San Juan, Puerto Rico – Day 4 / Oasis of the Seas Cruise

Day 4 (our 3rd full day) on our Oasis of the Seas cruise, we pulled into the port in San Juan Puerto Rico.

We had just started working on getting off the boat for our excursion on shore and suddenly things came to a halt. Suddenly no one was being let off of the ship any longer. What is going on? It took a while, but finally the departing of the ship continued again. Alot of peope missed their shore excursions because of the delay.

Our group was supposed to do a tour of old town San Juan. But where did we end up? The Mall of San Juan. Who wants to go to San Juan to and go to the mall. What is going on? We went with the flow. We had lunch at a restaurant where we ate outside. We had a slight view of the airport, and a view of something very exciting to me. I’m a huge Fast and Furious fan. The grand finale of Fast Five was filmed on a bridge in San Juan. We crossed that bridge to get to the mall, and there was a view of that bridge from where we ate outside at the mall. That was pretty darned exciting for me.

After we finished our meal at the mall, we were told that we were going to be able to take a quick tour through old San Juan. We drove around old San Juan and were taken to the oldest cemetery in San Juan that is called “Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery”. Actually, it was a beautiful cemetery. We got out there and took some photos and then were loaded back onto our bus. At this time, it was about time to head back to the ship.

We were like “what happened”. Why did we end up at all mall and why was our trip through old San Juan so short? Well, eventually we were given our answer. There was protesting going on in old San Juan when we arrived. As we had just starting departing from the ship, San Juan authorities were concerned for our safety, so told the ship to stop us from leaving the ship. Once they let us leave the ship, of course alot of people missed their adventure that they paid for. Since our excursion was supposed to be a tour of Old San Juan, and that was where the protesting was going on, we were taken to the mall until things kind of settled down. When things settled down, what time was left, we were able to take a quick trip through Old San Juan.

Here are a few photos from today.

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Last night’s towel animal – Stingray

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Passed this Dole barge as we were heading into San Juan

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San Juan skyline and mountains in the background

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Closer view of San Juan and mountains

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As we were nearing San Juan port, this “Pilot” zoomed past

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View of San Juan as we came from in between the 2 docked ships

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Alot of my photos were taken from a moving bus today. Thought this interesting the way the people in this apartment stored their bicycles.

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Was definitely surprised that we were in San Juan and going to a mall

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When we were having an outdoor lunch at the mall, you could watch the airport traffic landing and taking off

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I just thought it was so cool to see the bridge that was in the grand finale’ of Fast Five

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Heading back into downtown San Juan. Nice shot of cloud / sun over San Juan.

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Driving past the capital of San Juan

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This is the only place that we got out after leaving the mall. Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery.

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Heading back to the ship

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Captured San Juan at night as we were pulling out of port

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Tonight’s tower animal – think it’s an elephant

Labadee, Haiti – Day 3 / Oasis of the Seas Cruise

Day 2 (or our first full day), we spent the entire day cruising on the ocean. Did a little exploring of the ship. Had some great food. Went to a great concert. Great day with family and new friends.

On Day 3 (2nd full day), was sound asleep and a slight jarring of the ship woke me up. Mom and Teresa were still sound asleep. I peeked through the curtains and low and behold. Land. And even better, mountains. Of course I grabbed my camera right quick and out onto the balcony I went. As the ship was pulling up to the dock, captured some photos. Wanted to get some photos from the top of the ship, so threw on some clothes and took off. There were some people leaving the ship as soon as we docked. I guess they had early morning reservations for some adventure.

Went back to the room and we all got ready and went and had breakfast. I was amazed with those breakfast spreads. Their chefs / cooks are amazing. Which reminds me of the employees on the ship. All employees wear name tags and what country they are from. I don’t recall seeing any ship employee from the United States. It was interesting looking at their name tags and seeing all the different countries that they were from.

So, after breakfast, our group met and we left the ship for our shore excursion on the private beach resort. 3 of the gals had purchased a zip line package. The rest of us were just going to play it by ear.

We first took off on a tram ride across the resort area. The tram consisted of a tram pulled by a blue tractor. It’s not a huge area, so the ride didn’t take all that long. Between the beach on the outer side of the island, and the beach on the lagoon side, there is a pretty good sized shopping area where the locals sell their wares. Hear that they pressure you big time through here, so we decided that we probably wouldn’t shop in this section.

After the ride, people were lining up for lunch. The ship personnel put together a great spread in a couple of locations. After lunch, most everyone took to the shade. Not me. I was ready to explore and take photos. I wanted to get to the other side of the island without having to go through the pressurized shopping area. I found a path. I first found a walkway up a hill. Once at the top, it seemed like many years ago it may have been an old bath house. Took a few photos and continued on the main trail. Passed a more private beach where people probably paid a pretty good price to be on a beach that wasn’t as crowded. Kept on walking and eventually arrived at a very popular beach in the lagoon. My goal was to get some ship photos from across the lagoon. I loved taking photos of that ship. I was always enthralled at the size. After getting my photos there, headed back and met up with the others.

There was one last thing that I wanted to do. There was a pathway near the spa that took you to an outcropping of rocks called “Dragons Breath”. As I was walking towards the outcropping, saw a ship employee unlocking the gate. What timing. If I had gone earlier, I would have thought it was a place you weren’t allowed to visit because of the locked gate and wouldn’t have seen this. Walked out on the outcropping and the mountain and beach views were great. The ocean water was hitting the rocks and creating a spray. But, why is this called Dragons Breath? When you go out towards the tiny gazebo like structure, there is a hole in the rocks. When the water hits the rocks and recedes, it sounds like there is “breathing” sound coming out of the hole. It was very cool.

Okay, time to meet up with family and friends and head back to the ship. Tomorrow? San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Went a little photo crazy on this one.

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Our first full day on the water. No land in sight. Sun reflecting on the water.

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And then looking in the other direction. Our room was on 6th floor above the lifeboats.

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Liked coming into the room in the evenings with beds turned down and an animal made out of a towel

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Arriving in Labadee, Haiti. My first view of land.

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View in the other direction

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Being greeted by people on jet skis

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Looks like some little homemade boat

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Decided to see what things looked like from the top of the ship

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Mountain / bay view

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As soon as the doors opened, a slight few people taking off for a day of adventure

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Nice view from other side of ship

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As we were leaving the ship, zoomed in on people already enjoying one of the beaches

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Pretty / clear / rocky water

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Looking back at that awesome ship

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Wendy, Tammy, and Kat posing for a photo before going to do their practice run prior to the official zip line run

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Welcome to Labadee

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Gives you an idea of what you will be seeing today

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Musicians greeted us as we entered. Mary Jo showing off her dancing skills.

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Mary Jo, June, Teresa, mom, and myself. You see the tractor to the right that pulls the tram.

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That’s where the gals will be going, on top of that mountain, for their zip line adventure

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On the tram, going through the area with shopping shacks

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While the others were standing in line for lunch, I ran out to take some photos of the outer beach

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And while I was taking some beach photos, here came some zip-liners

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Fruit sculpture

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Great little spot for shopping

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This has me baffled

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Heading up to what ended up being like an old bath-house area with slight views

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This was the best view that I got up at the old bath-house

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One of the beaches

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Another beach view

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One of my best ship photos from one of the beaches

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Heading to Dragons Lookout Point

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See that gazebo in the background? That is approximately where you hear the dragons breath.

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View of the outer beach from the path to Dragons Breath

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This was the best photo that I could get of the water crashing against the rocks

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We’re back on the ship. Ready to capture photos from our departure.

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Continuing our departure from Labadee

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As we sailed around the bend, another mountain range in the background

Cocoa Beach, FL – Day 1 / Oasis of the Seas Cruise

I took my first cruise ever, back in February. It was on Oasis of the Seas. I was told that Oasis of the Seas used to be the largest ship on the ocean, but now it’s the 2nd largest.

Of course there are all kinds of family’s and groups on the cruises, but we were with the Music City Cruise Show. “We” being me, mom and my sister Teresa. Some of mom and Teresa’s friends that they meet up with at Michael English concerts were also on the cruise.

We started out our day waking up at Hampton Inn in Cocoa Beach. Yesterday there was supposed to be a launch of SpaceX from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. It was delayed until Sunday morning. We went out onto the beach with alot of other people for the 9:39AM launch. Unfortunately it was a cloudy morning. I was watching for the launch to occur at the 2 launch pads that you could see from Cocoa Beach. But, it launched west of those launch pads and I wasn’t able to get a photo. By the time I honed in on the rocket, it went up behind the clouds. Oh well.

Later in the day we headed for Port Canaveral and started the boarding process. I figured with all of those people that it was going to take forever to board the ship. Let me tell you. Those people sure have things together. It didn’t take all that long to go from start, to boarding the ship. Of course never being on a ship, I was amazed at how large it was. Once on the ship, our room was ready, so that was good. Had a room with a balcony.

I took a few photos before dinner. Most of them were from our balcony. When we did start leaving the port, I did go out to the front of the ship with alot of other people. But, by the time that I got out there, I pretty much had to turn around and go back to the room to get to dinner on time.

Here are a few photos from today. A couple from the beach during the launch, and the rest are from the port.


On Cocoa Beach for 9:39AM launch. This photo just doesn’t do justice of showing the amount of people that were out on the beach.


Watching the launch pads for the launch. Woops! Wrong launch pad. 

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Of course the first thing I did when we got to our room was grab my camera and went out on the balcony to take pictures. A couple of other cruise ships off in the distance.

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Ship across the waterway

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NASA Kennedy Space Center launch pads

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A couple of ships leaving right before our departure

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I don’t know what the silver boat type thing is




Asheville, NC – North Carolina Arboretum

Headed to the arboretum today for our monthly visit. Took a walk, and checked out the gardens to see if there was anything blooming. There were a few blooms. It was unusually warm for February. We were walking around in t-shirts.

We started off to left of the exhibit center and took off on Natural Garden Trail. It’s an easy 3/4 of a mile trail. It’s also a Kids in Parks Track Trail. After hitting the trail, there is a left hand turn that goes slightly downhill. It takes you to a small pond. Nothing much happening at the pond today. Just sitting water. Headed back up the hill and continued on the trail. It was just a nice walk. Trail then met up with Running Cedar Road. We took this road to the right and up the hill to the gardens outside of the education center. It was probably a 2/10 of a mile walk up the hill. If you’re out of shape, this can be a huffer / puffer portion of the trail.

After taking the steps up into the gardens, we walked around the Plants of Promise Garden. There were a few little blooms. We then headed down past the education center and into the Bonsai Gardens. Most of the bonsai were put up for the season. We then headed down and walked through the Forest Meadow. We met back up with Natural Garden Trail and got back on it. Took it to the left and back up to the exhibit center. We probably walked a couple of miles around the arboretum today.

Here is a map of the arboretum trails.

Here are a few photos from today.

Address: 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville, NC


Walk down the steps / around the corner from exhibit center to get to Natural Gardens Trail trailhead


If you want to check out the pond, you’ll quickly come upon this left hand turn


Nothing happening at the pond today. Just a pond.


You’ll see these tepee looking structures along several trails in the arboretum


The fence row as you are walking by Forest Meadow


Nice trail through the woods. Way down below on left is Bent Creek (not shown).


Meeting up with Running Cedar Road. That’s the little huffer / puffer hill that you see in the background.


When you are just about to the end of Running Cedar Road, you get a slight view of some mountains in the background


Heading up into Plants of Promise garden outside of education center


These next 4 photos are a few little blooms from the garden today



I don’t recall ever seeing a little bat house in the Forest Meadow before

Asheville, NC – Biltmore Estate

Since I would be leaving for a cruise in a week, and be gone 2 weekends, Steve and I headed over to Biltmore for a visit today. Took another trail today that we’ve never took a walk on.

As usual, we parked in the conservatory parking lot. Walked up the steps outside the conservatory and walked over to the right and crossed the road over into the azalea gardens. We quickly came to a 4 way intersection. We beared towards the left and took the little gravel trail continuing through a garden. You then come out to the one way road that goes through the estate. Cross the road here and you quickly walk through very tall bamboo on the trail. You will then come to a fork. If you go to the left, that will take you on Rhododendron Trail (that we will take on a later date).

Our destination today was Woodland Trail, to  the right. This is a 1/2 mile long, moderate trail. You cross a bridge and head up into the woods. Nothing spectacular. Just a nice walk. Because the leaves were off the trees at the time of this walk, we could see the lake peeking through the trees about 3/10 of a mile into the trail. The trail ends at the vehicle bridge that goes over Bass Pond. We walked across the bridge and continued only probably 1/10 of a mile along the road to the cut-off that takes you across the bridge that goes over the dam at Bass Pond. After crossing the bridge, we walked down the hill on the left to the waterfall. Not alot of water. The way the sun was shining, there were rainbows in the mist. Took lots of photos to try to get a good rainbow photo, but none of the photos turned out too well. We then walked through the bamboo back behind us to the creek. Not alot of water flow there. Headed back up to the waterfall and up the hill and walked back to the conservatory on the trail beside of the lake. This was a pretty easy walk. Probably somewhere between 1 and 1.5 miles.

Here are a few photos from today.

Biltmore Estate Address: 1 Lodge St., Asheville, NC


For our walk today, not long after entering azalea gardens, took this left off of paved trail onto a graveled trail


Was a little surprised to see a little color in the garden today


A little more color


Just crossed the road and entering the bamboo area at the beginning of Woodland Trail


To continue on Woodland Trail, at the fork, go right and cross this bridge


Heading up into the woods


Heading down out of the woods. Can see Bass Pond peeking through the trees in the background.


Got a few photos of the bridge. Woodland Trail comes out at this bridge. 


View of Bass Pond and the meadow from the bridge


Finished our short walk along the road and are cutting across the bridge over the dam


View of Bass Pond from the bridge


Down at the waterfall


My best photo of the little rainbow


View of the boat house as we are walking along the pond back to the conservatory


Zooming in on the bridge that is now across the pond

Bristol, TN – Steele Creek Park

Today we wanted to get some steps in, but had to do it quickly. We headed over to Steele Creek Park. Most of the time, we park at Rooster Front and walk over. Today we parked in the Mill Creek parking area.

After leaving the parking area, you will come to a fork. Going left will take you towards Rooster Front, but like I said, we needed a quick walk today. We took the fork to the right. This is a short, / paved / nice little walk. Maybe 1 mile round trip from the parking area. Going this way your walk is along the creek that runs in the other direction into the lake at Steele Creek. You’ll see ducks enjoying the water. There is a bridge that will take you over into Steele Creek park if you’d like. Across the creek is a small picnic area. Usually when people are using the covered picnic area at the creek, there are kids playing in the creek. This is the perfect spot for kids to play in the creek. We just enjoyed walking along the creek until we got to the end at Steele Creek Park Rd.

Here are a few photos from today. The twins were up later in the day for just a little bit. Included one photo of Sawyer. Not sure why I didn’t get any photos of Eli.

Directions to Steele Creek Mill Creek Parking: You can use the Steele Creek Park address of 4 Little Ln, Bristol, TN for your GPS. If you’re coming off of Hwy 126 onto Broad St., pass the entrance to the park. You will pretty quickly afterwards see the parking area on your right.


Sign at Mill Creek Parking trailhead


We’ve just taken the right fork and you have the creek on your left


Nice shot of a couple of ducks


Here’s where the bridge crosses the creek over into Steele Creek Park


Looking back towards another bridge that takes you into Steele Creek Park


Another shot of bridge into Steele Creek Park


Enjoying walk along the creek

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Arriving at the end of the trail at Steele Creek Park Road


Sawyer with his tool box. There’s always something broken at Nana and Pop’s.


Asheville, NC – Biltmore Estate

We went back to Biltmore today. We went towards the end of December, but I didn’t post anything from that visit. For the prior visit, we went to do the house tour. Had no idea that you could take cameras in the house. All I had was my cell phone. I don’t normally post photos on here from my cell phone. It was on a weekend day too, and you had to reserve a time to start your tour. So, you can imagine that there were ALOT of people going through the house.

Today we went back to go through the house. It was on a Monday, so we thought that maybe there wouldn’t be as many people. We were right. Alot of the Christmas decorations were taken down by now. We ended up only doing the main floor and upper floors. We bypassed the lower floor where the kitchen, pool, etc. are at.

Before going through the house though, we decided to take a little walk on a trail that we’ve never walked on before. We headed across the road beside of the conservatory. We walked down into the azalea garden. When we came to the first intersection, we took a hard left and headed for the Spring Garden. We knew nothing would be blooming. Just wanted to check it out and get in a few steps. We walked around the Spring Garden which is just a 1/4 mile loop.

After we enjoyed the house, we walked out onto South Terrace and then headed to the conservatory to check out what was blooming in there. It seems that if you go to the conservatory 2 weeks in a row, that there are slight changes from one visit to the next.

Here are several photos from today.

Address: 1 Lodge St, Asheville, NC


Even though it’s winter, this green section of the Spring Garden is nice


This would be the short way to the house. To get more steps in, we back-tracked to the azalea garden.


Heading back up the stairs at the azalea garden entrance. Just imagine how pretty this section will be in the Spring.


As you walk into the house, the first thing that you notice is the winter garden


They have some amazing ceilings in the house


Pipe organ in the banquet hall


Breakfast room


View from the Loggia


Partial shot from their very impressive library


I call this a teaser, in preparation for their “Designed for Drama: Fashion from the Classics”. This runs until 7/4/17.


Partial shot of Louis 15th Room


South Terrace and it’s view


Heading through the walled garden to the conservatory. Doing some prep work in preparation for the Spring blooms. 


Enjoy the rest of these photos from the conservatory

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Asheville, NC – North Carolina Arboretum

This was our monthly visit to the arboretum. For many other months / to see what’s blooming each month, search internet by “ranger annette north carolina arboretum”.

Didn’t really see much of anything blooming today. Well no wonder, it’s January. An unusually warm January though. We were out walking around in t-shirts and no jackets today.

We walked 3 different trails today. We started out behind the education center on Running Cedar Road. It’s 1/2 mile long. It was an easy walk down to Bent Creek Road. Bent Creek Road is the main trail that runs through the arboretum trail system. We turned left and took an easy walk about 1/2 mile to where you split off either to the right onto Old Mill Trail, or off to the left onto Wesley Branch Trail. We took a left onto Wesley Branch. It’s only 4/10 of a mile, and moderate. It brings you to Natural Garden Trail. We took a right and walked about 1/10 of a mile back up to the exhibit center.

Here is an arboretum trail map.

This was really our first walk since around Christmas, so along with our trail photos from today, also posting a few pictures of the holiday festivities.

Address: 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville, NC


Was walking through the gardens beside of the education center and ran across this concrete cat. As many times as we’ve been through these gardens, have never seen this before. 


Nice slight view of some hills in the background as we are getting ready to step out of the gardens and head out on Running Cedar Road


After we turned left out of gardens, took off on Running Cedar Road. The trails at the arboretum are very well signed. 


The long final stretch on Running Cedar Road that takes you down to Bent Creek Road


We have arrived at Bent Creek Road. As usual, well signed. You can turn right and head towards Lake Powhatan, take the little trail straight ahead and walk along the creek. We took a left. 


Bent Creek Road is so easy and level. Great trail for bicycles too. 


Taking a little detour off to the right to spend some time along the creek


That little detour takes you to where you are across the creek from the azalea gardens


Time to turn left and head up Wesley Branch and back to the education center


Walking through rhododendron thicket


As we were walking Wesley Branch, out in the woods saw a tree with something colorful. Zoomed in and discovered this. Not sure what that is all about.


Ending our approximate 1.5 mile walk at the education center


We took a walk through the tiny greenhouse at the education center. Bonsai safe in the greenhouse for the winter season.


Now to our Christmas photos. Eli beside of our tree right before Christmas.


Sawyer getting ready to climb up on the bed for a little rough housing


Mom, Steve, and myself on Christmas Eve


Mom, Andy, and Teresa on Christmas Eve


The twins, daddy and mommy at my mom’s on Christmas evening


There must be something really interesting on TV for them to stop opening their presents

Asheville, NC – Biltmore Estate

Yes, I know. We were just at Biltmore Estate yesterday. But, we were so excited over our annual passes and it was just so beautiful there, we decided to driver over again today.

Today we didn’t do any trails. We walked around in the walled garden area. Of course this time of year, not much blooming. We then headed up to the house. We still didn’t go in the house today. We enjoyed the views from South Terrace. We then walked around the house and just took photos. We then went and checked out the shops in the courtyard. After checking out the shops there, then headed over to Antler Hill Village. We checked out the shops there and then went into the winery.

Here are a few photos from our little stroll today.

Address: 1 Lodge St, Asheville, NC


Me posing underneath the famous posing tree


After you walk around the tree in previous photo, and walk through the gate, this is the view of rose garden and house through the trees in background.


Still a little blooming going on in the garden



Captured this bird through the limbs


View of house from shrub garden


View of the house from below South Terrace


These next 5 photos are different views from South Terrace


I used this photo because I captured a piece of the sun on the right side



View of the side of the house from South Terrace


Inside these windows is the circular staircase


Garden side entrance to conservatory

Asheville, NC – Biltmore Estate

We had talked on and off about getting annual passes to Biltmore Estate but we felt that it was still pretty pricey at over $300 for the both of us. When we found out that they were running a holiday special around Thanksgiving, we went to the visitors center, purchased our passes, and on into the estate we went. It was kind of late in the day so really all we got done today was exploring the conservatory, and going to the waterfall at Bass Pond.

So, we headed off to park near the conservatory. The first thing that we learned is if you are not going to park at one of the parking areas to go to the house, and want to head on to the conservatory, when you come to a couple of spots where people are directing traffic, you just turn on your blinkers and they wave you on through.

We found parking in the small parking area down below the conservatory. Below the conservatory there’s a very nice gift shop. After checking out the gift shop, we headed up into the conservatory. There are several sections to the conservatory. You have Palm House that houses palms, ferns, and other plants. You then have the hot house, the cool house, and the orchid house. 7,000 square feet of beauty. Here is some more information about the conservatory.

I was amazed out how many different colors of poinsettias that they had. They also had a great orchid room. And of course spread out throughout the conservatory there were other tropical plants, blooms, cactus, etc.

We then headed out of the conservatory (on the parking lot side) and went around the corner to the left and you could see where there is a crosswalk. Head down the steps and you are in the 15 acre azalea garden. You just keep on going straight and you eventually end up at bass pond. You can cross the little bridge and enjoy the gazebo around the corner. You then go just past the bridge and there will be a sign that directs you to Bass Pond Waterfall. It’s on the other side of the pond. On your way, you will have a great view of a beautiful brick bridge across the pond which is the main road. On your right, up on the hill, there is a huge meadow (I’ll post that walk in the future). When you get to the other side of the pond, there is a nice bridge where you can walk over the waterfall, which is water falling over a dam. We then headed down the hill to the waterfall. Not alot of water today. We then walked through some bamboo that was behind us, around a bend in the river, and back up the hill to hit the trail to take us back to the parking area. The walk ends up being easy and about a mile.

Here is a map of the gardens trails.

Also, here is a link to Biltmore’s website.

Here are some photos from today. Also, the twins were up this past week, so included a few photos of them.

Address: 1 Lodge St, Asheville, NC


The bottom story is the gift shop. The upper part is the conservatory.


Enjoy these next 14 photos from inside of the conservatory



You cross the road near this tree to go down into the azalea gardens. This tree was beautiful today and is huge. Lots of people do photos at this tree. 


There’s still a little fall color in the garden


Keep straight on the paved trail to go to the pond. Or, take the trail on the right. It’s a gravel trail that takes you across the creek a few times on wooden bridges and interesting rock bridges.


Red blooms falling off of a tree


The bridge as you arrive at Bass Pond. Go across the bridge to the gazebo.


Turn left right after the bridge to walk around the pond


The red brick bridge across the pond


Looking across the lake at the gazebo


The bridge above the dam and waterfall


It was late in the day, so was hard to get a good photo without the shadows from the trees and sun


The twins were up this past week. As you see, Eli has “mowed” the leaves nicely. Sawyer is loading them back into the truck and is going to make a mess. 


Sawyer getting ready for another load


Eli doing a great job mowing



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