Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Opreyland Hotel

Convention Center Entrance

At the beginning of this month Brad's company had a four day convention at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee.
Merinda and I decided that we could not pass up the opportunity to go with him, especially since it was a long weekend.

Convention Center

We had walked around the Hotel before, but this was the first time we actually got to stay at this beautiful place.
These two pictures were taken of the amazing murals which covered the massive rooms in the Conference Center.


This hotel is so enormous that it has different sections that represent different parts of the outdoors. Each area does just that, brings the outdoors in. It's like staying in a huge greenhouse with rivers, waterfalls, nature paths and every kind of vegetation you can think of. 
However, this greenhouse is decked-out with all the essentials you could want such as fine-dining, fast-food restaurants, cafe's, bars, shops of every kind, a salon, spa, fitness center, arcade, and several pools and hot tubs.
The Delta area is actually an island of quaint little shops and restaurants surrounded by a lazy river.
Here is the Delta river boat station where you can take a boat ride around the island.


The Magnolia area had beautiful walkways below and above the foliage. 
The walkways above were lined with millions of lights strung from the ceiling, intermingled with adorable Christmas decorations.

Garden Conservatory

The Garden Conservatory was Merinda's favorite place to explore.
It was also Merinda's favorite place to read a good book. I couldn't see anyone in this gazebo until I zoomed in.
And low and behold who did I find!
Here is a cute little pond with real fish.
Each view point was picture perfect.

The botanical paths wound around the most awesome water falls,
plant life and flowers,
and darling statues.
The paths were often layered one on top of another with little benches or seating areas at every turn.
My favorite part about the Garden Conservatory was how peaceful and serene it was.

Cascades Entrance

Statue of blown-glass flower bouquet. 
The entrance to the Cascades included these amazing works of art.


These pictures of the Cascade ares really speak for themselves.
Our hotel room was actually located at the top of these escalators.
Here is the view out our veranda. Even though each room was intermixed between everything else, you still felt a sense of privacy with all the foliage on the ground floors, and elevation of the upper rooms (talk about views!).
The Hotel at night was just as beautiful.

The Magnolia lights were our favorite, it looked as though the ceiling was raining crystals.

Even the Garden Conservatory was tastefully lighted.

The Cascade lights were also pretty amazing!

And of course, no hotel experience would be complete without a swim in the hotel pool. This was one of several, and I think it too speaks for itself.
The outdoor hot tub was the size of a regular hotel's pool and sooo relaxing. This particular night it was raining and freezing cold, which made the hot tub experience that much more enjoyable. When Merinda and I finally took the free bus to the Oprey Mills Mall to shop, we were surprised to see how cold it was outside, especially after living in a greenhouse for several days.
Also during our visit to Nashville we celebrated our good friend Debbie Wright's 50th birthday (boy I hope I look that good on my 50th birthday!). Happy Birthday Debbie - We Love You!!!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Amish Country

For Fall Break this year, we went to Amish country in Northeastern, Ohio. We have driven through different Amish communities but have never gone to one as a destination.
I have to admit that I am a little obsessed with those cute Amish buggies, and finally I got my fill.

I am also a little obsessed with the Amish people, but I have only a few pictures of them because I was trying to respect their privacy. Here is a picture of an Amish women going to work at Der Dutchman Restaurant, where they served homemade Amish food that was sooo delicious! I almost forgot what real food tasted like.

The view behind Der Dutchman was just as beautiful as the food was good!

In fact, everywhere we stopped . . .

 or drove, the scenery was breathtaking.

Our other favorite place to eat was the Boyd and Wirthmann Restaurant. A little hole-in-the-wall place where the locals eat, which has been around since 1938. We also enjoyed stopping at the little cheese and meat shops scattered across the countryside.

And of course we can't forget the millions of furniture stores we browsed through. This was the usual position of Aubrey and Merinda each time we went into another furniture store. Merinda was pretending to be a sleep, unlike her sister who was actually asleep (I have a hunch that this would probably not be a teenagers first pick as far as vacations go).

The other thing I loved to do as we drove the many winding roads, was view the Amish Farms nestled in between rolling hills of vibrant Fall colors, with contrasting dark grey, blue, and white laundry blowing in the wind.
Speaking of Amish Farms, I really wanted the girls to have a glimpse into what Amish life was really like, so we spent most of a day learning all about the Amish at the Yoder's Homestead.   
 Merinda got her wish of riding in a buggy around the property. After that we took a tour of a one-room schoolhouse where children ages 5-13 attend from several surrounding homesteads (but about 40% of Amish children go to public school until the eighth grade). There are about 95 of these Amish parochial schools in Holmes County, Ohio (the largest Amish community in the world and where we spent the bulk of our time). The girls and I enjoyed talking with our schoolhouse tour guide, a sixteen-year old Amish girl, who pronounced her English words very carefully and methodically.

A view of the barn and country store. 
 Other than the buggy ride, Merinda's favorite part of homestead was the barn with all the animals you could pet.
 Here is another Amish tour-guide enjoying the company of some fellow tourists.
 I think it is safe to say that Aubrey's favorite part of the homestead was the ducks. Of course these are no ordinary ducks - they are Amish ducks!
Here is a view of the two homes we toured. The home on the right was quite old, and we learned what Amish life was like about 80 years ago. The home on the left was a representation of what an Amish home would look like today, and actually it didn't look much different than our homes, only more simple with nothing on the walls, and no electricity (however, there are many variations and sects of Amish and Mennonites in the area who's lifestyle and dress range from very conservative all the way to how you and I live today). 
 This is a picture of the large year-round garden, and out-house tucked in the corner.
Our tour guide for the two homes was not Amish, however, most of her friends were Amish, and she certainly knew her stuff. . .
We learned just about everything there is to know concerning Amish dress and culture, and the girls were pretty much spent by the end of our tour,
 that is until we reached the Amish kitchen and got to choose our favorite hot-out-of-the-oven Amish baked-good. My pick were huge snicker-doodle and gingerbread cookies, and the girls chose iced chocolate chip banana and pumpkin breads. What a perfect ending to the perfect Amish experience!