Friday, August 22, 2014

Madison, on Georgia's Antebellum Trail

One hour east of Atlanta lies the historic town of Madison, where Antebellum mansions and Southern charm thrive. Pick up a map at the Welcome Center in the town square and begin your own journey down the Antebellum trail. Start at Heritage Hall, located in one of the oldest and largest of the National Historic Districts, and current headquarters for Madison's Historical Society. (Stop #4 of 46 on the architecture walking/driving tour.) This 1811 home was built by Dr. Elijah Jones, who was a physician for the Confederacy.  

He set up his surgery in one of the back rooms of the house, after the Yankee General Sherman's Army burned his downtown office, on their march to the sea. You can browse through the doctor's medical books and equipment. Did you know that in those days, medical school lasted only one year? After that, young physicians learned by doing, under the supervision of older practitioners.

In the dining room, pull up a chair beside the large oval mahogany table, set with hand painted china, and listen to the docent's story of how gentlemen dinner guests would enjoy after-dinner cigars and port in the dining room, while the ladies retreated to the drawing room beyond the carved wooden pocket doors, for tea.
Marvel at the toys and furniture in the childrens' bedroom, including a tiny china tea set, a 200-year-old doll, and a miniature bicycle. There's even a topsy-turvy doll lying on a toddler's bed.
Did you know that diamond engagement rings were rare in the early 1800's. If a young woman was lucky enough to receive one, she could check to see if the gem was real by making scratch marks with it on glass. Visitors can still see these etchings on several of the house's window panes.

Visitors can tour this charming city by either walking or driving. There's a map of the mile-and-a-half route that will guide you through the historic district and downtown areas. In town, you can shop at any of the 200 antique vendors and specialty stores, dine at one of the dozen downtown restaurants, or stay at one of the local bed and breakfasts, or luxury inns.

Madison's Welcome Center is located on the square at 115 E. Jefferson Street. Open every day until late afternoon. Call 800-709-7406 or visit Heritage Hall is open Monday through Saturday form 11 - 4, Sunday 1:30 - 4:30, available for private events.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Nashville's Parthenon

Can't make it to Greece this summer? If your heart is set on seeing the Parthenon, consider touring the full-scale replica of the temple, in Nashville, Tennessee.

Once inside, stand at the foot of a 42-foot tall statue of Athena, gilded with eight pounds of gold. In her right hand sits the goddess of victory, Nike. Though tiny in comparison, she stands over six feet tall. Athena's left hand rests on the rim of a fifteen-foot high shield.

Wander to the far wall and stand before enormous 24-foot high bronze doors. On the opposite wall you can see casts of the original pediment statues. You might be surprised by the daubs and splashes of color throughout the building. Keep your camera handy to capture images, but on the second floor and outside only.

Set in beautiful Centennial Park, two miles west of downtown Nashville, the Parthenon was first built in 1897 to commemorate 100 years of Tennessee statehood. This temporary structure was later replaced with a permanent one in 1931. Since reopening, it has attracted thousands of visitors from all over the world.

Whether you're visiting Vanderbilt University, coming into Nashville for the music or food, don't miss strolling the Parthenon galleries, exhibits and walking trails that make this city the "Athens of the South."

The Parthenon is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:00 - 4:30 and on Sunday from 12:30 - 4:30. Admission is $6 for adults and $4 for children (4 - 17). For more information call 615-880-2265.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Block Party

A cool, rainy spring blew eastward out of town, taking with it most of the mosquitoes and gnats, and leaving in its wake clear skies and a warming sun - finally!

It was time to invite the neighbors, a few extra friends along with an assortment of local children, and throw a block party.

Out came the giant-sized BBQ filled with smokin' charcoal - big enough to grill dozens of hot dogs and burgers at once. Coolers filled with ice popped up here and there.

There were 4 large tables laden with an assortment of homemade appetizers and desserts, buns and condiments.

 The guests' first stop was the card table to pick up a hand printed nametag - which helped when trying to remember 40 or so names at once. It was also the station where the kids could get their faces painted - most choosing a flower, a dolphin or colorful bird.
And it was easy to spot in the middle of the cul-de-sac as it was the one decorated with shiny helium balloons.

Everybody brought their own chair, a beverage or two and a side dish.

While the children played an assortment of outdoor games and made sidewalk chalk drawings, the adults sat and talked or strolled around and got to know each other better. 

Some folks had never met; some hadn't spoken to each other for years; others had just moved in.

Everybody had a great time, and there's talk of a repeat party in October.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Restful Ryokan

Ryokan is a traditional country inn typically found in the picturesque countryside of Japan. Here, guests will feel like they are taking in journey back in time to experience life in the Edo period of Japan (1603-1868). It's a celebration of the art and culture of that period.

 Visitors will experience first hand many traditional customs including a tea ceremony, wearing a yukata (cotton robe) and sleeping on a futon that is laid on a floor covered with straw tatami mats. In order to preserve the delicate mats, one is expected to remove their shoes before entering the room.

The ryokan serves dinner in kaiseki ryori style cuisine, which is a meal consisting of more than 20 small dishes that are beautifully arranged and brought to the table at the same time.

 Perhaps the best luxury involves soaking in a relaxing onsen filled with water from a nearby hot spring. These baths can be private or communal, but in either case the water is very hot and guests are expected to wash and rinse their body at a shower station before entering the onsen. Once the visitor gets used to the steaming hot temperature it becomes so relaxing that it's difficult to leave.

Every detail at a ryokan is meticulously arranged for the comfort and satisfaction of the guest, from the exquisite rooms, gardens and baths to the visually pleasing and sophisticated cuisine.

It may be that the best time to immerse yourself in the calming, luxurious  elegance of a ryokan is in winter where the traditional architecture blends into the beauty and simplicity of nature. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Waycross Picnic

A cowboy, a monkey and a cop walked into a bar …

Truth is, it wasn’t a bar, but they all were there that afternoon for the local feed store customer appreciation day in Waycross, Georgia.

Once a year the proprietors of this store throw a down home country buffet lunch for their many customers who trade at the store throughout the year.

Here you could sit elbow-to-elbow with farmers, accountants, family and friends. One fellow and his Mama even brought a pair of pet marmoset monkeys—to the delight of children of all ages (myself included).
Half a dozen state troopers stopped by and dug into plates of ribs and pulled pork sandwiches. There were three or four flavors of BBQ sauce—including the unlabeled house special.

Cowboys in Stetson hats perched on bales of hay in the parking lot. It wasn’t a prop, just more outdoor seating for the crowd that topped 300 visitors.

There were more than 60 pounds of potato salad, an equal amount of country style green beans and a mess of pork and beans served up from steaming pans and platters. I happily tossed my diet out the window and dove into a piece of homemade red velvet cake (make that two). Coconut cake, chocolate dipped pecans, peanut butter and divinity candy leapt off the serving table onto paper plates, at record speed as the hungry diners helped themselves to the home made sweet delights. Everything was made from scratch, with lots of heart.

Visitors wandered around the parking lot admiring the gussied up pick-up trucks being loaded with pallets full of animal feed. Inside the store they found a wide assortment of farming supplies and saddles—real working gear, not the stuff of show horses or dude ranches.

Talk centered around the harvest, speculation on the weather and how one of the kin was going to Las Vegas—not for the gambling or showgirls; for the rodeo. That's country!

Thanks folks, and we’ll see y’all next year.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

My Little Beach

Seventy blocks north of Chicago’s “Loop” lies Loyola (Leone) Park beach. Of an evening or weekend, this 8-block long swatch of sand on the shore of Lake Michigan, is a gathering place for students from the nearby university and local families looking to enjoy a little packet of nature in this city of over 2.7 million.

And although the beach is rarely crowded, today it belongs solely to me. 

It’s a mid-September afternoon and there is no one in sight. The sun shines brightly on the yellow sand, and there’s a chill in the steady breeze that always seems to be blowing inland. My own shadow is sharply delineated against a relief of stubble-grass. Each footfall plunges my shoe, laces-deep into sand leaving a string of micro-dunes that trace my aimless path.

In the distance, looking south, the magnificent cityscape fades to a uniform bluish-gray hue. All of its energy—the good, the bad and indifferent, dissipates into the haze. I am here to peer through a stand of trees at gentle waves that stumble to the shore wearing a frill of white caps. My thoughts drifting like it’s gently swirling tides.

The water is clear; the sand clean and lively. There is green space behind the beach which muffles the carking din of city traffic. So here in this place I am free to toss a piece of driftwood to the dog; to write poetry, or just wander quietly along the shore on a crisp afternoon in early autumn.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

3 Cheers for "306 North"

“Tonight’s special is sushi” says the smiling waitress. “They’re hand-rolled by Chef Lee,” she continues.

It’s another busy weeknight and the dining room is filling with hungry patrons, while others gather for happy hour at the well-stocked bar. Sushi is just one of the unique delights to be found here at 306 North Restaurant on a Thursday night. It’s a local favorite in historic, downtown Valdosta GA.

“306” is the kind of restaurant where diners are seated at tables covered with white linen tablecloths, each sporting a dollop of fresh flowers in a tiny vase. Soft green walls are hung with original artwork created by local artists. You can buy one and take it home.
Many of the recipes are Chef Lee’s unique spin on traditional Southern classics.

“I find something I like, then make it with my own twist.” And what he likes is sometimes humorous, like the may haw jelly and peanut butter crème brulee dessert. Or deep-fried fish bones. Based on the playful name, I couldn’t resist the temptation to try that one, and it was good. Really good.

Grits are a staple throughout the South, but Chef puts his own touch on this classic dish using home grown, all natural stone ground white corn grits that are produced in nearby Lakeland, Georgia. Incorporating smoked gouda adds a delicate complexity and richness that perfectly compliments any main dish.
Bask in the ambiance in the contemporary dining room, or wander out onto the covered patio to enjoy Happy Hour daily. On Friday nights, the restaurant showcases the music of newly discovered local talent. 

There are wine tastings on the second Tuesday of each month, where guests can enjoy samples from their robust wine collection along with hors d’oeuvres, for a fixed price.

306 North Restaurant is at 306 North Patterson St. in Valdosta, Georgia. The name is a playful use of its geographic location.

Telephone: 229-249-5333, and you can find them on FB