Great Expectations

or “My Life in Blog Sounds Much Cooler Than It Really Is”

Archive for the ‘Traveling’ Category


Posted by mandyhuckins on September 8, 2009

As I mentioned in a previous post, I spent a long weekend with my sister in Chicago in August.  Since we are both horse lovers, we jumped on the chance to see a show called Cavalia.  It is billed as a Cirque de Soleil with horses.  We really lucked out because the show extended its run in Chicago to include my weekend there – and – my sister was able to get us some half priced tickets.  Here we are outside of the big top before the show.  Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures during the performance, so this is the only photo I have.

M&M Cavalia

The show mixed live horses (mounted and unmounted) with various types of acrobatics all set to live music, lighting and special effects.  Some of the acts were truly amazing – one of our favorites began with two white spanish horses ridden in by two gentlemen each with a lady riding behind the saddle.  As they circled the ring, the ladies connected a cable dangling from the ceiling to their persons and before you knew what was happening, they were flying in the air.  They circled and swooped just above the horses and riders who continued riding a pattern in the ring.  It was beautiful and etherial and at times breathtaking when it looked like there might be a collision.  (Of course, there wasn’t.)  There was also a fun section with western style trick riding and some pretty amazing roman riding with teams of four horses.  It was also fun to watch the liberty horses.  It seemed that they were training some younger ones who were full of personality and didn’t always want to do as they were told.  This actually made for a more fun show – when things didn’t always go perfectly and the individual personalities of the horses shown through.  My sister and I both appreciated how the horses were positively praised for doing something right, but were never scolded for doing something wrong.  All of the horses looked happy and healthy. 

It was a good show and a fun night, but apparently I am a tough customer because I do have some critiques:

1.) As far as classical dressage is concerned, the Spanish Riding School in Vienna this is not.  This is more showy rather than super correct riding.  I admit, for the general consumer, this is not an issue.

2.) I think their superstar – Templado – has been retired.  So, I got the impression that they have been training younger stallions to take his place.  But, I was looking forward to seeing the big “coups de gras” act – a horse and rider performing upper level dressage – maybe without a saddle and bridle?  It just seemed like a little something was missing.  They did project images of him (I think) on a curtain of water that flowed from the ceiling.  That was cool.

3.) My sister and I both felt that they really missed the mark on the merch.  I, for one, was ready to purchase some cool horse souvenirs.  But, we were a little disappointed in the stock.  Of course, there were t-shirts and stuffed animal horses and books and cds.  But, where were the beautiful pieces of jewelry?  Horse scarves?  Why couldn’t they team up with Breyer to produce a “Templado” figurine?  And, most of the stuff they had for sale featured their logo (of course) and a crazy CG image.  Why would you go CG when you have such beautiful animals that you can photograph?

Here is what I am talking about:

Cavalia Image

(Sorry its so small – you can’t really see how it leaves something to be desired, but trust me, it does.)

I bought the only item in the whole selectin with a cool graphic.  It is a grey mock-turtle neck made out of thin, stretchy fabric. 


The graphic wraps around the side of the shirt.  I don’t even like turtlenecks, but since it was the only pretty thing I saw and I had money burning a hole in my pocket, I bought it. 

Give me a call, Cavalia, if you want some more brilliant merchandising ideas to market to the horsey crowd.


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The Windy City…

Posted by mandyhuckins on September 5, 2009

Two weeks ago, I had the chance to visit one of my favorite places: Chicago.  It is such a nice city, made even better by the fact that my sister and her husband live there.  And, on this visit, my mom and dad were there as well (my dad’s work conference was the instigation for our trip).  It was a short visit, I flew in on Saturday evening and left on Tuesday evening, but we still managed to have lots of fun.  My sister and I went to see a show called Cavalia on Saturday night (more on that in a separate post).  I got to see their new apartment (very, very cute) and their new dog, Stella (also very, very cute).  More on her in another post too.  Mom and sister and I spent a fun, full day doing some shopping – including our standard trip to Macy’s with lunch in the walnut room.  We all had dinner together as a family at the same restaurant that hosted my sister and her husband’s rehearsal dinner almost one year ago.  My mom, my sister and I also toured the museum where my brother-in-law works.  It was fabulous.  The only downside was that my husband was not able to come. 

Chicago Building

Beautiful Chicago Building

M&M Going Out to Dinner

Here are the sisters (in Mom and Dad’s hotel room) wearing some newly purchased duds (new BCBG shirt for me, new Banana Republic skirt for my sister).

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The Big Easy

Posted by mandyhuckins on March 8, 2009

Last month, the husband and I took a little weekend trip to New Orleans.  While living in Europe, we had been so used to traveling – I was always planning trips and we were always trying to decide where to go next.  We never wanted to “waste” a holiday weekend by staying at home.  Of course, back in the States, things are a little bit different.  Traveling is not the purpose of our existence – this year we have only been to visit family.  So, it was time to plan a little get-away.  New Orleans is within driving distance; it needs visitors to help it get back on its feet; and it is often compared to European cities – perfect!

The morning of our departure dawned full of promise – it was Valentine’s Day after all.  I woke up extra early so that I could run out to the stables, take care of Dancer and be back in time to get myself ready and packed well before the 9:00 time the hubby and I had decided upon for our departure.  It takes about 45 minutes to do this as fast as I can.  Back at the house, I showered and got myself ready.  I fed the dog.   By now, it was almost 8:00.  I got the hubby’s Valentine’s Day card, made him a cup of chai and went in to wake him up.  We exchanged Valentine’s, drank our tea and then I was back up, running around to unload the dishwasher, write a note for the guy who is watching the dog in our absence and finish getting ready.  I noticed that hubby was watching TV in bed.  So, I called out to him, “don’t you need to start getting ready?”  “Yeah.”  Slowly rises and shuffles to the kitchen.  “Do I have time to eat breakfast?” he asked.  “Sure,” I replied, “but, I was going to drive through the Chic’fil A on our way as a special treat.  Are you sure you don’t want that?”  No, he didn’t.  He is healthy and I am not. 

At 9:40 am, after packing my suitcase, backing a snack bag, loading the car, paying the husband’s last minute motorcycle insurance bill, letting the dog out, and then waiting around, I was sitting in the living room with hot tears of frustration brimming in my eyes.  Why is my husband so slow?  All a man has to do is get himself ready and pack his own suitcase.  And, let’s face it – it shouldn’t really take a man all that long to get ready.  There is no makeup, no hair drying, no styling involved.  Part of the reason it takes him so long is that we now have to travel like a miniature Circuit City.  The amount of electronics (and resulting power cords, USB adapters, cases, car plug ins, etc.) he “needs” to have with him at all times is truly astounding.  It takes him forever to collect all of these things.  Some are in his man room; some are in his car; some are in his briefcase.  But where are the “good” earphones that he likes?  The house must be turned over to find them.  It is exasperating to me.  But, finally, an hour late, we are on the road.

New Orleans was great!  We really did have a wonderful time, despite the fact that we are already turning into old, boring people.  It was mardi-gras season, but not the true mardi-gras after Fat Tuesday, so we were able to experience the vibe without things being too crazy.  We caught a few parades and an insane number of plastic beads.  Yes, we saw some boobs, but did not show any.  We walked along the French Quarter.  We saw some amazing street performers.  We visited an art museum.  We partied on Bourbon Street.  We listened to a jazz band.  And, of course, we ate….and ate….and ate.  Our stomachs are the true reason we go anywhere at all.  New Orleans is delicious! 

But, New Orleans is also worn down.  She is trying to patch over the damage and stand on her own two feet, fists clenched at her side, pretending nothing has happened, but the blow was too overwhelming.  Deep, ugly scars are everywhere.  I think it is important for people to visit.  Bringing tourist dollars back into the city is one way for us to help.  And, what an “easy” thing to give!

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The Holbert’s Three Rules of Travel

Posted by mandyhuckins on April 1, 2008

My whole life, I have heard my parents quote their famous three rules of travel:

1.) It always takes longer and is more complicated than you planned.

2.) It always, always costs more than you budgeted. 

3.) You must stop and eat (and/or use the bathroom) every two hours whether you need to or not.

Over the years, these three “rules” have proven themselves time and again.  Usually, the worst that happens is that you have amusing anecdotes you can share over cocktails with your friends.  For example, “one time, our flight was cancelled, we were re-routed through England and had to take a train, a ferry, and a broken down old horse cart to get back home!” (almost a true story)  But, sometimes these rules really gang up against you and they just aren’t amusing anymore. 

I am currently in the throws of planning how to ship my horse from Germany to Montgomery, Alabama and I am about to pull my hair out! 

Complicated? – you bet! She has to get from Germany to Amsterdam in a trailer, then she will fly on a cargo plane from Amsterdam to New York.  After three days in quarantine, she will need to be driven (in a private trailer) from New York to North Carolina for her quarantine.  After 15 -20 days, she can then be driven to her new home in Montgomery. 

Expensive? –  oh yeah!  It is going to cost me more to ship her than it did for me to buy her.  For the prices some people have quoted me, I feel that I might have to ride her from New York to Alabama!   I find myself wondering, “how long would it take a horse to swim the Atlantic Ocean?  Would she be in danger of being eaten by sharks?” 

I am not quite sure how rule #3 will come into play yet, but I have no fear – I am sure it will.

 A good friend of mine has a funny story about bringing their dog to Germany.  When they arrived at the airport and placed the dog in her carrier on the scale, they discovered that it was just over the weight limit that would push them into the next price category.  Anticipating the trauma the dog would have to endure, they had given her an extra special breakfast that morning.  The thought occurred to them, “that extra can of Alpo could end up costing us $500!”  So, my friend ran the dog up and down the airport trying to get the poor dog to … um … rid herself of the goods, while her husband threw all of the extra blankets they had piled into the carrier into the trash can.  Anyway, they re-weighed and everything was fine.  (Someone may or may not have slipped a finger under the lip of the carrier to “lighten” it a little more – I can’t really remember all of the details.)  Too bad I couldn’t make my suitcase “poop” out some pounds the time I went a little crazy shopping while visiting Mytle Beach and I had to pay an extra $25 at the airport.

So, I guess my point is, you should never attempt to bring a horse home as a souvenir from Europe and you should always visit the restroom before traveling.   Oh, and Mom and Dad, you were right again! 

For those of you who might be wondering why I am going through with it anyway…


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Top Ten List – “What I Love About France”

Posted by mandyhuckins on March 17, 2008

10.)  The language.  French is so beautiful, and yet so impossible for me to pronounce.  Case in point: Once, in Paris, I was trying to find a street on the map.  I asked a very nice looking lady working behind the front desk of our hotel, “Can you tell me how to find ROO DE LA BOO-SHARE-REE?”  She cocked her head to the side and said, “Well,  I have never heard of it, but let me check our map.”  She pulls a telephone-book sized map book from behind the counter and proceeds to flip through the pages.  “Hmmm.  I don’t see it.”  So, I start spelling it for her – B-U-C-H-E-R-I-E .  “Oh!” she exclaims with a chuckle, “Oui, I know where that is.  But, you see, I couldn’t understand what you were saying.  You said ‘Roo de la Boo-cher-ree’ and we say ‘RoodelaBoocherie’.”  Oh, yes, what a difference!  I can see why you had NO idea what I was trying to say.  Plus, the address happened to be for a famous, English bookshop in Paris about two blocks from where we were!  I hope none of you speak French. 

9.) The Eiffel Tower.  The Parisians hate it, but I can’t help it.  It just seems so – French.  Plus, it is so pretty when is sparkles.  What can I say?  I am a tourist.

8.) Veuve Cliquot.  I loved this French champagne before I ever put a toe on French soil.  But, it is still delicious, and I still love it.

7.) The Louvre.  Truly – the most amazing art museum in the world.

6.) The Strasbourg Christmas Market.  Ordinarily, Germany takes the cake at Christmas, but this French city gives Germany a run for its money.  They have several different market areas with everything decorated to the maximum.  Tasty treats, delicious warm drinks, fun decorations to purchase – what could be better? 

5.)  Galleries Lafayette.  This is the major French department store.  Poor Colin.  But, then again, they do usually have a champagne bar and French cafeteria in the basement level.  That can usually keep him entertained for an hour while I run around getting frustrated by French sizes.  What is up with the 1, 2, 3? 

4.) Baguettes.  I have always loved “French bread” and my friend Becky will tell you that in college, I would buy a loaf and I wouldn’t even be out of the store before I was tearing off a hunk and eating it.  (What was I thinking?) But, now that I know that the French are the absolute, undisputed gold medal winners in the bread making Olympics, I have to fight that urge again when I leave the French grocery store with my – sigh – still warm, buttery-crusty-perfection on the outside, soft and delicious on the inside, arm-length piece of deliciousness they call a baguette.  I really would (and do) drive 45 minutes each way just to cross the French border to get one.  Or two.  The only problem with them is that they do not last, so they can’t be saved for the next day.

3.) Sea-Salt butter from Normandy.  I can remember a time when someone would offer me some butter with my bread and I would….REFUSE!  Those days are over.  In fact, this butter is so delicious that I could almost pull it out of the fridge and take a bite out of it.  Almost.  But, it does make anything else in the world taste more delicious than that thing tastes by itself. 

2.) Spreading number 3 on number 4 and adding French ham.  I am normally not huge on sandwiches, but this one – so simple and yet – tres magnifique!

1.) This view – need I say more?

French Riviera

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Lake Como, Italy

Posted by mandyhuckins on March 13, 2008

Lake ComoLake Como

Well, yes, living in Europe does have its advantages, such as popping down to Italy for a long weekend.  Lake Como entered American consciousness by being featured in several films.  Also, George Clooney owns a villa there (unfortunately, he was not in residence during our visit, otherwise, I am sure he would have invited us over to dinner.)  This is usually a summer tourist destination, and it is probably even more beautiful during the warmer months, but there is something to be said for avoiding the crowds.  Plus, our favorite reasons for visiting Italy are food and drink – things which know no season.  We wandered through the lakeside towns of Como and Bellagio and spent a day in Milan.  The water in the Lake is surprising crystal clear and (unsurprisingly) very cold.  Colin rolled up his pant legs and waded in – “we can’t come all this way and not get in the Lake!”  He sure did come out quickly though!  All in all, it was a lovely and relaxing three day holiday.

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