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.

Hometown Hopkinsville, Kentucky: Eclipseville (and beyond) is Ready

Hometown Hopkinsville, Kentucky: Eclipseville (and beyond) is Ready

Since returning to the US this summer after living three years abroad (in fact, on this day, August 19,  I landed in Morocco), I’ve bounced between my home of almost thirty years, Nashville, and Hopkinsville, the place I was born now called “Eclipseville.”  I spoke with vendors yesterday just after they set up, sat down, and waited for the Summer Salute Festival at Founders Square to get going.  On Main Street and beyond,  energy and excitement revved and this weekend is taking off full throttle.

The talk of the town all summer, the Epic Solar Eclipse is the biggest event that’s happened in Hopkinsville in my lifetime–probably ever.  The guys at Food Lion and The Wood Shed spoke of doing business with  strangers who’ve come to town.

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Drive-through meat and 3 and the best pies in town

Downtown as the first band played, southern rock ladies line-danced, couples jitter bugged Happy Days style, while children on the sidelines slurped blue snow cones.   By the time I headed back to Mom’s with groceries, cars with headlights on–telltale signs of guests arriving–streamed into town.  A Nashville friend messaged that her family will set up camp five minutes away.  Cousins are meeting at their family farm, and my kids are coming in as reunions happen all over the county.  NASA and national media will watch from a farm in Cerulean, miles down the road from Hopkinsville, at  the point of greatest eclipse.

2017 has been a challenging year for me personally and globally.  I know I’m not alone. Despite all the country–the world–is facing right now, people still long to celebrate life–to look up in awe rather than around in fear and confusion or down in dread.  As a community–residents and travelers– looked up last night at the fireworks, we look forward to looking up on Monday.  With so much we can’t control, the time feels right for heavenly bodies to move.   To experience celestial power at work by a Creator who loves and sees all.  We’re ready.

Highlights of Summer Salute Festival Founders Square (For more info and updates go  here.)

Saturday, August 19: Fort Campbell Band 12:30, WSM Road Show Winners 6:30, Tracy Lawrence 8:00

Sunday, August 20:  Church Service 10 am, Train Rides 10 am, Carnival Rides 10 am, Gospel Music 11:30, The Classic Rock Experience 7-10 PM

August 21 Public Viewing Areas: DeBow Park, Tie Breaker Park, Ruff Park, Trail of Tears Park, Western Kentucky State Fairgrounds, Pardue Lane

Also August 21 Hopkinsville Community College will display science activities including a satellite balloon will be launched.  Also fans of Edgar Cayce, the most documented psychic of the 20th century who many consider the father of holistic medicine, will gather for a seminar and watch at his birthplace Beverly Academy.  Go here for details.


I grabbed some BBQ and enjoyed catching up with John Banks (seated in front) who graduated from Christian County High School a year ahead of me.

Stop by to see Debbie and Ginny at Top This! They’ll fix you up!

Gorgeous pottery locally made and shipped worldwide at Pawley Studios.



Unique piece by Jamaican Barbed Wire Artist and Motivational Speaker, Sean Wallace He also designed glasses below.


Plenty of bling for fans of UK, my alma mater





And to cool off, stop by Griffin’s Studio–my favorite discovery, located across from the courthouse and Alhambra Theater, top of Main.  Unique artwork, classes, and owner Griffin Moore, is a lady of southern smarts, art, and charm.









Horses are brought to the table at Selman Marrakech

Farewell Brunch and Horse Show at Selman Marrakech

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Chandelier at Selman Marrakech
Life is a Dream at Selman Marrakech

Leaving Marrakech was like leaving Oz — a technicolor, over-the-rainbow dream that brought together traveling companions from faraway places who became lifelong friends. Like me, Kate from Australia, Jasna from Canada, and Synovve from Norway discovered within us unexpected courage, wisdom, and heart.  I learned so much from these single ladies about reinvention, growth, and joy.  They are still in Marrakesh, and I miss them madly. I considered a hot air balloon ride as our final outing together which would have been more in keeping with L. Frank Baum’s classic. Thankfully, Kate suggested The Selman Sunday Brunch (my favorite meal out) which was truly the perfect choice for the end of an era.

Sunday brunch at Selman
Expat friends are for life. Synnove from Norway, Kate from Australia, Jasna from Canada, and I loved our brunch and pool day at Selman Marrakech. Expat friends
White horse at Selman Marrakech
Beautiful horses at Selman Marrakech remind me of living on a Kentucky horse farm.
Horse grazing at Selman Marrakech
A nutmeg-colored horse grazes at Selman while guests enjoy brunch.
Selman Marraekch
Arabian horses were brought to Morocco from Saudi Arabia in 700 AD. Selman Marrakech is named for the first horse on the property.

I had forgotten how much I love horses.  In another life in the early 1980s, I lived as a newlywed on a Kentucky thoroughbred farm where I saw foals born, mares bred, yearlings sold, and champions raced at  Keeneland.  Later we moved to Tennessee Walking Horse Country where our children were born.  Last Friday I smiled at the symmetry of watching my daughter say goodbye with love to Nashville from a horse-drawn carriage as we saw downtown Music City with the wonder of tourists.  In August we move, two single Southern girls, to the Dominican Republic.

Selman is a destination for equestrians and sports travel enthusiasts.

Arabian horse show at Selman Marrakech
Arabian horse show at Selman Marrakech
Selman Marrakech

At Selman, a family owned and operated luxury property in the top tier of Marrakesh with La Mamounia (also designed by Jacques Garcia) and Royal Mansour, Sunday brunch guests can enjoy the “Horse Ballet.”  Mr. Abdeslam Bennani Smires’s private collection of twelve horses, some international champions, graze as guests feed on the best brunch — actually, the best food in terms of quality and quantity I had in all of Morocco.  He says of his showplace:

I wanted to create a unique hotel project that offered the traveler a strong portrayal of our culture.  The horse, profoundly linked to our history, seemed to me to perfectly encapsulate the spirit.  I’ve had the chance to visit the most beautiful stables in the world.  And each time, it was an incredible experience.  I wanted to be able to offer people the chance to gain access to and share in this otherwise closed equestrian world, to which access is normally only afforded by the invitation of horse owners.  I want the guest to be able to enjoy the experience in all its glory.  Through doing so, the guest experiences a sense of sharing which is a principle so dear to the Moroccan people.”

Though “thoroughbred” refers to any purebred horse, the Kentucky racehorse is an English breed developed in the 18th and 19th centuries derived from Arabian ancestors. Arabian horses originated in ancient Persia on the Arabian peninsula more than 4,500 years ago. Via trade and war dispatching the animals worldwide,  the Arabian’s genetic code is found in almost every modern breed of riding horse. Developed by desert nomads who often kept them in tents forming a natural bond with humans, Arabians are intelligent, strong, fast, and eager to please owners. They are subject to more health issues than other breeds and, like Kentucky thoroughbreds, are considered hot-blooded. Because they are sensitive, spirited, and high-strung, they’re recommended for those with advanced equine experience.

Horses are brought to the table at Selman Marrakech
Drama unfolded as Arabian horses made a grand entrance and walked to our tables to Sting’s “Desert Rose”.
Black horse at Selman Marrakech
This magnificent creature reminds me of Anna Sewell’s childhood classic horse, Black Beauty.
Black horse Selman Marrakech

The afternoon was relaxing. Horses made grand entrances from paddocks to Sting’s Desert Rose and performed. We feasted on a sumptuous buffet and enjoyed live Spanish music.  After lunch, we wandered the gorgeous property and enjoyed a Sunday nap by the enormous pool and tranquil fountains.

Musicians at Selman Marrakech
Live Spanish music at Selman brunch
Brunch on the patio between Arabian horse paddocks and peaceful waters at Selman Marrakech
Brunch is served on the patios between Arabian horse paddocks and peaceful waters at Selman.
Brunch by the paddocks at Selman Marrakech
Sharing the shade of olive trees with Arabain horses at Selman
white horse and roses Selman Marrakech
Desert roses
Surreal Selman Marrakech
Surreal Selman Marrakech
Grilled lobster and beef at Selman Marrakech Brunch
Loved the grilled lobster and beef kabobs at Selman Marrakech Brunch

Selman Brunch Marrakech

Selman Marrakech sweets
Macaroons are one of many tasty desserts.
Desserts at Selman Marrakech
Don’t miss the chocolate mouse at Selman Marrakech. We agreed it is the best we’ve ever had.

Kate of Morocco Bespoke and Cindy of Southern Girl Gone Global at Selman Marrakech Brunch

Southern Girl Gone Global Cindy McCain at Selman Marrakech

Selman Marrakech
Saphire glass, velvet amethyst seating, crystal chandeliers

When newly married and living on a Lexington, Kentucky horse farm, we purchased our first piece of art — an equine print.  At Selman Marrakech, suites are decorated with equine artwork throughout the hotel.  

Expats in Morocco have brunch at Selman Marrakech to send off a friend moving home

I was sad when this day ended and sadder still when I flew away. On the ride home, I saw  Nicole Kidman in the film, Queen of the Desert, the true story of  Gertrude Belle.  Though it was set in the Middle East I recognized scene-by-scene shots done in Marrakesh.  In a paddock, she talks to a man with an Arabian steed.  It was filmed, of course, at Selman.

 Desert Rose by Sting

 I dream of rain, I dream of gardens in the desert sand
 I wake in pain
 I dream of love as time runs through my hand
 I dream of fire
 These dreams are tied to a horse that will never tire
And in the flames
 Her shadows play in the shape of a man’s desire
 This desert rose
 Each of her veils, a secret promise
 This desert flower
 No sweet perfume ever tortured me more than this
 And as she turns
 This way she moves in the logic of all my dreams
 This fire burns
 I realise that nothing’s as it seems…