The Spence in Atlanta

Girls Gone Wild … in Atlanta

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Before you read this post in hopes of a few “flashing for beads” photos, know in advance that my cousin Rebecca and I decided to take a much-needed (for her) “girlfriend getaway” (much as I loathe that term). She lives in Memphis and I reside in Middle Tennessee, and so we closed our eyes and picked a point on the map, and voila! We found ourselves in Atlanta.

Girls Weekend in AtlantaActually, the idea first came about when Rebecca and John weren’t able to make my birthday weekend in Asheville. John was skiing in Seattle, so he gave Rebecca a free pass to spend a few days with me elsewhere. Rebecca’s two- and four-year-old daughters had decided they wanted bunk beds, so we were going to scavenge for them in the bedlam known as IKEA. In the meantime, she actually found a better set on Zulily for $300, so McKayla, ever the thoughtful child, told her on Friday: “Mommy, you don’t need to go to Atlantica with Kristin anymore. I already have my bunk beds!” But of course we still went. Because what mom to a pair of energetic rugrats doesn’t want a weekend away when her husband is offering it up?

Girls Weekend in AtlantaSeeing as I grew up just two-and-a-half hours from “Atlantica,” I’ve spent a good amount of time there shopping, but still we went back and forth: Would we rather stay in Buckhead where we can walk to all the malls and shops? Or do we want to stay downtown and partake in St. Patrick’s Day Parade madness? Obviously, we chose the former.

Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, AtlantaWe found ourselves at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead after much debate, and were please to find that both Lenox Mall and Phipps Plaza were just over the crosswalk. The hotel itself was one of the older Ritz properties, but the rooms appeared to have been updated. We were on the spa level, and I was initially concerned about the overwhelming scents—last year when I stayed in the Ritz in Denver, my head pounded from the Bvlgari smells wafting throughout my suite—but I was pleased to find this hotel carried Molton Brown instead. Much more in line with my allergies! (Am I that difficult a traveler? That previous paragraph would imply so. I blame genetics and the allergies that being back in the South have brought on.)

Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, AtlantaBut the property had all the touches that make a Ritz remarkable: amazing, polite and personable staff; a pool and hot tub; and, most importantly, a great lounge and bar.

Ritz-Carlton Buckhead in Atlanta Ritz-Carlton Buckhead in Atlanta Ritz-Carlton Buckhead in AtlantaRitz-Carlton Buckhead in AtlantaWe may or may not have indulged in $16 cocktails just because we were “on vacation.”

Ritz-Carlton Buckhead in AtlantaMy only one qualm with staying in nicer properties is the minor costs that really add up. Internet, for example, is not free. How hard (read: expensive) could it be to add Wi-Fi to the list of services? Oh well, I had work to do but this just gave me an excuse to log off for a weekend.

Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, AtlantaI think Rebecca was just excited to get to sleep past 7am.

Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, AtlantaRitz-Carlton Buckhead in AtlantaAnd that no little feet came pitter-pattering down the hallway to climb in bed with her in the wee hours of the morning. (I mean, I tried to do as much, but was ignored.)

Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, AtlantaThe first night found us at Holeman & Finch Public House for dinner. I’ve long been wanting to check this place out, but last summer when I was in town, we were a bigger group and Holeman doesn’t take reservations. This time, we were a party of two and managed to sidle up to the bar and grab a table. The wait for the restaurant at 7pm was already two hours! Still, we put our names in…just in case.

Holeman & Finch in AtlantaIn the meantime, my friend Kendyl had seen my whereabouts via Instagram—I’m so easy to track down if anyone were to want to kill me ever—and texted me: “you’re in the ATL? I’m in the ATL!” A stroke of luck meant that she had no dinner plans so after her day at the marathon expo ended, she and her coworker Kaitlin met us at Holeman for a late dinner. At that time, our table just happened to be available, so we moved into the next room.

Holeman & Finch, Atlanta Holeman & Finch, Atlanta Holeman & Finch, Atlanta Holeman & Finch, AtlantaI was silently cursing my lack of foresight not ordering the famed burger. Each night, Holeman prepares exactly 24 craftsman burgers that are ready at 10pm on the dot, but they “sell out” early. The bartender asked us around 7:30 if we wanted on “the list,” but I figured there was no way we’d still be there at 10. Well, at 10:15pm, we were paying our bill and wishing we had a juicy burger to take back to the Ritz with us. Oh well, next time!

Holeman & Finch in AtlantaThe following morning, we had breakfast at Highlands Bakery where I encountered the most insane French toast of my life (smothered in peanut butter and bananas at that!). And no, your eyes have not been deceived; it really was the size of Rebecca’s head!

Highlands Bakery in Atlanta We made some serious progress that day, mainly shopping for the girls, and then headed back to the Ritz for a quick shower prior to our dinner in Midtown at Richard Blais’ new restaurant, the Spence.

Shopping in AtlantaWhile I’ve never seen a full episode of Top Chef, I met Blais a few years ago when I was in the ATL for a weekend and love his other local mini-franchise, Flip Burger. The Spence was every bit as inventive and delightful.

The Spence in AtlantaOur dates for the evening were two pretty girls: Jordan, one of the former Semester at Sea students with whom I am very close, and Allie, CPA extraordinaire who is one of my sister’s best friends. Jordan had goat linguini, Allie and I each had a kale rigatoni and Rebecca opted for one of Blais’ famous burgers, “the Juicy Lucy.”

The Spence in AtlantaThe Spence in AtlantaThe Spence in AtlantaAfter dinner, we braved navigational errors—seriously, Rebecca has an iPhone 5 with AT&T and I have a 4s with Verizon, and our phones consistently made the exact same GPS mistakes in getting us around Atlanta (does Apple/Google have a beef with Georgia or something?)—and ridiculous St. Patty’s Day crowds to meet up with my friend Alishan for a few drinks.

AlishanAt 11:30pm, Alishan turned to us: “I might lame out and head home soon. Would you be offended?” I responded something to the effect of: “no! We are grannies and currently wishing we were in our pajamas, too.” So that settled that, and us three old-and-marrieds ditched the frat-heavy Irish pub scene for a night in front of SNL, wine in hand. It was glorious.

On Sunday, after a brunch at Murphy’s in the Highlands, and the hour it took us to get around marathon traffic—a head’s up that there was an 18,000-person marathon in town would have been helpful!—I gave Rebecca her first taste of IKEA madness. How is she 31 and just venturing into the blinding blue-and-yellow theme park for the first time?

IKEA AtlantaI thought we’d be in and out in an hour, but one turned into three, and suddenly our carts looked like this:

IKEA AtlantaSo yeah, $1300 later, I’d say we had a successful run. (We even remained friends—er, cousins—after everything was said and done. It was touch-and-go there for a minute after I led Rebecca down the wrong aisle while she pushed this monstrosity of a cart around. Oh, and then there was the incident that after half an hour in line, my pile of frames toppled over and shattered, and I had to return to the marketplace and wait again just to replace one of the frames. Oy to the vey!)

IKEA AtlantaAnd even though I swore off IKEA two years ago after furnishing my Edinburgh, Holland, Denmark, New York and San Francisco apartments solely with the Swedish industrial-style furniture, I now own a new IKEA console and a whole lot of frames so hopefully one of these days, we’ll get around to the decorating part of our home.

IKEA AtlantaAnd don’t worry, we resisted the meatballs. Though the lingonberries almost swayed me. Almost.

IKEA Atlanta

Disclosure: I was a guest of the Ritz-Carlton for my work as a travel adviser. All opinions and bright ideas to jump on beds were my own.

  • March 18, 2013

    FYI there is an IKEA in Charlotte…just saying! πŸ˜‰ What a fun weekend!!! Love me some Ritz.

    • March 27, 2013

      DANGEROUS. I WILL be there this summer, I promise!

  • March 18, 2013

    I love IKEA for frames and vases and such, can’t miss there! (I’m less enthused about their furniture, but I think most people can incorporate it in such a way that it doesn’t scream “I was put together with a miniscule allen wrench!” πŸ˜‰


    • March 19, 2013

      Girl, I hear you. I swore off IKEA furniture when we left SF, as I feel like it’s very “college-y,” and I was ready for big girl furniture finally. However, we’ve had a helluva time finding a console to go in the entryway, and I found the perfect one in size and style for just $199! It seems pretty solid, too, and I’ve got SVV to do the gruntwork πŸ˜‰

  • March 18, 2013

    A) Don’t resist the lingonberries. They’re delicious. I don’t know or care what they’re made of. Wonderful on the pancakes Swede makes.

    2) I love that you call it a night at 11pm. This is why we are friends.

    • March 19, 2013

      Ooh I love me some lingonberries, just not as a dressing for horse meat. I will, however, continue to eat them on pancakes!

  • March 18, 2013

    There’s no IKEA where I’m from, but my mom always had their catalogs so I grew up a little familiar with the brand and its products… to a degree. It wasn’t until I went abroad for the first time (Singapore) and found myself in one of their stores. It’s a mad, mad, mad place but I wanted to live there. Will bring my mom along one of these days so we can explore the madness together. πŸ˜€

    That French toast looks like it can feed a family of five!

    • March 19, 2013

      There’s something about the way they’ve staged the store that makes you just want to move in, isn’t there? You temporarily forget about the madness and are enticed into the colorful lair…

  • March 19, 2013

    I’m going to go ahead and tell you that I’m insanely jealous of this trip on a lot of levels. Mostly the idea of a comfy bed to myself and not waking until sometime around 8am. I feel like that might NEVER again happen. Ahhhhh……

    My first IKEA experience was in ATL also and shortly after we got one here. Can you believe it? … I live in Ohio and have an IKEA 30 minutes from my house! So now I’m a little spoiled and can run in for a $4 item if I need to.

    So on my dream trip, I’d like to trade the IKEA adventure for a day at the spa. And I’d shop for myself (I think I’ve forgotten how to do that) somewhere.

    I guess now I just need to pick a city, huh? So glad you and Rebecca had a great (much needed and deserved) trip!

    • March 19, 2013

      But let’s be honest: Do you actually go to IKEA for just one item? I can’t imagine braving that chaos if I only needed one thing! We had one 20 minutes away from us in SF and I only went once when I first moved out there and needed a whole bunch of furniture!

      Also, Rebecca is The Worst at shopping for herself. I think she might have bought one or two items of clothing that weren’t for the girls!

  • March 19, 2013

    IKEA is just like Target. You can never go in for one item and come out with less than $100 bill.

    What a fun weekend for you. I love the apple drink. So is it real apple with drink inside?

    • March 19, 2013

      It is real apple juice squeezed from the apple inside! Didn’t produce a whole lot of juice but it was fun =)

  • March 20, 2013

    Every Ritz I’ve been to really does just have great staff. They might not be the most hip chain, but sometimes comfort and good service are more important than cutting edge design.

    That said, I LOVE the dog wallpaper…any chance you might need some for #vicreno? It is fabulous.

    • March 20, 2013

      Me, too! It was at C Wonder, Tory Burch’s store. I think I definitely need it for the #VicReno!

  • March 20, 2013

    Yeah… I have to stay away from IKEA. Never fails that I always buy SOMETHING for our non-existent house. <3

    Looks like a great weekend!

  • March 21, 2013

    I see you had a lot of fun! See, there’s no IKEA in Mexico as far as I know…

    • March 22, 2013

      It’s probably safer for your wallet that there isn’t!

  • March 22, 2013

    I guess your Atlanta trip was more of gastronomical in nature than any real sight seeing or indulging in any fun activities.

    • March 22, 2013

      Are you saying shopping isn’t fun? πŸ˜‰

      Seeing as I grew up so close to Atlanta, I’ve been dozens of times, and while I contemplated doing the Coke factory tour or the Georgia Aquarium again, I figured not best to do so on a marathon weekend with so many visitors in town! Though I would like to do the whale shark dive at the aquarium one of these days.

  • March 22, 2013

    Looks like you girls had a lot of fun. You both deserve it.

  • March 23, 2013

    I really love the place where you stayed – great place to have fun and relax! That rubber ducky also looks cute and funny. πŸ™‚

    And that French toast is the same size as Rebecca’s head? I think it’s even bigger than her head! LOL

    • March 27, 2013

      I am a sucker for any hotel that has rubber ducks!

  • March 24, 2013

    My whole life is a “girls get-away.” The curse of the old and single… I want that duck!!

  • March 25, 2013

    Aw, I love girlfriend getaways… and cousin getaways… and IKEA getaways! Sounds like a great trip πŸ™‚

    • March 27, 2013

      I’m still waiting for the ultimate Luna-Baackes-Orth girlfriend getaway!

  • March 25, 2013

    I don’t think I’ve ever managed to clock an IKEA visit that was under 2 hours. I get lost. I love the showrooms and then I spend an inordinate amount of time squinty at things I might want to buy and then ultimately don’t buy. Also, the cinnamon rolls they have there are silly delicious.

    • March 27, 2013

      I love that they now give out maps to IKEAs! Ha! So fancy.

  • March 25, 2013

    I have a love-hate relationship with IKEA. I always end up stuff I don’t need…

    • March 27, 2013

      So true. I now have 15 empty planters sitting in my hallway that I just HAD to buy because they were so cheap ($.99 a pop!)…

  • March 31, 2013

    Holeman – Oh, I’m so jealous! We loved our recent trip to Atlanta (and Decatur). Thanks for sharing your trip.

  • May 4, 2022

    Thanks-a-mundo for the article.Really looking forward to read more. Really Cool.

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