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

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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)

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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)

Hall

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!