Last summer, during a particularly challenging time, I met Mandy at running camp. Well, she was running, and I was walking. On her first trip to the United States, we instantly connected over our mutual love of Elvis and love of adventure. Thanks to the miracle of technology, we've kept in touch, trading book picks and stories of our growth and stumblings.
I was thrilled when she wrote to say she'd be coming to Birmingham on her latest tour of the South -- a trip to play her tuba during Mardi Gras, and visits to friends in Atlanta and Charlotte.
We did some wonderful things together. She brought us Vegemite (or as my friend Chris said, "Vege-might? Vegi-definitely!" and Aussie goodies for Nate:
I took her for her first ever CHick-Fil-A biscuit, which she adored:
Our first real stop was of course Vulcan. She was taken by the torch, which was also the first thing that captivated me when I first visited Birmingham:
It was freezing at the top -- 46 degrees but with wind chill felt like the 20s. We braved it anyhow.
She said, "Look at this view!" I realized I'd never looked up at the Iron Man while standing at the top. I was always too busy looking down through the metal grate, unnecessarily panicking at the drop below.
To warm up, we went by Dreamcakes for tea and cupcakes.
And later, to the Test Kitchens, where I made her pose with the Vegemite. (An ingredient I'm fairly sure we've never used in our recipes.)
And to Saw's for BBQ. I'm so glad she loves the South.
Then to Naked Art, where she bought an Elvis painting.
And to the Alabama Booksmith, where she bought so many books she had to ship them home. I'm glad she likes Southern literature.
We had a coffee at Urban Standard, where she met a bunch of friends, including Chris, Carla Jean & Stephen [pictured]. Stephen and his weight loss journey (chronicled on WhoAteMyBlog) inspired Mandy to write this entry on her poetry blog.
Later we had a drink at Bottletree and then to meet my parents at Our Lady Of Sorrows (do I know how to throw down or what?). It was actually for a gem of a concert -- The Brock McGuire Band, one of Ireland's most popular instrumental bands. They were amazing and made me want to pick my accordion back up. But that's a completely different blog post to come.
There are only a handful of people with whom I share a sense of humor. Mandy, with her patent leather hi-tops and her ability to never meet a stranger, is one of them.