One of my favorite places in Winchester, The Hideaway Cafe, is starting a Writing Club. They offered 20 slots for $5 and included this book of writing prompts; I'll be sharing select excerpts on here as a way to keep up this online space. Throughout the school year I really miss this place and the ability to think about things beyond myself (and pharmacy of course). Two of my friends signed up with me and that accountability will be such a great thing! This winter break has been great for my mental and emotional health: I can feel myself slowly pulling back together and I'm looking forward to using this club as a tether throughout my final semester.
Las Vegas is the City of Sin and I've decided that their biggest sin is blocking the view of the mountains with some tacky buildings. I've always had it in my head that I love traveling and this was perhaps the first trip where I realized I don't love traveling for the sake of traveling. Take me to a national park, to a beautiful lake, or a historic town... but please don't take me back to Las Vegas. I'm sure the city appeals to a lot of people, but it's just not my style.
The hotels are interesting certainly. Each one has a casino in its lobby. In fact, I stayed at the MGM Grand and I measured it on my phone - it took 0.8 miles to get from my hotel room's door down to the shuttle loading area. They funnel you for nearly a mile past casinos, shops, and restaurants! I'm thankful for some extra steps but sheesh! Plus the entire strip smells like either smoke or scents they pump into the room to cover up smoke. Having had a grandma who smokes I can tell you that the perfumes are essentially the same thing as lighting a vanilla candle in a smokers house; there is zero chance of you covering up the smoky smell you're just adding another scent into the mix.
Everything, as predicted, was expensive. People tout the food and I have no idea why. The food in my small town is loads better! In fact, the best food I tasted was far and away the sweet potato fries, which were likely just out of a frozen bag. It's as if you're constantly in an amusement park where a slice of pizza costs $7 and the bar for satisfactory food is quite low - the pizza will be cold and your cheese will be congealed with a cardboard crust.
The best parts of Vegas as a city for me were The Bellagio water show, seeing the interior of The Venetion, and that everything was either walkable or had a shuttle. That's about all I can think of unfortunately. Perhaps it's worth seeing once... but I'm not even sure I can commit to that! For the most part I'm just thankful I got to spend time with my mother-in-law, but our trips to Seattle and Maine blew Las Vegas out of the water!
One of my favorite places on earth.... Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. It was always a tradition on Black Friday to head out into the mountains instead of into stores and that annual trip as a kid has grown into multiple trips a year, whenever I need to feel reconnected to myself.
This year, immediately after my last final exam I went home to pick up Odin and then we drove down to Front Royal and up on the Drive. We made it to South Marshall and hiked up the trail so that we could just sit and enjoy the piece and quiet. On our way up we passed two hikers and then we had solitude for our remaining time there. Winter in the park is actually one of my favorite times of year. Yes, it's almost bitter cold some days with the wind whipping around your face, but with the right clothing that's not a problem when you look at the big picture of solitude. There's no denying that the park is gorgeous in the fall, but try to find a single trail where you could come across a deer and it'll be impossible due to the plethora of people. So, winter it is.
Hitting the mountain after that week... wow. My friend had stayed with me during finals week and it was tough. It was our hardest finals week yet, but it was the best I have had. We were driven and we worked hard. In fact, the night before my last exam (and this hike) we both got less than 4 hours of sleep. The Park brings out all of those feelings. It sort of put a period at the end of the sentence. Rather than metaphorically climbing a mountain like we have been all semester I was able to go physically do it. And I can't decide which way I like better.