My husband and I wanted to travel this year for our 16 year anniversary. We couldn’t find a place we wanted to go due to COVID and the layers of restrictions, so we decided to plan a visit somewhere in the U.S. My requirements were: trees, sun, water, and time away :) We decided to go somewhere we had never been before and flew to Atlanta, Georgia and drove to the coast to Savannah. Afterwards we drove to Charleston, South Carolina, then up to Sneeds Ferry, NC, and ended the trip in Raleigh. We really love to be on the move and experience different places when we travel. We wanted to relax and got a hotel on the beach but, as usual, it was just a place to rest and we were on the road in the morning (time away from kids needs to be well-planned!). Whenever I go anywhere, I’m always looking for small businesses that we can support. Many times, they are hard to find unless you live locally. This trip was incredible! Not only were there so many things to do, but we didn’t see many chain restaurants along the way. In fact, the best restaurants in those towns were found via Google, searching through the reviews. The chains didn’t have as many stars as the small businesses! Here’s a few of our favorites, in case you’re able to have a similar exciting adventure (like Bilbo Baggins ;))
Atlanta-Savannah: We stopped to see ancient Native American Burial mounds, Ocmulgee Mounds. This is the largest excavated native American mounds in all of the US! These were right off the highway. They were beautiful, and there was a nature trail where you could possibly see alligators!
We finished our drive to Savannah, and checked into our hotel, the Mansion on Forsythe (Forsythe Park). It is owned by Marriott but is a “signature” one that does their own thing in their historic mansion. They keep up appearances. The price wasn’t too bad for staying in the city and that way we had close access to the places we wanted to see. Everything was so beautiful! If you want to know what it’s like in the “south,” they really spare no expense on chandeliers. The more the merrier, and there was even a cute little reading chair in our room. Paintings for sale were down every hall and there were mirrors in the elevator! My favorite part was that we were right across the street from the famous Forsythe Park. After our incredible breakfast (more chandeliers), we borrowed bikes from the hotel one day and rode them around the park. The trees are incredible!
Our FAVORITE restaurant the whole trip!! The Olde Pink House. You need to make reservations a month-6 weeks in advance, but by some sort of fluke, they let us in! What a treat! It was a historic home that people can tour while others eat fancy meals. I had Butternut Squash filled Ravioli with Balsamic Vinegar. Troy had Fried Chicken and Mashed Potatoes. Still the best food we've ever had. We toured the home after eating and even the bathroom was so fancy I couldn't resist taking a picture (don't worry, it's not crude)!!
The next day we were busy. We went to Ft. Polaski-integral in the Civil War. It's huge and still very intact. Then we visited Tybee Island (incredibly beautiful beach!) and watched helicopters and hueys drop soldiers into the water and make them swim ashore. We thought it was so rare that we were there at the right time, then they did it 20 mins later, and 20 mins after that. :)
When we were done at the beach, we found a yummy ice cream shop called Savannah Praline Company for ice cream. It did not disappoint! They also sold candies, fudge, and many other items. Their tagline is: "Old-time southern sweets and candies made with real sugar, real south Georgia pecans, and real love."
Historic Riverwalk (River Street) was busy with shops, and tons of small businesses everywhere! The "South" is full of history. Many stories that under the microscope of today are horrible, but back then the world was very wild. We are blessed to have learned a great deal from mistakes made back then and have come together in so much love and healing through the hard times. People in the south are so kind, friendly, and want the best for each other. We can all learn from them! In business, the Riverwalk is very interesting. They have taken time to restore many old store fronts and buildings but like this factory, have rebuilt the interior while keeping the structure similar on the outside. Keep the good, get rid of the bad. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped to see the incredible Bascilica of St. John built in 1876 with French gothic architecture.
That night we went to an upscale Seafood restaurant, Garibaldi's Savannah again, built inside an old historic building, an old Firehouse! The food was incredible. Their tagline is: "Refined Italian dishes with seafood leanings are showcased in a romantic former firehouse." They are a Zagat award winner. Restaurants like this have really suffered during COVID due to not being able to be open and no tourism. Watch this video of Garibaldi's best effort in June 2020 to reopen. I'm happy to report, when we dined there, they were full and busy.
On top of the different changes small businesses would have to keep up with to survive, there are labor shortages everywhere. Many restaurants on the East coast, we found, had scaled back quite a bit on the hours they are open. We found that we needed to make sure the place (attractions as well as restaurants) was open on the day we would be there. Many restaurants were only open on the weekend, or only on Tues-Thurs, or Closed on Mon and Tuesday. Only before 12pm, or after 4pm, etc. Every restaurant had their own policy and plan.
We learned that small businesses across the country are suffering but still resilient, and happy to be able to do what they love, serving people in a way that no one else can! When you think about the chaos in front of you, I like to remember this quote: "a large ship is benefitted very greatly from a very small helm." In a similar way, if we do research, we'll know what is coming, and how to overcome those obstacles. We'll be prepared for whatever comes our way.
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