In Atlanta, I always stay in the Galleria area as it is most convenient to where I have to work. I’ve ended up at the same hotel three years running, the first time recounted here. I decided to try this hotel again last year because I knew the renovations would be complete, and that the jackhammers from hell were probably being used to keep some other unfortunate soul from napping. Renovations aside, I don’t spend a lot of time in hotel rooms anyway and now that everything had been upgraded, it was a pleasant place to sleep.
Fast forward to today and imagine my surprise when I pull up to park and am met with orange cones in front of every space. I always try to stay in places with minimal to no parking charges, but sometime between last year and today, the lot had been converted to valet-only parking. Valet-Only. For the entire parking lot. No spot is farther than 500 steps from the front door.
I must have looked dumbfounded when the person working the valet told me there was no self-parking option. As he was explaining how to request my car, I asked if I could just get the keys from him and walk to my car when I needed to leave. Honestly, that would be faster.
The explanation I received for the ridculous parking situation was that with the new Atlanta Braves stadium down the street, they had to keep fans from parking at the hotel. I could think of a few other ways to do that, but I guess I can’t really complain with a price of $12 per night; hotel valet parking typically costs at least $30, or even more if you’re in Chicago. But, it is entirely possible that I will request my keys to walk to my car anyway, just to see if they let me.
My trip to New Orleans this week was like dipping my toes in the water before being shoved face first into travel. It was great to get out and on the road, but I was only gone for two nights. What awaits me is entirely different.
I will be home for ten random days between now and November 1st.
Chances are, I’ll be coming to a city near you! I do a lot of flying, but I’ve also incorporated a few road trips this fall for budget reasons. I’m excited to see all coasts of the U.S. again. I can always find something new and fun to do, no matter how many times I’ve been somewhere.
First up is Atlanta. Last year a friend from my stint working at a boutique fitness center happened to be in the city at the same time as I was. Naturally, we made plans to hang out on one of our free afternoons and met up at the Coca-Cola Factory. I had visited there during a high school band trip many years ago, so I was excited to visit it again all these years later. My favorite part of the tour is the opportunity to taste Coca-Cola products at kiosks representing each continent. There are some good tasting beverages, but then some of them are downright disgusting, specifically Beverly. They describe it as tasting “bitter.” I was bitter after tasting it.
And of course, the visit was not complete without a red-eyed polar bear wandering around scaring the children. He did not quite have the mechanics of his mouth down, but he seemed pretty harmless.
I’m still undecided on what adventures to plan for Atlanta this trip as it’s a shorter visit than last time, but I’m not ruling out a return trip to the Coca-Cola Factory, if only to spend more quality time with my furry friend to the left.
One of the highlights on our cruise out of Miami was our first stop in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I have always wanted to visit the island, especially after I was supposed to go for a work trip that ended up being unceremoniously cancelled. We didn’t dock until late in the afternoon, so that left us with a few hours to wander around before we found a local restaurant for dinner. Per usual, we waited for the rush of people to exit the ship before making our way out, and we headed directly for the San Felipe del Morro Fortress.Built to guard the entrance to the San Juan Bay, this fort became a part of the National Park System in 1961 after the U.S. Army officially retired it from use. Driveways were removed and green space added to restore the area to it’s original state. Luckily, the late afternoon sun in March wasn’t as hot, so we could enjoy going through the entire fort.
On our way back, I discovered one of my favorite views of this port happened to include the Cementerio Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzi, a cemetery from 1863 that overlooks the ocean. Due to an interest in genealogy and a love of history, I have always enjoyed visiting cemeteries, and this one was no exception. Seeing the Spanish influence in the monuments with the backdrop of the ocean on a beautiful day is one of the reasons I love to travel; a picture hardly does it justice.
We capped off our visit with some of the best mofongo I’ve ever had at Cafe Puerto Rico before heading back to the ship. It’s hard to imagine right now, but the entirety of Puerto Rico is currently without power thanks to another hurricane this season. I’m hoping for blue skies to return soon, like in the pictures above.
The last time I was in New Orleans, we visited Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. Built between 1722-1732, it is considered the oldest bar in the United States. We stopped by after taking a French Quarter ghost tour for a much needed drink. If you’ve never heard of Delphine LaLaurie, feel free to click the link and read about what a wonderful person she was. Then you’ll see why we needed a beverage. At the time it was said the house where she tortured her slaves was owned by Nicholas Cage, but he was trying to sell it and could not find a buyer. I can’t imagine why.
Lafitte’s is also supposed to be haunted. The ghost tour took us there as the last stop, which worked out perfectly as we had plans to visit anyway. I had one of the best Hurricane’s of my life there. It was layered perfectly and made with real fruit juice. Down the street, Pat O’Brien’s will serve you a Hurricane out of a nozzle, but I’d rather have Lafitte’s Hurricane any day. Inside, we were told that if you take pictures with your flash in the dark rooms you can see the “orbs” of spirits floating in your picture. I was unsuccessful last time, but maybe this trip I’ll capture a ghost. With my camera only, please.
My last trip to New Orleans was for my bachelorette party. The time before that was for a high school choir trip. You can imagine how those two trips might differ.
For my bachelorette party, we rented a van, piled six girls in it, and met up with a couple others there. The first night we ended up at Harrah’s at 3 a.m after spending a few hours on Bourbon Street. It’s funny because you always read about girls flashing people on Bourbon street, and part of you thinks “nah, that can’t really happen,” but it’s a thing in movies for a reason: it actually happens. At 2 a.m. the bar we were visiting had a contest where two couples had to complete different challenges in order to win more drinks, because they obviously needed them. They played a few games, like “put the condom on the banana,” and “demonstrate your favorite sex position,” but it wasn’t long before it turned into “which girl has the better boobs” as both sets were on display for God and the entire bar. Surprisingly, about half the customers, including us, left at that point. At least at Harrah’s you can lose your money, but probably not your clothes.
Remember when recovering from a night out was as easy as a Bloody Mary, some water, and you were ready to go again? Those were the days. One of the locals in our group recommended we check out Deanie’s for brunch, and when I returned from the bathroom, I found the Bloody Mary I ordered was staring me down. It watched me try some baked Parmesan oysters for the first time (a deliciously bad idea), and have an amazing crab salad. The Bloody Mary itself saved my life that day, and my shrimp friend hanging out the side was eventually a tasty snack (once I had someone else shell him). That meal was probably my favorite of the whole trip, so when I head to New Orleans next week for the first time since, I can’t wait to stop by again.
However, don’t expect to see me out on Bourbon Street at 2 a.m. this time; I have work to do, and these days, I need more than a stare down with a Bloody Mary to save me.
I’m dragging. In my twenties, it was not a problem for me to come back from a trip on the latest possible flight and skip into work the next day. One Vegas flight in particular, I landed at midnight, was in bed by one a.m. and was up for a three mile run by seven a.m. Today was a much different story. I set my alarm to get back into my typical (mostly) morning routine: run, coffee, get ready. That flew out the window at the first snooze. I surrendered and reset my alarm for another hour of blissful sleep that felt like ten minutes, and spent my time scrambling through the morning, which spilled over to the rest off the day. Needless to say, I’m exhausted. If I could tell my twenty-something self anything, it would be to enjoy your energy, because in your thirties, you will need a vacation from your vacation.
And thus, I leave you with the most relaxing view in all of Seattle: the one taken while sharing a toast with my best friend on his balcony a few hours before his wedding. The view is a little different than two years ago, and you can see all the new development going up. But for now, I choose to believe that in a year or two, he will still have the same view. And hopefully my next photo of it will be of sunset.