DC Trip for Norma’s Birthday

DC Trip for Norma’s Birthday

We headed south for the weekend to celebrate Norma’s birthday and do some sightseeing down at our nation’s capital. Being that it is only 4.5 hours away, it was just at a good distance away for a half day’s drive. We tried to cram in as many sites as possible that Mateo’s and Mommy’s little feet could bear with all the walking that was required. Here are the highlights:

Day 1 – Friday

We arrived around 3pm and checked into the Hilton in Old Town, Alexandria. Great location with tons of shops, restaurants, and a waterfront all down King st. I wanted to show Norma the best that exemplifies the Marine Corps – so we took the metro over to Marine Barracks at 8th & I to catch the summer-only  Friday evening parade.  We didn’t have a reservation but met a really nice Staff Seargent decked out in his Dress Blues at the entrance that gave us free tickets so we didn’t have to chance it in the General Admission line. We chatted up with an old Korea-era vet while waiting for the parade to start, hoping the forecast for rain wouldn’t come true.  We got to hear some great marches and standards by the Marine Drum & Bugle Corps and the Presiden’t Own Band after which time Company A and B filed out in prep for the finale of the Silent Drill Team when the rain started coming down pretty good. They cut short the parade and didn’t get a chance to see the drill team but we had a blast anyway.

Day 2 – Saturday

We started the day with room service for breakfast and then headed out early to head out for our main day of sightseeing. Our first stop was the National Museum of Natural History which Mateo loved, especially the dinosaur and mammals sections. He even got to see a live tarantula feeding which scared the beejubus out of Norma. We ate lunch at the museum then headed out to see the Washington Monument and then took a short stroll north to pose in front of the White House and fist-bump Obama. Norma wore the wrong shoes so her feet were on-fire right about then due to all the walking we did, so we snuck a cab to head over to the Capital posing for pics and then a shorter stroll over to the National Archives and see the real-deal copies of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.

We were pooped and then headed back to the hotel to relax for bit before going out to dinner down at the Charthouse on the Potomac waterfront. We  ate well and celebrated with a birthday chocolate lava cake for Norma before heading back home on the Trolley and calling it a night.

 

Day 3 – Sunday

I think everyone was sore from all the previous day’s walking, so we got up a little later and found a cute diner in Old Town, Alexandria to eat breakfast. We headed out for the last bit of sightseeing at the Lincoln Memorial and Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial towards the west side of the National Mall. There were lots of people but we got some great photos of the memorials and of the long length of the mall.

It was a great birthday weekend from start to end. Sore feet and all, there was so much to do – really almost too much to do, that we will probably be back one day to get a chance to see more wonderful sights and history.

More pics here in the gallery.

Disney Cruise – Days 7-8 (Sea Days and Coming Home)

Disney Cruise – Days 7-8 (Sea Days and Coming Home)

The last two days were calm and relaxing sea days back home to NYC. We had lots of relaxing time winding down from our port of calls walking around the ship, playing bingo, going to the pool and most importantly – getting Mateo’s sign-book autographed with all the Disney characters we visited.

There was one more theme dinner for a dress-up night and the last theme-breakfast where all the Disney characters come around to your table if you had not had a chance to see them throughout your visit.

The trip was not just one of the best family vacations we’ve ever done, but one of the best overall. Disney thinks of absolutely everything and there are enough family and adult-only activities that we never struggled to find something to do that was of interest to all. Mateo especially had a time to remember and his constant smile and laugh were all we needed to know if it was worth the trip. We loved it so much we signed up for another cruise for the same time next year :)

More pictures than what was posted here on the blog are at our photo gallery.

Disney Cruise – Days 4-6 (Bahamas, Castaway Cay, DisneyWorld)

Disney Cruise – Days 4-6 (Bahamas, Castaway Cay, DisneyWorld)

So began the busiest portion of our cruise with 3 straight days of Port o’ Calls. We started with a stop at the Bahamas were we decided to visit the Atlantis mega-resort complex to see the Aquarium, beaches & pools. While the resort was gorgeous to look at – it was a pretty crowded affair. We broke off from our tour and decided to go it alone and had a great time seeing the sights at our own pace.

Back on the ship that evening was pirate night for which Mateo was very much looking forward to. The whole family got dressed up as pirates and we celebrated with a theme dinner and a pretty awesome pool deck party with fireworks.

The second port of call was at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. Here we got to relax all day on the beach where no one but folks from our boat where on. The setup was great with lunch provided and include some light snorkeling and sandcastle building. The is was a good stop to just relax since the last few days had been pretty jam packed with activities. At Dinner – Mommy and Daddy had some alone time at the ship’s adult-only restaurant, eating delicious food while watching the sunset go down over the ocean.

The last port of call was a one-day, all-day (8am-Midnight) stop at Disney World in Orlando. It was hot, humid and somewhat crowded but we made the best of it all visiting the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom together. We did a few rides together but most likely took in sights while taking lots of pictures as it was hard to do that much walking with a 3 year old in a stroller in the Florida heat :) We got back late that evening but were glad to see the comfort of our cabin beds after such a long day. better

Disney Cruise – Days 2 & 3 (Sea Days)

The first sea day began getting familiar with the ship layout and finding our way to the breakfast buffet as the ship made its way down to the Caribbean. Weather was great with not much movement of the boat, but Mommy felt a little queasy later on in the day. Mateo got to check himself into the Kid’s Club and started to make new friends abound.  3 years old is the earliest club age so we were worried about potty time on his own, but he did great the whole time. The highlight was obviously the pool. Not much can be said for a 3-year old and a pool:) Can you tell how happy he was by the photos?? LOL

Daddy woke up early on the second day to take pictures of the Atlantic Ocean and practice his photography while Mateo and Mommy slept in. Lunch is a free-for-all to whichever restaurant you choose or eating at the pool deck for quick bites. Dinner on the other hand was predefined according to our schedule and the great thing about Disney is that your servers follow you from restaurant to restaurant every night and get to know your likes/dislikes.

The second sea day was also “Formal” night so the whole family got dressed up to the nines and we went around looking dapper in our tuxes and elegant in Mommy’s dress to meet some Disney characters prior to eating dinner. Lots of families were dressed up and we made good friends all around.

Disney Cruise – Day 1 (Onboarding)

So we weren’t even 3 days removed from just moving our entire home from Ohio to New Jersey when we turned right around and headed out on our first cruise ever for the first cruiseliner ever to leave from NYC with Disney Cruise lines. To make a long story short if you don’t want to read the daily updates – if you have kids, this is the best vacation, not just cruise, you can ever take with children. We were a little skeptical at first thinking there wouldn’t be much for adults to do, or we be bombarded with little terrors going rupshot all over the ship, but it was nothing of the sort.

To start the day – we got into our Limo for a short trip down to the Seaport. It just also happened to be Fleet Week so we got an extra special treat waiting for the Disney Magic to pull in and we went over to the USS Intrepid to see all the military showcases, exhibits, and sailboats from other countries. Soon enough the Disney Magic pulled into port with high fare and horns a blowing. Mateo was giddy and jumping all around just dying to get onto the ship. Onboarding was about as smooth as can be with 5,000 people all ready to get on but we got settled quickly – got our Key-to-the-World card (or the moneypit as we ended up calling it) for our room and headed in to get the lay of the ship.

First order of biz was to get Mateo checked-in with the Kid’s Club. They put a lo-jack GPS bracelet on him for which we could locate him no matter where he was on the ship. The Kid’s Club was great as the hours generally go from 9am to 12midnight, including days in port. You can drop off or pick up at any time and they even had a pick-up service during dinner time to let adults enjoy their meal. The clubs are broken into age-specific groups with a Nursery, 3-5 yrs old, 5-7, 8-12, and a Teen Club. Everyday you get a schedule of each club’s activities and events so Mateo’s day’s were going to be packed with character visits, games, disney movies and everything in between.

The ship itself was huge to us but smaller than Disney’s newest ships (Fantasy & Dream). The top deck is the pool section broken into baby-sprinkler section, family pool, and adult-only pool. There was a bunch of eateries up top with all food free-of-charge, a spa for Mommy, and sports section with basketball court. Our room was on the 7th deck-aft and it was a good choice as most of the kid’s activities and water-soda fountain were near us. It was also near the elevator (big deal) for convenience and port side (starboard would have been top choice as it has washer/dryer there and better views when docked). The room itself was pretty big and with a bed, fold out and drop-down bed options – there be no prob with a family of 5 sleeping in there.  The Disney difference is with the dual-bathrooms which is unheard in other cruise lines. When traveling with kids – this alone is a must-have.

We settled in and had our first sit down dinner in Parrot Cay and then noticed good thing about Disney cruise – was that the wait-staff follows your family every night of the cruise even when dining in different restaurants. Our two waitresses (Shauntell & Daisy) were awesome and overly attentive.

 

L.A. Family Visit

Mateo and Mommy took one last 2011 trip to sunny So. Cal to visit family and friends.  It had been almost a year since our last visit and we couldn’t wait to see everyone and eat some good (fatty) food. Diego picked us up at the airport and our fist stop was getting an In-n-Out burger! yes.. double double with grilled onion!

Mateo had fun playing with his cousins Diego and Brianna and eating Titi Hilda’s yummy food (hello.. albondigas and arroz con leche). The weather was great, except for the last day when we decided to go to the beach with Titi Carmen and it was overcast.. we still had lots of fun and Mateo loved playing in the sand.

We both missed Daddy very much and were super excited to see him back in Ohio.  Maybe next time we can all travel together… and visit more often.

Thank you Titi Hilda for taking care of us…