We have arrived for a few days of touring in Memphis!
It was a rainy day with scattered thunderstorms in NY so our flight ended up being delayed but thankfully we made it out.
Nothing planned for today except to arrive and get settled. We are staying at the Guest House from Graceland which is associated with Graceland. It used to the "Heartbreak Hotel" but it has had a big makeover.
We ate at their casual restaurant tonight.
We spent today with our friends at Colonial Williamsburg. Colonial Williamsburg is a living history museum containing a combination of restored original buildings as well as reconstructed buildings.
Your admission ticket gives you access to various buildings as well as activities available throughout the day. The buildings have trade people actually performing the various trade. There are also other buildings such as the Capitol building, courthouse and Governor's palace.
It was a gorgeous day, perfect for walking around and going into buildings as they came along.
My favorite of the trade buildings that we saw today was the weavers. There was a woman demonstrating the loom while another gentleman would describe what she was doing and answer questions. There was also another woman using the spinning wheel to make cotton into thread.
We took the tours available at the Capitol, the Governor's palace and the coffeehouse. At the coffeehouse, you were able to sample your choice of either coffee, tea or chocolate. I chose chocolate. It was like melted chocolate that was not sweetened.
The tours at the Capitol and Governor's palace gave you an overview of each building and what would have happened in each room. You would also get a glimpse into what was life was like in the colonial times.
As I mentioned it was a beautiful day and there were so many flowers and gardens to walk through.
There is no way you could do everything Colonial Williamsburg has to offer in one day. We enjoyed everything that we did and would definitely come back again.
We went to dinner tonight at the Hound's Tale restaurant. Our friends ordered Fried Brussel Spouts and Shrimp Tempura as appetizers to share. Chris and I both had a burger and fries. For dessert, Chris and I shared a piece of S'mores Cheesecake. I did forget a picture of the cheesecake..oops. Everything was very good.
And that is the end of our touring. Tomorrow we have about a 7 hour drive back to NY (where it is cold again!). We had a great time. With the exception of weather that was not great for the first half of the trip, everything went smoothly and we liked everything we did.
I always love my trips to Disney, but it was great to do a non-Disney trip. I am already thinking about where we could on another road trip!
We have good friends that live near Williamsburg and they graciously took off two days from work to come and be our tour guides for Williamsburg.
Today we went to the site of the Battle of Yorktown. Hamilton fans will be familiar with this battle and we made it a point to visit the specific site where Hamilton fought. There were also many mentions and locations related to the Marquis de Lafayette.
We started at the visitor's center, watching an orientation movie and then looked at the exhibits there. We also walked around the building to the few outdoor exhibits.
We then went to the car to drive around the historic route around the site. There is a map you can reference for different points of interest. There were also plenty of signs along the way talking about what took place in each location.
Top on our list of things to see was Redoubt 10, where Hamilton fought.
Redoubt 9 was in the same area.
We made a stop at Surrender Field, where the British surrendered.
Our final stop was the Moore house, where the surrender agreement was signed.
There was definitely a lot to see at the Yorktown site. It was also a beautiful day so it was just nice to be outside and soak up the sun.
It was late afternoon, so we decided to do a late lunch / early dinner at Pierce's BBQ. I was a bad blogger and totally forgot to take any photos. Chris and I both had the same meal. Beef brisket, fries, hush puppies and cole slaw for me, cornbread for Chris. It was all very good!
Tomorrow we will be exploring Colonial Williamsburg... our last day of touring :(
We left Savannah this morning to drive to our 4th and final destination - Williamsburg, VA. It was a beautiful sunny day which made the drive seem so easy - after driving in pouring rain on our way to Charleston. We arrived in Williamsburg after about 8 hours, including stops.
I am loyal to the Hilton brand when I travel, specifically Homewood Suites if they are available in the area. For our night in Mount Vernon, we stayed at a Hampton Inn (still Hilton brand). Then we had a Homewood Suites for our other three stays. Twice we had a king one bedroom and once a king studio. We prefer the one bedroom, if we can, so that if one of us is awake and the other isn't, we can shut the bedroom door and use the living room area.
We were happy with all of our rooms but our room here in Williamsburg has been the best. It is so big and the bathroom area is also just outside the bedroom, so I can get ready in the morning while Chris is sleeping without any lights on in the bedroom area.
We ate tonight at a restaurant called Food for Thought. There is a box of cards on the table with various topics and questions to discuss to give you "food for thought." We liked the ones that gave you a court case to read and decide and then you would turn over the card to see what was actually decided.
We started out with a beer flight with local Virginia beers. Then I had the pot roast with mashed potatoes and creamed spinach. Chris had a nut crusted chicken with mushroom gravy and fries. The pot roast just broke apart and I especially liked the creamed spinach too. Chris isn't a mushroom fan and he said the gravy had a strong mushroom taste but he liked his meal too.
For dessert, we ordered the apple nachos to share. It looked so amazing that we dove right in and I totally forgot the picture until we were done. I will try to paint a picture for you and show you what remained at the end. There were cinnamon sugar tortilla crisps around the bottom with a large scoop of creamy, rich vanilla ice cream in the middle, and cooked apples around the base of the ice cream. It was super good! Neither one of us could manage the last few bites.
After yesterday, we felt we had a good sense of direction about the city and what we wanted to do today was well within walking distance for us (the furthest point was about a mile away), so we ended up not using our second day of the trolley pass. We had it with us in case we decided to hop on, but it wasn't needed. It was finally a beautiful day so we were happy with walking to our locations.
Our first stop was the Davenport house, which we had planned to do yesterday and didn't get to. The Davenport family was working class, in contrast to the two homes we saw yesterday which were owned by wealthy families.
The story of the house was interesting in that it was not owned by the Davenports throughout history. It had eventually fallen out of the families' ownership and in the 1950s it was a boarding house that was pretty run down. The city was going to buy it and tear it down. But seven women formed together and purchased the house (and eventually created the Savannah Historical Society.)
Through the research and restoration process, a document was found that listed the assets of Isiah Davenport at the time of his passing. He died in his late 40s from the yellow fever. It was decided that the house would only contain items that were listed on that document. They were able to recover some original items that had been with descendants of the family but many of the originals were gone. So they use items that are antique and exactly what was listed but they are not origin to the Davenport home.
When they removed the many layers of paint from the walls, they found wallpaper. Again, it was not able to be restored but they found a company to make the exact kind of wallpaper that would have been used. The wallpaper was certainly an interesting aspect of the house.
Our next stop of the day was The American Prohibition Museum. The museum was very well presented with a combination of actual items, information to read, and wax figures depicting various scenes. There were also costumed employees in different sections that would speak in character about a particular situation.
There was a lot to learn in this museum. While I definitely knew what prohibition was, I was not aware of all of the details. I think the museum also did a good job of presenting the ramifications of what occurred not just for the people that lived through that time period but for the history of America moving forward.
Towards the end of the museum, you come to a door that is an entrance to a Speakeasy. There is no handle but there is a button to push. There is also some writing on the door that says "Tell them Gus sent you." When you push the button, the eye level window opens and there is an LED screen with eyes looking at you. The voices says "Who are you? What do you want? Who sent you?" You say that Gus sent you. The voice says "Ok, well if Gus sent you, you can come in." And then the door pops open for you to enter.
And you enter the Speakeasy, where you can get cocktails that were specific to prohibition time. We had pre-purchased a drink coupon for each of us when we entered, but you can also buy drinks right there.
Just before you get to the Speakeasy door, there is a section about the start of the dance the Charleston. There is one part where there is a large mirror with videos playing above it showing ladies doing the Charleston. You are encouraged to try it out for yourself and there are even foot steps on the floor to follow. When you get into the Speakeasy, you find out that it is a one way mirror. So when you are in the Speakeasy, you can watch guests try their hand at the Charleston and they don't know it. It wasn't very busy when we were there but we did see a few people try it while we were enjoying our drinks.
After the Speakeasy section, there is a little more to the museum about the repeal of prohibition and a short movie that summarizes everything. It was a very well done exhibit and we enjoyed it.
The museum sits right in the City Market which is a few blocks of shops and restaurants so we had planned to walk around there a bit before lunch. We bought some pralines... because you kind of have to.. and some Boyd's cookies. Chris also got peach wine which he wanted to bring home to try.
Our next stop was Lady and Sons, Paula Deen's restaurant. In researching, I had read some mixed reviews but we were determined to try it anyway. They do have a buffet and you can also order from a menu. The buffet really wasn't overly appealing to me and Chris doesn't like them in general so we decided to order off the menu. I started with a Savannah Lemonade that was peach flavored vodka, lemonade and a splash of Sprite. They came around with hot cheese bread that was AMAZING! It had to be packed full of butter but it was warm and cheesy and dense.
For lunch, I went with my theme and had shrimp and grits. This one was definitely the winner! First it was huge!! The plate weighed a ton. There was a lot of flavor and it had a little kick as well. I only managed to eat half and took half back to the room for later tonight. Chris had a BBQ pulled chicken sandwich which he didn't rave about but said it was good. You can also get one piece of fried chicken as an add on so we got one to share. Wow, it was good! Chris loved it. I had a bite but my meal was so big that I let him have the rest. We were definitely too full for dessert at the moment so we got a piece of pecan pie to take to the room as well.
We left the restaurant and decided to walk along River Street to get back our hotel. It was a beautiful afternoon. We passed the Waving Girl statue. The story goes that this young lady was in love with a sailor and when he left to go to sea, she would go to this park daily and wave to the ships coming in hoping to find him returning to her. She did this for 43 years and never found him.
We also saw the Olympic Torch monument that was placed in the park because the yachting events for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta took place on the Savannah River.
River Street is also a series of a few shops but mostly bars and restaurants. You can carry open alcohol containers on the street here and there were already some folks that had been over served walking around - and it was only 4:30 pm. I can imagine that area gets a bit rowdy in the evenings.
And with that our time in Savannah comes to an end. I was a little unsure about it at first because I had really loved Charleston. But like Charleston, I would have liked at least another day here to do some more touring. It is a beautiful city with a lot to see and do.
Tomorrow is a full travel day for us, as we start to head back north. We will be on our way to our final destination (how can this trip be almost over already?!?!)
Today was the first of two full touring days in Savannah. We had purchased tickets for the Old Town Trolley Hop on Hop off tour for both days.
The Trolley has a stop one street over from our hotel so we hopped on this morning and took it over to the visitor center. We looked around a bit there and then got back on to go one stop to the first thing we wanted to do.
Juliette Gordon Low was the founder of the Girl Scouts. Our first tour of the day was at her birthplace and home. As we found throughout Savannah, the houses are available to see by guided tour only. We were lucky to arrive about five minutes before one was to start and there was room on the tour for us.
I really knew very little about Juliette Low, who only went by the nickname "Daisy." It was very interesting to learn about her life and the Girl Scout organization. The family was wealthy and the large, open house reflected that.
One of the rooms on the tour is a library / education center that is meant to be hands on. The organization wanted to reflect the value of experiences and hands on learning. There were little centers with activities and shelves with books that you are welcome to look through.
Any Girl Scout that takes the tour has the opportunity to purchase a special pin that is to be worn on their uniform under their troupe number. We had three girls on our tour.
We had about an hour until our lunch reservation but it was only a short walk so we decided to walk there and see if we could be seated early. It was busy but we were able to get in so we enjoyed our meal at The Olde Pink House. The restaurant is housed in an historic mansion and decorated accordingly.
I decided to start a theme of trying shrimp and grits so that is what I ordered. Chris had the chicken fried chicken. Both dishes came with collard greens and Chris actually ate them so you know they were good. For dessert we shared the Praline Basket, which was a shell made of praline with vanilla ice cream and berries inside. We enjoyed our meal here for sure.
Finishing lunch, the next house we wanted to tour was the Owens-Thomas house. The family was prominent in Savannah and another popular feature of the home was that Marquis de Lafayette stayed in the house for 2 nights when he was touring the US.
We did not have as much luck with timing for this house. We had missed a tour so had to wait 40 minutes for the next one. We walked around the gift shop a bit and then rested on a bench. About 15 minutes before the tour, they let you into the Carriage House which had been the slave quarters. There was some information to read as well as going to the upstairs area to look at how it was set up.
This tour was very good as well. We were able to see the basement where the slaves would do most of the cooking and other house work. We then went to the two floors of the house to see the living spaces and bedrooms.
This house was ahead of its time as it had indoor plumbing and water before even the White House did.
One feature that was interesting was that they wanted everything to be symmetrical. So if there was a door on one side, there needed to be a door on the other side. They carried this so far that there were about 3-4 "doors" through out the house that were false doors. They were just there to keep the symmetry of the room.
We finished the tour at about 3:45 pm. Unfortunately, most of the house tours end at 4:30 / 5 pm so we didn't have time to get to the third one we had chosen. There are actually many more but we had to pick out a sampling.
The trolleys do run until 6 pm, so we decided to walk to where we got off in the morning, which was stop #2, and take it around to the stop near our hotel, which was stop #9. That way we would have listened to the whole tour information - and we didn't have to walk back to the hotel.
There are several Forrest Gump locations in Savannah. The bench was in one of the parks but it was vandalized so there is now only a replica in one of the museums. But the church pictured below is where they drop the feather in the beginning.
That was the end of touring for day 1. We still have another full day here tomorrow.
We spent a very full day in Charleston between two activities: Urban Quest Adventure and Charleston Food tours.
We checked out of our hotel and drove into Charleston. I had signed up for our Urban Quest Adventure before our trip. You basically pay for the quest and then you can do it whenever you would like.
If you have seen The Amazing Race, then you have an idea of what our adventure was like. It was all done on a website through my cell phone. We had to get to the starting location and then log in to begin. The Charleston Adventure consisted of 17 questions and about 4 bonus questions. Here is an example of what the questions were like:
We really enjoyed the whole quest. We went to places that we would have easily overlooked and quickly learned how to navigate. There were two things that I didn't like. Twice we were lead to get on the free city shuttle to get to a location. It was a waste of time to wait for it and then once we got on, it was not easy to figure out when to get off. We took it once and then second time it directed us to take the trolley, it was only a half mile so we walked.
The second problem that I had was that you were supposed to be able to pause it and start from where you left off. It took us longer than we expected and we had a tour scheduled so we paused it, following the instructions to close the browser, and then restarted to finish it up after the tour. But when we got our final results, the time was over 7 1/2 hours so it had never paused. Not a huge deal but it does make a difference in scoring.
Here are some locations that the quest took us too:
After we finished (after the food tour), we received our score and then you can see where you rank on the leader board. We only missed one bonus question so we did pretty well and finished 7th.
Our other actvitity of the day was a food tour. We chose "Savor the Flavor of Charleston." It was about 3 hours long and had 5 stops, 3 of which we were able to sit at tables in a restaurant. Water, soda, tea were included at each stop. You could purchase alcholic beverages. I really liked that we got a sample platter at each stop so it wasn't just one bite and move on, like on some other tours I have done. Our guide was wonderful and gave us a lot of history of Charleston as well as information about living in Charleston today.
There were so many things we tried, but my favorite was the raw oyster. They source them all locally and it was fresh with very tasting seasoning on top.
I did not take any food pictures. I had planned to but no one else was and I didn't want to look like a dork. :)
I really could have used at least one more day in Charleston. There were so many shops and restaurants that we didn't get to look at and I saw a few more tours I would like to do.
We left Charleston right after the tour and drove to Destination #3. Tune in tomorrow to see where we have landed!
This was our first full day in Charleston. We woke up to 42 degrees with a real feel of 35... in South Carolina. It was also cloudy and there was a bit of wind.
Our first stop for the day was to visit Fort Sumter which involved a ferry ride to and from the Fort. I knew it would be even colder on the water so we had to wear our winter coats... again.
From Mount Pleasant, it was about a 20 minute drive to Aquarium Wharf were we parked in the garage for $5 for the whole day. Being used to NYC parking prices, this was a dream! We parked and walked a short bit over to the Fort Sumter building. I had purchased a package online that included the ferry to Fort Sumter and admission to the South Carolina aquarium. It gave you a small discount to purchase them together. I presented my printed reservation and was given the tickets to the ferry and the aquarium.
We had about 15 minutes until the ferry boarded so we walked around the small exhibit area inside the building. We headed outside to board and it was cold! We bundled up and settled in for the 30 minute ferry right to Fort Sumter. There was a recorded narration about what you could see and some history about Fort Sumter.
As we approached Fort Sumter, the ranger gave us a return time of a little over an hour and told us there would a ranger talk and flag raising ceremony at 10:30. It didn't sound like much time but it was really plenty of time. Everything inside the fort is original and there were plenty of informational signs explaining what you were looking at. We explored all around and then went to the flagpole area for the ranger talk. The ranger gave an interesting talk about the civil war and it's place in history. He then asked for volunteers to assist in the flag raising.
We had about 15 minutes left to explore before we had to head back to the ferry. There was a small museum area that we didn't go into but other than that, we saw the rest of the fort.
We opted to sit in the downstairs area on the ferry on the return trip in the hopes of warming up a bit. We were back at the dock at about 11:45 and headed next door to the South Carolina Aquarium.
The aquarium housed fish and wildlife specific to South Carolina. They also had a connection with Lego. So there would be an exhibit with the actual animal and then a Lego version of the animal next to it. It was kind of cool and kind of weird at the same time. I noticed many kids that were more interested in the Lego versions than the real thing.
I love seeing Bald Eagles and the exhibit was so close that it was easily my favorite part. It only took a little over an hour to walk around the entire place.
There was an "interesting" special event going on at the aquarium. There were mermaids from Weeki Wachee (in Florida) doing some special performances. It was a big deal. We entered the aquarium at the end of the first show and there was a huge crowd. As we finished seeing the aquarium, another showing was about to start so we stayed to check it out for a few minutes. The mermaid entered the tank and would swim around waving to the kids, while every once in a while taking oxygen from a hose that she held in her hand. Now I had never heard of Weeki Wachee Mermaids but a little internet research taught me that they have been performing in Florida since 1947.
After lasting about 5 minutes looking at mermaids, we left the aquarium and decided to make our dinner a late lunch instead. We finished the aquarium earlier than expected and debated trying to add something else to do or just calling it an early day. I had some work to get done and we have a long day tomorrow so we opted to call it a day.
For our late lunch, we went to the Tattooed Moose. I had found it on a site that mentioned restaurants featured on the Food Network. It was definitely a "dive" and it was a little scary to walk into. It wasn't overly big and by the time we left (about 3:15 pm) it was packed. They are known for their duck club and duck fat fries so I had to have both. They also used to have this amazing multi-layered chocolate cake. It was even still on the menu but when I asked for a slice to go, the waitress said they no longer carry it. So I chose peanut butter pie. The pie was good, but I still would have liked the chocolate cake.
Tomorrow is another full day in Charleston and then driving to destination #3.
We left Mount Vernon on schedule (yes, I have a planned out daily schedule) at 9 am. Today was a travel day to drive to Charleston, SC. I had hoped we would arrive around 6 pm but it didn't work out like that.
Except for the first hour or so, we drove in rain all day - heavy rain at times. We also decided to stop at Cracker Barrel for lunch. There was a wait and then the service was slow on top of that so we were there at least an hour.
It started pouring like crazy the last 30 minutes and we got soaked just walking from the car into the hotel to check in.
We arrived at about 7:30 pm and dropped our bags to head out to dinner. We are actually staying in Mount Pleasant, SC, instead of in Charleston itself. It looks very nice from what I could tell in the dark and rain. I hope to see more tomorrow.
For dinner we went to Jim n Nick's BBQ. From what I can see on the website, it looks like a chain but we don't have any in the northeast. Being a Saturday night, I was worried there would be a wait but there wasn't. We had corn muffins to start which were included, and then we each had a combo platter. I had country pulled pork, spare ribs, mac n' cheese and fries. Chris had pulled pork, hot links, fries and BBQ chips. Everything was very good. AND I remembered to take pictures of everything!
Tomorrow will be a full day in Charleston.
After about six months of planning, we finally hit the road. The plan for today was to leave New York and drive to Mount Vernon, Virginia. This was our earliest morning as we left at 5 am to beat the traffic around New York City. With the exception of a few short slow downs, it was a smooth trip and we arrived at Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, around 11 am.
In researching the best way to tour Mount Vernon, I found that twice a day they offered a premium tour of the house. With admission, you received a time entry to do a self guided tour the main floor and second floor. With the premium tour, you would have a guide and also be able to visit the third floor and the basement. The premium tour was $15 per person so I decided we would give that a try. The two times available were 11:15 am and 2:30 pm. I didn't know if we would arrive in time for 11:15 am so I reserved 2:30 pm.
We had plenty of time to explore before the tour started so we started out by going to the education center where there was a museum and 4D movie.
The museum told the life story of George Washington. It was easy to navigate and had mix of displays and text. One the highlights was a display of George Washington's "wooden" teeth. The movie was good though calling it "4D" was stretching it. Other than a snow effect for the crossing of the Delaware, it was mainly some lighting and loud cannon shots.
We left the education center and finally got our first look of the house itself. With plenty of time still before our tour, we explored the grounds. Our first stop was Washington's tomb where he is buried with Martha Washington. We then started going from building to building, taking a brief look into each. One of my favorites to visit is the blacksmith shop. Today he was making nails.
We wanted to get a bite for lunch but first wanted to find out where our tour started. This was a bit of a challenge. The printed ticket said to get in the mansion line, but that didn't make sense as that was the line for the free self guided access. It took asking three people until we finally find someone who lead us in the right direction. We had time to share a personal pizza from a food court type area and then went to our meeting spot.
The tour started right at 2:30 with a group of 15 guests and our guide. We were lead to the front of the self guided line and then an employee waited for the first room to clear out before sending us in. They also held up any more guests doing the self guided tour so that we had the first room all to ourselves with the guide. This was how the entire tour went and it was funny to hear our guide's walkie talkie say things like "The premium tour is now entering the New room. Leave a buffer."
The tour was well worth the $15. Our guide was excellent. She was very knowledgeable on the history of the house and property as well as the life story of George Washington. There were no photographs allowed inside the house due to make of the paintings and furniture being originals. The master bedroom still contains the original bed of George and Martha Washington. George Washington passed away in the same bed. Our guide had many interesting facts about each room and was able to answer questions about items we saw.
We ended our stay at Mount Vernon at that point, besides a quick stop in the gift shop. In total, we spend about 4 1/2 hours there. Some activities that we didn't do were to take a shuttle to the distillery as well as some activities that can be found on the official Mount Vernon app. One activity that stood out was a game in which you are a spy and need to find different items around the property. The description seemed like it uses bluetooth technology to interact with your phone. We started it when we arrived and watch the introduction video but didn't get to actually try it out.
The early morning was catching up to us so we decided to check in at our hotel which was only about 10 minutes away. We had 90 minutes to regroup. Chris napped and I caught up on some work.
Then it was time to head back to Mount Vernon for dinner. The full property closed at 5 pm but the restaurant that sits right outside the gates was open. We had 6:30 pm reservations and were seated right away.
I had planned to take food pictures for this trip. It isn't something I normally do but I always like looking at other people's so I wanted to do it for this trip. Well, I am not off to a good start.
We were both pretty hungry and the skillet cornbread hit the table and we dove in... before I could get a picture. So forgive the half eaten picture, but it was so good! It was warm and the butter on top was a honey butter. Chris had the jambalaya and I tried the shrimp and grits. I have never had grits before and I really enjoyed these. We then shared bread pudding... which I remembered to take a picture of when we were finished. I need to work on food picture skills.
It was about 8 pm when we arrived back at our room. I wrote this blog and we got organized for tomorrow. Thankfully, we don't need to be up super early. We plan to leave around 9 am for city #2... stay tuned to find out where we go!
I have been a huge Disney and travel fan since childhood. I love going to new places and, of course, heading to Disney as often as I can.