EuroTrip 2013: Paris

The second leg of our journey took us from London to Paris. We took the Chunnel train, which was surprisingly quick and quiet. Not very scenic though, what with being underwater almost the whole time. We saw a bit of the French country-side on our way into Paris before arriving at Gare du Nord, a much more central location to start our trip than Charles de Gualle airport.  We reached downtown Paris around 4PM.

Our hotelIn Paris we stayed at Hotel Edouard VI, a nice hotel just across the street from the Montparnasse train station. This turned out to be very convenient because many different metro lines all run to that station, allowing us to travel the city’s metro system without ever having to make a transfer. We purchased a “carnet”, a set of 10 metro tickets at Gare du Nord for about 13 euros—they had been on sale for 15 pounds in London, so we were glad to have not purchased them there (a pound is about $1.60 USD while a euro is $1.30). Of course we had to wait in a long line in Paris to purchase the tickets, so perhaps it was a convenience fee.

The hotel was very easy to find (probably because this is the first time I’ve stayed at a hotel fancy enough to warrant a large sign outside the building), and cost us about 160 euros per night. We booked it quite late, so there weren’t many good options available to us.  Next time, book more than two weeks ahead! Despite that, the hotel was actually a bit cheaper than where we stayed in London due to the exchange rate, and was larger and fancier inside. We also paid a bit extra to get a “courtyard” room, which was supposed to be quieter than the side on the busy Montparnasse Boulevard plaza. As advertised, the room was very quiet, except for the periodic rumbling of metro trains deep below.


Since the London Eye had given us a nice overview in England, we thought we should do the same in Paris. We headed to the Eiffel Tower (AKA “the rusty ladder” as our British immigration officer had named it), and stopped for dinner at Cafe Gustave not far from the base. Megan was adventurous and had the steak tartare, while I had the duck confit. Both were quite good, as was the Pouilly Foumme wine that went with it. It was around 8PM when we reached the tower, still light enough to see, but starting to get dark. However, it was also starting to drizzle, and while we debated whether to climb the hundreds of steps up the tower, the drizzle turned to a downpour. We took that as a sign, and ran, huddled under our single umbrella, for the metro.


Of course, we got a bit lost on the way. Something that we learned even before leaving the train station upon our arrival to Paris was that the French are not very good at signage. Signs are rare, often point in confusing directions, and are generally incomplete. Of course they are also often only in French (even the information signs by the Metro maps explaining how to buy tickets). Around the Eiffel Tower, we couldn’t find any signs pointing to a metro. How many millions of tourists does that confuse each year? Normally I’m content to pull out a map or wander the streets until I happen upon a metro stop, but I’m less inclined to do so when it is pouring rain.

Eventually we did find the metro stop, although after having our tickets validated we were terrified to discover that the only trains that stopped there were the RER regional trains, not the standard metro lines. However, we soon realized that this was just another case of missing signs—if you happened to walk down to the far end of one of the platforms, there was a small sign indicating a tunnel that led to the regular metro stops. Each metro station is like a set of curving caves dug out by mole people. It can take several minutes (and many confusing turns) to navigate from one end to the other. Fortunately, the stations usually do have a map which indicates where each of the numbered exits lets out to the street. That is crucial since, for example, at Gare Montparnasse we could emerge right in front of our hotel, or more than a 5 minute walk (through the rain) away.

On Day 4, we slept in. Then we walked north towards St. Germaine, stopping for a crepe breakfast at a cafe along the way. We then walked to the Musee d’Orsee, a magnificent museum mostly holding impressionist art and statues. There was a huge line outside, so we spent about 20 minutes talking with a family from Minnesota (when we finally reached the ticket window they discovered that the “Paris Museum Pass” they had previously bought actually would have let them cut the line entirely). We paid 16 euros for a pass to both d’Orsee and l’Orangerie, a smaller museum near the Tuileries.


The museum is housed inside an old train station, which provides a massive hall to hold the statues, with rooms of paintings on each side. We skipped some sections because there is simply too much to see (although much less than at the Louvre), but we both enjoyed the impressionist works by artists like Monet, Manet, and Cesanne.

We’d hoped to eat lunch at the museum’s cafe, but the line there was quite long, so instead we headed back out into the rain in search of food. We found it in a cafe inside the Tuileries garden, Megan had a salad and I had a croque mouiseur (a ham sandwich with cheese melted on top). After lunch we continued on to Musee l’Orangerie. The reason to visit the museum is to see Monet’s water lilly paintings, which cover the walls in two large rooms. Each painting is at least twenty feet wide, and shows the lilies floating in water that reflects the sky at different times of day. Quite peaceful.

After the museum, we continued west up the Champs Elysees, a wide boulevard filled with trendy stores and tourists. We stopped at a cafe for a nutella and banana crepe, but we forgot to sit in the front to people watch. Instead, we were stuck watching FashionTV and a tennis match. We continued onward to the Arc de Triomphe, then hopped on the metro to head back to the hotel.

That evening we headed east on Boulevard du Montparnasse in search of dinner. We stopped at La Coupole, a seafood restaurant that was much larger on the inside than we had anticipated from its exterior. It also had pillars topped with artwork, which seemed to be drawing tourists with cameras, so perhaps we lucked out by picking a popular spot. We ate off of their prix fixed menu, and I braved the foie gras followed by a steak. I’d never had foie gras before, and to be honest, I don’t see what all the fuss is about. I prefer butter.  My steak, however, was delicious, and much better than Megan’s salmon (despite this being advertised as a seafood restaurant). Even so, we enjoyed our meal and the desserts (chocolate cake and peach soup) that came with it.

Notre Dame


On Day 5, we finally learned how to prevent sore feet and legs: take the metro. After a breakfast crepe, we hopped on outside our hotel and hopped off right outside Notre Dame… how convenient! Compared to English prices, we were pleasantly surprised to find that entry was free, although we did have to wait in a (fast moving) line for a few minutes. The church is smaller than the ones we visited in London, and not as filled with monuments to dead people, but it did have beautiful stained glass and stonework. A choir was also performing, which really added to the atmosphere.

Notre DameNotre DameNotre DameGargoyles

Lunch!We walked north off the small island in the Seine that holds Notre Dame and some other palaces (they are everywhere in this city). We followed the river bank and walked through the courtyard of the Louvre. We had decided not to visit the museum because we didn’t have the time to do it justice, but it was still nice to see the outside of the building (another gigantic palace), and the glass pyramid structures.  We picked up sandwiches for lunch and carried them to the Tuileries. It was still a cloudy cold day, but it was nice to sit by the flowers and enjoy our meal.

P1010811After lunch we headed to the metro, getting off near Montmartre. We made a quick stop at a cafe for drinks and ice cream before riding the funicular (easy on the feet) up the hill to Sacre Coeur. We toured the basilica, which was filled with beautiful decorative mosaics. Afterwards, we wandered through the curving cobblestoned streets of Montmartre, an area that feels distinctly Parisian. We passed artists, silhouettists, and caricaturists. I was tempted to stop for mussels at one of the restaurants in the square, but we simply weren’t hungry enough (a recurring, and deeply troubling problem throughout the trip).

We headed back to our hotel to take a rest and investigate dinner options. With the help of Yelp, we discovered that the nearby Rue de Montparnasse is filled with creperies, one of the best of which is Creperie Josselin. We could not resist the lure of crepes, and we were rewarded with a delicious (and surprisingly affordable) dinner. I had their signature crepe, which is filled with cheese, ham, and mushrooms.  Megan had a crepe with tomato and cheese. For dessert, Megan had a banana, rum flambe, while I had salted caramel. It was all quite delicious, and we wondered why we hadn’t found that street sooner! In total, we spent 50 euros for four crepes, tea, and a jug of wine (about half what we had spent the previous night).


After dinner we boarded the metro and took it to the Asemblee stop, near the Musee d’Orsee and the Siene.  As dusk fell we walked along the river, watching dinner cruise boats pass us by. As it darkened, the Eifel Tower gradually lit up. We ended our scenic walk at the metro stop by the tower, allowing us to easily hop on the #12 metro and ride it home.

The Rusty Ladder

EuroTrip 2013: London

At the end of May and start of June, Megan and I went on a trip to London, Paris, and Barcelona. We only had a few days in London and Paris, but we spent a full week in Barcelona where Megan was attending a conference. Here is the story of our travels.

Westminster AbbeyP1010615The London EyeView from the Eye

We arrived in London on Monday morning. We took the metro from heathrow to Victoria Station, not far from our hotel – the Luna Simone Hotel in the Belgravia area. Our small, but nice room was along a street filled with other hotels. We got a special deal (110 pounds / night instead of 140) by paying cash, thanks to the tip in Rick Steves’ guidebook, but London is still a pretty pricey place to stay.

It was a surprisingly sunny day, a stark contrast to the dark circles under our sleep deprived eyes. We headed out towards the Thames.  First we stopped back in at Victoria Station for lunch at a French cafe. Our bodies were still confused by the time change, but a light meal helped.  Slightly reinvigorated, we headed back out into the streets.

P1010626P1010632P1010636Crucial Hotel Accessory


Our plan was to ride the London Eye, a massive ferris wheel of sorts on the south shore of the river. The wheel turns very slowly, so it takes about 40 minutes to do the full circle. You ride inside a small glass capsule with space for about 30. We were afforded with some great views of most of London’s sights–Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Parliament, and Westminster Abbey. The lines outside the Eye were intimidating at first, but it wasn’t too bad–we spent about 10 minutes waiting in line to buy a ticket, which gave us a specific time to come back and line up. This gave us about 30 minutes free to wander around the nearby garden, which was packed with family’s eating picnics (it was a Bank holiday). We then waited another 30 minutes in the queue for the ride.

The immigration officer at Heathrow had recommended we go to both the Eye and to the London Dungeon, but one look made it clear that the latter was a tourist trap “museum”. Instead, we walked north across the Thames towards Trafalgar Square. We reached there in the late afternoon and discovered that a few hours later there would be a concert, but since people were already saving seats we decided to skip it.  Instead, we went into the National Gallery for afternoon tea. Megan and I each ordered the “cream tea”, which typically includes a pot of tea, a few scones, creamy butter, and jam. The pastries were quite delicious, and we both agreed that we may need to add afternoon teas into our schedules.

The tea’s caffeine was not nearly strong enough, so we made our way back to the hotel around 6PM. We promptly collapsed in bed and slept solidly… until around midnight when we both woke up again, wide awake from jetlag for a few hours.

St. Paul'sThe Globe TheaterMillenium BridgeThe Globe's Stage

Day 2 began with typical English weather and a typical English breakfast in our hotel. I had bacon (more like canadian bacon), a fried egg, and beans. Megan had two broiled eggs. Of course there was also tea and toast. The food was quite good, and very filling. We left the hotel around eight, and headed towards St. Paul’s cathedral, one of the few sites open before 9AM. The cathedral is quite gigantic (4th largest in Europe), with a massive dome rising 365 feet in the air. We paid the rather steep 15 pound entrance fee and wandered the hall and the crypt. The fee includes an audio guide, but both of us turned it off since it talked more about religion than history and architecture.  It was interesting to see the different sections, some keeping to the original architect’s clean simple lines, while others filled with Victorian-era extravagance. In the crypt below were burial spots for war heroes like Wellington and Nelson. We did not climb 500+ stairs to the top of dome – that probably would have made it more worth the entrance fee.

We departed the cathedral and went south to the Millennium Bridge (fortunately there was no sign of Death Eaters). Across the bridge we went to Shakespeare’s Globe Theater for a guided tour. The tour was quite well done, led by an actor with a good sense of humor and a decent amount of historical knowledge. I was amazed to learn how many people would have been packed into a theater that size: about 3000, most of whom would be the commoners standing in the mud in front of the stage. We also learned that the schedule of plays was made up almost day to day based on finicky crowds, so a single actor might play five different parts in six or seven different plays, all in one week! I knew that the theater there was not the original, but I hadn’t realized that this one had only been built in the 1990s, and before that there had only been a plaque on a wall nearby announcing the historical spot.

Afternoon Tea

After our tour of the theater and its museum, we walked over to the Tate modern art museum for lunch. We toured their surrealist gallery, but a lot of it was more on the abstract side, so nothing was overly impressive (but at least it was free!).  Rather than see more paintings that a two year old could have done, we headed back across the river to see Westminster Abbey. The weather was worsening, but luckily we were spending most of our time inside or underground.

Westminster Abbey was not cheap either (~16 pounds), but felt more worth the money. The church and neighboring buildings are filled with dead kings and queens, beautiful stained glass, a massive organ, an intricately carved wooden choir, memorials to famous poets and thinkers (Shakespeare, Jane Austin, Longfellow, Darwin, etc.), the coronation chair used for the last 700 years, and (most importantly) England’s oldest door (almost 1000 years old). We didn’t even bother trying the audio guide, but perhaps it would have been better than St. Paul’s. Instead, we followed the steps outlined in Rick Steves’ guidebook, which gave basic details about the different chapels and sights. Since it was mid afternoon, we concluded the tour with afternoon tea at the abbey’s cafe. This time we got the more elaborate mix of finger sandwiches, scones, and cakes. I also traded hot tea for a cold cider, which was more to my taste.


We next headed up to Leicester Square, where we bought tickets to see the musical Wicked. We had hoped to see it earlier this year in Baltimore, but missed out. Conveniently, the theater was in Victoria, just a few blocks from our hotel. We went back to our hotel for a quick nap before the show.  The original plan had been to get dinner, but since it felt like we’d been eating all day we just didn’t have any room. The play was a lot of fun—good songs and a very interesting story (an entirely different explanation for what goes on from what you see through Dorothy’s eyes). The show finished a bit after 10PM, but we were able to find a nice French restaurant, Grumbles, that was still open.

Day 3 was short since we needed to be at the train station by midday. On our way to the train we passed Buckingham Palace, which was quickly filling up with tourists in preparation for the changing of the guard. Just as we passed the Wellington Arch, the cavalry guard, in full regalia and swords drawn, passed by, giving us an unexpected peak at British pageantry. Perfect timing!

Big BenToy SoldiersReal SoldiersP1010689

Of course the most important stop of our trip to London was visiting Platform 9 and 3/4, where Megan was able to zip through the wall and join Harry Potter at Hogwarts!

En Route to Hogwarts

Overall, our visit to London was rushed, but still a lot of fun and full of interesting sights. We missed pretty much all the museums, the changing of the guard, and didn’t even ride a double decker bus. But we did get a sense of England’s artistic past and present with the Globe and Wicked. We also saw a glimmer of the grandeur of the British empire from the massive cathedrals and Buckingham Palace. Of course we still have lots of things to do the next time we come back!



Configuring a new Olympus E-PM1

For an upcoming camping trip I bought an Olympus E-PM1 camera. The camera is a lot smaller and lighter than my Canon Rebel XTI, plus I’d have less cash weighing down my pocket… a win win! Actually, I got a refurbished model, so it was quite a good deal (about one quarter the price of the high-end version, which has all of the same internals).

As you can see from this top view, the size will be a lot more convenient for a backpacking trip than the Canon.

With lens fully zoomed it grows a lot! It’s not that much zoom though.

I’m curious to see how the camera will compare to the point-and-shoots the rest of my family will bring on the trip.  I’ve been very happy with my Canon’s ability to take low-light photos (anything indoor at night ends up needing a flash or looking grainy on most P&S cameras). This camera has an image sensor size smaller than the Canon’s, but it is still quite a bit larger than a typical P&S, so it should make nice crisp pictures. Of course for nature photography, what you are aiming at has more impact than the quality of your camera body. Here’s proof from our trip to Katahdin back in 2005:

The camera is somewhat notorious for being poorly configured out of the box. Here are the steps I took to improve on the defaults:

  • Enable the full settings menu. You’ll need this to access most useful controls.
    • Setup->Wrench->Menu Display->Turn on the cog shaped one
  • Switch to the “Super Control Panel (SCP)”. This will change the menu you see when you hit “OK” in shooting mode so that it is more comprehensive and easier to access.
    • Go to the new settings menu (the cogs)->D/Display->Control Settings->P/A/S/M->Make it so everything is turned off except for SCP
  • Make the arrows cycle through pictures instead of the dial (which is really stupid)
    • Setup->Cogs->B/Button/Dial->Dial Function->(play button)->set this to the “enlarge a picture” option
  • Make the movie record button do something useful (i.e., not record videos). I have it toggle between using auto-focus on the whole image or just the center point
    • Setup->Cogs->B/Button/Button Functions->(record button)->[…]HP
    • Setup->Cogs->A/AF/MF->[…] Set Home (you have to scroll down)->Set it to the one with a single square in the middle
    • Originally I skipped the second step, in which case the button won’t do anything useful

I usually use the “P” mode, which has the camera guess the right aperture and shutter speed. It is still fairly easy to customize these–hit the UP button, then use L/R to change shutter speed (brightness) and UP/Down to change F value (depth of focus). Remember if you have trouble with it picking the wrong thing to focus on that you can hit the red record button to swap between full-auto focus and center-target focus (assuming you followed the steps above).

I haven’t taken any real pictures yet, so I’ll leave you with this decidedly unflattering self-portrait.

Spring. Wow!

The weather is changing here, and for the first time in years I feel like I’ve really been able to enjoy Spring. In MA, March was still a month of snow and April was all rain. Down here, it feels like I’m in a postcard, with temperatures already peaking in the 70s and beautiful flowering trees everywhere. I think the trees are the biggest change. I hadn’t noticed the lack of flowering trees in MA, but now when I walk around DC I feel like I’m seeing this kind of tree for the first time.

Each morning I enjoy the views along the side of the highway as I drive in (who knew there could be any redeeming qualities to the beltway?). I’ve also started taking walks after lunch on nice days, and have been pleasantly surprised by the small parks scattered around the city. I’m even beginning to feel like I know my way around (a small part of) the city.

Last weekend we went into DC to see the Cherry Blossoms. While the day was rainy and gray, we still had a nice time walking around the Tidal Basin with Megan’s college friend Dustin.

We also toured the Freer and Sackler Galleries, which together comprise the Smithsonian Museum of Asian Art. We hadn’t even known the museums existed until I saw a metro ad about their exhibit of prints by Hokusai, including the classic Great Wave. The exhibit was very nice, and included all 46 prints that make up his “36 Views of Mt. Fiji” series (he added 10 more after the first printing). It was very interesting to read about the artist (he did all the work after he turned 70), as well as the technological advances which impacted his art. For example, much of his work features a brilliant shade of blue for the ocean, sky, or even the outlining. This dye was a new Prussian Indigo that had recently been introduced to Japan from Germany. Hokusai took not only colors, but techniques for perspective from European traditions. Combined with Japanese culture and scenery, this led to some classic results.

See more pictures.

Posted in fun


We have now completed our move from Massachusetts to Maryland. There are still boxes to be unpacked, but we have a generally livable house and are slowly figuring out our way around the area.

Can you guess which of these is MA and which is MD?


Exhibit A


Exhibit B

I’ll give you a hint: our new house has two malls and at least four large shopping centers within 15 minutes of us.  Our old house had one small shopping center and the mall was a thirty minute drive. On the plus side, we have already found some good restaurants nearby and have both a Trader Joe’s and a farm stand with fresh produce quite close. We also have bike trails close to our house, although we haven’t explored them yet. I think we’ll get used to it in time!

(The pictures above may be a slightly biased comparison. There are in fact some nice green areas nearby and it is not all shopping centers!)

Saying Goodbye in Amherst

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The lack of posts to this blog has been due to Megan and me being a bit busy—in the last few months we’ve defended our Ph.D.s, gotten new jobs, and moved to Maryland. Leaving Amherst and all the great friends we’ve made there over the last six years was tough, but we’ve already had some visitors to our new home and hope to have many more in the future!

From a BBQ after Megan’s defense:


and from our going away party:



Posted in fun

Honeymoon 3: Asheville

In Asheville we stayed at the Princess Anne Hotel, a historic bed and breakfast built in 1924. The hotel has sixteen rooms and is in a mostly residential neighborhood not far from Asheville’s downtown area. Our suite on the top floor was very nice and the staff was incredibly helpful. They served a great breakfast each morning and even had a wine and cheese hour each afternoon. For our first night’s dinner they suggested the French “comfort food” restaurant, Bouchon in downtown Asheville. The food really was delicious–Megan had mussels and I had something else involving pasta and seafood, although I forget exactly what.


We spent most of our time in Asheville visiting the Biltmore, a French chateau style mansion built by a Vanderbilt descendent (with way too much money on his hands). The architecture was quite impressive, and we did both a self-guided tour and the Architect’s Tour which took us to the balconies and rooftops for extra views of the property. The home was built in the 1890s at the height of the Gilded Age, and really shows the splendor of the nation’s wealthy at that time.


It was interesting to see the technology in the house; it was built on the cusp of the electrical revolution so it has a mix of old and startlingly modern features (e.g., an elevator and indoor swimming pool). The gardens and wooded grounds around the house are also quite pretty, and we ended up coming back for a second day to see the gardens. A storm thundered through just as we headed to lunch, and we barely made it inside before the worst of the downpour (it even briefly took out electricity in the restaurant). Later we stopped by the Biltmore vineyard to sample some of their wines.

We spent our other days in Asheville wandering the streets and browsing the stores and cafes. It was quite a lively town and seems to be going through a nice artsy revival. Hopefully we’ll head back someday!

See also: Part 1 and Part 2. Or more photos.

Tea Email Archive

I wrote before about  my job as my department’s “Message Meister”. I’ve continued the job this semester, sending out (hopefully) witty and interesting emails each week that are at least tangentially related to department events. Recently I was curious to look back at all the emails I’d written over the last two years on the job, so with the help of a friend’s software library I produced a set of “tag clouds” which represent the most popular terms in each email.

You can see the tag clouds (and all the related emails) here. Use the slider to scroll back in time, and click on the dates inside the box to read the full e-mails.

Enjoy, but sorry, the tea and cookies advertised in the emails are only available to members of my department.

Posted in fun

Honeymoon 2: Into the Mountains

After our time in Roanoke and Floyd, we spent a night outside of Boone, NC, at what met my stereotypes for the quintessential B&B: the Taylor House Inn. We had a room in a charming 100 year old house and ate eggs benedict for breakfast while making small talk with the inn’s other patrons. Our hosts were very friendly and took great care of us.

Our next night was to be spent in Asheville, but we had a long ways to go first. We were reaching the end of the Blue Ridge mountains, and we made a stop at Grandfather Mountain, highest of the Blue Ridge. Grandfather is a privately owned mountain, and feels a bit like a tourist trap. They have a fudge shop to fatten you up before you visit the animal enclosures where you can see bears and a cougar. The animals watched us hungrily.

Near the summit is the “mile high” bridge that stretches from a parking area to a large rock outcropping. It was fairly crowded and touristy, but all that doesn’t detract too much from the views off into the Blue Ridge, which are the real reason to go up there. We were pressed for time, so we didn’t get to do any of the hikes to the true summit. This was probably just as well, because just as we crossed back over the bridge, a cloud rolled in and made the whole place disappear.

We continued on our journey south, stopping at overlooks when the weather permitted (rarely). We were clearly being followed by storms, so we were unable to do some of the hikes we’d hoped to do along the way (Linville Falls, Craggy Gardens, and Crabtree Falls). Eventually we reached Mount Mitchell, highest point east of the Mississippi, and hoped that the weather would stay clear as we headed up.

We pulled into the parking lot to the sound of thunder. It did not feel wise to be quite literally the tallest thing on this half of the country during a lightning storm, but luckily the rain held off. We practically ran up the half mile path to the summit where an observation platform gave us a magnificent view of clouds, but not much else. We’ll have to go back some day.

We continued our drive on towards Asheville, NC. After an hour or so, we finally escaped the storms and got the first sunny view of our trip!

More pictures here, or see the previous post.

Honeymoon 1: Roanoke and Floyd, VA

This will be the first of several posts on our honeymoon adventures. You can see a full map of our itinerary here.

We started our honeymoon by heading south on the Blue Ridge Parkway from Roanoke. The Parkway is a winding road that goes from Virginia down to Tennessee, and passes not only through the Blue Ridge mountains, but a number of other chains as well before ending in the Smokies outside of Gatlinburg, TN. The parkway can be amazingly scenic, with frequent overlooks providing beautiful views. Or so I had been told. Our first day on the Parkway was spent in the clouds and we could barely see ten feet in front of our car as we drove.

We ended up exiting off of the Parkway early to take some roads at lower elevation. This turned out to be a good idea, because we got to drive through picturesque farm country rather than a dull haze. We spent the early afternoon in the town of Floyd, VA, a small town trying to keep up a lively arts and craft community image. We looked through a few galleries, but the town was mostly dead since it was a Sunday.

Late in the afternoon we checked in to our first lodging: Miracle Farm B&B. We had a very quaint cabin beside a small creek. We were the only guests for the night, so we had the B&B’s 25 acres of woods and farmland all to ourself. It was amazingly peaceful and quiet–a perfect spot to rest after being busy with the wedding for so long.

The next morning the inn keepers left a basket with breakfast on our door step. We enjoyed delicious omelets made with many ingredients picked from the farm, as well as freshly made juice and jam. Later in the day we took a tour of Chateau Morrisette, one of the older vineyards in Virginia. Older doesn’t mean that old though–it was started in the 70’s, but at the time most of Virginia’s vineyards had long since shut down and switched to growing tobacco. The tour guide was informative and showed us the various steps of the wine making process before leading us in a tasting of a number of their wines. Quite a few of them were very good, particularly the sweeter whites.

The next day we continued our trip south on the parkway, and were relieved to find that the clouds had taken the proper position of being far above us, rather than all around us at the overlooks. We stopped at a scenic mill and many of the overlooks. We did several short hikes, but the weather still didn’t give us great views. The walk around Cumberland Knob was particularly disappointing, but later on we got a nice view of some cascades.

More pictures are here and here