My First Christmas Vacation in 5 Years

The last time I had an actual “Christmas vacation” was my last year of college, in 2012. Since then, I’ve learned that when you’re working full time it can be tough to truly enjoy the holidays. You can carefully lay out travel plans that seem like they’ll work in theory, but you can never truly account for weather, crowds and the like. A couple years ago I tried flying on Christmas Eve, and I was in the airport for around 6 hours, in a terminal with no heat,  before I even got on the plane. So needless to say, I was looking forward to this year—Jeff’s office was closed from Christmas to New Years and I was able to work ahead on my assignments enough that we were able to have a true Christmas vacation. So these are the fun things we did!

We spent the first half of the week and the Christmas holiday in Florida with Jeff’s family. Our trip south happened to coincide with an extreme cold front in the Northeast, where the rest of our families reside, so we spent a few mornings watching the Weather Channel as the sun rose outside, not missing the cold temperatures. A quick aside: When we were living in Hoboken, the weather wasn’t often very different from what my family was getting up in Massachusetts. Here in DC, we’re about twice as far south, and the bigger difference has definitely been noticeable. Some might say that 16 degrees feels like 5 isn’t very different from 5 degrees feels like -11, but if you’ve lived in New England, you know that it is.

Back to sunny Florida. After spending my first day in bed with a stomach bug (there are worse places to recuperate than on a balcony surrounded by palm trees), I was able to head out and enjoy the beach and kayak on the Indian River. I always love kayaking, especially down there—the water is calm and quiet, there aren’t many boats, the sun is beating down on you and the sights range from impressive mansions on the shore to dolphins gliding through the shallow water.


The beach on the opposite side of the island from the river.

Just because we were in Florida didn’t mean we didn’t still have Jeff’s family’s traditional Christmas dinner, which meant turkey, stuffing and potatoes at the table on the patio by the pool. That’s the holidays in Florida, I suppose!

In other adventures: we went on walk through the jungle, across the island, that lead out to the beach.



Look at the sun coming through the palm fronds!

We went to Pelican Island, the nation’s first national wildlife refuge, which was founded in 1903. In addition to idyllic pathways to stroll on, the refuge has a long walkway made of wooden slats, with slats commemorating the years that every wildlife refuge in the United States was created, starting with Pelican Island and ending with a few that were formed in 2016. It was really interesting to walk along the path and see how much the US has done for its wildlife.


The view from one of the viewing points at Pelican Island.

We went to Captain Hiram’s, a classic Florida waterfront restaurant. I had a deliciously juicy broiled crab cake sandwich, French fries and a pina colada, and I was in my happy place.

We went to the McKee Botanical Garden, a  garden filled with plants from different tropical climates. They have a beautiful exhibit going on right now featuring metal animal sculptures made by an art collective in Kenya nestled among the plants that were incredibly impressive. Here are some of my favorites.


The lioness.


The giraffe—it looked real!


The rhino.


This panda pool party wasn’t part of the exhibit, but I thought it was adorable.

Florida was lovely, and we returned home with four days to go before heading back to work—which meant time for adventures in DC! So on one of the days, we headed out towards Dulles Airport to visit the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, which is part of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. It’s location at the airport means it’s much bigger than the museum on the National Mall and it’s filled with famous planes like the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird that set a speed record flying from Los Angeles to Washington, DC in 1 hour and 4 minutes, and the Space Shuttle Discovery, which was just retired a few years ago after making 39 missions to space. Here are some shots from this super cool trip.


This was probably a quarter of the hangar.



The world’s smallest plane!


The space shuttle was HUGE.

Our final adventure was to Politics and Prose Bookstore, a pretty famous bookstore in Northwest DC. I think we were there for around 45 minutes and I probably could have stayed for longer. I got a couple things, books and otherwise, that I’ll be posting about later so I’ll refrain from giving any details now. But I’m sure there will be more trips there in the future. We also found a local garden center that had a good variety of my favorite type of plant, succulents. I’ll be posting more about those too.

All in all, this was an incredibly relaxing and fulfilling vacation. And now that it’s 2018 and I have no idea what will be happening this time next year, I’m grateful that I was able to have such a nice break. But now it’s back to the grind!


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