Saturday, August 31, 2013

Elsa's First Vacation

Earlier this month, we found ourselves with several windfall days before work/school started, so we decided to take Elsa on her very first vacation. Per our usual, this trip was planned at the last minute, but it was a great time for all involved.

In our defense, we couldn't have planned anything too far in advance because we didn't know we would have these bonus days. However, we could have probably decided where we wanted to go at least two days before we left instead of the day before.

At any rate, due to our own time constraints and the fact that we didn't feel we could just show up on someone's doorstep (which we actually did anyway), we were somewhat limited in our destinations. Finally, we decided that we would make a three-city loop: Nashville, Chattanooga, and Atlanta.

Stop #1: Nashville
Since we--Jon and I, at least--have been to Nashville several times, we didn't feel the need to do any "touristy" things, but we thought it would be a good first stop. An added bonus was that some good friends recently moved to Nashville from Memphis, so we thought we could do dinner on Sunday before heading out to Chattanooga in the morning. Elsa napped the entire time, meaning that we made much better time than expected, and we arrived at our friends' house a little earlier than anticipated. We hadn't exactly made plans for lodging that night, thinking we'd figure that part out later, so it didn't take much persuasion for us to graciously accept an offer to stay the night. Our friends insisted--promise!

We found ourselves in the East Nashville neighborhood, which is a part of the city we'd not been to before. There are lots of restaurants within walking distance of our friends' house, and after dinner at a local pizza place, we headed over to an ice cream shop. Elsa has recently decided that she prefers to see the world rather than facing inward, so Jon was holding her in such a way that she could observe the ice cream scooping process. He should not have been surprised, therefore, that as soon as he had his waffle cone in hand, she lunged for it like she has never wanted anything more in her life. I guess kids wanting ice cream is a hard-wired desire.

We enjoyed spending time with our friends so much that we encroached on their hospitality for another day. While they went to work, we spent our Monday leisurely walking to a coffee shop before heading out to the Grand Ole Opry. None of us had ever been there before, so we splurged on the tour. None of us are really country music fans, either, but it was still pretty interesting...at least until Elsa decided that she was hungry. Not that any of them would ever be reading this, but we apologize to our fellow tour-takers for the crying baby. Anyway, once that need was taken care of, we posed for the tourist photo on stage (which of course we had to buy) and were on our way.

Yup, we're suckers
 Staying an extra day in Nashville also meant that we would be able to get together with a dear friend from Washington for dinner. However, that was still several hours away, so we needed to kill some time. Fortunately, in the massive Opryland complex, there is a Bass Pro Shop. Interesting fish for Elsa to look at=free entertainment. Parent win.

Stop #2: Chattanooga

Perhaps it was the late-ish night out, perhaps it was the run Jon went on in the morning, perhaps it was the delicious brunch we had, perhaps it was the fact that we were traveling with a baby, but for whatever reason, we got a later start than planned on Tuesday. That, countered with the time change, meant that we rolled into Chattanooga mid-afternoon. We had originally planned on staying overnight, but since we spent Monday in Nashville, our visit to Chattanooga was just a couple of hours long. Honestly, we don't know much about the city anyway, so we didn't feel like we missed anything. There was a pretty cool looking aquarium, but we really only had time to stop in the gift shop for Dad to buy Miss Elsa a stuffed penguin and a book...not that Jon's wrapped around her little finger or anything.

We were in town long enough for a snack and a walk. After stopping for lunch--at a brewery, of course--we trekked across one of Chattanooga's many bridges for a nice family walk. Despite the warm weather, there were quite a few other folks out as well.

Dad and daughter out for a stroll
Stop #3: Atlanta

After stretching our legs during our walk, it was back in the car for the rest of the trip to Atlanta. We had to stop a couple of times, so it was a bit late by the time we rolled into town. En route, Jon had secured a hotel, so that was taken care of, but unfortunately it was too late to get dinner anywhere but a 24-hour diner. Not bad, except for the loud bunch of college students sitting across the restaurant. We were initially annoyed...at least until we realized that we have often been that loud, annoying table. (Are we really getting that old?)

Since we only had about half a day in Atlanta, we were pretty limited on what we had time for and therefore tried to get an earlier start on Wednesday morning. I had been to Atlanta years ago for a conference, so I wasn't too upset to miss out on any tourist destinations. The Georgia Aquarium is pretty much the best aquarium ever, but Elsa is too young to truly appreciate it; the fish at Bass Pro were more than satisfactory for her.

One place that was a must-see, however, was IKEA. We have been going through IKEA-withdrawal since we moved to Memphis. In fact, we've gone to great lengths to furnish our apartment here (see The Desk). Baby Girl needed a crib (she's been in a bassinet so far), and Mom and Dad needed some Swedish meatballs, so off to IKEA we went.

We plugged in the address into the car's GPS and set out on our way. Fortunately, our trip took us past the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. I had forgotten about this landmark and was excited to visit again. It was neat to see King's birth home and the inside of his church--which hadn't been open the last time I was there--and extremely important to pay our respects.

At the eternal flame
Elsa was so tuckered out at this point that she fell asleep before Jon even had her strapped in the car seat. We were able to drive to IKEA, crib shop, and eat Swedish meatballs before she woke up. Not surprisingly, she was pretty hungry at this point, so we made use of the family lounge/bathroom. We were big IKEA fans before, but this space--plus the stash of free diapers in said lounge--really won us over.

I knew we had a baby for a reason...
During Elsa's lunch, Jon played a game of Tetris with our luggage and IKEA loot in the back of the car. By the time we were finished, the car was loaded, and we hit the road for our journey back to Memphis.

Elsa has proven herself to be a good traveler thus far, which we're thankful for. I foresee many travel adventures in her future.

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