A Travellerspoint blog

Another day in Paradise

23 August 2016

sunny 90 °F

Tuesday morning brings many more breakfast options to include Casa Cortes. A friend from Puerto Rico recommended it and it is famous for its chocolate, supposedly even Hershey's gets some from them. I celebrate that with an absolutely delicious shake to go with the mallorca breakfast sandwich. Mallorca is a really light bread that they sprinkle with powdered sugar to make sweet.
The mission for today is the Bacardi factory and in my research it seemed the cheapest way to get their was the $1 ferry ticket followed by a shuttle to the factory. The ferry ride was easy enough but there did not seem to be a shuttle, only taxi drivers offering the ride for $12. Curt got them down to $10 but I was still irritated by this expense.
Upon arrive we signed up for the mixology tour and were given a welcome rum drink - that made things a little better :) There really wasn't much to the tour of the factory besides a peak at the huge vats and a $2000 bottle of rum. They don't actually do much in Puerto Rico and the rum was actually started in Cuba. The bottling and distro is done in Jacksonville, Florida. The bat is a symboll of health, family and fortune and was chosen as the mascot when it was seen flying out of one of the first distilleries.
Most of our tour was spent in the mixology room learning how to make a daiquiri, cuba libre and mojito. This was quite fun but also meant by the time we left the tour I had had four rum drinks in about 1.5 hours! Much to my dismay we had to pay $12 again to get back to the ferry. The terminal happened to be across from the Harley Davidson shop which happened to have a few nice t-shirts.
Lunch was at Princesa Gastrobar which was part of our food tour yesterday. I had risotto baricua which was with strip steak and Curt enjoyed red snapper.
The afternoon had us climbing around the other castle in San Juan, San Cristobal. It was almost closing time and it was very similar to El Morro.
We thought these birds we saw were the rare Puerto Rican parrot but actually I think they were just a parakeet.
Our sticks were tired so went down to the cruise ship and did some people watching to include a man trying to get his dog back on the ship. Our bellies were still full but I wanted to go to Barrachina to have one of the orginial Pina Coladas. It was pretty busy so we had some soup and a drink at the bar next to the really sad looking parrots.

Posted by ErinDriver 09:26 Archived in Puerto Rico Comments (0)

First Day in San Juan, Puerto Rico

22 August 2016

sunny 90 °F

We were lucky enough to be waking up this morning in Old San Juan, Pu)erto Rico. Hotels in this area are very expensive so we are waking up on twin beds in the Posada San Francisco hostel. It is basic but meets all our needs except for breakfast. We take the very scary rickety elevator down to the first floor and out in to the sunshine to search for food. Unfortunately it is monday and most places are closed. we eventually find a hole in the wall place called cafe Ochoa where it seems most of the work force of San Juan gets their morning sustenance. We got an omelet not worth mentioning but it came with sour dough toast that was absolutely amazing.
The rest of the morning we strolled around (and I took pictures) of the Old Town. We walked along the Pasado de Princesa which apparently is very happening little marketplace on the weekend....but not Mondays.
Eventually that runs in to the National Park Systems recreational walk along the wall to El Morro Fort.
After a short bit we start to notice cat after cat coming out of the rocks and the shrubbery.
We notice plastic bins made in to a shelter with buckets of cat food inside. Later its discovered that San Juan had a rat problem so they brought in some cats. I'm sure its not surprising that soon cats were breeding out of control and they are left with what they have today - tons of cats to take care of.
Eventually the path winds around to the opposite side of El Morro Fort which small walking trails and lizards large and small coming from everywhere to include the treetops. El Morros is a six level fort with 140 foot walls dating back to the 1500's. The wall incorporates the gate in to San Juan where years ago visitors had to present themselves before gaining access.
With the National Park pass access to the inside of El Morro fort is free and people are free to check out historical displays, beautiful views and the lighthouse.
By this time our legs were dying so we stopped at an open air bar that offers two El Presidente beers for $5. We have a cuban sandwich I don't fail to notice that we visitors in a new place and having beer from the Dominican Republic and sandwiches named after Cuba. Oh well, there's still time.
This sad situation is soon remedied when we meet up with our Flavors of San Juan tour group to eat our way around the Old Town. Our guide is very passionate about what she does and throws out tons of informational tidbits about San Juan. Between restaurants she tells us PR is now part of the US but they continue to keep their own Olympic Team (tennis player just won Gold medal in Brazil) and Miss America contestant. The do not vote after the primary election but kids are required to learn English in school. We learn the blue cobblestones only look blue because of oxidation.
The first restaurant was Princesa Gastrobar, the only all open air restaurant in San Juan. Here we get a lecture on the rums of PR and have the first pina colada of the trip. The food sample plate has croquetas and berenjena rebosada (eggplant toped with chicken).
Next up is a popsicle from Senor Paleta which is actually closed today. Our guide runs up and brings out six popsicles from the factory and they go down quick. Who would have thought a strawberry mojito popsicle would be so delicious.
We have a break to look over the water and run in to a local who carries around an iguana. His scam to get money is to drap it on people and then accept money for the pictures they want. I fell for it hook line and sinker.
Next up on Calle Fortaleza is a store/restaurant called Cafe el Punto for Alcapurria with pique sauce and ceviche.
By now we are getting pretty full but the fun is only beginning. At an adorable and cozy little restaurant called Rosa de Triana we get to mash our own plantains for the local dish called mofongo. Some chicken is added to the mashed plantains and a plate of the most delicious rice and beans accompany it. Unsure how any more can fit in our stomachs we proceed to the last location, Vaca Brava for cheese flan.
The food tour ended up being dinner so my next mission was a Panama hat. After looking in a few shops I was about to call it a night when Curt saw a store called Ole that said it would custom fit your hat. As I am getting mine measured I see a photo on the wall with a familiar face. I realize we are getting our hats at the same place as my idol, Samantha Brown from the Travel Channel.

Posted by ErinDriver 15:49 Archived in Puerto Rico Comments (0)

Greenville, Georgia for a Anniversary Celebration

17-21 August 2016

sunny 90 °F

Curt’s parents were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this year and wanted the whole family to celebrate with them at his Aunt Linda and Uncle Rod’s house. This is the first year in many we can make this trip with only a relatively short car ride. By late Wednesday night we arrived, just in time (or maybe a little late) for BLT sandwiches and some catching up before bed.
Throughout the rest of the week there was much eating and visiting.
Curt was in the kitchen frequently making chocolate chip cookies and a newer tamale recipe. The Wilburn’s have a beautiful home that feels more like a resort with a pond for fishing and enough hummingbirds to keep your attention for hours. No TV is necessary while you are in this oasis.
Almost everything we ate the entire time was made with vegetables grown in Curt's parents garden. They did their best to have me enjoy southern vegetables :)
In short order I fell in love with their new dog Honey who was a rescue that had suffered a puncture injury to her eye. Before we left she had to have her tiny little eye removed!
On the 19th of August Linda took us on a whirlwind tour of Meriwether county to see some historic houses as well as one of her new projects, the Hill Bros Lofts. She has transformed the upstairs of a historic building in to four gorgeous apartments that made me want to move to Greenville. Across the square is the gallery she created where Curt and I find an artist who likes to paint his photos of Africa. So much for me not buying any more pictures :)
Next was the best of all the Corner Café with delicious French fries and frozen yogurt!!! I adored the caramel sea salt with butterfinger crumbs for topping!! Another reason to move to Greenville….
The last effort on our excursion was to see the covered bridge that is actually in Woodbury, Georgia. It is called the Red Oak Creek Covered Bridge and is the longest in Georgia. It was built by famed bridge builder, Horace King, who was originally a slave. However the rain that was so badly needed in the area thwarted my efforts at getting any good pictures.
There was some time for fishing in the pond and I did some paddle boating around taking pictures.
The anniversary celebration was a day early on Saturday and ten people were able to gather for the occasion. Curt’s cousin Christopher and his wife Kristen came from North Carolina and his Aunt Marilyn and Grandmother came from Cordele, Georgia. We got to feast on the smoked pork that Rod spent all day the day before smoking.
Our last morning was whiled away watching the hummingbirds and doing one last photo shoot before having brunch at the Corner Cafe. Curt and I left from there for the Atlanta Airport for our evening flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Thanks to our hosts for the week, Linda and Rod....
and of course Mr. Big Ears!

Posted by ErinDriver 19:07 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Mammoth Cave National Park

12-14 August 2016

sunny 88 °F

Technically the trip started on 11 August but that was after a day of work and all we did was drive the RV to Diamond Cave Resort and RV Park and have a little dinner on the grill. We were lucky enough to have friends Chris and Donna Boily meet us there that night.
The next morning after some eggs and coffee to get us going we did a little hike on the Mammoth Cave Railroad Bike and Hike Trail. We saw a few critters to include this tiny frog and a turtle. We also managed to get even smaller critters called chiggers all over our ankles :(
The main attraction at the park is Mammoth Cave which is the longest cave system in the world. Our group had tickets for the Domes and Dripstones tour which was marginal in my opinion. The tour starts with a bus ride down to the entrance of the cave where they inform us that each step down to the cave cost $300!! After that the line was so long getting down in to the cave that by the time we got to an open area where the guide would tell us a bit about the cave he was already half way through his talk. Most of the cave was very narrow without many formations. Lastly we are informed that we can go an optional 49 steps down and 49 steps back up to actually see a few formations from a very small viewing area.
After that I was hungry again so it was back to the RV for some dinner on the grill. Curt cooked us up some steaks with baked potato and corn on the cob. Amazing!!! We spent the rest of the night enjoying being outside and chatting.
On Saturday it was threatening rain a bit but the group decided to go for the canoe ride anyway. Mammoth Cave Canoes and Kayaks cost $50/canoe for a half day which takes about 3-4 hours. The guide drove us and our canoes to the start of the 7.5 mile route and put us in the water. There wasn't much movement in the water so a fair amount of paddling was required. A few rain showers hit us but nothing big and we were able to cool off a bit thanks to the rain. The sun was also not super hot which we were thankful for. A quick stop on one of the islands was long enough for Chris to pick up some chiggers he got to enjoy the rest of the afternoon :)
By the time the trip was done lunch had been missed so a refueling was in order. A mexican restaurant was not far away so we had drinks, chips and queso/salsa and desserts to hold us over. For dinner Curt again filled us up with hamburgers, baked beans and fries. We sat around talking and trying to ignore that we had to go home tomorrow.
Our last morning came with the usual sadness of a trip being over but we dispelled that by having breakfast at Cracker Barrel before pulling out.

Posted by ErinDriver 16:26 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Natchez Trace Parkway from Nashville, TN to Natchez, MS

22-25 July 2016

rain 90 °F

Four days and 1071 total miles got us from Clarksville, Tennessee to Natchez, Mississippi. The goal was to ride the Natchez Trace which starts in Nashville so we had an extra 50 miles each way just to get to it. The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444 mile (we only found 442 mile markers) scenic highway that winds through Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi. It was used as a pathway in the 1700 and 1800’s when travelers were moving westward and also as a trade route for selling goods. Now it is a highway marketed for recreation with multiple historic sites along the way. The speed limit is 50 mph and commercial traffic is not allowed. It is perfect for motorcycles and bicycles.
Day one for us was from Clarksville, TN to Tupelo, MS. We got a late start because I worked in the ED until 0200 and it took us 1.5 hours to get to the trace in order to avoid highways. We had a quick gas station lunch and were hearing thunder and watching clouds roll in so figured we should move on. As luck would have it the second we got on the trace is started to rain. So about 4 miles in to 444 we were stopping to put on rain gear. The day only got worse after that but we did have a brief period where it looked like the day would turn out beautiful so we stopped in Shady Grove, TN. The country store was definitely memorable. A sign was posted on the bathroom that asked us to please pay for our items before going in. We found out later it is because people would take their beer in to the bathroom and drink it. The tip jar also had a message on not to steal the tips – it requested that if people needed it that bad just to ask for it. We decided we probably shouldn’t leave our motorcycles unattended too long in this town. We hit another rain shower which wasn’t bad but not far down the road we got caught in pouring rain that kept us from even seeing the road in front of us.
We had to stop in Waynesboro at the welcome center to change clothes and devise a plan. The intel we got was that the weather should pass in another hour so we were told to have dinner at Meme’s and then we should be able to continue.
It was a worthwhile suggestion as the food was all brown but delicious. The chicken strips were hand dipped and hush puppies home made.
Our plan held out and we made it the remaining two hours to tupelo without getting any more wet. We were at the best western next to chili’s so we celebrated our successful day with drinks and queso dip.
Before we were ready it was time to wake up and start riding again. Yesterday took us much longer than we thought so we didn’t want to get too late a start. BW has breakfast in house so we fueled up and were on the road by 0830. The Tupelo to Natchez portion of the trace is my favorite with a segment that overlooks the water.
We made a stop at the Reservoir overlook and some locals suggested we get lunch in Clinton at Frogshead Grill. The recommendation turned out to be spot on with a neat atmosphere and tasty food. I got a shrimp po boy and fries and loved it.
I wanted to make a stop today at Emerald Mound which is the second largest temple mound in the US used from 1300-1600 by Mississippians which were descendents of the Natchez Indians.
This was only about 10 miles from Natchez so we stopped for a photo at the 1 mile marker and then found our B&B called the Burn. I may have a new favorite. Right off when we arrived we were taken to our room and had a chocolate chip cookie and water. A short while later we were given a tour of the house and wine tasting. We learned that the first owners were Scottish and the original property had a creek. Burn is Scottish for creek which is where the property got its name.
We spent some time relaxing in the pool on the property before walking to Fat Mamma’s. We have been there for margaritas every time we have come to Natchez and we love it there. The gringo pie is a plate with tamales covered in chili and best enjoyed on their outside patio. This time we share our table with a Belgian music teacher who is on a 7 week tour of the United States!
The best part about staying at a B&B is the second B. Breakfast at the Burn was no exception. We had great conversation with another couple from Baton Rouge and enjoy a plate of baked French toast with eggs and bacon. Our luck from yesterday expires as we look out the window at the end of breakfast and see the rain coming down pretty steady. The weather report says the storms are confined to the local area so we put on our rain gear again and take off. That proved to be true and we rode to Clinton for gas and Krispy Kreme without being too wet. In Kosciusko we take another break at El Rodeo Mexican restaurant for lunch. The beauty of this trip is that the only things to worry about are where you will get gas next and where you will eat next! I already knew I wanted to try the Neon Pig in Tupelo because it supposedly has the best burgers in the states. Sadly it was closed but we made the most of it by hitting the movies to see The Secret Life of Pets. The Thai Garden was just across a parking lot from the Best Western but closing 10 minutes after we arrived. The restaurant looked adorable inside and they were nice enough to fix us a plate of pad thai before they closed.
Way too soon our last day arrives and we get gas, breakfast and a quick tour of the birthplace of Elvis. I couldn’t leave Tupelo and not see where Elvis spent his first 13 years. The place gives free tickets to the military so we also saved $17 each! With your ticket you get to walk through his 2 bedroom house decorated with period furniture.
You also get to take your photo with a sculpture of Elvis when he was 13 which is when his family moved from Tupelo to Memphis.
They have on display the church he went to when he was a boy, his chapel built later by his recording studio, his outhouse and a small museum and gift shop. It didn’t take long to see but I was glad I didn’t pass it up.
We stopped several times today at historical sites – Colberts Ferry which now has a bridge but at one time was crossed by ferry.
On Highway 13 we got gas, pizza and a lottery ticket so I might never have to work again. No such luck. We walked down to Jackson Falls which didn’t turn out to have much of a falls and stopped for a photo of the double arch bridge mostly obscured by foliage.
The last Kodak moment was at mile 442 (the last one we could find). We arrived safely home around 1800 with sore butts but glad we did it.

Posted by ErinDriver 09:17 Archived in USA Comments (0)

RC Cola and Moon Pie 10 miler

18 June 2016

semi-overcast 85 °F

Bell Buckle, Tennessee hosts an RC Cola and Moon Pie Festival every year and part of those celebrations is a 10 miler. Lucky for us we had cloud cover for much of the route over A LOT of rolling hills. But the finish was spot on with popsicles and moon pies among the usual bananas and water. The town is small with only 500 people but has an adorable main strip with several antique shops.

Posted by ErinDriver 12:38 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Hillbilly Half Marathon, Leiper's Fork, Tennessee

4 June 2016

rain 80 °F

It seemed only natural to do the hillbilly half marathon while living in Tennessee and I convinced my friend Staci to do it with me! I have to say it was one of the most scenic and beautiful runs I have ever done. It was through the rolling hills just outside of Nashville which is home to the famous and rich as well as hill billies. After the rest we went to the bakery in town called Sugar and the person we presume to be the owner was telling us that Tim McGraw and a house nearby, Carrie Underwood is building a house and Justin Timberlake bought a huge chunk of land right behind their shop.
Sadly we were about the only runners dressed up as hillbillies but I guess some thought us very brave to run in denim. Most of the water stops had some pretty interesting costumes though.
Not until I was at mile 12 did I notice the wording on the water bags warning me to drink at my own risk!!!
The finish had some excellent cookies, peaches and photo opportunities with General Lee!

Posted by ErinDriver 11:40 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Oakland Cemetary

30 May 2016

sunny 80 °F

The day when I have to say goodbye to my beautiful white porch has come and with reluctance I go in to eat breakfast. I am cheered immediately when I see the eggs again at breakfast. Today was the most filling breakfast with cake like blueberry pancakes.
The drive back to Atlanta is a smooth one on this Memorial Day and it seems fitting that our last stop on the GWTW trail is the Oakland Cemetery. It sometimes seems more like a garden with 8,000 people buried in it than a cemetery. It also seems odd to get photos of the grave markers with the skyline in the background.
We wonder among the headstones for awhile before finding the visitors center and then wonder even longer trying to find Margaret Mitchells headstone. Ironically enough we missed it because we were looking at the three plots with the Rice name on right next to hers. It is not very substantial and the main name is Marsh for her husband John Marsh.
Because of our huge breakfast we weren’t hungry so I dropped mom off at her hotel and headed out of Atlanta hoping to avoid the afternoon holiday traffic.

Posted by ErinDriver 13:32 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Largest Antique Mall in World

29 May 2016

sunny 80 °F

The initial thought today was that after breakfast we would be hanging around the porch or pool relaxing. We thought this all through the Greek yogurt trifle, yummy eggs and biscuits and gravy that was served.
But on departure from the dining room I asked the two men that worked there what to do on a Sunday here and he mentioned the world’s largest antique mall, Ian Henderson’s that is only a couple towns over. So we scoured the place for hours looking for treasures. It was HUGE with tons of cool stuff if only we had a moving van!
The guys had also mentioned the southern buffet they like to eat at in Social Circle after antique shopping. It’s called the Blue Willow Inn and at 1500 it was still packed to the gills. For $22 you got all the Southern comfort food you could handle.
Tired but not beaten we dragged our way through the Antiques and Stuff in Covington before driving back to the Twelve Oaks for a restful last evening.

Posted by ErinDriver 18:06 Archived in USA Comments (0)

The home of Gone With the Wind

28 May 2016

sunny 80 °F

What a packed full day we had today. From bright and early walking around the grounds of twelve oaks and checking out the neighbors. I am in love with the house next door which incidentally is on the market for 1.475 million :)
Breakfast was tasty with a cup full of eggs mixed with havarti cheese and chives followed by stuffed French toast and a sausage. This would fortify us for a long day of touring which started with an approximately 50 minute drive to Jonesboro for the Road to Tara Museum. Jonesboro claims to be the home of Gone with the Wind because Margaret Mitchell would spend her summers here and many of the characters and events in the book were based off people she knew and their life events.
The Road to Tara Museum is beautifully displayed and my favorite of the three we have visited. It starts with a brief portion about the battle of Jonesboro which happened all throughout the town.
The GWTW portion has reproductions of many of the costumes and the actual pantalets worn by Vivien Leigh.
They display for the different languages the book came in was also the most well put together.
These are theater seats from the Loew's theater that showed the premier of the movie. It has since burnt down. I do wonder why the seats look slightly different at each museum we go to.
They also have a decent display showing spoofs on the movie that have come out.
The women that work at the Visitors center/museum also sold us on a tour of Jonesboro with GWTW focus.
At 1300, after a snickers bar for lunch, we boarded this bus for the 1 hour, 15 minute tour. For the most part we observed from the bus window while the announcer told stories related to Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind and how many of her stories and characters came about. Jonesboro is where her grandfather lived and it is believed he is the inspiration for Pa, their house for Tara and his stories her information on the Civil War. She comments that she grew up listening to Civil War stories but didn’t realize the south didn’t win until she was ten. We do get to disembark at the Confederate Cemetery where there are 1000 mostly unmarked graves. The cannonballs on top of the arch were actually used in the battle.
We also got out at the old jail which houses many town artifacts now including old ledgers.
After this tour was completed we hightailed it to Stately Oaks Plantation, built in 1839, it was likely one of the inspirations for Tara.
There was no picture taking allowed inside but tour guide did a marvelous job pointing out all kinds of trinkets from the time period. She was also dressed in period costume including seven layers of undergarments. Many things were explained to include the courting candle, salt, sugar, tear collector, hair collector, pickle container, celery container, bug catcher and how the kids were identified in photos. Boys and girls were both clothed in dresses to make it easier for potty training so sex was identified by how the hair was combed. Girls had their hair parted in the middle and boys on the side. They house also has a well set up one room school house, well house, outhouse, tenent room and cook kitchen.
Tired and hungry we headed back to Covington just in time for the nibbling hour at Twelve Oaks. My favorite thing is sitting on their porch with cheese, crackers and wine.

It was only an appetizer so we walked to town for dinner at the Mystic Grill, famous on the show the Vampire Diaries. I have never watched it but the hamburger and beer was excellent and we were stuffed. But not too full for more ice cream from Scoops before our ghost tour.
Covington Ghost Tours was different than any I have ever been on, and I do love a ghost tour. In this day and age there is actually an app called ghost hunting app and it is to tell you when you are in the presence of excess energy as well as randomly list words. Between the group the hope is to string together something of meaning. For 2 hours we walked around town with a story at nearly every building. Sadly no spirits, orbs, ghosts or goblins were seen despite a walk through the cemetery in the dark. Although according to our app we may have been in the presence of Abigail, Jack, cupcakes or a doctor. Here is one of the photos we were to inspect when we got home for orbs, objects or people. Do you see anything?
At the visitors center there is a sign for Mystic Falls, Virginia which is the town that Covington plays in the Vampire Diaries.

Posted by ErinDriver 17:47 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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