Tim and I had some artwork we needed to pick up from a friend’s house in Parkland, Florida, so we decided to do a road trip up the east coast of Florida, through St. Augustine, Florida then to Savannah and, on to Palmetto Bluff, South Carolina and then over to Nashville for a few nights. We were pleasantly surprised by all the great stops on our way home to Chicago. So we flew down and rented an SUV and started our first real Road Trip ever with just the two of us.
Surprise #1: St. Augustine, Florida
St. Augustine lays claim to being the oldest city in the U.S., and is known for its Spanish colonial architecture as well as Atlantic Ocean beaches like sandy St. Augustine Beach and tranquil Crescent Beach. Anastasia State Park is a protected wildlife sanctuary. The Castillo de San Marcos is a 17th-century Spanish stone fortress with views of the St. Augustine Inlet. It is also the home of the Fountain of Youth discovered by Ponce de Leon.
It was a charming town with a great history located on cobblestone streets filled with shops, dining, live music, historical places and the most charming old houses you’ve ever seen. It is a great two-night stay, although we only stayed one night but spent the entire day exploring.
We also went to see the Fountain of Youth, which really is just the fountain and large park for families with peacocks roaming the grounds. Just a word of caution, the fountain is a spring of brackish water that tastes like salty sulfur water, it took three hours to get that taste out of my mouth. Also, I don’t look a day younger, so skip the water.
Surprise #2: The Montage at Palmetto Bluff, South Carolina
This was my favorite stop on our trip! Nestled along the scenic May River in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, Montage Palmetto Bluff is set within a vibrant 20,000-acre community between Hilton Head Island and Savannah. Providing guests access to all that Palmetto Bluff has to offer, the resort encompasses an extensive nature preserve, two picturesque villages featuring eight Southern-inspired dining options, a riverfront marina, and a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course.
We booked a cottage on the May River, which was absolutely lovely. Large rooms included a fireplace, wet bar, a window seat large enough to turn into a child bed, a large bathroom with a soaker tub and steam shower. The room also included a large dressing area with sit-down vanity and double closets. The best part was the huge screened-in porch overlooking the May River. The cottage came with two bikes that had our names on them and we used them every day. The trails were amazing and we spent hours just biking around the property and enjoying the lovely town.
The grounds included fishing, (freshwater or riverside), a chapel, bocci ball courts, three pools, a golf course, bowling alleys (super fun), a super fabulous tree house, parks, kayaking, boating, tennis, a shooting club, equestrian facilities, and a game room. Whew! So much to do and the views everywhere were fabulous. Something for everyone. Yes, there is lots of shopping and dining too. We ate at every one of their restaurants and the service and the food were lovely.
Surprise #3: Nashville, Tennesse
Have you been craving live music and some fabulous southern cooking? Well, we found it!!! Nashville is the spot for everyone who loves music. You can find all types of music in Nashville, not just Honky Tonk. The streets were alive with music and fabulous aromas of every type of deliciousness you can imagine. Our ears, tummies, and heart were overwhelmed with Nashville.
We strolled around Broadway Street where all the legends started their careers and even visited the Johnny Cash Museum, which was really cool and highly recommended. People watching is at its best on Broadway. No way to explain it, you will have to experience it for yourselves.
We headed north to check out the other hotels, the Noell and the Hermitage Hotel. Noell was an Art Deco meet Scandanavian furniture design. The public spaces were pretty empty on our walk-through even though they were sold out. The Hermitage took my breath away and I fell in love with the lobby and public spaces. We decided to sit a spell and have a cocktail in the
lobby bar. The service was amazing and we learned a lot about the upcoming changes to the original Oak Bar they are restoring and learned the elaborate art deco bathrooms are more interesting than the bar itself. I suppose we will have to take another trip to Nashville to see it for ourselves when it reopens.
I must give them credit for all the details. Even the ice was stamped with the Hermitage Hotel Logo. I felt mighty fancy sitting under the impressive ceiling and sipping on an Old Fashion.
We chose to stay at The Thompson which is located in the area they call The Gulch. Super up-and-coming area with great
restaurants and the close to The Station Inn. It has the feel of a W Hotel, young, hip, and a cool place to hang out. The public spaces were very busy every time we entered the hotel and the service was very, very good. We ate at The Marsh House in the lobby and loved it. The roof bar, L.A. Jackson was swank and loud with custom cocktails and had a waiting line to get in although it was St. Paddy’s day, so that might have caused the intrigue plus they were functioning at 50% capacity due to COVID regulations.
Back to Broadway to find a place to eat. Tim did tons of research on the best BBQ in Nashville and the best of everything to see and hear. No matter how we searched for food, the one and only Hattie B’s Hot Chicken always popped up as the must-have, so we gave it a try. Let’s start off with I don’t stand in a long line for food ever and definitely not in the rain, but I did just that because I had to know what all the buzz was about Hattie B’s chicken. Ummmmmm…. it was worth it, I mean really worth it. If you like fried chicken, you must go. No ifs, ands or buts!!. Here are the levels of heat, Southern (no heat), Mild (touch of heat), Medium (warming up), Hot (feel the heat), Damn Hot! (fire starter), and then this one…… Shut the Cluck Up!!! (burn notice). I ordered the Medium with collard greens and Tim ordered Hot with coleslaw. We were blown away, seriously blown away. I wanted to go back outside and stand in the rain again for more. I literally want to drive there now just thinking of this chicken. Thank the Lord they don’t have one in Chicago, I would be in trouble.
Surprise #4: The Driving Experience
It is no secret that Tim and I prefer air travel so were surprised we really enjoyed the Road Trip experience and we found that it was pretty cool to try something new and venture out to new places we have never seen and we actually enjoyed the drive. Long but doable if you break it up with great hotel stays and finding just the right places to eat.