Sunday, June 28, 2015

2015 - Asheville/Atanta Day 7-9 (Atlanta, Georgia)

Today is aquarium day!
Breakfast at Country Inn & Suites Atlanta was similar to the other location but it is nicer and has actually silverware and plates instead of Styrofoam.

We ordered the early bird tickets where you could go to the aquarium at 9:00 am and we ended up spending about 3.5 hours there.  My two highlights was the dolphin tales show (when we went on Friday, we were told they have one at 11:00 am, one at 2:00 pm, and I think there is another after that) and the room where just sit and look at the whale sharks and stingrays swimming around.

2 Whale Sharks with 2 stingrays.
Went to Legal Sea Food for lunch.  Ordered the crab cake and fried clams both were really good. Also got the Boston Cream Pie which was very delicious.

Crab Cake.
Fried Clams.
Boston Cream Pie.
World of Coca-Cola was next.  Somehow spent 2.5 hours here.  Did all the exhibits, watched the 4D movie and waited for a picture with the bear.  At the end, you get to try all types of Coca-Cola drinks from around the world.  Personally, I didn't really like any of them, but that's okay.  It could also be that after about 10 samples, my tongue just couldn't differentiate tastes as well as at the beginning.  You get a bottle of coke on your way out which is a nice touch.

Us with the Coca-Cola bear.
Dinner was at the food court at the CNN tower. Walked through the Centennial Olympic Park and it is nice although not a must go for me.

CNN Tower food court.
Centennial Olympic Park.
I was initially going to include another post, but since we didn't really do much besides driving back to Toronto, I decided that I will end our June roadtrip posts with this one.  Hope you enjoyed the trips and pictures as much as we did!  Until next trip!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

2015 - Asheville/Atlanta Day 6 (Atlanta, Georgia)

Today, as we head to Atlanta, we stopped at the official Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center, just south of Asheville.  Worth a stop to learn about the area and where to go.  I found that most people were very helpful and enthusiastic about the place.  Last night we met two volunteer park rangers would helped us take a picture of the state line and they told us that they were volunteers at GSM for half a year and go down to Florida for the other half.

Breakfast at Country Inn & Suites.
Chick-fil-A was for lunch and I have never been to such a fancy fast food restaurant.  People deliver your food, they ask how things are, top up your drinks, and takes away your tray.  I got the spicy chicken and I thought it was good.  The lemon iceshake was yummy too.  The original chicken we both found too salty.

Our first stop is Tallulah Gorge State Park.  While I think Watkin's Glen more, it is a nice stop and just costs $5 for parking.  One hour is all it takes to walk through the north and south rim trails.  The trails give you very nice views of the gorge.  There is a neat suspension bridge that you can walk across if you like those.  If you go early you can do the gorge floor trail.  They limit 100 people a day but we were told it would take roughly 4 hours to do so we skipped it.  I imagine that it would be quite nice though.  The ranger said that at the very bottom, there is a sliding rock where you just slide down the rock to a pool at the bottom (the gorge floor permit is required).

Jumping on the suspension bridge.
Gorge falls!
Midtown grill in Clarksville, Georgia is where we stopped for burgers after our hike.  $6 gets you a specialty burger with no sides or drink or just a plain burger is $4.  Sides are $2.

Midtown Grill burgers with sweet potato fries.
Dinner was at Olive Garden.  Man, this was the most disappointing OG we have been to service-wise.  An hour meal took over 1.5 hours long since our server always disappeared.

Tomorrow, we are off to the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola.

Friday, June 26, 2015

2015 - Asheville/Atlanta Day 5 (Asheville, North Carolina)

Breakfast at the Country Inn and Suites was a slight step above the Holiday Inn Express.  There were eggs and bacon although microwave kind.  It has a waffle maker which is awesome.  It had a lot of the other things like cereal, yogurt, bread and bagels.

Breakfast at Country Inn & Suites.
By now, I finally realized that the United States is a HUGE country (or the areas we were visiting are really big).  It took us roughly 2 hours to get to Oconaluftee Visitor Center from Asheville, another 40 minutes to get from the Oconaluftee Visitor Center to Clingmans Dome.  And finally, it would take another 40 minutes just to leave the park to Gatlinburg.

View from Clingmans Dome.
Due to not doing enough research on how long things would take, we did Clingmans Dome in the morning which is the the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains which gives you very nice views of the surrounding area if you arrive on a clear day (which we did not).  It is a bit of a steep climb though but worth it.  Note that because of how easy it is to get there, expect a lot of people and cars, so don't be surprised that it takes you awhile just to get there from the parking area.  Definitely worth a stop if you are here.  The park and the dome are both free.

Panorama from Clingmans Dome.
Drove to Gatlinburg in hopes of lunch and ended up at a place like Lundy's Lane in Niagara, Ontario but on a much larger scale.  Ended up eating at Subway there.  The area is actually quite nice but we managed to arrive when it was the hottest time of the day (around 1pm) and we just ate lunch and headed back otherwise we would've wandered around.

The Village area in Gatlinburg.
By the time we finished at Gatlinburg, I knew that we couldn't do the other thing today which was the Chimney Top's trail, so we drove back to Asheville for dinner at Sunny Point Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina.  Ordered the heuvos rancheros and the chicken and waffles.  Both of which were really good.  Ended up getting the key lime pie dessert and I thought it was really good although it wasn't as limey as I would have liked.  Having not read the description, I didn't realize that it would be frozen, so it was actually like eating an ice cream cake version of Key Lime pie.  What a great way to end off the meal and the hot day that we had.  Definitely stop by if you are in the area.

Heuvos Rancheros.
Chicken and sweet potato waffles.
Ice Box Key Lime Pie.
Tomorrow we will head to Atlanta.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

2015 - Asheville/Atlanta Day 4 (Asheville, North Carolina)

Breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express was better than the Best Western.  You got scrambled eggs, hard boiled eggs, a pancake maker, yogurt and Greek yogurt, cereals, fresh fruit, and sausages.  I'm sensing a pattern here, maybe tomorrow's hotel will be even better!

Breakfast at Holiday Inn Express.
Linville Falls is split into two areas the upper park and the lower park. The upper park is ranked as moderate and the lower park is ranked as strenuous. I would say it took us 1 hr 20 min for the upper and 1 hr 40 min for the lower part.

View at Linville Falls.
Both are worth doing. If you are shortening your trip I would say do Erwin's and the plunge basin. If you do the basin make sure you keep going after you hit the rock at the very bottom. To the right is another trail and it leads you to the waterfalls.  Again, we lucked out and there was only one set of people when we got to the plunge basin and enjoyed the area and got some photos without any tourists in the background.

Me at the bottom of Linville Falls.
For lunch we ended up at Spear's BBQ & Grill in Linville Falls, North Carolina which was just a short 10 minute drive from the Linville Falls trail.  Ordered the half rack of ribs ($10), hush puppies ($2.50) and the jumbo BBQ sandwich ($8.75).  All of which were good.

Jumbo BBQ Sandwich.
Ribs and Hush Puppies.
Stopped by the Asheville Outlets and it was a bit disappointing.  Maybe down the road when all the shops are in place it will be better.  The food court only has one restaurant so far.

For dinner we stopped at Nine Mile in Asheville, North Carolina for some Carribean food.  I ordered the One Foundation which I think had too many things and flavours going for it but Allison liked her Concrete Jungle.  I was probably too adventurous at this one, but based on Allison's feedback, I'd suggest stopping by.

One Foundation.
Concrete Jungle.
Tomorrow, we head to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

2015 - Asheville/Atlanta Day 3 (Blowing Rock, North Carolina)

Breakfast at Best Western was better than the Super 8.  Individually boxed cereal, fruit cups, yogurt, cartoned milk, juice, doughnuts, sausage and gravy along with a waffle maker.

Our first stop is Foam Henge in Natural Bridge, Virginia.  One person made it as a April Fool's joke and it remains today.  If you head west of the Natural Bridge Zoo, you will see a dirt road with a steel gate on the north side (your right) and a small area to park your car, this is where you want to be.  Hop the fence and walk a few minutes up the trail and then take a left and there you are.  Definitely my highlight of the trip so far.

Welcome to Foam Henge!
Foam Henge!
Me pretending to be Merlin.
Afterwards, we stopped at Peaks of Otter along the Blue Ridge Parkway for information.  Based on what we were told, we did the hike to see the Falling Water Cascades.  It took us roughly an hour round-trip.  You have the option to do a loop, but we were told by locals that we saw that there wasn't anything to see on the other side.  It is a nice set of cascading waterfalls.  Worth a stop I'd say.

Us at Falling Water Cascades.
I tried to go to a Cuban sandwich restaurant for lunch but unfortunately it was closed and we ended up at the Pancake House on Williamson road.  I wouldn't bother stopping here for lunch unless you are in the area.  It is a grease spoon diner.

Steak and eggs at Pancake House.
We ended up going to Big Walker Lookout in Wytheville, Virginia since there was nothing else on the itinerary.  It is a privately owned 100 foot tall lookout tower that costs $6 to go up and gives you very nice views of the surrounding area.  Arrived between lunch and dinner and surprisingly, no one was around.

Big Walker Lookout and Country Store.
Atop Big Walker Lookout.
Dinner was at Bistro Roca in Blowing Rock, North Carolina.  We ordered the Lamb Bacon Pizza and the Porkocalypse Mac and Cheese which were both good.  Prices were good too at $10 for the pizza and $13 for the mac and cheese.  I find the service a bit odd since we both saw a few empty tables, but they wouldn't seat you for at least 10 minutes and told us to just hang around the bar area.  There is a nice roof-covered patio area in the back of the restaurant.  Actually, the area where the restaurant is is pretty nice in general with a nice park nearby.

Porkocalypse Mac and Cheese.
Lamb Bacon Pizza.
 Tomorrow is Linville Falls and Asheville.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

2015 - Asheville/Atlanta Day 2 (Lexington, Virginia)

Super 8 breakfast was disappointing.  Toast, two types of cereal and coffee or tea.  Bed and hotel was also disappointing, smelly hallways, really sad deflated pillows, won't be staying at this chain again.

Our sad breakfast at Super 8.
After an early breakfast and a quick stop at the visitor centre at Front Royal, we decided to skip Dinosaur Land and go to Shenadoah National Park instead since there were some things that were recommended by the person at the visitor centre.
There are a lot of well labelled look out spots but they all begin to look the same after awhile.

One of Shenandoah's many lookouts.
Stop #1 was Dark Hollow Falls, a 1.4 mile round-trip hike that took us roughly 1 hour to do.  It is a nice set of waterfalls.  It is cascade though, it isn't straight down.  The walk down is all downhill and the walk up is all uphill.

At the bottom of Dark Hollows Falls in Shenandoah National Park.
Stop #2 was Stoney Man Trail, a 0.9 mile round-trip hike and I think this one is skippable.  It took us 30 minutes or so to do.  So, if you want to stretch your legs, it is a good trail, but otherwise, I feel that the pay-out wasn't worth the effort.

Atop Stoney Man Trail in Shenandoah National Park.
Overall, after those stops which were suggested, I personally feel that you should just skip Shenandoah and go to the main Blue Ridge Parkway area near Asheville.  I thought Shenandoah would be interesting but the low speed limit (35 mph), combined with the cost at $20 for a 7-day pass (vs free for all of Blue Ridge Parkway), makes me say skip it.

Blue Ridge Parkway's most popular hiking trail is Humpback Rocks and I would say that this is definitely worth a visit.  Since we got there at around 5pm, we didn't do any other trails after and headed straight to Lexington.  I would say it takes maybe 1 hour and 10 minutes for us to do the full trail plus take pictures.  We lucked out since the place is usually really busy but when we went, we were alone (which is unfortunate if you want someone to take pictures for you though).

Atop Humpback Rocks at BRP.
Atop Humpback Rock at BRP.
Today, we saw FOUR deer (3 old ones and 1 young one).  The most deer I have seen in the wild in one day in my life.  Pretty cool.

For dinner we stopped at Southern Inn in Lexington, Virginia.  The food was good, it wasn't very expensive at roughly $16 per entree.  We ordered the meatloaf and southern fried chicken and we both thought they were good.

Meatloaf at Southern Inn.
Fried Chicken at Southern Inn.
Stopped by an ice cream shop just down the street after dinner.  They seemed a bit pricier at $2.50 a scoop, but they were a good way to end the evening.
After some discussion on how things were looking, we decided tomorrow that we would just stop at the Peaks of Otters and do a hike and then just head to Blowing Rock instead of doing the full Blue Ridge Parkway.

Monday, June 22, 2015

2015 - Asheville/Atlanta Day 1 (Front Royal, Virginia)

Instead of my usual Point of Interest posts this week, I will be posting about our recent roadtrip to Asheville/Atlanta.  I will be posting one a day for the next 6 days (day 8-9 were driving home days with no real interesting sites).

Today we begin our Asheville and Atlanta roadtrip.  It will be from June 13 - 21.

Day one consisted of us visiting two points of interest before finishing at Front Royal, Virginia.  Interestingly while driving down from Toronto, we passed New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia.

Our first stop was Kaffe Sol for lunch.  It is a good stop for sandwiches.  We didn't try the soups since they didn't interest us.  We thought the sandwiches were pretty good and very inexpensive at roughly $8 per sandwich (the chips are included).  The chips weren't finished by either of us so we took it to go along with a cinnamon roll that cost us only $1.75!

Our lunches at Kaffe Sol.
A short ten minute drive later is Kinzua Bridge State Park.  It is a State Park which turned a tornado torn bridge into a tourist attraction.  It is a short walk from the parking lot to see the site.  When we arrived, we actually walked into a wedding (didn't know you could have your wedding at a State Park).  The site itself is not very large if you are just here for the bridge, it will probably take you maybe 20 minutes (walking to the end of the bridge, taking pictures, walking back to the car).  If you like, you can walk down to the bottom to see it from a different perspective.  Round-trip to the bottom and back took us roughly 35 minutes but the trail is fairly steep.  The park is free to visit.

Side-view of the bridge.
While on the bridge.
Tornado 1, Bridge 0.
After that is a long drive to Gravity Hill in New Paris, Pennsylvania.  It is a hill where your car will move up the hill automatically when you switch it to neutral! It was neat although the hill wasn't very big.  Ended up going up to 8mph.  Allison told me that there is a magnetic hill in New Brunswick that was like this one but a lot cooler (but also more touristy).  This one, only we were there and you had to find the awesomely spray-painted road to know where you are.

Us standing by the start of Gravity Hill.
Dinner was at Jean Bonnet Tavern in Bedford Pennsylvania.  We both had salads and they were okay.  Oddly it lacked a lot of salad since it had a lot of chicken and other ingredients. Somehow my salad came with french fries in them!  I wouldn't recommend coming here for the salad, but there was an endless supply of customers at this restaurant, so the entrees must be good.

Our salads at JBT.
On the way to our hotel in front royal, in the park area we saw some more fireflies (first time I saw them was in the Amazon, this is the second time).  What a nice way to end Day 1.

Tomorrow, we go Dinosaur Land, drive through Shenandoah National Park and part of the Blue Ridge Parkway with us ending in Lexington Virginia for the night.