Images from Starved Rock Lodge & State Park

Last December, between Christmas and New Years Eve I spent a small amount of time at Starved Rock State Park and Lodge. Typically, I try to spent time there at least once a year (though I recommend visiting it once a season, if possible).

It was unseasonably warm during my visit which caused an abundance of flooding in certain parking areas. Overnight though, it decided to snow.

Here are a few images from my trip. I decided to go with a series of black and whites for a more isolated feel.

Images from Starved Rock State Park & Lodge – Winter 2012

Shortly after Christmas, right before New Years, we took our annual trip to Starved Rock State Park. This year we were unable to stay for our usual length of time so we had to pack as much activity into a shorter time period than in visits past.

Usually we stay inside one of the cabins at the lodge but this year we decided to stay in one of the lodge rooms. While it didn’t offer as much privacy as the cabins (nor a fireplace), there were definite benefits. We need not worry about the hungry racoons with the beady glowing eyes lurking in the darkness outside when we wanted to take a swim in the pool, eat in the Lodge Restaurant or relax in the Great Hall. Nothing like racing out into the cold in half wet swimwear. That will most certainly put some pep in your step!

Before checking in we made sure to stop at the Illinois River Winery to pick up some of their local wines. We selected the Strawberry-Rhubarb and a bottle of Mad Jack’s Apple Pie shots. We enjoyed the Starved Rock Lodge’s decadent Sunday Brunch Buffet complete with made-to-order omelet station, waffles complete with fruit toppings, vegetarian pastas, carving station, bacon, sausage,fresh fruit and so much more. There was definitely no shortage of desserts either! After fueling up at the buffet, we ventured onto a trail that we had not ventured into before and were rewarded with a beautiful view of the St. Louis canyon complete with frozen waterfall.

After our hike we decided to take a dip in the pool as well as relax our sore muscles in the hot-tub. At this point we had developed grumbling stomachs so onward to a place we visited last year, the Uptown Grill for dinner. The Uptown Grill is located in LaSalle County which is only a short drive away from Starved Rock and features a very delicious and diverse menu. I started things off by selecting some of their unique loose leaf teas. For dinner we opted for the Margarita and Fajita special. We topped off our meal with warmed chocolate chip cookies and ice cream.

After dinner we drove through the small towns of Peru and Utica before arriving back at our room. Before officially heading home we visited Cracker Barrel, one of the few places around where Cornbread Dressing is considered a “vegetable”.  We plan on visiting Starved Rock again for our anniversary in the fall. A time of year we’ve never had a change to visit. If possible, we hope to make another trip out here again before then.

Check out a few images from the trip below:

Starved Rock State Park entrance, alternate view

Starved Rock Lodge entrance

Holiday decor and Fireplace

Starved Rock Lodge Fireplace

Inside

Trees, Sun and Leaves

Victory?

Meet me in St. Louis Canyon

Hubby and me inside St. Louis Canyon

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Holiday Ambiance

Lone drinker

Bridge over Peru

Rear of Starved Rock Lodge

Steps to Starved Rock Visitors Center

Still stumped

Leisurely Flubbers

View the complete set!

Images from Las Vegas: Part Five

‘Allo All!

First of all, my apologies for the extended delay in getting the final set of the Vegas images up. I really don’t have a great big elaborate excuse other than the fact I got a little busy and really lazy.

Moving on, here’s the final set of images from Vegas. Our last day mainly consisted of us going for a walk down the strip, a visit to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum and a trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower at the Paris Hotel. Aside from the Eiffel Tower view, there aren’t as many scenic or artistic style shots here. These are mostly the hubby and I spending our last day just checking things out along the strip.

As much as I LOVE taking photos, at this point in the trip I was less concerned about photography and more concerned about enjoying our final vacation day.

Onward bound…

New York New York

Pretty Lights

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Gordon Ramsay Steak Ad

Luxor Pool

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Belagio Fountain Show

Drive Carefully Vegas Sign with Flubbers

Images from Las Vegas (and Beyond): Part Four

I didn’t know exactly what to title this entry since The Grand Canyon isn’t in Las Vegas however it was part of our Las Vegas trip. I have never seen The Grand Canyon before and what I hear from those who have is that no photo, no matter how well done, simply cannot capture the size and depth of the canyon. I have to say that even though I am fairly pleased with my shots they pale in comparison to what we saw in person.

I will have fond memories of seeing the canyon for the first time however not so much for the incredibly long bus ride it took us to get there. That’s not a knock against the Grand Canyon Tour Company in any way. The bus was clean, our tour guide was extremely pleasant and the lunch buffet certainly hit the spot. There just comes a point where I can no longer sit in one spot anymore and by the time we were headed back to our hotel (the Luxor) I was pretty much ready to never see a bus again. Combine that feeling with the exhaustion felt by making sure we were at our pick up point at 6:15 am at the Excalibur Rotunda next door. Generally, that isn’t obscenely early in my day to day life however when you are vacationing in a “24 hour” town getting to bed at a reasonably early time the night prior is not an easy task. Also, in Vegas, the term “next door” should be used very loosely when referring to distances anywhere on the strip.  Things look far closer than they actually are. Always wear comfortable shoes.

Moving on, let’s admire the beauty of America’s biggest hole, as well as a little bit of our journey getting there.

waiting for the Grand Canyon Tour Bus 2

Mule Ride

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Grand Canyon

Girl with the Flubber Tattoo

Hoover Dam

Part Three   Part Five Coming Soon

Images from Las Vegas: Part Three

These next few pictures showcase some of the sites we saw while walking along the strip as well as our visit to Freemont street.  I wish, oh how I wish, photography was allowed at the MGM Grand’s Cirque Du Soleil performance of Ka. It was probably the best show I have ever seen. To even attempt to describe it would not do it justice. I encourage you, if you go to Vegas and buy tickets to one show, make that show Ka. Fork over the money for the good seats too. We sat in the seventh row and that was pretty much a perfect spot. You will need to look up at several moments and I would imagine that could become a bit straining in the front row and if you sat in the back you wouldn’t be privy to to the amazing detail that was put into this unique stage set up.

It’s also really cool to find out that Ka has teamed up with Marvel Comics. The hubby both agreed that this has the key ingredients to be an epic motion picture and perhaps that could be in the cards after this team up with Marvel.
Paris Hotel with Eiffel Tower

Venetian Gondolas

from of Ventian Hotel

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Ka Theater logo

Oh how I wish I had photos to share!

Part Two                                                   Part Four

Images from Las Vegas: Part Two

Day number two of our stay in Las Vegas brought us to the Neon Boneyard bright and early via the double decker Deuce bus which offers a nice flat fee of $7.00 for 24 hour service from the time of purchase. The museum consists of a wide variety of neon and light bulb signs from vintage Las Vegas hotels, most of which have since been imploded. At the time of this entry the Boneyard only allows public access through scheduled tours but hopes to allow more accessible visits in the future as well as completely rehabbing the signs with the ability to be lit up at night. This however is not a cheap feat so at the current time a donation of $15 is suggested for the tour price.

After our visit to the Boneyard we made our way to a wonderful seafood place called Mickie Finnz located on Freemont Street which we ended up returning to later that evening (pictures of the Freemont Street Experience will be featured in the next post) after we recharged at the hotel and proceeded to do a little more sightseeing along the strip.

The Neon Boneyard Park

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Luxor Pyramid with Sphinx and Tower

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Luxor Belive Criss Angel

Flubbers im Luxor

Shopps at the Venetian Canal

Wishes
Fountain near the Wynn

Part One                         Part Three

Images from Las Vegas: Part One

So last week the hubby and I took a 5 night trip to Las Vegas for the very first time. When we mentioned this to friends and colleagues we were surprised to find that such a large amount of them had not only been there but have gone multiple times. We wondered what it was about Vegas that made people repeatedly come back. Why would you re-visit the same place when there are so many vacation options across the globe? What was so intriguing that created the need to return to the city of neon lights? I’ll expand on that thought over the course of the next image heavy posts which will each chronicle a day from our trip.

This first batch covers our flight which is the part of the trip I dreaded most because I am not nor have I ever been a calm flyer. Remember the Twilight Zone (movie or episode) where the guy (William Shatner or John Lithgow) sees a monster on the wing and freaks out? Well, that’s pretty much me in a nutshell. If the nutshell was flying at 35,000 feet while being pressurized resulting in a head imploding like sensation for several hours. Simply put, flying has always felt too unnatural and uncomfortable to be so routinely done by so many people. I am always frustrated by the calmness and ease of the other passengers while I panic at the slightest sound or tiniest flicker of light.

Usually our conversations go something like this:

Me: “WHAT WAS THAT?!?!”

Hubby: “That’s the landing gear. We need that to live.”

Me: “Shut Up.”

As you might have guessed based on the sole fact that you are reading this, we landed safely. In my few moments of bravery I did manage to snap a few pictures out the window. This was actually rather helpful, for a few moments anyway, in letting myself out of the moment and existing behind the lens. That and well, Flubbers make any situation better.

Once we landed we took a shuttle bus for $6 each to our hotel, which was the Luxor, and checked in. We originally booked the Deluxe Pyramid Room, though after doing some research it was commonly recommended that a room in the Tower section was the way to go due to the recent renovations. So we politely asked if any complimentary upgrades were available and to our pleasure an upgrade to the tower was given to us at no extra charge. I believe that at most hotels  if a slight upgrade is available that usually one will be given.

Being the party animals that we are, we gobbled down some food and  promptly took a nap. Then we woke up around  7:00pm as the sun was just starting to dim and within the next hour Vegas began to light up. So we pulled ourselves together and ventured out into the neon landscape.

From the plane

From the plane

McCarran Airport

View from room at Luxor

New York New York Skyline
Siren in the Sea

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Skull Rock
Excalibur

Part Two