Thursday, 21 August 2014

USA Trip: Part 2

We kicked off our tour in LA. Adam had a big work conference at the Langham Huntington in Pasadena so that was our first stop. Oooh this place was nice and it was such a lovely way to get adjusted to US time and relax for a couple days before the frenzy of people and places we were about to embark on.

I went for a bike ride, they had a great spa, and even a free shuttle to take us into places like old town Pasadena (Hazel heard her first mariachi band!) and the Huntington Gardens, which were quite impressive I must say.  We also both have friends that live in LA so we got to see them which was great.

Between my beauty and Hazel's lack of ability to care for herself, we decided our presence would provide too much of a distraction for Adam so we flew to San Francisco once his conference got into full swing.

I lived in the city by the Bay for pretty much my entire 20's and many of my dearest friends are still there. It is always a treat to visit. There was lots of eating at amazing restaurants and catching up with equally amazing people. If I was 13, I would list them all and put a matching emoticon next to  their name, but I'm not so just know I loved seeing all of you and getting to meet new additions, like little baby Teddy:

The Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito and Train Town in Sonoma were great stops.

 And just taking Hazel to some of my old haunts, like Tartine Bakery, was a lot of fun.

I will give a special shout out to Mallary and Johnny because staying at their house in Mill Valley is better then any hotel and well you just can't have moments like this on Facetime:

Ok, next up is Atlanta, the city where the players play... and Adam's family lives.

There was lots of great times with all the fam, seeing good friends, shopping, and a belated wedding anniversary dinner for Adam and I.  3 years baby!! We had the most wonderful meal at St. Cecilia. Traditionally, 3 years means giving a leather gift, but I opted for a heart shaped cookie cake instead. Keep him on his toes, know what I mean?

After some lovely time in Atlanta, we headed up to the mountains in North Georgia where Adam's Dad and stepmom have a place. It's always so relaxing and nice to be up there. We split the time between family and friends and Hazel had her first time in a proper country creek (crick).

Knoxville was our next stop and there really is no place like home. Ahh summer.

Adam spent a few days with us but had to head back  to New Zealand and China for work. Hazel and I settled into our Knoxville routine and spent a lot of time with family and friends.

We made a quick trip to Murfeesboro in middle Tennessee to see my grandmother, get some Whitts BBQ, see my cousins, and meet their adorable twin boys.

After filling up the many empty duffle bags we brought with us and spending as much energy trying to zip them as I did trying to zip my own pants at this point, it was time to start making the trip back to my New Zealand home. This leg I was doing alone. It's the trade off for getting to stay 2 extra weeks in the US. Truly, it's just a moment in time and one day of your life.

A word about travelling with a toddler, though, as people do often ask me what it's like and how the actual trips go. We are very fortunate that Hazel is the baby she is. I'm not sure if it's a case of we travel with her so she's a good traveler or we travel with her because she's a good traveler. Either way, I know we got real lucky.

With that being said - if you have never flown with a small child then I've just given you something to be thankful for at your next gratitude group and if you have, well you know what it's like. Let me just say in general I like to keep "route talk" to a minimum. Hearing about how someone got some from point A to point B is rarely interesting. I mean try to remember the last good traffic story you heard. It's usually up there with a good menstruation story or hearing about someone's dream from the night before. Anyway, I mostly just find it very long and tiring. Hazel doesn't cry, but she does maintain her busy toddler personality even in the box in the sky. She did have her own seat so that helps a lot. That and bourbon.

Air New Zealand is wonderful and honestly the international leg is easier in a lot of ways than the domestic one.  On one of my legs from Knoxville to SF they showed a movie. I was thrilled as Hazel had actually fallen asleep when the screen dropped down. I was less thrilled when over an hour into it the movie it just shuts off and the screen goes back into the ceiling. Oh right, 'cause we are landing. I look around the plane hoping to connect with someone who finds this as equally as ridiculous as I do, but no such luck. Who shows a movie, but doesn't bother to  make sure all of it can be shown? Apparently United. Anyway it was back to SF for a few days and then on to Auckland. We survived, which is all you can really expect with  a small human as your travel partner. I'm glad to be back and look forward to not getting on another plane for a while.

Or at a least a month or two.

USA Trip: Part 1

Amurica. Land of the free and home of the brave. And possibly the largest cars and parking spaces in the world? I've lived in New Zealand for two and a half years now so each time I return to the US I notice my perspective shifting. This time I noticed a big shift.

Parking spaces, car parks as they are called here, seemed so huge to me this time. Btw, this shift did not involve me acquiring a Mercedes or becoming handicapped, it was just slim pickings for parking space pictures on the interweb. Anyway, I was at lunch one day. Ok fine I was at the waffle house eating waffles in the middle of the day (ALONE - it was bliss!).

Anyway, I had a table with a view, to the parking lot, and I spent my entire meal staring at my car in its spot and how much space there was on each side. I really couldn't get over it. Despite the fact the above picture is a handicap spot, I can assure you this is how much space there was on each side. In New Zealand, I pretty much have to suck in to get out of the driver's seat so you get the idea. Everything in America really did seem super sized to me.

I was at a coffee shop in California and without looking at the sizes I ordered a medium coffee. What I got handed was a cup like this:

I was shocked, I couldn't believe how big it was and the fact that there was a size that was even larger, what?! I mean this is the largest size at my coffee shop in New Zealand:

You have to understand this is coming from someone who loves to get her eat and drank on. I do not fall into the, "well are you going to order the fries?" type or the, "I don't know how you could possibly eat that whole piece of cake." Well I do, so hand it over. I'm just sayin, even for me everything seemed big, unnecessarily so.

I had the same feelings when I went into a DSW in Atlanta. For those not familiar, it's a huge shoe store that might be a good idea if you were trying to provide shoes for life for say the Duggar's and their 19 children, but this time when I was in there I just thought this is too much. Why on earth are there so many shoes in one place? Who possible has the time and energy to go through all these aisles?

Of course, some things don't change. I'll always have room in my heart and wallet for TJMaxx.

It's just funny because these are all things that I wouldn't have batted an eye at three years ago when I was living in the US and now I really notice them. Everything in New Zealand operates on such a smaller scale, you have so many fewer options and well everything is just.... smaller. I guess the best way to describe it is you know how you go into some stores or restaurants and think wow this is overwhelming. I can't remember ever actually feeling that way since I moved here. On the flip side, I was in Knoxville eating lunch, (the real kind, not the waffle kind) at a popular chain restaurant and actually uttered theses words to my sister-in -law, " I'm thinking about getting the salad on page 15." Case in point.

Adam and I also agreed that we really felt the technology gap this visit back. I felt like someone from a different planet when cashier after cashier turned their tablet towards me to complete my purchase and swipe my card.

Even at a restaurant in Blue Ridge, Georgia, a small mountain town where we got married, I was shocked to be given a wine list that was basically an ipad. You just don't see this stuff in New Zealand. I remember when I first moved here and was at a cafĂ© reading and the waitress came up to me and said, "oh my gosh is that one of those e-reader things, can I see it?" I'm all, have at it sister, it's called a Kindle and mark my words it's going to be huge.

So let's get to the actual trip and being home. It was really, really wonderful. I got to spend six whole weeks visiting family and friends, lounging by the pool, and soaking up all American summer had to offer.

As huge of a pain it is to gear up for the trip, travel with a toddler across the world, and not sleep in my own bed for 42 nights, to me it is totally worth it. It is especially made enjoyable by everyone we stay with who make our time there easier and I can't thank them enough. I didn't take nearly enough pictures, evidenced by the many people we love and spent time with that are not on here. A blog post or two will certainly not do my time there justice, but I did have many memorable experiences.

One such experience occurred at the nail salon in Knoxville before I left.I was having an enjoyable mani/pedi when the Asian dude doing my toes asks right before he is about to paint them, are you sure you want to do this color? He is clearly not pleased with my choice. I say yes, I'm sure. He tells me it's "very old lady" and wonders wouldn't I rather do something fun and bright like the color I currently have on. I laugh and say no, I like my choice and am ok with it. He says, "but really, I did this exact color on old lady's nails last week and she was like 93."

I can see his point, it is rose pink after all. I can tell he has good intentions, hoping to save me from myself and my fate as possibly the youngest Golden Girl never cast. I assure him I'm going back to New Zealand where it is winter so not to worry.

To read all about our actual trip, check out USA Trip: Part 2.