Another summer, another amazing summer vacation! That's right, folks - the tradition of the annual family road trip continues! And continues to be an unquestionable success. What did we do this year? I believe the question you should be asking is actually what didn't we do!
We started with a few days in and around DC, where besides the always welcome delights of my mom's pool,
we checked out a re-enactment of one of the battles of the War of 1812 (you remember - that's the super opportunistic war a very young America decided to fight against England while most of England's resources were dealing with the small matter of Napoleon conquering half of Europe). And by checked out, I of course mean that the kids got a crash course in how to man a 19th century 3 pound cannon. Here's Lara being a rammer (the one who rams the power and ball in) and Jake on ventsman duty (the one who sits with his thumb on the vent hole preventing fire from catching until the ball is ready to be shot):
From there it was on to Shenandoah National Forest, with its amazing mountain views:
we camped next to a grove of bushes that was home to a doe and her fawn (the deer there have no fear at all of humans. They're basically overgrown pets at this point, really);
the kids got to explore nature trails as Junior Park Rangers (which is a fantastic program that everyone who goes to a National Park should totally sign up for. It's amazing - for $5/day, you get to borrow binoculars, activity books, maps, guides to flora and fauna, and a cool backpack to tote it all around in);
and we drove over to Luray Caverns to check out this utterly otherworldly and unbelievable cavern and its uncountable myriads of stalactites and stalagmites. By the way, in this picture? There are no stalagmites - the bottom is actually a completely mirror-like reflection of the top in the world's clearest underground lake:
Whoever designed the lighting in this place needs some kind of award, by the way:
Later, after a few failed attempts, we built a satisfyingly big fire and then watched it burn late into the night. Do you have that same primordial fascination with fire? I could stare at it for hours... and did.
On the way out? We saw a bear. A BEAR!!! We were in our car, but still: BEAR!
From Shenandoah to Asheville, NC, to the gorgeous house and lovely company of Misha's aunt Jane.
You guys, Asheville - or at least the way we lived it via Jane's amazing hosting abilities - is idyllic.
We swam in and boated on this beautiful, clear lake. By the way, have you noticed the sky in every picture? We had ideal weather during our whole trip. Amazing.
In the city itself, we ate delicious tacos at the White Duck Taco Shop (definitely worth a stop) and yummy Nutella and berry crepes in the serene garden of the Creperie Bouchon.
And then this crazy thing happened: Lara's splash pad joy got her onto the front page of the Asheville Citizen-Times! The onrush of fame and fortune may then have slightly gone to her head...
The next day, we had some fun at the huge and generally awesome North Carolina Arboretum:
Jake got to be an entomologist for the day (there is a great kids program there which lets you borrow one of several types of naturalist kits)... but maybe not the world's best one quite yet, since he would mostly run away from any bugs he saw rather than catching them in his net and looking at them under the magnifying glass:
Lara made a more successful ornithologist, what with her already abiding interest in all things bird. Honestly, I have spent 36 years of my life not paying the slightest attention to birds, but she has somehow made them totally fascinating for me with her explanations of their behavior - and her ability to identify them!
And finally, for the last bit of the trip: the beach! No summer vacation would be complete without it. We spent a wonderful day in the very warm water in Virginia Beach, which I have to report was delightfully - and surprisingly - not at all Ocean-City-like. Just very soft sand, lots of relaxed families, and an ocean that no one wanted to leave.
Good bye, summer vacation! We'll miss you!