Category Archives: traveling


Song Lyric of the Day:

Homegrown alligator, see you later / Gotta hit the road, gotta hit the road / The sun it changed in the atmosphere / Architecture unfamiliar / I can get used to this

George Ezra / “Shotgun

I haven’t traveled a lot the last few years. And you can guess how little I traveled in 2020. My last major trips were New Zealand and Toronto, Ontario, in 2014, Disney World in January 2018, and Toronto again in September 2019. Other than that, over the last few years we’ve visited my sister’s family in Huntsville, Alabama, and traveled to Columbus, Ohio, to visit close friends, and taken two trips to the beach. These days I fantasize about traveling, because OH MY GOD WE CAN’T GO ANYWHERE DURING THIS PANDEMIC. I’d love to plan a vacation for the family for sometime this year, but things are still so uncertain there’s really no point in planning anything.

I’ve been fortunate to have traveled a lot overall in my life, though. Way back in (year redacted), when I was a freshman or sophomore in high school, my mom scrimped and saved to send me on a French-class trip to Europe. Over the course of 16 days, we visited Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France, and England, in that order. I dream of being able to send Coraline and Sebastian on a trip like that someday, and I’m forever grateful to my mom for working so hard to make sure I could go. I was able to repay her in kind, to a degree, when my sister and I won a contest just by answering trivia questions over the phone related to our VHS rental of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. We received a letter saying we’d won a prize and included paperwork to sign and return, so I was thrilled at the thought of winning a T-shirt or — a kid could dream — our very own VHS copy of the movie. (Yes, I’m old.) The next letter we received, however, informed us that we’d won a 7-day, 6-night trip for two to Paris, France. I remember reading it out loud and my mom screaming so loud I thought she’d just killed my dog, Spot, by way of a heart attack. Being that my sister and I were both minors, I couldn’t chaperone my sister around (sorry again, Sam!), but our mom could chaperone me around. The trip was a whirlwind (which my sister still hasn’t forgiven me for; did I mention I’m sorry?), which included us visiting Versailles, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, the Catacombs, and me vomiting on the Eiffel Tower. I’m not afraid of heights, so I think something I ate hit at a very unfortunate time. Again, my apologies to Paris.

Growing up, my family and I would visit relatives in New York City, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Puerto Rico; that last one was very infrequent since flights cost a fortune we couldn’t afford. When we got married, Rich and I took a 7-day honeymoon cruise throughout the Caribbean, including a day trip to Aruba that started out with a horrible beach, but ended with us at a much nicer one. He and I enjoyed a trip to Uruguay with a couple of close friends a few years later, and we made a few visits to New York City over the years, too.

When Coraline was almost one, we took her to visit family in Iowa. A few years ago, we traveled to Denver, Colorado, for her godmother’s wedding. Since Sebastian was born, our only trips as a family of four have been to Columbus and Huntsville.

The itch to travel isn’t due to a fear of missing out, though (I loathe the acronym FOMO), but, frankly, boredom. I work and spend time with my family, which is all well and good, but a change of scenery would be nice, especially these days. We enjoyed a taste of it with our trip to Disney World in 2018, although we did leave Sebastian with my sister and her family that week, because he doesn’t travel well and does horribly once off schedule; he still does, actually. The joke was on us, though, since a huge cold front hit while we were there, so we were grateful he was back in Alabama and not being dragged around in cold weather or holed up in a hotel room. (I was layered in four tops and two pairs of pants every day except our last day there.)

My trip to Toronto in 2019 was the first time Rich was alone with both kids. Ever. He had to travel internationally when Sebastian was a few weeks old, so by now Coraline, Sebastian, and I have it down pat when Rich is away, whether it’s for two days or two weeks. I admit, though, when I thought of Rich being left in charge, I thought of the house at the end of Poltergeist — you know, when it self-destructs. Problems with my control-freak tendencies, I know, although Coraline was excited at the thought of helping to run the house in my absence. Seriously — that kid knows everything about what goes on in the house. And of course, Rich handled everything splendidly while I was away. Although Sebastian has ordered me to never leave them again. Fingers crossed we’ll get to go on an adventure together someday in the near future.


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New Zealand Day 1 Recap

After an epic LAX layover, Nan and I had an equally epic 12-hour flight from Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand. Air New Zealand more than lived up to its stellar reputation, and the plane had what is by far my favorite in-flight entertainment console ever. In between several naps I watched Guardians of the Galaxy, Housebound, the season finale of episodes, and most of Bad Neighbours (aka Neighbors in the U.S.).

This made my limited periods of consciousness between naps fun.

This made my limited periods of consciousness between naps fun.

Even wearing compression socks and taking short aisle walks, I got off the plane in Auckland with the cankles I never got during pregnancy.

Nan and I claimed our luggage and immediately encountered a camera crew doing interviews with Hobbit Fan Fellowship contest winners and their guests. Even though we had left Knoxville 30+ hours ago, Nan and I were more than happy to oblige and talk about how she won, where we were from, what we were most looking forward to.

After the interview we followed our fellow hobbits across the street to the Novotel Hotel, where rooms had been booked for all of us to freshen up. After a half hour we took our luggage to a conference room area where we checked in, got our badges, and were given Hobbit-branded T-shirts, windbreakers, and luggage tags as well as a swag bag. After check-in we met everyone in a big conference room with a buffet and The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey playing on two big screens.

Nan with the swag bag we received at check-in.

Nan with the swag bag we received at check-in.

We were welcomed by reps from 100% Pure New Zealand and then divided into groups based on where we came from. Nan and I are in the Hobbit group with everyone else from the Americas, with the other groups being the Wizards, Dwarves, and Elves.

Once sorted, we were bussed to the airplane tarmac — which apparently took jumping through a lot of hoops — to be photographed in front of the Hobbit-branded Air New Zealand plane that most of us flew in on.

We were featured in the local paper in Rotorua using the plane photo op. Nan and I are somewhere on the right toward the back.

We were featured in the local paper in Rotorua using the plane photo op. Nan and I are somewhere on the right toward the back.

Once the photo op was over — the local and international media coverage has been unreal — we hopped on a bus for the three-hour drive to Rotorua. We had a brief period for refreshing ourselves (again), then it was back on the bus to go to Te Puia, a living Maori cultural center. We saw mudpools and the Southern hemisphere’s largest active geyser (Pohutu), learned about Maori culture, and were treated to dance/musical performances in the meeting house, which were so much fun to see. After the performances were over, it was time for a huge buffet.

After our evening at Te Puia, it was back to our hotel where Nan and I passed out by 10PM. Which was a good thing, since we had to get up early to tackle day 2: Hobbiton.

Created with flickr slideshow.

*I have not had good luck with Wi-Fi while here, and after a whopping phone bill post-Toronto, I now leave the Cellular Data option turned off so I’m not racking up excessive charges by using Instagram and Twitter. Tonight has been the best Wi-Fi connection I’ve had since we got here.


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This Post Is Coming to You From the Future*

Song Lyric of the Day:

Diamond clouds / I think we’re getting closer / Don’t stop now / Off the ground / Higher than a supernova / Don’t look down

Cazzette / “Beam Me Up

Yesterday was a long day of traveling from Knoxville to Houston to Los Angeles on our way to Auckland, New Zealand. I actually wrote this post 12 hours after we left Knoxville, during our almost 10-hour layover in Los Angeles. Suggestion: LAX could really use a small movie theater for people with 10-HOUR LAYOVERS.

Our day started with Rich and Coraline driving Nan and me to the airport. Coraline was not only giddy about seeing Miss Nan, she was thrilled to be allowed to wear her warm footie PJs for the drive (she was wearing a coat but not getting out of the car). Our flight from Knoxville to Houston left around 9:30AM, and it was the standard puddle-jumper most outbound Knoxville flights use. We didn’t really have a layover once we got to the Houston airport, which is an hour behind Knoxville; it was sheer luck we happened to stop in front of our gate for our Los Angeles-bound flight when they announced it was time to line up for boarding. The plane to L.A. was one of the bigger planes I’ve been on in several years. So big it actually scared me when we had minor turbulence — apparently I’m really used to puddle-jumpers these days. I counted at least seven instances where I thought, “holy cow, this is it — I’m going to die.” Thankfully, that did not happen. Obviously. But still: scary turbulence = scared Pattie.

The flight to L.A. (which is 3 hours behind EST) took a little more than 3 hours, but not longer than the 3 1/2 hours or more that would’ve gotten us fed. This is where I’d like to point out that the Think Thin protein bars I brought with us are what kept us from potentially fainting from hunger. Me, anyway. Once we landed at LAX, it became our mission (after checking in our luggage with Air New Zealand) to find food. Real food that didn’t come in a little wrapper. After grabbing the LAX shuttle back to the main terminal because the international terminal really didn’t have any viable food options, we decided on Wolfgang Puck Express, where the food did not disappoint (turkey sandwich with bacon and avocado = divine).

We sat in a gate lounge that had closed for the day and was being used by other weary travelers, where I wrote this post and finally checked in on Facebook for more than my standard 20-second pop-in. (I’m basically a cat burglar on Facebook, in and out before anyone notices.)

One more flight to go, and then we will be in the real Middle-Earth. Fingers crossed we have another safe — preferably turbulence-free — flight. I think it’s a safe bet to say that no matter what the in-flight entertainment might be, Nan and I will both be grabbing some much-needed shuteye.

Here’s hoping I get to update again once we’re all settled in tomorrow.

Created with flickr slideshow.


*It’s 17 hours ahead of EST here in New Zealand. SEVENTEEN HOURS.

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The Year of Living Dangerously … Close to Home

Song Lyric of the Day:

Come away with me / Come, let’s go away to be / On a new adventure for two / We can fly across the ocean / Or take a train together / I don’t care as long as it’s beside you

Tim McMorris / “You’ve Got My Heart

I’ve been fortunate in my life in that I’ve traveled a decent amount. My freshman year of high school, my mom scrimped and saved to send me to Europe with my French class (six countries in 16 days). For my honeymoon Rich and I took a Caribbean cruise. We made several trips to New York City over the years. In 2008 we met up with our friends Richard and Donna in Uruguay. In 2009 I took a solo vacation to the Toronto International Film Festival. In 2010 Rich and I visited Caren in Colorado right after learning we were pregnant with Coraline. In 2011 we took Coraline to Iowa to visit Rich’s extended family. In 2012 we took a long weekend in Asheville, N.C., exploring the city and visiting Biltmore (twice, but that’s a story for another day). Last year we took a long overdue visit to see friends in Ohio.

This year? Well, it’s already mid-May, and I have zero travel plans for the year. That’s right — nada. I’ve got nowhere to go and nothin’ to do. Travel-wise, that is. Due to various issues that have arisen and others that will need to be dealt with in the near future, traveling to, well, pretty much anywhere seems like more of an extravagance than ever. And I admit, it’s a bit depressing. It’s undoubtedly a first-world problem — boo hoo, poor me, I can’t take a vacation — but I’ll be honest and admit that yes, it’s got me down a bit.

One of the many beautiful, exotic vacation destinations which I will not be visiting this year.

One of the many beautiful, exotic vacation destinations which I will not be visiting this year.

A couple of months ago, Rich was encouraging me to go back to Toronto for this year’s festival, but I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen now. Which sucks if for no other reason than I got my hopes up. I’ve written before about how being optimistic, as opposed to my naturally pessimistic self, is something I have to work at. So getting the shit kicked out of my excitement at the mere thought of going back to Toronto has not been fun. Maybe next year. We’ll see.

I’m trying to be optimistic (what can I say? I’m a dumbass who never learns.) that maybe we can at least take Coraline to New York City this year. I haven’t been since 2006(!) so that is definitely on my shortlist of places to go whenever we can afford it. And no matter what we can afford right now, I’m just scared to spend money on things — vacations — we don’t need, because who knows what other things will need to be dealt with. See? That’s me being pessimistic. And practical.

Still, I do have things to look forward to this year: a new baby niece on the way, a nephew starting preschool, Coraline’s 4th birthday, a nephew starting 1st grade, time spent with family we are fortunate enough to live close to, a new X-Men movie. (Hey, if I can’t travel, you can bet your ass I’ll at least be drooling over Hugh Jackman on the big screen.) So despite not having any international or domestic adventures on the horizon, there are still good things happening this year.

Staycation, anyone?


Filed under personal, travel, traveling

How Pattie Got Her Snooze Back

Song Lyric of the Day:

Goes from zero to 60 in three point five / Baby you got the keys / Now shut up and drive / (Drive, drive, drive)

Rihanna / “Shut Up and Drive

Well, somehow I made it through last week. Mostly because I mainlined gallons of delicious, caffeine-laded soda (“pop” to my extended family in Iowa and South Dakota). But, really, driving 2,328 miles round-trip through five states and back takes a while to recover from. And that time estimate of 15 hours? Wayyyyy off. By a few hours. So what was last week like?

First Meal of the Day: Dinner
Since Rich and I didn’t get home until 3AM Monday morning (thank God Papa Doug rode home with us and helped with some of the driving), we took Monday as our fifth and last day of bereavement leave to sleep in. And did we ever sleep in — we woke up for the day at 2:30PM. My awesome parents, sister, and brother-in-law were gracious enough to keep Snoops and Caleb one night longer than we’d anticipated, and for that we can’t thank them enough. Not having to worry about waking up early to feed and walk them allowed us to get the sleep we desperately needed. As it is, it was all we could do to muster the energy to go and pick our kids up. Both dogs pretty much crapped out as soon as we got them home. Snoops spent the previous six days chasing cats around my parents’ house, while Caleb exhausted himself playing with his cousins, particularly his horse collar-wearing Mastiff cousin, Moose, his new BFF.

A Phantom Menace

I had an ENT appointment to try and get to the bottom of the aggravating, ever-present, seemingly phantom congestion I still feel in
my left nostril. Hard to believe, but after my painful sinus surgery last year, I honestly believed I’d be breathing easy. Silly me. The good news is that, as my doctor put it, everything is fine mechanically. So that day I accidentally smacked my still-recuperating nose and that extra-hard nose bump Caleb gave me not long after didn’t undo or break anything. The bad news? Seems some of my allergies might be back. I’m now using a new nasal spray to see if it finally clears up the congestion. It’s only the thirtieth or so nasal spray I’ve used in my life, so surely this will be the magic one, right? Fingers crossed!

Workin’ for a Livin’
I got through the work week. Somehow.

Superdragin’ the Day After
Rich and I caught the Friday night Superdrag show at Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria. I, of course, felt like the proverbial old woman since the show started at 10PM, also known as The Time Pattie Gets Into Her Jammies. As it is, the opening act, Mic Harrison and the High Score (pretty cool band), didn’t take the stage until about 10:30PM. By the time Superdrag hit the stage, it was almost 11:45PM. Rich and I were energetic enough throughout most of the show, but by the time it ended at about 1:40AM, we were both so pooped we could barely clap. Sure, we got hom
e at 2AM, but it was totally worth it. Not only did we enjoy a great show (although I wished they’d performed “Baby Goes to 11”), but we got to say hi to John Davis, the group’s lead singer and a friend of ours from high school.

Another Weekend Down the Drain
After sufficiently recuperating from the Superdrag concert, Rich and I tackled myriad home improvement and organizational tasks. It was tiring, but it felt good to restore a bit of order to the house after having been away. Our new entertainment center (in black-brown) is assembled and full of DVDs and our guest bathroom now has a new toilet, giving us a grand total of four brand-new toilets throughout the house. Now we just need new tubs and show
ers. And a couple thousand dollars with which to buy them.

Booking It
I managed to work on my book a bit more. Yay me. Third chapter, here I come.


That’s about all I can think of tonight. Hopefully I can continue catching up on my TV shows this week so I can write a bit about the fall season so far. Although I did manage to (barely) watch most of Viva Laughlin‘s (already gone from premiere the other night. I couldn’t stop watching. It was one of those “I know something horrible is going to happen so I absolutely cannot dare to look away now and should make popcorn to munch on while I watch” compulsions. Which is why I wasn’t remotely surprised to read it got canceled today, making it the season’s first major casualty. Here’s hoping producer and guest star Hugh Jackman takes some consolation in the fact that he’s the hottest mutant to ever grace the big screen. Be strong, Hugh. Be strong.

Before I go, let me say thanks to those of you who’ve left comments, emailed, and passed your condolences along in person. The support really means a lot.

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