The 3D Museum of Wonder 

I recently traveled to Playa del Carmen, Mexico for a little R & R and made it a point to stop at the 3D Museum of Wonder.  Since I had never traveled to the Rivera Maya, I searched on Trip Advisor for activities in Playa del Carmen.  Lo and behold, I stumbled upon the blurb about the museum and knew immediately that I had to go.  My travel buddy Christine also said it looks cool so we should do it.

We took the 20 minute cab ride to the town of Playa del Carmen and were dropped off in front of a huge beige building.  We walked inside and were greeted by a worker who showed us a pamphlet about the museum.  He didn’t have to sell us on the idea.  Admission was $30 USD and we marched up the stairs to begin our journey.

We were met by Jack, who would be our guide/photographer for the walk through the museum.  He sat us down and told us that shoes were not allowed in the museum.  He gathered our shoes and gave us peds to wear so as to not ruin the art.  He told us that the 56 installations are the products of Kurt Wenner from Michigan.  Each one of the illusions costs around $10,000 to install.  The museum has been opened for roughly 1.5 years.

So on we went.  With each turn of the corner, Christine and I were more amazed. Some of these “paintings” filled an entire room.  The concepts of some of them were rather ridiculous, but none the less fun to enact.  This place allows for the inner actress to appear.

In case you’re not sure how to pose, Jack was able to guide us in posing.  Plus, when he was assisting others, there would be photos on side walls to give you ideas on your poses.  There were little markers on the ground that would tell the photographer where to stand to be able to capture the full 3D illusion.

The further in you walked, the cooler and more awesome these illusions became.  Since Christine and I came on a weekday, we were able to spend more time in the museum and not feel rushed because of the need to move quicker for others to take pictures.  

It was tons of fun figuring out what we wanted to do with each scene.  Plus, each illusion offered up several different ways of posing. Entire families could enjoy acting out scenes without anyone being excluded. It was a wonderland of imagination that children would love to fall into.  Even big kids like myself had a blast.

Some illusions had me losing my balance to be able to get the proper effect with the photo. Jack was helpful in lining us up in the right position for certain photos such as the one below.

There are some illusions that when you look at the pose photo to get an idea as to what you could be doing, you just want to make it that much cooler.  For example, there was a zebra illusion that looked like the zebra was jumping back into the painting.  Instead of just holding on to the legs as if you’re trying to pull on the zebra, I decided I wanted an action shot.  I wanted to look like the zebra was pulling me into the picture.  So I asked Christine to just hold down the photo button and go into burst mode.  45 pictures later, I had a photo of me holding on for dear life as I am being swept away by the zebra.  What do you think?

This is my favorite photo of the museum journey.  My mom was blown away by this and used her favorite word to describe it “sharp”.  

This entire museum is meant to have you laughing and acting out wild ideas.  It’s an Instagrammer’s best friend and a definite stop if you are ever in the Playa del Carmen area.  It seems that many tourists don’t know about this museum which is good and bad.  It allows for more time to enjoy posing and getting ridiculous, but something this awesome should be known. 

As you can see, at one point, we had the museum to ourselves.  Like I said, I’m not complaining.  I was able to act like a fool and not care.  

The above is an action shot of me actually losing my balance and falling into the fiery realms of hell.  It’s not fun down there.

Overall, if you are ever in the Riviera Maya and want a unique experience, visit the 3D Museum of Wonder in Playa del Carmen.  It would be a great rainy day activity.  Allow yourself the chance to act out all of your wildest imaginations.  You will not be disappointed.  

Road Trip: Chattanooga, TN

This past weekend, I accompanied my friend Diana to Chattanooga, TN.  Her photography group had planned an overnight trip with stops in Lula Lake Land Trust and other tourist destinations.  It was a great way to see the city and capture some fantastic pictures.

Driving North on 75 for roughly 2 hours, we arrived at Lula Lake Land Trust in Lookout Mountain, GA.  I had never met any of the members of the photo group, but all were very welcoming.  While they had all their fancy cameras and gear, I had my iPhone camera.

There were lots of hikers and dogs that were enjoying the trails.  The shortest trail was 3/4 of a mile to the first waterfall and bridge.  The sounds of rushing water and voices of families congregated in the bridge attempting to snap the perfect family photo filled the air. 

As we continued to walk, we came upon a rocky path that lead to the bottom of the lake where the small waterfall spilled out.  It was picturesque.  The white gushing water emptying into greenish-blue water.  The cliffs in the sides eroded away from years of currents.  Once again, this was a popular spot for many photos.

The photo group continued to walk and came upon the bigger waterfall.  It was loud and raging.  There was a rainbow in the mist of the waterfall at the base.  I kept snapping pictures because it was so beautiful.

There were wooden and dirt steps that lead down to the base of that waterfall.  People that are coming from the base were saying it’s worth the trek down.  Why the hell not? Go big or go home, right?  

I began to descend the steps and I was able to catch up with an older gentleman in our group. Joey had his camera bag slung around his shoulder and camera hanging from his neck. Joey and I were the only ones who decided to descend the steps.  I told Joey that I’m right behind him just to let him know if he needed help with the trek.  He grabbed my hand and said we’ll go down together.  I think he thought he was doing me a favor as if I needed assistance, but it was a good thing I was there because Joey slipped and fell on his ass.  I pulled him up and then continued down the steps this time a few paces in front of him and not holding hands.  I was more comfortable since I didn’t want to be dragged down if he was going down.  

As I turned around to see how he was doing, he slipped again this time off of the steps into the dirt on the side and began to fall forward grasping at anything that could break his fall. He grabbed a branch that just bent 90 degrees and didn’t stop him.  He was able to plant his foot into the ground and hit a vine in order to stop.  I reached out to grab his camera bag to help pull him back and then he was able to reach for my hand.  For an old dude, he was able to get right back up, dust off the excess mud that was now on his knees and continue down the steps.  

Once we reached the bottom of the steps, you had to maneuver over some boulders and rocks to get closer to the big rock that was near the waterfall.  The sound of the water was intense and the mist was soaking everyone.  I wasn’t very close to the large rock but I was getting rained on.

I began to stream the waterfall on Facebook Live because I wanted people to see how cool it was.  The bottom was very muddy and I crept closer.  I didn’t feel comfortable climbing on the rock because my luck would be to slip and fall into the water and drown so I kept my distance.  

When I turned around, I saw Joey with an iPhone in his hands.  He said the girl on the rock wanted him to take a picture of her doing a handstand.  I’m sure the look on my face clearly read “whaaaattttt?”  I turned around and began snapping.  It took her 2 tries to get fully vertical and on her way back to standing, I photographed what would be one of my favorite pictures I’ve ever taken.  Her handstand helped define the massive scale of the waterfall.

After snapping those pics, hunger began to set in so Diana and I decided to go grab a late lunch at Adelle’s Creperie on the Southside of Chattanooga.

We arrived with 30 minutes to spare since the restaurant closes at 2:30pm.  We met the owner who said he would be more than willing to accommodate any others from our group no matter what time they arrived.  He was very welcoming and told us about his little restaurant.  It was in a warehouse that is used for many events.  We were introduced to his daughter Adelle who “wanted a restaurant so we opened a restaurant.”  Empty picture frames and mirrors lined the walls, Edison bulbs hung from the ceiling and a piano sat in a corner.  

Diana and I wanted to try a savory and sweet crepe.  We were able to pick a half and half deal which would have them split 1 gigantic crepe into 2 and have the best of both worlds. My savory crepe was a bacon, egg and Havarti cheese crepe while my sweet one was filled with chocolate.  I washed it down with an organic chocolate ice cream milk shake. Everything was so good.  I housed those crepes.  Simple presentation but the food was divine.  When in Chattanooga, eat at Adelle’s!

Our next stop was the Air BnB which was 12 miles away.  We had an entire apartment and relaxed for a few hours before going to meet the group for dinner.  In those few hours, the rain came through and chilled the already cold air even more.

Around 6pm, we arrived at The Terminal Brew House on Market Street.  Roger had reserved the 3rd floor for the group.  We had a wonderful salad and thin-styled pizza with a pillowy crust. It was very good.  I enjoyed listening to the group discuss picture distortion and photoshop. I particularly enjoyed the discussion on fashion photography.

Once dinner was over, most of the group were returning to GA that night.  We said our goodbyes and continued to wander the streets around The Terminal.

I was unaware that the old Chattanooga Choo Choo train cars were remodeled to accommodate people.  That’s right!  The old trains on the tracks were hotel rooms!  This blew my mind!  If you looked closely you could see people lounging on beds and children playing.  It was really cool.  The tracks were surrounded by torches and manicured gardens.

We walked a little farther along Market Street, but most businesses were closed. 9 o’clock on a Saturday night and the Southside of Chattanooga was quiet.  Diana and I decided to head back to the Air BnB and prep for the following morning’s adventure.  The plan was to get up early to go to the Riverfront and watch the sunrise, but that didn’t happen.

The following morning, we drove to Milk & Honey, a small restaurant that has many delicious options for breakfast.  Tons of organic lattes and juices along with yummy food and pastries.  I ordered the special which was a blueberry waffle with cinnamon whipped cream. To my delight, bacon came with it and we all know that everything is better with bacon!

Roger and Gail met us at Milk & Honey and we decided to venture to the Chattanooga Zoo. We were the first people in the zoo and it was nice having the zoo to ourselves without children running around and disturbing our shots.  

Diana and I stopped at the ape and gorilla enclosure first.  It seemed they were ready for us.  They would walk up to the windows and get into a pose that could best be described as “the pissed off school teacher”. Leaning on their knuckles while staring at the class with no facial expression.  

The vet tech told us the youngest male was the dominant male which was surprising.  I must also say that I have never witnessed ape ass like these.  I didn’t realize they were so saggy and wrinkly.  It almost looks painful especially when they sit on them.  It’s as if they are squishing this extra mound of flesh; like massive hemmorhoids.  Get these apes some Preparation H stat!

As we ventured around the zoo, we walked into many exhibits.  The Fennec Fox was adorable with its tiny body and huge ears.  The meerkats scurrying around and the sloth sleeping and then waking up for breakfast.  There was no roof to his exhibit. I guess the zookeepers feel there is no way in hell it will move fast enough to get out.

There were 2 Chinese Alligators that were floating.  It was mating season and they warned not to tap in the glass.

The outside exhibits featured cougars, screeching peacocks who were attempting to find their mates.  The males had their feathers in full bloom and were running after the females.  Too bad that way of dating doesn’t happen anymore.  Thank you Millenials for ruining dating.

I saw the cutest red panda and many species of monkeys.

The highlight of the zoo was the camel ride. Since I don’t know when I will be traveling to the Middle East, why not ride a camel in Tennessee?  We chatted up the zoologist and she informed us about the camels health and coats.  Bradley was the youngest camel and he would be giving us our rides.  He had a slight skin condition near his ass.  The zoologist and the vet tech kept picking things off of him.  I’m not sure if Bradley enjoyed that, but I snapped several pictures because I thought they would be great for a meme.

 See what I meme?  See what I did there?

One of the workers gave me some camel hair which is super soft and strong.  The difference between the winter coat and summer coat is night and day.  The winter coat feels like shag carpeting while the summer coat is a little longer and thicker than peach fuzz.  They can drink 30 gallons of water in 13 minutes and like their lips rubbed.  While riding on top of one for a few minutes, it hits me that people ride these animals in the desert at this slow pace. Sweltering sun and moving super slow does not sound pleasant, but I’m sure I would be excited if given the opportunity.  Yes, I snapped a picture.

After the camel ride, we found Roger and Gail taking pictures of Cotton-Top Tamarins.  They are cute little monkey-like creatures.  Their heads in constant motion as they look at us taking pictures.  

Their ugly relative the Pied Tamarins look like gargoyles.  They have less hair on their heads and look like Zoul’s creatures from Ghostbusters. Both species are endangered due to development in South America.

Cotton top= cute.  Pied=Zoul

There were jaguars basking in the sun staring at me as I clicked away.  I always wonder if they’re like “Here come these assholes again.”

Once we walked the entire zoo, Diana and I decided to grab some lunch, but first we hit up The Hot Chocolatier.  

As you can guess, hot chocolate is their specialty, but they do sell homemade chocolates, truffles and pastries.  I opted for the S’mores frozen hot chocolate with a homemade marshmallow on top.  It was divine.  Diana had a spicy hot chocolate which she enjoyed.

We decided to grab lunch at The Terminal Brew House again before we hit the road.  I had a yummy club sandwich with a BBQ mayo.  The mayo was very good.  It added a whole different flavor to a regular club. 

As we drove off, I wondered when I would visit again.  It’s only 2 hours from my house and is a wonderful place to visit for the day. Chattanooga is a young people’s city.  If you enjoy outdoor activities, it’s a great trip.  From hiking to the Tennessee Aquarium to underground waterfalls at Ruby Falls, there are tons of options to keep everyone satisfied.  

Hotjam Atlanta

Monday night, I experienced what seemed like a dream.  Carpooling with a new friend from dance class, Linda drove  to a quiet residential street in Buckhead and parked her SUV under a streetlight.  “We have to walk down there”, exclaimed Linda.  “Are you serious?” was my reaction.  She guided me down a dirt path towards a log cabin in the woods.  This has all the trappings of a horror movie, but I digress. Knowing where my ultimate destination was, part of me felt like I should be carrying a watermelon (hopefully, you get the Dirty Dancing reference).  We walked up the steps and knocked on the door.  A stocky guy with a mohawk named Chris answered and welcomed us inside.  This is where my anxiety transformed into pure excitement.

Upon entering, I took notice of the beautiful wood floor and nice size stage.  Chairs lined the walls inviting guests to relax.  Several others spanning different generations were already waiting for the 8pm lesson to begin. Some of the men wore suits, bow ties and suspenders while the ladies donned light-as-a-feather skirts that twirled easily with keds. Others, including myself, had jeans and comfortable kicks on so we could move around the floor without slipping.  I know if I were to wear my typical dance shoes, I would not have been able to move confidently out of fear of slipping.  Maybe once I get a little more accustomed to the floor and the dance steps, I’ll accept the dance shoe challenge, but until then I’ll stick with my Adidas Superstars.

Mohawk man Chris was our instructor and invited all of us to join him on the floor where he told us he will be teaching 6 count swing for the next 30 minutes.  I am familiar with 6 count swing because it is very similar to Jive.  The only difference is Jive has the dancer pulling their knees upward to resemble a bounce in the step.

Our first step was the basic 6 count rocker step with a closed hand hold (count 1-2), 3 quick steps forward as if you are going to Cha-Cha (3-and-4) and 3 quick steps backward (5-and-6).  The quick steps resemble a shuffle.  Then, you repeat the steps.  Once the basic steps were taught, Chris proceeded to teach the underarm turn which leads to an open hold. From the underarm turn, we then learned the ladies’ turn and the gentlemens’ turn.  Each time the move was practiced, the men would rotate.  Polite introductions would be made and the lesson would proceed.

There were so many guys there.  It makes me happy to see men participating in dance.  The funny thing is that all the men had a smile on their face and all wanted to be there.  Not one appeared to have been ripped away from the TV or nagged by their significant other to join them.

Once the lesson was finished, the line to get in began to form.  This was the beginning of Hotjam Atlanta.  The DJ that positioned herself on the stage got an aerial view of the joy and kickass dancing that was occurring. Immediately after the lesson, I was asked to dance by a nice gentleman who attends every Monday night.  Plus, if you think chivalry is dead, you should rest assured that gentlemen still ask ladies to dance and extend their hand to you to lead you to the dance floor.  Polite and courteous men that will take the time to teach you steps do exist.  It was nice to meet men that look into your eyes to have conversations and not at your body parts. It really was a breath of fresh air.  

So of course, I danced the night away to 6 count swing, Balboa (which I’ve never done until that night) and Lindyhop.  I even danced an entire song to Jive while my partner danced to 6 count.  It worked and it was amazing!  After my 3rd song, I was already dripping sweat, chugging my 32oz of water and in desperate need of a towel to dry off.  Men bring changes of clothes with them because ladies don’t like to dance with sweaty beasts.  

Some of these dancers were highly skilled in certain styles of dance.  Not to mention some were very young Georgia Tech students, but they knew their shit.  I enjoyed watching this one cute Tech couple who dressed the part and were dancing the Charleston (which I’m currently learning).  They were fabulous!

At one point, lines were formed and everyone was stomping and stepping to a choreographed routine.  It was super cool to watch.

At one point, the DJ got on the microphone and asked if anyone was celebrating a birthday or from out of town.  If they were, they were to step inside a circle that was formed.  These curious and unaware participants then became objects of thievery.  When they began dancing with one partner, another partner would swoop in and steal them and continue dancing.  It was such a smooth transition bouncing from one partner to another.  The rest of the circle clapped and encouraged everyone.

After the partner swapping, the dancing continued.  Kicks, jumps and spins were everywhere and smiles seemed to be a permanent fixture on the faces of the attendees.  I was asked to dance Lindyhop which I am currently learning as well.  It was great!   Having a partner that knows how to lead is crucial when learning to dance with a partner.  His or her (because dance is gender neutral) lead dictates what the next move is.  If you can’t be directed properly, the whole dance falls apart.  I am still learning to be a follower because I tend to lead when I shouldn’t.  I need to trust my partners in directing me.

Overall, I had a blast at Hotjam Atlanta.  There was an infectious energy that filled the room and made everyone from beginner to advanced want to kick up their heels and dance.  I felt like I was transported back in time where the dancing was clean and refined.  The swing dance community was very welcoming and encouraging.  I’m looking forward to next Monday when the band is there.  It’s going to get crazy!  I might even bring a watermelon.

I’ll Be Home for Christmas

Christmas is a holiday for gatherings.  Family gatherings and friend gatherings. Everyone’s spirit gets lifted with the thought of the December holidays.  People are generally kinder and more thoughtful.  They dig a little deeper to help those in need.  I am one of those people who enjoys the holidays and everything they have to offer.  Christmas is taken very seriously in the Sage house so there was no way I was not going to be there with my family enjoying those precious moments.

Christmas Eve was full of fish.  Literally.  The Sage family being of Italian descent, have our meal of fish on Christmas Eve.  Shrimp parmigiana, calamari, mussels, clams, shrimp cocktail and spaghetti.  One word to describe myself afterward was bloated, but it went down so well.  Nothing but yum.  Sitting around and enjoying each other’s company, laughing and playing games, watching movies and just relaxing were all on the agenda.  I do all of the above very well. 😜 I was especially happy to play with my dogs Samson and Hershey.  I missed them terribly.

Christmas Day.  Nothing like waking up early and seeing all the presents under the tree.  I still get very excited as if I was a little girl again. Someone usually gets a funny gift that we all think to ourselves “WTF” but in a good way. This year, that gift goes to my younger brother Chris who received Booty O’s cereal. Apparently, it’s related to a WWE wrestling group.  I can see him busting into this cereal when he comes home after a long night of drinking.

Christmas Day brought my lovely nieces to visit and spend Christmas Day.  The exchange of gifts took place and everyone was excited to start playing.  Mia, Gianna and I started playing the Shopkins board game.  I won the first game while Mia won the second.  It was a cute game for young girls.  Stella was playing with the Peppa Pig playhouse that I gave her.  I’m glad she was enjoying it.

After a delicious pasta dish prepared by my wonderful mother, we decided to start playing with some more toys.  Mia and I played some intense games of checkers on my traveling checker board rug.  She has a little work to do before she competes for a world title, but she does enjoy playing.  

After checkers, we decided to play Watch Your Mouth, the game with the mouth guards that stretch your mouth and you have to get people to understand what you’re saying.  O.M.G. That game had me laughing and crying so hard.  To see my nieces with those pieces in their mouths looking like the Chatterer from Hellraiser, gave me the giggles.  I know something is funny when my dad starts giggling.  Note to anyone playing that game, be sure to put some lip balm or Vaseline on your lips before inserting those mouth pieces.  Your lips immediately feel like they’re ripping if they’re not lubed up.

The day ended with cheesecake, cookies and brownies for dessert.  Packing up all the toys and games had my older brother looking like he just robbed the house while walking out with gigantic garbage bags of toys and clothes.  

Another successful Christmas Day spent with my family.  I wouldn’t give this up for anything. It made me realize how much my family means to me and that eventually there will come a time when my family will slowly start to dwindle. Parents pass, children get older and the holidays may take on a more somber meaning. Christmas has always been a day of laughs and love.  Gifts being given to show the appreciation of each other.  Unfortunately, it seems as if it only happens in December or when there is a Hallmark holiday.  Even though Christmas is only in December, it’s possible to give with your heart year round.

To continue the spirit of Christmas, my amazing mother and I went to the most amazing city in the world-New York City!  I love New York. There is no other city in the world that has the energy and attitude to reinvigorate the soul. Not to mention it was freakin’ 60 degrees outside at the end of December!  First stop, Macy’s!
I’ve been to Macy’s Herald Square so many times that I feel silly every time I pull out my phone to take pictures, but they decorate it so beautifully.  So many people hustling about you would make you think it was before the Christmas holiday still, but it is Hanukkah so maybe that’s a reason.

I did notice one of the windows outside of Macy’s had a bunch of elves and they were making the list of names for kids to receive gifts from Santa and I was super excited to report my name (though spelled without the “e”) was on the list.  I took a picture as proof.  It’s upsetting when you go into these Christmas ornament shops and they have the most unusual names that start with T but no Tracey. No Tracy.  No Tracie.  No Traci.  None.  But they feel free to have Tamara.  There must be a run on Tamaras.  So in honor of my name finally being on an important list, here’s the proof.

From Macy’s, we walked up Broadway and the air filled with the aromas of halal, peanuts and dirty water dogs.  Times Square was a shitshow.  It normally is, but the amount of tourists was out of hand.  I love Times Square because of the bright lights and big screens, but there are too many people.  

We decided to hit up Bubba Gump for some lunch.  After a 10 minute wait, we were seated. I enjoyed a delicious blueberry lemonade while my mother enjoyed a White Zinfandel. 

My mother enjoyed a shrimp scampi while I had the Forrest Feast which was fried shrimp, fish and chips and hush puppies.  I must say that their fish and chips were the softest fish I ever had.  Crispy on the outside and amazingly soft inside.  They tasted awesome.  I scarfed that food down as if it was my last meal.

After Bubba Gump, we dodged through tourists and traffic to see “the tree”.  I’ve never seen the tree at Rockefeller Center and now that I have…what a friggin’ disappointment!  There’s a reason why they show it at night all lit up because to see it during the day would highlight how scrawny it is.  I know the tree is dead already, but the daylight exaggerates how dead it is.  The tree looks miserable.  If it had a voice it would say “Put me out of my misery.”  We weren’t the only people to think this. Others said it’s so scrawny and apparently every year, it gets scrawnier.  Here see for yourself.

See!  What the hell is that?!  “Help me”. Don’t you just hear it crying?  Ugh.  Now that I’ve seen it, I don’t have to do that again.  Here’s our obligatory selfie with Timber in back of us.

After we saw that dead tree, we started to make our way back to tourist hell to hit the Path train. Ahh, the good ol’ Path.  The funniest thing that happened there was an old man probably in his 70s was boarding just as the closing doors bell rang and he yelled “fuck this!” That made my mom, some dude next to me and myself laugh. That guy had no fucks to give.  Guess if you live to be that age, why should you care what anyone thinks.

Now I’m home in Jersey resting up.  My Christmas tree lights are on, tv playing and cuddled up with a blanket.  Dogs are passed out, my mom is lounging on the sofa across from me, dad is upstairs and all is right with my world.  

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and have a wonderful New Year.

Senoia Round 2

Yesterday I made my journey back to Senoia with a friend in tow.  Laura, who is a big Walking Dead fan, has never been down to Senoia to see the set.  So why not go visit the town, see the sets and do some holiday shopping in the process?

We arrived a little before 11AM and started our walk towards the Alexandria set.  Now that the show has finished filming for the season, there are no security guards at any of the entrances. Muhahahaha (evil laugh). The one thing that you will notice now are caution tapes lining the outside of the perimeter.  Even a portion of the railroad tracks were taped off.  Laura mentioned that maybe it was my fault since I was able to run to the Alexandria wall and snap pictures the last time I was there so I’m gonna run with that excuse.  

I showed her where Milton’s lab was located from Season 3.  This is the location where Andrea was tortured.  The street next to it was where Enid’s flashback of her parents getting killed was filmed for the “JSS” episode.

Once Gin Street intersects with Plyant Street, the backside of the set is no longer taped off. Walking along Plyant brings you in the neighborhood and all of the neighbors have No Trespassing signs on their property.  Plyant Street is the location of where Rick and Carl find a house to rest in after Rick got his ass beat by the Governor in Season 4.  This is also the same house that Joe of the “Claimed” gang barged in while Rick was resting upstairs.

This street is also where Carl journeys out of the house on his own to prove that he can survive.  Carl’s famous line “I win” was muttered several times back here.  Plus, the house that Carl enjoyed a huge can of pudding while sitting on their roof is located on Plyant as well.

Once you pass these houses, you come to the intersection of Morgan and Plyant Streets. There is a small barrier that is on the side of the road stating that production has the right to close the street down and asking out of the kindness of your hearts to not venture towards the set.  Since the signs said nothing about prosecuting, Laura and I casually strolled down towards the back of the Alexandria walls. There was a piece of property for sale right next to the wall which if you are a fan of the show and can get a house built rather quickly, you could probably enjoy watching the filming from your second story window.  

We didn’t venture all the way to the wall, but did take pictures of what were Rick (far right), Carol (center) and Jesse’s (left) houses from behind.

I didn’t notice it until I started looking at the pictures, but in the picture above, there seems to be some type of ditch that runs under the wall.  If we would have gotten closer, that may have been a covert operation to get on the set, but I know Laura wasn’t looking to get arrested.

We started walking back towards Main Street and decided to take some pictures along the railroad tracks.  On one end is where they filmed Rick, Carl and Michonne coming upon the Terminus sign and on the other end of the tracks, Carol, Tyresse, Mika, Lizzie and Judith were filmed spotting the Terminus sign.  We had to take the opportunity to reenact the Michonne/Carl game as they balanced on the tracks.

After the self-guided tour, we decided to eat at Nic & Norman’s.  It was close to 12 by now and we were seated right away.  I ordered a Bison Burger with the sidewinder fries while Laura ordered the BBQ chicken flatbread.  I devoured my Bison Burger.  This burger was so much more appetizing than the Fried Chicken Burger I had last time.  Laura ate only a small portion of her flatbread.  There were lots of onions and it was smothered in cheese.

Following lunch, we decided to hit up some stores and do some holiday shopping.  There are plenty of antique shops with unique merchandise.  Laura found a few stocking stuffers for her grandkids.

We entered The Woodbury Shoppe aka The Official Walking Dead Store.  Every time I go into that store, there is different merchandise. My favorite new piece was seeing the AMC version of Lucille.  Not to get it confused with the Skybound comic version which is also sold, but looks more childish.  AMC’s version retails for $45 and looks realistic.  Do not attempt to board a plane with this slugger.  It will get confiscated.

As we walked through TWD museum downstairs where they have cell blocks, the doors that say “Don’t Open, Dead Inside”, Andrea’s torture chair and Daryl’s Season 1 chopper, I told Laura that I would take some pictures of her at the doors and in the cell.  She decided to act as Hershel and only have one leg while laying on the bed.  I told her I didn’t know if I should be laughing or not, but she looked like she had only one leg!  I couldn’t get over it.  No special effects or green screen needed.  At one point, we found ourselves to be the only people down there, so of course, she jumped into Andrea’s chair which is roped off and I snapped a picture of her with her eyes bulging as if she’s being tortured.

We continued on our way, walking in and out of shops.  Laura bought a few items and a beautiful long vest with a really cool pattern on it.  

We stopped in the ice cream shop.  For anyone who knows me well, you know I’m a sucker for a milkshake.  I got a mint chocolate chip milkshake while Laura bought some chocolate pecan fudge.  The shop has a chalkboard of the US and it says for any visitors to put a mark on the board from wherever you traveled from.  It’s amazing how this show has brought people from all over the world to Senoia.  In states that didn’t have many markings, there were people who wrote their countries of origin.  Spain, Ukraine, Argentina, England, China were just a few that I could read.

After the ice cream shop, we decided to head out.  It’s always a fun adventure going to Senoia.  There were quite a few people roaming the streets, ducking in and out of shops and looking at Alexandria.  Filming for next season starts in May.  Guess I’ll have to come down during filming and see if I can spot anyone.

Holidays at the Fernbank

Each year, companies shell out lots of money to celebrate the holidays.  Some companies reserve the classiest venues while others may hold their parties in the office.  No matter where you celebrate, as long as you are surrounded by friends, the venue doesn’t really matter. Last year, my firm party was held at the College Football Hall of Fame.  Lots of kicks, passing and diving for footballs along with a really cool interactive area.  This year, the firm decided to hold the party at the Fernbank Museum.  It proved to be a wonderful location with an awesome backdrop.

Our party was held in the huge hall showcasing the fossils of several dinosaurs.  When you see the size of these dinosaurs, you really become awestruck.  To know that these creatures roamed the earth millions of years ago, is fascinating.  

As more people arrived, voices began to fill the hall and the sound of children’s gasps resonated as their eyes widened at the sight of the gigantic dinosaur structures.  Every year, the firm makes it a point to have a family-friendly event.  Little girls wear their finest sparkly dresses and little boys are dressed in sweaters and suits.  There were children running around the venue trying to lure their parents to the exhibits or the third floor playground where most of them spent the majority of their time.

My roommate Stephanie and I headed to the bar to grab some drinks and were greeted by the catering staff serving hors d’oeuvres. Shrimp on skewers, chicken parmigiana, cheese and jalapeño balls, pigs in a blanket were some of the finger foods being passed around.  They were all delicious.  

Little by little, friends began to arrive.  After dropping our drinks at a table, we went to the buffet tables to begin to fill our plates.  Pistachio and feta salad, grilled chicken with winter squash and cranberries, salmon, honey bourbon beef, carrot and raisin salad, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese bar and a dessert station.  The food was delicious.  

After second rounds were devoured, Stephanie, Matt, Joy, Kevin, Doug and myself ventured into the dinosaur exhibit.  It had some interactive displays. One in which you had to lift a dinosaur fossil and the other was an elephant fossil.  The purpose was to see which was heavier.  Of course, this was a fail because Joy lifted the dinosaur fossil and pulled it right off of the rod that held it up.  I told her I was gonna write about this in the blog, so here it is!  Hi Joy! Stephanie was able to screw it back on.

We continued to roam the exhibit and lift, spin and observe through microscopes the evolution of dinosaurs.  I love learning about dinosaurs.  I find the topic fascinating.  

After the dinosaur exhibit, we made our way upstairs and had the opportunity to see the Christmas customs of several countries.  There were Christmas trees displayed that represented different countries and a write up about the traditions.  Many of these trees were very elaborate in their decorations.

After the Christmas trees, we took a stroll through the exhibit of Georgia’s environmental history.  This was interesting because they showed animals and fauna that existed in prehistoric times.  Gigantic insects and animals that you’ve never seen before plus favorites such as bears and foxes and such.  Did you know there were T-Rexes in Georgia?

After the Georgia exhibit, we hit the bar again. With plenty of drinks flowing, there were funny conversations regarding the dinosaur conspiracy theory as well as conversations about the Illuminati.  It’s always funny to see your coworkers out of their work environment and see them loosen up.  It’s a shame that it usually only happens once or twice a year. New friends were made and 2017 pledges to do things that motivate were spoken.  I was able to adopt 2 more fun-seekers into swing dancing and doing something that they love and wanted to get back into.  Overall, this party was a huge success.  Looking forward to seeing these awesome people Monday morning.

Welcome Back to the Age of Jive

Jive.  What can I say about it?  I love it.  The energy, the tempo, the music.  Everything.  It makes me feel good and that’s what dancing and music should do.  Make you feel good.

I decided to take Jive lessons again because I miss it, but also to see if I could still do it after having 2 back surgeries.  My spine surgeon would probably advise against it because of the amount of bouncing required, but I wanted to know if my back will hold up.  

I arrived at my lesson with Manuel.  He is a new instructor from Brazil who also teaches my group class.  Once I arrived, I knew that I was going to sweat to death.  I changed into some exercise gear and put on a sports bra because all that bouncing could hurt without supporting the twins.  Put my lightest sneaker on and stepped out on the dance floor prepared to work.

Manuel and I spoke about what I knew about the Jive.  He had a checklist that had different moves that we could go over.  So we started with the basic step.

Manuel realized that I knew Jive better than a typical first-timer so we proceeded to move onto other steps.  Turns, stop and go, hip bumps, spins.  I felt so happy to be dancing again with a partner who knew Jive and could lead.  We practiced to Meghan Trainor’s “Dear Future Husband”.  It’s a quirky, upbeat song that was perfect to start out to.

I broke out into a sweat almost immediately. Thank goodness for the towel I brought.  I had to constantly wipe myself down.  It’s not the most attractive look, but I felt better after seeing Manuel sweat and then I thought about how much the couples in Dancing with the Stars must sweat after dancing for 4-5 hours a day and I secretly wished that was me.  God, I love to dance!

Manuel taught me the walk which keeps my upper body still, but quickly shakes the hips side to side while moving forward.  He also taught me some stylistic arm movements.

I didn’t recognize the second song we rehearsed to, but it was quicker than the first. What I love is that from the average person watching, it looks like a choreographed routine, but none of it was.  It was all improvised and off the cuff.  To be able to know what move comes next is a dream to a female dancer.  When a guy can lead in a dance, the female can sense what comes next.  She can relax and trust the man to steer her in the right direction and make the dance appear effortless.  That is what I want to achieve.

Lesson to all men:  learn to dance with a partner and take it seriously.  Ladies love men who can dance.  Period.

We ended our private lesson jiving to a fast song and it felt really good.  I was stoked at the end of it.  I will be returning next week for lesson 2.  I’ll learn a few more steps, go over what I previously learned and go over some arm placements.  I am going to be so freakin’ sore tomorrow and I can already feel the cramp in my one calf muscle, but it’s the good hurt.  I’ll take this hurt anyday.  All in the name of Jive.

Oakland Cemetery Birthday Scavenger Hunt

Today, I met some friends for a scavenger hunt at Oakland Cemetery for my 40th birthday.  It was such a cool idea in one of my favorite spots in Atlanta.  Nothing says “Over The Hill” like a celebration in a cemetery, am I right?

Starting at the entrance of the cemetery, we needed to read the plaque and fill in the blanks to decipher where the next location for clue 2 was.  There were times when we needed to use the compass on our phones to decipher which direction to travel.  

While we were scurrying around, there was a wedding rehearsal going on. Someone involved with the rehearsal saw me carrying around a clipboard with a booklet while scanning the ground.  He opened his car door and asked “What are you doing?”  I told him I was completing a scavenger hunt.  “In a cemetery?” was his next response.  “Yeah.”  This gentlemen then said he never heard of such a thing.  Oh well, he needs to get out more.  

Oakland Cemetery is a top destination in Atlanta for weddings and if you spend some time there, you would understand why.  It is hauntingly beautiful with archways, gazebos and benches while being overlooked by the Atlanta skyline.

As we made our way around the cemetery, we had clues that took us to Margaret Mitchell’s gravesite, the Confederate Monument and the Richards’ tomb which I have recorded EVPs telling me to get out.  That tomb always creeps me out, but yet I am fascinated by it and the gargoyles that keep watch over it.

Towards the end of the hunt, we started to run from clue to clue challenging each other. Writing in our booklets, deciphering puzzles and holding puzzles to the light to read the hidden messages were just a few of the tasks that needed to be figured out in order to move on.

The last clue had me running back to the entrance in order to finish the hunt.  Numero uno!!  I came in first and not just because it was my birthday.  I was waiting for everyone when Diana called her hubby Mark to tell me that the rest of the group walked right over to Six Feet Under for the dinner portion of the night.  So Mark and I drove over.  

The gang was unstairs on the patio which overlooked the cemetery.  There was a beautiful sunset full of pinks and oranges which helped keep our minds off of the chill in the air. A round of drinks were ordered.  I enjoyed the blueberry lemonade.  Yes, it was alcoholic.  My dinner order of shrimp and scallops with zucchini fries and corn on the cob was enjoyable. 

I was offered great advice for my 40s.  It was to be comfortable in my skin, find people that you could laugh with and don’t take no shit from anyone.  There were many laughs and lots of alcohol flowing.  JJ was hysterical talking about Wild Bill, Laura telling the table about the bacon prank at work and Quentin updating the table of the Georgia/Auburn game.  I tried to convince the table to go get tattoos.  Joy said she’d go, but Matt was against it since she’d been drinking.  That’s understandable.  

Overall, I really had a great time tonight.  The scavenger hunt was challenging and dinner was great.  There were interesting conversations that had the whole table laughing so loud we could have woke the dead.  Here’s hoping that turning 40 will continue to see me live life to the fullest.  I don’t feel “over the hill”. I feel like I’m just getting started.

Road Trip: Senoia, GA-Home of The Walking Dead

My Sunday Funday had me driving an hour south of home to Senoia, Georgia.  My main reason was to see if I could catch a glimpse of some cast members from The Walking Dead (TWD).  They are still filming for a few more weeks and many tourists have seen them walking around town and grabbing a bite to eat. So out the door I went.

The drive was less scenic than Helen, but once I got closer to my destination, the beauty of the area was enhanced.  Trees were showing their fall colors, rivers were running clear and the sky was a beautiful blue.  The temperatures started in the lower 60s, but once I got closer to Senoia, the car dashboard read upper 60s.

I’ve been to Senoia before during a holiday weekend in which Main Street was blocked off for parades and street vendors.  My travel partner and I parked down the road and walked to get there.  This time, I drove right into the center of Senoia on Main Street.  It really is surreal because I drove onto a set.  Main Street was the location for Woodbury from Season 3 of TWD.  It looks exactly like it did in the show.

The town is a tourist mecca and its thriving. They are building more shops and loft space on Main Street to resemble the exteriors of the preexisting store fronts.  This would not have happened had it not been for the popularity of The Walking Dead.

I parked my car in front of Katie Lou’s Cafe and set out to grab lunch at Nic & Norman’s.  Greg Nicotero and Norman Reedus, both from TWD, opened a restaurant serving burgers, appetizers and cocktails.  I’ve read many reviews stating how popular the restaurant is and how difficult it is to get seat so I made sure I hit it up early.  

I walked in and immediately loved the interior. The exposed brick walls draped with grey curtains.  Norman Reedus’ photography displayed on the walls.  Pictures of his cast mates and son along with Greg’s daughter gave the place a homey feel.  

I was seated along the back wall were I had a great view of the entire restaurant. Above my head was where the projection screen would lower to view new episodes of The Walking Dead. The restaurant closes at 3PM on Sundays to prepare for the ticketed event of dinner and “the” show which screens on 5 TVs and the projection screen.

My server Savannah was very welcoming and knowledgeable.  Drinks were served in mason jars and food portions were large.  I ordered a fried chicken sandwich on a brioche bun with sidewinder fries and an appetizer of guacamole and chips.

I have to say I was underwhelmed with the food.  My fried chicken was super juicy, but there was no true fried chicken crunchy skin.  It lacked taste.  The guacamole lacked spice. The fries were excellent though.  Not sure how the rest of the food is.  I would try it again, but definitely not eat those items.  I did hear the bison burger was good.  I’ll save that for next time.

My next destination was a cute little shop on the corner.  It sold beautiful jewelry, women’s clothing and household items.  The shops were already prepared for holiday shopping.  

I walked across Main Street to another shop called Table Talk.  The shop had Christmas decorations inside and tons of unique and thoughtful gifts.  Gifts for the homeowner, party planner and children lined the shelves.

After I left this shop, I traveled across the street to The Woodbury Shoppe which is the official TWD store.  The store opened at 1PM today and there was a line formed to get inside.  I waited until it opened to head over.  Everything TWD is in the shop. Shirts, replica weapons, comics and zombie knick knacks fill the store.

If you descend the stairs in the back of the store, you will find yourself in The Walking Dead Museum.  They have a replica motorcycle that Daryl Dixon had ridden, Andrea’s chair of hell from Season 3, prison cells on loan from AMC and the infamous hospital doors from Season 1.

I purchased a gift for my mom and a shirt for moi.  For those of you who don’t know, I love t-shirts.

I stopped in a few more shops.  I found one shop that I would love to buy everything in it. It’s all vintage, antique, repurposed homegoods.  

When I left the shop, I decided to see how close I could get to the set of The Walking Dead.  The Alexandria set is one block over from Main Street.  There are security guards that are stationed at the set entrances and a patrol car that covers the street blocks.  When I arrived, there were a few tourists snapping pictures.  I joined in.

To make this journey worthwhile, I needed to get closer.  I decided to walk down the street away from the security guard and the other tourists.  I kept snapping pictures, looking normal and doing normal tourist shit.  I noticed at the end of the set there was a trailer truck parked so I walked towards it.  Once you get beyond the truck, security can’t see you.  I decided to flip my phone on selfie view and make a dash for the Alexandria wall.  I got to the wall and placed my hand  on it, snapping pictures.  I was so excited.  The wall that I ran too was actually a door, but there was no way for me to get inside.  Part of me wanted to slip my hand underneath the door and just blindly snap pictures.  I didn’t in case I dropped my phone in there.  I’m excited I got to the wall.  As you can see, the private property sign in the background of the pic.

When I made my way back onto the street, some of the tourists decided to start heading down towards me.  I started walking back and then following the tourists was the security guard.  I’m not sure if he was randomly walking to check the perimeter or if he was curious about why people were heading that way. Maybe the tourists noticed the girl with the red shirt disappear and then reappear.  Who knows?  I got the pic I wanted.

I walked on the other side of the set where I knew the street is blocked off and the female security guard was there.  At this entrance, the walls to Alexandria are open and you can see inside. 

After my little hunt, I decided to head out.  I walked past a TWD tour that was going on. The tour guide told the tourists that Terminus is a real place.  “It’s in the center of Atlanta in a really bad place.  Do not go there!”  This made me laugh out loud because I tracked Terminus down with my mom in tow and yeah, it’s in a shady area that you don’t want to be in after dark, but there are so many people that go for the show’s set, that there is security that patrols the area.  Damn small town folk telling scary stories of the big city.  Boooooo!!!

Overall, road trip #2 was a success.  I enjoy this little town and it’s antique shops.  I need to come back here just to shop.  The townspeople are very polite and proud of their town and the show being filmed there.  If you ever find yourself looking for a quaint town with a cute Main Street and a huge set built behind it, travel down to Senoia.  They’ll be glad you came.

Road Trip: Helen, GA

Did you ever feel like you spend most of your life waiting?  Waiting on others to be there for you; waiting for them to finalize plans; waiting for them to show up.  Well, that’s me.  I always felt like I spent so much time waiting on others and more than 50% of the time being disappointed by the outcome of my waiting.  I relied too heavily on having plans with others that I lost my own adventurous side.  Of course, I enjoy having company around.  I’m under the impression ‘the more the merrier’, but when you get so comfortable having people around that you stop doing things on your own, this leads to a problem which is what lead me to take a solo road trip to Helen, Georgia.

I’ve never been to Helen before and was intrigued by the idea of a little piece of Bavaria tucked away in the mountains of Georgia. Traveling from Atlanta, its roughly 1.5 hours north which was a gorgeous, scenic drive through the mountains. With Autumn underway, the leaves have begun to turn colors and the sweeping landscapes of farms with the mountains in the distance were jaw-dropping.  

As I got closer to my destination, I couldn’t help to get excited.  I saw a gentleman driving his big tractor in the street.  The unfortunate thing was it was only a 2 lane road and I was traveling in the opposite direction, but part of me wanted to honk my horn in support of his tractor riding.  Farms stretched wide with herds of cows and horses running freely.  It was smile-inducing and calming.

Upon entering Helen, immediately you feel transported across the Atlantic.  The architecture stands out with its tall steeples and colorful facades.  Most of the little German town centers around Main Street where you will find German-themed restaurants, candy shops and souvenir shops.  You can spend all day shuffling in and out of these shops.

My first shop that I stopped in was the Hansel & Gretel Candy Kitchen.  Nothing gets me moving faster than the sweet smell of chocolate.  This place was awesome.  There was fudge, bark, clusters, truffles, popcorn, chocolate-covered everything!  They even had chocolate-covered Ruffles potato chips and Fritos.  There were walls that beautifully displayed every color Jelly Belly and taffy.  It was a chocoholic’s dream and a diabetic’s nightmare.

Since this was my first stop, I didn’t want to get any chocolate yet and have it melt so I backed away from the store.  Slowly, ve-ry slow-ly.

My next stops included a few souvenir shops. Most of these shops sold t-shirts, beer steins (for obvious reasons) and little trinkets.  You can tell the political climate of the area by what the t-shirts they’re selling have on them.  Let’s just say they want to keep the Confederate flag waving and are Trump supporters.  

I made my way across the busy 2-lane street and came across more shops and eateries.  I walked into one shop called Windmill Dutch Imports.  The outside of the shop lured me in with its oceanic blue facade.  Plus, the little boy and girl surrounding the windmill didn’t hurt.

This store had Dutch foods as well as lots of ceramics.  My eye was drawn to the wall of clog slippers for sale.  Yes, I debated whether to purchase a pair, but ultimately, left the store without them.  They were freaking cool though.

I moved along Main Street popping in and out of every shop.  Some shops didn’t feel like they fit in with the environment.  I found a few shops that sold airbrushed designs while the other half of the store sold blades in every size.  Plus, there was a small bin on the counter that had old uniform badges in it.  They were from New Jersey police departments.  I commented to the female worker and she said her dad is from South Jersey.  Oh well, we all can’t be perfect.

There were glassblowing shops that could design your name in glass for $10.  No, I didn’t partake in this, but the shop was uncomfortably crowded with tourists that were.

The temperatures were absolutely fantastic for walking along Main Street.  When I arrived, it was in the lower 60s.  It was so refreshing. There were many people enjoying the river water alongside of the restaurants.  

I continued on my walk along Main Street ducking in and out of shops and enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.  The streets were coming alive with more people around 2PM.  

I found another Hansel & Gretel Candy Kitchen a little further down the road.  I thought yeah, why not.  So many choices to choose from, but the winner was a Ski Bum.  It consisted of marshmallows with caramel and slivers of almonds covered in chocolate and drizzled with white chocolate.  Because it’s not complete unless it’s drizzled, right?  Yeah, it hit the sweet spot.

As I walked back towards the more congested part of town, I stopped in a few more shops. There were shops dedicated to jerky of every kind and flavor.  There was also a shop for spices, flavoring and rubs.  My favorite set in here was a hot sauce with the greatest labels ever.  How could you not look at these and not immediately think “Yassssss”?

There was a shop called Tim’s Wooden Toys. Yes, the entire shop is just that. Wooden toys. Wooden weapons, trucks and puzzle games. They also had a cool world map that when you go to visit, you can put a push pin in the map showing where you are visiting from.  It’s amazing to see how far people have traveled and wound up in Helen, GA.

After strolling for a bit, I decided to just take a seat and people watch.  The polka music that was filling the streets was clashing with the roar of motorcycle engines on Main Street.  There were plenty of dogs being walked and owners being walked by their dogs.  Cannon fire erupting from the Civil War Reenactment had people jumping every now and then.  An older gentlemen playing a snare drum for change on the corner was greeted by another older fellow that was wearing a cowboy hat and sunglasses made to look like beer glasses.  That guy marches to the beat of his own drum…or his friend’s drum for that matter.

Soon after, I decided to take a slow stroll to get back to my car and take in the last of the sights. Soon enough, the holiday shoppers will begin to descend upon Helen and fill the streets with holiday cheer.  Now that I know what this little town is all about, maybe I’ll be one of those shoppers.

This trip to Helen was more than just a trip.  It proved to me that I don’t need to wait on anyone to enjoy myself.  I am more than capable of finding an adventure on my own.  No more waiting.