New Orleans’ Sultry Style

New Orleans’s got soul! Style! Respects tradition and quirkiness! This is a city for all of the senses: great food, drink, architecture, gardens, musicians, artists, writers, and museums. Pull up a chair, stay a while!

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Sit on this glorious porch and watch the world go by when you stay at the lovely Soniat House hotel, pictured above.

STAY

  • Soniat HouseMimi’s Travel File personal fav! I have stayed here twice and loved it. Set in several adjoining 19th century French Quarter houses with two beautiful courtyards, this elegant boutique hotel is a 3-minute walk from Bourbon Street and an 8-minute walk from the French Market. PLUS they serve the BEST biscuits for breakfast! The rooms are traditionally decorated with antiques and the ambience is relaxingly elegant. (31 rooms)
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Soniat House: Just far enough from the madding crowd

  • Windsor Court Hotel–The WCH is frequently touted in travel pub’s but I did not feel the love. I found it lacking in personality and warmth.

Vogue magazine (2016) likes:

  • “Situated in the Garden District, the intimate Henry Howard Hotel, a gleaming white 1860s mansion (both built and named after the beloved native architect), feels like a friend’s house. Its 18 guest rooms are accented with custom toile wallpaper, second-line instruments, and poppy, whimsical portraits by artist Hayley Gaberlavage. Corner rooms 201 and 202 grant glorious balcony access, and come early evening, the light-filled parlor or shaded backyard garden are both ideal for a cocktail.” (18 rooms)
  • “…the 35-room Catahoula Hotel, nestled in an iconic 19th-century Creole townhouse, retains exposed brick walls, original patinas, and candlelit courtyards. There’s also a rooftop deck, coffee shop, and café offering Peruvian small plates and plenty of pisco cocktails.

SEE THE SIGHTS

Vogue magazine (2016) suggests:

  • Ride a streetcar uptown to the crumbling, gothic-tinged Lafayette Cemetery #1, where the iron gates reveal a pathway framed by a double line of magnolia trees. A quiet stroll warrants hauntingly cinematic images sprinkled with perfectly worn, elaborate mausoleums and gravestones randomly peppered with loosely strewn plastic Mardi Gras beads. It’s a ghostly photographic portrait of the past, a decidedly beautiful depiction of lingering spirits.” (located in the Garden District)
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Lafayette Cemetery #1 (photo courtesy of Musik Animal via Vogue)

  • Afterward, curate your own walking tour of the posh Garden District (or pick up a paper map at Commander’s Palace). Ramble along those narrow sidewalks flanked by stately oaks trees, shady magnolias, and leafy palms. Note the intricately designed wrought-iron gates and, behind them, the elegant, dreamy homes with stunning architectural styles from Neoclassic to Beaux Arts. The spooky bourgeois manor on Chestnut and First Street is where goth fiction queen Anne Rice once lived and gussied up her Southern occult novels. And nearby, the three-story, pink-hued Carroll-Crawford House, with its ornate cast-iron balconies, reportedly hosted lavish parties for guests like Mark Twain and Edgar Degas.
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(photo courtesy of Tim Graham/Getty Images)

  • “Back downtown, on the cusp of the Quarter, the funky, boho-meets-punk–flared vibes of the Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods remain a creative, hipster hub with a quirky cast of characters. This diverse milieu calls for prime bike cruising exploration past rows upon rows of kaleidoscopic Creole cottages, where both locals and a recent influx of New Yorkers and Los Angeleno expats reside. And, if it’s the second Saturday of the month, pedal up Camp Street and over to the sweet Little Flea NOLA for vintage and resident artist wares, and afterward, pop into Hi Volt for a hit of coffee,” per Vogue.
  • City Park–50% larger than NYC’s Central Park and “holds the world’s largest collection of mature live oak trees, some older than 600 years in age,” per Wikipedia.
  • The St. Charles and Riverfront streetcar lines are a fun and easy way to see NOLA. Leaving the Garden District and traveling up St. Charles Avenue, beautiful Victorian mansions border the lush, oak-lined boulevards of Uptown New Orleans.
  • The Cabildo is a Spanish colonial building on Jackson Square that houses a museum focused on Louisiana history. The Cabildo was the site of the Louisiana Purchase transfer in 1803, which finalized the United States’ acquisition of the Louisiana Territory and doubled the size of the fledgling nation. The Cabildo served as the center of New Orleans government until 1853 and the Louisiana State Supreme Court, and became a museum in 1908.
  • Longue Vue House and Gardens is a stunning National Historic Landmark house with gorgeous gardens.
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(photo courtesy of Longue Vue House and Gardens)

  • Mimi’s Travel File Fav: Ogden Museum of Southern Art–Saunter through this fine fine arts museum with Morgan Freeman describing what makes southern art southern on your audio guide.

EAT

Gumbo! Crawfish Etoufee! Jambalaya! Muffulettas! Beignets! Po’ Boys! Order all these traditional NOLA foods and walk it off around New Orleans’ gorgeous neighborhoods. Mimi’s Travel File Insider Information: My longtime family friend who lives in NOLA and is a foodie–and KNOWS what he’s talking about–highly recommends:

  • Herb Saint–Don’t you just want to sit on that upstairs balcony, eating glorious food and sipping a cocktail, while gazing at the views of New Orleans?!
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Herbsaint: Note the streetcar going by!

  • Kenton’s – Check out the seafood mousse appetizer with roe on top!  They have really fresh fish as well as good steak and chicken dishes – but their menu goes with what the chef finds that is fresh and special that day.
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Yes, please! (photo courtesy of Kenton’s)

  • Baru – great for tapas – eat until you are almost full – and then order a crispy whole fish to finish it off! The food is “Latin Caribbean.”
  • Galatoire’s  – in the French quarter – Tip from  my friend: “Ask for Shannon as your server.The only way to get served at Galatoire’s is to have a server!”
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Galatoire’s (photo courtesy of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation)

  • Eat a Po’ Boy: The place for them is Parkway Bakery – – – – this is where they took Obama for his Po’ Boy.
  • Elizabeth’s – go here for breakfast – many variants of eggs Benedict – and try the praline bacon
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Elizabeth’s (photo courtesy of New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation)

  • Eat the BBQ oysters at Drago’s
  • Casamento’s – This is THE place to go for oysters! But call in advance – because if the chef doesn’t like the oysters available that day – the restaurant doesn’t open that day.  Gotta love their high standards!
  • Mimi’s Travel File Personal Fav’sBayona and August, both with lovely food and ambience. 

COCKTAILS, ANYONE?

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(photo courtesy of the Sazerac Bar)

Vogue (2016) recommends:

  • “The sophisticated uptown James Beard Award–nominated Cure whips up refreshing seasonal cocktails like the Maybe Always with a bright mezcal and negroni with hints of anise…
  • While its downtown Caribbean-inspired sibling Cane and Table slings tiki-themed rum-centric drinks and fancy Pineapple Sazerac.
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Cane and Table (photo courtesy of New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation)

  • The long bar at the hip, rustic Barrel Proof is for whiskey (more than 250 varietals) and beer.
  • The vino-inclined head to Bacchanal, a wine shop and leafy outdoor space set amid a torch-lit backyard with live music.
  • At the lively French Quarter landmark Old Absinthe House, vintage football helmets dangle from the ceiling and business cards are pinned to distressed walls. Sip the signature house frappe made with local Herbsaint, anisette, and a splash of soda.
  • Saunter down the street to Arnaud’s French 75, a warm, wood-paneled bar known for its elegant namesake libation, a mix of cognac, champagne, lemon, and sugar. And, upstairs, the little-known Mardi Gras Museum houses a collection of elaborate gowns and costumes from the mid-1930s to 1960s.” Mimi’s Travel File loves this classic!
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(photo courtesy of French 75 at Arnaud’s via Vogue)

LIVE MUSIC

Vogue (2016) likes:

  • “Of course, jazz is synonymous with New Orleans—just thank native legend Louis Armstrong for that. In the French Quarter, visit famous venues such as the tiny beloved Preservation Hall (est. 1961), run by local tuba player Ben Jaffe and famed for its standing room (and liberal BYOB) policy.
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(photo courtesy of Preservation Hall)

  • Uptown, the unfussy, pressed tin–ceilinged Maple Leaf Bar retains its outstanding Tuesday evening Rebirth Brass Band concert.
  • Away from the tourist-laden Bourbon Street, the alluring, indie-flared Frenchmen Street hosts a high concentration of cafés and clubs like intimate, old-school Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro, along with d.b.a. and the weathered The Spotted Cat Music Club.” My family friend who lives in NOLA highly recommends “Snug Harbor – they are always reliable – and an authentic NOLA Jazz place.”
  • Mimi’s Travel File Fav: Rock ‘n’ Bowl–SO MUCH FUN! Live zydeco band plays to a packed dance floor while people are bowling mere feet away. The dancers are old, young, stylish, unstylish, black, white…all shapes, sizes and colors and all having a blast. (see below)

SHOP

Vogue (2016) recommends:

  • “For the design savvy, browse the assortment of mid-century goods like early Jens Risom chairs and ’70s Lucite table lamps at Loisel Vintage Modern.
  • Nearby, Perch (click thru to its gorgeous web site) blends vintage pieces with seriously old antiques.
  • The airy shop Loomed works with artisan weavers and stocks a bright, handsome mix of organic Turkish towels and lightweight scarves.
  • In the lower Garden District, DVRA’s vibrant tropical pouches (think: banana leaves and pineapples) beckon summer (it shares space with Tchoup Industries and vinyl outfit Disko Obscura).
  • And in the Quarter, brush up on American fiction and New Orleans history at the hidden literary landmark Faulkner House Books, where author William Faulkner once lived.
  • Pied NU: This West Magazine Street boutique features clothing, jewelry, and housewares by independent designers and an aesthetic that’s one part Anthropologie, one part ABC Carpet & Home, and one part vintage. You’ll recognize some of the brands (think: John Derian and Aigle boots), but most are small and relatively unknown.
  • Hazelnut is a quirky home shop beloved by locals and co-owned by Bryan Batt (aka Salvatore Romano of Mad Men). Come for the New Orleans–themed toile and stay for New Orleans kitsch like a King Cake Baby–inspired pin.
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I want these bags!!!! (photo courtesy of Hazelnut)

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(photo courtesy of Hazelnut)

  • Soniat House Antique Galleries: Like so many other businesses in New Orleans, this antiques shop is attached to a hotel (the Soniat House hotel). If, after a weekend in the Big Easy, you want to bring some of the feeling home, stop by to browse its collection of 18th- and 19th-century French furniture and housewares.”
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(photo courtesy of Soniat House Antiques via Vogue)

THE NOLA LOOK: Traditional meets Quirky

Bon Voyage!

Beaufort, SC: The Newport of the South

Most people have heard of Charleston and Savannah but many don’t know about Beaufort. Yet once upon a time, they were referred to as the Three Colonial Sisters, each stunning in her own way. Beaufort is located in between her sisters, an hour’s drive north of Savannah and hour and a half south of Charleston.

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Beaufort has a cosmopolitan history: “10 flags have flown over this area, including those of Spain, France, England, Scotland, Switzerland, and the Confederate and Union forces; not to mention the many Native Americans that have lived here for at least 5,000 years.” (from the Rhett House Inn brochure)

“…from the mid-1700’s to the mid-1800’s, Beaufort enjoyed a prosperity and way of life comparable to that of wealthy elites in Charleston, Savannah, and…Beaufort was known as ‘The Newport of the South.'” This largesse was courtesy of the slave labor and lucrative indigo, tobacco, cotton and rice crops grown on Beaufort’s plantations.

The Castle_Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce

(photo courtesy of the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce)

I stayed in Beaufort for five wonderful days in 2015 and loved every second. These houses pictured are within walking distance of the lovely Rhett House Inn.

SEE THE SIGHTS

  • Walk, bike or drive around Beaufort to see its many MANY perfectly gorgeous houses and gardens. My Beaufort-savvy friend suggests viewing the houses and port of Beaufort from the water via a kayaking tour lead by a local guide. Sounds like fun!

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(photo courtesy of Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce)

  • Attend Sunday service at the Tabernacle Baptist Church (907-911 Craven St.)–The TBC was built in 1811 as a “praise house”and later morphed into a black meeting hall, referred to as a “tabernacle.” The present building was built in the 1840’s. The services are inclusive, welcoming, and filled with inspirational foot-tapping hymns. “Built in 1840, Tabernacle Baptist Church is the resting place of one of Beaufort’s most beloved icons, Robert Smalls, who was born into slavery in 1839…he went on to a distinguished career of public service including serving in the South Carolina House of Representatives, the United States Senate, and four terms in the United States House of Representatives,” per the Beaufort Chamber of Commerce.
  • Bike to Port Royal–Established in 1562, PR is a low-key little town on the water with a lot of history and no pretense whatsoever (read: no fancy houses).
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Port Royal

  • Old Sheldon Church (17 miles north of Beaufort)–built between 1745-53, burned in 1799 by the British during the Revolutionary War, re-built in 1826, burned in 1865 by General Sherman…this baby’s seen some history! Old Sheldon Church’s beautiful setting is in the country, by itself, and surrounded by lovely old trees.
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Old Sheldon Church (photo courtesy of Lyndi Leary)

  • Explore evocative, Spanish Moss-draped St. Helena Island, just over the bridge from Beaufort–
    • Parish Church: one of the oldest churches in the U.S., established in 1712
    • Penn Center: lovely setting and interesting. Of its 16 buildings registered with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, three are especially worth of a visit, as they reflect different points in Beaufort’s history:
      • The Brick Baptist Church, built in 1855–“In 1862, the U.S. Navy declared victory at Port Royal Sound, South Carolina and freed 32,530 slaves from plantations in the Beaufort District. White inhabitants fled the Lowcountry. Northern abolitionists recognized the need to educate the freed slaves, and the Philadelphia-based Port Royal Relief Committee sent funds and a progressive young woman named Laura Towne to teach former plantation slaves “habits of self-support” and to “elevate their moral and social condition.” Towne was joined by Ellen Murray, a Northern Quaker. They settled on St. Helena Island, one of South Carolina’s largest sea islands. Their first class was held at Oaks Plantation with nine scholars. It soon expanded to The Brick Baptist Church, which survives today,” per the Penn Center’s website.
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Gantt Cottage (photo courtesy of Lyndi Leary)

  • The Gantt Cottage: “In the mid 20th century, Penn Center again shifted focus…Penn Center became a center and meeting place for interracial social activists—the only place in the south where segregated meetings were held without excessive legal and violent harassment. It was a safe haven and retreat for Martin Luther King, Jr. until his death in 1968…,” per PC’s website. Dr. King wrote his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Gantt Cottage, pictured above.
  • The York W. Bailey Museum, located inside the Penn Center visitors center, features “artifacts and photographs that depict the history of Penn Center, as well as the Gullah Geechee history and the strong African cultural influences they’ve maintained,” according to PC’s website. The YWBM also showcases beautiful art exhibits.
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painting by Diane Britton Dunham at the current art exhibit at the York W. Bailey Museum

STAY

  • Rhett House Inn–big, beautiful rooms with deep porches that span the front of the inn, built in 1820 in the Greek Revival style. Think wicker porch furniture, hanging ferns, pots of red geraniums…all spic ‘n’ span and in good taste. (10 rooms, some in the main house and some in an adjacent building; we stayed in the two on the front of the house on the second floor and loved both)
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Rhett House Inn

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upstairs porch at Rhett House Inn

SHOP

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Scout Southern Market

  • Scout Southern Market (709 Bay Street)–The owner has great taste!! This shop sells all things Southern and stylish for entertaining (decorative lanterns,  embroidered linen cocktail napkins, charming serving dishes painted by local artists, bar ware), sophisticated or whimsical South-centric coffee books, etc.
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vignette featuring Scout Southern Market’s beautiful wares

  • Red Piano Too Art Gallery  (870 Sea Island Pkwy., St. Helena Island, SC)–wonderful, graphic, colorful Gullah art; per its website, “Art Gallery with a focus on Lowcountry/Gullah original Art to include paintings, sculptures, glass, baskets, quilts, books, calendars, notecards, jewelry and much more.”
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(photo courtesy of Red Piano Too Gallery)

  • Penn Center Visitors Center gift shop (St. Helena Island)–When I was there last year, I fell in love with a couple of LARGE, beautiful, evocative paintings, for sale in the Penn Center’s Visitors Center. This a visitors center with KICK! They also sell folk art, books, and charming knickknacks.

EAT, DRINK & BE MERRY

  • Sweetgrass Restaurant and Bar (100 Marina Drive, St. Helena Island, 11 miles from downtown Beaufort)–This restaurant is the new, personal fav of my good friend, whose been summering in Beaufort for over 25 years. At the dinner-only SR&B, it’s all about local: local fish from the surrounding waters and local produce from the surrounding farms. While it is located in a private marina, they will let you in to go to the restaurant. Go for dinner at sunset!
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photo courtesy of Sweetgrass Restaurant

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inside Lowcountry Produce and Market Cafe

Traveling Companions

  • Reading Companion: Pat Conroy’s “The Great Santini” or “The Prince of Tides”
  • Driving Companion (book on tape): Pat Conroy’s “My Writing Life”
  • Movie Companion (hopefully your hotel room comes w/a DVD player): “The Big Chill” because the house around which this movie revolves is in Beaufort
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entering downtown Beaufort (photo courtesy of Lyndi Leary)

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–posted August 2016

Old Florida: Apalachicola

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photo by John Solomon

Fly, rent a convertible, take a spin around Old Florida! No highways, no big cities, no depressing strip shopping centers in Old Florida…just character and authenticity.

Apalachicola 

Apalachicola sits on water that looks like the shrimping scenes in “Forrest Gump.” It is a small, off-the-radar town at the confluence of the Apalachicola River and Bay. We’re talking big, wide expanses of undeveloped water with marshes. On the Florida panhandle, believe it or not.

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photo by John Solomon

The buildings along Apalachicola’s waterfront look rundown at first glance.

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photo by John Solomon

But closer inspection reveals an interesting mix of commercial seafood shacks, two-story brick buildings at various stages of renovation, a small park, some docked boats and a couple of restaurants—all facing lovely views of peaceful water and marshes with graceful birds swooping in and out. An occasional shrimp boat ghosts by. Most of the town’s buildings are historic. It is a quiet place with a hint of its heyday as one of the largest ports on the Gulf of Mexico in the 1800s. Today, the town closes up at 8 p.m.

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Downtown Apalachicola

STAY

  • Houseboats at River Watch: Karen Hoff rents three nice houseboats on a nightly basis via VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner). We stayed on Southern Comfort (property # 586285), docked on the Apalachicola River in town. Spotless, plenty of room for two people, full kitchen, heat, TV, two “land-worthy” bathrooms (i.e., no funky boat plumbing) and knock-your-socks-off views. Every now and then, a shrimping boat passed 30 feet from our deck! Great experience … like having your own boat but more comfortable and with better views, as you sit almost flush with the water versus several feet above it. FYI: The boat doesn’t go anywhere. It is just docked.
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Houseboats at River Watch

  • The Consulate (76 Water Street): Across from the small, riverfront park sits The Consulate. This place is a deal! It consists of four suites on the second floor (no elevator, 22 steps) but worth lugging up your suitcases because the two river-facing suites (Ambassador & Consul) are huge, attractively decorated (despite the unflattering photos on its website), full kitchen, washer/dryer, clean and reasonably priced. PLUS! Each has a very large balcony overlooking the lovely Apalachicola River. And, The Consulate has a fascinating history.
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The Consulate, photo by John Solomon

SHOP IT!

  • Richard Bickel Gallery  (81 Market St.): Stunning, stunning, black-and-white photographs of life in/around Apalachicola, mostly on the water, plus a smattering of photos taken by Mr. Bickel around the world. Lovely!
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photo by Richard Bickel

  • Forgotten Coast Used & Out of Print Books (236 Water Street): Good location, good selection of books, knowledgeable and friendly owner. A pleasure!
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photo by John Solomon

EAT, DRINK & BE MERRY

No gourmet restaurants here, just lots of fabulously fresh oysters, shrimp, grouper, etc. Wander and taste …

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photo by John Solomon

  • Bowery Station Bar: This looks like a biker bar from the outside—but go on in. They often feature good, live music, host clientele of all ages and close at 8:00. Hardly threatening and lots of fun.
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photo by John Solomon

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SEE THE SIGHTS

  • Apalachicola Historic Walking Tour: Take the self-guided walking tour, if you’re curious about all the old buildings; the town was laid out in the first half of the 19th century. Pick up the brochure at the Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce (122 Commerce St.).
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photo by John Solomon

  • Charming, beautiful houses: Stroll through the neighborhood between Bay Street and Avenue D and between Market Street and 14th Street, where most but not all of the fine, old houses are located—polar opposite of “downtown” Apalachicola’s rough (but not scary) edges.ApalachicolaHouse2
  • Apalachicola Maritime Museum: Pay a short visit because this little museum provides a decent summary of Apalachicola’s maritime history, boat rentals and tours.
  • Camp Gordon Johnston Museum: (The local bookstore owner in Apalachicola says this museum is a good one! We did not have time to go here but plan to do so next time.) Located nearby in Carrabelle, Florida, the museum’s role is to preserve the heritage of the men who trained at the this camp during World War II. Opened in 1942 , Camp Gordon Johnston trained a quarter of a million men before closing in June of 1946.
  • Kick Back: The very best thing to do in Apalachicola is to watch the river traffic from your deck on your houseboat or at the Consulate! You’ll see a few shrimpers and pleasure boats, plus pelicans, cormorants, ducks, etc.: the birds outnumber boats by far.

OF NOTE: We have visited Apalachicola twice, both times in the winter. It may be busier or more crowded in the summer but I can’t imagine it would ever be unpleasantly so. I recommend 3 nights.

-posted April 2016

Savannah on my Mind…

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STAY

  • Hamilton-Turner Inn (330 Abercorn St.)–Built on 1873 with very high ceilings and some lovely architectural details, the H-T Inn is well-located on beautiful and quiet Lafayette Square in the heart of the historic district. Good breakfasts, plus cakes and cookies throughout the day, plus cheese/crackers/wine at cocktail hour, plus port after 8 pm. Mostly pretty décor.
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Hamilton-Turner Inn

  • The Brice (601 E. Bay Lane at Houston St.)–If staying in an old house on one of Savannah’s squares is not your thing, stay at The Brice. It is a Kimpton Hotel—and decorated stylishly, as expected—& near (not on) the waterfront, which is touristy-tacky though historic and active.

OF NOTE: The Ballastone Inn and the Mansion on Forsyth Park get lots of positive press but the former is not on a square and the latter has faux-Greek statues out front & is located on large park versus small, charming square.

EAT, DRINK & BE MERRY

  • The Grey (109 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.)–in a revamped Greyhound bus station with fabulously renovated art deco architecture, great food (its chef worked at NYC’s acclaimed Prune restau for years), good service, excellent staff…and it’s full of life.
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The Grey (photo by Quentin Bacon)

  • Collins Quarter (151 Bull St.)–fun ambience, good music (not live, except on occasional Sundays), attractive décor (candlelight, gorgeous flowers, exposed brick, big windows), excellent food, warm & friendly staff, and a service-oriented owner.

View More: http://joshmorehousephotography.pass.us/cq

SHOP IT!

  • E. Shaver Bookseller (326 Bull Street at Madison Square)–a DREAM of a bookstore with knowledgeable staff, a small tea room, beautiful books in a beautiful location! Reminds me of the charming bookstores of London.

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  • Satchel (4 E. Liberty St. at Bull)–beautiful leather goods (mostly purses) designed and produced on the premises by SCAD students and alums, seven of whom were sewing away when I was there…no barrier between store front and workshop, and if you would prefer your chosen purse in a different color, the staff offers an array from which to choose. I am still lusting after a bag I saw there…matter of fact, that one in the photo looks pretty great!
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Satchel creation (photo by Izzy Hudgins)

  • SCAD Shop (340 Bull St.)–creative, artistic jewelry, paintings, stationery, etc. made by some of the 12,000 SCAD (Savannah College of Art & Design) students in Savannah

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SEE THE SIGHTS

  • Town Squares–Walk (or take a pedi-cab) the historic district’s 26 squares, filled with live oaks dripping with Spanish moss…nothing finer than looking at the GORGEOUS old houses in and around the squares.
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Owens-Thomas House

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  • SCAD Museum (601 Turner Blvd.)–beautiful architecture (American Institute of Architects award-winning) meets world-class exhibits (contemporary art, plus some fashion)

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  • Ships of the Sea Museum (41 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.)–If you like ship models, those displayed here are excellent; if you don’t, the pre-Civil War house in which they’re exhibited is fun to see and has an interesting history.
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photo by Attic Fire

  • Bonaventure Cemetery — If you’ve read, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” which I loved, you will want to visit Bonaventure Cemetery. Even if you haven’t, it’s a wonderfully evocative place…Spanish moss, romantic tombstones, very Southern.

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DAY TRIP

Tybee Island–A very pretty, 20-min drive from Savannah’s historic district, Tybee Island is a beach town-that-time-forgot meets a-little-bit-of-kitsch. No pretense or McMansions here; instead, think small, 1950s beach cottages on small lots. Gidget would be right at home here. Tybee is an little barrier island w/a fun feel on the Atlantic Ocean, so bring your beach wear.

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BONUS: If you’re a history buff, check out well-preserved Fort Pulaksi National Park on the drive back. FP  has informative docents, exhibits and signage.

Reading companion: To get you in that Savannah state of mind, read, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”

-posted April 2016

 

 

 

Old Florida: Gasparilla

Gasparilla water

The second you cross the bridge over the wide-water-views onto Gasparilla Island, you will be happy. Gorgeous Bermuda-blue water, relaxed vibe, small town, more golf carts than cars, though GI is not golf-centric. The preponderance of carts are populated by a human driver and a canine passenger…charmante! Most of the houses here are in Old Florida cottage style, pristinely-renovated, and none over two-stories tall. Lots of “financial wherewithal” here but almost no ugly McMansions. Also, no crime, as reported to me by two, long-time residents. Soooo relaxing!

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STAY

  • Gasparilla Inn: beautifully decorated (if you like happy colors, shells and lots of tropical references, which OF COURSE you do!), immaculately landscaped, expensive and worth it. Here’s the façade (below):
Gasparilla Inn
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Interior of Gasparilla Inn

  •  The Innlet: less expensive (by more than half) affiliate property of the Gasparilla Inn. The reason its less is twofold: (1) The décor is simple & not as stylish as the GI & (2) It is farther away from the center of Boca Grande, but not by much. While I have only viewed the rooms on the website, I have seen the outside in person, which is neat and cheery.
  • Rent a house via Parsley-Baldwin Realty (1-800-741-3074) in the historic district, where they’re prettier and the walk into town is short.

SEE THE SIGHTS

  • The beach–long walks on white sand, good shelling, no building over two stories, really low-key
  • The town…the only town…on Gasparilla Island is called Boca Grande. It is tiny, quiet and very cute w/charming houses. Walk down Banyan Street to see the 100-year old Banyan trees–so evocative!
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Banyan Street, between Gilchrest and Park

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One of several beautiful houses on Banyan Street, between Park and Gilchrist

  • Bike the trail that runs the length of the island (more interesting riding around town and south) and to the two lighthouses at the south end, especially Port Boca Grande Lighthouse (circa 1890) & its museum.
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Port Boca Grande Lighthouse

  • Boating/fishing: Boca Grande is known as the “tarpon capital of the world!”
  • Boca Grande Historical Society Museum : very small but interesting.
  • Golf: four courses.
  • The Boca Grande Community Center offers good lectures, yoga, and a small fitness room. During the week we were there, the CEO of the National Geographic and a railroad history expert spoke. In addition, a recorded performance of the Broadway play “War Horse” was being shown in its auditorium.
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Boca Grande Community Center

EAT, DRINK & BE MERRY

  •  The Gasparilla Inn (500 Palm Ave.): pretty, old-fashioned dining room with sophisticated tropical décor. Food is good. Go to the Inn’s attractive bar for your pre-prandial libations!
Gasparilla Inn

Gasparilla Inn

  • The Temptation: very good food and Old Florida ambience, friendly bar and two adjacent dining rooms. The best DR is the front one, with uplighting on its blue walls painted with old Florida scenes=retro and transporting. It is waaaay more fun than this photo conveys!
Temptation Boca Grande

The Temptation’s interior

  • 3rd Street Café (Third St. & E. Railroad Ave.): Sometimes excellent and other times unremarkable food here, but I like it a lot. Eat in the outdoor courtyard with its pretty banana leaf/palm tree garden, up-lit dramatically. It has a small attractive bar and good service.
  • South Beach Bar & Grille (777 Gulf Blvd.): GREAT place to watch the sunset. This is a simple, non-fancy restaurant on the beach all by its lonesome…no competition and no need for it. Go to the bar, buy your drink, and toddle on out to the Adirondack chairs as you watch the sun go down. Very peaceful!
  • Gasparilla Island’s signature cocktail is the Hummer, made with vanilla ice cream, Kahlua and Rum. It is not listed on all drinks menus but ask the bartenders. They’ll know!

SHOP IT

  • The Palm on Park (444 4th St.): Lilly! Need I say more?
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The Palm on the  Park

  • Grapevine Gourmet & Gift Shop (321 Park Avenue): excellent carry out cocktail food, PLUS really attractive ceramic dip-bowl-attached-to-plates, like Lilly Pulitzer would’ve used to serve Fritos and onion dip.
  • The Inn Boutique (at Gasparilla Inn) has a good selection of pastel beach dresses, tops and pretty jewelry (e.g., Meg Carter)
  • The Gasparilla Inn hosts frequent trunk shows open to guests and non-guests, alike.
  • The Patio Shop at Fugates (4th St. & Park Ave.)–is chocked full of cheery resort wear and cheery staff to match.
  • Newlin’s (446 4th St.)–upscale carry out (one entrée per day is made and residents reserve them in advance; when I was there, they offered chicken pot pie, coq au vin, shrimp and grits) plus attractive dish ware for purchase.
golf carting in Boca Grande

Of Note: This is a happy, fun place. The natives are friendly. It is small. Few street lights at night and few cars, too. It can be dark walking back from dinner but that makes it easier to peer into the cozily lit-up houses (so MANY attractive tropical-cottage-style houses). No crime here, so the darkness is not spooky. If you like a go-go pace, this is not for you. We spent two, relaxing weeks here, never bored.

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 palm-leaf
-posted February 2016

Palm Beach Beauties

 

Colony Photo Use in Ad_

Palm Beach bound? Lucky you! Following are recommendations from articles in Mimi’s Travel File and my 2015 trip to PB.

STAY

The following are my top two fav’s (additional hotels listed at the end of this post)–

The Colony (155 Hamon Ave.)–Love it, love it, love it!

5e Premium Suite Bedroom

  •  80 rooms plus “villas.” The villas have two bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room, and balcony.
  • On-site bar, restaurant and pool
  • What makes it unique: The Colony has a very attractive, “intime,” 1940’s-style nightclub, with little-shaded lamps on tables for two and four, and a small stage…like NYC’s Café Carlyle.
  • The dėcor screams, “Welcome to the fun, happy, tropical-glam Florida!” The guest rooms are individually decorated in sophisticated splashy colors. No beige here.
  • Great location: The beach is a block away (chair/towel in nifty, lightweight backpack provided by the Colony), as are Worth Avenue’s restaurants and boutiques. The Colony is located in a pretty neighborhood, which is excellent for house-ogling, on foot or bike, available at the hotel.
  • Nice touch: Their car will transport you (gratis) around town, within limits.

The Brazilian Court Hotel (311 Australian Ave.)–lovely! It is part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group and Historic Hotels America. If you prefer muted-Mediterranean color schemes to splash, stay here.

BC Canopy Entrance (TB)-2

  • On-site bar, glamorous restaurant and pool
  • Location: two-blocks from the beach
  • 80 studios and suites

EAT, DRINK & BE MERRY

Top Two
Café Boulud (as in, the famed Daniel) at the Brazilian Court (301 Australian Ave.) : beautiful, intimate, Hollywood Glam courtyard setting with good food, sophisticated menu, and friendly staff. Near The Colony.

Brazilian Court-Courtyard wide

Renato’s (87 Via Mizner): Charming location in one of the courtyards off of Worth Avenue; lovely, romantic Italian restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating and good food; near The Colony & Brazilian Court.

Sargent Photography

Renato’s lovely courtyard

Honorable Mention
Surfside Diner (314 S. County Rd., near The Colony & Brazilian Court)–classic diner food and décor, best for breakfast; recommended by an Elle Décor article (March 2015).

SEE THE SIGHTS

  • The sun, sand ‘n’ surf of the wide, Atlantic Ocean beach, of course!
  • Flagler Museum: Built by PB’s founding father in 1902, the FM gives interesting background on the development of PB. Right next door, but not open to the public, is PB’s oldest house, Sea Gull Cottage, built in 1886. Right next to that is the beautiful Royal Poinciana Chapel.

Flagler Museum Facade from NE Corner RGB 72 1000px W

 © Flagler

  • Norton Museum of Art (a jewel, according to my in-the-know friend, and also recommended by Elle Décor (2015)

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SHOP IT

Worth Avenue: Some truly wonderful PB-unique boutiques are located in between the ubiquitous, upscale chains, as well as in the NOT-TO-BE-OVERLOOKED charming, small courtyards off of Worth. Specifically:

HIBISC INTERS SHOPPERS

  • Susan E. Riley (240 Worth, in the Hermes Courtyard)–custom-made lace dress (& other treasures) shop
  • Il Sandalo (240 Worth, in the Hermes Courtyard)–handmade, STYLISH and feminine sandals, Italian, of course
  • Kassatly’s (250 Worth)–since 1923, selling BEAUTIFUL linens, nightgowns and robes, as well as a sprinkling of men’s clothes
  • Maryanna Suzanna (313 Worth Avenue, in a courtyard)–beautiful, beautiful Italian ceramics
  • Trillium (315 Worth)–a nice, upscale traditional men’s clothing store, with some women’s clothes; recommended by Elle Décor (2015)
  • Pomponner (Via Mizner, in the same courtyard as Renato’s restaurant, off Worth)–great beaded clutches and feminine, gauzy tunics, small and wonderful.

Antique Row Art & Design District (South Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach)–Gotta get in a car for this BUT Elle Décor (3/2015), Travel + Leisure (12/2013), and other respected travel pub’s highly recommend it. What’s there? Antiques shops, galleries, restaurants and upscale resale boutiques.

Studio 1608 (1608 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach)–Housed in a former 1930’s car dealership, this is a collection of local artist studios, located between the Norton Museum (2 blocks) and Antique Row. Recommended by Travel + Leisure article (December 2010: old article but Studio 1608’s website looks promising).

Circa Who (531 Northwood Rd., West Palm Beach)–My design-savvy friend highly recommends this store, which specializes in stylish vintage Palm Beach furniture and decorative items. Excellent web site. Can’t wait to check out the store in person!!

CircaWho interior

USEFUL TO KNOW: PB is 16 miles from north to south and about half a mile across at its widest point, and is made up of three distinct neighborhoods–the north end (The Breakers), the south end (Four Seasons & Eau), and the middle (The Colony, Brazilian Court & Worth Ave.).

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: Mid-island PB (Worth Avenue/Colony area) has it all–the beach, nice restaurants, shops, galleries and hotels–within walking distance.

MORE HOTELS

NORTHERN END of PB
The Breakers (1 S. County Rd.)–This is PB’s famous resort. It’s an old-but-not-faded (they spend $25 million p/yr. on renovations!), grand dame hotel on the beach (though its beach is small) with 140 acres of grounds, including a golf course and four pools, tennis, restaurants, and a nice staff. All good but if you want to have the pleasure of walking around the ‘hood and exploring restaurants, shops and cultural sites, not happening. The distance from the front door of The Breakers to the street is not short. If you don’t mind that, the area around The Breakers is not particularly fun or interesting. IF you aren’t interested in exploring PB on foot and would prefer to totally relax in a HUGE resort setting, The Breakers is your place. 538 rooms

SOUTHERN END of PB
Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa (100 S. Ocean Blvd., Manalapan, FL)–Ever heard of it? Probably not BUT this is the former Ritz that super-successful and cheery-with-a-capital-C interior designer Jonathan Adler recently re-did and the photos look grrrreat. Happy rooms and tropical chic! The Washington Post featured a glowing article (9/6/15) on it, as did Travel + Leisure (12/2014). 309 rooms

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Photo credit: Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa

MID-ISLAND
The Colony–The best! (see top of this post)

The Brazilian Court Hotel–Top Pick (see top of this post).

WARDROBE TIP: In the Fall and Winter, the stylish locals wear F and W colors in temperature-appropriate fabrics.

-posted January 2016