About Me

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Joyfully married May 15, 2010, living in Troy, AL, Engineer and Pharmacist, "parents" of sweet puppy Gidget...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Welcome to "The Rock"

I know what you are thinking...2 posts in one day?!?! However, I promised to revisit 2 of our favorite tours in San Fransisco, and I keep my promises. On Saturday afternoon we boarded a ferry bound for Alcatraz - headed for a much different experience than those who made this trek years ago! The ferry ride was only about 15 minutes but it was nice (and a little chilly). This little bird wanted to come with us...

And the view was great...

Once we unloaded we were welcomed to the island by a park ranger (as it is now a national park).
After the welcome we watched a quick history video and then began our audio tour of the prison. We were led through the maze of cells and rooms by the voices of past inmates as well as officers at the prison.

It was amazing to learn what went on inside of the prison - the escape attempts as well as the everyday life. It made me want to research and learn more about it! Below you can see the levels of cell blocks...

And the cells were tiny...

The worst criminals got thrown in "the hole." They were inside 24/7 with maybe 1 hour per week outside for recreation. It was completely dark inside the cell and they were totally alone... (p.s. I would be a terrible criminal!)
It's hard to tell from this pic but outside the bars, there was a metal door that was closed to block out all light.

Most inmates had few to no visitors, and were allowed visits very rarely.

It's crazy to think some of the most notorious criminals were housed in this very place. (Can you say Al Capone?!?)

We saw where they ate, slept, showered, exercised...as well as how they escaped and/or tried...

Once we finished the tour and were outside the views were amazing! It was cold and windy but worth it! It was said that, at night, inmates could here the music and laughter from parties in San Fransisco. Here are some of the view of the island...

R with San Fran in the background
Leigh and Matthew admiring the view

I cannot forget to mention the thousands of gulls and other "water birds" that call the island home. They were EVERYWHERE!
It's unbelievable that the families of the officers called this island home, as well. During the years that the prison was operating, the families of the officers lived on the island and the children traveled by ferry to school in San Fransisco every day! It was quite a little community...all centered around the prison!

We decided that we did NOT want to live here so it was time for us to hop back on the ferry and go back to the "mainland."

I admit that I mainly went along with this tour because R was really interested in it, but I was enthralled the minute we stepped onto the island. It was a very educational and interesting experience that I would not miss if you go to San Fransisco.
Once we were back on the ferry the exhaustion and hunger hit us and we looked like this...

I wish I could have posted ALL of the pictures, but I hope you enjoyed this little trip...come back again soon!

Grace Cathedral

Grace Cathedral only took up about 15 to 20 minutes of our trip to San Fransisco, but it was one of the most beautiful and special places we visited. Walking into the Episcopal cathedral the first thing you notice are the doors which truly tell a story. They are repilicas of the original Ghiberti doors (Doors of Paradise) from Italy. Each panel tells an Old Testament story...

Once inside the cathedral, there is a prayer chapel to the right where candles are lit and people are praying. It is an interfaith chapel to welcome everyone and is dedicated to those who have died of AIDS.
After the chapel, the first thing you notice is the Labyrinth. It takes up a HUGE area in the back of the cathedral before you reach the pews. There is also a labyrinth outside that I am sorry we missed! It is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to anyone who desired to take a "prayer walk" for lack of a better word.
Once inside you are immediately drawn in to by all of the beautiful stain glass windows and the sheer size and grandeur of the room. Here are a few of the pictures I took...

This window depicts "The Canticle of the Sun" and is called the Rose Window

The back window in the Cathedral

There were too many to windows to take picture of then all...but I seriously could have!

Also, there was this Nativity Scene right outside of the chapel that is the oldest part of the church. (Wish I had taken a picture of it -BEAUTIFUL!)

We learned that among those who had preached at this Cathedral - Dr. Martin Luther King and the Dalai Lama. Crazy!

It was a great experience and something that I am so glad we took the time to do. Here was our final leaving view...

A funny note about our visit the Grace Cathedral - We walked in thinking we were entering a Catholic cathedral (as most of them are) but then we stared recognizing things and when we saw the prayer book and the same hymnal we use every Sunday, we knew we were in and Episcopal church.

Hope you enjoyed this little tour - there is so much more to see, though, so maybe you should just make the trip sometime in the future. :)
Have a great week - and visit a place that feels sacred to you sometime soon!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tour de California 2011

Warning: this is a very lengthy post :)

We spent the last week having a blast in California with 6 great friends - the Cassidys, the Hayes, and the Murphys. We toured on foot and bike in Calistoga and other parts of Napa, and then spent the weekend in San Fransisco fitting in everything we could to our short visit. It was hard to leave the breathtaking scenery and humidity-free, cool air to come back to Alabama!
I will give the highlights, and some pictures, of our trip out west...

We arrived in Calistoga on Tuesday afternoon after flying into Oakland a renting a minivan to carry us and our massive amounts of luggage. We stayed at this fabulous house/lodge on the Lawer family vineyards...

Tuesday night we enjoyed a delicious dinner at SolBar in Calistoga where, after filling ourselves with FABULOUS food, the boys found a bocci ball court and us ladies found a fire pit for warmth...

Wednesday we were up and at 'em to head to Schramsburg, a champagne winery, for a tour. It was fabulous! We got to go inside the caves where they "age" and make the champagne. It was a real treat! It was a history lesson, too, as Schramsburg champagne is the choice for State dinners and other events at the White House for decades.

After Schramsburg, we headed to Chateau Montelena. A beautiful, old building from the 1800's on the vineyard with an amazing view...

For lunch we headed to V. Sattui for a picnic on the grounds with fresh cheese, bread, sandwiches and salads. The flowers were so plentiful and colorful at V. Sattui that it felt more like a garden than a vineyard.

After successfully stuffing ourselves once again we went to Caymus and made it just in time. They were getting ready to close for the day, but they squeezed us in.

At this point, we were pooped and headed to the grocery store to pick up some 2" steaks and veggies for dinner. The guys swam while we lounged around by the pool until we got hungry again. We cooked, relaxed and spent hours on the patio and at the dinner table before calling it a night. These nights hanging out at the house with our friends were some of my favorite memories of the trip!

Thursday was the big day - the bike tour through Calistoga. We were all a little nervous but it turned out to be our favorite part of the trip! We started downtown Calistogo and toured through busy streets and side streets alike. We stopped by 4 vineyards and had a fabulous picnic under the trees at Cuvaison. Here are some of the pics from the biking...
We stopped first at Envy where we took this group picture...

Next stop was Lava Vine. This was great because we had little snacks and were able to sit down under a cover with water misters to cool us down before we went to our next stop - the picnic lunch!
It was an amazing spread of cheese, crackers, bread, meat, fruit and sweets! There was even a birthday cake for Laura and Leigh! After lunch we visited Cuvaison - but were almost too full to entirely enjoy the experience. The ride immediately following lunch was the MOST difficult bike ride of my life. Our last stop was Bennett Lane where we were able to cool down and relax before making the trip back to our starting point. The scenery was beautiful but I was not talented enough to photograph and ride so I left that to other, more coordinated members of our group!

Here is the whole crowd...

The biking wore us out and we made another grocery stop before heading home to relax and, of course, eat some more. I would be remiss if I did not mention the massive quantities of cheese and crackers/bread consumed on this trip. It is the sophisticated thing to snack on, after all.

Friday morning, we woke up and packed up - ready to hit the road to San Fransisco. We made one final stop in Calistoga at Cafe Sarafornia for breakfast. then went on our way.

Once in San Fran, we drove through Sausalito and stopped at the Golden Gate Bridge for a photo op.

From the Golden Gate, we went to check out the Pacific Coast. Wow, is it different from our Gulf Coast. Cold and grey and rocky. It was neat to see, though, but I think I'll stick with Orange Beach for laying out!We went and left our stuff at the hotel before heading to China Town, and then onto Top of the Mark for some food, rest, and an amazing view! We could see Grace Cathedral from Top of the Mark and knew that it had to be our next stop. It may get it's own post because it was so amazing! Here is just a glimpse...

We were spent after all that walking so we went to the hotel to rest and get ready for Leigh's birthday dinner at Twenty-five Lusk. It was a FABULOUS meal and a great time to celebrate.

Saturday, we made the most of our one full day in San Fran. We started at the Farmer's Market. Our senses were assaulted (in a good way) with beautiful flowers and the freshest foods. After eating breakfast and some fries as Gott's we headed for a very long (and hilly) walk to Coit Tower. Another breathtaking view awaited us at the top of the long stroll.

We went back downhill to the Ferry building to see the Sea Lions and get lunch from street vendors. (Corn dogs, cotton candy, happiness!) Then it was on to Alcatraz. Alcatraz was such a neat experience. I learned so much that I did not know, but still want to learn more. It may need its own post as well!

After Alcatraz, we obviously had to eat again. I think that might be all we did. We found a great little sushi place (we took a cab) and relaxed! Before heading back to the hotel we visited Union Square for a little shopping. We didn't go overboard with it - only because we didn't have much time. Somehow, we had not cared about shopping up to this point, but all of a sudden wanted to buy everything in sight once we saw all of the shiny things. We finished the night at the Ritz with dessert in the lounge before falling into bed. After our 6 day adventure, we were ready for some rest! We were sad to part ways and head home but we brought lots of memories and souvenirs with us!

If you can believe it, this is just a glimpse of all we did! This must become a yearly trip - the destination may change but the company should remain the same. We had a blast - sorry this way so long, but I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!

Thanks for reading! Love, The Millers

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Catch-up time!

Well, I have not been so good at my blogging lately. We've been busy - since my last blog, my sister came to visit while R was out of town on a hunting trip to Texas, I went to visit my fam in Mobile, and R's parents came to spend the Fourth of July weekend with us. It has been a fun and busy last couple of weeks!

While my sister was here we did some exercising and cooking (gluten free for her, of course)! We also did some shopping around the little shops here and had a great time. My visit to Mobile was a quick one, but a good one. Gidget and I both enjoyed getting to spend some time hanging out by the pool and visiting with my parents. While we were busy visiting, R was in Texas hunting trophy ram and hogs - he got one of both as well as a very nice bass while fishing. Those pics are a little, um, gross to share on the blog haha.

This past weekend we enjoyed the holiday with R's parents. We were off work Friday so it made for a nice long weekend! The guys fixed things around the house and us girls did some shopping and relaxing. We also planted some flowers!

The beautiful hibiscus they brought for us!

We also did lots of eating - it was a holiday after all! And, of course we went to church on Sunday, so we decided to take a picture while we all looked nice and clean :)

The Millers before church!
Monday night we went to see the firework show put on by the city - and it was spectacular! I took lots of pictures with my new camera (and maybe I should have learned a little about the settings first...oops) Here are a few that actually turned out pretty good...

I hope you all had a very happy Fourth! Have a great week!