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Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace

March 25, 2015
One of the perks of living near Savannah is getting to walk by the beautiful, historic homes.  Ever since touring the Owens-Thomas House, I've been wanting to take a tour of another home.  Ev and I talked it over and decided to visit the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace.  In case you don't already know this, Juliette Gordon Low was the woman who founded the Girl Scouts.  (I only learned this because of my frequent visits to Savannah.)

The tour was $10.00 and our guide was very interesting and informative. Here is just some of what I learned:

**Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Scouts in 1912, and her nickname was Ms. Daisy.
** She was a talented artist, but could not pursue it at the time since it was not a career that was considered "appropriate" for a woman to have.  When you tour the home, you are able to see her artwork on display.  There are paintings, portraits, sculptures, hand-painted plates, and she experimented with wood burning.
** There is a living relative that still stops by the house and makes the staff nervous because she is allowed to plop down on the furniture and touch anything she wants.
** One of the highlights is the bulls-eye stained glass window.
** Juliette Gordon Low had hearing problems and used silver nitrate to try to cure an ear infection she had.  Unfortunately, this damaged her hearing further.  Our guide told us a story of when one of Ms. Daisy's friends was giving a speech.  Juliette couldn't really hear what her friend was saying, but decided to encourage her by cheering loudly and by standing and clapping.  Everyone in the audience was staring at her, and later she came to find out that the speech her friend was giving was all in honor of her!
** There is an elevator on site, which is not that typical. The rooms are also very spacious.
** Ms. Daisy tried to get a divorce, years passed, and her husband died right before it was finalized.
** Juliette Gordon Low went on a trip to England and met Sir Robert Baden-Powell who started the boy scouts.  He told her of a problem he was having, which was that hundreds of English girls tried to join the boy scouts by using their brothers' names.
**Once she founded the Girl Scouts in Savannah, she started wearing the official Girl Scout uniform and wore it almost every day.  She was even buried in it!
** She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 (posthumously) by President Barack Obama.  It is on display in the home.
** We were shown vintage viewfinders, which which were quite popular among courting couples who were not permitted to touch.  By using the viewfinder together, they could "accidentally" brush hands.
** Juliette's mother, Eleanor Kinzie Gordon, was also a bit eccentric and was considered by many to be a "strong" woman. One of her hobbies was sliding down banisters, and she actually met her husband by crashing into him while sliding down a banister and knocking him over.
** The Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace is owned by the Girl Scouts.  In fact, the outside garden was done by Girl Scouts. 

Hopefully I got all of my facts straight.  I went home and wrote down what I remembered from the tour right away, but there are so many other wonderful things to see and learn about in the house.  I was never even a Girl Scout, but I truly enjoyed learning about this inspirational woman who was ahead of her time!

Were you a Girl Scout?  Would you be interested in touring the Juliette Gordon Low House?

Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room

March 23, 2015
"Mrs. Wilkes, Mrs. Wilkes, Mrs. Wilkes!"  That has been the #1 recommendation from people I've talked to when it comes to best places to eat at in Savannah.  Locals and tourists alike give Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room rave reviews. Naturally, I'd been wanting to try it out for awhile, but the problem is that the dining room is only open Monday-Friday from 11am-2pm.  Of course those hours are not very convenient for a teacher.  During one of our breaks from school, Ev and I decided to take advantage of our time off and finally head out to Mrs. Wilkes to see what everyone was talking about!  Even though Ev was born and raised outside of Savannah, for some reason, he never made it to Mrs. Wilkes, although everyone in his family had been at least once.

We got there right before 11 am and there was already a huge line. That is to be expected, though because there is a line almost every single day so we were prepared for it.  It started to rain, and neither or us had an umbrella and after an hour of waiting out there, we were getting a little antsy. What made it better was that everyone that came out kept saying, "Be patient, the wait is worth it!" I was a bit skeptical, but we kept on waiting.

When we finally got to go in, there was a large table with all of the dishes of food already set up for us.  There are about 10 people to a table, and it's family-style dining.  Everyone at our table was in their late 20's~30's, and seemed really cool and friendly.  We all went around the table and introduced ourselves and then started passing the dishes around to one another.  They had all the best Southern comfort food I could think of and tons of vegetables.  Here is just some of what we got to try: fried chicken, biscuits, collard greens, snap beans, mac + cheese, beef stew, rice and gravy, butter beans, candied yams, mashed potatoes, squash, and black-eyed peas.  Of course the meal was washed down with sweet tea. Check out the spread for yourselves:

Make sure you have an empty stomach when you go because you will not want to stop eating! Oh, and just when you think you can't eat another bite, they offer you a dessert.  When we went we got to pick from either banana pudding or peach cobbler.  

While we were eating, a woman came up and put her hand on my shoulder and thanked our group for coming in.  Someone told me that it was Mrs. Wilkes' granddaughter.

While I was in there, I heard someone say, "You come to a place like this for the experience."  I would agree with that!  We got to try a bunch of delicious, home-cooked Southern foods and met and socialized with a great group of people. Ev and I chatted the most with a teacher who was visiting from California.

Also when you're done, you are supposed to clean up after yourselves and bring the dishes back to be washed.  It just helps get everything done faster so that the next group can come on in.  Another good thing to know is that it is cash only, so be prepared!

I'm always a bit skeptical, but this place really did exceed my expectations.  I really recommend it if you're visiting Savannah and hope to take my sister when she comes and visits me this summer!

Have you ever eaten at Mrs. Wilkes?  What do you think about it?

Getting Ready for Iceland, Little by Little

March 9, 2015
This summer, Rachael and I will be going to Iceland for two weeks. Since it's not like I'm rolling in cash on a teacher's salary, I have to prepare for our journey step-by-step in order to spread out the financial burden of the trip.

Step 1: Book the flights.  A trip never feels "real" to me until I have my flight confirmation numbers! Rachael and I will be actually be flying from Cleveland to NYC so that we can go to the BlogHer conference first.

Both of us searched flights from various cities since we were a bit flexible with our trip's starting point. In order to find the best deal, I looked at flights from Savannah/Hilton Head International airport and also at flights from Cleveland and Columbus in Ohio since I want to go back and visit my parents over the summer, anyway. The tool that helped us find the cheapest flight was Skyscanner. We originally wanted to fly from NYC to Reykjavik and it was going to be roughly $900.  Once I used Skyscanner, I saw that Boston had flights directly to Reykjavik for hundreds less thanks to Wow Air, an Icelandic budget airline.  Rachael and I discussed it and thought it would be worth it to save the money and just buy a bus ticket from NYC to Boston.  As an added bonus, we decided that we might as well tour Boston on our way back since both of us have never gone before. This wasn't something that we planned on at all, but since we have the summer off and don't have to be back at work right away, we were able to add this little trip on! Truthfully, some of my best trips were just ones that I stumbled onto! When I flew back from South Korea, I saw that I had a layover in San Francisco.  I just extended the layover and spent a few days with my friend before flying back to Ohio.  The same thing happened when I flew from Italy to Seoul. I had a layover in Dubai that I extended for 4 days so that I could tour the city without having to pay anything extra to the airlines.

Step 2: Plan out a rough draft of our itinerary.  To generate ideas, Rachael created a Pinterest board for the two of us to use! (Great idea, Rachael!!) As I've said before, we were really inspired by Kaelene's blog to help us plan.

We had to decide: What are the main attractions that we want to visit? What tours do we want to take?  Do we want to just take day trips from Reykjavik every day or do we want to rent a car and explore Iceland on our own?

Note!: Pay attention to what days the tours are offered on.  I noticed later that a tour I was going to book through Reykjavik Excursions was only available to book on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so we had to switch something around because the day I wanted to originally go was a Wednesday.

Step 3: Book accommodation.  In the end, we decided that having a "base" would be less stressful for us.  Since everything we want to see can be done as a day trip from Reykjavik, we figured that this was the way to go.  We knew that we wanted to book accommodation through AirBnb, and the minimum stay for Iceland is 8 nights.  If we wanted to stay in another city we wouldn't have been able to use AirBnb to book where we will be staying for the whole trip, so staying in Reykjavik every night just makes the most sense for us.

I actually just paid for our accommodation yesterday!! We will be sharing a flat for two weeks with an Icelandic gal in her 30's.  Her place looks adorable and very clean and other travelers that have stayed with her gave her high reviews.  This will be my first experience using AirBnb, so we'll see!  I have high hopes for it!  It will be cool to live with a local for 2 weeks, as I'm sure she wouldn't mind giving us a few recommendations and inside tips. The price was great, too! We are only paying a little over $28 a night.

Step 4: Create a list of items needed for the trip, and acquire a few of them at a time. After reading this post, I know that I'm going to need to get hiking boots.  I was originally going to try to just get away with wearing a pair of regular sneakers, but after thinking it over, I decided that I wanted shoes that were waterproof and offered ankle support.  I figured that they would be useful on future trips, so I'm going to invest in a nice pair.

Other items on my list that I want/need to get are: a copy of Lonely Planet Iceland, a 64 gb memory card, a waterproof jacket, a new makeup bag since the one I'm currently using is too big to take with me.  As a side note, I will never, ever go on another trip without a waterproof jacket! After freezing in the pouring rain on Boulders Beach in South Africa even with an umbrella, I will not make that same mistake again.  Luckily, the sun came out and my friends and I were able to dry off, but we would have been really miserable if we had to continue on our trip to Cape Point in sopping wet clothes.

I will not be bringing my cell phone with me, so since I won't have the internet at my fingertips, I figured that this would be a useful resource to have.  I don't know how many times I've relied on a Lonely Planet in the past to help me get around, speak to someone in another language (or just point at the phrase in the book, haha), or for a restaurant recommendation! 

Step 5: Finalize itinerary and book all tours! I know for sure that I'll be booking this tour to Landmannalaugar + Saga Valley soon while Rachael goes on a diving tour in Silfra since became a certified diver in Thailand.  

Step 6: Print out all travel documents and a copy of itinerary.  I usually like bring a folder with me so that I can keep everything organized! A few days before my trip, I like to look over everything...it makes me feel less anxious. 

Another thing that I'm going to do is exercise and walk A LOT from June until our trip in late July! Since I know that I'll be doing a ton of walking/hiking in Iceland, I have to step up my game. Right now, I have very little time for exercising but as soon as school lets out and I'm not working more than 60 hours a week, I'll be taking it very seriously.  Luckily, my bestie has already agreed to be my workout buddy.  Last year we would walk for miles every day and lost about 10-15 pounds each!  

What's your process for when you travel?  Are you a planner or do you go with the flow?