the wedding chronicles | decision #18

THE HONEYMOON

Hello!  Phillip Davis here.  By now I am sure that everyone knows who I am:  Kelsey’s fiance, “other half,” photographer for our NRW (New Restaurant Wednesday) excursions, vacation planner aficionado, and finally significant other.  It’s great to finally guest blog on her website, and for that reason I am honored to begin my blogging quest with wedding decision number 18, the honeymoon!

This decision came to me as a surprise because I did not know where to begin.  I have envisioned lots of different places and ideas that could all be very unique to our traveling experiences thus far.  For instance, we could travel abroad and visit new countries over in Europe and make it a week-long excursion by “Euro” hopping around.  We could keep things simple and do a domestic road trip around the Atlantic coastline with food and drink stops along the way.  Or, we could make it a nice getaway to a Caribbean island and relax on the beach.  It was very difficult and challenging to decide because my dialogue with Kelsey for the past year has been something like, “So, honey, where would you like to go for our honeymoon?”  She’d respond, “Oh, it doesn’t matter…as long as we are together.”  This made the decision more difficult in my mind because I would have hoped she could have envisioned the ideal spot for us to land for a week or two.

With the help from our AAA agent Renee, we decided to give her a visit during one of our vacation days away from work and grab some suggestions from her.  Now Renee came highly recommended by our siblings Kyle and Kari since they used her to plan their two-week European excursion a couple of months ago.  The family mentioned to us that “prices were good, “she was the best agent at AAA”, and “you won’t be disappointed.”  Seeing that family is almost always right about these kind of decisions and ideas, Kelsey and I gave her a try.

When we arrived at the AAA office, the entire staff was very friendly and welcomed us inside.  Renee, who was diligently typing away at her computer and finishing a phone call with a prior client, smiled at us and said, “You must be Kelsey and Phillip; please grab a seat.”  Immediately Kelsey and I sat at the two seats at her desk and introduced ourselves.  Renee’s first question to us was “So, where do you envision going for your honeymoon?”  Kelsey began by responding, “Anywhere that is adult-friendly and has no kiddos around.”  I nodded my head in agreement but wasn’t quite sure what to say after, so I let the ladies continue in conversation.  Shortly thereafter Renee grabbed a large AAA destination handbook that literally looked like the Bible for vacationers!  She flipped through the pages and came across some highly recommended resorts in the Dominican Republic, St. Lucia, Turks and Caicos, and the Cayman Islands.  Notice the pattern?  I may have mentioned to Renee that a Caribbean resort wouldn’t be such a bad idea, so she went on to peruse the typical spots that most adults had traveled to.  Now I was excited and wanted to see which resorts would be nice for a relaxing time.

Of the countless options we saw in the book, Renee did in fact recommend a few resorts in the Dominican Republic (specifically the Punta Cana area) that would suit us perfectly.  The options were adults only, all-inclusive, provided easy beach access, and included amenities and activities to do.  Shortly after hearing the details of these resorts, Kelsey and I decided to leave the office and think about it together.

I did some more research on my own accord while Kelsey was traveling for work and came to a final decision that would be ideal for our needs.  I decided on the perfect resort in the Dominican Republic that would an ideal spot for our first week as newlyweds.  Besides, I wanted to ensure that Kelsey gets a massage or two while there and that we can go on a snorkeling excursion, which by the way is included in the resort package!  To me it’s a win-win situation and I am sure that Kelsey will enjoy it, and that is all that matters to me.

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 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!

june’s ohio adventure

for those of you who know me well, you’re probably wondering to yourself, “who is this june?  is she a long-lost high school friend?  is she a college acquaintance she’s reconnected with nowadays?  is she a new coworker she’s kindly befriend?”  well, i hate that this isn’t more exciting, but june is what i named my lovely rental car for the week!  ladies and gentlemen, i introduce to you june, the 2016 grey chrysler pacifica!  isn’t she a beaut?!

the name hit me like a ton of bricks as i was weaving around winding suburb roads and channeling my inner mom, specifically my inner barbara billingsley.  i mean, it really is quite empowering, navigating this sturdy, speedy, and functional vehicle around town.  i felt like i could rule the world!  anyway, june and i became besties last week in ohio while i was up there for work and some personal traveling.  and, in an effort to spice things up on my solo trip, i decided to blog about all our adventures.  our first stop?  dayton.

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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!

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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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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february 12th – nyc

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okay, folks.  even though the winter holidays aren’t too far behind us in the rear view mirror, i decided it was time for a vacation for phillip and i both.  actually, i decided it last fall when i planned the surprise as his Christmas gift, so it’s been many months in the making.  i just love surprises!

anyway, about this time last week i was hailing an uber to take me to the marta station.  a quick ride later, i met phillip at the delta baggage drop to check-in for our evening flight to our fabulous destination:  new york city!  yes, we were headed north to the city that never sleeps for a lovely five-day trip.  after leaving our overpacked luggage with the attendant, we made our way to the tsa precheck line like the local celebrities we are (or hope to be some day).  i do a fair amount of air traveling for work, so all those flights and miles have added up to some luxurious perks like precheck.  i felt so spoiled waltzing through the metal detector with both shoes on and my light jacket thrown over my shoulder.  ah, to be pampered is such a privilege!

we munched on some subway sandwiches in terminal t, and it wasn’t too long before we were boarding our md90 with all the other passengers.  as i walked down the aisle, i double-checked my boarding pass.  “phillip?” i asked.  “are you sure these are the right seats?  these are comfort plus.”

“yes, this should be us.” he replied.

“oh, okay.  well, let me get situated and out of the way.”  i moved into our seats and crouched under the bulkhead while other people shimmied by us.  we got our carry-ons safely stowed below the seats in front of us, buckled up, and sat back for take off.

phillip and i sat discussing our lucky circumstances, convinced that we were able to upgrade to comfort plus for free because of my status.

“well, isn’t that just the best thing you’ve heard all day!” i exclaimed.  i immediately grabbed the drink menu to decide what free drink i would enjoy.  funny how i can so easily adjust to a life of ease…

once we were up in the air, phillip and i both enjoy a quality glass of wente red wine.  it was the perfect drink to help us unwind from the work week and gear up for a great vacation.

cheers!

cheers!

soon enough we had a great view of all the city lights before banking left and coming in for a smooth landing at the laguardia airport.  we had arrived!  as t swift likes to say, “welcome to new york!  it’s been waiting for you!”  ah, such a sweet welcome!

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memphis, the blues city

hello all, kelsey’s dad here.  it is my honor and privilege to be a guest blogger again.  this past weekend was my birthday and as a gift i was given the dream of being the guest duckmaster as the peabody hotel in memphis, tennessee.

as kelsey will tell you, one of my favorite sayings is “complete home run.”  i use this when anything or any place is spectacular, worth the time, worth the money, etc…as you read this blog, when you see COMPLETE HOME RUN, you can “take it to the bank” – it was worth it.

friday night we arrived at the peabody hotel in memphis.  tori was completely surprise to see our best friends mark and kathleen (from dallas) when we arrived.  our kids had arranged for a special birthday cake to be in the room as a celebration for me and for mark (his birthday is later this week).  COMPLETE HOME RUN, kids!  the chocolate cake was delicious.

now, saturday was a full and fabulous day!  mark had done the research for all the festivities, so we started at breakfast only a block from the hotel.  we took the ultra exclusive vip route through the alley to the bon-ton café.  COMPLETE HOME RUN.  whatever you do, be sure you order the big sammie.  COMPLETE HOME RUN.  while at the bon-ton, we struck up a friendly chat with locals hart and sarah.  hart is a third generation memphian, so it’s obvious that he should work for the chamber of commerce up there.  i told hart we were in memphis just for a short time and were looking to “blow it out.”  he kindly obliged and provided a complete list of “what to do and where to go” during our stay.

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