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!

The Adventures of Kiwi Kyle | Part 2

It’s time for the sequel, and let’s hope it’s better than the original!  With two weeks in the books, I’ve been able to explore Christchurch and the surrounding area.  First, a quick history lesson before we delve into my adventures.

Christchurch is actually the oldest established city in New Zealand, being founded in 1856.  The best parallel I can draw for a city in the States is where I was raised – Birmingham, AL!  Is Christchurch as glamorous as being on-site in Dallas or Chicago?  Unfortunately not, but I can easily see it being a great place to raise a family.  The next biggest highlight after being the oldest city is one of tragedy, I hate to say.  In 2010 and 2012, the city suffered a devastating series of earthquakes.  Some of the older buildings just were not equipped to handle that kind of natural disaster and have been demolished.

Such is the case for the first landmark I visited, the Christchurch Cathedral.  You’ll have to Google the cathedral to see it in its heyday, but you can tell how beautiful it was by what is left.  I can picture the Gothic Revival architecture and stained-glass windows even in its present state.  Right next to the cathedral is the Citizens’ War Memorial, which didn’t incur near the level of damage as the cathedral but is blockaded due to it being so close to the cathedral.  Each year hundreds come to this Memorial to celebrate and honor the Anzac Day service (New Zealand’s Memorial Day).

Switching gears to something more uplifting, I took a hike along Taylor’s Mistake, a beach and bay about 30 minutes southeast of Christchurch proper.  As you’ll see in the pictures, this hike was no mistake, but how in the world did it get that name?  That name comes from the master of a vessel running into the beach area during the night, thinking he was somewhere else.

Aside from the great views and four legged friends I ran into, the hills above the beach were fortified with two machine gun posts to guard a coastal defense battery.  The machine gun posts were built in response to a perceived threat of invasion by the Japanese after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the gun pits are still there today!

The Adventures of Kiwi Kyle | Part 1

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the first international blog post in the history of kelseyv.com!  I’m Kyle, Kelsey’s older brother, and I’ll be chronicling my experience here in New Zealand over the next six weeks.  While it is common for me to travel for my job, it has exclusively been in the U.S.  However, there is a client in New Zealand, specifically Christchurch, that needs my very particular set of skills.  After talking it over with my wife Kari, we decided I should take this short-term assignment.

While I had traveled outside the U.S. before, it was for my honeymoon in Jamaica, where they want more people to come to the country.  As a result, they have very relaxed rules on getting into Jamaica.  I learned rather quickly that not all international travel is so easy.  Kari and I got to the airport on Thursday and hopped in line to check one of my bags.  Once at the counter, I told the Delta employee I had a connecting flight in Australia before heading to my final destination of Christchurch.  She then asked if I had an electronic visa, and I immediately responded, “An electronic what?!”  Apparently to even step foot in an Australian airport you must have electronic travel authority (ETA).  Kari and I quickly jumped online and applied for one.  10 minutes and $50 later, I was cleared.  Phew!

We then got back in line to check my bag.  Once at the counter, I told the Delta employee I wanted to check the bag all the way through to Christchurch – I surely didn’t want to have to worry about grabbing it in LA or Australia and go through security again!  That request somehow didn’t quite seem to make sense to the Delta employee, and we were getting more and more nervous.  If we couldn’t get through this process quickly, I might not make the flight!  Luckily, a more senior employee helped me out, and I am happy to report my bag made it all the way to Christchurch.

The flights from Atlanta to Christchurch were long and uneventful, my favorite type of flight.  I thought I’d be in a reading mood, but that ended up not being the case at all.  So, I watched The Lego Batman Movie and Trainwreck.  While it was not as awesome as The Lego Movie, The Lego Batman Movie was still pretty good.  The unique plot, one-liners, and multiple references to previous Batman movies, cartoons, and comics made it an easy watch.  On the other hand, Trainwreck was just that, a train wreck.  I’ve enjoyed Amy Schumer the stand-up comic but personally ran hot and cold with her TV show.  I just wasn’t buying her at all in this movie and can’t really tell you why.  She just didn’t do it for me.  I honestly thought Bill Hader blew her out of the water, and Colin Quinn being in the movie was a delightful surprise.  However, at the end of the day was it worth killing two hours on a 14-hour plane ride?  Yes.  Would it have been worth a Redbox rental?  Not so much.

So, that’s it for now, readers.  I did get to Christchurch safely and in one piece, and as the weeks pass, I hope to blog about a variety of things.  The town of Christchurch, the food I eat, the things I do, the little differences between New Zealand and the States, just to name a few.  If anyone out there has any recommendations on anything, please send them my way!

santa barbara & sara’s wedding

I’m back and better than ever!  It’s Kelsey’s dad with a blog about our recent trip to Santa Barbara for my niece’s wedding.  None of the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

FRIDAY

Unlike the trip that Kelsey and I made out to San Pedro for my brother’s birthday a couple years ago, we left plenty early to drive to Hartsfield airport.  While on the way, I serenaded Kelsey and Phillip with a few powerful renditions of “Phillip The Man”.  Fantastic if I do say so myself.  Anyway.  We got to the airport and parked in extended parking row 63 (in tribute to 1963, the year that John F. Kennedy was shot).  Kelsey, Phillip, Kyle, Kari, and I all flew out together – a train wreck just waiting to happen.  We got to the gate and I began to chat it up with a lady sitting near us.  The lady loved my Chinese proverb “Humor is the passport to success.”  What can I say?  The flight itself was long and bumpy, but four and a half hours later we landed at LAX.  Victoria and Clark picked us up and we were on our way to Santa Barbara.

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Clark did a terrific job driving and also helped put together a specially requested “SoCal” playlist, a playlist only with songs about California or songs by artists from California.  We hit massive traffic going up Highway 1/PCH.  But eventually the traffic broke loose and we stopped at Neptune’s Net.  Neptune’s Net is a classic beach-front dive and we enjoyed their food and beer.  Some would say the highlight of Neptune’s Net were the two seagulls who were “doing the wild thing.”  Some would say this “doing the wild thing” was disgusting.  Anyway, just nature.

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We finally got to Santa Barbara where, guilty as charged, it was sunny and 72.  We found our hotel, The Inn at East Beach.  Only stay there if you DO NOT want air conditioning and DO NOT want an elevator.  Otherwise, it was okay.  Lucky for us that the Swedish girls’ volleyball team was staying there also.  😉

We rested and then were on our way to Dargan’s for a reception-type activity for those who were from out of town for Sara and Christian’s wedding.  Needless to say, the “Alabama Rednecks” traveled the furthest.  Anyway, Dargan’s was a huge hit.  All the Rednecks wore Hawaiian shirts, and I thought they looked great.

OMG.  While leaving Dargan’s, Victoria mentioned she was hungry.  Great idea and, even better, there is an In-N-Out in Santa Barbara!!!  Clark did another terrific job driving and got us there safely.  I ordered a double-double, animal-style for both the burger and the fries.  Heaven!!!

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#marryingmontoya #lakearrowhead #waffles #mylove #blessed

Back by popular demand, it’s me, Kelsey’s dad.  yes, that IS a picture of my fine looking “dome” that you are seeing.

my father's head, everyone.

my father’s head, everyone.

In the highly unlikely chance you happen to go to Lake Arrowhead, in the mountains outside of Los Angeles, I have the perfect place for you to go for breakfast or lunch, Belgian Waffle Works.  Note, from your friendly friends down here in the south, THIS IS NOT SIMILAR TO THE WAFFLE HOUSE THAT WE HAVE COME TO KNOW AND LOVE.  Nevertheless, this place is terrific and well worth the visit.

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For those of you wondering, “What’s the occasion for why you were in Lake Arrowhead?”  Well, we were all there for my niece Alison who was getting married.  More on that to come later.

Now, back to the restaurant.  First, arrive early.  Second, the menu is huge.  Probably too many choices, actually.  In addition to breakfast items they have a large lunch section of sandwiches, etc…We had a group of six:  Phillip, Clark, Kyle, Kari, my cousin Linda, and me.

The food is fantastic.  We all had different waffle selections.  In addition, Phillip ordered a biscuit with sausage gravy.  Even though we were in the mountains outside of Los Angeles, this gravy was very, very good.  The gravy might have come from a can, might have come from a box.  Who knows.  All I know is that Phillip, Kyle, and I shared it and we all loved it.

Probably the best part of Belgian Waffle Works was the staff.  All of them were witty, charming, and had terrific “patter.”  As all of my children will tell you, I’m big on the “patter” and these people had it.  I would hire all of them in a minute, their “patter” was that good.

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Terrific food, terrific staff.  If you happen to be in Lake Arrowhead, CA, go to Belgian Waffle Works!  And, even though this time I didn’t get to go to In-N-Out, Belgian Waffle Works made up for it.

editor’s note:  in addition to all these delicious waffles, take a look at some of the other fun stuff this weekend entailed.  congratulations again, mike and ali!  we love you both!

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p.s.  thank you to all my facebook friends/family for letting me use your pictures.  i only had to include them because you did such a good job taking them, lol!

a thanksgiving to remember

as i sit here, all done for at least today’s work day, i find myself thinking, “man, i wish we could rewind to a week ago.”  that’s right, i’m already sadly missing the thanksgiving holiday celebrated last week, and even though Christmas is on the horizon, i’m sure i’m not the only one feeling this way.

to keep this post from feeling too “down,” i want to share with you, my kind readers, all the fun we had last week up in the great smoky mountains.  it was my first major holiday away from my family (all grown up!), and although i dearly missed mom, dad, kyle, clark, and kari, i felt quite welcomed by phillip and his family on this special occasion.

it started last wednesday morning when mr. davis, mrs. davis, and emily came to pick up phillip and me bright and early for the drive up to gatlinburg.  we were packed in snug as bugs as we trekked up through north georgia in the great smoky mountains.  as you may know, there have been treacherous wildfires in that part of the state, and although they didn’t bother our trip up there too much, please keep in your thoughts the folks of tennesse and georgia around those parts, especially those right in and near gatlinburg for the fires they are suffering through right now.  this town is certainly more than a tourist attraction, and we all hope they can recover in no time.

our first destination was the cabin that cousin tony found and booked for our group.  with ten of us total, a large space was certainly necessary.  well, this three-story cabin (complete with hot tub and bunk beds) was just the ticket for our stay.  after quickly exploring, we kids unloaded the car of the luggage, treats, and drinks (can’t forget the wine!).

phillip and i were a bit famished afterwards, so we took the car into town for a bite to eat.  we parked in a deck towards the north end of downtown and moseyed along the sidewalks, taking in our first sights and sounds of this charming town.  as we walked, it was clear that we weren’t the only ones in gatlinburg for the weekend; the shops and attractions were already bustling with plenty of other visitors.  before we went too far, we spotted the pancake pantry and knew that’s where we’d be eating lunch.  this cozy restaurant is a welcoming combination of cracker barrel and the original pancake house (only helpful if you’ve ever been to either).  the service was amiable and the food was tasty.  phillip’s buckwheat pancakes were irresistible, and my buttermilk pancakes and sausage were hitting the spot also.

after paying we strolled around a little bit more before heading back to the cabin to greet the rest of the family.  once all there, it was mr. davis, mrs. davis, grandma lorraine, uncle steve, aunt pam, cousin tony and his girlfriend priscila, phillip, emily, and myself.  talk about a good group!  we spent the rest of wednesday night and all day thursday eating (constantly), playing card games (how about that euchre!), drinking (of course), and relaxing.  the weather was quite agreeable, especially thanksgiving day, and i couldn’t have asked for a more pleasant setting than the lush colors of the changing trees that surrounded us.  can’t you just picture it!

friday morning arrived and i think it’s safe to say there was a mild case of cabin fever going around.  see what i did there!  but really, we all needed to get out and stretch our legs, so we caravanned into town for some good old fashioned tourism.  while some folks went for breakfast, others of us were immediately interested in checking out the local ole smoky moonshine distillery.  that’s right, not even eleven a.m. and we were throwing back shots!  our friendly bartender briana was patient as we tasted and rated each of the thirteen moonshines they had available.  with no food in our stomachs just yet, you can imagine the hootin’ and hollerin’ time we were kicking up in there!

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o-h-i-o, ohio!

this past thursday morning i boarded an md-88 with several coworkers to fly to columbus, ohio for our annual company meeting.  between team gatherings, putt-putt golf, and drinks at brazenhead, the event was quite the success in melding many offices together as a united front for the successful business years ahead for which we are striving.  go team!

most folks flew back to atlanta friday night, but i had the wonderful pleasure of staying the whole weekend.  as it would be, phillip has family only minutes from our dublin location – such a small world!  so, it was a no-brainer for phillip to take some time off work and join me.

once work things wrapped up friday afternoon, phillip picked me up and we checked into the local embassy suites.  we rested our feet for a little bit and then were in the car again.  where to?  well, seeing as how our stomachs were grumbling, it was a good thing we were headed to dinner with grandma lorraine and cousin tony at the local favorite the rusty bucket.  they were seated at a booth just inside the restaurant awaiting our arrival.  both greeted me warmly as we scooched into our seats and got to know one another.  conversation came easy among the group among local brews and delicious food.  i highly recommend the wedge salad to start and then the buffalo chicken sandwich – it was massive!  the chicken parmesan that grandma lorraine had was a generous serving also.  tony’s quesadilla and phillip’s philly cheesesteak didn’t disappoint either.  so much else on the menu looked so appealing that i guess we’ll just have to visit again!

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after paying the checks, grandma lorraine called it a night.  tony, phillip, and i, though, were in the mood for another drink, so tony led us to a local bar called the dub pub.  most certainly a favorite dive bar of those who live nearby, we grabbed a high-top and continued visiting while enjoying some whiskey-gingers and a few ipa’s from the columbus brewing company (referred to by ohioans simply as “cbc”).  soon tony’s friend sean joined us, and i think eventually we blended in with the regulars as we chatted, cheered on team usa during the olympics, and took in some preseason nfl games.

as our glasses emptied and the early evening grew into the later night, phillip and i were about ready to call it a day.  we bid tony and sean farewell and hopped in the rental.  as we cruised along to the hotel, phillip pointed out the grater’s right nearby and the convenient fact that they were open until eleven p.m.  it was only 10:30 at that point.  phillip swung the camry into the parking lot and we helped ourselves to the counter.

now, any of you who know phillip know that he has quite the sweet tooth.  i used to “blame” his mother because she is an ice cream lover, but now i know it is grandma lorraine who started it all.  she revealed that each night she either has an ice cream or a cookie with some milk before going to bed.  old habits die hard, i suppose!  😀

with many more choices at the store as opposed to just the grocery aisle, i did a bowl of strawberry cheesecake and mocha chocolate chip.  whoa, that stuff was unbelievably good.  the strawberry cheesecake was undoubtedly my favorite, and it was lucky i even got to try it since it is a limited summer flavor!  phillip considered his options for a while and then settled (to no one’s surprise) on a scoop of the buckeye and a scoop of the peanut butter chocolate chip.  i am telling you, this boy could eat only reese cups for the rest of his life and be satisfied.  i suppose it’s hard to deny a man his ice cream when it makes him this happy.

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it was finally after over-eating on quite possibly the best ice cream ever created on this beautiful earth that we hit the hay.  with two more days to go in ohio, we needed our beauty rest!

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andrich invasion – chicago!

WOW.  What a trip.  It had a bit of almost everything:  travel drama, meeting famous athletes,  BYOB, etc…!  I hope that you enjoy reading about the trip as much as we had living it.  Kyle, Kelsey, and Clark know how important chronological order is to me, so, in the famous words of Jackie Gleason, “Away we go!”

Travel Drama #1.  Wednesday Night.

My original flight plan was Birmingham to Chicago.  Sounded easy and simple enough, but NO!  Flight was re-routed from Birmingham to Minneapolis (no extra charge for the stop in Minneapolis or the overnight stay in the Minneapolis airport, LOL!) to Chicago.  The overnight stay in Minneapolis was an “interesting” adventure, so I tried to make the best of it.  The Minneapolis airport at 1:29 A.M. was interesting and very, very deserted.  Anyway.  The next morning I was on a 5:15 A.M. flight to Chicago.  Early but okay with me.  The flight would have been even better if my baggage was with me but, again, NO!  Clark met me at the L and the baggage arrived on Thursday at about noon.  A nap and shower and I was ready to explore Chicago!

Chicago – Day 1 – Thursday

Clark suggested I try Dry Hop for lunch.  I took the L from Clark’s apartment to the Belmont stop on the Red Line.  After about a 15-minute walk, I was there.  A very, very good restaurant call by Clark.

In the early evening, I went to check our group into an apartment that Kelsey had booked for Kyle, Kari, Phillip (AKA Maxx Gruber), and I to stay in during the rest of the weekend.  In the famous words from the TV series Dragnet, “The names have been changed to protect the innocent.”  The location of this apartment was terrific, only a single block from the Belmont station.  Kelsey booked this apartment via an online service named very similarly to “ground B-N-B.”  I think the owner described this location as a condo, but it is NOT a condo.  It really was a large one-bedroom apartment.  Quirky and different but fine for the five of us.  I won’t mention anything about having to dodge the exposed pipes that were hanging below the ceiling…plus, the owner seemed surprised that three sets of keys were needed for our group.  Yikes!

Anyway, back to Clark.  Clark and I walked to dinner and then took the L to Target to do some light shopping.  Very, very important point here:  As Clark pointed out, Chicago is a very pedestrian town with lots of walking, which is okay because Chicago is very, very flat.  I did not see a hill the entire time I was there, but walking is walking.  Shopping at Target was very, very strategic because we had to carry all the items that we bought.  Plus, we then walked 4.8 miles back to Clark’s apartment.  Did I remember to mention that by now my FEET WERE KILLING ME?!

Later on Thursday night, Kyle, Kari, Kelsey, and Maxx arrived.  The humor started almost immediately!  Apparently Kari had packed her suitcase and then someone decided to unpack some of her delicates…Yikes again!  This someone explained how this unpacking occurred, which was interesting but still difficult to understand.

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carrollton girls’ weekend

last weekend i cruised west of atlanta to visit my dear friend sarah over in carrollton.  we were long overdue for some girls’ time, and since phillip was occupied for a couple days, i insisted i come into town.

the quick drive on i-20 led me to a few more turns and a relaxing whirl through her stomping grounds.  i pulled up to her humble abode and nearly jumped out of my car, i was so excited to see sarah and her home!  she came answering when i came knocking, gave me a quick tour of the house, and tried to keep her sweet pup maggie from attacking me with kisses.  i can’t say i minded the last one at all; everyone knows i’m a dog lover!

now, this visit wasn’t just about sarah and me catching up – it also was about getting to see her family.  her parents and siblings just have hearts of gold, and it wouldn’t be a complete visit to west georgia without seeing them, too.  so, sarah and i met up with her mom, dad, sister jenny, and other sister katie at a local antique shop.  hugs and stories were exchanged among us all as we perused the aisles and shelves in search of a hidden treasure.  although there were plenty of refurbished dressers and chairs i would love to have had, i knew phillip would kill me if i came home with another piece of furniture!  the condo and our storage unit are at maximum capacity!  i couldn’t leave the store without a souvenir from the weekend, though, so i found a lovely little rosemary mint candle from a darling little shop called uncommon scents.  the smell is subtle and relaxing and perfect to light for an hour or so before hopping in bed.

we all piled up and after shopping through another antique store and a local book shop, we met up at little hawaiian right near downtown carrollton for some dinner.

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