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.
Actually, 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?
Seeing 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.
We 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.)
My 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.
The 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.
In 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.
I 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!
The 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!
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.
While 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.
Our 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.”
After 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.
At 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?
So 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!)
And 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.
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.