Despite time and distance, my college girlfriends remain some of my closest confidants. We spent our college years in Omaha, and have stayed close despite moving away after graduation. Throughout the years, we have laughed and cried together, and during our many gatherings we have created special memories–the kind that live on in the photos and stories we plan on sharing with our daughters.
When it came time to plan a fun girls' weekend, we all agreed that Omaha was the destination of choice. Specifically, the historic Old Market, where many of our fondest recollections took place. A little shopping at a swank boutique, some craft cocktails and dining al fresco with your best friends–the perfect recipe for an unforgettable weekend.
As I sat in the hotel lobby on the first morning of our getaway, waiting for my friends to arrive, I started scheming about our fun weekend. What should we do first? Should we party like we're 22 again, or play it safe and just relax while we enjoy each other's company? To quote a Taylor Swift song, "I don't know about you, but I'm feeling 22!"
One by one, my girlfriends started to congregate in the hotel lobby; instantly, we embraced and started catching up. I couldn't believe that Margaret, Kristen, Jennifer and I were actually in Omaha, together again! Just like that it was college all over again, with outbursts of contagious laughter filling the air.
Before the merriment could fully commence, we needed fuel. It was off to Aromas, where the smell of freshly ground coffee and warm, gooey cinnamon rolls made our mouths water. We chatted about past flames and old professors over lattes and cinnamon rolls. After our morning indulgence, we decided it was time to work off those rolls by meandering through the farmers market, where we were enchanted by the scent of roasted nuts and kettle corn. We browsed aisle upon aisle of fresh produce and local artisan goods all morning. When the energy began to lull, we decided to rest our feet and grab a glass of wine at La Buvette Wine and Grocery; we sipped while we took in a street performer's free violin concert.
During our wine break, we recalled past shenanigans such as bar hopping in the Old Market until the wee hours of the morning.
"Do you remember the night my heel broke, and all of you had to carry me back to the car?" Jennifer asked.
We all burst out laughing and shared a glance–yes, that look suggested that it was time to reignite our former favorite pastime. We would definitely have some fun that evening, but first it was time to engage in some retail therapy.
Margaret and Kristen headed to Nouvelle Eve to try on a few going-out dresses, while Jennifer and I hit up Overland Sheep Skin and Leather to try on hats and leather boots as we took turns taking selfies.
"What do you think?" asked Jennifer, as she snapped a picture of herself modeling a kicky green straw fedora.
"Perfect." I grinned back at her.
We all met back at our favorite Christmas shop, Tannenbaum, where we challenged one another to select the cutest ornament in the store. Kristen claimed first prize as she unveiled an adorable glass ornament with a family of four owls. The rest of us couldn't help but "awwww" out loud.
Some of our more embarrassing college stories involved heading to the Old Market Candy Shop for post-breakup chocolate. Luckily, this time we headed in that direction simply because girls can never have enough chocolate! We boxed up fudge, truffles and a little delicacy called a "mud ball" (once you try one, you'll be hooked). Such a fun memento!
It was hard to resist taking a bite of our treats, but we didn't want to spoil our appetites before our late-afternoon lunch at M's Pub. We all took turns sampling each other's entrees, from lahvosh to Reuben's, as we discussed the plans for the night. Should we hit up The Dubliner Pub first to get our Irish jig on? Should we enjoy a beautiful evening, under the stars, with a drink at Mister Toad's? So many choices, so little time–so we chose both. I couldn't wait for the sun to set!
As the giggles and merriment continued, our stamina after a full day of walking began to dwindle. We were all determined to keep our energy up through the night, so we quickly devised a plan to continue our tour of the Old Market via a horse-drawn carriage. We boarded the Magical Journey Carriage Service and felt like Cinderella getting whisked off to the ball.
"Margaret, you should put on that new cocktail dress. Then you could wave to everyone like a princess!" laughed Kristen.
"I should have thought of that earlier!" replied Margaret with a smile.
The click-clack of our horse's hooves against the cobblestone echoed throughout the Old Market; yet, we were still able to take in the many sounds coming from various street performers. As we drove by all of our old stomping grounds, from Homer's Music to Billy Frogg's, we had a Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants moment and realized that even though college was in the past, it still lived in our hearts.
We said goodbye to our adorable horse, which hadn't dropped us off in front of a grand ball; the carriage stopped in front of Victor Victoria Salon & Spa–close enough! It was time for manicures and pedicures, the perfect activity to kick off the evening's festivities. We relaxed into our chairs and enjoyed every minute of pampering.
After our spa treatment, happily wiggling her bright pink toes, Margaret exclaimed, "Every weekend should be girls' weekend."
I couldn't have agreed more!
After a quick refresh session at the hotel, we headed to Blue Sushi for rolls and sake bombs. It was nightfall in the Old Market and the streets began to fill with visitors and locals alike. The aromas from various restaurants scented the air with the smell of pasta, fried seafood, and good old Omaha steak. Yum!
After a few sake bombs and a literal boat load of sushi rolls, we continued with our plan to enjoy the evening by taking in the sights and sounds of the Old Market outside at Mister Toad's. As we sat under the string lights, we overheard a group of girls flirting with a group of boys on the corner, which reminded us of our younger years.
"That was us in college," said Jennifer.
Margaret piped up, "It can still be us! We still have a little college in us."
Off to The Dubliner Pub we continued, where we each took turns doing our version of the Irish jig. As the fiddler joined us in the center of the room, the crowd gave us a standing ovation. Our spirits were soaring, and our original plan to only visit two Old Market haunts was abandoned. We decided to hit up one more spot before heading back to the hotel. Off us girls went to The Berry & Rye for a craft cocktail nightcap and a group photo. Their specialty is Pre-Prohibition era drinks with a modern twist–the perfect place for us to wind down our evening. Our friendship was similar in a way–we had a long history that would keep reinventing itself as our lives moved forward. Over classic Manhattans, we laughed and chatted into the wee hours of the morning.
An exciting previous day of college favorites deserved a laid-back final day together. On our last Omaha morning, we paid a visit to the Artists' Cooperative Gallery in the Old Market to view an eclectic mix of regional art, from sculptures to printmaking to abstract paintings. After being surrounded by creativity, we decided to take a stroll through the passageway, a beautiful thoroughfare surrounded by towering brick walls, a lush garden, trickling water fountains, and a mix of boutiques, galleries and hidden restaurants. The setting felt like a historic European neighborhood, and it was the perfect way to wind down our getaway.
Just before we all had to head back to the airport, and back to our post-college lives, we decided to sweeten our goodbyes with some ice cream from Ted and Wally's. As we all gathered in a cozy booth, we called a fellow patron over to take one more Facebook-worthy photo. We cheered by hitting our ice cream cones together and promised to always make time for each other.
"To friendship," exclaimed Margaret.
"To living like you're 22," said Kristen.
"To Durangos," said Jennifer.
To weekends that live on forever in our hearts!
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