Monday, September 26, 2016
This past weekend we rented a car and spent the day at the Rumsiskes Open Air Museum of Lithuania in Rumsiskes (between Vilnius and Kaunas), LT. Even though the weather was a bit chilly and the clouds got darker and darker as the day progressed, it was an excellent trip that I had been looking forward to for some time.
Rumsiskes is an open-air ethnographic museum featuring homesteads, farms, and a small town center from the five ethnographic regions of Lithuania. Think Old Sturbridge Village or Colonial Williamsburg if you are from the US, but with fewer people (dressed up staff members).
I really liked seeing the different interiors of the houses, barns, and storage houses. Most were sparsely furnished with wooden furniture, handwoven blankets, and intricately decorated chests. The school house from the mid-1900s was particularly interesting.
Based on the reported average time people spend at Rumsiskes (via TripAdvisor), I thought that we'd be able to visit both Rumsiskes and the Ninth Fort of Kaunas. How wrong was I! We spent four hours wandering Rumsiskes at a leisurely pace, but we probably only saw about one half of the entire park. I'd suggest purchasing a map (there is only one posted map (that we saw) in the entire park) at the entrance of the park, so having a map will allow you to easily decide where to go.
Entrance costs 4 Euros per adult (we weren't charged for Baby ISO) and parking in the lot costs 2 Euros for the day.
If you have extra time when visiting Vilnius, I'd suggest visiting the Lithuanian Open Air Museum, especially if you are interested in ethnography.
Monday, September 19, 2016
This past July, we took a family trip with my parents, sister, and her friend to Cape May, NJ. My family had visited a couple of times before, but J and I had never been. My parents raved about it and my sister claimed she wants to move there -- so it must be good. My parents awesomely thought ahead about our need for a bit of relaxation during a busy visit in the US, and this was the perfect relaxing trip.
Instead of breaking our trip down into separate posts, I thought I'd just put everything into one comprehensive article about Cape May ... so you may want to grab a cup of coffee, this is a long one!
What to do
Beach: The obvious choice for a visit to the Jersey Shore is to go to the beach. And let me tell you, the beach in Cape May is long and covered in soft, white sand. It was glorious.
Cape May Light House: A surprisingly long walk along the beach (trust me, don't attempt it with a stroller) and even longer on the road -- thank you incorrectly drawn Discovery Map!
Spend an Evening Enjoying the Historical Homes: All throughout Cape May, you'll see impressive Victorian homes with intricate decorations that will make you wonder at the cost of upkeep.
Window Shop on Washington Street Mall: The cute pedestrian street of Washington Street Mall is packed with tourists each evening, which surprisingly, doesn't make it unpleasant. Along Washington Street Mall, you'll find fun shops and some of the less-tasty restaurants (although their are exceptions, like the really wonderful That's Amore).
Check out the Lobby of the Congress Hotel: Celebrating 200 years in business (that is one great business plan), the Congress Hotel (opened in 1816) is an upmarket hotel located just at the end of Washington Street Mall pedestrian street. Though WAY out of my budget to stay for even a night, I took a walk through their lobby and shopping area, which is decorated in interesting historical artifacts. My parents and sister with her friend enjoyed drinks in their restaurant and they recommended it. If you aren't traveling with a young child, it may be awesome to do the same.
Watch the Sunset: Sunset Beach is the place to be at sunset, although I'm sure the view anywhere on the beach would be equally as impressive. At Sunset Beach, you can also watch the flag be taken down each evening and children help with the job.
Nature Watch: Okay, so not everyone is a huge nerd like me and carries around binoculars while traveling, but really, you should. Cape May is a great place for birdwatching, particularly for pelagic birds, as well as for dolphin and whale watching. Honestly, you don't even need to go on a dolphin cruise, as dolphins are easily spotted from the beach. Additionally, keep a lookout for sand crabs and ghost crabs.
Where to eat
Empanada Mama's Cantina: We didn't visit the storefront of Empanada Mama's, but we did enjoy a snack of three empanadas from their food cart while walking along the water. It was delicious! We tried the potato, broccoli, and cheddar; white bean and kale; and classic chicken and cheese. They also had several other flavors and many of them were very interesting flavors. 600 Park Blvd, West Cape May.
That's Amore Restaurant: This nicer restaurant serves absolutely delicious Italian food. The owner and chef is incredibly friendly. The restaurant only allows children above the age of 12 to eat in. We took a meal from That's Amore to-go and brought them home for an at home date night. Delicious! Expensive! We ordered the watermelon salad, rice balls, and fig and pancetta cream pasta. The fig and pancetta cream pasta was one of my favorite pasta dishes I've ever eaten. 301 Washington Street.
The Original Fudge Kitchen: Tasty fudge that makes a great dessert or gift. 513 Washington Street Mall.
Cape May Peanut Butter Co.: For dessert one evening I decided I wanted a massive peanut butter cup (a candy that is impossible to find in Vilnius). My mom instantly suggested we pay a visit to Cape May Peanut Butter Co., which literally is a store full of peanut butter and peanut butter products (I wouldn't suggest visiting if you are allergic to peanuts). Although pretty expensive, I their peanut butter cups are HUGE and have interesting flavors including salted caramel, crunchy, marshmallow, and more. Unfortunately, their summer staff on the days we visited were not the friendliest.
Exit Zero: In search of tasty Asian food, J, Baby ISO, and I set out to Exit Zero, which had pretty decent reviews. As I was sharing with Baby ISO, I opted for a mild curry, which as described, was mild but had nice flavor (I prefer spicy) and J ordered the lobster pot pie, just because it sounded very unique. It wasn't J's favorite meal, but that was more based on his personal taste and not the flavor of the food.
Hot Dog Tommy's: Months before visiting Cape May, my dad had been going on pretty nonstop about Hot Dog Tommy's. This famous hot dog stand with no eat in space, was one of the first places we visited for lunch. And instantly I understood why my dad had been raving. Their was a huge selection of hot dogs and make-your-own options as well.
Madbatter Restaurant: One morning, the seven of us went out for breakfast at the Madbatter Restaurant. Everyone's breakfast was delicious and the portion sizes were huge. The line is long though, so you may want to arrive early.
Dock Mike's Pancake House: This family-friendly breakfast option serves a huge selection of pancakes and other very unhealthy breakfast options. It was actually pretty great, and service was fast and friendly.
Peace Pie: Oh, I've definitely saved the best for last. Peace Pie, housed in a bright blue house, sells homemade ice cream sandwiches that are flavored based on everyone's favorite pies. You'll find apple pie, salted caramel, brownie, and more.
Where to shop
Whale's Tale: This is easily one of the coolest toy and gift shops I've seen. I wanted to buy everything, but settled on a sweet monarch plush toy that transforms from a caterpillar, to a chrysalis, to a butterfly; as well as several books related to the ocean. Gotta start Baby ISO off on the science toys early! The toys were very focused on education, natural sciences, and marine biology. You can find Whale's Tale at 312 Washington Mall.
West End Garage: This really interesting store was full of stalls boasting a wide range of goods. You could find anything from vintage clothes, home accessories, clothes from local designers, women's clothes, and children's clothes and toys. It was pretty awesome.
Makers Making: Yet another shop that I wanted to purchase everything from. If you weren't sure from previous posts, I love supporting small designers and artisans, which is exactly what you could find in Makers Making. The jewelry and unique pottery were especially tempting.
Dolphins: I mentioned it above, but I found it so interesting that you could see dolphins from the beach. Definitely keep a lookout for dolphins while at the beach.
Purchasing your Beach Pass: Beach passes can be purchased for the day, several days, or for a week. Beach passes can be purchased at the stands along the boardwalk.
What is your favorite place to visit on the Jersey Shore? Do you carry binoculars with you when you travel, or is that only me?