Category Archives: Travel

California Love

Version 2

In case you’d yet to ogle it in the sidebar, here, large and in your face, is the latest win in life’s epically challenging game of Family Photo. This particular snap was taken by my dear ma on Christmas day and we even used a proper camera! Bonus points indeed. If not for the bow behind Pete’s head and the Santa bear half hidden by my thigh, you might assume this was a lovely spring day, for shorts and bare arms abound. But as everyone knows, our winter was freakishly warm, and on Christmas we saw sun and seventies, which was perfectly acceptable to this California born and Florida raised cold hater. 

Speaking of California…I’m currently 40,000 feet in the air en route to the sunny state for a business trip. And speaking of sun, we’re not slated to get too much of it while there. Let’s be clear, the sun will shine aplenty for the duration of our stay, but the forecast (for now) calls for a bundle of rain tomorrow and Monday, and given that the other oddity we North Carolinians have experienced in recent months is excessive drenchings, I was looking forward to a few days of West Coast perfection. Still, it’s California, on the beach, without ice or snow or any other disgusting frigid mess, and I’m staying at an absurdly gorgeous resort with all of my expenses paid. The complaint office is officially closed. 

Another fun fact – that first person plural up there refers not to my colleagues, but to sweet Pete, the handsomely bearded man in the aisle seat to my right. When I learned of my participation in this particular trip I had my usual idea to head out a day early for some exploration, but this time I wanted my travel buddy with me.  The show my company is attending is at the St. Regis Monarch Beach in Dana Point, a resort at which we’re probably never going to stay on our own dime, and I thought it would be super great for us to experience it together. Of course, I won’t be much company once the show starts as it requires my presence at all sorts of meetings and meals nearly nonstop from Sunday through Tuesday night, but I’m sure Pete will be just fine figuring out how to spend his time.

Before the work crazy begins, our early arrival will give us about 24 hours together to take in the area which also happens to be my place of birth! Not Dana Point specifically, but the resort lies only 7-8 miles west of Mission Viejo Hospital where one Deborah Meyers birthed a 10 lb 11 oz butterball of a baby almost exactly 34 years ago. So that’s neat. As far as what we’ll do with that 24 hours, I haven’t the slightest idea and I like it that way. For all the control I exercise in various areas of my life, I’m mostly content to allow Pete to be the planner when it comes to stuff like this. I know there’s a rental car, an Airbnb and a high likelihood of tasty food and drinks, but other than that, until about 3:30 PM on Sunday afternoon, I’m a willing participant in the Peteventure. Of course I’ll need to stop frequently for photos – can’t miss an opportunity to capture anything other than the same scene I encounter day in and day out in central NC  – but Pete is supportive of that hobby of mine. Usually. Unless I overdo it. Which only happens like 79% of the time.

T-minus two and a half hours until we land, and now I’ve just been told that on this particular flight there seems to be an issue with MacBooks connecting to the internet. I paid eight whole dollars for my all day wifi in the sky and now because of my firm opposition to using a Windows machine I’m left with a shiny silver word processor. I guess I’ll just have to drink my plane wine and read a book or have a “conversation” with Pete. Struggles.

Captain Sarcasm here signing off. Kisses.

francedance

Notes before reading this post! A) These are all iPhone photos which still blows my mind because less than 10 years ago my shitty digital camera couldn’t take these pictures (we haven’t had a chance to look at the snappies we took on the big camera yet, but just imagine a lot more of the below with better resolution). B) There are happy little links throughout (some in the photo captions!) that will take you to even MORE photos on the Elderworld Tumblr.

So grab a glass of wine, kick back, and enjoy the next couple hours of enviously hating me…

I’m 31 years old and I’ve visited many places across the United States, but the extent of my travel outside of the country consisted of a cruise I took with Pete a couple weeks after I graduated from the University of Florida. The cruise was loads of fun and hugely memorable (drunken british accents, Belizean river tubing, getting engaged, stuff like that), but being that passports weren’t required and your exposure to any place was limited to maybe 5-6 hours, I never considered it to be proper world travel. After dreaming of exploring new places but never taking any real action, we finally decided last year to take our first big leap across the ocean together and commenced planning a trip to Scotland which is fully arranged for this September (thanks to Pete and his mad travel agent skills). Part of that planning included getting my very first passport which we made sure to do well in advance of the trip and it arrived just in time, because mid-May I received quite the surprise…

On a normal weekday workday, my boss asked me and a couple colleagues to head outside for a quick chat to talk about a new trade show idea. We go outside because we’ve got 16 people and a crap ton of stuff crammed into 1,800 square feet of office space and the walls don’t go to the ceilings, so any time you want to talk about anything you either accept that everyone will hear you or you “take a walk down the tracks.” So walk we did and he proceeded to explain to us that we had an opportunity to attend a trade show in Monaco but we had to make a decision in the next couple days. We fired off our normal slew of questions that follow any crazy idea proposition from the bossman, and were mostly satisfied with the answers, but then came the kicker. The show was happening less than one month from that day and bossman’s in-laws would be in town from London, so he who usually attends all shows would not be able to go. We now had to decide if we wanted to attend this show we’d never done before in another country with less than 30 days to plan and minus one of our key people. Brain racing, I quickly opined – send me! Part of the show was an investigation into doing business overseas and part of my job is to develop new business opportunities, so of course this makes sense! And guess what? I already have a passport! Ding ding ding, let’s do it! I thought they’d never go for it but quite the contrary – bossman’s eyes lit up and he was totally into it. A week later tickets were booked and I and my buddy slash colleague Shelly were prepping for a trip to Nice and Monaco. It’s over now and I still can’t believe it!

Clearly I couldn’t go to Europe for the first time and spend my whole trip inside a hotel doing conferency things, so we went two days early to get in some solid Nice exploration. I was a bit nervous about the whole affair – first time in a non-English speaking country, first time flying overseas, first time attending a conference of this sort – but much of that was quelled by the fact that Shelly had experience in all of the above. Thank goodness for her French skills for even though most folks we encountered also spoke English, it helped tremendously with their willingness to do so when we first approached them in their own language. The whole adventure was amazing, I’m officially in love with Europe (even maybe drunkenly tried to convince Pete that we should move there), and I am more excited than ever about our September trip to Scotland. So, despite the fact that I already blew up Instagram and Facebook with a million snappies, I’ll throw down a few (lot) more photos here and blurb it up with some highlights (let’s be serious, this post is going to be epically long)…

Our original flight pattern was RDU to BOS to Paris to Nice, but when we arrived at the airport to check in we quickly realized that some silly tropical storm was threatening to cancel all sorts of flights and proceeded to spend a very sad and stressed out 90 minutes with a Delta attendant trying to figure out what we were going to do. At the end of said 90 minutes, on the phone with her Delta customer service counterpart, her face lit up and she said OH! That is great news! To which Shelly and I responded with a happy little jig in front of all the other angry people in line and #francedance was born. Our new flight pattern became RDU to JFK to Nice and we arrived at the same exact time as our previous plan, with one less annoying stop. Huzzah! One easy bus ride and less than a mile of walking brought us to the Rue de Chateau, a cozy sloped alley in the hear of Vieux Nice.

The entry gate to the building that housed our third floor studio apartment rented through Airbnb.

The entry gate to the building that housed our third floor studio apartment rented through Airbnb.

Our apartment, maybe 40 square meters, super cute and stylish and close to EVERYTHING.

Our apartment, maybe 40 square meters, super cute and stylish and close to EVERYTHING. (Stole this photo from the Airbnb site, everything else here we took!)

After checking in we took a walk to the nearest Monoprix to stock up on cheap amazing wine, delicious cheeses and butter I’d eat by the spoonful. On the way back we stumbled upon some cathedrals.

We walked into three different cathedrals and they each was just as grand and opulent as the next.

We walked into three different cathedrals and each was just as grandiose as the next.

Then came lunch, our first legit meal in France, and after striking out several times in a row since it was that weird time of day when most places are closed between lunch and dinner, we found a place that would feed us and we sat outside devouring caprese salad, pizza and bread. Everything tasted like perfection which I’m sure was at least in part due the surroundings. Fueled up and running on holy-shit-I’m-in-France adrenaline, we set out to walk and shop and explore.

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Place Masséna and Jaume Plensa’s Conversation å Nice. These seven statues represent the seven continents and apparently light up at night in different colors but sadly we didn’t catch that.

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Street after street of pretty colored buildings and magnificent mountains in the distance.

We went into all sorts of shops on this main strip of clothing stores, but ironically made the most purchases at H&M. We basically closed the place down and in fact the angry fitting room attended was the only rude person we encountered on our whole trip. She was quite displeased with the my non French speaking American ass still trying on clothes at five minutes to closing, but I honestly didn’t know the store hours. Her haircut was stupid anyway. We also bought stuff at another Monoprix (it’s like French Target i.e. the happiest place on Earth), then dropped our goodies off at the apartment and headed out for dinner.

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More awesome structures. Pretty much nonstop cool shit to take pictures of.

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Our intended restaurant was unfortunately undergoing renovations so we found a lovely place with outdoor seating (i.e. every place in Nice) and had another fabulous meal. We also took pictures of each other taking pictures of our meals. Nerds.

After dinner we walked over to Fenocchio and got nutella crepes and I died of happiness.

After dinner we walked over to Fenocchio and got nutella crepes and I died of happiness. Also note bags under eyes. Three or so hours sleep on the flight over and a day full of adventure were not friendly to the ol’ face.

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We walked back to the apartment, eventually went to sleep, and stayed in bed until noon the next day. Vacation rocks.

Post first day in France bathroom happy selfie wearing Shelly's pajama shirt because I packed a million things but no pajamas. Nerd.

Post first day in France bathroom happy selfie wearing Shelly’s pajama shirt because I packed a million things but no pajamas. Nerd.

Once we finally dragged our jet lagged behinds out of bed we went for a run on the Promenade des Anglais, the road that runs along the coast. The warm temps and low humidity made for outstanding running weather and clearly the scenery was top notch. Post shower, our next adventure was a “hike” up beautiful, old, tree shaded steps and pathways, past a waterfall to the Parc du Château. Nearly 1,000 years ago a castle was erected at this spot, but in 1706 it was razed by the ranks of Louis XIV. Today it’s a popular tourist spot with stunning panoramic views of Vieux Nice and the Baie des Anges, and a few benches perfect for a picnic. And we did just that – with our scrumptious cheeses and wine, we snacked and chatted the afternoon away in one of the most beautiful settings I’ve ever experienced.

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The view! Gross.

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The top of Tour Bellanda.

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Pard du Château selfie.

After the parc picnic we walked and walked and walked some more, stuck our feet in the Mediterranean, took pictures of doors and windows and alleys, ate decadent pastries, did a little more shopping and eventually headed back to the apartment for some more eating before dinner and more eating.

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On the street just before our apartment we heard from a window above a very French man singing a Maroon 5 song very loudly. Shelly sang along.

On the street just before our apartment we heard from a window above a very French man singing a Maroon 5 song very loudly. Shelly sang along.

Dinner our second night was at a restaurant called La Rossettisserie and was just as lovely as every other meal. Especially lovely was the moment a random man walked in wearing a French Maid costume and proceeded to not only go around the restaurant kissing people on the cheek but also lift up his skirt to expose tighty whiteys and dangling fake balls. When in Nice? After dinner we went to Fenocchio again, this time for ice cream and I swooned over the most vanillatastic scoop of dessert I’ve ever consumed.

Oh look! More pictures of us taking pictures of food.

Oh look! More pictures of us taking pictures of food.

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Post ice-cream selfie.

Post ice-cream selfie.

The final day was all about the market. Oh the market! How I wished to spend hours buying every piece of produce and every bottle of olive oil and every loaf of bread and every stem of flower. It was like our local farmers’ market on steroids. We bought things and tasted things and walked around a bit more before we checked out of our apartment and boarded the bus for our big tradeshow adventure in Monaco.

Ginormous figs putting my little Mebane figgy tree homegrown figs to shame.

Ginormous figs putting my little Mebane figgy tree homegrown figs to shame.

All the rad and wonderfully awesome flavors of salt - yes salt! - you could think of.

All the rad and wonderfully awesome flavors of salt – yes salt! – you could think of.

Sunny buildings around the market.

Sunny buildings around the market.

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I bought this bouncy giraffe for Norah at an adorable French toy shop.

I bought this bouncy giraffe for Norah at an adorable French toy shop.

Bye-bye beach selfie.

Bye-bye beach selfie.

And the final ride down in the apartment building elevator with all our crap. Shelly kindly sporting Pete's hat I bartered for so it didn't get squished.

And the final ride down in the apartment building elevator with all our crap. Shelly kindly sporting Pete’s hat I bartered for so it didn’t get squished.

I won’t go into too much detail about Monaco other than to say that the tradeshow went smashingly well and we had almost as much fun as we did in Nice (minus the excellent food). Here’s a little panoramic snappy from the 7th floor pooldeck of our worky hotel:

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Scotland is only a few months away and I can’t. freakin’. wait.

XO.

secret weekend

A week or so ago I was out for a drink with friends at a bar near the office and a couple walked in with their two children – a boy about 4 and a girl about 2. Now to be clear, we were at a bar, not at the bar at a restaurant, an actual bar with pool tables and such. And despite the fact that I’ve now been a parent for nearly three years, but perhaps more so because of it, I found it a little odd for this couple to have their two youngins’ in tow. That said, it quickly became apparent that they desperately needed a drink and that any thoughts about the appropriateness of bringing their children to such an establishment were rendered irrelevant by that need. The kids were loud and climbing on things and the parents were stressed and exasperated and then this happened…the mom was walking past our table with one of the two children at her side and she looked over at us forlornly and said “I wish I was out with the girls. I love my kids, but I just need a break.”

Never in my life have I had a complete stranger be so open about the fact that she just needed to get the fuck away from her children for a bit. It was kind of amazing and definitely surprising. I quickly empathized by saying something like “I totally understand and am going home to my two in a bit!” which made her half smile. Later that night I was scrolling through Instagram and saw a post by my dear coworker (and fellow mom) showing a photo of her and her hubs smiling gleefully with the caption “One week before Beau was born. Looking very innocent and so well rested.” It seriously simulated a scene you’d see in a comedic movie or tv show right before it broke to two weeks later with both parents looking disgusting and haggard, a baby screaming in their arms, and them arguing with each other about something stupid like who got less sleep the night before. It was the kind of post where your initial reaction is to laugh out loud and then as your brain begins to process it you start to think about how exhausted you are from all things parenting and your audible laughter is silenced by your realization that life is officially crazy.

I wonder how many times a week the average parent begins a sentence with “I love my kids, but…” I’d put money on a lot. Because we do love our kids, but we also do need breaks to maintain some semblance of sanity. And it’s so super duper important that those breaks sometimes occur with each other, as in both parents breaking at the same time together, because we all know that one of the greatest challenges of being a parent of young kids is making sure your marriage or relationship isn’t relegated to roommate status for lack of quality togetherness. Which brings me to my whole point for writing this post! SECRET WEEKEND!

For Mother’s Day weekend this year, Pete planned an overnight trip for he and I ONLY and it was all a complete surprise for me. I knew we were going somewhere, I just didn’t know where or how or to do what. I love surprises and getting away and hanging out with Pete, so I was psyched.

He told me we needed to be on the road by 7 AM sharp because we had a couple stops to make on the way and there was a schedule to stick to. I was so intrigued. Off we went down the highway a handful of exits, and then got off! We’re going to Burlington? I thought to myself, losing some of my excitement (sorry Burlington). We pulled up at the Company Shops Station, a large brick building that I was unfamiliar with, and Pete told me something was going on there that morning. What on earth is he dragging me to at 7:15 AM in Burlington? Some kind of flea market? I guess that’s cool? We park the car and he takes out this top secret purple folder with papers in it and we head to the door. Once inside, I very quickly realize that we’re at a train station which is aided by the fact that it’s National Train Day (total coincidence) and there are model trains and train info and all kinds of trainy type things all around. We were headed to Charlotte by Amtrak!

The train ride was super cool and something we’d never done together before. Once in Charlotte, we went to an art museum, had a delicious alfresco lunch, saw a badass show at the theater, went to a couple bars in NoDa, slept fairly well, had a lovely brunch and then took the train back home. Apparently this is what people with no kids, lots of discretionary income and abundant free time do. I like it! But I love my kids! Pete did such an awesome job planning the trip – it was perfect and I love him dearly for being an amazing, thoughtful husband.

That’s it for solo trips for us until the big one in September…SCOTLAND! FUCKYEAH!

Some instas from the secret weekend can be found over at Elderworld (scroll a bit). Buh-bi.

visits!

We’ve had oodles of awesome family time since Crosby was born and it’s about damn time I got around to posting some of the photos. Here’s a gallery of visits over the past five months.

Here in Mebane we had: The Florida Elders (Uncle John, Aunt Courtney, and cousins Dylan, Olivia & Grayson) and Grandma Joy (Pete’s mom) in July; Papa (my dad) and Uncle James and Aunt Tiffy in August; Grandaddy and Grandmama (Pete’s dad and stepmom) in October; Aunt Dana and Uncle Denny in November. We also took our first family flight as four in October and visited Aunt Martha, Uncle Kunaal, cousin Raj, Aunt Mary Lynn and Uncle Chuck. Super fun all around!

Elderland out. XO.

babymoon II

Last weekend, Pete and I drove up to Charlottesville, VA for our babymoon! What’s a babymoon? Well, according to Wikipedia (oh omniscient internet how I love thee): “The original meaning was a period of time that parents spend bonding with a recently-born baby. More recently the term has come to be used to describe a vacation taken by a couple that is expecting a baby in order to allow the couple to enjoy a final trip together before the many sleepless nights that usually accompany a newborn baby. Babymoons usually take place at a resort that offers appropriate services like prenatal massage.”

Okay, first of all, it’s quite clear why they changed the meaning of this term. Obviously derived from the term honeymoon which most definitely describes a time of fluffy bliss and carefree fun, it was entirely inappropriate to associate it with the period of time after the baby comes, regardless of the sequence of events (honeymoon after wedding, babymoon after baby, yeah no, doesn’t matter). I can confidently say that no new (sane) parent would describe the weeks immediately following the birth of their child as fluffy bliss, and if they do, they’re liars or masochists. So indeed, it makes sense that the travel industry (likely in cahoots with The Bump or Baby Center) decided that the social anthropologist/childbirth educator/author that originally coined the term was wrong. It also makes sense that said social anthropologist/childbirth educator/author is a strong advocate of home birth because that and deeming the newborn stage carefree fun would go hand in hand (I’m not judging. Have your baby wherever you want. I will have mine in a hospital. Hopefully.)

Alright! Now that I’ve surely offended someone, let’s move on to our babymoon, yay! You may recall that our first babymoon – prior to Norah’s birth – was a trip to Asheville, NC (you should really read that post again because I did after I wrote the above and it’s kind of funny how the two start). We apparently have a thing for -villes. Charlottesville was actually the suggestion of my Dad when he was visiting us over New Years. After he suggested it, we did a little research and spoke with some friends that had lived and/or been there, and were totally sold. Cute, charming, historic town that we could drive to in less than four hours and do cozy things like stay at a B&B, eat great food and explore – perfect! Note that bit above in the Wikipedia blurb about a resort that has services like prenatal massage. Enh (that’s the buzzer sound for wrong). We’re not really resort people, probably, mostly because we can’t afford to be, but also because we just like the idea of démodé decor in an old house accompanied by friendly hometown hosts and a “free” breakfast.

We stayed two nights at the South Street Inn – primo location for walking to pretty much anything we’d want to do in Charlottesville, except maybe Monticello which we elected not to do anyway because it would’ve cost nearly $50 and we decided with only two days in the town we’d rather spend that money on eating and other activities. Eat we did! And shop a tiny bit (presents for the kiddos), and catch a movie (The Five Year Engagement), and explore UVA, and walk A LOT, and visit the Farmers’ Market (right across the street from the Inn!), and much to our surprise there happened to be a music festival in town that weekend so we got to see The Walkmen. The weather was amazing, the town was adorable, the food was delicious and we had a really, really great weekend. Of course we missed the piss out of Norah and were stupidly excited to get back home to see her (thanks to Grandma for taking care of her!). And now I’m officially on travel lock down until Crosby day.

A few snappies:

our room at the inn

32 week belly

the walkmen

is that chris farley doing a chef demo?

transamerica bike trail

mother’s day breakfast

Elderland out. XO.

beach snappies

A few more cutie patootie snappies from our trip to Emerald Isle:

Elderland out. XO.

crazy may

This is definitely one of those months. The kind where every weekend is full of activity and adventure and life just spins along like a whirling dervish stopping for nothing and gaining speed. And it’s only the 8th! So much more to come. This is good though. I’m happy about it. At 31 weeks and counting I need to be occupied to help keep my mind off of how pregnant (read: big, hot, tired, uncomfortable) I am. Plus better this month than next, because next I imagine I’m not going to want to do much of anything other than complain. So much fun for Pete!

Technically the fun kicked off the last weekend of April. For the first time in our 7 years of living here in Central North Carolina we took part in the Piedmont Farm Tour. One of our good pals organized a group to spend Sunday afternoon touring four of the 40 or so farms on the map. Being that the tour is only two days and open for four hours each day, I don’t think it would actually be possible to see all of the farms, but also totally not necessary. We selected four in our area and that was perfect. Norah came along for the first and then went to Grams and Grandma’s for a nap so we could continue the tour, finishing up with a farm fresh dinner at our friend’s house. Supporting local farms, learning about their practices, checking out some seriously awesome animals (Norah’s favorite part) and spending time with best pals…fantastic!

Instafarm!

Then came the first week of May at work. Our west coast Account Director was in the office (from Palm Springs) so of course there were more meetings than usual, and on top of that we have two folks leaving the company over the next couple months, so I had interviews and hiring decisions to attend to. Lastly, it was the first of three four-day work weeks in a row (I know, poor me) so there was as much to get done in less time than usual. But all of that went swimmingly – we made three new hires all of whom are starting this month and I got all my work done – and then on Friday morning it was off to the beach, huzzah!

Us Elders and my mom headed to Emerald Isle for two days of coastal fun, and Norah’s first trip to the ocean. Emerald Isle is the beach town on the North Carolina coast where Pete and I got married in September of 2006, so clearly it means a lot to us and was the perfect place to introduce Norah to the surf and sand. Pete found us a charming three bedroom condo (cheap!!) in a complex with a couple pools and a boardwalk down to the beach. We were only there for two days, but it was the perfect amount of time to enjoy some primo weather and partake in all sorts of seaside merriment – swimming, sunbathing, playing in the sand, kite flying, Norah floating around in her new inflatable pink “boat,” kayaking, beach walking, a visit to the NC aquarium, a stop by the beach house where we got married, some lunch at the Big Oak Drive In (that catered our wedding, YUM), cooking seafood and somehow among all of that, even a little bit of relaxing. And what’s more, simply seeing the smile on Norah’s face  through all of this made it 10 million times more enjoyable. As if having kids wasn’t already the bees knees, I’ve started to realize just how much better everything is when you experience it with your youngin’.

Instabeach!

This weekend we head to Charlottesville, VA for our babymoon and later this month we go to a wedding and a pig pickin’ all in the same weekend! More to come on all of that.

Elderland out. XO.

PS More beach snappies to come soon too, once I get them off the Pentax.