I didn’t think it was possible, foodies that we are, places that we’ve been. A Fish Called Avalon on SoBe is the best restaurant I’ve ever tried. They aged my bourbon drink for 60 days before they knew I was coming or ordering it…I can’t even. Christopher, best filet. No contest. Their Bang Bang shrimp makes me want to close down Bonefish, and I *don’t* say that lightly. Latin soloist on the porch. Kindest, most impeccable servers. A classy step back in time. Double-nut-crusted key lime pie, the region’s fanfare, and after trying three other places (and as a Georgian, eating boasted Floridian key lime pie all my life), The Best. Filling melts like foam in your mouth. Snapper with toasted-macadamia-nut topping. I’m not doing it justice. Chef privately commissioned for Prince and Madonna. When you see us flying back down there just to eat, you’ll know; only did that twice, Maestro’s LVNV and City Tavern, Philly.
Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen, Key Largo- Just as good in its own way! Top 10 hole-in-the-wall for me, of ever. Bloody Mary, their homemade mix, can hang with anybody. Those dollar bills in the ceiling and car tags from every state on the wall, as it should be.
Can’t beat that drive from Miami through the Everglades to the buoy on Key West. 800 keys, 42 bridges, including the stunning 7-miler.
The end of the world as we know it, Southernmost point, Key West (above)- do the sunset at the bouy!
South Beach… Is Miami the East Coart LA? I say, yes! I like both. Miami is more accessible. Food can hold its own with anywhere, like I’d read. It’s old glamour and versatility/culture in one. Good live music. Wynwood Walls art 10/10! Don’t skip Wynwood, so inspiring.
Cafe con leche at Versailles in Little Havana, best I’ve had since Toledo, Spain. Nearly perfect brunch and pastries. And, legit, we purchased cigars after security let us under the rope. Tee, hee!
The weather in December, very much like Christmas songs written about LA. We never put the Mustang ragtop up. Never, night or day.
Don’t know that we’ll stay in the Keys in the future. SO glad we drove it! Cool island enclaves. Neat shops. Excellent food. Highlight was certainly seeing Coach Mike Leach (recently deceased, Miss. St.) barstool retired and hanging in ceiling with Ernest Hemingway, JFK, and Prez Truman at Captain Tony’s, the oldest bar in Florida. Downright tavernous. First-timer, you leave your bra there, so I did. I can’t stand that thing anyway. Bye!
Back to Miami. Friendly everywhere. Superb service. Quality massages. Food town. Cocktail mecca. I read it and I believe it. Miami is back. I’ll be back.
Let’s talk Texas! Yippee and yeehaw! The first time I went to Texas, I drove. I was 26 and had two toddlers in the back seat (we didn’t have TVs in the headrest and handheld games back then- It was 100s of miles of ‘Look, y’all, a big red truck! A tall building! A cloud shaped like Barney’).
It felt unbelievably good to finally reach the East Texas state line at Pinehurst after two days of driving only to see the road sign El Paso 853 miles. Given, TX was once its own country, which makes for awesome sightseeing. Not just the Alamo! Texas has its own German dialect (Check out the very cool town of Fredericksburg). Vietnamese is the third most spoken language. Find yourself a Vietnamese restaurant there; it’ll be good, period).
Houston might be more culturally diverse than NY. Yes, I said it; I’ll attempt to win over my beloved New Yorkers again in a few weeks. If you like museums and don’t want to do NY, go to Houston. That’s a big state, y’all, were you to drive to the other side.
I was headed to Austin that first time, so we had a little piece of road to go! Woo! Good thing they drive fast, I mean like, before we all started driving 85 on I-75, they were driving 90 on two-lane highways and waving at me when they passed in their Dodge trucks and Suburbans. Makes sense to speed there! In Texas, you got a long way to go, even if you’re not going far (I’m gonna try not to overdo the cowboy emoji because TX is so much more than cowboys… but, speaking of the cowboys ). Then there’s The Cowboys, too . That stadium is DOPE. Now, granted, it uses more electricity than the country of Liberia …Texas never claimed to be anything but full-on! AT&T stadium, it is. Built 2009. I’m sure there’s something better by now (oh yeah, Mercedes Benz in my home state ). Still can’t beat Cowboys playing football in Texas, where they REALLY like football in certain parts!
Back then, when the kiddos and I drove (I drove, they rode), 2001, the Lone Star symbols and signage across the entire state were super impressive! Today every little rinky-dink place has a brand, a slogan, and signage. Texas was WAY ahead of its time on that. I believe Texas invented pride, did it not?
*See red box meme. I’ve been back to Texas many, many times. In fact, I spent three weeks in a cabin outside Waco in 2015! Regarding the red box meme, Texas is not as… Texas-y as it used to be (Lawd, Texas friends, don’t run me off Facebook with a gun). You’re still a big and bad state, but you’re so big, some parts are now…kind of, well, bad .But the red box meme, that’s STILL TX , a dozen visits in, 20 years after my first visit!
So, I was writing a book in December 2001, Book 3 of “Lainey Cash” trilogy, and hubby was picking cotton and I said, “Looks like you’re gonna be doing this cotton-pickin’ thing a while…I gotta go to Texas, mmm, k? (Because it’s hard to write about a place you haven’t seen). The kids and I will see you before Christmas, hun.”
Austin was my ultimate destination, back then. ‘Ultimate’ has a nice ring to it! Man, that place was on fire back when buildings couldn’t be taller than the state Capitol, which GLEAMED, positively boasted, in the Texas-blue sky! The Capitol building is better than the White House, I don’t care what you say (I just won back my Texas friends). It’s taller, too. Of course!
In those days, Texas was like a big ole Georgia! Bbq, open land, football, pine trees, blue skies (oh, this is important, the sky IS bluer in Texas- I mean, its own special color of blue; you have to see it to understand. It’s phenomenal). Like GA, the weather’s all over the place because TX is a mountainous, flat, dry, tropical, river-ranch place between Mexico and Colorado!
Of note, the bbq is primarily beef. Or at least, that’s what you should order. The steaks are slabs. Lord, the food!
Texas is some parts Southern, some parts Mexican, some parts American and un-American-feeling, some parts weird (refer to Austin’s slogan, Keep Austin Weird), some parts cityish, some parts farmy or ranchy. Y’all, it’s big. 68% bigger than California! Put it this way: When you’re in El Paso (western state line), you’re closer to California than the eastern TX state line.
One meme claimed Australia is just British Texas. Oh my stars , after going to Australia, yes, true! Strong accents! Boisterous, bountiful, beachy, big, blue, beautiful! Both places! Only they don’t exactly do guns in AU, and they sho nuff do, in vast parts of Texas…Yes, Texas is going to take days! I haven’t talked about certain cities, food, landmarks. Goodness, Texas, you earned the right to take days! In no particular order, a few notable features all in one state, which is the original home to Dr. Pepper, frozen margaritas, and Whole Foods:
***The Whole Foods there
1. San Antonio river walk and better yet the Natural Caverns 2. Chip and Jo’s Magnolia stuff in Waco 3. Houston space center 4. Austin, just Austin, did I mention Austin? Austin City Limits, the Capitol building, the music, SoCo. I’m coming back to it. 5. Fort Worth stockyards. Think Dallas, as in JR. Think meat. Think potatoes, like, you know steak fries. Think beer. 6. Tex-Mex. Eat real Tex-Mex. Anywhere you stop to eat it is better than, well, anywhere. And Whataburger, only I suggest, a hole-in-the-wall burger place. Texans know how to do cows. 7. Padre Island/ beaches- I’m gonna say it: The Gulf Coast, I-10 strip of beaches from Florida to Texas can hang in there worldwide. Padre is…Google the images. 8. Lubbock and West Texas, like a whole different…state, or country 9. Most underrated- Galveston. What a treat to go over the bridge there. The coastline. The homes. The glass pyramids museum. To eat there. Google Galveston, too.
Never mind, just get in your car and drive there. Right, don’t fly, or at least, rent a car when you land. You gotta see it on the ground. Maybe your hubby’s picking cotton, so go! …Hey, mine’s planting peanuts! … … … Uhm, Who’s in?
GTT, y’all! *That means ‘gone to Texas’ and I didn’t make it up. It’s a real thing since the 1800s. So, GTT !*Please feel free to chime in about the great state of Texas. –CC
Well, how fitting. ‘They’ tell us Virginia is for lovers. And, it’s heart month and Valentine’s week.
I don’t know why Virginia is for lovers and maybe there’s an elephant in the room you Virginians can clue me into. Often, sloganists come up with something that sounds good and then sell us on the intrigue even if there’s not a story behind it.
If Virginia is for lovers because it’s lovely, I’m buying. How to describe the Shenandoah Valley? Serene, untouched, pastoral, picturesque. And the beaches, long, crashing, uncrowded and nature-wild in spots. Places that innocently romance and a place for innocent romance. Then there’s Virginia, the political enclave (peep the meme). All DC, white collar, busy, and unnoticing. A place for illicit love affairs? Certainly.
V’s dipped its toe into Northern ways while remaining wholeheartedly southern in pockets. Historical hotspots well known, besides hundreds of old barns and fences of unclaimed, not reclaimed wood. On vast farmsteads, round bales sprayed in prideful displays 🏈 , mostly VT. Bud and Ned’s bbq in Richmond is a treat. There’s plenty of federal history, too.
It’s not a top 20 state for me, but I’m glad I’ve experienced its lovely nuance, the rustic and the risqué. Happy ‘V’ Day! -CC
Oops, I skipped over you last week, WV, and went straight to Washington 🧳🍎 What a shame!
We ❤️ West Virginia! I mean, I know it seems like I say that I love every place we go, but WV is Top 7-ish state for me!
Long time ago, our kids learned to snow ski there. West Virginia is less than a day’s drive for 75% of the country, btw, which also means a decent flight. We didn’t want our kids to learn on manufactured snow AKA southern-fake, butt-busting slick, and we didn’t want the enormity of westward travel and skiing, for their first time. Winterplace or Snowshoe is perfect powder! ❄️❄️❄️Pay attention: If you’re south of Pennsylvania and east of Arkansas, take newbies to ski in WV (or the Poconos, but that’s a post for another week). WV, perfect powder and manageable slope size. They were skiing like champs in an hour.
We chose to drive on that trip because we hadn’t spent any time exploring the reputably incredible landscape of WV before. Wow! Y’all, really. The first meme is 100% accurate, only WV is way, way prettier with its narrow roads cut slap-dab through steep mountain walls. Signs like:
Beware Falling Icicles Fatal
are legit. We saw icicles, no, monster-size lasers topple and crash on both sides of the car.
We surprised the kids and went for a week during MLK holiday, way back. It was cold, even for me, the cold-lover! A massive winter storm was brewing and it was -1 the night we crossed the state line. I said to Chris that this may be An Actual Snow Event, know what I mean? Adventurous, fly by the seat folks that we are, he said, “Nah!” and we plunged on toward El Gordo, our cabin self-proclaimed on the website as ‘tucked discreetly in the woods well away from the stresses of ordinary life.’ …Would later prove accurate advertising😳😉
Nearing midnight, we passed a 24-hour Walmart with ice-outer-layered cars and trucks parked all the way out to the highway. Reread that. Chris observed, “Well, maybe, we should stop and get a few things…” Seeing the shelves emptied of bread and water and people rushing, I inquired to a random shopper if this was An Actual Snow Event. He laughed and said, “First time I’ve left the house in five days. I’m buying a chainsaw and a new generator. Yeah.”
On we went. The low, and high, was -1 for much of the trip and we saw a couple feet of snow fall amid wildly whipping winds.
This is a state that is paused-in-time, mining where you can ride in coal trains deep into caves, we rode a sleigh- a horse drawn sleigh- at The Greenbrier (Don’t know this place? Look it up😍), we saw the longest single span steel arch bridge (over New River Gorge ((third highest, too)) ) in America and the river running backward below because the river is older than the mountain🧐🙂
Good, hearty food. Artistic vibe with mountaineer down home feel!
Pies and Pints pizza 🍕 can hold its own with any pizza place I’ve been! The parking lot was iced over and the structure kind of looked like it was in a neighborhood, one of those funky-cool, mod-interesting places from the road. Inside, local men in fur-trimmed bombers, with ice shards on their lumberjack-looking boots, drinking good beer from longnecks, watching the game, while jukebox softly whined anything from Loretta Lynn to Gin Blossoms. Greek pizza menu to die for, or drive 10 hours for, I’m serious.
The road we took from Somewhere Remote, WV to The Greenbrier did have signs like those in the meme below. In WV, they will cut a road, and leave it be, anywhere because…the only way to make a road is through a mountain!
…We arrived at the amazingly appointed wilderness cabin, after slip sliding more treacherously than any place we’d previously driven (and if you know us, that’s saying a lot) to find a sign tacked to the door, ‘Generator works. Loaf of bread here.’
Hot water from the outdoor spa tub, when we’d splash each other, froze on our lashes.
We love West Virginia! I’ve not done it justice. West Virginia is wonderful 🏔 The John Denver song kinda says it all. -CC
The only state named after a president. The Apple State because it produces the most apples. The westernmost point and zip code in the Lower 48.
My one tour in Washington left me with the impression of misty rain, tall green trees, nestled waterfalls and rivers, big city, cultural diversity (see the appropriate meme below), and scrumptious coffee. Like most states (think GA and Atlanta), in some ways, there’s Seattle and there’s the rest of Washington.
It’s smelly and eccentric (meaning good and bad😉). It’s evergreen and snow- capped. It’s known for things we may not know like:
A deeper dropping waterfall than Niagara Falls First mall public restrooms, first revolving restaurant, and longest consecutively running farmer’s market (which is a neat place, Pike Place)…is it still running???😷 🦠
Volcanic eruptions, home of Bill Gates and Microsoft, birthplace of Jimi Hendrix and Bing Crosby
I’m a music freak. That sort of garage band sound of the greater Seattle area is distinguishable and notable in my opinion. Think Alice In Chains, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Death Cab for Cutie, Foo Fighters, Candlebox.