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Author: Debi Lander

Clementine Hunter Murals in Natchitoches, Louisiana

Have you ever driven through a city or town and immediately wanted to stop and explore? That’s how I felt when I reached Natchitoches, Louisiana, site of the town in the movie Steel Magnolias. Fortunately, I did have a few hours to spend. The brief visit only increased my desire to return as this destination has much to offer. Natchitoches (pronounced “Nack-a-tish”) is the oldest community in the Louisiana Purchase territory. Today, it’s the B&B capital of the state with many historic inns that look inviting for a girlfriend getaway or romantic escape. The lively and upscale riverfront of...

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Antoine’s:175 years of New Orleans History

History speaks from the memorabilia-strewn walls of Antoine’s Restaurant in New Orleans, the oldest family-run restaurant in the United States. They tell extraordinary tales from the past 175 years. Countless celebrities have dined at the tables; these include U.S. presidents, the Pope, General Patton, Al Capone, Elizabeth Taylor, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and numerous Hollywood heavyweights. I recently had the opportunity to meet Rick Blount, the CEO and fifth generation relative of the original founder, Antoine Alciatore. He shared some of the stories behind the world-renowned establishment, famous for its French-Creole cuisine (originally the menu was only...

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Mom and Daughter Bond on the Disney Speedway

I’d like to think my needs are minimal: a clean bed, food and water (maybe a little wine) a camera and computer. However, I admit my desires run toward luxury and I have developed a taste for out-of-the-ordinary travel and adventure. Feeding that hunger can be challenging. Luck was on my side as my twenty-three year-old daughter (yes, she’s spoiled) and I were presented an appetizing treat. We didn’t nibble at the chance, we devoured the opportunity to drive an exotic luxury car as fast as we could handle. Decadent, for sure! Everyone knows Disney creates magical memories and...

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A Quick and Quirky Stopover in Quito

Prior to embarking on a cruise in the Galapagos, many tourists choose to spend a night or two in Quito, the capital of Ecuador. The historic old town is a cultural hub with narrow streets, centuries old churches, colorful balconied houses, restaurants and lots of people. Since I had never been to South America before, I wanted to get a taste of this city and the Andes Mountains. Quito sits at 9,000 feet elevation so you may want to check with your doctor about altitude sickness before traveling. Most folks don’t have trouble if they take it easy and...

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In the Saddle at Tanque Verde Dude Ranch

A golden sun edges over the mountain’s ridge and puffy clouds begin to dot a creamsicle colored sky. They create shadows and add depth to the thousands of prickly pear and saguaro cactus around me. I ‘m on my way to breakfast, albeit sitting a bit catawampus in the saddle, as my mount and I climb a precarious rocky limestone hill.  After three days at Tanque Verde Ranch, I feel accustomed to straddling a horse and almost like a real rider in the Old American West. Uno, my trusted steed, takes the downhill with meticulous care, as if his...

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Fruitland Augusta Peach Vodka: A History Lesson

Augusta, Georgia is the revered home of the Augusta National Golf Club and the most prestigious golf championship in the United States: the Masters. Augusta was also the city that put Georgia on the map as the Peach State. Now there is a product that unites these two with a shocking surprise. Augusta became the location of Fruitland Nurseries, one of the most successful nurseries in the 19th century. Belgian horticulturist, Prosper J. Berckmans planted millions of peach trees on Fruitland Nurseries grounds and he helped Georgia become famous for its sweet Georgia Peaches. But following his death the...

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Unexpected in New Orleans: The National World War II Museum

People flock to New Orleans to indulge in decadent food, nightlife, music and fantasy. Some are drawn to ghost and cemetery tours, others by the history and architecture of the French Quarter. However, the National World War II Museum is perhaps the least likely attraction you’d expect to find in New Orleans. And, perhaps the best. No beads, glitz or rolling good times – just honest storytelling about a horrifying war in the past. The WWII museum is a world class institution, one that deserves international fame. You’ll find it in the Downtown area just beyond the Ponchartrain Expressway....

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Antebellum Homes and Fitzpatrick Hotel, Washington, Georgia

Washington, Georgia claims to be the first city officially named after General George Washington. The year was 1780, prior to George being elected president. More surprising, he never slept there. I did, however, in a fabulous boutique hotel: The Fitzpatrick. Originally constructed in 1898 by brothers John and Thomas Fitzpatrick, the hotel operated until 1952. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Sadly, the old hotel stood neglected for fifty years until Christy and Mike Todd purchased the building in March 2002. They began an intensive and costly restoration that culminated in its grand re-opening...

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San Diego, Shelter Island and the Iconic Kona Kai

Much to Do in Southern California San Diego attracts over thirty-three million tourists each year with a long list of first rate attractions and near perfect weather. The Southern California destination is enhanced by a natural deep-water harbor, extensive beaches, and a long association with the U.S. Navy. With annual average highs between 64-76 degrees and average lows from 48-62, visitors are almost assured ideal weather any time of the year. My trip started with a cross-country flight to San Diego International Airport and a short taxi ride to Shelter Island, less than ten minutes away. Shelter Island began as...

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Tale of Two Men: Richard Childress and Bob Timberlake

This is the tale of two men from the same southern city: Lexington, North Carolina. The little town, population less than 20,000, is best known as the Barbecue Capital, but also boasts two world famous entrepreneurs. These two residents manage global businesses from their hometown; pretty impressive, I’d say. Richard Childress owns a NASCAR racing team as well as a prospering vineyard, and Bob Timberlake ranks as a top American realist artist and marketing genius. Both men support the community in numerous ways, especially the annual Lexington Barbecue Festival held every October. I was most fortunate to meet both...

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A Dip in Iceland’s Blue Lagoon

I showered in the buff as required, then shimmied into my bathing suit and donned a robe. I stepped outside and shed the robe. Brrr. Quickly, I walked down some steps into an immense pool surrounded by black lava fields. Aaah, blissful relaxation. The warm water level nearly came up to my shoulders, and the lagoon bottom was powdery soft because that’s where the silica falls. Iceland’s most popular tourist attraction, the Blue Lagoon, is a natural wonder, but it came about completely by accident. In 1976, a pool formed at the site of the waste water from the...

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Exciting ICE: Florida’s Frozen Fantasyland

Gaylord Palms Resort is an oasis in the midst of busy Orlando, or nearby Kissimmee to be exact. Stroll along serpentine paths lined with giant ferns, cabbage palms, and verdant greenery. You’ll feel like you’re walking in a botanical garden, the Louisiana bayou or an island paradise; orchids, waterfalls, and streams — even a lake with a boat, fit inside the hotel atrium. The behemoth structure seems like a biosphere. Why, one could live within the confines for days and never need to go outside. By Thanksgiving, the resort hotel adds holiday sparkle– over two million twinkling lights, beautiful...

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