A Friend I Haven’t Seen For 11 Years

A friend I haven’t seen for 11 years has been living in Washington, Georgia for 5-6 years. We used to be co-workers in a bank way back 2006. We were cream of the crop and excelled in all that we do. We became friends, more like close friends and everything we did was history. We were Washington Mutual’s telephone banker. Washington Mutual was one of the best financial institutions back in the old days but was bought by J.P Morgan Chase Bank during the global crisis back in 2007. I quit my job before it was completely handed to JPMC and went to my chosen profession. I haven’t seen her after that until she left to Georgia with her husband and son. We just kept in touch through social networking sites such as Facebook.

I drove from South Carolina to Washington, Georgia which was about 2-3 hours from Aiken. I arrived in Washington, Georgia at about 1000H. When I got out of the car, we were just so happy to see each other again and nothing has changed. We were still like the immature telephone bankers even though it has been a decade. We talked and talked about the people we used to work with, reminisced the experiences we had, and even tried to call some of our other friends online. The first day was filled with excitement in getting to know what we have been doing in our lives. She and her family offered to be the host of my trip and I am so glad. They offered the guest room and I took a quick nap from the long drive while she was planning for the itinerary for the afternoon and the next day trip.

I was taking a nap when my phone beeped. I got a message asking if I am ready to go swimming. They have decided to go to Washington Swimming Pool since their son wants to dip in the pool. It was almost 95 degrees in Georgia that day so, it was a good idea to dive in.

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Washington Swimming Pool

But I am not used to going swimming under the heat of the sun and it was also at 1300H so, I just stayed under the patio umbrella. We only let their son enjoy the pool while we were just talking and looking at kids having fun. After an hour or two, we left coz her husband has to work. At 1730H, we have decided to go to the mall. The nearest mall is Augusta Mall which is almost an hour drive.

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Augusta Mall

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Inside Augusta Mall

We only did window shopping and bought some snack for her unico hijo. 2 hours later, they took me to Augusta Canal Historical Trail. The trail is near Marriott Hotel and is good location for exercising.

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Augusta Canal Historical Trail

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Marriott Hotel

Augusta Canal is a historic canal located in Georgia, is supplied by the Savannah River and passes through levels in suburban and urban Augusta before the water returns to the river at various locations. It was devised to harness the hydro power at the fall line of the Savannah river to drive mills, to provide transportation of goods, and supply water in the municipal. It is the only canal in the United States which still continues to be used for its original purposes of providing power, transport and municipal water.

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Augusta Canal Historical Trail

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Augusta Canal

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Augusta Canal Viewdeck

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Augusta Canal

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Otters in Augusta Canal

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Jessye Norman Amphitheatre in Augusta Canal

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View of Downtown Augusta Skyline from Augusta Canal Trail

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Augusta Canal Trail Fountain

We left the trail at 1730H and headed home and called it a day. I went to sleep early from getting exhausted driving. On my second day in Georgia, they decided to show me to one of the famous amusement parks in Georgia. We went to Stone Mountain Park which is near Atlanta.

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Stone Mountain Park

Stone Mountain is a quartz monzonite dome monadnock with carvings that depict three Confederate figures during the Civil War: Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis. The theme park is located at 1000 Robert E. Lee Blvd, Stone Mountain, GA 30083. It has a lot of activities and hosts festivals and events. To know more, just click here.

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Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis

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Stone Park Theme Park has attractions for all ages such as dinosaur explore, dinotorium, 4D Ice Age, Stone Mountain Museum, Summit SkyRide, Scenic Railroad, and many more.

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Dinosaur Explore

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Ankylosaurus or the Fused Lizard

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Parasaurolophus or the Similar Crested Lizard

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Dilophosaurus, the fast moving carnivore

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T-Rex

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The most famous dinosaur

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Dinotorium

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On our way to ride the train

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Great Locomotive Chase Adventure Golf

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Riding the train for the Scenic Railroad

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Live Show from the Scenic Railroad

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Stores at Stone Mountain Park

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Directions at Stone Mountain Park

We spent almost the whole day in Stone Mountain Park but we still missed the main attractions which were the Summit SkyRide, to get on top of the Stone Mountain and also the fireworks. The weather that day was not in our favor that the park has to cancel any attractions that has something to do with the sky. But I still had fun though. Then, we left Stone Mountain Park and discussed on where to dine for supper. We have decided to go something Asian, Korean to be precise, so, we went to Iron Factory in Athens, Georgia.

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Iron Factory

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Miso Soup

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Fresh Pork Belly or Samgyupsal

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Then, we went to explore Athens after eating.

My Georgia trip to meet my friend whom I haven’t seen for 11 years has been one of the highlights for this year. It was memorable and I can’t wait to do it again. We were planning of going on a trip somewhere and I hope it’ll come true. The whole experience was amazing even though it was just a quick visit for 2 days. Not to worry coz we have many more days to come and to have fun, for now, it’s not goodbye but see you next time.

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The Rivera Family and the Lone Traveler

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Aiken and Hartwell Lake in South Carolina

I was still on my road trip down southeastern part of the United States when my attention got caught on this billboard on my way to Georgia. It showed a specific city few miles before crossing the Savannah River to the next state. I got curious so without a second thought, I turned on my right signal blinker and headed to the exit to the city. Then, I got to Aiken.

Aiken is the southwestern part of South Carolina. It is the city named after William Aiken who was the president of South Carolina railroad and it is the county seat of Aiken county. It is home to the University of South Carolina Aiken.

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William Aiken Statue

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Story of William Aiken Sr

Aiken is a historical destination in South Carolina. If you were wondering how did I get there, Well, I was driving on my way to visit my close friend and her family who I haven’t seen for 11 years. They are currently living in Washington, Georgia. They are one of the reasons why I had my 6 days road trip which started from Virginia to North Carolina to South Carolina and then Georgia. Anyway, back to how I got there. I was on the road and I saw this billboard. It was showing off how pretty the location was so, I was intrigued and went to the next exit to get to Aiken.

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Aiken Historical District

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Random Aiken Street Photo

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The City of Aiken

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Aiken Plaza

When I got there, it wasn’t what I expected. My expectation was just a town with old buildings. It was more than what I was picturing it out in my head. I was wandering around the town and I took some photos. The streets were cleaned and I didn’t even see trash. There were also old buildings that turned out to be bars, stores, hotels, and cafes. Anywhere in Aiken Historical District, a visitor’s map is visible and free for grabs. They also have activities such as Thursday Market in the Alley.

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Aiken Visitor Maps

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Hotel Aiken

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Stores

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Crofts Block

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Aiken Brewing Company Cafe

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Thursday Market in the Alley

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Rocking Chairs in the Alley

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The Alley

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Fascinating Wall

People in Aiken are health conscious. After I strolled around the Historical District, I visited their famous park, the Citizen’s Park. The park looked astounding once checked online in Google Maps. It has this amazing structure in aerial view but when I got there, it was inaccessible to the public. It was close. But I’ve seen Aiken locals doing their walk, jog and stroll to maintain a healthy lifestyle. A lifestyle that everyone should have for it is a promising way for the betterment of life. Then, I went back to my route heading to my friend’s home.

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Citizen’s Park

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Citizen’s Park Aerial View cr. google maps

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My next stopover in South Carolina was during my trip back home. I was using a different route back home so I can see different sceneries. I stumbled into this nice view while I was driving and I found out that it has a parking space. I stopped over and captured some photos in Hartwell Lake.

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Hartwell Lake

Hartwell Lake is a manmade reservoir bordering two states of Georgia and South Carolina on the Savannah, Tugaloo, and Seneca Rivers. It is one of the southeast’s largest and most popular recreation lakes. It is created by Hartwell Dam located on the Savannah River. In Lake Hartwell, there are a lot of recreational activities. Visitors can do camping, biking, fishing, boating, swimming, and water sports.sc23sc24sc22sc21

There are numerous places to visit in South Carolina but I went to destinations where I passed by during my road trip. But even though these areas were just stopovers, these attractions didn’t fail me to be amazed. Aiken and Hartwell Lake in South Carolina were indeed a good side trips to escape the hustle and bustle of big city.

Meeting Caroline in North Carolina

A friend I met in Toronto, Canada during my birthday trip last year just arrived in the Land of Stars and Stripes. Her name is Caroline and the way to say her name is Ca-ro-li-ne and not Ca-ro-line. She is from Brazil and it is her first time to set foot in the United States. Upon hearing her arrival, I decided to visit her since I got a 6-day off and planned road trip down Southeastern. It was a trip in meeting Caroline in North Carolina.

I got a side trip in Virginia specifically in Wytheville, Wythe county. After a quick visit in Virginia, I automatically headed to North Carolina. While I was driving, I got a little exhausted and I have decided to make a stopover in Winston-Salem for a change of scenery from just seeing mostly the roads and cars. When I got in Winston-Salem, it was decent with some skyscrapers. I took some random street pictures and I got to see the buildings. These were the photos I captured.

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Random Building

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Wells Fargo Building

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Winston Tower

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Winston-Salem Street

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Then, I searched the net and found this cool and flowery destination. It was a garden which is located still in Winston-Salem. It was Reynolda Gardens.

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Reynolda Gardens

Reynolda Gardens is botanical garden with 129 acres with 4 acres of formal gardens located off Reynolda Road which is adjacent to the Reynolda campus of Wake Forest University and the Reynolda House. The gardens are open daily with free admission. The gardens include woodlands, fields, wetlands, and a formal garden with greenhouse.

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Greenhouse Gardens

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The Greenhouse

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Inside the Greenhouse

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Venus Fly Trap

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Palm House and Growing Houses

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Reynolda Gardens was amazing. It has too many different kinds of flowers and plants which is a good place to spend the time from driving for about 2 to 3 hours from Virginia. But Winston-Salem was not my final destination. I went back to my car and have to drive to Chapel Hill. It was about an hour or so drive. I got to Chapel Hill at 1700H and met Caroline.

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Downtown Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill is a city in Durham and Orange counties and the home of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill along with UNC Health Care. Chapel Hill got its name from centuries ago. The location sits a top of a hill which was originally occupied by a small Anglican ‘chapel of ease’ known as New Hope Chapel thus, making it Chapel Hill.

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University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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UNC at Chapel Hill Kenan Stadium

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Carolina Football Kenan Stadium

Chapel Hill is a pretty nice city. It was clean and multi diverse. By the looks of it when I was there, the city is pretty safe and marvelous with old architecture and buildings. It is also famous because of the presence of the biggest university in the state. Caroline got in Chapel Hill as a foreign student in University of North Carolina. She is currently studying and getting a degree in Mental Health. We’ve met in Toronto since we both stayed in the same hostel. We also have the same tour when we went to Niagara Falls. So, I was excited to meet here in the U.S. I treated her for dinner at Carolina Brewery.

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Carolina Brewery

Carolina Brewery is a beer brewery and restaurant/pub located in Chapel Hill. It has drawn international attention for its handcrafted beers, all brewed in-house. It was founded in 1995 and is the oldest brewery in Triangle area. The restaurant serves contemporary American cuisine and features a seasonal menu that changes 4 times in a year. We ordered Southwest chicken egg rolls which is chicken and pepperjack served with jalapeno ranch, and Chicken strips which is hard breaded chicken with honey mustard and ranch dips. Both were served as shareables. For the entrée, I chose fish and chips since I was craving for fish. It was beer battered cod served with garden slaw, house fried and tartar sauce.

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Carolina Brewery

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Southwest Chicken Egg Rolls and Chicken Strips

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Fish and Chips

The foods were well seasoned, sumptuous, and delicious. The server was really amazing. She was pretty, always wear a smile, warm and accommodating. She was also helpful since I was looking for a place to stay and gave an idea on where to search and what to wear. As a total verdict for my dining experience in Carolina Brewery, it was a 4/5. The ambience was good but the patio was a little congested and near to the street.

My whole trip in North Carolina was great. Meeting Caroline in North Carolina was the icing on the top. We haven’t seen each other for like 9 months and we never thought that we will meet again. All I can say is a road trip is always worth no matter how far it is as long as you know that in the destination, you got a friend to meet. Safe travels everyone! 😉

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The Lone Traveler and Caroline

Series of Dates

I’ve been out and about these past few months. During those travels, I met this amazing person and I wanted to get to know more of this individual. I wanted to woo this human being so, I’m seeing this person and we always went out. We had series of dates and now, he is someone dear to my heart.

We’ve been exploring most of the restaurants in Canton, Ohio. It’s been our gastronomic adventure together to try the dishes in every business establishment serving food and drinks.

These are the restaurants we’ve dined in:
1. Table Six Kitchen + Bar

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Table Six Kitchen + Bar

It is a gastropub where they serve traditional, made-from-scratch comfort food which are perfect for sharing. They also offer wide array of drinks from cocktails to spirits, beers and wines. Table Six Kitchen + Bar is an independent restaurant group with four locations and every location has its own unique personality and tradition good of taste.

I ordered fish + chips that is craft beer battered cod with fresh cut fries, house slaw, tarter and Sriracha ketchup for appetizer. For entrée, I chose Teriyaki Salmon which is a pan seared, Teriyaki glazed, Verlasso salmon with Asian sesame stir fry and a meal won’t be a meal without dessert. I got warm molten brownie which is a chocolate lover’s heaven with warm brownie, Amy’s chocolate icing and vanilla ice cream. The whole dining experience in Table Six Kitchen + Bar was 4/5. Foods were delicious, ambience was good and a little crowded but the space was a little bit small and congested.

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Fish + Chips

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Teriyaki Salmon

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Warm Molten Brownie

For menus and more information, check at www.table6canton.com/home or visit them at:
Table Six Kitchen + Bar
6113 Whipple Ave NW
North Canton, OH 44720
Phone No. 330-305-1666

2. Gervasi Vineyard Restaurant

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Gervasi Vineyard Restaurant

Gervasi Vineyard Restaurant is a premier winery and vineyard located in Canton, Ohio that provides guests with fine dining experience. It offers a memorable destination for wine lovers, diners, families, businesses, and tourists. The restaurant is designed for adults seeking an affordable, fresh and romantic dining experience, for families seeking outdoor beauty, fun and great food, and corporate team for business meetings. Gervasi Vineyard Restaurant has among the best wine varieties in Ohio which are produced by wine experts and hand selected seasonally by local farmers.

We went to Crush House since Gervasi Vineyard has more than one dining options. I started the ball rolling with an appetizer of pork wings which were marinated and glazed with red wine vinegar, blue cheese emulsion, scallions and crumbled blue cheese paired with a glass of zin zin, a zinfandel wine. I got shrimp and sausage linguini with sauteed zucchini and squash with vodka sauce paired with a glass of velluto, a pinot noir wine for my entrée while he ordered crush house steak which was the chef’s entrée feature of the day. To end the night, we both chose chocolate crème brulee with blackberry and raspberry and cream for dessert. Dining experience in Gervasi Vineyard Restaurant was 5/5. Everything was perfect.

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Pork Wings

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Shrimp and Sausage Linguini

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Crush House Steak

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Chocolate Crème Brulee

For more information, visit their site at www.gervasivineyard.com or visit them physically at:
Gervasi Vineyard Restaurant
1700 55th St NE
Canton, OH 44721
Phone No. 330-497-1000

3. Hog Heaven Open Blame BBQ

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Hog Heaven Open Flame BBQ

It is a fun laid back atmosphere restaurant that provides southern BBQ meals  and cold beers. Not only that the Hog Heaven also tries to help the community by fundraising and scholarship through motorcycle runs.

We both ordered full rack barbeque ribs which is a famous St. Louis style ribs, tender and tasty that falls right off the bone, basted with Hog Heaven southern style barbeque sauce. I chose the macaroni and cheese and baked beans as the 2 sides. My gastronomic experience is at 4/5. We’ve dined in the restaurant for 3 times and ordered the same ribs but the food was inconsistent.

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Full Rack BBQ Ribs with mac&cheese and baked beans

For additional information, check their site by clicking here or visit them at:
Hog Heaven
2730 Cleveland Avenue NW
Canton, OH 44709
Phone No. 330-458-0904

4. George’s Lounge

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George’s Lounge

George’s Lounge has been a favored establishment since 1959. It’s the best place to gather with friends and enjoy local grass-fed gourmet burgers, fresh-cut fries, and more. It has the best environment with open and live music with wide selections of drinks from cola products to hard liquors.

It appears that the special person’s hangout place is the George’s Lounge and knows everything in the menu. I got their Gorgeous George burger which has double burger with bacon, sautéed onion and mushroom, egg, kamikaze sauce on egg bun. The whole dining experience was at 4/5. The food may not be as great as other restaurants I’ve been to but the environment is magnificent and the service is amazing.

To contact them, check the website here or travel to:
George’s Lounge
229 Cleveland Ave NW
Canton, OH 44702
Phone No. 330-452-0029

5. Boathouse BBQ

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Boathouse BBQ of Marietta

It is one of my favorite restaurants in Marietta. When the special person visited me, we went to boathouse BBQ  and ordered grilled pork BBQ ribs. It was the best and I always chose that. It so happened that he loved it too. Dining experience is 3/5. Food is amazing but inconsistent, service is a little slow but ambience is great.

Visit them at Boathouse BBQ of Marietta at 218 Virginia St, Marietta, OH 45750 with phone no. 740-373-3006.

6. The Winking Lizard Tavern and Restaurant

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The Winking Lizard Tavern and Restaurant

We had dinner at this restaurant and we both ordered grilled pork BBQ ribs with mac&cheese and steak fries for my side dishes. Dining experience is at 3/5. I’ve been tasting and ordering BBQ ribs in every restaurants I’ve been to and the Winking Lizard Tavern and Restaurant’s BBQ ribs somehow fails it.

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Pork BBQ ribs with mac&cheese and steak fries

Check them at www.winkinglizard.com or visit them at this address:
The Winking Lizard Tavern and Restaurant
5710 Fulton Drive NW
Canton, OH 44718
Phone No. 330-497-1133

7. Scrambler Marie’s Restaurant

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Scrambler Marie’s Restaurant

We also had breakfast in Scrambler Marie’s Breakfast Bistro. I picked the American breakfast since I have weakness for sunnyside up eggs. It was one of the best breakfast meals I had. Dining experience meter is at 5/5. It was perfect.

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American Breakfast with Sausage, sunnyside up eggs, white toast, strawberry yogurt

For menus, check their website at scramblersrestaurants.com or visit them at:
Scrambler Marie’s Restaurant at Canton-Belden Village Mall
4345 Belden Village Mall
Canton, OH 44718
Phone No. 330-493-4800

I’ll also add the list of restaurants I have dined in. I’ve been to food tasting and I’ve been reviewing them for the last year. Here are the list:

8. Ruby Tuesday

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Ruby Tuesday

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Pork BBQ Ribs with mac&cheese and baked potato with sour cream and butter

9. Applebee’s

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Applebee’s Grill and Bar cr: Applebee’s

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Shrimp and Parmesan Sirloin Steak medium well with mac&cheese and french fries

10. Lori’s Family Restaurant

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Lori’s Family Restaurant cr: Tripadvisor

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American Breakfast with sausage patties, hash puppies, white toast, sunnyside up eggs

11. Outback Steakhouse

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Outback Steakhouse cr: Outback

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Alice Spring’s Chicken with mac&cheese

12. Tlaquepaque Mexican Restaurant

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Tlaquepaque Mexican Restaurant

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Mar Y Tierra with cajun rice, shrimps and steak

If you love food like me and my boo, better start exploring the nearest restaurants and see which serves the best meal and dishes. What better to do that with your special someone dear to your heart and have a series of dates. I had my fair share done, now, it’s your turn. Bon appetit! 😉

Where Learning Goes Underground

I was in Maryland when I got lost and drove aimlessly, little did I notice that I was already in Pennsylvania after my GPS from my car announced and welcomed me to the state from Maryland. Then, I saw the signage on the side of the road and it read Laurel Caverns. I was drawn to it and at that time, I have decided to come and see what’s in it for me. It was almost an hour and a half drive from Oakland, Maryland. I arrived at Laurel Caverns at 1430H. Parking is free and I went inside the visitor center and took one of the brochures and I got a little excited since I really didn’t know what to expect. I found out that Laurel Caverns is Pennsylvania’s largest cave. I went to find the staff and asked what they offer and told me about a tour in the cave. I automatically said, ‘sign me in for the tour where learning goes underground.’pa02

Laurel Caverns as I mentioned is Pennsylvania’s largest cave located in route 40 east of Uniontown. For travelers to get to Laurel Caverns, just put this address in GPS: 101 Skyline Drive, Farmington, PA 15437 that will get to the intersection of Skyline Drive and Route 40. It has Norman E. Cale Visitor’s Center which serves as a souvenir shop, tour meeting point, snack area, restrooms and changing rooms for caving gear.pa01

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Laurel Caverns Postcards

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Souvenir Shop

Laurel Caverns offers 4 tours, namely the traditional one hour tour, upper caving tours, lower caving tours and half-day and all-day educational tour. I chose the traditional one hour tour. Admission fee costs USD12 for adult. For more information about the cavern, visit this site at www.laurelcaverns.com.

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Cave Bats Entrance

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Hall of the Mountain King

I took the one hour tour for the reason that I don’t have the whole day to explore the cave and I’m not a certified cave explorer. Anyway, the traditional one hour tour is the most popular since it is suitable for all ages. It has a guide and tour starts every 20 minutes with the last tour of the day enters the cave at 1630H. This tour is not advisable though for schools and large groups wanting a private guide. That’s the reason they have the half-day and all-day educational programs which include rappelling classes, cave study excursions, BSA and GSA speleology, geology and forestry patches, badges and pins. But visitors need to call in ahead because this tour is only available every Saturday and other days by special arrangements.

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Tour with the guide

The traditional tour lasts about 55 minutes seeing Laurel Caverns as a natural cave which follows the natural slope of the mountain. The tour may be strenuous for some. The cave temperature is 52 degrees Fahrenheit year round so, a sweater or jacket should be worn. Non-slippery shoes are also important and never wear high heels to a cave. These are the photos I captured when I was down in the cave, spelunking.pa07pa08pa09pa10pa11pa12pa13pa14pa15pa16pa17pa19pa20The whole cave experience was amazing. I used to visit caves back in the Philippines and the Middle East but Laurel Caverns has been made accessible and more of a touristy vibe with the colorful lights. With the aid of the guide, cave explorers like me were able to navigate the different routes in the cave and were able to get important information and history as we go along with the tour. Indeed, Laurel Caverns is where learning goes underground.

Half A Day In Mississippi

Since I was already in the southern part of the United States, I might as well do some side trips to see other state. It brought me to look on the U.S state map and have decided to venture to the Magnolia state. I spent half a day in Mississippi since it was just near Tennessee.

I was searching for tourist destinations in MS but most of them were located far from the border state of Tennessee and I only have a half a day thus, I don’t want to spend it in the road and come back right after I got to the location. So, I came up with the idea to just visit the nearest tourist attractions. One tourist spot came up on the list was Tunica County River Park.

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Tunica River Park and Museum cr; tunicariverpark.com

Tunica County River Park is located in the town of Robinsonville, Tunica county in Mississippi. It is a perfect  for outings with family and kids and can also be a romantic destination for couples and lovers. It has the perfect view emphasizing the beauty  of the Mississippi River. Tunica River Park and Museum is rich with native wildlife and flora and the focal point of the park is the stunning architectural of the River Park Overlook that provides the breathtaking views of the America’s river. For more information, visit their site by clicking here.

After my visit in Tunica River Park, I was curious about these two cool-looking gate poles that looked like a castle. So I went through it and found out that it was a casino. It was the Fitzgeralds Tunica Casino and Hotel.

Fitz Tunica Casino and Hotel is just located few miles of Tunica River Park. If you have noticed when you get to Tunica, there are a lot of casinos and hotels and they aren’t just ordinary casinos, they are worldly known such as Hollywood, Gold Strike to name a few. Tunica might be named as the Vegas of Mississippi. It is like in the middle of nowhere and once you get there, it boomed with a surprise with ginormous casino buildings.

I was just seeing the vicinity out of curiosity and just went by passing. The building was indeed huge and looked like a castle but the location was just bland and dead. It was around 1000H. It might be a different story when you get inside the casino but it was never part of the itinerary to get inside a casino so, I left after I got satisfied with my curiosity. I, then, went to Southaven to do some shopping since they have this famous outlet. It was Tanger Outlet Mall.

Tanger Outlet Mall is located in Southaven. It is just outside of Memphis, TN. Tanger Outlets Southaven is the first outlet mall near the Memphis metro area. It is a nationally known outlet center brand.

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Tanger Outlets: Coach, Pandora, Guess, etc

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Tanger Outlets

That ended spending my half a day in Mississippi. It was spent most of the time in the mall but at least I got to see Mississippi even it was just in short period of time. If I get another opportunity to visit Mississippi, I would definitely give more time traveling down south since it has a lot to offer for a traveler like me.