Category Archives: USA – The South

Oceanfront Luxury: Omni Amelia Island Plantation

Ultimate Ocean Luxury-  Omni Amelia Island Plantation

Ultimate Ocean Luxury- Omni Amelia Island Plantation

Escape to a Barrier Island Respite
By Charlene & Richard Mixa

Miles of Atlantic Ocean views, fantastic sandy beaches, luxurious relaxing oceanfront accommodations, refreshing resort pools, challenging championship golf and a plethora of activities greet us at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation. Located on a barrier island just north of Jacksonville, FL, we find a 1,350 acre resort in lush Florida landscape nestled between the sandy beaches of the Atlantic Ocean, the green marshland, and the Intracoastal Waterway. Driving into the resort, huge live oaks draped in Spanish moss line the entrance creating a welcoming Southern charm to the Plantation. An amazing upscale resort that promises a refreshing respite from the hustle and bustle.

The scenic view from our luxury hotel room on the 5th floor

The scenic view from our luxury hotel room on the 5th floor

A wide variety of accommodations are available from resort guest rooms with ocean views to secluded villas hidden among the intriguing landscape. Breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean are seen from our fifth floor Premier Oceanfront Room. Relaxation and comfort are primary in this 439-square-foot room with two queen beds, a working desk, and a luxurious modern bathroom. Our room faces south providing a wonderful panoramic ocean vista and a reprieve from the November northeasterly winds. After a long drive we are ready for a “stretch of the legs.” Ah, the smell of the sea air and beach beckon for an afternoon stroll along the 3.5 miles of pristine seashore. While the winds deter going for a dip, we relish the refreshing walk. With the tide out, the deep seashore offers a perfect walking terrain. Along the walk we spot the various resort accommodations, a few ocean golf holes and other walkers enjoying an afternoon beach stroll.

Fernandina Beach and Palace Saloon at night

Fernandina Beach and Palace Saloon at night

Opting to do a bit of exploring while on the Island, we enjoy a delicious dinner at Joe’s Second Street Bistro in the quaint downtown of Fernandina Beach. After dinner, it’s a leisurely walk along the streets of this charming southern town. On a Monday night things are a bit quiet, but we thoroughly enjoy window shopping in the numerous unique boutique stores. The historic Palace Saloon is a must stop to belly up to the bar and hear the tall tales of Florida’s Oldest Bar.

A beautiful morning sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean begins our day. More views await at the Sunrise Café for an indulgent breakfast. Choices are many from the “Art of Breakfast” buffet but we opt to dine ala carte. The Plantation Breakfast definitely suits me with two eggs, plantation potatoes, whole wheat toast, and Earl Grey tea. The maple-blueberry organic sausage is a hit for both of us, very flavorful. Richard is thrilled with the French toast and raves about it: “The best he ever had!”

Ocean Links  - Coastal dune holes have plenty of challenge and scenery!

Ocean Links – Coastal dune holes have plenty of challenge and scenery!

Boasting a first-class golf experience, the Omni Amelia Island Plantation is home to three incredible championship courses. Today we play the Ocean Links Golf Course. Quickly checking, we warm up at the practice range preparing to tackle the course. On past visits we have golfed the Oak Marsh course which is along lagoons and marsh wetlands so we are looking forward to the Ocean Links Golf Course as it winds through six miles of natural sand dunes and seaside terrain. Teeing off on the first hole we find a course that is both welcoming and challenging. Starting with par-4’s we feel confident with pars and a bogey. Arriving at Hole No. 4 along a coastal dune ridge on the Atlantic Ocean, we find very demanding holes. What appears to be a simple short par-4 quickly brings new dimensions of winds from the Ocean, terrain and testy green. The next two ocean holes are scenic, challenging par-3’s. Hurrah! It’s pars for both of us!

Ocean Links Hole No. 15 - a demanding par-3 directly into an ocean breeze!

Ocean Links Hole No. 15 – a demanding par-3 directly into an ocean breeze!

The course then winds back through the lagoons and marshland before returning to the ocean dunes on Hole No. 15 a demanding par-3. Drives are directly into a stiff ocean breeze to an elevated green. Watching the group in front struggle on this hole, we smartly select more club that is required to reach the green. Barely, surviving this hole with bogies, we arrive at the final ocean hole, No. 16 a par-4 along the seashore that has a hidden green and narrow fairway. Errant shots and even good shots are easily lost in the rough along the narrow fairway. The undulating green is tricky. No. 17 is a long par-5 that leads us to the amazing finishing hole, a par-3 whose green is strategically place in the waters of Red Maple Lake. Precision is required to not overshoot and end up in the lake. Delightful, challenging and fun – our golf day on the Ocean Links Course is as much a nature tour as a round of golf. Now for a tasty lunch and relaxation. The Marsh View Bar and Grill is so convenient and offers a varied menu to hit the spot for hungry golfers with its Southern-inspired casual fare overlooking the golf course. Here, we enjoy tasty sandwiches as we relive our exciting morning of golf.

Adult-only infinity edge pool - Relaxing!

Adult-only infinity edge pool – Relaxing!

Ah, now to chill out! Back at our room, we quickly change into swimsuits and head off for a relaxing respite by the water. Fantastic! The Plantation has the largest multi-tiered pool deck in northeast Florida. Choices, choices, choices- there is a 10,000-square-foot family-friendly pool with a few children splashing around today, a Splash Park water playground for kids, and an adults-only infinity edge pool and hot tubs. Being November it is a bit cool, so we opt to rest our weary bodies in the hot tub in the adults-only area. Ah! The jets massage our muscles and quickly relieve any tension. Locating comfy chaise lounges in the tiered decks, away from the ocean breeze, we stretch out on the guest beach towels for an afternoon nap. The adults-only pool provides stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean. Definitely, a wonderful respite for relaxing and unwinding. Afterwards, it’s a short walk along the beach before returning to our room.

Refreshed, we take a leisurely walk through the resorts walkways to Marche Burette, a gourmet market featuring wine, spirits, gourmet cookware and wine accessories. Shopping for unique items for family and friends, we then stroll around the lake and find numerous other shops offering specialty retail merchandise. Along the way, we see guests biking the many trails in this massive resort. Umm- maybe next time, we will pedal along these paths.  For dinner, we decide to check out a local eatery, and then return to Plantation to enjoy sitting around the fire pit by the pool enjoying a beautiful moonlight with a gentle ocean breeze.

Sunrise  over the Atlantic Ocean

Sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean

Awakening to a beautiful sunrise with a gentle breeze, it’s perfect for a morning walk along the beach. Scenic and peaceful, we finish our walk by stopping in at the Sunrise Café for breakfast. Richard is still enamored with the French toast and has it again today. Today, I opt for the Pecanwood Smoked Salmon with cream cheese, tomato, caper, fried egg on a bagel. Excellent!

Spending three days and two nights at the Resort is a delightful respite for us. Be prepared, the Omni Amelia Island Plantation is huge with its 1,350 acres offering so many options for accommodations from condominiums to villas to traditional hotel rooms. The staff is excellent and ready to assist with any request. Boredom is not a problem unless you choose to do nothing. There are many activities to meet anyone of any age’s desire. We found great walking paths through the hammocks, numerous shops, a rejuvenating spa, challenging golf, amazing pools, expansive beaches, trails to bike, state-of-the-art fitness centers, and MORE.

If you go:
Omni Amelia Island Plantation, 39 Beach Lagoon Rd, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034
904.261.6161

https://www.omnihotels.com/hotels/amelia-island-plantation

 

Memphis: A City of Music Legends that Rocks

Feel the Beat of Rock’n’ Roll, Soul and Blues

By: Charlene & Richard Mixa

“I’m Going to Memphis!” is our chant as we begin our musical journey to Memphis. Sitting on the bluffs along the Mississippi River, Memphis is famous for its influential strains of blues, soul, and rock ‘n’ roll that originated here. The home of music pioneers who produced new beats to American music and their impact is still heard today.

Sharecroppers migrate to Memphis seeking jobs and bringing their music

Sharecroppers migrate to Memphis seeking jobs and bringing their music

“All Shook Up!” The music of Memphis actually “shook up the entire world.” The Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum tells the story of the birthplace of rock and soul music. A video begins our introduction on the music originating in the rural fields and with the sharecroppers of the 1930’s. Donning headsets, we wind through the six Galleries on a digital audio tour. The Rural Culture Gallery explains the impact of blues, country and gospel music that unexpectedly combined for a musical revolution. Each stop on the audio tour explains the intriguing story of the music and its impact on the musicians, the city, the culture, as well as, social and racial barriers. Continue reading

Asheville: The Call of Mountain Adventures

From Treetop Thrills to Luxurious Spa Caves
By Charlene & Richard Mixa (aka Mimi & Papa)

The Mixa's  take on the Adventure Center of Asheville

The Mixa’s take on the Adventure Center of Asheville

Zip through treetops, hike to a mountain top, slide down a waterfall, ride a wacky bus, play a round of golf, relax in an underground spa and tour a mansion, the Western North Carolina Mountains beckon adventurers from thrill seekers to pursuers of relaxation. On trips to dynamic Asheville we have hiked mountains, waded in ice cold creeks and been on tours to sample foods, taste beers and sip wines. Yet, each visit to these magnificent Blue Ridge Mountains brings a distinct twist on any adventure. Grandchildren, Louis (6 yrs.) and Lucy (4yrs) and their parents, Matt and Dawn join a few adventures adding to the excitement. Continue reading

Asheville Wines, Dines & Entertains

Variety Abounds Across the Asheville Area
By Charlene & Richard Mixa

Asheville a mountain town on the rise

Asheville a mountain town on the rise

A mountain town on the rise! Asheville, North Carolina enthralls visitors and locals with an array of activities. Recently recognized by Frommer’s as one of the “Top Must See Destination in the World,” it continues to enchant tourists. Asheville is more than the town where George Vanderbilt erected his massive mountain retreat, the Biltmore. Today it teems with interest to fit anyone’s desires. Continue reading

A Rainy Night in Savannah

A Town That Never Disappoints!

Ellis Square Splash Pad/Fountain

Ellis Square Splash Pad/Fountain

By Charlene & Richard Mixa

Savannah’s newest “Southern Belle,” welcomes us for an overnight visit to this always captivating town. Under cloudy skies, we are warmly welcomed to the boutique Hotel Indigo Savannah Historic District. Having seen the hotel under construction in December, we are anxious to visit the new “Belle of Savannah.” Impressive and huge! It is the second largest hotel in Savannah with over 250 rooms. Once a 19th-century dry goods storage house and shop, today with its modern style, Hotel Indigo still maintains its historic charm with a pleasing mix of old and new. Continue reading

The TradeWinds Resort: Go To a Tropical Paradise

Just Let Go to Sensational Sun, Surf, Sand, and Spectacular Leisure Going-ons!

By Charlene & Richard Mixa

Welcome to the Tradewinds!

Welcome to the Tradewinds!

Go to a tropical paradise on St. Pete Beach. Slip on your flip flops, leave all your inhibitions, worries and cares behind – “Just Let Go!” Go for a walk on the beach, go down a huge slide, go nap in a hammock, go swim with the fish, go for a dip in the pool, go for a swim in the Gulf of Mexico, go to dinner or go find a hidden sanctuary. A 20-acre beachfront playground, the TradeWinds Resort is a place to escape, totally relax and have fun. The Resort lives up to its latest logo or mantra: “Just Let Go!” Continue reading

The Captivating Château Élan Winery & Resort

An Elegant Blend of a French Countryside & Southern Hospitality

By Charlene & Richard Mixa

Chateau Elan Winery & Resort

Chateau Elan Winery & Resort

Lush vineyards, rolling foothills, a magnificent Chateau and an elegant Inn create an inviting and gracious southern welcome with a French flair. With a sweeping panorama of the Northern Georgia foothills, Château Élan creates a “touch of France” as a premier Atlanta destination. A unique and magnificent resort, it combines luxury and conviviality, providing leisure opportunities of championship golf, full-production award winning winery, European health spa, culinary studio, huge swimming pool, and more world-class amenities. Continue reading

Sensational Savannah

 

A Southern City Boasting Charm and Hospitality  

By Charlene & Richard Mixa

Fountain in Forsyth Park

Fountain in Forsyth Park

Savannah! The coastal jewel on Georgia’s east coast evokes visions of sunlight filtered through thick gnarled branches of ancient live oaks. Spanish moss drips off trees while crepe myrtles burst with bright blossoms of purple, pink and white. In early June, stately old trees shade columned mansions and gardens sport summer blooms. Savannah entices visitors with her sultry ambiance, striking beauty and old-world charm. Continue reading

A Sampling of Asheville’s Culinary Scene

From Restaurant Dining to Food Tour to Sky Bar!

By Charlene & Richard Mixa

Ahi Tuna Salad at Grove Park In Cabana Grill & Bar

Ahi Tuna Salad at Grove Park In Cabana Grill & Bar

Asheville runs the gamut with its culinary cuisine. From downhome to uptown, the city will entice and satisfy any palate. Spending only a couple of days in the city on this visit, we are exploring and focusing on its vibrant restaurant scene. Plus our hotel, The Windsor Asheville is perfect for walking to downtown restaurants, shops, galleries and museums. Continue reading

Best States for a Motorcycle Vacation

By Sally James

Vacationers on Motorcycles

Vacationers on Motorcycles

The things which make something enjoyable are, of course, subjective. Someone who loves history will wax lyrical about the old cities of Europe, which won’t interest a wilderness-yomper one jot. A ski nut will appreciate mountainous resorts the charms of which will be completely lost upon a beach bum. This subjectivity is as true of motorcycling as anything else. Some love straight, desert roads in which to roar along with the world spread out before you. Others like the challenge of a bendy forest road. Some like it warm, some hate to sweat in their leathers. As such, any ranking of states regarding their general enjoyability for bikers is going to meet with stormy opposition in some quarters. So we won’t attempt to do that. Here instead are the best states for hitting the road on two wheels according to certain criteria – namely: Warm riding weather, dry riding weather, safety, and gasoline prices.

Honda CX400 1980, Stuart, Florida

Honda CX400 1980, Stuart, Florida

Warm Riding Weather – Florida, Arizona, Hawaii, Louisiana In all fairness, this is a pretty subjective category. After all, some people might prefer the crisp tang of a Wisconsin winter to the hot humidity of a Southern summer. Feel free, therefore, to completely ignore this category and go your own sweet way! To be honest, we’ve mainly chosen these states based upon their hours of daylight and the relative paucity of chill winds. In general, the states of Florida, Arizona, Hawaii and Louisiana are the most likely to give you a good, clear run of days in which the daylight is abundant and the nasty weather keeps away. Texas isn’t far behind, but loses points for just being too damn big to gather non-conflicting data for! Don’t take it as read that these states are automatically going to roll out the climactic carpet for you, however. We all know about Florida and Louisiana’s issue with hurricanes! These states give you your best chance of consistently warm riding weather, but it’s by no means 100% guaranteed!

Vacationer from Ohio Relaxes by Motorcycle

Vacationer from Ohio Relaxes by Motorcycle

Dry Riding Weather – Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona Wet roads, snowy roads, and water splattering your visor do not make for a great ride. Some may enjoy the challenge, and some may relish the chance to pit their snow chains against the ice, but those of us who like an easy life would probably prefer to hit the road on a dry day. Working on yearly averages, the driest states are Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, and Arizona. However, it might be worth taking seasonal averages into account as well. In the summer, California just about manages to knock Nevada from its desiccated top-spot, while in winter you’re more likely to find dry conditions in North Dakota (which perhaps helps to account for this state’s exemplary safety record – see below). In general, though Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, and Arizona are the most consistently dry states all year round, so if you’re not a fan of slippy tires and the scent of soggy weather, it might be an idea to head West!

Safety – North Dakota, Nebraska, Mississippi You need not worry about damage (to yourself or you bike!) or theft if you head to one of these states. The roads here are smooth and well-maintained – particularly in North Dakota - which makes for an enjoyable as well as a safe ride. The accident and fatality rates for all vehicles, not just motorcycles, are commendably low in all three states (which will make your mother happy!). North Dakota notably experiences low levels of congestion, and drivers tend to be both considerate and bike-aware. Helmet laws are laxly enforced within Nebraska, which counts against them, but this does not stop Nebraskans from taking the initiative and wearing helmets out in spite of law-enforcement’s unbothered stance on the issue. Mississippi, meanwhile, are both consistent and persistent with their traffic safety laws. Thefts of motorcycles are low in all three of these states.  If you want your bike undamaged and your body unscarred, head on out to North Dakota, Nebraska, or Mississippi.

Gas Prices – Oklahoma, Missouri, Indiana, Kansas Gas prices zip up and down all over the USA on a daily basis, so don’t rely too much on this information in a year’s time! As it currently stands, you’ll get the most miles for your dollar in Oklahoma, Missouri, Indiana, and Kansas – but it might be worth checking before you book anything, just to make sure!

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