A Tourist’s Guide to Christmas in NYC

There are a lot of places on my travel wish list. Greece, Instanbul, Rio De Janeiro, the Great Wall, Texas (one of the 12 states I haven’t visited), London at Christmastime, Spain, etc etc. Some of the places on my travel wish list are conveniently located in America, like NYC at Christmastime, which happens to be only 4 hours away from where I live. So this past Saturday, Rahul and I loaded up my car (if you count packing banana bread, nutri-grain bars, water, and an apple as “loading up”) and drove up to NYC for the day.

We hit the major Christmas spots: Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park, Macy’s, Central Park (Home Alone bridge), and more. We oohed and ahhed at the pretty Christmas lights, window shopped at Saks Fifth Avenue, and bought some delicious treats at Chelsea Market. We also mastered the subway, only getting turned around once. All-in-all, it was a fantastic day, full of Christmas cheer and enormous crowds.

I’m minimally familiar with NYC, in the sense that I know what direction the major tourist attractions are. I can tell you how to find Central Park and am really good at pointing at the big buildings in the sky (and how to differentiate between the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building). That being said, I figured there are other people like us (aka non New Yorkers) who are venturing to NYC for a Christmas day-trip and might appreciate a little advice from another tourist POV.

A Tourist’s Guide to NYC 

1. If you only have time to see the Rockefeller tree once, then do it at night. It’s so much prettier because the lights hide how droopy the tree is (and it was kind of disappointing during the day). Plus, the lights make everything look magical. Be prepared to overhear fun things like “YOU like the crowd, I don’t like the crowd” and a child responding “I hope I get lost!” after a mom said “Stay close, you don’t want to get lost.” Put your fight face on to maneuver through the crowd.

In case you need more convincing to go at night…

2. Don’t wait in the line to ice skate at Rockefeller Center. Not only is the ice skating rink tiny tiny, you’ll be standing in a line in the cold. Rahul and I chose to watch the skaters from above instead. Plus, we got our ice skating fix in at the Sculpture Garden Ice Rink a few weeks ago. Plus plus, there are tons of other rinks in the city (we saw at least 5, and we definitely only visited about 5-10 % of the city).

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3. Take cash. I know this seems so obvious (and I can hear my parents’ voices in my head admonishing me for never having cash on me), but some of the subway stops accept cash only. Plus, toll roads.

4. Speaking of toll roads, if you are driving, be prepared to pay. Also, don’t pull a Katherine of 2012 and get so overwhelmed by the honking drivers on the New Jersey Turnpike that you speed right through the “EZPass only” lane. They will find you and send you a notice with the money you owe. If you enter the “no toll roads” option on Google maps, pay attention to the map, or you might end up stuck in immobile traffic for an hour (that didn’t happen to us or anything…).

5. Paying attention to the map is a good rule in general. Have a general idea of what leads where, and don’t go down roads that lead away from the island if you are trying to stay on it. It’s like the rule my family and I created when we visited DC when I was in high school: DON’T GO IN THE TUNNELS. They lead you somewhere completely different than where you were trying to go.

6. Except for the Rockefeller tree, hit the major attractions early: the Empire State Building, Macy’s, FAO Schwartz. Save “easy” attractions, like Central Park, for empty spaces during the day, as Central Park is huge and, unless you are wanting to use the ice skating rink, there are no lines.

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Central Park ice skating rink.

With the Home Alone bridge (except you can't really see the bridge).

With the Home Alone bridge (except you can’t really see the bridge).

7. Speaking of lines, DON’T wait in line at Grand Central Terminal to use the bathroom. This is where Rahul and I had lunch (Shake Shack!) and there was a ridiculous line for the ladies bathroom. Go over a few blocks and use the bathroom at the NY Public Library, which has a much smaller line and allows you to reenact scenes from The Day After Tomorrow.

8. Speaking of the NY Public Library, it’s beautiful inside! Plus, it backs up against Bryant Park, which features a Christmas market, skating rink, and a Christmas tree. This tree was much less disappointing during the day (the ornaments help).

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9. The decorations at Macy’s and Saks were beautiful, but save your shopping for elsewhere. You can buy a Kate Spade purse anywhere. Personally, I liked Chelsea Market. There were tons of small shops inside, including an Etsy pop-up shop, where local Etsy sellers were selling their stuff in person, an Anthropologie, and a flea market with several individual boutiques, including Pamela Barsky. I’m set on my Christmas shopping, so I didn’t buy anything, but we did have lobster straight from a fish market (new experience for both of us) and delicious mini doughnuts that I probably overpaid for….

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Macy’s.

10. Speaking of the “money” factor, I’m a big supporter of using your money for food and drink over shopping. I know many of you probably have a vision in your mind of shopping on 5th avenue being fabulous, but if you’ve never been to NYC before, let me break it to you: each store on 5th Ave. is overwhelmingly packed with tourists, even the fancy ones. Most people are walking around and taking pictures (especially in places like Macy’s), and you don’t get much space to breathe. If you must buy something, buy something representative of the place, not a shirt that you could probably buy at home. Instead, spend your money on food! There are tons and tons of restaurants and food trucks and other food places (like the Doughnuttery in Chelsea Market that I probably overpaid for) that are delicious and will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

That’s it! Many of these are probably no-brainers but if you’re like me and google “what to see in NYC at Christmas,” you might also appreciate a list of tips from a NYC outsider. Saturday was, of course, busy because it’s Saturday, but we aren’t able to go during the week. Plus, it was amusing (at first) to see all the Santas dressed up for Santacon (which I didn’t know was a thing until we saw a bunch of them at Grand Central), then annoying after a while. Once you’ve heard one drunk idiot yelling about how drunk they are, you’ve heard them all. Plus, it was nerve-wracking watching some of them try to catch taxis.

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Grand Central was our first Santacon sighting. At first, I thought it was some charity thing (which I think it technically does raise money), but then I heard “selfie!!!”

Stay safe, kids, and remember this:

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Paris Favorites

I have been wanting to sit down and write this blog post for about two weeks now, but the last two weeks have been rough. Since we went on vacation in early August, I came back and had less than two weeks to prepare for the start of Fall classes. On top of that, since I am teaching four classes at three different colleges, this meant I had to prepare three completely different syllabi and course schedules. Don’t get me wrong, the organization I got to do because of this was amazing–hello, detailed planer and wall calendar. Hello, IKEA mini file cabinet that fits perfectly into my room divider. But the actual class planning was a bit overwhelming and left little time for anything else. I’m just now going through all of our vacation photos.

That being said, since Rahul and I had such a fun time writing the last blog post together, we thought we’d do so again! We’ve compiled a list of all our favorite things from our Paris adventure and are excited to share that list with you–in two parts, because I wrote a ridiculously long post. Sorry, guys. Our favorite is obviously Trocadéro, where we got engaged and also now forever known as our Paris spot. Beyond that, we have many other favorites to share. Rahul’s segment will be featured in the next blog post, so be sure to come back for his! Jouir!

PART 1: KATHERINE

1. Eating chocolate croissants at a random café near the Louvre followed by walking along the riverfront. This is probably on everyone’s list of things to do in Paris, and for a good reason. Not only are croissants a staple breakfast/snack item, but the chocolate ones were ultra delicious, mostly because they were a SURPRISE. Rahul bit into one and had a childlike moment of “holy crap this is amazing,” which I, of course, thought was super cute. We then followed the croissant-eating with a walk along the Seine, which was lovely and perfect. I’ll add that this was also right after our ENGAGEMENT, which is why this was one of my favorite moments from the trip. It was earlyish, so the city was still waking up. It was nice to stroll around before the hoards of tourists took over.

2. Picnicking in front of the Eiffel Tower. Again, probably on everyone’s to-do list and, again, for a good reason. We had already seen the Eiffel Tower sparkle a few times at this point, but watching the Eiffel Tower change from an iron structure (and still totally impressive) to a beautiful, sparkling thing over the span of a few hours was amazing. The sun set behind the Eiffel Tower while we were there, which made for some good photos and lovely views. Plus, we had cheese, crackers & wine purchased at France’s version of Target, Monoprix, which allowed us the chance to picnic while Tower-watching which, HELLO, how many times will we ever get to do that?

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Paris by day.

3. Speaking of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, having dinner inside the Eiffel Tower was definitely one of them. On Engagement Day, we ate dinner on the 1st floor of the Eiffel Tower, which was beautiful and surreal. The food was delicious and was followed by several hours trekking to the top of the Tower, where we had a champagne toast and watched the city sparkle. Walking up to the 2nd level was probably one of my favorite parts. Since you are walking inside an open structure, you experience the wind and terrifying moments of “WHAT IF I FALL” all while watching the city grow smaller and smaller beneath you. There was an elevator for the 2nd to top floor though, obvi. We stayed at the top for a good while, and were surprised by the large amount of people still climbing to the top at 11:30 at night!

4. The Louvre…oh, the Louvre. The Louvre naturally belongs on this list because it’s the world’s largest museum, but OH MY GOD is it overwhelming. If I never have to stand in a room with that many people again, I will be a happy camper. I’m talking about the room where the Mona Lisa is housed, of course, because that’s the first place people dash to upon entering the museum, including us. We figured we might as well get it out of the way before moving on to the rest. And while I was impressed by the Mona Lisa, and loved seeing it in person (not so much the shoving to take pictures and get to the front of the crowd, people can be vicious), my favorite part was actually the Egyptian floor, which housed hundreds of artifacts from the Pharanoic Egyptian era. Not only were those floors much less crowded, but it was a part of history I am actually interested in. Plus, they had a SPHINX there. I mean, come on.
I will say, I was also depressed and saddened after visiting the Louvre by the amount of people taking photos of the paintings/sculptures, etc without actually looking at them. So many people just clicked photos of paintings and moved on without ever taking their eyes away from the camera. Maybe the museum should institute a no-camera day, yes? Because otherwise it’s freaking annoying.

5. I also loved Monet’s waterlilies in the Musée de l’Orangerie and the Renior/Monet paintings in the Musée d’Orsay, which also took the prize for most beautiful museum structure, in my mind. The museum is built out of an old train station, which provides it a unique look. It was here I discovered I’m apparently a fan of Renoir, as I have several paintings of his in my apartment, including “Young Girls at the Piano.”

6. After Louvre Day, we trekked to the Arc De Triomphe and had beers in a random restaurant with a view of the Arc. This was one of my favorite things about Paris: eating meals in places with good views. We did the same at Moulin Rouge, by Notre Dame, and alongside the river, as mentioned before.

(photo cred for all of these goes to Rahul)

7. One night, we were wondering around and found Paris’s beachfront. At one point along the Seine, the city had poured tons of fake sand to create a long, fake beach, complete with lounge chairs and umbrella. There was also a beachfront restaurant and performers—err, I mean an awkward mix of tourists and exercisers practicing Zumba, which was fun to watch. We sat in the sand and made various sand creations, including giant shoes. We also watched the performers for a while and enjoyed some beachy drinks (coffee and beer are beachy, right?).

8. Our day trip to Épernay was one of my favorite parts of the trip. A friend of mine suggested visiting champagne country, and we went with only Wikipedia knowledge of champagne and came back as experts! Okay, maybe not experts, but we thoroughly enjoyed our tour of Moët & Chandon, despite the obnoxious people in our tour group who looked at the price of a bottle of Dom Pérignon in the gift shop and said, “oh, it’s not that bad.” The tour entailed wondering through sprawling tunnels that housed thousands of bottles of champagne, where we learned all about the process of making and storing champagne, which was actually fascinating. Plus, the tunnels were a treasure in and of themselves, and totally a place Charlie from It’s Always Sunny would live if the show was based in France. Afterwards, we had lunch and walked to the edge of the town, where we got a gorgeous view of not only the champagne vineyards, but also the town itself. It was beautiful and a nice change from the city streets of Paris.
This was also the day I purchased an emergency sweater and pair of boots because WHOA was France unexpectedly cold. My little Southern heart was not prepared.

9. THE FOOD!! How could I not include the food? I don’t think we had one meal that was just okay. Every meal, from the petit déjeuner (a breakfast of croissant, bread & coffee) to the croque monsieur to the CREPES to the mussels to the wine to the macarons to the okay let me stop before I get out hand…it was all amazing. I love food and Paris, dear Paris, you reaffirmed my belief that IT IS OKAY TO LOVE FOOD. In a society where body-shaming and avoiding carbs are part of the daily routine, it was nice to relax and eat all of the bread in sight.

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A collection of many of the delicious foods we had in Paris. Photo cred to Rahul.

10. To piggyback off of food, we did a lot of walking in Paris. While this may not seem like it deserves its own category, it was one of my favorite parts of the city. In Paris, it feels as if every single street has something different to offer, and it was nice to explore the city via foot to see what we could find. One of my favorite walks, other than the river, was from Moulin Rouge through Montmartre to Sacré-Cœur Basilica. Even though we didn’t spend a lot of time there, this part of the city featured winding streets that seemed to continually incline. Other than the sex shops (which, let’s be real, about half of those are put there to make the tourists stop and take photos), this part of the city was lovely.

11. On our last day, we visited Promenade plantée, which is a park built literally on old train tracks. We strolled through for a while, enjoying the mix of park forestry and flowers + the city below. It was beautiful & QUIET. While the other parks we visited were lovely also, this one holds a special place in my heart. Plus, afterward, we had Subway for lunch and Pizza Hut for dinner because if you don’t eat at at least one American establishment abroad, you’re not doing it right. JK, we were tired and needed to pack.

12. Even though this isn’t in France, I really enjoyed our day trip to Manchester, England to see a Manchester United game. Rahul is a HUGE Manchester United fan, and when he realized it would work out with our schedule to fly up for the day to see them play, we jumped on the opportunity. Excuse me, once in a lifetime opportunity. Even though I know next to nothing about football, and had to suppress my urge to ask constantly “why did they do that? What’s that mean again? etc etc,” being with Rahul as he got SO SO EXCITED seeing the stadium, entering the stadium, watching the game, seeing them score a goal, and so on, was awesome. Even though football is not really my thing, getting to watch Rahul as he enjoyed one of his favorite things made my day. Plus, afterward, we saw a few players and other important people, including Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs, the latter of whom made eye contact with Rahul while driving away. He said I had to remember this because no one would believe him.

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Happy Fan!

13. Versailles was another overwhelmingly crowded place, but the gardens were lovely. The palace itself was crowded and consisted of people pushing you along to get to the next room. Plus, the tourists that take photos without actually looking at what they’re photographing were back. But the Hall of Mirrors was amazing and the gardens were spacious, not as crowded, and gorgeous. It rained early in the day while we waited in a ridiculous line and laughed at the people who tried to skip line and got in trouble with the guards, but was luckily sunny by the time we got to the gardens.

14. It goes without saying, but Notre Dame and Sacré-Cœur Basilica were two favorites. Notre Dame was, by far, more beautiful inside–plus, we visited during a mass, which was cool–but I thought Sacré-Cœur’s exterior was more impressive. Plus, the grounds of the church are surrounded by people lounging on the grass, amateur performers, and tourists tired from climbing the bajillion steps (no, not us. Of course not).

15. Our dinner riverboat cruise on the first night was, of course, fantastic. I was still getting used to being in Paris (I kept having to remind myself YOU ARE IN PARIS, DUMMY!), but seeing the Eiffel Tower fully (not just the top half, as we had seen other parts of the day, like from the view at the Galleries Lafayette) snapped me into reality, giving me a moment of “Oh shit! I’m actually in Paris.” In fact, I jumped and gasped in genuine surprise when the Eiffel Tower started sparkling at 10–I had read before to expect that, but had totally forgotten and was kind of glad I had because it was unexpected and beautiful. Plus, the cruise itself had yummy food and provided a good introduction to the city.

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Parisian Sunset.

Bonus: Our hotel and the surrounding area. We stayed in the 13th arrondissement, which is a little more removed from the touristy center and, therefore, quieter and not as overwhelming. We found a small market there which became a staple for late night beer, sandwiches & chips (because what else is there in life, really?), a Cafe Jules, which so happens to be my mom’s nickname, and a delicious boulangerie. This is also where we had our first meal in Paris, which featured the ever-so-delicious aligot. OMG. brb while I salivate just thinking of these.

Okay, I told myself I would cap the list at 15 and I have (sort of). There are so many other things I could include: the Palais Garnier, the Champs-Élysées (and the saga of finding the perfect boots in Zara and only finding one shoe–not pair, but shoe–in my size), Flame of Liberty, mini STATUE OF LIBERTY, Harry’s New York Bar (overpriced but still interesting bar which apparently used to feature the likes of Fitzgerald and Hemingway and claims to have invented the Bloody Mary), Shakespeare & Company bookstore, randomly meeting this couple from Memphis at a restaurant (and then learning the wife went to my alma mater), street performers, mussels & beer, the Latin Quarter, the chunnel ride, etc etc etc. But I will stop and leave you with a few helpful tips for those thinking of traveling to Paris in the near future:

Read up on the city beforehand! This is something I wished I had thought of before I left. Since it’s Paris, I assumed I knew enough to appreciate the city, but I was able to really appreciate the city 1000 x more once I learned the history of Paris. Sorry, Modern European history high school class, it’s been a while so Wikipedia was my go-to for this.

Check times for museums, train stations, etc. This was something Rahul took care of beforehand, which was super helpful.

Don’t worry about restaurant reservations. My guidebook said 1,000 times to MAKE SURE YOU RESERVE DINNER TIMES, which put me into a panic that we were not going to eat in Paris unless we reserved all our meals. But, really, that’s only if you are planning at eating at the super fancy, well-known, super expensive restaurants. So other than our first two meals (the cruise & Eiffel Tower), we just winged it, which worked out great.

Bring comfy shoes. I know this seems like a very DUH suggestion, but I saw so many women wearing ridiculous high heels and struggling to walk. Like, really, you don’t need to wear your studded high heels in the Louvre. Even if this is the fashion capital, no one will judge you for wearing comfortable shoes. Plus, from all the people-watching I did, I noticed many Parisian locals wearing boots, Chucks, ballet slippers, and other practical shoes. I wasn’t thinking when I packed my Toms instead of my boat shoes. Oh well, you live you learn.

LAYERS! Even in August, it was chilly. I was not prepared.

Lastly, enjoy yourself. If you’re like me, then traveling can almost become as stressful as real life because you are pressuring yourself to make sure you see everything, do everything, experience everything. I constantly find myself thinking “okay, this is great, but what’s next? what’s next after that?” I reminded myself to just let go and enjoy where I was in the moment. Leave the crazy worrying for work and real life!

***

For those of you remember my month-long old post on packing for Paris, I’ve collected some pictures to show how many of the outfits actually turned out. Since it was a bit colder than expected, you’ll notice how I got creative with my layering based on what was available to me.

Engaged in Paris

I sleepily stumble through the large, spacious hallways of the International Terminal at the Atlanta Airport until I finally reach Customs. I enter my information into the brand new customs machines that US citizens use now when re-entering the country (I swear one day machines are going to really take over this planet). The machine prints a receipt with a terrible photo and I wait in line to present my information to a customs officer, who checks to make sure the machine didn’t make a mistake. Or something like that? This whole new process confuses me, but it did take a whole lot less time. He asks me the standard questions, and I accidentally answer “I am staying with a friend tonight and then flying to Baltimore tomorrow” when he asks “How long were you gone for?” because I thought he said “Where are you going?”

Then, “Do you have anything to declare?”

YES, PLEASE LOOK AT THIS AMAZING ENGAGEMENT RING NOW SITTING ON MY LEFT HAND!

Rahul and Katherine print res-45

Okay, that’s not really what I said, because the super-bored-looking Customs officer could probably care less. But I did come back from Paris with something better than what I took over there with me–the fact that I can now yell this from the rooftops:

2rwtd1iAs I was packing for Paris, and telling friends/family about the trip, almost every single person said, in some form or fashion, “you’re going to get engaged.” One of my friends even said, after asking questions about our plans for the trip: “And where do you think the proposal will happen?” I talked about it at length with a few close friends, even making jokes about my concerns about dropping the ring into the Seine if he proposed on a river cruise, but I really didn’t plan on it happening. Rahul and I have been in a relationship for almost 4 years, and have been talking about marriage since near the beginning. But since we are still long-distancing it (for not much longer!), a proposal was not something I really expected to happen until we were both living in the same country. Of course, that didn’t stop me from dreaming about it.
Boy, did he prove me wrong.

Before I start to share the story with you, I’m excited to announce that you will not only be able to read the proposal story from my POV, but Rahul’s as well!! My friend Mary Beth said that one of the best part about proposal stories is you get to hear two sides of the same moment, and I have to agree with her. 

KATHERINE 

PRE-PROPOSAL

Rahul, who is usually not a planner at all, sent me a very detailed itinerary for our trip about a week before we were set to leave. Each day was scheduled to perfection; all the places we had talked about visiting had a place somewhere. I was impressed, and excited, but didn’t think anything of it. I just assumed he was excited about our trip too and wanted to make sure we got to see everything we wanted to.

Then he asked for my dad’s phone number, so he could share the itinerary, and the little voice in my head piped up–could it be? Could he be calling him for any other reason than just to share the itinerary? I thought about it, even shared the idea with a few girlfriends, before thinking “nah. He just doesn’t want my parents to worry.”
Clever Rahul step #1.

On the itinerary, our 2nd full day in Paris was scheduled as our Eiffel Tower Day. We were scheduled to have breakfast in the morning, walk through Trocadero, visit the Flame of Liberty, and then return to the Eiffel Tower for dinner at 5:45. I was excited because 1) hello, it’s the Eiffel Tower, and 2) we were going to have dinner INSIDE OF IT! On the itinerary for the Eiffel Tower Day, he had placed a small asterisk by the date, something I didn’t notice until he pointed it out to me later.
Clever Rahul step #2.

THE DAY OF

I’m going to share this part of the story from the POV of has-no-idea-what’s-going-on-Katherine because it’s fun that way.

The night before, I ask Rahul what time we need to get up. Do we have a reservation for breakfast? What time do we need to get there? (I like to ask a million questions). “Oh, yeah, we have a reservation at 8:15, I think,” he says. I say okay and we set our alarm clocks. That night, we had gone on a dinner river cruise on the Seine, gotten a nice introduction to the city of Paris, seen the Eiffel Tower freakin’ SPARKLE AND LIGHT UP!, seen the Paris Statue of Liberty (where was Nic Cage?), and it was all during sort of dreary weather. We keep checking the weather in hopes that the next morning would be rain-less.

That morning, we get up with plenty of time to leave for our “8:15 reservation.” Rahul plays some music, I take a shower, and then generally lollygag, because that’s the thing I do, and Rahul waits patiently, because that’s the thing he does. We still manage to leave with time on our side and walk to the metro stop close to our hotel, which is a direct shoot to the Trocadero stop.

On the metro, we are holding hands and Rahul starts playing with the small initial ring I have on my left ring finger–the one I had started wearing a few months before, and was planning on wearing until we got engaged, as my last name would change from a K name to a J name. He touches the ring and says, “Which finger do you wear an engagement ring on?” I smile and point to the same finger. He plays with the ring some more.
Clever Rahul step #3. 

About halfway there, the metro stops at one of the stations and suddenly everyone get out. Someone says to us in French that the train is stopping and so we also get off the train. Then, of course, I go into panic mode. I am a pretty worrisome traveler, and I also don’t do so great with long lines, hiccups in plans (like train closures), or other things in this realm that involve waiting for something to happen. When I’m with Rahul, I can usually let this part of me take a backseat, as he is pretty relaxed and confident that things we’ll turn out the way they should and, if not, we’ll figure it out anyway. So while I’m panicking, thinking we are going to miss our breakfast reservation, Rahul hides his panic and asks a metro employee what we need to do. She points us in the direction of another route, and we continue our journey.

A few stops later, we get off at Trocadero and walk toward it. I’m not making this up when I say the first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower that morning was magical. Trocadero is a beautiful park/look-out/fountain across from the Eiffel Tower, and provides–in my mind–the best view of the Eiffel Tower. It’s unobstructed and you can see the whole thing. So we round the corner to Trocadero, and I gasp. The weather was perfect, the sun was still rising, and there was the Eiffel Tower, resplendent in the early morning glow. I’m taking it all in when I hear Rahul say, “Oh no!”

“What is it?”

He points to an Asian couple who are taking wedding photos and who are, strangely enough, the same couple we had seen taking wedding photos the day before at Luxembourg Gardens. “Why is taking wedding photos a bad thing?” I asks him. He laughs it off and we move past them to stand at the edge of the look-out and take in the view.

I am still in awe of the simply gorgeous view, especially after the dreary weather the night before. The sky is beautiful and shines down on the Tower, quiet and nearly empty at that hour. It was, and still is, my favorite view of the Tower from our whole trip. There’s hardly anyone else around us and so, after taking a few pictures of the Tower, I say, “Let’s take a selfie!” (Because what else are you going to do as an American in Paris). He obliges and we take a few photos. Also during this time we are hugging and kissing and basking in the glow of the fact that we are in PARIS and it is amazing.

This is when I start to wonder if something was going on.

I’ll step out of character for a second to say that when I have told this story since, I say here that I noticed something was going on because he started to say a lot of nice things to me. Now Rahul says nice things to me all the time, but he started saying a lot of them in succession. I return the sentiments, smiling at him and happy, and then ask to take more pictures of us. We go to take another picture when he says “Oh crap! We should move, the couple is right behind us.” I look and the Asian couple has moved closer to us and is in between us and the Tower. So we move a few spots to the right and I take my phone out again.

“Why don’t you put it away,” he said. “Just take in the view.” So I oblige, all the while thinking, what’s going on, as he actually puts my phone in my bag for me and zips it shut.

This is when I enter into what I like to call “PROPOSAL HAZE WHAT IS HAPPENING??!?!?”

Rahul puts my phone away, steps back, and says, “I love you. You make me so happy, and I want to spend the rest of my life making you as happy.” I sort of remember him saying this, because the next thing I know he is kneeling down on one knee and holding a red velvet box toward me in his palms. I follow the movement of him kneeling like a cat watching a laser, thinking OMG what is happening!?!? and then next thing I know there is a RING SITTING IN THE BOX SITTING IN HIS HAND. I am so distracted looking at him kneeling and looking at the ring that I don’t really remember him saying “Will you marry me?” even though I know he did. Even after all the dozens of comments that Rahul was definitely going to propose in Paris, I found myself in complete shock as he holds a ring up to me, a smile on his face.
As my best friend Lydia says, I went into “ooh, something shiny!” mode.

I stare at the ring as it blurs out everything else around me. I reach out toward it, and I must have been smiling (I honestly don’t remember, it was like I went into a haze) and Rahul says, “That’s a yes, right?” And I say of course, and I am smiling, and he stands up and takes the ring out and removes my K ring and slides on this BEAUTIFUL ENGAGEMENT RING and we start kissing and smiling and hugging and kissing some more and hugging to the point that there’s a picture of us where it looks like I am trying to pick him up, I am hugging him so hard.

Oh, that’s right. Because after the celebration phase (which is also sort of a blur because I was so overwhelmed with excitement about what had just happened), Rahul says, “By the way. Look over there.” And this woman holding a camera waves at us and I start laughing in shock.
Clever Rahul step #4. 

paris

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You might notice that is my PARIS DRESS, which was featured in my last blog post, and will forever be known as my PROPOSAL DRESS!

Lindsey of Pictours Paris introduces herself and then we take dozens of amazing pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower, all the while I’m looking at Rahul and at the ring on my hand thinking, “oh my gosh! We’re engaged! This is crazy!” When I discussed the proposal with some girlfriends afterwards, we all commented on the fact that, while you wish you could freeze time, take in every moment of the proposal, and remember it forever, your brain instead goes into “SOMETHING AMAZING IS HAPPENING SO I AM GOING TO FREAK OUT!” I am in a delirious excitement the whole time, but I also can’t believe what just happened. We are in Paris, we are engaged, and we are taking pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower. THE EIFFEL TOWER!!!!! Life is good.

We take some more pictures at the Love Lock bridge, and put our own lock on the bridge, but I do not have those pictures yet to share with you. After we part ways with Lindsey, we walk to a random cafe, order these AMAZING chocolate croissants, and I tell Rahul he has to tell me everything. I learn:

  • Yes, he had asked my Dad for permission beforehand, and both of my parents knew, as well as his.
  • In fact, many of his friends knew, and so did my sister.
  • The center stone on the ring was from a ring of his mother’s, and he had skyped with the jeweler in TN to design the rest of the ring. (I mean, WHATTTT!?!?)
  • He had his parents sew the ring in the tag of a t-shirt, wrap the t-shirt in a bag, and then sent to me via my parents, where I held this package (which I thought was a shirt and a check) for nearly three weeks before transporting it with me to Paris to deliver to Rahul.
    Clever Rahul step #5.

Yes, that’s right. I HAD THE RING WITH ME THE WHOLE TIME! This is definitely one of my favorite parts about the story.

After the croissant eating, we walk down the river and just talk and laugh and enjoy ourselves and a Paris that is not yet full of the general OMG THERE ARE PEOPLE EVERYWHERE, which is lovely and amazing and one of my favorite parts about the morning. That and the fact that we ARE NOW ENGAGED.

 POST PROPOSAL 

Now that I am back in Maryland, I am sort of depressed with the fact that I am in Maryland and not Europe (Rahul, can we move there please?), and have to catch up on a crap-ton of work because, OH THAT’S RIGHT, school starts next week and I have to switch into teacher mode pretty soon. But it’s hard to work when you have a  shiny ring on your finger distracting you every .8 seconds….

Rahul and I have talked a little about wedding plans but, as my friend Alex suggested, we are enjoying being engaged right now before transitioning into the months of planning and preparation. We had a full week of Paris left after the proposal to enjoy the city together, drink celebratory champagne, and just bask in the fact that we can now call each other fiancé and fiancée.

RAHUL

The following takes place between 7:00 am and 8:30 am, on the day of Rahul-Katherine Proposal.

So where exactly is breakfast? She asks.

Oh its a nice place near the Trocadero.  We have reservations for 8:15.

Who makes reservations for breakfast, I chuckle to myself. Oh well, looks like she’s buying it.  Time to get dressed.

She puts on this pink and white dress.  It looks amazing! She makes it look amazing.  I sneak looks at her as she’s getting ready.

I play “Married Life” from UP on my phone. I’ve been sneakily playing it on random occasions over the last month, she recognizes it.

My biggest problem right now: where do I put this ring box?  It’s too big to fit in my pocket without being noticed.  I’m not taking a backpack to a proposal.  I can’t hide it in a t-shirt again. Hmmm, well done Rahul, so you didn’t plan everything did you…I start thinking.

Quick last minute, slightly dangerous, slightly stupid decision. I’ll just tuck it into my belt around the back so she can’t see it.  All the way up to the proposal the box hangs precariously from my belt; it falls out on the metro a few times.  I keep putting it back in the same place.  What did Einstein say about stupidity?

As we’re riding the metro on the way to the Trocadero, a thousand scenarios are running through my mind.  We hold hands and it calms me.  I force myself to think in the moment, I don’t want to forget this day.

I ask her about the ring she’s wearing, but its carefully placed inside another conversation.  I’m hoping I’m not being too obvious, I’m just excited!  On very rare occasions I let my poker/act like you’ve been here before/face slip, and this is clearly one of them.  She clearly notices the ring conversation, and I quickly change the topic.  How bout that Disneyland Paris huh? I wonder if there are joggers there too? (There are joggers everywhere in Paris, Versailles, the Louvre, the toilets.)

The metro doesn’t cooperate, so we have to detour.  I take it in stride.  Nothing is going to ruin this day, I think to myself.

The following takes places between 8:09 am and 8:30 am. All events are in real time.

We finally make it to our stop, and I’m thinking,  come’on sun!  If there’s only one day you need to cooperate, it’s today, don’t let me down giant burning star.  As we’re climbing up the stairs, exiting the metro, I see what looks like sunrays, could it be? Does someone up there know how important today is?

Sure enough, we walk out to a beautiful sunny crisp Paris morning! It’s not too cold, not too hot, just the perfect porridge, I mean weather. What could go wrong?

And as soon as we turn the corner onto the Trocadero, BAMMM! Asian Couple Marriage Photo Session!   Dammit! Who invited the Asian couple decked out in full wedding garb to my proposal? (There are Asian couple photo sessions everywhere in Paris, Versailles, the Louvre, the toilets.)

It’s ok, I brace myself. I force myself to think in the moment, I don’t want to forget this day.

As we’re walking up, I see the a teal camera strap out of the corner of my eye.  That’s her, that’s the photographer.  (“I’ll make a gesture to you, so you notice me,” she writes in the email conversation we had a few weeks ago, “you’ll notice my teal camera strap. “) Either that’s Lindsey the photographer, or I’ve just made awkward acknowledgements towards a weird-ed out tourist.  She’s following us, good, that has to be her.

Too many things happening at once: trying to dodge the Asian couple, there’s construction on one side of the Trocadero, is the ring still tucked into my belt?  Where is the photographer? Katherine didn’t see me look around, did she?

We slowly make our way to the steps descending from the Trocadero.  Ring check.  Ok, good it’s still there.  I look at Katherine, she calms me. One look at her is all I need, I’m back in the game.  I tell her about how wonderful she is, and how happy she makes me.  I try to tell her this as much as I can.  She wants to capture the moment on camera, so we always remember it. No camera necessary, I put it in her purse.   Don’t worry about the photo Katherine, it’s been taken care of.  This is where I would break the third wall and acknowledge the audience, Underwood style.

Nothing could be more perfect than this moment.  I slowly get the box from my belt and hold it behind my back.  In that moment I think to myself, how lucky am I? In my wildest craziest most unimaginable dreams I would not have imagined I would be here, in Paris, with her by my side, asking her to be my wife.

I tell her how happy I want to make her, and how much I love her.  How her smile brings a smile to my face. How much she means to me, and how I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with her.  I slowly drop down to one knee and ask her, Katherine, Will You Marry Me? As I open up the box.

The ring screams, do it!  

She goes…. WHAT? Are you serious? Is this happening?

I say yes, the world pauses. Frame freeze.  I take the K ring off her finger.  I put the Rahul Katherine ring on her finger! It looks perfect on her. She looks perfect.  I rise to meet her as she leans down the meet me, we kiss halfway.

What? Are you serious? She says again.

I already know that’s a resounding yes! But I ask anyway. That’s a yes right?  And she says YES! Of course, yes!  We hug each other, I’m the luckiest guy in the world.

We hug more, we kiss more, we hold hands, we kiss even more. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.  Two silly kids who met at a bar in Jackson, Tennessee, made it through everything, and found themselves on the steps of the most romantic city in the world, with the Eiffel Tower staring down on us.  And I got to ask the most beautiful girl in the world for her hand in marriage.

I’m a lucky, lucky guy. She makes my heart happy. And I get to do the same for her for the rest of our lives.

Packing for Paris

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I have to say, I had more fun preparing for this blog post than I EVER HAVE. Which is probably not a super good thing, as I have many papers to grade and other things to get squared away before I leave (including finishing season 2 of OITNB). But SO. MUCH. FUN.

Rahul and I are heading off to Paris soon for an August adventure and I couldn’t be more excited. Even though I have traveled more than some, I have never been to Paris, and I am ready to see the Eiffel Tower, dammit! In all seriousness, I’m ready for hours and hours of museums, crepes, Parisian fashion, beautiful buildings, Inception recreating, wine, climbing things, etc etc. There is so much to do in Paris. Seriously! I know you could say that about most cities, but really, Paris has stuff to do for days.

What I’m the most excited about? Spending all those hours and hours with Rahul, who I haven’t seen since before pre-thesis due date, which was a much more stressful time. I’m looking forward to spending days and days in a new city, exploring and just spending time together. Plus, we have an amazing itinerary planned, thanks to his genius planning skills.

That being said, I bought a dress over a month ago and when Paris became real, I decided it was the perfect Parisian date-night dress. Since then, I’ve had fun occupying my brain with thoughts and plans on what I am going to pack, from the date-night dresses to the carry-on bag. Also, let’s be honest. Packing and planning outfits is a 100000 x more fun than panicking over my flight being delayed, or doing any other kind of work.
And I have been legit panicking, so the distraction is much needed.

The packing I’ve done for this trip is not nearly as impressive as the packing I did for my 6-week trip to India last summer, where I only packed essentials and items that could be mixed and matched a dozen times over. At the same time, I’m packing items that were not included on my last two trips abroad (mainly shorts and skits) because I’m heading off to France instead of India. Coupled with the fact that Pars is known for fashion and just generally looking good, I’ve done some work picking out my favorite items that are not only comfortable and won’t show sweat (let’s be honest), but also pretty and close (if not exactly the same) to what I wear on a daily basis here.
Sure, traveling is not about what you’re wearing. BUT, at the same time, if you’re not comfortable, then it distracts from everything else. 

Not that packing for a trip is anything hard to do, but it does sometimes take a bit of puzzle work to fit everything in a small, carry-on size suitcase while also leaving a little bit of space to bring things back. Plus, it gave me an excuse to read fun blog entries like this one, about organizing a carry-on, or this one, which provided helpful advice like not packing something you don’t normally wear on a regular basis (which seems obvious, but when packing it’s easy to go into packing mode, where suddenly all your clothes are in the suitcase and not the closet).

I’ll stop talking and show you what I’ve got going on:

THE BASICS

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chambray long sleeve shirt // chambray short sleeve shirt // striped peplum shirt // aztec print shirt // lacy front long sleeve // sleeveless white shirt // studded color white tee // lacy white tank // red tank // white tee // dotted tee // pink short sleeve (aka my FAVORITE SHIRT) // striped blouse

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cuffed blue jeans // green mini // black mini // pink jeans // cuffed blue jeans // print shorts // pink shorts

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floral racer dress (aka MY PARIS DRESS) // geometric blue lace dress // color block dress // black dress

I know four dresses may seem like a lot, but I figure I can switch into a dress at night if we are going out to eat, or for a day where we’re doing something low key. Plus look how pretty how they are!

OUTFITS:

I tried to mix and match first to make sure I would wear most of what I was bringing, and this helped me eliminate a few items. The red tee, white lace sleeveless, and white short sleeve didn’t make the cut. This also eliminates the need to bring a long a tank top, so boo-yah. Also, even though I styled the printed shorts below, those didn’t make the cut either. I was also very careful to pick items that I could re-use essentials with.

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blurry photo // sorry // These are two of my favorite outfits, especially the green skirt and belt combo. These are also coincidentally my favorite skirts, and it has now nearly become a hobby of mine to stalk J.Crew Factory to find the best sale. I have five of them, which may seem like a lot, but they DON’T RIDE UP while walking. That’s right, ladies, they DON’T RIDE UP. That is probably my biggest pet peeve about wearing skirts, so when I found a skirt that did the opposite, I jumped all over that. For that reason, they should prove good wear for walking around.

In contrast, I wore this outfit to teach yesterday and thought “this is a perfect Paris outfit.” And then I took two steps outside and was like “NOPE!” The skirt was constantly riding up and the tank top got so bunched up it was coming out of the skirt in the back. How do I fix this?!?!?

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Another blurry photo // damn iPhone // Three more of my favorite outfits, all good for walking around, etc.

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For the rainy days, except perhaps with different shoes.

You can clearly tell from the above photos what my favorite accessories are, which is why they are making the trip with me to Paris. I know accessories aren’t essential, especially when it comes to travel, but I LOVE wearing jewelry. Furthermore, I’m pretty basic in my jewelry wearing, as I usually draw from the same pieces. Plus I love the pink Kate Spade necklace, which I snagged for an awesome price back in January.

THE PACKING PROCESS

This red beauty is my favorite suitcase, and she has made countless trips with me over the past two years (including to India). She is the perfect carry-on suitcase, which makes nationwide travel a breeze. For this trip, I am checking her, which allows me to make full use of all the pockets. By rolling the clothes (another obvious trick, but always good to remember) and storing smaller items in cosmetic bags, I’m able to fit everything with room to spare, especially after I unzip the expansion part of the suitcase. The small Coach back is one I haven’t used in years, but decided would be the best bag for walking around as it zips at the top. I really, really want to take my favorite bag (which I got on MAJOR sale), but I did spend more money on that bag than I spend on one airline ticket to Tennessee, so I’m not about to take my chances with it.
The heels got nixed, as I decided it wasn’t practical to bring a pair of shoes I will only wear once.

For the carry-on, I really want to avoid taking a backpack, as I remember the pain of lugging it around London last year on my 12-hour layover. Luckily, by also packing essentials in smaller bags, I was able to fit everything in quite nicely, including a change of clothes and a sweater and scarf for when I get cold. I recently spent 12-hours at the Baltimore airport (THAT’S WHY I’M PANICKING ABOUT FLIGHT DELAYS) and I had to make a make-shift blanket out of a scarf. Always good to be prepared.

THE FINISHED PRODUCT

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Voila! I’m ready to go. The Toms/jeans/white tee is my standard plane outfit.

Now that you’ve gotten a thorough tour of my clothes and apartment floor, I’ll say au revoir for the next few weeks. Look for updates when I return!

Swanson’s Got Swagger the Size of Big Ben Clock

This past Thursday, I was able to spend ten glorious hours in good ol’ London town. My last flight to India was direct, but this one had a layover in London. And I have to say, I give a big … Continue reading

A Week in Provincetown, MA

I haven’t updated in a hot second because I’ve been here:

Sunrise; Provincetown, MA

I recently spent a week in Provincetown, MA for a writing conference and it was definitely the re-energizer I needed for my writing. I feel more excited about what I’m working on than I have been in a while, and that’s due to the wonderful, creative atmosphere the Fine Arts Work Center created. Hopefully I can continue on with this writing spirit, as I am majorly behind on my big reading plans for the summer. I won’t tell you how many books I’ve read because it’s embarrassing. Oh well, at least I’ve gotten almost two seasons of “True Blood” watched in the meantime. That’s more important, right? I mean, vampires won’t be popular forever.

The conference was great, and Provincetown is also a nice hamlet of a town to spend some time exploring and writing. Other than getting lost in the Massachusetts marshland and almost getting attacked by land crabs, I had an amazing week. To give you an idea, I’ll share some photos from my trip because a) I haven’t drank enough coffee yet to be more creative b) I’m obsessed with the slideshow function and c) the pictures are beautiful.

Enjoy!

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Detour to Chattanooga

First off, let me state that the city is not pronounced Chattanooga, but ChattaNOOOOOOOga. You must always pronounce it this way.

We stayed in Chattanooga when my dad, cousin Jenny, and Uncle Tommy went to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
That’s right, folks. I’ve seen those colorful rings before in real life.
Anyway, I believe that’s when my new way of pronouncing the city began.

That being said, my mom and I took a few days last week and visited this beautiful city. East Tennessee is a LOT prettier than West Tennessee, in my mind, and provided for a fun, short getaway.

We spent most of our time visiting the attractions on Lookout Mountain. Rock City, known for its decorated barns sprinkled across the southern states; Ruby Falls, a beautiful underground waterfall; the Incline Railway, a very steep 10-minute journey up and down the side of the mountain.

Below, find some of my favorite pictures from the quick vacay.

I would write more, but I’m tired. So enjoy.

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Fun D.C.: Taste of Georgetown

Rachel, Sean, and I at the photobooth! Apparently I’m the glamour chef.

Yesterday, I went to the Taste of Georgetown with Rachel and Sean (her bf). The TofG closed a street in Georgetown and filled it with vendors from the Georgetown area that offered food and drink samples and free products. This was so much fun! Usually I find Georgetown super hard to get to and sometimes not worth it, but this was a great way to get a taste of local restaurants without spending a ridiculous amount of money. Plus, there was live music, a scary clown on tilts that scared Sean, and dogs EVERYWHERE! Unfortunately, I didn’t get any picture of the dogs, because I’m not quite comfortable yet asking a stranger if I can take a picture of their dog. Just not my style.

TofG was a great D.C. even and I hope to go to more things like this over the summer! I mean, that’s what the summer is for, right?

Welcome to the Taste of Georgetown!

Delicious lobster roll from Georgetown Catering.

Food prep at Thunder Burger.

In Sean’s words, “a good photo to Instagram.”

Super yummy pulled pork sandwich  from Old Glory. I got Memphis sauce. Obviously.

Eye on the crowd.

Street of vendors!

We chose Georgetown Cupcake because the Sprinkles line was RIDICULOUS.

Yum!

Scary balloon lady on stilts. When she passed us, she touched all of our heads. It was weird.

Sad cupcakes! I guess they got too hot and jostled around on the way home.

Let’s Journey to the South

Well, some people might not consider Missouri the South. But Cape Girardeau is located in the Southeast tip of the state, fairly close to Illinois, Kentucky, AND Tennessee. Before I moved to this little hamlet, one of my old teachers told my mother she thought I would have a hard time adjusting to living there. Clearly she thought I was super dedicated to hunting, tractors, chewing tobacco, and other things that scream country. Guess what: You can do all those things in Missouri, plus they have smoking laundromats. Yep, that’s right. And you know what, I adjusted just fine. Actually, there was no major adjustment period at all.

The visit to my last place of residence was brief, jam-packed, and wonderful. From the moment I stepped off the scary 7-person plane on to Cape Giradeau’s airport tarmac, I felt a comforting sense of familiarity. It was so good to see all my friends again (and my folks!), the town I grew to know and love, and many reminders of why I pursued a writing program. All of these things were much needed and so fulfilling.

A few things had changed about Cape: restaurant and bar turnover and new bike lanes on major roads. Of the bar turnover, our favorite Thursday night spot is now only used for special events as an extension of the original restaurant. Seeing the empty bar on Friday night was like officially marking the end of an era.

Some things I had forgotten about that I missed: everything within walking distance, smoky bars, smoky-smelling clothes the next day, day-drinking with no stigma attached, the river’s charm, or seeing someone you know within your first five minutes there. Seriously. It didn’t happen within the first five minutes, but Jess, Mickey, and I saw another random friend at the restaurant we went to my first night.

You gotta love small towns.

But, for the most part, everything was the same and it didn’t feel weird to be back, not a bit. Not even when I almost got hit by a car because I forgot people don’t stop for pedestrians in Missouri.

Here are a few of the reasons why I love this place:

Welcome to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, y’all!

These two.

The River Walk along the Mississippi. There’s a certain charm about living in a river town. Plus, the river wall contains a painted history of Cape’s history and other important Missouri thangs.

Food like this. Fried catfish, FRIED OKRA, real hushpuppies, and mac & cheese. YES.

These ladies. The four of us together are loud and fun and I had missed it.

The local eatin’ establishments. This was dinner Saturday night. And a walk-up window for ice cream? Yes, please.

This beautiful bridge, which connects Missouri to Illinois.

The old courthouse, walking distance from the little downtown and riverwalk.

Even more people I love.

This building that I swear is a front for a mob ring. How can it not be? The entire time I lived here, this building always looked like this, yet there were ALWAYS cars in the parking lot, even though the building is empty. Straaaange! Now it’s on sale, which is comforting, I guess.

Looking downtown from the middle of the road. I like to live on the edge. This was not when I was almost hit by a car. That was on a good ol’ crosswalk. 

The river wall, which protects from flood waters and also has a timeline of Cape’s history. Also serves as a place for local musicians. 

And these are just a few from my trip down there from Maryland (one M state to another):

Cute kid sitting on the plane in front of me. He wanted to see the world. 

The “puddle jumper” plane that I took from STL to Cape. It was only semi-scary.

Yes, this dog rode on the small plane with us. I was excited.

As always, thanks for reading, y’all. If you’ve never been down South, it’s really not a bad place to visit. Trust me, I got experience. And if you want to read more about Cape, click here or here.

Meet Me In St. Louis

My two closest friends in Missour-ah, Mickey and Jessica. This is a representation of how I sometimes stand with my hands under my armpits…hey, my limbs are long, sometimes I don’t know what to do with them.

Okay, so I’m not exactly going to St. Louis. But people in the whole of Missouri are die hard St. Louis Cardinals fans, so it works. Serious on the die hard thing. I had a student once that was from Chicago and, therefore, a Cubs fan. Whenever he wore his jerseys to class, I was afraid he would get killed. So yeah. Don’t mess with baseball fans.

But, beside the point.

Two other dear friends, Airek and Missy. We make a lot of funny faces in our group.

One of the guys at lunch asked me what I was doing for the weekend and my answer “Missouri” was met with “Why? What are you doing there? What’s there?” which was met with responses of “Nothing’s there. No one. What are you doing there?” This is not surprising, as they have asked me if everyone in my Tennessee hometown wears “Davy Crockett hats” and laughed hysterically when my friend Lydia visited and used the word “podunk,” apparently greatly amused by her Southern-ness.

Even more great friends, Julie and Amy. The four of us formed a fun ladies group my second year in Missouri.  

Fun tip: Davy Crockett is actually from Tennessee and made his famous speech where he said “You may go to hell and I will go to Texas” in my hometown.

But we still don’t wear Davy Crockett hats. Or all drive trucks.

So, they may not think there’s anything to be found in Missouri but, for me, there are a lot of things. I’m visiting the town I lived in for two years while working on my first Masters for a conference. But, in the same weekend, I get to visit with the people that befriended me as I learned how to grow up.

Some more wonderful friends and co-workers.

When my friend Ashley visited me in Cape G within my first two months of moving there, I couldn’t even make a pizza or brownies without burning the bottom. Over the next two years, I not only got infinitely better at cooking for myself, but I learned how to live on my own, make friends on my own, essentially do everything on my own. I guess you could say this was my first experience with what it feels like to be an adult.

Pretty Cape ladies in New Orleans for a Spring Break Adventure.

But, I also made some of the best friends I have ever had. You know how a lot of TV shows are centered around groups of friends? Well, Cape G was the first time I could honestly say I felt like I had such a group of friends. These were people I did everything with, from grocery shopping to homework to complaining about our students to cooking together to bar hopping to domino nights to bike rides to many, many more things. If one of us felt like getting a drink on a random weekday, we could count on at least one other to join. If one of us needed a sub for a class, we could always count on each other.

This picture defines us well. Don’t hate me for putting this on here.

Working together and taking a lot of the same classes added to our friendship, but it quickly grew to way more than just co-workers. This was also around the same time that Mickey told me I needed to stop introducing them as co-workers unless I started referring to the TV show “Friends” as “Co-Workers.” Never before had I had such an incredible group of friends, and I was in a sorority, y’all, so that’s saying a lot. (Don’t get me wrong—I love my sorority sisters.)

A slightly better picture of us at graduation.

Naturally, these friends also provided an amazing support group, and I feel like these people probably know me better than most.

There were other parts that were awesome about living in Missouri, and you can read about them here. Some of them may not resonate with you, but that’s okay. All you need to know is how much I value these people in my life. I would not be where I am today without them. Much like my parents, and sister, Rahul, and a few friends from high school and college, they have shaped who I am today.

To sum up, they will ALWAYS be on my Christmas card list.

In other news, Rahul and I had our year and a half anniversary today. I love anniversaries! Getting to celebrate with the person you love the most, what more could be better. : )

One of our first pictures taken together, coincidentally enough in good ol’ Cape!

And one of our most recent pictures, taken Christmas 2011. I look forward to many more pictures of us. : )