Saturday, April 15, 2006

NJ/PA with the kids

Last weekend's destination was Point Pleasant, New Jersey, with its quaint restored/revamped downtown and its classic family amusement area along the boardwalk. What a great place to take the kids! My in-laws live there so we get up there several times a year and this visit was the best yet as far as the kids were concerned. JieJie is 4 and MeiMei is almost 3, and the magic of the small amusement pier was almost more than they could handle--it was so much fun to watch them.

Saturday it rained, boo. We made do with a trip to Home Depot, too much tv, and some naps. Sunday, Palm Sunday, was another matter. Church service at Harvey Memorial followed by lunch and rest time (gramma watched JieJie so Chris and I could stroll the downtown and stop by Leoni's catering for Italian specialties). When MeiMei woke up, we headed for the beach and boardwalk, Jenkinson's amusement pier. My husband worked there as a kid, so to see him there with our girls is a big part of the joy of a visit there. As soon as our girls saw the rides from the parking lot (which now has a really handy way to pay for parking, a kiosk that takes cash and plastic) they just went ballistic. Little one is saying "I not scared, I big girl! I go on wheel!" The ride tickets are relatively expensive but you know what? We go so seldom, who cares??? We bought enough for each girl to go on 3 rides. JieJie picked the fish, the merry go round, and the flying elephant ride. Kudos to the attendant for letting my husband go with her even though we didn't have enough tickets for him. MeiMei didn't want to go on the up-and-down fish, too scary. She went on the merry go round, loved it. Then she went on the little horse-and-buggies that just go around, nothing fancy, and the fire engines (see horse-and-buggies). Then it was time for a little snack. The girls shared a serving of Dippin Dots (they totally gave them extra, it was so sweet) and John and I shared a Kohr's chocolate peanut butter custard. We only stayed an hour, but it was an hour of absolute bliss--if you're ever on your way up the Jersey Shore with kids, stop in Point Pleasant! Oh - and don't forget Mueller's Bakery in Bay Head for sweets on your way out of town, too. John's Oma used to work there and when I asked whether she ever gave him free sweets, he said "oh, all the time!" Of course--what are grandmas for?

LITITZ, PA: Our stopover on the way back to Virginia. We intended to tour the pretzel factory there but they weren't giving tours that Monday so we headed for the Wilbur chocolate factory instead. Ever heard of "Wilbur Buds?" They're like Hershey Kisses, very good. There is a room with a big window and the girls watched people dipping various things in melted chocolate. Other than that, there wasn't much for a 3 and 4 year old to be all that interested in. Stopped at a restaurant across the street - good food but John thinks he might have gotten his stomach a little torn up from the dressing on his chicken & tortellini salad. Waitress was SO nice although she did ask the question: "are they sisters?" To which of course we answered YES! Then she asked how old they were when we adopted them and you should've seen the look on her face when we said the little one was 16 months and the big one was 8 1/2 months. Puzzled, to say the least. But that's her mystery to solve. We were more concerned with avoiding meltdowns on the rest of the trip. I would definitely stop in Lititz again (PA Dutch country, Lancaster County) though we both agreed the girls are still not old enough for a stop-and-tour. Live and learn, I guess!

Next trip: The Twin Cities by way of Alabama!

Cherry Blossoms in DC

In keeping with the theme of this blog, I am interrupting the China redux to post on a more recent trip. At the end of March, my husband and I got away for an overnight to nearby Washington, DC. My mom was in town and we were so looking forward to some grownup time. Found out the hard way that I'm allergic to my allergy medicine (tree pollen am I smart to go for the cherry blossom festival or WHAT?) and didn't enjoy the trip quite as much as I'd hoped, but here's the report:

LODGING: Hotel Lombardy, near the campus of my alma mater The George Washington University, not far from the White House either. Unfortunately, hotel gets a D- for everything except the tremendously comfortable bed and pillows which were like a dream. Why the low grade? Each time the hotel staff had an opportunity to provide great service, they failed. They advertised a "cherry blossom special" on their website but it appeared that the webmaster forgot to tell the front desk staff what was being advertised. We were supposed to get complimentary breakfast and a commemorative box of chocolate covered cherries - sounded perfect, a little something nice for a good rate. WELL...asked concierge to call Kinkead's and make a dinner reservation and was assured we'd be able to get in earlier than the 9pm available on so we didn't make our own reservation. Checked into the hotel, asked about the reservation and got a blank stare from the attendant at the desk. She said she'd call and confirm, then call our room. No reservation had been made, so we're stuck at 5pm on a Friday during cherry blossom festival trying to find a reservation for dinner in one of the country's busiest restaurant towns. Room itself was so comfy-cozy, no complaints there, and for that reason (and convenient location) I will actually give this place another chance. Next problem: breakfast. Breakfast room was understaffed. We were not seated nor directed to seat ourselves. We finally sat down at a table that needed to be cleared. Nobody came to take a beverage order. Wondering how they know we are supposed to get complimentary breakfast. Found hotel manager who was doubling as a porter as they appeared terribly understaffed (I assume this is an industry-wide problem in DC) and she hand-wrote us the certificates ("didn't someone slip those under your door last night?" Uh, no.). Back to the breakfast room, bussed my own table because I was tired of looking at someone else's used coffee cup. Hotel manager comes in, I flag her down, SHE brings us our drinks (best fresh-squeezed juice we have EVER had) and finally the poor waitress comes over and takes our breakfast order. Last gaffe: no chocolates. Was dreading asking the manager, and when I did she said "can I mail them to you? I don't have access to those at the moment." Ok, fine. She did send them and they were delicious, but come on.

DINNER: McCormick & Schmick's on K Street. Would definitely eat there again though perhaps not with kids. 8:45 reservation was earliest we could get (see Hotel Lombardy concierge) but we enjoyed the oyster assortment and some drinks. Since we didn't have the little ones along, we didn't mind just sitting and chatting while we waited for our table.

OUT AND ABOUT: Took Metro to the Freer Gallery to see the Hokusai exhibit and it was really great, very well done. The Smithsonian is worth planning a week around, and just being on the national Mall reminded us how much we need to bring the girls up here for a day trip. What a pedestrian-friendly city DC is.

Over & Out

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