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Bad Trips Happen ....Getting Bamboozled in Beaufort.

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On occasion, Matt’s charter flights involve the drop-off of a passenger to some fun locale, and sometimes, this happens on a weekend. This makes it easy to slide right into a weekend stop somewhere new. Recently, Matt had a drop-off flight to coastal NC on a Friday night. What a perfect way to spend the weekend somewhere on the beach. Right?

The flight was planned, the bags were packed, the trip was happening – or was it?

I had it all planned out. We would fly into Beaufort, NC on a Friday night and drop Matt’s charter client off. He wouldn’t be flying back with us, so we would make the short 20-minute flight to Ocracoke Island where we would spend 2 nights in an adorable inn, have seafood boils delivered to us on the beach, ride old fashioned bicycles, search for seashells, and have romantic dinners in quaint little seafood shacks.

But none of this would actually happen. At least not this time around. A week before our Friday night flight, Ocracoke flooded. Actually, the entire southeast coast flooded, but the small low lying barrier islands were hit particularly hard. When Ocracoke was still closed to visitors on Wednesday night, we made the decision to cancel and change our Friday plans.

No worries. I always have a Plan B. All neurotic planners do. What you do know about us is that we put a neurotic amount of time into planning the perfect trip. What you don’t know is that we usually put a neurotic amount of time into planning 2 trips….you know….in case the first one doesn’t work out.

My travel nightmare (okay, maybe that’s a bit strong, we’ll call it “Vicki’s Least Desirable Scenario) is to show up somewhere I have never been WITH NO PLANS.

No, I take it back. That IS a nightmare.

I don’t deal well with lack of structure and uncertainty.

I realize there are those that disagree with me. They believe you should never plan a trip. They say unplanned trips lead to spontaneous adventures, new friends, and unexpected experiences.

I say these people are imbeciles.

I say unplanned trips are how you end up sleeping in a car because you don’t have a reservation, get diarrhea from that restaurant that was rated #789 out of 800 (but you didn’t know that, now did you?), and run out of clean underwear because you didn’t count on getting lost for 2 days on those back roads without a map.

Spontaneous travel is for 20 year olds. I want to know where I am sleeping, where I am eating, and how many changes of clothes I need. I want to know the thread count of the hotel sheets and whether the bathroom has a hair dryer. I want to know whether or not there are any meatballs on the menu and if they are made with lamb or beef. I want to know what the day and nighttime temperatures are going to be and where the closest place is to get a ginger nut latte with an extra shot of espresso. And I want to know it at least 2 months before I go.

I shifted us to The Alternative Flood Plan, which would involve flying into Beaufort, spending Friday night at a lovely Inn with a romantic seaside dinner out, following by a B&B breakfast, a quick trip on the morning ferry to see the feral horses on nearby Shackleford Banks, lunch in Beaufort and a return home. No need to spend the whole weekend since Ocracoke was out. We’d be home by Saturday afternoon.

I packed one change of clothes, minimal toiletries, and we were on our way.

It was clean. It was simple. It was fine.

Or so I thought.

My mistake was not wearing a headset in the plane.

I never wear a headset. I find them bulky and uncomfortable. Okay, fine….. I don’t wear them because they mess up my hair. I opted to read a book on the flight over as Matt and his passenger chatted away.

By the time we arrived, the plans had already been made.

Not MY plans.

That’s where all the trouble came in, you see.

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Friday:

We left Knoxville on a Friday afternoon and headed to Charlotte to pick up Matt’s passenger. We had time to grab a quick lunch so we opted for something close to the airport. Have you noticed that airports aren’t usually in the best parts of town? That means restaurants near airports typically feature all-you-can eat Chinese places in strip malls or places with names like “Larry’s Sunshine Café” or “Super Taco.”

I’m not really a fan of restaurants near airports.

We chose the least offensive looking place and found ourselves in an old school BBQ joint, complete with shiny yellow gingham tablecloths, oversized plastic ketchup dispensers, and lots of waitresses wearing Lee jeans and too much eye make-up. I was starting to think we’d made a HUGE mistake when our smiling waitress showed up with a basket of free hushpuppies.

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HUSHPUPPIES.

FREE.

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The food wasn’t fancy, but it was good: finely chopped BBQ pork with a tangy Carolina vinegar-based sauce, crispy fresh fried okra, and savory Brunswick stew with sweet tea. It was just enough to make a southern girl happy.

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We made it back to the airport, picked up the passenger, and headed to Beaufort, NC. I had never been to that part of the coast and I was looking forward to a nice night out and a little bit of sightseeting the next day before heading home.

When we landed, Matt said, “There has been a change of plans.”

Anyone who knows me or has read my blog knows that that is quite possibly the worst sentence you can ever say to me. You would probably get a less violent reaction if you told me I was actually adopted and my natural parents were both serial killers or that I had an incurable skin fungus.

Matt saw my face clouding over and quickly explained, “The weather looks bad for flying back tomorrow. When I mentioned that, my flight client told me that it would help him out if we could stay until Sunday night so that he doesn’t have to drive home.”

Okay, this didn’t sound too bad. I mean, I had done enough research to know there were enough things in Beaufort to keep us occupied until Sunday. We could just extend our stay at the inn, add in a few of the other restaurants I had seen online, and do some shopping. What’s not to like about a whole weekend at the beach? This might be fun.

That’s when Matt really let the bomb drop.

“We’re going to stay with him at his condo tomorrow and go to a dinner with him that night. He also invited us out on his boat Sunday.”

Just like that, I was no longer in control of my plans. I had no information about where I was going, where I was staying, where I was eating, or what I would be doing.

You would have thought I had just been told I had an unplanned pregnancy, not an unplanned weekend.

I was instantly clammy. My breath came in shallow little gasps. I was pretty sure I was going to pass out.

Matt dove in with gusto, “It sounds really great,” he said, “He’s got a 4 bedroom place on the beach all to himself, tickets to a ‘Sea & Farm’ dinner being hosted on Harker’s Island by Beaufort and Blind Pig of Asheville that he wants to take us to, and he said he’s taking a yacht out for the day on Sunday with some nice food and drinks and we can tag along.”

“Why don’t we just get a rental car and do our own thing?” I asked, the panic starting to rise.

“I already told him we’d do it.”

And that was that.

I’m not much of an optimist. For me, it’s not about whether the glass is half-full or half-empty. I want to know what restaurant the glass came from and whether or not it was on my list.

This was definitely not on my list.

Unfortunately, I was stuck with it, so I unbound my internal optimist and took the duct tape off of her mouth for just a moment.

“This could be pretty awesome, you know,” she immediately started to jibber-jabber. “I mean, a condo on the beach, a private dinner, a yacht….this is a rich, classy guy….this has to be AWESOME, right?”

I quickly put the duct tape back on her mouth, but maybe she had something…..could this be awesome?

Probably not. The reason I keep my internal optimist bound and gagged is because I tend to be more of a "if it seems too good to be true, it probably is" kind of girl.

Matt and I are not the type that luck into free luxury condos, private events, and yachts. We are not going to win the lottery. No one is going to give us a free car because we are the 1,000,000th customer at the gas station. We are the people that are most likely to step in the one dog turd that exists in a 10 block radius. That is our reality.

And this all sounded too good to be true.

Not that it really mattered. There was nothing I could do about it now. I was no longer the captain of my own ship. In fact, I was shipwrecked.

But we still had tonight at the Inn. At least I knew that would be good.

When I was looking for a place to stay in Beaufort and found that the #1 rated inn sported an inordinate number of floral polyester bedspreads and fake plants, I knew I had to look outside the usual reference sites. I dug a little deeper and found a new inn that had only been open for a couple of months, so…. no reviews, but the Inn on Turner looked perfect.

The Inn on Turner was a historic home with only 3 quaint rooms decorated in beachy chic located in the middle of historic Beaufort. We arrived just as they were serving complimentary wine and champagne with snacks.

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Champagne? I had already forgotten about the next day’s disastrous plans.

I had champagne! Strawberries! I loved this inn!

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The innkeepers had made us a reservation for dinner at Blue Moon Bistro. It was a very pleasant stroll through Beaufort’s quaint streets to the restaurant. I spotted adorable wine shops and stores that I was looking forward to checking out the next day. This was getting better and better!

We found the Blue Moon Bistro in the historic 1827 Dill House, just about a block from Beaufort’s waterfront. The dining space was small and intimate with just the right amount of candlelight.

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We started with the “big bowl” of Caesar salad and the fried oyster plate. For dinner, Matt ordered the creole style shrimp with Andouille sausage and jasmine rice. I couldn’t resist the autumn gnocchi with butternut squash, shaved Brussels sprouts, and balsamic glaze. We followed that with a spice cake served with turbinado sugar ice cream.

After dinner, we stopped off at a little bar that had been recommended by the innkeepers - the Backstreet Pub.

You know that dream where you are standing in front of your class at school in your underwear?

Yes. It was like that.

Do you ever walk into a place and know you’ve made a mistake the second you enter? But the place is small, local, and everyone looks up just as you walk in so there is no option of a clandestine escape?

As soon as we stepped inside, I felt like I had just walked into someone’s family reunion uninvited. The awkwardness of not belonging was compounded by my glance at the bar which showed NOTHING BUT BEER.

Just beer.

We were now non-beer drinking, overdressed outsiders in a local’s bar that served only beer.

I did the only thing I could think of.

I immediately ran to the bathroom and left Matt standing there alone to deal with the painful process of figuring out what to order in a bar full of staring strangers.

He doesn’t hate beer, so he managed to find something he liked and he found a cider for me, so it wasn’t a total loss. We quickly drank our bottles and tore out the door like our pants were on fire.

It had been a long day, we were tired, and I was all stressed out worrying about the “no plans” problem tomorrow presented.

There was nothing left to do but go to bed.

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Saturday:

I woke up tired because I spent the entire night Friday trying to figure out how to make plans out of the mess that had taken over my weekend.

A rental car. That would solve everything. We could do our own thing, show up at the condo just before the “dinner,” and still salvage most of the weekend. The next day, if we decided the yachting with strangers was simply too awkward, we could find something else to do and meet the client back at the airport.

It was perfect.

Except that there were no rental cars. Anywhere. Not until Monday.

I know because I called them all. I even called a guy named Jimmy at a place called A Diamond Rent-A-Car.

Sigh.

I decided to make the most of it. Not because I am a decent person deep down inside, but because, like any animal trapped in a corner, at some point, you simply realize that playing dead is probably your best chance of self-preservation.

At least we had today. We could stop in all those fun little shops, have a nice lunch, and go see the feral horses at nearby Shackleford Banks.

As we had a hearty breakfast at the Inn, I checked the ferry schedule and saw that we could head over to Shackleford Banks at 11:00 and return at 12:30. That would give us time to have lunch, shop for a few hours, and still meet up with the client in time for the 6:00 dinner.

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It would be FINE.

Shackleford Banks is the southern-most barrier island in the Cape Lookout National Seashore and is home to approximately 100 wild horses. They are thought to be descended from Spanish mustangs from early Colonial settlers and have been roaming the island for over 400 years.

Even though it was a gray and drizzly day, it was pretty neat to see the horses. The barrier islands are also a treasure trove of seashells, so we spent an hour wandering along the windswept dunes before getting back on an early ferry to head back to Beaufort.

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Beaufort was incredibly quaint. I was looking forward to spending some time looking around after lunch.

As we walked to lunch, I made a mental list of all the places I wanted to visit.

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We stopped at the old Beaufort Grocery to get some lunch. I immediately loved the mismatched dish towels that were scattered on the tables for napkins. The place was warm and lively, and it seemed like everyone knew everyone (probably because they had all been at the Backstreet Pub the night before….). The small town quaintness of it was nice.

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As I was settling down to eat my “damn fine gumbo” and crabcake sandwich, Matt’s phone rang.

It was the Inn.

“We really can’t store your luggage any longer. We need you to come pick it up.”

What?

But.

But.

But….we didn’t have a car. That meant we had to get a taxi to head out to the “condo” right then.

“I wanted to do some shopping,” I said. I’m pretty sure I was whining when I said it. “I don’t even have clean underwear or clean clothes for tomorrow. I need some shampoo.”

“It’s no big deal,” Matt said. “He said his condo was just right here. We can take a quick taxi, drop off our stuff, and run back over here.”

Well, okay. That sounded okay.

It would be FINE.

The taxi ride to the condo was 30 minutes.

30 minutes.

IN A TAXI.

30 minutes in a taxi in NYC and 30 minutes in a taxi in North Carolina mean very different things. You may as well be taking a taxi to another country.

This meant that 1) it was a really damn expensive taxi ride and 2) we were not close to ANYTHING now.

It was 1:00 p.m. on Saturday and we were stuck at the “condo” with no car and no way to get back to Beaufort unless we wanted 2 additional, expensive, 30 minute taxi rides.

“This sucks,” I said, visibly sulking.

“Let’s make the most of it,” Matt said as he looked for the key the client said he had hidden in the grill. “I mean, it’s probably a really nice place and we have it all to ourselves for the rest of the day.”

It was really nice. If really nice means that it hadn’t seen a decorator or a housekeeper since 1981.

It was frumpalicious. It was like entering an early 80s time capsule in a bad motel.

It was a pulsating pit of despair filled with wicker light fixtures, lumpy furniture, and dusty floral arrangements.

Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if I had been prepared, but I was expecting this:

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And I got this:

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Ugly condo? Strike one.

To make matters worse, we had no transportation, no food, and I was wearing my only pair of clean underwear.

We sat on the beige, vinyl sofa and waited for the client to return. When my butt started to stick to the vinyl, I decided it was time to at least go for a walk on the beach. There was that, at least.

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He finally got back at 3:30. While he graciously let us use his car to go find some clean clothes and shampoo, he reminded us that we needed to leave for the Blind Pig dinner by 5:15.

It was a 1 hour round trip drive to Beaufort and back. That left us 45 minutes to shop, IF we didn’t want to get cleaned up before dinner.

So much for the cute stores in Beaufort.

No matter. There was still the Blind Pig dinner to look forward to.

And I was really looking forward to it.

It would be FINE.

The Blind Pig Supper Club of Asheville, NC creates unique and exclusive dining experiences through chef collaborations and off-the-chart locations. The chefs are incredible, the menus are show stopping, the locations are phenomenal and are kept secret until 48 hours before the dinner, and the experience is touted to be simply amazing. Tickets are pricey and sell out quickly for each dinner.

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I know, because I have tried to get us to a Blind Pig dinner for years.

And I was finally going to one! One on the beach, no less.

The dinner was a farm to sea dinner titled “Brogue” and would be held on nearby Harker’s Island. Seven acclaimed chefs would create a one-of-a-kind 7 course dinner with wine pairings for 137 lucky ticket holders.

I had to admit I was excited.

We got back to the condo around 5:00 p.m., just in time to change our clothes and head to Harker’s Island.

We noticed the client was wearing his athletic gear.

“I don’t think I want to go. I think it’s going to rain,” he said. “If it’s okay with you, we’ll just go to my friend’s restaurant in Morehead City.”

Let’s see…..Go to exclusive, high-end, private beach dinner or eat at crappy restaurant in Morehead City…..

OF COURSE IT WASN’T OKAY!!!!!

Unfortunately, I was powerless to voice an opinion because 1) I wasn’t the one who had been invited to the Blind Pig dinner by one of the hosts and 2) I had no transportation.

I was expecting this:

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And I got this:

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No Blind Pig dinner? Strike two.

After my “sort of okay” dinner, I feel asleep under my excessively floral comforter and wondered about that yacht.

Would it be fine?

Sunday:

The weekend had been in a steady spiral of decline since we received the call from the Inn to pick up our luggage.

This spiral of decline became a full on cataclysm of horrific proportions when I woke up to find the car was gone and there was no coffee.

WHO DOESN’T HAVE COFFEE?

It was Sunday morning. I had no coffee. I had no transportation. The closest place where I might find coffee was 7 miles away.

Clean underwear, I can live without. Coffee? Oh hell no.

This was a disaster.

To make matters worse, Matt doesn't drink coffee so he had no interest in trying to help me build a distress signal out of seashells so that a passing airplane might save me. The lack of coffee coupled with his complete indifference to my misery just added fuel to the already smoldering fire that was burning in my soul that weekend.

The cherry on top? The guy left a pack of bagels and a jar of peanut butter on the counter and sent Matt a text to “help ourselves.”

I did nothing but sit and stare at the ugly carpet for the next 3 hours.

Like Seligman’s shocked dogs from the 1960’s, I had stopped trying to control my environment and simply gave up and embraced my helplessness.

I didn’t even try to kid myself by saying, “Well, there’s still the yacht….”

I didn’t hold out much hope.

It would not be FINE.

The client had explained that he had rented a “yacht” (his word) and that they would be filming all day on it for his marketing firm. His “guy” was going to pick up some good food and drinks. We’d head over to Cape Lookout where Matt and I could take the dingy and explore the island, hang out on the beach, or relax on the yacht.

“It’s a YACHT,” he said, emphasizing the word the way one would speak to a child when I asked about somewhere to sit if it got too cool, “There’s a nice big indoor salon. It’s great. We’ll even have live music.”

With no car of our own, it’s not like we really had a choice, now did we?

Friends, the “yacht” was the piece de resistance.

It was a big, ugly fishing boat.

I wish I was kidding.

I guess, if length is what determines yacht status, it was technically a yacht. I guess we should have asked him to be more specific.

I was expecting a luxury yacht, with wine & cheese where I would sit on a large outdoor lounger and sip champagne as I forgot the wretchedness of the past 24 hours.

What I got was a large, dirty, utilitarian fishing boat with no outdoor seating, a darkly lit indoor salon filled with ugly green cushions with water stains and dirty carpet, and a white 5-gallon bucket filled with ice and Bud Light paired with a giant brown paper bag of turkey subs.

The music? One of the guys brought his banjo.

I can’t make this stuff up.

I was expecting this:

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And I got this:

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Crappy Fishing Boat? Strike Three.

I suddenly realized why this guy was a Senior VP of marketing.

He could sell anything.

I will call this photo "Matt's Portrait of Dispair." I particularly like the 1978 Olan Mills close-up effect.

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We had been sold a classy beach condo, an exclusive beach dinner, and a yacht tour. What we got was a dumpy room, an average dinner, and 8 hours on a barebones fishing boat with beer and Jersey Mike’s.

As I headed down to the bathroom to cry in silence, the Captain looked at me and said, “The toilet doesn’t work so good. If it won’t flush, pump it a few times.”

Priceless.

There had been some tense moments in the past 2 days as our plans unraveled again and again. By the time we got left on the boat, however, all that was left to do was laugh. We couldn’t stop laughing.

We laughed until we cried.

Then Matt offered me a turkey sub, and we laughed some more, especially when we figured out there were no napkins, plates, or condiments. Just dry turkey on wheat.

Sure, I would have loved to have taken a bubble bath in a high rise condo on the beach, enjoyed wine pairings with famed chefs in the sand, and snacked on canapes on the teak deck of a luxury sailing yacht, but I found myself laughing with Matt at the hilarious turn of events as we stole a few private hours in the sunshine on the beaches of Cape Lookout.

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Some weekends are for meeting new friends and being whisked away to exciting elite locales to experience a life you only get to see on the pages of magazines.

Other weekends are for bonding with your spouse in a dark condo with peanut butter bagels.

In my life, there is room for all of it.

It was FINE.

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Next up? Join us as we head to the hike-in only Charit Creek Lodge in Big South Fork!

Posted by vicki_h 10:26 Archived in USA Tagged north_carolina beaufort Comments (4)

By Popular Demand....What's Up Next????

a.k.a. The Neurotic Travel Planner's Sanity Guide

Are you a travel planner or are you more of a "wing it" type of person? I am definitely a planner.

I genuinely overdo everything. "Is today your birthday? Look! I made you a birthday cake with a fondant sculpture of your face." "It's girls night! I made a list of all the places we can go along with a precisely timed itinerary and a breakdown of prices and suggested tips. Isn't that FUN?" "Potluck dinner? I made a 19 layer salad with hand foraged mushrooms and dressing that I made from my own herbs. I also made special pottery bowls to serve it in. Surprise!"

I just HATE when things suck. So when I’m planning a trip, I spend a neurotic and unhealthy amount of time trying to prevent any sucky elements from disappointing me during my travels.

It works.

This means that I typically have a travel calendar planned nearly a year in advance. This keeps me sane.

I know, I know. This is unhealthy. I need to get a life.

In the meantime, enjoy taking a peek at what we have coming up!

(I apologize in advance for photos shamelessly pirated from the internet)

FLIP THIS HOUSE: GUANA CAY EDITION....tune in as Matt and Vicki try to turn a beach house into their own little piece of paradise....with a special bonus edition: a side trip to Eleuthera!

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Girls Trip to Asheville: 8 Women, 3 beds....it has to be interesting.

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Getting our hiking fix at the hike-in only Charit Creek Lodge in Big South Fork: It's not Montana, but it'll do.

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Tortola, BVI: It's time for a trip to the Virgin Islands that doesn't include Mothers in Law.....

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Honduras: Yes, I said Honduras. I know it's the murder capital of the world, but it also has this awesome deserted island where Matt and I will spend 3 days alone and either have the time of our lives or commit a murder/suicide out of boredom. That will be followed by 4 days in an awesome villa on Roatan to make us forget what it was like to live without electricity or ice cubes.

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Matt's Big 5-0 Blowout on Jost Van Dyke: 16 Friends on the barefoot island....how awesome is that?

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Plus a regular smattering of weekend trips just to keep things interesting. Stay tuned, friends, it's going to be a helluva good time!

Posted by vicki_h 16:47 Archived in USA Comments (6)

It’s My Birthday. I'll Eat if I Want To.

48 Hours of Gluttony in Music City.

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It all started when Matt asked me what I wanted for my birthday.

I puzzled. I planned. I pondered.

I came up with…..nothing.

There was absolutely nothing I wanted that I didn’t already have.

Is that not AWESOME?

That alone should have been a remarkable birthday gift, and right then I should have taken any money that might be used on my birthday to buy a goat for a village in Africa, but I am far too selfish for that, so I thought, “Why not DO something instead of GET something?”

And what do I like to do more than anything?

Eat.

Birthdays are the one day a year that you can throw all your inhibitions away and eat yourself into a happy (birthday) food coma. Everyone knows that calories don’t count on your birthday (or holidays, vacations, Saturdays, after midnight, and following any emotional trauma).

I should also point out that eating is also a fantastic distraction from the aging process.

So Matt agreed to load up and head to my eating destination of choice.

I chose Nashville.

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We tend to forget about Nashville. It’s so close, but we never really think of it as a “destination.” To us, it’s just that big city in the middle of the state.

However, it has recently experienced a surge in popularity thanks to the new show Nashville, the inexplicable popularity of country music, and a brief stint as Taylor Swift’s home a choice before she decided NYC was infinitely cooler.

I’m pretty sure its popularity is not attributable to the fact that Billy Ray Cyrus lives there.

While we weren’t paying attention, Nashville became Nowville.

Or, in my case, Noshville.

Nashville’s restaurant scene has exploded in the past few years. A slew of new restaurants have popped up and I wanted to try as many of them as possible.

It seemed like a good time to head down the road for a visit to our mid-state cousin. Home of the Grand Ole Opry. Birthplace of Country Music. Honky Tonk Capital of the World. And baker of more biscuits than you can shake a stick at.

Day 1: Pass the biscuits.

We arrived in time for breakfast at my insistence (and despite Matt’s futile efforts to sleep late). There is no sleeping late when there are biscuits to be eaten.

We drove straight through what I think of as Nashville’s neon corridor of misery, that stretch of Broadway that is littered with neon boot signs and places promising line dancing and country karaoke. It’s like Las Vegas and Dollywood rolled up into one hot, flashy country-fried mess.

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If you are looking for a blog post filled with Robert’s Western World, The Bluebird Café, Printers Alley, and the Ryman….you should probably move on.

I was looking for an experience that was a bit less common. I wanted to take the road less traveled.

Unfortunately, the road less traveled appeared to have been taken over by hipsters.

Forget Nowville or Noshville. When we weren’t looking, Nashville had turned into Hipsterville.

For those of you that aren’t sure you know what a hipster is: 1) you’re lucky, and 2) I’ll give you a hint. You know that new coffee shop that just opened up in your town? The one with the glass contraptions that look like something from a chemist lab and that have the menus hand printed on the back of a recycled brown lunch bag? That 19-year-old faux junkie with the handlebar mustache and the mustard yellow fedora who is choreographing your coffee experience for 8 minutes with his pour-over method using sustainable, fair trade aged Sumatran roast….that’s a hipster.

And if you take a picture of your double upside down cacao cortado with soy, you might be one too.

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I have no shame in admitting it. We are moderately uncool middle aged people. The entire hipster movement is simply baffling to us. I don’t understand the sudden popularity of Victorian-era facial hair, unicycles, and men wearing skinny jeans, rolled up, with boots that look like something my great-grandfather likely wore to milk his cow.

However, hipsters take their food seriously. So, there is something to be gained by a moderately uncool middle aged person if he/she is brave enough to enter the hipster domain.

I had planned our eating carefully, and it included a vast number of hipster joints. Make no mistake, hipster joints make GOOD FOOD. You just have to get past the …..hipsterness of it all.

The first thing you have to do is look past the dim and ineffective vintage light bulbs and rough-hewn unfinished wood that is likely covering every surface to appreciate the wonder that is the menu. Don’t let yourself be immediately discouraged by the barrage of hipster-speak that assaults you from the menu. Dig past all of the locally foraged, ethically sourced, artisanal, salvaged, sustainable, stone-pounded, bicycle delivered weirdness and what you’ll find is really good food.

Move past the bone marrow, sweetbreads, and scrapple. Focus on key words: beef. potatoes. jam.

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Biscuit Love Brunch was a great place for Matt and I to start.

Like any good hipster restaurant, Biscuit Love started as a simple food truck. They recently moved from serving up hot handfuls of butter and flour on Nashville’s city streets to a bona fide brick and mortar restaurant. They only serve brunch, are only open until 3:00, and you can pretty much get anything on a biscuit.

When we walked in, there was a line. Apparently this was an “order at the counter, get a number, have a seat,” kind of place. We waited about 15 minutes.

I am BAFFLED by the number of people that can wait in line for 15 minutes, STARING AT A MENU, and are not prepared to order when they reach the counter.

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I did not have that problem when it was my turn at all. It was 9:00 a.m. and I was ravenous.

Bronuts and an East Nasty,”I blurted out so forcefully it made Matt jump.

Hey man, I was hungry.

I was then presented with a credit card slip to sign and leave a tip. REALLY?

I waited in line 15 minutes to order my own food and get my own beverage and you now want me to tip someone to bring my plate to me? Before they bring it to me?

Apparently, I do not understand the new counter service trend. If you’re making me serve myself, what are you asking for a tip for?

I prefer to wait and see if the person bringing my plate comes out dressed as a clown and makes me a balloon giraffe to go with my biscuit. THEN they will get a tip.

After a very short wait, my plate of bronuts arrived.

These biscuit-doughnut hybrids were made of fried biscuit dough, coated in crunchy sugar, filled with lemon marscapone, and sitting on top of fresh blueberry compote.

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That should have been enough, but then the East Nasty showed up: a crispy fried chicken thigh with smoked cheddar sitting on a flaky biscuit smothered in sausage gravy.

Nasty indeed.

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After breakfast, I wanted a really good cup of coffee. If there is one thing hipsters know how to do well, it’s make coffee.

Unfortunately, Biscuit Love had only moderately prepared us for the full-on hipster establishment experience.

Barista Parlour was the whole enchilada (an organic, locally sourced spaghetti squash, cotija, and lime infused yam enchilada, of course).

We found what we believed to be the Barista Parlour, a non-descript building with a cement block exterior. The doors were all locked, so we walked until we found a concrete courtyard surrounded by high concrete walls. I was starting to wonder if this was a coffee shop or an elementary school in Mexico City. We eventually found the right door and stepped inside.

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Residing in an old car stereo shop complete with roll up garage doors, this place was so hipster that it made me instantly want to put on one of my granny’s old dresses and a vintage cardigan. I suddenly wished I hadn't washed my hair and had grabbed a slouchie beanie on the way out. It was like walking into an Instagram photo. I saw a barista in a toboggan and a leather apron, despite the fact that it was 95 degrees outside. There were small children wearing unnecessary scarves and the all of the chocolate bars had at least 65% cacao.

In lieu of the customary hipster chalkboard menu, the only menu I could see was a small elaborately custom-made affair attached to a wooden board affixed permanently to the area just below the register. As I waited in line, I realized this would give me about .86 seconds to consider my order, while the uber cool barista stood in silent judgment. I had to order before the crowd behind me started angrily waving their beanies and vintage copies of The Catcher in the Rye at me.

Apparently, I was supposed to know what was on the menu before I arrived. I was already failing my hipster exam.

My level of discomfort on a scale of 1 to 10 was about a 4.

Matt’s was a 27. He immediately decided he didn’t want anything and ran to the safety of the bathroom.

I distracted myself by perusing the colorful shelves filled with fanciful appurtenances (I feel like this overelaborate description is necessary to reflect the true atmosphere of the Barista Parlour). There were colorful French macarons, artisan chocolates, gluten-free cookies, and hand-made pop-tarts. There were vintage motorbikes and a wall shelf filled with vinyl record albums.

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When it was time to place my order, I was blessedly quick, simply choosing the first thing I could read without my glasses.

I took my number to my table (apparently a phenomenon here in Nashville….there did not appear to be any restaurant at which one did not receive a whimsical number on a stick to affix in some manner to one’s table). As I tried to decide which industrial upcycled table to sit at, I passed the condiment table. No doubt in a place like this, where coffee making was considered art, adding sugar to your cappuccino would be like putting ketchup on your langoustine at Le Bernardin.

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My coffee could come out tasting like cardboard and turpentine and I wouldn’t dare risk the disapproving stares of the other patrons to get a scoop of Splenda. I wasn’t going to be making that walk of shame. Besides, they probably only had Sugar in the Raw or honey anyway.

After about 15 minutes of careful brewery magic, the barista in the toboggan brought me my Caramel Whiskey Latte.

No wonder the condiment table looked dusty. Who needs it? The coffee was AMAZING.

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Apparently, all you need is a leather apron to make an astonishing cup of coffee.

It was time to leave the hipster-cool of the City. We’d had all we could take for a while. We needed to go somewhere that didn’t require tattoos or facial hair to fit in.
We easily found our conspicuous oversized Land Rover parked in a sea of tiny electric cars and bicycles and made our escape.

Our first stop was at Love Circle, a grassy hill with a panoramic view of the city skyline. Technically the hill belongs to Metro Water Services and technically it’s considered trespassing on the water reservoir that exists up there and technically it’s illegal to park …..but we had been emboldened by our middle aged foray into the youthful hipster world, so we went for it.

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Next up was a drive through Nashville’s prestigious Belle Meade neighborhood. We were planning to make a stop at the Belle Meade Plantation, but after driving past mansion after mansion, we felt poor and dejected and decided the only thing that would make us feel better was pie.

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We stopped at the famed Loveless Motel and Café to see what they had to offer. They have been serving the best biscuits in Nashville since 1951, and it is said that the recipe remains unchanged today.

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Unfortunately, I was full up on biscuits. Not just full up, EAST NASTY full up.

We couldn’t decide on one pie, so we got a pie sampler, because when you are too full to eat one piece of pie, you should just go ahead and get three. The sampler included banana pudding (okay, not technically a pie, but who cares), chess pie, and coconut pie.

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Pie is always good, but next time, I want the biscuits.

We then took a beautiful drive on a section of the Natchez Trace Parkway, which extends 444 miles from Nashville to Natchez, Mississippi. I could only imagine what it must look like in the fall.

Note to self: Come back in the fall. Drive parkway. Eat biscuits.

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We hopped off the parkway at quaint Leiper’s Fork, a scenic village surrounded by farmland just southwest of Nashville. It’s a place filled with farmers, artists, and musicians. Home to the famous Puckett’s Grocery Store, where live bluegrass mingles with meatloaf and collard greens, the village was filled with quaint shops and galleries.

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And this old Jeep Willys which I must have or die.

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Shopping made us hungry, so we headed back to the City for a late lunch.

Having had enough hipster fun that morning, we decided to go as un-hipster as possible: Arnold’s.

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If Arnold’s writes something on a paper bag, it’s because that’s what was nearby. Arnold’s is not cool. Arnold’s is not hip. And Arnold’s doesn’t care.
Arnold’s has been serving up “meat and 3” lunches out of a colorful cinder block building for over 30 years. Nothing is fancy, food is served cafeteria style, and tables are communal – you simply squeeze in where you can find space.

We arrived late, at 2:20. They stop serving at 2:45, so imagine our surprise when the line still stretched out the door. No matter, we had nothing but time.

When we got inside, we had plenty of time to review the menu on the wall. Everything looked like it was cooked in pork fat or fried in lard. It was like heaven.

The good thing about the line at Arnold’s is that it gives neurotic orderers ample time to consider every possible combination of the meat + three before actually having to settle on just one.

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Should I get meatloaf with creamed corn, fried okra, and green beans? What about catfish with mashed potatoes, tomato pie, and collard greens? Oh wait, maybe roast beef with white beans, fried apples, and candied yams????? What about the cole slaw??? DEAR GOD, WHERE WOULD I FIT IN THE COLE SLAW?????? Is there a meat + 4?

While I was suffering a mild panic attack at being limited to only 3 side items, we came to the food line.

Desserts came first. These people have their priorities in order. I immediately forgot all about side items.

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We did not plan to get dessert since we had eaten bronuts, biscuits, and 3 pieces of pie that morning….but they had the pies right at eye level. They were staring at us. “Pick me, pick me,” each one chanted, like a homeless puppy at the kill shelter. We just had to take one home.

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With a choice between roast beef, meatloaf, chicken n’dumplings, fried catfish, or fried shrimp…it was a tough call. I almost ordered the chicken n’ dumplings, but then I spotted the whole roast beef, rare and juicy, as they were hand carving it to order.

“Roast beef, fried green tomatoes, macaroni & cheese, and greens, please,” I said with no hesitation.

Matt went for the meatloaf, corn pudding, green beans, and mashed potatoes swimming in rich gravy.

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We. Ate. Every. Bite.

Shameful.

Delicious.

It was late in the afternoon and we really needed a post-binge nap, so we made our way to 12 South, an eclectic (and yes, hipster) neighborhood just outside of downtown. Not that long ago, this was just considered a rough part of town. Now, it’s one of the hottest neighborhoods in Nashville where you can buy a vintage guitar, drink a craft cocktail, eat a gourmet popsicle, and try on a pair of hand-stitched jeans all in one 10 block stretch only 2 miles from downtown.

It’s no secret that I am not a fan of hotels. Beyond that, I make every effort to seek out the most unique accommodations I can find. I’m not satisfied with the ordinary. I want extraordinary.

The 12th Avenue South Urban Oasis was my idea of perfect. It was Matt’s idea of a fancied up garage, but that was because he didn’t get it.

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Nestled quietly and privately behind the dazzling Savant vintage store on 12 South, this place was literally an “oasis.” Once we entered the gate, it was quiet and peaceful. It was hard to image the hustle and bustle of 12 South was so close.

The garage had been lovingly restored and decorated by the owner of Savant with her own fabulous antiques and unique finds. It was bright and airy. I felt like I had stepped into a magazine shoot.

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And no, it was not entirely lost on me that I was sleeping in the Barista's Parlour's less evil twin.

I loved everything about it.

Well. Almost Everything.

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We enjoyed the cool retreat of the Urban Oasis during the 95+ degree afternoon. Line dried white linens covered the windows to block the sun and the big, blue vintage Westinghouse floor fan created a perfect naptime breeze that went nicely with the ice cold a/c.

When the temps started to drop and we felt like we could eat again, we headed to East Nashville to explore some off the beaten path places for dinner.

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“Off the beaten path” is not Matt’s favorite. It’s really his least favorite. He likes safe, conventional, right-in-the-middle-of-the-damn-path types of places, but it was my birthday, so he chose to be a good sport.

East Nashville is a mixed bag. Not too long ago, it was considered a down-on-its-luck undesirable part of town. However, thanks to urban sprawl and a mix of creative and artistic types, it enjoys a trendy, progressive vibe and continues its upward movement.

Thrillist recently named it one of the coolest neighborhoods in America.

Sounded like a good place to eat.

As we crossed the river and entered East Nashville, I saw a fixed gear bicycle shop, a sign for handmade paletas, and an artisanal chocolate shop with several guys outside with scraggly beards.

There had to be good food nearby.

The hardest thing to decide was WHERE to eat. East Nashville is literally riddled with awesome new places to eat and drink. The place is silly with them.
I had a mental list. We’d see how many we could get to.

We started at Mas Tacos. Another place that started as a food truck, Mas Tacos was supposed to have killer Mexican food.

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We found it easily enough, housed in an old deli building with a faded Winnebago parked beside it. Between the sketchy looking exterior and the freakish line, Matt was already giving me the death stare.

“It’s my birthday,” I said.

I wasn’t sure how many more times that line was going to work.

The line moved fast and in minutes we were inside. The décor in the cinderblock and linoleum building was eclectic and cool. We found ourselves in a dimly lit, rustic room with mismatched chairs huddled around small tables, cacti scattered about, quirky artwork, old-school oscillating fans (no air conditioning), and an old jukebox playing free songs.

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The menu overwhelmed us. There were simply too many amazing choices. The taco choices ranged from fried avocado to cast iron chicken to quinoa sweet potato. There were Cuban beans and grilled corn, sweet plantains and pozole verde.

We ended up with pork tacos, sweet plantains, tortilla soup, and elote (grilled corn with crumbly cotija cheese and lime juice).

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It was all good, but the show stopper was the tortilla soup. Laced with lime, chili, and cilantro, it was chunk full of white meat chicken, fresh tomatoes, grilled corn, peppers, tender avocado slices, and puffy delicious strips of deep fried tortilla.

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Okay, apparently I really liked the corn too.

As I was eating it, I heard someone singing “I’ll make love to you” by Boyz II Men. Thinking it was the free jukebox, I realized it was me.

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Mas Tacos is BYOB, but why would you want to when you can get one of their house made agua frescas? We couldn’t choose between watermelon-lime and pineapple-cilantro, so we got one of each.

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Pretty sure we could eat a second meal if we gave it a little time, we walked over to the Holland House Bar and Refuge for some drinks.

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Facial hair and full sleeve tattoos were obviously a bartender requirement, we noticed as we were seated at the enormous 4-posted bar. The mixologist wore suspenders and held a bottle with an eye dropper. The crowd was chic and vintage. We were definitely in the right place for a craft cocktail.

I ordered the Shennong’s Delight, a light and refreshing (but powerfully strong) blend of Tito’s vodka, lemongrass, orange curacao, ginger, lemon, and champagne. Matt had the Sailing to Byzantium made of El Dorado 5 year rum, crème de cassis, vanilla, lime, and black walnut bitters.

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We only planned to have one drink, but they were so good, we decided to have another. We had spotted a bottle of Leblon cachaça behind the bar. The only good thing that had come out of our trip to Brazil (besides the fact that we made it home with all internal organs intact and found that Matt only had the flu and had not contracted some terminal disease) was our love of a real caipirinha. I say “real” because almost NO ONE in the U.S. can make one properly. Something about the simple ingredients “limes, sugar, cachaça” perplexes them and they insist on adding all manner of other things. We decided to give the suspendered, tattooed, mustached bartender a shot.

He nailed it.

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I felt confident that we could eat again before throwing in the greasy white napkin, so we headed out to find the holy grail of hot chicken, Prince’s Hot Chicken in East Nashville.

If you have heard about the hot chicken phenomenon, it started in Nashville. If you haven't, then you are missing out. There’s a lot of hot chicken in Nashville these days, but it all started with Thornton Prince.

Legend has it that Mr. Prince was quite a philanderer. He came home one morning after a night of womanizing demanding his breakfast and his lady decided she’d had enough. She made him breakfast all right. She made him a breakfast he would never forget, putting every manner of hot spice she could find in the kitchen cupboards into his fried chicken. She wanted him to HURT.

When he took the first bite, she smiled in smug satisfaction, waiting for the cry of pain. Instead, he LIKED IT.

He liked it so well, he made her make it for all of his friends. And so, Prince’s Hot Chicken was born.

Today, Thornton’s great niece owns and operates Prince’s Hot Chicken where you can indulge your craving for skillet-fried, cayenne-swabbed birds piled on white bread with pickles.

Prince’s was not exactly located in the “up and coming” part of East Nashville. It was in the “down and out” part.

We found Prince’s in a defunct strip mall, sandwiched between a wig store and a nail salon. The interior was a sea of green linoleum and vinyl table cloths.

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It was clear that no one in the throng of people hanging around outside or waiting inside was a “visitor.” You could tell these people were here every day, waiting for their deliciously greasy bag of to-go chicken on their way home from work.

We stood out like a pair of hot pink suits at an Amish funeral.

Matt gave me his best “Please, don’t make me” look, but I made him go inside anyway.

Matt’s internal comfort meter was starting to tip to the “I’m about to run” point. I pushed him up to the counter.

As we ordered, two 20-something guys in matching J Crew outfits came in. They looked like they had just hopped off their yacht. I looked at Matt. “You can relax,” I said. “You are no longer the most conspicuous person in here.”

The chicken comes on top of white bread and is served with a pile of pickles. You can get mild (hot), medium (really hot), hot (scorching), xhot (blistering), xxxhot (you will die). Prince’s Hot Chicken is not to be confused with buffalo style chicken. The pepper is violent. It’s nuclear.

The chicken is fried in a cast iron skillet and is then doused with an unholy combination of cayenne and lard. The liquefied fat and pepper oozes into all of the nooks and crannies in the crunchy chicken, dripping onto slices of gooey white bread underneath. I am sure the bread is to keep the nuclear mess from seeping off the plate and into the eyes of any small children that may be standing nearby, lest they be blinded for life.

Legend has it that ordering the XXX will require medical intervention.

We ordered ½ a chicken in the medium. It came with instructions for CPR.

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The fire started slowly, at my lips. Then it spread down my throat and eventually consumed my entire digestive tract. I had read that I should be careful not to touch my eyes, should have plenty of napkins (for the sweat), and that I should use the slice of white bread that comes tucked under the chicken to counteract the heat. I quickly shoved a slice of white bread into my mouth, followed by a gulp of sweet tea.

Dear sweet Lord, but it was GOOD.

When we were finished, that ½ chicken looked like roadkill that had been picked clean by every buzzard in a 20 mile radius.

The verdict: Hot chicken rocks.

Too full for any more food, we decided to wrap up the night at a new bar in 12 South. This way, we could walk home if we had too many drinks, or if we started convulsing from the hot chicken.

I forgot to wash my hands and spent the entire drive back to 12 South concentrating on not scratching my eye so that I didn't blind myself.

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Embers Ski Lodge was modeled after every apres-ski bar I had ever been to back in my skiing days. There was a faux fireplace, a wall sized mural of a snowy mountain, snowflake lights, and rough-hewn logs decorating the walls. The menu had all of the kitsch of an old ski movie, with vintage ski photos, “black diamond appetizers,” and “bunny hill desserts.”

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Even the drinks were themed.

I ordered the Ski School, which was described on the menu as “vodka, vanilla, passion fruit, butterscotch, sparkling.” Imagine my delight when what came out was a foamy delicious, butterscotch tasting cocktail in an old school champagne glass with an adorable little sidecar of Prosecco.

“You sip the sweet cocktail, and then follow it with the dry bubbles.”

It was genius.

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We had packed a lot into one day and were we were TIRED.

It was time to head to bed. I went to sleep trying not to think about this…..

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Day 2: Help! I’ve Eaten….and I Can’t Get Up!

As soon as my eyes opened, I checked the squirrel. He hadn’t moved. Good.

I was still full from the day before, but that didn’t stop me from dragging Matt out of bed to go in search of breakfast. We had eating to do.

There were so many great places to grab breakfast, but we decided to stick close so that we could see a little bit of 12 South.

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I didn’t realize there were so many cool shops. Like Imogene & Willie. Set up in a refurbished filling station named after the owner’s grandparents, this place is apparently famous for their hand-made, high end jeans.

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Or White’s Mercantile. Modeled after an old general store, this upscale shop had everything from baby soft bath robes to vintage cocktail stirrers.

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This neighborhood was a feast for the eyes, but I needed a feast for my belly.

We stopped at Edley’s BBQ. A BBQ joint that serves breakfast? Why, yes. Yes indeed.

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With a never ending need for biscuits to be filled, I ordered the Tuck’s biscuit: a fluffy, homemade buttermilk biscuit topped with savory brisket, and over easy egg, pimento cheese, and red and white sauce.

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Matt had been so envious of my East Nasty the day before that he ordered his own nasty biscuit, Edley’s Nashville Nasty, topped with fried chicken breast and drowning in sausage gravy.

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BBQ and eggs might be my new favorite dish.

We strolled the neighborhood before I decided it was time for COFFEE.

To its credit, 12 South has its own excellent coffee shop, so we had no need to return to the uber hipster Barista Parlour which was one part Instagram portrait studio and one part disheveled beard and ironic mustache gallery.

The Frothy Monkey was just a really good coffee shop.

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Obviously.

These lines were getting ridiculous. So far, we had waited in line for EVERY MEAL. It was time to start going to some places that took reservations!
The coffee was worth the wait. My cappuccino was excellent and Matt was able to order a hot chocolate without fear that the barista would judge his non-coffee choice. No need to flee to the bathroom this time.

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We spent the rest of the morning shopping our way through the 12 South neighborhood.

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They even had a quaint little farmer’s market set up. I bypassed the South Carolina peaches and went straight for the Georgia peach truck. You can’t tell a Georgia girl that they don’t grow the best peaches.

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We grabbed a post-breakfast, pre-lunch ice cream at Jeni’s. Simply amazing ice-cream, this is literally the one thing we have to eat every time we are in Nashville.

It's more likely that the 16-year old workers simply placed the containers wherever was closest so that they could return to discussing whether or not to go to the Minions movie, but I liked to think the ice-cream gods put the brown butter almond brittle right next to the darkest chocolate just for me.

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Next up, I had a surprise for Matt.

When we were in Las Vegas once upon a time, Matt went to have an old fashioned shave. He loved it.

I had read about a place downtown where you could get a straight razor shave, so I had made him an appointment.

I knew by the time I saw the door sign, I had made him an appointment at an ultra-hipster salon.

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By the time I saw the inordinate volume of taxidermy, string lights, antlers, and mason jars – I knew.

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When they offered me free wine in a jelly glass while I waited, I didn’t care.

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Matt truly enjoyed his shave, even if he did have a stuffed fox staring at him while he got it.

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I was all jazzed up on cheap hipster wine, so it was time to eat something. We headed to Germantown to try the new Butchertown Hall, a new place claiming to specialize in smoked meats and sausages using primitive wood-fired cooking techniques.

The name conjured up images of meat and fire. Imagine my surprise when a sleek, tall white building rose in front of me. The interior was clean and artsy, full of caged rocks and barren branches in vases. It felt more like an Anthropolgie store than a meat house.

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The smell, however, was all meat. I was immediately struck by the smoky delicious aroma.

We arrived at an off time, almost 2:00. Thankfully, there weren’t many patrons, because Butchertown Hall does not take reservations and if I had walked Matt up to one more food line, I believe I would have had a mutiny on my hands.

We were seated immediately and set about the task of ordering cocktails. I couldn’t resist the winter-spiced grapefruit mimosa. Matt went with the oak roasted bloody mary.

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The smell of the place had woken our inner caveman, so we ordered accordingly.

MEAT. CORN. POTATOES. BREAD.

Was a more manly meal ever conceived? I literally felt my testosterone level rise as we ordered.

We ordered the oak smoked pork carnitas and the house made chorizo sausage. Both were served with house pickles, thin sliced onions, thick flour tortillas. We also ordered the potato salad and grilled street corn.

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It gave me the meat sweats.

I needed another beverage to slow the heart palpitations, so I got tried the Paloma, a tangy combination of tequila blanco, Pimms, lime, grapefruit, and black cardamom.

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Obviously, that lunch required another nap.

We woke up refreshed and ready to hit the streets in search of more food.

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I felt like Matt deserved one meal that didn’t involve lines, table numbers, mason jars, lack of air conditioning, or general fear for one’s safety, so I had made reservations at Josephine.

Josephine was less than a block from where we were staying on 12 South, so we were able to leave the car at home and enjoy a walk on a beautiful summer night.

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When we walked in, Josephine greeted us with soft lights, white linens, and gleaming glassware. There wasn’t a chalkboard, piece of butcher paper, or recycled, hand-cut, distressed piece of salvaged furniture in the place.

It was elegant without being pretentious. It was filled with middle aged adults in normal adult clothing. There was no unnecessary facial hair. It was just what we needed.

We started off with the pretzel bread and housemade mustard. That was followed by the tomato gazpacho with lump crab and lime for Matt and the arugula salad with fresh peaches and goat cheese topped with mint, honey, and lavender for me.

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For dinner, I opted for the housemade fettucine with tomato, lobster and basil. Matt had the scallops with grilled romaine.

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We received a wonderful little surprise with our check – a delightful little box of ginger cookies with the recipe attached.

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We were tempted by dessert, but this trip was about variety, so we felt compelled to indulge our dessert whim elsewhere.

We made the short walk down to Urban Grub where Matt found a chocolate peanut butter bar and I fell in love with the vanilla bean doughnuts with bacon toffee cream cheese ice cream (say that 3 times really fast), caramel, and chocolate covered bacon.

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Those doughnuts were like warm, soft little pillows of sugar.

They almost made me forget about sleeping in the same room as that squirrel.

Almost.

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Day 3: It's Not Over When I'm Full...It's Over When I Hate Myself.

It wasn't over yet. I didn't want to go home thinking, "I should have eaten that."

We kissed the Urban Oasis goodbye and headed out for our last meals.

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Yes, I said "meals," do you have a problem with double breakfast? Because if you do, you should just stop reading now and go get your smug self some carrot sticks.

To complete the Nashville trifecta of perfect coffee, I followed the Barista Parlour and Frothy Monkey with coffee from Crema, not from the original location, but from the mind-blowing awesomeness that is Pinewood Social.

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Pinewood Social was like nothing I have ever experienced. From the outside, it was a simple brick warehouse. Inside, it was a virtual playground of food and drinks, presented in every bizarre venue possible. First, there was the "Living Room." Plush sofas and overside chairs, vintage tables and throw rugs, as well as a tech table suitable for even the most particular Mac user filled the space, offering up endless nooks and crannies to cozy up in.

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Then there was the bar and restaurant, vintage bowling alley, and a pool deck complete with lounge chairs, cabanas, and an old air stream serving up pool drinks and tacos. When I was there, I didn't think about how absurd it was, I only thought about how incredible the food was.

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My Crema Cubano was perfect, complete with the requisite coffee art. We also snacked on an avocado omelet with crispy fried fingerling potatoes. I say "snacked on" because this wasn't actually breakfast.

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For our grand finale, we headed to Sunday Brunch at Husk. Pulling up to the elegant historic Italianate home, I felt like it was 1880 and we were arriving for Sunday supper. White gloves and a parasol would not have been entirely inappropriate.

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Husk didn't disappoint. We went out in grand style with White Lily biscuits with black pepper and sausage gravy; french toast with peaches, peanut butter, maple and chantilly cream; and chicken fried steak with gravy and a farm egg served with sausage and potato hash.

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As with all good things, it had to come to an end eventually.

I'm not sorry I went and ate half of Nashville. Sometimes, a gluttonous weekend is good for the soul. It's a reminder in our gluten-free, non-dairy, low fat lives that life is rich and is meant to be enjoyed.

Unfortunately, at my age, that enjoyment comes with a price. I am spending the entire month of August on the Whole30 no dairy, no soy, no grains, no sugars, no legumes, no alcohol diet to undue all the damage I have done with this summers sinful vacation eating.

Don't feel too sorry for me. I'll be back off the wagon for a 2 week jaunt to Abaco next month.

Until then, eat well, my friends. Eat well.

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Posted by vicki_h 19:04 Archived in USA Tagged food south tennessee eating nashville josephine husk 12_south mas_tacos hot_chicken leiper's_fork Comments (4)

Forty is the new F Word.

A friend's 40th in Key West

People can run around saying “40 is the new 20” and “I’m not 40, I’m 23 with 17 years of experience,” all they want. The truth is, turning 40 sucks giant donkey balls.

I know. It happened to me 5 years ago.

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You have to check a new demographic box every time you fill anything out.

Young adults literally start calling you “ma’am” overnight like there’s a stamp on your forehead that says, “I AM YOUR MOM’S AGE.” The cute boy that was flirting with you at the coffee shop? Yeah, he wasn’t. He called you ma'am as he handed you your change. There was no way he was flirting with you. You remind him of his mom.

You have to start getting mammograms.

Even the DMV takes a crack at you by ensuring that your driver’s license expires on your 40th birthday, forcing you to go get a new one with a picture where you suddenly age 5 years.

It can be uber depressing.

Unless you plan something fun.

Something that makes you look forward to turning 40. Something that gives you an opportunity to look 40 right in the eye and say, “BRING IT.”

My 40th birthday in the Bahamas made turning 40 one of the most fun things I ever did.

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When my friend Alison’s husband was trying to figure out what to do for her 40th birthday, I offered him 2 suggestions: 1) hire Stephen Tyler to serenade her with “Walk this Way” as Channing Tatum provides a personal lap dance or 2) do a destination birthday.

And that is how we ended up planning a surprise trip with her husband and 8 friends to Key West.

(Personally, I was hoping for Channing Tatum)

We spent 6 months planning and scheming….. quietly, carefully. Finally, the big day came. Alison was blindfolded and told she was being taken to see a car. Instead, all of us were waiting to surprise her.

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You have to be careful surprising an almost 40 year old woman like that. At our age, we could lose bladder control. Or spontaneously break a hip.

We expected screams. We expected fainting. We expected tears of joy. Instead, we heard, “You mean I’m not getting a car?”

(I told him he should have gone with Channing Tatum)

It was time to load everyone up in the Chieftan and head south.

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It was Key West or BUST, baby.

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Day One: Key West in June....Hotter Than Georgia Asphalt

My planning was impeccable. I had the perfect place to stay. Groceries and drinks were being delivered before we arrived. A beautiful cake and balloons had been ordered. An awesome itinerary had been planned. Every detail was accounted for.

Or so I thought.

I missed one tiny detail.

It’s really HOT in Key West in late June.

Like…really, REALLY hot.

I have had some hot vacation experiences. Like that time we thought it would be a good idea to go to Texas in the summer and eat tacos with hot sauce from a street vendor on the sidewalk. That was just before we caught on fire.

But Key West in late June? It was like walking through a furnace in a gasoline suit.

Even my fingernails were sweating.

There you are, innocently waiting in line to eat when it happens. One minute, you are smiling and enjoying a beautiful day. The next minute, you burst into flames.

It’s called Spontaneous Key West Line Combustion and it can really happen. It’s science, people.

And there is only one remedy: mimosas!

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We found them at Blue Heaven. We also found lobster & grits with toasted banana bread, BLT benedicts, and PIE.

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It was early in the day, and some of our group had never been to Key West, so we thought we'd do some walking around, maybe some shopping, and let everyone get a feel for Key West.

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Within 5 minutes, we said "Screw it." It was too hot to do much walking, so we only made it as far as the Rum Bar. Bahama Bob was behind the bar doing his thing.

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The group quickly became addicted to painkillers. We had to get them out of there after the 3rd round. We had been up since 4:00 a.m. and we didn’t want anyone passing out before we even got checked into the house.

Palm Gardens was PERFECT. Two, 2 story houses, each made up of 2 independent condominium units with a king bedroom, kitchen, den, bath, and porch. We had rented all 4 which gave us private access to the pool.

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Which was good, because no one else would have fit in that pool.

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We spent the afternoon cooling off before heading to Half Shell for happy hour. It was time for oysters!

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And shrimp.

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And drinks.

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And unfortunately shaped shadows.

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Having done the “booze cruise” with the Fury catamaran a couple of times, I had decided we needed something a little classier for the birthday girl. I didn’t want Alison’s pre-birthday filled with memories of overcooked chicken wings and cheap margaritas.

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I had booked us on the sunset sail with Floridays. It was a smaller boat, a more intimate crowd, and a more relaxed atmosphere.

It was an AWESOME boat. Service was impeccable. The boat was classy and refined. The mood was relaxed.

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But, as we sipped our champagne in the sunset, I couldn’t help but wish I had a couple of those greasy chicken wings.

You can take the girl out of the trailer park, but you can never take the trailer park out of the girl.

To prove that point, I forced tequila shots and tater tots on everyone after the sunset sail.

We had drinks at Agave 308. It’s dark. It’s classy. It’s filled with tequila. What’s not to like?

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Afterward, we stumbled over to Amigo’s. You can’t beat Amigo’s for late night eats.

The pork carnitas nachos were simply a thing of beauty. Not to be outdone by the amazing tater tots and street corn.

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And just to be certain that everyone barfed before they went to bed, we stopped at Better Than Sex for dessert.

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Then we all ate a handful of Tums and called it a night!

Day Two: Happy Birthday!

We’d had enough drinks the day before to give an aspirin a headache.

There is only one remedy for that: mimosas!

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What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. This especially applies to alcohol and fried foods, so we headed to Camille’s for a deliciously boozy breakfast.

Every time I walk into Camille’s, I feel like I am visiting 1984. From the orange sherbet walls and colorful vinyl tablecloths to the barbies and fornicating ceramic pigs to the Pet Shop Boys pumping out of the stereo, it screams "Hello, Vicki, this is your adolescence calling." However, despite how awesomely eclectic it is, one does not come to Camille’s for the décor, one comes for the breakfast.

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Matt went snazzy with the chorizo benedict and I went old school with a fried egg, grits, and Cuban toast.

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We had rented a deck boat for the day. Destination: Boca Grande, a small uninhabited island about 14 miles from Key West with a pretty nice little beach. Renting a boat was significantly cheaper than taking a boat out for a day with a captain, and it eliminated the embarrassment of acting like total idiots in front of a stranger. When we act like idiots, we prefer to do it in privacy.

We were armed with sandwiches and adult beverages. It was time to get our boat day on.

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It only took about 40 minutes to get to Boca Grande.

As we pulled up to the beach, I noticed a lot more seaweed than usual. It wasn’t quite a pretty as it usually was, but it still beat any beach on Key West.

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We poured up some beach drinks, found ourselves a shallow spot in the water, and made a day of it.

We proceeded to go through the 5 stages of beach drinking:

Stage 1: SUNSHINE AND HAPPINESS. This is the pre-drinking stage. Everyone is basking in the golden sunshine, cup in hand, marveling at how simply amazing it is to be right where they are.

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Stage 2: LET’S GET THIS PARTY STARTED. There is always that one person that gets a little louder sooner than everyone else. A little rowdier. A little OUT THERE. That person is usually me. This time, it was all 10 of us.

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Stage 3: DUDE, THIS IS AWESOME. This is the full-buzz stage. Everyone is having a killer time. Everything is the most fun thing EVER. Especially more drinks.

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Stage 4: HEY, Y’ALL…WATCH THIS. You have arrived. You are fully intoxicated and it seems really cool to do really dorky things. Like try to put your glass in your swimsuit and try to drink out of it. Or do synchronized swimming. This is the stage where you are most likely to get a black eye or lose a tooth.

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Stage 5: I LOVE YOU, MAN. We’ve all been there. This is the stage where you love everyone. They love you. These people are your BEST FRIENDS EVER. At least one person usually cries. Personal space ceases to exist as everyone talks too close, hugs too much, and generally climbs on top of each other like a bunch of puppies in a too small box. At least this is what happens when women drink.

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It is best to follow the “I love you, man” stage with food, lest you end up in the dreaded 6th stage of beach drinking: Puking like a kid who ate all of his Halloween candy in one sitting.

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We had an amazing lunch spread. We had it all: Champagne, coconut rum, and beer. Sodas. Chicken salad, tuna salad, and turkey and Swiss sandwiches. Chips and dip. Fresh Fruit. Cheese. Crackers.

Know what we didn’t have?

A knife.

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(I realize there is a "cut the cheese" joke just dying to come in here, but it's just not going to happen, folks)

And then, somewhere in the alcohol fueled haze of the beautiful afternoon….we ran out of alcohol. Just. Like. That.

It was probably a good thing. Otherwise, we’d probably still be sitting on that beach.

Time to go!

Back at the house, we had an AMAZING pina colada birthday cake from Key West Cakes. The cake was delicious, beautiful, and they had even delivered it to our fridge before we even arrived.

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Then it was time to head to Alison’s birthday dinner.

I was not about to let my girl spend her 40th birthday somewhere mundane like Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville eating a “cheeseburger in paradise” while sipping a watery cocktail and listening to “Fins.”

I wanted her big day to be exceptional and memorial. What better way to do that than with a dinner on the beach at a private island resort?

Ask anyone “Where is the best place to have a special occasion dinner in Key West?” and you will almost always get the same answer: Latitudes. Jet Set dining at its best, Latitudes is located on the private island resort of Sunset Cay, just a five minute ride on their private ferry from Key West.

As we pulled up to the dock, we knew we were in for a very special evening.

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And we were. It was called “Heat Stroke.” And it was very special.

I had made reservations in February so that I could secure a table in the sand about an hour before sunset, knowing that the restaurant was known for its unobstructed sunset view.

“It’s going to be really hot,” the girl on the phone warned me when I made the reservation. “It’s late June and you’ll have literally NO PROTECTION from the sun. It’s brutal.”

I looked outside my office window. It was snowing. I pictured a beautifully set table in the sand.

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“We’ll take the 7:00 reservation,” I said. What did she know? WE LOVE SUN. Sun is awesome. Sun is our friend. Too hot? Pfffffft. There’s no such thing as too hot.

I remembered that conversation as I sat sweating through my tank dress, gulping down a coconut martini as fast as my throat could swallow while silently apologizing to Mother Nature for making all those snide comments about global warming. Then I started sucking down Matt’s frozen bushwacker, promising God that I would purchase some solar panels and trade in my Land Rover for a hybrid as soon as I got home if he would just cool it down a few degrees.

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Heat be damned, we had an excellent dinner. Even though our faces were sliding off into our laps, the food and setting were hard to beat.

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The cool wedge salad was a perfect first course, with fresh Florida oranges and chilled melon topped with gorgonzola cheese and a papaya dressing.

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Matt had the seafood pasta: fresh tagliatelle pasta with Key West pink shrimp, lobster, and scallops tossed in a parmesan pesto cream sauce with heirloom tomatoes and roasted mushrooms.

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I couldn’t resist the honey and ancho chile crusted waygu beef skirt steak, primarily because it was topped with two big, fat onion rings (remember what I said about the trailer park?).

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Finished up with a mango martini, the dinner couldn’t have been better.

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Cooler, yes. Better, no.

We enjoyed the amazing sunset before catching the ferry back to Key West.

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Now that the sophisticated part of the evening was over, it was time to get the party started. In order to protect the guilty, I shall not divulge the intimate details, but there may have been lots of shots, dancing on tables, a couple of male dancers and a significant loss of one dollar bills, and we might have gotten thrown out of a bar by a guy that looked just like Vanilla Ice (but not before I told him how much I loved Ice, Ice, Baby….which he did not seem to think was as funny as I did)…..but I’m not confirming nor denying anything.

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Day 3: Wakey, Wakey, Eggs & Bakey

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We woke up s-l-o-w. I don't mean slowly. I mean slow. We were slow. We had no aggressive plans for the day so everyone slept in and got up at their own pace. It was a perfect morning to do nothing more than lay around in the air conditioning eating aspirin for breakfast.

Everyone finally roused around noon, so we thought we’d take everyone to the Southernmost Point for the “photo op” since some of our group had never been to Key West.

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We severely underestimated how heat can affect a hangover.

There are many who say that heat is a good remedy for a hangover. These people say you should “sweat it out” and get rid of the toxins in your body.

These people are stupid.

And are masochists.

We should not have tried to beat the heat. We needed to sit in the shade and drink a lot of Gatorade. And think about our life choices.

Instead, we were on bicycles, sweating it out on top of pavement that had to be at least 147 degrees. As we pedaled from our place on White Street toward Duval Street, there was absolutely no shade to be found. At the 4th traffic light we were forced to stop at, we started to die slowly.

It was so hot, my biggest bicycle wreck fear was, "What if I fall off my bike and cook to death on the pavement?"

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By the time we reached the Southernmost Point, we sent the strongest of our bunch in search of water while the rest of us lay limply on the sidewalk, begging for a quick and painless death. When Matt returned (did you really think it was anyone else?), we didn’t even bother to drink the water, but simply poured it over our heads. I think I saw steam.

And yes, we got the photo op. Unfortunately, Matt was buying water and I was taking the picture so I had to Photoshop us in. I don’t think you can tell.

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When we realized we were not, in fact, going to die, we made a mad dash to Deuce’s Off the Hook Grill for some lunch in the blessed air conditioning.

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This was a first time at Deuce’s and it was a WINNER. It instantly became everyone’s favorite, and not just because of the air conditioning.

Because of the amazing fish tacos and sweet potato tater tots.

SWEET POTATO TATER TOTS, y’all!

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The food at this small restaurant was outstanding.

Go here. Now.

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We were loath to leave the air conditioning, and the tater tots, but I don’t think Deuce’s was willing to let us stay for the next 7 hours, so we had to pedal on out of there.

It was just too hot for shopping, and no one had seen the beach at Key West, so we took them to Fort Zachary, thinking we might be able to dip in the refreshing water.

Unfortunately, the refreshing water was filled with seaweed and smelled like farts.

So we sat in the shade and ate giant pickles and popsicles instead. Have you ever noticed how many penis shaped foods there are in Key West? I’m just making a point, here, people. Just making a point.

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There was nothing left to do but spend the afternoon in our pool. Even though the pool was heated, it was the coolest we’d been all day.

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Seriously….who heats a pool in Key West in the summer??????!!!!!

It was our last day, so heat or no, we were going to make the most of it. We decided to do a Happy Hour crawl for dinner, starting with oysters and margaritas at Pepe’s.

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Then, it was on to Kelly’s for wings, nachos, and more margaritas (and maybe some nachos and fish dip).

I have a tidbit of advice for Kelly's: Maybe if you let people sit OUTSIDE in your pretty courtyard during happy hour instead of making them sit INSIDE....your pretty courtyard wouldn't be TOTALLY EMPTY.

Just a thought.

Especially considering the courtyard was the only really good thing at Kellys.

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Then we did a little Duval Street Strolling. It was finally cool enough to shop!

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The final stop was at the Little Room Jazz Bar for what was supposed to be one drink. You know, since we were flying out in the morning.

One drink did not happen.

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As a dog returns to its vomit…….

Some of us never learn.

Home again, Home again!

We filled ourselves with doughnuts and bacon before heading home.

I learned that a “side of bacon” at Sandy’s means “a pound of bacon.” It was a thing of beauty.

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It had been a whirlwind, but it had been fabulous. It had been hot, but it had been fun. It had been exhausting, but it had been worth every second.

There was nothing left to do but put the inflatable margarita in the trash and fly home.

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What's next? Why, getting stranded naked in Abaco, that's what!

Posted by vicki_h 12:39 Archived in USA Tagged key_west florida_keys duval_street conch_republic Comments (4)

Almost Roughing it in Ellijay, GA

A glamping anniversary

Have you ever thought about camping but decided that a weekend in the woods in a leaky tent that smells like plastic and mildew with absolutely no creature comforts and just the clothes on your back does not sound like a good time? Maybe you’re not really into eating just what you can carry on your back, hunt, or catch? Foraging for food and clean water, building a fire from twigs and rocks, and finding your way with a compass does not sound appealing? And you definitely draw the line at pooping behind a tree?

Do you crave a oneness with nature but are too afraid of literally becoming “one with nature” (as in becoming bear poop and decomposing under a pine tree) that you just take a pass?

Is this how you feel about camping?

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Well, I have found the answer.

It's called "glamping."

Yes. You read that right: GLAMPING. As in Glamourous Camping.

Gone are the days where a campsite is simply a place to pitch a tent and dig a hole to poop in. These days, camping can mean plush bedding and gourmet food.

Glamping is not for the die-hard, freeze dried food eating, REI shopping, ultralight backpacking group of outdoors-people. No, glamping is for those of us who love nature, but do not love sleeping on the ground and trying to pee while holding oneself upright with a tree branch and praying you don’t dribble on your pants leg.

I have paid my dues. I have hiked 15 miles into the wild with a pack loaded with crap on my back in the snow with wet feet and blisters only to sleep on the ground with one eye open all night wondering if a bear was going to smell the cherry chapstick I forgot to take out of my pocket.

I learned the hard way that a two man pup tent does not come with two men. Or any puppies.

THIS is not fun:

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Neither is this:

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Nor this:

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Okay, this is a little fun, but not when you are doing it because you are in so much pain that you decide 6 miles of drunk hiking is worth the risk:

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I was ready for a different kind of camping experience.

Sleeping bags and granola bars are so 20th century.

Glamping is nature served on a silver platter.

Pack the fur throw and champagne, friends…..we’re going glamping!

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For as long as I can remember, the Resort at Paws Up just east of Missoula, MT has been on my wish list. A ridiculously indulgent blend of unsurpassed luxury and pristine wilderness, this glamping resort offers guests a stay in a posh safari-style tent with jaw dropping views and a plethora of wilderness experiences, not to mention a private chef and butler to draw your bath in your outdoor copper bathtub and lay out the s’mores while they pour your wine.

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Stolen Shamelessly from the Paws Up website

However, the $1800 a night price tag is likely to keep it on the wish list for a while.

Like, forever.

So, imagine my delight when I discovered a glamping resort just 93 miles (as the crow flies) from home, thanks to JoAnn Antonelli and Rick Lucas, who have created a whimsical retreat in the north Georgia mountains called the Martyn House.

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The Martyn House was born when JoAnn and Rick first stepped foot onto the 18 acre property in Ellijay, GA in 2007. The 1930’s farmhouse became their home. Later came Rick’s photography studio. Later came JoAnn’s art studio, lovingly built from the old barn that was in the final stages of collapse.

A trip to India provided the final inspiration, as Rick and JoAnn decided to bring their experience with the luxurious sleeping tents they stayed in in southern Rajistan to Georgia. Their bohemian chic tents are made from intricate Indian fabrics, with details like hand sewn mirrors and meticulous embroidery. The colors are bright and festive, giving an air of magic to each unique tent. Each tent is complete with antique furniture, cozy linens, working lights, bathrooms with on-demand hot showers and running water, a propane heater for extra cold nights, an in-room French press along with a supply of coffee and tea products, wine glasses and JoAnn’s handmade pottery mugs, and soaps that JoAnn makes herself. Each tent also has a covered front porch with twinkling string lights, perfect for curling up with a glass of wine at night or a hot cup of coffee on a chilly morning.

Rick and JoAnn are also amazing cooks and make incredible meals for guests, using many of the ingredients from their own garden.

I ran across the Martyn House totally by accident in my never ending search for “someplace new” on the interwebs. As soon as I saw the fairytale destination that Rick and JoAnn had created, I knew it was the perfect place to spend our 15th anniversary.

“We’re going GLAMPING!” I shouted enthusiastically at Matt as he came home one evening.

“For our anniversary. GLAMPING!”

He stared at me, obviously not comprehending how stupendously awesome this decision was.

I heard crickets.

“GLAMPING!” I said again, arms wide and waving with all the enthusiasm I was trying to shove from my brain into his brain.

“Huh?”

He blinked.

It was like I was speaking Chinese.

“Fancy camping. We’re going fancy camping.”

“Yeah, okay,” he said as he went back to checking the mail.

Okay, so maybe he wasn’t as inspired as I was, but that was just because he didn’t know yet.

Martyn House was going to be perfect.

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The first thing I saw as we pulled down the driveway was the lion that was charging our vehicle.

“OH MY GOD!” I shouted to Matt. “Roll up the window!”

It was too late. Within minutes, I saw nothing but giant golden paws and fur and teeth mauling my husband of 15 years.

As I looked over at Matt’s grin, I remembered we were not, in fact, on our way to our Abercrombie & Kent campsite in the Serengeti, but were in Ellijay, GA and this was not a lion, but the biggest golden retriever in the universe with his wiggly body halfway inside our rental car while giving Matt a tongue bath.

We had just met Hank, the 91 lb. baby of the Martyn House family.

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Just behind Hank were Maya, the yellow lab, and Grace, the black lab…just as wiggly and welcoming.

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Off to the side, a flash of yellow caught my eye. No, not a tiger, but I don’t think he knows that.

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Milo the cat was hiding in the grass watching from a distance.

Otis, the other cat, was not as shy and immediately came to say “hello.”

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Throw in some heirloom chickens, one giant rooster, and a couple of unconventional artists and you have the wonderful cast that makes up the Martyn House.

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It was the opening weekend of their glamping season and we were the only guests. We had the entire place to ourselves.

As Rick gave us the grand tour, a parade of dogs and cats trailing behind us….I knew this was going to be a wonderful weekend.

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On the way to our tent, we stopped at Rick’s studio where he had Matt sample his new beer making project. As Matt two fisted some craft beer, I knew Matt thought this was going to be a wonderful weekend too.

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Rick also gave us a tour of JoAnn's studio, where she makes pottery and handmade bath products, or whatever suits her creative fancy. The studio was warm and inviting. As it turns out, guests can even stay in the studio.

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We also visited the chicken coop and the outdoor tent where JoAnn and Rick have created an amazing outdoor living space. They host many of their group dinners here. It had an outdoor bar, a dining area, a cozy hammock, and a living area with vintage pillows and throws. Next to it was a colorful fire pit for chilly nights.

Seriously, could this place be any more awesome?

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Even the port-a-potties were cute. I never thought I'd find myself thinking the words, "I can't wait to use that outdoor toilet."

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As we wandered down the wooded path away from the main house, I could see 4 tents scattered at a distance from each other in the woods. Each one was placed to allow it ample privacy from the others.

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I immediately fell in love with our tent: Ridge Roost.

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The gorgeous black and white striped tent stood in fanciful contrast to the early-April forest around it.

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With a cozy porch, a king sized bed covered with beautiful linens, a free cat, a full bathroom with running water and a hot shower, and a jovial guard dog to keep the raccoons at bay…what more could we want?

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How about an outdoor bathtub?

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The spell was complete. We were enchanted. Even Matt was excited. Probably because he realized at some point I was going to take off my clothes and get in a bathtub in the woods…but whatever. He was excited.

Unable to tear ourselves away from our glampsite, we did nothing but chill out in our tent for a while.

No TV. No internet. No sound but the wind in the trees and an occasional bird.

It was perfect.

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We were having dinner at the Martyn House that night, so we decided to grab lunch in the nearby town of Blue Ridge. We have eaten at Harvest on Main, a wonderful little restaurant there, on several occasions and always try to stop in when we are anywhere nearby.

Blue Ridge is a charming little mountain town. It’s adorable streets are lined with quaint shops, art galleries, and cafes.

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Harvest on Main is a cozy, rustic restaurant that reminds me of something we’d find in Montana, not in north Georgia. The first things you smell when you walk inside are their house smoked meats. The scent mingles with the smell of fresh baked bread and creates the most welcoming atmosphere you can imagine.

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We started off with their baked brie, blue crab, and cilantro casserole served with warm corn chips.

Just as we were licking the last of the warm, creamy melted sour cream, cream cheese, and brie from the dish, we were brought two house salads with their delightful pickled green beans.

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For entrees, I had the amberjack over their house chickpea stew topped with sauteed spinach, and Matt had the local trout served on top of their house-made corned beef hash (house-smoked corned beef, sweet potatoes, & onions) and topped with lemon-pickled onions and arugula.

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Just to make sure we didn’t leave before eating everything on the menu, we had the chocolate pudding cake with vanilla ice cream. The moist cake was layered with what tasted like a hazelnut cream cheese filling and topped with caramel drizzle and pecans.

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Because a day of sloth and gluttony is best enjoyed with a glass of wine, we headed back to the Martyn House and took a take a pre-dinner walk down to Grace’s pond with a bottle of wine to find the “outdoor living room” Rick had told us about.

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Rick and JoAnn have taken “creative loafing spaces” to an entirely new level. In every nook and cranny of their property, there is another cozy place to curl up with a glass of wine, a good book, or a wet dog as the case may be.

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Maya was obviously embarrassed by her overly exuberant leap into the pond, so she put herself in time out in the corner until she was dry. Sweet Maya.

We had opted for a private dinner on the farm that night, but the weather forecast was calling for storms and I couldn’t help but wonder if we’d get rained out. We pulled on the wellies, grabbed the umbrella, and hoped for the best.

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We shouldn’t have worried. Rick and JoAnn had us set up in the dry on their porch, complete with vintage linens, a glowing chandelier, and the romantic flicker of candles.

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The rain held off as we enjoyed a starter of roasted red eggplant with feta cheese. The eggplant was perfectly charred on the edge, soft in the center, and topped with savory cheese.

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This was followed by what Matt referred to as “the best salad I’ve ever had.” The salad had pickled garlic, local smoked bacon, olives, goat cheese, sundried tomatoes, and fresh green beans.

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This is Matt’s “stop taking pictures of me while I eat” face:

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For our main dish, Rick brought us a deliciously fried chicken breast on top of rustic mashed potatoes with roasted broccoli and cherry tomatoes.

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Dessert? Of course we did. A raspberry sorbet with chocolate.

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As we scooped the last of the sorbet from our dishes, Rick was lighting a fire for us where we enjoyed champagne and roasted marshmallows as we watched the distant lightening grow closer and closer.

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We ran back to the tent when the thunder started, wondering if we’d make it back before the storms. The tent looked even prettier at night.

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We turned on our electric candles (because real candles and cotton tents go together like Kanye West and Taylor Swift) and climbed into the big, cozy bed. The sheets were soft and smelled like fresh laundry. The down pillows were perfectly plush. The tent had flaps that could be lowered with ropes and secured for windows and a door if we wanted the tent secured, but we wanted to feel the cool night air so we left them open, leaving a secure mesh screen to keep the bugs out.

When the rain started, I worried we might get blown away. This was no 10 minute rain shower. This was a full-on, raining-like-there-was-no-tomorrow downpour that lasted for hours with wind and thunder and lightning. We couldn’t have ordered a more magical experience if we’d had the weather gods on speed dial.

It was remarkable. The sound of the rain pounding on the roof of our tent and the fresh-electric smell of the storm outside while we were cozy and warm under piles of soft blankets was simply mind blowing.

The best part of glamping vs. camping in a rainstorm? The story doesn’t end with ….”and then the tent blew away.”

We were snug as two bugs in a rug.

We fell asleep to the sound of the rain beating rhythmically on the roof.

It was around 2:00 a.m. when I was awakened by a sound under the bed. My first thought was, “Rooby and Bella might need to go outside,” and then I remembered I wasn’t at home.

I was in a tent.

In the woods.

And something was thumping around under my bed.

It’s all fun and glamping until you wake up with a possum under your bed.

I did what any strong, modern, capable woman would do.

I woke Matt up.

“There is something under the bed,” I hissed, shoving the flashlight from my nightstand at him.

“What do you want ME to do about it?” he hissed back.

“Get it OUT,” I whispered.

As I sat holding my electric candle, prepared to beat something off his face should he come back up with fangs and claws attached to his skull, Matt peered cautiously over the edge of the bed.

And laughed.

“It’s Hank,” he said. “He must have snuck in after we went to sleep.”

I never thought I’d be happy to have a 91 lb. dog under my bed. At least I didn’t have to worry about possums.

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The next morning was a chilly 48 degrees. We had slept with the windows open so that we could enjoy the cozy bed and the storm. The morning air was crisp and cool, so Matt fired up the heater. The tent was warm in minutes.

Our tent had an electric pot for heating water and a French press with coffee, hot teas, sugar, and creamer. We had coffee and cocoa on the front porch watching the sun peek out through the trees.

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Breakfast is provided by Rick and JoAnn every morning, so we made our way to the farmhouse around 8:30. Because it was only the two of us, Rick served us breakfast on the cozy porch again.

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He started us off with homemade smoothies and fresh fruit.

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Then it was hot coffee and toasted English muffins with jam and butter.

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Finally, he brought omelets made with cheddar cheese, spinach, and mushrooms and a platter of local bacon. There is no picture of the bacon because I ate it all.

I really like bacon.

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We didn’t have a very ambitious itinerary, which was good because I was lethargic from all the bacon.

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We strolled around the quaint town of Ellijay, checking out its cute shops.

There are a lot of things to do near Ellijay – countless wineries, farms, orchards, and scenic drives….but we managed not to do ANY of those things because we really just wanted to get back to the Martyn House.

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There was an outdoor bathtub with my name on it.

But not before we had lunch. What? Do you think we are CRAZY?

We stopped in at 1907 for a wine-fueled lunch of smoked trout dip, a fried green tomato burger with bacon and pimento cheese, and apple crumble with salted caramel sauce. No, that was not shared. That was just MY meal.

Matt had some more trout. I was starting to think he had a trout problem.

When in north GA.....have the trout?

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This is the owner, Wayne Sloop. He came out to pose for a very enthusiastic photo.

Whew.

I was worried that he knew I had stolen 10 of those delicious burgers and had them in my pocket.

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Oh wait. That was only in my head. Kind of like when someone runs over you in the grocery store aisle and you cuss them out in your head but in reality you find yourself apologizing to them for being made of actual matter and for not being able to read their mind so that you wouldn't be standing where they wanted to walk without looking first.

All I really had in my pocket was my lens cap. Darn it.

When we got back to the Martyn House, the sun was shining on a beautiful 80 degree afternoon. We took advantage of the beautiful weather and just enjoyed our surroundings.

With wine.

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And then there was that bathtub.

I could not pass up the opportunity to take a bath in the woods.

Bathtub in the woods + bubble bath + champagne = best bath EVER

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Seriously one of my favorite life experiences of all time. It was like skinny dipping, but with bubble bath and warm water. And without my irrational fear of leeches.

A couple of years ago, Rick and JoAnn bought an old building in downtown Ellijay that became one part coffee shop, one part art gallery, and one part live music venue. On Saturday nights, they host live music and dinner in their “listening room.” We had decided to have dinner there that night because it gave me a reason to pack boots with 4 inch heels on a camping trip.

Seriously, what's the point of glamping if you can't pack heels?????

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In Towne, their coffee shop and bistro, was as charming and visually appealing as the Martyn House. Each space was unique and eclectic, filled with original art, their own special style, and a sprinkle of sunshine.

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On Saturday nights, they offer a small menu for dinner to be served while you listen to a 2 hour live music show. It’s BYOB, so we were able to take our own wine for a modest $5 corking fee. We ordered at the counter in the coffee shop, dropped off our bottles of wine, grabbed some lemon infused water in colorful mason jars, and found our way to the cozy listening room. When we ordered, we were given a table number. The tables were covered in brown butcher paper with the numbers on top and warm, inviting candles beckoning us inside.

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Still pretty full from that mammoth burger at 1907, I thought I was “ordering light” (yes, I know – Vicki Ordering Light is as much an oxymoron as Vegetarian McDonald’s) when I asked for the “fish stew.”

The hearty stew had 3 giant fillets of meaty fish in it and was topped off with a crazy good slab of buttery toasted bread.

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That's when I remembered that eating light is for wimps.

So I ordered dessert.

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Matt had the trout and double chocolate cake, but I didn’t get a picture because because all the trout was getting weird (and maybe because I had whipped cream all over my hands).

Nate Currin, the artist of the night, entertained us for two hours with his warm stories and wonderful music. Maybe it was the second bottle of wine talking, but we thought he was pretty darn good.

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When we cozied in for the night in our tent, we decided to close the windows and zip the door because it was going down to 32 degrees. While we liked sleeping in the cool air, 32 degrees crossed the line from “cozy” to “crazy,” so we turned the heater on low enough to keep it cool, but ensure we didn’t wake up with icicles in our noses.

The zipped door kept Hank out, but it didn’t keep Otis out. Otis made it immediately clear that he'd be sleeping with us thankyouverymuch.

I guess he doesn’t like icicles in his nose either.

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We woke to another perfectly beautiful day. Our days had been warm and sunny, our nights cold and crisp, perfect glamping weather!

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Rick had breakfast waiting for us on the porch again.

More homemade smoothies:

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Then it was stoneground grits, local sausage, focaccia bread, and scrambled eggs with avocados.

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Martyn House had been everything I hoped for. It has been magical, fanciful, and enchanting. It had been luxurious and indulgent. It was romantic and private. We ate meals on a fantasy porch, we sipped wine in fairy tale tents, we snuggled under fur blankets while listening to the sound of the wind and rain whipping through the trees, we woke to the sounds of birds and had coffee with the forest, we followed paths to secret corners with tree stump tables and crystal chandeliers, we found our way home at night guided by twinkling string lights and the full moon.

I ate slowly, not wanting to break the spell.

It was almost midnight and my carriage was about to turn back into a pumpkin. A quick flight home would bring work and deadlines, a house that needed to be cleaned, and groceries to buy.

But it was still morning, and I was still Cinderella and I was going to live like there was no midnight.

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Posted by vicki_h 13:00 Archived in USA Tagged camping georgia glamping blue_ridge ellijay martyn_house Comments (3)

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