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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Elisse & Dan's Excellent Adventure! Part One: Savannah

We just got back! Refreshed, re-energized, and ready for the 8th season at the Elkhorn Inn!

It all happened rather suddenly: we found a wonderful Inn-&-Puppy-&-Kitty-sitter who could take care of the Inn for 2 weeks in Feb. (Saint Terry), & so Elisse (me) began Tweeting franticallywith @CaribbeanJim from http://www.cheapcaribbean.com/, & the next thing you know we'd booked a Royal Caribbean cruise! Take note: Dan & I NEVER- and I do mean NEVER- considered ourself  "cruisers". My idea of a fun a cruise is a week (or 6) on a US Coast Guard Cutter doing paintings for the USCG art collection, and Dan, who's US Army Ret., has worked on too many Army & other ships to count- plus a couple of sailboats & other amphib vehicles- but for him it wan't much fun, & "going to sea" had lost its allure... I, on the other hand, Do love being at sea; In addition to my time as an Official USCG Artist on the USCGC Penobscot Bay, Sturgeon Bay & other cutters, I'd spent 2 1/2 months on the Visevica, a Yugolinia freight ship transporting paper pulp, back in 1978 (when there was a Yugolslavia...) and loved it. I also took a week-long "cruise" from Venice to Haifa in 1975 (on a student ticket in an el-cheapo 6-berth cabin), but I spent the week sleeping in a life boat as my cabin mates were eating beans out of a tin in the room all week, & my white jacket wound up speckled with black burn holes as the ship's smokestack was right above the tiny swimming pool! To Dan & I, "cruising" implied all sorts of things that didn't appeal: mediocre food, party-hearty singles on a drunken hook-up spree, paunchy, high-rolling casino-habitues, or fat, old people in white shoes & polyester Leisure Wear getting their photos snapped doing stupid stuff while laden down with shopping bags full of silly trinkets...
OK, we were wrong.
Or we've become the people we used to make fun of. :-D
But either way WE HAD A TOTAL BLAST, and I haven't seen Dan smile like this since we were in Vietnam iin 2008! Crusing is as far from reality as you can get and still be on Planet Earth, and I TOTALLY recommend it! When the going gets tough, the tough get a fabulous discount cruise on http://www.cheapcaribbean.com/! LOL
Seriously, http://www.cheapcaribbean.com/ gives GREAT customer service. I spent 8 hours on the phone with them & nearly drove them nuts with my insistance on a holiday where we could smoke and not be made to feel like criminals, and they truly knocked themselves out to accommodate us. I was just about to book a Windham Resort stay in Puerto Rico, where we have a LOT of friends, when I learned that PR has enacted a stupid law that made their resorts totally non-smoking, so that bit the dust. We WILL NOT spend our money to be made to feel like criminals or second-class citizens. Period. Got it, travel guys, government wonks, & CBOs? We've paid our dues & we smoke & drink & eat what we fish & shoot, and we'll take our hard-earned money & go elsewhere- and send our friends & coworkers elsewhere, too. THE Reason Royal Caribbean got our business- we had No idea which cruise line to choose- was that they make smokers welcome. Note that if a cruise line tells its highrollers they can't have a cigar with their $25/shot single malt, they can kiss that business goodbye. Also note that the smoking bars on the ship were the ONLY ones that were full of people, night after night- standing room only! When we ventured into the ship's non-smoking disco, cute as it was, we found it TOTALLY empty! Did we stay, order drinks, spend money? No, of course not. Are you getting it yet, guys, or are you still going to play judgemental, hypocritical games & puritanically try to convert the heathens?
Note that the Elkhorn Inn's guest rooms are all non-smoking, but that we do make smokers (who have turned out to be over 60% of our guests, by the way- many pretending they don't smoke at first...) welcome on our covered front porch and balcony. And we have a fireplace- and it smokes. The lovely, cozy smell of burning logs in the fireplace that our guests rave about is SMOKE. The fabulous aroma of Chef Dan's herb-crusted smoked lambchops, smoked duck, and spice-rubbed smoked ribs that make everyone drool in anticipation for 4 hours is SMOKE.
Also note that EVERYWHERE we went on this trip, including Savannah, GA, New Smyrnah Beach, FL, & St. Augustine, FL- all places heavily dependant on tourism- the ONLY clubs, bars, restaurants, and cafes doing a booming business- actually, any business at ALL- were the SMOKING ones. ALL the other non-smoking wine bars, restaurants, cafes, and clubs- no matter how adorable or chi-chi or special-were closed up by 9p.m. or before, as they were EMPTY. Ditto in Columbus, OH, Charleston, WV, Wichita, KS, and San Diego, CA, where were were last spring. While we eat in non-smoking restarants for lack of choice, we no longer linger for another glass of wine or coffee- in other words we spend a LOT less than we used to. We watched bar after bar go out of business in NYC after the no-smoking law came into effect, while reading lies in the papers about how "great" business was as a result of it! Make me stand in the street  to smoke, and come back to find my purse or coat stolen, my drink gone, and my chair taken, and I PROMISE you that my money & I won't be back. We've paid our dues & work damn hard for a living. Make us feel like a bad people and we'll take our money someplace else.
In our opinion the fanatical anti-smoking obsession is a malicious distraction being used to get people to focus on issues of NO importance and thus ignore those that truly matter to the future of our country- namely our imploding economy, imbalance of trade, lack of jobs, skyrocketing unemployment, & terrorism. We focus on sheer and utter nonsense- smoking, sexual politics, women's uteruses, gay marriage, fur, transfats, and other such idiocy- at our peril. I vividly remember (with nausea) the hypocritical & often nasty "non-smoking" fanatics, whining incessantly about the smoke in NYC restaurants, who'd I'd then run into in the evening puffing away in smoky neighbood bars- or find passed out in the toilet from a little too much blow. Dan was hilariously lectured by one of his Army officers in Vietnam on how "smoking will kill you!" And, for the record: my 87 year old smoking mother has not only outlived all her non-smoking friends and most of her doctors, she's in the Senior Olympics for golf and bowling. Put That in your pipe and smoke it!
And always remember that alcohol kills FAR more people than cigs- but Prohibition was such a dismal failure- making criminals out of most of the country before it was repealed- that it isn't likely to be repeated. There was just WAY too much money in it for it to remain illegal... In other words, kids: Get a Life. Of your own. And quit trying to change other people's. Ditto for religious fanatics. Deal with the REAL stuff, kids!

And now: back to Elisse & Dan's wonderful holiday!

After Saint Terry arrived @the Inn with his tiny puppies, Stella & Lucky, & got settled in with Kitty, Pittie, & Lab, Dan & I began Packing. Since we were driving to meet the boat & not flying, Boo-Boo could take almost every single pair of shoes she owns, & a Totally stupid amoont of clothes and toiletries, and so she did! :-) We packed our old Jeep tighter than a drum, & armed with http://mapquest.com/ directions & our (almost trustworthy) Garmin GPS, we headed for Savannah just in time to miss the next snowstorm headed for Landgraff, WV :-) Dan'd lived in Savannah, and once entertained the idea of buying a bar there (now J.J. Bonerz, where we stopped for a drink); I'd never been able to spend any time there, and we've talked about going to Savannah for years. I booked us 2 nights at the Olde Harbour Inn on the Savannah River waterfront (which offered a great "Inn-Keeper Special" we could take advantage of) and we took off & thawed out on the road! This winter's been a Doozy, & Dan was in a LOT of pain, the freezing cold exacerbating his arthritis & old war wounds. I swear that the minute we were on the road he was a new man- it was like 10 years fell off his face in an instant, and it was a JOY for me to see! Savannah's an 8 hr. drive from the Elkhorn Inn, and we got there in the evening & checked in to our darling little duplex @the Olde Harbour Inn with its tiny balcony overlooking the waterfront & a romantic, skylight-lit loft bed! The service was excellent, and to be honest, that's the reason we decided to stay there. I called a number of the top B-&-Bs in Savannah, but the lovely gal I spoke with when I called the Olde Harbour Inn won me over: she was SO knowledgable & helpful, and even offered to make us dinner reservations at The Olde Pink House! The night we arrived we went out "exploring" the waterfront, wound up at Bernie's Oyster House on the riverfront so Elisse could start her vacation with oysters on the half-shell, and then wandered over to the Bayou Cafe    for great, fun live music, drinks, & a bit of dancing; our vacation had truly begun!

The next day we took a romantic horse-&-carriage ride around Savannah, & I got to see a lot of the beautiful historic buildings and gardens I'd heard Dan talk about; we had a great driver who truly loves his adopted city & had studied its history, which made it a great experience. We had a fine lunch (yummy crab cakes!) at the Bohemian Hotel's art-filled rooftop restaurant overlooking the harbour, strolled about waterfront Savannah dodging the raindrops, and then took a pedicab (driven by one of Savannah's many art students) to the elegant and historic Olde Pink House Restaurant  on Reynold's Square for a truly delicious "Low Country" gourmet dinner! If you're only going to have one great meal in Savannah, this is the place! The food was excellent, the service stellar, and the 18-century, historic ambience wonderful- I am in LOVE with their gorgeous silver landscape mural wallpaper! We had drinks downstairs in their cozy firplace bar, and then went to FABULOUS Club One, where we had a Great time at their drag show! Club One was Great! The audience included tons of students, as well as gay & straight couples, & the shows were terrific fun; we got to see the performances of the glamourous Destiny and Layla Foxx (who's "so Country she bleeds gravy"). Having been told in the past that with my penchant for strapless mermaid gowns, feathers, sequins, & 6" platform heels I have the fashion sensibility of a drag queen, I never thought I'd be jealous of one (since, you know, I can do it myself...), but this lady was not only SO spectacularly, stunningly, & exquisitely lovely that it wasn't funny, she was NICE!!!! I have photos Dan took of us together, and the only reason I'm not posting them is because I don't look good enough! Seriously, Dan & I had THE best time at Club One; we only wish we had a place like that here in so. WV! (But we're working on it, believe you me!) 


The next morning we had breakfast @ the Olde Harbour Inn & took off for Florida to meet our ship...

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