B-Day Part 4: Chattanooga

15 08 2017

Part 4 of 5 – 1 part left! Of course, you can’t visit the Chattanooga area without visiting the center of Chattanooga itself. While I wasn’t impressed with the famous Choo Choo (none of the shops were open noon-ish on Saturday, AND the one restaurant that was open said it was an hour wait for a bagel #areyoukidding), I was impressed with some great treat options and the Aquarium.

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Jellies!!

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The Aquarium consists of 2 huge buildings. One is for saltwater animals and the other is for freshwater. Above is in the freshwater building in the upper area that’s supposed to be like local mountain-type terrain. The saltwater building has the cooler upper area though due to a stingray petting zoo:

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…and a butterfly garden:

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Of course, anytime there are jellyfish, they steal the show. Just a couple out of about 100 shots:

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I’m proud of the next one no matter how grainy it is; this next jelly was incredibly dark – much post processing was needed even with my highest ISO. The orange light you see moves through them looking like an electrical current. It’s the coolest thing ever.

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Outer space jelly.
These buildings are massive –  I mean really massive. You could take pictures for a half a day. We only had a couple hours. Moving to the freshwater building, the seahorse room was my personal favorite, but all my pics there had too much noise. The cute otters came out though:

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And amidst the piranhas and tree frogs are some guys practically out of my backyard:

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And now – switching gears completely: the other highlight – TREATS!!

I had read up on The Hot Chocolatier on Trip Advisor and was dying to try it. Was not disappointed! So worth it! So amazing! Please open one in Jax!!

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It’s a little space right across the Choo Choo and has the biggest variety of hot chocolate options I’ve ever seen, each topped with your choice of homemade marshmallow (!) or whipped cream. Yum!

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Everything was good. Understatement! And, yes, they do have other treats:

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Wanted to try this macaron cake, but was too full; how pretty!

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But here’s the star of the show, complete with giant homemade marshmallow:

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The other good treat place is a bakery called Koch’s that’s been around for years. We were only able to stop on the way out of town, and only had my cell for pics which didn’t turn out great. But they have a great variety of cookies and donuts:

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…and an awesome mural.

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Donut selfie! Anyway, one final set of birthday pics next week. 🙂

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B-Day Part 2: Ruby Falls and The Lost Sea

31 07 2017

Ruby Falls is just a skip away from Rock City, so you can easily see both on the same day and still have time in your day. The Lost Sea is about 1.5 hours away in Sweetwater, TN, and we saw it a couple days later, but since they’re both caverns, thought one post made sense.

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For Ruby Falls, you park right by the building, go in, and buy a ticket (if you haven’t bought a combined one first) and then at your ticket time, take an elevator down into the caverns to wait on your tour to start. The elevator gets a little packed and is really the only way in/out. Most of your journey to the falls looks like this:

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…fairly dark and narrow, but throughout there are some labeled rock formations and come cool lit up rocks.

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We went on a day when a lot of little kids were there on field trips, and the path is only wide enough for one group to go through (single file) at a time, so it was a little annoying having to press up against a rock wall every few minutes and let people through. Also didn’t give us any time to really stop and take pictures, but that’s because the main attraction is the fall itself. When you’re finally there, it opens into this huge cavern – I mean monstrously high – and your group herds in and waits in almost darkness until the “show” starts where lights and sound bring the falls into view:

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Not a single picture even looks 10% as awe-inspiring as this thing really was. The height is incredible. I couldn’t get the whole thing in a single shot. Here’s the top (interestingly, no one is entirely sure where the water flows from):

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…and here’s the bottom of it:

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The lights kept changing color and were beautiful.

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You just can’t even fathom the scope and height of the place without being there.

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It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. Worth it! Go see it!

Now – for The Lost Sea. While still underground, this was completely different in feel. The caverns are much, much wider and roomier, so you’re never squished walking through it, but they also don’t use the colored lights Ruby Falls does, so the place is more natural in color (albeit not as exciting). Still really cool.

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Your tour starts walking down a yellow passageway, above.

You enter into the huge cavern and take a look at some formations before starting your walk to the underground lake. I will say the part at the beginning was a little alarming, because you walk out on this slightly rusty, narrow, metal walkway suspended high over the bottom of the cave.

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The tour guide will point out interesting things, like these living crystals on the ceiling, below:

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…and these charcoal writings done by people in the cave during the civil war and the decades after:

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.. Down, down you go…

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Stopping by a small waterfall:

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And finally down into the dark pit where the sea resides. It was so dark, my camera had trouble focusing, so I had to use flash for some pictures:

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One thing to note, they advertise glass bottom boats, but with the intense darkness of the cave and the cloudiness of the water (which I think was due to recent rain storms), you can’t see anything through the glass.

The group gets in a boat or two which is taken very slowly around the lake – it’s almost silent it’s so slow. The only light comes from these few white lights embedded just under the water line. Every now and then you can see the shadow if a fish swimming around. The below shot was actually really overexposed so you could see some light!

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It was a cool experience, albeit a little creepy. My favorite photo was taken below on the walk out – little scratches people have made on the dark side of an emergency call box:

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Leaving the caves and going into the sun again is a shock:

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As you can see, the rest of the Lost Sea attraction are a group of buildings outdoors that sell some touristy things, have some food and ice cream, and a glass blowing shop. Cute little place! My favorite were the remnants of an old kids’ train ride out back.

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Both cave attractions were fun and worth it, but very different!





Mini Cornwall Collection

13 08 2015

Well, the 4 mini Cornwall paintings are done!

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Counter clockwise from top left:
1) Lock from inside the House at Mount Edgcumbe, right near Plymouth, England
2) The domes at the Eden Project, near St. Austell
3) Boat and bird by the waters around Mount St. Michael
4) Houses and pastures of Tintagel, seen from atop Tintagel Castle

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They are so cute and little! May be putting up to sell on Etsy soon. Admittedly, the lock painting doesn’t fit in as well with the rest of the others, since the others are all very green and outdoor scenes, but each painting represents my favorite outings on our England trip. I went for a brighter, more green-toned look in the outdoor pieces than my photos generally had because I love the brightness of greenery. Fun project…maybe next I’ll do mini paintings of London or Strasbourg.

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