03 August 2009

What We Did Over Our Summer Vacation, part 1: The Fun Part

We're back after a month of excitement and adventure in the U.S! We spent two wonderful weeks in Virginia, visiting with relatives and attending the wedding of our two best friends. Afterwards, we flew to Florida for another 11 days of fun in the sun...actually, it ended up being 14 days...see my next post, "What We Did Over Our Summer Vacation, part 2: Worst Travel Experience EVER," for more on that.

Farewell, Ararat...
...hello, USA!

We had no problems flying to Washington other than that the changes in pressure severely aggravated an ear infection I didn't even know I had...a quick visit to Old Dominion Urgent Care, two prescriptions, and $130 later, I was on the slow and painful road to recovery. =)
If only we could have as much leg room on a plane as Nathan does!

We stayed with my Dad's sister Detsi (pictured above holding Nathan) and her family for the first week, and our time there was filled with laughter and merriment. Tita Detsi had saved many of her kids' toys in the attic and a basement closet, so Nathan had a blast riding around on a classic red tricycle every morning, playing with Little Tikes waffle-brick play sets, and listening to music on the very Fisher Price baby record player that I myself remember enjoying as a child at my grandmother's house.
Driving through the tunnel.

We also took a trip to the National Zoo with Nathan's Tita Melissa on one day, and on another day, while I went shopping with my mom at Tysons Corner, Jarred brought Nathan to the Smithsonian's Air & Space Museum and Natural History Museum. Nathan really liked riding the Metro everywhere because it reminded him of our little subway system here in Yerevan.
The first thing Nathan noticed was that the "hippo has big doodle."

Mr. Nathan goes to Washington!

We spent the 4th of July at the so-called country house of my Tita Ruthie, my Dad's youngest sister, and her husband Ken. The house is on Furnace Mountain in Northern Virginia, practically on the Maryland border and not far from West Virginia, either. We had a terrific cookout, and it was nice seeing some old family friends there. They all asked questions about Armenia and our jobs, and it was an interesting test of our knowledge of the country and its history, now that we have lived here for a year.
Tita Ruthie and Uncle Ken on the deck of the country house.

Nathan and his Tito Galen enjoy the porch swing.


On another evening, we had dinner with my mom's cousins Gene and Mike...visiting their home floods my conscious mind with vivid childhood memories, as I spent a good deal of time there growing up. They also had saved some of their children's toys (for their own grandkids), which I clearly recall using on many occasions, and Nathan didn't want to leave because he had so much fun using them, too!

July 9 was Jarred's and my 4th wedding anniversary, so Tita Detsi and my mom babysat while Jarred and I went out to Blues Alley, a supper club in Georgetown featuring live jazz performances every night. The food was mediocre, but the music was superb! The band in the spotlight that evening was called Minsarah, and as all its members seemed to be close to our age, we were humbled by their songwriting talents and instrumental skills. Seriously, check them out.

At last it was time for THE event of the summer, the wedding of Kevin (Jarred's good friend from college who served as a best man in our wedding) and Melissa (my best friend from grade school who was my maid-of-honor) at the Lorien Hotel in Alexandria, Virginia. The bride and her friends kicked off the festivities with a morning of beauty and relaxation at the hotel's luxurious spa (they even served us complimentary wine and champagne since we were a wedding party), followed by lunch at the nearby La Tasca tapas bar & restaurant. In the evening, the guys headed out for a night of jazz and alcohol at Twins Jazz in Washington. Kevin's father, uncle, and a few others retired to the hotel before midnight, but the "young bucks" didn't return until the wee hours of the following morning...I understand the final bill was over $600! That's a lot of booze, even for a bachelor party! As for the wedding itself, it was very lovely and truly unique...but I'll let Kevin tell the whole story. Below are some of my favorite pictures of the event, taken by my brother Cavan.
The happy couple!

Nathan and Melissa's cousin Sebastian were the ringbearers in the ceremony.

Babies in tiny formalwear...so adorable!

With my parents and brothers, all dressed up.

After the wedding weekend, Jarred, Nathan and I drove back to the country house for a little family retreat. Since there's no phone or internet set up out there, and our cell phones no longer work in the U.S., it was a real getaway. We spent 3 and a half days doing very little besides hiking,
picking (and eating) vegetables from Tita Ruthie's organic garden...
...and wild raspberries from the forest's edge,
playing in the Shenandoah...
...and Potomac Rivers,

and napping away the hot summer days.
This is the life!

Sadly, it was time to leave Virginia, but not before running into some friends at Dulles International Airport.
Um, yeah, never use a glossy finish on a life-size cardboard cutout.

On to the Sunshine State, where we met up with our Armenian friend Maria, who had never been to Florida before. We all checked into Marriott's Grande Vista Resort in Orlando, the same resort where we hosted our own wedding weekend back in July 2005.

Maria poses in front of our building at the resort.

Even though Nathan's birthday isn't until August, we decided to throw him a party a few weeks early so his grandparents and Florida friends could be in attendance. We prepared a luncheon with various Armenian-style salads, buckwheat, apricots, cheeses, and Jarred even made homemade khatchapouri.
A diplomatic feast!

I also made dolma, but they are not on the table in the above picture, so here's a nice close-up of them in the pot:

It was great having everyone over at our villa for Nathan's fire truck-themed celebration! The cake, which we ordered from Sprinkles in Winter Park, was a total success -- there wasn't a single morsel left!
All done!

4 generations: Pop-pop & Mom-mom, Grandpa Jack & Grandma Shell, Mommy & Daddy, and Nathan -- who apparently finds his toy fire trucks much too fascinating to pay attention.

A couple days later, we drove to New Port Richey on the Gulf coast for a boat and beach day with Grandma Shell and Grandpa Jack. We had the most gorgeous weather! Nathan still talks about the boat ride, and imitates the sound of the motor quite well.

Protected from sun and sea.

Enjoying the tranquility and natural beauty of Anclote Key.

Feeding frenzy!

Watching the little fish swim around his feet.

Nathan's second time to the beach, age 23 months...Maria's first time to the beach, age 21 years! (And yes, she wrote "I [heart] Florida" in the sand.)

Co-captain Nathan gets to pilot the boat back to Grandma and Grandpa's house on the Cotee River.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009: Nathan's first trip to Walt Disney World! We didn't want to subject Nathan -- or ourselves -- to an entire day at the park, so we took it easy in the morning, arrived at Magic Kingdom after 3 pm, and stayed for the fireworks. He rode Pirates of the Caribbean, watched the Enchanted Tiki Room show, took a 2 and a half hour nap in his stroller while the adults took turns on Splash Mountain and The Haunted Mansion, woke up in time to ride "It's a Small World," had dinner at Liberty Tree Tavern (which is no longer a character dining experience, blah), then went for a spin on Cinderella's Golden Carousel before watching the nighttime SpectroMagic parade and "Wishes" fireworks show.
Our Walt Disney World family portrait.

"Fireworks say 'Pop, pop, pop, BOOM!"

The next day, we slept in a bit, then spent the day enjoying the resort's fabulous swimming pools, and had lunch at Copa Loca, the poolside cafe. Nathan couldn't get enough of the pool!

In the evening, Grandma Shell and Grandpa Jack came over to babysit, so Jarred, Maria, and I could partake of the ultimate Orlando tourist activity: putt-putt golf on International Drive.

Maria scored a hole-in-one on the first hole!

Friday was Nathan's annual cardiology appointment, which is never fun, but it has to be done. He had his sedated echocardiogram and full check-up at Arnold Palmer Children's Hospital, the same place where he had his open-heart surgery just three days after his birth. Anyway, thank goodness, his doctor says he's doing very well and everything looks as it should, so he's all set for another year. Yay!
Our brave little boy.

That's one cranky baby.
Oh, yeah, cute story...before the procedure, we asked Nathan if there was anything he wanted. He replied, "cherry ice cream." When he woke up a few hours later, we brought him back to the hotel and granted his wish.


Saturday Maria and I took Nathan to Disney's Animal Kingdom. This time we went early so we could beat the crowds. We had a great day!

We even had time after DAK closed to catch "Illuminations" at Epcot.
Spaceship Earth is much more beautiful at night.

On Sunday, Jarred and his golf buddies attempted to play Marriott's Grande Pines, but got rained out. Meanwhile, Maria, Nathan, and I went shopping at Michaels Arts & Crafts, Toys-R-Us, and Marshalls. In the evening we met up with Jarred and the LaTorres downtown for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Pho Hoa.
Chloe and Nathan found the restaurant's aquarium quite entertaining.

After all the visiting, celebrating, eating, story telling, driving, sunbathing, eating, shopping, park-hopping, swimming, driving, eating, golfing, visiting, picture-taking, and yes, eating(!!!) that we did in Florida, our time was up. We packed our bags and prepared to fly back home to Yerevan. But our story doesn't end here...

Armenia Avenue in Tampa is probably the only Armenia most people there have heard of.


Kevin Albrecht said...

How exciting! The pictures were so great. I especially liked the ones of Nathan and Lily playing together, they are so cute. Again, I'm so happy you guys could make it and be part of our wedding, it meant so much to both of us!

Mercedes said...

Your trip to the US was the highlight of our summer as well. Glad you got to see your friends and relatives in both DC and FL, and that we got to know Nathan up close and personal. All the events were memorable and special. Many thanks to all who in some way helped make this possible!
Love, Mom