A Daytrip to Savannah, Georgia

It has always been a dream of mine to visit Savannah.  It’s a lovely, charming southern town home to picturesque scenery that includes Spanish moss, old buildings, fountains, and a river.  My dream was made reality when I took a quick day trip up to Savannah from Jacksonville, Florida.  It was an absolutely incredible day!

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Let me begin by saying, though, that the weather was positively worse than one would hope for. It was rainy on and off all day, windy, and overcast.  The temperature was spot-on, though – cool and brisk in a really pleasant way, which made walking around the town and exploring everything rather nice (too often southern towns get hot and muggy, especially right on the water like Savannah is). So between bursts of rain, I was able to check out a large portion of Savannah and see what it’s all about!

My morning began with a trip to a wonderful coffee shop called The Coffee Fox.  It’s a cute little shop that serves up delicious coffee, some pastries and small savory plates, and has cool, eclectic decor.  I was more than happy to wait out a morning rainstorm here while sipping on a cold brew.

From there, I drifted over toward the City Market area.  It’s an indoor/outdoorsy collection of shops and galleries that one can wander through and check out some local artists and unique souvenirs. Because I was there so early in the morning, many of the galleries weren’t open yet.  Savannah has a huge art community; the Savannah College of Art and Design sits right in town and owns a lot of the buildings nearby (a number of galleries, shops, and cafes, are run by the students and college).  If you’re looking for some unique artwork (from paintings to sculptures and little knickknacks), Savannah is a place to check out!

I headed down to the river next to do the Riverwalk and see the shops and little places along the river.  It was rainy and windy so I dashed back and forth between the shops opposite the river and these rather interesting informational placards that are located right along the water.  The placards feature historical information about the town and area from the time of founding, through the Civil War, the industrial revolution, up to modern times.  Since I’m a sucker for history and didn’t want to miss out on this information, I ended up scurrying into the rain and wind to read them, then scurrying back to the shops to get out of the weather.  The shops along the Riverwalk can be a litte touristy, but there are definitely some gems in there, too!  I highly recommend ducking into the candy shops, where you can sample fresh, homemade pralines. Delicious! There are a number of cafes and restaurants along the way, too – go early to avoid the crowds, otherwise I’d recommend eating farther into town.

Opting to head farther back into town for lunch myself, I dined at the Crystal Beer Palace, a fantastic place on Jones Street with an impressive beer selection.  I had a burger that the waiter recommended some yummy extras for and a local brew.  Perfect for lunch!  Afterward, it was time to hit one of the more famous sights in Savannah – Forsyth Park!

 

Forsyth Park is picturesque and precisely what you would call “southern.” It’s been featured in movies and serves as a backdrop setting for numerous books.  Since I went on a rather rainy day, it wasn’t too crowded (fortunately). Near the park is also a Confederate Memorial, featuring a tall statue with a bronze Confederate soldier.  This memorial didn’t always look the way it does today, though – the town disliked the original so much, it was decided that it would be made-under, with parts of the original taken off and the bronze soldier used as a replacement.  Unfortunately, you can’t get too close to the statue as it’s fenced off by quite a distance.  (It was also here that I happened to stumble into an interview of sorts – what looked like a local college kid had a microphone and a camera assistant and asked my opinion on the state of current politics. It was an interesting discussion for sure!)

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Old cemeteries dot Savannah, too, and I eagerly wandered through one on my walk back from Forsyth Park toward the water again. Savannah is home to a bunch of things like this – old cemeteries, hidden statues or plaques from decades or centuries past, little parks and squares.  In fact, every couple of blocks on the main streets there is a square – a little park at an intersection with benches, gardens, and sometimes a memorial or statue.  Forrest Gump was famously filmed at Chippewa Square (apparently the bench he sits on in the movie was brought in for the movie and doesn’t actually exist… although I do think I was able to find the exact spot it was all filmed!).  Many of the squares have old, large houses that are worth a look at all by themselves. Some have been converted to shops or boutiques, others are businesses or galleries.  It feels that, with every turn in Savannah, you run into something old and beautiful.

With the day coming to a close, I grabbed one last coffee at The Coffee Fox and then headed over to Leopold’s, the local and notable ice cream shop.  I enjoyed a fantastic cone of cherry blossom ice cream – it was light and fluffy and subtly floral! A perfect way to end the day 🙂

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As the sun set, I finally hit the road, enjoying some locally-made salt water taffy on the ride back home.  Even though the weather wasn’t necessarily the greatest for my day trip to Savannah, I’m thankful in many ways since it wasn’t overly hot or humid and the rain seemed to keep a lot of tourists away.  I was able to see so many things, enjoy incredible food and drink, and really experience that “southern” feel that only a place like Savannah can truly embody.  I miss the Spanish moss and riverwalk already!

Questions about Savannah? Or have a story of your own? Feel free to leave a comment! 🙂

As always, happy travels!

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Will Travel for Coffee

This holiday season, I had the pleasure of traveling to visit family and loved ones.  I made a couple stops in a couple cities and was really excited to reach my final destination – Marietta, Georgia.  It’s a wonderful small town located just beyond Atlanta and does a great job promoting small, local business.  I always love walking around Marietta Square and stopping into the shops and boutiques.  There is one place in particular, though, that I look forward to visiting in Marietta perhaps more than any other – Cool Beans Coffee Roasters.  I’m always up for a nice caffeinated beverage, and I will gladly travel the seven hours it takes to get to Cool Beans for theirs!

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Cool Beans roasts their own coffee beans in house and you can actually see them do it! Their roaster is known as “Big Red” and you can watch the fresh, green coffee beans roast in the machine.  It smells great!

Like many coffee shops, Cool Beans promotes local artists by hosting their work.  If it’s hanging on the walls, you can buy it!  I always enjoy seeing what’s new whenever I visit (and it’s awesome to see on a day-to-day basis how much art is sold – it’s fantastic that local artists are supported so much!).  I’m personally quite a fan of the wood ink prints they currently have that feature various coffee-themed images.

A good coffee shop really boils down to one thing, though: their actual coffee.  I’ve never had a cup at Cool Beans that I haven’t loved and I’m rather fond of their “frilly” drinks (things beyond just a black coffee – think mochas and lattes).  On this most recent visit to Cool Beans, I decided to try a new drink, the white iced mocha. My verdict?  Pure delicious magic.  I went back three days in a row and ordered the same thing.  That. Good.

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Cool Beans also offers locally-made foods and they are UH-MAZING.  This past summer, I had quite a love affair with their blueberry muffins.  On this trip, I eyed the croissants that I noticed people eating.  Along with macarons, cakes, and other various pastries, granola, and fruit, it makes for a great place to stop for lunch or a snack.

Whenever I travel, I always seem to end up finding “the” coffee shop.  The place that becomes my coffee go-to whenever I’m there.  From New York City to Orlando, some places are tried and true.  Cool Beans Coffee Roasters is one of them! 🙂

 

Happy Travels!

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Wanderlust Wednesday: Savannah, Georgia

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On this Wednesday, I’d like to highlight a wanderlust wish that is a little closer to home than most of my other destinations – Savannah, Georgia. Savannah is the oldest city in the state of Georgia and is full of history and southern charm. Even though it’s pretty “close to home” compared to many other places, it’s a place I’ve always wanted to explore!

The city of Savannah is located right on the Savannah River, a little ways away from the Atlantic Ocean. It was established as a city for strategic reasons, since it served as a port for the easy transport of goods during early America. Since it was such an important access route and trading port, it became a crucial point during the American Civil War. The Union Army targeted Savannah and General Sherman’s infamous “March to the Sea” resulted in the Union capturing the city against Confederate troops (and destroying a bunch of land in the process).  There’s so much American history in Savannah!

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I grew up in the north so the idea of “southern charm” is really intriguing to me. I really admire the quaintness, hospitality, and general charm of the south. Set against a backdrop of swampy marsh, Spanish moss, and palms, the whole scene is rather enchanting. There are a number of old churches, such as the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, forts, and homes that I really would like to explore and learn about.

Perhaps because my parents always dragged me to forts when I was little and instilled in me an appreciation for them, I really love exploring historic forts. Savannah is home to Fort Jackson and nearby Fort Pulaski. Since these have played a large role in the history of Savannah (and America in general, given their roles in the Civil War), I’m really interested in checking them out and learning more about them in person.   There’s just something about an old-fashion, brick-and-mortar structure that carries with it a certain sense of nostalgia for a bygone era and time. Maybe it’s just the history nerd in me, but I really appreciate things like this!

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Between city-life, the waterways and ports, and historic town squares, Savannah has a little bit of everything. It’s definitely a slice of traditional Americana and, even though it’s relatively close to home, is definitely a place I would love to adventure to and explore. And since it’s in the south, there’s no doubt it’s also home to some good ol’ southern food!

Sometimes adventures don’t always have to be halfway around the world! Savannah is home to a little bit of everything that interests me and is a trip I could probably do over a long weekend, so it’s definitely more realistic a wanderlust wish than, say, Antarctica or India.

If you could visit any semi-nearby location for a new adventure, where would you go? 🙂

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Under The Sea: The Georgia Aquarium!

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For most of my life, Georgia has generally always been a state that I drive through quite often but never actually stop in. That changed recently, though, when I had the pleasure of staying just outside Atlanta in a wonderful town called Marietta. I had the opportunity to explore lots of different areas and sights in and around Atlanta and was very excited about being able to check out the Georgia Aquarium! I am a huge marine-life lover, so I was more than happy to have a day dedicated to the aquarium during my trip.

Stopped at a great coffee shop in Marietta called Cool Beans for an iced coffee and yummy muffin before heading to the aquarium!

Stopped at a great coffee shop called Cool Beans for an iced coffee and yummy muffin before heading to the aquarium!

Located across the street from Centennial Olympic Park on Baker Street, the Georgia Aquarium is home to a number of different exhibits featuring various aquatic habitats and marine life. The layout of the aquarium is such that you get to enter the different habitat areas and explore each one individually. One of the exhibits was under construction while I was there, but the ones I was able to see were amazing!

The Cold Water Quest gallery features the large beluga whales, sea lions, African penguins, and adorable sea otter exhibits. This was one of my favorite galleries to wander through because of how up-close and personal I felt to the animals there. The belugas are incredible to see in person (they’re so big!!) and the penguins and otters were so cute I hung out around them for a really long time just watching them (sometimes the otters will play with you if they notice you by their enclosure!).

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The Ocean Voyager gallery allows you to walk through a tunnel beneath whale sharks, manta rays, goliath grouper, and thousands of other fish. At every turn there’s something new to spot! I really liked being surrounded on almost all sides by the tank as the tunnel wound through it – it gave interesting perspectives (literally) of the fish!

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The River Scout exhibit features reptiles and fish from the rivers of Africa, South America, and Asia. I see gators quite frequently in my everyday life nowadays, but seeing an albino gator was new to me! There were also piranhas, otters, and (my favorite) turtles! Some of the exhibits even have little tunnels for kids to crawl through to get an even closer view of the marine life, which is pretty neat!

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The tropical gallery had many different jellyfish, corals, and brightly colored fish to view. I feel like this was the more “standard” type of gallery you expect when you visit an aquarium – it just had that sort of feel to it. It was really interesting getting to view all the different types of fish, though.

The aquarium has a dolphin show where dolphins perform and do tricks for the audience set against a storyline where the aquarists and divers are the actors and put on a performance. To be honest, it was underwhelming. Granted, it’s aimed toward children, but I definitely left wishing I had seen more dolphin action and less terrible/cheesy human acting. The show also has a splash zone, which is always a hit with kids – the bottom few rows of spectators definitely got wet from the dolphins!

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Overall, I really loved being able to walk around the various galleries and exhibits and really get a good feel for the different habitats and ecosystems. There was a touch pool, too, where I was able to dip my hands into the water and feel some critters. It was really fun! I definitely didn’t want to leave and easily could’ve stayed much longer. The aquarium does so many educational tours and sessions, too, that the possible experiences there are almost endless. If you’re ever in Atlanta and have some time to do so, I definitely recommend a visit to the Georgia Aquarium! It does not disappoint! 🙂

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Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park

Over the holidays I visited Atlanta, Georgia for the first time and stayed just outside the city in a wonderful town called Marietta. Ever the history buff and outdoors lover, I was excited to learn that there was a national park, which also happened to be a Civil War battlefield, just next door to where I was staying.

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Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park was the site of a battle that was part of the Atlanta Campaign, an assault led by Union General Sherman during the Civil War (Sherman technically lost, although the Union went on to defeat the Confederates in and around Atlanta throughout the summer of 1864).  Today, the park is home to over 18 miles of trails and offers a scenic view of Marietta and even out toward Atlanta from the top of the mountain.

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I hiked up the mountain from the visitor’s center and then also took some trails around the base of the mountain on more of the backside. Heading up the mountain, there are nice views of the surrounding town (which would be much more difficult to see in spring and summer when there’s foliage).  The trail has a lot of switchbacks to help mediate the incline and, overall, isn’t too strenuous (there’s an option to drive to the top, too, but then you miss out on the views and animal sightings!).  At the top of the mountain, there is a lookout point from which you can see out toward the city of Atlanta.  Keeping in mind the history of the area, it is pretty cool to conceive how things must’ve looked in the mid to late 1800’s with Union and Confederate armies aplenty around the mountain and Atlanta (there was some joking about giving up the war for the sake of not wanting to drag a cannon up to the top of the mountain! Haha).  Down at the visitor’s center, there is a nice little exhibit about the Civil War and the part Kennesaw Mountain played in it.  I personally wish I would’ve had more time to check it out, but it was closing around the time I got there.  Next time!

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On the way down from the top of the mountain, I happened to stop and take a picture on the trail at the exact moment I noticed a couple deer just a few feet away.  Further inspection of the surrounding woods revealed that there were at least six deer hanging around right off the trail! They didn’t seem to mind being so near to people (which is always concerning to a degree) and it was a cool experience to see them so close 🙂

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Hiking around the base of the mountain (which actually happened on a separate day) was incredibly enjoyable.  There are horse trails throughout the park and open fields and many people take advantage of the space for recreational use.  While walking along the trail, we encountered lots of runners and joggers.  There were a couple park rangers out on the trails, too, giving information to people and engaging in friendly conversation.  We hiked around 2.5 miles before turning around and heading back, passing over some small creeks along the way.  It’s a heavily wooded area, but now in the winter time, visibility is quite high (the mountaintop was visible through the trees).  It’s relatively flat around the base of the mountain but there are a number of trails that veer off toward the side of the mountain for a more “vertical experience.”  There are some informational posts along the trail, too, offering information and history about the mountain and park.

In the short time I spent at Kennesaw, I was able to take in quite a bit of history and scenery and, as always, I wish there had been time for more!  I’m hoping to get back around the area around the summer, at which time I’ll be able to experience the park with quite a different view!  Since I tend to explore a lot of state parks and forests, it was really nice to visit a national one, especially one with such rich history.

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