Category Archives: Adventures and Travel

Tolkien Fans, Rejoice!

So I wasn’t able to buy Tolkien’s Oxford house (though not for lack of desire), but as it turns out, I may one day still be able to stay somewhere that Tolkien hung out. With CS Lewis and Robert Harvard and all of the other Inklings.

The famous Eagle and Child pub is getting an upgrade, which means there will now be seven rooms inside. (Read more here.)

How much will these rooms be? Maybe a bit too expensive. But that’s okay. A girl can dream, right?

Have you ever visited the Eagle and Child? Would you want to stay there?

Welcome to Book Heaven

There’s something wonderful about used books. They have that old book smell, especially the very old ones. Those smell the best. Some are well-loved and  have slightly tattered pages. Others’ stiff pages are in need of use. And to be surrounded by them? Now that is true delight.

For the past few years, my family and I have made a day of driving to Jacksonville, Florida where there’s an enormous bookstore known as Chamblin’s Bookmine. And bookmine is the best way to describe it too. It’s a sprawling building filled from floor to ceiling with narrow shelves covered in used books. My parents, brother, husband, and I literally spend hours searching through the shelves, and it would be easy to spend a few days exploring all of the used books it has to offer.


Last year, this is where my husband found the Myst book, and it didn’t disappoint. This time, we found the other two books in the series. As it turns out, The Book of Ti’Ana appears to be the middle in the series, so we finally have the ones before and afterwards. Here’s to learning more (and here’s hoping for better editing).

I grabbed a copy of Aesop’s Fables since they’re always good and I don’t have a copy of my own. I also couldn’t resist the price.

One of my main goals was to find some books in French for my students. To my delight, I found some inexpensive phrase books for travelers, and I couldn’t resist grabbing one written for the French about America! (Notice that the biding is printed in the opposite direction as books here in the US so it looks upside down.) I think the kids will get a kick out of that. I also found a French children’s story that I’m looking forward to reading to them.

The best treasure of the day, though, was a book from 1902. I could tell it was something special from three rows away, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s on Oriental pottery, which truly does sound interesting, but the best part is that there were only 1,000 copies of the book. This is number 947, handwritten in red ink.


So, needless to say, if you’re ever in the Jacksonville area, this used bookstore is definitely one to visit. Or even if you’re not, it’s worth a drive.

Do you frequent used bookstores? What are some of your favorite used bookstore finds?

Enjoying the Local Eats: The Drowsy Poet

When school lets out, one of the first things that my husband and I do is leave for vacation. This year’s adventure took us along the Florida panhandle. Whenever we travel, there are two things that we base our trips around: what to do and what to eat. If there are museums and good food around, count us in.

One of our finds this year was a small chain of coffee shops in the Pensacola area. We hit the one in Pensacola Beach, situated on a small strip of land between the mainland and the rows of hotels and shops.


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Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage Symphony

This year is Star Trek‘s 50th anniversary. While Star Trek has always been a part of my life (I distinctly remember my mom watching The Next Generation when I was a kid, as well as her favorite of the movies, The Wrath of Khan), it’s never been as much a part as it is now.

My husband is a serious Trekkie. His affinity for Star Trek is like mine for all things Tolkien: he comes by it honestly because he’s a second generation fan. Because of the constant stream of information and thanks to watching all of the shows (yes, even the Animated Series) at least once through, I’ve slowly gone from enjoying it to maybe being a Trekkie myself.

Needless to say, then, that when we found out that there was a symphony coming through to celebrate Star Trek‘s anniversary, we had to round up all of our geeky friends and family and go.


If you like Star Trek even a little and enjoy music, this is definitely the event for you.

It’s spending the earlier part of the year east of the Mississippi and in Canada, then hopping to the West Coast, and finishing in the western interior.

Want to learn more? Check out the site here.

Live long and prosper, my friends.

Making Mondays Better: Visiting a Real T.A.R.D.I.S.

Vacations have always been an adventure for my family. Whether it’s meeting a Navajo chief in Monument Valley, listening to the reflections of an elderly Amish man in the comfort of his modest home, or eating caribou pâté in Quebec City, we always manage to find something unexpected along the way.

This year, our surprise showed up in Macon, Georgia. During a one night stop, we stayed not far from Mercer University. As my husband and I struggled to navigate the one way streets, we just so happened to notice the last thing we expected to see: a T.A.R.D.I.S. sitting at the intersection of Georgia Ave and College Street!

Doctor, wait for me!

Doctor, wait for me!

Like good Dr. Who? fans, we leapt out of the car as fast as we could to snap a picture with it before it vanished. Fortunately, though, it looks like this one won’t be going anywhere any time soon.

As part of a program to improve downtown Macon, the T.A.R.D.I.S. and other spots like it actually hide “little free libraries.” The only rule is if you take a book, you have to leave another in its place. Alas that I didn’t know before I came. The only book I brought with me was borrowed from my mom, and she would have missed it since I think it’s out of print.

We didn’t see any of the others because of our itinerary, but next time we’re passing through, we know what to look for. And next time you’re passing through Macon, Georgia, you’ll have something to look forward to as well!

Want to read more about Macon’s “little free libraries”? Click here!

What’s the most unexpected adventure you had during a vacation?

Thanksgiving and Old Books

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! A short week so close to the end of the semester means tons of grading to do, and unfortunately, the paying job comes first. The good news, though: I’m back and plan on the usual posting schedule this week, and my writing buddy is here to help.

Only ten weeks old, but he always wants to help.

Only ten weeks old, but he always wants to help.

Around this time of year, my parents, brother, husband, and I always go on some adventure. Last year, it was Christmas lights and dinner in another part of the state. This year, we visited an old bookstore a few hours away. There’s nothing like squeezing into the car with them. (And it’s much more peaceful to be in such close quarters with my brother now that we’re adults.)

The winding bookstore was filled with shelves and shelves of books. Some were new, but we skipped over them in favor of the old. In one section, cases housed very old and autographed books. (I only drooled a little.) Everywhere else, fairly new books sat beside ones from the early 1900’s. Those are the ones I was most excited for. I love antiques, and antique books are a special treasure.

Though there were plenty that I would have gladly snatched up, I brought home these three.

Rudyard Kipling, O. Henry, and Lew Wallace

Rudyard Kipling, O. Henry, and Lew Wallace

Each is over a hundred years old, all from the very early 1900’s. And while I have no plans to drag them along to the gym to read on the treadmill, I do plan to savor them in my library with a large cup of Darjeeling.

Do you collect old books or other antiques? Have you come across any great finds lately?

9 Foods to Try in Quebec City

Whenever we travel, our plans are centered around food and must-see sights. Before setting off, we choose everywhere we want to eat and organize which restaurants to visit based on the locations of museums, historical sites, nature trails, etc.

One of the best things about Quebec City is that great restaurants and things to see are within easy walking distance from one another. The only trouble is that there are so many great restaurants marked in our guide book but only so much time, meals, and money. Oh well. Good excuse to visit again.

While everything is delicious, here are some culinary delights that you have to try.


9. French onion soup

Since most people in Quebec are French, is it just onion soup?

Since most people in Quebec are French, is it just onion soup?

Just as there’s that notable difference between a Hershey’s Kiss and Godiva chocolate, there’s a notable difference between French onion soup in America and in Quebec. More onions, richer cheese, tastier broth… It might seem cliché, but don’t pass it up.

Bonus Tip: Want to wash up before eating? Most of the very small bathrooms are in the basement of the buildings.


8. Croque-monsieur

Ham and cheese with a culinary twist

Ham and cheese with a culinary twist!

This open-faced ham and cheese sandwich would make Julia Child proud. Covered in a thick, cheesy sauce, this ham on toasted bread makes a great late lunch. (Check it out at Cochon Dingue!)


7. Caribou 

Caribou and bison pâté with a carrot chutney and garlic toast. It's better than it might sound.

Caribou and bison pate (excuse the lack of accents) with a carrot chutney and garlic toast. It’s better than it might sound.

Caribou isn’t a stranger to the menus in Quebec City. A great example is this caribou and bison pâté appetizer at Aux Anciens Canadiens. While I’m not normally a pâté person, it’s surprisingly good!

Bonus Tip: At this fancier restaurant, a meal typically includes a drink, an appetizer, the main course, and a dessert. Most restaurants have this deal, though, if you order one of the specials of the day. (And the specials aren’t the most expensive meals on the menu.) Great bang for your buck!


6. Old fashion hot chocolate

Old fashioned hot chocolate... or, as my brother called it, the easiest way to get diabetes.

Old fashioned hot chocolate… or, as my brother called it, the easiest way to get diabetes.

Forget Swiss Miss powder. This hot chocolate is thick, creamy, and not obnoxiously sweet.

Bonus Tip: Most breakfast places include coffee or hot chocolate with a breakfast plate.


5. Meat pie

A Quebecois

Ground meat in a flaky crust. What more could you ask for?

Self-explanatory but not to be underestimated. The best one we found was at Aux Anciens Canadiens.


4. Café au lait

Drinking it from a traditional bowl is a must!

Drinking it from a traditional bowl is a must!

The Quebecois seem to love their coffee. For an authentic experience, try café au lait (coffee with milk) served the traditional way: in a bowl. This half-coffee, half-steamed milk mixture is a frothy delight. Need a little sugar? No one will look down on you for including a packet or two… or three.

We loved café au lait served this way so much that my mom ordered bowls as soon as we returned home. Can’t wait to drink from them tonight.


3. Bacon covered in crepe batter

Add bacon to anything, and it just gets better.

Add bacon to anything, and it just gets better.

Yes, it’s as delightful as it sounds! It’s a breakfast of champions at Buffet de l’Antiquaire.


2. Maple pie

If you like pumpkin pie and the taste of maple,

Consistency like pumpkin pie, but it tastes like maple heaven.

This is a delicacy. It’s very sweet, but with a dollop of fresh, unsweetened whipped cream, it’s perfect. We love it so much that we brought the recipe back to the States with us.


1. Poutine

Chic Shack's mushroom poutine is a meal in itself!

Chic Shack’s mushroom poutine is a meal in itself!

When we decided to visit Quebec City, this instantly hit the top of my list of foods to try. While the combination of fries, cheese, and gravy makes it sound like glorified gravy fries, the description falls short in so many ways. Most restaurants use cheese curds, which melt yet maintain some shape. The potatoes involved aren’t always fries (like the thinly sliced potato wedges used at Chic Shack). And gravy isn’t the only topping. The Quebecois make all sorts of combinations: mushrooms and Parmesan, smoked meat and Swiss cheese, and even chicken with a red wine sauce and shallots. And all of them are amazing.

Bonus Tip: If you visit Chic Shack for its variety of poutine, be sure to grab a salted maple caramel milkshake. You won’t regret it (and the walk back to the hotel should burn off most of the calories… unless you’re staying at le Chateau Frontenac).

View from a cafe right next to le Chateau Frontenac. (It really can be seen from anywhere!)

A view of le Chateau Frontenac from Chic Shack.

Want my quick overview of Quebec City? Click here!


Have you tried any of the foods on this list? Have other Quebec delicacies you would add? Visit any must-try restaurants lately?