Italian villa and gondola in Venice California

5 Wonderful Days in L.A. (Venice Beach, Santa Monica, Malibu, Hollywood)

I’ve been saying for years that the best gift to give your children is travel. Recently, I learned the reverse is true when my son, Cole, sent my daughter, her fiancé, and me plane tickets and booked accommodations and a rental car for a seven-day trip to L.A. and Palm Springs, California. A spring break vacation with my people was the most exciting gift I’ve ever received! Check out options here for adult family time in L.A.

Why L.A.?

Driving up California’s breezy coast — Mediterranean blue waters, cathedral rocks, mountains, and palm trees — feels like a getaway to southern Spain. Walking along Venice Beach canals is a trip to Italy. Star-gazing in Hollywood or at an NBA game… riding the Ferris wheel on Santa Monica’s Pier, or basking on the Baywatch beach is quintessential U.S.A. Los Angeles is the second most populated city in the US (New York City is first), but because Los Angeles County has such vast, diverse areas, there’s something for everyone. Beaches, parks, and a coastal drive on the Pacific Coast Highway are freeing. Celebrities — anyone really — can get lost here.

Returning to L. A. was nostalgic. We loved our 2009 vacation there. Then Cole mostly rode in the back seat of the convertible, but in our Vacation: The Sequel, it was great being with adults and having a man make plans and take the wheel.

Cole booked a beautiful home for five nights near Venice Beach just a couple of blocks from where we’d stayed before on Marina Del Ray. The neighborhood was quiet but just a couple of blocks from restaurants, groceries, shops, and the Venice Canals. We highly recommend it.

Getting away is good for our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Reconnecting with grown children is priceless. I’m forever grateful for my son’s generosity. It was a week of laughter and new adventures.

Southern California offers a great escape, and there are multiple options for adult family time in L.A. If you need a multigenerational gathering spot or want to give the ultimate Mother’s Day or Father’s Day gift, this trip is it. 

Why Stay in Venice?

It’s the “Venice of America.” On the canals, you’ll think you’re in Italy!

I, like other Americans, fell in love with Venice, Italy — the canals, gondolas, architecture, and romantic/mysterious/artistic vibe.

In the 1920s, John Ringling was so impressed with Venice that he built Ca’d’Zan. Inspired by the Doge’s Palace, the five-story Venetian Gothic Revival mansion overlooks Florida’s Sarasota Bay. 

Fifteen years earlier, millionaire John Abbot had an even grander vision. On July 4, 1905, he replicated the entire city and opened “The Venice of America.” He hoped to build a community of artists and writers who would bring a cultural renaissance to California.

After his death, the seaside resort town was annexed to Los Angeles in 1926. See what happened to Abbott’s dream in the “Lost LA” series by KCET, Southern and Central California’s Educational station/affiliate of PBS:

These Streets are Made for Boating


Venice Beach Mural that reads Like a dream I remember from an easier time

Check out the quote on the wall above. Venice has a retro, dream-like vibe that reminds me of a time not only when my kids were younger but also when I was a child, too.

Venice is Bohemian with the Bonus of a Beach.

Venice Beach, California — associated with the Beat Generation of the 50s and artists like Jim Morrison and the Doors in the 60s —is still home to an eclectic mix. It’s bohemian, much like Paris’s Montmartre or Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, but with surfers, skateboarders (the sport was invented here), and Muscle Beach where former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger flexed biceps. The area is artistic and unconventional. The quirk factor is huge, so don’t be surprised if you almost bump into someone, like I did, who is wearing nothing but blue paint. Like the rest of L.A., Venice is diverse … The City of Angels and Land Of Mystics.

Gentrification has displaced former residents. Some live in tents, or in the case of one man we saw, on a couch on the sidewalk. One-bedroom studio apartments rent for $3,000+ a month. On the canals, homes rent for $12,000 – $28,000 a month and sell for $2 – $7 million.

Venice, California is “Little Hollywood.”

Celebrities who’ve lived in Venice:

  • Julia Roberts (now lives in Malibu)
  • Nicholas Cage (moved to Malibu, then to his own island)
  • Robert Downey, Jr. (now lives in Malibu)

Hip like its namesake, Venice births and reflects trends. I’ve never seen so many French Bulldogs! Days after we returned, the American Kennel Club announced they had ousted Labrador retrievers who’d held the top spot of beloved breeds for over 30 years. Having owned two labs, I gasped! but who can compete with fame? My kids told me about Lady Gaga’s dogs being kidnapped. She and other stars — Hugh Jackman, Reese Witherspoon, the Rock — are part of the Frenchie Revolution.

Venice and the Surrounding Area are Film Locations for Movies and Series.

  • John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, Grease (1978)
  • Val Kilmer and Meg Ryan in The Doors (1991)
  • Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock in Speed (1994)
  • Californication, the Showtime series starring David Duchovny
  • Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon beach party movies (1963-66), like Beach Blanket Bingo, at Malibu Lagoon State Beach Park

I think this last one sums up why I love the Cali coast. As a kid in the 60s, I dreamed of being a teen and experiencing this…

Venice is minutes from Santa Monica and a Gorgeous Ride to Malibu via The Pacific Coast Highway. It’s Only 14 miles from Venice Beach to Hollywood via Legendary Sunset Boulevard.

Travel Tips to Make Arrival Less Stressful

  • If traveling from different locations, it’s important to coordinate flight schedules for adult family time in L.A. Cole flew from his home in Colorado and met us at the airport (LAX). He suggested using TripCase. When you get the flight confirmation email after booking, you can forward it to the app at The app imports all info and keeps you updated on delays and arrivals of members of your party. It’s also useful for picking up out-of-town family members and friends at the airport when they fly home.
  • When picking up a car at LAX, catch a free shuttle when you exit the airport because it’s too far to walk. Both times we’ve picked up a car the line has been long, but there’s a waiting area to sit in sun or shade outside the rental building and water in vending machines to hydrate after the flight.

What to Do

Day One: Venice Beach for Lunch, Food Trucks for Dinner

Tip: Typically from June – October, Venice Beach temps hover around 70 F. In the winter months, they dip to low 60s. Despite historic snow in L.A. as seen here reported the day before we arrived, we still had mostly sunny skies and temperatures around 55 degrees. Plan on wearing layers or taking a windbreaker whenever you go because it’s breezy on the Pacific.


After an early flight, rental car pickup, and getting settled in, stretching your legs on a walk through the neighborhood and relaxing over lunch is top priority. We wanted seafood — oysters in particular for Taylor and me. Pier House beside the Venice Beach pier was pricey pre-Happy Hour (especially for the small size of the oysters), but celebrating our reunion and week ahead with grilled octopus, calamari, vegan options for Cole, and drinks on the patio was worth the splurge. Also, don’t miss the skateboarding park. (See Insta post above.)

Other Seafood Options

We didn’t want to drive anywhere and it was too windy/chilly to sit on a rooftop, but these restaurants get good reviews, too:

Fishbar, located on Manhattan Beach 15 minutes by car south of Venice Beach

Across the street from Pier House is The Venice Whaler. The menu is similar to that of Pier House. They do have a rooftop area and a takeaway food window. I love that they have a Rumi quote, too.

Dinner and a Movie

When we met our host at the rental home, he told us we had arrived on a perfect day — First Friday — and that we could walk to the food trucks where locals gather monthly for dinner. We’re fans of food trucks and movies, especially when needing to relax on a travel day. I highly recommend these guys. When you find your favorite food truck at home or in LA, you can stalk it here. What’s your favorite app for finding street food? Please tell us in the comments.

Other Food Truck Options

Two neighborhoods south and north of Venice have smaller, weekly food truck events. Marina Del Ray’s Beach Eats runs from late May to early September and Food Truck Wednesdays happen at Santa Monica’s California Heritage Museum.

For Foodies:

Restaurant Week in Santa Monica

Dine LA Restaurant Week

Organic Eating in Venice

Santa Monica has some of LA’s finest farmers markets. Cole found Erwhon, an organic grocery store just around the corner where we could eat local. Loved it. We also loved the breakfast Cole cooked for us.

pancakes with strawberries and whipped cream, bacon

Movies to Stream

  • Before exploring Griffith Observatory: See Rebel with a Cause and La La Land.
  • After driving in LA traffic: Watch Once Upon a Time in Hollywood to let off steam. (Warning 1: Tarantino isn’t for everyone — usually he’s too dark for me. This one I like because I was obsessed with Sharon Tate and the Charles Manson murders as a kid and it’s set around LA. Warning 2: You might be tempted to get back in the car to check out filming locations.)
  • For adult family time in L.A. with lots of laughts, take home movies with you on a jump drive. If you live in the Nashville area and haven’t converted home movies from videotapes to digital, I highly recommend The Transfer Lab.

Day 2: Walk of Fame, Hollywood Hills, Griffith Observatory

We drove off-interstate from Venice through Melrose to Hollywood. I always prefer the scenic route but do be aware that L.A. drivers are notorious for being aggressive and not signaling, partly because there are no protected left turns.

We had a great lunch at It’s Pho, Vietnamese and Thai Fusion, located at 1821 North Cahuenga Boulevard, LA, CA 90028.

Dish at It's Pho Vietnamese and Thai FusionHollywood LA California

Much has changed since we were in Hollywood in 2009. Then, Michael Jackson had died the week before. I was writing for Examiner and was determined to get a shot of his star despite the mass of people blocking the way. My kids still tell the story of watching me crawl on my knees, then disappear into the fray. When I crawled out, my favorite sweater that was tied around my neck was gone, never to be found again. In 2008, Heath Ledger died and The Dark Night was released. Michel Jackson and Joker impersonators were out in full force.

Hollywood 2009 Michel Jackson and Heath Ledger

This time, we were there just before The Oscars. The Red Carpet was being changed to champagne.

We couldn’t get near The Chinese Theater because of the preparations, but I found stars of celebrities Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials will recognize.

Stars on Hollywood Walk 2023

Capitol Records Hollywood LA

Hollywood isn’t just about actors. Recording artists are also aplenty there. If your people are into vinyl, adult family time in L.A. should include a stop at Amoeba Music, one of the largest indie record stores in the world. Formerly located on Sunset Boulevard/now on Hollywood Boulevard, their free live events have Stevie Nicks, Ozzy Osbourne, Elvis Costello, Nancy Sinatra, and newer artists my kids know but I don’t. 🙂 Amoeba also has shops in San Francisco and Berkeley, California.

City of Angels mural Hollywood LA

Tip: A photo opportunity with the Hollywood sign as a backdrop is on the terrace outside the food area of Target.

Day 3: Bikes, Boats, and Basketball

Marvin Brand Bike Trail (The Strand)

I love riding bikes around Denver and Boulder when visiting Cole. I’d read that the Marvin Brande Bike Trail runs for 22 miles and is a great way to see surfers, hang gliders and street performers from Venus to Santa Monica and beyond. I’d envisioned renting bikes in Santa Monica on an all-day pass. I thought we’d ride a couple of hours to get exercise and have time for photos and lunch. However, also on our agenda was walking the Venice Canals and seeing a Clippers Game. So we rented electric bikes nearby in Venice Beach for an hour instead.

In hindsight, Venice Beach rentals cost more and the bike route on a Sunday is too crowded. Families and couples stroll there to avoid the crowded Boardwalk. I was all smiles below at the start of our ride, but after breaking constantly and almost taking out a toddler whose parents allowed him to walk into oncoming bikers, I was traumatized. (The child and parents ambled on unfazed).

The Venice Canals were more romantic than I imagined. (Also see the video above made on a sunnier day). They are one of the U.S.’s best-kept secrets. They’re tucked away so well that we missed them in 2009. Thanks to scenes with Ashton Kutcher and George Lopez filmed on them in the movie Valentine’s Day released in 2010 (and scenes of the Marriott Del Ray where we stayed), I was determined to see walk the canals this time.

Whether you’re a sports fan or not, seeing the LA Clippers is fun. I enjoy the high drama of the NBA. One day we want to see The Lakers, but the ticket prices were too much when we were there.

Biking is a great option for adult family time in L.A.

A Clippers game is a great way to spend adult family time in L.A. Thanks for the tickets, Ben!

Tip: When traveling with people you love, communication (just as it is in all things relationships) is key. My kids say I’m the Energizer Bunny on vacation and need to chill. I am an early riser and love to plan. But I also like exploring with no agenda. By serendipity, we make wonderful discoveries that way.

Traveling solo and leading educational tours is very different from adult family time in L.A. We all have different interests, energy levels, and pace preferences. I enjoy finding options. I ask family members for their must-sees and must-dos so we can try to make them happen. I learned on this trip that it’s also important to discuss details — as in the case of biking (Day 3) and driving up the coast (Day 4) — how far we want to go, where we want to stop, and at what pace. This is especially important if you have an event or dinner reservation. My plan for Day 3 was probably a bit too ambitious given a late start and game tickets that night.

Day 4: Coastal Drive to Malibu and Neptune’s Net

Drive up Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) from Venice Beach to Malibu for some adult family time in L.A.

California Playlist on Spotify

We debated other road trips (see below), but in the end, we took the nostalgic route to Malibu. Photo on the left: 2009. Photo on the right: 2023

We really enjoyed Neptune’s Net which was Taylor’s suggestion. The oysters are BIG. All the seafood great is great. We sat at picnic tables watching waves and talking with locals. 5 minutes down the road is Leo Carrillo Beach where Grease and Karate Kid were filmed.

We’ve changed a bit over 14 years….

But not really ….

Be Sure To Stop Where We Didn’t…

We ended up exploring past Malibu. Inland and around the US Naval Base in Ventura County we saw farmland and the largest fields of rose nurseries I’ve ever seen. We didn’t make it to the Getty Villa Museum on the way back, but it is high on the NEXT TIME list for adult family time in L.A.

Other Road Trip Options from L.A.


Solvang is a village 2 hours north of Malibu built by Danish settlers in 1911. With only 5,000 residents, it not only looks like a European village but also feels like one.

Newport Beach

Newport Beach is an hour south of Venice and a great location for whale watching. 20 minutes south of Newport is Laguna Beach featured in the reality show, Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County.

Day 5: Farewell Walk Along Venice Canals, Italian Lunch, Vintage Shopping in Santa Monica

If you’re an early riser and value morning quiet time, take a solo walk on the Venice Canals. All you’ll hear are hummingbirds chattering, bees humming, and water parting as ducks glide by. You might meet a resident walking to work, pushing a stroller, or walking a dog. But mostly, you’ll experience in solitude a beauty break for the soul. I remembered again why God created the perfect world as a garden.

The architecture and landscaping of each home on the Venice Canals are unique. If your idea of heaven on earth is gathering with friends and family in an outdoor space under blue skies … if you love the smell of citrus and colorful blooms… if you smile at succulents and palm trees twitching in the breeze … this is your place for escape and inspiration to create your own outdoor space.

Italian style vila and gondola on Venice Canals LA California

red and green succulents in a garden in Venice LA California

Outdoor living area of a home on Venice Canals in California

Foxtail fern in a garden on Venice Canals LA California

Ferns and Lavender garden Venice Canals LA California

Palm trees and lemon trees in a yard in Venice California

Home  with balconys on Venice Canals LA California

Terrace with lemon trees Venice California LA

Venice Canals California
Walking the Venice Canals is a Great Way to Spend Adult family time in L.A.
home on Venice Canals California with ivy and suuculents

European style home with cobblestone fence and flowers on Venice Canals California

Venice Book Exchange on Canals in Venice California LA

yellow Moroccan homes on Venice Canals LA California

Italian For Lunch

I loved the Malloreddus at Ospi — Beef Cheek Ragu Napoletano with thyme and Toscano. Everyone was happy with the Spicy Rigatoni, Spaghetti, and Spicy Eggplant, and Zucchini. Cocktails and a Super Tuscan Red were yummy, too.

Vintage Shopping

Taylor and Ben found some cool bargains on Santa Monica Boulevard (sing it like Sheryl Crow) at the Goodwill Southern California and Crossroads Trading on 4th. One street over is the hub of downtown retail at 3rd Street Promenade and Santa Monica Place. And if you’re not into shopping, there’s fun in the sun at Santa Monica Pier.

Santa Monica Restaurants for adult family time in L.A.:

  • Masilla for food from France, Italy, Spain, and Morocco. Happy Hour is 11 AM – 6:30 PM Monday-Friday with 50% off craft cocktails and wine
  • Manchego has California-Spanish tapas and wine. During weekend brunch, they have bottomless sangria and mimosas.
  • Fig, a popular Mediterranean- inspired bistro located in the Fairmount Miramar, is a favorite local Happy Hour Spot. During Fig @ 5 – 5 to 6 pm Tuesday through Saturday — most of their menu is half price. If you want to get fancy for Mother’s Day Brunch, during DineLA Restaurant Week April 28 to May 12, or for a private event, this is the place. Georgina Jones, who built the original Miramar with her husband, was a botanist who planted the hotel’s first fig tree and dispensed herbal tonics from what is now The Potting Shed, a space for special dinner parties.

Cole spotted Coco wheeling down the street — a robot that delivers food that was created by two young men when they were students at UCLA. I can’t wait to share this with my university students who write business plans and Kickstarter and social media campaigns for their present and future business projects.

Takeaway from L.A.

I’ve been in the classroom — as a student and educator — since I was five. NOTHING inspires me to be a lifelong learner more than travel. When we expand our horizons with people we love we build stronger relationships. We’re energized by adventure, beauty, and new ideas. Travel inspires critical and creative thinking.

Abbot Kinney’s story is inspiring. He was born in New Jersey. His family moved to Washington, D.C. where they became involved in politics. At age 16 he went to Europe for his education and became fluent in six languages. While there, he visited Venice, Italy. Years later, he would create a New Venice in California with the goal of bringing a Renaissance of art, health, and education to the area. His asthma improved in California, so he wanted others to experience fresh ocean air.

No doubt Kinney enjoyed privileges many people don’t have. He made money with his brother in tobacco. But he also used his education and resources to benefit others. The man who wanted to bring a Renaissance to the Sunshine State was a Renaissance Man himself. His path to building Venice was long and not linear. First he…

  • Served as a Member of the Maryland National Guard and U.S. Geological Survey Team
  • Mapped the Sioux reservations of the Dakotas
  • Served on a survey team in Yosemite Valley
  • Traveled to Egypt, Macedonia, India, New Guinea, Australia
  • Chaired the California Board of Forestry
  • Partnered with fellow conservationist John Muir to establish the San Gabriel Timberland Reserve
  • Reported poor living conditions that led to the Mission Indian Act of 1891
  • Established the first forestry station in the U.S. in Rustic Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains. One project was a study of eucalyptus trees that had been introduced to the region.

In 1905, a marshy area was reborn as a town of canals called “Ocean Park.” It would take him six more years to get the name officially changed to Venice. Kinney imported gondolas and gondoliers from Venice, Italy. Residents of downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica rode trolleys to experience the Venetian-style shops, carnival rides, and an aquarium. He brought in professors and writers to deliver lectures. Sadly, few people took advantage of this free education.

Today only a remnant of the canals remain but are protected as part of the Venice Historical District. Kinney’s story reminds me of a line from a familiar quote often attributed to Mother Theresa: “What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.”

Apparently, the author was Dr. Kent Keith in 1968 while a young student leader at Harvard. It was on a poster in my classroom in Nashville for many years:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

Thanks, Abbot, for Venice. Thanks again, Cole, for an unforgettable time away.

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.

Hippy Hat and Cowboy

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.

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.


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


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.

Southern Girl Gone Global

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 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


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.

Leiper’s Fork for Weekend Escape or Road Trip Stopover

Leiper’s Fork for Weekend Escape or Road Trip Stopover

green and pink retro metal lawn chairs
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
Crepe Myrtle (let)
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
Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee

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.



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.


*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). 


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, 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. 


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.


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.



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.


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.



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


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..  

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



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.  



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. 


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.


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.


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


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


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 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.



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



*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.


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


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. 


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. 


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


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. 


(Get my Homegirl Guide here.)


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.


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.



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…