Sunday, December 25, 2011

ATL-BHM

Happy Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2011

ATL-PNS

I made Katie sit on Santa's lap :)
Kellan Harper
I took my annual holiday trip to Pensacola this week to see my sweet friends and we had a great time! I spent a day shopping (and eating :) with Katie, and we stopped by to see Lindsay and her sweet baby as well. Then I spent a few days with Jess and Brady as the weather turned nasty and extended my trip a little longer than planned - of course I didn't mind. What with such a wonderful hostess and great company! The only thing was it made it that much harder to leave when the weather cleared. I can't believe how much Brady has grown since I saw him last - he's holding court with the adults and reasoning his way into all kinds of trouble ;) I love that kid. Here are some pics from my trip - enjoy, and Happy Holidays!
Brady 'staged' our set for us - love the stuffed animals!

Sweet boy!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

ATL-MDW

 Our annual scientific meeting was in Chicago this year, and while it was very productive, it was, as expected, very exhausting. Chicago's one of my favorite cities, and the view from my room at the Hilton can't be beat! We had good weather for most of the meeting, great meetings and events, and we're all glad another year is in the bag!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

ATL-CRW

Diamond Point, New River Gorge, WV
Mary had a board meeting at Glade Springs Resort in Daniels, West Virginia. Since we'd never been, and it's gorgeous this time of year, we made a weekend of it and stayed a day after the meeting to explore the area.

On Saturday morning we went whitewater rafting with Mary's work group, and had an absolute blast. No pictures of that, but we certainly won't forget our adventure on the New River any time soon!

On Sunday, with board dinners and meetings behind us, we spent the day hiking New River Gorge on the 'Endless Wall' trail (which as Ray Ray, our rafting guide on Saturday pointed out, isn't endless at all). The trail runs along the canyon rim for eight miles, but we just did a short 3 mile trek out to diamond point to take in the view before checking out the New River Bridge up close and personal. We got rained on, but not too bad. 

It was really beautiful, and we enjoyed some much-needed 'unplugged' time far removed from the rest of the world.  We came back refreshed, recharged and ready to tackle our busy fall! 

You can view photos from our trip here.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

ATL-ATH

We'd been planning for the past year to take a trip to Greece for our fifth anniversary, but life is busy, and we never really hammered out a firm plan. We had the dates down, a necessity in this life, and the destinations, and a book ;) I've always wanted to see the Greek island of Santorini, ever since I was a little girl with my childhood encyclopedia set. So we planned to keep it simple: a week in Santorini and a day or two in Athens. But before we knew it, it was here! So, armed with minimal research, our book and a laptop, we set out on our adventure!

We left on Friday, August 19, aka Shannon's 29th birthday, and what a way to celebrate! We got first class seats and toasted the birthday boy with champagne in our cushy spot, giddy with excitement to start our trip off with such luck! One strange thing about this particular first class cabin to Athens - we were surrounded by kids! Quite unusual. And hilarious, and borderline obnoxious. There was, for the record, an adorable little boy, probably four years old, who was very well-behaved. His siblings, on the other hand, were a different story! We counted seven more kids, and yowza! One family was traveling with two nannies. And rightfully so, they were traveling with FIVE kids! The mom was no help, which was hilarious. We snuggled and read and slept, and then we were there!

Saturday, August 20 Day One
We arrived in Athens at 10:30 am, and managed to squeak onto the next connection to Santorini at 11:10! Just barely. It was a smaller plane and just a 30 minute flight, with a great view of the Greek islands! We took the public bus from the Santorini airport to the village of Fira, which is the capital of the island, and which served as our home base for the trip. The bus has a simple schedule, a super cheap fare (1.20 E per person!), and bonus: they were playing Voulez Vouz  by ABBA, which was hilarious (because Mamma Mia was filmed here;).


In Santorini, there are no addresses. No street names. People just know where things are. Wow. We miraculously made it to our hotel of choice, which we found online, but didn't book because we were cleared last minute. It's called Tzekos Villas, which Shannon pronounced taziki-oh’s. Ha ha! Finding it involved hiking up and down stairs built into the side of the cliff. Quite an adventure! Unfortunately, when we arrived, they were fully booked. No room at the inn! So, we hopped on the laptop and were lucky enough to find another hotel nearby. Yayyy! And so we hiked through the narrow cliff-side streets full of shops and tourists, dragging our increasingly heavy carry-on luggage, and found the second hotel with no problems. Hurrah! We were treated to a HUGE room, awesome view, and friendly hosts. After settling win, we noticed we were right on the trail up from the bottom of the cliffs. The same trail the donkeys take, much to Mary's delight, jingling their way up all cute-like every 30 min. or so during peak touring time. And Mary ran to the window every time. We rested awhile, a bit grouchy from the travel, and freshened up just in time to head out as the nearby cathedral began ringing its 6pm mass bells. A lovely greeting! We wandered around, stumbling upon a wayward min-pin, thought of taking him home, but thought better. Pet him and let him continue on his way. Missed Riley.

Next, we strolled down the main street, where we literally stumbled upon a greek wedding (!) just as the bride and groom were leaving the church. So we stalked that for awhile, and then noticed the sign for the restaurant we’d chosen for dinner! What luck! And so, we headed down the stairs to Archipelago’s for our inaugural greek dinner, and we were not disappointed! Everything was delicious:  Mussels and lamb and rabbit, oh my! We enjoyed the first of many amazing sunsets from our cliff-side table. A perfect first day.

Sunday, August 21 Day Two
On Sunday, we slept until noon! We were greeted soon after waking by a delicious breakfast from our hosts – including, of course, famous and delicious greek yogurt. Mmmmm….  We enjoyed our amazing view before walking down the many, many steps to the bottom of the cliff where we walked around the port, and of course, rode the donkeys back up.

Afterwards (Mary spent a while with the donkeys;), we walked the cliff-side path over to Firostefani and enjoyed a beautiful sunset looking out over the Aegean sea. That evening, we enjoyed yummy leftovers from the night before on our balcony overlooking the caldera, along with delicious local champagne from our hosts.

Monday, August 22 Day Three
Another awesome greek breakfast, at a decent breakfast hour ;) before checking into our next hotel. Unfortunately we were unable to find a hotel that had availability for the duration of our visit (just one of the joys of standby travel! You can't book in advance), but we were fortunate to find lovely places all along our journey. However, when we got to the next hotel, they informed us they were overbooked and moved all our things to their sister property for the day.

After settling things at the hotel, we rode the bus to Oia, which was an ADVENTURE! Bus drivers on the island are equal parts crazy and brave ;) We made it to Oia safe and sound, and walked around the village all day, finding each turn revealed a view even more beautiful than the one before. We strolled all day long, stopping along the way for lunch, popsicles, and drinks, accordingly. Eventually it was time to head to the sunset spot! Oia is famed to have the best sunset on the tiny island. It's in all the books, and posters around the island boast sunset tours to the tiny village. So, we couldn't miss that! We found a great spot looking out over the sea on the tip of the village and settled in. Soon, the crowds began to pour in and before we knew it, it was standing room only! We were squished in to our little seats on the low wall with hundreds of our closest friends. And then, the sun began its descent. It was beautiful and colorful, and awe-inspiring. But, truthfully, not any better than the one we'd witnessed the night before from our cushy seats in Fira! Definitely an experience though, seeing all the crowds. But, lesson learned. We enjoyed the rest of the week's sunsets from the comfort and safety of our gorgeous hotel patio. Yay! :) The bus ride back to Fira was an adventure as well, by the dark of night, seeing us narrowly miss walls and cars, pedestrians and scooters, and animals, only as our headlights caught them just in time to see us squeak by! Hilarious.

Tuesday, August 23 Day Four 
We slept in, again, enjoyed a delicious breakfast and laid around by the pool all day (one of the perks of the 'sister' property was the amazing pool and outdoor lounge and terrace. Later, we walked around Fira, ate awesome street food, and checked into our new hotel in time to enjoy a gorgeous sunset on our balcony.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011 Day Five
On Wednesday, we woke up super early to meet our photographer, Dimitris, for our anniversary photo shoot. When we decided on Santorini, Mary found a photographer to photograph us in this beautiful paradise! He was wonderful, and agreed to meet us at 7 am to capture us in the morning light, and before the heat and crowds set in on the island! Our session included beautiful locations in Fira and Oia, which Dimitiris navigated with expert precision, having shot many wedding and honeymoon couples here. You can view some of our photos on Dimitris' blog, here. He does beautiful work.

After our shoot, we enjoyed breakfast overlooking the caldera with Dimitris and his friend and son, who also acted as his hilarious assistants throughout the shoot, though his ten-year-old son was a bit unenthusiastic about his assignment ;) They were wonderful, and after our early morning shoot, we rested for a while before heading back out.

We took the bus to Kamari Beach, which is famous for its black lava sand. We dipped our toes in the Aegean, hiked around the base of the mountain and saw some ruins and crazy cliff divers. We rode the bus back to our hotel just in time for dinner on our rooftop patio.

Thursday, August 25 Day Six
On Thursday, we went back to Kamari beach, and after a failed attempt at getting a motorcycle (apparently you need a European license), we rented an ATV for the day, and rode up the paved switch back about 600 meters straight up to ancient Thira. There we toured the ruins of ancient inhabitants dating back to the 9th century BC. Very impressive. After that, we went back down the mountain, and around through Pyrgos to ride up to the top of Mt. Elias (aka Profitis Ilias for the prophet Elijah, named for the monastery at its peak). We enjoyed a 360 degree view of the entire island from our perch - some 956 meters high above Pyrgos. After returning our ATV, we rode the bus back to Fira, showered and freshened up and spent the early evening taking photos during the ‘golden hour’ in Fira before enjoying our last sunset on the Island, and of course visiting the donkeys one more time.

Friday, August 26 Day Seven
On Friday, we caught a morning flight to Athens, where we toured the Acropolis and the Parthenon. It was amazing to see these ancient grecian structures still standing in modern day Athens, against the backdrop of the metropolitan city. Very cool. After walking around till our feet were aching, we capped off the day with an authentic greek dinner at a café with Hadrian's Library in the background. Lovely!

Saturday, August 27 Day Eight
On Saturday morning, we enjoyed a lovely breakfast on the terrace of our hotel overlooking the Parthenon before heading to the airport, hoping to beat Hurricane Irene back to JFK. Unfortunately, our one shot had already been canceled due to fears that Hurricane Irene may move faster than anticipated. Sunday's flight was canceled too. We spent all day in the airport, trying other options, but to no avail. We decided to camp out two more days and booked yet another hotel - on the metro line, with a rooftop pool and free wifi  - and headed out again, luggage in tow.

Sunday, August 28 Day Nine
Sunday, knowing we had nowhere to be, we had a leisurely day. We slept late, and ordered brunch in our room before spending the better part of the day at the lovely rooftop pool with views of the Acropolis. Shannon worked his magic to find a creative way for us to get home on Monday.

Monday, August 29 Day Ten
Monday morning we woke up bright and early (3:30 am!) to make it to the airport in time to try for a 5:45 flight to Frankfurt to connect home to Atlanta. We made it to Frankfurt (thank you Lufthansa!), but once there couldn't get on the Atlanta flight, so we listed standby for the Detroit flight instead. While waiting in the Frankfurt airport, we were so American - eating pop tarts and drinking coca cola while making fun of the harsh german accents on the loudspeakers. We also made sure our papers were in order.  Luckily, we were cleared, first class, for the flight to Detroit from Frankfurt. Hurrah! Once on board, we toasted our good fortune once again, ate, watched a lot of movies and tried not to sleep. We arrived in Detroit and made it onto the second out of three flights we were trying for from Detroit to Atlanta. We arrived back safe and sound at home sweet home by 8 pm (or 3 am Greece time;). 

So there you have it, a recap of our Greece trip! We had a wonderful time, and it was the perfect setting for our 'second honeymoon!'

While we found most everyone we encountered very helpful (lots of English speakers, too, which was nice!); we certainly found the rumor true that the Greek hospitality workers are more indifferent than friendly, but they were still helpful in answering our questions and we managed to get everywhere we were going thanks to a little bit of luck and a whole lot of Shannon's excellent travel sense.

Over the course of our trip, we stayed in 5 different hotels, took six plane rides of varying lengths, as well as 8 bus rides, an ATV trek, three train rides and one cab ride, and took over 1,200 photos!!! You can view an abbreviated photo album (promise: it's just over 100 photos) here.

And, we took a few videos while there as well. Enjoy!


PS - The title of this post is ATL-ATH, but as you now know, it should technically read ATL-JFK-ATH-JTR-ATH-FRA-DTW-ATL ;)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

ATL-DCA

Quick one-day meeting in DC, just on the heels of Greece! Very productive day, and bonus: got to see one of my ASAE friends for dinner while I was in town. Hurrah!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

ATL-STL

I was in St. Louis for ASAE's Annual Convention & Expo this week, and had a wonderful time! I presented a session on Meaningful Mentorship, with my mentor, Steve (pictured at left), and finally met another mentor (also pictured here) face-to-face!

It was a great trip, a great meeting, and a fabulous town! Made all the better by my dear friend Claire, who was also able to attend.

St. Louis was a fabulous host city, and really wowed us with their hospitality. Well done, St. Lou!

Monday, July 18, 2011

ATL-LAX

Mary was in LA for a summer course that wrapped up on Thursday, so we made a weekend of it! Shannon flew out Friday morning, and we had a nice three-day weekend in the city with beautiful weather and gorgeous sights.

On Friday, we visited the Getty Center. It was amazing. If you do nothing else in LA, do this. The exhibits are wonderful, but you could spend all day just wandering around the lush grounds taking in the views from every side of the complex. We got there around lunchtime and shuffled out at 5:30 closing time on the final tram.

One of the Highlights of the day was seeing Irises by Van Gogh, right there in front of us, in all its glory. Pretty cool. We have the print hanging in our house! We enjoyed a late lunch on the terrace overlooking the garden with gorgeous views of the city all around. Pretty much a perfect day.

Friday night at 7 pm marked the start of the long-feared, much-hyped #carmageddon, which ended up being a non-issue, probably because the locals heeded the warnings and respectfully stayed at home! We on the other hand were out and about, with no traffic problems to speak of.

On Saturday, we hiked to the Hollywood sign in Griffith Park, taking what's probably the longest possible route ;) All we know is it was a lot longer than the short 6-mile hike... But we had a great time, and enjoyed gorgeous views of LA on one side of the ridge, and Burbank on the other. It was actually a really clear day, so when we made it up to the peak of Mt. Lee, we could see forever! After our hike, we met up with one of Shannon's friends from Auburn who lives in Manhattan Beach and had a great time catching up.


Sunday was our lazy beach day. We slept in and spent the rest of the day walking from Santa Monica to Venice Beach and the Venice canals, and then back to Santa Monica, about 6 miles round trip. Then on Monday we flew home and Liz was kind enough to meet us halfway to pick up Riley.

It was a great trip, and we loved the perfect weather and scenic views. You can see all the photos (complete with captions of course!) from our weekend here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

ATL-MIA-DCA-ATL

I just got home from a whirlwind trip to Miami and then DC for meetings. We held our annual 3-day research meeting in downtown Miami Friday - Sunday, and then I flew straight from there to DC Sunday evening for a full-day event in DC on Monday before flying home this morning, just in time for lunch with my sweet hubby who worked like a dog on teh house the entire time I was gone. The sunroom is nearly finished, and the back deck is almost completely disassembled (that's a good thing, believe it or not;).

Monday, May 23, 2011

Roger that, Roger.

We fly the friendly skies!

Friday, May 20, 2011

ATL-DCA

The view from my room ;) 
I was in DC for meetings all week, and while I usually complain that all I see are the four walls of my hotel room and the meeting room, I actually had 3 off-campus experiences this time - hurrah! While the latter part of my trip was spent in meetings and dinners and receptions, etc. etc. etc., the front part afforded me not one, not two, but THREE outdoor excursions (and I use the term 'outdoor' loosely).

Excursion 1 involved a cab ride to the FDA in Silver Springs, MD where we walked OUTSIDE around the campus for a bit after our meeting (only to make our way back to our waiting ride, but still - counting it!). Excursion 2 was our annual lobbying on Capitol Hill in conjunction with our May board meeting. I was assigned to Massachusetts this year and escorted a very lovely member of our Board to various meetings where we lobbied for increased NIH funding, etc. etc. and Excursion 3 counts the MOST. I actually squeezed in time on Wednesday afternoon for a quick jog, and a nice post-workout stroll around the District. I saw lots of field trips, etc. and even did a little shopping. Hurrah!

Monday, May 16, 2011

ATL-RIC

I got to spend the weekend with my wonderful grandparents in Drewryville, Virginia this weekend. Mom and Liz had some work in Maryland, so I flew in and met them there and we drove down to VA together.

It was Paw Paw's 76th birthday on Friday, and we were able to celebrate with him and Nee Nee and Uncle Kenny with an awesome home-cooked country style birthday meal Friday night.

On Saturday we drove out to Smithfield for another celebratory meal (my family REALLY likes to eat, can you tell ;) and enjoyed seeing the Inner Banks (also known as the IBX).  And of course, we admired their beautiful gardens as well as several of Uncle Kenny's carpentry projects, and played with the cats and dogs.

It was great getting to spend some quality time with family, and taking a time-out from the hustle and bustle of city life! You can see all the photos from our trip here.

As always, non-revving was a bit of an adventure, and after 7 hours in the Richmond airport, I finally got out on the last flight of the day back to ATL.  I have to leave again tomorrow for meetings in DC, but I'll enjoy my time with Shannon and Riley until then :)

Monday, May 9, 2011

ATL-BHM

A Mother's Day Tea, fit for a queen!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

ATL-DFW

Just got back from a meeting in Dallas where we stayed at the fabulous, historic Belmont Hotel on the outskirts of downtown. Awesome staff, funky spot, and a great view of the city. I'd highly recommend it if you're ever in Dallas - affordable rooms, great vibe, nice pool area, awesome restaurant and a happening bar scene.

Friday, April 15, 2011

ATL-MDW

Awesome view of the river
Chicago. Again.

Airport - hotel - meetings - dinners - airport again.

Done.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

ATL-IND-CHS

In the French Quarter ~ Charleston
After a quick meeting in Indianapolis, I was thrilled to meet my BFF Julie in Charleston for a girls' weekend to celebrate her Mom's 1-year 'angelversary' in style. We had such a great time, and it's such an awesome city. Pictures from our weekend adventure here.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

ATL-COS

Sunrise at the Broadmoor
I attended a conference in Colorado Springs this week, and it was a truly fabulous experience. We stayed at the beautiful Broadmoor, surrounded by the gorgeous Rocky Mountains and it was amazing. I rarely make time for my own continuing education, what with work and travel schedules for other meetings, it can get crazy fast. But I'm glad I made time for this one. It was really great, with some exceptional educational sessions and really great thought leaders facilitating. I'm coming back with plenty of great ideas!  

View through Siamese Rock
On Monday morning, there was a sunrise photography session, so I woke up super early and met the other brave souls willing to freeze their tookus off for a great photo, and we had a great time. We got tips from a pro, and captured some really beautiful images of sunrise at the Broadmoor.

On Tuesday afternoon I had some free time, so a new friend and I hiked around the Garden of the Gods all afternoon, enjoying gorgeous blue skies, sunshine and amazing red rock formations. While some of the trail markings (or lack thereof) were pretty hysterical and the maps not quite as accurate as one would hope, we had an awesome time. I'd highly recommend it!   
Garden of the Gods
You can view all my photos here. I haven't had a chance to weed through or edit any of these yet, so please forgive the redundancy!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

ATL-SFO

Valley View
Shannon and I just got back from a great west-coast trip, part work and part play, totally awesome.We’d never been to Big Sur, so we were super excited to check it out. The scenery was breathtaking. Read on for the deets… and of course check out all our photos here.

We arrived in SFO on Saturday, and hit the road, bound for Santa Cruz. We of course checked out the famous Mystery Spot, which was a hoot, as promised. Don’t want to give away the surprise, so that’s all we’ll say.  Our drive out to Big Sur was in total darkness, but luckily we found our tent cabin campsite easily (we highly recommend Fernwood Resort) and got all set up in no time. Luckily, we’d packed plenty of blankets, so we were set for a good night’s sleep. It was rainy, and a bit colder than we’d thought, but thankfully not too cold.


Sunday morning we awoke to find our tent cabin was surrounded by giant redwoods. Amazing! The whole campsite is situated right along the Big Sur River that feeds into the Pacific. Our first stop was Pfeiffer State Park, home of the famous Big Sur Lodge. After a gorgeous hike to the Valley View Peak, we made our way to Pfeiffer Falls. The scenery was spectacular to say the least. We were dwarfed by the monstrous redwoods at every turn. Once we reached a higher elevation and were able to survey the amazing forest from the high ground, we had a great perspective on the scope of this natural beauty. We enjoyed a picnic lunch along the trail, and warmed up with hot tea by the fire at Big Sur Lodge before heading to Pfeiffer Beach.


Pfeiffer Beach is an amazing stretch of coastline surrounded by magnificent mountains. The beach features a dramatic landscape, with rock formations jutting out here and there. The drive down to the park is something else, too! It’s a narrow, unmarked road off of Hwy 1 and it’s 2 miles of windy weavy pavement with room for just one car at a time. But it is so worth it! It’s a beautiful, unspoiled beach that's popular with locals, somewhat unknown among tourists and well worth a visit. Besides beautiful offshore views of rocks and sea stacks and some nice surfing waves, this beach has unusual purple sand, from manganese garnet particles washing down the hillside. The further north on the beach you go, the more purple it becomes. Once you’re on the beach, you feel like you’re in a movie. It looks exactly like the type of place an old ancient ship would pull into. We walked for hours, climbing the rocks, making our way across the streams, photographing the sea lions and taking in the gorgeous views.


The waves will never reach me here!
On one particularly high outcropping of rock, which I insisted on climbing to the top of, I posed for a triumphant photo, declaring immediately after ‘The waves can’t touch me here!’ Famous last words. No sooner had the proclamation left my lips than a ginormous wave crashed onto the rocks, completely soaking me head to toe. It was funny, and I had to laugh. But it was also cold, and very, very wet. Being the light packer that I am, this was not good news for my one pair of jeans. As you can see from our photos, my wardrobe the following days was quite limited… I did invest in an oversized hoodie emblazoned with Big Sur across the front and wore my yoga pants from the plane ride in for the next 2 days. While comfortable, not nearly as versatile or hardy as jeans. But I made it through and was able to eventually dry my jeans by the campfire, only to find that in addition to being attacked by the Pacific Ocean (yes, the entire ocean), I’d also managed to sit in a black sticky substance that I can only guess was tar, but that Shannon argues is some ‘tar of the sea variety.’ I'm not sure what that means. So jeans dirtied, we carried on.


As sunset drew near, we witnessed a rush of photographers setting up their tripods in hopes of catching a dramatic shot with the keyhole shaped rocks, and were treated to brilliant blues and yellows as the sun made its descent. When we thought the show was over, we packed up and headed out only to find the show had gone on, as the sky lit up in the most brilliant shade of pink for our drive back.


At Pfeiffer Beach
On Monday, we decided to take in the scenic drive along Hwy 1 between Carmel and Big Sur since we’d missed the show on our nighttime drive in. We’re so glad we did! The coastline was absolutely amazing, with picturesque views at each turn. We stopped at least a dozen times throughout the day to walk the trails, see the views, visit the wildlife, and take hundreds of photos. When we arrived in Carmel, we enjoyed a picnic lunch on the beach at Carmel by the Sea, and watched families and their beloved dogs playing in the surf for hours. Carmel is known as one of the most pet-friendly cities in the country! We wished Riley could have seen it, but know she was much happier snuggled up with her friends Ashley and Gigi in Atlanta than being drug around the central coast with us. After lunch, we visited the San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission, which was wonderful.


The Basilica Church, a registered National Historic Landmark, is the centerpiece of the Mission. Upon entering, visitors are usually struck by its catenary ceiling, thirty foot reredos and 5 foot thick walls. The Missions fine collection of Spanish Colonial Liturgical Art and Artifacts are displayed through the church. The Harry Downie Museum, located in the forecourt to the Basilica, houses interpretive displays and artifacts devoted to telling the restoration story of the Mission and the significance of Harry Downie’s efforts in the restoration. Behind the Basilica, in the Munrás courtyard, one will find the Munrás Family Heritage Museum. It displays the treasured keepsakes of one prominent Monterey family. Its goal is to enhance every visitor's appreciation of their own unique legacy. Adjacent to the Basilica, the Jo Mora Chapel Gallery houses the elaborate Serra Memorial Cenotaph, sculpted in 1924 by Jo Mora, of travertine marble and bronze. This museum is also the home to an art exhibit which changes periodically. In Convento Museum, through which one exits the Mission complex, is found the cell used by Blessed Junipero Serra and were he died in 1784. Other rooms in the museum present interpretive displays for further understanding the history of this beautiful heritage site.
It was a wonderful experience, and so cool to see these ancient relics and architecture so carefully restored and preserved. The grounds were absolutely beautiful, and it was such a serene place. We greatly enjoyed our time there.


The drive back was just as gorgeous as the drive out, so we took our time, stopping here and there along the way, spending a little extra time where the baby lambs lured me into a mudslide ;) and also checking out the Bixby Bridge up close and personal.


Bixby Bridge is a reinforced concrete open-spandrel arch bridge on Hwy 1. The bridge is important historically because it introduced automobile travel to Big Sur, connecting the remote coastal towns to each other. The structure is 714 feet long, 24 feet wide, over 280 feet high and has a main span of 320 feet. Its two heavy buttresses are actually unnecessary to physically support the structure, but they certainly add to the architectural interest. It is one of the most photographed features on the West Coast, and has frequently been used in automobile commercials. The construction of the bridge began on August 24, 1931 and was completed on October 15, 1932. Before the bridge was opened on November 27, 1932, coastal travelers endured rough wagon roads over precipitous ridges and valleys. The 30-mile journey from Monterey to the Big Sur River valley could take three days round trip. It has since become a regional landmark, and was used in the opening sequence of the film Play Misty for Me. The bridge is also loosely referenced in Death Cab For Cutie song "Bixby Canyon Bridge."

We drove over the bridge a total of six times during our trip, and it never got old! It truly is a marvel of engineering, and the gap it bridges is truly extraordinary – a dramatic ravine, alive with color, leading out to the deep blue Pacific in spectacular fashion.


We spent sunset at a scenic overlook watching the Point Sur Lighthouse twinkle as the sky grew darker and enjoying a bottle of delicious local wine, a nice fruity sauvignon blanc. It was a magical twilight after a day of amazing sightseeing in an amazing natural wonderland.


On Tuesday, we drove to Monterey and went on a mid-morning whale watching cruise. We saw 4 grey whales on our journey, and two different schools of dolphin. It was amazing to be able to see such enormous animals in their natural habitats, and they gave us a spectacular show, blowing air out of their blow holes so we could spot them easily, and then diving down to give us a great view of their majestic tail fins as they went on their way. We weren’t able to get extremely close, but our guides were extremely knowledgeable and taught us all about these majestic creatures as we observed them from afar. On our way back in to the harbor, we were visited by a group of playful Risso’s dolphins, who frolicked about just feet from our boat. It was so cool to be able to see them so close up! We also saw numerous seals, sea lions and sea otters on our cruise. The sea otters were our personal favorite. They were absolutely adorable, napping on their backs floating in the water. We saw one mother and her pup, and the pup was snuggled up on the mother’s chest and they just smiled at us as we drifted by.


On Wednesday, Shannon headed back to Atlanta and I checked into my hotel for my meeting. Once I was settled in and caught up on few work tasks, I decided to take a short run to Lover’s Point, just 1.5 miles from my hotel. The wind was in my face the entire time, which made for a difficult run, but the scenery was lovely, so I didn’t mind. Once at Lover’s Point, I enjoyed a quick picnic in the park there and took in the view from the point as waves crashed angrily against the rocks. I walked back, and discovered a little cove along the trail, full of seals napping. It was quite a sight! The walk back was much less windy, and I took a stroll along Cannery Row, checking out the shops and boutiques along the way.


I was in meetings Thursday – Saturday, but we were fortunate to have some free time on Saturday afternoon because our meeting ended early, so me and a couple of co-workers hopped in the car and took in the famous 17-mile drive. It was beautiful, as was to be expected, but the highlight for us were the beggar squirrels at Bird Rock! These guys were not shy, and they went so far as to stand on their hind legs and pull at your pant leg for a treat. They were so fat and cute, and we spent at least 20 minutes playing with them. Adorable! We were treated to wonderful views of wildlife and plenty of amazing coastal scenery on the drive, and we topped it all off with ice cream sundaes at the Ghirardelli shop in Cannery Row.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

ATL-DEL

At the Taj Mahal
Finally... part one of my India recap is below, with more to come. See also nica natasha.

My dear friend Natasha, smartie that she is, was accepted into the Fogarty International Scholars program and scored a sweet gig in New Delhi to do dental research in between her third and fourth year of dental school. She was kind enough to invite trolls to her Delhi digs, and we were delighted to take her up on her offer. So in early February, on the heels of my thirtieth birthday, I joined Christine and Harleen for the trip of a lifetime.

I arrived in the wee morning hours, endured a slightly terrifying cab ride with a driver who ignored most traffic laws and refused to speak English or Hindi, or to look at my map or directions. I finally arrived at Natasha’s house safe and sound and we stayed up all night catching up. We slept in in the morning, and ventured out around lunchtime. Perfect since I couldn’t wait for my first meal! She didn’t let me down, bringing out the big guns right away. A home run dish of saag paneer, delicious naan, perfectly cooked rice and paper dosa with yogurt. After lunch, we took an autorickshaw to Lajpat Nagar Market, which was an experience in and of itself! We weaved in and out of traffic, stopped for no one, but finally made it there alive.
bangles from the bangle walla

Once in the market, we carefully weaved our way through the densely packed crowds to check out the goods of the day. I barely made it three feet in before I made my first purchase, a beautiful tunic with a bold bright print and beautiful floral embroidery. When the vendor told me his price, I tried not to fall over as I reached for my wallet to give him the money. The price was unbelievable! Natasha congratulated me on my first purchase and promptly scolded me for not bargaining. We did much better from there on out. We maneuvered the market successfully purchasing silken scarves and other fun gifts, thanks to Natasha’s excellent tour guide skills and of course, her mother’s recent trip to visit her (thanks JJ!). After we’d had our fill at Lajpat, we went to see the bangle walla. I stocked up on beautiful bangles for my family, and Natasha got to practice her hindi. After seeing her at least try, the shopkeeper told her he wouldn’t make us pay the ‘foreigner’ price since she at least knew a little hindi. We were good with that.

After shopping, we took a break back at the homestead before walking to dinner to meet some friends at TLR Café in Hauz Khas. On the walk over, we passed amazing Muslim tombs on either side of the road and several spectacular temples. Natasha nearly had to drag me along to keep me from photographing everything. Once at the restaurant, we laughed as we were surrounded with Europeans and westerners. Turns out this restaurant catered to the ex-pat crowd. The food was great though, and the band amazing. We had a great night visiting with Natasha’s friends, and on the walk back home I was able to photograph some of the scenery (after nearly falling into a ditch. Which you do not want to do in India. On account of what’s in the ditch if you catch my drift…).
The next morning, we awoke and headed out maps in hand to see the local monuments. Our first stop was of course food. We enjoyed some great chat, including panipuri (yum) and lassi. Next up was Qutub Minar, the world's tallest brick minaret with a height of 237.8 ft. The structure is notable for being one of the earliest and most prominent examples of Indo-Islamic architecture. It is surrounded by several other ancient and medieval structures and ruins, collectively known as Qutub complex. The grounds were absolutely beautiful, and the monuments extremely impressive. Almost equally impressive was the amount of attention I managed to attract on account of my being white and all ;) Both Natasha and I were confused by the strangers asking to have their pictures made with me. At first I thought maybe they had me confused with a celebrity or something. Natasha just thought it was overall hilarious. At one point, a line actually formed. She couldn’t have been happier ;) Also at this site, we enjoyed seeing the local strays, most especially ‘jacket dog’ as we called him. There are strays everywhere in India, but don’t feel sorry for them. They’re super fat and happy and lay around all day sunning themselves. I loved them all.

Next stop was Jantar Mantar, a famous collection of architectural astronomical instruments, built by Maharaja Jai Singh II in the early 1700s. He constructed a total of five such facilities at different locations, including the ones we saw in Delhi and Jaipur. The Jaipur observatory is the largest and best preserved of these. Built from local stone and marble, each instrument carries an astronomical scale, generally marked on the marble inner lining. Bronze tablets, all extraordinarily accurate, were also employed. An excursion through Jai Singh's Jantar is a unique experience of walking through solid geometry and encountering a collective astronomical system designed to probe the heavens.

The instruments are in most cases huge structures. The scale to which they have been built has been alleged to increase their accuracy. However, the penumbra of the sun can be as wide as 30 mm, making the 1mm increments of the Samrat Yantra sundial devoid of any practical significance. Additionally, the masons constructing the instruments had insufficient experience with construction of this scale, and subsidence of the foundations has subsequently misaligned them. The samrat yantra, which is a sundial, can be used to tell the time to an accuracy of about two seconds in Jaipur local time. The Giant Sundial, known as the Samrat Yantra (The Supreme Instrument) is the world's largest sundial, standing 27 meters tall. Its shadow moves visibly at 1 mm per second, or roughly a hand's breadth (6 cm) every minute, which for most people is a visibly profound experience. Today the observatory is a popular tourist attraction. However, local astronomers still use it to predict the weather for farmers, although their authority is becoming increasingly questionable.

Harleen and Christine were coming back from a side-trip to Amritsar to visit Harleen’s family and met us at a nearby Korean restaurant for dinner. All four musketeers reunited, we enjoyed a feast fit for a king and caught up on our adventures thus far.
With the gang all intact, we had a couple more monuments to cross off the list - so we headed out bright and early for Red Fort in old Delhi. Natasha and Harleen perfected the art of 'fobbing it up' so they could get the 'locals' price. We had a good laugh over the difference in tourist prices and citizen prices. For instance, the Taj Mahal cost Christine and I each 950 rupees, and for Harleen and Natasha a mere 20 rupees. You're welcome, browns! ;)
The Red Fort is a 17th century complex constructed by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the walled city of Old Delhi. It served as the capital of the Mughals until 1857, when Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was exiled by the British Indian government. The British used it as a military camp until India became independent in 1947. It is a powerful symbol of India's sovereignty: the Prime Minister of India raises the flag of India on the ramparts of the Lahori Gate of the fort complex every year on Independence Day. 
We had a great time touring the historic site and taking lots of pictures, and managed to get some shopping in inside the fort's market. Afterwards, we enjoyed a delicious lunch of parawthe in chandni chowk, followed by more shopping. After haggling for possibly 30 minutes with various auto drivers, we finally convinced one to take us to Lotus Temple. We arrived just before sunset
The Bahá'í House of Worship in Delhi, India, popularly known as the Lotus Temple due to its flowerlike shape, was completed in 1986 and serves as the Mother Temple of the Indian subcontinent. It has won numerous architectural awards and welcomes four million visitors each year (about 13,000 every day or 9 every minute).  
On Saturday, we had a delicious brunch at Mrs. Kaur’s Crepes in Khan Market with a couple of Natasha’s friends. Our new friend Elizabeth joined us for more shopping at Dilli Haat, where I finally successfully bargained and got some really great deals. But the best deal of the day was the kitty purries that Natasha bought for all of us. Hurrah! We finished off the day with a delightful picnic in the beautiful Lodi Gardens where we enjoyed all our favorite snacks, mixing culinary delights like pros. We even did an impromptu photo shoot for Show Us Your Sky.

Posing with our prized kitty purri
On Sunday, the gang and I enjoyed a quick sip of chai before I shuffled off to the airport. I was a brave non-revver on this trip, by necessity, as we tried our hand at Zedfares (flying on another airline at a discounted rate, still standby but with lower priority). I flew in and out of Dubai on DL flights and connected to Delhi via Zedfare. On the way there, I flew Jet Airways, and on the way back Emirates. Both were lovely, as was the Dubai airport. But I must say, an Emirates flight is a first class experience, even in coach. The food, the beverages, the service and amenities, oh my!

Once back at home, I snuggled down with my two favorite snuggle pals and recounted our adventures, my camera full of photos, my head full of stories and my heart full of memories and laughter from a once-in-a-lifetime trip with three of my favorite girls.

You can share the adventure by viewing photos from our trip here, and a few videos here.

>> More to come… stay tuned! Part Two: Agra and Jaipur coming soon.

Friday, January 7, 2011

ATL-TLV

We just got back from a week in Israel and can't wait to tell you all about it!

Highlights include:The Old City, Jerusalem, a trek on camel back through the Negev Desert, a therapeutic  spa experience at the Dead Sea, a scenic drive through the Galilee, and fun times with friends in Tel Aviv.

It will take a bit to get everything together so in the meantime, please enjoy some video from our travels, and a couple fun photos!

Love,
Mary & Shannon

Mt. of Olives in Jerusalem

Shannon riding a camel in the Negev desert

Mary floating in the Dead Sea