Sunday, October 9, 2016

Doggy Adventures In Shenandoah

It's finally feeling like fall around here, so we decided to take advantage of the little bit of good weather we've had lately and took a quick trip this past weekend. This time, the doggies came with, too!

Giz figured out that he could stick his head out the window while we drove. I don't know why it took him so long to figure out that this was a thing. A bit of driving later...

...we were hiking in Shenandoah National Park. Wembles made sure to thoroughly inspect this log at the beginning of the hike.

We decided to start the trip with the Hawksbill Summit Loop. It's about 3 miles long and takes you to the top of Hawksbill, which is the highest point in Shenandoah at 4049'. The first mile or so is pretty steep...

...but the view is worth it. The dogs did pretty well with the climb, though Bacon was moving a bit slower than the other two. She would walk for a little while, then suddenly realize that the other two dogs and Mark were way far ahead, then sprint up the hill to catch up with them. No wonder she was getting tired!

We took a short break at the top to enjoy the view and make sure the doggies got some water.

Mark made sure the wiener dogs could enjoy the view, too.   :)

This is about as close to a nicely posed picture as we can get with these two...they never want to sit still!

We walked over for a quick peek at one of the other views, then made our way toward the trail back down the mountain.

There was a really nice view out to the west at the beginning of the trail.

This was the first time any of the dogs had been on this trail, and they all handled it pretty well. There were a few spots that were pretty rocky, but they all seemed to handle weaving around the rocks just fine.

Wembles liked to stop to sniff things when we got to one of the rockier parts.

These berries were all over the place along the trail. Some of the leaves were just starting to turn yellow, too. It's going to be really pretty in a couple weeks!

Toward the end of the hike the dogs were starting to get a little tired. We had to pick them all up to cross one especially rocky section of the trail. I guess 3 miles is a decent distance for those tiny legs.

My camera lens fogged up when I took this picture, but by the time we got back to the car Wembles was ready for a break. She just stood there and stared at the door until we opened it so she could get in. Very subtle.   :)

After the hike, we drove a few minutes along Skyline Drive, made a quick stop at the Skyland office, then...

...went to our hotel room! We were able to book a pet-friendly room again, so we would be spending the night like we did last year.

We were in the same building (though a different room), and the views were just as good as I remembered. We hung out for a while in the room to get the dogs settled in before heading out to dinner.

It was really pretty as the sun started to set.

Mark and I got the dogs settled in, then walked back up to the Dining Room for dinner. Everything was pretty tasty. They had cloggers dancing in the Taproom, so we wound up grabbing a drink and watching them for a little while, too, before heading back to the room for the night.

Gee, sure is tough being a tiny wiener dog...we spent the night watching some goofy reality TV before heading to bed a bit early.

We knew it was going to be cloudy the next day, but we didn't know until we woke up the next morning that we would be IN the cloud. This was the view on the walk up to the Dining Hall for breakfast.

It may not have been as scenic as normal, but at least there was coffee! Breakfast was really good, and we took a quick walk through the gift shop before heading back to the room.

Yup, still foggy. We had originally planned to take the dogs hiking again, but it was so cold and damp that we decided to just pack up and head home instead. It stayed pretty foggy until the road started to slope back down a bit.

Most of the overlooks were completely fogged in, but once in a while you could see down into the valley to the west.

This was looking out toward the northeast. We eventually dropped down below the clouds and made our way back home. It would have been fun to hike a bit more, but it was also nice to be home from a trip and still have the whole afternoon free. I'm hoping to get back out there for some more hiking should be really pretty once the leaves start to change!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

September 14th and 15th: All the Things, Then Home

I won't lie; it was hard to get out of bed the next morning. I could have slept all day! But it was our last day in the city and we wanted to make the most of it, so I dragged myself out of bed and we went down the street for breakfast.

The weather was pretty nice, so we grabbed a table outside. I'm going to miss those croissants when we go home!

We spent a couple hours wandering through the cool shops on Mont-Royal before heading back to the apartment for snacks. We maaay have bought just a little too much stuff at Atwater the other day. Oops. After eating a bunch of snacks and arranging for a taxi to the airport for the next morning, we hopped back on the Metro and walked back down to the Vieux Port area...

 ...and back to the Peter Hart gallery. We bought one of his paintings a couple years ago, and his stuff is always really cool. I'd been hemming and hawing over one of the paintings since I saw it the day before and wanted to go back for another look. I actually wound up buying the painting hanging above it instead! The one I was originally looking at had more muted colors, but this one seemed so happy that I couldn't resist. They'll be shipping this one, so it should be hanging in our living room in a few weeks!

We wandered back up toward the shopping area and took a short break to sit near the fountains. The weather was way better than forecast, so it was nice to hang out and enjoy the view (and sit. Holy monkeys, was I hurting from all the walking the day before!). We eventually continued down Rue Sainte Catherine and made our way toward the giant mall.

They have a Lindt store, complete with chocolate that just runs out of these faucets. *drool*

We each got a drink from the Lindt store, then split a giant crepe before hitting up a few more stores, then walking a bit to our last big stop of the day...

...the Musee des Beaux-Arts de Montreal. We'd been here a couple years ago, too, and they had some fun stuff. The blue painting on the left reminded me of finger painting when I was a kid.

They have a cool area with weird modern art furniture, too. Mark really liked the wooden chairs on the right that were all tangled together.

This time we made it to a few other sections of the museum, too. I forgot to write down this artist's name, but he had a lot of neat landscapes.

It was getting a bit late in the day, so we made a couple more quick stops for 'souvenirs' (fancy liquors we can't get in the US haha) before heading out to dinner.

Mark's bartender lady had recommended le Chien Fumant, so we decided to grab dinner and drinks there. She was spot on...the food was amazing! We split a pork belly taco appetizer...

...and I had a fantastic mushroom risotto to round out dinner. It was ridiculously good. The restaurant was right on a corner in a mostly residential neighborhood, so we got to spend the meal watching people walk by with their dogs, which was pretty fun.

We made one more stop for the night: back to Lab! They had so many good drinks that it was hard to choose...we'll definitely have to come back here sometime. We behaved ourselves, though, and called it a night after one drink so we could go back to the apartment, pack, and get some sleep.

While it would have been nice to sleep later, the alarm went off at 4:30 the next morning and it was time to leave. Our taxi was early, security and customs were super easy, and by 7am we were boarding our flight back home.

Bye, Montreal...we'll be back again someday!

It would have been nice to get a direct flight, but the only option for that left at 6am and would have meant getting up at 3-something. No thanks! We connected through Charlotte instead. Both flights went really well (which was honestly surprising, since we were flying American and that had been a giant mess the last trip), and we had a long enough layover to grab a snack in between. We made it back to Dulles right on time, made a short stop at home for a snack, shower, and to pet the doggies, then went back in to work from 5 to 11pm. It had been a very long day, but it was worth it. The trip had been great, and it was a lot of fun to go back again!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

September 13th, Continued: More Walking!

We took the Metro back to the Vieux Port area, stopped for some coffee and gelato, then spent a little while wandering around the cool art galleries in the area. I somehow didn't take any pictures during this whole part of the day, but Montreal has some pretty fantastic art and we wound up buying a couple things. One piece was small enough to bring home with us on the plane, but the other one was pretty big so they'll be shipping it to us in a couple weeks. After a while we wanted a break from walking, so we took a bus to our next stop: dinner!

We went to Big In Japan for some tasty noodles. This was some kind of squash curry and I remember thinking "there's no way I can finish this" when they brought it to the table. I inhaled the whole thing. And ate Mark's mushrooms. I guess I was a little hungry.   :)

We made a quick stop back at the apartment after dinner. I grabbed this picture from the roof; it was getting dark, but we still had one more stop left for the day. Mark got us an Uber, and a short ride later...

We were walking through the Insectarium at the Botanical Gardens! I absolutely love this place; the Insectarium is one of the coolest museum-type things I've probably ever been to.

They still had the leaf cutter ants, too; we spent a few minutes watching them grab pieces of leaves and shuttle them across the vines running to the other plant near their nest. You can just kind of make out some of the ants on the leaves.

We were a little limited on time, but I made it through most of their display cases.

It's a bit hard to tell from this picture, but most of that tangled mess of sticks is actually stick bugs! They were huge, and there were so many of them.

I'm not sure what kind of bug this one was, but it made me smile. It looks like a banana.

 I looped around to a few more display cases before we left.

 I could probably spend a full day in here just looking at all of the bugs. The big attraction was waiting for us outside, though.

It was the Botanical Gardens' light display! We'd gone to this the first time we came to Montreal a couple years ago, and just before we left for this trip I realized we'd be able to see it again.

They do an awesome job with this. There are displays of lighted figures through a huge part of the Chinese Garden, and not just on the little pond. They're hidden in the trees and just off the path, too.

We made our way completely around the pond...

...before making our way over to the Japanese Garden. That section is a lot more subdued (and in some spots, slightly creepy), but it was still nice.

 We only had a few minutes left before the Botanical Gardens closed for the night, so we spent our last little bit of time in the Chinese Garden before taking the Metro back to the apartment for the night.

Despite all of the stuff we crammed into the day, it wasn't really that late. We hung out in the hot tub for a little while, finished our bottle of wine (and soaked our angry Fitbit showed over 35,000 steps for the day!), then spent the rest of the night listening to French pop music and eating a crazy good cinnamon roll we'd picked up at a random bakery early in the day. We'd managed to cram a lot into the day, and we still had one more full day left in the city!