Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Day 2 - Touring Amish Country Part V

Today's plans included quite a bit of driving.  One of the recommended things to do in Amish Country was a self-guided driving tour to find Lancaster County's covered bridges.  I knew this would be a great opportunity to see a lot of the countryside, and since we were on our own, we could make stops as often as we wanted.  Armed with my trusty map of how to get to the bridges, we set off on our adventure. 

The first stop on our adventure was the post office; we had to mail out some books.  Nothing impressive here.  Just a typical post office... that just happens to have a place to park your horse & buggy!  How cool is that?  Super nice postal employees at the Smoketown PA Post Office, by the way.

Definitely not something you see every day!

We finished up at the post office and hit the road toward the first covered bridge.  We saw some amazing sites as we drove around - even if we did get quite lost and only found two of the five bridges on the tour.  Oh, well... seen one covered bridge, seen 'em all.  Right?

Part of the covered bridge tour took us to the town of Lititz which, coincidentally, is home to Wilbur Chocolate Factory.  I couldn't have planned it any better.  We drove through downtown Lititz, found Wilbur's, and went inside for a tour around its museum.  Wilbur's is best known for its Wilbur Bud, which is very similar to a Hershey Kiss except the Bud is not individually wrapped and has "Wilbur" embossed on the bottom.  Interestingly, the Wilbur Bud was invented in 1894, whereas the better-known Hershey Kiss didn't enter the world until 1907.  Just a bit of trivia for you.

Wilbur Chocolate Factory in Lititz, PA

After our tour of Wilbur's we headed back toward Lancaster.  As we passed one of the many farmhouses, I spotted a gathering off in the distance and almost drove off of the road again reaching for my camera.  I just had to have a picture of it.  I could just imagine the group of women sitting around working on a quilt, even though I had no idea what they were doing.  I wanted so badly to join them, but Scott insisted I keep driving.  Fortunately, since I was the one driving, I found the best place to make a u-turn, handed the camera off to Emilee, and drove back past the gathering.  We were a good enough distance away to not be considered rude, right?  I had to u-turn four times before we got an acceptable picture, albeit a bit blurry since we had to zoom in quite a bit.  I would have gone back past again, but since we were the only car on the road, it was probably obvious what we were doing.  :-)  I finally continued on and got more fun pictures of the area.

Think they'd mind if I joined them?

Amish Schoolhouse

I want one of these for my yard!

Feeding time for the sheep

Seeing this never gets old.

On our drive back toward Lancaster, we came across the Intercourse Pretzel Factory.  We dropped inside and were able to take a tour of where they make the pretzels and even got to shape our own.  Those pretzel-makers can twist a rope of dough in the air and turn it into a pretzel... definitely not as easy as it looks, but it was fun trying.

In the factory learning to twist a pretzel

Even Daddy got in on the dough twisting action.
After getting a pretzel treat from the factory, we decided to relax for the rest of the evening so we headed back to the hotel for a little pool time before turning in for the night. 

Another gorgeous sunset

Monday, July 30, 2012

Day 1 - Touring Amish Country Part IV

The last stop on our tour was to an Amish home.  Unfortunately, I am incredibly sad to say that I cannot remember their names.  We pulled onto their property, and I immediately spotted three small children eating grapes straight from the vine.  They were just so precious and were just begging for a picture to be taken.

Is he not the cutest thing ever?!?!
We unloaded the bus and were introduced to the family.  They led us into their home for a tour of the main level, and then took us outside to their patio so we could visit.  Ashlee was so excited to get to visit with them... so excited, in fact, that she didn't ask a SINGLE QUESTION!  I think she was just too in awe to think straight!  I found that they were just as interested in our lives as we were in theirs.  They were incredibly gracious and hospitable and answered every question our group threw at them.  One of the group's questions was about the scooters we saw when we pulled into their driveway.  They explained that the children traveled using scooters instead of bicycles because bicycles encouraged going too fast.  If only we could take some of that wisdom home with us! 

We were only able to visit for about 45 minutes, and the time just flew by.  The wife had some canned goodies for sale that I couldn't resist purchasing - I bought a couple of jars of homemade strawberry jelly.  As we were walking away from their patio, Ashlee spotted a gorgeous flower that I have never seen before.  The wife spotted her taking a picture of it and explained that this was called a Passion Flower, and she shared that the story behind it symbolizes the crucifixion of Christ.  The five petals and five sepals of the passion flower represent ten of Jesus' disciples (all but Judas who betrayed Jesus and Peter who denied knowing Jesus).  The five stamens of the passion flower represent the wounds on Jesus' hands, feet and head.  The three pistil stigmas, with their knob-like heads, represent the nails that pierced his hands and feet.  And then the lavender fringe of the passion flower represents the crown of thorns Christ wore on his head.  It was absolutely stunning, perhaps the most beautiful flower I have ever seen.

Passion Flower represents the crucifixion of Christ
We thanked our gracious hosts, loaded up the bus, and headed back to our our car.  Overall, the tour was amazing and, although a bit pricey, was definitely worth the money for a small taste of Amish life.

Once back at our car, we captured the sunset on our way back to the hotel.  The display across the countryside was gorgeous.  I think I could get used to the slow pace of life here... although I think I might need a little bit of electricity.


Day 1 - Touring Amish Country Part III

After our adventure at the Esh Dairy Farm, we headed down the road to our next stop - Smucker's Gourd Farm where we met the Smucker family.  Mr. Smucker gave us a tour of the facility explaining how, once they harvested the gourds, they cleaned them, polished them, sorted them, and took them into the shop to sell.  Some of the gourds were painted by his daughters, some were turned into birdhouses, and some of them were left plain waiting for someone to purchase them and put their own finishing touches on them.  The handpainted gourds were so pretty, but I was hesitant to take pictures of them... Ashlee was watching me too closely.  :-)  Mr. Smucker explained that the reason his family started the gourd farm was due to the fact that he had daughters, which made it a bit harder for his family to work a dairy farm, so he turned to making a living doing something that would be easier for them all to do. 

As we loaded up on the bus, we noticed some of the family members loading up into their buggy.  A couple of the little girls were coming out of the house with overnight bags and pillows.  The bus driver said it looked like they were heading out for a sleepover.  I couldn't resist a quick picture... and I was far away... and in a bus! 

Another clothesline - love these!

For our next and final stop, we headed to an Amish family's home.  To be continued...

Day 1 - Touring Amish Country Part II

After we rested up from our earlier buggy ride, lunch, and drive through the countryside, we headed to The Amish Experience for our VIP Tour (Visit-In-Person), one of the other things on Ashlee's list of things to do while in Amish Country.  The tour we booked included a tour of the countryside with three stops along the way:  an Amish dairy farm at milking time, an Amish business, which was a gourd farm, and an Amish home. We arrived and checked in about 30 minutes early, so we perused a few nearby shops before heading back to catch our tour bus.

Huge Sock Monkey at the Candy Shop

Giant 5 lb Lollipop!

Poor Pitiful Work Horses

Then we loaded a mini bus with about 10 other people and headed down the road while our bus driver dodged traffic and horse buggies, literally, and narrated into a headphone microphone.  Not only did we get the history of the Amish and a lot of stories about the area, we got lots of dialogue between her and the people in the cars/buggies all around us as she navigated the streets.  It was quite entertaining... and a bit frightening a couple of times!

The first stop on our tour was at the Esh Dairy Farm.  When we were walking toward the barn to begin our tour, we noticed a lot of kittens/cats hanging around at the barn door.  They seemed to know it was milking time too.  All the cows were lined up at their stations ready to be relieved of their heavy load.  I was in pain just looking at them.

Check out all the kittens/cats waiting for a drop of milk!
Just look at that face!

At least they get to eat while they get milked.

Got milk?  Looks so painful!
We listened as Mr. Esh explained the process and watched as the two oldest Esh children began their chore.  I really wanted to get a picture of the children hooking up the cow to the pump, but I didn't feel I was a good enough distance away for it to count as "acceptable" to take the photo.  Oh, well!  I don't remember all the details of the milking process, but it was quite the process.  My favorite part was when one of the girly cows decided to "take a load off" and just plopped down.  She got a gentle nudging from the teenage boy, and she reluctantly stood back up so he could hook her up.  You could tell the cows were treated very well, and the barn was pretty clean... for a barn!

Taking a load off!
Just outside the barn were three newborn calves.  They were about three days old and were ready and waiting to be bottle-fed.  The kids on the tour each got a turn to feed them... definitely a highlight!

After our tour of the barn, we walked around back to see their home, their vehicle/buggy, and where the children played.  They also had a couple of peacocks... who didn't enjoy us getting too close. 

A look inside the buggy

Then we wandered back to the front and into their gift shop where a teenage girl was waiting on us. There was a small light inside that was powered by a generator... I am so spoiled.  The quilts were amazing.  Since the girls and I had started taking an online class at the beginning of the summer to learn to make a quilt, I knew how much work went into making them.  The teenage girl then pulled what looked like a quilted pillow off of the shelf and introduced us to a "quillow."  She proceeded to pull a quilt out of the pillow, and we realized it was all attached.  She folded the quilt back up and tucked it back into a pocket, and it turned back into a pillow... thus, a quillow!  The girls were amazed, I was amazed, Scott was amazed.  Scott just looked over at the girls and said, "Pick one out."  Fortunately, they weren't anywhere near the cost of the full size quilts hanging around the room, which ranged from $600-$1200, and we ended up snatching two more for Nana and Mimi for Christmas!  Score!

Snuggling under our new Quillows!

It was then time to load the bus for our next destination - Smucker's Gourd Farm.  Stay tuned for more of our tour.

Day 1 - Touring Amish Country Part I

Today we started our tour of Amish Country with the first stop being the Visitor Center, as all good tourists do.  We grabbed a few brochures and chatted with an employee who gave us a map and marked it up with some good places/things to see.  After posing for some pictures I was "allowed" to take, we began our self-guided tour.

Inside Visitor Center in Lancaster, PA

Amish Buggy at Visitor Center
There were a few things that Ashlee specifically wanted to do while we were there, and taking a buggy ride was top of the list.  After a lot of research, I decided on Abe's Buggy Rides, and we chose the 3 mile - 30 minute ride.  Also, all their tours are private, so you are only in the buggy with your family or group.  They didn't take reservations, but we only had to wait about 15 minutes for our turn.  The great part is that the 15 minutes went by really fast because they have a working farm with lots of animals to watch, feed, and pet. 

When it was our turn, we loaded up and headed out onto the main road.  It felt very strange riding in a horse-drawn buggy down a paved two-lane road... while stopping at a red light!  Our driver was very knowledgeable, gave lots of information and answered lots of our questions.  Of course, one of my questions was about how the Amish feel about people taking their picture.  How was I going to capture our trip in Amish Country if I couldn't take pictures of the Amish people?  He informed us that as long as you take a picture from a distance, they really don't mind.  YES!  Our tour was so much fun, and the girls were grinning from ear to ear. 

Amish Children taking a rest behind the barn.
(Rest assured, I used my zoom lens so I'm far away!)
Love the Amish clothes line!

We finished up our buggy ride and found some fun shops to browse before a late lunch/early dinner.  On our drive toward the shops, I almost drove off the road trying to get to my camera in time to snap this picture before we got too close. One of the little girls was on a scooter, and the other one was pushing a wagon. It ended up being my favorite picture from Amish Country, not including the pictures of my family of course.

We found a fun shopping area with some outdoor shops.  While strolling around, the girls even got to "milk" Klarabelle!

We're missing a "flower"!
One of the things we really wanted to do while we were there was eat at an Amish buffet. We had been told that the Good N Plenty was the place to eat. When we arrived and walked inside, we discovered we had two choices... we could choose the family style all-you-can eat option or the menu dining option. We had originally wanted to do the family style all-you-can-eat... until we realized we would be sitting at a really long table with people we didn't know and would be passing the bowls around the table as they came. Combine that with the fact that this option was $22 PER PERSON, and we decided to go with menu dining. So we walked back down the hallway to the other side of the restaurant housed in a completely different area and were seated immediately. Upon walking into this side of the building, the smell was quite distinct, and not in a good way. I'm not sure what it was, but it was not appetizing. Knowing how weak Scott's stomach is, I didn't know if he could handle it. I pulled out the hand sanitizer, and he rubbed it underneath his nose to try to mask the smell. And I tried to tell him that the smell was from cabbage or sauer kraut being cooked, but he didn't really buy that. We placed our drink order and then debated on whether or not we were going to stay. The waitress came back then and we went ahead and placed our order. Scott excused himself and walked outside for a few minutes, and we were worried that he wasn't going to make it. It was actually quite comical for the girls and me to watch his discomfort, but he was a trooper and came back to eat with us, while continuously smearing hand sanitizer under his nose. :-)
Relaxing after lunch

After lunch we had plans to do a real guided tour of Amish Country, but we had a few hours before our 5:00 reservation, so we decided to head back to the hotel for a rest before our tour.   
Horse & buggy stopped at a redlight.

This was a tiny horsedrawn wagon. Several Amish children
had just unloaded and went inside this hardware store.

Too pooped to party!
Stay tuned for part II of our first day in Amish Country.