As is the norm when I return from vacation, I need some time to get my life together before I recap. Not only do I have tons of pictures to weed through, but we also have quite a bit going on this week to keep me from being glued to my laptop. So, I bring you this preview post to whet your appetite, and the rest of this week will be recaps of other things (I might actually even go out of chronological order, which may make me break out in hives, but sometimes you just have to live a little, right?). Then next week, we'll talk Pennsylvania in depth. Everybody cool with that?
In the meantime, this is the CliffsNotes version of how things went down this weekend:
We left at the crack of dawn on Friday and made perfect time to Hershey, Pennsylvania. We arrived right as Hershey World opened (a wise choice), so we breezed through the Chocolate World Tour and then had time to get our Masters degrees in Chocolate Tasting on the Chocolate Tasting Adventure. That also means we ate chocolate at 9:00 in the morning, so that was a fun way to start vacation/my birthday!
Eric receiving his Chocolate Tasting diploma
After Hershey we made a quick lunch stop, then it was on to Gettysburg. We hit up the gift shop right away, where we purchased an audio tour to listen to in our rental car as we drove through the battlefields. It was beastly hot thanks to a heat wave in the Northeast, so we were pretty glad we opted for the air-conditioned auto tour, rather than the "dress-up-in-soldier-uniforms-and-ride-a-horse" tours we had previously considered. Gettysburg was beautiful, and we took a bit longer going through things than we anticipated so we were a little rushed at the end, but we did get to see everything we wanted to see. My favorite spot was Little Round Top - it's so amazing to stand on that ground and imagine what happened there all those years ago. Wow.
Hanging out with Lincoln
Surveying the battlefields
Robert E. Lee statue
Little Round Top
We got a little turned around on our way out of Gettysburg, and that coupled with our late departure and the rain delayed our arrival to Pittsburgh by about an hour from what we had been hoping for. But, we made it safe and sound. We were the second-to-last to arrive at the family reunion, and as soon as my cousin Jacob and his wife Zita arrived, we celebrated all of the birthdays in my family. There's a whole clump of us with birthdays on July 21 and 22 (myself included, as well as my "little" cousin who celebrated his 21st this year!), plus more in August, so we always have a big joint birthday cake. Mmm, cake.
How many people does it take to blow out one candle?
We had planned to take my newly-21-year-old cousin out on the town for his birthday, but it ended up being a much later night than we expected so we ended up just sticking around the house. All of us cousins went outside and hung out around the firepit, drinking beer and catching up. It's always so great to see these people!
Cousins around a fire
How is my cousin 21 already? It seems like he was just born! But, I was eight years old at the time, so I guess time has passed, hasn't it?
Saturday was our Pittsburgh Sightseeing Day. Our family split into two groups, and my aunt and uncle led a great tour for my group. We started at the top of Mount Washington for great views of Pittsburgh, then walked across the bridges and around the Cultural District, with a stop at the Toonseum.
Enjoying the Pittsburgh scenery
One of the bridges we walked across
Fun with statues in the Toonseum
The Pittsburgh Transformer, made of (or to resemble?) pieces of the bridges
We had tickets to the Pirates game at PNC Park that night, and my aunt and uncle had the great idea that we should tailgate beforehand. So, after our sightseeing we went back to the parking lot, where we fired up the grill, cracked open some beers, ate some hot dogs and roasted marshmallows for s'mores.
Uncle Mark serving as grill master
Then it was time for the baseball game, which brought Eric's "MLB Stadiums Visited" count up to 14. The Pirates lost, but we had great seats at the game and very much enjoyed the Pierogi Race. The lovely (but hot) evening ended with a beautiful fireworks display.
In PNC Park
Sunday morning we all went to church, then out to brunch. We returned home for some horseshoes and family photos, then it was time to bid everyone farewell.
My family (minus a few)!
Goofy photo time!
Looking out at Philadelphia from the top of the Art Museum steps
We found our hotel pretty easily and got checked in. From that point on, the rest of the night was a lesson in Murphy's Law. That's all I'll say about that for now.
Monday we did lots of Philly sightseeing, starting with the historic stuff: Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Declaration House, etc. We also walked downtown a bit, past City Hall and that famous LOVE statue.
We then took the subway to Citizens Bank Field for a Phillies game, which means Eric has now officially visited half of the 30 MLB stadiums. Way to go, Eric!
At the Phillies game
We left the game early, then went back to the Historic District for a quick walk through the National Constitution Center, where we perused the exhibits and hung out with signers of the Constitution. You know, the usual.
Eric and Ben Franklin
By that time, we were spent, so we retrieved our rental car from the hotel and made our way back to New York. It was a great trip!