Sunday, January 14, 2024

Spend a Day in Fairhope: 5 Uniquely Fairhope Things to Do

Welcome to Fairhope, You've Arrived! Arrived in paradise, that is, if your version of paradise is live oaks dripping with Spanish moss in a flower covered slice of heaven overlooking Mobile Bay. Fairhope is arguably on of the most picturesque small towns on the Gulf Coast. Here are five Uniquely Fairhope things to do in this sunshine covered hamlet. 

1. Let's start with The Grand Hotel Golf Resort and Spa. With a private beach, two 18-hole golf courses and a slew of high-end, exclusive experiences and events designed to cater to the needs of its discerning clientele, The Grand is, well, bliss. If you are looking for a memorable getaway, this beautiful resort is a wonderful place to start. 

2. Love a good book? Then you have to visit Page and Palette, a Fairhope landmark for over 40 years. With creaky wooden floors, shelves packed with amazing books and gifts and a bar and coffee shop in the back, Page and Palette is the kind of place where you can get lost for hours. 

3. For quirky and unique history, you must visit the handmade Hobbit hole, Henry Stuart House. Known as Tolstoy Park, the Henry Stuart House sits in the middle of a parking lot that was once the 10 acre woodland home of Henry Stuart, the Hermit of Montrose. In 1923, diagnosed with tuberculosis and living in Idaho, Stuart was advised to move to a warmer climate. He chose Fairhope and spent two years fashioning his own bricks to build his tiny round home. Finding Tolstoy Park can be challenging, but it is so worth the effort.

4. Eat the world's best beignets at Panini Pete's. Yes, New Orleans gets all the attention for Mardi Gras and beignets, but Alabama is home to the first Mardi Gras in the country and the most divine beignets. The powdered sugar pastries at Panini Pete's are airier and lighter than their Louisiana cousins. They come with a squeeze of lemon and they are delicious!

5. Visit the Fairhope Tea Plantation, the only tea farm in the state of Alabama. Savor a cup of the house tea and sit under the covered porch while you enjoy learning about one of the oldest tea plantations in the country. 

And there you are, five reasons to visit beautiful Fairhope. These five will get you started, but don't stop there! There is so much more to do and see and eat in this fair village. Once You've Arrived, be sure to come back and tell us what you discover.  


Friday, January 12, 2024

Spend a Day in Scottsboro: 5 Uniquely Scottsboro Things to Do

 Welcome to Scottsboro, where the mountains meet the lakes. I love that description of my town, because it’s so true. Scottsboro is nestled at the foot of the Cumberland Plateau to the north and sheltered by Sand Mountain to the east and south. It sits right on the banks of the Tennessee River and Lake Guntersville in Jackson County, home to the largest number of caves of any county in the state. Come spend a day in this pretty town! Here are five Uniquely Scottsboro things to do.

1. Come play at Goosepond Colony. Play a round of golf  or maybe you prefer to play on the water. You can go fishing, boating, canoeing, kayaking or swimming. Then again, perhaps you like the woods. There are beautiful hiking trails and camp grounds, surrounded by 326 acres of serene woodland. 

2. Visit the world famous home of Lost Luggage, Scottsboro’s Unclaimed Baggage Center. You can spend hours combing through the store’s 50,000 square feet filled with everything from books and jewelry to electronics and apparel. If you love digging for treasure, Unclaimed has to be on your bucket list.

3. Have a sweet treat at Alabama’s oldest soda fountain, Payne’s. You can enjoy lunch, too. Try a red slaw dog, or my favorite, the Reuben with a side of potato salad. How about, Luanne’s favorite, a fountain coke with peanuts? You can’t leave Payne’s without a smile on your face.

4. Craving a meat and three? Step off Scottsboro’s historic square and head to Magnolia House. They have the best chicken fingers, coleslaw and mac ‘n cheese in town. Their strawberry pecan salad is delicious too, if you prefer something lighter. But don’t forget to ask for a roll with some strawberry or honey butter.

5. Pick up a sack of sausage rolls or homemade donuts at Variety Bake Shop on the square. I love their pork tenderloin biscuits, too. Did I mention the custard-filled chocolate covered donuts?

There you have it, your 5 point starting spot for all things Scottsboro, but don’t stop there! There’s so much more! Visit Scottsboro and tell us your favorites. 

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Welcome to Wilson


Actually. Welcoming Wilson might be more accurate. 

We recently decided to visit Wilson, Arkansas, having no idea what to expect. Boy, were we impressed! It was welcoming! From the hotel, to the grocery store and everywhere in between, there was someone to greet us and offer assistance.
This tiny town, population 710, owned by Gaylon Lawrence, Jr., is chock full of southern charm and hospitality. 
Our adventure began on a Tuesday morning. We had reservations with the town’s only hotel, the beautiful Louis Hotel and a three hour road trip. On the way, my phone rang. It was the concierge at the Louis with a few questions. ‘What snacks can we leave for you in your cottage? Drinks? Would you like extra pillows? At what temperature would you like the thermostat to be set? Do you need reservations anywhere? Is there anything else we can do for you? Are you interested in any of our activities?’ Actually, we were interested in their mixology class, but sadly, it was scheduled for a different night. 

I called when we got to town to get directions to our cottage. ‘Come straight to the town center and we will be outside to greet you.’ 

At the hotel, we got a personal tour of the establishment, a list of places to visit, and an escort to our cottage.


We got settled in and then piled back in the car for a two minute drive (y’all, the town is tiny!) for lunch at The Grange. The food was delicious!

After lunch, we went shopping. First, at White’s Mercantile, owned by Holly Williams, the daughter of Hank Williams, Jr. (how’s that for an Alabama connection?), then on to Tom Beckbe, an upscale men’s store started by Radcliffe Menge, an attorney from, you guessed it, Alabama! Our final shopping destination was the Wilson Pharmacy. Did I mention that the town is tiny?
With our shopping completed for the day, we decided to check out The Delta School, a private school started by Gaylon Lawrence, Jr. Lawrence knew if he wanted to reinvent the town, he needed to start with the children, so, with the help of educator, Jenifer Fox, he envisioned a “school where the only rows are in the garden and the only back seats are in the hydra go-cart the elementary students invented”. The heart of the school is a greenhouse and garden where students, pre-K through grade 12 plant the seeds, tend the plants, and harvest the fruits and vegetables. 
Currently 85 students attend the school. Although Delta School is private, students are not turned away for financial reasons. This is a magical place!

Next we went back to our cottage to prepare for our dinner at the Wilson Cafe. But first, a phone call from the hotel. They had arranged for us to enjoy a private mixology class after our dinner. We were awed and excited!

Dinner at the Wilson Cafe was just what we had come to expect from this incredible little town, SPECTACULAR!
We had local blackened catfish, jambalaya, honey jalapeño carrots, mashed potatoes, sautéed vegetables and herby homemade bread and butter. And then, our mixology class where we learned how to make two of the Wilson’s signature cocktails, Malibu Sunset and the Smoky Daisy. We had so much fun and the drinks were delicious. 

After dinner we strolled over to see the town’s 500,000+ Christmas light display and, even though it only snows on the weekends, they turned on the snow JUST FOR US! It was a fantastic light show that definitely put us in the Christmas spirit. 

We were exhausted and happy by the time we returned to our cottage. The beds were cozy and comfortable. We all slept like babies. 

The next morning we got up, had breakfast at The Grange (delicious again), stopped by the local grocery store, where we were greeted at the door like celebrities, and drove a few miles out of town to Dyess, the home of country music legend, Johnny Cash. In Dyess, we got to tour Cash’s boyhood home.


It was a perfect holiday getaway. You should definitely visit Welcoming Wilson. 

Monday, September 4, 2023

Yellowstone is a Volcano


I am probably the last person in the US to visit Yellowstone, and, as such, I am no expert. I did, however, just get back and if, by chance, there is another Yellowstone newbie out there, here are the things I learned and saw on my trip. If they help you in planning your trip to Yellowstone, then good. If I've gotten anything wrong, I apologize. 

First of all, Yellowstone is a volcano. Actually, the park sits on top of four overlapping volcanic calderas created by massive eruptions that took place 2.1 million, 1.3 million and most recently 640,000 years ago. When you enter Yellowstone National Park, you are quite literally stepping onto one of the world's largest active volcanic systems. I say this because we were stopped by a visitor wanting to know where he could find the volcano. Ummm, right under your feet! It is easy to understand why he asked. The thing is so big, it's not like looking up at a cone shaped mountain. But once you start to smell the acrid odor of sulphur, see steam rising from the ground all around you and spy more than 500 geysers, some spouting hundreds of feet into the air at any given time, you realize the ground you are standing on really is alive. 

There are 5 entrances into the park. Before you plan your trip, find out which entrances are open. Then be flexible, because by the time you leave, your entrance may be closed. I know because this happened to us. We planned to fly into Bozeman and had rented a place near the north entrance in Gardiner, MT, because that is the closest entrance to the airport. However, flooding closed the north entrance before our trip, so we canceled our Gardiner reservations and found a new accommodation near West Yellowstone (actually in Island Park, ID which is about 30 minutes from the West Yellowstone entrance). As I said, you need to be flexible. Make sure your reservations can be canceled if, for some unforeseen reason, the entrance you plan to use closes. As it turned out, the north entrance opened back up by the time of our trip, but our place in Island Park turned out to be a blessing. We had a huge house with 4 bedrooms, 5 beds, and 3 baths set on a private lot surrounded by tall pine trees. It was a mountain oasis.

West Yellowstone is a cute little western mountain village with plenty of restaurants, grocery stores,  bakeries and shops. We packed up coolers with drinks, snacks and sandwiches to take with us into the park everyday, so we would have something to eat without having to interrupt our adventures to find food. Once you enter the park, the driving trail is a figure 8, with an upper loop and a lower loop. The upper loop takes about 2 hours to drive without stopping. The lower loop is slightly larger and takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes to drive. The West Yellowstone entrance is probably the most centrally located of all the entrances, so you can decide whether to head north on the upper loop or south on the lower loop. The West Yellowstone entrance is also the most convenient if you are heading to Old Faithful Geyser or the Grand Canyon of  the Yellowstone. 

The north entrance in Gardiner is going to take you to the Roosevelt Arch, Mammoth Hot Springs and Lamar Valley. Lamar Valley is one of the best places in the park to see wildlife.

The north east entrance at Cooke City will also take you to Lamar Valley, as well as Beartooth Pass. Beartooth Highway leading into the Pass into Yellowstone is considered one of the most scenic highways in America.

The nearest town to the East entrance is an hour away in Cody, WY. We didn't make it to Cody, but JD has been and he loved it. He had a lot of fun shooting a real Gatling gun. This entrance is convenient if you plan to go to Yellowstone Lake.

The south entrance in Jackson, WY is a great spot to start. First of all, Jackson is a beautiful little western town. With its iconic antler arches on all corners of George Washington Memorial Park,
which sits right in the center of the town square, Jackson is a perfect place to take your group pictures. Jackson also has some nice restaurants (our favorites were The Bunnery and the Jackson Drug Company). I really want to come back to Jackson with my girlfriends. I think it would be a perfect spot for a girlfriend getaway. We actually stayed at a second airbnb, a townhouse, near Jackson in Victor, ID. We felt it was more convenient to explore the southern part of the park, which includes Grant Village (a great place to grab a bite, rest and shop), West Thumb, the geyser basins and Grand Prismatic Spring, from that location. Plus, we wanted to visit the Grand Tetons. The Tetons are spectacular! They are supposed to be the best place to spot moose. Sadly, we didn't see any.

In addition to the food at Grant Village, you can also find dining opportunities at Canyon Village, Lake Village, Mammoth Hot Springs, Old Faithful Inn and  Roosevelt Lodge. We found the food in the park to be surprisingly good. Be sure to try huckleberry ice cream, cobbler, pancakes, soda and milkshakes (and anything else huckleberry). You can even bring some huckleberry jam home with you. We went through three jars of huckleberry jam while we were there!

Finally, be prepared for all weathers. It was hot, it was cold, it was windy. It rained, it hailed, it snowed. In fact, it rained for a little while almost every day we were there. Wear layers or bring a change of clothes in your backpack. You never know what weather you are going to get.

I hope you have a wonderful time in this amazing park. Please take care of it. Rob and JD picked up several grocery bags full of trash everywhere we went. We couldn't believe people would litter in such a beautiful place, but they do. And watch out for wildlife in the road (or cars full of wildlife gawkers stopping in the road). This land belongs to the animals that live there. We are just visitors.

"Visiting Yellowstone leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller."