It’s been a while since I tried a new brunch, what with football starting up again (it’s hard to get ManFriend away from a TV even for bottomless mimosas) and my whole life-transition, etc. A couple of weeks ago, though, a friend of mine (the friend with the epic brunch list that prompted this entire series, actually) celebrated her birthday at SoCo in Thorton Park within Downtown Orlando.
Last week, to celebrate my office-free lifestyle, I went on a hike on a Tuesday afternoon. I know Central Florida doesn’t scream “gorgeous nature to hike” unless you count walking through the Twister ride at Universal a “nature hike” but I was determined to explore the Marl Bed Flats in Sanford.
If I’m ordering breakfast somewhere with my coffee, you bet your buttons I’m going with an cheesy egg sammy or a decadent pastry reminiscent of my mornings in Madrid. You will never catch me ordering the “fruit and yogurt” bowl off of a brunch menu, and I’ve outgrown my collegiate reliance on granola bars and Raisin Bran. Last week, however, I stumbled upon the best granola yogurt bowl I’ve ever eaten, and loved it so much I went back a second day.
It’s no surprise that I love wine. Actually, to be honest, I’m writing this post via iPhone in the bathtub with my second glass of Montepulciano. Tuesday’s are rough, what can I say?
Orlando never really struck me as a wine city. Napa, Tuscany… Even Virginia, when I’d become (almost disconcertingly) accustomed to the “wine country” trails. But Orlando? Nah… This city is reserved for tourist cups at theme parks and chain restaurant happy hours. Except for… The gems do exist.
Last year, ManFriend and I took a trip to Key West with some friends, and we loved it so much we planned another for this year. You can read about our eats, drinks, adventures, and snorkeling… and, of course, how I packed for that trip (flying from DC).
This year, we’re doing things a little differently – staying in the middle keys instead of Key West proper, bringing the boat with us, and I’m driving down instead of flying. While that might make it even more tempting to pack any beach/summer attire I have just in case, I’ve already pared down to the bare necessities to guarantee an easy, relaxing, comfortable, and tan weekend.
A few months ago, gearing up for a busy Saturday of bargain hunting and house projects, the ManFriend and I treated ourselves to a little brunch at The Strand. This dive fits right in to the “up and coming” Mills50 neighborhood, in that you’ll probably have to double-take because it looks permanently closed from the outside. The food situation is on point and the atmosphere inside makes it the perfect little casual date spot for a fresh brunch. We went back this past Sunday with two friends to enjoy some mimosas, and it did not disappoint.
Ever since traveling to Europe with just a backpack, I’ve gained a growing appreciation for lightness and a minimal lifestyle. It was as if, once I realized I could traverse three new countries with just a few articles of clothing, I began to apply this same mindset to other aspects of my life. I made it a point to only pack weekender bags whenever I traveled domestically… when I was in a big life transition, I relied on this capsule wardrobe to keep things simple. And, most relevant; I began adopting a “uniform” for work, especially after reading about it’s trendiness with successful people.
If you read my post about cruising, you know that I’m often not a fan of popularly-loved experiences and things. You can guess where I’m going with this… I’m not a fan of Disney World (never been to the Land but I’m sure I’d hate it too). Having grown up in Florida and now, living in Central Florida, I’m a minority among my friends for not having an Annual Pass. If we’re being quite honest, I’ve only been to Magic Kingdom twice… once when I was 7, and another time on my 19th birthday when Disney used to run their free-for-your-birthday deal. I’d be perfectly fine never going to the Mouse House again.
I do, however, love and “frequent” the Disney property signature dining restaurants. I say “frequent” because they aren’t exactly at a price point where you can have a date night once a month. But when it comes to celebrating a special family event, my parents usually pick a Disney Property restaurant and I’m rarely disappointed. Here are my thoughts on the three I’ve visited most recently:
I’ve had planned to publish a review of Disney Signature dining today, but it just didn’t seem appropriate in the wake of yesterday’s tragedy. Orlando was my home for four years of college, where I learned so much about myself and about others. Orlando has become my home again, after leaving DC at the end of 2015. My time in The District only expanded my appreciation for the world outside of my immediate radius. I can tell you about how DC introduced me to my love of Pakistani and Afghan food, my appreciation for the kindhearted nature of every Muslim man and woman I encountered (one of the benefits of working for an international university), and the frequency with which I went to drink at the gay bar in my Virginia neighborhood. I can tell you how I, a middle-class, white, straight female has connections to this tragedy in my city… but we all have a connection to the tragedy in Orlando, because we are all humans on this tiny blue speck in the Universe.
I was raised to somewhat disassociate myself emotionally from tragedy and death – it’s not that I don’t care, but that I was taught from an early age that it is an unfortunate part of life. Not just that the circle of life involves death, presumably at an old age or from incurable disease, but that life includes vicious slaughter, unjust tragedy, innocent victims. What a horrible thing for my parents to feel they had to prepare me for.
I am not going to use this as a platform to preach political agenda, or to villainize a religion or argue about gay rights. I simply believe that the only way to stop hate and darkness, is through love and light. I believe that the more of the world we can see, the more love we can understand. It’s too easy to stay in our bubbles, surrounded by the same comforts and like-minded people, and thus too easy to lose perspective that just because some people have different priorities, or call their God by a different name, or love someone with a different reproductive organ, doesn’t really differentiate us. When we travel, whether to try an Asian market in a different part of town or have beers with an Iranian in Madrid, we expand our little bubbles. When you interact with people from different cultures, you tend to find more things alike than you will find different – but we can only realize this when we put ourselves out there, and open our minds and our lives to new experiences.
We can sit in our bubbles and look out, judging every small difference harshly as some large distinguishing factor, but at the end of the day, we are all humans. No matter who we love, or who we worship, or who we want to win the 2016 Presidential election, we are all the same species, occupying the same planet. Civilization coming together over the course of history has allowed humankind to achieve some amazing things – yet we aren’t there yet. We still see these arbitrary, imaginary borders, or the differences in shades of our skin – biologically, the same skin – or made-up definitions and party lines, as these extreme factors that must divide us.
We cannot single-handedly save the world. We cannot enlighten humankind with a EuroTrip. But we can each do our best to learn more about this precious planet and our precious fellow humans. We can all do our best to shine a little more light into the darkness that exists in all corners of the world, across all religions, across all sexual preferences and all skin colors. Across the seemingly severe differences beats a global pulse. Light can drive out darkness, and I urge every one of us to shine our little light over a little more of the world, and to look for light from others.