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.
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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)

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  • 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.

 

Georgia Fan

I’m a Georgia fan! You’ve seen my posts on wild, undeveloped Cumberland Island and the lovely, languorous Savannah

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Cumberland Island

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Savannah

But here are five Georgia gems that may not be on your radar… and should!

Thomasville

Come see the gorgeous houses built by the rich “Yankees” (e.g., Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt, Mrs. B. F. Goodrich, Alexander Graham Bell) when they came down from cities in the Northeast and Midwest in the late 1800’s.

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Col. Oliver Hazard Payne,  an organizer of the American Tobacco trust, who also assisted with the formation of U.S. Steel, and was affiliated with Standard Oil, bought Greenwood Plantation in Thomasville for a shooting plantation. (photo, circa 1899. courtesy of the Pebble Hill Plantation)

“As the terminus for the railroad, Thomasville was accessible from the north and, during the late 1800’s, became known as the ‘Winter Resort of the South.’ In the beginning of this era, Northerners and other visitors came to Thomasville for their health, breathing the pine-scented air as a curative for pulmonary ailments. They were soon joined by friends to enjoy hunting, fishing, and an active social life, including golf, horse racing and bicycling. Thomasville came to represent the best of Southern hospitality with the lavishness of the resort lifestyle…

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random gorgeous house in Thomasville

Once they discovered that it cost less to purchase land than rent hotel rooms, these wealthy families bought property and built grand Victorian mansions and plantation homes. Many of these plantations are still owned by the families who built them and…have been lovingly restored,” according to Thomasville’s website.

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I desperately wanted to buy this pre-Civil War house!

Thomasville is definitely worthy of an overnight. Stay at The Paxton and request the first floor room, as they don’t have an elevator and who wants to lug heavy suitcases upstairs?! The Paxton is in Thomasville proper, so you can walk to restaurants around this small town. Dine at the Sweet Grass Dairy, a cheese shop (123 S. Broad Street) and restaurant with cheese-centric dishes. Shop at Kevin’s Fine Outdoor Gear & Apparel (111 S. Broad Street). In addition to hunting and fishing gear, Kevin’s sells beautiful tableware, splashy coffee table books, and even offers travel services

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(photo courtesy of Kevin’s)

If you would rather experience staying on a plantation, book a cottage at nearby Pebble Hill Plantation…or just visit for an afternoon. “Hard times during the Civil War and afterwards during Reconstruction created rundown, disheveled property all across the South. Pebble Hill was no exception. The beautiful Main House, designed by architect John Wind in 1851, was in desperate need of repair when Mel purchased the property in 1896,” according to the Pebble Hill Plantation’s website. “Mel” was one of the rich “Yankees” who came from the Midwest to escape the snow.

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Pebble Hill Plantation garden in winter

For an excellent list of more things to do in the Thomasville area, click here. BTW, did you know that Joanne Woodward was born in Thomasville? You just know she brought Paul Newman (swoon) home to visit!

Milledgeville

  • is on the Southern Literary Trail, connecting places in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi that influenced great novelists and playwrights of the 20th Century. Writers Flannery O’Connor (“Wise Blood,” etc.) and Alice Walker (“The Color Purple,” etc.) grew up near Milledgeville. Visit peaceful and evocative  Andalusia Farm, where Miz Flannery completed the bulk of her literary work when she lived there from 1951-1964.
  • is a thriving, small college town, thanks to Georgia College & State University, founded in 1889.
  • has a dramatic Governor’s Mansion with an interesting history.
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Governor’s Mansion in Milledgeville

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Alex Hitz

Alex Hitz, who The Wall Street Journal called “the very best host in the world,” grew up in Atlanta. This summer, I have been cooking my way through his beautiful and sophisticated cookbook, “My Beverly Hills Kitchen.” His recipes are classic Southern cooking with a French twist. Three traits make his cookbook a stand-out:

  • The recipes are consistently good.
  • The intro paragraph to each recipe is always interesting.  For example, did you know that Vichyssoise was invented in the U.S.?
  • Most of his recipes include recommendations for accompanying dishes.

You might want to make some of Alex’s pimento cheese for a snack on your road trip around Georgia. When my friend, Mary Ann, took me on a trip to a small town in Georgia, I was offered glorious pimento cheese sandwiches from three different hosts within 24 hours…and that’s what I like about the South!

Plains

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Jimmy Carter’s former presidential campaign HQ in Plains’ old train station

  • President Jimmy and First Lady Rosalynn Carter are from Plains, a small, unpretentious, rural town, where the Carters were prosperous peanut farmers. Jimmy and Rosalynn were high school sweethearts, whose families were good friends. This couple has come a long way, baby!
  • Visit the Old Schoolhouse Museum for the story of President Carter’s life from boyhood to the presidency.
  • I have heard from a reliable source that the Buffalo Café (118 Main Street) is wonderful!
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random street scene in Plains

  • Visit Maranatha Baptist Church where President Carter still teaches Sunday school, attracting people from all over the world. So impressive, especially given that he is 94 years old! Click here to read an article about this in The Washington Post.
  • Check out nearby Andersonville Civil War cemetery, former site of a prisoner of war camp.

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Between Plains and Macon is beautiful Massee Lane Gardens in Marshallville, home of the American Camellia Society. Best in winter for blooms.

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Farmer Brown’s (photo courtesy of my friend from Georgia)

Also en route from Plains to Macon, stop at Farmer Brown’s Produce Market in Montezuma, GA.  Summer or fall for peaches, produce, peach blossom dessert and ice cream, and zinnia picking. Sounds like a little slice of heaven to me!

Macon

Check out its…

  • eye-popping architecture
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Macon’s Cowles-Bond House, circa 1836

  • Southern throwback comfort food at
    • S&S Cafeteria
    • H&H Restaurant located downtown, with the same wonderful food as S&S, but almost a shrine to the Allman Bros. along with other musicians who dined there in the heyday of Capricorn Records, per my Georgia friend, who took this scrumptious photo…IMG_8496.jpg
    • Dovetail – “divine new Southern cuisine downtown,” according to my Georgia friend, Mary Ann, who knows good food!
    • Rookery – “downtown institution with great bar food,” says Mary Ann.
  • Wesleyan College, the first woman’s college in U.S.. Ever heard of the Soong sisters? I bet you’ve heard of Madame Chiang Kai-shek. Well, before she was Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, she was one of the Soong sisters, from far away China. They attended Wesleyan College. Click here, for their intriguing story.
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We stayed at Macon’s 1842 Inn (pictured here), which was okay and in a great neighborhood.

Musical Travelling Companions

Pack your CDs, hop in your car, crank up the volume and get your groove on with Southern rock and soul bands produced by yet another Georgia gem, Capricorn Records!

Otis-Redding

Sing to me, Otis!  (photo courtesy of performingsongwriter.com)

We’re talking the incomparable Otis Redding, the Allman Brothers, the Marshall Tucker Band, Delbert McClinton (that man’s got soul) and many more.

Literary Travelling Companions

Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell, The Color Purple, by Alice Walker, and An Hour Before Daylight, by Jimmy Carter

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peaches from Farmer Brown’s

A hearty thanks to my Georgia friend, Miz Mary Ann, and her wonderful parents, without whom I would not have known about most of these gems. It sure pays to know interesting and interested people!

Nashville: Music City USA

Dolly

Dolly Parton at the Grand Ole Opry (photo courtesy of the Grand Ole Opry): Gotta love her!

Hatch posters

(image courtesy of Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum)

See the Sights

Ryman Auditorium – Take a tour or see a show or better yet, do both! “A National Historic Landmark, Ryman Auditorium was built by Captain Thomas G. Ryman in 1892. Ryman Auditorium is an nine-time winner of the prestigious Pollstar Theatre of the Year award. The historic venue is well-known as the Mother Church of Country Music and is the most famous former home of Grand Ole Opry (1943-1974). The Ryman has been featured in numerous film and television projects including Coal Miner’s DaughterThe Johnny Cash Show, American Idol, Nashville, and more. While offering a diverse lineup and thriving concert schedule (with over 200 shows per year), the venue is also open for daytime tours year-round,” per the Ryman Auditorium website.

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Ryman Auditorium (photo courtesy of the Ryman Auditorium)

Ryman inside

This is the inside of the Ryman. Can’t you just hear Dolly singing?!?! (photo courtesy of the Ryman Auditorium)

Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge – Tootsie’s back entrance is across the alley that runs along the side of the Ryman Auditorium. When bands were finished performing, they would walk across that alley into Tootsie’s. “Famous early customers were Kris Kristofferson, Faron Young, Willie Nelson, Tom T. Hall, Hank Cochran, Mel Tillis, Roger Miller, Webb Pierce, Waylon Jennings, Patsy Cline and many more,” according to its website. It’s authentic and fun and you can hear live music here.

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum – SO much fun! This is a modern, beautiful museum in downtown Nashville, near the Ryman Auditorium. Check out its collection, which includes…

Elvis car

Elvis’ 1960 gold Cadillac (photo courtesy of Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum)

country music costumes

performers’ costumes (photo courtesy of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum)

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Listen to a recording session in this way-cool nautilus (photo courtesy of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum)

Elvis in Studio B

Learn about historic RCA Studio B, in which Elvis is recording here (photo courtesy of Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum)

Grand Ole Opry – While the Grand Ole Opry (below) looks a bit cold by comparison to the Ryman Auditiorium (home of the Opry from 1943-1974), you gotta go, as this is where all the glitz is. This Grand Ole Opry has a several backstage tours that I long to do, including a VIP tour that includes hanging out ON THE STAGE as the curtain rises! Click here for the Grand Ole Opry’s “ultimate guide to a weekend in Nashville.”

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(photo courtesy of the Grand Ole Opry)

Opryland

(photo courtesy of the Grand Ole Opry)

Homes of the Stars tour – Years ago, I went on this and it was so much fun! Could it have changed?! Maybe but how about you check it out and let me know. It’s only 3.5 hours and could be great.

Johnny Cash Museum (Milieu 2017) – I haven’t been here but it’s got to be good.

Where to Stay

Holston House Hotel (Travel + Leisure, 2018) –  good location downtown near the tourist mainstays; rooftop bar with good views; it’s a Hyatt, so that gives me pause…is it good or cookie-cutter? Let me know! T+L says it’s the “former Noel Place, which opened in 1930 as one of Nashville’s first luxury hotels…has newly restored Art Deco details”

Hermitage Hotel (Departures, 2016) – Built in 1910, the Hermitage Hotel was the

special-rewards

(photo courtesy of the Hermitage Hotel)

grande dame of Nashville until Nashville became trendy. Great location downtown, so you can walk to the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum, the Ryman Auditorium, Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge and the Ernest Tubb Record Shop, major stops on your tour. Despite its lack of hipness, it’s nice…not exciting, but nice.

Noelle Hotel (Garden & Gun magazine, 2018) – in Printer’s Alley, downtown; this is a Marriott, so rooms look cold but good location

Eat, Drink and Be Merry

For THE BEST TIPS from top country music stars themselves on where to listen to live music,  click here! For example,

  • Vince Gill likes the Bluebird Cafe and Robert’s Western World and the Station Inn
  • Marty Stuart recommends American Legion Post 82 or wherever the Kenny Vaughan Trio is playing around town.
  • Kelsea Ballerini likes songwriters’ nights at The Bluebird or The Listening Room
  • Raelynn suggests Ascend and Mercy Lounge.

Wander around the bars downtown on Broadway (near the Ernest Tubb Record Shop) where bands start playing early in the day…not raucous bands, but sit-and-listen-while-you-nurse-your-beer kind of bands. In the 1970’s, this area was pretty seedy but the bands were good. Now, the bands are still good but the area is seriously cleaned up. For ex, at 416 Broadway, visit…

Robert’s Western World – “is a true, old school honky-tonk. There are many live music venues in that area (Nashville’s historic lower Broadway district), with many people sitting outside strumming their guitars. Robert’s, though, is called ‘the undisputed home  of traditional country music.'” Robert’s is one of Vince Gill’s two favorite honky tonks on Broadway in downtown Nashville. The other is Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. (Milieu magazine and Garden & Gun, 2017)

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(photo courtesy of The Loveless Cafe)

The foodies reading this are probably wincing because my lead restaurant is The Loveless Cafe . During the past 20 years, as Nashville became more and more cool, gourmet restaurants began to pop up. In fact, it’s become a bit of a Mecca for excellent food. BUT, you can get snazzy food in any big city. The Loveless Cafe is unique to Nashville…and have I mentioned that it serves heaps and heaps of the BEST biscuits EVER?!?!? We’re talking country cooking in a relaxed setting. Yes, it’s 17 miles from downtown Nashville but worth it. Just look at all of the country music stars who have made the trek…

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(photo courtesy of The Loveless Cafe)

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(photo courtesy of The Loveless Cafe)

Rolf and Daughters – “is one of Nashville’s finest restaurants — and there are many now.In 2013, … (it) was voted third best restaurant in the nation by Bon Appetit.” (Milieu magazine, 2017)

Hugh-Baby’s (Garden & Gun, 2018) – “ups the ante on fast food,” (per Garden & Gun); burger, dogs, fried, smoked bologna sandwiches and BBQ; 1970’s nostalgia (counter seating); several locations

Travel + Leisure (2018) recommended:

  • Mockingbird – “upscale-diner aesthetic” downtown
  • Black Rabbit – “expect fancified small plates with a Southern accent”

For more restaurants and bars, click here to see where Vince Gill, Kelsea Ballerini, Marty Stuart, Raelynn, Carly Pearce and Brett Eldredge like to go.

Where to Shop

Manuel Couture – Manuel Cuevas is a legend, who has clothed all the greats, including Dolly, Marty Stuart, Elvis, Johnny Cash, James Dean, Emmylou Harris, etc. His store is located at 2804 Columbine Pl, Nashville, TN 37204 and you can go there! I got this tremendous suggestion from none other than the FAB Marty Stuart, the “Renaissance man of country music.” A member of the Country Music Hall of Fame who came to Nashville when he was barely a teen,  he knows the city. Click here for his recommendations of distinctly-Nashville things to do.

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Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives, stylin’! (photo courtesy of the Grand Ole Opry)

Ernest Tubb Record Shop – This is a genuine, old-time Nashville country music record shop with live music. I think it’d be a blast to attend the midnight jamboree! See website for more info. It’s located in downtown Nashville at 417 Broadway. 

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Ernest Tubb Record Shop (photo courtesy of Nashville Downtown Partnership)

Hatch Show Prints – This is where so many of the famous posters were made for the biggest and best country music shows. Come see the old and new and buy a few!

Music City poster Hatch

(courtesy of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum)

Y’all come back now, ya hear!?!

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(photo courtesy of The Loveless Cafe)

England’s Gravetye Manor has it All

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This looks like countless country house hotels, at first blush. But it’s far, far better than them all. (photo courtesy of Gravetye Manor)

Gorgeous Gardens created by a Groundbreaking Designer

The gardens were designed by one of THE GREATS in garden design, Mr. William Robinson, who pioneered the English country garden look. Robinson’s home was Gravetye Manor for many years, during which time he transformed the 1,000-acre property. Today, Gravetye Manor employs eight full-time gardeners, lest you be wondering why your garden doesn’t look quite like this.

Long border view

(photo courtesy of Gravetye Manor)

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Take a stroll through the gardens, cocktail in hand, as the sun is setting before dinner. (photo courtesy of Gravetye Manor)

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(photo courtesy of Gravetye Manor)

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Garden design revolutionary, Mr. William Robinson, on his 94th birthday surrounded by the 94 white peonies he received as a present. (photo courtesy of Gravetye Manor)

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Gravetye Manor grows much of the fruits and vegetables it serves, as well as a profusion of flowers, which you will see on tables, windowsills, desks, everywhere around the house. (photo courtesy of Gravetye Manor) 

Beautiful Restaurant with a Well-Deserved Michelin Star

Gravetye Manor Hotel & Restaurant

That’s the Michelin-starred restaurant in the glass-fronted room looking onto the garden (photo courtesy of Gravetye Manor)

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(photo courtesy of Gravetye Manor)

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When sitting inside the restaurant after dark, one can see the garden thanks to tasteful up-lighting. (my fab photo)

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Eating at Gravetye Manor’s restaurant is like eating inside of a Monet painting! (photo courtesy of Gravetye Manor)

I usually find food photos intensely boring but had to make an exception here.

ALC Starter (Salad)

When I requested a starter with lots of vegetables, they whipped up this beauty with a perfect egg yolk in its center, despite its not being on the menu that night. (photo courtesy of Gravetye Manor)

ALC Dessert (Souffle)

Rhubarb souffle with ginger ice cream: Swoon! (photo courtesy of Gravetye Manor)

Old, Pretty Manor House in Mint Condition

Built in 1598 Gravetye Manor has had many an owner but its most notable was Mr. William Robinson, who lived here from 1884-1935 AND pioneered the English country garden look. He grew up poor, became a gardener, worked on increasingly fine gardens, wrote about them, and gradually saved enough money to buy the 1,000 acres that make up Gravetye Manor today. Read about him here!

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The wood is polished to a sheen and nary a speck of dust is in sight. (photo courtesy of Gravetye Manor)

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Reception: warm, welcoming, and flower-laden (photo courtesy of Gravetye Manor)

Gravetye Manor has 17 big, handsome bedrooms with beautiful views. Holly and Chestnut are among the best.

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This was our room, called Chestnut. (photo courtesy of Gravetye Manor)

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This is the view from our window! Despite it being early Spring, the garden is still stunning. (photo courtesy of moi)

Flawless Service

Among THE best service I have ever experienced anywhere, including Asia, which is famous for its service. The managing director is a gentleman who is down-to-earth, has a sense of humor and believes it’s important for the staff’s personality to shine through because only that way does the customer receive genuinely warm service. Perfect! Considerate attention to details included:

  • When I merely glanced in the closet, the lovely woman who showed us to our room volunteered to bring more hangers.
  • When I asked for another soap, she brought two.
  • When we arrived back to Gravetye after a hike, they offered to clean our hiking boots, as if they were the finest of shoes.
  • Room service arrived when requested.
  • When we came back to the room after dinner,
    • the TV guide was open on our bed with the controls on top of it,
    • the tea kettle had been filled with water for the next morning,
    • a detailed map of the local area with the sites marked on them was open on the desk,
    • and a bookmark had been placed by each of our books.

Fun Facts

  • Gravetye Manor is 12 miles from England’s Gatwick Airport…though nary a plane will you hear when staying there.
  • While Gravetye Manor is 30 miles from central London, don’t think about taking a day-trip here, as you will be sad to leave after dinner.
  • We went to Gravetye because I had seen this article in Flower magazine about its glories. Check it out!
  • Things to Do: Many historic houses, famous gardens and fun activities abound nearby, including Winston Churchhill’s home, Chartwell, and Hever Castle, the girlhood home of Anne Boleyn, one of Henri VIII’s wives.
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My photo, of which I am VERY proud!

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(photo courtesy of Gravetye Manor)

When you go the Gravetye Manor, please try to get that Rhubarb Soufflé recipe from the chef and pass it on to me. So good!

Just Heard about a Great Safari…

…in Zambia from a well-traveled friend with terrific taste. Let’s go!

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(photo©KarenHuntt, All Rights Reserved)

My friend went to The Bushcamp Company this past May and loved its walking and driving safaris. Here’s why, in her words:

1. The setting – South Luangwa Park is like the original Eden.
  • The flora and fauna are spectacular and varied: dense jungle, dry sandy areas, lagoons and rivers, flat plains, and hills.
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(photo courtesy of The Bushcamp Company)

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(photo©KarenHuntt, All Rights Reserved)

dusk patio

(photo courtesy of The Bushcamp Company)

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(photo courtesy of The Bushcamp Company)

2. It’s as yet “undiscovered.” Of course, westerners have been living and touring in and around South Luangwa for decades, but heavy tourism has not yet come to the area. We essentially had the park to ourselves.

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(photo©KarenHuntt, All Rights Reserved)

3. The Bushcamp Company itself –

  • Yes, the lodge and the camps are lovely, interesting, and in spectacular settings,
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(photo courtesy of The Bushcamp Company)

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(photo courtesy of The Bushcamp Company)

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(photo courtesy of The Bushcamp Company)

…but the people are really what make the difference. All are locals, black and white.

  • The owners couldn’t be friendlier and more down-to-earth. A percentage of each guest’s lodging is donated to the South Luangwa Conservancy.
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(photo courtesy of The Bushcamp Company)

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(photo courtesy of The Bushcamp Company)

  • The majority of the guides are local, native Zambians. They are incredible. Deeply knowledgeable and passionate about the wildlife and the natural world. Also, couldn’t be nicer.
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(photo©KarenHuntt, All Rights Reserved)

4. The wildlife!

  • There’s so much of it (60 mammal species and 400 bird species), and it’s all so amazing…There is more wildlife per square foot than you’ll see elsewhere in Africa. Elephants, lions, giraffes, baboons, impala, lilac-crested rollers, black mambas – all co-exist and often within the same scene.
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(photo courtesy of The Bushcamp Company)

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(photo©KarenHuntt, All Rights Reserved)

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(photo courtesy of The Bushcamp Company)

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(photo©KarenHuntt, All Rights Reserved)

  • And you can get quite close to some of them.
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(photo©KarenHuntt, All Rights Reserved)

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(photo courtesy of The Bushcamp Company)

Twice a year, when the mangos are in season, the same herd of elephants—for some reason—marches through the lobby of the Bushcamp Company’s lodge. Click on this link to see the amazing and endearing video of their parade.

5. The safaris themselves.
  • Twice daily: very early in the morning, then tea, then back to the lodge for lunch and a siesta, then tea again, then back out for a late evening – with sundowners by the river – and a night drive.
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(photo courtesy of The Bushcamp Company)

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(photo courtesy of The Bushcamp Company)

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(photo courtesy of The Bushcamp Company)

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(photo courtesy of The Bushcamp Company)

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(photo©KarenHuntt, All Rights Reserved)

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(photo courtesy of The Bushcamp Company)

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(photo courtesy of The Bushcamp Company)

  • The night drives are so dramatic. That’s when the leopards come out to hunt, and searching for a leopard in an open Land Rover Defender in the pitch black is very exciting!
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(photo©KarenHuntt, All Rights Reserved)

  • The Bushcamp Company offers walking safaris, too, which we took advantage of.
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(photo courtesy of The Bushcamp Company)

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(photo courtesy of The Bushcamp Company)

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(photo courtesy of The Bushcamp Company)

6. Food and lodging. All top rate.
  • The food is excellent, and there is enough variety to suit all tastes, including every kind of “ism.” There is no shortage of gin and tonics, for those so inclined.
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(photo©KarenHuntt, All Rights Reserved)

  • The lodge is beautiful, with hippos in a lagoon right outside one’s cottage!
  • The other bush camps are each unique, with their own special character.
    • One we stayed at (Chichendi) was set by a large, spectacular wetland or lagoon, and every variety of wildlife was seen throughout the day. Sunrise and sunset were gorgeous.
    • The other camp we stayed at (Kapamba) was on a shallow river, and a huge tribe of baboons played and ran through the water in the morning as we ate our breakfast.

When to Go: My friend went in May and said, “The air was so clear and fresh and the temps were delightful.”

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(photo©KarenHuntt, All Rights Reserved)

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(photo©KarenHuntt, All Rights Reserved)

Literary Traveling Companions: Scribbling the Cat, by Alexandra Fuller; Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, by Alexandra Fuller; and of course, Out of Africa, by Isek Dinesen

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(photo©KarenHuntt, All Rights Reserved)

 

Paris Hotel Crush

I have a crush on Paris’ Hotel Lutetia. Why?

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Swoon! (photo courtesy of Hotel Lutetia)

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Built in 1910 & renovated from 2014-2018 (photo courtesy of Hotel Lutetia)

The Lutetia was opened in 1910 by famed Paris department store, Le Bon Marché, for its important clients, many of whom lived outside of Paris and needed a nice place to stay while making their semi-annual shopping trip to LBM, conveniently located across the street.

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Let’s go inside…(photo courtesy of Hotel Lutetia)

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The Lutetia’s architecture is a mix of Art Nouveau (the style-of-the-day in 1910, when it was built) and the then-emerging Art Deco style. Those details! (photo courtesy of Hotel Lutetia)

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The swirls of Art Nouveau meet the lines of Art Deco. (photo courtesy of Hotel Lutetia)

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Sparkling art deco design in the Lutetia’s courtyard: Sit on the terrace below and soak up its peacefulness, far from the madding tourist crowds…just you, your Veuve Cliquot, and great architecture. (photo courtesy of Hotel Lutetia)

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(photo courtesy of Hotel Lutetia)

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ceiling of Salle St. Germain (photo courtesy of Hotel Lutetia)

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Salle St. Germain, where old world meets new (photo courtesy of Hotel Lutetia)

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Brrrr, this feels a bit cold, but on the other hand, it would be a good place to sit and observe the people in the Salle St. Germain. (photo courtesy of Hotel Lutetia)

Yves Saint Laurent Couture House co-founder, Pierre Bergé, stayed at the Lutetia during his house renovation in 2009. That man knew style!

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Hmmm, this room feels a bit small and chilly…but that view! and the history of the place! and neighborhood make up for it. As with all great loves, one must overlook one or two tiny flaws. (photo courtesy of Hotel Lutetia)

“De Gaulle, then a young officer, spent his honeymoon at the hotel. In June 1940, the General slept there the night before his departure for England,” per Lutetia’s website.

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big room, big view (photo courtesy of Hotel Lutetia)

Great location on a stylish, lively street in the beautiful Saint-Germain-des-Prés area of the 6th arrondissement on Paris’ Left Bank…book it!

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I like a view, don’t you? (photo courtesy of Hotel Lutetia)

“Shortly after the Lutetia opened, its early success was interrupted by the First World War and later again in June 1940, when the French government evacuated the occupied city. The hotel itself (like other palace hotels in Paris) was requisitioned during the Second World War by the occupation forces and used to house, feed, and entertain the troops and officers. In 1944, the Lutetia resumed its intended role and at the orders of General de Gaulle, the hotel became a crucial centre for displaced people and families seeking to be reunited with their loved ones. The hotel welcomed up to 2,000 arrivals each day,” per Lutetia’s website. Fascinating, nest-ce pas??!!

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Let’s have a kir royale in the Lutetia’s Bar Josephine, and ponder those who drank here before us…Josephine Baker, Picasso, Matisse, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Saint-Exupery (The Little Prince) and more, more, more. Imaginez! (photo courtesy of Hotel Lutetia)

“Originally most associated with literature, just some of the historical and culturally significant figures who lived, worked and entertained at the hotel include Andre Gide and James Joyce, who wrote Ulysses at the hotel with Ernest Hemingway acting as occasional editor, Samuel Beckett, André Malraux and Saint-Exupéry followed,” per Lutetia’s website. Close your eyes and picture them drinking here.

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Bar Josephine: Order a coupe of the Taittinger Cuvée Lutetia, in honor of champagne producing family who owned the hotel from the 1950’s to 2005.  I could go for a coupe right now! Note the circa-1910 fresco on the ceiling.  (photo courtesy of Hotel Lutetia)

“Picasso and Matisse took up residence, Josephine Baker was a regular, and during the 50’s and beyond the hotel and its bar became a key part of the emergence and celebration of jazz,” says Lutetia’s website.

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Paul Belmondo (father of actor, Jean-Paul Belmondo) was one of two sculptors to decorate the hotel’s wonderfully undulating Art Nouveau façade. (photo courtesy of Hotel Lutetia)

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While the Hotel Lutetia is a little bigger (184 rooms) than those to which I am usually attracted, no crush is perfect! (photo courtesy of Hotel Lutetia)

Literary traveling companions:

  • “Pierre Assouline’s novel, Lutetia, …takes place in the hotel, where he gives life to a vast number of characters that really have lived or stayed in the Lutetia during the war from 1938 to 1945,” according to Lutetia’s website. The daughters of Irene Nemirovsky (see below) are among those characters. Pick it up for your stay at the  Lutetia!
  • Suite Française, by Irene Nemirovsky, which “opens in the chaos of the massive 1940 exodus from Paris on the eve of the Nazi invasion during which several families and individuals are thrown together under circumstances beyond their control,” per Amazon. How does this relate to the Lutetia? As the plaque on the front of the hotel explains, “From April to August 1945, this hotel, which had become a reception centre, received the greater part of the survivors of the Nazi concentration camps, glad to have regained their liberty and their loved ones from whom they had been snatched. Their joy cannot efface the anguish and the pain of the families of the thousands of disappeared who waited in vain for their own in this place.” The daughters of Irene Nemirovsky were among those who waited, in vain. Their mother was murdered in a Nazi concentration camp. And her novel, “Suite Française,” was published posthumously in 2004.

Bissous, chéri!

Argentina’s Mendoza: Let’s Buy a Vineyard

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(photo courtesy of the Vines of Mendoza)

Ever dreamed of buying a vineyard? Not a big one, just a smallish patch to call your own…to squish the grapes, baby your vines, and throw a great harvest wine dinner…at the base of snow-capped mountains, preferably, where the sun shines most of the year.

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Classic harvest dinner among the vines (courtesy of Vines of Mendoza)

YOU ARE IN LUCK because you can buy a small vineyard at the Vines of Mendoza,  nestled at the base of the Andes Mountains in Argentina. Plus, when it’s hot-as-Hades-summer here in the States, it’s fall in Argentina.

Let’s go down the “South American Way!” Can you hear the music playing, you swaying, while swilling a glass of sparkling?! I can.

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(photo courtesy of the Vines of Mendoza)

“…lovely squares, wide boulevards, a colonial feel, canals…” (NYTimes), Mendoza  was established in 1651 by Spanish settlers and is the fifth largest wine producing region in the world. IN THE WORLD! “Mendoza itself makes a good base for a visit with new hotels, restaurants and bars in the historic center…Just a short drive away are vineyards, adventure sports and resorts under the shadow of the Andes with wine lists that feature the best of the region.” (NY Times)

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(photo courtesy of the Vines of Mendoza)

SEE THE SIGHTS

  • Wander Mendoza’s plazas, including Plaza Pelligriani, where you might observe alfresco tango
  • Bike around Mendoza’s Parque General San Martin’s 1,200 acres
  • “Hire a Mendoza travel guide to take you fly fishing for trout in the region’s many streams.” (Travel+Leisure online 2016)
  • Kayaking, mountain biking, and rafting day trips
  • Ride horses
  • Hike Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in the western hemisphere
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(photo courtesy of Finca Adalgisa)

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Love the hats!  (photo courtesy of Finca Adalgisa)

  • And of course, tour vineyards…
    • Domaine Bousquet (Departures 2016)–4 cottages–“beautiful and the wines were great,” according to my friends who visited last year
    • Bodegas Salentein..”Located in Uco Valley, this strikingly modern winery complex…includes a lavish art museum and gift shop…” (Travel+Leisure online 2016) As reported from MTF’s on-the-ground reporters in Mendoza last year, “heard amazing things about this vineyard – from our close friends and from our private driver who took us to wineries!”
    • Andeluna: Our friends did a wine pairing lunch at Andeluna and “highly recommend!”
    • Vines of Mendoza–“The tasting room features about 100 producers, and it’s the only spot in the city where you can try so many in one place,” per NY Times, 2012. Town & Country (2014) also likes it. Vines of Mendoza is a co-op business owned by wine-making hobbyists (you, perhaps?), professional winemakers and chefs. You, too, can buy one of these plots below and have the joy of working your own vineyard, with or without the guidance of the on-staff professional grape growers and winemakers. A wine-collecting friend of mine just bought one and is loving it!
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(photo courtesy of Vines of Mendoza)

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This could be you! (photo courtesy of Vines of Mendoza)

“Apparently great deals on buying wine and shipping it back to the States, too!” according to another friend who visited last year and met fellow travelers who raved about Vines of Mendoza.

EAT, DRINK & BE MERRY

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(photos courtesy of 1884 Francis Mallmann)

  • 1884 Francis Mallmann — Francis Mallmann is the “it” celeb chef of Argentina. “The restaurant was born as a tribute to the wines of Mendoza and the Andean cuisine, in 1996,” per its website. “The Escorihuela Winery, which houses the restaurant, was built in 1884… houses the prestigious facilities of the Bodega “Caro” that is born from the union of Chateau Laffite led by the mythical Baron, Eric de Rothschild and Catena Zapata, led by Nicolás Catena Zapata who has been in the last 25 years the leader of the wine quality of Mendoza.” Sounds impressive!
  • Siete Fuegos at the Vines of Mendoza — “chef Francis Mallmann creates inspired regional dishes, showcasing Argentina’s famous beef. From our gardens and the surrounding land, we proudly bring you a natural bounty of local, seasonal ingredients paired with exceptional Argentine wines. From here, the culinary magic begins!” (per Vines of Mendoza’s website)
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roasting the meets and vegetables with the vineyards in the background at Siete Fuegos (photo courtesy of Vines of Mendoza)

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preparing birds amongst the vineyards for dinner at Siete Fuegos (photo courtesy of Vines of Mendoza)

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And now, let’s eat! What a gorgeous setting! Note the mountains beyond the vineyards. (photo courtesy of Vines of Mendoza)

STAY

  • Finca Adalgisa (recommended by Andrew Harper 2015 & Departures 2016): My close friends who stayed here described it as, “…a perfect oasis. We also did the cooking class there which was awesome. The hotel includes a glass of wine and an appetizer each night from 6-10 at their winery, too! It has so many secluded spots for couples to sit in…” Finca Adalgisa describes itself as a “wine hotel.” I can see why: it is surrounded by vineyards with the Andes Mountains behind them.
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(photo courtesy of Finca Adalgisa)

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(photo courtesy of Finca Adalgisa)

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Note the grape vine “hedges” surrounding the pool (photo courtesy of Finca Adalgisa)

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My friends who took the cooking class at Finca Adalgisa described it as “awsome.” I bet that sweet toddler (above) learned a LOT! (photo courtesy of Finca Adalgisa)

  • La Pousada–at Carlos Pulenta winery’s Carlos Pulenta winery’s lodge, a spectacular location…at the base of the Cordon del Plata range of the Andes.” (Travel+Leisure online 2016)
  • Vines Resort & Spa –This must be some-kind-of-wonderful because travel guru Andrew Harper included it in his 2016 list of top hotels in South America  (Departures, 2016, Travel+Leisure and Town & Country, 2014 also like it); 22 villas built with local stone, wood and leather surrounded by 1,500 acres of vineyards..
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This is really working for me! (photo courtesy of Vines of Mendoza)

Bonus: Yoga is available, as is a pool surrounded by vineyards. Horse back riding is an option, too, as are meals overseen by Argentina’s “it” chef. Yoga at The Vines

After a morning of working your vineyard, get the kinks out with a little pond-side yoga. (photo courtesy of Vines of Mendoza)

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Note the vines and Andes Mountains in the background (photo courtesy of Vines of Mendoza)

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(photo courtesy of Vines of Mendoza)

London: Chelsea Flower Show + Hot Restaurants

 

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Chelsea pensioner admiring the flowers (photo courtesy of the Royal Horticultural Society)

The Chelsea Flower Show opened in London  yesterday and continues through this weekend. Naturally, QE2 was there to kick off the festivities.

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(photo courtesy of BBC)

Lest you think of the Chelsea Flower Show as a frumpy gathering of old lady tea-sippers, behold the world of floral arts that you will see upon tiptoe-ing through the tulips…

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gorgeous garden created by Hay Joung-Hwang (photo courtesy of the Royal Horticultural Society)

  • Show-Stopping Gardens (like the one above) created in one week’s time on what were the bare grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, home of the Chelsea pensioners. Click here to read a fascinating article about the relationship between the hospital and the 100-year old Chelsea Flower Show. I am told these gardens can cost $200,000 or more to create. That’s why most of them have corporate sponsors.
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This is the Best Garden Award winner, the Morgan Stanley Garden for the NSPCC (a charity). “Designed to raise awareness of the work of the NSPCC, this garden’s design is a metaphor for the emotional transition that takes place in a child as they experience the positive impact of the NSPCC’s work,” according to the RHS website. (photo courtesy of the RHS)

  • Horticulture: Over 90 nurseries, growers, and florists creatively display their wares in the vast Great Pavilion. Here you will see the best tulips, the best roses, the best lupins, etc., in all of Britain.
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Peony headdress seen in the Great Pavilion (photo courtesy of the Royal Horticultural Society)

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Horticulture: displays of the very best of each kind of flower you can imagine (photo courtesy of BBC)

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admiring the rose display in the Great Pavilion (photo courtesy of the Royal Horticultural Society)

  • Floral design
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bridal designs (photo courtesy of the BBC)

Where to Stay

No wonder the Queen visits the Chelsea Flower Show every year! Let’s hop on a plane and join her! Click here to see my hotel recommendations. The closest are the Draycott, the Sloane Club, and the Sloane Square Hotel.

Where to Dine

Make your reservations at the hottest London restaurants at the moment, as culled from Mimi’s Travel Files, …

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Kitty Fisher’s tiny subterranean dining room feels like a secret club with great food

  • Kitty Fisher’s, in Old Mayfair, stylish, intimate, good press…and I liked it, too!
  • Barrafina, Spanish tapas, no reservations, lots of rave reviews
  • Ottolenghi, “Oh!!! I love Ottolenghi….spectacular food!!! Great deli, too,” says my friend who has lived spectacularly and dined in London for many years. Ottolinghi is haute Israeli cooking from big foodie media star
  • Frenchie, Parisian import in Covent Garden
  • Riva in Barnes
  • Aquavit, in St. James, although my London friend, who has loved Aquavit for a long time,  has heard its service can be a bit off, from time to time
  • Sexy Fish , in Berkeley Square, is “very good,” per my London foodie friend
  • Chess Club, in Mayfair
  • Gymkhana, in Mayfair, perennially lauded Indian restaurant (UPDATE, March 2019: I just ate here and while the food and service were excellent, the ambiance was mediocre)
  • Palomar, in Soho, modern-day Israeli food in attractive setting; “love it, small tasty dishes pretty casual atmosphere but excellent food. ….as is its sister The Barbary,” per my London friend
  • The Greenhouse, tranquil French in Mayfair; “Good restaurant. Good quality. Not amazing but not disappointing,” per my London friend
  • Hawksmore Knightsbridge, art deco/1930’s glam
  • Park Chinois, in Mayfair
  • While these are not  new, they are wonderful!
    • River Café, superb Italian food in a transporting setting
    • Quo Vadis , delicious, creative food & excellent service in intimate setting in Soho.
Credit Photo: Paul Winch-Furness / www.paulwf.co.uk

Quo Vadis (Credit Photo: Paul Winch-Furness / http://www.paulwf.co.uk)

 

 

 

Richmond, VA: More than the Jefferson

Going to Richmond? Now you have more hotel choices than the Jefferson. For something completely different—i.e., cheerful, fresh, fun—try Quirk.

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(photo courtesy of Quirk hotel)

Since Departures, CN Traveler, and Travel+Leisure recommended it, Mimi’s Travel File had to go to Quirk. It’s stylish and happy. Built in 1916 as a department store, Quirk’s windows are large and ceilings are high. Recommend room 515, a king suite with vast views of Richmond.

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In addition to its bar and restaurant, there’s an art gallery and stylish store just off of Quirk’s lobby. (photo courtesy of Quirk hotel) 

It has a pretty design palette that carries through from the lobby to the hotel rooms.

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Quirk’s happening rooftop bar (photo courtesy of Quirk hotel)

My sources tell me that nearby Graduate hotel also has a happening rooftop bar, called Byrd House.

Full disclosure: While I loved Quirk and would go back in a heartbeat, the housekeeping had some flaws (missing buttons on the remote, curtain stuck, phone that didn’t ring down to reception). When I brought them to the attention of the staff, they took notes, apologized and reduced my room rate. I plan to stay there again because I loved it.

Bonus: Quirk has valet parking, so you don’t have to mess with a parking lot.

See the Sights

So, now that we have our room squared away, let’s see my two favorite sites in Richmond…

  • St. John’s Church, circa 1741 and the site of Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” speech.
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St. John’s sits atop Church Hill, the first neighborhood in Richmond. And what a pretty neighborhood it is! Old, gorgeous houses large and small, and good views. (photo courtesy of St. John’s Church)

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George Wythe, signer of the Declaration of Independence and mentor to Thomas Jefferson, is buried in St. John’s Church’s graveyard. (photo courtesy of St. John’s Church)

  • The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has an outstanding collection (esp. its art nouveau furniture), gorgeous garden, fab gift shop and two nice places to eat.
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Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (photo courtesy of VMFA)

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The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’ garden (photo courtesy of VMFA)

Let’s Eat

And speaking of eating, where shall we dine? I highly recommend:

Brenner’s Pass in the hip, low-crime neighborhood, Scott’s Addition (architects’ offices, craft breweries, etc.). The food is amazing (the highly discerning James Beard Foundation likes it), decor mod and attractive, and service terrific.

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If you prefer a retro-fast food feel, I hear the burgers at nearby Boulevard Burger & Brew are stand-in-line-it’s-worth-it delicious.

For an old-timey box lunch to send you on your way once you check out of Quirk, go to Sally Bell’s.  “Inside each box is a happy meal from a better time,said Bon Appetit magazine. Works for me!

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