Travelin’ on a whim

Tonight, I happened to catch Project Runway. They’ve sent their remaining 5 designers to a variety of places: New York (oh, you poor, poor, loser…sarcasm), Barcelona, Paris, London, and Berlin.

I’ve been to 4 of those 5 places. Which makes me realize how odd my life has been these last several years.

You see, I had never been on a plane before 10th grade. My brother and I were deaf, and we really knew nothing about it. No information on the whys, and hows, and what ifs. So my mom always had this lingering fear that the air pressure change might somehow affect us. One day, we somehow were talking about flying, and I said something about being somewhat afraid of it. My dad’s afraid of flying, and when my mom realized I was taking that same path, she knew we had to challenge it.

So we hopped a plane from Richmond, VA to Charlottesville, NC. A short, 90 minute flight. She stared at me nervously the whole time. At one point, I asked her what she was waiting for – “Is this the point where I clap my hands to my ears and let loose a bloodcurdling scream?”  But the flight was uneventful. We landed, we flew back. We declared it a win.

So then my mom, my brother, and I began to travel. We did Bermuda and Alabama, primarily. In college, I went to the Bahamas on a horrible spring break. My brother went to London for a study abroad quarter. My mom and I did a mother-daughter cruise in Italy.

Then I met M. M’s family is all overseas. He, his sister, his mom, and his dad are the only US located members.  His parents are both internationally born; he and his sister are first generation Americans. In the time that I have dated M, I have been around the world and back every other year. In 2007, we did Cancun with friends. 2008, Paris and London with M’s orchestra. 2009, we married and went on our honeymoon in Barcelona, taking a cruise that went around the Mediterranean to stops in Italy, Greece, and Turkey. 2010, we went overseas so I could meet their family: Germany, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand. Then in 2011, we managed to stay mostly in the US. The day after Christmas, we flew out to Italy for another Orchestra tour. The trip lasted through the early weeks of 2012.

So now here we are in the first 4 months of 2013. We have been to Singapore, Indonesia, and Bavaria. Primarily for weddings. We are off to Canada in another month. And the orchestra should be announcing their 2014 destination soon.

Having been so many places, people often ask us where they should go. Italy and Germany are my top answers. Europe, in general, is amazing. They possess a different mindset entirely. Our relatives don’t prioritize fancy houses and possessions and….stuff. They live. They buy their meats and eggs and cheeses fresh from the local grocers, who get it from the local farms. They don’t have enormous refrigerators, and they have tiny freezers (if any). They eat what they love, and what they love is fresh, simply flavored foods. I usually come back from trips craving salt and hot, spicy foods: my American tongue is spoiled. They drink beers and wines for pleasure, not to excess. They dress for comfort, not show. And life just seems simpler.

I have never understood the Americans who have no inclination to leave the US. There’s an entire world out there, and it is amazing. It is profound. It forces you to look at your own life, your own thoughts, and your very being. You don’t have to make any great changes, but you should at least understand the differences between America and the rest of the world.


We all have different tastes, but I’m willing to bet every one has a restaurant (or more!) that never fails. I have a few, but tonight, I went to Firebirds.

Firebirds opened a few years ago in a newly revitalized area behind Fredericksburg’s mall. They emphasize their wood-burning grill, set in a cozy brick-lined open dining area off the entry way. When you first walk in, you see my usual spot: the bar.

Firebirds has a great happy hour. Monday through Thursday through 7:00 p.m. It includes half off bar snacks, $5.00 martinis, and half-price glasses of wine. I always, 99% of the time, always get the Double Black Diamond martini. It is a perfect drink – winter, spring, fall, summer, Armageddon. Simple, but sweet, the Double Black Diamond is shaken at your table and poured into a glass topped with a slice of fresh pineapple. The ingredients are few – pineapple juice and vodka, but they are wonderful friends.

My go-to meal item is always the same: Grilled Tenderloin Salad. I occasionally (maybe twice?) mix it up and get the Prime Rib. But usually, I’m all about the salad. Grilled beef tenderloin (I like mine Medium) sliced on top of a heaping bed of mixed greens, drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette, and covered with crumbled blue cheese. Diced tomatoes add a little extra juice, which melds with the vinaigrette and cheese to create a warm peachy creamy dressing. The salad is big, and with the meat, very filling. It is meant to be savored, and I often find myself taking a full hour or more to eat it. The combination of talking to great friends and a desire to savor make it last!


Firebirds consistently has great service, and the food is always well-prepared. I have been there close to 20 times, and have not had a single complaint!