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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

R’s one-week-long ‘summer vacation’ happened to coincide with my last free week before returning to work, so we decided to take the opportunity to head down to Florida.  We had a wonderful time!  To avoid a completely unruly post, I’m just going to hit the highlights here.  But beware – even a highlights-only account of a week at Walt Disney World is bound to be lengthy!  🙂

**  Listening to the first two Harry Potter audiobooks during our drive down and back.  They were just as good (and funny) as I’d heard!  More on this in posts to come.

**  Staying Saturday night with my sister and brother-in-law.  They recently moved to Florida for their new teaching jobs and it was fantastic to spend time with them and eat their yummy homemade pizza!

D & T cooking for us!Pizza!

**  R and my brother-in-law having a boy’s night with football and rocket launches while I checked out the beautiful artwork around my sister’s apartment.  (She paints and he sculpts – both very well.  Between them, they have covered every wall and flat surface with incredible art.  If you want to see more of his work, check out his website: Thomas Manley.)

Boys at playPottery

**  Getting ice cream with my aunt, uncle, and three cousins who also live down in Florida.

**  Staying at the festive Port Orleans-French Quarter resort at Disney.  The hotel was beautiful, the beignets weren’t bad, and we found some friendly critters on the property.

Port Orleans-French QuarterMusical gators

**  The Magic Kingdom!  Our favorite ride (largely because Space Mountain was closed) was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, although Pirates of the Caribbean with the new(er) addition of Cpt. Jack Sparrow was also worth two rides.  We got halfway up one of the big hills in Splash Mountain when they abruptly shut it down and evacuated us out of the ride.  We never made it back through, but we did get to view the inner workings of the Mountain.  Seeing plugs coming out of the backside of the Brer animals takes a bit of the magic out of things…  We also thought the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor was hilarious and we’re still not sure how they do it.  R made me stop spinning our tea cup in the Mad Tea Party because he was starting to get sick, something I will never, ever allow him to live down!

Magic Kingdom!AdventurelandUrsula - My favorite Disney villainCinderella's Castle

**  Epcot!  Soarin’ lived up to the hype – we both thought it was one of the best rides of all the parks.  If the wait hadn’t been the longest we saw in all of the parks, we definitely would have ridden it two or three times.  I loved the mini-aquarium at The Seas with Nimo and Friends and fell head over heels for the two manatees.  We had a great time walking around the World Showcase.  I was thrilled to find an entire Christmas tree full of German pickles – how many extra presents does that get me, Santa?  We caught one of the British Invasion performances and were pleased when they opened with I Want To Hold Your Hand, our wedding recessional song.  It started raining halfway through our World Showcase stroll, so we unfortunately saw some of the countries at only a fast walk.  (Even with rain coats and ponchos, we still managed to get pretty wet!)

Mine?  Mine?  Mine?I found ALL the pickles!I miss London!The Fab FourDrenched!

**  Animal Kingdom!  This ended up being our favorite park and we spent a full day and a half wandering around.  All of the animals were wonderful; we loved the Kilimanjaro Safari and really enjoyed all of the walking paths.  We got tons of great animal pictures because they were surprisingly active.  Expedition Everest was thrilling, although my hands were definitely trembling afterward!

Tree of LifeMeerkatGorillaTigerCrested crane with babyGiraffeLionExpedition Everest

**  Spending a day learning that water parks are really more for kids than adults (Blizzard Beach), that I am a far better minature golfer than R (two holes in one!), and that virtual reality masks really hurt (DisneyQuest).  We loved CyberSpace Mountain at DisneyQuest, going out of our way to create the scariest rollercoaster we could ride in the simulator.

**  Eating tons.  Some of the meals were lackluster, but others really stood out.  A dear friend and Disney connoisseur recommended some great places to us.  As promised, Earl of Sandwich served some truly excellent sandwiches.  R ordered some fabulous Moroccan wine and mint tea (and watched some belly dancing) at Restaurant Marrakesh.  R taught me how to eat crab and lobster at Fulton’s Crab House – it was so fun!  Narcoossee’s helped us celebrate our anniversary (we celebrate around the 1/2 year mark, since Christmas and New Years get in the way of the actual date) with festive dessert plates.  At Boma, in the gorgeous Animal Kingdom Lodge, I added ‘fufu’ to my collection of best named foods I’ve ever eaten (a mashed potato dish, it joins ‘toot’, a mulberry drink).

Getting messy at Fulton's Crab HouseSweet dessert celebrating 1.5 wonderful years

**  Laughing at the hilarious things kids do and say.  When Crush at Turtle Talk asked the audience for the name of the bikini top hanging around his neck, a kid up front yelled, “It’s an over-the-shoulder boulder holder!”

**  Discovering that fall comes very early at the Magic Kingdom.

Fall in August

Despite coming home almost as tired as we were when we left, it was a wonderful week.  Just what we needed before jumping back into real life this past week!

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This past weekend was incredibly full of travel (which made the beginning of this week a little hectic).  Early Friday morning, R and I headed to DC for my Grandfather’s funeral service.  We met up with many family members from all over the country and attended the lovely and moving graveside service.

Grandfather could seem gruff, but his heart was pure gold – and usually his gruffness (especially with his grandchildren) was in jest.

We called him many things – Grandfather, Bap Bap, Grand.  He called me Brat just as often as he called me by my first name.  I loved that about him and our relationship.

I’ll never look at a crossword puzzle without thinking of him.  He and my Tutu always tag-teamed the daily paper’s crossword, and a visit from them was never complete until a mostly-finished puzzle was lying on our kitchen table.

I know I learned my love of games from Grandfather and his unending willingness to play cards.  As a family, we spent thousands of the best hours playing rounds of Sink – big, crazy, boisterous games of Sink.

Saying goodbye is so hard, but I’ll cherish these and many other memories.  I love you, Smiley.  To me, you’ll always be the STAR of the day.guestbook table 001

Wow, since that was much harder to write than I expected, I’m going to just jump ahead to the next round of our traveling weekend.

After taking a (very) late flight home on Friday, R and I got up early Saturday and drove to Asheville, NC for his cousin’s wedding that evening.  Asheville is one of my favorite cities in the Southeast (maybe even in the whole country?), so I was thrilled to go back.  Some of the highlights:

  • Lunch at Early Girl Eatery where I re-discovered their yummy grit croutons (if anyone has a recipe for these, please tell me!)
  • Staying at a lovely downtown hotel, courtesy of my father-in-law’s mad Priceline skills
  • Attending the wedding at the Asheville School’s gorgeous chapelMarci and Ben
  • Catching up with all of R’s family at the reception

B and R at wedding

  • Brunch at Rezaz, the restaurant I’ve been wanting to revisit since eating there last year
  • Muhamara at Rezaz, the dish that I’ve been dreaming and talking about for a year
  • Exploring the River Arts District for its biannual Studio Stroll with R, my mother-in-law, and brother-in-law
  • Being dressed up by an artist who makes latex ‘armor’

Headpieces

It was a good weekend.  And it is good to be home.

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Miraculously, R didn’t have to go in to the hospital at all on Memorial Day, so we took advantage of the rare day off together by taking a day trip!

We drove up to Dahlonega, GA which apparently was the location of the first major U.S. gold rush.  But more importantly, it is home to many of Georgia’s wineries – including Montaluce Winery and Estates, our destination.

Montaluce is a Tuscan-style winery and we could see the influence in the architecture, food, and estate design.  Driving through the property, we passed several beautiful buildings overlooking portions of the vineyard.  It almost felt like we were driving through the Tuscan countryside!

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We started with a tasting of Italian red wines.  (They were actually bottling Montaluce’s first harvest while we were there, so we didn’t have the opportunity to taste any of their wines.)  The bartender was great and kept throwing out ‘bonus’ tastes for us.

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To counter the effects of the tasting, we headed to the on-site restaurant, Le Vigne.  Between the delicious flatbread pizzas and Georgia peach bread pudding, we practically rolled our way through the winery tour that followed lunch.  The facilities and grounds at Montaluce were lovely – I hope to return sometime after their own wines are available for tasting!

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Afterward, we headed to Dahlonega’s historical square for some people watching and window shopping.  Finally, it was home for some homemade peach cobbler (first Georgia peaches of the season!) and Slumdog Millionaire (am I the only person who didn’t like that movie?).  What a fantastic date day!

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