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A Floridian’s 5 Best & Worst Things About Apple Picking

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I had an opportunity during my last sojourn to Connecticut to accomplish a Fall staple that’s been on my bucket list for years. While I’m originally from New England, I’d never been  apple picking! Sure, I’ve picked out my own pumpkins from church yard sales, but fresh “You Pick” fruits? Nope. They do have opportunities in South Florida, Bedner’s in Boynton Beach for instance, but what South Florida truly lacks is a legitimate Autumn feeling. You know, the season where you can smell the rain in the air, and the trees are about to show you how wonderful it is to let dead things go. I miss that, immensely. And I foolishly thought that mid-September was fall. It’s not. It’s not officially fall until September 21st. Semantics. I tried to force the fall. Hence, the apple picking trip whether it was 82 degrees or 62 degrees out. It was 82. I dragged my godparents to Lyman Orchards in Middlefield, CT. It was 100% worth the 45 minute drive.

Here goes: 5 Best and Worst Things About Apple Picking 

Best 

  1. Variety. Rows and rows and rows of apples. I was one-track minded when it came to our apple-picking. I wanted Honeycrisp, and Honeycrips only. But, Lyman offered Gala, Honeycrisp, Courtland, Jonagold, Macoun during this particular time of the season. I hadn’t heard of half of those varieties. Lyman also offers You-Pick peaches, pears, squash, and starting next week (9/21) You-Pick pumpkins!

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  2. Sampling apples fresh off the tree. What? We can do that? Just pick one and taste it? Yes. Yes, you can. As I mentioned before, I love honeycrisp. I love honeycrisp freshly picked even more. Make sure you actually eat the entire apple though. It’s wasteful and looked down upon to sample a bite and chuck it under the tree. Apple trees were also nothing like I thought they would look like. I blame that on the old Johnny Appleseed cartoons. Apple trees have a few girthy, main branches, and smaller ancillary branches which drop lower, weighed down by fruit.

  3. Sharing an experience with your family. There were plenty of families and couples spread through the seemingly endless acres of fruit. To me, picking apples is a fall staple. I was happy to share that with my godparents.

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  4. The Apple Barn (Which is also on the worst list for a completely different reason) – Apple cider, cider donuts, apple butter, apple sauce, apple fritters, apple muffins, apple crisp, I’ll stop there but you get the idea.

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  5. Fall Photo Ops – I opted to leave my Rebel at home this trip. I did a little photography with my iPhone, but man was I missing my Canon! Regardless, the Orchard offered so many different photo opportunities!

 

 5 Worst Things About Apple Picking

  1. It’s not in Florida. Really. This distance thing is a real pain the apple.
  2. Yellow freaking jackets. So many things with stings. I’m cool with bees, but I will ugly run in a panic from yellow jackets.
  3. The Apple Barrel – This is only on the worst list because it’s impossible to narrow your selection down, and anything you do choose will be calorie-laden, but it’s so worth it.
  4. Being short. Sometimes the best looking apples are up high. One family did have this awesome tall tree picking device they ordered from Amazon. It looked like a modified lacrosse stick.
  5. It’s seasonal. But, that’s not the fruit’s fault. 🙂
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Batman on my mind.

And Transformers.  I haven’t quite been in Chicago for a full day, yet all I can think of as I wander around are the Christian Bale Batman movies and Transformers. The tower that got destroyed in Transformers is visible from my hotel. The other buildings and scenery from Batman are all around. I’m ready to start truly exploring tomorrow. I took it easy today, as I’d been up since quarter to five. The Hard Rock Hotel is…OK. I think I was rather spoiled at Hard Rock Orlando, and I was expecting the Chicago location to meet or beat that experience. But it’s fine. I have a gigantic bed all to myself. I took a walk to Walgreens to grab some water and snacks for breakfast. After that, I crashed. A nice nap left me feeling refreshed and ready to go seek out Au Cheval. I will say this upfront – “I am Jenn and I don’t typically eat burgers.” I’m super picky. The only burgers I really love are the little sliders from Yard House, add bacon, add bbq sauce. But my friends who suggested Au Cheval did not steer me wrong. The diner typically is on long waits in the evening. The couple in front of me was quoted an hour and a half. Ayyy! Solo traveler perks! I waited a little over five minutes to snatch a seat at the counter. I ordered a Raspberry Cider and the ‘Single’ with bacon.

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Welllllllll, the single is actually a double. The first bite was perfect. The bun was buttery and lightly toasted, the cheese melty, a burst of freshness from the pickle. I ate half and was already stuffed.

 

 

I wasn’t done though. I had seen pictures of their Mille Feuille. Deciding to leave the half-eaten dessert behind was one of the toughest decisions of the summer. The pastry was crisp and the light, the vanilla filling, I have no words. The server brought it out and gave it a giant whack with the steak knife.  This picture is pre-whack.  (Photos from google image search, as I was too busy eating to take pictures.

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I would definitely recommend checking out Au Cheval.

Tomorrow’s agenda includes a river architecture tour and the Shedd aquarium.

I’ll be busting out the camera.

Everything is OK (…no, panic, you’ll feel better)

Also known as the, “Jenn didn’t read the fine print in the Expedia Delta flight selection section.” Yeah, my bad. With a particular level of economy tickets purchased, Delta does not allow you to pick a seat, rather they assign you one at the gate. I don’t do well in the middle seat, who does really? I had myself a nice little panic moment during my layover in Atlanta, hyperventilating, almost to the point of tears. It is the most absurd contradiction to have one half of your mind telling you everything is terrible, you can’t sit there, why did you go away to begin with, you want to go home; and then have the other half of your mind telling you that you’re being ridiculous. It’s an hour and 23 minutes in a plane. You’ll be fine.  And you know what? I was fine.

Cool for the Summer

The word summer written in the sand on a beach

I need to get better at updating. I had a small staycation in April that I didn’t post about, but I will upload those pictures this week. School has been out for an entire week. I’ve spent roughly $1600 in that time frame. Ha. $1200 of it is my trip to Chicago that’s coming up in a few weeks. Florida is a monsoon magnet in the summer. After I’m done with the gym and picking up the house, I usually either watch a movie or … go shop. I need to quell that urge soon. I have a mini adventure planned for the end of the month – Shark Diving! Hopefully, I’ll be able to take some underwater shots. I debated getting a GoPro, but I’m not sure if that’s a purchase I want to make.

I’ve decided to focus on improving myself as much as I can in the next two months, in addition to any traveling. The gym has become my new hang out spot. I was stressing towards the end of May. What was I going to do for 9 weeks off? But I feel much calmer and focused now. I hit the gym five days this week. And I’m finding little things to fill my day. I’m also going to volunteer at the local animal shelter. AND excitingly, I’m taking up dance classes again.

My (so far) big adventure this summer: Chicago.

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I’d contemplated going to Chicago for spring break, but that didn’t happen.

I’m spending 5 nights in the Windy City. What are some of the things you all like to do in Chicago?
I’m definitely going to:
☑ Take an architectural river cruise
☑ Visit the Shedd Aquarium
☑ Visit the Field Museum
☑ Try some recommended restaurants

Some friends have suggested purchasing a CityPass. It’s around $100 and grants VIP/Fast Pass access to the Hancock and Willis buildings, Aquarium, Museum and one other location.

There are a few friends from high school and college hanging around the city, so I’m hoping to see them as well.

Hope everyone’s summer is going amazingly. What kind of adventures are you going on?

 

Right, where did we leave things?

img_1784My last day in London was one of the best. I was on no particular time frame. I had tea scheduled at 12:30 PM at One Aldwych Hotel  – I highly recommend this! It was the first thing I had planned when I booked my trip. I woke up around 9 am and headed out towards Westminster Abbey. During one of my other tours, the guide had mentioned the lines could get long. I also learned while waiting in said line, that if you booked your tickets online, you could skip the line – so, that’s something you might want to look into. Westminster was absolutely amazing, awe-inspiring and humbling. While my knowledge of the Tudors is mostly thanks to Showtime, it is still amazing to walk by the tombs of these past kings and queens. I was especially floored to view Charles Darwin and Newton’s memorials. I was a good girl and didn’t take pictures, but I wish I had. You’re not allowed to.

 

After Westminster, I took a few shots of the clock tower and parliament, and headed back to my hotel to get ready for tea. Tea was … amazing. The level of service provided was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I felt completely spoiled, which for someone who actually is completely spoiled, that’s saying a lot. The theme of the tea was ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’. The dessert course was extravagant. My favorite was the edible chocolate golden goose egg filled with vanilla cheesecake filling, topped with mango puree. The oddest bit was the rhubarb flavored cotton candy. o_O

After tea, I walked along the river Thames for a bit taking pictures and thinking and processing the fact that I had just completed a vacation in a foreign country by myself without an anxiety attack. In fact, I feel as if I flourished in London.

I headed back to my hotel and took a quick power nap. I had scheduled a haunted London tour for 7:30 PM.

The tour was …. OK. I wouldn’t recommend it. We traced the steps of Jack the Ripper which was cool. We saw the memorial for William Wallace. The most exciting part of the trip for me was seeing the roof and call box at St. Bart’s where Sherlock was filmed.

 

I headed home after the tour to finish packing. I had to get up early to catch my flight home. I truly cannot wait to go back to London. I feel like it’s a problem because there are other places I’d like to visit, but I’d be perfectly content visiting London again.

 

And sometimes you have to sleep until noon.

And eat ice cream for Thanksgiving dinner.

After waking up at 6:30 am on Tuesday, and 4:30 am on Wednesday, I ended up sleeping until just about noon on Thursday. I struggled internally with wanting to go out and explore and being just too damn tired to do so. I decided that I would be no good sight seeing if I was exhausted and I let myself sleep.

When I finally was dressed and ready to go, I set out in search of …

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Harrods is huge. No, really. Even with a map, I had to go back twice in order to find the ice cream parlor. There were several eateries in the lower levels, a produce store, butchery, raw bar, etc. Holy cow. Huge. Store. I did find the ice cream parlor. So, I present to you my delicious Thanksgiving dinner …. A Creme Brûlée  Doughnut with Chocolate, Vanilla, Hazelnut and Raspberry Gelato.  Yeah, it was good.

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Before I had returned to Harrod’s in search of ice cream, I had walked around Hyde Park and had lunch at the Hard Rock. I didn’t fare so well with the British cuisine. I’m a bit of a picky eater, so I tried to find American type restaurants.

I zipped back to my hotel and changed so I could meet my friend Rob and his fiance Laura out for some Cheeky Nandos!

Cheeky Nando’s is a British expression typically used on social media to describe a quality dining experience at the South African restaurant chain Nando’s. In late 2014, the phrase began trending in captions of selfie photographs featuring subjects making an “A-OK” hand signal.”

They introduced me to my  new favorite food : Halloumi Cheese! I was a bit surprised I enjoyed, because again, picky eater. But it’s freaking delicious.

Rob and Laura also introduced me to my first proper pub, the Nag’s Head. I ordered our drinks from the bartender, paid, WITHOUT tipping. That still feels unnatural!

After the pub, Rob and Laura walked me to this club called Cahoots! I saw it on Buzzfeed. It’s 1940s-themed and has an old railcar in the actual bar. The interior design was pretty cool. The bouncer out front – super hot. It wasn’t as busy inside as I thought it would be but everyone played up the ’40s theme. This was my third encounter with the foam thing on top of the drinks.

I didn’t take many pictures on Thursday. It was really my first day to catch up on things. But I enjoyed getting out and walking around. The underground system in London is extremely accessible and easy to follow. I ended up getting out of the bar super late and I grabbed an Uber. It would have been 9 pounds, but I had a coupon, still that wasn’t a bad deal.

You, me and Paris

1img_6131It was approximately a year ago I sent a text message to my biffle with the text: “You, me and Paris?” superimposed over an image of the Eiffel Tower.

It’s been approximately 17 years since I’ve contemplated visiting Europe at all.

Day two of my trip found me tossing and turning, fighting my way through lucid nightmares of sleeping through my 4:30 am alarm and missing my Euro Star train to Paris.  My parents had bought me an awesome tour package to Paris for the day as a birthday present. Thanks Mom and Glenn.

I did wake up on time. I only had a tiny meltdown, when for some reason my curling iron decided it didn’t agree with European outlets. I had prepped my already curly hair for curling, so I had to yank a brush through it and flat iron it in about 15 minutes to make my taxi cab for 5:15 am, to make it to the train station for 6 am.  Yeah… I’m already not a morning person, let alone a jet lagged, it’s really 1 am morning person.

When I met up with tour group at St. Pancras, I received my train ticket and had to step away for a moment.

img_6421Yep. Good ol’ seat 13. You might be asking, “Anxious Adventurer, why would this make you cry? ”

Well blog readers, my dad passed away when I was a kid and 13 was his lucky number and my lucky number. Ever since his passing, 13 always seems to have a way of appearing on my birthday. And this year is no different. It made me feel at ease immediately.

The train ride itself was uneventful, save for the rampant painful ear popping. I suppose that’s the price you pay for descending beneath the depths of the ocean. I still can’t quite fathom how they create tunnels under the ocean. I suppose I could google it …

My first impressions of Paris derived from District 18. It was difficult to shake the Hunger Games out of my head every time our amazing tour guide spoke of districts. I was a bit surprised by Paris. My cousin had spent a few weeks in Paris on her honeymoon, and I wasn’t as enchanted by the city as she is. I definitely prefer London. Paris seemed extremely crowded, frenetic, and graffitied. That said, I was all but hopping out of my seat when came upon the Moulin Rouge. That movie was the very first DVD I ever owned.

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The bulk of my pictures were taken through a bus window .. the whole ‘panoramic’ tour of Paris. But ah, the Moulin Rouge. Our guide explained that it’s not Can Can, it’s pronounced Con Con, to resemble the noise geese make. She truly was a great guide. After the bus tour, we took a cruise down the Seine River. At the end of the river tour, the sky cleared up, offering a crisp blue background for the Eiffel Tower.

Lunch at the Tower took a little bit longer than I would have liked. Even with “skip the line” lunch passes, it still took a good 45 minutes to get seated.  We ate lunch, weird foam thing again …. bought some souvenirs, and then my tour friend Ron and I had to book it down the 350 stairs from the first landing to make our bus. Worth it. Better down than up 🙂

After the Eiffel Tower, we had the option of exploring the Louvre or exploring Paris on our own for two hours. Now, there was a noticeably greater police presence in the city of Paris, but I didn’t feel as comfortable in Paris as I did in London. I don’t speak French apart from saying Hello, Goodbye, My name is Jenn, Do you want to have a threesome with me? I ended up opting for the Louvre tour, which wasn’t in my original plans. I couldn’t be happier.

While I consider myself a patron of the performing arts, I had no clue how much I would love the Louvre, mainly because of how much Roman and Greek statues were there. I also had NO clue it used to be a palace before Versailles was built. Again, thanks to our great tour guide — she used to study at the Louvre — she led us around quickly from room to room describing the history of pieces, rooms, and more. It was quite the experience.

Paris was the one place I had no cell phone service and I was actually OK with that. I was able to check in once in a while via WIFI to let people know I hadn’t been “taken”. But I feel I was able to enjoy a much richer cultural experience. Our group was almost 100% Americans (Yay Thanksgiving break) and there were a few tweenage girls who were playing games on their phone and I just wanted to give them a shake and say “Do you know what you’re seeing?!” Even when I was 12/13 and my parents had taken me up and down the East Coast camping – I was the one telling them about plantation life at the plantation grounds in South Carolina, or completely enthralled in Charleston listening to the stories being told on the horse drawn carriage rides. Paris was just… an experience. The Louvre was an experience. And the Mona Lisa … was super small.

Please do not take photographs…until you know what you’re photographing..

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Or … the most passive aggressive tour guide ever.

Day 2.

The best of London Tour! Or… perfectly adequate views of some of the sights of London tour as I call it. It was fine. But I wouldn’t call it the best. The tour guide was … sassy for a middle-aged British dude. His comments were for sure aimed at me. But I can take photos and listen simultaneously …cheeky entitled American. I’ll let the photos do the talking.

I visited St. Pauls Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, cruised the River Thames, Greenwich, and took a ride on the Eye. There are a few shots in from the bus as well.

St. Paul’s was … beautiful. Buckingham Palace was entertaining. There were heads of state arriving in the carriages and tourists about lost their minds over it. The Tower of London was massive. I had no clue how large it was. I have so many more photos but I tried to pick my favorites, and just I played with the color levels on some. As a big fan of Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and the Tudors, I loved seeing the birth place of Henry the VIII.

London Day 1

I don’t think I had any set expectations about how traveling solo in a foreign country would feel or be, but it certainly wasn’t anything like my trip was. My trip was … amazing. It was stress free. It was peaceful. It was full of doing exactly what I want, when I want. Which I tend to do anyway, but this was different. I typically do most things alone anyway, but I didn’t have any type of set schedule, apart from the tours I had booked. I allowed myself to be spoiled — by myself without feeling guilty. I had booked a more expensive hotel. And it was worth it. I owe it to myself after the last few years of hard work and dedication to my career and my own self-worth and happiness to a ‘treat yo self’ vacation.

As soon as I de-planed and got through customs, which didn’t take nearly as long as I thought, it actually took longer coming home, I bought a SIM card for 30 pounds. It had 12 GB of data. I barely used a gig. I highly recommend doing that if you’re traveling abroad. It gave me a London-based phone number, internet service, texting, etc. The London number helped for apps like UBER and for the taxi services, etc.

My hotel. I stayed at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Vanderbilt. Yeah. That’s a mouthful.
I loved it!  I arrived around noon after taking a cab with My London Taxi (They were great). My room wasn’t supposed to be ready until 3pm, so I had planned on just dropping my luggage and roaming London, but low and behold, my room was ready, and not only that — the hotel upgraded me to a King Suite! I did a little dance in my head. I had also mentioned upon booking that I was staying in London for my birthday. As soon as I had unpacked a few of my articles of clothing, a knock on the door — and WINE compliments of the guest relations advisor for my birthday.

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Yes, Radisson Blu, you have won me over. The room was just beautiful. It did feel very posh and fancy, but I loved it. I had read that the rooms were typically small, especially the bathroom. And it was, but for a solo traveler, it was fine. I never did figure out how to make the bathtub work…

 

The room had a mini fridge, hair dryer, shampoo, conditioner, soap, etc., robes, slippers, the heat worked, had a lovely view of Kensington, and probably the best feature of all was that it was barely a 3 min walk to the underground station.

My first night in London I spent drinking wine and eating M&Ms fighting my jet lag! I headed out to dinner with a friend — to a highly British spot TGIFridays! No really. Food was an issue. I’m a picky eater. I tried to stick to mainly American eateries. I was baffled by the fact that they have no ranch.

 

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