B-Day Part 5: Hardy House & Manchester Ruins

30 08 2017

I’m overdue with this final b-day post after spending a week in Pennsylvania (which means more travel posts in the not too distant future!) and then facing the nightmare that is work after missing a week. But…here we are!

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On our way home, we stopped outside of Atlanta near Sweetwater Creek to visit the Manchester Mills ruins. I do love me some old ruins!

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This is also where they filmed a few minutes of one of the last Hunger Games movies…there’s a short scene right at the ruins.

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It’s fantastic to look at, but they do have  fence surrounding it. Frustrating! Also I’m not sure if there are paths or not on the other side of the water (we only had 1 hour there, so not much time to explore). If so, you might be able to get some good reviews of it with the water in front of it.

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We did try to walk around it, and ultimately tried going out on the river rocks, but firstly we weren’t dressed for that, and secondly the river curves away so even if you’re standing out there, I don’t think you can see a lot.

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It’s still a beautiful park even without the ruins….lots of people hiking, bringing their dogs. Peaceful place.

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I just realized I’m doing this post out of chronological order, because we saw the ruins last, and this next part we actually saw back on Lookout Mountain. One evening we had a short amount of daylight left so decided to follow the signs to Cravens House, thinking everything would probably be closed. The house was, but the park itself is open (even at near-twilight), so we could park and walk around. Great place to look down over the city itself. Also, as we started down a path, there’s a really cool old, abandoned house:

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(Sorry for the pic quality here; all I had was my cell phone.) Initially we saw what looked like an abandoned garage, but looking to the left we could see a house behind a fence (with some stone built in – how awesome!).

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I LOVE abandoned old places, and if urbex wasn’t basically illegal (“no trespassing”), I would totally do it. So I wasn’t going to try going in the house, but I wanted to get a closer look.

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Beautiful! Later on I did some research and found out that this is the “Hardy Home,” former home of Richard Hardy (who was mayor of Chattanooga at some point). Couldn’t find a year it was built, but looks like he lived there for some time between 1910-1927. Can’t believe this is just sitting there! Not sure what the park service will do with it, but sadly there looks like some talk of tearing it down.

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It has so much character. Look at this rock/stone storage thing! It’s creepy and cute all at once. Here’s a closer look:

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So neat how they built stuff into the natural landscape.

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Still has an old bird fountain..

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…and another cool/creepy storage thing…We walked around and tried to see the front of the house, but can’t see too well as that area’s gated. Here are the stairs up to the front:

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The base of the stairs feeds into an empty old road – I think some people use it as a hiking path.

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Of all the times not to bring my real camera! Anyway, happy birthday to me – was a great trip all around. Now somehow in between work and more trips, I want to get some new art content on this site (not to mention some Pennsylvania “dark sky park” photos!)


B-Day Part 1: Rock City and Fairyland Caverns

25 07 2017

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For the past 3 – 4 years, I’ve made a point to take some time off at my birthday in May and go somewhere fun. This year it was a blast from the past – visiting a place I last saw at age 4: Rock City on Lookout Mountain! Lookout Mountain shares land with both Georgia and Tennessee and is basically right on the edge of Chattanooga.

Rock City was beyond amazing – not a single picture I took begins to do it justice.

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We got there on a Friday close after opening – which I would recommend. It’s great to have it mostly to yourself before the crowds show up.

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At first it was overcast, and the early morning + height and scope of the huge rocks kept in the cool. Everything had a misty, dewey feel.

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The path works its way around and through rocks, taking you up on outcroppings, under and through narrow passageways… it feels like an adventure.

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Look at the scope! Did not have a proper lens for capturing it. What I don’t show here but did take pics of are the cute labels they have for rock formations like “Mushroom Rock” or the little gnomes set up in random places.

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The few animals were a surprise. A couple deer reside here in an enclosure, and wild chipmunks run around everywhere, usually too quickly to get a decent shot, but I did try:

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The waterfall under Lover’s Leap has a couple great “selfie” spots and a rainbow wall (with glass windows in each color of the rainbow) that you can walk behind. Only got cell phone shots there, and they weren’t great.

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At the top-most area is the lookout over 7 states at once. It’s actually a big area with viewing binoculars and a café.  You then make your way down through more bridges and cavern-like areas with cute names:

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My childhood memories revolved around a part of Rock City called Fairyland Caverns, which you wander into near the end of the path:

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It’s definitely a hold over from decades past (mostly the 30s) when these kind of attractions (specifically the dark park and walk through sites) were big. Well, I still thought it was awesome.

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First, the entrance is decked out in all these crystals (see the one peeking out under the plants above?), and the ceiling is embedded with coral.

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You descend down into the cavern which becomes super dark except for little scenes embedded in the walls of gnome life:

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Above, green light illuminates the path behind us. Then finally you get to the main area with fairy tales depicted in individual cave windows. I took a picture for each but will only show a few here.

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Little Red Riding Hood…and Cinderella:

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My favorite was Snow White:

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It concludes in a large room with a huge castle and other fairy tale characters surrounding it.

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Looking back, I wish I’d taken different lenses because the whole attraction was amazing and so different than anything you see anywhere else. Would def recommend. Even better, you can buy joint tickets to Ruby Falls which is practically right around the corner, and coming up next!

Savannah in Spring

28 04 2016

Piggybacking off my last post about Pie Society, that might have been our reason for visiting Savannah, but it wasn’t the only attraction. We turned it into a lovely day trip, just in time for the green fountains a few days before St. Patty’s.


Hard to see the green…this one’s better:


Festive! And so many flowers in bloom:


We spent some time at first in the Pie Society area (City Market), walking around to see shops, art galleries, and most importantly, treat shops:



This one was making fresh praline and giving out samples of it. Of course we were easily coaxed into buying some.


Outside it was beautiful with lots to see. Check out this underground bar!


Then we stumbled on Byrd Cookies. Lots of variations of little, round, crunchy cookies. Got some oatmeal for my co-worker since she raved about them, and the guy in the store said they’re the classic ones and a favorite of locals.


After Byrd’s, we saw another fountain and then went for lunch (afternoon tea really) at my favorite place, The Gryphon. I’ve written about it previously here.


Just as gorgeous as ever.


And just as unique.




It was a pharmacy at one point, as you can see from the old “tablet” drawers above.



I love afternoon tea. Cute + delicious, it looks like there’s not enough there, because it’s all small bites, but we were stuffed by the end. I started from the bottom tier and worked my way up.




I’m hungry again just looking at these pics! After lunch, we wandered back to our car, parked on the street. Just so happened it was parked in front of an old house doing tours for only $10/person.


It turned out to be the Frances Sorrel house, built in the 1800s. The house has been through a lot; in the 1990s someone bought it and started refurbishing it, but not necessarily in a way accurate to the period, so it’s a mix of unfinished, old school, weird 90s stuff, and in-progress.

This piece below was original, and really beautiful:


And check out this ornate mirror:


This next pic really shows how much the house has changed over time.


They had gone underneath the current wall covering and found this – battered but original paint designed to look like relief. The tour guide was using her phone as a light so everyone could see.

The tour includes the main floor (sort of the like second floor), the basement level, and the outdoor back courtyard. They don’t yet let people onto the upper floor with the bedrooms.


The bottom floor of the house was a department store at one time; now it’s mostly barren brick. Once part of it was also used by a doctor as an operating room. Lots of ghost stories (they do a night tour as well.)


The courtyard in back of the house is a good way to see what a work in progress the place is.

Our guide pointed out that the brick on the ground had thumbprints in places:


The story is that slaves at the time (early 1800s) would make these bricks and these prints were made by the brickmakers. They also have a 2 story building out back, that I didn’t really get good pictures of, where the slaves lived. In the upstairs, it was just one big room where everyone lived. A terrible part of history, but one that’s important to remember.

Here’re steps down to a basement area in that building. Didn’t ask what was housed there, but the courtyard at the time was for horses/chickens, so maybe it was related to that?


And one last shot of the juxtaposition of old and new:


If you’re ever in Savannah, get some British pies, some afternoon tea, and walk around the place. So many old houses like this one to explore, as well as more modern shops/restaurants.

Pie Society

21 04 2016

Hello, World! I apologize for my absence. Just got over some of the craziest weeks of my life, and if I wasn’t taking this afternoon off work, I probably wouldn’t have had time to blog for another week or so. Anyway, onto a more important thing: PIE!


And not just any pie. I’m talking about British pie. Specifically, Pie Society pie! As Americans, most of us think of pie as that fruit filled dessert you eat at a summer picnic or during Thanksgiving. Apple pie, cherry pie, pumpkin. Good stuff. But in England they have savory pies too. In my trip to England in 2013, I fell in love with Cornwall and, in particular, the Cornish pasty, a savory pie shaped kind of like a calzone. I have been craving one ever since. Like, seriously! I tried to make them once, but it just wasn’t the same.


Enter Pie Society in Savannah, Georgia. They have another location about 15 minutes north of Savannah in Pooler, GA, which is the original. It’s run by actual British people, so you know the pies are legit. I came in with high expectations.


It’s a small place – a counter to order at, a few tables to sit at and bar style seating at the window, and cute decorations.



I’d read online that you need to get there early in the day, because options sell out quickly. Driving from Jacksonville, we made it by 11 a.m. which was a bit on the late side. There were a constant stream of people in/out, some of them having ordered in advance, which I think is a good idea if you want something specific. Not everything on the menu, below, is available at once.



Luckily, they still had what I was going for: Cornish pasty! In England, I’d had one with potato, onion, and cheese. Traditionally, the standard pasty has ground beef in it. Pie Society’s pasties have ground beef, but they have a breakfast pasty that looks a little different but comes with the potato + cheese combo. There was only 1 left!


Oh, yes. Very beautiful. And inside, the perfect filling, warm and cheesy with herbs too:


So rich and tasty! Exactly what I’d been craving! Also tried a scone, complete with cream and jam:


Gotta say though, the savory stuff is where it’s at. We brought a cooler especially for the trip and took some things home for dinner.


By 11 a.m., they were already out of a lot. Very popular! But shortly after, someone brought some freshly put together pies to bake:


Trays of unbaked, future tastiness. Yum! Anyway, we took home 3 things.

The first night, we baked (well, heated up – they were already cooked) the Cauliflower Broccoli Bake:


(Which was delicious…though I failed to take a pic of the inside) and a Chicken and Thyme pie, which I completely failed to get a pic of! Must have been too hungry. It was amazing, I can tell you that. And very filling.

Then we got 2 Cornish Pasties for the next night, one for each of us. They are huge!


So good!


I realize the lighting isn’t so appetizing looking in that last pic, but it really was good. Beef, some onion I think, peas, and a few carrots. Mostly meat and sauce, but soooo lovely. We stopped by Pooler as well to pick up some sausage rolls, but I only took phone pics. If you are in the area, please try this place! You won’t regret it.


Tea at The Gryphon

1 09 2014

Exactly 1 year ago today, I was in England and had nearly reached London coming from Portsmouth. The next day we finally had tea (in Selfridges, see here), but I never got to try full afternoon tea in England. Been sort of obsessed with finding it for the past few weeks. Sadly, Jacksonville only has 2 tea places, one of which has great food but isn’t exactly traditional. Then I found The Gryphon.

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I visited Savannah, Georgia yesterday where The Gryphon Tea Room is located right across from the art college’s (SCAD’s) student shop. It used to be a Pharmacy at the turn of the century.

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On Sundays they’re open from 11 – 3. We arrived at 2. I was worried it would be on the late side but ended up being perfect (minus a few items being off the menu since they’d had a crowd that day); we got one of the best tables.

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Parking is hard – we found a lot that was free on weekends, though conveniently it didn’t say that anywhere. We only found out when someone told us after fumbling at the credit-only pay machine for 5 minutes.

mortar and pestle

mortar and pestle

books everywhere...

books everywhere…



The stained glass over the chandelier/lamp is so beautiful; what a centerpiece!

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The entire place is just as eye-catching. It has an old world ornateness that you almost never see this far into the south.

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Their afternoon tea is $18 per person. They had maybe 8 kinds of tea to choose from. I choose one with orange and berry tones – called a something Autumn. Don’t remember exactly.

cell phone picture, blah, but you get the idea

cell phone picture, blah, but you get the idea

The tea set-up, above,  before food arrives…

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What I’ve been waiting for! A 3-tiered vision of yumminess.

cream and jam for the scone

cream and jam for the scone

The cream was amazing – tasted like clotted cream, just like a whipped sweet butter.

cranberry scone

cranberry scone

The scone tasted fresh and was perfect with the cream and jam…though I prefer just cream.

Tea sandwich!

Tea sandwich!

2 of these (above) were cucumber; the other 2 were chicken salad.

1 of 4 little desserts

1 of 4 little desserts

I thought this dessert was a macaron at first, but it wasn’t really. It was a denser poppyseed cookie with strawberry icing in the middle. Very good! The others were a sort of shortbread cookie with a thin layer of jam in the middle, a chocolate cup with a melty caramel, and a rich chocolate mousse cup topped with a raspberry.

The bill comes inside of an old book rather than a billfold.

The bill comes inside of an old book rather than a standard black billfold thing.

I can’t get over how gorgeous the entire room was:

one of 2 couch-type areas above the rest of the seating

one of 2 couch-type areas above the rest of the seating

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This was the main event, but we did walk around the rest of Savannah. It’s very old south, old Georgia. Oglethorpe is everywhere.






I really enjoyed The Gryphon and would recommend it to anyone. They have brunch as well on Sundays, which I’ve heard is delicious. 🙂

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