Mimi’s Travel File: Pourquoi?

Several friends have asked me why I blog. Because I love to travel and I love to talk about it, be it in real life or in the life of my mind…accompanied by beautiful accessories, of course, like this great looking SteamLine Luggage, below.

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(photo courtesy of SteamLine Luggage)

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Despite this goofy, impractical premise of hard luggage on a sailboat, you’ve got to admit: it’s GORGEOUS! (photo courtesy of SteamLine Luggage)

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The Ghan? (photo courtesy of SteamLine Luggage)

I love to learn and be transported. I bet you do, too.

Like, right now, you’re wondering: What’s The Ghan? Where is it and where’s it going? Click here to find out and be transported to this stylish train traveling from north to south Australia…in 2021, of course (darn that corona virus). In 2019, The Ghan marked 90 years of outback crossings. Swoon!

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I wonder where she is? (photo courtesy of SteamLine Luggage)

Bonus: SteamLine was founded and is owned by this cute woman, above. Click here to read about her in Forbes.

Great Quote from her: “I want our children to know how special this world is, to see how other people live, experience how they go to school, eat what they eat…I really feel that the more we can bridge these cultural gaps, the more empathetic and compassionate we will be to others. More than anything, I feel that this is what we need a little more of in this world now.” Yes!

P.S.: Much as I am raving about this luggage (and I secretly want a complete set for my birthday), I take no compensation from any of the places or things about which I write, allowing me to be completely frank.

So now we’ve been transported and learned a little something along the way. And we had a great time doing it! That’s why I blog.

Why do you like to travel?

pink Mexico luggage

(photo  courtesy of SteamLine Luggage)

Elvis, Resilience & the Garden Club

This is the story of resilience, of making something out of nothing, of rising out of the bad times.

From Nothing

Elvis Presley was born

  • in the poorest state (Mississippi)
  • during the poorest time (the Great Depression),
  • on the wrong side of the tracks.

How did he rise from the depths to mega-success?

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Elvis’ birthplace, left (courtesy of the Elvis Birthplace Museum)

His Father had Gumption

In 1934, Elvis’ mother was expecting the future King. So her husband built a tiny home for them (above) — with his own hands!

  • Time was running out, so he asked for help from his father and brother to build the shack.
  • He didn’t have the $180 for building materials so he borrowed it from the farmer for whom he was a sharecropper. Elvis was born in the shack in 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi.

Elvis’ father had can-do, will-do attitude!

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Elvis and his parents (photo courtesy of Elvis Birthplace Museum)

When Elvis was three, his parents defaulted on the $180 loan. They were evicted. Elvis’ father lost his job. For the next 10 years, they worked odd jobs in Tupelo.

The Kid’s Got Talent!

At age 10, shy, be-speckled Elvis entered the talent contest at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show at the Tupelo Fairgrounds. He sang “Old Shep” in a WELO Radio broadcast of the show, and won $5 in fair ride tickets.

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Elvis, far right, wearing glasses. Note that he is the only boy wearing a tie & suspenders. Even then, Elvis was a snappy dresser! (photo courtesy of Lee County Courier)

And Generosity

By age 21, he was famous. He had moved to Memphis but came back to Tupelo to perform at the same fairgrounds where he had won the prize at age 10. Click here to see the 1956 concert. The next year, he gave a concert in Tupelo and donated all proceeds to the city to build a park on the land surrounding the shack.

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(photo courtesy of the Elvis Birthplace Museum)

But It Almost Didn’t Happen

One day in Tupelo, long before Elvis was famous, his mother wanted to buy a present for his 10th birthday.  So she and E walked to the hardware store (pictured below).  Because Elvis had always been fascinated by music, his mother wanted to buy a guitar for him. But when they walked into the store, Elvis saw a rifle and wanted that instead! After the store clerk allowed him to test it, Elvis decided on the guitar. Click here to read a letter from the very same store clerk.

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(photos courtesy of Tupelo Hardware)

His Church Pastor taught Elvis to Play the Guitar

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Elvis’ childhood church (photo courtesy of Elvis Birthplace Museum)

Elvis first heard gospel music, which influenced his singing, at the little church he and his parents attended regularly.

Elvis and the Garden Club: Really?

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Elvis’ birthplace (photo courtesy of the Elvis Birthplace Museum)

“In 1971, the East Heights Garden Club [in Tupelo] began to improve the birthplace as a club project. Over the years the club purchased furniture and other pieces to duplicate the house’s contents from when the Presleys lived there in the 30s,” according to the Elvis Birthplace Museum.

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Garden club ladies (photo courtesy of activerain)

Faith, Hope and Love

Elvis had all three. Maybe that’s why he was able to catapult his talent out of the ashes.

Visit Tupelo’s Elvis Birthplace Museum to see the shack and the family church. Drive to the nearby hardware store. While Graceland is fun, the EBM is touching and inspirational.

 

 

Georgia (the country): Who Knew!?

Apparently, everyone but me. My vision of Georgia, the country, was drab, dark, Soviet-bloc-downtrodden. Boy, was I wrong!

  • Forbes magazine declared, “Berlin Is Out, Tbilisi Is In: Georgia’s Capital Is This Year’s Most Exciting City” — and that was LAST year!
  • Time described “the buzz around Tbilisi as an emerging travel destination.” In 2018.
  • In 2017, CNN Travel‘s Anthony Bourdain wrote, “You should know Georgia because it’s nice. Because the food is excellent. The country is beautiful. Some of the most beautiful scenery on Earth. It’s a place you should absolutely visit given the chance.”
  • The New York Times listed Georgia as one of its 52 places to visit in 2015. TWENTY FIFTEEN!
The Old City of Tbilisi, Georgia

Tbilisi (photo courtesy of Departures magazine)

This West Virginia-size country is THE place to be, so naturally Mimi’s Travel File and her followers must go, too, be it vicariously or in the flesh.

The most well-traveled mother-daughter duo I know recently returned from eight glorious days and raved. They described Georgia as cosmopolitan, inexpensive, and a food-y destination, with excellent wine, hiking, history and scenery. Vogue magazine’s article entitled, “There Are Several Reasons Why Georgia Should Be on Your Mind,” inspired them to go. The quotes below are from said article.

Tbilisi (3 nights)

  • Cosmopolitan: “The Arabs, Russians, and Ottomans have all passed through this Silk Road crossroad and have left their mark and influence throughout the years.”
  • Scenic: “Geographically, Georgia’s an evocative spot, with the Caucasus Mountains to the north and the Black Sea to the west.”
  • Stylish: “This rich, varied place makes it a natural fit for a growing fashion scene, as was evident at the recent Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi Fall 2017, held in the capital city.”
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(photo courtesy of Vogue magazine) Be sure to pack accordingly!

  • Friendly: “The once–Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic, now known simply as Georgia, declared independence from Russia in 1991. Still in a state of disrepair, the country saw a mere 1,500 visitors in 1997. The small country has since bounced back considerably—it celebrated its six-millionth visitor in 2016 with a countrywide celebration when the Dutch traveler randomly arrived. The fanfare was not surprising to locals, as they celebrate visitors regularly.”
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Bank of Georgia (photo courtesy of Vogue magazine)

  • Architecturally interesting: “Old World wonders: stately squares, city walls, and dimly lit castles in the distance…a mad mix of many eras heading in several different directions…you see well worn cobblestone streets and Art Nouveau buildings, some of which are impeccably restored while others remain in a state of disrepair. Orthodox churches stand next to stark modern Soviet structures and shiny new buildings desperate to express themselves.

In the historic Avlabari neighborhood, “The Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi is breathtaking on a Taj Mahal–like level. It feels that epic. It was shocking to hear that it was recently built, between 1995 and 2004.

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Holy Trinity Cathedral (photo courtesy of Vogue magazine)free

“The Kala district, a bohemian enclave with a web of cafés, wine bars, and shops, is situated below Narikala, the city’s 4th-century fortress.”

The Old City of Tbilisi, Georgia

(photo courtesy of Departures magazine)

“In Abanotubani, the bath district, distinctive dome-shaped sulphur bathhouses are the foreground for brightly colored buildings. “The Moorish Revival style of Tbilisi’s Opera House is something to look at, both inside and out. Dating back to 1851, it’s floor-to-ceiling operatic opulence.

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opera house

Rike Park Vogue

Rike Park Concert Hall and Exhibition Center (photo courtesy of Vogue magazine)

Beside Rike is the iconic Bridge of Peace, a bow-shaped pedestrian bridge built in 2010 connecting old city to new,” per Vogue magazine.

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Peace Bridge, Tbilisi (photo courtesy of Vogue magazine)

Food, glorious food

All of this touring is bound to make us hungry, so let’s explore the much-vaunted food in Tbilisi. The nicest restaurants are Georgian Mediterranean, says my mother-daughter duo. Khatchapuri (click here for recipe) is the signature cheese pie dish.

Man holding a baking tray with two egg and cheese khachapuri

Khatchapuri (photos courtesy of Departures magazine)

One of the reasons the food is so good here, say they, is that Georgia grows its own fruits and vegetables, and the soil is fertile. Check out:

  • Cafe Littera, a courtyard restaurant recommended by the Stamba Hotel and my friends.
  • “The signature Funicular Restaurant serves khinkali, traditional Georgian dumplings, and khachapuri, the national dish of Georgia—a flatbread with cheese topped with a runny egg. It’s far more decadent and delicious than it sounds. The Lounge Bar above is sexy and sophisticated, with the best sundowner in town,” says Vogue magazine.
Stamba lobby

Stamba Hotel dining room

Hotels

My mother-daughter team recommends:

  • Inexpensive: Fabrica Hostel
  • Middle end: Rooms Hotel (Vogue liked this)
  • But it was the “very high end” Stamba Hotel that my friends especially like (“great bar and concierge”). They spent three nights in Tblisi and thought that was sufficient

Kzahbegi (two nights)

Next stop for my mother-daughter friends was Kzahbegi, a town just south of the Russian border. The Rooms hotel there is the place to stay, located at the foot of snow-capped mountains. Looks beautiful, very Alpine! Request a room facing said mountains.

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en route from Tbilisi to Kzahbegi

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The Rooms hotel’s terrace

From there, they hiked 6-7 miles up to the chapel in the mountains.

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VERY “Climb Every Mountain” from the Sound of Music!

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Kakheti (3 nights)

wine bottles

  • Stay at the Schuchmann Hotel and spa. My friends say it’s the nicest winery.  Request a room in the main house, with a view of the Caucasus Mountains.
  • Hire amazing David to drive you around ($25 per hour), as highly recommended by my friends. They found him in Lonely Planet.
  • Visit the local wineries that don’t export because they don’t add sulfites. This is a  genuine Georgian experience, where you will meet friendly people in small, rural villages, enthused my mother-daughter duo. They described the Georgians as charming, hospitable, warm people happy to have tourists.

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Elllie in wine country

Cheers to a great trip! Thank you, mother and daughter (above) for all of the great info you provided. PS–I want that red jacket!

Check out this article from Departures magazine.