17 Hours to Smell the Roses

17-17-8. Those numbers represent the whirlwind that was the end of our week last week. We spent 17 hours traveling round-trip between Connecticut and Atlanta to stay 17 hours in our old hometown so we could complete an eight-minute interview with the French Consulate.  Along our way we had brief layovers in both Miami and Philadelphia.

As those of you who have been reading my blog probably know, we’ve been waiting in Connecticut for our visas for France. The interview was the last step to getting approved, so when we were informed the Consulate was going to squeeze us in on Friday, we immediately booked last-minute flights (hence the roundabout trip to and from Atlanta). Don’t worry–we made the most of it.

We had to be at the Consulate first thing in the morning so we could wait for an opening in the schedule. It was a bit nerve-wracking as we didn’t know how busy it would be, nor how long we’d have to sit and wait to be called. Though it appeared we were the second people in the door that morning, others who came in after us had appointments and were called up ahead of us. We began to get nervous that we would be there the entire day and not get our interview.

Fortunately there were a few cancellations, so they were able to fit us in. They called us to the window and we answered a few questions and had our photos and fingerprints taken. In just about eight minutes, we were done. Now we wait with fingers crossed that our visas will get their final approvals and we can head to France in two weeks.

We had a little time to spare after our interviews before heading back to the airport, so we decided to take a nature break at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.  Although I lived in Atlanta for nine years and even though for the last year and a half of that time Matt and I lived right down the street from the gardens, it took us leaving the city to make our first visit there.

The Botanical Gardens are a 30-acre oasis tucked next to Piedmont Park in the heart of Midtown. Nestled within an in-town forest on Piedmont Road, the Gardens could easily be missed save for the large sign at the entrance beckoning visitors in for a break from the busy city surrounding it.

After parking (which you do have to pay for in addition to the cost of the tickets), we walked through the ticketing area and down the path to the Southern Seasons Garden, Canopy Walk, Cascade Garden (which features an incredible sculpture of a woman blanketed in flowers and greenery) and Storza Woods (according to the website, these woods account for half of the Garden’s 30 acres and are one of the few remaining hardwood forests in the City of Atlanta).

As we walked, we could see hundreds of glass bulbs staged throughout the woods. They are part of the Bruce Munro: Light exhibit that runs in the evenings through October 3. While we couldn’t see their full glory in the sunlight, we could imagine how beautiful it must be to walk through a garden of lights in the evenings.

We then strolled through the rose garden, across the Great Lawn and into the Dorthy Chapman Fuqua Conservatory. The conservatory was my favorite place in the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. It featured large rooms staged to house plants in realistic tropical and desert environments. There were many plants I recognized (so many gorgeous orchids) and others I had never seen before. There was even a “scent garden” where blooming gardenias and honeysuckle perfumed the air as we strolled through and gently brushed our fingers over fragrant rosemary. We took a lot of pictures in the conservatory (many of which are in the slide show below).

Our final walks were through the Edible and Japanese Gardens. While they didn’t have any events going on the day we were there, the Edible Garden has an outdoor kitchen where Atlanta’s top chefs host cooking classes on the weekends featuring ingredients harvested from the garden. If I had realized all the Atlanta Botanical Gardens had to offer, I would have certainly purchased an annual membership when we lived there.

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After stopping to smell the roses, we took a break to sample the rosé and reflect on our lives. It was hard to believe we have already been gone from Atlanta for over a month. It was strange to feel like visitors in the city we called home.

As much fun as a liquid lunch can be, we knew we needed more nourishment for our upcoming flights to Philly and Connecticut so we made a stop at Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q. This is hands down some of the best barbecue in Atlanta. I’ve never been there and not seen a line of people waiting for a seat. Friday was no exception.

Since this is likely to be our last southern barbecue for a while, we got a small variety of dishes, including The Tomminator- tots smothered in savory Brunswick Stew and covered in gooey cheese. We were lucky to enjoy this meal with a couple of friends who had the afternoon off.

You can’t go wrong with a meat platter at a barbecue joint. This one featured the sausage of the day (a spicy jalapeño number), tender pulled pork and delicious beef brisket.

Bellies full, we made a quick stop at our condo and then headed back to the airport to complete the final leg of our journey. Fortunately the planes were running on time, so we were soon able to tumble into our beds and recover from the whirlwind trip.

Tonight we head to Boston for a quick birthday trip. If you have any tips on what to eat or do, please leave them in the comments.

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