Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Night on the Town

As part of my birthday present from October, Mike and the kids got us tickets to the musical, "The Gentlemen's Guide to Love and Murder". I absolutely LOVE to go to musicals so this is such a treat when it comes around!!!

A few weeks back was our family date night. Mike made us reservations at "Seven" in downtown Minneapolis. He's a big fan of their food and I think is always looking for a reason to head there.

The kids tried the California rolls and, as Maddie said, "I'm really open to anything tonight." Except steak...we are convinced this girl will turn vegetarian as soon as she leaves this house. But - they both liked the "sushi" a lot and Jake LOVED it. There is hope for their taste buds!

When we were seated at our table I was THRILLED to find out we were immediately next to the giant fireplace they had. Maddie and I got place of honor only feet away and were so warm and toasty all through dinner.

Too bad you can't actually see the fireplace. But trust me - it was giant and warm!

I love these nights in that we all get dressed up. Jake sported his new tie Grandma made for Christmas.

If you get a chance to see this musical, we all highly recommend it. We were laughing constantly and the cast was great.

It was a late night after, but we pushed the envelope and stayed downtown for one final treat - cheesecake at The Capital Grille. We actually got two pieces and the kids wolfed down theirs after the initial bit. Mike and I savored every bite!

So while these pictures aren't the greatest it was such a fun night spent doing something together we all enjoy. I'm trying to figure out how to work in the rest of the productions I think we should see this year!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Banff - Final Stop

Last stop on the tour de National Park is Banff Nationaly Park in Canada. A-maz-ing. It was breathtaking. I'd never even heard of this, because I live under a rock. Everyone we told our destination to would listen to the our list of stops and then say, "Oh! Banff....that amazing. One of the most beautiful places I've been..." They weren't kidding.

Driving from Glacier National to Banff took most of one day. We stopped a couple places on the drive north to just pull over. Mostly we started to notice the difference in color of the little rivers that ran along the side of the freeway.

Everything was just so much of a more interesting blue color. And mountains with snow caps. The continual comment through the drive was how everything was so beautiful it almost looked fake.

Our first day was, unfortunately, a bit overcast which turned to fog, which turned to the threat of rain with some drizzle. We only had a couple days though so we still headed out to see all we could.

First up was Lake Louise. A friend from church had suggested we go kayaking here because it was so breathtaking and a really neat way to see the lake. So that was the plan. When we got to the lake, this was our view:

As you can see, all the kayaks were put away. It was raining and extremely foggy. Eerie looking, but still absolutely beautiful. The water isn't color corrected by me...it was truly this color.

In all honesty, I don't remember how we spent the exact layout of the days - other than that Lake Louise was first on the list. So - I'm just going to show you pictures of what we did, and you can put them in whatever order you would like.

We took a ride on a gondola to the top of a mountain. There was some weather to contend with, but we managed to get on the ride up in between bouts of rain and have a fairly clear view from the top.

Jake is not in love with heights. He was closed in on Mike when he realized he was seated right next to the door.

It was chilly at the top but held some amazing views all around.

We also made a few stops along the way which included a dried up lake area (though we didn't know it at the time) and roamed around as we loved to do.

Banff is a super cute little town that was just fun to walk around. We ate at some great little restaurants and enjoyed walking in and out of the shops...even the kids didn't mind terribly to just be walking around here. Jake loved Banff. He wanted to move to Banff. Unfortunately, no one thought to take pictures of the actual little town. Womp. Womp.

The second day we decided to head out on the Icefields Parkway. This connects Banff with Jasper. This is a tremendously long drive and there is no way we could have done this in one day so we decided to head as far as we could with the goal being the icefields near the middle.

Our first stop was nothing like the online stuff told us it would be...the mountains were going to be mirroring in the lake, etc, etc. It was pretty, but we were here about five minutes and decided we'd rather be driving to the next stop.

Having been led astray by the description of the place above, we were a little skeptical to stop at the next big stop: Peyto Lake. It was about a 10-minute hike up this paved trail to the top for a view of an amazing lake.

Again - these photos haven't been touched for color. So beautiful it looked fake!!

As we headed down the path, it started to snow and continued off and on for quite awhile.

We stopped at more random places as we drove along and had fun climbing on rocks, skipping rocks, or just absorbing the sights.

Our drive to the icefields was made more difficult with a little bit of a snowstorm.

We had planned to take a tour of the icefields when we got there. On this entire trip we thought we'd be white water rafting or taking a helicopter ride in Glacier, then we thought we'd canoe at Lake Louise - NONE of which panned out due to either extremely cold temps or bad weather. We figured it was just our luck that there was a snowstorm when we wanted to see a glacier.

However - just as we got to the place to catch the glacier tours, the skies became crystal clear. We got our tickets right away and hopped on the next tour taking off for the glacier.

That big white area in the valley is the Athabasca Glacier.

We rode one of these out there -

During the tour we heard the history of the area and of this particular glacier, as well as the other smaller ones around it. It drove us onto the glacier and we were given a chance to walk around and take pictures and be all touristy.

This glacier is as thick as the Eiffel Tower is tall!

They encouraged everyone to taste the snow or water from the glacier. It definitely had an interesting taste - not one I liked. I thought it would be the most fresh tasting water ever, but it wasn't.

Please notice Maddie's glacier attire. To her defense, we didn't really plan ahead on where we were stopping when we left and we had no idea the weather was going to change and turn to snow so she was not really dressed for the weather we did have. But she was a trooper about it!

How many people can claim they made a snowman on a glacier?!?

When we got back to the visitor center they informed us that there had been a very bad accident on the only road back to Banff and it was going to be a 5-8 hour delay before they opened the road back up. We wasted as much time as we could reading all the little history things they had before we decided we'd just head back and take our chances. We ended up on the road - in a line with all the cars turned off - for 3 hours. Luckily I had my Nook and occupied my time. Mike and Maddie took off walking to see if they could find the beginning (they never did). Jake might have napped or played on his phone. It was a late night back.

One more nice night around the town of Banff and we headed home. We hadn't made hotel reservations for the ride back because we didn't know how far we could drive before wanting to stop. And really? We just wanted to all be home. It was an awesome trip, but we were ready to be in our own beds and rooms. So, we decided we would drive straight through since we had three drivers.

Along the way, Jake commented that not having a hotel reservation wasn't a bad thing because it would be kind of fun to just sleep in the car. Wish granted. The weather got crazy in terms of rain. It poured and we were in an area of construction which resulted in water rushing off the uneven pavement. We couldn't drive more than 30mph in complete dark. We pulled over to a restroom where there were signs posted basically telling visitors to beware of the bison. We all fell asleep in our crowded little corners of the car at 3am and at 7am to find bison all around the grass of the restroom. 

Jake woke up from his small rest and declared, "We never have to do that again."

We made it home safe and sound. It was an amazing trip and we really did have a spectacular time taking in so many sights that I never thought we'd get a chance to see together. In 12 days we covered 4,036 miles in two countries - and we still like each other!