So we are home from our grand odyssey to Atlanta. It was quite a time indeed!!! I’m going to try and remember as many details as possible as I write up my little travelogue here, but Mike, Mike and Lesley will probably have things I’ve already forgotten—so feel free to chime in, guys! :-)
First off, flying to Atlanta was fine, but the tickets were a challenge. Can someone explain to me why I could buy a round trip ticket to Atlanta for $300 each ($600 total) or I could buy a round trip ticket to Orlando with a layover in Atlanta each way for $117 each ($234 total)? Needless to say, I decided to buy the Orlando tickets and just not get on the plane to Florida. This meant we had to pack everything carry ons. Plus, our airline raised its baggage rates the very day we started flying, and I wasn’t about to pay for it anyway. Still, we couldn’t check anything through because everything would have been in Florida.
Fine, I spent plenty of time cramming everything into the two smallest bags we owned, and then we headed to Richmond! Got through security pretty well, everyone was exceedingly nice although Leah’s formula did have to be tested and scanned twice. But it really was no big deal, the TSA employees were extremely nice and helpful with Michael (one of the guards was a former Marine and was tres impressed Michael worked at Quantico!), so we did fine. Got everything packed back up, shoes on, etc. and head down to our gate. We got a gate claim ticket for the stroller and car seat, both of which said Orlando, but since I was the one to pick them both up at the gate and transport them to the supposed next plane, I knew that wouldn’t be a problem. Again, no problems until we got on the plane and the flight attendant says, “Sorry, that bag is too big for the bins, we’re going to have to check it.”
HEART ATTACK!!!! I start incomprehensibly spewing, “But we need this bag in Atlanta! WE NEED THIS BAG IN ATLANTA!” The flight attendant is saying, “Where is your final destination?” and I’m picturing our underwear circling the airport in Orlando and us with no way to get it, totally freaking out. Michael steps in and says, “Atlanta.” The flight attendant says, “Ok, we’re going to check this through to Atlanta for you.” So I relinquish the bag and we go sit in our seat. I proceeded to panic for the next 90 minutes, praying to God our bag turned up in Atlanta. Our flight was early, so we then got to navigate the airport, which is HUGE and very crowded. Ultimately, rather than try to drag a suitcase, push a stroller, and leave an arm for Michael, what we found worked was he would hold onto the stroller the normal way, and I would stand up front and pull it from the car seat handle while dragging the suitcase behind me. This was very satisfactory and we managed very well.
We got onto the little train system and made it over to the main terminal and then I had to sort out which baggage claim to go to, praying all the way that our bag would be there. I found the correct belt and there was our suitcase waiting for us! VICTORY!!!! Just as I snatched it up, my cell phone buzzed and it was Lesley, asking where we were. I told her we were at baggage claim and heading outside, gathered up my little caravan, and off we went. And just like that, lickety split, she pulled up to the curb and off we went! It was like all the pieces just fell into place. Awesome.
We headed to Chick-Fil-A for lunch and then Walmart to pick up diapers and formula (we had to make allowances for packing, so I knew we could pick things up while we were away) and then made it to the Williams household. Mike arrived home a short time later and that was pretty much the last I saw of Leah for 5 days :) Then we headed out for trivia night at the Mellow Mushroom!!!!
Mike and Lesley have a sweet deal there, they are friends with a big cheese at Mellow Mushroom so all the food is free. The trivia is run totally differently than the trivia at the Fredericksburg Pub, but it was a lot of fun. They also have a regular round and a music thing going at the same time, the questions are weighted differently points-wise and you turn in your answers individually and the question-asker keeps your score. It was a lot of fun, although our luck held and we weren’t able to help the Fuzzy Navels any better than we did The Destroyers. The pizza was great, though. YUM!
Thursday morning, Mike and Lesley took off to do their workouts and then when they got back, Lesley and I headed to check out the library where she works and then to tea at the Holly Cottage Tearoom. A sweet little old British lady greeted us at the door, and the servers are dressed in traditional maid’s attire (long black dress, white frilly apron) and everyone is quite polite and the whole thing is a real sanctuary from 2010. Lesley and I each wore a hat, she in a festive brown felt festooned with leaves or petals of some sort and me in my traditional maroon felt with roses. We were there 3 1/2 hours and went through 3 pots of tea (Monk’s Blend (YUMMMMM), Bella Coola, and Yorkshire Harrogate), a Holly Cottage record. We discussed life, literature, and love seated under a portrait of the Brontes.
Can I just say, “God, I love having tea. I want to have tea much more regularly. Anyone want to join me for tea sometime?” I am noodling with the idea of starting my own tea business, which would be a tea-on-the-go type thing. We would cater bridal and baby showers, birthday parties, luncheons, etc. I have been toying with this idea all fall and winter. I throw a beautiful tea and I think it could be a great way to make some money doing something I absolutely love.
Anyway, we went back to the house and the boys had had a grand ole time with Leah. She did not appear to have missed me one bit. Sincerely. She is madly in love with her Uncle Mike, and Mike and Lesley have two things in their house that we don’t have and apparently she finds sorely lacking: cats. My God, Leah loved those cats. Unfortunately for her, the feeling was less than mutual and they gave her wide berth as they avoided her a whole lot.
That night we dined on Lesley’s famous turkey burgers, and then Lesley and I headed out to her church book club while the guys and Leah relaxed. The club discussed Same Kind of Different as Me and I was really interested to see how the club runs and the differences from my own book club. It was a lot of fun. Everyone was very friendly and the discussion was quite animated and lively.
Friday was going to be a busy day! Mike and Lesley did their work out and then we headed into Atlanta for the day. We went to an Indian buffet for lunch (YUM!) and then headed over to the Martin Luther King Jr. national historic site. We all thought about poo-pooing it when we first got there, because we couldn’t figure out where to park, but eventually we decided to go for it, and were we ever glad! None of us had ever been there before and so it was a neat experience. Plus it turns out that we were there on MLK’s actual birthday (January 15), so that was even better! Someone even hung up a Happy Birthday banner and balloons by his picture.
We started out by watching a film at the visitors center and then went across the street to see the burial site. We walked up to the Freedom Center and saw Dr. King’s Nobel Prize (first time I’d ever seen one), his clothes and personal items, some of his wife’s personal items, and then went in the rooms dedicated to Ghandi and Rosa Parks. As Michael and I visited the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis while I lived in Little Rock, and as he was born right there in Atlanta and we drove past the house where he was born, and I’ve now seen his grave, I’ve been to where it all started and where it all ended. Pretty cool. We weren’t able to go into Ebenezer Church because they were doing some construction on it, and we elected not to sign up for the house tour, as they only take 15 people at a time. Nonetheless, it was a great time.
Afterwards, we went over to Barnes and Noble to scope out the situation for the book signing and then went to a nearby pizza joint to meet up with Mike’s niece and nephew and kill some time. Michael had a pizza since he is not a huge fan of Indian food, and the rest of us just had drinks and relaxed. Around about 6:00, we went back to the book store and Lesley staked out a claim in the second row of the signing area and then we all browsed books for a while. Leah started getting real crabby in about 45 minutes, so Mike and I spent the rest of the night in shifts. He would walk her around for a while, then I would walk her around for a while. Then he’d take her, then I’d take her. I finally took her over to Publix to see if I could buy some pacifiers since I hadn’t brought one, but the kind they had were not the right kind, as evidenced by the fact that they did NADA to silence her after I paid $4 for them.
Eventually I just took her back over to the book store and Mike and I kept swapping. At one point, Leah let out a bellow and Jasper Fforde paused and said, “Ah, my biggest fan!” Everyone laughed, but of course I was mortified. Eventually he quit with the talking (seemed like forever to me, but Lesley assures me it flew by; Michael fell asleep during the talk so who knows how long it seemed to him?) and the line was forming. Now, I will give BIG CREDIT to Barnes and Noble’s staff. A bunch of crowd jumpers staked out a place in front of the signing table, but the staff would have none of it and allowed the people who had gotten there early and were seated in the first couple of rows to go up first and get their books signed. Consequently, Lesley was one of the first 10 people to get her books signed and I stood at the ready, armed with a camera, and took pictures. Then we headed home. Leah screamed most of the way back. Unfortunately, she elected not to sleep most of that night, as my Facebooks statuses attest.
Saturday, Lesley had to work, so Mike, Michael, Leah and I went over to IHOP for breakfast and then to Walmart so I could get decent diapers (the cheapies were not up to the task, go figure). He went to the bike store, but couldn’t get the bike he wants, and so we went home, and Leah and I passed out cold for 3 hours. By that time, it was 5:00 and time to head out to meet up with Donna at Fox Bros. BBQ. Donna and I were in Scouts together and hadn’t seen each other in 20 years, but alas it was not meant to be. Just as we got on the road, she called to cancel. She had gotten an adoption match that day, and was freaking out and couldn’t meet us. I was disappointed, but understood, and we proceeded to Fox Bros. anyway, where we ate some of the greatest BBQ I have ever had the privilege of eating. It was amazing. I don’t think I’ve had it that good since I lived in Arkansas, seriously.
Sunday was a hang around day, as we wanted to give Leah time to recover from all the activity. Mike and Lesley went to work out at separate times (they have seriously drunk the WW kool aid!) and then we just played Scene It on the XBox or Playstation or whatever it is, watched TV, read, and hung out. Because of Leah’s fascination with the cats, we decided to go to Zoo Atlanta the next Day. Lesley spent the afternoon preparing us a traditional Jigg’s dinner, which is a traditional Sunday dinner in Newfoundland where she is from. It was amazing. They didn’t think I’d like the pease pudding, but in fact, I very much did. We had lots of good food and then spent the evening continuing to relax, watching the Golden Globes and cheering and jeering the winners. Mike and Lesley also learned that “little people” (aka dwarves or midgets) give me the creeps. I’m sure that is offensive, sorry, but I about flip out when I encounter them, which isn’t often. Mike and Lesley found this hilarious.
Monday morning, we were out the door bright and early at 11:30 and went to Six Feet Under, a restaurant across the street from Oakland Cemetery, where we visited Margaret Mitchell’s grave on our last visit to Atlanta a couple years ago. The restaurant is famous for its catfish, but instead I opted to try the shrimp po boy, which was very good. Hilariously, though, we got an appetizer called Spicy Rat Toes, which were jalapenos stuffed with shrimp, wrapped in bacon, and grilled. I can’t tolerate a whole lot of spicy food, but I was willing to take a crack at it. There were 3 in the order, Michael didn’t want one, the rest of us had a go. Lesley and I were fine, but Mike was crying like a little girl when he ate his. It was kind of hilarious. He was going on and on about how spicy they were, and I am not going to lie, it was hot, but to me it was no worse than a buffalo wing. So we came to the conclusion he got a bad pepper. Honestly, the appetizer wasn’t that great, so I am now on a mission to come up with a different recipe for the same basic idea and we will try it out when we all get together again.
After Six Feet Under, we went to the zoo. At first, Leah wasn’t too excited by the animals, but she did come around when she saw the meerkats. Anything that was speedy and moved around she enjoyed. Anything that didn’t move or was kind of slow, she could not have cared less about. We went into the parakeet enclosure, thinking with the birds flying around her, she’d be all over it. Wasn’t the damned place manned by a little person!? I know Mike was laughing his ass off behind me. And Leah didn’t give one crap about the birds. How’s that for poetic justice?
One moment of great excitement was when we walked into the viewing area for the gorilla enclosure and found this guy. He’s looking mighty pleased with himself, isn’t he? As well he should, he has just finished getting it on with one of the ladies in full view of about 3 dozen 5-10 year olds. All over the enclosure you could hear, “Daddy, what’s he doing?” and I am sure more than one parent had some interesting chats with their children that day.
But the true highlight for me was the giant pandas. Zoo Atlanta has 3 pandas, one of which is about to be returned to China. Pandas are my favorite wild animal and I was so excited to see them. I actually got all misty eyed. They are beautiful creatures, and it has been probably 24 years since I’ve seen them, as I haven’t been to the National Zoo yet since moving to DC. Imagine!?
After the zoo we went to meet Mike’s niece and nephew for dinner at a local Mexican place, which was again a great place to eat!!! We ate so well in Atlanta, it was awesome. And then it was time to go home, pack, and ready ourselves for or trip home. I started getting a little nervous that when we “missed” our flight in Orlando, they wouldn’t let us on the plane back to Richmond, but everything went off without a hitch. In fact, we had roughly the same wait to get through security in Atlanta as we did in Richmond, which is to say, approximately 5 minutes. It was incredible. We were way early, so we had some muffins and just relaxed. Our flight was delayed getting back, and when we finally got back to the car around 12:30, we discovered a flat tire, but fortunately I had a can of fix-a-flat, so I put that in and figured it would get us home, which it did.
Thank you, Mike and Lesley, for the wonderful time, we so enjoyed it and hope to do it again soon, either here or there!!!! Words can’t express our love and gratitude for the two of you. We are so lucky to have you in our lives.