Does this look like a Hampton Inn to you?

Is this a hampton inn

Because it’s a Hampton. Weird, huh? But beautiful, and it was our last stop on the way home from our family vacation. We frequent Hampton Inns because of Chuck’s hotel points, but this was unlike any chain hotel I’d ever stayed. Originally the Col Alto Mansion, this hotel in Lexington, Virginia, which is also a bed and breakfast, is on seven acres of gorgeous property down the street from Washington and Lee University.

Hampton Bed and Breakfast

Pipe break at the Hampton

We arrived late and left early but still managed to allow the boys time to swim, time for me to work out in the fitness center, and time to get off the interstate and out of the rental car.

Nightswimming

Swimming at sundown

Our original plans for a summer vacation were much grander. We thought we’d take the boys to New York City, and perhaps we’d take a drive down the eastern coast. But the more we thought about it, and the more we added up the price tag, we realized that a laid-back week of play and rest was just enough. Swimming, horseback riding, and a night at an amusement park, all while being the company of my parents, was all we needed.

Porch sitting

A Night at Hershey Park

Keeping our fingers crossed for no rain, we drove an hour and a half northwestward to Hershey, Pennsylvania, for discounted evening tickets to the theme park. After 5 p.m. patrons can buy “sunset tickets” (i.e., half price) and still have a good five hours of roller coaster riding. There ended up being little bits of rain, but nothing that made us pack up and leave.

Milton Hershey Hershey World of Chocolate Jackson and Reeses

The first thing we did was go into Hershey’s World of Chocolate, and the second thing we did was leave Hershey’s World of Chocolate. Expensive, overpriced activities and long lines weren’t worth it. Yes, we forewent spending $22 to “Make your own chocolate bar.” I considered very briefly that I’d pay for both boys to make their own chocolate bar, but when I was told that I couldn’t accompany them in the assembly line (for picture-taking, for keeping an eye on my children) without paying my own $22, even if I didn’t make a chocolate bar, I said, “Nope!” and off we went to the rides.

The rest of the experience was worthwhile. The lines weren’t long, the brief bit of rain cooled everyone off, and both boys were stoked to ride everything they could. In the photo below, Jeremy and Jackson are in the front seats and Chuck is in the second. Arms up!

First two rows

Chuck is done with roller coasters

Mom and I took it easy on the ferris wheel and other slower-paced rides that allowed us to take an obscene amount of photos from above.

Me and Mom at Hershey Park

Ferris Wheel from below On the swings

This is Chuck making fun of our picture-taking. Sheesh! Tourists.

Chuck making fun

Hershey Park is a unique combination of theme park and water park. We didn’t do the water park bit since it closes at 8 p.m., but that’s the part that makes sense for being there all day. Ride a few things, go to the water park area, go back to the coasters, etc. Paying $60+ for full day tickets seem worth it for two-parks-in-one.

Over Hershey Park

Okay, let’s take a moment to observe Fahrenheit, a ride that starts with a significant vertical drop. Jeremy and Chuck rode it first, then Chuck dropped out of that nonsense and Jackson joined in. The boys rode it several times like crazy people.

Fahrenheit

Fahrenheit from above

Yeah, I didn’t ride that one, but I loved seeing the boys’ enthusiasm for roller coasters. More so, I loved that they rode them together.

The only roller coasters I enjoy are the old-school up-and-down wooden rails, none of this upside-down, curly-fry stuff. Which is why there was no way I was going to ride Storm Runner. It had an insane take-off. They are in the fourth row:

For a stellar point of view of this ride (from someone else), here it is in full:

The best photos I took at Hershey Park are of Jeremy and Jackson on Wildcat. I snuck in the queue (which was empty) and positioned myself to see them on a downturn. They are in the front row. Priceless.

Boys in the front seat

Best photo on the roller coaster

Before the park closed at 10 p.m. we enjoyed deep-fried funnel cake smothered in Hershey’s chocolate syrup, Reese’s cups, and God knows what else. I ate two fried Oreos entirely on my own. At the end of the night we were exhausted with sore feet and stiff backs, but the sunset tickets were absolutely worth it.

Swings at night

Kid-Free Day in Downtown Philly

Our daily life and routine is unique, so date nights are rare, which is unfortunate because Chuck and I really enjoy dating each other. It’s one of our favorite hobbies.

With childcare secured (yay grandparents!), my husband and I were able to spend about nine hours (NINE HOURS) without the boys. We went to King of Prussia (Primark!) and then to downtown Philly to tool around in whatever we could find. No real agenda, but that’s pretty much how we roll on vacation.

Being so close to Independence Day, Philadelphia was properly decorated.

American flags in Philly

American flags in Chinatown

Steeple

Smoke stacks Malice and charity

Brick drawings

The most interesting area we saw was Elfreth’s Alley in Old City, the country’s oldest continually inhabited residential street. It’s been lovingly kept to standard.

Elfreths American flags on Elfreth Patriotic windows

Elfreths's Alley

The drizzle was annoying, but we missed any sort of downpour. That meant the streets weren’t packed with tourists and locals. We roamed around Old City until our feet hurt.

Looking at Camden Old City at night

Date night in Philly

A Sunday afternoon of horseback riding

Last week, on the first full day with my parents, we went horseback riding. As a family we’d only been once beforehand, and Jackson did not ride his own horse. This time around, we let him have a go at riding on his own and did a great job balancing on the saddle. (Balancing and coordination are not his best skill sets!) He kept tethered to the lead horse and did a great job all around.

Jackson and TAT

Of course my animal-loving son was loving every minute.

Jeremy and his horse

A horse’s eyelashes are the most beautiful:

Equine eyelashes

Look into my camera

Petting Jeremy's horse

Chuck on his horse

Walking in a line

Riding through the creek was the best:

Through the river

We rode for an hour, which was just enough for these inexperienced bodies. The weather was perfect and the horses were precious. Such a great way to start our vacation 

Horseback riding in Philly

463 Photos. Here is the first.

I took a crap-ton of pictures on our vacation. Way more than I should have, but sometimes I just can’t control myself. It’ll take a few days to upload, edit and post them, so hang in there, cause I know you’re SO excited to see photos of my boys standing in front of the White House.

This single photo was the only one taken on my birthday, not with my camera but with our new iPad. I have to say – we’ve come a long way from the Speak ‘N Spell.

*The photo was taken somewhere in New England. Special thanks to my parents who kept the boys for four days so we could enjoy riding in a quiet car. 

**Happy Weekend!

Isle of Palms and Charleston – Day One

Let’s start with this, shall we?

A mini-trip to the Isle of Palms, South Carolina, has been planned for two months – ever since Karin reached near-meltdown and I resolved that my years-long separation from the ocean had been darn near long enough. We found a deal, saved the cash and blew out of town for the weekend.

It was a seven-hour drive, which is in the middle of “a quick drive” and “too far.” We left early Saturday morning and were seaside by 2:30 p.m. Chuck arranged for us to enjoy massages upon arrival (isn’t he adorable?), and afterwards we settled ourselves in the sand.

Despite being on vacation, I knew getting up with the sun was necessary for me. Karin enjoyed the extra sleep while I enjoyed a personal Sunrise Spectacular with The Creator.

The only other onlookers were dedicated runners (God love them!) and sweethearts walking hand-in-hand. There was also the occasional dog owner tossing a tennis ball into the ocean for his retriever.

We specifically chose a beachfront hotel for this reason – the flexibility to do what we each wanted without disturbing the other. Even though I woke up earlier than Karin, we were both ready for beach bumming by 8 a.m. in order to maximize our very short time.

By the afternoon we forced ourselves to clean up and drive 20 minutes to Charleston (to be pronounced with a long southern draw, like Chaawlston). Already in love with Savannah, I knew I’d love Charleston, which is a much larger city with equal the charm. With only hours to spend there, we drove around before parking to walk in an attempt to see as much as possible. On reference from an old high school friend, we enjoyed a lovely dinner at Fleet Landing and watched a partial sunset on a nearby pier.

The architecture of the Old South is so romantic.

When the sun started to set, we drove back to the Isle of Palms to finish the evening on the beach. People were still swimming, still frolicking, still trying to hang on to every second in the sand. I don’t blame them. Having never been a real beach person before, I’m surprised at how much I enjoyed just sitting and listening to the waves. It was intoxicating.

I have a dozen more photos to share, but I’ll save Day Two for tomorrow. The second sunrise was even prettier.