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Archive for October, 2012

Two of the most beautiful and historic southern cities in America, Charleston and Savannah, could be calling you.

History comes alive in Charleston as you tour along cobblestone streets lined with antebellum homes with beautiful gardens that can be seen from behind 300 year old iron gates.
As you travel along the“Battery at the Harbor” you’ll see the “pig” house owned by the owner of the Piggly Wiggly grocery chain, as well as the house where JFK stayed with his“German” girlfriend (obviously dad, Joe, put a stop to that relationship). As you travel the park along the harbor, you can see Fort Sumter off in the distance (or you can take a narrated cruise to the fort), which was the catalyst for the Civil War.  Turning the corner, all the beautiful “painted ladies” pass by as you continue towards downtown.
The Citadel is a must see, as well as, the Old Market and Exchange. There are so many wonderful places to eat in this area, it will be hard to choose. And, you can find some unique and wonderful buys in the market, including the famed sweetwater baskets.
Charleston is also a cruise port now so the city may call to you for that reason.  Another fun visit is to a plantation like Middleton Place or Boone Plantation with acres of beautiful gardens as well as beautifully decorated homes.  Henry Middleton, who owned Middleton Plantation, was President of the First Continental Congress and both of these homes look just what you expect a plantation to look like.
From Charleston, the next stop on your journey is Savannah. This is a fun city which I enjoy travelling to.  It is inland on the Savannah River and you can take a ride on a riverboat, which gives you a history of the buildings and stores that line the riverfront.  And, don’t forget to sample the seafood in the restaurants there…..yummy!  Once again, too many choices.
General Sherman found this city “too beautiful to burn” during the Civil War and it has been well preserved.  The town is lined with live oak trees (thus named because they are always green—as the old leaves fall off, new ones push out) and many squares contained in an historic area 2.5 square miles.
The historic area contains more than 2,300 colonial and Victorian buildings and homes, and most of them are beautifully restored. You can hop a trolley for a tour through this historic district where you’ll pass the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts.  You’ll also learn about the area where such movies such as Forrest Gump and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil were filmed.
Paula Deen has her restaurant in Savannah, but to me, even better is Mrs. Wilkes Boarding House for lunch, where you can line up as early as 10:45 a.m.  The bell is rung at 11:30 a.m. as you stand out on the street, waiting to get into the house to a table.  And then, piled high dishes of southern cooking, including fried chicken, are served family style.  The food keeps coming until you don’t think you can eat another bite.  But unbelievably you don’t burst and even dessert goes down somehow.  Mrs. Wilkes started her home based restaurant in 1943, and although she died in 2002, her family continues the tradition.
From Savannah there are other side trips you can take.  A tour to Tybee Island is not far, where you can visit the museum at the Tybee Island Lighthouse. The lighthouse has guarded the Savannah River since 1736.  You can even walk up the 154 foot tall lighthouse if you feel adventure calling you and if you make it to the top, the museum will give you a certificate that says you did it. Or you may want to spend some beach time on the Atlantic.
Georgia is known for its Golden Isles, like St. Simon’s, Hilton Head or Beaufort, but one you should visit, if not stay at, is Jekyll Island.  The Jekyll Island Club was once home to America’s wealthiest families.  You can take a tram tour around the island to hear the history and there is even a stop at a small chapel which has an original Tiffany window.  You’ll see huge live oaks lined with Spanish moss and palmettos (the state tree).  If you are not staying over, perhaps you can fit in lunch at the famed Victorian style Jekyll Island Club hotel, where the Rockefeller and Vanderbilt families once dined.
So much to see and do, this southern area should be a must on your “to visit”list.  However, you might want to diet ahead of time, because part of the enjoyment is all the seafood and southern cuisine that beckons you.
A note to Chicagoland residents:  Mayflower Tours has their new 2013 Value tour which goes to Beaufort as well as Savannah and Charleston.  If you are interested, check it out.
Another note:  I write these travel blogs to sell my travel/romance books for boomers.  You can check out my webpage: www.kileenprather.com or buy kindle or book editions at Amazon.  Christmas is coming.  If you are or know a boomer, please consider supporting me by buying my books.

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What is a mystery tour? Many tour companies offer them. Usually they run 3-5 days.In my company they are all 5 days and we offer 3 different mystery tours a year—summer, fall foliage/Halloween theme, & Christmas theme.

It takes a special person to do a mystery tour but those that do, tend to love them and will do one or more a year. Some people don’t like them and want to know where they are going when on a tour.Others tell me they enjoy them almost better than regular tours because they like to keep guessing where they are going.

       I have one man whose name is Bill.He is really fun to have on a mystery tour.Every time we stop at a hotel, he goes to the desk and asks them what attractions are in the area that motorcoaches usually participate in.I jokingly tell him I have let all the suppliers know not to talk to him!
      On a mystery tour, we give clues—some hard and some not so hard.The travelers do not know the whole tour what is coming next.Often you don’t travel more than a 300-500 mile radius and usually they are packed with all kinds of neat attractions, plays or dinner theaters to keep everyone busy and guessing what’s coming next.
      Last summer we did a mystery tour to Clarksville, TN and Bowling Green, KY.  Clarksville was named for George Rogers Clark and is located next to the Cumberland River, just like Nashville.  In Clarksville we saw a play,The Sound of Music at the 1947 Roxy Theater. The Austin Peay State University is there and they have a wonderful theater group.Those actors could have been on Broadway—they were that good.We also went to a tobacco farm, a winery and even had a Civil War Ball which included dinner.
      On one of the tours, an exciting opportunity arose. We were scheduled to go to Fort Campbell on the KY/TN border at 9:00 a.m. However, we received word that General John Campbell, the head of troops in Afghanistan for the previous year, was flying back & there would be a welcome home ceremony for him.  Having missed both welcome home ceremonies when my brother, Ray, came home from Bosnia & Iraq, I definitely wanted to see what it was like.
       I was really proud of my travelers. I had 52 pax and all but 12 were on the motorcoach at 6:30 a.m. to see the general come in. We arrived at the base and were taken to the hanger where the ceremony would be held. Miss KY, Miss TN and many other dignitaries were there, as well as, Lee Greenwood singing “I’m proud to be an American“. Not too many dry eyes for that song.
         The general’s plane arrived at 8:10 a.m. only 10 min late. He and his soldiers (25 altogether) marched off the plane. There was a short ceremony & then the families went wild getting to their loved ones.
       What an experience!
       Having spent two nights in Clarksville we then travelled a little over an hour ride to Bowling Green, KY.Did you know that Duncan Hines was from Bowling Green?And today, there is a relative of Duncan Hines at the Convention Visitor Bureau who shares his name.He was very helpful finding some very interesting things to do while in town.
       We went to the museum at Western Kentucky University and saw the history of the area, as well as a display on the original Duncan Hines.After that we were off to a local farm where we had lunch, as well as ice cream, and a hay ride over to the barn to see a newly born calf and a pregnant cow.Many of the things we saw on the farm brought back memories for some of my travelers who grew up in rural areas.And, of course, a tour of the Corvette Museum was included (but no time for the GM Assmbly plant).
     Kentucky has many caves. The most famous, Mammoth, is a National Park and not too far from Bowling Green. However, there is a cave in Bowling Green which is also interesting. It is called the Lost River Cave. There is evidence of human habitation at this cave for over 10,000 years, something we don’t often associate with the U.S.
     There is a lot of recent history also associated with the cave. Both sides used it as a campsite during the Civil War, and it was a hiding place for the outlaw Jesse James (supposedly Jesse himself brought a local doctor to the cave to tend to one of his men who had been shot during a holdup). In the 1930s it was a popular nightclub (& what a great place considering prohibition).
     Today there is a 45 minute underground boat tour of the cave, that has a constant year round temperature of 56–can’t get much better considering the hot & humid temps in the summer in KY.  And you only have to duck down once when you enter the mouth of the cave on your under world boat ride.
     Since we had seen a play in Clarksville, our last two evenings had different entertainment in Bowling Green.After dinner the first night, we had a history professor, Dr. Bill Goodwin, give us some insight on Illinois and the Chicago area, and how these places tied into Kentucky.  He also included a fascinating story on Butch O’Hare, which I have been telling my travelers for many years, never realizing I would one day meet the author. He even hopped on the “bus” after the talk and showed us around the downtown area.The final night we had a jazz musician, Patrick Goble, who has appeared on the Tonight Show, entertain us on his acoustical guitar following dinner.
      You never know what you’ll encounter or who you will meet on a Mystery Tour, but I can tell you from experience, there is some type of adventure at every turn.If this sounds interesting to you, check out one of your local tour companies.

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