After spending the morning catching up on work emails, I used the last day of vacation spending family time on a few of our favorite activities: eating homemade pancakes (banana-chocolate chip) and fruit-picking at wonderful Phillips Farm in Milford, New Jersey.
I have a few postscripts to add to my travelog of our family trip, but first I want to say that the Garden State can be as beautiful and fascinating as any other state in this beautiful and fascinating country.
So here are some final random thoughts and observations post-vacation:
- I learned that while we were away Oreo the Cat pooped twice on the sage-colored dining room carpet. This surely was an act of protest at our absence and somehow bizarrely reminded me of certain protests staged on College Green during my college years.
- This trip was mapped out in haste with the assistance of the local AAA office and TripAdvisor online. I booked hotels in the both the Marriott and the Holiday Inn “family” of hotels, partly because I am a Priority Club Card Member and partly because we had a substantial Marriott travel gift card.
- Although the Marriott hotels in Charleston and Aventura were more luxurious, the Staybridge Suites and the Holiday Inn Express we stayed at in Tampa and in Savannah were far cleaner and more family-friendly. The staff at both of these hotels were far more helpful and gracious and the services and amenities they offered, including the extensive breakfast buffets, were much more appealing to us. I would happily return to both for another stay. Slightly shabby chic, no matter how dazzling on the surface, is not worth the price of a return visit in my book.
- Reading customer reviews on TripAdvisor was especially helpful in planning out the trip. The reviews were very accurate and reflected the highs and the occasional lows of our stays at each hotel. I plan to add my own reviews. We also used TripAdvisor to choose restaurants and map out activities once we arrived in each city, and that was also tremendously helpful in making successful plans.
- Seeing is believing, especially when it comes to teenagers. I was hopeful that touring a potential college campus would motivate Jeff in all kinds of hoped-for ways and it has.
- A little space and planning goes a long way. Small gestures, like packing each boy a separate snack bag for the long car rides and bringing pillows and blankets—and, admittedly, the DS and iPhone—made for happy riders and fewer instances of bored bickering. Which meant…
- Eddie was a happy driver, listening mostly interruption-free to local news and endless (endless!) football and Olympics reportage. Which meant…
- I got to READ. A lot! Novels! And so, to get a long jump on the reading for my fall fiction class, I read (or reread) the following from the syllabus: Jane Eyre, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Thomas Harris’s Silence of the Lambs, and Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. I know this is a strange and scary assortment, and I am astonished to say that while I just loathed the idea of reading it, Silence was my favorite read. What deft and precise writing!
- Forgive me for admitting this, but Jane Eyre still got on my nerves—just not my cup of tea. I used to refer to this novel as Jane Hair to annoy my youngest sisters, who like such romance. And as for the weird and overbearing Rochester and St. John Rivers: Double Blech.
- I also admit to reading the entire trilogy of a popular series, mostly to gain a sense of what’s so appealing about it to so many female readers, but that’s as far as I’ll go. I have enough of a writer’s ego not to want to admit the title of these books. REPETITIVE and BORING. I guess I’m really just nothing of a romantic…
- While this was the most aggravation-free family trip we’ve ever taken, there were nevertheless several times while speeding along some southern interstate I was tempted to take the DS and chuck it out window…
- Finally, I am something of a hermit, by nature, by circumstance, and by profession. It felt good—really good—to get out of my house and out of my head and onto the highway. There’s nothing like sipping white wine by a rooftop pool in the misty Savannah, Georgia, twilight in the midst of people you love and friendly strangers to put everything you are and everything you are going through into broad perspective. It’s hard for me to admit this, and I don’t think I could have done so ten short and long days ago.
p.s. By request I’ll be making a blueberry tart tonight. And maybe next a lemon-raspberry pound cake. And then pesto—lots of pesto. And in a few sweet days, a ripe and juicy freestone peach pie…
p.p.s. Go Ravens!