I know, I know. I’ve been slacking. I’m so sorry. The momentum of the trip caught up with me, and the combination of no internet on our night in Savannah and having actual work to do last night meant I just haven’t had time to sit down and blog. We have so much to catch you up on, so be warned now: this will a long entry. There are also a million pictures that I want to post for you guys, but the wireless at this Sleep Inn is incredibly slow and is taking so long to upload all of them. It’s already 1:30 AM and I have to get to bed since we have a ton of driving to do tomorrow, but I promise to post more pictures as soon as I can.
Wednesday, May 19 – Atlanta & the drive to Savannah, Georgia
On Wednesday morning we woke up at our Sleep Inn 10 miles outside of Atlanta and drove into the city for Southern style breakfast at Gladys Knight and Ron Winan’s Chicken & Waffles. Alex and I split a peach waffle and a fried chicken omelette, which were both unique and delicious. From there we found all day parking for $5 right in the downtown area and headed to the Georgia Aquarium. I’m obsessed with aquariums and can spend hours staring at the fish and various sea creatures, so I begged Alex to let me drag him to this one, since we hadn’t been to an aquarium yet this trip. The Georgia Aquarium is the largest in the country with over 8 million gallons of water. The biggest fish tank holds four Whale Sharks, the largest sea animal in the world that can grow to be more than 60 feet long. It was incredible seeing these giant creatures swim around – at one point you can walk through a tunnel that goes straight through the tank, so the whale sharks are literally swimming above your head – quite the experience. Of course Alex’s favorite part of the aquarium was learning about how the whale sharks were secretly transported from Taiwan to the United States via UPS. We also saw the beluga whales along with tons of other sea creatures, including some tropical tanks and a section that was modeled after the Amazon river. The aquarium is incredible – you can read more about it on the Wikipedia page or check out it’s webpage.
After the aquarium we headed over to Coca Cola World, which was built because Coke was invented in Atlanta during the 1890’s. We watched a few short movies, one of which was an insane 4-D piece that jolted your chair and flung water at you, saw a miniature assembly line and read about some of the history of Coca Cola in the United States and the rest of the world. They save the best for last – the tasting room that has soda fountains where you can sample an unlimited amount of soda from around the world. Alex went a little crazy and tried the entire world of Coca Cola products. I tried a bunch, most of which tasted like crap and I proceeded to dump out. My favorite was the Fanta Apple Kiwi sold in Asia and Alex liked Simba, a citrus soda from South Africa. We were given a free 8 ounce glass bottle of Coke, bottled on the assembly line we saw earlier in the tour.
From Coca Cola World we headed over to the CNN headquarters building a few blocks away. We managed to get on a tour of the building with a large group of senior citizens who were with some tour group led by a woman named Jane. Now let me tell you, this tour takes you up the longest free-standing escalator in the world and then back down eight fights of stairs. Trying to get down eight flights of stairs with thirty-five 90 year olds is quite the experience. We should have known what we were getting ourselves into as one of the ladies went through security and had to warn the woman at the metal detector that she had a titanium hip. One of the women actually asked if there was somebody who sat in front of the computer all day and typed in the headlines that scroll across the bottom of the TV screen during CNN’s broadcasts. Another woman asked where you get the news and how you pick what is put on TV. The best part were the identical twin ladies who, at age 85, were wearing the exact same green jumpsuit. I kid you not, I almost died when I first realized it. The tour brought us into a room set up with a fake anchor desk where Kodak attempted to convince us to pose for a picture we would later have to pay $15 for and the end of the tour featured a cheesy video with Anderson Cooper and Larry King telling us how great CNN was. Not to mention our guide, JR, was mostly incompetent. As a journalism major who knows only a minimal amount about broadcast journalism, I could have easily led a better tour. To summarize, CNN sucked and I’m not happy I coughed up $11 (the student rate) to take the tour. Bust.
After CNN we walked back through the downtown area, checking out the Olympic Park, and then headed to The Varsity, a famous Drive In in Atlanta, and the original Sonic. We each had chicken sandwiches and onion rings, which were good but nothing too fabulous. Overall, I liked Atlanta but don’t really feel like I got to see the city. We kind of got stuck in the tourist trap area of Pemberton Place downtown, and didn’t do much walking or exploring. We also spent a ton of money on tickets to the three places, which was a bit frustrating, but of course the nature of traveling. Atlanta is definitely a place I’d like to go back to eventually, and even though Alex and I discussed staying an extra night and skipping Savannah since we hadn’t booked a hotel yet, we eventually decided Atlanta was relatively accessible for the future, where as Savannah was a bit further off the beaten path.
I’m definitely glad we made that decision. Savannah was an amazing town that I’m so glad I got to see. After using the free wi-fi at The Varsity to book a hotel on Priceline, we drove the 4 1/2 hours to Savannah. We ended up at the Hyatt Regency, which was absolutely beautiful and we only paid $70 for the night, but because it was a much nicer, more expensive hotel we forgot that parking would be exorbitant and that internet wouldn’t be free. Since we couldn’t waste away in front of our computers once we got to the hotel, we dropped off our luggage in the room and went for a walk since it was a perfect warm summer night. The city is located right on the banks of the Savannah River and has a lot of history, although it’s a bit like a touristy resort town now. After walking down to the river front less than a block from the hotel I had an ice cream and Alex bought a bear claw at a local candy store, and we wandered a bit down the river. We had wanted to go to the Moon Brewery, right across the street from our hotel, to get a local beer sampler which was recommended to us by the concierge. Of course, we walked into the brewery at 11:05 and were told that they couldn’t serve any alcohol past 11 PM. Bummed, we walked back down to the river front to a local bar we had noticed earlier to grab some draught beers and so that I could watch the end of the Lakers game. We ordered a local Atlanta Pale Ale, which Alex liked and I discovered I am not a fan of. Regardless I was a happy camper since I had a beer in front of me with the Dodgers game on one TV and the Lakers game on another. After we had finished our beers and the Lakers beat the Suns we headed back to our hotel to pass out.
Thursday, May 20 – Savannah & the drive to Kiwah Island, South Carolina
Thursday morning we woke up, stuck our luggage in the car and went to B. Matthews Bakery Eatery, a restaurant a few blocks from the hotel we’d read about on Mr. Breakfast. We had hoped for a late breakfast, but since it was 11:30 AM they already had their lunch menu out. Instead, I had a black bean veggie sandwich with sweet potato fries and Alex had an open face Turkey sandwich on Focaccia, both of which were fabulous. At the hotel that morning, I had seen a brochure for one of the trolley tours that takes tourists on a 3 mile loop through the historic district of town. The brochure had the trolley route mapped out, with labels at each stop showing the important landmarks. Clever me, I grabbed the brochure and decided Alex and I would make it our own walking tour instead of paying the $30 the company charges to drive you around. So we spent the next 3 hours wandering through the town, past dozens of beautiful historic Southern homes, one of the oldest practicing reform Jewish temples in the United States and through a handful of parks and adorable squares lined with bricks, big Oak trees and gorgeous fountains. Lots of the historic homes had tours you could pay $10 – $20 for private tours of, but we decided to skip out and just read the plaques posted outside and take pictures instead.
Even though it was incredibly hot and humid out, we made the best of it, at one point stopping in an air-conditioned cafe in the main park in the south part of town to cool down & grab iced coffee. After all of the time we’ve spent sitting the car over the past week and a half it was great to be out walking, even if we were sweating to death at some points. It was also nice to be hot, especially thinking back to last week when we were wearing layers and driving through snow! We headed back to the river front to get a glimpse of it during the day and back to the candy store where Alex bought a piece of fudge he’d been eyeing the night before. We discovered that the S.S. Savannah was, in 1818, the first steamship in the world to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
After our walking tour we reclaimed our car and drove the 2 hours to Kiwah Island in South Carolina, about 45 minutes from Charleston, where Alex’s friend Celine lives. We made our first official stop in South Carolina at the Piggly Wiggly to pick up ice cream and wine (the essentials!) and then headed to the island, which is a private gated community that has about a hundred homes, a number of golf courses and beautiful beaches. We took a walk along the beach with Celine’s boyfriend Simon, another one of Alex’s friends from Penn, and got our first glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean. After an hour or so on the beach, we headed back to the house where Celine had made us delicious chicken, salad & sweet potatoes for dinner and we shared the bottle of wine we brought. We then dipped into the Haagen-Dazs before settling down to a game of Scrabble.
By then it was already 11:30, Celine had to be up early and I had work to do for a job I am applying for, so we headed to bed. After a slight mishap attempting to figure out how to work the shower (don’t worry, eventually we googled it hahaha), Alex went to bed and I, unfortunately, stayed up until about 3 AM doing my work.
Friday, May 21 – Charleston & the drive up to Richmond, Virginia
This morning we woke up, had homemade pancakes and then drove the 45 minutes into Charleston. We parked our car at Celine’s apartment in the city, left Simon to do some work and walked into downtown. We walked down King Street, a main street in town with lots of shops and art galleries that eventually turns into a residential area, all the way to the Battery, which is the park at the end of the peninsula. From there we walked back up East Bay Street along the ocean, where we sat for a bit admiring the view before we headed to the Nathaniel Russel house. We sucked it up and paid the $10 for a tour, especially since we hadn’t done any of the official ones in Savannah. Not exactly the most exciting tour, but was definitely worthwhile and we learned a lot. The Russel residence is a beautiful old house that was built in 1808 and despite having 4 private owners since it was sold out of the family in the 1850’s, is in remarkable condition. The inside has been relatively well-maintained, and has since been decorated with a number of antique pieces of furniture from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. We met Celine, Simon and Celine’s friend Bachman at Magnolia’s, a delicious restaurant right in the city. Alex had the stereotypical southern meal – buttermilk fried chicken, collard greens, creamed corn, mashed potatoes and biscuits. I had an amazing veggie and buffalo mozzarella sandwich with sweet potato fries (yes, for the third time in two days – I am obsessed with sweet potatoes!) Afterwards we made our way back to the car, said goodbye and headed out of Charleston.
Last night, we decided to be ambitious and book a hotel room in Richmond, Virginia, 460 miles north of Charleston. Even though we knew it was a lot of driving to be doing, especially considering we weren’t planning to leave Charleston until 4 PM, we wanted to get as far up the east coast as we could and Richmond is just about the halfway point between South Carolina and Philadelphia, our next, and one of our last, stops. We don’t plan on doing anything in Richmond except sleeping, so we found a Sleep Inn a few miles outside the city for $66.
Today’s drive has been quite the adventure. Alex drove the first 150 miles, we stopped to get gas and I took over to drive the next 200 miles. We decided a little while after I had taken over that we’d have a late dinner somewhere quickly since we had a pretty late, heavy lunch. Since I had yet to go to Sonic and we’ve been talking about it throughout the trip, we decided to make that our goal. After searching on the GPS, we found one 70 miles north, right on our way. When we finally exited the highway and drove the mile and a half to the address Samantha gave us, we discovered a used car lot in place of where a drive in used to be. Laughing hysterically but totally frustrated, we got back on the highway and found another Sonic, this time 40 miles north of us. To be sure this one actually existed, Alex called while I continued to drive. This time we actually found the Sonic, parked and placed our order. I was quite excited, since I’ve heard tons about Sonic but never been, and got a bit over eager in my order. I got the popcorn chicken, tater tots and a cherry limeade chiller and Alex had a burger and fries. Overall I wasn’t that impressed, and although I’m glad I tried Sonic along with The Varsity on Wednesday, I still think In n Out is far superior. Maybe I’m just biased.
Alex took over driving so I could blog since I had so much catching up to do, and we are currently cruising through Virginia, about 15 miles outside of Richmond. It’s been a long day, but the last few days experiencing the South have been fabulous, and I’m so glad I got to see this part of our country. It’s pretty incredible, but now that we’re back up in Virginia everything feels completely different again. I’m partially sad, partially excited to be heading back up to the northeast again – it means the end of this trip and going back to the reality of searching for a roommate and a job, which is stressful and exhausting, but it also means seeing all of my friends and finally being back in my apartment. As great as it has been experiencing random hotels across America, it will be nice to not live out of my suitcase, and to have my own bed & shower again!