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Day Trip to Ellijay, Georgia

TravelKat RainwaterComment

I might be in denial but I swear there seems to be a touch of fall in the air, which makes me really happy because I love this time of year! Don’t get me wrong, I love summer but once vacation is over I’m ready for mountain weekends, boiled peanuts, pumpkins, holidays, Christmas music… (The list goes on and on!) My family has a cabin at Big Canoe (located in Jasper, GA) and every year family and friends head up there to make the most of the season. Cason, mom, and I always drive over for a day trip Ellijay and it makes for the perfect fall day. Here’s a list of some of our favorites things to do!

[ apple picking ]

Picking apples is a MUST! You would not believe the traffic to get into all of the different orchards. Some of my personal favorites are Hillcrest Orchards and Panorama Orchards. Panorama makes apple cinnamon doughnuts that will make you fight someone for the last box and Hillcrest has the BEST caramel apples. They’re geniuses who cut the apple, place it in a bowl, and then fill it with caramel. This prevents you from looking like a crazy person trying to bite into an entire apple and get caramel all over your face. (Don’t act like this hasn’t happened to you.) Of course you don’t want to forget the reason you came…Apples! My personal favorites are Granny Smith, Arkansas Black, and Mutzu.

[ antique shopping ]

When you are on the square there are so many stores within walking distance that you don’t have to look too hard to find a place to start. They’re always fun to browse through…you never know what you’re going to find!

[ fun lunch spot ]

Cantaberry Restaurant was the perfect find for our lunch in Ellijay. Their motto sums it up to a tee…Simple, Homemade, Good. It’s a small restaurant that is known for its homemade soups and sandwiches. The chicken and wild rice soup is mind blowing. If you are in Ellijay and you don’t go here, I will judge you…seriously. We loved the soup so much we tried to make our own version…it’s good but there’s is still better.

Everyone needs to add Ellijay to their fall bucket list. Whether you’re in Atlanta or happen to be near North Georgia, it’s totally worth the drive!

St. Simons Island Travel Guide

TravelCason RainwaterComment

I’ve been so lucky this summer to have plenty of excuses to head to the beach. One beach town I got reacquainted with this summer was St. Simons Island. My cousin got married there in April, we visited one of my mom’s best friends in June (aka: my fairy godmother, you should get one!), and my aunt and uncle invited us to tag along on their family vacation in July. I was so spoiled this summer that next summer might be a rude awakening. My family always spent a week down on SSI growing up but switched over to Destin when I was in high school. Destin became the “cool” place to go but I’ll be honest with you – the older I get, the more I prefer the older, quiet beach towns over the crowded mega beaches like Destin. I haven’t been to St. Simons in probably 10 years, but I promise you it won’t be another 10 years before I go back! (Plug your ears Hilton Head.) It might be my new favorite beach spot. Here are my favorite places to dine, stay, and shop in St. Simons.

[ where to EAT on St. Simons Island ]

Crab Trap | Some of my earliest memories of the beach include eating at the Crab Trap and being fascinated with the hole in the center of the table. (Genius!) It’s always crowded but it’s always delicious. Order: fried shrimp or crab legs. Or both. You’re on vacation!

[ outside of Crab Trap ]

Georgia Sea Grill | It’s a little bit fancier if you’re looking for something less touristy. Everyone I was with loved their meal. Be sure to make a reservation for this one. Order: crab cakes and a cocktail.

Palmer’s Village Cafe | Kat and I snuck away for lunch one day and found ourselves at Palmer’s based off of Yelp reviews. You must go! This TINY restaurant is located in the popular Pier Village so be prepared for a wait. Order: The pimento cheese sandwich and key lime pie. Their key lime pie has sort of a creme brûlée vibe going on and I loved every bite.

Southern Soul Barbeque | I don’t claim to be a “meat connoisseur” like some people in my life, but this was hands-down some of the best BBQ I’ve ever eaten. Maybe THE best. It was packed every single time we drove past it so you know it’s good. Order: pulled pork and Brunswick stew.

Sandcastle | Also located in Pier Village, we stopped here for the famous breakfast buffet one morning. It’s supposed to be a local favorite. I’m normally kind of weird about buffets. Like…how long has this been out? How many people in this restaurant have breathed on this? I won’t lie. Not only was it cheap, it was incredible. This place was so busy that the food was constantly being replenished so everything was super fresh. If this picky buffet eater liked it, I know you will! Order: breakfast buffet and french toast.

I didn’t get to try everywhere I wanted to but I do have some honorable mentions based off of local recommendations and word of mouth. Honorable mentions: Crabdaddy’s, The Half Shell, and Barbara Jean’s (crab cakes and chocolate “stuff” are famous at Barbara Jean’s).

[ what to DO other than beach ]

Pier Village | This is kind of the heart of St. Simon’s Island. You’ll find everything here from shopping and dining to the beautiful pier and lighthouse. You’ll also find playgrounds and picnic areas here. This is a just a fun strip to stroll down one afternoon. My favorite places to shop in Pier Village are Dutchmans (DIE!) and Tonya’s.

Golden Isle’s Olive Oil | Located in Redfern Village, this shop has tons of olive oil and herb selections. Be sure to pick up a bottle of their herbs de Provence infused olive oil and a bag of Tuscan Farmhouse herb blend.  Pair it with a fresh loaf of Artisan bread and you’ve got just about the best appetizer I’ve ever had.

Two Friends | I’m a total sucker for little boutiques like this. What I loved about Two Friends is that they had clothes, jewelry, and home decor that I had never seen before! Sometimes small boutiques all run together and seem to all have the same stuff. (i.e. Vera Bradley, Simply Southern, and monograms, monograms, and more monograms.) As much as I love those things, I love unique finds that I haven’t seen in a million other stores even better.

[ where to STAY on St. Simons Island ]

The King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort | We stayed here for my cousin’s wedding and it did not disappoint! Located directly on the Atlantic Ocean, it’s part of the Southern Living Hotel Collection so you know the bar has been set high. The pool area, including the beach side restaurant, ECHO, were fabulous. We also loved how close the resort was to some of our favorite restaurants on the Island. You can easily walk to the Crab Trap and Crabdaddy’s.

Hodnett Cooper Vacation Rentals | I got to experience two different Hodnett Cooper properties this summer and both of them were OUTSTANDING. Both properties were decorated beautifully and I honestly wouldn’t look any further if you are interested in a rental property.

My cousin’s family rented this property for the week of her wedding. My mom threw the bridal luncheon here and it was perfect for the occasion.

My aunt and uncle rented this property right on the beach from Hodnett Cooper. Umm…location, location, location!

[ OUR VIEW! ]

[ some family beach pics ]

Sea Island | My fairy godmother has friends in high places so we got to experience Sea Island for a day. If you’re ready to splurge on pure luxury, this is it. Mom told us it was a big deal to even get past the front gate, so Kat and I hit up the gift shop like it was Christmas morning. (What? I’m not proud of it.)

Wow…SSI overload for you this Tuesday morning! Have any questions? Feel free to shoot me an email at hello [at] whenitrainspaper.com. Until next time…

Nashville Getaway

TravelCason RainwaterComment

This past weekend, Kat and I were able to dust off our cowboy boots and get away with great friends to music city. NASHVILLE! It’s one of our absolute favorite southern cities to spend a long weekend with girlfriends. Is there anything better than eating great food, listening to good music, and dancing all night with your girls?! Check out our weekend full of southern food and country music!

[ what we DID ]

Y’all already know my love of the Zac Brown Band knows no bounds. I could follow them anywhere! (And sometimes it seems like I do. But I promise I don’t!) When we found out ZBB was starting their brand spanking new tour in Nashville, over our good friend Holly’s birthday weekend, we just knew it wasn’t an option. We had to go. ZBB pulled out all the stops for their first show including special guests Kid Rock and Jewel! Bridgestone Arena has an awesome location right in downtown Nashville. If you’re on a concert high when it’s over, simply walk outside and stroll down Broadway. You’ll find dozens of famous bars and saloons like Tootsies right across the street!

We drove out to the legendary Bluebird Cafe on Saturday. We were too late to snag one of the coveted tables for the night, but that didn’t stop us from having a photo shoot outside! All four of us are Nashville (the TV show) lovers so we were fangirling at the location of many Rayna James and Deacon Claybourne duets! (Yes, I know it’s legendary for ACTUAL songwriters and music too.) The doors open at 5:30pm so if you don’t have a reservation, I’d recommend arriving no later than 5pm to get in line.

[ where to EAT ]

HUSK | We’ve dined at HUSK in Charleston and it didn’t disappoint. When we saw a location in Nashville, we knew we couldn’t go wrong here! Their motto is “If it doesn’t come from the South, it’s not coming through the door.” ORDER: HUSK Cheeseburger and the HUSK Fried Chicken with secret spices. My mouth didn’t recover for a few hours but it was totally worth it! They also have a great brunch on the weekends.

Hattie B’s Hot Chicken | Any true Nashvillian can tell you that hot chicken is ALL THE RAGE there and this is one of the best places to get it. It’s basically fried chicken that has been covered in a paste or sauce usually containing cayenne pepper. The heat levels at Hattie B’s range from Southern (no heat), Mild, Medium, Hot, Damn Hot, and Shut the Cluck Up. (Go ahead and check out #shutthecluckup on Instagram!) It’s a quick service restaurant so it’s perfect for grabbing a bite before a concert. ORDER (besides hot chicken): Pimento Mac & Cheese and Banana Pudding.

The Southern Steak & Oyster | When researching Nashville restaurants, The Southern popped up on every list so we made reservations ASAP. The name says it all. They offer a “southern adventure with a twist.” Honestly, it didn’t seem like you could go wrong with any of the meals here. ORDER: Devil of an Egg, The Belle (8 oz. filet), Braised Beef Brisket, and Chicken Fried Chicken. If you’re going at night, I would definitely recommend making a reservation.

The Farm House | The Farm House is from the same chef and entrepreneur that brought us Cantina Laredo and Capitol Grille. Much like all of our other picks, the focus here was southern food of course, but with a modern spin on it. For example, Pimento Cheese Beignets and Pork Belly Poptarts. (Yeah, I said Poptarts.) The best looking dishes on the menu were small plates so the four of us split 5 different small plates. It was plenty of food and all of them were incredible! ORDER: Sangria, Pimento Cheese Beignet, Cornbread, Twice Baked Potatoes, Pork Belly Poptarts, and Broccoli. Another restaurant that I would recommend making a reservation at.

The Loveless Cafe | The famous Loveless Cafe has been around for more than 60 years and there is nothing fancy or frou frou about it – just good southern comfort food! You really feel like you’re going back in time while you’re here. It’s about a 20 minute drive outside of Nashville but completely worth it. I’ve been to Loveless twice now with my girlfriends and the first thing we do is walk to the “Hams and Jams” store to buy a glass bottle Coke! The wait is almost ALWAYS 2+ hours so we usually walk around the grounds, take some pics, and play a round of cornhole. ORDER: Bloody Mary, Country Fried Steak, Fried Chicken, Homemade Cream Corn, Mac & Cheese, and Fried Okra. You’ll get a plate of hot biscuits at your table with several of their homemade jams and preserves…omg.

[ where to STAY ]

As a tourist, it just depends on what you’re planning on doing while in town as far as your best location. Almost everything we wanted to do was in the heart of downtown so we stayed at the Renaissance Nashville. Location was EVERYTHING for us. It’s literally right across the street from Bridgestone Arena and around the block from Broadway nightlife. Other landmarks within walking distance include the famous Ryman Auditorium, B.B. King’s Blues Club, and the Country Music Hall of Fame. All of the rooms have been recently renovated and we loved the view of downtown Nashville from our 18th floor room. The Starbucks in the lobby was the icing on the cake!

We had such a good time we may or may not have made a pact to come back once a year. Happy Birthday Holly! Thanks for picking such an awesome city to celebrate!

Barcelona, Spain City Guide

TravelCason RainwaterComment

We took you to London and we took you to Paris but as promised, the tour-de-Europe continues. Honestly, Spain wasn’t really high on my list because I didn’t know much about it. To catch you up, Kat and I spent a week with Joanna in London and Paris but we still had tons of Europe left to see! We were meeting up with my mom and her good friend (our Fairy Godmother) in Barcelona so that we could board a Mediterranean-bound cruise. If the cruise hadn’t been leaving from Barcelona, I don’t know if I would have stopped in Spain but I’m so glad we did! The food might have been my favorite over any other stop in Europe. If you’re headed to the city of tapas, bullfighting, and siestas, then this post is just what you need!

Kat and I took an overnight train from Paris to Barcelona. We took the Elipsos “hotel train” and even though the room was small, it was actually quite convenient to go to bed in France and wake up in Spain!

[ TO-DO ]

Las Ramblas | Yes, SO touristy but how often are you in Barcelona? This beautiful outdoor promenade is lined with cafes, local artists, trendy boutiques, souvenir shops, and fruit stands. I’ll be honest with you, avoid eating at the restaurants on this street. They are tourist traps and nothing special at all but strolling down this tree-lined street is a must-see.

TIP: Pickpocketing in this area is out of control. I literally didn’t take my hands off my crossbody and I’d recommend you do the same.

La Sagrada Familia | This is a large Roman Catholic church which is designed by famous architect Anton Gaudi. I’ll never be able to fully describe the magnitude of this structure and my pictures won’t do it justice. To help give you an idea of the complexity and size, building commenced in 1882 and the anticipated completion date is 2026. Y’all that’s almost 150 years. Do check out the gift shop at the end. We bought the most unique mugs and vases that were designed to look like Gaudi’s work.

TIP: The line to get tickets was approximately 4 HOURS long and wrapped around the block twice. I did some quick thinking and pulled up their website on my phone and bought tickets. We were able to get out of line and walk straight to the front. If this is a stop on your trip, buy your tickets in advance!

Barcelona City Tour | This was a double-decker tour bus so again, I know it is so touristy, but we basically used this as our method of transportation for 2 days. We could hop off at the stops we were interested in, stay as long as we like, then hop on board the next bus that came around. We were able to pop in our headphones and hear about the landmarks we drove past.

Gaudi Architecture | You HAVE to check out the unique and fascinating work of Anton Gaudi. You know those drip castles you make at the beach using really wet sand? Some of his work reminds me of that. I’ve never seen anything like it. You can find almost everything on the Barcelona City Tour mentioned above including La Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell, and La Pedrera.

Picasso Museum | Pablo Picasso spent many of his key years in Barcelona so you can’t miss the Museu Picasso that houses much of his work.

[ TO EAT ]

Bar Lobo | Hands-down the best meal we ate not only in Spain, but maybe all of Europe! We liked it so much we went back after we got off the boat at the end of our trip. Located a block off of Las Ramblas, this tapas restaurant will not disappoint. ORDER: Patatas Bravas, Guacamole, Chicken Fajitas, and Lemon Pie. After eating, be sure to roam around the small boutiques in this area. I’ll never be able to remember the names but we found the motherload of souvenirs in this area!

7 Portes | THE BEST paella and sangria. Need I say more? Just make sure you have a reservation. ORDER: Rich Man’s Paella (chicken, pork, sausage, lobster, and prawns) and red wine sangria.

[ TO STAY ]

Hotel 1898 | I still daydream about this hotel. It’s my most favorite hotel stay of all time! It’s centrally located right on Las Ramblas AND right around the corner from Bar Lobo. There are a million reasons why this hotel is rated #12 out of 500 hotels in Barcelona on TripAdvisor. The rooms were incredible, the decor was exquisite, and the lobby smelled like heaven. We splurged on a deluxe room with a private terrace and loved every second of it. Nothing makes you feel more luxurious than having breakfast or napping on your private terrace in Spain! The rooftop is one of the highlights of this hotel. With panoramic views, a rooftop pool, and bar, you really can’t go wrong with 1898.

Last, but definitely not least, don’t forget to check out my favorite travel apps before jumping the pond. If we all lived in Barcelona we could take an afternoon siesta on this rainy Monday. Hasta la vista…

Christmas in NYC

TravelCason RainwaterComment

Happy New Year! I hope you all are recovering from the holiday madness like I am. As a retail business owner, the holiday shopping rush can get pretty overwhelming. Kat and I are thankful to have a normal bedtime again! We celebrated a successful holiday season by ringing in the new year in NYC with our mom. We took our first trip to the Big Apple several years ago and had every single minute planned out. We were total tourists and did it all – The Empire State Building, the MoMA, NBC Studio Tour, Statue of Liberty, Chelsea Market, Ground Zero, and Grand Central Terminal. We saw the Rockettes, we made a poster for The Today Show, we rang in the new year in Time Square, we saw Wicked and Mamma Mia on Broadway – I mean everything!

All that to say….this trip was TOTALLY different. We did a lot more relaxing, strolling, and just enjoying the city. At one point we literally just people watched in Central Park for a couple of hours. (I could do this at CVS and be completely entertained!) I was lucky to have enough travel points to swing the Ritz Carlton Central Park for our trip. To say it was incredible is the understatement of the year. My points now have a zero balance but it was totally worth it!

NYC3.jpg
NYC2.jpg

One of the only touristy things we did was the 911 Memorial and Museum. Y’all, if you find yourself in NYC, GO. This was the most incredibly heartbreaking collection of artifacts, stories, and tributes to the horrific events that unfolded on September 11th, 2001. As a senior in high school, I still remember exactly where I was when the news broke. I felt like I had a good grasp of what happened that day but this memorial took my understanding to a completely different level. Photos, voicemails, and firsthand accounts make the stories so much more real. I walked around for hours with that tight feeling in my throat holding back tears. While I left devastated, I also left with a sense of sincere respect for the victims, first responders, and the entire Manhattan community.

NYC8.jpg

This is the survivors’ staircase which was the last remaining structure above ground at the World Trade Center. This staircase was the only escape route for hundreds of people.

I won’t make a list of what to do in New York City. If I did, it would kind of be a “duh” list. On to the good stuff anyway…the FOOD. Big shout out to my cousin who lives in NYC who gave me some of these restaurant recomendations!

[ TO EAT ]

The Odeon | Make a reservation for brunch! ORDER: French toast, Eggs Benedict, and warm doughnuts. Order all 3 and share them – just trust me.

Gramercy Tavern | The only restaurant we had to visit again! They don’t take reservations for the front dining room so the wait is almost always 2 hours. Worth it! There are several other restaurants and bars in the area so we gave the host our phone number and enjoyed a glass of wine at a neighboring restaurant. We ordered the tasting menu at Gramercy and loved it.

The Plaza Food Hall | Basically an upscale food court but it was so convenient to our hotel. Located underneath the Plaza hotel, you can get anything from sushi to cupcakes here.

Magnolia Bakery | Kind of a NYC cupcake staple! I didn’t try it but apparently the banana pudding is to die for. I only know this because there was a line wrapped around the building when we went. An employee came out and shouted that the banana pudding was out and literally half the line left. It must be good!

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse | You can literally see Radio City Music Hall from this restaurant so we made reservations here the night we went to see the Rockettes. It was a little bit of a splurge but probably my most favorite meal of the trip! ORDER: crabcake appetizer, filet mignon, and potatoes au gratin.

Tavern on the Green | Yes, it’s a total Central Park tourist trap but we loved it! We ordered cocktails before noon and didn’t hate it.

Shake Shack | Yes, we have one here in Atlanta now buuuut still. Duh.

Laduree | In the words of Edward Cullen, these macarons are my own personal brand of heroin. I fell in love with Laduree macarons in Paris a couple summers ago and I’ve literally been daydreaming about them ever since. When I heard this heavenly brand was opening a location on the upper east side, I couldn’t get there fast enough! ORDER: candied strawberry macarons (my fave) and vanilla macarons (Kat’s fave).

Eataly | This is like a high-end Italian food market. Holy moly, just find the paninis and focaccia sandwiches. Find them like your life depends on it.

[ TIPS ]

HopStop | We love using the subway in NYC. Spend $30 on a 7-day unlimited pass and that’s it for transportation! I’d definitely recommend downloading the HopStop app before you go. This handy little app will be your best friend underground! MARTA is a total joke compared the subway system in New York. (Honestly, I guess MARTA is a total joke in all scenarios.)

UPDATED: HopStop no longer exists. BUMMER. You can now use the GoogleMaps app for transit directions. It takes some getting used to after the ease of HopStop but it will do the job. 

TKTS | This is where you can get up to 50% off same-day unsold Broadway seats. They have a couple kiosks but we always use the Time Square kiosk. TKTS has been around for awhile, but what we found super helpful this trip was the TKTS app. The app lists all current available shows so you don’t have to make the trek to Time Square unless they have tickets you want!

911 Memorial | Definitely buy your tickets online in advance so that you can select the day/time you want to visit. We made the mistake of just showing up and couldn’t get in for several hours.

What? You don’t have family selfie sessions in the bathroom?

I like to pretend I was a travel agent in another life, so if you’re planning a trip to the city that never sleeps and have any other questions, shoot me an email at hello [at] sitwithusblog.com!