Why Pier House Resort Key West is the Ultimate Solo Retreat

Why Pier House Resort Key West is the Ultimate Solo Retreat

*Thanks to Pier House for reviving my mind, heart, body, and soul. As always, the following opinions are my own.

Wishing you could just ride (or sail away) into the sunset?

Sick of winter or overwhelmed by a longer season of taking care of business, children, grandchildren, or parents?

Recently I found the port in the storm I needed.

Sure, Pier House Resort and Spa in Key West is a destination for dream weddings, honeymoons and anniversary celebrations. But it’s also PARADISE if you need a Solo Soul Retreat. A safe harbor of beauty and a launchpad for adventure. A place where I enjoyed some solitude and experienced the kindness of strangers.

If one of your resolutions this year is to take better care of yourself, this is the place. Put it on your Bucket List — not in spite of but because of loved ones depending on you.

Take a quick look at just a few reasons why Pier House Resort & Spa is the #1 place in Key West to rest and reset.

“I find there is a quality to being alone that is incredibly precious. Life rushes back into the void, richer, more vivid, fuller than before.”

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

Pier House Resort and Spa, a destination in its own right, is located on Fantasy Island, a.k.a Key West. If you’ve heard that all the beaches are manmade and that deters you, don’t let it. An island in the largest living coral reef in the Continental U.S. (and 3rd largest in the world) where you can play in the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico is something to behold. Key West is a three-hour scenic drive from Miami, a ferry ride from Fort Myers, and accessible by commercial airlines. 

Key West feels like the Caribbean where I lived for a year minus the worries of what can happen if you leave the resort. The town is the best of Old Florida with a twist of New Orleans quirk. But members of The Conch Republic pride themselves in being different from the rest of the state — or anywhere — for that matter. You have to love rebels with a cause who are celebrating over 40 years of Fun-dependence since they staged a kind-of-coup in 1982. They’re an inclusive bunch, inviting you to celebrate this historic moment with them in April and every sunset year-round.

From the moment I saw from my plane fleets of sailboats bobbing below on emerald, turquoise, aqua, and midnight blue waters, I was smitten. I loved walking down the ramp and across the tarmac to the tiny airport (4 gates) as if in some classic movie. If you’re a romantic, too, I advise you to experience the Key West International Airport before the completion of the expansion in 2024.

Getting around couldn’t be easier. The Lyft driver met me at the pickup point a few steps from Arrivals within 5 minutes of my call. I paid $20 for the 15-minute drive to Pier House, and other than hitching a ride in a Pedicab and sailboat, I enjoyed walking everywhere during my 3-day stay. You can also rent a bike, Vespa, or go-cart to explore the 2 by 4-mile island.

Riding along the Malecón took me back to The Dominican Republic. The temperature was 75, 40 degrees warmer than the temperature in Nashville when I left. Palm trees, oh, how I love palm trees! waved a welcome as did the waves, clear and blue as the sky.

We rode through the Historic District of Old Town Key West where homes and churches circa 1800s – early 20th century line the streets. Pretty in pink, yellow, and blue hues, they have shuttered windows, verandas, and gardens with white picket fences. Similar to architecture in New Orleans, there are stately two-storied, white- columned homes, Spanish Colonials, and Queen Annes with gingerbread trim and whimsical gables, turrets, and towers. The single-storied conch cottages or “cigar houses” built by Cuban cigar makers are charming.

My plan was to drop my bag off at the resort and explore until my room was ready. I’d caught the Allegiant red- eye flight at 6 AM to get the $150 roundtrip deal. Allegiant flies to and from Nashville on Fridays and Mondays only, so I was happy to get an early start on my weekend. I got up with the chickens so I’d decided to have breakfast with the roosters at Blue Heaven built on the site of the Key West Arena in Bahama Village where Ernest Hemingway refereed open-air boxing matches. 

Normally I like getting my bearings in a new place with a low-key food tour where I also get a local’s tip on where to eat. This trip I was THRILLED that I’d be eating meals at the resort not only because the menu looked amazing but also because I was too tired to make decisions. I’d left the house at 3:30 AM, but, to be honest, I arrived weary from becoming a full-time caregiver last April. As I often felt as a single mom from the time my kids were tiny, I just wanted someone to take the wheel. I was armed with a map and directions, but when a pedicab driver with big personality and a cute little friend named Oliver offered me a ride and impromptu tour in his pedicab, I hopped in.

In our short ride I learned about “South Vegas,” saw The Harry S. Truman Little White House Museum, the former home of Kelly McGillis (Top Gun, Witness actress who moved to Key West in the early ’90s to raise her family in the friendly, small town), banyan trees, roaming chickens, termites, Mile Marker 0 (end of Highway US 1), and “the best people on the planet.” It was a joy ride.

The Lobster Benedict, live music, and roosters lived up to the hype at Blue Heaven. The wait was over an hour, but you can eat at the bar straight away if there’s an empty chair. I like doing this when alone because it’s a way to meet locals and other travelers who’ll give you their must-sees and don’t-dos. Trey from Ohio who often comes to Key West with his sailing friends sat down beside me and did just that.

Quick Travel Tale for Caregivers on Why Getting Away is Important

As I started breakfast, the lady I’d hired to care for Mom called. I couldn’t hear her questions over the band or understand her text. Afraid something was wrong, I said I’d call her from outside as soon as I paid the check. Trey saw that I was shaking, told the waitress (who was slammed) to add my tab to his, and insisted that I go. He said, “My dad passed away a few months ago. It’s a good thing you’re doing.” I told him I haven’t been doing it so well lately.

I actually felt like a failure. I share this story because 1) there are kind people in the world and plenty of them in Key West, 2) if you’re a caregiver to the elderly and feel isolated, know that you’re not alone. According to the CDC, 80% of people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias are receiving care at home. Approximately two-thirds of dementia caregivers are women… and approximately one-quarter of dementia caregivers are also caring for children under age 18. 3) Give yourself a break. Mom and I have had fun together and share moments I’ll treasure forever. But some days I’ve felt depressed, irritable, and frustrated, then guilty, because I can’t imagine how hard many days feels to her. A social worker told me that no matter what we do, don’t do, or how we do it, when our parents are gone we feel we should have… could have… done more. She said burnout is real, and if we don’t put on our own oxygen mask we can’t care for others. My mom knew this when my kids were little. She’d take them once or twice a year while I went alone to a Tennessee B & B. I returned a better mother. After Key West, I returned a better daughter.

Beautiful Place

By the time I returned to Pier House, my room was ready. As the video shows, the property is a tropical hideaway in the #1 location in Key West. The address is literally 1 Duval (Duval being the main artery of town pulsing with restaurants, bars, and shopping all the way to the Southernmost Point in the US. Steps from the front door of the resort is Sunset Pier and Mallory Square where folks from everywhere on the 2 x 4- mile island migrate daily to toast the sunset. Everyone is invited to the party. I met new friends there and on the property. Pier House is the perfect place to retreat or engage as needed.

These 2 photos are courtesy of Pier House Resort and Spa Key West

There was room for a party on my balcony, but I enjoyed relaxing to the rhythm of the Gulf below. The view from my comfortable bed in my one-bedroom suite was stunning. Pier House also has two-bedroom Ocean View Suites and a Presidential Suite, which encompasses the entire top floor of the building overlooking the harbour.

The property has 119 rooms, 23 suites, a private beach, pool and hot tub, an award-winning spa, a beach bar and One Duval on the Gulf of Mexico. Pier House was listed #1 Best Hotel in Key West by Southern Living magazine in 2022, received the Experts’ Choice Award in the 2022 Trip Expert Awards, and was voted Top 13 Resorts in the Florida Keys in the 2021 Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards.

Great People

People who Make Pier House Home

The resort and spa staff took such good care of me I was tempted to never leave. I immediately bonded with Thekla who has been working in the spa for over twenty years. She says Pier House feels like a family. She is from Salzburg, The Sound of Music city I adore and was intrigued about solo travel. I loved hearing about her journey from Austria to the Keys. By the time we were finished, she said she is going to take her first solo trip to her Dream Destination, and I had a podcast episode I’ll share with you soon.

Other staff members who made me feel at home were Roman from The Czech Republic, Joko at the beach bar, Naz and Cristina at One Duval, Marc, bartender at The Chart Room, and Lee, the Concierge who gave me tips to chart my course when I arrived. Turns out, even when I went rogue, he saved the day. Literally.

I saved 2 Bucket List items for last — deep sea fishing and The Hemingway Museum. I planned to call the post, “The Old Lady and the Sea.” Being a do-it-yourself, bargain-hunting kind of girl, I booked a fishing charter online with my go-to tour company. I bought a sunblock shirt at CVS on the corner, a pair of shorts at a $5 shop a local lady volunteered to take me to, and and a pair of wraparound sunglasses. I grew up fishing with my dad on lakes in Kentucky. A Hemingway sort himself, he’d caught a sand shark the one time he fished in Florida. I was soooo excited to finally fish on the high seas.

The Hemingway Museum was amazing. (More on that in another post.) When I stopped by Lee’s desk to ask where to catch the boat for the 2:30 fishing excursion I’d booked, he looked worried. He called the captain. There was no 2:30 trip on Sunday, just one at 8 AM. The captain offered to take me on Monday, but I told him I was leaving the next morning. I wanted to cry.

“Let’s get you on the water,” Lee said kindly.

It was too late to book a fishing charter, but he had many other options. I said a sunset cruise with food, drinks, and live music would be great. I mentioned a rambunctious crew I’d heard on a party boat my first night, but he steered me away. I listened because I’d learned a lesson. Let local pros handle your stay. They truly know best. He broke down several cruises by company, type of ship, food and drink, music, and number of passengers.

Lee’s expertise can also help with parasailing, biking, scuba diving, reef snorkeling, dolphin swimming, jet skiing, rain and trolley rides as well as:

  • Red Barn Theatre
  • Fort Zachary Taylor
  • Harry S. Truman Little White House
  • Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square
  • Mel Fisher Maritime Museum
  • Hogs Breath Saloon
  • Sloppy Joe’s Key West
  • Fort Jefferson and Dry Tortugas National Park
  • Key West Acquarium
  • Ernest Hemingway House

Don’t Miss The Chart Room

Pier House was actually built around this institution. Check out photos of Jimmy Buffet starting his career here and other celebrity sorts. Great drinks and free popcorn, peanuts and hot dogs nightly.

The Key West Effect

Poets, pirates, parrotheads, and painters…bikers, hippies, cowboys, and sailors. Boomers to Zoomers … animals with attitudes … in Key West, fun is had by all.

In reel below, I learned at Island Cigar Factory all about Alvin’s Doggy Speed Dating and wedding. And at the Hemingway Museum, cats spread their paws in boredom knowing tourists are searching for that 6th toe. Pets are welcome at Pier House. For a Pet Fee of you get bowls for food and water, luxury pet bed, flashlight and waste bag holder and Pier House treats.  

Fun Fact: The Hemingway Museum consulted a cat therapist to be sure the growing number of descendants of Snow White, a gift to Hemingway’s son, were doing ok. A couple of the cats were enjoying the bed during my tour of the home. Obviously, all is well.

Happy Sails to You, Key West, Until We Meet Again…

Something about the sun melting into the Gulf of Mexico makes everyone happy. Just a few nice folks I met…

I met Dennis and Teri the first night. They had a rental for a month and had biked to Sunset Pier for the Sundown Celebration. Though retired, they help their daughter by caring for grandchildren. Thanks for the Rum Runner!

I met Jane and Joe on the last night on a sunset cruise celebrating Joe’s 75th birthday. They said they aren’t into partying, but found so much history to enjoy in Key West.

Pretty ladies from California enjoying the cruise, too.

By the time we glided into the port that last day, I was a different person. I’m still smiling. My administrator noticed it at our spring semester kickoff meeting, marking my 80th semester of teaching. Last August, I’d started this 40th year clearly exhausted.

“You seem so calm,” she said.

“I am,” I grinned. “I just got back from Key West.”

Any time you need a break is the right time for Key West, but also check out special events, like The Key Lime Festival,Parrot Heads in Paradise, and Fantasy Fest here. Stay tuned for a post on Key West literary events and homes of two guys I stalk —Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams.

10 Reasons Why Denver, Colorado Should Be on Your 2023 Travel List

10 Reasons Why Denver, Colorado Should Be on Your 2023 Travel List

Do your New Year’s Resolutions include getting healthier and happier? Does increasing your kale intake or daily steps make you yawn? Of course diet and exercise are important. So is investing in relationships and finding beauty and adventure in our own backyards. But science shows that we also need new experiences new horizons — for wellness. Travel improves mental, physical, and emotional health.

Neuroscientists used to believe that the brain could only change during childhood, but we know that our brain is continually changing through the process of “neuroplasticity.” Actually getting out of our comfort zone and embracing new experiences is integral to the experience of travel. If you are looking to make the most of your brain’s neuroplasticity — a new environment “wakes up” your brain.

https://brainworldmagazine.com/how-travel-benefits-your-brain/

Our world expands — literally and mentally — when we explore wide, open spaces and try diverse diversions. Offering plenty of both, Denver, Colorado is one of my favorite US destinations.

My initial encounter with the state was not love at first sight. Decades ago, a colleague and I took students to Durango, Colorado on a ski trip. As I peered up at the appropriately-named Purgatory Mountain, Mr. H said I didn’t need a lesson — You can water ski, right? So I hopped on a chair lift and we took off. How hard could it be?

As we neared the summit, I realized this wasn’t a ride at the Western Kentucky State Fair. No carnival worker was waiting to stop the lift and let me off. So I took the leap … and busted my tailbone on the ice. Groaning and groping, I managed to catch another chair. I was the only person who rode the lift down the slopes that day (or maybe on any day).

Determined to experience the thrill of victory and erase the agony of defeat, I soaked in the hot tub and the next day, attempted a lesson on the Bunny slopes. All you have to do is learn how to stop, Mr. H said. How hard can it be?

Ask the kids screaming and dodging the woman on runaway skis. They’ll tell you they were just thankful (as was I) for the concession stand at the bottom of the hill that stopped me. Humiliated again, I never planned to give the state a second look. But when my son moved to Denver in 2020, I learned you don’t have to be a skier to enjoy Colorado! Four stays later, I’m in love with the place.

WHY DENVER?

If you’re a beach person, I get it. I’m a Pisces, the “Dreamy Fish” who usually opts for escapes to the ocean. But around Denver, pristine lakes and rivers glisten under sun 300 days a year. From downtown in the Mile-High City, you can see 120 miles of The Rocky Mountains dolloped with snow and lush with green pines. Denver is base camp for exploring natural wonders — like Pike’s Peak, Old-West towns, and The Continental Divide.

Denver tourists and 2.8 million residents can enjoy six professional sports teams, 3 downtown stadiums, 6 art districts, 100 breweries, museums, botanic gardens, parks, animal sanctuaries, a bison preserve, an aquarium, butterfly pavilion, and (whew—let me catch my breath) a world-famous music venue.

What I love most about this area, is the eclectic mix of people. Big Tech Professionals, University of Colorado Students, Hippies, Hipsters, and Cowboys call the Denver area home. (As I write this, the National Western Stock Show Kick-Off Parade is happening at Union Station. Longhorn cattle and Yellowstone fans are everywhere.)

Something fun for everyone is always happening here! Choose upcoming events and festivals that interest you and consider these reasons for planning a 2023 trip!

1. A WINTER WONDERLAND (and Beautiful Ski Resorts Nearby)

Even if you don’t ski, snowboard, or snowshoe, you can watch the snow fall while sipping a toddy in the hot tub or tea beside a fire. Gourmet chefs make just a day trip worthwhile. Resort season is in full swing, so make plans now.

2. Magical Christmas Markets and Light Shows

After discovering the wonder of Christmas markets in London, England and Cologne, Germany, I was THRILLED to learn that Christkindlmarket is a Denver tradition. In a village of European-style huts lights twinkle, hand-painted and hand-blown glass ornaments shimmer, German candle carousels twirl, nutcrackers and nesting dolls grin. Brats, beers, Glühwein (mulled spiced wine), s’mores kits and fire pits to use them, cinnamon almonds… so much good food.

After roaming markets-by-day on foot, we enjoyed a warm drive-through of Denver- by- night aglow. Historic neighborhoods, Blossoms of Light at Denver Botanic Gardens, and Zoo Lights where families were lined up stroller-to-stroller were sights to behold. These, and other holiday traditions, like The Nutcracker, sell out early so plan ahead.

3. Fun Food Halls and Cozy Eateries

The Dairy Block, a food hall that’s fun year-round, has a small outdoor market during the Christmas season where you can get a photo with the Grinch and Cindy Lou Who, buy a Be Hippy tee from the brand designer, or rock out with a swing trio.

Two of our favorite breakfast spots are just up the street from my son’s apartment in the Highland neighborhood. Rush Bowls are great for a fast, healthy fix. Or at decadent Carbon Cafe and Bar, you can

  • Have brunch with a Banana Bake Martini, Coffee Manhattan, or Chai Spiced Old Fashioned, then shop the eclectic area.
  • Work on your book, and if you get blocked, take a coffee break with David Hasselhoff.
  • Set up a remote office indoors, then scoot to the patio on warm days for Happy Hour 3:00-6:00

4. Iconic Hotels and Hubs for the Holidays

Reel

Rid a horse-drawn carriage or carousel at The Denver Pavilions . Wander decked halls at The Oxford Hotel, Union Station, and The Ritz Carlton. Cole warmed up at the piano and we watched a football game at the Elway’s Bar. Pop Up Bars are another holiday option, but you’ll need reservations for these so get on the mailing list at Miracle Denver.

5. Nearby DO- NOT- MISS ESTES PARK and THE STANLEY, Birthplace of Stephen King’s The Shining

OUR FAVORITE ADVENTURE on my last trip started with brunch at The Stanley. The 110-year-old hotel is located about ninety minutes north of Denver. The early morning drive through Boulder, farm land, and the Rocky Mountains is beautiful. As we neared The Stanley, we played the movie soundtrack.

After basing his first two novels, Carrie and Salem’s Lot, in his native state of Maine, Stephen King spread out a US map on his kitchen table and randomly pointed to Boulder, Colorado. In October 1974 King and his wife, Tabitha, checked into The Stanley. They were the only guests.

That night I dreamed of my three-year-old son running through the corridors, looking back over his shoulder, eyes wide, screaming. He was being chased by a fire-hose. I woke up with a tremendous jerk, sweating all over, within an inch of falling out of bed. I got up, lit a cigarette, sat in a chair looking out the window at the Rockies, and by the time the cigarette was done, I had the bones of the book firmly set in my mind”.

Stephen King (According to George Andrews’ biography, Stephen King: America’s Best-Loved Boogeyman, 1998)

No doubt the hotel has a haunted history. Book a tour if you want chilling stories and underground passageways. We learned that King was not happy with changes Director Stanley Kubrick made in the 1980 film adaptation. A major change was location. Shots of the Overlook Hotel were not done at The Stanley but in Oregon and the UK. Thus, King filmed the 1997 miniseries at The Stanley.

But if you’re into hardcore horror and want to be scared senseless …

Cue Psycho– shower- scene-sound-effect … then… RECORD SCRATCH

The warmth of cozy fires, stuffed red-nosed reindeer dolls, greetings from friendly servers, delicious food, and bubbly drinks, memorabilia from Dumb and Dumber which was also filmed here….

We had to smile.

The menu at Brunch & Co is so fun with dishes like Rise & Shining, Wendy Darling, and Danny Boy! Cole had The Falafel Bowl with RedRum Ale, and I had Belgium waffles, The Grady Twins (avocado crab cakes, poached eggs with tarragon hollandaise) with their Peach Mimosa.

Estes Park is beautiful in all seasons. You might just see elk, bighorn sheep, and moose. It was also home to the Denver Post Editor (Birch Ruins below).

6. Great small towns, like hip BOULDER, and Old-West Golden

Boulder is great for biking and people-watching. We also enjoyed the drive to off-the-beaten-path Silverton for a big breakfast. On the way back we stopped at Lookout Mountain outside Golden and saw Buffalo Bill’s grave.

7. Hiking and biking in the Great Outdoors, then sipping at breweries.

Biking around Boulder and Denver is one of my favorite things. Fall was perfect for a ride to the Blue Moon Brewery.

Garden of the Gods is a Must-See Natural Wonder.

8. Museums and the Arts

Street art is wall-to-wall in the RiNo Art District. Visual and performing artists are everywhere.

9. Cheer for Denver Sports or Follow Your Own Teams When They Play Denver.

DENVER IS A SPORTS CITY. We cheered on the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena, home also of the Colorado Avalanche Hockey Team. Fans can get tickets to see the Colorado Rockies at Coors Stadium, the Denver Broncos, and more here.

10. Comedy, Yoga, Films on the Rocks at Denver’s Music Mecca, Red Rocks Amphitheater and Park.

The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead , The Rolling Stones… Johnny Cash, The Carpenters, Ella Fitzgerald, Sonny & Cher. The list of legends who have played Red Rocks stretches miles back. So does ancient history (as in Greek and pre-historic) you’ll see at the Visitor Center (free when it reopens in April 2023). See a concert or just see the view.

Getting there: If you do’t want to do 15-mile drive to Denver, take the Red Rocks Shuttle, which offers round-trip options departing from Thirsty Lion Gastropub & Grill at Denver Union Station and Illegal Pete’s on Colfax Avenue.

Getting Around

If you don’t have a car, taking the RTD (Ride to Denver) app makes taking the train from the airport to Union Station a breeze. The commute is about 40 minutes and so smooth it reminds me of efficient public transportation systems in European cities.

Beautiful Union Station is a great place to unwind after a flight in restaurants and bars offering indoor and outdoor. My son lives in LoDo (Lower Historic Downtown Denver) which I love exploring. Whole Foods is located, just across from Union Station so if you book a hotel or rental in the area you can save money picking up groceries. Eating out and ordering takeout for every meal is tempting because the food is so delicious , but it can be expensive.

Denver neighborhoods are here. More accommodations are listed on Denver’s Official Tourist Guide below.

Other transportation options are here. With 85 miles of paved urban bike trails in metro Denver, I love renting a bike (scooters are also available) through the share program with Lyft and Lime.

Learn more on your visit with Denver Story Trek.

Travel is the Ticket to the Life You Want in 2023

Travel is the Ticket to the Life You Want in 2023

Planning new adventures can cure post-holiday blues and cabin fever. Intentional travel can provide what you need and value most for a happier, healthier new year.

Vowing to make travel a priority this year is more than a resolution. It’s the means for fulfilling goals and desires. Time away improves mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Paradoxically, journeys are essential for leading us home to the people we’d like to be.

Your heart knows the way. Run in that direction.

— Rumi

Time away gives space and perspective to…

  • bond with family and friends
  • meet kindred spirits
  • learn something new
  • rest, reset, or reinvent your life
  • scout where you want to spend a gap year or retire
  • be amazed at how big and beautiful the world is

In fact, just PLANNING and anticipating a travel experience makes us happier than a material purchase and the mood lift lasts longer. Travel benefits us before, during, and after the trip by:

  • making us more “mentally resilient”
  • enhancing creativity
  • relieving stress
  • enhancing work productivity
  • providing a new lens to reevaluate ourselves and our home culture
  • motivating us to continue something we enjoyed on vacation once we’re home (i.e.) language, cooking, Latin dancing classes or Meetups

When I started this blog, my focus was to encourage moms to take time outs. Mentors taught me the foreign concept of self-care when I became a single parent. They urged me to take a walk, eat on a pretty patio, or go to a movie when the kids were at their dad’s. I eventually took annual solo trips to a Tennessee B and B and volunteered with strangers in New York City, Ireland, and Italy. Teaching literature is fun, but even better is leading students on educational tours because Saint Augustine was right: “The world is a book and those who don’t travel read only one page.”

Moving 4400 miles away to survive the empty nest is not for everyone. It was counter-intuitive for a Stage 5 Clinger Mom like me. For years I showed my students Dead Poets Society and sent them off to college with Carpe Diem! Find Kindred Spirits! Fulfill Dreams! After two years in an empty house, I knew that I needed to seize the day before the day ceased. I needed rest, a new purpose, and to see the world with childlike wonder. I needed to live by faith, let go of fear, and begin again. Thank God I did.

When I started writing my book about living abroad, I called it my “No-Mom-Left-Behind Memoir.” I encouraged women to use the empty nest as an opportunity to do what their children were doing — spread their wings. I didn’t realize the window between caring for my children and caring for a parent was already closing. The mom who couldn’t be left behind became my mother rather than me. Since then, I’ve talked with so many empty nesters who I’ve met in passing, reconnected with at a class reunion, and interviewed for Second Harvest Food Bank at food pantries. MANY are caring for partners, parents, in-laws, and grandkids.

Someone in the world develops dementia every 3 seconds. According to the Alzheimer’s Association: “More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. By 2050, this number is projected to rise to nearly 13 million. 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. It kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.”

According to a new study by AARP, 46% of caregivers are between the ages of 18 and 49. That same study suggests that the average age of a person receiving care is roughly 69. Thus, a mother who gives birth at 29, which is above the average age in the U.S., would likely need some sort of care by the time her child turns 40. Research also shows more women are affected by dementia than men. Worldwide, women with dementia outnumber men 2 to 1. While we live longer than men on the average, dementia is caused by diseases of the brain rather than age alone. 50% of women develop dementia. Travel Therapy has been proven to benefit caregivers and those with dementia, too.

Fulfilling deferred dreams after we retire may not be an option.

My mother, a former Recreational Director at an assisted living facility, often says how thankful she is for the travels she did while working. Most of those trips were with her residents. When I told her I’d been offered a teaching job abroad in 2014, she hugged me and said: “We only go around this way once.”

The Bottom Line

We don’t know how much time we have here. The same is true of places we want to see. In 2021 and 2022 I featured Sarasota, Anna Maria Island, Captiva and Sanibel Islands, and Fort Myers as Top US Destinations. The first two were threatened and the last three pummeled by Hurricane Ian this year. Last summer a trip to The Kentucky Wildlands was cancelled due to catastrophic flooding. In March 2020 my trip to Sicily was snuffed out days before departure. Climate change and a global pandemic have taught me that life as we know it can grind to a halt or mutate at any time.

In light of the Ukrainian War and other humanitarian crises happening now, spending money or time on travel, entertainment, or other luxuries can feel selfish. When I first supported volunteers with travel funds and raised support for service trips I’ve done, I’d wonder… Wouldn’t that money be better spent if sent to program directors who would give it directly to the people in need? Now I know that getting involved up- close- and- personal builds ongoing relationships, raises awareness of needs, multiplies resources exponentially, and makes us more empathic global citizens.

Travel is an investment. It’s the best form of education I know. Thanks to international teaching, leading students on service and educational trips abroad, and travel writing, I’ve had experiences that I could have never imagined or afforded on my own. I’ve met people on the road serving with the Peace Corps and other non-profit organizations, working remotely for US and European companies, running tour companies, managing hotels, and waiting tables who are adding value to others’ lives while loving their own.

I love the story of the single mom who started the “coffee can revolution” that Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, shared. There are many resources online for funding travel and living abroad. I’m now enjoying Kate Jordan’s How to Quit Your Job and Travel the World. Even though much has changed since 2015 when it was published, she still gives inspiration and practical tips for finding work abroad for an extended travel or expat experience.

My children are grown now, but we continue making memories traveling. Our favorite holiday gifts weren’t wrapped in boxes under a tree. We still speak of that Christmas in London and Marrakesh. And the holiday trip to New Orleans. This Christmas my daughter, Taylor, and I received the most exciting gift ever. My son, Cole, surprised us with tickets for a March getaway to California. We’ll return to Santa Monica, our favorite summer vacation spot ever, and drive to Palm Springs. Next week my sister will join me on a blogging trip to Key West, and in June, the dream of leading a writing retreat in Morocco is finally happening. We have a couple of spots left if you’re interested.

So where do you need to go this year? What do you want to do, learn, see, or be?

Lonely Planet’s Ideas for Learning Something New

I love Road Scholar, a non-profit travel adventure company. They offer financial assistance from donors to folks over 50 with need. If you or someone you know is a caregiver or educator wanting to get away, see below. They also have trips that don’t charge more for singles as well as online adventure scholarships. Road Scholar is my kind of people!

Grants for Caregivers at Road’s Scholar

No Solo Traveler Fees at Road’s Scholar

Educator Scholarships

Have you booked a trip already? Where are you going? Know of other travel learning experiences you’d like to share in the comments?

Why You Need to Go (Back) to Savannah, Georgia

Why You Need to Go (Back) to Savannah, Georgia

“Hostess City of the South”

When my Australian and world- traveling friend, Kate, recently visited me again in Nashville, we took off on a fall road trip. I wanted her to meet a beloved friend.

Savannah, Georgia is known as “Hostess City of the South” and was named by TIME one of 100 “World’s Greatest Places on Earth.” To me, Savannah is New Orleans’ sweet little sister.

She, too, has iron Juliette balconies, French courtyards, gorgeous gardens, coastal cuisine, and pirate lore. But Savannah is old-school charm pulsing with new-school energy. Artists from over 100 countries attend Savannah College of Arts and Design because they’re inspired by the location and can choose from over 100 programs in creative careers.

When my niece, Emily Lancaster Salgado, became a freshman at SCAD, the area became one of our family’s favorite destinations. Savannah appeals to people of all ages. NashVegas may be the #1 Bachelorette Party Place in the country, but last year Emily and her bridesmaids (mostly Nashville natives) opted out of honky-tonks, flatbed trucks, Daisy Dukes, and cowgirl boots. Instead, they sipped craft cocktails in 1920s sequin dresses in Gatsby-worth Speakeasies, had Hemingway-sized moveable feasts, shivered under Spanish moss and magnolias on a ghost tour, and sunned on Tybee Island Beach. Below you’ll see some of the experiences mentioned in the post.

A working seaport since 1744 with the largest National Historic Landmark District in the country, Savannah is perfect for a walkabout.

Explore 22 town squares from Bay Street to Forsyth Park.

Even in summer’s high humidity, subtropical gardens and spewing fountains offer shade and cooling mist. See Chippewa Square where Forest Gump was filmed.

Stroll past Gothic, Greek Revival, and Georgian homes as church bells ring.

Or take a trolley tour or pedicab to hear pirate tales from locals.

We started listening to Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil — a true murder story set in Savannah —in the car. I hoped to finish before seeing the Mercer Williams House, but as is often the case when old friends reunite, we had too much catching up to do.

You know… some say Savannah is the most haunted city in the US.

Front steps and porches — many with classical design— are ubiquitous here. Some are so modest that I imagine Atticus Finch reading.to Scout in. a porch swing on one of them.

Pop in shops, or as Kate calls it, “have a snoop.”

In the Historic District, you’re allowed to carry an adult beverage in a plastic cup in one hand and munch on warm pralines like a kid from the other. There are also designer sweet shops. I LOVED Adam Turoni (below) where cases of chocolate are tucked into book shelves.

Stop in the JW Marriott, a former power plant repurposed as a luxury hotel. See a life-size, chrome-dipped dinosaur.

Sit a spell watching boats cruise the Savannah River from a rooftop.

Emily recommended Rocks on the Roof on the top floor of The Bohemian Hotel. Great place to get the lay of the land, see the sunset, and watch the moon rise.

Kate Woods of Morocco Bespoke

Savannah River

Savannah City View under Crescent Moon

Relax beside the Atlantic Ocean on Tybee Island.

Eat low country boil on the bayou. 

Where to Stay

We nostalgic Baby Boomers chose The Thunderbird Inn located just around the corner from the Historic District and the Riverfront. We were transported to the 60s when we heard Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons followed by Simon and Garfunkel piped around the property, smelled fresh popcorn and donuts in the lobby, and found RC Colas and Moon Pies in our room.

On previous trips with family I’ve enjoyed other options: a seaside rental on Tybee and the iconic Marshall House on Broughton Street.

*Check Savannah hotel deals here. Note: I have had good experiences using Travel Zoo but haven’t used the site for Savannah, so, as always, do your research before booking.

Where to Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

Most important tip in this post: Reservation. Reservation. Reservation.

Once upon a time, booking a table wasn’t required, not even at The Pirate’s House or J. Christopher’s for brunch. This time not doing so meant Kate and I sat at the bar for every brunch and dinner we had in the city. Emily and Kate’s daughter had suggested The Grey— the hottest place in town for its food, drinks, and history. Formerly a segregated bus station, the restaurant is founded on inclusion. Sadly the hostess said tables in the main dining room had been booked 60 days in advance. They are open for dinner only on Wednesday-Saturday. On Sunday, they serve brunch and dinner.

We did snag a seat in their bar car (first come, first served) then thanked our lucky stars when one of the few tables along the windows opened. My Old Fashioned and Beef stew … her champagne cocktail and first piece of chess pie… Perfection.

We ate at Savannah Seafood Shack where the crab cakes were good, but the bar space was cramped and the oysters a bit small.

We really enjoyed Saturday Brunch at Common Restaurant, located on East Broughton Street across Marshall House, where I ate my weight in fat raw oysters. The last night we had dinner at Corleone’s followed by takeaway treats next door at Lulu’s Chocolate Bar, voted “Best Martinis” and “Best Desserts in Savannah” for the last 15 years. I saved my Banana Foster cheesecake for the next morning—an incentive to rise and shine before sunrise for the 8-hour trip back to Nashville. We did not have to wait for lunch at The Crab Shack On Tybee Island, a former fishing camp and must-do. Our secret? We arrived on Sunday when they opened. 

Emily’s other suggestions for next time…

Jen and Friends for martinis

The Artillery for drinks

Churchill’s

The Prohibition (Speakeasy beside Grey we wanted to do but it was booked)

Vic’s On the River for lunch or dinner (known for their she crab soup)

Wyld on the Marshes

Also on my Next Time list…

Arches Bar and The Olde Pink House Restaurant

1790 Inn

More time at SCAD Museum of Art.

See a show at the Savannah Theatre.

The American Prohibition Museum

Bonaventure Cemetery

We found the monument below thanking the Freedom Fighters for defending Savannah. They were one of the few Black regiments that fought in the Revolutionary War. Next time I want to visit the First African Baptist Church, the oldest Black church in North America.

We saw the Tybee Lighthouse but next time I’d like to go scouting for Megladon teeth.

FOR MORE ON SAVANNAH, GO HERE. Plan your trip around festivals here.

Morocco Writing Retreat Summer 2023

Morocco Writing Retreat Summer 2023

Your heart knows the way. Run in that Direction.–Rumi

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Write what should not be forgotten.–Isabel Allende

Travel to have more to remember.–Cindy McCain

Do you need time away to jumpstart or finish a writing project? Do you have travel tales you need to tell?

Did you vow in 2020 pandemic lockdown that you would make travel a priority? Do you need to feel alive on new adventures…  meet kindred spirits… fulfill new or old dreams? 

Whether you’re a novice writer or pro honing your craft, on this retreat you’ll journal your journey with proven tools, inspiration, and a creative, supportive community in an exotic land. You’ll tell your best story and leave with the ultimate souvenir (remembrance). Your personal essay or memoir chapter will transport others and you back to Morocco (or whatever place you need to write about and never forget). 

Though I’ve journeyed across 27 countries, nowhere like magical Morocco has provided me as much rest, adventure, creative energy, and beauty. While living there 2014-16, I fell in love with diverse landscapes, rich cultural experiences, and wonderful people. For me, the time was a life reset. If you follow this blog, you know that I returned to Marrakesh during the summer of 2018 and began planning this retreat. The pandemic placed it on hold as it did so many of our dreams. More than ever, I want to return and see the rest of the world because I’m not getting any younger and who knows what the future will bring.

I hope you’ll join me for opportunities your soul might need…

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Imagine yourself with journal or laptop perched on the ramparts of the Atlantic coastal town, Essaouira  , formerly known as the Port of Timbuktu. Anything’s possible here, where goats (not pigs) fly.

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Imagine wide, open spaces to breathe … like the mountain terrace of a Berber village overlooking Toubkal, highest peak of the Atlas Mountains and northern Africa.

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Here Martin Scorsese filmed Seven Years in Tibet starring Brad Pitt.

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Free your inner child (creative unconscious) to play in pools and secret gardens on a week-long artist date. 

We’ll have lunch, then scatter to write or relax in multiple secluded pools and gardens at Jnane Tamsna (followed by a camel ride).

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Authentic meals with new friends and rooftop views of the Marrakesh Medina, UNESCO World Heritage Site founded in the 11th Century.

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Riad Mur Akush

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Dinner in a former Pasha’s Palace.

Photo walks. Cooking classes. Discovering ways to volunteer/support Project Soar, Center for Abandoned & Disabled Children, The Amal Center, and Jarjeer Mules.

Journaling to the sound of courtyard fountains and on outdoor terraces of a private riad.  Reading your work at a literary salon by the sea.  

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Truly, Morocco has been a creative hub for generations of artists, each meeting his or her respective Muse there. Edith Wharton, Tennessee Williams, Paul Bowles… Josephine BakerJimi Hendrix, Cat Stevens … Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, George Lucas.  Here Laurence of ArabiaIndiana JonesGladiator, and Game of Thrones came to life. Teaching, writing, and wandering there, my life felt epic, too.  

Join me in Morocco for some of my favorite local experiences from the Atlas Mountains to Marrakesh to the African coast. Choose what your soul needs.

Package Includes:

  • 4 Workshop Sessions: Craft Study & Workshop with Feedback
  • Inspiration & Free Time for Writing
  • Copy Edit by Instructor
  • Literary Salon Reading by the Sea
  • 7 nights Accommodations in private rooms w/ baths (5 in Marrakech medina riad and 2 in Essaouira with sea view
  • Airport Transfers
  • Private Transportation to Essaouira, High Atlas Mountains, and Palmeraie  
  • Mule trek and lunch in a Berber village
  • Luxury Resort for Lunch, Botanical Gardens, Pools, and a Camel Ride
  • Medina Guided Tour, Bargaining Assistance, Photo Walk, and Entrance to Bahia Palace and Ben Youssef
  • 7 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners
  • Tips
  •  
  • *Does Not Include: 
  • Flights
  • Travel Insurance (required)
  • 3 Group Meals (order from menu): Rooftop Lunch in Medina, Dinners in a Former Pasha’s Palace and on a Rooftop by the Sea
  • Alcohol
  • Free time options and transfers (Suggestions: Amal Cooking Class, Lunch at Museum of Confluence, Hammam/Spa Day, Jardin Marjorelle, Lunch at other locations with gorgeous pools and gardens, volunteering if possible) 

Price: $1495

Deposit Due by Dec. 15 to Reserve a Space

Contact cindylmccain1@gmail.com for all details.

*FEEL FREE TO SHARE RETREAT BROCHURE BELOW.

 

 

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Leiper’s Fork for Weekend Escape or Road Trip Stopover

Leiper’s Fork for Weekend Escape or Road Trip Stopover

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Leiper’s Fork

Are you planning a southern road trip for Labor Day or fall? Do you live in Nashvegas and want to escape the crowds? Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee is worth a stop by or stay over. With the exception of seeing their Christmas parade (which is the ultimate small town holiday experience), I’d never spent time there until last this month. The location was selected for the Scott Kelby’s World Wide Photo Walk, and though it couldn’t have been farther from the one I did in Marrakesh (a city I loved for its creativity and chaos), I enjoyed slowing down in this serene place. Live music fires up later in the day, but the morning was cool and quiet. The town of about 600 has, over the years, moved (literally) folks like Keith Urban, Nicole Kidman, Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton there. I’m really sad I missed To Kill a Mockingbird with Richard Thomas (John Boy of The Waltons) when it was in Nashville, but in Leiper’s Fork, I could hear Atticus reading to Scout on the porch and John Boy telling the family goodnight.

Where to Stay: Pot N’ Kettle Cottages are popular. See photos of a couple of them below.

Where to Play: Wine Tastings, Whiskey Tastings, Live Music at Fox & Locke

Where to Shop: Pick-it Fence, Props

Where to Eat: Country Boy

Front Porches, Picket Fences, Tin Roofs

Pink Coneflower (center) is Tennessee’s State Flower
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Pickers Cottage

Backyard Gardens, Front Yard Gardens, Tomato Plants on the Porch

Wines in the Fork Creekside Tasting Room

Wines in the Fork has a tasting room and a huge backyard where you can sip and listen to the creek or a live band.

Props took me back to weekends, picnics, and road trips with Mama Lou and Granddaddy.

Leiper’s Fork Main Street

Lots to Peruse at the Pick-it-Fence

History in Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee

Southern Gardens in Leiper’s Fork, TN
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Textile Revival
25+ Southern Getaways You Haven’t Thought Of

25+ Southern Getaways You Haven’t Thought Of

At the Travel Media Meetup (recently held in Nashville at Fat Bottom Brewery where I’ll take you on a tour soon), I learned about escapes in 10 states. Some of these places I thought I knew. Others I knew nothing about.

Normally I don’t recommend any destination, hotel, restaurant, or event unless I’ve experienced it myself. Plans are in the works to do just that, but in the meantime, I want to share secrets too good to keep so you can explore these ideas when making plans for late summer or fall.

ALABAMA

MOBILE

Mobile, Alabama

Did you know Mobile, NOT New Orleans, is known as The Birthplace of the Original Mardi Gras? Or that you can celebrate Mardi Gras- style anytime and  hear the world famous Excelsior Band here? Want to take a kayak or airboat down “America’s Amazon”? Mobile has one of the largest and most bio-diverse wetland ecosystems in the world. In the U.S., it’s second only to the Mississippi Delta. The city is known for the “Three Southern Bs”: bayous, bays and beaches. And the Mobile Museum of Art is the largest museum of its kind from Tampa to New Orleans on the Gulf Coast. Learn more here.

FLORIDA

*I’ve been covering places I’ve discovered on the  west coast of the Sunshine State since 2020. Here are 3 new places on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts I  plan to explore soon (and one old friend I look forward to seeing again). 

AMELIA ISLAND

Fernandina Beach

This place came on my radar when a fellow writer recommended it and I saw that it’s one of the most dog-friendly cities in the state. The fact that it is two hours south of Savannah, Georgia (which I love) was intriguing.  Now that I know more, I’m obsessed.  I’ll save more reasons for the feature I’ll be writing because I plan to heed the call to “Come Make Memories” soon. I can’t wait to  photograph and video my way across the island and on the surrounding Atlantic Ocean, Intracoastal Waterway, Nassau Sound and Cumberland Sound. Then there’s the state’s oldest lighthouse, the historic downtown area of Fernandina Beach, the food. Learn more here and stay tuned… 

JACKSONVILLE

Jacksonville, Florida

If you’re into shorelines, this city has 1,100 miles of navigable water and 22 miles of beaches — more than any other in the state. With 10 State & National Parks and more than 400 City Parks and gardens, you’re within 15 minutes of a hiking, biking, fishing, or camping adventure. You got to love a city that has Porch Fest (Nov. 5, 2022), a free festival with food and live music played on porches and in parks in Springfield, downtown Jacksonville. Like Amelia Island, JAX is dog-friendly, and because of the proximity of these two relaxing spots, I plan to do them together. 

DESTIN-FT. WALTON

Henderson Beach Sate Park

This area is nostalgic for me. I’ve spent amazing vacations here with friends and family, but it has been too long. I’m excited to return with new eyes this fall after learning about the area’s new offerings. Did you know Destin is called “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” and has the largest commercial charter fishing fleet in the country? More than 140 vessels bring in thousands of pounds of seafood daily. Deep sea fishing and eating my own catch has been on my Bucket List for a LONG time. A couple of more fun facts: Did you know Destin- Fort Walton has a Greek Festival? Did you know BOTE paddle boards are made here? At the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Virtual Media event one lucky attendee won one. Do you know who? YAY!

A Media Tour is in the works, so stay tuned for features on this area. …  For now, learn more here.

PENSACOLA

This one was listed on Trip Advisor’s 2021 Top 15 Beaches in the U.S. My niece —  who has beach-hopped across the Gulf of Mexico and recently discovered Pensacola — says it’s now her go-to  place. I have a list of reasons from her and other fans I’ve talked to. Hopefully I’ll share them from first-hand experience in a feature soon.

You can still catch Bands on the Beach — a free lineup of regional artists until October 25 at the Gulfside Pavilion on Pensacola Beach. Blues Angel Music’s Blues on the Bay is another free summer concert series held at the Community Maritime Park Hunter Amphitheater on select Sunday evenings through August 21. Learn more here.

GEORGIA

ATLANTA

I took my first solo flight to this city when I was in fourth grade. When my daughter was a young teen, we did a shopping trip to Buckhead for her birthday and ate our weight in sushi. Since then, much has changed. Two recent additions are Illuminarium, a new immersive entertainment setting and event space that features the world’s first virtual safari and an outdoor cocktail bar with ever-changing scenery. Chattahoochee Food Works, located in the heart of the Upper Westside, is a 31-vendor, 25,000 square-foot food hall that opened in mid-May. Whether passing through or making a vacation of it, this town has a lot to offer. See here.

PERRY

I knew nothing of Perry until the Travel Media Meetup. Now I’m impressed with all of their signature events. Having grown up with the Western Kentucky State Fair at the end of my street — the biggest annual event in town — I appreciate a good fair. Perry is home to the Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter, the LARGEST fairgrounds in the country. The midway was designed by the same people who designed Disney World. Last year 500,000+ people attended. Catch it in October and see what else is happening in Perry.

KENTUCKY

GLASGOW-BARREN COUNTY

You can see cheesemaking at Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese in my home state. Oh, and you can take a field trip like I did as a child to an UNESCO World Heritage site. I was amazed then at the size of Mammoth Cave, but having seen UNESCO sites in other countries, I  realize how cool the title is. Travel + Leisure recently named Mammoth Cave the most beautiful place in Kentucky. I love that it’s also the longest known cave system in the world.   Learn more here

Mammoth Cave

THE KENTUCKY WILDLANDS

I grew up in Western Kentucky, lived in Lexington, and have seen a handful of other places in the state. When I saw the ancient forests, waterfalls, lakes and more  — 14,000 square miles of eastern and southern Kentucky — called The Kentucky Wildlands, I was amazed. The hardest part is choosing which adventure to do first. Stay tuned and I’ll show you what I decided. In the meantime, watch the video below and learn more here.. www.explorekywildlands.com/  

SHELBY KY (Shelbyville, Simpsonville, & Shelby County)

Though I lived on a Lexington thoroughbred farm, I had no idea the American Saddlebred Capital of the World was just an hour away. Shelby County has 90 farms and equine facilities. Here you can ride trails or jump off the Kentucky Bourbon trail and stay awhile. I didn’t realize my favorite bourbon and rye whiskey — Bulleit — is made here (my go-to for Mint Juleps and Madhattans.) Here’s to touring the Bulleit Frontier. Learn more about this area here

LOUISIANA

MONROE-WEST MONROE

Monroe-West Monroe promises experiences “outside the lines.” I see why with the Duck Commander Tour (as in A&E’s hit show Duck Dynasty) where you can track the Robertsons’ adventures; the Biedenharn Museum where you can wander formal English gardens, a Coca-Cola Museum, and a Bible Museum; and the Black Bayou National Wildlife Refuge and more here.  

MISSISSIPPI

MERIDIAN

This city claims to have the oldest live-music scene in Mississippi. After the Civil War, railroads made Meridian the largest in the state. Between 1890 and 1930 touring musicians stopped to play in clubs on their way to New Orleans. Music is still the heart of Meridian. Here’s what it offers Music Lovers now.  (I’d love to see EmmyLou Harris at MSU Riley Center December 9). At WelArts + Entertainment Experience (THE MAX) learn how Mississippi was muse to William Faulkner, Eurdora Welty, Jimmie Rodgers, Elvis, B.B. King, Jim Henson, and Oprah Winfrey. 

NORTH CAROLINA

One of my favorite authors, Jill McCorkle, is from a small town in North Carolina. If your coming-of-age story is in the U.S. South, too, take  Ferris Beach, The Cheer Leader, or one of her other novels with you when you vacation below.

BRUNSWICK ISLANDS

Coastal Living Magazine named Southport “America’s Happiest Seaside Town.” I can’t wait to explore where some of my favorite movies were made for an upcoming feature. Stay tuned…. On Brunswick Islands you can photograph and video sunrises and sunsets over the sea without moving your beach chair. And if you’re an oyster lover, too… this year is the 41st anniversary of the North Carolina Oyster Festival which will be held October 14 & 16. More info here.

BRYSON CITY

Fontana Lakeview Bath

Ever soaked in a tub above a lake? Or slept in a chicken coop? A floating house? A tiny home? Bryson City offers unique ways to enjoy the Smoky Mountains. On both Deep Creek and the Oconaluftee River you can rent tubes. There’s also whitewater rafting, Fontana Lake swimming holes, waterfalls, and the PolarExpress® (record scratch) on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. Whether you visit in water-sport season or the holidays when the town transforms into a Hallmark movie, you’ll have a unique experience in Bryson City. See more here.

PolarExpress® on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS

CURRITUCK

I’ve wanted to get to the Outer Banks for a LONG time. I’ve wanted to see Corollas — descendants of Spanish mustangs — in my dreams. Knowing what Currituck offers, I fear that once I get there, (sing it like Mick J.) “wild horses couldn’t drive me away.” If you’re with me, start making plans here

PINEHURST, SOUTHERN PINES, ABERDEEN AREA

If you’re a linkster, you should love this area which is said to be “The Home of American Golf.” If you’re not, there are other things to do … especially eat. This destination appeals to foodies and those who would love a  Sandhills of North Carolina Pour Tour Passport.  Learn more here.  

WILMINGTON AND BEACHES

Wilmington Riverwalk

Wilmington, recently named one of the “South’s Best Cities on the Rise” by Southern Living, offers a Riverwalk, historic downtown, coastline, and Live Oak Bank Pavilion at Riverfront Park — one of Live Nation’s only music venues located by the water. . In addition to Carolina, Kure, and Wrightsville beaches, you can enjoy museums, a water park, farm and sea-to-table restaurants, and live music. Grab a bite at Zombie Fresh Kitchen indoors or outdoors on the dog-friendly patio. At Catawba Brewing Co. choose from 24 craft beers and hard seltzers on tap, or at Panacea Brewing Company, have a hard and non-alcoholic Kombucha. Learn more here.

SOUTH CAROLINA

OLD 96 DISTRICT

On trips to the Gulf as a child, my family would always stop in Georgia at roadside stands to buy peaches. Did you know that South Carolina produces more peaches than Georgia… that Georgia is the 2nd largest producer of the fruit behind California… and that SC peaches are DELICIOUS?  While sampling one, I learned that peaches were first documented in China in the 10th century, and that Titan Farms in Edgefield, SC is the largest peach grower on the East Coast with over 6,000 acres of peaches in production. 

I also learned that this area — Abbeville,   Edgefield,  Greenwood, Laurens, and McCormick — loves hosting girl getaways. There are bed and breakfasts. I’ve done Charleston and Hilton Head with friends, but going off the beaten trail would be fun, too. Abbeville, where Julia Roberts filmed Sleeping with the Enemy, has colorful buildings like those in Charleston and Dublin.  Learn more here

ABBEVILLE

TENNESSEE

*Lots of options for planning here.

Ken Burns Country Music Pathway  – get the  digital passport available online through Oct. 18, 2022 to visit nearly two dozen iconic music destinations in Ken Burns’ PBS documentary Country Music.

CHATANOOGA

If you’ve seen the sign “See Rock City” your whole life but never have, the 90th Anniversary of this attraction may be your year. Summer Music Weekends are part of the celebration if you’re passing through. Here’s a playlist to take you there

CLARKSVILLE

I grew up in Hopkinsville, Kentucky less than 30 miles up the road from Clarksville. As a kid, I’d cross the border to eat at Shakey’s Pizza; as a teen, to go to a club called Water Works; and as an adult, to attend a Fort Campbell officers’ picnic at Beach Haven Winery. 

Beachaven is still going strong. Their Jazz on the Lawn summer series is scheduled for August 20 and October 22. On non-Jazz weekends, you can enjoy live acoustic music on the lawn Saturdays and Sundays through October. But as for the rest… I had no idea how much Clarksville has changed!

Downtown @ Sundown is a concert series featuring local and regional music. Held on the first and third Fridays from May through October, their lineup includes Hot Lanta, Beatles VS Stones, and  The Eagles Project on August 19 I hope to see.

Old Glory is now a small-batch artisan distillery. Star Spangled Brewing Company claims to be “The Most Unapologetically Patriotic Brewery in America.” It turns out there’s a lot to say “Cheers” about with all the new craft beer breweries in town. I also took for granted Clarksville’s location. Check out these day trips. And I’m looking forward to a night trip to The Mail Room opening in August in Clarksville’s historic federal building. They’ll be serving Korean and South American cuisine and bringing people together on their outdoor deck with fire pits. 

GATLINGBURG

Mount Le Conte

I have some wonderful memories here — a girl getaway on a mountaintop, romantic escapes, and  day trips from Knoxville with my son… but I’ve barely started exploring all this area offers. If you’re into outdoor sports, nature, chalets, hot tubs, artisans who give you “Create Your Own” experiences, power shopping, Christmas decor on steroids, comfort food, and/or areas so beautiful they can’t be described with words… the mountains are calling. Join me in Gatlinburg soon. 

KNOXVILLE

I love this town. If you have a Lego fan in the house, the Brickuniverse Lego Fan Convention will be here August 13-14.

MEMPHIS

See the new Elvis movie, then celebrate The King during Elvis Week 2022 August 9-17. Go all- in by staying at Graceland or go all- out on Beale Street and stay at Caption by Hyatt , a new tech-forward hotel using recycled and repurposed materials. 

NASHVILLE

(Get my Homegirl Guide here.)

UNION STATION NASHVILLE YARDS

I am soooo looking forward to an upcoming Staycation here. With accolades from US Today, Conde Nast and local publications like The The Tennessean, Nashville Lifestyles and more, The Union Station Nashville Yards is proud to be named “Best Southern Boutique Hotel,”“Best Haunted Hotel in the South,”“Sexiest New Restaurant in Nashville” and more. Plan your stay here.

RUTHERFORD COUNTY

Earth Experience

Have you seen the new Jurassic Park movie? It was a wild ride. Did you know Tennessee has Frank, our own r 38-foot-long T. Rex skeleton? At Earth Experience, the first natural history museum in middle Tennessee, you can see a working paleontology laboratory where dinosaur bones are cleaned and repaired as well as archeological relics from as far away as Antarctica. Drop by. I will. Though I’m a member of the English Department at Middle Tennessee State University (and you’re welcome to drop by campus, too), I didn’t know we had such a cool interactive attraction like this one. See more the area has to offer here.

VIRGINIA

VIRGINIA’S BLUE RIDGE

Here you get the best of many worlds – city amenities in Roanoke and Salem — outdoor adventures on the Appalachian Trail, and Virginia’s Blue Ridge Parkway. I’ve driven it and understand why some call it America’s Favorite Drive . Actually, the road itself is a national treasure. See why here

Summer Staycation in Nashville or Wherever YOU Live

Summer Staycation in Nashville or Wherever YOU Live

Twelve summers ago, I did a blog series on staycations in Nashville, my home of 30+ years. While there’s no more Pangea, Jackson’s, Las Paletas, Hermitage Cafe, or Rotier’s, sadly, we still are known for our “Music Under the Magnolias.” National Geographic named us the #1 City in the World to visit in June for the CMA festival (June 9-12), nearby Bonnaroo (June 16-19), and Full Moon Pickin’ Parties. Check out the calendar for live music at Nashville Scene.

Download my updated Nashville Guide below for staycations and vacations in my city, and read on for more ways to take a staycation in Nashville or wherever you live.

In the last 9 years, I’ve lived in six homes in three countries. Now I get up with the fishermen and my neighbor’s rooster. to see the sun rising on the Cumberland River/Old Hickory Lake. For the first time, I can see the sunrise, sunset, and moon from my outdoor space.

Summer (sing it like Andy Williams) is “the most wonderful time of the year.” Since I was five, I’ve started a new school year in August. Since I was five, I’ve been more excited about summer break. I love teaching at a university, loved teaching abroad, and have great memories of teaching in Nashville, Tennessee before that. But summer has always felt like FREEDOM because it provides TIME… to learn, to explore, to reconnect, to rest. Summer calls me to come out and play, to experience wonders at whim. I collect them …like lightening bugs in a jar…and see all that glows.

Traveling provides adventures and new perspectives. So can staying home.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.” ~ Marcel Proust

A different perspective can make this summer or any season good.

Summer can provide a respite. With war abroad and at home, shootings, inflation, gas prices, and work/financial/health and/or relationship challenges, we need peace. Seeing your hometown in a different light (literally) can be surprising. Over the last couple of years, I’ve spent a lot of time watching sunsets with locals and other travelers who gather on Florida’s western coast. Seeing the golden orb dip into the ocean, melt into the sea, and vanish from the horizon is magic to me. One day I hope to live near the ocean, but after living in Nashville 30+ years, I’ve realized over the last six weeks how beautiful sunrises, sunsets, and summer moons are here, too.

Slowing down and getting outside lowers blood pressure and heart rate. The sun provides Vitamin D for improved mood. Even 20 minutes in a green space makes us mentally happier and healthier.  And bonus, it makes us more productive.

Here are 7 easy ways to slow down in Nashville or wherever you live this summer. DO try this at home.

1. Watch sunrises, sunsets, and full moons whenever, wherever possible. 

In a world of so much flux, knowing the sun will rise and set daily is comforting. No two sunrises or sunsets are the same, a reminder that change in the hands of the Creator can be a beautiful thing. I’m reminded that the One who paints the heavens has got this. I pray for answers… miracles I need. Until answers come… even if they never come… I feel childlike wonder again and peace.

See large files of photos here.

Other places to watch the sunrise and sunset in Nashville: Pedestrian Bridge, Acme Feed & Seed rooftop, Love Circle, Westin, Natchez Trace Bridge. 

The higher the altitude, the better, but you may meet a scary bird with a a wingspan of more than 3 feet that lands on the branch of a giant oak and eyeballs you with a Meet the Parents Circle of Trust stare.

2. Take a walk for mind, body, and spirit. Walking inspires creativity. Creativity improves your health.

A student in my literature class,” The English Romantics and their Legacy: Sustainability, Social Justice, and Self-Discovery,”researched how walking in nature — particularly the UK’s Lake District — not only inspired the subjects and themes of William Wordsworth’s poetry but also charged his brain with the creativity needed to write it. Transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and other writers at Brook Farm considered walking crucial for creativity. So did Charles Dickens. Psychology now supports the theory.

In my “Travel Tales” course I encourage writers do Photo Walks. I did my first Photo Walk in Marrakesh. With so much stimuli, it was a way to focus (literally). Walking and shooting arouses curiosity, jumpstarts creativity, and provides a way to remember details when writing later.

I checked out my new neighborhood in Old Hickory Village (below) just as I did when I moved to Marrakesh and Santo Domingo. Like always, I enjoyed finding historical homes, gorgeous gardens, and quirky yard and window decorations.

Other historic neighborhoods for a photo walk in or near Nashville: 12th South (see tea party below), East Nashville, Downtown Franklin. Best nature walks at Radnor Lake, Edwin Warner Park, Percy Warner Park.

3. Create a relaxing outdoor space (patio, porch, deck, balcony) or claim one (in a park or sidewalk cafe) for a staycation/home office.

Colorful fabric or pillows make me happy. Bird feeders invite fine feathered friends. Watching them makes me smile.

Grow something that looks, smells, and tastes good.

When the kids were little, we had three gardens and fifty roses in our yard. Apartment living meant downsizing to container gardens in Morocco, my cabin in the woods/cottage in the shire, and now. My last apartment was tucked away in a hollow in the hills, Ella and I were 5 minutes from walks at Edwin Warner Park and less than 10 minutes from Percy Warner Park and Cheekwood Botanical Gardens. Deer, Canadian geese, ducks, chipmunks, and woodpeckers were regulars around our patio. But with all the trees, sun-loving plants didn’t do so well. This summer my garden has plenty of sun with a balcony facing east and north/west. So, I went a little crazy…

What to Plant

Check out your zone.

I begin visiting nurseries like Moore and Moore Garden Center in February and by March stalking the garden sections of Lowe’s and Home Depot. In Tennessee, my list starts with herbs for cooking that didn’t make it through the winter. Sing it like Simon & Garfunkel:

  • Parsley (Italian)
  • Sage
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Lavender
  • Basil (when weather is warmer)
  • Cilantro
  • Mint

*My never-lets-me-down-drought- resistant-reminds- me- of-Switzerland-all-time- favorite: pink geraniums. They even survived last winter.

Morning sun…

  • Hydrangeas (Blue, White)

Shade

  • Boston Fern

Aromatherapy

  • Jasmine
  • Gardenia tree (needs intense morning sun, afternoon shade)
  • Roses
  • Petunias
  • Stock

Tribute to Morocco

  • Bougainvillea
  • Lime tree
  • Lemon tree
  • Olive tree

4. Invite friends over.

Whether serving burgers straight from the grill, Aperol Spritzes on a balcony while planning a trip to Italy, or cucumber sandwiches at High Tea on the terrace, making time to catch up with people who feed your soul makes life richer. Walking with friends to my favorite neighborhood restaurant works, too. Anywhere outside.

Nachos, pizza, fish tacos, and the best baby back ribs I’ve had at Sam’s at Turtle Bay. The cocktail list will transport you to the beach

Southern hospitality comes in many forms. My friend Beth makes the best summer dishes from her backyard garden. Nora extends invitations to swim in her creek in Watertown and camp out on her farm for an anniversary throwdown.

In my summer newsletter (subscribe in popup on Home Page), I share recipes for outdoor gatherings. Carol Ashworth, Airbnb property owner (recommended in my Nashville guide), world traveler, and hostess of her much-loved Daffodil Tea Party, shares her mother’s Italian Cream cake recipe and more. Her soirées have included tributes to Queen Elizabeth who made history this year with 70 years of service. Celebrating the Platinum Jubilee, magnolia blossoms in bloom, or just the season for sitting in the shade and sipping Earl Grey, wine, or whisky from a teacup… Carol’s hosting tips are useful for all kinds of outdoor parties. I’ll also share tips on tea parties for children.

5. Make your bath a spa.

Scented candles, bubbles, essential oils, music, ocean sounds, or meditation … a glass of wine (or coffee which I did when my kids were little and the only quiet time I had was before school). Certain scents (and rose petals in the water) transport me back to Moroccan baths in riads known for relaxations like this one.

Note: There are affiliate links to Amazon products below (at no cost to the customer), and I only recommend what I’ve used and been pleased with myself.

6. Explore your city (or come explore ours).

A popular staycation post was the one below. The teacher in me still believes learning is fun. From Van Gogh to the American Artisan Festival to hanging out with old friends on the Big Screen in Top Gun: Maverick, Jurassic Park Dominion, and Thor: Love and Thunder, summer can be educational and epic . I plan to do all of the above plus check out sail clubs near me for lessons.

Big Band Dances in Centennial Park

If you have a film, see the extended June deadline to enter.

7. Il bel far niente. Discover what Italians call “the beauty of doing nothing.”

Lie beside a pool. Read or listen to a book, music, or guided meditation… nap on a porch swing, hammock, or quilt under a tree.

Check out: Nashville Guru’s List of Pools You Can Enjoy This Summer

And if you aren’t in Nashville or are and want a private experience, you might try “Swimply.” I can’t recommend what I haven’t done myself, but this “Airbnb of pools” idea sounds interesting.

Feedspot Names Southern Girl Gone Global a 2022 Top 35 Baby Boomer Travel Blog

Feedspot Names Southern Girl Gone Global a 2022 Top 35 Baby Boomer Travel Blog

Feedspot Names Southern Girl Gone Global a Top 35 Baby Boomer Travel Blog for 2022 (Made List 2020 and 2021 too)

Big thanks to YOU readers and to FEEDSPOT who named Southern Girl Gone Global a Top 35 Baby Boomer Travel Blog for the 3rd consecutive year!

While the pandemic continued to make travel abroad challenging, I continued working my way down the western coast of Florida. Along the way, I met some amazing women who have reinvented their lives in the Sunshine State which they now call home.

If you missed any of these posts, check them out for inspiration and info for making 2022 travel plans. If you have never traveled solo and want to try it …if you need to reconnect on a getaway with family or friends, here’s some ideas.

Work Your Way Down Florida’s West Coast

Sarasota Solo on Florida’s Cultural Coast

I brought in 2021 on the Art Ovation Hotel rooftop thanks to a solo trip hosted by Visit Sarasota County where I met new friends. In the video above, see clips of interviews with Luisella from Milan and Claudia from Boston at Pineapple Yoga and Cycling Studio which I featured here. Learn more on my Travel People podcast where I interviewed Owner Claudia Baeza about the inclusive community she has built and serves. At The Ringling Museum of Art, Virginia Harshman gave me a tour of The Cultural Coast’s Crown Jewel. She also inspired me with her story of adding to a MBA in Business Administration a Harvard Master’s Degree in Museology/Museum Studies.

Tarpon Springs

I caught up on the podcast with former colleague, Dr. Vincent Huth, who has retired in Tarpon Springs Florida, a Greek village and home of the largest Epiphany Celebration in the Northern Hemisphere.

Captiva Island Media Tour and Mother/Daughter Getaway

In April, my adult daughter, Taylor, and I had a chance to reconnect when I was invited on a Media Tour on Captiva Island at South Seas Island Resort. There I met a fun group of journalists from across the US, including Sommeliers Elaine and Scott Harris of Cuisineist. From their Las Vegas home the share insider info on what to eat, drink, and see in New Orleans, California Wine Country, Switzerland, Ireland, and beyond. They also give tips for travel journalists (or anyone wanting to break into travel media) in Parts 1 and 2. As always on Travel People, they share how they have created a happy life.

Anna Maria Island Empty Nester Moms Getaway

In August, Morgan Henderson who hosted me in her Bradenton Beach condo in 2020 invited me back to Anna Maria Island to live the dream in her new property, Seaduction, on Holmes Beach. My empty nester friend, Alba Gonzalez-Nylander of AJ Media Services, joined me. I learned that Alba has also been scouting places to land on Florida’s West Coast. Thanks to Beach Bums, we biked and golf carted around the island, filmed some epic sunsets, and met two ladies who moved to AMI and say it’s now forever home. If you’re considering a relocation to Paradise, meet business owners on Pine Avenue — Rebecca Preston of Shiny fish Emporium and Cindy Tutterow of Hometown Desserts.

Captiva Island Writers Conference and Celebration

I was thrilled to be invited back in to Captiva Island in December as one of a dozen female writers invited by Francesca Dolan of Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel and Lee County Tourism. Francesca planned the Writing Retreat and Celebration of the 65th Anniversary of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea which was for her (and all of us) a dream. A huge fan of the book, I’d placed writing on Captiva Island where the book was inspired on my Bucket List years ago. Doing so with the amazing women I met, one of whom was Kristina Lindbergh, Anne’s granddaughter, was an honor I never expected. Kristina was the guest speaker at the community celebration hosted by the Captiva Historical Society. She is a gifted writer herself and one of the most gentle and humble spirits I’ve eve met. I’ll be posting more on this incredible experience soon.

Downtown Fort Myers

Also in December, I featured The Luminary Hotel and Ford and Edison Winter Estates in Downtown Fort Myers. I’d been to Fort Myers Beach in 2020 but fell in love with the River District. If you’re in the area, don’t miss having a cocktail on The Luminary Rooftop at sunset, shopping, and eating your way down Main Street.

I love Florida palm trees. I miss waking up with palm fronds rustling outside my apartment windows in Morocco and Dominican Republic. Brandon Hall loves them, too, so he moved Florida north. Check out his Palm Spa here. His customers in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Massachusetts choose from many varieties of palms and tropical plants to rent or buy for homes, restaurants, weddings, and other events. Go here for a chance to win a palm tree, learn about the many varieties, and see how he brought the beach to the New York Jets.

Do a Bluegrass Retreat

Stanford, Kentucky Retreat

In addition to authors I met on Captiva Island, I spent an amazing weekend with Author Angela Correll in my home state of Kentucky. In Stanford I enjoyed the hospitality of Wilderness Road — another perfect location for a writing retreat. See more on this getaway and hear my interview with Angela here.

Work Your Way Down Italy’s West Coast

Also on the podcast, I spent the summer virtually in Italy with three amazing travel guides. Meet Raffaele Romano and Riccardo Bilotto, Archeologists, Wine Experts, and Guides at GrandTourExperience.com. Learn why Naples should be on everyone’s travel list and hear their Must-Sees, Must-Dos in their Campania region. Full interview is on YouTube here and here.

Also meet Rosa Candela, tour guide on the Amalfi Coast (listen here) and the lady who taught me how to make a mean limoncello for the bridal party at my niece’s wedding.

Walk the Red Carpet on The French Riviera (or Côte d’Azur)

If you’ve ever wanted to walk the Red Carpet at the Cannes Film Festival, Toni Thompson tells you how here.

And if you’re looking for a new exercise resource that will sweep you away, check out Silver and Fit options here.

For more adventures in Morocco, Spain, Oregon Wine Country, Canada, France, Switzerland, Asia, and The Middle East, check out Travel People: Living Authentic Lives, Finding Kindred Spirits, Fulfilling Dreams with photos and videos or listen on the go here.

Trailers…

Pompeii, Naples, Amalfi Coast and Beyond with Italian Archeologists, Wine Experts, and Walking Guides

A Tale of 2 Teachers… one in Dubai and one in Vegas. Both will inspire you to do what you love and see the world.

Again, much thanks to you, the readers, and to you, Feedspot. Here’s to more adventures in 2022!

Best Retreats 2022: Wilderness Road Experience with Author Angela Correll

Best Retreats 2022: Wilderness Road Experience with Author Angela Correll

All great stories start with “What if?”Author Angela Correll

After the rush of the holidays, winter is a time to slow down, to get still, to sit by a fire in a quiet place where we can listen to longings and hear our hearts speak. For many of us, this requires getting away. We need a respite to reflect, recharge, reset. And if there’s been a stirring in our souls, if we’re seeking something different, a place to consider new possibilities. A place to ask, “What if?”

In mid-December, I drove into a town that had inspired the book I was reading. It looked like the set of a Hallmark Christmas movie and the community described sounded Hallmark-close and friendly, too. I couldn’t wait to meet the author who has created a one-of-a-kind experience. I did. After the weekend I drove out of town feeling rested and inspired to take on whatever the new year brings. 

Please listen to this conversation I had with Best-selling Author Correll in this special edition of Travel People: Living Authentic Lives, Finding Kindred Spirits, Fulfilling Dreams.

In a new year when we try to focus on the positive, she inspires us to see problems as possibilities, to create something for our souls and others, to remember what matters most, and to embrace our roots and spread our wings. 

We met  in Stanford, Kentucky where she lives on a farm with her husband, Jess. The novels of her May Hollow trilogy –  Grounded, Guarded, and Granted– are based largely on life in this small town with a big heart. She and Jess are the creators of the Wilderness Road Hospitality Group that has built a stronger sense of community here. In Part 1 of the interview she explains how they went from milking goats to saving and renovating historic homes. How they built two restaurants, an Inn, and are building another. Angela talks about the importance of close community not only in Kentucky but in a Tuscan village, Montefollonico, where she and Jess have a home and are renovating rentals for retreats and vacations.

Like Annie and Jake in her trilogy, Angela and Jess have quite the love story. Their travel experiences are the stuff of fairytales, and they enjoy the best of all worlds with homes in Kentucky and Tuscany.  What I love most is that while she was still a single woman who lived in Lexington with good friends and  a job that provided amazing travel experiences, she felt a pull toward another life. She wanted to live on a farm. She knew that nature feeds her  soul. She says she knew God was turning her in a new direction, but had no idea how she’d get there. God fulfilled the desires of her heart in ways she didn’t expect.

Lisa, our mutual friend who is also a writer and Italophile, introduced us by email because she though we had a lot in common. Angela and I both went to The University of Kentucky, lived in Lexington, and lived on farms. Our grandfathers were farmers. We grew up in small Kentucky towns. For her, it was Danville. For me, Hopkinsville. She strives to write about the “good, true, and beautiful” for a mainstream audience. No matter how much we love travel and exploring other countries, we recognize our native language — SouthernSpeak.

Angela’s books have been adapted to the stage for sold-out performances at the Pioneer Playhouse, Kentucky’s oldest outdoor theater. Their themes — navigating family, romantic love, purpose and passion, our need for community— are universal. Like Thornton Wilder’s classic, Our Town or Jan Karon’s Mitford series, her books are timeless.

We’re not super easy to get to. We’re an hour south of Lexington’s small airport but we think that’s part of the charm. When you come you’re going to pull away from everything. You can let your blood pressure drop, be fully present, and receive peace. –Angela Correll

I finished Grounded while I was on her stomping ground. Spending time with her characters felt like Old Home Week (a southern church tradition of my childhood that meant dinner on the ground or potluck in the fellowship hall). I recognized some of Annie’s grandmother in both of mine – one that fried country ham, then simmered it in water to make it tender every Christmas morning. Another who watched Billy Graham specials and tucked me in under quilts.  I recognized generational struggles over the need for dishwashers, cable, and the internet. Over expressions like “You can’t expect a man to buy the cow if he is getting the milk for free.”

Her grandmother’s farmhouse with its creaking floors took me back to the homes in the country of 3 great-aunts. They, too, gathered eggs from ornery hens and didn’t lock their doors. Stripping tobacco, guns and gardens, Blue Willow China, Bluegills and the Farmers’ Almanac. “Widow Women,” “young folk,” “up North,” “down South”… all reminders of my childhood. The comfort food sent me back to Nashville on a mission to make break green beans, cook them with new potatoes, fry up some crappie, bake a chess pie, and chase it all with sweet tea. 

Her reference to Genuine Risk, the 1980 Derby winner the year I married, took me back to Lexington when I lived on a horse farm. So did this description of Wildcat Mania.

The restaurant walls were covered with black and white pictures of local celebrities. Featured prominently were the University of Kentucky basketball and football coaches, and some of the players, both past and present. Even Hollywood stars like Ashley Judd, George Clooney and Johnny Depp were proudly featured Kentuckians. The fare was fine Angus steak, grass-finished and locally grown, served in an atmosphere of dark paneled walls and white table linens.

A romantic, I cried and was satisfied at the end of her first book, but I appreciate that the story didn’t stop there. She wrote a trilogy as if to ask, “What if … a fairytale ending of boy gets girl isn’t the end of the story? Aren’t relationships more complicated?”

Career struggles, abandonment issues, financial troubles, gossips, family secrets, depression… it’s all here. But there’s something about this place that is so familiar and comforting that I listen to the Audible versions as bedtime stories. Maybe because I spent a weekend in the world of the novel where people care for each other, stop and talk on the street, remembered my name. Maybe because in a world of troubles and negativity, I need to stay grateful and focused on the positive this year.

The Stanford Inn includes the cottages but in the works are additional lodging spaces including more hotel rooms (larger than the current Inn rooms) on Main Street. 

If you need to finish an artistic project– book, painting, documentary–on your own or want the direction/support of a group, listen to Part 2 of the interview where Angela discusses her writing journey and options for retreats and creative community in Stanford and Italy.

Part 2 of Podcast Interview with Angela Correll on Writing and Writing Retreats

May Hollow Trilogy by Angela Correll in her Soaps and Such Store, Main Street, Stanford, Kentucky
Esther’s Wellhouse
Amy at Esther’s Wellhouse gave me a great massage. See her in video. She drives an hour from Lexington to work because she loves it here.
I grew up on Rutland’s Barbecue in Hopkinsville, KY. My dad brought it home from work. I’ve been partial to Western Kentucky Barbecue but this at the Bluebird Restaurant was AMAZING.
Sara, House Manager of Bluebird, who made me feel at home every time I dropped in.
Savannah was my sweet server at Bluebird. She lives in Pulaski County but drives to Stanford. Since the renovations of the Wilderness Road Group, the town has changed. She said there wasn’t much here when she was a kid, but now “everything is in Stanford.”
Sarah with Hot Cider at Kentucky Soaps and Such
The store was full of people of all ages gift shopping and catching up.
Many books by Kentucky authors (and many selections from Italy)
The weekend lives on… loved my coffee cup from this collection and the soaps at Kentucky Soaps and Such
I wrapped these soaps from Kentucky Soaps and Such and used them as decorations/gifts on my Christmas table. Inside each, I placed a question the recipient asked the other family members and answered. We all learned new things about each other.

Thank you Angela and Wilderness Road for incredible hospitality. As always, opinions on this blog are my own.