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A Gem on Georgia's Golden Isles: The King and Prince Resort, St. Simons Island

A Gem on Georgia's Golden Isles: The King and Prince Resort, St. Simons Island | CosmosMariners.com

For three amazing days last week, I left Landon and Britton at home and headed down to Georgia's Golden Isles. (Don't feel too bad for Britton, as she went to Walt Disney World with my parents!) While I was there, I explored St. Simons Island and used the King and Prince Resort as my base. The hotel is an island landmark--for good reason, as it has long been synonymous with the island's public beach access--and I was excited to see if it lived up to everything I'd heard about it. (Spoiler alert: it did!)

History
Originally started by two friends--one who'd been kicked out of the Cloisters and one who was a St. Simons native--the hotel opened for business in 1941, replacing an earlier beachside dancing club. The name, "The King and the Prince," is an ode to those two men's statures, as one was much larger than the other.

A Gem on Georgia's Golden Isles: The King and Prince Resort, St. Simons Island | CosmosMariners.com
Some of the hotel's historic ephemera on display in the lobby
The hotel was the only one on St. Simons to be located directly on the beach, so it grew in popularity as more people discovered the island. During World War II, the hotel offered up space for a radar training classroom, and some of the officers running the radar school were housed there.

It changed hands several times before the current owners discovered it in severe disrepair in the early 1980s. Under their guidance, the historic portion has been completely renovated and the entire property has been expanded (with the villas and Oceanfront building being added). The King and Prince applied to be a part of the Historic Hotels of America group and has proudly joined the ranks of preserved properties.

Location
This 200-room hotel is directly on the beach. Need I say more?! (That was a huge draw for me!) The King and Prince is on the south end of the island, so you can see the tip of Jekyll Island from the beach, or you can watch the shipping boats on their way to the Brunswick port.

A Gem on Georgia's Golden Isles: The King and Prince Resort, St. Simons Island | CosmosMariners.com


Besides that one amazing aspect, the hotel is also very close to the dining and shopping of Redfern Village, McKinnon St. Simons Airport, the St. Simons Lighthouse and Pier Village. Plus, it's just minutes from the foot of the Torras Causeway, so you'll spend less time looking for your hotel and more time enjoying your vacation!

Room
I had room 463 in the Oceanfront building, which is located just to the right of the main lobby. All of the Oceanfront rooms live to their names, so you can sit out on the balcony and listen to the waves roll in. If you're so inclined to get up early, you can catch the sunset just by walking outside.

A Gem on Georgia's Golden Isles: The King and Prince Resort, St. Simons Island | CosmosMariners.com
The view from my room!


My room had a king bed that I didn't have to share with anyone for this trip. That's pretty much heaven right there! There was also a writing desk, a love seat, vanity area, and balcony with seating for two.

A Gem on Georgia's Golden Isles: The King and Prince Resort, St. Simons Island | CosmosMariners.com


There are many different types of rooms at the King and Prince: some are in the original historic building (which is to the left of the main lobby), some are in the villas that flank either end of the property, and others are in houses on the property. Some have ocean views, while others have partial views. When you're booking through the website, pay attention to the type of view you're getting (courtyard, partial ocean, etc.). Tip: some of the rooms that are oceanfront in the historic building don't have a balcony, so they're listed as "partial oceanview." If you want a great view of the ocean, but don't care if you have a balcony, get one of these!

If you're traveling with family, consider getting one of the villas or one of the suites in the Tabby House, as these have full kitchens, multiple bedrooms, a separate living area, and washer/dryer units.

Service
From the moment that I walked in to the time that I checked in, I was greeted by no more than four different people! The King and Prince prides itself on customer service, and everyone I met--from the bellhops to the front desk assistants to the housekeeping staff-- was polite, friendly, and eager to please.

A Gem on Georgia's Golden Isles: The King and Prince Resort, St. Simons Island | CosmosMariners.com
The new lobby, which just underwent a complete renovation


Prior to arriving, I'd mentioned that I was allergic to shellfish, and when I checked in, the front desk clerk confirmed my allergy (which is always a great sign!). At each of the meals that I ate there (two dinners and a breakfast), a waiter reconfirmed my allergy and assured me that my food was being cooked in a separate area where necessary. Executive Chef John Palacio even made me my own blackened chicken, stone ground grits and collards when everyone else was being treated to his version of Georgia shrimp and grits!

Another aspect of the service that stuck out in my mind during my stay was the sweet note that my housekeeper, Evanie, would leave for me at the end of each day. A quick note on the hotel stationery and a few chocolates on my pillow was a wonderful way to finish off an evening when I was tired.

Amenities
For a mid-size hotel, the King and Prince has plenty to do. The pool deck has two different areas in which to play: a larger, deeper pool, and a smaller kiddie pool. The Royal Treatment cottage has select, personalized spa services if you need even more relaxation. On select days, you can take a painting class from local artist Peggy Buchanan.

A Gem on Georgia's Golden Isles: The King and Prince Resort, St. Simons Island | CosmosMariners.com
I'm no Picasso, but I was pretty pleased with my final painting!


And if all else fails, the beach is right there to tempt you!

A Gem on Georgia's Golden Isles: The King and Prince Resort, St. Simons Island | CosmosMariners.com


About 15 minutes away from the main campus is the King and Prince golf course, where you can scoot around the 18 holes on the golf board. Golf carts are so last season! (They've got those, too, if you don't want to try out the boards!)

Echo is the onsite restaurant, and you should absolutely visit at least once or twice during your visit.

A Gem on Georgia's Golden Isles: The King and Prince Resort, St. Simons Island | CosmosMariners.com

I loved Chef Palacio's Southern food with a southwestern kick. Echo draws its name from the radar school that was held on St. Simons Island during World War II, which is a perfect historical tie-in. The seafood breakfast was delicious (though I had them exchange my crab cake for a second Eggs Benedict).

Final Thoughts
I'd heard about the King and Prince for many years before I'd visited, and I'd always earmarked it as somewhere to visit eventually. I'm glad that eventually finally came--and I wish I'd gone earlier! I could absolutely see me heading back with the rest of my family in tow for a stay at one of the villas for our annual family vacation. It may have taken me 30 years to finally get to the King and Prince, but you can believe that it will not take that long to get me back!

Have you visited St. Simons Island? Have you stayed at the King and Prince? What do you look for when planning a beach vacation?

I was provided with a complimentary stay at the King and Prince in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own. 
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Charlotte Arts: Where to Find Culture in North Carolina's Queen City

Charlotte Arts: Where to Find Culture in North Carolina's Queen City | CosmosMariners.com

It may be a center for banking (America's second largest after New York City!), but there's plenty to offer visitors who are in search of decidedly non-banking stuff in Charlotte, North Carolina. For those of us (like myself!) who can't get enough of museums, art, dance, and theatre, the Queen City is the perfect spot for a long weekend. From museums that your kids will love to theatres that celebrate the grace and poise of ballet, Charlotte is the place to be if you're looking for a little more culture in your life.

Unique Museums in Uptown
In a great location on South Tryon Street, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art has four stories packed with local and national artwork. My favorite time periods in literature and art are the modern and post-modern periods, so I enjoyed the wide array of artists and art styles represented here. On the top floor was a collection of Henri Matisse's art books: I loved learning more about the intertwining of myth, writing, and sketching in Matisse's works through this incredible exhibit, which runs through mid-September.

During your visit, don't forget to take a picture with the 17-foot-tall iconic Firebird statue out front!

Charlotte Arts: Where to Find Culture in North Carolina's Queen City | CosmosMariners.com


The Levine Museum of the New South is the only museum of its kind in the world: it focuses exclusively on the history of the South post-Civil War. I love learning about the antebellum South, but it was refreshing to find a place that tried to unpackage the complicated economics, race relations, and rebuilding process that took place after the war.

Charlotte Arts: Where to Find Culture in North Carolina's Queen City | CosmosMariners.com

Named after the man who was the first to integrate Clemson University (my alma mater!), the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture celebrates the literature, poetry, paintings, dance, and film created by African-Americans. As another nod to the center's focus, the museum is located in the Levine Museum of the Arts, which resides in one of the nation's oldest African-American communities. 

The McColl Center for Arts is located in a gorgeous old church at 721 North Tryon Street. Head inside to wander the more than 5,000 square feet of exhibition space and nine art studios.

Little Arts for Little Kids
Imaginon is geared towards the younger set, but pulls off the intersection between kiddie entertainment and thoughtful teaching beautifully. With a library, a hands-on learning section, and a large theatre for children's productions, Imaginon is an excellent way to introduce literature, arts, and plays to your favorite little traveler. The Children's Theatre of Charlotte operates a fantastic line-up of kid-centric plays throughout the year in Imaginon's theatre.
Charlotte Arts: Where to Find Culture in North Carolina's Queen City | CosmosMariners.com
In the theatre at Imaginon awaiting the start of an adaptation of Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar


A staple in Uptown Charlotte since the 1980s (and a childhood favorite of mine!), Discovery Place makes science fun. This two story museum is completely hands-on, so you and your kids can lay on a bed of nails to test gravity, use wooden slats to build famous landmarks and learn about architecture, and get up close and personal with fish in the aquarium downstairs.

Charlotte Arts: Where to Find Culture in North Carolina's Queen City | CosmosMariners.com
Britton checking out Discovery Place--and loving every minute
With gorgeous collections of ceramics, glass, fiber, and wood, the Mint Museum Uptown boasts a nationally-recognized Craft and Design collection. It's located right across the street from the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art so you can have a cultural day!

Culture All Year 'Round
If you're looking for a night out at the theatre, there are several places in Uptown where you can catch a concert, stand-up comedy, symphony, or play. The schedules for each place vary according to the season, so check out each calendar to find the perfect performance for you!
  • Carolina Theatre
  • The Blumenthal Performing Arts Center houses several smaller areas, including the Booth Playhouse and the Belk Theatre. 
  • Charlotte Ballet
  • Charlotte Symphony
  • McGlohon Theatre
Arts Elsewhere in the Queen City
Leaving Uptown doesn't mean that you're leaving the museums and learning experiences behind. Visit Discovery Kids, a museum geared for younger children, on Gilead Road after you've explored the main museum. The Carolina Aviation Museum, located near the airport, showcases the state's rich history in flight, which began with the Wright brothers lifted off on Kitty Hawk in the Outer Banks. Peek inside the library of one of the most influential religious leaders of the last century at the Billy Graham Library

Do you enjoy visiting museums? Which of these would you like to visit in Charlotte? What's the best museum that you've experienced?
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Time to Hit the Road: Heading out on Our Florida Road Trip!

The last few weeks have been a little hectic. I was in Charlotte back in March, then hopped over to St. Simons Island, Georgia, for a few days earlier this week. Now, we're heading out on a fun-filled road trip down to Florida's Gulf Coast!

Yes, it's been busy--and will continue to be that way well into the summer--but I wouldn't have it any other way. (Spoken like a travel blogger, right?!)

Time to Hit the Road: Heading out on Our Florida Road Trip! | CosmosMariners.com
Bye, everyone! See you after I back into the mailbox!


Over the next week, Landon, Britton, and I will explore several spots in and around St. Pete Beach as a part of the Florida Superior Small Lodging Association (FSSLA) blogger road trip. In addition to being a great way to highlight locally owned and operated hotels and inns (a cause close to my heart!), this trip will also be the first trip that all three of us have taken--without any other family members--since we went to Savannah, Georgia, when Britton was six months old.

It will also be the longest road trip that Britton's taken to date, but we've got our fabulous road trip bag packed, her DVD player and her favorite movies, and a bunch of books for her to read. Plus, we're hoping she'll sleep most of the way down there!

We're stopping off in Orlando for a few days on our own before kicking off the FSSLA portion of the trip in Pass-a-Grille. We'll then head up to Indian Rocks Beach for a bit and finish off the trip with a stay in St. Pete Beach. If you've been to any of these areas, make sure to tell me what we should do and eat!
Time to Hit the Road: Heading out on Our Florida Road Trip! | CosmosMariners.com
Paddleboarder at Indian Shores, Florida


I've only been to the area once: Landon and I went to Clearwater, St. Petersburg, and Tampa last year for a whirlwind three-day trip. One this upcoming road trip, I'll have more time to explore the restaurants and beaches, so share your ideas for me in the comments.

I'll also be sharing as much as I can while we're on the road, so keep checking back on the blog, my Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Where do you love to go on your road trips? Have you been to the Gulf Coast of Florida recently? If so, what do you like to do?
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A Flight Through History: St. Simons Island, Georgia, and World War II

A Flight Through History: St. Simons Island, Georgia, and World War II | CosmosMariners.com

I grew up listening to my grandfather talk about his experiences in the Navy during World War II--he was on an aircraft carrier that was the first to visit both Nagasaki and Hiroshima after the bombs were dropped.

Perhaps because of his stories, I've always been fascinated with World War II, and even partially focused my master's thesis on wartime London and the Blitz. There are so many stories from both the Pacific and European theatres that I could easily write a travel blog just on places related to World War II.

I've been in St. Simons Island over the last few days to learn a bit more about the history of the island (and for a place that's only the size of Manhattan, there's A LOT!). As part of my adventures, I headed over to the McKinnon St. Simons Island Airport to discover how this small barrier island was crucial to the war efforts here in Georgia.

Even before the attack of Pearl Harbor, there were clues that the Axis powers were coming too close for comfort. Along the Georgia coast, people began reporting strange boats, some of which came close enough to shore that guests at the King and Prince Resort could see them from the beach.

In response to this threat, Sea Island resort founder Howard Coffin appealed to the government for a stronger military presence on the island. When little help arrived, the residents of Sea Island and St. Simons decided to take matters into their own hands and petition the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt.

With her help, the Georgia Civil Air Patrol was created, and the islands had a small but dedicated force to help alert the military of U-boat approaches. The patrol used the four-year-old McKinnon airport as their base.
A Flight Through History: St. Simons Island, Georgia, and World War II | CosmosMariners.com
Photo courtesy of Winn Baker, Glynn County Airport Commission archives

Even though what the Civil War Patrol was doing was important--finding U-boats and protecting U.S. merchant ships coming into the Brunswick harbor--they didn't have much support from the government. The men who were involved in the patrol were called the "Sandwich and Suicide Squad" because of their shoestring budget and dangerous missions.

Their planes (shown below) often had to be left in the elements since there weren't hangers available for the aircraft. The Patrol also had difficulty repairing their planes since the majority of the plane parts and scrap metal was being sent overseas.

A Flight Through History: St. Simons Island, Georgia, and World War II | CosmosMariners.com
Photo courtesy of Winn Baker, Glynn County Airport Commission archives


As America joined the war, the Navy took over McKinnon Airport, though some of the members of the Civil Air Patrol stayed on to help. At this time in history, radar was a brand new tool for the military, and the Navy established a radar school on St. Simons to train people.

A Flight Through History: St. Simons Island, Georgia, and World War II | CosmosMariners.com
Photo courtesy of Joseph Schlosser, Glynn County Airport Commission archives


After the war ended, the Navy returned McKinnon airport back to the county, who runs it today.

To make this historic learning experience even more incredible, I headed back the next day to ride in a World War II-era Douglas DC-3. This particular plane was built in 1944 (by the female factory workers who were iconized as Rosie the Riveter!), participated in the European theatre and saw some action on D-Day. After the war, the plane found a new home in Canada, where it remained for nearly forty years.

In July 1986, in celebration of the DC-3's 50th anniversary and the World's Fair on Transportation and Communication, the plane began a round-the-world trip that took two months. On the trip, the DC-3 visited five continents (excluding South America and Antarctica) and made 46 stops. Soon afterwards, Lance Toland, the current owner, purchased the plane. Since Toland has owned it, he's refurbished the plane and has used it for personal transportation. For the most part, though, this grand bird stays grounded these days: "I only fly it between fifty and seventy hours a year," he said.

I went up on the plane one beautiful afternoon with Toland and fellow pilot Winn Baker at the controls.
A Flight Through History: St. Simons Island, Georgia, and World War II | CosmosMariners.com
The owner of the plane, Lance Toland (left), and Georgia Aviation Hall of Famer Winn Baker (right)
Baker, a native of St. Simons, has worked in aviation his entire life, and served as a Delta pilot and one of the founders of the Golden Isles Aviation (an FBO, or fixed base operator) that still serves guests at the airport today. Baker's more than 41,000 flight hours made me feel less anxious about climbing into an aircraft that's as old as my grandparents!

A Flight Through History: St. Simons Island, Georgia, and World War II | CosmosMariners.com




We cruised around Jekyll Island, St. Simons Island, and Sea Island in the DC-3, and were treated to some spectacular views of the area.
A Flight Through History: St. Simons Island, Georgia, and World War II | CosmosMariners.com
The King and Prince Resort (with the red roofs on the left)


A Flight Through History: St. Simons Island, Georgia, and World War II | CosmosMariners.com
The Jekyll Island Club Resort

A Flight Through History: St. Simons Island, Georgia, and World War II | CosmosMariners.com
St. Simons Island Lighthouse
Seeing coastal Georgia from this perspective isn't something that I'll forget anytime soon!



While St. Simons Island visitors aren't able to take rides in the DC-3 on a regular basis, there are restored biplane rides available each summer!

It's amazing how much history there is in this area of Georgia, so on your next trip to St. Simons Island, take some time away from the beach to explore that side of the island.

Have you been to St. Simons Island? Do the WWII connections of the island interest you? Have you ever gone up in a historic plane?

Visiting the Bahamas: A Guide to the Islands

Visiting the Bahamas: A Guide to the Islands | CosmosMariners.com

Nestled less than a hundred miles off the coast of Florida, the Bahamas are a playground of crystal clear waters, white sand beaches, and beautiful resorts. While it might be easy to clump all of the islands together, each actually has its own personality and unique offerings. 

If you’re thinking about vacationing in the Bahamas, it’s essential to pick the right islands for the trip that you want. While there are 700 islands in the chain, only about 30 are inhabited. Here’s a quick overview of the major islands you’re most likely to visit on a jaunt to the Bahamas!

Paradise Island, located right next to Nassau, is worth a visit, even if it’s only to walk around the grounds. Since it was built in 1998, people from all over the world have flocked to the Atlantis resort’s water parks, fancy hotel suites, dining, aquariums, and water sports. Check out the more than 30 restaurants, 20 pools, and 3,400 rooms! 

Visiting the Bahamas: A Guide to the Islands | CosmosMariners.com


Head to Andros Island for a taste of what the unexplored Bahamas are like: laid back and incredibly scenic. I had the opportunity to explore Andros during a college study abroad session, and the island was unforgettable. With only 6,000 people spread out on the largest of the Bahamian islands, you get all of the beaches, snorkeling (on the world’s third largest barrier reef!), and fishing practically to yourself for a fraction of what you’d pay on Nassau. Visit the Androsian fabric factory for a glimpse at how this iconic local fabric is still made by hand, visit Morgan’s cave to see if you’ll be the one to find some pirate gold, or listen to the oral history of a village that remained a secret from the world for over a hundred years. 

Visiting the Bahamas: A Guide to the Islands | CosmosMariners.com


Grand Bahama Island, where Freeport is located, is another popular cruise port. With golfing, casinos, nightclubs, and parasailing on the island, it’s one of the two major settlements in the Bahamas (with the other being Nassau). Still, even with the large number of annual visitors, you’ll be able to find some quiet time in the Lucayan National Park and Gold Rock Beach. And if you’re visiting in mid-April, do not miss the Junkanoo Carnival—with the colorful costumes, upbeat music, and dazzling parades, it’s the perfect way to immerse yourself into the cultural of the Bahamas. 

The capital of the island nation, Nassau is probably best known as one of the busiest cruise ports in the Atlantic. As soon as you step off of the boat, your senses will be overloaded: you’ll have people calling to you to get your hair braided, the smell of fried conch wafting out of nearby restaurants, and the sun sparkling on the blue waters. 

Visiting the Bahamas: A Guide to the Islands | CosmosMariners.com


The Exumas, a portion of the Bahamas' out islands (so called since they're away from the hustle and bustle of Nassau and Grand Bahama Island) is another excellent place to discover your own private breach or perfect snorkeling spot. Dive down into the waters to examine the stromatolites, the world's oldest known macrofossils. Relax on the island's longest beach, the Tropic of Cancer Beach, which was named after its geographic coordinates. But winning out for cuteness in the island's offerings are the island's acclaimed swimming pigs. They swim out to boats that moor nearby and are tame enough to feed and swim near--you'd better have a treat or two handy to share!

Visiting the Bahamas: A Guide to the Islands | CosmosMariners.com


You're not seeing things: the sand on Eleuthera is actually pink! The island is over 100 miles long, but is only a mile wide in some places, so you have a very high likelihood of finding a beach all to yourself. Choose from the Caribbean Sea on one side and the Atlantic on the other--no matter where you decide to settle for your vacation, you'll love the peace and quiet.

No matter where you visit in the Bahamas, make sure you grab a Goombay Punch (a sugary sweet pineapple-coconut soft drink) and some fried conch before you head to the local beach to relax!

Visiting the Bahamas: A Guide to the Islands | CosmosMariners.com


Have you been to the Bahamas? Which is your favorite island? 

Why I Didn't Fall in Love with Paris (and Why I Want to Give It a Second Chance)

Why I Didn't Fall in Love with Paris (and Why I Want to Give It a Second Chance) | CosmosMariners.com

Several years ago, before I'd even thought about travel blogging, I went to Paris, France, with my parents and my sister. My sister is a Francophile through and through, so she chose several days in Paris as her high school graduation present.

On the surface, I should have fallen in love with the City of Lights: it has an incredible history, it's the setting for many of my favorite books (The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera are two that I can read again and again), and it's chock-a-block full of museums. But the reality of Paris left me wondering what the hype was all about.

Why I Didn't Fall in Love with Paris (and Why I Want to Give It a Second Chance) | CosmosMariners.com
The Louvre
Over the course of our time in Paris, I had some great experiences and some down right awful experiences: there really wasn't much in the in-between.

While we were there, I loved visiting the art museums, particularly the Musee d'Orsay and the Pompidou Centre. I adored seeing the setting of The Phantom of the Opera at the Opera Garnier. I was stunned by the beauty of Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, and Sainte-Chappelle. I am usually a very upbeat person who can find the best in just about anything, especially when I'm traveling.

Why I Didn't Fall in Love with Paris (and Why I Want to Give It a Second Chance) | CosmosMariners.com
One of my favorite places in Paris: the Pompidou Centre!
So, given all of these great things that I experienced, why exactly didn't I love Paris?

The people were quite rude to us. Not all of them, of course--we bought breakfast from this one tiny bakery near our hotel several times, and the guy who ran it was really nice. But most of the people (everyone from the ticket person at the Metro to the waiters who served us) acted haughty and as if we were beneath them.

For example, one night we were tired after a long day of sightseeing and couldn't find the Metro station. We knew there was one nearby, but the entrance was eluding us. We went up to a food cart to ask for directions (in French, no less). I know my French isn't great (or even decent), but I was trying my best to put together grammatically correct sentences to ask where the Metro was. There were several people at the cart, and they all laughed at me. They laughed. When I then asked if they spoke English (again, in French), they said no and laughed again.

The thing is, I was trying really hard to communicate with them. I know I wasn't doing it well, but I was trying. If someone who was obviously foreign came up to me in Charleston and asked for directions, I would resort to hand gestures and drawings if necessary to help them. I'd never just laugh at them and leave them to wander.

It got tiresome being accosted by beggars at the major sites. I know that there are often homeless people and/or beggars in large cities, particularly around popular sightseeing spots. That in itself doesn't bother me. What did bother me about the beggars in Paris was how aggressive they were: they'd get in our faces, stand way too close for comfort, switch languages as they asked for money (since they were trying to figure out which language we spoke), and then yell at us when we walked away.

Why I Didn't Fall in Love with Paris (and Why I Want to Give It a Second Chance) | CosmosMariners.com
At Notre Dame, preparing to walk through the artillery of people demanding money
I'm no stranger to metropolitan areas (and even lived in London during my study abroad program), but I've never been somewhere where I had to steel myself to walk into a church or museum. If it had only been at one place, I still probably wouldn't have been annoyed. But it was at EVERY. SINGLE. SIGHT.

It's hard to enjoy the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tower when five people come up to you in three minutes all asking for money. We couldn't even get a picture of us at the iconic structure because we were harassed so much.

We were mugged on the Metro. If ever there was a reason to be wary of a place, this would be it. The experience that we had on the Metro one day left us shaky and very wary--neither of which are great feelings in a foreign country. My dad, who was the target of the mugging, felt helpless. Thankfully, we only lost a museum pass. PSA: Wear those money belts, folks!

Again, I've been in and around large cities at various points in my life, and I'm aware that being mugged can happen anywhere. But the mugging and the aggressive beggars just led to a sense of wariness that I didn't like. Even when I lived in London alone (and used the bus and Tube systems extensively), I didn't feel that way.

Why I Didn't Fall in Love with Paris (and Why I Want to Give It a Second Chance) | CosmosMariners.com
Myself in my younger days at the Rodin Museum


"Give it another chance!" all of you lovers of Paris are yelling at me through your computers. And I will--one day.

There are several things in the city that I'd still love to do, including take a tour of the catacombs, see Van Gogh's home north of Paris, try a macaron (nope, never had one!), and visit Napoleon's tomb. Don't get me started on what I want to do outside of Paris because that requires a completely different blog post!

I know there are some amazing things to see, do, and eat in Paris, and it really is unfortunate how my first trip there transpired. Part of the issue might have been my expectations--I thought I'd get the Paris where models walk around everywhere and Remy the rat makes award-winning ratatouille and very smart, fashion-forward people linger over their meals in cafe.

Some of what happened cannot be changed (like the crowds and the pickpockets), but I can take what I've learned and apply it for the better the next time around.

Have you been to Paris? If so, what did you think? Have you ever traveled somewhere that didn't live up to the hype or your own expectations?

Eating like Royalty in the Queen City: Charlotte, North Carolina Dining Picks

Eating Like Royalty in the Queen City: Charlotte, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

The Asbury
One of the highlights of our entire trip, The Asbury surprised our taste buds and challenged us to try new things. Although the atmosphere was more formal than the other three places on this list, the staff was highly accommodating to my toddler. My dad couldn't get over his delicious crab and Benton's ham plate, while I was glad that I tried both the rabbit confit and the pea and basil orecchiette. Don't forget to leave room for dessert!

Eating Like Royalty in the Queen City: Charlotte, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com


Check out my complete review here. And then put it on your Charlotte must-visit list!

7th Street Public Market
We ate here for lunch on our first day after hearing great things from several people who live in the area. If you're looking for a one stop shop for a variety of tastes, the Public Market will be your go-to place, as there are several restaurants under one roof.

Eating Like Royalty in the Queen City: Charlotte, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

Choose from sandwiches, sushi, crepes, cheeses, and pizza, or grab a beer at the brewery area. The Market also boasts a small handicrafts shop up front, and a butcher and fresh fruits and veggies in the back. Everything is locally sourced--something I loved!--so you'll feel like you're contributing to the community even if it's your first time here.

Eating Like Royalty in the Queen City: Charlotte, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com


My dad, Britton, and I ordered from Orrman's Cheese Shop in the back after we'd done a few loops. We'd also eyed the sandwiches from the shop up front (the line was too long and very slow) and the pizza from the booth in the middle (it was closed on Sunday despite there being people everywhere). My dad and I both got the smoked mozzarella, proscuitto, and tomato grilled cheese, while Britton opted for the homemade peanut butter and blackberry jelly sandwich. Both the grilled cheese and the PB&J were crazy delicious, though, at a price tag of $25 for three simple sandwiches (including 1 bottle of water and a small bag of chips), I expected something amazing.

The Market is very convenient to Discovery Place, the Levine Museum of the New South, and several of the other places on my family-friendly guide to Charlotte. It's a little pricey and crowded during peak hours, but the food is quite delicious.

Nan and Byron's
On our last night, we headed over to Nan and Byron's for dinner--and I couldn't have chosen a better place to end our trip. Named after the couple in Grant Wood's American Gothic painting, Nan and Byron's is a trendy and casual restaurant with crowd-pleasing favorites. (Fun fact about the painting: Nan was actually Wood's sister, while Byron McKeeby was his dentist!)

Instead of bringing out bread (like most places do), our waiter started us off with a basket of the most amazing flavored popcorn.

Eating Like Royalty in the Queen City: Charlotte, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com


My dad and I both chose the tacos (I got half beef, half chicken, while my dad got all four of his with chicken), and I was very happy with my choice. We both decided that the chicken tacos were slightly better than the beef--it had to do with the seasoning and overall balance of flavors. The plates were gigantic and came with salsa, guacamole, and sour cream: my dad and I could've easily split one.

Eating Like Royalty in the Queen City: Charlotte, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com


They had a standard children's menu (chicken nuggets, burgers, etc.), and Britton wanted the grilled cheese with peas and carrots. I had a few bites of hers as well--no cheese product here! The grilled cheese was perfectly done on thick bread and had a creamy white cheddar inside.

Eating Like Royalty in the Queen City: Charlotte, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com


The vibe was casual and fun, and there were patrons of all ages there during dinner. I would've felt equally comfortable there on a date as I did with my toddler (who is not the quietest dining partner). Our waiter was friendly and accommodating throughout the meal and made sure that we always had fresh sweet tea and plenty of ice. The building itself was nicely renovated: before it opened as Nan and Byron's, it was another restaurant, and before that, it was a service station. The renovation has kept many of the original service station elements, which adds a fun element to your dining experience.

Queen City Q
If you're looking for a casual place for Southern favorites, Queen City Q is worth a visit. My dad and I are both huge fans of barbecue, and we'd been looking forward to trying out the different sauces that the restaurant offers. It's located on the other side of the same building as the 7th Street Public Market, so the area is rife with great eating choices.

The interior was decorated in a kind of faux-country style with the televisions built into wooden barn sides. Our waitress wasn't particularly effervescent, but she was efficient, keeping our drinks refilled and promptly bring out our food.

I got the hand-pulled pork platter with two sides (the fried okra and the mac 'n' cheese). As a born and raised Southerner, I am extremely familiar with barbecue--and this was some delicious stuff. I could've eaten the pulled pork sans sauce since the spices were done so well. However, you can't put bottles of BBQ sauce in front of me and expect me to pass them up.

Eating Like Royalty in the Queen City: Charlotte, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com


Thus began our tasting series--I liked that the restaurant offered up multiple sauces, but I wished they'd had a traditional vinegar sauce. The others (mostly ketchup based, though there was one mustard) were quite good. Definitely sample all of them!

Eating Like Royalty in the Queen City: Charlotte, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com


Which of these restaurants would you be most interested in trying?
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