In Defense (?) of a Solo Road Trip

I went to visit my parents this weekend (my mom, having lived in Central PA for the past 15 years, recently moved back to my hometown in Western NY, where my dad still lives). Jeff wasn’t able to/didn’t want to take off work (ever the workaholic), so I embarked on the 6 hour drive on my own. I’m not usually one to drive lengthy distances by myself, but this trip reminded me of what a delight a solo road trip can be.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good car trip with Jeffrey – we’ve perfected the singalong (we have our harmonies down pat at this point), and it’s nice to have someone to chat with. I also love a road trip with friends, of course. But there’s something so refreshing about a nice, long trip with nothing but your thoughts and your music – no one else’s taste to consider. Your own snacks. Your own Podcasts (if that’s what you’re into). Your own route. Your own stops. The possibilities are endless.

For me, this meant a lot of time to think – about everything. Things that don’t matter. Things that do. The past. The present. The future. That sounds kind of deep and serious, but it really wasn’t – sometimes it’s actually fun to just think about whatever comes to mind, uninterrupted. Despite my anxious tendencies, very rarely did a stressful thought pop into my head. Go figure.

This also meant a renewed love for my music. Remember how I’ve said on multiple occasions that I’m in a major music rut? Well, all it took was 12 hours in the car by myself (and a little solo hotel time to boot) to renew my love for a whole plethora of music, plus discover some great new jams. I think this is partially because local driving (where I typically listen to the bulk of my music) is often distracted – only long enough to listen to a few songs at most, and I’m often only half-listening, while thinking about daily tasks. During an otherwise silent 6-hour drive, I’m able to fully immerse myself in the music (and/or sing at the top of my lungs).

On that note: I’m really digging Grizzly Bear’s most recent album (Painted Ruins), and discovered that I prefer the songs with Ed Droste on lead vocals, rather than the ones headed by Daniel Rossen (in case anyone was wondering). Also, I’m surprisingly pretty into Florence and the Machine’s new album…I’m not sure why I’m so surprised since I’ve enjoyed most everything she’s put out in the past, but there you have it. I originally checked it out because she’s coming to Philly in October with Grizzly Bear as her opener, and I REALLY WANT TO SEE GRIZZLY BEAR LIVE, but could take or leave Florence and is it worth the cost of a ticket to basically just see the opener? Okay, now I’m just rambling. But anyway – take a solo road trip if you get the chance. Very enjoyable.

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Travel tips from a bad traveler

Oh, hello! Yes: I am, in fact, still alive (and well)! And we just got back from our trip to Cape Cod.

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It was wonderful, but I’ve realized something over the past couple of years: we’re (the Raums: Jeff & I) not good travelers. Despite exhaustive planning (on my end) and good intentions (on both of our ends), we generally don’t know what the hell we’re doing when we vacation. It seems easy – relax. Do whatever you want. Eat all the delicious food. Swim. Repeat. But, for whatever reason, I always feel a bit…lost. And end up worn out and exhausted, instead of refreshed.

So, in interest of making myself a better traveler and helping those who may feel the same way (hopefully you don’t, but you never know), here are some tips that I’ve learned the hard way – a kind of “what not to do” travel guide.

1. Don’t overestimate how much you can eat.

This one is really as simple as this: for the love of god, remember you’re a human! Listen. As Jeff solemnly stated the other night while dining at the Lobster Pot – not as an insult – “You [I] can EAT.” He speaks the truth – I really CAN put it away. But I tend to plan my trips almost SOLELY based on food, and end up committing myself to eat more food than is humanly possible to consume in a day. And that’s without factoring in drinks, and we all know that liquid FILLS YOU UP. This ends up making me feel bloated and sluggish, which makes walking around less than pleasant. Definitely do some research and figure out your must-haves, but if you’re used to eating three meals a day and maybe one or two snacks (which is the case with me recently), remember that you’re going to feel like garbage if you attempt to eat literally NON-STOP every single day. Don’t feel bad if you can’t get to every single restaurant you’ve read about. You can always go back another time if you want.

2. Maybe eat a vegetable; DEFINITELY drink some (lots of) water.

On a related note, if you typically eat relatively healthfully in real life, your body’s going to be peeved if you attempt to eat nothing but butter, cheese, bread and ice cream on vacation. I’m all for indulging on vacation and would never dream of trying to follow any sort of healthy eating plan while traveling for pleasure, but maybe eat a salad here and there, or maybe a piece of broccoli. And DO NOT forget to drink water, especially if you’re drinking a lot (of alcohol). Dehydration will ruin a vacation faster than you can say “Ugh, why do I feel like a bucket of discarded fingernails and fish heads?” I tried to get ahead of this this time by buying some yogurt to keep in our mini-fridge and eat for breakfast, but mostly failed. Oh well…next time!

3. Don’t feel guilty about downtime.

I know that it’s easy to feel like you should fill every minute of vacation time with fun and out-of-the-norm experiences, but some of our favorite vacation memories have been watching garbage TV in our hotel room (we are who we are). If you’re constantly going going going, you’re GOING to end up completely exhausted by the third day of vacation. If your vacation is three days long, fine…but if you’re going somewhere for, say, a week, you’re going to need to relax at some point. Whether that’s lounging with a good book or sleeping through dinner and waking up at 10:30 PM to watch Craig Ferguson on the “American Channel” in Mexico while eating room service cheeseburgers (true story, and one of my most treasured memories), enjoy your downtime and don’t feel like you’re “wasting your vacation.” We spent more late evenings than not this past trip watching Shark Tank in bed, and frankly, it was glorious.

4. Don’t try to be a sun goddess if you’re not one.

I’m constantly torn between wanting to bask in the sun (the amount of sun exposure I get DRASTICALLY affects my mood and general disposition) and protect my poor, mid-thirties skin from sun exposure. And I DO slather on high-octane sunscreen before hitting the pool or beach (or anywhere else I’ll be getting more than a couple minutes of sun), I wear SPF on my face every single day without fail, and I try to remember to bring a few hats when I travel somewhere warm. But then I get there, and I forget just how BRUTAL the sun can be. I’ll lay on the beach or by the pool for 10 minutes and start thinking “Holy shit, the sun is ACTIVELY TRYING TO HURT ME!! This actually HURTS MY BODY!!” I don’t know how people lounge on the beach ALL DAY, but if I spend more than a few hours in the sun, I’m BEAT for the rest of the day – even if I’ve been in the shade.

5. Don’t force yourself (or your partner) to do things you don’t enjoy “for the gram.”

On a related note – don’t do things you don’t enjoy because it feels like you “should.” For example: Jeff and I aren’t really beach people. Jeff doesn’t like sitting in the sun, and doesn’t really enjoy the ocean (unless it’s SUPER CLEAR, bath-like, tropical water). I really don’t enjoy sand, and lugging everything onto and off of the beach just isn’t my idea of a good time (the juice is NOT worth the squeeze for me, generally). I can get into the beach for a while with a big group of friends, or if I’m at a resort or hotel with private beach access with chairs and umbrellas, but if it’s just me and Jeff and we’re schlepping all of our stuff to just sit there for a few hours and then drag a ton of sand into our car when we’re done, I’m not really into it – I’d rather hang by the pool or elsewhere and read or whatever else I’d being doing at the beach. This has been hard for me to admit to myself because I was a MAJOR beach baby growing up (but on Lake Erie, which is much more low key than the ocean), and people in Delaware are ALL ABOUT salt life. I’m definitely in the minority around here, but it’s just how it is. I like the beach ATMOSPHERE – I love an ocean view, and I’m all for a trip down south to wander the boardwalk or eat some seafood, but the beach itself just doesn’t do much for me. That said, I always feel pressure to do at least one “beach day” when vacationing somewhere beachy – we did it in Cape Cod, and we did it in Spain. While I can’t say I necessarily regret it, the beach experiences definitely weren’t my highlights of either trip (not counting the untouched beach we boated to in Spain – that sort of thing is a definite exception to this rule). In the future, I’ll definitely prioritize a hotel or rental with a sweet pool setup over beach access, because it’s what we prefer and that’s okay.

6. Don’t buy crap you don’t want just because you “need a souvenir.”

I mean, this is pretty obvious. I personally haven’t done this in years, but I definitely fell victim to the “souvenir trap” before I started traveling more regularly. Pretty much anywhere with any tourist population is going to have 15 million crappy souvenir stores…and I’m not going to lie, I have always and will always go into them and look around, because it’s fun. But the stuff in those stores is usually poorly made, overpriced, and garish looking, and it’s not something you’d ever buy anywhere else. If you want to bring something home, try going off the beaten path to a locally owned store selling things that are genuinely cool and unique – stuff you’ll actually use and/or display when you get home. We typically still buy some kind of ridiculous souvenir because our parents genuinely like those kinds of things (and our friends get a kick out of them), and I decided a while back that I was going to start collecting magnets when traveling (after noticing that I didn’t have enough magnets for my fridge, and the ones I did have were a random assortment of local advertisements and other ugly crap), but other than that I try to find more unique shops and support them instead if I feel like shopping.

7. Be good to your body.

I’ve kind of already covered this, but for me, this means exercise. I’ve never once successfully exercised while on vacation despite ALWAYS packing running shoes and a sports bra, but I honestly think it would make me feel better to go on a short run before starting my day. Not only would it make me feel slightly better about eating all the everything for the rest of the day, but it would provide some peaceful alone time and a chance to see a different side of our travel destination. I’m always a little worried I’ll inadvertently overdo it and end up sore, and have used it as an excuse to skip working out altogether, but a 1 mile run (or even a brisk walk or short hike) isn’t going to hurt me in reality. I’m committed to giving it a go on our next trip.

8. Research rainy day activities in advance (and be realistic about it!).

Almost every trip I’ve been on has included at least one rainy day, and I almost always end up stumped as to what to do. When we went to Savannah, it rained almost the whole time we were there. I knew it was going to in advance (I’m an obsessive weather checker), and I had researched a bunch of things to do, but the things I “decided on” were mostly things we definitely weren’t actually going to do: visit museums (we’re not museum people), travel out of town to do a brewery tour (we weren’t renting a car), shopping (I’m not going to drag Jeff around various shops all day, and I’m not realistically going to spend an entire afternoon on vacation shopping). It rained all day one of the days when we were in Cape Cod, and we ended up spending most of the day chilling in our hotel room reading, then driving to the next town to get Duff Goldman’s favorite lobster rolls. It was actually a pretty great day, and I’m glad we saved our mini-excursion for a day when walking wasn’t in the cards.

The last thing is less advice and more of a crowdsourcing attempt: how do you guys ward off spending guilt when you’re traveling? Is this just a me thing? These days I always budget for travel and even have a separate “Vacation” savings account, so I have plenty of money set aside to spend while traveling. It’s not like I’m using credit cards and going into debt, or spending money that was earmarked for something else, but I always feel cringe-y about the amount of money we spend on vacation. Is this just how I am as a result of being broke for so many years? The only way I can think of to prevent this is to only to all-inclusive resorts…don’t get me wrong, I love an all-inclusive vacation, but they’re pretty limiting and I definitely want to travel to places other than the Caribbean. Christ, that sounded gross…this is absolutely a “check your privilege” situation, but nonetheless – I guess it is what it is. Any tips would be much appreciated (or, y’know…feel free to tell me to kick rocks). Cape Cod recap to follow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Summer Getaway

I’ve been trying to plan our summer vacation(s), and I’m having a bit of trouble deciding where to go.

My original plan was to do a quick Jersey shore trip (probably a long weekend) in early summer, and then a longer trip for our 2nd wedding anniversary in late August. I was thinking Maine for our August trip – it’s beautiful, we’d have city (Portland) and beach (Kennebunkport or Boothbay) options, plus lobster rolls! But when I started planning, I found that it was next to impossible to find a rental or hotel in coastal Maine in late August that was both available and didn’t cost $500/night. I thought about switching the trips – Jersey in August and Maine in June – but Maine isn’t very warm in June.

So, I’ve pretty much scrapped the Maine idea. I’m trying to keep things on the budget-friendly side, so I’d like to go somewhere within driving distance (plus we love a road trip, and haven’t taken a real one in a while). I’ve considered a bunch of options (Hilton Head, the Outer Banks, etc.), but I keep coming back to New England – while southern beach towns are relatively similar to our beaches around here, New England has such a unique feel. Right now, I’m thinking Cape Cod in late June – it’ll be right before the main season so we’ll hopefully dodge the crowds a bit, but by the end of June it should be warm enough to swim. I’m thinking we’ll do Monday – Thursday in Provincetown, check out on Friday and take a quick detour to overnight in Boston, then head home Saturday. I’m waiting for Jeff’s approval, but I’m already dreaming of lobster rolls, clam chowdah, lazy afternoons on the beach, and evenings by the fire pit. (And maybe a drag show or two – when in Rome!)

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Provincetown sits at the very tip of the cape.

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Race Point Beach

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Retro Harbor Hotel on the bay

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Lobster rolls on the deck of The Canteen

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Biking through town

Universal Studios & Our Florida Escape

Oh, hey! I’ve been neglecting this blog a bit since I update The Good Food daily, but I miss having more personal chats! Let’s catch up, starting with our Wizarding World of Harry Potter Trip.

You guys…WE HAD THE BEST TIME. Universal Studios was great of course, but if I’m being honest, my favorite part of the trip was our hotel (which was a resort property) and the time we spent just hanging out.

Since our trip was so short (Friday evening through Sunday morning), we really didn’t think we’d have much time to spend doing anything other Universal Studios, let alone swim or hang out at the hotel. We somehow ended up making the best possible use of our time, though – starting immediately after we checked in to the hotel, at which point we headed directly to the bar, luggage and all, and ordered cocktails. We took our drinks to go and briefly explored the hotel, which included a bowling alley, several bars, multiple restaurants, two huge pools (one of which had a water slide, and I didn’t even see it until right before we left), a lazy river, a huge outdoor jacuzzi, and an arcade. We went up to our rooms to finish our drinks and change, and then headed out to explore City Walk and grab some dinner.

Saturday was (obviously) our Universal Studios Day, and since we were staying at a resort property, we were allowed to enter the park an hour early. Much to Jeff’s distress, we ended up losing about 15 minutes of that time due to a miscommunication about breakfast (he figured we’d eat at the park, whereas I refused to leave the resort on an empty stomach – typical me), but we still ended up easily beating the crowds. It was a chilly day in the low 60s, but coming from frigid Delaware, it felt pretty comfortable by comparison and we were both fine in t-shirts without jackets in the sun.

Upon entering the park we discovered that Jeff had accidentally bought Fast Passes in place of actual tickets – at Universal Studios, fast passes are extra (they actually cost the same amount as the ticket itself, so it’s a pretty steep add-on), but you literally get to skip the line (or rather, you get to walk past the line into a separate queue towards the entrance of the ride). The ticket taker told us we could either keep the fast passes and buy tickets from the ticket sales kiosk, or we could exchange them for actual tickets at the customer service desk. We originally intended to exchange them since this was an over $300 mistake, but the line for the service desk ended up being too long and we decided to suck it up and just buy tickets and keep the fast passes.

Welp…this ended up being the BEST DECISION EVER. Seriously. By the time the crowds arrived at the park, lines for some of the more popular rides were 3+ hours, but with our fast passes, we were on them within 10 minutes. We decided that from here on out, we’d be building fast passes into our budget any time we visit Universal Studios. Highly, highly recommended – especially if you only have one day. We ended up being able to enjoy every attraction we had interest in, with time left over.

The park was pretty much everything we imagined – both Harry Potter worlds were perfect, like walking right into the movies. The rides were great – much more intense than I had predicted, but very thrilling and full of incredible affects. My favorite rides were the virtual reality rides – the indoor ones where you’re strapped in and the drops and spins are simulated. We ate lunch at one of the Harry Potter restaurants (the food was fine, but the standout of the day was the hot butterbeer – I’m still dreaming about it), and ended up leaving the park completely exhausted an hour before close (I think the park closed at 8, so we left around 7).

According to my iPhone, we had walked over 10 miles over the course of the day, so our feet and legs were killing us…but we were determined to make the most of our trip, and rested in our hotel room only briefly before heading back out for dinner. Our original intention was to go back to City Walk for a sit-down meal, but we noticed that despite being pretty chilly, the pools were all open and there were quite a few people in each of them, so we decided to take a quick dip before eating. Well…one thing led to another, and we ended up at the pool bar, talking to some other guests. The pool cocktails came in souvenir plastic tumblers, and we found out that not only could you bring your drinks into the pools/lazy river, but there was a huge hot tub (we hadn’t discovered this yet). Obviously we couldn’t pass up a huge hot tub with cocktails on a chilly night, so we ended up spending several hours in the hot tub, and deciding to order room service for dinner. After retiring from the hot tub (several cocktails in and trying to avoid the hangover of a lifetime for our 6 AM flight), we went up to our room and Jeff ordered pizza while I ventured out into the hotel in search of additional junk food (which I found at the bowling alley snack bar in the form of soft pretzels and mozzarella sticks). We feasted in our room and immediately passed out.

As silly as it may sound, that evening was the most fun I can remember having on vacation in a long time – just being spontaneous and not feeling like we had to follow an itinerary, and relaxing and enjoying each others’ company and chatting with fellow resort-goers. I almost want our next trip to be to another theme park, just so we can stay at a resort property (haha). All in all, it was a trip for the books and I’m itching to plan our next getaway.

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And we’re off!

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View from our room (pardon the glare)

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City Walk at night

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Accio Luggage!

Guys…the Raums are being spontaneous!

Last Thursday, I woke to a text from Jeff (he leaves for work earlier than me) asking if we had any plans this weekend. I answered negatively, and asked him why he was asking…to which he responded by asking if we had any plans the next weekend.  A bit exasperated (keep in mind I had just woken up three minutes earlier), I responded, “?? I don’t know. Why?? Are you going somewhere?”

Then came the big reveal: Jeff had tentatively planned a trip to Universal Studios Orlando to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter the following weekend! He told me he had originally planned to keep the whole trip a total surprise – like, “Pack your bag, we’re going away” style – but thought better of it, not wanting to take the joy of researching things beforehand away from me (what he really meant was, “I know you’re a control freak and completely surprising you could be a disaster,” but to be fair, I do love me some vacation research).

It’s going to be a very quick trip – we’re talking, arrive Friday evening, spend the day at the park Saturday followed by dinner somewhere, go to bed, leave at the crack of dawn Sunday morning. The way he had originally booked things was to fly in AFTER 11 PM on Friday, but we ended up changing the incoming flight to put us there just after 6 (ahem…*control freak*). This way, we can at least spend some time exploring City Walk and our resort, rather than literally arriving and hitting the hay immediately. Ideally, we’d leave a little later on Sunday, but our flight options were limited and we’d need to check out of the hotel by 11 AM anyway (Jeff hates not having a “home base” when we travel). But we’re super excited – neither of us has been to the Harry Potter attraction, and I’ve never been to Universal Studios, period. We’re not really “theme park people” typically, but we both love Harry Potter and Jeff’s been dying to go for a long time (he sneakily had us watch all the movies last weekend during the most recent snow storm). Plus, it’ll get us out of the cold for a couple of days – I think it’ll be the perfect quick getaway.

So, we leave this coming Friday – we’ll be staying at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort (it’s a retro-themed resort with two huge pools and a lazy river – it’ll probably be a bit cool to swim at a high of around 73, but we won’t really have time anyway, so that’s okay), and Jeff purchased park-hopper passes for Saturday, which means we can go between Universal Studios – where Diagon Alley is – and Islands of Adventure, where Hogsmeade is located. The only attraction our tickets don’t include is the water park, but again, it probably won’t be warm enough, and we’d be a little short on time anyway. Jeff’s also excited to check out the Jurassic World exhibit, and I’m pumped for the Simpsons attraction. If anyone’s been and has “must do” recommendations, I’m all ears…we’re also open for dinner recommendations for Saturday evening. We’ll probably grab food at City Walk on Friday, but we’re undecided for Saturday – should we stay within Universal Studios, or venture out? What’s good in Orlando? Any and all recommendations welcome!

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Our Vacation in Pictures: New Orleans

Our trip to New Orleans was a work trip for Jeff (he was attending an IRA conference – thrilling!), but I opted to take the entire week off (after debating working remotely from the hotel) and wander on my own during the day…good decision, me! We stayed in the business district, which feels more like a modern city, but we were only a 5 minute walk from the French Quarter – and what an experience that is! It’s pretty much exactly what you picture – people of every age wandering the streets at every hour, drinks in hand, vendors and street performers vying for your attention. The architecture is beautiful – very similar to Savannah, with iron railings, lanterns, and lots of color. We had lots of good food, LOTS of drinks, and a little relaxation – all in all, it was a pretty great week (despite HOT temperatures, a ton of construction, and me getting lost multiple times – half the streets aren’t labeled!!). Bare with me…although I took my “good” camera, I didn’t use it once – all the below pics are from my (pretty old) iPhone.

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And we’re off!

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Sipping cold brew in the Ace Hotel

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Rooftop pooltime

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One night we went to eat at John Besh’s Italian restaurant, Domenica, and they gave us a complementary dessert because our food took forever to come out (we couldn’t have cared less). IT. WAS. DELICIOUS.

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The night gets a liiiittle blurry after this…

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Huge Ass Beers

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lol

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If you order an acai bowl, you have to photograph it. It’s the law.

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Lunch at Cochon Butcher

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Muffaletta!

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Jeff stood these on end and declared it “art.”

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Our vacation through pictures: Savannah

I finally got around to uploading and editing my photos from Savannah! Despite some shaky weather (it rained almost every day we were there), our trip to Savannah was one of my favorites yet, and it was definitely the best food I’ve ever eaten, anywhere. If you ever have the chance to visit Savannah, don’t pass it up…there’s just something about it that feels different than anywhere else I’ve ever been. The Spanish moss, the squares, the cobblestone streets with real gas lanterns on every building…it’s really a dreamy place. There are ordinances in the city preventing historical buildings from being altered, and any new building needs to match the architecture and design of the older, Antebellum buildings. All of this combined with the quirky local history and countless ghost stories makes Savannah unlike any other city. I’d love to return some day!

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As magical as horse-drawn carriages all over the place feels, I actually felt really bad for these horses 😦

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The waving girl!

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This fragrant garden was designed for blind people!

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Love the color of our AirBnB’s door.

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We LOVED this place.

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Fresh off the plane with a to-go-sa 🙂

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The coolest underground cocktail bar – the menu was an actual newspaper, and they make every cocktail you could possibly imagine. Jeff got to bring that glass with the weird guy on it home.

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Old, old haunted brewery

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Chillin’ out max in our hotel room.

 

Hold, please!

I’m still playing catchup from vacation, so I haven’t had time to post. I’ll be back soon…until then, here’s a shot of one of the 5 bajillion beautiful houses in Savannah.

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Don’t rain on my parade

We’re getting ready to head south tomorrow, and the forecast is looking pretty shaky – rain predicted for both Thursday and Friday, with cloudy days Saturday and Sunday. We won’t let a little rain ruin our good time, though – we’ll just have to get a little creative. Some ideas I’m kicking around:

Check out the SCAD Museum of Artscad-msm-art_540x242

Watch the rain fall from the covered deck of a riverboatriverboat

Shop the downtown design district949724b3732a9bc222a1f7db1a1c0680

Indulge our sweet tooth at Lulu’s Chocolate Bar328998ba9d870d4b224c841352b6f19d

Take a tour of Southbound Brewing CompanySouthbound Brewing Co. Savannah Brewery

Lounge over coffee & pastries at Le Cafe Gourmetls

And of course, some of our already-planned activities are perfect for a rainy day – a covered trolley tour is perfect for sub-par weather, and some drizzle will make our ghost tour all the more spooky! Bring it on, rain – we’re ready for you!

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