phillip and kelsey do boston – day 2

day two in boston started with breakfast at, where else, dunkin’ donuts!  we had some coffees, donuts, and breakfast sandwiches as we planned out the rest of our day.  our first stop, and probably the most important stop of the trip, was to visit the hospital where phillip and his sisters were born.  so we caught the train and headed to dorchester.

now the st. mary’s center for women and children, st. margaret’s is were michele and kim spent several months delivering their miracle babies over thirty years ago.  since we were there on a weekend, we couldn’t get the full tour, but the receptionist charlotte was happy to show us around the grounds as much as she could.

phillip & charlotte.

as charlotte led us through some of the buildings, she was happy to give us some history of the grounds.  it turned out she has been working there for quite some time, so she was able to tell us all about the purpose of the center now, how some of the rooms were used when the grounds were still a hospital, and even where some of the original architecture and artwork is still maintained.  it was so special to watch as phillip took it all in, soaking up the place where his story began so many years ago.

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eventually charlotte did have to return to her desk, but she suggested we go sit in the garden since the weather was so nice out, and that is exactly what we did.  it was so pleasant to slow down, even if just for a few moments, and appreciate all the good things going on at this place.  🙂

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phillip and kelsey do boston – day 1

our summertime travels continued with a trip up to boston.  phillip and his sisters were born there but none had been back since, and since i loved the city the last time i came with my friend vinh, i was all in, no doubt about it.

we were up bright and early that friday morning and landed at boston-logan international airport around eleven a.m.  seeing as how our trip would total to barely 48 hours, no humongous luggage bags were necessary (shocking, i know), so we deplaned, grabbed some local transit maps, and hopped on the free silver line bus to south station.  as my father would say, “if it’s free, it’s me!”  about ten minutes later we exited and began to roam the city streets.  we couldn’t check into our airbnb for a few hours, and since we were hungry for some local eats, we asked a friendly bostonian for directions to the original cheers restaurant.  i mean, when in boston, where else would you go?

it was easy to find the restaurant, just a few turns away and a gathered crowd.  there was a slight wait due to the start of the lunch rush, so while we waited we did what every good tourist would do and took a junk ton of pictures.  aren’t they fabulous?  🙂

once our buzzer buzzed, we took the stairs down and crammed ourselves and all our stuff into a cozy booth.  the restaurant was coming to life right before eyes, the energy was tangible, and it was a great way to begin our visit.

like all great day-time vacations, we were not on the clock and were quick to order a couple of adult beverages.  phillip had a local dark something and i stuck with a standard wheat beer – you know, easing myself into things.  both were crisp and cold and quite refreshing.

in no hurry at all, we also ordered ourselves a little appetizer to munch on while we looked over the rest of the menu.  per the waiter’s recommendation, we enjoyed the spinach artichoke dip.  what a classic!  the picture may not be doing it justice, but this popular dish was nice and hot with fluffy gobs of whipped cream cheese, hearty artichoke hunks, gooey cheese, and tasty spinach.  a bite here, a sip there, things were off to a good start indeed.

pretty satisfied with the dip, we decided splitting an entree would be the way to go next, and the kitchen gladly served us our reuben on two individual plates.  this sandwich is such comfort food to me, and the only thing it needed was more thousand island dressing.  i can never get enough!

with full bellies and a second wind, we killed some time on the self-guided freedom trail tour.  the map directed us through boston common, over to the old south meeting house, and, for us, ultimately to faneuil hall.  it could not have been a better sightseeing day, as the air was cool and the cloud coverage was substantial – a welcome change from the stifling georgia heat!

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at last we received word that our airbnb was ready for our arrival, so we navigated our way through the financial district to our studio apartment for the weekend.  the space was just perfect for our two-night stay and ended up being a great, central location for all our adventures.

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macon and andersonville

WOW!  What can I say, Kelsey and I recently had a “father/daughter” weekend and it was FANTASTIC.

Macon, GA and Andersonville, GA.  Granted, these two locations may not sound glamorous, fun, etc…but we had a TERRIFIC time.

First of all, a big “shout-out” to Kelsey’s husband Phillip for being “part of the solution” for this weekend.  As a way of saying thanks, I did provide Phillip with some goodies.  Three sleeves of Pringles, a package of Thomas’ English Muffins, and an entire jar of Smuckers Orange Marmalade.  Guys are so simple.

And now to the highlights, and there were plenty.

I drove from Birmingham to Altanta one Thursday night back in September, pouring rain and I mean pouring the entire way from Birmingham to Anniston.  Of course i slowed down to 86 MPH but managed to hydroplane my way to Kelsey’s condo.

As some of you know, one of my “trip traditions” is to bring a baseball cap and have people that we meet and chat with autograph the hat as a keepsake.  Kelsey reminded me that a couple of years ago I gave her a modest collection of the vinyl albums that I had.  One of the vinyl albums was from the Allman Brothers titled Eat a Peach.  Since part of the trip included a stop in Macon, GA to go to and visit the Allman Brothers Museum (AKA The Big House), I had a BFO, or blinding flash of the obvious.  Instead of having people sign the baseball cap, have people sign the album cover.  HOME RUN!

For my visit, Kelsey had baked my all-time favorite breakfast, her world-famous cafeteria coffee cake.  MAJOR YUMMO that Friday morning!

Our next step was Macon, GA and the Allman Brothers’ “The Big House.”  We arrived, and it was almost a religious experience.  We walked around and toured The Big House for almost two hours.  If you or your mom or your dad are Allman Brothers fans, this is a terrific trip.  The Big House includes almost everything you can imagine:  lyric sheets, contracts, drums, keyboards, clothes, etc…If you are looking for a unique/creative gift, a trip to The Big House would be perfect.  We met and talked with several different “hippy-dippy” types and had a great time.

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It was then early Friday afternoon, and since Kelsey and I were both hungry, we opted for a restaurant that the Allman Brothers enjoyed, the now world-famous H&H Cafe.  The perfect little “hole in the wall.”  Kelsey had fried chicken and I had the brisket sandwich.  Great stuff.  Our server was nicknamed “Panda,” and she signed the album cover.  Sidebar, there were two Alabama football fans at H&H.  I guess they’ll let anyone with money come in.

Kelsey’s husband Phillip attended Mercer University in Macon, GA, so our next stop was to drive to Mercer and take a very nice walk around the campus.  The campus just oozes with education and smart people, and I was overcome with all the knowledge surrounding us.

One of the big highlights of Mercer was the time we spent with the statue of Jesse Mercer, the founder of Mercer University.  One of the many great traditions at Mercer involves the rubbing of Jesse’s head.  Well, in addition to rubbing Jesse’s head, I also poked him in the eyes, picked his nose, etc…

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orlando – days 2 & 3

i know you’ve been on the edge of your seat to hear about the rest of our time in orlando, so here we go!

our saturday proved to be just as fun as our friday, and it all began at the winter garden farmers market.  we have these sorts of things in atlanta but never seem to make the time to go, which means we enjoyed ourselves even more.

things at the market were already pretty lively by the time we arrived, which made for excellent people watching.  there were couples of all ages, families with little ones, ladies with big sun hats and bigger bags full of fresh produce and fragrant baguettes.  it was a feast for the senses, indeed!

since we had forgone breakfast at the house, we were definitely in the mood for a little snack.  considering the heat of the already sweltering florida morning, lisa led us straight to enzo’s acai bar.  the line wasn’t long, the people were friendly, and the service was fast.  i don’t remember exactly what we had, but i do remember the cool sorbet, crunchy granola, and sweet fruit in every bite.  the perfect start to the morning!  as we munched, we moseyed from booth to booth, admiring the quality and beauty of the local craftsmen.  if we’d had any extra space in our suitcase, i’m certain i would have come home with a bundle of treasures, but i’m betting phillip is grateful that wasn’t the case.  🙂

one stand we stopped by caught lisa’s eye as she turned the corner:  the allisons’ apiaries honey stand.  lisa admitted to us that she was on a big honey kick these days and just could not resist.  the gentleman who assisted us was quite welcoming and helpful and generous with samples.  we tasted wild flower honey, blackberry honey, honey whose names i cannot recall, and they were all so scrumptious.  lisa’s honey infatuation was so darling that phillip and i insisted we treat her to some as a thank-you for hosting us that weekend.  at first she couldn’t accept but then quickly warmed up to the idea and picked out a couple jars and even a beeswax gator candle.  i’d say they were worth every penny.

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orlando – day 1

last weekend phillip and i took a barely hour-long flight south to visit our friends kyle and lisa in orlando, fl.  they’ve been there for a couple of years now and our trip was long overdue, so with some handy delta skymiles and some pto, off we were!

friday started out with a bit of sleeping in, some bagels, large mugs of coffee, and a little catching up.  i’ve known kyle and lisa since our days at uga, and it’s always fun to reminisce on what was but even better to hear about adult life and what’s going on these days.  i personally think some of the best friendships are the ones where you can fall right back into conversation, no matter how much time has passed, and that is much of how our weekend went.

kyle (a middle school band teacher) had to work that day, so after lisa, phillip, and i freshened up, we made our way to the happiest place on earth and started out at magic kingdom.  neither phillip or i have been to disney world since we were kids, so it was as though we were seeing everything for the first time.  and, if i am being honest, i almost had more fun all weekend watching phillip because it was like he was a carefree kid again, and it made me smile from ear to ear.  🙂

we swiped our passes, took a few steps, and were in the middle of it all with everyone else right there on main street.  the bright blue skies and puffy white clouds made for quite an entrance, as did google photos for making a good picture even better.

we even were lucky enough to be greeted by an energetic, fabulous character parade!

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but you know what put it all over the top?  the fact that the whole park was decorated for the fall season.  i about died from a cuteness overload when i saw this autumn-themed mickey.

now, lisa had us all set with some fast passes at some quintessential attractions, and we started things off with the classic pirates of the caribbean ride.  with the hot florida sun beating down on us, it was a great idea to be inside the cool attraction, watching as jack sparrow snuck from one scene to the next.  and, because we’re all kids at heart, we got our yo-ho on as well.  aarh, matey!

next up was, yes, it’s a small world after all.  i’d imagine it’s law that you can’t go to magic kingdom without riding this ride, and i mean it when i say it was just as charming (and repetitive, lol) as i recall.

now, our next stop was the haunted mansion, and i myself have zero recollection of this ride at all.  phillip and lisa were a bit aghast, but i’m guessing that when we went as a family, mom and dad probably thought it would be too spooky for us kids, and i wouldn’t have a hard time believing it at all.  regardless, all that matters is that we rode it this time when we were there, and i actually thought it was quite wonderful!  i loved all the animations and special effects and was giggling beside lisa throughout the entire ride.  honestly, as we exited the mansion i couldn’t stop telling everyone how thoroughly i enjoyed it.  the day we have kids who are ready for the haunted mansion experience, you better believe i’ll be dragging them through myself!

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The Adventures of Kiwi Kyle | Part 5

Over the past two to three years, I have broadened my horizons when it comes to wine.  Before then, I avoided the wine list mainly because there was a beer on the drink menu I wanted to try or because I knew nothing about wine.  My wife Kari would give me a couple sips of whatever she was drinking while we were out and about, so I came to know what I liked.  If I want a white, it’s Pinot Grigio, but if it’s a red, give me a Malbec.  When I learned New Zealand was known for Sauvignon Blanc and that there were a few wineries just a 45-minute drive from Christchurch, I decided to check out the local scene.

My Internet searching brought me to Waipara Hills and its iconic stone building set among the picturesque Waipara Valley vineyards.  I knew they offered samplings, so I approached the bar, eager to dive in with Dennis, the lucky (or unlucky) employee to take me in.  When he asked me what I was interested in trying, I replied, “What do you recommend?”  He came back with, “What do you usually drink?”  I answered, “If I want a white, it’s Pinot Grigio, but if it’s a red, give me a Malbec.”  Period, end of statement, no more to be said, but Dennis was looking at me, waiting to list off more wines.  Reading the expression on his face, I let him know I usually stay in my lane with wine, so I will literally try just about anything.

As such, Dennis started me off with a Sauvignon Blanc that had a very intense fruit/sugar taste, which was way more than I had bargained for.  I asked Dennis to turn it down in that respect for the next round, which he did with Gewurztraminer.  Now, I couldn’t pronounce the name if my life depended on it, but I came to learn rose petals, lychee, cinnamon, and ginger are characters commonly found in the New Zealand version.  This particular batch was stored in an oak barrel, and it was a wine I very much enjoyed.  From there Dennis poured a Pinot Gris and Gruner Veltliner, which were good in their own right.  At that point, I decided to end my wine tasting journey and asked Dennis for a glass of the Gewurztraminer and a cheese plate. I took a seat on the patio, took in the view, and did pretty much nothing for the next hour.

When Kari was in town the following week, we went to Terrace Edge Vineyard, which was just on the other side of the road from Waipara Hills.  Terrace Edge is a much smaller operation but was equally enjoyable and has an awesome slogan:  “A dramatic landscape captured in liquid form”.  Who wouldn’t want to try a wine from a place like that!  Jill the owner told us about all the different wines as we sampled them and how her family bought the vineyard on a whim in 1999.  Her son even studied viticulture in college and now runs the day-to-day operations in the vineyard!  In going to both wineries, the excitement Dennis and Jill had for their craft was obvious, and that’s one thing I noticed about New Zealanders during my time here:  They are very proud and passionate about being from New Zealand and sharing whatever it is they love (wine, glacier hiking, etc…) with visitors.

The Adventures of Kiwi Kyle | Kiwi Kari and the Glacier

When you think of New Zealand, what first comes to your mind?  Probably something like rugby, kiwis, or, for most people, The Lord of the Rings.  Wait, it’s not glaciers?!  SHOCKING!

Since I have returned from my (all-too-brief) trek to visit Kyle in New Zealand, this has been part of the overwhelming remarks I have heard:  “I didn’t know there were so many mountains!”  “I didn’t know it got that cold there!”  “I definitely didn’t know there were glaciers!”  Up until a few months ago, when spending time in this small island nation became a potential reality, I had no idea either.  Located on the Pacific Rim, these islands were formed by ancient tectonic and volcanic activity, and, yes, that includes the gorgeous snow-capped mountain range known as the Southern Alps.

When I decided to make the 28-hour trip to Christchurch, Kyle told me about this cool activity he had seen information on – a glacier hike.  Knowing I would probably never get the opportunity to do it again, I said, “Sounds awesome!  Let’s do it!”  So, over the weekend I was in town, we packed up the rental car and drove the 4 hours to Aoraki/Mount Cook – the highest peak in New Zealand.

Following a brief safety presentation and donning our winter hiking gear, we boarded the helicopter with our experienced guide Graza and a bunch of Chinese tourists.  The flight from the teeny-tiny airport to the glacier was about 15 minutes.  Along the way we had a bird’s eye view of the Alps, Tasman Lake, and our destination the Tasman Glacier.  As the largest glacier in New Zealand, it was sight to behold!  I have never seen a glacier in real life, so I was in awe anyway, but this thing was a massive representation of what Mother Nature is capable of creating.

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The Adventures of Kiwi Kyle | Part 4

With my work trip coming to an end soon, I’m very much looking forward to getting back to Atlanta.  My family, my house, my bed, chicken tenders, etc…However, I will miss some things about New Zealand.  The traffic (or lack thereof), the pineapple lumps, and the coffee.  “But Kyle, isn’t the coffee in New Zealand the same as in the States?”  Well, yes and no.

In New Zealand, they don’t have the concept of drip coffee like we do in the States, as everything is espresso based.  When I ordered a coffee for the first time, the server asked if I meant a “long black.”  I said “Sure!”, having no idea what a long black was.  Well, after a little research on YouTube, I figured out what a long black is.  Check out this video so that if you ever find yourself in New Zealand you’ll know what a long black is right away!

viva las vegas!

this time last sunday, kiley, kari, and i were recovering from a fun couple of days out in fabulous las vegas!  besides being in desperate need of a girls’ weekend away, we also were in town to see the legendary britney spears in concert!  before we get to that, though, there are plenty of other things to share first.

after getting a good night’s sleep on thursday at kiley’s parents’ house (thanks, mr. and mrs. a!), we woke up and grabbed an energizing breakfast at craft kitchen before taking a smooth ride out east to our first tourist spot the hoover dam.  our trusty transportation for the weekend?  kiley’s dad’s souped up jeep wrangler.  how bada** do we look in this?!

a short 45-minute drive later we arrived in clark county, nv and joined the other masses of international and local visitors as we explored this american wonder.  unfortunately the dam tour was closed that day, but we had plenty of other seeing to do as we followed the roadway and sidewalks to get incredible views of lake mead, the colorado river, and the intake towers, flow gates, and spillways.

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if you ever find yourself in the area, i highly recommend making the trek to the dam.  there’s plenty of parking, plenty of fascinating information, and plenty of good photo ops to fill a few hours of your day.

something else that’s cool?  you can stand in two states at once – neat!

upon hiking back up to the car and chugging some water, we drove ourselves about an hour the other direction to check out an art installation off interstate 15 called the seven magic mountains.  designed by internationally renowned swiss artist ugo rondinone, this public installation is designed to represent the creative human presence in the desert with bursts of “form and color.”  pretty cool, right?

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one of the most fun things about visiting seven magic mountains was people-watching all the visitors who were trying to get the perfect filter-worthy photo for their social media posts.  not wanting to miss out on the entertainment, i snapped an inspiring shoot of kari against these brightly colored boulders.

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and kiley got in on the fun, too, with a model walk of her very own!

we were now in a pinch to get washed up and ready for the concert, so we hit the old dusty and headed back home.

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The Adventures of Kiwi Kyle | Part 3

One of if not the most important activities I plan for when traveling is eating!  What is <insert name of destination> best known for?  Where do the locals go?  Most of the time you can find those places via a quick online search, but sometimes you find them just by looking around and keeping your eyes open.  I’ve found a couple places like that in Christchurch, so here are my recommendations for future travelers!

First things first, breakfast, the most important meal of the day.  Unfortunately it’s not a meal I usually have while traveling for work because I’m so focused on getting to the client site.  A quick run to the local ‘bucks is usually all I have time for.  However, since this trip has me staying over weekends, I have ample opportunity to enjoy breakfast, and I found a good spot to do so at Tap N Grind.  While busy, it didn’t have the hustle and bustle, get-out-of-my-way-I-just-want-my-coffee feel to it.  Much more relaxed and casual.  My desire for my Waffle House Peachtree Road Race waffle must have been sending me subliminal messages, as I spotted the waffle and bacon and decided that was the dish for me.  As you can see, it looked awesome and it also tasted awesome.  The waffle was crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.  The citrus mascarpone acted like butter to make the waffle soft but not soggy.  The caramelized banana gave it that little something extra and the variety of nuts a little crunch.  It was so good that I made a point to tell the waitress, who sheepishly said, “We just assume everything in America is better than what we have here.”  I told her she was dead wrong on this; it was hands down the best waffle I have ever had, and even in the top three as far as breakfast dishes go!  When I went back the next week, I had the same waitress and she smiled and asked if I would be having the waffle again, which, of course, I did!

For dinner, I recommend you check out O.G.B. (aka Old Government Building), as it hosted various government departments from 1913 to the 1980s.  After being vacant for some time, the building was threatened to be demolished but eventually made it to a real estate developer.  Today, the bar and Heritage Hotel call this place home.  They have a traditional restaurant space with the bar being in a separate area.  Eating in the bar is the way to go with a speakeasy feel consisting of a wood bar, dark colored walls, and the staff being dressed in 1920s and 1930s attire.  I had the beef rib burger, but just to be clear, we would call this a sandwich in the States.  In New Zealand they call a burger anything where protein (beef, lamb, chicken, etc…) is served between two pieces of bread.  The protein doesn’t even necessarily have to be formed into the traditional patty shape.  To flip it the other way, what we call a pulled pork sandwich, a Kiwi would call a pork burger.  Enough on semantics and onto the food!

The “burger” was cooked very well and had this molasses-like sauce that put it over the top.  It was paired with potato wedges and a house-made ketchup that tasted much more tomato based than American ketchup and, to be honest, tasted better than American ketchup.  The final reason you should go to O.G.B.?  Well, any place that uses a sousaphone as part of its decor is well worth the trip!