Unconventional Christmas

So, for reasons that don’t bear repeating, my friend Jen and I found ourselves at loose ends, trying to figure out how to separately celebrate Christmas when the traditions we were used to were changing this year.

So, we put our heads together and decided a girls trip was in order.

And where should a couple of girls go for the most extravagant, over -the-top holiday possible on a budget?

VEGAS, BABY.

(If you haven’t done Vegas at Christmas, you should! So much decorating!)

Jen had never ventured to the big city (I’ve actually been five times. No, I’m not a compulsive gambler…), so we eagerly jetted off and I couldn’t wait to show her around all the glitz and immensity of Vegas. We stayed at the Linq, right on the center strip (great hotel, and perfect location!) – it was great!

We put miles and miles on our shoes exploring every casino… meeting dolphins and big kitties, eyeing sharks and stingrays… hitting the penny slots (and winning!)… exploring and spending time in the Venetian, including a leisurely couple of lunches in St. Mark’s Square (best.pizza.I’ve.had.outside.Italy.)… admiring the Bellagio Conservatory… visiting the Atomic Test Museum… and I even put my brave girl pants and accompanied Jen to the top of the Eiffel Tower! What an amazing experience!

We  ate well, walked much, gambled some, and gawked a ton, and overall had a great time!

–Marissa

Until next time… thanks, Las Vegas!

All Byyyyy Myseeeelllllffff….

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Other than a cabin for a couple of days all alone, I’ve never gone on vacation solo.

I’ve never been opposed to it since I’m comfortable with my own company, but it’s always nice to have a buddy along, yeah?

But recently, the opportunity presented itself for an only-me vacation, and y’all…it was the BEST THING EVER.

If you are going to vacation alone, I highly recommend…Disneyworld. *grin*

I had to be in Orlando for a work conference, and I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to spend a few days at Magic Kingdom and Epcot just because I was alone, so off I went!

I opted to do the “all in one” thing – Disney resort, food package, transportation and tickets – which made it super easy, and with the help of Uber, I was able to zip from conference hotel to “vacation” hotel in a snap!

I spent a couple of days at Magic Kingdom and one at Epcot, and y’all, it was AMAZING.

I rode whatever I wanted to ride, I ate when and what I wanted, I rested when I needed, I popped back to the hotel if I felt like it, I got a henna tattoo for the hell of it, and while I was waiting in line? I read a book.

(Bliss!)

No one made me feel like a doofus for being there alone, and I even got to line jump a few times as a single rider! Lots of folks struck up conversation with me, I had room to spread out on the rides, I requested the front seat on Space Mountain (because, uh, it’s the best, and I was a single rider!), and every employee just smiled when I said “one” to their “how many?” instead of looking at me like I was some friendless spinster. *grin*

Such a great holiday!

Chi-Town Weekend

I love Chicago.

I always have.

Growing up, we always spent a week in the Chicago area visiting our dearest family friends, so I have such fond memories of this fantastic Midwestern city.

So, I jumped at the chance to have a “girls weekend” in the City, seeing the traveling Van Gogh exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago (one of my favorite places in the world, with some of my favorite art in the world), taking a boat tour on the river to see the diverse architecture, eating out at great restaurants (The Purple Pig and Giordano’s for authentic Chicago pizza!), doing the obligatory “tourist photo” in front of the Bean (actually named “Cloud Gate”) and spending time with great friends, old and new!

Have you been to Chicago before? What’s your favorite thing to see?

–Marissa

Nashvillin’

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I love a good day trip, and on a gorgeous spring day, it was such fun to hit the road with my bestie Megan (my travelin’ buddy to places like Amsterdam/Brussels/Paris and Garden of the Gods) to visit NASHVILLE!

Now, despite living only a few hours from Music City USA, I’ve never really *done* Nashville, so we opted to just embrace being super-touristy!

We went to the (full scale replica) Parthenon in Centennial Park, which is just as impressive as it sounds! We paid the $6 admission fee to go inside and see the forty-two foot (!!) Athena sculpture inside. Very impressive!

We drove right down Honky Tonk Row (otherwise known as Lower Broadway) and saw the bars lining the pavement before hopping on a Gray Line trolley tour to see the city. The redbud trees were gorgeous around the city, and we loved seeing the Tennessee Statehouse, the parks, and hearing more of the history of the city.

Of course, no trip is complete without a visit to a boot store (sadly, we abstained from buying!), to buy some Goo Goo’s (locally made candy that’s been around for a century) and some great Southern cooking – including crawfish poppers!

We had a fantastic time riding around the city, taking in the sights, eating some great food while listening to great music, and catching up! Thanks for having us, Nashville!

–Marissa

Garden Glow

I’m a sucker for Christmas lights.

Several nights during the month of December finds me in my car, driving the neighborhoods of our town, looking at all the lights and how everyone celebrates the holidays with their outdoor displays.

A couple of years ago, I heard about a holiday light show at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis called the “Garden Glow”.

Naturally, it went right onto the “must do” list!

This year, my Dad joined me on a trip to STL to check it out, and to say we were blown away by the experience is an understatement!

The whole garden is decorated in various “vignettes” – all the areas are distinct and different, but all are full of bright, light, sparkly displays. From huge trees lined in lights to swaying lanterns to a “forest” of trees, every vignette was a delight and a discovery.

I can’t recommend this experience enough to anyone in the area – but be sure to buy your tickets early! They strictly monitor entry times, so the garden is never overwhelmed with people, which is great. We opted for a 5:30pm entry time, and it was perfect! There are also vendors on the grounds selling wine, beer, hot chocolate, egg nog and more – so bring a few dollars with you! At $18, this is definitely an affordable way to ring in the holidays!

–Marissa

Vacation : Paris

Even though I’m heartsick to hear of what’s happened in Paris recently, I have nothing but good memories from our time in the City of Light! We saw and did so much – but it’s never enough time in Paris. 🙂

We saw the Eiffel Tower (of course!) and visited Notre Dame, we took in the city lights from atop Sacre Coeur high above the city, we visited Venus de Milo, Mona Lisa and Winged Victory in the Louvre, we spent a morning wandering around breathtaking Versailles, marveled at the flowers, water lilies, and bridges in Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny, and of course, feasted on crepes, macarons, and croque madames!

What memories we created on this trip – I’m ready to go again! Who’s in?!

–Marissa

Vacation: Brussels and Bruges

Next up on our European vacation was the Belgian city of Brussels, with a side trip to the magical, medieval city of Bruges!

While in Belgium, we feasted on mussels, waffles, chocolate, and a lot of beer, saw the famed Mannekin Pis, marveled at the medieval architecture of Bruges and Maredsous, and even visited a snail farm! We ate well, and saw so many beautiful places in Belgium!

–Marissa