Travel Bucket List

This week, I spent some time planning a vacation to San Francisco, for which I will leave in about a week. The circumstances surrounding this upcoming trip are unusual in the sense that I actually decided to take a vacation before deciding upon the place I wanted to go. I don’t know how most people plan vacations, but for me, it’s usually the opposite – I come up with a destination and then start figuring out when it will happen and dealing with logistics.

Knowing I was going to have some time off of work and then trying to decide how to fill it was surprisingly difficult because the options were literally unlimited. I debated going down to Florida to see my grandparents and relax, I debated going to Ireland, and I even thought about just staying at home and hanging around Columbus.

The whole process got me thinking. I love to travel and experience new places and see different things. But at the same time, it’s also nice to find a place you enjoy and go back time and again. With limited vacation time (again, I reiterate the point that adulthood sucks), it can be hard to do both.

I have probably been to Naples, Florida, a hundred billion times. I love it there! I have my favorite restaurants where I like to eat, I know where the good beaches are, I know how to get around (somewhat), and I am all but guaranteed to have a good time. When thinking of taking a vacation, Naples is often a very tempting choice because I know what to expect and I know I’ll have fun.

Can't beat it!

Can’t beat it!

Other places that fall into the I’ve-Been-There-But-REALLY-Want-To-Go-Back category are Paris, the South of France (all of France?), Vail, and the Greek Isles, especially Santorini. These are places I know I love. But just going to the same places over and over prevents you from seeing new places that you might end up loving just as much – or even more!

So, for my upcoming trip, I chose to go to San Francisco. I have actually been there once before, but I think that at this point in my life, I am better equipped to appreciate all the ins and outs and quirks of a city like San Fran that maybe I didn’t appreciate or even notice the last time I was there. In a way, it’s like getting the best of both worlds.

All of this got me thinking of all the places I have yet to see in my life. So I put together a Travel Bucket List. Of all the places I have never been and hope to visit, these are my top ten.

10. Somewhere in the Caribbean. Technically, I have been to the Caribbean. But it was on a cruise in college, so I’m pretty sure it doesn’t count. We spent one day in Grand Cayman and ate at a Hard Rock Cafe (WTF, college self?), and that was basically it. So I would like to go back and have a relaxing, beautiful beach vacation in the Caribbean someday.

9. London. London just seems like such a neat, sophisticated and fancy place. I would love to go see all the sites and just take in the city.

8. Vancouver. I have always heard that Vancouver is a gorgeous city. It is supposed to be the best of both worlds – beautiful natural scenery and a lot of things to do outside, such as hiking, canoeing, etc., but yet still be a big, vibrant city with great restaurants and hotels.

7. Italy. Sorry I can’t even narrow it down more than just to say I want to visit this entire country. I think I could literally spend a month in Italy alone. This would entail, of course, devoting a sizable chunk of time to the Riviera and southern portion of the country, spending tons of time in the countryside at vineyards and gorgeous villas, and then seeing each major city: Rome, Venice, Florence, Sicily and Naples. And eating a lot of pizza. It will basically be “Eat Pray Love” minus the praying and the loving aspects ;)

6. Berlin and Munich, Germany. Sausage. Enough said.

5. Alaska. I get a lot of flack for this one. No one seems to understand my incredible desire to visit Alaska, but it is somewhere I have wanted to go for a really long time. You should know that I have a weird fascination with whales (all marine life, really, but mainly whales), and Alaska is known to be one of the best places in the U.S. to go whale watching. On top of that, I think Glacier National Park would be really cool to see. My one concern would be getting eaten by a bear. A pretty major concern, in reality. 

4. Ireland/Scotland. Is it cheating to include both of these countries in one number? Fine, call it the United Kingdom, then. A long time ago, my dad, grandpa and uncles went on a golfing trip to Ireland where they drove all around the country and golfed at various golf courses and drank beer in pubs. I want to do this, but just without the golfing. (Upon re-reading this, it kind of sounds like I want to visit these countries and just get drunk and drive around, but that’s not exactly what I mean…then again, maybe it is?).

3. African Safari. This one is probably pretty surprising to a lot of people who know me. It has always been a dream of mine to go on a safari in Africa. It just seems like it would be so cool to see so many types of animals we’re only able to see on TV or in a zoo.

2. Wine Country (Napa, Sonoma). This should be highly self-explanatory to anyone who knows me even a little bit. I am including Monterey and Carmel in this trip, as well.

1. South Africa. This one, like Alaska, also has to do with whale watching to some degree. I have heard just amazingly wonderful things about South Africa, though, even apart from the whale watching, which is supposedly phenomenal. Obviously, South Africa has its share of political and social issues, but it is a gorgeous country that I would really love to visit some day.

 

Eataly is Heavenly

I’m not really sure when Eataly entered my consciousness, but it was one of the few New York City places that my mom and I went that I had heard of before my mom suggested going to it. It is a…hmm…I’m not really sure how to describe what it is because it is unlike any place I have ever been before. It is part restaurant, part grocery store, part coffee shop, part gelateria. And it. is. huge. I mean, Eataly would be big even by Ohio standards, but by New York City standards, it is absolutely colossal. The weird thing is, though, from the front entrance, you can barely tell it’s there.

Like I said, I had heard of Eataly prior to visiting, so I kind of had an idea of what it was going to be like. Kind of. My mom and I decided to go to Eataly for dinner on Saturday night after doing some shopping. (Side note…I ALWAYS somehow forget that my mom can outshop me by about 3 hours, so shopping with her on 5th Avenue was enough to work up a pretty large appetite). We decided to just walk from our shopping excursions to Eataly, which we figured would be about 20 blocks. I think this is probably a long way to walk if you are a New Yorker, but for us, it was nice to walk a lot because it allowed us to see a lot more and get some exercise in between ginormous meals.

I had pulled up directions on my phone, but when we walked up to Eataly, we literally did not see it. Instead of assuming that it was tucked away, we assumed our cell phones had led us astray. Eataly is literally 10,000 square feet – not something you think you’re going to just not see when you’re right in front of it. We checked and double checked, but ultimately concluded that we were in the right place. To this day, it cracks me up that we stood outside of this behemoth of a store and literally did not know we were there. But that’s how unassuming it is from the outside.

Even after we walked in, I actually still wasn’t convinced we were in the right spot. That’s because the front of the store seems pretty small. Right at the front, there is a coffee shop, a gelato shop and a place to buy sandwiches. It was really, really crowded so it was hard to tell just how far back the store went. We started meandering back and suddenly the store just opened up into this huge, expansive and maze-like place. I think you could walk around there for two hours and not see everything.

 

 

 

 

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We came across what looked like a hostess stand, so we put our names on the list to wait for a table. The woman estimated that we would have an hour and a half wait for a table, and she asked for our phone number so that they could text us when a table was ready for us. I kind of liked this system except for the fact that when I am expecting a call, text or e-mail, I become extremely paranoid that my phone is going to stop working and I’ll miss something important.

We decided to walk around a little before getting our table (me, glued to my phone like a teenage girl). We noticed a couple other “restaurant” areas that we hadn’t known about, but we still felt like we made the right choice putting our name in at what turned out to be the pizza/pasta/casual eatery. One of the others was a very high-end fish and seafood eatery. There was also a steak place that was more upscale, as well. I’m sure the food at those places would have been incredible, but we didn’t really feel like doing anything too involved at this point. We had been shopping, walking and eating all day, so casual and low-key was perfect.

As we kept winding around the store, we realized just how huge it is! There are like five looooong aisles of just various types of pasta. The selection of olive oils and balsamic vinegar was equally impressive. But this is what makes me certain that if I lived in New York, I would go to Eataly all the time:

HEAVEN

HEAVEN

Olive Oil

Olive Oil

Huge butcher counter

Huge butcher counter

After meandering around for a while, I convinced us that we should get some pre-dinner gelato as an “appetizer.” By the time we finished our dinner, the store was going to be closed, so it seemed like a great idea to make sure we got to try some of Eataly’s famous gelato.

Raspberry Gelato

Raspberry Gelato

I’m not really an expert on gelato, so I can’t really say how this gelato compares with other kinds. It was good. I was glad we tried it. But I can’t say that I would get it again if I went back. I have mentioned before that I just don’t go crazy over desserts like a lot of people and gelato, in general, ranks pretty low on my list of desserts, so take this “review” with a grain of salt, but yeah, I thought it was fine.

While we were eating our gelato, I got a text message saying our table was ready, which was perfect, because instead of curbing my appetite, eating the gelato kind of just made me realize how hungry I was. So we went alllllll the way back to the hostess stand and were taken to a table in a pretty crowded little restaurant area. The ambiance was definitely not the best. It had the typical grocery store lighting and it was loud and jam-packed, but I mean, it is a grocery store, so it was fine. It felt somewhat like a food court.

At our table

At our table

Our server brought out bread and olive oil and we ordered. Like I said, service moves pretty fast in New York because they are intent on getting as many people in and out as they possibly can, so within like 10 minutes of sitting down, we had WONDERFUL plates of pizza and pasta in front of us!

Ate. it. all.

Ate. it. all.

My mom ordered the four cheese pizza, which I had a slice of, and I ordered some type of pasta that I don’t really remember (worst blogger ever, I know, sorry). It had meat (sausage?) and cheese (duh) and perhaps some tiny portion of a green vegetable (because I’m health conscious) and it was absolutely delightful. It totally overcame the lack of ambiance and just tasted so good!!

The portion was not that big, so I know this would be an issue for my brother, who gets irrationally angry when restaurants do not serve what he considers to be large enough portions. If I had been there in what I hope is my usual capacity of “Laura – girl who is trying not to be a fatty and doesn’t want to stuff a vat of carbs and butter and fat into her face” then I would have loved the portion size of this pasta. It was enough to fill me up but not so much that I would have felt incredibly guilty about eating it. Unfortunately, on this particular day, I was more in my capacity as “Laura – girl who has been forced to try on a billion outfits (I know, what a tragic life I lead…) and who has just been given the most delicious pasta ever and who wants to eat like twice this much no matter how disgusting doing that may make her feel” so even though I was full, I was so sad when I finished my dish.

The other cool thing was that this ended up being one of our least expensive meals we had the whole trip. By New York standards, this particular part of Eataly is pretty affordable and I would highly recommend it to anyone visiting.

After we ate, the main store was closing down for the night, so we walked around one last time and then left. We decided that we should probably walk back to our hotel after our delicious, heavy dinner. Our walk took about 30 minutes. It actually did feel nice to walk around after eating all that pasta, but in a way, it just made me feel even more certain that I should have eaten more ;)

 

Broadway, Baby

As I mentioned in my previous NYC post, one thing that my mom and I wanted to do when we were in New York was see a couple Broadway shows. We both love musicals and so we wanted to make sure that we got to see at least one or two during our stay. Say what you will, but most shows are just wayyyy better in New York. I think it’s awesome that most shows have touring versions, and I definitely do go when something good comes through Columbus, but there is just something about being on Broadway that really brings out a different dimension to most of the shows.

I used to be better about keeping up with new musicals and knowing which were supposed to be good, but in recent years, I have not really followed the musical news as closely. The one recent musical that I had heard about and really wanted to see was The Book of Mormon. Then my mom and I did a little research and came up with a list of a few others that we would also be interested in going to. On our short list was Kinky Boots, a new musical written by Cyndi Lauper that won a few Tony Awards this year, and Once.

Broadway!

Broadway!

We started looking into buying tickets online, but we were completely shocked when we saw how expensive tickets to The Book of Mormon are! It basically would have cost at least $800, which is a little bit cray. We ended up deciding to wait to try to buy tickets at the box office once we arrived in New York. Assuming that the shows aren’t completely sold out, you can normally buy relatively inexpensive tickets at the theater box offices for performances that day. Because The Book of Mormon was at the top of our list of musicals we wanted to go to, we just decided to wait to see if/when we could go see it and then plan our other show choices around it.

Well we lucked out! We walked down to the Box Office and were able to get tickets for a Saturday matinee performance of the Book of Mormon for a much better price than we would have paid had we booked our tickets in advance. And we actually had really good seats, too! Then we lucked out again and got tickets to see a Sunday afternoon showing of Kinky Boots. Based on our extreme success with this box-office tactic, I would definitely recommend this strategy to anyone wanting to go to a Broadway show in New York. The tickets were definitely not dirt cheap, but definitely far less expensive than they could have been.

Finally there!

Finally there!

Although I had heard how amazing and hilarious The Book of Mormon is, I honestly did not really know what to expect, and I purposefully tried to keep my expectations a bit low. First, I don’t really watch South Park that often, and although I do think it’s surprisingly intelligent, I think the humor can be a little bit too crass at times. Secondly, I really couldn’t anticipate how that type of humor would translate into a musical. And lastly, I have been burned by people overhyping musicals to me in the past. I will never forget when I went to see Wicked, someone told me they thought it was better than Phantom of the Opera, so I sat there the whole time waiting for it to get AWESOME, but it never did. Instead of just appreciating it for what it was, I ended up being disappointed and not liking it very much. (Sidenote – does anyone else think Wicked is EXTREMELY overrated?? I just do not understand the hype!!)

Now, it is important to note here that this musical is probably not everyone’s cup of tea. The whole premise of the musical is that Mormonism is a made up religion, and the musical goes to extreme lengths to make a complete mockery of it. So obviously if you’re Mormon, you will probably not be super amused by it. Also, if you are very religious in general, you will most likely be offended by this musical. But luckily (…well maybe unluckily, depending on how you feel about the fate of my everlasting soul), I am a heathen, so I was HIGHLY amused by The Book of Mormon.

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It definitely helps to have a basic understanding of Mormonism and the history of the church. If you don’t, a lot of the jokes would probably fly right over your head. But my mom had recently read a book about the history of the Mormon religion and I learned about it in middle school (why?), so we were pretty familiar with at least the very basic tenets.

We both LOVED this musical! We were laughing out loud for 80% of the show. That is not an exaggeration. It is superb. The humor, while crass at times, is not overwhelmingly so. It is mainly just really witty and silly. We both said we would go back to see it in a heartbeat (if it didn’t cost eight billion dollars). I was literally laughing out loud for a couple hours afterward just thinking about certain lines from the show. I actually feel like I’m underselling it here. I cannot stress enough just how amazing we both thought The Book of Mormon was. I was actually surprised that my mom seemed to like it just as much as I did, but that just confirms that it does appeal to a pretty wide variety of people.

In all honesty, Kinky Boots kind of didn’t stand a chance with us. As I said, we had tickets for a Sunday matinee, and we were definitely excited to see it because we had heard great things and it had won a bunch of awards. We went in with high hopes, but this, unfortunately, was one of those situations where we didn’t think the reality lived up to the hype. At. All.

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Kinky Boots is about a guy who inherits his family’s struggling shoe factory. He tries to make it profitable again by making shoes for an underserved population – drag queens. So it’s a really fun and lively show, but, to be honest, it was a little bit generic.

Overall, it was so cool to see two musicals in such a short period of time. I know it’s kind of cheesy, but hey, that’s me! It was a lot of fun and I definitely hope that it’s not ten years before I see another musical on Broadway.

NYC Day 1

My mom and I decided that we needed to take a girls only trip this summer. We had considered several destinations but ultimately decided that New York City would be the most fun. We both love to shop, see shows and eat delicious food, so NYC was kind of the obvious choice.

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Times Square

Luckily for me, my mom has gone to New York a few times in the past couple of years with some of her friends, so she knew about a lot of good restaurants and things to do. I, on the other hand, had not been to New York since I was in high school. In high school, I went to New York a few times with the dance company that I was a part of and then once with my family. When I went with my dance group, we would spend literally all day every day at the dance studio, and when we weren’t there, we would see as many shows as possible as cheaply as possible. This often led us to camp out outside of theater box offices to get cheap, day-of tickets. Like, people literally thought we were homeless on more than one occasion. #Grungy. We would also eat at whatever restaurants were cheap and on the way to or from the dance studio. Basically, we were really focused on experiencing as much of the New York dance and performing arts culture as possible, which was wonderful, but we definitely did not really take advantage of any of the other amazing things that New York has to offer.

Needless to say, this trip was a bit different than my other New York experiences. It was cool to actually do some stuff that cost more than the bare minimum and to not feel dirty and crowded all the time. I do think, however, even after this trip, that being in NYC does kind of lend itself to feeling dirty and crowded quite frequently. Between walking around on the crowded, and often grungy, streets, taking hot, cramped taxis, and public transportation, it’s kind of hard to remain sweat and stench free. The difference this time was that we were able to escape the crowds and the streets for long stretches at a time, and it was GLORIOUS!

We arrived in NYC on a Friday morning. We stayed at a Courtyard by Marriott near Bryant Park, which was a great location! The hotel itself was pretty regular. I am of the firm belief that it doesn’t make sense to spend too much money on a hotel when you visit a place like New York. It’s not like you are spending much time there. So this hotel was perfect. It had a central location, it wasn’t disgusting, and it was a pretty good price.

After we got to our hotel and checked in, it was time for lunch! We walked about 15 blocks to Sarabeth’s. Sarabeth’s is next to the Ritz-Carlton and across the street from Central Park. I hadn’t heard of it before, but apparently it is a pretty well-known restaurant. We expected to have a long wait, but we were seated within about five minutes of getting there. The service was extremely fast and efficient, so they are obviously on a mission to get as many people in and out of there as possible. Which is probably a priority for a lot of restaurants, but it was definitely noticeable how quick everything seemed to go there.

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Mom at Sarabeth’s

Sarabeth’s was a very cute and girly restaurant. I ordered a salad, which, in retrospect, was a mistake. It was good, but pretty regular. When I saw the French Toast that my mom had ordered, I realized I should have gotten something a little bit more special. Her French Toast was INCREDIBLE! I am by no means a French Toast connoisseur, but I will venture to say that this French Toast would be in the top 10% of French Toast offerings around the country.

After lunch, we walked over to Columbus Circle and ended up in the mall there (imagine that!!). We walked around some shops like Williams-Sonoma and C. Wonder. We do have Williams-Sonoma in Columbus, but it is nowhere near as large as this one. We thought C. Wonder was a really cute store and we were excited because we had not heard of it before so we thought we had stumbled upon a little gem that we could not go to in Columbus. Well, apparently C. Wonder had actually opened a store in Columbus about a month before our trip, so shows what we know! But it was still fun to leisurely browse around in the mall for a while.

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View of Columbus Circle from the Mall

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From the “food court” at the mall

After leaving the Columbus Circle mall, we headed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I did not realize how completely, overwhelmingly HUGE the Met is! You could easily spend every single day for a week browsing around the various galleries and still probably not see everything.

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The Met

The inside of the Met is gorgeous. Even as you’re surrounded by so much wonderful and historically significant art, you can’t help but notice that the building itself is truly incredible.

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Statue gallery

We went through a couple galleries, including a temporary exhibit on Civil War photography. The photography exhibit was really interesting because photography was such a new medium during the Civil War. The exhibit talked a lot about how the photographs were made and why photographers during the time were limited in the types of photos they could take. We also went through the mid-ninteenth century European art wing, which I enjoyed a lot.

We were at the Met for a couple of hours and it seems like we were barely able to make a dent in all that there is to see there! We ended up making the executive decision to leave and head back to the hotel so we would have enough time to get ready for dinner, but we could have stayed there a LOT longer!

We had dinner at Bar American, a Bobby Flay restaurant that was near our hotel. I was surprised how un-crowded it was, especially considering it was a Friday night! The food was great but ultimately, it was not the most exciting place we ate. Next time I go to New York, I probably won’t suggest eating at Bar American because, although it was good, it felt like something that I could get a good version of in Columbus.

Coming up, Day 2 of our trip!!

Ca$hville

 

Hola! Over the past month, I have been doing a lot of traveling. My brother, Jeffrey, and I went to visit our other brother, Michael, in Nashville (or Ca$hville, as us cool people call it), I went to New York City with my mom, and then our whole extended family traveled to Naples, Florida, to celebrate my grandmother’s 80th birthday!

And somewhere in the midst of all of this, I have also moved, our Alabama family came up to Ohio to visit and I attended a bridal shower and bachelorette party. Overall, July has been one heck of a busy month. Sooo, now that I have a little bit of free time, it’s time to get a-documentin’.

I have mentioned before that I attended college in Nashville, Tennessee. That crazy city has a huge soft spot in my heart. When I was in law school, I made frequent trips back to visit, but I haven’t been back to visit since graduating law school and starting a full-time job (gross). This is especially egregious considering the fact that my brother has lived in Nashville for almost two years now.

Music City

Music City

So, long story short, I was overdue for a visit. Luckily, Nashville is within driving distance from Columbus. It’s a pretty long drive (about 6 hours), but it’s do-able. On Friday afternoon, I swung by Oxford to pick up Jeffrey from Miami, where he was taking a couple summer classes, and we hit the road.

We got there with just enough time to drop off our stuff at Michael’s apartment and head out to a late dinner at Merchants Restaurant, which is downtown on Broadway. I had not been to Merchants before, but it was a really cool restaurant. It had an old school southern feel and it was surprisingly fancy. Normally, when I think of downtown Nashville and Broadway, I think of Honky Tonks and dive bars. Even though it’s in the middle of all of this, Merchants managed to feel upscale and calm. Apparently the upstairs and downstairs of the restaurants have different menus. We ate downstairs, which I think is the less nice of the two, but it was still very good.

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Typical Broadway Bar – Robert’s Western Room

Luckily, Michael lives downtown, so it was really easy to walk back to his place after dinner and hang out for a while before going out for the night. The thing about Nashville, is that every time I go, it seems that I feel the need to attempt to recreate college. Because the downtown bars stay open until 3, people don’t generally really go out until like midnight. So we kicked it at Michael’s apartment for a while before venturing back down to Broadway. Normally, if I don’t go out immediately following dinner, I end up asleep, but for some reason (that may or may not have had to do with all the coffee I drank to stay awake on the drive down), I had no problem making it until midnight before heading out.

We ended up going out to a couple of my old favorite spots. First, we went to Paradise Park. Paradise Park is an amazing bar that is decorated to look like a trailer park. Instead of regular tables and chairs, it has lawn furniture and there is astroturf on the ground. It’s always pretty crowded but it never feels claustrophobic or overwhelming. It’s just a fun spot and it always has a good band playing.

The original ironic trailer park bar.

The original ironic trailer park bar.

After hanging out at Paradise Park and enjoying the live music for a bit, we decided to head over to what is UNQUESTIONABLY my favorite bar ever, The Stage. The Stage is actually a historic bar where tons of well-known country musicians have played.

Most wonderful bar ever!

Most wonderful bar ever!

Nowadays, The Stage still has GREAT live music, even though I don’t think any famous acts perform there anymore. When I was in college, my friends and I would go to The Stage…like…an inordinate amount. There was one dude who was almost ALWAYS playing and our group of friends developed this completely weird obsession with him. It wasn’t because he’s good looking (at. all.), but we just loved him. Like, I’m pretty sure he would probably get a restraining order on us if he knew the number of times we took cell phone pictures of him and sent them around the group with the caption “DEEP VEES!” (His name is Lewis, but we affectionately refer to him as Deep Vees because of his propensity to wear extremely low cut v-neck t-shirts.)

Lewis

Lewis

Needless to say, I was EXTREMELY bummed when my friend, Jamie, e-mailed me the day before I came down to Nashville to let me know that she had heard that Lewis was “fired” from the Stage. Jamie and I tried to get to the bottom of this situation (so we could spread the news to all of his loyal admirers – our friends), but all they would say was that “he no longer works here.” I really was kind of disappointed that I wasn’t able to see Lewis, but I did still think that the band that was playing there was really fun.

The live music aspect of life in Nashville is something that I really took for granted when I was in college. Because I lived in Nashville when I first started being able to go out to bars, I just assumed that bars everywhere had awesome live music playing every night. It wasn’t until I moved to St. Louis that I realized how spoiled I had been in that respect. The fact that there is live music literally everywhere you go in Nashville is so much fun and it brings a really unique energy to the city. Downtown on a Friday or Saturday night is just LOUD. And it’s so much fun to just walk around down the street and hear different snippets coming from each bar.

We ended the night in Printer’s Alley, which is definitely the sign that you’ve had a good Nashville night. Printer’s Alley is home to Lonnie’s – a grungy, cash-only, beer only karaoke bar that’s been there for god-knows how long.

Luckily, Jeffrey doesn't read this blog, so he'll never know his picture's on it muahahaha

Luckily, Jeffrey doesn’t read this blog, so he’ll never know his picture’s on it muahahaha

Karaoke at Lonnie’s is definitely an experience to behold. This is probably the world’s only karaoke bar where being drunk is not considered a prerequisite.  The standards of karaoke at Lonnie’s are ridiculously high and if you, like most late night karaoke-ers, are feeling a little tone-deaf, the girls who work there will turn down your microphone and just sing for you. This is Nashville, afterall, and aspiring musicians are lurking at every turn. It’s actually just fun to go watch these super talented girls sing whatever crazy songs people have picked out. We had a good time just taking it all in.

Like I said, you know you’ve had a successful Nashville night when you end it at Lonnie’s. I was so glad that we managed to hit so many of my favorite places in one night. Although I know that Nashville is a really special city, I also think that my extreme love for some of these grungy places has a lot to do with the amazing times I had with the most amazing friends during an amazing time in my life. I knew I loved my college experience when I was living it, but it’s not until now that I look back, that I can truly appreciate just how lucky I was to spend my college years in such an amazing place.

National Doughnut Day

In honor of the fact that today is National Doughnut Day (not sure who gets to decide these things?), I thought I’d tell you a story about my very important role in the historical development of the doughnut in Columbus. Now, not only is this unquestionably my most significant contribution to Columbus’ up-and-coming culinary scene, but it is probably one of the greatest accomplishments of my life so far. Yes, even graduating from law school and passing the Bar Exam pale in comparison to what I am about to tell you. Are you read for this?

I brought the bacon doughnut to Columbus, my friends.

Now, when people hear this, they normally have one of two reactions. People either think that bacon doughnuts sound completely disgusting and they are extremely confused. Or, people are like “WHAT THAT IS AWESOME OMG HOW CAN I GET ONE?” And if you fall into that second group – you are right.

I first began hearing about bacon doughnuts a few years ago when the Travel Channel aired some features on a couple bakeries on the West Coast that had ventured into this weird sweet and savory combo-land. My mom and I called around to ask if any of those bakeries would ship a batch to Ohio, but none would. Since then, bacon doughnuts have always been in the back of my mind; however, I don’t have a huge sweet tooth so getting my hands on one was just never a huge priority. Even when I was in Portland, Oregon, home of VooDoo Doughnuts, I toyed with the idea of going to get one, but ultimately, it just wasn’t at the top of my list of West Coast foods to consume.

Then, in March of 2012, my absolute favorite bakery of all time, The Goodie Shop, posted something on its Facebook page about a novelty doughnut they had created for an elementary school class. I casually commented to suggest that they should create a maple glazed doughnut topped with bacon and to my surprise, they did! They invited me to come try one the next morning and I OBVIOUSLY jumped at the opportunity.

Clearly, I had pretty high expectations going into my official tasting. I had been thinking about bacon doughnuts for literally YEARS at that point. Not to mention, I am known for getting overly excited by silly things like my favorite childhood bakery inviting me in for a “tasting.” But, despite my high expectations, the confection that I sampled in the bakery that day did not disappoint. No, their creation tasted exactly as I had hoped and dreamed that it would – maybe better.

The One and Only

The One and Only

Due to the fact that not everyone in Columbus is necessarily on the maple-bacon doughnut train, though, the bakery told me that they probably wouldn’t have this item on their regular menu. Understandable, but disappointing nonetheless. However, a couple months later, when Zac went back to The Goodie Shop to pick up a couple doughnuts on a random Sunday morning, they were selling it! Zac, excited, tried to talk to the girls who were working there about how his girlfriend was the one who was responsible for it, but apparently they were underwhelmed with this little tidbit of information. So, if you’re ever in the market for a bacon doughnut in Columbus, you can apparently get them at the Goodie Shop sometimes. But, if you do go, please make sure you tell them about me. Because I honestly really feel like I should be getting more credit for this. I’m not kidding… ;)

In all honesty, whether you want to credit me or not, you should most certainly go to The Goodie Shop if you’re ever in Columbus. Although I may be slightly biased from having grown up down the street from it, I honestly do not think I’ve had a better doughnut in my life than the doughnuts I’ve had there. And I also don’t think you need to wait for National Doughnut Day to enjoy some delicious fried dough!

UPDATE!!!!

So literally the day after I initially posted this entry, The Goodie Shop posted this on its Facebook page:

Goodie Shop Update

(Text says: “In the words of a recent customer, ‘It’s the best thing I’ve eaten in my life.’ We’ll be making bacon maple donuts on Fridays and Saturdays. If you know you want one, we suggest ordering! These have been flying out the door.”)

Okay, so let’s discuss how badly I wanted to comment on this and take some of the glory. Especially when several of my friends had “shared” the link and made comments about how amazing they thought these sounded. I refrained. I couldn’t think of a graceful way of saying what essentially felt like “THIS WAS MY IDEA, SUCKERS!” So I took the high road.

BUT. You better BELIEVE that Zac and I went to The Goodie Shop on Saturday to get one. Zac said he was going to walk in there and tell them about how it was my idea. But again, there’s just no way to artfully brag about this. So we just walked in like regular customers and each ordered one.

Okay so I got more than one...

Okay so I got more than one…

Of course it was amazing. I just had to update because the timing was so uncanny! And also because the information I conveyed in my post was unknowingly false. You can get these doughnuts at The Goodie Shop every Friday and Saturday :) So enjoy!!!

Also, if you, like me, do not live in the suburbs, make sure you take in the sheer number of people who are awake and out of the house at 8:30 on a Saturday morning. I usually get up pretty early. But in my ‘hood, I’m literally the only person on the streets if I’m out before 9. Restaurants in my area don’t even open for breakfast until nine or TEN! So to say I was shocked at how crowded The Goodie Shop was at 8:30 on a Saturday morning would be an understatement. And the kids. Oh the kids. They are everywhere.

PS there were like a total of 10 people there. To me, it just seemed like a crazy high amount of people considering how early it was.

English Across America

Today I came across a really interesting article, which you can read here: http://www.businessinsider.com/22-maps-that-show-the-deepest-linguistic-conflicts-in-america-2013-6?op=1.

A Statistics Ph.D student at North Carolina State University recently published some findings from a linguistic survey that compared how Americans living in various parts of the country pronounce certain words and how they refer to certain things. Maybe I’m especially nerdy, but I think the results are so interesting! Over the years, I’ve lived in a couple different states (Ohio, Tennessee and Missouri). Additionally, Zac is from Oklahoma and my friends are from all over the place. Ever since I saw this article, I have been trying to compare how I pronounce certain words with how other people I know pronounce those same words and with what I remember about living in Nashville and St. Louis.

The weird thing is, after looking at these maps, I realized that I apparently speak very differently than most Ohioans! For example, the maps note that most Ohioans refer to athletic shoes as “tennis shoes.” I usually say “sneakers.” The notable thing about this is that I distinctly remember having a conversation with my dad about this probably like 15 years ago. Growing up, I used to say “tennis shoes,” and he would always say “go get your sneakers.” I can almost guarantee that I brought this up because it annoyed me that he said it that way (teenagers, ugh). But I remember asking “GOD WHY DO YOU SAY ‘SNEAKERS’ THAT IS SO WEIRD?” And I remember that he said “Because tennis shoes are shoes that you buy specifically to play tennis. The shoes you’re wearing are just all purpose shoes.” And apparently this reasoning persuaded me because ever since, I think I’ve called my running shoes sneakers.

Another difference I definitely have noticed is the difference in the ways people refer to soft drinks. Growing up in Ohio, I always said “pop” when talking about soft drinks. When I moved to Tennessee for college, I realized that a lot of people literally had no idea what I was talking about when I said that. Then I moved to St. Louis, which you’ll notice, tends strongly toward saying “soda.” So I think I just started saying “soda” for clarity’s sake. The funny thing is that now, the word “pop” in reference to a soft drink kind of bothers me!! I have no idea why. But you know how there are always certain words that just rub you the wrong way or gross you out? Well that’s how I feel about “pop” now! I’m a disgrace to my Ohio roots! Oh, and if you’re curious, people in Nashville always just say “coke” for every type of soda. It’s super confusing, but I’ve literally heard people talking about “sprite coke” or “dr. pepper coke.” It’s weird.

Other things I say differently than most Ohioans: I pronounce syrup like “sear-up,” pecan pie is “pick-AHN pie,” and I pronounce been as “ben” (which apparently makes me sound Canadian?? I never knew most people didn’t pronounce it this way – to me, pronouncing it like “bin” sounds kind of redneck!!).

One VERY important takeaway from this article is the term “brew thru,” which somehow, the genius people in the D.C. area have been keeping from the rest of us. I absolutely MUST include this term in my lexicon. We have a drive through beer store right by my house. I’ve never been there before, but now that I’ll be looking for any excuse to use the phrase “brew thru,” I’m sure that will change. ;)

Blog Surgery

Hello blogland! I’ve taken quite a bit of a hiatus from this crazy site, but I’m back!

You have undoubtedly noticed that things are looking a little different around here. Motivated mainly by boredom, I gave my little blog a facelift this afternoon. Actually, more than a facelift. It was more like that surgery where they inject fat from your arms into your face (a pretty significant overhaul – debatable whether it’s really an improvement). The most significant change is that my blog is now located at http://www.myexcellentadventures.com! Typing in http://www.lauracvaughn.wordpress.com will bring you to this site, but that URL is no longer the primary home of my blog.

Fear not, despite the upgraded look and URL, I plan to continue posting the same weird, random and (hopefully not as) sporadic stuff you’re used to seeing.

So stick around and enjoy!

French Canada, revisited

Since my posts about the Canadian leg of the Great (North) American Road Trip have been a bit disjointed, I am going to write this post that will contain my overall impressions of the Great White North. While I’ve talked about the various things that Zac and I did when we were in Canada, there are a lot of interesting cultural things I also want to comment on.

First, I LOVED Canada. The people were so friendly, and it felt like everyone was really interested in getting to know us and learning more about where we were from. That being said, it was definitely really obvious that the people in Montreal were a lot more welcoming and interested in us than the people in Quebec City were. We noticed it for ourselves, but a lot of the people we spoke with in Montreal said that Quebec City has a reputation for being pretty “separatist.”

I kind of touched on this in an earlier post, but it is historically weird that there is a part of Canada where they speak primarily French. However, the people in Quebec consider their language to be a really important part of their history and culture. I also mentioned that people in this part of Canada seem to have a really strong pride in the history of their province. They definitely have a sense for how easy it would be for them to kind of default into speaking English since they are surrounded by it and the official language of their country is English. So, to counter this pressure, some people there are very defensive about speaking French. This is definitely far more true in Quebec City than in Montreal.

In Montreal, Zac and I would try to speak French to people we encountered, but most, if not all, of them would just respond in English if they could tell that that was our language. Most of them didn’t think twice about it and they didn’t seem rude or put out by it. In Quebec City, however, most of the people we spoke with honestly didn’t even speak English. I definitely thought this was notable because even when I’ve been in France, most people who you come into contact with at least understand a little bit of English. But we had a waitress at one of the restaurants where we ate dinner in Quebec City who literally could not understand any English whatsoever. A lot of other people who knew English would act pretty put out at the fact that we couldn’t communicate with them exclusively in French.

I don’t know why Montreal is so much more relaxed about this than Quebec City is. It probably has something to do with the fact that it’s just a bigger city. Most big cities tend to be more diverse and more liberal than smaller cities. McGill University is also located right in the heart of Montreal (close to Le Montagne). McGill is an English-speaking university and it’s one of the best in the world. I imagine that the influx of English speakers from McGill probably also has something to do with Montreal’s more laid-back approach to speaking French.

So, that is Canada in a very, very small nutshell. As I said, I really liked visiting Canada, and I definitely want to go back to Montreal at some point (maybe for Osheaga 2013?). Someone that Zac and I work with (with/for…whatevs) told us that to the north of Quebec City there is a really amazing place to go whale watching, and I would LOVE to go there for that. So who knows, if I have my way, I’ll even be back in the Q.C. at some point :)

Okay and now for the FINAL tidbit of info that I learned about Canada. As you know, Zac and I have a Newfoundland dog named Sasha. Since we got him, I’ve become kind of weirdly obsessed with finding out about Newfoundland Province in Canada, which is, as you may have guessed, where the breed originated. Well I asked someone in Montreal what Newfoundland was like, and she said that everyone from Newfoundland was made fun of and mocked! She said they were called “Newfies” (which is also what the dogs are called), and that they are known for being super weird. Newfoundland province is pretty isolated and not very densely populated, so apparently it’s just a weird place. So…that explains a lot. Not bashing my dog, but yeah…his crazy personality makes complete sense now ;)

What a Newfie...

What a Newfie…

I will say, Sasha was the only one who was glad to come back from vacation. And that’s because his “vacation” was at the kennel…

OSHEAGA

Does this title look completely nonsensical to you? Have you heard of any of the following bands: The Weekend, Of Monsters and Men, Sigur Ros, MGMT, Bombay Bicycle Club? If not, then you were in about the same boat as I was when Zac informed me one night, after we had roughly planned out our trip, that we would be in Montreal at the same time that Osheaga was going on and that I should be so excited because all of the aforementioned bands (and MORE!) were playing there. I didn’t question it too much despite the fact that none of those bands are bands I would have ever thought I wanted to see live. Being the good AMAZING girlfriend that I am, I said, “cool, let’s get tickets.” It was a trip to celebrate Zac finishing the Bar Exam, after all. Zac needed no additional prompting. That very night, I became the recipient of the wonderful gift of a day pass to Osheaga.

Right now, you are probably saying to yourself, “Laura, that is all well and good, but we still do not know what this ‘Osheaga’ that you speak of actually is.” To which I say the following: you have likely heard of Coachella. (And here I am reminded that half of my readers are my grandparents so I need to find a new way to explain this.) Osheaga is a music festival (it’s the Canadian Coachella). It is essentially three days of concerts in a park. There are about five different stages and tons of the coolest indie music you can imagine. At any given time, there are two or three different bands playing, so people can kind of choose which ones they want to see. Zac and I got tickets for one of the three days.

It is actually HUGE. This year, Osheaga SOLD OUT. Which, because it’s in a giant park on an island, is a feat. It takes place in Parc Jean-Drapeau, on Ile Sainte Helene. The best way to get to the park (that’s what “parc” means in English, in case you guys didn’t realize that…) is to take the subway. On the day of Osheaga at around 2:00, Zac and I got on the subway to head that direction. When we first got there, it was a calm and idyllic setting. Despite the fact that Montreal was experiencing a heat-wave (it was about 90 degrees – VERY hot by Canadian standards), it was really pleasant to be outside listening to some music. We found a spot in the shade, relaxed for a bit and had a beer.

At around 3:30, this band called Bombay Bicycle Club came on. Zac had heard of them before, so we figured we’d just make our way up to the stage and watch from close up. There were about 50 other people up there, so what the heck. Bombay Bicycle Club was pretty good. We had fun watching them and being so close and we thought it was especially awesome because the band coming on after them, Of Monsters and Men, is a really good band and we thought it was cool to have secured such a good spot to watch them. It was honestly not even this crowded at this point:

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WELL. When Bombay Bicycle Club were done, Zac and I turned around, and the fifty people who were around us watching BBC had turned into about TEN THOUSAND. This is not even and exaggeration. Honestly. If anything, it’s an understatement. (I actually have pictures of the “before and after” on my camera, but I can’t find the charger and yada yada yada, can’t upload these photos to my computer.) This is a picture I got off the Of Monsters and Men website. We were WELL in front of this white tent, and I honestly don’t think this picture even captures about 1/3 of the people who were there.

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The issue was that, first, like I said, Of Monsters and Men is a really good band. Secondly, they were the only band performing at this time, so literally everyone that was at Osheaga came to see them. Like I said, it was about 90 degrees and the middle of the afternoon. The sun was blaring down on us and I started to get kind of panicky/hot/claustrophobic. And when I say “kind of,” I mean, EXTREMELY. We were sweating like crazy and the sun was right in our eyes. Eventually, Zac and I made our way further toward the back of the crowd because when you’re in the front at a concert like that, people just crowd in because they all want to get as good of a position as possible and I pretty much thought I was going to get crushed.

After we got a little further away, everything was fine. It was still VERY, VERY crowded, hot and sunny, but we were able to appreciate the band as we saw a bit more from a less intense vantage point. After Of Monsters and Men, we made our way to the main stage area where we saw the Weekend (AMAZING! I had never heard of them before but now I love them), Florence and the Machine and Sigur Ros. This is the main stage – there were two side by side, and when one act would finish, another would start immediately on the other stage. It was really efficient.

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Sigur Ros was actually one of the main reasons Zac wanted to go to Osheaga so badly. They’re a really good Icelandic band (Of Monsters and Men is actually Icelandic also…weird) who Zac has been listening to for quite some time. One of the bad things about any music festival is that there tend to be a lot of young crazy people there. Luckily for us, Sigur Ros was playing at around the same time that another band, MGMT, played. A lot of the young, crazy, annoying drunk people went over to the MGMT stage, leaving a slightly older and less rambunctious group to watch Sigur Ros. I know I sound like I’m about 95-years-old saying this, but honestly, music festival college kids are uh…the worst. So being with a more relaxed crowd was a really nice way to end the otherwise very intense day.

After Sigur Ros, Zac and I literally RAN for the subway. We got back to the city in record time, and everything went far more smoothly than I expected it to.

Overall, my impressions of Osheaga are positive. It’s funny because at the time I was deathly hot, sweating like a pig (don’t tell me how ladylike I am…), claustrophobic, hungry and dehydrated, BUT, looking back on the experience, I would tell you I had a great time and that I can’t wait to go back sometime! It was kind of fun to be outside in a gorgeous park. (Jean Drapeau Park honestly is really pretty – even with the hustle and bustle of a music festival, so I can only imagine what it must normally be like!) I listened to some bands I never would have heard of if I hadn’t been there. People watching at these things is unreal, and overall, it was probably the best day that we had on a completely awesome road trip. It was exciting and fun and I really do hope to make it back to Osheaga sometime. I also hope that if/when I do, it won’t be in the midst of a Canadian heat wave.

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