Travel

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If you love the outdoors, are seeking a peaceful, out of the way vacation with lots of options, Table Rock Resort in Pickens, South Carolina is the place for you.
Some background:  Beautifully located four miles SW of Table Rock State Park on the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway (SC Hwy 11) the drive there from Low Country at the beach changes majestically with the high, blue-hue (it actually is!) thrilling mountainous roller-coaster roads up to the sky. The Cherokees called these heights the "Great Blue Hills of God." Following an ancient Cherokee path, this beautiful two-lane road arcs through peach orchards and villages, past Cowpens National Battlefield and over Lake Keowee.

The Blue Ridge contains the highest mountains in eastern North America. About 125 peaks exceed 5,000 feet (1,500 m) in elevation The highest peak in the Blue Ridge (and in the entire Appalachian chain) is Mt. Mitchell in North Carolina at 6,684 feet (2,037 m). There are 39 peaks in North Carolina and Tennessee higher than 6,000 feet (1,800 m); by comparison, only New Hampshire's Mt. Washington rises above 6,000 feet (1,800 m) in the northern portion of the Appalachian chain.

The Blue Ridge Parkway runs 469 miles (755 km) along crests of the Southern Appalachians and links two national parks: Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains. In many places along the parkway, there are metamorphic rocks (gneiss) with folded bands of light-and dark-colored minerals, which sometimes resemble a marble pound cake.

Arriving at our destination, the 18-Hole Scenic Golf course overlooking The Rock at Jocassee surrounded by the Blue Ride mountains, the first thing you see is the equestrian center. Guests abound atop trail horses, exploring the scenery and many nearby waterfalls.

Along with golf, there are tennis courts, fishing, boating and hiking, a swimming pool (open Memorial Day to Labor Day and just good old plain fresh air and beautiful scenery plus skiing in the winter.

In our two-story 2-bedroom unit equipped with all modern conveniences and a fireplace, we found a pamphlet entitled "A Homeowner's Guide Living with Bears". [Okay.]  Natural Resources officials say the number of black bears in South Carolina has gotten so large that the animals are boldly looking for food in residential areas. Black bears can get up to 600 pounds. [Mouth open on that one.] If one does approach you, the booklet tells you the 'thing to do' is make yourself look as large as you can possibly can by waving your arms. It's difficult to look 'that big' if you are only 5'2", so I looked over my shoulder a lot. The locals told us that they haven't seen a bear in the resort area for over 12 years, and we didn't see one either. The guys were disappointed somewhat.

Cell phones do not work in these elevated areas, so bring a phone card. Also, the Wi-Fi works in the club house, but not in the rooms. This was disappointing at first, but the blood pressure drop and serenity feeling overlooked the loss almost immediately. Accommodations are immaculate.

The restaurant at the Club House was better than anything locally (within 10 miles) and we dined there every night on fresh caught trout, crab cakes roasted stuff chicken, and wonderfully fresh garden salads, all cooked in gourmet style. Veggies, ice cream and bread were all fresh and delicious. We enjoyed visiting with the chef, and owners each night after dinner and they gave us many insights as what to see and where to go.

It was unanimously agreed among our group that the locals in neighboring (10 miles or less) local towns were the friendliest people we've ever met. Down-to-earth, congenial, happy, and helpful, from the waitresses to the owners to the other guests. This is a Mayberry, NC-like town seen on the Andy Griffith Show. We visited homegrown honeybee stores, the largest flea market ever on Wednesdays, and Greenville, the third largest city in the state of SC, is only 20 miles away - one half hour if you have to have city.

We took a couple of day trips: one to Biltmore, American's Largest Home in Asheville, NC - about an hour and a half ride - 70 miles away. You can spend the whole day there and have lunch at their extraordinary buffet amidst an outside garden. And wine tasted at the Biltmore winery.

We also visited the Cherokee Reservation's Harrah's Casino - about a two and a half hour ride from the resort. No one won anything, but it was a hoot.

One very pleasurable lunch - just up the road a couple of miles from the resort is the Victoria Valley Vineyards. Overlooking a Tuscany Terrain look-alike with terraced vineyards, we enjoyed a Bistro lunch after another delicious wine-tasting and wine tour. This beautiful facility, known for its scenery and good food, is a popular venue for weddings, receptions, or any kind of celebration. The day we lunched there, the only other group was a small wedding party of about 6 people.
I brought many books with me - and I never read one. The entire time was pleasurable, relaxing, fun and memorable. A great place to go with a golf group, a family, or as a couple. If you like solitude, even alone. There are people all around in the middle of the mountains and the bears know their place;  they never visited.
Table Rock Resort in the Foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, South Carolina 144 Sliding Rock Road, Pickens, SC 29671,
864-878-3942


Flying in an airplane is about par with giving an oral presentation. You feel you can't do it -- it's a dreaded thing to do but once you do it, you're always grateful when it's over with and you've survived.

Having been up on a small plane in my teens with my brother who had just gotten his license, I remember the open sides on the small propeller plane and my knees shaking the whole time we were up in the air. I vowed that I would never get in another plane as long as I lived.

Fast forward to work experiences, and a proposed company trip to Puerto Rico for a convention that shattered my equilibrium. I ran out and bought the book Fear of Flying by Erica Jong. Mainly, it was about sex, passion and sexual identity and not a word about the fear of flying. Well, not in the sense of flying in a plane.

After not sleeping the two nights before the flight actually transpired, I re-enacted the wobbly knees of former experience and even took a Valium someone offered me. Just as I was settling into the level just below wigging out, someone from work who knew of my fear, yelled out, "Hey Marie, your horoscope says you shouldn't travel today". Funny to everyone on board but me. The trip is a blur going and coming and the time in the air was the whole focus of the trip. Not a fun trip.

 

I vowed yet again, I would never fly.

A couple of years later, my job required 'flying' but only on the east coast for career seminars. I didn't want to fly period. No way, Jose. I always went into my fugue on these trips and always made sure I was with someone I knew. A short time later, there was a human resource need for supporters on an outreach program in Cincinnati and I had to go alone! This was an up-all nighter worrying fest and thankfully, I knew someone from the company on the flight. White knuckles all the way.

On each flight, I vowed it would be my last. I hated flying - too much free floating anxiety around.

After about 10 flights like this, I decided that was it. There was a plane crash the week before I had to fly to Charlotte, NC and a plane crash in Charlotte, NC the week after I got back and that blew my 'odds' that lightning couldn't strike twice in the same place. What are the odds of that happening?

I really got good at making excuses for not traveling or making other arrangements (why don't you come up this way?) and just when I felt that I never had to fly again, I married a man who was born in Sicily and had family there. He redid the family house and wanted to travel to Italy at least once a year. Eight or nine hours one way? And the same the way back? No way, Jose. I barely did the east coast for up to 3 hours top. All that time in a plane? I would never last.

He never insisted, but I did always want to see Italy. So this is how I get on a plane every year to travel 8 or 9 hours (depending on the wind) to go to Italy.

  • It has to be something you really want to do. Like visiting a last family member in Scotland or a vacation in France that someone bought for you. You have to be the one to decide, just like giving up smoking or deciding to lose weight - it's your call and something you want to do more than you fear it.
  • I went to local airports and watched the planes come in and go out. They do that every couple of minutes or less. And they were all fine. And thought about all the planes that came in all day there every couple of minutes - in and out. And thought of all the cities and airports all over the world that do the same thing. All those flights.
  • The amount of things that can go wrong on a flight are nothing like other modes of traveling. You hear about accidents and crashes all the time with cars, trains and ships but flying is actually the safest way to travel.
  • You have to minimize stress if you decide to travel - travel light and detail your arrangements. Make direct flights where you don't have to juggle your luggage through airports to another terminal. Even with rides, it can be stressful doing that.
  • Try to get an aisle seat when you make flight arrangements. It gives you some control over getting up and getting down, using the rest room and just stretching your legs.
  • Bring things that will absorb you (yes, it can happen) so that you don't count the whirrs the engine is making and one time if there are more than usual and you wonder why. I bring books that I've been wanting to read, crossroad puzzles, my journal and datebook to go over for the trip.
  • International flights usually have wonderful ways to keep your mind occupied: they show new movies concurrently - with head gear so you can watch, go back or pick it up wherever you want and whenever you want. They also have these neat computers in front of each person where you can track your flight or play games like poker or solitaire or watch popular TV programs. The same head gear lets you listen to all kinds of music.

There are blankets, but I bring a warm, long sweater; it's cozy while closing your eyes even if you don't sleep.

I do bring a Tylenol PM and take it around 9:00 pm our time. With the time change, you will be flying into the airport around 7:00 am, and breakfast will be served - our time it will be around 1:00 am but it will be light out and you will eat breakfast. And get on with another day even though it is early in the morning our time. {I don't sleep until nighttime - their time - at 9:00 pm and go right into their time schedule.}

They also have a duty-free service aboard and sell all these neat things - it's like shopping on QVC - another mind-diverting tactic.

There is usually a dinner and a breakfast and a snack served - all with alcoholic drinks. So if you don't Tylenol, you can drink. All these servings take up time and are a nice diversion from you worrying if the pilot is still awake.

Busy hands are happy hands - and two matters cannot occupy the same space at the same time. If you keep busy, and I promise you will, you won't have time to focus on your fear. The more you travel, the less fearful you are.

I still don't like to fly. I don't like being up in the air with no control over how to steer the plane. However, it is much more safe with the pilots up there behind the controls. But I'm more comfortable with it now and do it because I really want to go where the plane will take us.

The clincher for me that took away all my fears and fidgeting was a take-off with my relaxed husband and me with white knuckles. I looked at him and he smiled as we took off, and said sweetly, "Did you leave your faith on the ground?" Since I am a faith-based person, this made tremendous sense to me; I relaxed and now leave my trip safety in God's hands.

Marie Coppola © September 2013

When native Sicilians' favorite Christmas vacationland is right in their backyard, you know that it is a place you should definitely make time to visit.

Taormina, set high on a large hill, overlooks the Ionian Sea. The breathtaking view of Mt.Etna in the not too far distant is a breathtaking sight that visitors and natives enjoy over and over. Climbing the stairs of the Greek-Roman theater, it isn't difficult to visualize the events of long ago. This theater is the second largest in Sicily, not too far a drive from Siracusa, which boasts the largest. The theater is in excellent condition at any time, and all enjoy the panoramic view from the top of the theater.

Taormina's spectacular theater, which was built by the Greeks, overlooks the blue-green sea of the Ionian Sea, looking directly at Mt. Etna in distant Catania. The theater was later completely rebuilt by the Romans and is still used for classical plays and music.

Taormina ranks as one of the most beautiful holiday sites in Italy and a popular tourist attraction and vacation site. The flight from Rome to Catania Airport takes about 55 minutes. The descent into the airport with Mt. Etna to your right is one of the most memorable sights of the flight. The ride to Taormina is about 40 minutes by highway - taxi, shuttle or bus. .

Taormina is a commune village, very picturesque with cobblestone streets and open cafes. Taking a break you can have an espresso, cappuccino or a dolce (sweet). If you want a lunch treat, you can try an arancina (orange) a deep-friend rice ball with beef and cheese centers. And their pizza is delicious - usually small individual pies, with over 50 toppings. Enjoy a fresh-made gelato which is the best frozen dessert anywhere.

From the hill above, you can also view the village below, and the beautiful, unique bay of Giardini Naxos. Walking along there are designer bistros and many distinct boutiques. The side streets walks, offer fresh fruit stands, villas majestically adorned with breathtaking bougainvillea which blooms all year round. Make sure you have sensible shoes as the cobblestones are balance-challenging.

You can lunch or dine in the outdoor cafe overlooking this magnificient scenery. Good local cuisine can be found at Licchio’s, Osteria Nero D'Avola, Trattoria da Nino, andTrattoria Don Camillo. Al Saraceno has fantastic views of Etna and the bay. As in most establishments, the owners are very friendly and family-like. And, with most tourist areas, if you dine a few miles down the road, the food is also delicious and less costly.

The fresh fruit is picked daily and one of the best taste treats; culinary delights await you in all areas. Taormina's climate, similar to southeastern U.S., has a Mediterranean or coastal climate with mild, wet winters. Coast winter temperatures average about 50 degrees Fahrenheit and it has hot dry, summers. It has always rained in October when we visit and the best times to visit are September and May.

You also have to have gelato which is like ice cream and you will always remember what it tastes like. It has less fat than ice cream and a distinct, delicious taste and texture of its own. .

It is commonplace to view original aotists’ renditions of this beautiful city as they are displayed in the center of the square near the Greek-Roman Theater. They are for sale and you can get a beautiful one-of-a-kind hand-painted treasure for about 25 Euros.

Sicily is an outstanding, beautiful country. The climate is similar year round to South Carolina’s. Fresh fruit abounds and culinary delights await you in all cities. Taormina is its "Pearl".

 
    
© Marie Coppola 2006

 

 

Residents in North Myrtle Beach have noticed a growing trend of more women attending bike rallies. They are not riding on the back of a Harley bike; they've moved up to the front and once they've done this, they don't look back.

American women are the fastest-growing part of the motorcycle business, buying more than 100,000 of them a year. Alongside baby-boomer men, who make up a large male rider population, women are continuing to take up riding solo. With larger paychecks and better corporate jobs, more women are choosing riding as their leisure pastime - making up 12.3 percent of owners compared with 6 percent in 1990. Ladies accounted for 23 percent, or 5.7 million, of the 25 million Americans who rode a motorcycle last year.

The typical motorcycle owner was 43 years old, according to the MlC's latest ATV Owner Survey. That was up from 1998, when the typical owner was 38, and a leap from the typical 24-year-old owner in the 1980s. There are indications that ownership is once again on the upswing among younger riders. Baby boomers still outnumbered Generation Y owners 2 to 1 in 2008.

Why are women choosing motorcycles? Some women, like their male counterparts, like the freedom from routines, parenting, and stressful jobs and opt for plain enjoying the sport, honing their skills, and enjoying the scenery. Some are grandmas, their kids are grown and out of the nest and simply put, "It's time for me".

Biker guys dress a little differently from the ladies. Instead of the male-look standard black leather jacket, more female rider clothes are being produced -- lots of pink, some with rhinestones, and many made from leather in blues and pinks as well as black. Even the Harley-Davidson skull emblem has undergone a friendly makeover on some clothes to include wings and flowers.

Women motorcycle riders are referred to as biker babe, chopper chick or cycle mama and they all have experiences with "helmet hair", raingear, heated apparel and proper boots. New riders should be aware that the ladies avoid loose frills or ribbons that could get caught in a moving part of their bike. They also avoid sequins around the neckline which may heat up in the sun - cause unnerving reflections and possible burns or abrasions from the bike's vibrations, as would any rough material, bead or button. Big, loose shirts can whip up in the wind and possibly cause loss of control. That's why an experienced biker wears shirts or tops with a tight fit or snug cuffs; thus prevent flapping and irritation. There's reasons why they wear form-fitting clothes.

Some celebrity biker babes who share the adventure, camaraderie, freedom of the road and the thrill of hitting the throttle, rolling into a curve, and feeling the wind are: Tina Turner, Angelina Jolie, Bree Turner, Cameron Diaz, Cher, Demi Moore, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessical Alba, Kate Hudson, Lauren Hutton, Lindsay Wagner, Lisa Hartman Black, Pamela Anderson, Queen Latifah, and Sheryl Crow.

A reflection on the Harley pictured above, the Harley-Davidson Company or HD has been around for just over 100 years. It all began with two friends in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1903. William S. Harley stands for the H in HD. Arthur Davidson is one of three D's. The other two D's being his brothers, Walter and William Davidson. William Harley and Arthur Davidson began working on the prototype and eventually sought the help of Walter and William. Walter was a skilled mechanic. William was an experienced toolmaker and the group formed the HD Company. During 1903 HD turned out a grand total of 3 motorcycles.

Marie Coppola Revised September 2013

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Traveling in northern Sicily on the outskirts of it’s capital, Palermo, rising on a hilly area of Mount Caputo overlooking the Conca d’Oro (The Gold Basin) is the town of Monreale From this slope, overlooking the beautiful valley of d"Oro, is a magnificent display in the town of distinct Romanesque, Byzantine and Arab culture. ***Photo by Galen R Frysinger

The name Monreale (pronounced Mohn ree ah’ lay) derives from Latin Mons regalis that means "mountain worthy of the king". Originally it was an Arabic country house but it gained historical importance when William II built the famous Cathedral, of Northern, Classical, Arab, Byzantine and Norman elements - the best artistic styles of the Christian and Muslim worlds of the 12th century.

The 6,340 square meters of beautiful mosaics within is one of the world’s largest displays of this art only surpassed by Istanbul’s Basilica Saint Sofia. Its mosaics represent the final output of the generation who worked at Cefalù and the Palatine Chapel and is universally considered to be the finest Norman building in Sicily, The result is that the Monreale pictures close the era of the Byzantines and open the way for the great fresco artists of the early Renaissance.

 

King William hired every master who would come to Sicily and it is thought that some parts of the decorations were even made elsewhere for shipment to Monreale. Throughout are panels depicting biblical history***, portraits of Christ*** and the Virgin Mary , courts of angels, prophets, and saints - all of outstanding expert workmanship*** and beauty.

 

The cathedral of Monreale has survived almost unchanged for eight centuries. As you approach through the cloisters which are no less artistic than the cathedral and are Arab style. Intricately carved are biblical scenes and figures from the Old and New Testaments***, so much so that it is difficult to take it all in. The cloister columns, too, are completely inlaid with mosaic designs. There are 228 columns in the cloister. Inside the cathedral are scriptural scenes and stories all portrayed by swirling and flowing inlaid mosaic designs. It is beyond words to describe the ethereal beauty.

 

The day we visited and viewed this treasure we were all silently overwhelmed over the artistic wonders before us. Suddenly, we and other visitors to the Cathedral that day, were interrupted by a bridal party who made their way down the long aisle, complete with family and bridal party. The multitude of visitors collectively stood silent while the bride and groom exchanged their vows in this magnificent cathedral with hundreds of unknown wedding guests. It is a common experience, we were told, and many weddings take place in this way. What a memorable wedding day!   See them at the altar in above picture.

The splendor of this cathedral, and outlying buildings and cloister  remain vivid in my mind. In reality, a gift of a mosaic heart designed by the artisans of Monreale remains in my heart collection shown here > [ mosaic heart ]

Special thanks for permission of photos *** to and by Galen R Frysinger -http://www.galenfrysinger.com/monreale_sicily_cathedral.htm

Other Photos by Wikimedia Commons - - Mosaic Heart photo - by Marie Coppola   Ref: "The Cathedral of Monreale" (Italia)

Marie Coppola © March 2010

 


 

Located near the southeastern corner of the island of Sicily on the Ionian coast, Siracusa (Syracuse) is built on an ancient Greek settlement founded by Corinthians in 734 BC. Siracusa is the capital of the province of Syracuse, Italy. It was once described by Cicero as "the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all." It is an ancient town on the sea, which has a well-known archaeological zone and a historic center on the island of Ortygia (Ortigia). Siracusa is a pleasant town, with plenty to occupy tourists for at least a couple of days.

It was on one of many trips to Siracusa, about 15 minutes from where we stay in Sicily, that I noticed a wrought iron gate on the side of the busy road, Behind the wrought iron, were numerous uniform graves similar to the uniformity found at the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. We tried to park to see what was in the cemetery as family cemeteries in Sicily are very different from this one. The parking was difficult, impossible that day, so we passed it by. We tried on subsequent jaunts to Siracusa to try to park and did once, but could not get into the gates. When we asked the Sicilians about it, they would call it the English Cemetery and said there were probably Americans buried there, too.

This past May, appropriately nearing Memorial Day, the honoring of fallen heroes, we finally visited within the gates.

The grounds are immaculately cared for and flowers and shrubs are well tended. These war cemeteries (CWGC) are distinctive in treating floriculture, or flower farming, which is a discipline of horticulture concerned with the cultivation of flowering and ornamental plants as an integral part of the cemetery design.

Established by Royal Charter in 1917, the CWGC (Commonwealth War Graves Commission) pays tribute to the 1,700,000 men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died in the two world wars. It is a non-profit-making organization that was founded by Sir Fabian Ware, then commander of a mobile unit of the British Red Cross. This sensitive man, driven by the enormity of large-scale loss, felt compelled to provide a final resting place for fallen heroes on foreign soil, and working through the war years as Vice-Chairman with the Prince of Wales as President, established the Imperial War Graves Commission, established by Royal Charter, with the Prince serving as President and Ware as Vice-Chairman. By 1918, some 587,000 graves had been identified and a further 559,000 casualties were registered as having no known graves. These graves sites, are all over the world, and are cared for by the Commonwealth. The dead come from many different countries and cultures, all social ranks, standings and faiths.

The Commission's principles:

Each of the dead should be commemorated by name on the headstone or memorial

Headstones and memorials should be permanent

Headstones should be uniform

There should be no distinction made on account of military or civil rank, race or creed

Since its inception, the Commission has constructed 2,500 war cemeteries and plots, erecting headstones over graves and, in instances where the remains are missing, inscribing the names of the dead on permanent memorials. Over one million casualties are now commemorated at military and civil sites in some 150 countries. They build memorials for people who have no known grave and they keep records of the people who have died.

The grave headstones are uniform, similar to those in Arlington Cemetery in Washington, D.C. and there are no distinctions made on account of military or civil rank, race or creed. Some have names and branch of service and some have none. Some graves have remains of multiple persons with no name or country. Where the deceased is known, there may be a name, country, personal family message or religious affiliation. The majority of those who are buried in this cemetery fell July 10, 1941 when the Commonwealth forces landed in Sicily or in the early stages of the next campaign. Many were part of the Airborne troops who were killed when strong winds pushed their gliders away from their targets. And some who died here are unknown, both in name or where they were from.

The operating cost of the Commission are split amongst the organization members in proportion to the number of their war dead. The six current members are United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa.

We were the only ones in the cemetery last Mother's Day. I had a strong sense of separation from my own children across the waters on this day to honor mother's and felt a correlation to the many graves around me also separated from their mothers across the waters. As I walked amongst the graves, reading the inscriptions therein, I felt a strong sense of respect and honor for these brave, fallen men, some not yet 20 and those in their prime of life.

The epitaphs, where the person was known were poignant. One merely said, "A Victim of the Second War World." Others said, "Nine Soldiers of the Second World War" - Army Air Corps - Known Unto God; Another: "A Soldier of the 1939-1945 War". And, "At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember him". "Not till the Loom is silent; and Shuttles cease to fly; Shall God unroll the canvas, and explain the reason why." "May some kind hand, in some foreign land, Place a flower just for me, "My Hero".

Marie Coppola © Revised 2012

 

Nestled on the coast of North Carolina, between the bustling city of Wilmington and the golf oasis and cultural center of Myrtle Beach, is a small fishing village called Southport.

This lovely, historic town located on Cape Fear River, blends small-town charm with a tourist’s delight. The center of this picturesque town with its centuries-old live oak trees, with hanging moss, looks down upon the River, giving you a panoramic view not only of the River but also of Bald Head Island and its famous lighthouse as you shop or dine or stroll.

There is a large variety of boutiques, antiques and one-of-a-kind stores, and memorable lunches or dinners where culinary delights are offered. The Atlantic Ocean is minutes away on Caswell Beach and Oak Island and there are numerous attractions with which you can fill a day or week or more.    .

Southport is a great getaway from the winter doldrums or wintry weather; the average temperature in January and February ranges from the 40s to 60s requiring a light jacket or sweater. It is usually sunny. In all the time we’ve been coming here, there were snow flurries twice in 10 years. One time, it covered the lawns and by the time I grabbed my camera and drove to the beach to capture the beach covered with snow - it’s a 3 minute drive - it was all gone and the sun was out.

Having been a winter resident of Southport the past ten years and loving every minute of it, we have visited and dined in most of the local establishments. We love this area so much that we bought a house and moved close by. We're 40 minutes south ~ the weather is the best thing ~ winter or summer.  Along with low taxes.

Southport offers many state-of-the-art golf facilities -4 top notch courses at St. James Plantation http://www.stjamesplantation.com/ - 2 miles away from Southport. There’s also golfing on Bald Head Island, a unique island lifestyle.

 can only reach Bald Head island by a 20-minute Ferry ride. Daytrip: Cost is $16 per person round trip. Children 12-under $8.00. Once there, since there are no automobiles allowed, you can rent a golf cart, which is the main means of transportation on the island. You can spend a lovely day discovering the island, which has many attractions, including North Carolina’s oldest standing lighthouse, Old Baldy, at the Smith Island Museum of History and climb to the top for a breathtaking view of the surrounding area’s outstanding natural environment. Best restaurants here: River Pilot Cafe (best salmon) http://www.southporttimes.com/riverpilotcafe.html or the Bald Head Island Club ~  http://www.bhiclub.net/Club/Scripts/Home/home.asp

A short ride from Southport is the Orton Plantation, an azalea delight in the spring; an old plantation where you can discover the grounds and marshlands - there may be alligators around, so do this in groups! I did see a baby alligator sunning one day.

Right outside of Wilmington - about a 20-25 minute ride from Southport, are the famous Battleships. The USS North Carolina, a WW2-era US Navy battleship, now rests near the mouth of the Cape Fear River where she serves as a floating museum and war memorial.

Also in Wilmington - you can tour the active EUE Screen Gems film studio where movies are made - many films are made here, including television’s Dawson’s Creek series. On November 12, 2009, Gov. Perdue signed an Executive Order that will help maintain North Carolina’s competitive edge in the global film industry. This Order reestablished the North Carolina Film Council, at a ceremony at EUE Screen Gems studios in Wilmington, home to the largest studio lot east of California. We’ve been to tour there several times and met actors and producers who show you around the sets. If you have film-acting or producer/director ambitions, or want to sign up for bit parts ~ or just tour the facilities, it is a fascinating place to be.

Recent major motion pictures filmed in the state include “Nights in Rodanthe,” (author Nicholas Sparks is from NC) “Leatherheads” and “The Secret Life of Bees.” The NC film industry is also home to the CW Network’s One Tree Hill TV series, as well as hundreds of commercial and industrial productions each year throughout the state.   http://euescreengems.com/

You can also take another ferry ride - Southport Ferry - to Fort Fisher (a great Civil War Museum and NC Aquarium are there) - the ferry departs from a dock located off Moore Street in Southport. Rates for the ferry are: Pedestrians - $1; motorcycles - $3; bicycles - $2; Vehicles depending on size - $5 to $15.

Back in Southport, along the Cape Fear River, there are many fresh seafood restaurants - fresh from the catch - which are picturesque and charming along the winding road of the marina. You can dine outside on the decks while pelicans are perched nearby.   Very close by.   Among our favorites  ~~~~

This restaurant was written up as the best restaurant in Southport.  It looks like an old warehouse on the water and it is called The Provision Company http://www.provisioncompany.com/ . Best shrimp just netted - (25 to a plate) and the best hamburgers. This place is casual and humming - the atmosphere is great and friendly. Don’t let the building fool you.  Pelicans like this place.

We like the Live Oak Cafe - intimate, quaint, separate candle-lit rooms, the food is delicious - not casual. Picture & Info: http://liveoakcafenc.com/

If you like New York style restaurants, this next place is for you - Joseph’s. The owners are from New York ,and Frank Sinatra sings lots of tunes here.  Make reservations, but if you have to wait, you will have a friendly time at the bar meeting all the people from NY, NJ, PA and Michigan - because that’s who all move down here!  This restaurant is on the water, great view inside and dining outside and the Italian food is New York style and delicious.   I recommend this place and it is moderately priced.   Picture & info: (put your sound on for this one. - Frankie’s singing) http://www.josephsitalianbistro.com/

Some more places:    http://www.insiderpages.com/s/NC/Southport/Restaurants

Can you tell we love it down here?   Come on down!   We'll do lunch or dinner on the water.

© Marie Coppola,  Updated November 2011; some rights reserved.