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The Ultimate List of Fun Things to Do in Macon, GA

The Ultimate List of Fun Things to Do in Macon, GA | CosmosMariners.com

On your next trip to the South, skip the big cities like Atlanta and Orlando, and head to Macon, Georgia, instead. With a rich past, a surprising musical history, and gorgeous outdoor activities, Macon mixes the small town charm of the South with modern cuisine and tours.

Here are my favorite fun things to do in Macon, GA, arranged by areas of interest!

Best AirBnBs in the World: Travel Bloggers share Their Favorite Unique AirBnB Listings

Best AirBnBs in the World: Travel Bloggers share Their Favorite Unique AirBnB Listings | CosmosMariners.com

If you're looking for a hotel alternative on your travels, AirBnB is a great choice: the extensive listings and ability to meet locals has made this one of my favorite ways to get more out of my trips.

Best of all, the properties typically cost less than a hotel room and most come with kitchens so I can save money on eating out. It's the fun of travel with the budgeting ability of home.

Not surprisingly, my fellow travel bloggers share my love and have stayed in some unique AirBnB listings around the world. The next time that you're planning your travel accommodations, consider one of these best AirBnBs in the world!

Hot Springs, History, and Family Fun: 2-day Glenwood Springs, Colorado, Itinerary

Hot Springs, History, and Family Fun in Glenwood Springs, Colorado: A 2 Day Itinerary | CosmosMariners.com

As we made our way across Colorado from Grand Junction to Denver, we stopped for a a quick exploration of Glenwood Springs. At first glance from I-70, Glenwood Springs is a small, unassuming little town, but once you get off of the interstate and make your way into the historic district, you'll quickly fall in love.

If you've got two days, here's a complete Glenwood Springs, Colorado, itinerary. It's really family friendly with food suggestions, play options, and lots of outdoor activities, so you could easily do Glenwood Springs with kids in tow, as well.

Monthly Goals: April 2017

Monthly Goals: April 2017 | CosmosMariners.com

March was intense around here.

I had the best month ever, traffic wise, on my blog. Egads. Sometimes, I feel as if I'm the conductor of a train that may or may not be getting ready to jump off the rails, and I'm not completely sure I'm prepared to handle what's coming. Yet, seeing my blog goals actually happen after 2.5 years of going at this thing strong is incredibly rewarding, and I am so excited to see where this blog takes my family and I (literally and figuratively) in the rest of 2017.

A First-Timer's Guide to Georgia's Golden Isles: Where to Visit, Eat, Shop, and Sleep

A First-Timer's Guide to Georgia's Golden Isles: Where to Visit, Eat, Shop, and Sleep | CosmosMariners.com

Escape to the coast and spend time on Georgia's Golden Isles. Even though I only live a few hours north of this gorgeous part of Georgia, I hadn't explored the area until just a few years ago. Once I went for the first time, I was hooked and have been back multiple times in consecutive years!

The Golden Isles stretch along Georgia's coast and include four islands: St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Jekyll Island, and Little St. Simons Island. Sometimes, Cumberland Island to the south is also included in mix, too--since it's nearby, I'll throw in some tips for it as well since it's such an interesting place.

Why Having Kids Shouldn't Stop You From Traveling

Why Having Kids Shouldn't Stop You From Traveling | CosmosMariners.com

Three years ago, I found out I was expecting a little girl. To say that I was excited was an understatement. Soon afterwards, someone asked me if I was going to buy new clothes when I became a mom.

And by that, this person wasn't inquiring if I needed a new size postpartum or if I was going to update my wardrobe.


This person was asking if I was going to get a "mom wardrobe," a concept I'm still a little confused about. Immediately after delivery, did I need to take all of my skinny jeans to Goodwill in exchange for high-waisted, ill-fitting ones? Did I need to give up my beloved scarves and headbands for something more boring?

What's in Store for 2016

What's in Store for 2016 | CosmosMariners.com

Happy New Year, y'all! I hope that this year will be fantastic for us all and will be filled with learning, travel, and wonder.

After many anxiety-filled nights stressing over my low page numbers and getting back many, many rejected pitch letters, I finally started seeing some actual progress in my blog: more readers, more social media engagement, and more partnership opportunities. Growing a blog can feel about as exciting as watching paint dry most of the time, so getting a return (however small!) on your time investment is so sweet.

2015: the Good, the Bad, and the Blog

2015: the Good, the Bad, and the Blog | CosmosMariners.com

Oh, 2015. What can I say about you? You've been simultaneously wonderful and wretched, and you've reminded me of just how little control I have, despite my best efforts to the contrary.

I remember writing this post at the beginning of January 2015 and being so excited to see what would happen over the next 12 months.

At that moment, I had no clue how much lay ahead of me both in my personal life and with my writing and blogging.

This year has held some incredible highs and some devastating lows, but I've come out on the other side wiser, more dedicated to what's important to me, and more secure in what I'm trying to accomplish.

The Literary South: A Book Lover's Road Trip Itinerary

The Literary South: A Book Lover's Road Trip Itinerary | CosmosMariners.com

Confession: I am a bibliophile.

As a kid, I would hide for hours in closets, in bathrooms, and in trees to read my latest treasures from the library. As an adult, I don't get that luxury as much as I'd like to, but I still try to sneak in as much face-to-book time as my writing, blogging, and toddler will allow.

In college, I started out as in philosophy (since I was told that was a good major for future law students, as I was at the time), but lasted a semester before I switched to English. Thank you to the genius who created the English major, so that I could read and learn and nerd out on novels and short stories and essays for a living!

A Hauntingly Beautiful Spot at the Edge of the World: Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island, Georgia

A Hauntingly Beautiful Spot at the Edge of the World: Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island, Georgia | CosmosMariners.com

There are many reasons why you'd want to visit Jekyll Island, Georgia.

There's the Guilded Age-era hunting lodge that was once the winter lodging for the Carnegies, Vanderbilts, Pulitzers, and other super wealthy people. The Jekyll Island Club Hotel now a completely restored luxury hotel, and one that I highly recommend. (Even if you can't stay on property, stop by for the afternoon tea!) [Take a virtual tour with this post here.]

Packing More Travel into Your Summer

Packing More Travel into Your Summer | CosmosMariners.com

Now that Memorial Day has come and gone, it's official:

Summer's here! And those summer travels are ready to begin.

For as long as I can remember, those hot days have been my favorite part of the year, filled with long, lazy days at the beach, surfing lessons (before my husband broke the fins on my surfboard), swimming at the pool, and family gatherings (usually with lots of watermelon and strawberries).

But my favorite part of my favorite time of year has to be the summer traveling. When we were small, my parents would pile my sister and I into our car (which varied from a 1989 Oldsmobile to a 1994 Volvo as we got older) and head out on the open road. Some years, we'd end up in Walt Disney World, while other years took us to Canada, Mexico, or any of the states along the eastern seaboard!

Now that I'm older and have a kid of my own, I'm still carrying on the tradition of family trips: we've got some fun jaunts planned to Edisto Island, South Carolina; St. Augustine, Florida; and Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Between those trips, we'll be doing everything we can to pack even more fun and travel into our summer months. Here's how:

Make a summer bucket list. If it's written down, you're more likely to accomplish it. So, have a big gathering with the kids, your spouse, your friends--whoever you'll be with during the summer--and see what you'd like to accomplish. Ice cream all around if you manage everything on the list by August 1!

Use your long weekends wisely. Make use of those extra days you get off of work on Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day, and take a road trip. You could also take a longer trip each of those weeks, but only have to take four days off from work. Make the system work to your advantage!

Packing More Travel into Your Summer | CosmosMariners.com
St. Simons Island lighthouse, Georgia
Utilize the free stuff. With warmer temperatures comes the ability to use those water-based activities. For the most part, going to the beach, lake, or pool costs little to nothing, which makes them all attractive options even for the traveling family on a budget.

Summer's also a great time to visit a few county, state, or national parks. They're packed with activities for the whole family, and the entrance fees are very reasonable.

Packing More Travel into Your Summer | CosmosMariners.com
Indian Rocks Beach, Florida
Check out the deals. Even though summer is the high season for travel, you can still find great ways to save money through travel rewards programs and attractions. Some theme parks run specials on ticket packages or hotel rooms to make the most of those fleeting summer vacation days. Don't assume that you won't find a great price on travel just because it's peak season.

Packing More Travel into Your Summer | CosmosMariners.com
The Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida
Combine family visits with sightseeing. Summer's a great time to catch up with family, and many people are driving or flying to visit the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and children. Make use of that time away from home by exploring your destination: when you're at Grandma and Grandpa's in Tampa, go see the Dali Museum or Fort De Soto. While you're out in California seeing your siblings, make a detour at the Hearst Mansion or have an impromptu road trip up U.S. 1. See what's nearby and make a family outing of it!

What are your summer travel plans? Do you have a miles program to help you make the most out of your travels?

Cruising into Our Fifth Wedding Anniversary

I first met my husband Landon in August 2003. We were freshmen, and he was helping my roommate move into our room.
Cruising into Our Fifth Anniversary | CosmosMariners.com
November 2003, just a few months after we started dating (the first time)

I didn't know it then, but seven years, many breakups (one that lasted over two years), and an engagement (to another person) later, Landon and I would get engaged. 

And unlike my first engagement, this one would actually stick. I'd still be petrified at the thought of getting married, and I'd seriously consider my dad's offer to go get ice cream rather than walk down the aisle, but I'd go through with it. And be so, so happy I did. 

Cruising into Our Fifth Anniversary | CosmosMariners.com
Getting hitched, May 2010

I've now known Landon almost half of my lifetime. We've watched one another grow from headstrong, stubborn teenagers into well-rounded, responsible adults (who are both still pretty headstrong--and stubborn). We've bought two houses together and supported one another as we began parenthood. 

We've traveled as much as our jobs, student loans, and budgets would allow since we've been married. We've ziplined in St. Maarten, explored Scotland, snorkeled in the Bahamas, watched plays on London's West End, and traveled all over the Southeast

Cruising into Our Fifth Anniversary | CosmosMariners.com
Edinburgh Castle, 2011

For our honeymoon, we decided to go on a cruise through the eastern Caribbean: I'd just finished my graduate program, and I wanted nothing more than to relax for a few days. That week-long trip allowed us to learn about one another's travel habits (good and bad!) since we hadn't done much traveling with one another while we'd dated.  

Cruising into Our Fifth Anniversary | CosmosMariners.com
Honeymoon cruise, 2010

We enjoyed ourselves so much on that trip that we've made the anniversary trip an annual tradition. We went to Jekyll Island, Georgia, Balsam, North Carolina, and St. Petersburg, Florida, for our 2nd, 3rd, and 4th anniversaries, respectively--they were smaller trips, but just as much fun. 

Cruising into Our Fifth Anniversary | CosmosMariners.com
Jekyll Island, Georgia, 2011

Now, five years into this marriage gig, we're headed back out on another cruise--but this time, we're going to the western Caribbean. Even though the locations are different, I hope we manage as much relaxation and fun as we did on our honeymoon cruise. 

Since I'm going all out on this trip and making it a real vacation, I won't be working next week. (Plus, have you seen how much wifi is on a cruise ship!?!) 

However, I am leaving the blog in the hands of some very competent guest bloggers while I'm lazing by the pool and soaking up some sun, so show them some love next week. I'll be back to life as usual on Monday, June 1 with lots of pictures, stories, and adventures from our Caribbean cruising. 

Happy 5th anniversary to us! 

How do you celebrate your anniversary? Have you taken a cruise? How did you like it?

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How to Choose Great Locally Owned Accommodations When You Travel

Over the years, I've stayed in many hotels. Some were awesome, some were so-so, and some had me worried that I wouldn't see the next sunrise.

One thing that I have learned along the way is that some of my favorite stays have been at locally owned and independently operated places: each is different, and your stay is more likely to leave an impression.

After all, how often do you think back and say, "Wow, those two nights in the Orlando area Hampton Inn were super stellar and unique"? Probably never since every Hampton Inn I've ever seen looked exactly the same.

If you're looking to break out of the mold of chain hotels, you're in luck, as there are some fantastic local places to call home while you're on the road. From 4-room bed and breakfasts to independent luxury resorts to someone's extra apartment on AirBnB, there's a huge range in what can be called "locally owned accommodations."

But how do you separate the delightful ones from the duds?

Thankfully, in this technological day and age, there are plenty of ways to research some independent lodging options. Here are great ways to choose a safe, clean, and memorable locally owned hotel:

Island Eats: Where to Dine on St. Simons Island, Georgia

When I was at St. Simons Island, it wasn't all exploring the King and Prince Resort and flying around the island on a historic plane.

I had to sample the local fare, too! (I know. It's a tough life I lead. Someone's got to do it!)

Island Eats: Where to Eat on St. Simons Island, Georgia | CosmosMariners.com

Over my few days in the area, I discovered some amazing restaurants, their owners, and their chefs. One thing that I loved about St. Simons Island was how much the locals support their own. I love to shop, stay, and eat locally on my stays, and St. Simons Island had plenty of opportunities for me to do just that.

If you've worked up an appetite playing on the beach or shopping, here are a few great places to dine on St. Simons Island.

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!)

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?

5 Unusual, Fun & Quirky Travel Books

5 Unusual, Fun, and Quirky Travel Books | CosmosMariners.com

Since my goal in life is to either be on a trip or planning one, I love travel guides, travel books, and travel magazines. They're all over our house, which tends to drive my husband a little batty (he never complains about the actual travel, though, which balances everything out).

While I love a good Rick Steves, Lonely Planet, or Fodor's guide just as much as the next traveler, I also like to get different perspectives on the places I'm visiting (or just hoping to visit). I read other travel blogs, pour over magazines, and spend a few hours delving into novels that are set in the areas I'm visiting.

But every once in a while, I get lucky and I come across a tome that's part travel guide, part entertainment, and part awesomeness. For many people, Eat Pray Love was their first taste of this hybrid travel book, and Italy, India, and Bali were flooded with people trying to recreate their own journeys a la Elizabeth Gilbert. I'm sharing five of these non-traditional travel books with you today in the hopes that you'll add them to your collection of travel-related bedside reading as well.

5 Unusual, Fun, and Quirky Travel Books | CosmosMariners.com

Mrs. Favell Lee Mortimer, The Clumsiest People in Europe

To everyone in the world, I apologize for this book. On its face, Mrs. Mortimer, a wildly popular British author in the Victorian period, is blunt, cruel, and completely snobbish. Still, if you can look past that (and you should!), you'll find a fascinating look at just how gigantic the British Empire's ego was in the late 1800s: it's an inadvertent commentary on elitism, colonialism, and racism packed into one outdated book.

Reading it now, the book seems so absurd as to be dry humor, but Mrs. Mortimer was basically the Rick Steves of her era (only with a much poofier hairstyle and stricter standards of dress). Take everything she says about each country's inhabitants with a grain of salt, but focus on the fact that people were just as interested in where to travel 150 years ago as they are today. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

A few gems:

The United States: Washington is one of the most desolate cities in the world.

Sweden: There is no country in Europe where so many people are put in prison.

France: They like being smart, but they're not very clean.

Australia: The people are the children of convicts and have been brought up very ill by their parents.
You can't make this stuff up, folks.

5 Unusual, Fun, and Quirky Travel Books | CosmosMariners.com

Robert Louis Stevenson, Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes
While RLS is most often associated with that glorious pirate dramas, Kidnapped and Treasure Island, and the spine-tingling science-thriller, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, he was also an accomplished traveler. Because of his poor health, he often sought warmer climates than could be found in his native Scotland. Over his relatively short lifetime, he spent time in the French Riviera, California, New York, Tahiti, New Zealand, Hawaii, Australia, and Samoa (where he's now buried).

Stevenson wove his travels through many of his novels, journals, and poems, but my personal favorite recounts the walking trip that he took through the Cevennes mountains in France. Not only was his donkey his fellow travel companion (something that merits a peek on its own), but the entire travel guide is written in this bouncy and often hilarious tone.

Throughout the book, you wonder if Stevenson will actually finish his walking tour, as his donkey seems intent on thwarting his every move:
A little out of the village, Modestine, filled with the demon, set her heart upon a by-road, and positively refused to leave it... I came very near crying; but I did a wiser thing than that, and sat squarely down by the roadside to consider my situation under the cheerful influence of tobacco and a nip of brandy.  Modestine, in the meanwhile, munched some black bread with a contrite hypocritical air.  It was plain that I must make a sacrifice to the gods of shipwreck.  I threw away the empty bottle destined to carry milk; I threw away my own white bread, and, disdaining to act by general average, kept the black bread for Modestine; lastly, I threw away the cold leg of mutton and the egg-whisk, although this last was dear to my heart.  Thus I found room for everything in the basket, and even stowed the boating-coat on the top.  By means of an end of cord I slung it under one arm; and although the cord cut my shoulder, and the jacket hung almost to the ground, it was with a heart greatly lightened that I set forth again.
You'll want to find your own donkey (one that's perhaps a bit better behaved than Modestine in the journals!), walking stick, and passport and try to recreate the trip yourself after reading it--and you can, more or less, as the Cevennes are a protected national park in France.

5 Unusual, Fun, and Quirky Travel Books | CosmosMariners.com

Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad, or The New Pilgrims' Progress

Much like Stevenson, Mark Twain is known for his non-travel writing (such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn). Twain traveled a lot during his lifetime, and I think it's sad that so few people outside of English majors even know about his travelogues.

The Innocents Abroad follows Twain and a group of fellow travelers as they make their way through 1860s Europe and the Holy Land. And in true Twain fashion, he liberally peppers his observations with wry humor and satirical wit. Surprisingly to many these days, this book sold better than any of his other works, including his novels. While people didn't travel as much as they do now, there was certainly an interest in what other cultures were like.
This book is a record of a pleasure trip. If it were the record of a solemn scientific expedition, it would have about it that gravity, that profundity, and that impressive incomprehensibility which are so proper to works of that kind, and withal, so attractive.

Yet, notwithstanding, it is only a record of a picnic; it has a purpose, which is to suggest to the reader how he would likely see Europe and the East if he looked at them with his own eyes instead of the eyes of those who traveled in those countries before him. I offer no apologies for any departures from the usual style of travel-writing that may be charged against me--for I think that I have seen with impartial eyes, and I am sure I have written at least honestly, whether wisely or not. 
While Twain doesn't shy away from sharing his opinion, his views of the people he encounters seem almost soft compared to Mrs. Mortimer. Read Mrs. Mortimer for something to laugh at, and read Twain for something to study.

5 Unusual, Fun, and Quirky Travel Books | CosmosMariners.com

Tony Horwitz, Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War

When I was assigned this book in a graduate course on modern American identity, I was a little confused on what I had been given. Was it a memoir, a travel guide, a history book, or some sort of political statement? As it turns out, it's a little bit of all of those.

Since that original assignment, I've re-read this book more times than I can count, and each time, I come away with something different from it. It follows Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tony Horwitz as he explores those states below the Mason-Dixon line in an effort to see how and why the Civil War still affects people today (well, "today" meaning in 1999, when he wrote the book).

Having grown up in the South, I am well aware of the complicated feelings that people of all ages and races still have with the Civil War--yes, it's been over for over 140 years, but there's still so much to process.

Horwitz attempts to do just that and, in my opinion, he does a mighty good job at trying to do so. Through the course of the book, he visits 9 states, joins a Civil War re-enactment group (a hardcore one, not a farb one--a very particular distinction between the re-enactors in the book), attempts to understand the logistics of the minie ball pregnancy that supposedly occurred in Mississippi and looks for the location of Gone with the Wind's Tara and Twelve Oaks.

One of the highlights of the book is when Horwitz decides to accompany serious Civil War re-enactor Robert Lee Hodge on a condensed road trip of important Civil War sights, a trip that includes outdoor camping, period-appropriate rations, and marching. Lots and lots of marching.
At one point, crunching through chest-high thorns and listening for Rob's tramp in the dark ahead, I began to appreciate the utter misery of marching...I also felt the reckless urge that soldiers so often succumbed to, shedding their gear and staggering on unburdened. And we'd only been walking an hour; in the summer of 1862, many of Lee's men marched over 1,000 miles.

"At least we're losing some weight," Rob said, dripping with sweat. "I need to drop five pounds if I'm going to look good at Gettysburg next weekend." 
If you're interested in Civil War history, Southern travel, or contemporary American politics, you've got to find a copy of this book.

5 Unusual, Fun, and Quirky Travel Books | CosmosMariners.com

John Berendt, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story

You've probably heard of the movie--and most likely seen the film starring a very young Jude Law, John Cusack and Kevin Spacey that follows the murder trial of renowned restorationist Jim Williams, But did you know that Jim Williams was a real person from Savannah, Georgia, and that everything in the movie actually took place?

The movie's based on a non-fiction expose of the same name written by John Berendt, a journalist who's played by John Cusack in the film adaptation. I love this book because so much of the Savannah described in it is still there for anyone to find: Lady Chablis is alive and well (she played herself in the movie) and you can catch her burlesque show. Jim Williams is, of course, dead (spoiler alert!), but his home is open to visitors daily.
Mercer House was the envy of house-proud Savannah. Jim Williams lived in it alone.

Williams was smoking a King Edward cigarillo. "What I enjoy most," he said, "is living like an aristocrat without the burden of having to be one...I don't envy them. It's only the trappings of aristocracy that I find worthwhile--the fine furniture, paintings, silver--the very things they have to sell when the money runs out. And it always does. Then, all they're left with is their lovely manners."
You could use the book as a guide to explore historical Savannah and perhaps delve into more of the city than the usual history tour will show you.

Have you read any of these? What books can you always count on to kick start your travel bug?

This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase one of the aforementioned books through the provided link, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Packing the Perfect Road Trip Bag

Packing the Perfect Road Trip Bag | CosmosMariners.com

I'll take travel any way I can get it, but the road trip holds a special place in my heart. In the next few months, I'll take several road trips (St. Simons Island, Georgia, St. Augustine, Florida, and two to Cape Canaveral, Florida), so I'm trying to get the process of traveling by car down to an art.

Generally, I'm pretty easy going as far as traveling goes, but if there's one thing that I detest while traveling longer distances in a car, it's having my stuff all over the place. Without a little organization, you're constantly pulling over or digging through your suitcases. Hey, I want to read! Uh, oops, I packed that in my luggage which is now in the truck. Or, wouldn't a snack be great? Sorry--no more stores for another 50 miles.

Instead of struggling, I usually pile everything I need together in one official road trip bag. That way when my toddler needs an applesauce pouch, I toss it to her without having to stop. If I want to read while Landon drives, I grab my magazines and happily peruse the latest goings-on in the travel world. That one bag makes my life easier.

Packing the Perfect Road Trip Bag | CosmosMariners.com

Here what I stuff into my bag to keep everyone as happy as possible while we're on the road. After all, no one likes a grumpy passenger!

  • Reading material. Whether you prefer a Kindle, a classic Russian novel, or gossip mags, make sure you have something read handy. A phone is great for entertainment--until you hit the middle of nowhere and can't find a signal to save your life. Plus, a book or magazine never has roaming charges.
  • Hand sanitizer. From overturned sodas to sketchy rest areas, there are many reasons why you'd want to include a little bottle of hand sanitizer in your bag. My favorites are the scented ones from Bath and Body Works!
  • Sunglasses. Because safe driving is important.
  • Snacks. Lots and lots of snacks. We like a mixture of sweet and salty, so you can usually find Moonpies snuggling right next to the cheese crackers. Trail mix, applesauce pouches, and pretzels round out our stellar offerings.
  • Drink cup. And I'm not talking about my toddler's either! We usually keep a cup filled with ice in the front seat and a couple bottles of water or soda in the backseat. As we drink the water or soda, we just refill the ice cup. Presto! Cold drinks that didn't require any stops or extra money.
  • Toys for the younger passengers. We have some tried and tested toys that always make Britton happy when she's getting grumpy. As an added bonus, they're pretty small, so after we exhaust ourselves singing her favorite songs to her, we start sending these into the backseat.
  • Gum. After a few fast food meals, it's good to have some way to freshen your breath. The car's only so big, after all!
They won't fit into a bag, but I usually have a pillow and blanket within reach as well. I don't take a lot of naps while road tripping, but they're good to have if you want to rest your eyes for a moment--or, if you're always in a temperature face-off with the other people in the car and you lose. 

Packing the Perfect Road Trip Bag | CosmosMariners.com

Make sure to find a sturdy bag to keep everything in. I used this Marley Lilly tote because monograms make everything better, including road trips. It's big enough to pack plenty of supplies into, and it's deep enough to hold magazines and snack boxes. I love the extra pockets on the side where I can stick some of the smaller stuff that I like to have handy. 

What do you take when you head out on a road trip? How do you stay organized? What do you love or hate about road trips?

Disclaimer: MarleyLilly.com provided me with a complimentary tote to share with my readers. All opinions are my own.

The Dunhill Hotel, Charlotte, North Carolina

The Dunhill Hotel, Charlotte, North Carolina: A Hotel Review | CosmosMariners.com

While we were in Charlotte, North Carolina, we made ourselves at home at the Dunhill Hotel. I hadn't been to Charlotte since I was a little kid--we used to live in upstate South Carolina when I was younger--and would visit the area occasionally back then. After a chance meeting with the hotel's (wonderful!) PR person at the Historic Hotels of America luncheon last year, I decided to head back up to the Queen City to see how it had changed in the nearly 20 years since my last visit.

It turned out that the Dunhill was a great spot from which to launch our visit, and, if you're looking for a great place to stay in Uptown Charlotte, I'd highly recommend it.

You thought you'd get by without a quick history lesson, didn't you?! I love staying in historic hotels because they come with such a rich storyline: it's an added layer of interest that you just don't get in a more recently built hotel. 

The Dunhill Hotel originally was called the Mayfair Manor and opened a month after the stock market crashed. The economic upheaval of the nation didn't seem to affect Mayfair Manor's success, which quickly found a following. During the Manor's early days, guests could stay in one of the 100 rooms: some were set aside as hotel rooms, while others were long-term rentals. 

The Manor's heyday lasted well into the 20th century; by the 1960s, it was sold and rebranded into a motor lodge. Eventually, the motor lodge shut its doors in the early 1980s, and the 10-story building was inhabited only by the homeless. After several years of neglect, the hotel was purchased and underwent a $6 million renovation in 1988. This company tried to restore the hotel to its former glory, but after only two years, the hotel was sold once again.

The Dunhill Hotel, Charlotte, North Carolina: A Hotel Review | CosmosMariners.com
Exploring the hotel and its history!
In the early 1990s, Summit Hospitality Group, the current owners, purchased the property and began to mold it into the distinctive location that it is today. The group was also the driving force behind the application and acceptance of the Dunhill into the Historic Hotels of America property group, a distinction that it proudly displays. 

If you're in Uptown Charlotte for a play, concert, sporting event, banking seminar, or vacation, the Dunhill couldn't be more centrally located. I went on the trip with my dad and my toddler, and we only got in the car once--and that was when we headed out of Uptown to see an attraction in a completely different part of Charlotte.

The Dunhill Hotel, Charlotte, North Carolina: A Hotel Review | CosmosMariners.com

From the museums to the restaurants to green spaces, we were able to easily walk (even with a toddler!) to all of the attractions in Uptown Charlotte. The hotel is located at the corner of North Tryon and 6th Streets, which put us steps away from Discovery Place and the Carolina Theatre, and just a few blocks from the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Imaginon, the Levine Museum of the New South, the Bank of America building, and the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

We had a corner room on the third floor, and I thought it was a great location. We were high enough that the street traffic didn't bother us, but we were still able to people watch through the three large windows throughout the room. Definitely ask for a corner room since it comes with more windows!

The Dunhill Hotel, Charlotte, North Carolina: A Hotel Review | CosmosMariners.com

The room had two queen beds (called the "Vintage Queen Queen" room on their site) and a large bathroom with a shower/tub combo. The bed was incredibly comfortable, and I looked forward to sinking into the fluffy duvet and crisp sheets each night. Sightseeing is hard work!

The Dunhill Hotel, Charlotte, North Carolina: A Hotel Review | CosmosMariners.com

Even with the two beds, I still had plenty of room to set up Britton's pack and play in the corner; the room was large enough that the pack and play didn't interfere with our movement between the room and bathroom.

Our room also had a mini-refrigerator and Keurig. 

When I went to check in, our room wasn't available, but the desk clerks were apologetic (they didn't even need to be, as I was trying to check in at 10:15 in the morning!). They took my cell phone number and promised to call me as soon as a room became available; I ended up getting a call less than an hour later. 

Housekeeping was fantastic, and made sure to keep us stocked with bottled water (which is complimentary with any stay); that sure came in handy as we explored all over town! Housekeeping came once in the morning to tidy up, and then again at night for turndown service. After a long day of sightseeing, it was a treat to see the chocolates on our pillows. 

While check out was easy--I paid with a credit card that was already on file--the desk clerk that morning wasn't very personable. Since I knew I was going to write a piece about the hotel and its history, I asked if there was another copy of the laminated history that had been in our room. I didn't want to steal the room copy, so I figured that the front desk could supply me with one--or, at least, make a photocopy of an existing one. When I inquired about the history sheet, the desk clerk just looked at me and uttered a quick, "No, I don't think we have those." She didn't offer to call housekeeping, make a copy, or print out another one. It wasn't that big of a deal since I'd made a few notes, but I would've expected a bit more effort on her part to ensure that there wasn't an extra sheet to give out to someone interested in it. 

Other than that one small (and really, in the whole scheme of things, insignificant) exchange, the staff was more than helpful throughout our stay. 

The Dunhill Hotel, Charlotte, North Carolina: A Hotel Review | CosmosMariners.com

While the hotel doesn't have a pool or gym, it does have plenty of touches to make you feel welcome during your stay. Nibble on a few of the complimentary cookies every afternoon, or mix with the other guests during the wine social every Wednesday evening. I liked that there was a complimentary shuttle available to guests; we didn't use it since I wanted to get out and walk around Uptown, but this is a great option for guests who are in a hurry!

The Asbury, the onsite restaurant, is absolutely worth a visit during your time at the Dunhill--so much so that my experience there will get its own post later. If you'd rather eat in your room, the room service comes out of the same kitchen, so you don't have to eat another of those dry burgers that usually comes off the room service menu.

The Dunhill Hotel, Charlotte, North Carolina: A Hotel Review | CosmosMariners.com

We didn't get to use them, but the hotel also has several meeting rooms available for corporate functions. I think the hotel would be such a pretty place to have a reception or meeting!

Final Thoughts:
I'd definitely stay here again! Not only was the location perfect, the room was incredibly nice. I also liked all of the little extras that came with my stay including the complimentary water, the turndown service, and the fluffy white robes in the bathroom.

Book a stay at the Dunhill Hotel here.

If you're interested in my experiences in another Historic Hotel of America, check out my stay at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel on Jekyll Island, Georgia. 

Have you stayed in a historic hotel? What was your experience like? Have you been Charlotte lately?

Disclaimer: The Dunhill provided one complimentary night's stay; I paid for a second night in the same room. All opinions are my own. This post also contains affiliate links. If you use them to book a stay, I'll receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.