January 9th, 2013

Road Trip USA.

Last summer, Andy and I drove across the country from Los Angeles to Philadelphia with our dog Juliet. I filmed some stuff along the way with the 8mm app on my phone. 

Just watching the footage again made me a little antsy for another road trip. 

Hope y’all enjoy!

PS. I have quite a lot of updating to do on this blog. Expect something soon!

August 3rd, 2012

#GantRoadTrip USA, Day 16+17 // Nashville, TN


Nashville, TN.

Going back to Nashville after visiting last winter was a little bit like coming home, after spending over two weeks in strange places on the road. 

Nashville really is one of my favorite cities. Ever. Last time Andy and I visited, we couldn’t stop talking about how we wanted to move here someday, and Nashville just keeps giving me more reasons!

We spent a lot of time just wandering around and visiting our favorite places, and trying the places we’d missed last time. 

Frothy Monkey Coffeeshop (12South) - One of my favorite coffeeshops. Great ambiance, yummy iced fruit tea and a really delicious iced coffee. We took advantage of the patio to get some work done with Juliet at our feet. 

Imogene + Willie (12South) - I love the design of this place so much, sometimes I forget that they sell jeans. I finally gave in and purchased my own pair on this trip - they’re not cheap but the quality and fit are unbeatable. Looking forward to wearing them in.

Here’s Andy and Juliet waiting for me to get my jeans fitted. I’m desperately in love with that vintage LV trunk. 

Las Paletas (12South) - Fantastic popsicles! Unique flavors like peanut butter chocolate chip, pineapple coconut, and avocado. We got free popsicles for visiting the 12 South Farmer’s Market just down the street, and were more than happy to accept!

Mas Tacos (East Nashville) - $3 a taco, with some really fun ingredients. Fried avocado taco was definitely my favorite. Line out the door.

Monell’s (Germantown) - Family-style Southern cooking. $16 a person for all you can eat, and they will definitely serve you more food than you can imagine. The food was good, and my favorites were the veggies and the fried chicken. A big hit with out-of-town visitors, but it didn’t feel cheesy or touristy at all. 

It’s getting harder to leave Nashville every time. Luckily, we have Kentucky to look forward to. Three days of whiskey tasting ahead of us! You’ll definitely want to keep an eye out for our updates on this leg of the trip. 

August 3rd, 2012

#GantRoadTrip USA, Day 15 // Knoxville, TN - Minister’s Treehouse


Knoxville.

Small town charm. Loved walking around Market Square and Old City in downtown Knoxville. The architecture is beautiful and the people are friendly. 

It’s a very quiet town - quite a few buildings were closed, and not a ton of people out walking around, but that’s pretty understandable given that it was a weekday afternoon and nearly 100 degrees outside. 

The Minister’s Treehouse - Crossville, TN.

The world’s largest treehouse! This is definitely at the top of my list of favorite discoveries during this road trip. Located between Nashville and Knoxville, the Minister’s Treehouse is quite the spectacle.

We were a little hesitant as we drove up the driveway, with the “Private Property” and “No Vandalism” signs everywhere, but then we saw the “Parking” sign - that’s definitely a welcoming signal! 

The treehouse itself is just… huge. I’m not even entirely sure how many floors (and half floors) are built on top of each other, but it’s a maze inside.

There is the coolest lawnchair swing duct-taped together and hung from the very top of the treehouse all the way down to the ground - definitely don’t miss out on a little swing if you drop by. 

We were fortunate enough to actually run into Horace, the minister himself who constructed the treehouse! Such a sweet, friendly guy who was more than happy to tell us a little about the place and jump in a picture with me as well.

We climbed all the way to the top! There’s a little ladder up into the “belltower,” where there are a series of makeshift bells hanging from the roof. It’s a breathtaking view from the top. The inside of the treehouse is a series of stairways, ladders, and rooms of all sizes. In the center is a large, airy space with pews and old school desks, a Bible stand, and of all things… a basketball hoop! 

The whole place was just magical and so much fun to explore. This is a must-see if you’re ever in the state of Tennessee!

Off to Nashville next! Looking forward to visiting one of my favorite cities ever. 

August 2nd, 2012

#GantRoadTrip USA, Day 13+14 // Atlanta, GA


We uncovered a few really, really fantastic treasures in the city of Atlanta. 

First: Paris on PonceWe drove by the building by chance and I just had a feeling that I had to stop in, based on the signs painted on the walls outside. Boy, was I right.

Over 46,000 square feet of warehouse, filled with lands of consignment, vintage, antique, and new home furnishings. Seriously, it was Disneyland for adults.

Around every corner was another room filled with little setups, each one a bit unique from the next. I took a million photos. Plus, they were more than happy to let us bring Juliet in with us, giving me time to really browse to my heart’s content.

If we had a bigger car with us, I definitely would have taken some of this place home with me. 

If I had one place to recommend visiting in Atlanta, this would be it. 

We also stopped by the Olympic Centennial Park in downtown Atlanta. In the overbearing heat, those fountains looked mighty tempting. Very pretty to walk around, especially with the backdrop of downtown Atlanta skyscrapers lining the sky behind the park.

Little Five Points was one of my favorite neighborhoods in Atlanta. Very walkable, a lot of character, good food, and cute shops.

Aurora Coffee had really delicious iced tea and iced coffee, with a charming little outdoor wooden patio.

The Clothing Warehouse drew me in from the moment I saw a shelf of cowboy boots along the wall. It’s a great big vintage shop with tons of clothing, jewelry, and obviously, shoes, all for pretty reasonable prices.

Overall, Atlanta definitely gave me a lot of reasons to come back. Sometimes, I find it hard to like big cities just because they’re harder to get to know in such a short span of time, but I’m really glad that we found a few cute neighborhoods in Atlanta that I liked. 

Off to Knoxville next!

July 28th, 2012

#GantRoadTrip USA, Day 11+12 // Eating Our Way Through NOLA


Lafayette.

On the drive down to New Orleans, we were making great time so we decided to make a quick dinner stop at Prejean’s in Lafayette, Louisiana for some authentic cajun cuisine. 

I’ll be honest, Prejean’s was a little bit on the touristy side of things; however, the food did not disappoint. The freshly baked garlic rolls brought immediately to our table, Andy’s Catfish Prejean (perfectly juicy fried catfish), and my Crawfish Half-n-Half (half crawfish étouffée, half fried crawfish tails). Once we were sufficiently stuffed, we headed out to finish the last leg of our drive into New Orleans.

New Orleans.

What a city - filled with vibrant colors, music, and the food! Oh, the food. Where do I start?

I love the architecture of this city. The French Quarter is so fun to walk around to look at all the colorful buildings. The Garden District has a wealth of quintessential Victorian homes with white picket fences, wraparound porches, and beautifully intricate balconies. We also took the Canal - Algiers Ferry over to Algiers Point to take a little stroll around the charming little historical homes in that neighborhood.

Now let’s talk about that food. I’ve stuffed myself silly with the incredible flavors of New Orleans in the last 2 days. 

Fried shrimp po’boys, muffulettas, pork belly sandwiches, hot roast beef and gravy po’boys… New Orleans is a sandwich lover’s dream. 

And I can’t forget the world-famous beignets from Cafe du Monde (which also happens to serve quite the tasty iced coffee.). Every bite I took caused a powdered sugar cloud to explode everywhere - I think I’m still trying to get powdered sugar out of my phone. Totally worth it. 

A couple standout places we ate:

Cochon Butcher.

I can’t say enough great things about this place. I came across the fancier Cochon restaurant, but thought it was unfortunately out of our budget. Luckily, I then found Cochon Butcher which was just around the corner, and whose menu made me drool at first glance. It’s a simple setup in the middle of a warehouse district not too far from the French Quarter, with cured meats hanging on the walls.

We sat outside at one of the three outside bar tables (we’ve been treated to a lot of outdoor patios, thanks to Juliet). Ordered the pork belly sandwich, the cuban sandwich, pancetta mac-n-cheese, and the hot boudin.

First time eating boudin! I liked it, but was more excited about the hot mustard flavor than the sausage itself, to be entirely honest. 

Parkway Bakery and Tavern.

Parkway prides itself as the place that invented the Poor Boy sandwich, otherwise known as the po’boy, which started out as simply a baked loaf of bread filled with some potatoes and beef gravy. Now the bakery serves all types of different po’boys, but is well known for its hot roast beef, as well as the Parkway Surf’n’Turf - hot roast beef + fried shrimp + gravy.

The restaurant is a little far from the French Quarter, and in a quiet, slightly run down neighborhood, but once you pull up to it, you know you’re in the right place. It has a huge indoor seating area, as well as endless long tables set up under a tent outside for seating. Sandwiches are not expensive, $7 or $8 for a regular size po’boy. 

The Gazebo Cafe.

We stopped here mostly to recover from the extreme heat and humidity, but it ended up being a great first introduction to New Orlean’s sandwiches. A fried shrimp po’boy and a muffuletta later, we were re-energized and ready to hit the French Market just down the block.

Creole Gardens Inn.

I also can’t forget to mention the charming guesthouse that we have been staying in the last few days. Creole Gardens Inn is a bed and breakfast in the Lower Garden District, just a quick drive (or streetcar ride) away from the French Quarter as well as the Garden District. 

It’s the cutest Victorian mansion (from 1849) with the requisite rocking chairs on the front porch. You can stay in one of the mansion suites, or there are a series of servant’s quarter cottages behind the main building, where we chose to stay. The colors are so much fun.

Our room is small and simple, but spotlessly clean and up-to-date in every way necessary. A/C and ceiling fan that keep it more than cool, a clean blue and white bathroom with actual water pressure, more outlets than I can count, and free wi-fi!

The BEST thing about this place: it’s dog friendly! Juliet is having a blast sniffing around.

Even better, breakfast is a hot southern breakfast every morning, made to order: grits, eggs, bacon, sausage. Breakfast is served in the mansion house in a high ceiling-ed ballroom with sunny yellow walls and beautiful art/photography.

New Orleans, it’s been fantastic. I’ll definitely be back! Off to Atlanta tomorrow!

July 26th, 2012

#GantRoadTrip USA, Day 8-10 // Joplin, MO - Dallas, TX


Oh no! Flat tire!

Took us about an hour to get it all cleared up, since Andy’s car is way more complicated than one would typically expect. But thanks to AAA and a very handy and helpful car guy from Goodland, KS, we were fixed and on our way without too much trouble.

Joplin, MO.

A day and a half spent with Andy’s family was so relaxing. Home-cooked meals. Laundry. Swimming! A perfect little break after a long, long day of driving.

The Peanut Shoppe.

If you’re ever near the border between Oklahoma and Texas, make sure to stop at the Peanut Shoppe (on the Oklahoma side). You’ll see signs pointing to it from a few miles away. 

More candy, chocolate, and canned goodies than you could dream of. Peanut brittle, fudge, beef jerky, hot and spicy mustard. You name it. We came away with some delicious jalapeno beef jerky and pecan brittle, which definitely won’t last too long with the way that I keep snacking in the car.

Dallas, TX.

I grew up in Dallas, and haven’t been back for over a decade, so I really wanted to make the trip back. We had dinner with my family’s host family when we first moved to the states, and my Mom’s English teacher. Great conversation and great food. So great to see old family friends and catch up. 

We also stopped by my old neighborhood to see the house I grew up in, as well as my middle school. Both seem so much smaller than how I remember them. 

And that’s it! Back to the road for us. I am indescribably excited for New Orleans - I think the real eating portion of our trip has begun! (As if we haven’t been eating enough already.)

July 26th, 2012

#GantRoadTrip USA, Day 6+7 // Denver - Rocky Mountain Nat’l Park


Colorado is pretty beautiful. It was really nice to see some green forests and vibrant colors, after the desert of Arizona and Utah (although the deserts were absolutely gorgeous sometimes too!).

Even the drive in was pretty:

We got a recommendation to stop at the Dam Brewery in Dillon, CO. Definitely a good idea. Tried the sampler - the Irish Stout and the Dam Straight Lager were my favorites.

The next day, we headed straight out for Rocky Mountain National Park. Andy and I have both been there before, but we both knew we wanted to go back another time. The drive up was long, but the towns of Lyons and Estes Park are both charming and cute.

(We ended up stopping in Lyons on the way back for lunch at a place called the Barking Dog Cafe. Incredibly good fresh sandwiches, and free dog biscuits for Juliet!)

Juliet came across her first chipmunk up in Rocky Mountain National Park. Also, her second and third chipmunks. It made for quite the exciting walk. 

We were all very grateful for the refreshing, cool mountain air at the top. At one point, we reached at 2.5 miles above sea level, and the temperature dropped to the mid-60s, which is probably the lowest we’ve seen over our entire trip so far. 

After a little walk and lunch in Lyons, we headed back to the city of Denver.

First stop, Tattered Cover Bookstore! (Duh.) 

The photo below really doesn’t do it justice at all, but I was too busy being in awe of all the books to remember to take a good picture. The historic architecture of the building makes it feel warm but grand and airy at the same time. Wood rafters, wooden staircases, and all sorts of shelves piled high with some of the most unique categories of books I’ve ever seen. 

I especially loved that there were so many shelves of recommendations, including those from staff members. Tattered Cover seems to do a fantastic job for those book-lovers who come to a bookstore for book discovery, rather than those who already have in mind exactly what they want.

This is the travel section. It’s probably at least twice that size, plus another section for just Colorado. If you’ve seen my Lonely Planet collection on my bookshelf, you understand that I wanted to take that entire section home with me.

Great Divide Brewery.

Denver’s highly-renowned local brewing company. Great outdoor patio, with a food truck parked right outside. $4 beers. $3 fo 3 samplers. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Definitely a must-do for anyone visiting Denver.

Euclid Hall.

We met up with an old high school friend for dinner, and she recommended Euclid Hall. She had described it as a mixture of German and Canadian cuisine, and my interest was definitely piqued. Simply fantastic food, in a great historical building. 

We went with the following: Duck poutine, pickle sampler, kielbasa, fried green caprese, soft shell crab sandwich. Everything was delicious! Go try it yourself. 

That’s all! We’ve got a long drive ahead of us through eastern Colorado, all of Kansas, to Missouri tomorrow. Time to get some rest.

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@marissahu

"I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move."
- Robert Louis Stevenson