Denver pt. 1

Now that we’ve been back a few days and I’m getting back into the swing of things, it’s time to write about our whirlwind trip. My major take away: Colorado is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Despite arriving just after a snow storm, we dove right in to exploring! Our first stop, after coffee at the airport and picking up our SUV rental, was the Molly Brown House in downtown Denver. It was so snowy and cold, yet our tour group had at least 30 people – a testament to how compelling Molly Brown’s life was. IMG_0255 This is one of Denver’s only house museums, and right from the bat we got the sense that folks in Colorado are passionate about protecting their history, a first impression that was reinforced at every stop on our trip. I left sufficiently inspired by this philanthropist, activist, feminist and independent lady. I would highly encourage anyone in the area to find out more about this site – we thoroughly enjoyed it.

We spent the rest of the snowy day in Boulder, and oh my, was it adorable.  After an amazing BBQ lunch (thank you West End Tavern), we explored Pearl Street. I love cities with pedestrian malls and the deeper sense of interaction it gives people with their city – so I was so impressed with just how lively Boulder’s Pearl Street was, which makes sense considering this pedestrian mall has been a public institution since the 1970s. This is one aspect of Colorado cities that I really appreciated – how well traveled and well integrated into the city both Boulder’s Pearl St. and Denver’s 16th St Mall are. It IMG_0262turns out this was encouraged by legislation in 1970, when Colorado’s Governor John Love signed the Public Mall Act that allowed cities to shut down entire blocks of roads to construct pedestrian areas. Yet another reason in my book that this place would be an amazing place to live.

We wandered as long as we could stand the cold – it was only 30 degrees that day! – and drove to the Colorado Chautauqua. We got amazing views of the Flatirons covered in snow, and discovered that Colorado is very proud of its National Historic Landmarks! Quite a few of the buildings had NHL plaques, and this awesome site included plenty of interpretation. This is only Chautauqua west of the Mississippi River, and judging by how many cars were parked in front of its cabins, it’s still popular. As it should be, considering this was pretty much the most peaceful destination you could dream up.

The Flatirons covered in snow.
The Flatirons covered in snow.

The Colorado Chautauqua was founded in 1898 as a place to house summer lecture series for Texas schoolteachers, in a location that would offer cooler weather. It still operates today with lectures, concerts and films shown year round and 39 picturesque cabins at the foot of the Rocky Mountains available to rent. Cannot wait to stay here someday!

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Packing Light

Happy Sunday!

Since this blog will be primarily about travel, I want to spend some time discussing travel essentials, both my own suggestions and yours! With all of the weekend trips that we take, my number one travel essential has become this Vera Bradley Weekender bag.

Vera Bradley Weekender
Vera Bradley Weekender Travel Bag – Mine in is Marrakesh pattern, but there are a lot more patterns available!

Not only is it beyond comfortable to carry, it’s big enough to successfully pack four or five days of outfits, shoes included! Considering it is carry on size, has lots of roomy pockets, and has a beautiful pattern that makes toting around luggage more fun, this is my go to bag when I want to travel light (which, honestly, is pretty much always.)

This is on my mind today because yesterday I took Paul to the airport for a trip to his home town, and we started to get excited for the next big trip we have coming up. At the end of this month, we’re taking a vacation and traveling to Denver! My hours of scanning Frontier Airlines flight deals out of Washington paid off, and we got a great deal on non-stop tickets. This will be my first trip to Colorado and a much anticipated week of hiking and mountain views, and I am super excited. With that trip just around the corner, my mind is preoccupied with planning and packing!

Like I said, this is my first trip to the Denver area, so if anyone has any tips on what to bring, places to visit and where to eat, I’d love to hear them!

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Hampton Roads Pt. 2

One of my absolute favorite things about living in DC is how close it is to literally so much. Drive for two hours and you can be in the mountains, exploring countryside, or at some of the most beautiful beaches in the country.

This weekend we headed down to Virginia Beach! Like I mentioned in yesterday’s post, on Saturday we were up against a 90% rain forecast that led to some quick thinking Friday of things that would mostly keep us indoors.

We started the day at Elsing Green, a colonial plantation built along the Pamunkey River (and a brand new National Historic Landmark that Paul had discovered.) The home and beautiful grounds are owned by a sweet and amazingly accommodating couple, who live in the home and agreed to let us stop by for a tour even though they don’t “open” to the public until next month! The oldest part of the home is a small Jacobean hunting cottage built by Lord Delaware (Delaware the state’s namesake) was built in the early 1600s, followed by a Queen Anne style manor house in 1715. The grounds, that now contain a wildlife refuge, are so perfect that when you make it down the long, tree lined driveway to the lawn of the home, you’re greeted by peacocks strutting around the lawn.

Being the preservationists that we are, we couldn’t help but love the story of this place. Although a majority of the home’s records were destroyed during the Civil War, the house is believed to have its original ties to Lord Delaware, and was passed down to the Dandridge’s after 1692. Martha Dandridge Custis, or the woman who went on to marry George Washington, was born into this family a few decades later. The property was passed down through inheritances and sold, until it was sold for the last time in the 1950s to Edgar Lafferty and his wife Margaret. The two were avid antique collectors, and it had been their dream to buy and restore an old home. That dream was passed on to the Lafferty’s son and daughter in law, who gave us our tour, and whose life’s work is to maintain, preserve, and share the house. Needless to say we left sufficiently inspired.

Everything in the part of the home that you tour is either original, original to the time period, or belonged to the Lafferty’s when they furnished the home. One of the coolest pieces for me was the surrender table, taken from the Moore House on the Yorktown Battlefield. This was the table where Washington, Rochambeau, and Cornwallis signed the Articles of Capitulation, marking the British surrender in the American Revolution. We were also able to tour Lord Delaware’s hunting cottage, where the pine wall and floors are original and in incredible shape. The downstairs of the cottage has been renovated into adorably rustic living quarters, used when weddings are held at Elsing Green.

This was such a lovely visit and, if you’re prepared to make the drive slightly to the middle of nowhere, I couldn’t recommend highly enough.

Next, we drove the hour and change to Newport News to visit the Mariner’s Museum.  The museum itself is interesting, but there’s one primary reason we sought this place out: the ruins of the USS Monitor. The Monitor was the first Ironclad ship built by the United States Navy, and was commissioned by the Union Army at the start of the Civil War. It fought in one of the Civil War’s biggest naval battles, the Battle of Hampton Roads on March 9, 1862, and in December of that year sank in storm off Cape Hatteras. In 2002, the turret and two Dahlgren guns were recovered from the wreckage and moved to conservation tanks at the Mariner’s Museum. I’m what has been called a Civil War nerd, so seeing these in real life was such a neat experience. The entire Monitor Center of the museum is so well done, complete with three fantastic films and exhibits, and we probably could have stayed the entire afternoon.

The last stop of the day was the city of Norfolk and the Douglas MacArthur memorial. Housed in the beautiful Old City Hall building, we saw his tomb in the capitol rotunda, and upstairs explored an exhibit about his life and legacy, complete with displays of his uniform and awards, his pipe and aviator sunglasses. On our drive from Norfolk to Virginia Beach, we stopped at the Francis Land House, which we had wanted to tour but by now it was well past five and the home was closed. Nevertheless, we did a drive by and it looked as charming as it does on the website! Will be adding this one to the list for next time we’re in the area.

We spent the evening eating seafood in Virginia Beach. Paul had been before, but this was my first time. I’m easily charmed by beach towns, and the evening views of the ocean did not disappoint.

Seeing as I’ve only gotten through one day’s worth of activities and this is already longer than I anticipated, I’ll say stay tuned for my next post about our travels the next day around Hampton Roads!

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Hampton Roads Pt. 1

 

Back to work after a travel weekend! We spent Saturday and Sunday exploring Norfolk, Newport News, Virginia Beach and Hampton Roads, Virginia. Faced with rainy weather and high winds Saturday, we did some quick thinking and came up with this itinerary:

Saturday –

  • Tour of Elsing Green Plantation
  • The Mariner’s Museum
  • Douglas MacArthur Tomb and Memorial
  • The Francis Land House

Sunday –

  • Big Bethel Battlefield
  • Monitor-Merrimac Overlook
  • Fort Monroe
  • Cape Henry Lighthouse
  • Tour of Pear Valley

I’ll be back later to post details and share tips on visiting these sites. This trip was such a neat collection of sites, bridge-tunnels, and ocean views, so I can’t wait to share the pictures. Stay tuned!

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Springtime in Washington

One way you can measure your time in Washington is by the number of Cherry Blossom festivals you’ve attended. This year, I celebrated my third.

The roughly  five days when the more than 2,000 cherry trees surrounding the Tidal Basin reach peak bloom is a time when a solid chunk of DC stays away from the Mall in the hopes of avoiding the tourists. If, however, you can brave the crowds, it is totally, totally worth it.

The first cherry blossoms arrived in DC in March of 1912 when the Mayor of Tokyo sent a shipment of 3,000 cherry trees to the city to commemorate the friendship between the US and Japan. The idea to plant cherry blossoms to beautify the city was first the idea of Eliza Scidmore, a woman who had traveled to Japan and left inspired to plant Japanese cherry trees along the Potomac waterfront (she went on to become the first female board member of the National Geographic society). She wrote to the then First Lady Helen Herron Taft, who met with Japanese consuls and accepted their offer of 2,000 cherry trees. Although the first shipment of trees arrived diseased in 1910 and were subsequently burned, the Mayor of Tokyo sent an additional 3,000, and the first two cherry  trees were eventually planted in West Potomac Park on March 27, 1912, by Helen Taft and the wife of the Japanese ambassador.

This year’s peak bloom fell on the anniversary of the first planting (and over Easter!), and it made for a wonderful spring weekend. Sunshine+beautiful historic flowers = a major win in my book.

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