Saturday, January 28, 2012

chattanooga december 2011

I'm still in catch-up mode in a few areas where last December is concerned. One of those areas is getting my photos blogged, but I think that I'll be done with that after this post!

So, about two weeks before the craziness that was Christmas started, Darren and I spent a couple of days (okay, more like 36 hours over the course of two days) in Chattanooga. Neither of us had ever been to the Christmas light displays at Rock City, and it had been forever and a day since we'd been to the aquarium. After asking Darren if he preferred a hotel or bed and breakfast, I got our trip booked in late November.

In case you're wondering, he picked a bed and breakfast. We stayed in the Vanilla Sky room at the Garden Walk Inn in Lookout Mountain, Georgia. It was a cute place- nicely furnished and everything, but for the price I think I'd stay at a hotel next time.

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The bathroom. If you've been reading my blog long enough to have seen any of my other travel photos, you may have noticed that I like to take photos of pretty bathrooms at the places I stay. I'm just weird like that, yo.

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We had already eaten dinner at Logan's on the way to Lookout Mountain, so after unpacking and settling in we headed to Rock City. There was a bit of a wait for tickets because there were sooooo many other people there, so I headed over to Starbucks to get hot chocolate and peanut butter cup cupcakes while Darren waited in line. It was pretty cold outside, so the hot chocolate served double-duty as a sweet treat and a handwarmer!

Finally, though, we got in, and it was really pretty!

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Unlike the light displays at the Botanical Gardens here in Huntsville (which I think is still my favorite of the two), Rock City is set up so that you get the experience of walking through the gardens (at night, no less!), with lots of pretty lights highlighting the existing landscape.

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Of course, there are some beautiful big displays thrown in, too. :)

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::sigh:: I love snowflake lights.

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Nope, my white balance wasn't off in this shot- the lighting in this rocky pass really was all blue!

Perhaps at this point I should mention that I was hiking through all of this, in the dark...in the air cast I was wearing while my torn achilles healed! I walked bunches in it over the course of this weekend.

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There was something very Lord of the Rings-ish about this gnome fishing from a high cliff with the little tree in the middle of the water below.

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It's not Christmas without gnomes and mushrooms, right? Or is that just me?

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This was my favorite part of the tour. It reminded me a lot of the massive curtains of lights at the Huntsville Botanical Gardens' Galaxy of Lights (and, incidentally, it's my favorite part of the tour there, too).

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I had so much fun with unfocused light photos this Christmas!

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The view of Chattanooga at night from the top of Lookout Mountain was stunning. Don't let the serene-ness of the photo fool you- it was windy and cold up there!

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The candyland display was so fun. And bright! The photos don't show it, but it was so bright that it almost hurt your eyes to look at it!

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I took this photo just because Darren didn't think I could (the lighting was really challenging). To that I say, "phhhhbbbbbtttt!!"

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There was a narrated nativity scene, too- I was so happy to see that!

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I love toy soldiers and nutcrackers!

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One whole section was nothing but a fun winding path through "toyland."

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And these guys marked the way into the cavern whose grottos are filled with illustrations from nursery rhymes and fairy tales. We both found that to be quite creepy and/or boring, so we didn't spend much time inside. Also? It was really humid and made my camera lens fog up. Grrr!!

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The next morning we ate at the bed and breakfast before heading back down to Chattanooga- peach french toast and sausage.

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The Tennessee Aquarium. As soon as I stepped into this place, I wondered why I'd stayed away for so long! We'd seriously let life get too darn busy because we used to go there all the time (in fact, I wrote about that on a scrapbook page for May Flaum's Camp Scrap class about a year and a half ago- and to this day I have no idea why that came out, because it certainly wasn't what I intended to write!).

We're so happy to have renewed our memberships now, and since we've moved back to Huntsville and are closer to work and school, we actually have the time to go now!

Now, on with the fish!

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Have I ever mentioned that Darren is a big kid? :)

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Clownfish are my absolute favorites and have been since long before Finding Nemo ever came out.

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Coronet fish. I think...Darren will have to correct me if I'm wrong.

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You have no idea how many shots of this tiny baby seahorse I stood there and took with my macro lens to get one that looked right!

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The leafy sea dragons are Darren's favorites.

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I was so happy that the otters were actually out playing while we were there and not sleeping in their dens! They moved so fast it was hard to get a good photo of either of them, but it was so much fun to watch them play.

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Trout!

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I was a bit shocked to see this sign! I mean, River Giants sounds cool and all, but I remember standing in front of this tank on many occasions and watching in fascination as the sharks and stingrays went swimming by. I guess they didn't need a saltwater tank in this part of the aquarium any more since they built the saltwater wing, but it's still a little sad to see it go. :(

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The Rivers of the World exhibit.

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Turtles! I love turtles. :)

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And Darren loves sturgeons. So cool that they have a "petting tank" here!

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More turtles!

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Darren is also quite fascinated with paddlefish.

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And also with snapping turtles.

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The Tennessee Aquarium is divided into two buildings (freshwater and saltwater), so we took a lunch break at Cheeburger Cheeburger between the two.

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And then it was on to the second building, where I got to pet the stingrays! I'd forgotten about this pool and may or may not have squeeed a bit when I saw it.

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Their butterfly exhibit is small, but pretty.

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And the penguins are just cool!

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The freshwater building is really cool, and I love it, but there's nothing like the saltwater wing. I mean, where else can you be right across the glass from something as amazing as this massive sea turtle?

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Their other sea turtle is actually a rescue- he was injured in a boating accident and lost his tail and back flippers, but now he gets to safely live out the rest of his life at the aquarium.

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I love reef aquariums!

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More clownfish!

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Cuttlefish. Which Darren tells me are very intelligent.

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Jellyfish. They used to have a whole exhibit of nothing but jellyfish here, and I'm so glad that they kept parts of it.

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The divers in the aquarium kind of sealed what my birthday present is going to be this year- I'm getting scuba lessons/certification!!

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And one last look before we left for home.

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I'm so very glad that we finally made it back to the aquarium, and I'm already thinking that our next trip needs to be soon- maybe in the next two or three weeks!