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What? No GameDay?

Is it just me or did this morning feel odd? No Herbie or Dez. My whole Saturday was a bit off. I guess you could say I have a bit of a college football hangover.  What was really great though was being in Anniston, Alabama the morning after the Crimson Tide claimed their third title in four years and the state brought it home for the fourth year in a row. I don’t care who you cheer for, that is impressive.

Four more years...

Four more years…

The last time I was in Anniston was the week leading up to the SEC Championship (aka the actual national championship).  These folks were amped. This trip they were in a state of delirious relief. It is similar to Thanksgiving. In the weeks before, you fantasize about the meal to the point of sheer giddiness. Whereas the afternoon of, over consumption has led you to a state of exhausted relief. To celebrate we went to see my favorite ladies at the DeSoto Pastime Center where they gave samples of the peanut butter chocolate cake for the next day.  Y’all know I love free samples. The celebration continued the following day at Brad’s BBQ. Has there ever been a celebration in the South that doesn’t involve BBQ? Not to mention the fact you just have to say ‘okra’ is the side. Everyone already knows that it is fried.

I declare this the best restaurant slogan ever.

I declare this the best restaurant slogan ever.

And, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that part of my celebrating was because my Ags and Johnny Football were the only team to beat the Crimson Tide this season. Gig em, Ags.

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Photo Friday: Perfection

I mean - gorgeous.

I mean – gorgeous.

It is 47 degrees in Atlanta right now, but the Danimal and I are here. Thank you, Tulum. Thank you.

(More details to follow when we return.

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An Order of Warm + Fuzzy. Fried, Please.

There are some places you visit that just make you feel warm and fuzzy. That’s why I love living in the South – you get that feeling a lot here. And generally speaking, the smaller the town the more warm and fuzzy it gets. People say things like “I know you don’t want a salad. You’re my cheeseburger baby.” Only in the South…

Downtown Anniston

Downtown Anniston

I’ve been in Anniston, Alabama this past week for work and dined with the team at Damn Yankees on downtown’s Noble Street. Don’t let the name confuse you, this place serves serious southern food.

The North turned South

The North turned South

The special was a butterflied filet, stuffed with cheese, beer-battered, fried, and smothered with sausage gravy. When my new colleague, Betty, ordered this, even the waiter admitted that he had not been brave enough to try it. That is when you know you made a strong order. Well played, Betty. (And, she said it was incredible.) My shrimp and grits were perfect, too. The grits were precisely how I love them- melting in my mouth.

Told you this was serious.

Told you this was serious.

We were in Anniston to work on a project for the Anniston Army Depot. When I initially learned about the project, I was intrigued. I had never worked on a project quite like this and was looking forward to the challenge. And, working at an army depot… what on earth would I wear? Clearly this could be an opportunity to expand the wardrobe.

The closest I will ever get to working for the CIA.

The closest I will ever get to working for the CIA.

While I can’t talk about the project, I’m pulling a sentence from Wikipedia, that any of you could access, because you all need to know about the important work they do.

“The depot is designated as the Center of Technical Excellence for the M1 Abrams Tank and is the designated candidate depot for the repair of the M60 Patton tank, AVLB, M728, M88 Recovery Vehicle and M551 combat vehicles. During the Iraq War, over 1,000 M1 tanks, howitzers and other armored vehicles were stored awaiting re-engineering.”

Our troops and their families have given so much. And I am so proud to say the people who work at the Depot- at EVERY level- work incredibly hard to ensure they are safe. No detail is too small to be important.

I’m already looking forward to seeing my new Anniston friends again in February.

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No, Brussels… I didn’t forget you…

Let’s not forget about Brussels. I know it seems like I did… we have been back from Brussels for almost two months. I get this feeling that Brussels gets forgotten a good bit. I have already told Brussels I’m sorry because it really is quite delightful.

Grand-Place: #1 Square of the Trip

When we arrived at the station it was raining, but somehow by the time we got things settled at Hotel Amigo it had magically stopped. Before I get to the exploration, I need to say a quick word about Hotel Amigofantastic! The views, the amenities, the design, and staff were all top-notch. This is without question one of the nicest hotels we have ever stayed in. I really have only one small, minor gripe- they wanted me us to pay 20 euro a day for internet. Um… WHAT! I’m already paying you a sweet penny to stay here and now you want more for internet. No.

That teeny tiny statue is what all of the fuss is about.

It turns out that one of the “main attractions” was just half-a-block from our hotel. I use the term “main attraction” loosely since we had been warned that the Manneken Pis was underwhelming. While the statue itself was, the folklore around him is nothing short of fascinating. Perhaps my favorite thing about him is that there is a non-profit dedicated to protecting him from capture and managing his over 800 outfits. You read that correctly… 800. I couldn’t make it up if I tried. There is even an online schedule  so you know what he will be wearing… he was in his Portuguese outfit when we arrived and was going to change into a polar explorer the day after we left.

It kinda feels like the Mannekin Pis is their mascot for everything.

There is much more to Brussels than this little guy. The number of and quality of museums made it tough to choose which one we spend the afternoon exploring – Danimal picked the Beaux Arts Museum and that was definitely a great choice. His art obsessed wife could have spent days there. And perhaps the real bonus was that it was just across from the palace. (Y’all know I love a good palace….) The palace and museums front the bustling Parc de Bruxelles (created in 1776). We were there on a Sunday afternoon – the place was packed and in the middle of a sculptural tribute to brussel sprouts. Again, I can’t make this stuff up.

Urban Brussel Sprout

Only one more trip post left, the traditional food post. Seems appropriate given that it is Thanksgiving week… the ultimate food holiday.

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Art + Money = Medieval Church

Since Brugge is a fantastic specimen of medieval architecture, this also means incredible churches and artwork. My fascination with the relationship between the church, art and the middle ages began when I lived in Italy. I had an incredible Italian Art History professor that made it come alive. Because patrons of the church were church officials and/or from the most prominent families, a large number of paintings from this period are found in churches as large frescoes and sculptures. (This also means you have portraits of prominent families being oddly featured as part of religious scenes.) So without further delay, some of the most fascinating churches in Brugge…

Church of Our Lady

View from the Chancel

This church has one of the only Michaelangelo sculptures to have left Italy during his lifetime. The sculpture is the big draw, but my favorite part was the above ground tombs in the chancel. Also, talk about medieval folks thinking that money bought holiness- the neighbor of this church had a bridge built over the church with a private chapel overlooking the altar so his family didn’t have to mix with the commoners. So fabulously medieval (and ridiculous)…

Basilica of the Holy Blood

The blood is inside.

This chapel contains a phial that reputedly contains Christ’s blood brought back from the Crusades.You can’t take pictures inside this church, so you will have to settle for outside shots only. But, when we were inside we got to see the blood phial placed atop a bright red pillow by the priest inside a gilded box.

St. Savior’s Cathedral

My Favorite

This one is the oldest parish church in Brugge and was my favorite (perhaps because it was the first one we went in). I loved that you could see the painstaking restoration that was very much in progress. Did I miss my calling? Maybe I was meant to sit on scaffolding for years recreating one painted halo.

Neon Church

Neon + Old School

Because I couldn’t read the signs, I could never figure out the name of this church. But when Danimal and I walked in we were shocked to see this incredibly modern neon art display alongside the traditional art and architecture of the church. I think it captured so much of what the church struggles with today as it tries to share its message in a changing society.

Jerusalem Church

But how do you get inside!!!

I wish I had more pictures of this church. It is rumored to be very different and based on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. This church is also attached to the Lace Museum. Unfortunately, we easily found our way to the Lace Museum, but never found the way into the church. Unless you are over the moon obsessed with lace, I think you will probably agree that this is the worst museum in the history of museums. I don’t remember the last time I was that bored.

Yes, I realize I just did an entire post about old churches and art… my nerd flag is waving proudly right now. Poor Danimal finally requested that we not go in anymore old churches unless they were really cool.  I plan to redeem myself tomorrow with a post about beer.

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Just Charming

If I was asked to describe Amsterdam in one word, I would effortlessly say, “charming”. Y’all, this place is absolutely adorable. We arrived to the hotel around 6:00am and immediately began exploring. Given the hour we were some of the few out in the streets… what a treat to see the City before it awoke.

It looks like this EVERYWHERE.

We spent the majority of our first day just walking the streets. The architecture and the scale combined with the canals (I mean… over 1200 bridges here, folks) allow you to disappear into your surroundings… you really could just wander for days.

Danimal… clearly excited about the number of photos he will be taking.

In addition to the canals are the quaint side alleys. I limited myself to 85 pictures of side alleys. Danimal insists that the number of pictures I’m taking makes us look more like tourists than his Braves hat would have.

The only thing that could make it cuter is a canal.

Fun Fact (aka Nerd Fact) of the Day: Even with new construction the buildings here rely on exterior pulley systems to move furniture into upper levels because of the narrow staircases. We will definitely be needing this when we move into the place I’ve picked out for us in Amsterdam. (A girl can dream…)

Where we would live. Charming, yes?

I’m confident tomorrow will be ‘charming’ as well when we head to the countryside.

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A Special Photo Tuesday: 9/11… 11

Remembrance

One of the most powerful moments of my trip to New York last November was Abbey and my visit to the 9/11 memorial. The memorial brought me back to this day eleven years ago waiting to hear that Kristen, who lived a couple of blocks from the World Trade Center, was okay. I was lucky because she was. But, when you are at the memorial, it is impossible to not think about the fact that each name represents friends and family who lost someone irreplaceable to them that day. As an urban designer, my favorite part of the design was the attention paid to the placement of the names. A lasting memory of the relationship they had with their friends and colleagues who also died that day.

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