24 Hours in Savannah

Savannah was the first stop on our trip we named the “Southern Swing”, which also included Charleston and The Inn at Palmetto Bluff in South Carolina.  We only had 24 hours to spend in Savannah before moving on to our next stop and we made it count.

Savannah Georgia

Our initial impression of Savannah was from the airport which was the cutest airport I have ever seen!  The airport employees had plenty of southern charm and hospitality, which eased the pain of one of our bags not arriving.  How can you be mad at the airline when the airport employees are just so darn nice?

Our drive from the airport to the hotel in the historic district was a challenge due to a parade that closed many of the streets.  We rely on the GPS so much these days that this was a challenge, but we somehow found our way.

Savannah is a walkable city so the rest of our day was spent on foot.  First stop was lunch at The Olde Pink House.  It was easy to know when we had arrived because it was literally a big pink house!  I started my meal with their signature drink, the Pink Lady.

Olde Pink House Pink Lady

The Olde Pink House is a Georgia mansion built in 1771.  Oh, and it’s haunted!  Savannah is known as America’s most haunted city.  We ordered traditional southern cuisine and the food was wonderful.  I may have also had a second Pink Lady too.  One thing I found odd was that tour groups were being led through the restaurant while we were eating so I felt a little like a zoo animal.

After lunch we walked and walked and walked some more.  Savannah has 22 small parks known as squares and we tried to see as many of them as we could.  There were statues and monuments as well as huge oak trees draped with Spanish moss.

In additional to the squares, Savannah also has a number of larger parks.  Forsyth Park is known for its giant fountain.

forsyth park savannah

The moment I remember most from our day in Savannah was hearing a man singing Georgia On My Mind near one of the squares.  We stopped to listen…it was just such a perfect moment.

Welcome to Georgia State Sign

The following morning we walked along the Savannah River on River Street before heading out.

One thing that surprised us a little was the number of homes that seemed to be in disrepair and in need of a little TLC, however we thoroughly enjoyed our short time in Savannah before heading to charming Charleston and The Inn at Palmetto Bluff.

Charming Charleston

Charleston, South Carolina is one of those cities I would have never visited if it were not for my husband wanting to go there.  I was skeptical going there, but Charleston was a hit!

We stayed at Charleston Place which was all done up for Christmas.

Charleston Place

The lobby, bar and common areas were wonderful, however we did not care for the room because it felt tired and dated.  We loved the bar because it was a combination of locals and tourists and the restaurant, Charleston Grill, served us one of the best meals we have ever had…and we have eaten at 3 star Michelin restaurants.  We had the chef’s tasting menu so each course was a surprise and every bit was delicious.  They were kind enough to let us split one wine pairing between us since we wanted to enjoy the food and not get too drunk.

One day we just walked around the city.  My favorite part was looking at the houses that were in immaculate condition.  I could see myself sitting on one of those porches with family and friends sipping some sweet tea or cocktails.  I could see my husband spending all his free time working on the house.

charleston houses

Visiting plantations is one of my favorite activities in southern towns.  I normally do extreme amounts of research before going on trips, but with this trip I was, “going with the flow” and did not do any research.  It would have actually helped for this day though because when we got the plantation, it turned out it did not have a plantation house because it had been destroyed.  There were extensive gardens, however not much was in bloom.

Charleston Plantation

Our last day was spent exploring one of the nearby islands. This trip was in late November, so it was not beach weather, but we still had a nice walk on the beach. It was a cute little beach town that I imagine would be a blast in the summer.

We had a great time in Charleston and found it to be a quintessential southern city.

Christmas in New York

Certain places seem to be perfect during certain times of the year.  Paris in the spring time.  New York at Christmas.  I spent a fabulous weekend in New York with a friend to do all things Christmas!  I love Christmas and nowhere seems to dress up their town like New York.  It was bitterly cold and windy, but that seemed appropriate.  I’m proud to say this former California girl has finally learned how to bundle up!

NY 041It was a 57 minute flight to New York’s La Guardia airport.  My bag was quick to arrive and I was out the door to meet the car and driver.  I have to say that being picked up in a Lincoln Town Car and driven into Manhattan made me feel a little like Blair from Gossip Girl.  We did not hit any traffic and less than 30 minutes later I was at our Times Square hotel to meet up with my friend who took the train and arrived earlier that day.  It was late and we wanted to get an early start the next morning so we just had a couple of drinks in the hotel bar.  The InterContinental at Times Square was an amazing hotel.  I was really impressed by the quality and size of the room for it being in the middle of a big city. The staff was really friendly and the bar was busy and had a buzz about it.

The following morning we were up early to start our Christmas adventure.  First stop was Macy’s to look at the windows.  Now I have to admit, and this may sound completely naive, but the windows were not what we expected at all.  Both my friend and I thought the windows would be dressed up in Christmas decorations and clothes.  Not the case at all.  They were mechanical animated type scenes telling stories.  We had no idea….and honestly, weren’t sure why people were interested in this.  Lord & Taylor was the same, but Saks Fifth Avenue had windows we loved!  Futuristic fashion done in sparkly holiday themes…now that’s what we like!

HatWhile at Macy’s we wandered in to do some shopping and I found this hat.  I immediately fell in love with it and I wore it for about half the day, until it got too windy.  Now I feel ready should I ever have a horse racing even to attend!

One of the things I love about New York is how nothing really seems unusual.  Anything goes here.  Most people did not even notice me walking around wearing a big hat with feathers on it.  Or this guy walking down the street carrying a dummy.

Guy with dummyAfter a stop for lunch to refuel and warm up a bit we were off to Rockefeller Center.  The crowds had not been bad before lunch, but after lunch it was awful.  I do not know if it was because people started later than us or we were now in Rockefeller Center or what, but the crowds were suffocating.  At Rockefeller Center we could not really choose which way to go, we just had to move with the current of people.  We saw the tree, which again, was not what we expected.  The tree was huge and beautiful, but there were no ornaments.  It was lit and had a star on top, but no ornaments.  For some reason I expected huge ribbon and bulb ornaments.  Either way, it was pretty though.  I had originally wanted to go ice skating but my bad back prevented it, which is probably a good thing given the crowd. 

NY 020Next it was time for more shopping.  We stopped at my favorite chocolate shop, Teuscher, to get some champagne truffles for my husband and then we were off to Toys R Us for my friend to get souvenirs for her kids.  We stopped and got a coffee to warm up at one point and just sat inside looking out the window watching NY go by.  I love people watching and just watching cities in action so this was one of the high points of the trip for me.

On our way to dinner, a couple who didn’t speak English asked us in Spanish if we knew of a good seafood restaurant.  I wish we did, but we didn’t.  It made us feel good though that they thought we were locals and not tourists.  At dinner I had a view of a giant red scrolling news ticker on the building across the street and I was mesmerized by it.

NY 027

After dinner we headed back to the tree to see it all lit up.  Night time is when NY really shows itself off.  Everything was lit up and I cannot imagine anyone feeling like a scrooge when seeing the beauty of Rockefeller Center all lit up.  We did not get too close though this time because we could still see the crowds of people so we took our pictures from across the street.

NY 031

NY 036

Radio City Music HallThe next day it was finally time to see the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall!!!  We got there early to see the lobby and look at souvenirs.  The show was excellent!  I did not know much about the Rockettes except for the their famous kick line.  I had no idea they sang and tap danced too.  Many of the routines were done in formations which looks really cool with 36 dancers on stage at a time.  My friend and I kept commenting to each other how we need to start practicing now so we can try out next year. 

After the show it was a quick late lunch and back to the hotel to get our bags to be on our way home.  Our hotel was on a side street that didn’t get a lot of cabs so the bell man had us follow him running through the streets to find a cab.  I admit the cab driver freaked me out a bit, but soon enough we were on the train back home.  It was an action packed weekend and we did so much that it felt like we were there longer than just a day and a half.

Thank you New York for a great time…and for just being you.

South Beach Miami Food Tour

I have fallen in love with walking food tours!  What a great way to see a city.  When a friend and I got off a cruise ship and had one day in Miami, we spent the afternoon with Miami Culinary Tours.  The tour combined a walking tour of South Beach with seven food stops.  We learned about the architecture, history and food of South Beach all in about three hours.

The first stop was 660 At The Angler’s Hotel, described as “Floribbean”, where we were served ceviche.  I was not too into this because years ago I ate bad ceviche at a bar during happy hour (bad idea, I know…) and got sick so I have been scared of it since.  It looked pretty at least.

ceviche
Stop number two brought us to Bolivar Restaurant for a taste of Columbian food.  What I liked about this tour is that I got pushed a little out of my comfort zone and tried new types of food.  We had an empanada with a thick crust, a tostada like thing with really flavorful meat and a beer cocktail.

Bolivar

Next up was Tudor House for Cuban food.  We had a Cuban pressed sandwich, house made potato chips and house made popcorn.  Yum!  Everyone really liked this place and our tour guide, who was a super cute Australian girl, needed to tell us to hurry along.

cuban sandwich

Ever see those really little cups of coffee?  We tried this at David’s Cafe and learned that you order a cup of coffee and then serve it in the little tiny cups.  I would have never known this!  It is really strong coffee, so a little cup is enough.  I normally am not much of a coffee drinker and when I do, it is laden with milk and sugar so I was skeptical of this coffee, especially after hearing how strong it is…but I loved it!  It had a natural sweetness to it.

 Cuban coffee

What a treat we had at the next stop where we had a molecular gastronomy demonstration.  Liquid nitrogen, cream and strawberries created the best strawberry ice cream I have ever tasted.

liquid nitrogen strawberry ice cream

When our guide said we were going to a bakery for the next stop, my friend and I did a little happy dance.  So we were slightly saddened when we saw it was a savory, not sweet, bakery.  Little did I know that this tiny Argentinian bakery, simply named Charlotte’s Bakery, would end up being my favorite stop.

Charlotte's bakery

This empanada had the most tender flaky crust and was packed with lightly seasoned shredded chicken breast meat.  Simply amazing!  Now I get why the Food Network named it the best place to get empanadas.  I was enjoying it so much that I almost forgot to take a picture.

empanada

Our last stop was for gelato at Milani Gelateria.

gelato

I had the dulce de leche and my friend had the chocolate.

gelato

Overall it was a great day!  Now whenever I visit a new city I check to see if they have a food tour.

Honeymoon in Australia: The Tropical North

reefsnorkel

The last stop on our honeymoon was the tropical north, where the rain forest meets the reef.  We flew from Ayers Rock to Cairns and then drove about thirty minutes north to Palm Cove to stay at the beautiful Sebel Reef House.  I loved this place as it was like staying at a guest house rather than a big hotel.  The bar was set up to serve yourself and just write down what you had and we made friends with the resident cat.  The waitress politely told Chris, “we try not to encourage him” when he was feeding that cat at the restaurant.  The pool area was like a fancy back yard built by someone who owed the owner money and was told to pay off his debt by building the most magnificent pool in Queensland.  We loved the hot tub, except when other guests would come by and press the button for the bubbles.  I realize they were trying to be nice, but the bubbles were a little too bubbly for us!

Pink, purple, baby blue and more.  These are all the colors of the coral we saw while snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef.  The Great Barrier Reef is long boat ride off the coast.  Then the boat stops and it is time to jump in.  I tend to get a little panicky when I first get in the water to snorkel, usually until I get used to breathing through my mouth, but jumping into open water freaked me out a bit.  Then the first thing I saw was a reef shark!  I think it was more afraid than I was and swam away.  Our first day snorkeling we went on a smaller boat with only about 8 people with the idea that we could get to spots that the larger boats were not allowed to go to.  The snorkeling was good, but we also saw a lot of bleached coral (this was a year noted as a bad year for bleaching).  We took the advice of the crew and wore sun suits to avoid getting sunburned.  Even the crew wore sun suits in the water which I found surprising giving poisonous spiders, jelly fish and fire do not faze them, but they are concerned about the sun?

snorkel man

Day two we took the advice of the concierge at the hotel and took the snorkel trip he recommended.  This turned out to be one of the best days we have had on vacation ever!  It was a bigger boat, still a long ride and stopped in only one place, but it was the most incredible snorkel spot we have ever seen.  Michaelmas Cay.  The boat stopped near a sandy cay so it was not as scary getting in the water.  We just had to swim a small distance to the coral and we could also go to the sandy cay to rest, but we rarely wanted to rest.  In fact, we still regret wasting time by going back to the boat to eat lunch.  The coral was so amazing, more so than the fish.  We saw giant clams and the more we would just be still and watch the coral, the more we would see.  We still talk about this place.  It does not look very impressive in the picture, but what is underneath the water is spectacular.

michaelmascay

Chris liked that this place was also some kind of bird sanctuary.  I have an irrational fear of birds, so I did not like this part so much, but Chris loved the birds.  Note that the sun suit did not cover his legs…

birds

On the bigger boat there was no chance of being left behind since that apparently did happen to some divers at one point, which I think was the basis of the movie Open Water.  Multiple times they would announce everyone had to be still and get counted before the boat left.

Next it was time to venture into the rain forest via the sky rail, except that it was quite dry due to the drought and fires.  This is normally a raging waterfall, but instead it was just a trickle.  We really saw the impact of global warming with the bleached coral and dry rain forest.

Australia rain forest

Due to the sunburn on the back of Chris’ legs we decided to spend the last day of our honeymoon in Palm Cove.  The last few days had been amazing, but very long and tiring.  We spent the day enjoying the beach and having one last bottle of champagne.

Palm Cove Australia

We did not dare go in the water though because it was box jellyfish season.  These things are nasty…one brush against them and it can kill you.  If you get medical attention soon enough, you will just be paralyzed for a little while (no worries mate!).  Note the net in the water by the flags where it is supposedly safe to swim, but even the big burly Australian man we met in the local bar would not swim in it.

Palm Cove Australia

We wished we had one more day to go back out to Michaelmas Cay, but the honeymoon was coming to an end and it was now time to start the 25 hour journey back home to our lives as Mr. and Mrs.

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