Twenty-four years ago I attended Alfred University for one year. Alfred wasn't the right choice for me (to put it mildly), so I left to go to College of the Atlantic (where I should have been in the first place). While it was a largely miserable year for me, Alfred did give me the gift of these two as next door neighbors, and I have been incredibly lucky to retain their friendship ever since.
Amanda contacted me when she learned about my trip, wondering if I could plan to meet in Atlanta, where she was headed for a conference. Since she lives in London, my answer was a definite yes. Between my car and the Airbnb right near Amanda's hotel, which Christa found, we were set up for a great weekend.
I managed to make it from Montgomery to the airport cell phone lot in the nick of time, picking up first Christa at the domestic terminal and then Amanda from the completely-hard-to-find-once-you're-in-the-airport international terminal.
Transition days are always tricky for me, usually involving lots of driving and being on my toes after a period of relative calm. The trip to Atlanta was the last day of driving after 3successive nights on the road and I was exhausted, but elated to be with such good friends after a very long hiatus. I was also a little nervous after so many years, but shouldn't have been - we fell back into our old, comfortable rhythm right away.
After a trip to the grocery store (never go hungry, and never go with 2 other hungry women), a couple of glasses of wine, and some initial catching up, I went to bed ridiculously early while Amanda and Christa went in search of fun. You know you have a solid friendship when everyone is comfortable doing their own thing and the group just flexes to accommodate everyone.
Christa and I went to the Monastery of the Holy Spirit on Friday, which was recommended by a friend. I'm so glad we spent part of the day there! The grounds include a church, museum, bonsai garden and greenhouse, and facilities for retreats.
As with all Trappist monasteries, the monks are expected to work with their hands. Many monasteries make beer or wine, but when this particular group received the results of a soil test back from the Georgia Department of Agriculture, the general consensus was that the only thing the ground might readily produce was bricks, so the overall focus is on bonsai, biscotti, and stained glass.
The Visitor Center provides a fascinating overview of the work completed on the monastery since its inception in 1944 and the life of a monk at the Abbey.
The bonsai garden was set inside a small courtyard within the Visitor Center. There were little tags in each pot with the age of the plant - some were almost 100 years old.
The Abbey Church was constructed entirely by hand and is made of concrete. All of the stained glass windows were created on site.
After sitting in the church for a while we wandered around the grounds. There's a beautiful walk lined with magnolia and a path through the woods that comes to a large pond. There are also other extensive trails that are part of a large conservation area, which we didn't have time to check out.
I saw my very first armadillo up close! This guy could have cared less that we were taking pictures 3 feet away; he was on a mission, trundling along to find as many snacks as possible. I'm fascinated by these creatures. This one reminded me of a transit van - they look a little tall and maybe tippy, but always make it around corners at high speed with no problem.
On the way back to meet Amanda, we stopped in at The Varsity to have some serious diner treats. I had a hot dog with coleslaw, french fries, and then promptly needed a nap, but it was seriously delicious.