keep taking yourself on adventures..
After having a delayed flight (which resulted in unexpected hang time with my awesome brother) and rushing to get to my connecting flight (you know I still spared time for an iced latte) I made it to Florida. I was so excited to see Aimee and to spend time getting to know Corey better. There are few times when Aimee and I get to spend time together. We are usually part of a dynamic threesome called HSJ. While we had many moments of missing our third counterpart we dove in head first to adventures with one another.
After rising from a great sleep that seems impossible for me to get at home I was ready for anything that the day might throw at us. My first desire was coffee with some good grub. We headed the direct of Pensacola and stopped in at what looked to me to be a great little breakfast shack. They were hosting a private party, so we had to search out another option. Aimee hopped on help and there was another little stop right down the road that we could stop in. As soon as I saw the sign for J.J. Chagos; I had a feeling that we would not be disappointed.
We walked in and seated ourselves because we had no idea what we were doing. The restaurant had the aesthetic of a one bedroom home that was turned into a mom and pop’s breakfast joint. The menu immediately captivated me with the long list of coffee options. I settled on ordering an iced salted caramel coconut latte that was smooth and seemed to be made with a foreign medium blend. Did I mention that we were served by the owner? It was incredible and there was apparently an issue with our order, so he brought us one of their signature brownies on the house. Yeah, JJ’s was killing it already and THEN our food came. Aimee and I both order the Breakfast Brisket Tacos. OH MY DAMN. Soft taco shell, egg, cheese, brisket and a side of cilantroish salsa. We were both dancing and there was no music playing. The food was on point and that brownie-WHOA. We aren’t quite certain what the ingredients consists of, but we were silent and foodgasm sounds happened frequently, so it was praise worthy!
So, day one started phenomenally and we were just beginning! We hopped back in the car towards Pensacola with leftover tacos and some brownie that we somehow had enough self control to save for later. I am pretty positive our conversation revolved around how incredible the food and experience we just had was until we reached the toll at Pensacola. The woman working the toll booth was wearing a winter coat and hat. Mind you, I am sitting in the passenger’s seat with my bathing suit on under my clothes just waiting for the opportunity to be by the water. I began laughing and said, “it’s not winter!” ***PAUSE*** “oh…yeah it is…” My Hoosier heart mixed with the Florida sunshine had me thinking it was on the cusp of summer.
I don’t know how Aimee didn’t get annoyed with my “oohs” and “ahhhs” as we made our way down the road between the sound and the ocean. If you know me, you know that I’m a water baby (for those that don’t me, basically I am obsessed with being near the water and cry more than the normal person). I was already in paradise with the views. Aimee had told me about an old fort that she thought that I would enjoy, and after seeing and experiencing Fort Pickens she was absolutely correct. (A, thank you for knowing me to my core). You can view the pictures for yourself, but Fort Pickens is beautiful. Throw some history, brick, old canons, patriotism, blue skies, sand, water sounds and smells with me behind the lens of a camera and I was an overjoyed artist.
There were plenty of portrait options with so many different textures and backdrops, but just having the opportunity to stand in a place of so much importance and history was meaningful. We self guided ourselves through the fort as Aimee read aloud the history of the different areas (she is terrific tour guide). Pictures can really never do a space like this justice, but my hope is that you take the time to look through these pictures and remember that our freedom came at a cost. We are blessed regardless of your political stance.
Once we wrapped at Fort Pickens we headed towards a beach clearing. We seemingly had the whole beach to ourselves other then a couple individuals on down the beach. I don’t think it was warm enough to be laying out in my suit, but you bet your ass I did it anyway! The sunshine felt fantastic and it was just long enough to get my beach fix.
Lunch time…we made the poor choice of Hooters. The Pina Coladas were great, but our chicken…not so much. We made the most of it and had plenty of good laughs over my order choice of “6 inch boneless wings” rather than “6 piece boneless wings.” Apparently my mind was elsewhere, and hopefully if you’re reading this you can find the humor in it all as well. We bopped around the Pensacola board walk for awhile where I fell in love with some denim Ray Bans…we will address those on Day Two.
Day One ended family style with all of us helping with dinner, drinking and playing Cards Against Humanity. Quite honestly, I was already completely content with how this trip had been thus far. It could really go up from there…
The overall theme of this day was chill. After talking about it drunkenly the night before and waking up feeling the same type of way about those Ray Bans from the day before we made our way back to Pensacola just for the shades. The manager at Islanders Coastal Outfitters had offered me one hell of a deal on them the day before, so after thinking on it; it was just meant to be. Once they were on my face it was even more full proof that I was meant to own a pair of denim shades.
Having the sun blocked from the deep browns while completely feelin’ myself we headed for the Iron Gargoyle for some antiquing. Antiquing is something that I actually enjoy as I have gotten older and it’s something that Aimee has always had an interest in, so it was great to share that with one another. The first booth had some awesome signs that we both dug through for some treasures. After getting lost in the land of antiques and no sell service we walked out with some unique signage, comics and some good tunes for me to spin on my record player back home.
Since we had worked up an appetite we headed for lunch at our new found favorite spot: J.J Chagos. More incredible coffee was drank and avocado tacos were gobbled up. I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed that place.
The remainder of the afternoon was open for us which was perfect for settling in on the hammock for editing pictures. I love hammocks; that is a new development in my life. Give me a ocean breeze, hammock and my pictures and I’ll be a happy lady. We took it pretty easy until gearing up for a night of Painting with a Twist. Aimee set this up prior to me flying down and it was a new experience for me. I consider myself creative and artistic, but not usually when it comes to painting. We drank wine, enjoyed one another’s company, made sarcastic comments and painted a beautiful sunset within a wine glass. I think we all did a fantastic job and had a damn good time in the process! Painting was a great, new way, to express myself creatively. I loved the freedom of it even though we were going by an example.
With painting done and a little wine buzz going we headed back home for homemade pizza night. I had the privilege of watching Aimee and Corey doing one of their favorite things together. I loved watching them cook and make pizza together. It was truly an art form. They work so well together, it was all cohesive and absolutely delicious as a finished product. #relationshipgoals. Cards Against Humanity made it’s way back out with lots of laughs with new friends as the night came to a close.
The introvert in my was absolutely exhausted, but enjoying myself regardless. I was excited to sleep and gear up for the excitement of Day Three.
Early wake up which lead to High Brew Coffee in hand and breakfast burritos at a local food truck called Sharkbite; where they had an ugly sign, but great food! One of the many things that I love about Aimee is that she matches my love for travel and adventure. I mentioned to her the day prior that Abita was my favorite beer and that the brewery was not too far from them. I recommended that they take a trip there sometime, but when we looked it up we found that it would be on our way to New Orleans, so…we added it to the plan!
Abita Springs, LA might be one of my new favorite places in this world. I loved the landscape, the people and of course the beer! My best friend, Kristyn, and I have loved Abita Purple Haze forever ever and to finally make it to the brewery was such a happy moment. I was obviously a fan of Abita before the tour, but after I became a super fan. Their eco-friendly brewing processes and attention to customer experience paired with their incredible tasting beers and sodas made it a place that I didn’t want to leave and want to return to in the near future. I loved the whole experience and looked and acted like a four year old on Christmas Day.
With happy taste buds and a thankful heart we loaded back into the car for the rest of the journey to New Orleans. The fact that we traveled across a TWENTY FIVE mile long bridge just to get to the city was the first sign that I would fall in love with this place. So much water, so much beauty. I was anxious to be surrounded by the culture, but I had no idea how over stimulated I would. I couldn’t take in all of the colors, sounds, people and architecture fully until after the fact.
Our bellies were craving some grub, so after maneuvering the New Orlean streets and finding parking we found ourselves at Cafe Maspero. We started out with some Gumbo and I decided to go with a traditional favorite of Red Beans and Rice; both were phenomenal. (We also enjoyed a couple adult beverages that did not disappoint). Now that we had energy we set out into the streets of New Orleans. Jackson Square quickly captivated my attention. There were a group of men jazz jamming and I could have stayed and watched them all day. I tipped them well for their incredible talent and enjoyed being literally surrounded by all of the incredibly music that they were making. Pops of color surround you in New Orleans. Your eyes race in order to keep up with all that you're seeing and you still aren’t able to see it all. It was complete sensory overload. There were so many different types of people, art forms and creative outlets that I wish I could have purchased something from every single one of them. I settled on a portrait of my favorite ninja turtle, Raphael, by a creative soul named Mellissa.
With Rude Raph in one hand, my camera in the other and my wallet tucked safely next to my chest we made our way to the French Market. It reminded me so much of Pike Place Market, so obviously I loved it. I didn’t allow myself to look at many of the booths for long because I knew how tempted I would be to scoop up more goodies. Aimee found an artistic Cajun Alphabet poster while I got a picture with Leonardo the Ninja Turtle and listened to even more great jazz music played by some young hustlers on the corner.
Beignets and Chicory Coffee were next…I’m pretty sure I could eat beignets until I am sick. I could do without the Chicory Coffee, but for tradition sake I stomached a bit and will probably do it again when I return! We were working against the clock and our parking meter, but we still managed to walk down Bourbon street for more audio and visual stimulation before loading up for our next stop. It is still incredible to me how such an incredible dirty city was absolutely breathtaking to me…and not just because of all of the smells that go along with it.
Before flying down I had told Aimee about an art studio that I would love to see while we were in New Orleans if there was time. After learning more about Studio BE she was also on board to make it apart of our experience. My heart and mind is still sorting through all of the emotions that I experienced while walking through the incredible art done by BMike. (The photos that I was able to take do not do the exhibit justice and I highly recommend everyone going and experiencing it for themselves).
On a personal level I was incredible moved by one area in particular. The words on this large letter “B” hit me to my core: “I ain’t sayin’ that it’s right, but we often pay the price cause a women’s life is love. and a man’s love is life.” I then entered this large letter “B” and threw my negativity info the flames. In that moment I realized how whole I truly am. I have made strides in this self love and discovery journey, but there was still some negativity that I was harboring within my soul. I know that the symbol of leaving it there does not necessarily mean that I will not still struggle with these emotions, but it was a huge step in the right direction.
I was a woman of few words as I made my way through a this warehouse filled with art. I stood and let myself stare that at the words “YOU ARE STILL HERE” are they changed colors. Those words. Powerful. It all matter. We all matter. We are still here, existing, making, loving, creating…for a reason. We don’t have all the answers, and honestly we never will, but we have a purpose deep within us or we wouldn’t still be here.
There were so many thoughts and emotions that pulsed through me and I am still processing all of them as I look through my pictures on a daily basis. I am thankful that I am able to transport myself back to those thoughts and feelings. I am also thankful that I was able to share the experience with two fantastic people. They were able to take their own thoughts away from this creative space and it was even better to be able to have real conversations about how we felt in those moments. All too often I think we fear conversations about race or culture when we should embrace our difference and realize that at the end of the day we are all humans with blood running through our veins. We are all a man or a woman. My prayer for this world is that we learn to live in love and celebrate our differences and realize that all history is our history.
Day three came to a close with great old school music playing as we made our way towards Fairhope, AL for some dinner and sleep. Sunset Pointe is a place where they toast to the sunset and serve Keylime Curd dessert, so we ended the night with libations and good eats.
Fairhope, AL is an adorable town with beautiful views, long piers and superbly green lawns. It’s small town and dream like. We enjoyed breakfast at the Two Sisters Cafe and then took a windy walk down the Fairhope Pier. It really felt like a scene from Heart of Dixie; we even had a clear view of Mobile from the pier.
We took our time driving back home and relaxed a bit before going to a local coffee shot that I wanted to try. Originally I was going to go alone, but thankfully Aimee decided to join and we were able to have refreshing conversation over a kick ass long island iced coffee. Maas Coffee Roasters knows what's up!
This trip ended up being everything that I didn't know I needed. I am sitting here writing while enjoying J.J Chagos yet again. I was able to make grow myself in every way that needed to happen. I grounded myself again and prepared my mind and heart for all of the big moves coming my way. When opportunities present themselves to you; embrace them. Beautiful things are ahead and this is only the beginning...
Indiana native with a PNW heart filled with a love for photography, travel, coffee, wine, writing and The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.