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The Cuisine of Montreal, Canada

Feast Through Montreal, Canada

Let’s talk about some of the best places to go and the foods that you must try when you truly want to get a taste of Montreal!

What Types of Food is Montreal Known For?

There are some simply iconic foods that you will find in Montreal. It is what the city is known for, and it would be hard to find a local who doesn’t enjoy chowing down on just about everything on the list! In Montreal, you will find plenty of bagels, Steamé, which is a steamed hot dog, smoked meat such as brisket, poutine, and much more. Know that we know the best foods to eat in Montreal, we will discuss the best places to eat while you are there.

Fairmount Bagel

At Fairmount Bagel, you will find a breakfast staple that is not to be missed. As the first bagel bakery in all of Montreal, every bagel is rolled by hand and baked to perfection in a wood burning oven. The establishment is family owned and operated and welcomes all guests into an atmosphere that is warm and inviting. With a variety of bagels that include the original poppy seed, plain, onion, garlic, and more, you’ll want to stop here almost every morning to fuel up for the rest of your day!

Schwartz’s Deli

A tradition for over nine decades, Schwartz’s Deli is known for serving up smoked meat that will have your mouth watering. The meat is smoked daily and flavored with a secret blend of herbs and spices. The restaurant promises every guest a unique experience that they won’t ever forget. As a landmark of Montreal, people have come from near and far over the years to indulge in the most amazing smoked meat they have ever tasted. Come hungry, because you will find offerings such as a smoked turkey or salami sandwich, rib steak, a chicken combo and more. Don’t forget to compliment your entree of choice with Schwartz’s homemade french fries or coleslaw for a meal that is nothing less than perfect.

Garde Manger

This fine dining establishment has a romantic ambiance, making it the ideal place to relax and enjoy great food after a day of sightseeing. At Garde Manger, you’ll feel right at home as soon as you walk through the door. With a professional and attentive staff, all of your needs are immediately catered to. The atmosphere is serene, with dim lighting and an amazing menu. Get ready to try selections such as Pave de rump steak, Scotch fillet of beef, and Canard a l’orange. The dessert menu is outstanding, with guests choosing from treats that include specialty crepes, a selection of French cheeses, a cold meat platter, and a variety of specialty coffees. You’ll savor each bite more than the last!

Au Pied de Cochon

You do not want to leave Montreal without enjoying a meal at Au Pied de Cochon! Known for their poutine, a staple of the city, this establishment also features new menu items each season. The atmosphere is lively and friendly featuring an open kitchen, with each guest welcomed as if they were family. The portions are generous and expertly prepared. Enjoy a fulfilling meal with a group of friends, or an intimate dining excursion with someone special. Choose from dishes such as cassoulet, foie gras terrine, foie gras & pork, and much more. It is an experience like you’ve never before had!

L’Express

A restaurant that captures the intimate culture of Montreal, L’Express is based on the image of perfect French food. The surroundings are as unique as one could imagine, with a mirrored dining area and beautiful artwork adorning the walls. This restaurant is comfortable, with dishes that you simply must taste to believe! With a wine cellar directly below the dining area, it is a fun fact of the establishment to know that over 10,000 bottles are located beneath you as you enjoy your meal. Choose from items that include beef, chicken, and vegetable stew, freshly grilled salmon on a bed of spinach, roasted quail with wild rice, and much more. You’ll want to make sure to have dessert because selections include a lemon or chocolate tart, the house truffle, and rum baba. L’Express is one place that reflects what Montreal is all about.

Yulcite

The time will come when you need a coffee break, and Yulcite is just the place to do that! The surroundings are as peaceful as can be with bright sunshine streaming through the windows, and beautiful green plants hanging from the ceiling. Come in for a small bite to eat, a hot beverage, or a selection of gelatos and sorbets that are to die for! Weekend brunch is also offered, so stop by and indulge in homemade gravlax on St-viateur bagel, French toast, and other incredible treats. You’ll feel right at home as you converse with the friendly staff, and interact with the locals who frequent the coffee shop.
Montreal is a magical city, with so much to see and do! With plenty of diversity and a bilingual culture, it is an adventure that everyone must experience. The city is rich in history and has wonderful character as well. Overall, Montreal is a charming place to visit, and, as you can see, the cuisine is delightful. Be sure to visit all of the amazing restaurants to get the most out of what Montreal has to offer for the foodie who is looking for a one of a kind food tour of the city!

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Quebec City Cathedrals: A Canadian Treasure Hunt

Quebec City Cathedral

You don’t have to be on a spiritual quest to enjoy these amazing places. History buffs, art lovers, musicians, and ghost hunters all love to visit cathedrals when they are traveling. If you’re curious, in Quebec City, Quebec, there are an abundance of gorgeous cathedrals to visit that will inspire you with their soaring spaces and untold treasures.

The Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec

The Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec first opened it’s doors in 1664. Some of the most noted architectural features are its two asymmetrical towers, a neo-classical facade, and a baldachin of gold which appears to float over the main altar. Bask in the colorful glory of the incredible stained glass windows, as well as three Casavant organs.
The cathedral has seen its share of trials and tribulations. During the British siege in 1759, the church was bombarded and burned down, and then rebuilt exactly according to the original plans. It burned down again in 1922 and again was rebuilt exactly as before.

Standout Experience

Visitors can see the “Holy Door”, one of the only seven Holy doors in the world officially recognized by the Vatican. It is a very significant symbol of a spiritual experience, giving pilgrims the chance to collect lost parts of their lives. The Holy Door has a life-size relief of Jesus Christ in it, whose hands are worn from thousands and thousands of pilgrims touching them over the course of the centuries. Currently, the door is closed until next Jubilee in 2025.

How to Visit

The best way to enjoy this cathedral is through a self-guided tour. A map will guide you to all the cathedrals highlights and give you in-depth information on them. Visitors can explore daily from 7:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. weekdays, 7:00 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Saturdays, and 8:00 a.m until 5:00 p.m. on Sundays. Quebec City’s Notre-Dame Cathedral is located at 53 Rue Sainte-Famille, Québec, QC G1R 3V6, Canada.

The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity

This is the cathedral of the Anglican Diocese of Quebec. Tucked in the heart of Old Quebec, The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity was built between 1800 and 1804 in the British Palladian style of architecture. The classic, austere exterior, gives little hint to the marvels that exist inside. The carved white columns and soaring proportions are just the first thing that catches the eye. An amazing array of stained glass, sculpture, and artwork awaits while strolling the interior of the cathedral.

Standout Experience

Listening to the famous bells at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity is and experience that is not to be missed. The bells began ringing in 1830, and they are the oldest bells of their kind in Canada. They were forged by Whitechapel Bell Foundry, the same London foundry that made Big Ben and the Liberty Bell. The Quebec City Guild of Change Ringers, a team of 8 people, is required to ring all eight of the heavy bells. For the full effect, visit on special occasions like Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day.

How to Visit

Over 150,000 people visit the cathedral each year, and there are several types of tours available. The public is welcome to take free, self-guided tours any time the cathedral is open, mid-May through mid-November, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Guided tours are available for $6 mid-May through mid-November, Monday – Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and on Sundays from 12:30pm to 16:30 p.m. It is also possible to arrange a group tour any time of the year with a reservation.

Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Basilica

This cathedral is 19 miles outside of Quebec City, and according to over a million and a half visitors each year, it’s worth the trip. According to the Catholic Church, Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Basilica is said to be the place of many healings and miracles in its 350 year history. It is one of the only 5 national shrines in Canada, and is one of the oldest pilgrimage destinations in North America.
The cathedral’s soaring towers can be seen for miles around. They stand above the St. Anne’s Fountain, near the site where a crippled man was said to be healed by placing three stones in the church’s foundation. The fountain was installed in 2008 as part of the 350 year anniversary celebration of the cathedral. Another unique site is the “Scala Santa”, a staircase that is an exact replica of the Scala Santa in Rome that Jesus ascended to meet Pilate.

Standout Experience

There is nothing like this cathedral’s basilica anywhere else in the world. The Romanesque Revival cathedrals historic basilica will leave you amazed. The roof rises 100 meters into the air, and it is decorated everywhere you look with stained glass windows. There are over 240 stained glass pieces depicting an incredible array of scenes and stories. The basilica’s copper doors were created by the artist Albert Gilles, and the sanctuary itself is filled with additional sculptures and paintings dating back centuries.

How to Visit

The public and pilgrims are always welcome to the cathedral, located at 10018 Ave Royale, Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, QC G0A 3C0, Canada. You can visit the Basilica, Shrine Store, Information Center, and other chapels and shrines year round, 8:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. The information center is open July through May, and the Monestary’s Reception Desk is open year-round to answer visitors questions..
Any trip to Quebec is greatly enhanced by taking a tour of the city’s magnificent cathedrals. They are an intimate part of Quebec City and the surrounding area, tying visitors to the past with their architecture, craftsmanship. Canada is an an amazing country to visit and full of surprises, and the cathedrals of Quebec will take truly your breath away.

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Best Camping Locations in the Orlando Area

Camping in Orlando

For those who love the outdoors, this is great news. While Orlando does have much to offer for outdoor lovers in the way of amusements, sunbathing, and water fun, there is a whole other side to this amazing city, and that other side is the camping locations. Let’s take a look at some of the best camping options in the city of Orlando and the surrounding area so that you can really get in touch with nature on a whole new level.

The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort

Families, couples, and singles can have a truly unique camping experience when they visit the Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort! Spend some time camping in this re-creation of an American Frontier, where you will enjoy the amenities that made Disney World famous in a different atmosphere. You’ll find 750 acres of campgrounds, in addition to recreational activities that include pony, wagon, and carriage rides, the Fort Wilderness Archery Experience, Campfire Sing-a-longs and much more. It doesn’t matter if you are an expert camper or if this is your first time ever on a camping trip, as this campsite caters to people of all levels. Rent a golf cart or ride a bike along the trails as you take in everything that is offered. Now, you can experience Disney World in a way you never imagined as you have the time of your life on this ultimate camping expedition!

Moss Park

At Moss Park, you’ll experience camping at it’s best. Located in the heart of Orange County, Florida, this campsite is great for families, couples, and small groups who want to see wildlife and the beauty of nature in one of the best environments in the entire Sunshine State! Have the best of both worlds as you enjoy the fun of the wilderness or choose to spend some time at the beach area that is located within the park. Go fishing or hiking, or spend some time singing around the campfire. The amenities are wonderful, accessible, and accommodating, ensuring that your camping trip goes as smoothly as possible. The atmosphere is peaceful, completely letting you enjoy everything that surrounds you. Partake in the Scandinavian sport of orienteering, something that you won’t find at many other places! Go kayaking on the lake, hiking along the trails, or enjoy some bird watching at one of the best-kept secrets of Orlando! Tent and RV camping are both available for convenience. Great for leisure and intermediate campers, this is a place you will surely want to come to time and again!

Winter Garden RV Resort

This is camping, Florida-style! Everyone from single people to large families or groups will enjoy coming to Winter Garden RV Resort, as there is so much to see, do, and enjoy. With over 350 sites, the grounds offer amenities such as swimming, games such as shuffleboard, and many other outdoor activities. Set up camp and get in tune with nature, as you will be surrounded by pine trees and wildlife in its natural habitat. Intermediate and expert campers will feel most comfortable here. There is no shortage of things to do at Winter Garden RV Resort, as you embark on a camping trip that you won’t soon forget.

Orlando/Kissimmee KOA Holiday

Whether you choose to stay in a fully furnished deluxe cabin or set up a tent at one of the sites, you’ll want to soak up everything that Orlando/Kissimmee KOA Holiday has to offer! As one of the best campsites in Central Florida, this Kampgrounds of America location appeals to everyone from children to adults. All levels of campers will feel right at home, as the campgrounds offer a castle-themed playground and jumping pad for the little ones, a pool, hot tub, and sauna, bike rentals, and more. Enjoy a game of horseshoes, and don’t forget to stop by the general store to pick up supplies for making s’mores by the fire! With plenty of recreation and welcoming surroundings, Orlando/Kissimmee KOA Holiday will soon become one of your favorite places to enjoy the camping trip of a lifetime.

Orlando NW/Orange Blossom KOA

Another Kampgrounds of America location in Central Florida, Orlando NW/Orange Blossom KOA is a place where families, couples, and groups can create wonderful Florida memories! Amenities for campers of all levels include a pool, dog park, bike rentals, and much more. Meet new friends and bond with those you came to the campsite with as you participate in activities such as corn hole tournament boards, or gather at the playgrounds for some fun. You’ll see some of the most amazing wildlife that you could have ever imagined as you observe cardinals, raccoons, Eastern box turtles, and sandhill cranes. Keep an eye open for the turkeys, green tree frogs, and armadillos, and don’t forget to have the camera ready! Your camping adventure will be nothing short of amazing at Orlando NW/Orange Blossom KOA, thanks to the well-maintained grounds, fishing, boating, and overall wonderful outdoor nature experience. This campsite is truly relaxing and as friendly as can be! You and your group will have a personal experience at this location that is known for being a “slice of paradise”!
Now, you know exactly where to go when you want to experience Orlando from a different perspective! These wonderful campgrounds offer an experience like no other, as you step away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and kick back in the true tranquility of nature. You’ll find peaceful, open spaces that allow you to enjoy Florida like never before. Enjoy your love for the great outdoors, taking in all of the scenic beauty that surrounds you at these hidden gems throughout Orlando and the surrounding area!

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Exploring Nova Scotia’s Small Seaside Towns

Nova Scotia is one of Canada’s unique treasures. It is where rocky shores meet sandy beaches while low mountain ranges stand by. There is something satisfying about watching fishermen unload their catch from bobbing wooden boats. The province’s small seaside towns are as charming as they are quirky. Brightly painted houses line the waterfront while eccentric shops and cafes invite all who pass to enter. These picturesque hamlets will enchant those who linger, enticing them to return again and again.

Digby

Digby is one of those towns tourists tend to overlook as they hop the connecting ferry to Saint John, New Brunswick. They shouldn’t. The quaint fishing village is well known worldwide for the large, sweet scallops harvested from its local waters. Those visitors who take the time to wander the streets of Digby are rewarded with a delightful array of cheerful storefronts and restaurants offering breathtaking views of the sun setting over Fundy Bay. Digby was established in 1783 and still maintains much of its old world charm but there is no time like the present to visit here.
You can book a stay at the Come From Away B&B Inn, a historic Edwardian home on the waterfront, where you can watch Digby’s famous high tide in the Annapolis Basin ebb and recede. The inn is central to everything so you can take a stroll to Crooked Timber Books for something to read or learn about Digby’s maritime history at the Admiral Digby Museum. Later you can treat yourself to lunch at the Sydney Street Pub and Cafe. Of course, you will want to try some pan-fried local scallops while you’re there along with a cold local craft beer and live music.

Lunenburg

Lunenburg is the home port of the majestic Bluenose II tall ship, a fitting presence in a town with such a rich heritage and a vibrant streetscape. It is an art and culture mecca blending the glory of the old town’s UNESCO world heritage status with modern industry and creative amenities. Narrow roads meander through a maze of quaint shops, grand old homes, and colorful eateries. The fabulous Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic offers interactive tours which provide a close-up look of life at sea through theater and live exhibits.
You can stay at The Mariner King Inn in the heart of the old town for the best in hospitality and comfort. The inn celebrates its historic past while, at the same time, providing first-class contemporary lodging. You can spend a dreamy day browsing through the many small shops including Mosaic where treasures and gems can be found. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, you might want to grab a wharfside table on the Old Fish Factory’s patio. You might fall in love with the locally-sourced seafood chowder or let yourself splurge with a steamed lobster entree.

Mahone Bay

Mahone Bay will have you imagining you walked into a picture postcard with its olden wooden churches and stunning architecture. The town was settled in 1754 and thrived as a shipbuilding hub and mariner’s destination. Today it is an idyllic respite scattered with artisan studios, boutique shops, and friendly pubs. The natural beauty of the area encourages outdoor adventures when the weather permits. The peaceful waters of Mahone Bay are made up of several islands. South Shore Boat Tours offers exciting trips around them where, if you are lucky, you might just see the dolphins frolicking in the bay.
Check in at the Fairmont House Bed and Breakfast Inn for scenic water views and pet-friendly accommodations. Once a shipbuilder’s residence, the inn is homey and welcoming with easy access to all Mahone Bay has to offer. The town’s seaside setting has attracted artists and creatives to the area for years. A once-vacant boathouse on the South Shore is now home to Amos Pewter Designs, a community icon of craftsmanship and well worth a visit. You can end your day of exploring at The Mug & Anchor Pub where you will find delicious pub food, maritime music, and unusual craft beers.

Yarmouth

Yarmouth still boasts the largest fishing fleet in Canada’s Atlantic Ocean waters. The port town is admired for its grand old homes many featuring widow’s walks where captain’s wives could watch for the return of the ships carrying their loved ones. The 175-year-old Cape Forchu Lightstation is ideal for hiking, picnics, and for enjoying glorious vistas of the surrounding sea. The traditions of Arcadian culture are an integral part of the flavor of Yarmouth and visitors should not leave without trying Rappie pie, unique and savory meat, onion, and potato dish topped with molasses.
The Lakelawn B&B and Motel is an affordable and pleasant place to hang your hat. It was once a wealthy shipbuilder’s mansion home where celebrities were entertained with elegant parties. Now it is a clean and comfortable refuge complete with its own cafe and hearty breakfast menus. Head into town for a busy day of antique shopping and maritime-inspired gift buying at one of the artisan shops. Rudder’s Seafood Restaurant and Brew Pub is a favorite gathering place for locals and tourists alike offering live entertainment seven nights a week. You will be glad you stopped by.
Nova Scotia is everything you could want in a coastal destination. Its proud history and pristine bays are only a small part of the province’s lure. You might want to take a slow drive through its countryside stopping often to admire the craggy shoreline and bays dotted with sailboats and seabirds. Nova Scotia hosts over 550 festivals and events throughout the year bringing music, comedy, food, and fun to town. You can share some laughter at the Halifax ComedyFest or nurture your artful side in Peggy’s Cove at the Festival of the Arts.
Outdoor adventures are never too far away anywhere in Nova Scotia. Well-maintained hiking and biking trails are plentiful and golf courses seem to pop up where you least expect them. Those who prefer more high adrenalin activities won’t be disappointed either. The Atlantic School of Skydiving offers a guided tandem skydive experience and Anchors Above Zipline in Pictou County will let you soar the skies. There is something for everyone in beautiful Nova Scotia. It is no wonder it is nicknamed Canada’s Ocean Playground.

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A Taste of the French Canadian Cuisine in Quebec City, Canada

Feast Through Quebec

With French Canadian heritage and local ingredients, some of the most talented chefs in the city create mouthwatering recipes that will leave you wanting more. From breakfast to the last bite of dessert, Quebec City is home to restaurants that will have you savoring every bite.

Légende

Légende is a restaurant that features the most delectable seasonal dishes. A place that truly captures the culture of Quebec City, Légende has a charming and rustic environment that is as warm and welcoming as the food itself. The culinary story passes from each guest to the next and lives strong in the hearts of the locals. Dishes are meant for sharing, and there is also a tasting menu. Food offerings such as Venison Carpaccio will enchant your taste buds, and there is an extensive wine list from which you may choose. The menu changes frequently due to the availability of local ingredients, so you will find different delicious choices each time you visit. Eat indoors and enjoy the quaint surroundings, or outdoors as you admire the sights that the city has to offer. While you may not know precisely what meal is in store for you until you get there, one thing is for sure: it will be one of the best meals you have ever enjoyed!

Le Continental

When you are looking for savory French cuisine to complement the culture of Quebec City, Le Continental is the perfect place. The upscale atmosphere speaks for itself, and the food is prepared tableside for an experience you won’t soon forget. Start with an appetizer such as Garlic Snails in Shells, Ravioli of Sweetbreads with Truffle Oil, or Slices of Smoked Salmon, Capers, and Chopped Red Onions. Soups include selections such as Cognac flavored Lobster Bisque and Onion Soup with Gruyère Gratin. When it comes time to choose the main course, you’ll find choices such as Snow Crabs and Hollandaise, Sautéed Veal Chop and Fresh Thyme Juice, and much more. The plate of cheese served after the main course is just delightful! Each cheese is made with local raw milk for a taste that you will love; you’ll enjoy goat cheese and an ever-changing variety of other cheeses. Save room for dessert, because specially prepared treats are the perfect ending to a wonderful meal. There is no better place than Le Continental to enjoy the ambiance of Quebec City.

La Planque

This amazing gastropub is the perfect way to relax after a whirlwind day of sightseeing in Quebec City. Serving plenty of New Canadian fare, this restaurant is a quaint hideout for tourists and locals alike. With a rustic environment, you’ll feel right at home in comfortable surroundings. You’ll feel as if you stepped into another world as soon as you walk in the door of La Planque, where everything tastes delicious, and everyone is there to serve you! The staff believes in making each customer smile with excellent service and top-quality food. Music is always playing to add to the feel-good environment. You won’t want to miss out on appetizers such as Foie Grass, Canadian Oysters, and Gravlax of Salmon. Dinner is equally as delectable, with offerings that include the Play of Beef for two, Turlo Pig, Supreme of Pintade of Cape St – Ignace, and much more. Desserts are mouthwatering, with options including Chocolate and Cranberry Brownies, Caramelized White Chocolate Cake, and Financial with Amenlanche and Zestes d’orange.

Buffet de l’Antiquaire

Buffet de l’Antiquaire is a diner-style restaurant serving some of the traditional food for which Quebec City is famous. Everyone is considered part of the family at Buffet de l’Antiquaire, and the ambiance is friendly and inviting at all times. The restaurant has been catering to tourists for more than four decades, and the staff loves answering questions about the history of the establishment, so ask away! Whether you come in for a quick coffee break or to enjoy a full meal, you do not want to leave Quebec City without visiting this charming spot. Stop by for breakfast and enjoy the Pain Dore or perhaps a perfectly prepared omelet. Later in the day and in the evening, satisfy your hunger with Poutine, Galvaude, or Spaghetti Au Smoked Meat. Looking for just a hot, soothing beverage and a pastry? The menu includes espresso, chocolat chaud, cafe au lait, and everything in between. For dessert, choose from options such as Shortcake aux Fraises, Crepe Dessert Fourree a la Creme Glacee a la Vanille, Fraises Et Chantilly, or the Dessert du Jour. You’ll love every last bite!

1640 Bistro

If you want to enjoy the view of Quebec City along with world-class cuisine, 1640 Bistro is the perfect place. You can sit on the terrace overlooking the magnificent city as you gaze at Château Frontenac and savor the quality time with your company. See live musicians and enjoy chef created plates that are a mix of French cuisine and European culture. From morning to evening, guests are always welcome. Come for breakfast and enjoy dishes such as La Poutine Matinale, and L’Assiette Brunch. If you prefer to stop by for lunch or dinner, selections include Charbroiled Quarter Chicken, Tagliatelle Pasta with braised pork and spinach, Duck Confit Poutine, and much more. This is the perfect place to get in touch with the atmosphere that Quebec City has to offer. Come with your significant other and feel like you are falling in love again over your romantic meal. The dessert menu will make you swoon, as the offerings include delights such as Caramel Cheesecake, Apple Tatin Tart, and a daily dessert that makes for a pleasant surprise. The service is nothing less than impeccable, making you feel at ease and right at home.
Now you know the best places to go for a delectable meal when you plan your trip to Quebec City, Canada. The city has a somewhat enchanting feel, making you feel as happy and special as possible! There is no better place to enjoy the French, Canadian, and European cuisine than this over the top, amazing city.

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Traverse City: An Amazing Blend of Award-Winning Wines & Foodie Delights

Feast Through Traverse City

Dig a little deeper though, and you’ll discover that you’re just as likely to find a vintage glass of one-of-a-kind wine as you are to enjoy a bottle of pale wheat ale or imperial stout. The up-and-coming Traverse Wine Coast is home to nearly 40 wineries, thanks to a stroke of geological luck that it shares with some famous wine regions of Europe. Not to mention an expert group of innovative farmers, cultivators, and producers who love creating prestigious wines that add a singular culinary ‘spark’ to this food-friendly region.

A Unique Twist on Classic Winemaking

Midwest Magazine has named Traverse City among the Top Five Food Towns for two years running, and this genuine love of creating spectacular food and drink is part of the reason why the region has produced such a wide variety of internationally-acclaimed wines for pairing. The unique geographical conditions are another factor in the region’s success. Many of the vineyards front to the 100 miles of coastline that make up Traverse Wine Country’s two main peninsulas: The Old Mission and Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail. Lake Michigan and the bay both offer a protected environment for the grapes to grow, and cool air and nutrient-rich soil add to the high-quality yields.
In fact, The Traverse Wine Coast is situated on the 45th parallel, which is exactly the latitude at which the world-renowned Bordeaux and Piedmont districts of France and Italy sit. This ideal locale has created a thriving center of viticulture, with nearly 13,000 acres of grapes and proud bragging rights as the 5th leading grape producer in the United States. The area’s top selections include Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay, as well as Cabernet Franc, Gewürztraminer, and Pinot Grigio. These premier Northern Michigan wines can be easily recognized by their well-balanced, fruit-driven flavors that are crisp and clean, allowing for the perfect pairings with a diverse range of culinary dishes.

The Vineyards of Traverse City

‘Must See’ Vineyards of the Old Mission Peninsula

Chateau Grand Traverse

Just eight miles north of Traverse City sits a world of its the Chateau Grand Traverse Estate. It is Northern Michigan’s oldest winery, having opened its doors in 1974. Sitting on 122 prime acres of land, the winery has its own contemporary wine tasting room and production facility. Visitors here are among the lucky ones to taste the superbly-blended MichMash line that’s only available in-state. You can also enjoy the O’Keefe family’s generosity with a free wine tour of the vineyards and winemaking facility, including a presentation of the growing and production process from ‘vine to glass.’ Their mouthwatering house-made delicacies include smoked paprika almonds and hand-crafted crackers with fresh fig jam.
The vineyard also boasts a 6-room Inn where you can take in amazing views of the rolling vineyards, Traverse Bay sunsets, and the beautiful Bowers Harbor Park. The vineyard’s generosity continues with a complimentary bottle of their finest signature wine for overnight guests on a private balcony surrounded by serene woodland landscapes.

Mari Vineyards

Michigan native, engineer, and Oak Island star Marty Lagina was determined to plant “grapes that wouldn’t grow” in the region to create wines that honor his Italian heritage. Successfully cultivating the Old World varieties of Sangiovese and Nebbiolo grapes took lots of hard work, some innovative technology, and a bit of a rebel spirit, but today you can literally enjoy the ‘fruits’ of his labor with his award-winning lines of Pinot Bianco and Merlots blends.
Mari Vineyards offers you the chance to take a tour of the 3,000 square-foot wine cave that’s buried 10 feet underground as you hear the inspiring true story of the vineyard’s signature ‘Row 7’ origins. They also offer a newly completed, two-tiered tasting room that provides three unique seating options including an outdoor patio. Here you can savor an incredible selection of their citrus, berry, apple, peach, nut, and chocolate-infused selections. The vineyard sits on 60-acres of breathtakingly scenic land and is conveniently located just off of the main thoroughfare of Center Road.

‘Must See’ Vineyards of Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail

Laurentinde Winery

The husband-and-wife team, Susan & Bill Braymer, have taken a lifelong passion for visiting some of the country’s most epic vineyards and turned it into a world-class boutique winery on the shores of Lake Leelanau. Named after the glacier that helped form this grape-loving landscape over 10,000 years ago, Laurentide Winery focuses on fabulous food pairings with its distinct selection of 14 varietal wines, including the region’s first estate-grown, award-winning Sauvignon Blanc.
Here you’ll find amazing culinary creations paired together with Gold Winning blends such as the 2018 Harvest Stompede Sausage, Peppers, & Onions with 2016 Emergence White. Besides their family-style fireside or outdoor patio tastings at their on-site facility, the dynamic duo also gives educational tours of the vineyard and have an attached public wine library that’s open to everyone. Visitors can also take in the captivating artistic displays spread throughout the winery that help supports the local artistic community. Laurentide is part of the ‘Sleeping Bear’ Wine Loop that starts at southern Lake Leelanau and runs north across the namesake Bay.

Tandem Ciders

You can enjoy a taste of Michigan’s ‘other’ prize-winning fruit-forward artisanal drink at this unique stop along the North Wine Loop that showcases some of the region’s most acclaimed hard ciders. Tandem Ciders was born out of a cycling trip across England taken by another husband and wife team, Dan Young and Nikki Rothwell. The couple fell in love with the country’s amazing apple concoctions. With a focus on supporting regional growers, all their fruit is locally sourced, and the rustic-style tasting room is housed in a big white barn that encourages community socializing.
Tandem’s signature ciders feature a diverse array of top regional apples including Red Delicious, Cortland, Rome, McIntosh, Granny Smith, and Winesaps. Ciders such as the ever popular ‘Smakintosh’ and British-inspired ‘Scrumpy Little Woody’ are served up fresh with a tasty menu of eclectic area favorites, including the Black Truffle Fromage Blanc, Raclette Cheese Fruit Plate, and the ever-popular Pickled Eggs with a side of Great Lakes potato chips. Tandem’s fun community vibe encourages camaraderie and helped win it a spot on this renowned Midwestern wine trail.

Most Popular Wine Tastings & Festivals

The wineries of Old Mission Peninsula and nearby Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail each feature many popular tastings that showcase fresh and fabulous regional and international food and wine pairings along with fun social scenes. Winter Warm Up takes place each January along the Old Mission Peninsula and features unique wine and comfort food pairings from 9 vineyards, plus a commemorative souvenir mug. Leelanau Peninsula answers back in February with its winter wine tasting extravaganza, Taste the Passion, which includes 40 tastings for just $40. In June, Old Mission helps kick off summer with Rosé Between the Bays showcasing a diverse range of delicious pink wines.
One of the best things about the region is the fun wine-centered festivals that occur throughout the year. The most famous of these is the month-long Traverse City Uncorked that includes an incredible array of special tastings, tours, and springtime celebrations in May. Late June sees the launch of the Traverse City Wine & Cider Festival at the historic Village at Grand Traverse Commons, where great music, spirits, and artistry mix in a vibrant celebration of the creative arts. September’s ‘Harvest Stompede’ features a fun-filled vineyard race followed by wine and food tastings at 22 Leelanau Peninsula wineries, where owners have been known to throw in a few extra complimentary tastings! True to its reputation as a foodie paradise, Traverse City has created a celebration that features a friendly competition for the best wines and most beloved comfort foods at November’s Great Mac N’Cheese Bakeoff.
With most wineries open year round, The Traverse Wine Coast makes a spectacular destination for wine, food, and cider lovers alike. Whether you’re looking for a romantic wintertime getaway or a singular summertime sojourn, consider a journey into the land where the lakes conspire to create some of the most exceptional wines on the planet.

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The Best of Camping and Hiking in Portland, Oregon

You may come to Portland, Oregon for the unique culture, but you’ll want to stay for the breathtaking scenery. Not to mention top-notch camping sites and many hiking hot spots that plunge through some of the most awe-inspiring wilderness of the Pacific Northwest. Portland is one of the very best cities in the U.S. for mixing outdoorsy adventures with urban delights. It is an ideal getaway that captivates travelers from all over the world. With so many great options to choose from in the Greater Portland area, read on for some camping and hiking musts that you will want to consider on your trip to Rose City.

The Many Escapes of Forest Park

One of the reasons Portland’s iconography tends to be on the green side is because of Forest Park. Forest Park is a sprawling, 5,100-acre urban oasis only a quick 20-minute drive upriver from the trendy Pearl District. Within the park, the hiking opportunities are as diverse as they are exhilarating. For those looking to recharge, try Ridge Trail. Hikers here treck down a narrow path cut into the pristine wilderness and emerge overlooking St. John’s Bridge and the majestic Willamette River. For more visual extravagance, the Lower Macleay Trail is a relatively light hike filled with moss-coated hemlocks, towering firs and ferns, and Portland icons like the old Stone House and Victorian-era masterpiece Pittock Mansion.
While there are more than a few options for the less seasoned hiker, those looking for a more strenuous workout won’t be disappointed either. The Tolinda Trail offers a steep climb to the locally famous Leif Erickson Drive, with beautiful scenery along the way. Although it can be a little bit on the muddy side, the trail–generally about three miles roundtrip–is a terrific option for the adventurous hiker or anyone looking for a great workout.
The most famous of them all, however, is the Wildwood Trail, which is a series of different trails rolled into one. It is known for being loaded with wildflowers during the summer bloom. Along the Firelane 15 section in the northwestern portion of the trail, you’ll escape the crowds and find a blissful refuge in a region of the park. Known for its mossy scenery, grassy knoll (near Kielhorn Meadow), and potential for an elk or mountain beaver encounter, this trail is tough to beat. Though many of the best parts of Wildwood Trail require a short trip in the car, you can take the light rail from the city’s center to the beginning of the trail in Washington Park. All in all, the Wildwood Trail has 40 miles of hiking, with 27 miles of it resting within the limits of Forest Park.
Additional tips:
Hiking in Forest Park is optional year-round, but some additional preparation might be needed if you go during the winter or following a rainstorm. Many locals are not bothered by hiking during a rainstorm. A rain slicker and some good hiking boots can be the key to a true Oregonian adventure at Forest Park. Because Forest Park has about 70 miles of trails overall, checking out the park map and exploring on your own can be the best way to go.

Camping in Greater Portland

One of the go-to campgrounds for Portlanders is at Beacon Rock State Park, a preserve located along the gorge just north of the Columbia River. Although technically in the state of Washington, Beacon Rock is only a 45-minute drive east from central Portland and offers a range of tent-camping options surrounded by nature. Hikes overlooking the river and the spectacular greenery of both Washington and Oregon are on full display.  Come see local icons like Rodney Falls, Hamilton Mountain, and Hardy Creek’s Pool of the Winds. Although the park doesn’t take camping reservations, it does have a 200-site group campground in addition to a 26-site main campground.
Heading west to the edge of the wondrous Tillamook State Forest, the Gales Creek Campground offers another terrific experience along with direct access to some of the best natural features in the Pacific Northwest. Loaded with sky-reaching alders, maples, and Douglas firs, Gales Creek Campground is known for its serene and peaceful setting. Visiting Tillamook State Forest has even more options for exploring the Oregonian scenery, including a temperate rainforest that is one of the wettest spots in the U.S.
If you’re in the area, you may find your way to Mt. Hood National Forest, located about an hour southeast of Portland. At the Riverside Campground, you can enjoy amazing views of the Clackamas River as well as hiking and biking in the national forest. Although the river tends to be extremely cold in most parts, those with an adventurous spirit can journey to the south end of the campground for a dip in the crisp waters of the Clackamas during the summer. With its natural seclusion, undeniable beauty, and advantageous location, Riverside remains a favorite for locals and visitors alike.
Also consider:
For a less adventurous wilderness escape, the family-friendly Jenkins Camp-Estate Rivendale is known for its balance of modern lodging and its vast estate containing many outdoor activities. Looking out over the Tualatin Valley, the Jenkins grounds are not lacking in beauty, especially during the late spring and early summer.

Underrated Hiking Gems

Just across the Columbia River from Beacon Rock State Park–on the Oregon side–lies the Eagle Creek Trail. Here, you can make your way along the river toward the thunderous Tunnel Falls. Especially breathtaking in the winter months, the 12-mile roundtrip Tunnel Falls portion of the Eagle Creek Trail can be a transformative experience, showcasing both the unbeatable scenery of the area as well as the region’s raw natural power.
For those looking to stay closer to the city, meanwhile, the Marquam Trail is tough to beat. Less than 10 minutes from Downtown Portland, Marquam Trail picks through lush green spaces to Council Crest, the highest point in Portland. From Council Crest, you can expect to see magnificent views of the city along with glimpses of Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood, Mt. Rainier, and more. The Marquam Trail to Council Crest is particularly great for having a scenic picnic during the warmer months of the year.
Although you could have a great time skipping about Portland’s many outstanding microbreweries and famous eateries, the pure magic of the area is in the region’s natural offerings. With abundant options for hiking and camping in Portland, there are few places in the U.S.–or elsewhere–better suited for exploring the best features that nature has to offer.

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A Blueprint for Experiencing the Best Thrills in Seattle

Thrill seeking trips near Seattle

With Seattle’s collection of hikes, aerial thrills, water activities, and much more, there are plenty of ways to piece together a spectacular journey that will capture the upside of the U.S.’s extraordinary Pacific Northwest. Consider these options if you’re headed to the Emerald City looking for thrills.

Kayaking Lake Union and/or the Lakes-to-Locks Water Trail.

Nestled in between Queen Anne and Eastlake, with stunning views of downtown, Lake Union is a water lover’s paradise regularly filled with boats of all types, paddleboards, waterplanes, jet skis, and more. It’s also a haven for kayakers of any experience level, offering excursions for both the ambitious and those looking for a leisurely day of sightseeing. With plenty of places to rent gear right at the shore, getting onto the lake is extremely easy, and there are shelters all around the lake for kayakers and paddleboarders to take a breather. While the views are great at every point of the lake, many visitors end up at the 20-acre Gas Works Park at the north end, where you get rare glimpses of the city. For those staying closer to beautiful West Seattle, you can also get terrific cityscape views by hitting the waters outside Alki Beach.
For the more adventurous kayakers, Seattle has the Lakes-to-Locks Trail. Starting in Lake Sammamish in eastern Seattle and traveling through Lake Washington and Lake Union, the trail doesn’t end until it meets the salt water of the Puget Sound in the northwestern part of the city. With about 100 different designated stops along the way, kayakers glide along the beautiful Sammamish River, through Portage Bay off Lake Washington, and right past the highlights of Lake Union all the way to the Ballard Locks at the western end of the trail. Although undoubtedly a workout and only for those committed to a long day of kayaking, the water trail is one of the very best ways to not only see the city but witness first-hand just how vital Seattle’s waterways are to the area.
However you choose to get out onto the water, no aquatic enthusiast should miss the opportunity to see why Seattle is one of the best cities in the U.S. for boating and water activities.
Other options:
Those looking to take the thrills to the next level also have a perfect day trip awaiting an hour north of Seattle on the Skykomish River. Locally known as just “The Sky,” the river has enough white water to get the adrenaline-pumping, and you can experience it on a single kayak or on a raft as part of a tour.

Hike the gorgeous vistas of Mt. Pilchuck.

There are easier hikes in the area than the one that takes you up Mt. Pilchuck, but there’s a reason why it has turned into one of the most popular spots near Seattle for weekend warriors. Just a little more than five miles roundtrip, the Mt. Pilchuck hike has it all, from views of the Puget Sound and Olympic Peninsula to some of the best opportunities to gaze at Mt. Rainier. After a moderately strenuous climb, hikers arrive at a lookout cabin that’s about 5,300 feet above sea level, which provides an immaculate view of the North Cascades and sprawling green regions north of Seattle.
About an hour north of downtown, Mt. Pilchuck is known for being very popular with both locals and visitors, which is why getting an early start to the day is definitely recommended. While the motivated, early-day adventurers enjoy mostly clear pathways and plenty of elbow room at the top, anyone hiking toward the middle of the day (especially on a summer weekend) will have more than enough fellow hikers to keep you company. Even with its status as a significant attraction, Mt. Pilchuck is a hot spot that is indeed worth the hype.
Also, consider:
For hikers who might be a little intimidated by Pilchuck, there is no shortage of other options that provide a window to Seattle’s iconic views without a steep climb. The Snoqualmie Pass of Rattlesnake Ledge, a little more than a half-hour east of Seattle, is a sure-fire crowd-pleaser that takes hikers on a gentle climb through thick forests to Rattlesnake Lake, which is an ideal place to spend a sunny afternoon having a picnic or swimming (during the summer months). For a coastal hike, Ebey’s Landing takes visitors through the serene coast of Whidbey Island, where you can see a spread of animal life that typically includes seals, sea lions, eagles, and more. Meanwhile, the White River entrance of Mt. Rainier is also the gateway to a terrific hike, although it is on the challenging end with a round trip of more than eight miles as hikers pick through meadows of wildflowers, forests, and mountain passes.

Get a bird’s eye view of Mt. Rainier and Seattle area in a hot-air balloon.

Good luck trying to top the views you’ll soak up from high above the Seattle landscape in a hot-air balloon, as passengers will drift by rich blue lakes and rivers, the great lush greenery, and the snow-capped Mt. Rainier that hovers over the entire region. As long as you’re not deathly afraid of heights, a balloon ride can be a romantic or family-friendly adventure that is particularly great for the early portion of a Seattle trip. As you gain your bearings and get a feel for the region’s geography, travelers can expect to go nearly a mile up in the air, although the top balloon operations also advertise their ability to come down and skim the waters of local landmarks like Lake Tapps or Green River.
The experience can also easily slide into other plans you might have for the day, with balloon rides typically lasting about an hour and usually taking off around sunrise or a couple hours before sunset. Although hot-air balloons operate throughout most of the year, they can be particularly awe-inspiring in late summer or during the early part of the fall just as Seattle’s famous foliage begins to peek out. The glimpses of Mt. Rainier and the surrounding national park are also unparalleled, with some companies offering routes that take passengers right up close to the 14,000-foot beauty that dominates the landscape just south of Seattle.

Weather and planning tips.

Seattle is renowned for being the perfect summer city when it comes to adventurous activities, making the window from mid-June to the early part of September the peak part of the year for visitors. Although you’ll have plenty of fellow travelers at your side during this time, you’ll also experience Seattle’s warm (but not typically hot) summer weather and skip the oft-rainy late-fall and winter.
If you’re heading to Seattle outside of the summer, you’ll still be able to try your hand at most of the major outdoor features in the area. But even though you can still hike Mt. Pilchuck in the dead of winter, you will want to check in with the on-duty ranger to make sure the path is still passable on a given day. While there is still plenty to do in the city and surrounding region when the weather isn’t great, you will want to have a plan B if you end up with the proverbial rainy day Seattle is sometimes known for.

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Southern Hospitality Rediscovered: Barbecue, Breakdowns, and the Unexpected

Southern Restaurant "Peace-N-Hominy"

Travelers well know the charms of iconic southern spots like Savannah, Charleston, and New Orleans. Beyond the pages of the well photographed plantation homes and the gentile invitation of historic coastal row houses, I rediscover southern hospitality on a recent weekend getaway. In the process I realize that the south has many surprises to offer in unexpected places. Fear not, the south is living up to that famous saying, and then some.

A new baby nephew sparks the family to pile into the car and head from Atlanta to Charlotte, NC. Save a few glimpses of beautiful Lake Hartwell just across the Georgia-South Carolina border and numerous billboards promoting a burgeoning moonshine industry – yes, this is the south – the drive between Atlanta and Charlotte is largely unremarkable. The first sign that we are getting close was the Peachoid, a gigantic water tower that is both shaped and painted to look like an over-ripened peach.
We plug on, and eventually arrive to the outskirts of Charlotte where we are greeted by our family at their new home and set in to spend time with their new baby boy.
Babies are cute, and as the father of three girls I am fascinated to play with my three year old nephew (and his toys – sadly my girls aren’t into Iron Man) while my wife held the new little guy. With the new baby and all, we decide to order in. “Barbecue? I’m asked by my sister-in-law. Um, Yes, please! It isn’t a grand to do, nor a special search for the best barbecue in North Carolina. We just seek out the nearest local barbecue joint – and those are just the kind where you can discover something unexpected.

Peace N’ Hominy

My brother-in-law and I head to pick up the order from Peace N’ Hominy, where they describe their love of barbecue as “the peaceful coexistence of all bbq and corn, be it hominy, maize or grits,” a clear tout to their corn bread, creamed corn and cheesy grits. Here I discover the first great surprise of the overnight trip. Barbecue, generally speaking, is a culinary conundrum. Styles and variations pervade this great country from east to west and each has their own signatures that should not only be appreciated, but outright honored. North Carolina’s take on southern barbecue, has two predominant styles: Eastern style and Lexington style. True to their name, Peace N’ Hominy throws the rule book in the smoker, and pursues fantastic flavor, the rules be damned.
In the world of southern barbecue, preparation, cooking style, and serving are each, on their own, relatively straight-forward (although not easy to execute). Taken together though, they present a challenge that can only be conquered by someone who’s earned the pitmaster title through years of blood, sweat and smoke. The quality of the ingredients used is paramount to good southern barbecue and their absence can be detected, even by a novice, more so than almost any other style of cooking. Fortunately, Peace N’ Hominy has us covered.
We arrive to Peace N’ Hominy, an unassuming little building with patrons buzzing about (a good sign to be sure). We walk in the rear entrance, a little back porch offering a spot in the shade with a few small tables. Maybe on my next visit during the fall, I think. Making our way inside, the small interior is full and we saunter up to the counter to secure our order. After the usual pleasantries, payment, and a brief exchange inquiring about an extra side of hot barbecue sauce, we thank them and are stopped by a young man as we turn for the car.
Nevermind that we’re two capable, grown men, he informs us that he will carry our takeout box to the car, no, he insists. While walking to the car we explain that we really can carry the box, that it is an unnecessary jesture. We are quickly informed that their policy is both clear and strict – customers with large take out orders are to be helped to car. There is no room for interpretation. We thank him again and I can’t help but wonder if this would happen back home in Atlanta. Sure, Atlanta is still most certainly the south, but it is increasingly an international city (mostly for the good). While there are pockets of old southern charm, it isn’t something you encounter everywhere you go. This experience at Peace N’ Hominy is the south – and I like it.
We make the quick drive home, the smell from the backseat taunts us to press the pedal a little faster. Into the house and a quick impromptu buffet setup later, it is time. The amazing spread is anchored by pulled pork and carved brisket (that’s beef for those of you in Bar Harbor), smoked in a blend of apple and hickory wood. The mains are surrounded by a heart-stopping assortment of side dishes: creamed corn, 6 cheese mac & cheese (um, for the kids, just for the kids), an additional style of chili-mac, because in the south one mac & cheese just won’t do, bourbon beans, and crowned with a pan of corn bread and rolls.

The Peace

The pulled pork is well prepared and very good. Though, in a head-to-head battle, the carved brisket delivers a knock out and takes home the title. The flavor of the bourbon beans oozes with brown sugar molasses and pork. The contents of my plate begin to intermingle as the meal moves on and the brisket, beans and the sauce unite in an exceptional song of southern barbecue goodness.

The Hominy

I like corn bread, sure. It isn’t a food that I would normally write about though. This cornbread, however, makes we wonder if Aunt Bea from Mayberry might have been squirreled away in that kitchen (interesting note: the real town of “Mayberry” made famous by the Andy Griffith Show is located a little more than an hour up the road in nearby Mount Airy, NC). Sweet, not overly dense, and full of real corn flavor, it is a great execution of an old favorite. So skip the rolls and go straight for the corn bread.

The Southern Barbecue Surprise

The big surprise of the meal is the chili mac & cheese. My brother-in-law insists we try it and I oblige. I’ve had chili mac before mind you, and it has never been my cup of tea. Like Jack Nicholson’s show-stealing performance over lead actor Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men, this side dish, turn superstar, takes the spotlight. No kidney beans or thick tomato sauce here, this is more aptly titled Beef Mac. The ground beef is beautifully minced with a wonderful blend of spices, and just a hint of heat, then chunks are slightly layered into the mac & cheese. Enough to get a good bite of the beef, but not enough to overpower the penne-style noodle. It is simply fantastic.
To a purist, the spread from Peace N’Hominy isn’t traditional carolina southern barbecue, but I am never one to get caught up in rules and formality, and besides, this sure is darn good barbecue.
One evening in, a few great southern barbecue surprises, delightful southern hospitality, and a sleeping baby. This is shaping up to be a great weekend.

The Peachoid

We wake to a nice breakfast of homemade cinnamon rolls, bacon and Davis Special (a simple traditional family recipe from my wife’s side of the family consisting of pan-friend sausage and scrambled eggs that undoubtedly goes by a thousand different names in a thousand different families, but is nevertheless tasty). We spend the morning with the kids at the pool, sit and talk some more, then pack into the ol’ family truckster around noon to head back to Atlanta for work on Monday.
Remember the big Peach-looking water tower?
Apparently the kids didn’t get enough to eat at breakfast, and okay, I am hungry again too, so we stop about an hour into our drive back for lunch at a chain restaurant that sat underneath the Peachoid. We put the car into park, and well, it doesn’t park. The car is stuck in gear and the gear shifter just flops around (if this is happening to you right now, it is a broken shifter cable, yes, that’s a thing). Making this doubly frustrating, we had this exact problem repaired in Atlanta just three days earlier. On the verge of a hangry group, we decide to put the parking break on, turn off  the engine and head in for lunch. We’ll sort it out while we grab a bite.

Gaffney, SC

The small town of Gaffney, SC sits about half way between Charlotte, NC and Greenville, SC. Not to be the condescending city folk type, but there isn’t a lot going on in Gaffney, especially on Sunday. We walk into the restaurant with limited expectations, just glad to be in the air conditioning, and inform them of our car trouble. The manager greets us genuinely, and warmly, assuring us it is no problem, that we should come on in and sit down. Our minds race with worries of rescheduled appointments, canceled kids’ activities, and figuring out how to get our car fixed and it and us both back home. The manager’s gentleness helps to diffuse the stress of the situation.
We sit down and our server picks up where the manager left off, bringing us some cool drinks with a warm smile. We order and begin to make phone calls. First, the repair shop in Atlanta explains that they can’t do anything about their shoddy work unless we get the car back to them. Unfortunately, that is 180 miles away. We quickly discover that in Gaffney, SC very little is open on Sunday.

Meet Warren, Southern Hospitality Personified

My wife connects with the owner of a local repair shop, Warren, who can’t help us at the moment (because it is Sunday, and they are closed, and he is about to into a movie with his family – and we remember why all businesses used to be closed on Sunday). Warren gives us the name of a towing service that can take the vehicle to his shop and promises to check back in with us in a few hours to make sure everything is worked out. We aren’t interested in a local tow, we need to get the car to Atlanta (so the local mechanic can fix his errors). We call the towing service, who again, is very kind, but unable to tow it that far. They give us another name and we call. They’re open, but it sounds pretty clear that they don’t have full staff on Sunday. A 180 mile tow job would be a stretch. They kindly ask if they can check with their staff to find a driver and call us back. Pinned down like Davy Crockett at the Alamo, but resigned to get home, we have little choice but to agree and hope that we fare better than Davy.

Edward To The Rescue

A short while later we receive a call back. Edward, the owner of the tow service would make the trip and get us home, personally. Relief, we’d be late, but we’d get home tonight, much to the childrens’ disappointment who thought that a night in a hotel sounded like a great adventure. Note: To be fair, my 13 year old daughter wanted absolutely nothing to do with us or another night away from home and her laptop.
We enjoy our lunch and the great service and conclude just as Edward pulls into the lot with his honking big F-450 flat bed tow truck. The rescue is here. Introductions complete, Edward positions the truck as we explain that the car is stuck in gear. After a few head scratches he simply says “well… they didn’t tell me that.” Uh oh. Long story short, this throwback to a time when men were men puts his body on the line to manually disengage the gear under the car while I stand on the brakes. He states without emotion, “the worst that will happen is that it will roll over my arm.” This is insanity. My wife is near panicked at the thought of him being crushed. We all pray the car doesn’t roll down the slope of the parking lot, crushing Edward, once the gear is released.
The breaks hold. Once he is free from the undercarriage, I slowly guide the car, rolling backwards to line it up with the tow truck bed.

We all cram into Edward’s hulk of a truck and say goodbye to the Peachoid, the odd peach water tower landmark that many have passed, but few have actually sat underneath (for several hours). Wanting a bit more space for the family to make the drive home, we plan to stop at the Greenville-Spartanburg Airport about 35 miles down the road where a rental car is hopefully waiting for us (again, nothing open on Sunday in Gaffney). Barreling down I-85 in Edward’s black beast, the smell of Marlboro 100’s is thickly fused into the upholstery. While brave, and courteous, Edward wasn’t much for conversation, simply responding to my wife’s curiosities with a polite Yes, Ma’am or No, Ma’am.

The Wizarding World of Car Rentals?

Normally, the prospect of going to the airport to pick up a rental car ranks somewhere between a root canal and watching your wife try on clothes. You have to do it, but you aren’t going to like it. I’m sure this will be an hour long exercise in frustration. Yet another surprise – this airport isn’t a nightmare – at all. A lovely tree-lined drive that easily, and without fanfare, brings you to the terminal building marks the approach to Greenville-Spartanburg Airport. We approach the terminal and I jump down (literally) from the massive truck and head into the parking garage to find the rental car counters while my wife settles up some payment details with Edward. The distance from where I launch myself from Edward’s truck to the rental car counter is about a 40 second walk. Wow, that was easy.
I approach the Enterprise Car Rental counter and Drew, the Manager, offers a friendly welcome.  Drew pulls up my reservation as I share some of our misfortunes, thankful a vehicle is available on such short notice. As if a graduate from a some mysterious school of wizardry and manners, Drew couldn’t be nicer or more engaging. Sometimes, plain old friendliness, is the hallmark of southern hospitality. He lists a few vehicle choices that he can make available to me for the same rate, and one sparks my interest. Yet another surprise. He happily and efficiently completes the rental and directs us to our vehicle – a Ford F-150. Awesome, I’ve always wanted a pick up truck, but have never bought one. The day is finally looking up. Our car is being towed home and I’m sitting in big, bad, slightly jacked up pick-up!

Southern Hospitality In Action

We cruise down I-85 in our sweet pickup (that is surprisingly smooth) and meander through town towards home. The phone rings, uh oh. Phew, it’s one of my daughter’s friends asking if our car is on a tow truck. Good, Edward still has it! Just as we turn onto our street the phone rings again and my stomach sinks a touch. My wife answers and it is Warren, his trip to the movies with his family no finished. He wants to check back in to make sure everything is under control. We thank him for the follow-up and assure him all is now well.
We make it. The family piles out of the Ford and into the house, the welcoming sound of barking dogs signal the road trip is complete. Just as we begin to settle in, Edward pulls up to the house. As he lowers the car into the drive, we offer thanks for the bad day that turned into one full of good surprises .
Southern barbecue, southern hospitality and two kick-butt trucks. I do love the south. If you are ever rolling down I-85 between Charlotte and Atlanta, I recommend a visit to Gaffney, SC, even for a quick bite, to enjoy what southern hospitality looks like in the real world.