogsmeade side and the Leaky Cauldron over on the Diagon Alley side. We ate at the Three Broomsticks first. It was good…portions were small…prices were pretty high. But, you don’t eat there for the meal…not really. You go for the experience and that didn’t disappoint at all.

Again, the details and thought put into each building…each sign…it was pretty cool. Everyday I noticed something different.

We ended up eating at the Leaky Cauldron twice. We liked the selection better there. The pics not the best, but it was dark outside which made it even darker than usual inside.

This was the bangers and mash at the Leaky Cauldron. Pretty good portion and really tasty! Not your usual park fare food. Out of everything I ate there, my favorite was the Fisherman’s Pie. The Dude and I both got one our last night there and we were both pleasantly surprised by how good it was!

This is the Leaky Cauldron’s menu. Pretty nice selection. I didn’t get a shot of the Three Broomstick’s menu. The two places offered different things.

 And to wash it all down with, why don’t you try a Dragon Scale or perhaps…

 a Fishy Green Ale! Any guesses as to what it is?

We waited for the end of our first day to go to Ollivander’s to get our wands. If you’re lucky enough, Olivander will pick you to go through the choosing ceremony where your wand picks you…just like in the movie. Littlest was lucky. He was beyond thrilled!

Let’s talk wands. When you go to buy your wand you have two choices in mechanics…interactive or not. The interactive wands allow you to do spells at special locations throughout both Hogsmead and Diagon Alley.  If you get an interactive wand you also get a nifty little map that tells you where all of the spells are located throughout the two Harry Potter sections. Or does it? There might be a couple of hidden spells… **insert evil laugh here*  Sorry. Ok, so besides the mechanics you’ve got tons of choices in style. There are character wands and then there are Ollivander’s specials. Good luck picking one out. It actually took me all four days to decide. I didn’t get my wand until the very last day right before we left. I ended up with a non-interactive wand. I felt like it was more solid. Any guesses as to which wand belongs to which nomad?

We made wand holsters so the boys wouldn’t have to keep holding on to their wands and their maps. It worked wonderfully.

You can probably guess what we did first on our second day.

Magic was of the highest priority.

And we weren’t the only ones trying to do it. We stood in line longer to do magic than we did for most rides.

 The Hogwarts Express. If you get the park to park pass, you get to ride the Hogwarts Express in between the parks. This was kind of a must for me. I would suggest getting the park to park pass  we found ourselves jumping between the two parks several times a day.

Each train depot was different. Of course, there was platform 9¾  over on the Diagon Alley side

where you can watch people walk right into the wall between platforms 9 and 10.

Once you’re on the train you get to sit in a train compartment that looks pretty much like one from the movie. I loved the little extras as you went from park to park. I won’t ruin it for those of you who haven’t been yet.

The Gringotts Bank was super impressive. It really looked like they sucked it right out of the movie and plopped it down in the middle of Universal Studios.

They even had animatronic goblins.

There was a candy store in each park. Honeydukes over in Hogsmeade and then Sugarplums in Diagon Alley. You can get pretty much any candy you saw in the movie.

They even had chocolate cauldrons and pumpkin pastys!

But, if you want Nosebleed Nouguts, Puking Pastilles, or Fever Fudge you have to head over to Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes.

The Knight Bus was pretty cool. You can visit with Stan Shunpike and Dre Head near the front of the bus, but if you walk around to the back you can stick your head in and see the inside of the bus.

We did go to the other parts of the parks. I promise. We rode every ride…more than once.

The dinos over in the Jurassic area weren’t really impressed with our magic or our wands.

The Transformers ride was one of our favorites. It’s one that we would all ride. We rode this one each day we were there…some days we rode it more than once. We were impressed with how well it was put together and how seamlessly the 3D aspects of it flowed together.

The Men In Black ride was also one of our favorites. You know any time you get to shoot laser guns on a ride it’s going to be good!

This was my favorite coaster. The Hulk spits you out of that little tube over on the left of the picture going a million miles an hour (don’t quote me on that speed) then continues to take you through loops, and twists, and rolls. It’s so freaking awesome!

The whole park was all decked out for the holidays. We had the absolute best time and we’ve all been going through Harry Potter withdrawal.

Here are a few video snippets from our time at Potterverse and NASA.

We also made it to the Kenney Space Center for a day of space nerdiness. You can see by what the boys are wearing in the picture we were still in the Harry Potter mood.

We took the bus tour where they drive you by the launch pads and tell you a little about each.

We watched the shows and perused the museums. It was all done very well.

My favorite part was seeing the actual Atlantis Shuttle though.

I think I stood gawking at Atlantis for a good five to ten minutes. And then you can walk downstairs and check out the bottom of it and see all of the burns and marks it’s gotten from reentering Earth’s atmosphere.

There were some great interactive computer simulations. All of the boys took turns checking them out.

NASA was all decorated for the season too. Very pretty at night! We only spent one very long, very full day here, but it would have been better broken up into two days. We missed a couple of the shows because we ran out of time.

We took the next week to relax and catch up on school, work, and cleaning. Oh, and we enjoyed not going anywhere or doing anything. Five very long, very exciting days wore all of us out!!

See y’all down the road!

#easternloop2016

Categories: EasternLoop2016, Florida | 2 Comments

Top Memories For 2016

Hey Guys! It’s 2017!! Happy New Year!! We thought it would be fun to look back on some of our favorite memories of 2016 with y’all. These are in chronological order and not in rank order. We couldn’t all agree on what order they should be in.

We started 2016 off at White Sands National Park. This is still one of our favorite National Parks! We had the best time sledding down the sand dunes!

Big Bend National Park had to make the list. The diversity of the landscape here was amazing and beautiful. The vast open expanses of land made us feel so small. We left so much unexplored.

We can’t think of Big Bend NP and not think of our border crossing into Boquillas, Mexico! The boys still talk about riding the burros. It was definitely an experience none of us will forget.

We enjoyed New York more than we thought we would. Old Fort Niagara is on our list of our favorite Forts.

Niagara Falls is awe inspiring. The sheer force of the water as it goes over the falls is breathtaking.

The lobster in Lubec, ME was a favorite for everyone. Being able to go right down to the fishing boat that caught the lobster…that day and pick out the lobsters we wanted was so cool.

Acadia National Park has so much to offer. The views were spectacular!

The Cape Cod National Seashore was everything we’d heard it would be. Beautiful beaches and tons of people. We would like to go back during their off season.

We were all surprised by how much we enjoyed the NewPort Mansions in Rhode Island. The personal stories and history really made it all come alive.

Some people call Littlest, Panda Boy. He loves pandas and had been looking forward to seeing one in person at the National Zoo ever since I told him we would be going. I think he asked me every week when exactly we would be going to the National Zoo.

We loved all of the Monuments and Memorials in Washington DC.

Kitty Hawk, NC was another surprise for us. We thoroughly enjoyed this area and hated to leave it.

The Biltmore was a bonus this year. We didn’t plan on going to see it, but Mother Nature threw a monkey wrench in our plans and sent Hurricane Mathew up the East Coast. We had to flee Kitty Hawk and head inland so we headed to Ashville and the Biltmore.

Boone Plantation was something I’d been looking forward to for awhile. We really enjoyed the Gullah Geechee aspect of it.

Driftwood Beach in Georgia is still the most unique beach we’ve been to. It was so fun to walk up and down the beach and play around on all of the driftwood.

We saw quite a few Forts in 2016. Fort Castillo de San Marcos in the St. Augustine area of Florida made it to our top five.

And…of course, Universal Studios made it on to our list of 2016 favorites. #potterheadsrule

Everglades National Park left an impression on all of us. We loved the diversity of animals and ecosystems we found here.

We’ve had quite a year! It was really hard for us to pick our favorites.

I hope y’all had a wonderful 2016 and will have an even better 2017!

See y’all down the road!

#easternloop2016

Categories: Destinations, Historic Landmark, National Park, Post Cards From The Road | Leave a comment

St. Augustine, FL

 Hey Guys! We spent one week in the St. Augustine area of Florida.

This was our fist stop in the state! Bring on the warm weather!

We had a ton of things on our to do list, but for some reason we had an off week. We only made it to two of those things and both of them were National Park Forts. The first one we made it to was Fort Matanzas National Monument. You can see it in the photo above. That’s about as close as we got to it. The Visitor Center was open and we were able to go through some of the Ranger Talks, but the dock over at the actual fort was damaged during Hurricane Mathew. So, that part of the Monument was closed.

The boys were able to work on the Junior Ranger badge and learned some handy knot tying skills.

There was also a musket demonstration.

The other Fort we went to was Castillo de San Marcos. This is probably in the second spot on our list of best forts.

Several of the rooms were decorated with things that would have been in them during the time the fort was being used.

There were secret rooms…

and some pretty cool doorways. Interesting shape, right? Makes you wonder what they were bringing in and out of that room that required a door in that shape.

Fort Castillo de San Marcos was a free roaming fort. We were allowed to look in all the nooks and crannies and take our time. It was wonderful.

We got there later in the afternoon and it was early evening by the time we were leaving. We could have stayed longer, but they were closing for a special ticketed event that night.

We stayed in a cute little RV Park while we were there. They did a wonderful job of decorating for Christmas. I loved the lights at night!

The RV Park also had wonderful view. This wasn’t too far from our front door for the week.

We were so bummed that we didn’t get to experience any more that St. Augustine had to offer. I’m sure we will go back sometime and hit all the neat things we missed.

See y’all down the road!

#easternloop2016

Categories: EasternLoop2016, Florida, National Park | Leave a comment

Brunswick, GA

The Brunswick area consists of a bunch of little islands all hooked together. I’d been looking forward to this stop for awhile.

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One of the main reasons I scheduled this stop was to see the sea turtles. We went during the off season, but we found the Georgia Sea Turtle Center where we could learn all about sea turtles and even get to see some of them. The main focus of the GSTC is to rehabilitate the turtles and get them back into their natural habitat. They also take in any straggler hatchlings and keep them until they’re big enough to head out to sea the next year.

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You can go in and look at the tanks with their patients. There are charts for each patient that tells why they’re there and the steps being taken to help them. We got there right before their last tour and got to see them feed the turtles!

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We found another fort to mosey through. This one is Fort Frederica National Monument.

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It was worth the trip just to see all of the old oaks and Spanish moss. The fort itself is mostly gone, but they’ve got a few foundations they’ve found and there are records that tell them where everything was and who owned what. We enjoyed walking through the grounds. I would definitely recommend it!

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The Junior Ranger program here was one of the boys’ favorites so far. In the pic above you can see them with the bag that’s given out with the Junior Ranger booklets.

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The bag contained various items and instruments used to complete the booklet.

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We also got to play some pub games that would’ve been found during the 1700s. We’ve decided we need to make one of these.

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The boys earned four badges and one patch. I somehow missed getting one of the badges in the picture. Of course, it was the coolest one…because it was a little different. I’ll try to get a picture of them together again and post it up on our Instagram.

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We also went to Tidelands Nature Center where we got to touch an alligator.

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The boys were impressed the set of chompers on this guy.

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We also got to see this little stingray up close!

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We found two very cool beaches! The first one is Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island. It was so fun to climb around on all of the driftwood. It was also a great picture place. We got some good family shots at this beach.

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The other beach also happened to be on Jekyll Island, but for the life of me…I can’t remember the name of it. It was a great beach…not too many people there.

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So…it doesn’t look like much. It’s called Brunswick Stew. I’ve seen it since Maine, but didn’t try it until North Carolina and I’ve been hooked ever since. I thought it only fitting that I had a bowl of Brunswick stew while in Brunswick. It starts with smoked meat. I’ve had chicken, pork, and beef…any and all combinations of the three. It always has corn and usually lima beans. From there it varies. The best I’ve had was from High Cotton in Kitty Hawk, NC. Hands down the best. I’m going to have to try to make my own version of Brunswick stew!

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We stayed at a great little park called Blythe Island Regional Park. It was awesome! Nice big spot, pull through, full hookups…they even offered cable at no extra cost! We would totally stay there again. This park also had a healthy community of squirrels. And boy howdy…those squirrels loved to tease our cats!! It was extremely entertaining!

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I even found a few pretties! Love these pink flowers with the Spanish moss and the oaks!

That’s all we had time to do. We could have spent at least another week just exploring all the different beaches and forts in the area!

See y’all down the road!

#easternloop2016

Categories: EasternLoop2016, Georgia, National Park | Leave a comment

Savannah, GA

We spent a week in the Savannah area. When I planned our loop this year I was dismayed that there weren’t a lot of hiking opportunities. We’ve spent most of our time during this loop exploring cities (big and small). Cities aren’t really our thing. We prefer the wilds. But, when you’re trying to see all fifty states…well, there are states known for their great hiking and there are states known for their history. I’ve come to realize that most of our loop for this year has been spent on learning history and going to cities because we felt we should see them. Savannah is one of those cities I felt we needed to see.

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Savannah is known for it’s beautiful parks (all 22 of them) and its cobblestoned historic district.

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We only went to two of the parks. They were both shaded with oak trees covered with Spanish moss. We, along with many other locals and tourists, enjoyed walking though them. Savannah is smaller than I’d thought it would be. It had that small town, homey feel where time seems to slow down and suddenly every one is addressed as “honey” or “sweetie” and no one’s a stranger.

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We found the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. It was beautiful inside and out. One of the big touristy things to do in Savannah is take a carriage ride. We opted against it. I’m sure the history and info given during the tour is worth the price but we like to go at our own pace. I can’t be rushed when I’m taking pictures or we find something interesting we want to investigate.

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We took a stroll down by the river where all of the shops are. I’d looked ahead of time and had two places I wanted to visit. Now, one of the questions we get asked all the time is about souvenirs. Do we get them? What do we get? Where do we keep them? How do we decide when to get one? We get a lot of questions about souvenirs. We don’t really get many. We simply don’t have room. And honestly, I’m more interested in food anyway. If I get something it’s more than likely going to be something I can eat. We do get a shot glass from each state and I pick up postcards from various places we go.

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It may come as no surprise to y’all that one of the souvenirs I’d already decided I was going to get from Savannah was some pralines. They were soooo good! I’ll be making my own over the holiday season sometime. Jerl got something called a gopher. It reminded me of a Texas millionaire. It must have been good…his eyes kind of slid up to the back of his head and glazed over during his first bite. I, quite happily, stuck with my pralines.

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We also hit up the Peanut Shop where we sampled all of the various flavors (there were soooo many flavors!) of peanuts before making our decision on which to buy. And we definitely bought some.

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The best thing we did there was visit Fort Pulaski National Monument. The boys snagged another Junior Ranger badge here.

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Fort Pulaski was damaged during hurricane Mathew so we couldn’t just wander around it. We had to stick with a guided tour. Y’all know how I feel about having to hurry up. I was at the end of the line trying my hardest to take my sweet little time without holding everyone else up. Fort Pulaski was great! Seriously, if you have the chance to go…do it. It’s been set up to represent what it would have looked like while it was occupied so there are several rooms with furnishings.

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During one of the times the fort was in the hands of the Union, some of the soldiers decided to leave a little…graffiti. It’s still there.

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While most of the fort has been reconstructed and restored, some of it is has been left in ruins.

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The wall was left to show the damage a cannon could do. We would have liked to spend more time poking around, but we had to stick with the tour and the tour had to be out before the next one could go in.

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Let’s talk food. I’d initially planned on eating at Lady & Sons…because…well…Paula Deen is the queen of southern comfort food, right?  But, when I looked up the reviews and then the price. If I’m going to pay that much to eat, the reviews had better be outstanding and not just mediocre. So, we drove by it and waved at all the people inside eating what we can only assume to be an overpriced, ok meal designed to bring in all of the tourists. Sorry Paula.

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We ended up going to a place the locals go.  Sandfly BBQ. Everything we had was great and the price was very reasonable. Now, I will tell you, the meat was fantastic…the sides were super sweet and very salty. But the meat was spot on!

We enjoyed our time in Savannah!

See y’all down the road!

#easternloop2016

Categories: EasternLoop2016, Georgia, National Park | Leave a comment

Charleston, SC

Hey Guys!! We spent two weeks in the Charleston, SC area!

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One of our favorite things to do is go check out a beach in the area! We happened to make it to the Kiawah Beachwalker Park on the last warm day during our stay. It was a fantastic day with temps in the low 80s! We collect a little sand and some shells from each beach we visit.

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We found our first sea star out in the wild although, I think it might have been…a little…dead. I’m hoping when the tide came back in it perked up and made a recovery.

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I found one of the best shells I’ve found on a beach so far! Too bad is was already spoken for. We put this little guy back into the sand.

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We stayed until the park started closing and it got a little too cool for our taste.

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We visited Fort Moultrie. You might not recognize the name…Fort Moultrie is right across from its more famous counterpart, Fort Sumter. One of the coolest things we get to do is visit old Forts. We don’t always get a chance to see them all, but we try to hit at least one when they’re available. Some Forts are open for visitors to roam around on their own while others require you to sign up for a guided tour. We like them both…we like to take our time and look, but we also enjoy the knowledge the tour guides impart. Fort Moultrie is a free roaming Fort. There were tons of nooks and crannies we ventured into.

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This is as close as we got to Fort Sumter. While it is a part of the National Park System, a private ferry ticket is required to reach it. We can’t always do every thing in a city we want to. Since we’re not technically on vacation, we have to pick and choose keeping in mind the cities to come and what those offer, as well.

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The biggest reason we didn’t spring for Fort Sumter is because I wanted to visit Boone Hall Plantation.

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Boone Hall Plantation is one of America’s oldest working plantations. You’re looking at the Avenue of Oaks. I love the look of the giant oak trees with the Spanish moss! The trees were planted back in 1743 by Captain Thomas Boone. It took more than 200 years for the two rows of trees to meet overhead in the middle. You might recognize this Avenue of Oaks form the mini-series North & South or maybe from the movie The Notebook. Boone Hall Plantation has been in quite a few movies, shows, and print articles.

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Boone Hall has quite the history and is part of the Underground Railroad. Our favorite experience at Boone Hall was the Gullah Culture presentation.

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This surprised us. To be honest, we didn’t know what Gullah is.

This isn’t our video. I didn’t take one. I could just kick myself for not taking a video. But, this is the same woman we saw and she was really good. If you get to visit Boone Hall Plantation, don’t miss the Gullah Geechee presentation. Plan your day around it.

I’m going to add one more video. This one isn’t at Boone Hall Plantation, but this is a story she told us. Her name is Jackie Michael and she’s a retired schoolteacher turned Gullah Geechee story teller.

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The sweetgrass baskets everyone loves comes from the Gullah culture. You can find them all over Charleston. We got to see them being made at a few different places. The picture above was taken at Boone Hall Plantation, but we also saw them at the Charleston City Market and there were some roadside stands as well.

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This is the Charleston City Market and if you’re ever in the area you should definitely at least walk through it.

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You’ll find some of the best souvenirs here. And food. They sell food. Souvenirs, sweets and BBQ…what more do you need?

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There’s a lot of history in Charleston. There are several different tours you can go on. If history is your thing, I would definitely suggest a tour. This is the Old Slave Mart. I’m sure you can guess what happened here.

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This is called Rainbow Row. You’ll see this on sooo many Charleston souvenirs. It does depict the quintessential Charleston. I love that the buildings are pretty pastel colors!

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Another Charleston must see is the Pineapple Fountain. There were tons of people at this park…all taking photos. The park is gorgeous and right by the waterfront. We saw just as many locals enjoying the park as we did tourists.

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Welcome to the land of cotton. We saw so many huge fields of cotton while we were in this area! It was pretty neat to see. The one in the photo above was one of the smaller fields.
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Lets talk food. Guys, plan to splurge here. The food is ah-maze-ing. Amazing! This was one of my splurges…it’s a pimento cheese, fried green tomato, bacon, and fried egg sandwich on Texas toast. And please notice the pickled okra next to it. Have you ever seen anything more southern on a plate? It was fantastic!

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The other foodie find was a place called Charleston Burger Co. It’s definitely splurge worthy, but they do offer gluten free buns for anyone interested. The Dude got The Killer Beehive burger…and yes, he ate it all!

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Angel Oak is a live oak tree that is estimated to be anywhere between 400 and 600 years old. The state of South Carolina has it fenced off and has set hours to visit to try and keep vandals away from it.

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The sheer size of this tree was unbelievable!

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The last touristy thing we did was go to the Charleston Tea Plantation where we learned all about what goes into making the tea we drink. It was pretty cool and…it was free. Seriously. The tour and all the samples you want…free. It’s definitely worth a stop.

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Are you ready for some pretties?

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There were tons of pretties in the Charleston area!

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Nope, I don’t know any of their names.

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I could do an entire post just on the pretties of Charelston. I was in flower heaven!

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We also saw more butterflies and honey bees than we have in a long time!

So there you have it! Our two week stay in Charleston! We didn’t see even half of what there was to see!

See y’all down the road!

#easternloop2016

Categories: EasternLoop2016, Foodie Find, National Park, South Carolina | 2 Comments

Atlanta, GA

We spent a week just south of Atlanta, GA.

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We made it to the State Capitol Building. It was impressive!

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Check out that golden dome with the Miss Freedom standing so proudly on top!

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And since we’re talking about the dome…I’ll go ahead and show you the inside of it. Now, my favorite domes have stained glass or a mural on it, but this one with the windows all around it was very nice.

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Georgia makes State Capitol Building number 31 for us. That’s a lot of SBCs! Some of my favorite things about SBCs (besides the dome) are the staircases. I’m not an architect. I don’t know anything about what style this is…I just know it’s pleasing to the eye. It’s nice and orderly. Oh! Check out the statue made of pink marble! This SBC had tons of pink marble that had been mined from Georgia. On the fourth floor there was a nice, small museum. We enjoyed this SCB.

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Out of thirty one SBCs this was a first for us. We got to go into the Governor’s Office! One of the secretaries offered to take a photo of us behind the desk. She took three…this one was the best. It’s a little blurry, but that’s ok…we appreciated the offer!

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The boys even got to hold this WWE belt. It was heavier than we thought it would be!

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I have to mention how nice everyone that we came into contact with at the Georgia State Capitol Building was!

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While we were in Atlanta, we stopped by The Varsity to grab lunch. The Varsity is the world’s largest drive-in. When we were there it was packed! The menu isn’t that big. They’ve got burgers, hotdogs, fries, and onion rings. Oh… and fried pies. Between the five of us we tried it all. The food was what you would expect. I enjoyed my chili dog with coleslaw on top of it and I really loved the onion rings! Now, would I go back? Um, probably not. lol! Once was kind of enough. Not because the food was super bad…it just wasn’t the best.

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I know…it’s a metal fence. But, guys…it’s The Walking Dead metal fence! You’re looking at Alexandria…well, it’s actually in a town called Senoia…but still!! We couldn’t get any closer because all the roads were blocked and guarded because they were filming. Which kind of made it cooler for me. To know they were just…right…there…….filming!!! Sorry. Fan girl moment. I’m ok now.

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We did actually get some hiking in this time! We love hiking and there hasn’t been as many opportunities to get some miles in during this year’s loop. We stopped by the High Falls State Park for a quick mile or so to see the falls.

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Georgia has been in a pretty bad drought since June, so the falls weren’t full and rushing, but they were still enjoyable.

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We found Covington, GA…you might recognize it as Mystic Falls from the show The Vampire Diaries. I didn’t realize how many shows/films are filmed in the Atlanta area. We didn’t bump into any of the stars, but it was neat to walk around a town I’d seen on a television show.

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We even made it to another hike! This one was at the Arabia Mountain A.W.A.R.E. area.

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We were rewarded with an awesome view! The weather was perfect for hiking while we were in the Atlanta area.

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We found this street sign and I had to snap a pic. There’s a big Gone With The Wind thing in the area.

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We went to the B.A.P.S. Shri Swaminarayan Mandir while we were in the Houston area and we’d learned that there are actually a few of them in the US. We made it to the one in Atlanta. It’s just as gorgeous! And just like the one in Houston, photography isn’t permitted inside or even close to the inside. If you ever find yourself near one of these go in. It’s truly breath taking. The amount of detail on all of the hand carved marble is astounding.

That’s it for the Atlanta area! We didn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what there is to do here so I imagine we will have to visit again.

See y’all down the road!

#easternloop2016

Categories: Capitol Building, EasternLoop2016, Georgia, Hiking | Leave a comment

Oh Carolina…

Hey Guys!! We spent a week in the Raleigh, NC area.

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We didn’t do much.

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We made it to the State Capitol Building.

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Most of the North Carolina State Capitol Building is a museum. They’ve arranged rooms to resemble what they were in years past. The room above is the geology room. We love it when there’s a museum in the SCBs! We learn so much about the state through these museums.

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Y’all know we love foodie spots. Let me introduce you to Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar. You can get burgers, sushi, and burger/sushi fusions!

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There were so many options…you could eat there everyday for months and not get the same thing. We absolutley loved Cowfish!! The owner came out and talked with us while we were there and guys…he was so nice. Seriously. If there’s a Cowfish near you, go check it out!

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We also spent a week in Columbia, SC.

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We didn’t take a tour at the South Carolina State Capitol Building, but we did get to roam around. I thought the dome was pretty.

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Most of the SCBs we’ve visited have a redish/pink color scheme in at least a few of the rooms, but both of the Carolina’s SBCs were more earthy tones with blue highlights. It was a nice change.

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We made it to Congaree National Park. I’d been looking forward to this park since I’d done the initial planning for our whole nomadic fifty state tour. It stuck in my head because there was a caution that this park inhabits six venomous snakes and alligators. Six. Six venomous snakes all in one park. And then they add alligators on top of that!

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No, I don’t like snakes. Not even a little, but I felt like we were be safe enough with the boardwalk trail. We got there the week after Hurricane Mathew mucked up our plans and sent us fleeing to Asheville. So…we were already irritated with Mathew. When we got to Congraee we learned Mathew wasn’t done messing with us. Nope. He’d blown through the park and messed up pretty much all of the trails. We got to walk a teeny tiny bit of the boardwalk trail. We were so bummed. I’d been looking forward to it for soooo long and then bam! A hurricane.

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But it wasn’t a total loss. We found an all you can eat buffet at Little Pigs Barbecue. All. You. Can. Eat…BBQ!!! What?!?!

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I counted four different kinds of pulled pork! There was also all the fixin’s! All of them. Oh, and by-the-way…in the Carolinas anytime you hear BBQ they mean pork. Always. It was soooo stinkin’ good! Little Pigs is a no frills kind of place, but that’s ok because it helps keep the cost down. When was the last time you’ve eaten at an all you can eat buffet for $10? That includes a drink. Yum-oh!

We have officially fallen in love with the Carolinas!

See y’all down the road!

#easternloop2016

Categories: Capitol Building, EasternLoop2016, Foodie Find, National Park, North Carolina, South Carolina | Leave a comment

The Biltmore

Since Hurricane Mathew interrupted our time on the North Carolina coast, we headed to the Asheville area to escape the weather. Asheville is where you’ll find The Biltmore.

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Built in 1895 by George Vanderbilt, The Biltmore was just one of the Vanderbilt family homes. It’s huge. Let me see if I can remember the details…thirty-three bedrooms, forty-three bathrooms, 250 rooms, and sixty-five fireplaces all add up to a grand total of about four acres of floor space.

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We opted to take the ninety minute guided audio tour. We feel like audio tours really add to the experience. In the photo above, you can see the Winter Garden. The Winter Garden is actually inside the mansion. That’s a glass roof you’re looking at and what used to be a working fountain.
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On one side of the massive banquet hall is this set of built in shelves with the organ loft. The organ actually works. In the basement, there’s a room that has the air pump for the organ. I love the shelves!

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On the other side of the banquet hall is a wall of triple fireplaces. Because three is always better than one, right? This room was huge. The pictures can’t even begin to portray the true size of it. The ceiling in the banquet hall is seven stories high!

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Here you can see the Breakfast Room where the Vanderbilt family ate lunch. Yep, you read that right. They named it The Breakfast Room, but they would eat lunch there. Maybe it was a really late breakfast…more like brunch?

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The ceilings in The Biltmore were just as ornate and thought out as the rest of the rooms.

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The Tapestry Gallery is more like a wide hallway. There are three tapestries hanging here that are a part of seven. Each tapestry depicted one of the Seven Virtues.

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This fireplace was in the Tapestry Gallery. I love how ornate it is! Check out the turtles on the bottom of the lamps.

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We’ve made it to my favorite room in the whole place. The Library.

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I took more photos of the Library than any other room at The Biltmore. I mean…look at that fireplace! Can you imagine perusing the books to find that perfect read and curling up by the fireplace to have a quiet afternoon? Oh! See the big blue and white urn type thing? It once belonged to a Chinese Emperor about 500 years ago. He used it as a fish bowl.

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This was George Vanderbilt’s bedroom. It’s huge! And I love all of the woodwork in it. All hand carved by super important artsy people. I don’t remember all of their names…there were so many different names said during this tour. Can you see the gold colored walls? That’s real gold. It’s gilded 24 Karat gold burlap.

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All of the fireplaces were different. Different colors, different materials, different style. This one was in George Vanderbilt’s bedroom.

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This sitting room joined the family bedrooms. There was a small table for food, a writing desk, and a game table. This is where the family would have breakfast while they planned the day’s events.

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Edith Vanderbilt’s room was oval shaped and decorated in gold and purple. Edith made sure she knew all the names of everyone working at The Biltmore during a time when it was improper for the family to speak to the staff. She also made sure to send care baskets when children were born. Edith went so far as to start a trade-school that taught weaving and wood working so the servant’s children would be able to learn a craft or trade that they could use to earn a living.

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The Biltmore was really built so the family could entertain guests. The third floor living hall was right outside all of the guest suites. The guests would wait to go down to breakfast here as they sat around and chatted.

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I loved looking at all of the old family photographs. Notice the books against the wall? George Vanderbilt had a 23,000 volume collection of books. That alone makes me like him. I mean, anyone who takes the time to accumulate that many beloved books has to be good, right?

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This is in one of the guest suites. I really enjoy the way they have the rooms set up. It’s like we’re getting to take a peak back in time. With the dress on the bed with the gloves over the footboard…it’s like catching a fleeting glimpse into their lives.

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This is in the same guest suite. The vanity table all set up and waiting. This guest suite was just for single ladies. The single ladies and single gentlemen were kept in separate suits since it was inappropriate for them to sleep in the same area of the house.

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Check out this chandelier. It’s three stories high with three chandeliers on it. Can you imagine trying to dust that thing?

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In the basement you’ll find the recreation area. Complete with a bowling alley,

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a 70,000 gallon heated swimming pool that they only kept filled for a few days at a time,

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and a gymnasium because even back then being healthy was important.

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They supplied private dressing rooms because no self-respecting lady of that time would be caught walking though the house in a “bathing costume”. There was a row for the women and a separate row (on the other side of the wall) for the men.

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The library was my favorite room…the pastry kitchen is a close second. Imagine having an entire kitchen solely for the purpose of baking…

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There would’ve been more than a dozen people in here working to prepare the meals for the Vanderbilt family and their guests. The copper pots hanging above the worktable are actually original.

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Check out the mortar and pestle! Huge!

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This was the servant’s dining room. The dining room maid would have served the servants three meals a day here.

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There were sooo many pantry rooms. Each dedicated to different things. This one is mainly for the canned goods.

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Most people have one room for the laundry. At The Biltmore, there was a sewing room, main laundry room, drying room,

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and a dying room. Notice the box and bottles of dyes?

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This was the smoking room. More books. The books were everywhere! It was a book lovers dream!

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This pic gives you a good idea of the many different levels at The Biltmore.

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This is the view the Vanderbilt Family and their guests enjoyed. George Vanderbilt and his architect used a ladder to determine what the best view would be before they began building.

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 We got to The Biltmore around 2’ish…we didn’t leave until around 8. There are so many things to look at.

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We took a quick walk through some of the gardens, but we didn’t have time to look at everything.

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Here area some of the pretties…

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look how bright and vibrant they are!

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I would love to see the gardens during each season.

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There was a wine tasting included with the house ticket. If you know me, you know I’m not really into wine. The boys thought it was funny to watch my face as I tasted each wine.

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The boys all got grape juice to try. They also had their fill of these pallet cleansing little biscuits that were sitting out.

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We ended up getting three bottles of wine! lol! I found two white’s that I actually like.

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When we left it was dark. There were several hummingbirds flitting between these big flowers and we stood there for a few minutes watching them. The picture’s not the best. It was dark and I only had my phone…but this little hummingbird decided to see what The Dude tasted like and flew down to lick his leg. It was pretty funny!

We had a great time exploring The Biltmore!

See y’all down the road!

#easternloop2016

Categories: Destinations, EasternLoop2016, North Carolina | 2 Comments