Posts Tagged ‘Vacations’

Sailing Where Juan Ponce de León Sailed, Maybe

March 31, 2014

Schooner Freedom

Schooner Freedom

Some historians say he landed at St. Augustine, but others say he landed south of there. The record shows that Admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés settled the city in September, 1565. It had been at least 40 years since I had visited America’s oldest city. Besides the fine dining and historical sites,  a highlight this time was sailing on the Schooner Freedom.  It’s a 76 foot long,  double-masted replica of a 19th century blockade runner.  It has something they didn’t, an engine.  The Coast Guard  requires it.  Also, it makes it possible to make at least three excursions a day.  Sailing against the wind and a strong current means almost stranding still.  The trip I was on took 90 minutes.  The skipper did turn the engine off for a little while and used only wind power on the way back when the wind was behind us and the tide going in.

St. Augustine 046

One of most interesting sites at the St. Augustine docks was a replica of a Spanish galleon like the ones that plied the Florida coast between the 15th and 16th centuries.  It’s really looks at home in St. Augustine since Spain used ships like it to bring people and supplies to the city in 1565.  I asked the Freedom’s skipper how it compares in size with one of Columbus’ ships.  He said, “It’s huge.  C0lumbus’ ships were really small.”  He told me that Columbus’ ships were about the same length as his schooner, which is 76 feet.  The galleon replica is 175-feet long.

If you go to St. Augustine, I recommend the cruise.  It was fun.  Also, I recommend the Reef,  a restaurant on Vilano Beach.  My Mahi Mahi was really good; the decor is nautical, and every table has a view of the Atlantic. There are many good restaurants in St. Augustine, but that one really stood out to me.


Cooling Off in Highlands Again

August 23, 2010

Deciding to get away from the oppressive heat for at least a couple of days, I went to Highlands, North Carolina recently.  I did the same thing last year.

Small downtown Highlands, NC shopping nook sitting by a brook

 Highlands’ number one attraction is its coolness in the dead of summer, and, though it has hit the 90’s there this summer, it was characteristically cool when I was there.  One day the high was 78 and the other, 81.  Compared to 98 in Columbus, that’s cool.

The weather and gorgeous mountain scenery attract a lot of people with serious  money, including some from our area.  Most of them show up in the summer. It gets really cold in the winter. I was told the population in the winter is about 3,000 and it’s 25,000 in the summer. Even though it does have some very expensive restaurants and upscale boutiques to appeal to all of those rich folks,, there is also a lot to attract the average Joe and Flo.

Guess who at Dry Falls

For one thing, there is the very popular Dry Falls. It’s called Dry Falls because you supposedly can walk under it and stay dry.  Basically that’s true, but you do get a little wet from the spray.  I did.  Though the walk down and back up caused a little heavier breathing than normal, I enjoyed the experience.  It’s free, if you don’t count the big bucks you spend on gas to get there. Nearby there is also a nice state park with a swimming and fishing lake.  You do have to pay to park there, but it’s only $4. 

The way it looks behind the falls

And, though I did enjoy eating in a fairly expensive restaurant that provided a posh ambience, I also equally enjoyed a nearby reasonably priced one.  The Sweet  Treats  restaurant sits right by a crystal clear mountain stream that flows through downtown Highlands. The food is good, and it has an ice cream parlor that is quite popular.  I got a sugarfree strawberry yogart. They blend fresh fruit into the yogart as you watch. Marvelous! It has a neat deck on the side where you can buy fish-food pellets to drop where some really large trout are swimming.  When the pellets hit the water, the trout immediately strike and consume them. 

Deck walkway on the side of Sweet Treats restaurant and ice cream parlor. There are huge trout fish in the stream below that you can easily see and drop fish food pellets to see them break the surface.

Real estate prices in Highlands are still astronomical.  Some new friends I met there have their old (it was built in the 1920s),  modest home up for sale. In Columbus, I would say it would be worth about $160,000.  The asking price in Highlands is more than $400,000.  That’s because the lot is so expensive,  somewhere in the $250,000 range. 

“Getting a lot of bites?”

“Nope.  People aren’t buying right now.  It’s just like the rest of the country.”

“Are prices coming down because of that.”

“Nope.  Our real estate agent tells us not to do that.”

So, according to him, homes are not selling, but prices remain high.  I guess, if you have enough money, you figure you can wait out the slump.    

Anyway, as I said, you don’t have to be rich to enjoy a really special mountain town. But, if you plan to stay there, it helps a lot.

Cool Cruise – Part 3: You Have to Fly 500 MPH to Get to a Cruise Ship that Goes 25 Miles MPH

November 2, 2009

In my last post on our “Autumn leaves” cruise up the coast of New England and Canada, I said we would go to Portland, Maine next, and we will, in our next post, after a little side trip on the joys of getting to the ship which is about a thousand miles from where I live.

Flying to and from New York was mercifully not long.  On the flight to, I sat next to a woman with a baby boy in her arms and her other son, who was about five, in the middle seat. I thought, oh no, little kids are walking germ dispensers. (I did end up with a cold when I got back, but who knows where I got it.) Fortunately the kids were well behaved. The one in her lap was quite content because she hugged and kissed him just about all the way. The other kid was busy coloring most of the time.  I made a point of not talking to them because I figured I had best leave well enough alone. As we were landing, I did strike up a conversation, enough to learn that she was a native New Yorker who lived in Atlanta and was bringing her kids to visit relatives.  Mom and the kids got all excited when New York City, her home town, came into view,  with Mom pointing to the Statue of Liberty and other landmarks. “Look, there’s the Statue of Liberty,” she exclaimed to her two Atlanta boys. “See it?”  The five-year-old had a hard time zeroing in on it so I joined her in pointing it out.  He finally saw it.  They got almost as excited as I did. I’ve been to the Big Apple a few times before, but it had been a while.  NY from Delta lMG_0010_edited-1

Our Delta from Atlanta to New York was about 30 minutes late leaving, which made me anxious that we would literally miss the boat, the cruise ship Carnival Triumph. However, we got a tail wind and the pilot said he would notch up the plane’s speed to make up for lost time.  We arrived at LaGuardia five minutes early.

On the way back, I sat in a row with two ladies, one of whom should have paid for two seats, because she was that large.  Both middle arm rests had to be left down in order for her to slop over into the seat next to her. I was scrunched up for the entire flight. Such is life in the cheap seats.  

The bright side was the ride through downtown Manhattan to get to Pier 88 where the mega-ship Triumph was waiting.  I started singing the George M. Cohan classic show tune “Give My Regards to Broadway” when our bus crept down 42nd Street.  Remember the line ” tell all the gang on 42nd Street that I will be there?”  Everyone, all cruise bound like I, was enjoying the ride and in a good mood so nobody seemed to mind.  We even rode by Times Square where it looked like a million people were milling around. Intreped

Once we got to the docks, we got a brief glimpse of the aircraft carrier Intrepid floating museum, which is docked near the pier where the Triumph waited.  Maybe I’ll go back to see that some time. Meanwhile, I think I’ll go to Warner Robbins to see the Air Force Museum there first.  That’s only a hundred miles away, and I have never been there.

But I digress. I promise to do the Portland thing next.

Cooling Off Like the Rich Folks

July 5, 2009
Gotta get outta this heat and humidity.  What to do? Do what the rich folks do. Go to Highlands, North Carolina.
Viewing area on the way up the mountain to Highland's, NC

Just getting  there is fun.  Riding up those curvy mountain roads, the view is beautiful.      



Once there, the high is 76 degrees.  That’s 76 compared to Columbus’ 98. 


 Downtown is picturesque, with lots of quaint old stores that sell high price stuff.


And there are plenty of fun side trips, things like a ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad.  You board the train at Bryson City, NC.

  GSMRR 2 

07 02_HIGHLANDS NC ETC._1069 

Not many train rides offer a view of  folks rafting, but this one does.



Just miles and miles of beautiful views along the Tuckasegee River and Lake Fontana.


That ride brought back memories of when passenger trains were a common mode of transportation, and one of life’s highlights was eating in a nice dining car.

 07 02_HIGHLANDS NC ETC._1076

So I got to beat the heat the way rich folks do… for three days.

LaGrange Revisited

May 3, 2009

Hills and Dales, Fuller Callaway Mansion, LaGrange, Georgia
Hills and Dales, Fuller Callaway Mansion, LaGrange, Georgia

You really don’t have to travel hundreds or thousands of miles to find interesting places to visit, which, in these economic times, is a good thing.  For instance if you live within a 50 mile radius of LaGrange, Georgia,  you will probably enjoy spending a couple of days there.  I did, last week.

LaGrange holds sort of a special interest for me because, not only do I have some friends there,  I lived there myself almost 60 years ago.  And, yes it has truly changed in that length of time. I went to work at WLAG in LaGrange in December of 1949.  I’ll get into that on a future post.

In 1950, LaGrange was most definitely a mill town,   the Callaway Mills’ town.   The power of the Callaways in LaGrange was legendary.  “You don’t open a business in LaGrange unless Fuller Callaway, Jr. says you can,” someone told me.  I don’t know how true that was,  but after I saw Hills and Dales, the Italian Villa style mansion last week,  it was easy for me to grasp that the Callaways were royalty in LaGrange.

Hills and Dales Italianate Villa, Front Entrance, LaGrange, Georgia

Hills and Dales Italianate Villa, Front Entrance, LaGrange, Georgia

The incredible opulence and beauty of this place is close to breathtaking.  It was built in 1916 for Fuller Callaway, Sr, the founder of the Callaway fortune.   Fuller’s wife Alice devoted a lot of her time to the estate’s sumptuous formal gardens.  It looks like something you would see in a European palace,  or that great American Palace, the Vanderbilt Home in  North Carolina.

When Fuller Callaway, Jr. died in 1992,  the  family followed his wishes and gave the property to the Fuller Callaway Foundation and opened it to the public, which is what the Vanderbilt family did when George  Vanderbilt II died in 1914.

Picture taking is not allowed inside the Callaway villa, “but you can take all you want on the outside,” our guide told us.  That’s the reason you don’t see any indoor shots.  It was about what I would expect it to be on the inside,  large rooms with high ceilings,  expensively ornate and pretentious.

Titanic Grand Staircase, 1911

Titanic Grand Staircase, 1911

The living room with its grand staircase made me think of the grand staircase on the Titantic. 

Hills and Dales formal gardens,  LaGrange, Georgia

Hills and Dales formal gardens, LaGrange, Georgia

And everywhere you turn in the formal garden you can take an interesting picture.  One of the most intresting topiaries is the one that spells the word God,  which was first planted and developed by Sarah Ferrell who started the gardens long before Fuller Callaway purchased the property. 

Hills and Dales formal gardens, LaGrange, Georgia

Hills and Dales formal gardens, LaGrange, Georgia

As I toured this estate I had to reflect on the wealth it represented and the way the money was earned, for the most part, with the help of many hundreds of mill workers who ran and maintained the looms and lived in mill villages.  Some of those workers tried to unionize in the mid 1930’s,  but were unsuccessful.   The Callaways took a patriarchal approach, supplying many services for the workers and their families,  including a big gymnasium and swimming pool.  They also gave a lot of money to public institutions in LaGrange, including Lagrange College.  And the Callaway Foundation continues to pour money into civic projects and public institutions in LaGrange to this day.  

Coming up on this blog,  how LaGrange has improved its downtown area, including a restaurant that serves the best cooked fresh vegetables I have ever tasted.