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Exploring the East Coast (Part 3)

I was told that without experiencing the Big Apple, one can never really claim having been to America. I’ve been here since fall of 2007 so guess I’ve never really been to America until this road trip! It was nice to see the its skyline from afar but the city was overwhelming in actuality. Our navigator acted up on our way to Queens from Niagara and brought us to the 34th St of the eminent, Manhattan. Traffic felt like home, where rules are widely accepted as suggestions resulting to chaos rather than order. Most if not all areas we’ve explored were densely crowded, probably, not just with visitors but including the locals relishing the weekend.
Above collage only contains some of sites we visited. I will have to post the rest of the pictures in Facebook or this entry will end up talking about New York City entirely. We probably have not covered all the tourist spots, mundane or prominent, but that’s okay. That’d be a good reason to visit again.  We’re equally happy and grateful for the experience. Thanks to Jackoi and Monic for their very kind hospitality and accommodation. We long to return the favor when you come visit us in the Midwest someday and hopefully soon.
Philly did not make much appeal to me until we got there. Not only did it play a significant role in the declaration of US independence, Philadelphia has also served as the temporary capital of the United States at some point.  Our tour of the Independence National Historic Park started at the Liberty Pavilion. It felt unreal to actually see and touch the iconic Liberty Bell.  What I thought was an ugly emblem of the postage stamps was actually one of the bells that historians believed to have rung in an affirmation of the country’s independence. Then there’s the well-preserved Independence Hall, where Congress meetings were held to evaluate the US Constitution and even declare the American independence.
Washington DC was our next point of interest. Been there four or so years ago but our time was insufficient to explore and enjoy the place. Hubby and I were fortunate enough to have friends from Baltimore, approximately an hour away from DC, who warmly accommodated us in their humble abode. Thanks to the Catayas family and Garcia couple. We are doubly blessed with your generosity of sharing your home with us. We truly look forward to share ours with you too.
We missed our schedule of the Pentagon tour that hubby had reserved almost a month prior to our trip. Our drive from Baltimore was delayed due to unexpectedly slow flow of traffic. Nonetheless, we pursued to pay our respects to the heroes of the 911 attacks. 
In DC, the Capitol tour was most remarkable for me. The interior design of the building was amazingly and impressively rich in history. We were hoping to get up to the observation deck of the Washington memorial but tickets were sold out. Then again, there’s always a next time! We strolled, hung around the area for quite a bit then finally took a picture took a shot of the Lincoln monument building before heading home.
Lastly, we could not resist the urge to stop over Kentucky, which I’m glad we did! It was beyond wonderful to see family and friends. Wish we could have spent a longer quality time with everyone but gotta do what we gotta do, come back home to reality.

Our East Coast road trip wasn't flawless but I can't complain, not at all. Too blessed to be stressed, humbled and forever thankful for the Lord's protection, travelling mercies and provision throughout our trip. Just as it is written, He sent an Angel before us, to keep us in the way, and to bring us into the place which He has prepared. - Exodus 23:20

Exploring the East Coast (Part 2)

Of all the places comprising our itinerary, Niagara was what I looked forward to the most. Days prior to our trip, hubby showed me videos on YouTube where people get drenched while on a boat ride across the river below the falls. For some reason, this worked up my nerves into serious fidgety. Whenever we plan trips and even ordinary dates, I almost always care for only two things- one, if it’d make a good photo shoot location and two, (and more importantly) if it'd offer a good dining experience. But with Niagara, all I wanted was to feel the water! Maybe because it’s summer and it was too hot out, maybe because I miss being on the beach, maybe because I have never seen a waterfall in any way, form or shape, or maybe because it was simply a much needed vacation. Irregardless, Niagara, we're coming!!!
It was a 4-hour drive to get there from Pittsburgh. I was kind enough to share the pain of driving with hubby. Although I’m not fond of geography, I was in the best(est) mood to listen to hubby’s lectures about Niagara on our way. I eagerly nodded, as if I cared and understood everything, while he patiently conveyed every bit of information he gathered from his research. The stubborn-wife-attentively-listening-to-the-husband happens very rarely, so that, in itself, was a blessing to the man.
But hey, I absorbed the fact that the name Niagara is actually a collective name for three falls- American, Horseshoe and the Bridal Veil falls. Anyway...
The Maid of the Mist was at the outset. This passenger boat (spot it on the previous picture above) sets sail across the river and gets close to the bottom of the Horseshoe falls, that bathe the passengers with a bounteous mist coming from the very powerful rush of the waterfalls. We ended up taking off our hopeless sunglasses as our vision clouded up with water. Although the ponchos provided looked cheap and unreliable, those plastic babies actually surpassed my doubts, keeping us from getting fully soaked up. I was thankful hubby won the argument over having to wear the poncho or not.
The Aquarium did not have a whole lot but we were lucky to catch the sea lion show. It was short but sweet enough to melt the audience’s hearts as the onstage sea lions outperformed themselves in every act, not showing any hint of old age or bitter past.
Adventure Theater was both entertaining and interesting. We watched a movie that narrated the legend and history of Niagara. It was a great way to sit back and relax after some hiking in the park. Then there was Niagara Gorge Center, which showcased antiquated exhibits that provided information on history, fossils and geological formation. Not my thing but their time-capsule-like elevator was pretty cool. It virtually fell a course of 12,000 years explaining the development of the gorge at every drop.

We unknowingly saved what was unexpectedly the best for last- the Cave of the Winds. The elevator dropped 175 feet down the Niagara Gorge, trailing to a wooden alley towards the hurricane deck. We were welcomed by the mighty surge of the Bridal Veil Falls face to face! Believe it’s the best means to get real close to the falls and to me, the best way to experience the falls. If the blue ponchos saved us, the yellow ones weren't fully geared up for the hurricane!
It was the most wonderful feeling I’ve felt in a verrryyyy long time, I could stay there forever.
Night came when we wrapped up our Niagara experience 
with the illumination of the falls and fireworks.
Niagara was the best part of this road trip and definitely the best experience yet... an experience I want my loved ones to experience too. The breathtaking attraction made me realize, once again, how blessed I am and how awe-mazing my God is. Many, O LORD my God, are Thy wonderful works which Thou hast done, and Thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto Thee: if I would declare and speakof them, they are more than can be numbered. - Psalm 40: 5

Exploring the East Coast (Part 1)

We planned for our trip to the east coast early this year. To say we were so excited is an understatement. The thrill was amplified by the anticipated double date with a precious couple.  However, God had a more exciting adventure in mind. They were blessed with a bun in the oven that has also brought great joy to me and hubby. Our friendship has outgrown time and distance that we consider their blessing ours too. We knew a lengthy travel time, both flying and driving, will not be ideal or convenient for our preggo friend and the baby so we decided to postpone our plans- maybe in the near future, maybe not, but definitely in His time.

While our excitement has switched over to this year’s UPC General Conference, something unexpectedly came up- another one of those undeserved blessings that led me and hubby to pursue our planned east coast itinerary. We jumpstarted our road trip with a 12-hour long drive to the Steel City- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

We tried to minimize as less pit stops as possible, munching on snacks to calm our growling tummies and only heeded to the call of nature if deemed really necessary.

Two hours away from Pittsburgh is Akron, Ohio. If you are an NBA fan, you know this is Lebron James’ hometown.  We drove around his neighborhood and amused ourselves with all the beautiful mansions, greenery and flowers. 

Then finally,we arrived Pittsburgh late at night so we got to witness the pretty city lights as we entered the city on the way to the hotel. We got to driving around the following day and contrary to my initial, night-before impression and what I had actually hoped for, ‘Burgh is a lot bigger than Lexington, Kentucky. I dread driving in big cities but I also believe that it’s just a matter of getting used to. I also prefer living in a small town, opting for a laid-back over a fast-paced lifestyle. And my personal preference of raising a family also leans towards the previous. 

Hubby brought me to Monterrey Bay Fish Grotto, a restaurant overlooking the city. As soon as we were welcomed with a valet parking person, we knew that it was an expensive restaurant. Since we were both starving, we were convinced to, at least, get in and check out the menu but also agreed that we’ll just have to go out if prices are way out of our budget. Surprisingly, the meals were reasonably priced, considering the size of each serving, its mouth-watering aroma and the explosion of flavors for every bite. Bonus, their meals were mostly consisted of fish, which the waitress said, were fresh from Florida daily.

Out of curiosity, we also rode the Duquesne Incline, century-old wooden cable cars that bring passengers atop the steel city, to enjoy the best views.

Three nights and two days may have not been enough to fully discover Pittsburgh. However, we enjoyed our visit and are truly grateful for the wonderful experience. 

February in Pictures!

After church and before our post Valentines date.

Freezing at the Color the Wind Festival 2013..

Our pweeetty snow lady- made in fun and love during the blizzard!