After spending so much time stuck at home, I’ve actually traveled for the last three weekends in a row. The bad news for YOU is that I am way, way out of practice when it comes to documenting my trips. Did I keep track of restaurants? Nope. Did I take pictures of kid-friendly attractions or delicious foods? I did not. The good news for ME is that my weekends got progressively more fun. Good thing — because that first one? Not. Super. Fun.
Three weekends ago, J and I schlepped to Syracuse for a volleyball tournament. It was only a one-day tournament, but they were supposed to meet in the parking lot at 7:30 am on Saturday, so she and I headed out on Friday and stayed in a hotel. This was J’s first volleyball tournament since pre-COVID, and as you’d expect, there were all sorts of regulations. For the players to participate, they had to either take a rapid COVID test immediately before entering the building or provide a paper copy of their vaccination card, not just an email or something on your phone. Well, I screwed that one up. I was like, “What, they want to see our super-special, valuable-as-Willy-Wonka’s-Golden-Ticket original vaccination card? Okay, I guess I’ll bring it.” But nooooope. They wanted a paper copy of the vaccination card so that it could be collected and turned in. So all the other girls were getting their rapid tests and waiting 15 minutes and I was feeling so cool because J was fully vaccinated, and then they looked at the card and it was not going to get her admitted, so then she had to swab and keep the rest of the team waiting for her results. Ugh.
Then, spectators basically weren’t allowed. Yup, so that means that I schlepped to Syracuse and then watched the games via a Facebook live stream that two of the parents were in charge of sharing. Then it turns out that the internet was spotty, so it was cutting out frequently, and it was pretty tough to really follow what was happening, but also, you could grasp just enough that I, for one, couldn’t resist watching. Also, even though I had checked out by 11 am, I snuck back into the hotel lobby and continued to squat their for their free wifi and restroom. It was a little tragic. Here’s my cheering station with a game on my laptop.
Among the challenges was that the stream was focused on the girls and you couldn’t actually see the scoreboard, so by the end of the day I was trying to keep track with hatch marks. I was pretty bad at it.
It was not the most fun trip ever, but J was glad to be playing volleyball, and she was glad because between games she was able to be social in a group, which has been pretty rare opportunity during These Trying Times. And I didn’t ever get too terribly lost, which is always a special bonus for me.
The following weekend we headed to yet another volleyball tournament, this time in Boston. The tournament had a 3 night minimum stay at a centrally located and rather fancy hotel, the Omni Parker House, and so we decided that even though each player was only permitted one spectator, all four of us would go and whoever wasn’t at the tournament could just be tourists. But then we managed to score a spare spectator ticket, so Cute W and I both got to watch J in person while M explored the city on her own. That worked out pretty well. M managed to visit a couple of different museums as well as doing plenty of walking, shopping, and eating, and we ate our dinners together.
Getting the chance to see J playing volleyball in person was wonderful. For her school season, we almost always watched games via YouTube or some other live stream, and on the couple of occasions when we were allowed to see her in person, the truth is that she didn’t play too much on her varsity team packed with seniors. So it was really fun watching her. Watching the girls play sports is one of the things I’ve missed the most during COVID. That said, it wasn’t as fun as a normal tournament. During a normal tournament, we would have shared at least a couple of meals with all or some of the team families, and the girls would have all found themselves crowded into someone’s room to hang out together. But trying to score a table at a restaurant for even our family of four was a challenge, and after a year of forced physical separation and with a team that had never really had the chance to socialize before, they just didn’t gravitate together. And the Boston tournament itself is usually a huge deal, with the entire convention center packed with volleyball courts and a tremendous number and variety of vendors, and you’re basically camped out there all day, so the kids have fun walking around, hanging out, eating snacks, and playing games. This year there were hardly any vendors and no food allowed, the courts were widely spaced apart, and players came in for a shortened session to play games in rapid succession and then clear out to make space for the next shift. So, like a lot of post-pandemic stuff, better than the nothing of last year, but absolutely not normal-in-a-fun-way.
We did enjoy yummy food at a local chain, Tatte Bakery & Cafe, and we had two great dinners — Cajun at French Quarter (hello, shrimp and grits, my love!) and Mexican at Cósmica (ha! after the mango margarita, it’s all a blur!). Also, I did manage to get lost this time, during the rare time that I took a little explorer walk on my one. I had Google Maps on my phone, and yet, even as I followed it as best I could, it did that thing where it says you’re 6 minutes from the hotel, then you’re 5 minutes away, then 6 again, and then 7 again. This happened a lot. And it was hot that weekend, so I was sweating profusely before I got to the blissfully over-airconditioned lobby.
Speaking of which, the whole Covid etiquette thing is tough. At one point I was in the lobby waiting for an elevator and a lady and her daughter got in ahead of me, and I felt like I should wait for the next one. But then she welcomed me in, and I got in saying, “I’m fully vaccinated!” And she said, “We are, too! I want it stamped on my forehead!” And the next day, a woman working as a cashier in the hotel shop was wearing a big “Fully vaccinated” button. Which I thought was an awesome idea, and apparently lots of other folks have the same idea, because they’re all over Amazon and Etsy.
And finally, the girls and I skipped the chilly rain and spent last weekend in Savannah! But that trip gets its own post.