2 provinces, 14 states, 6 days, 1 snowstorm, 3400+ kms!
After a lovely Christmas in Nova Scotia, H. and I left Halifax on 28 December, Florida-bound. The purpose of our trip was to drive my grandfather’s car down (he would fly a week later). We had only a rough plan of our route leaving, and no hotel reservations made. I was a little nervous about that — I am a person who likes a plan — but I actually ended up loving it. The spontaneity was a lot of fun and, thinking back on it, exactly what I needed given the last quarter of 2015 was deadline after deadline after deadline.
Nights 1 and 2: Portland, ME
We drove over 900 kms the first day to try to get as far south as possible due to an impending storm. Unfortunately, we didn’t quite make it out of the snow belt and ended up spending two nights in Portland instead of one. The upside of this is that we got to
eat see more of Portland — what we could access in the storm anyway.
Hot Suppa — We had breakfast here on day 2. Hot Suppa had amazing reviews on Yelp (which is how we found most of our recommendations), and it was packed, even in the middle of a major storm. We both liked our breakfasts but didn’t love them, and felt that it didn’t quite live up to its hype.
Dutch’s — For lunch that day, we wanted something simple: we both had “takeaway sandwich” in mind, and it had to be somewhere close that we could walk to in a ranging storm! Dutch’s was a great choice- it looks unassuming but their food was delicious.
Boda — Boda was every hipster’s dream. A “Very Thai” kitchen + bar, according to its website. It was good food. It felt more innovative than your average Thai restaurant, although I’d argue your more traditional place is just as satisfying.
Tandem Bakery — We needed caffeine and sustenance for our 800km drive to Harrisburg and Tandem was the perfect choice. The coffee was probably the best all trip and the scones and muffins we had were sooo tasty.
Night 2: Harrisburg, PA
We arrived in Harrisburg after a rather stressful drive through the rain and fog. We crossed 7 states in one day which felt to us like we’d accomplished something!
Cork & Fork — This place was a nice 10-minute walk from our hotel and was packed to the rafters when we arrived. We didn’t think we’d get a table but agreed to wait for a little while to see. After about 15 minutes a table became free and we are so glad it did because the food at Cork & Fork was amazing. We shared a pizza and salad and both were excellent.
Little Amps — Continuing our one-day tradition of starting the day with breakfast to-go from independent coffee shops, we headed to Little Amps. We’d noticed the place the night before (it is kitty-corner to Cork & Fork) when it had live music on. Less than 12 hours later it served us up great coffee and delicious baked goods.
Night 3: Charlotte, NC
Driving into Charlotte was a little surreal because it had a “big city” feeling much more than our previous two stops did. We also had more trouble finding a hotel because it was NYE. I was booking the hotel as H. was pulling off a random exit into the city. But it all ended up working out. We had supper at Mert’s, which was exactly the southern diner that we were after! It was really an experience of its own — unlike anywhere either of us had eaten before. We walked around a bit after supper, taking in the atmosphere of DT Charlotte (jubilant and lots of police). We ended up bar-hopping a bit and then ringing in the new year quietly in our hotel room! (Note: no report on breakfast here as, it being New Year’s Day, we deliberately chose a hotel with breakfast included).
Night 4: Savannah, GA
The drive from Charlotte to Savannah was an easy 4 hours — much shorter than previous days — and we planned it this way to have a few extra hours of daylight to explore the city. It ended up taking longer to park and unload than we expected, so our time was cut a bit short. Savannah was the first and only place we stayed that felt touristy. It was New Year’s Day after all, and I think there were lots of visitors. There was also no way we could do the place justice in 12 hours of exploring it, but we did get a little taste.
VinnieVanGoGo’s — We had a late lunch here — apparently some of the best pizza in the city — and it did not disappoint. The pizza was fresh and very tasty.
Treylor Park — When we first showed up to Treylor Park we were told that the wait was going to be an hour. Instead we ended up sitting outside at their bar (which had a cooler vibe than inside, we thought). Again, this place was awesome. The food was inventive, the drinks were really good. Highly recommended.
The Coffee Fox –We had our final breakfast (to go) at the Coffee Fox. Again, the coffee and breakky here was spot-on.
We made it to Sarasota late afternoon on January 2nd.
The trip was about driving more than anything else — we obviously had to get the car there! But we were fortunate to see some really cool places and take our time doing it (it is possible to do the drive in 2-3 days). It really made me want to spend more time in the US. As a child we tended to spend our vacations in Canada or the UK (with the exception of some March break trips to FL), and as an adult I have not lived in Canada enough to take advantage of traveling south. The US is such a diverse place and I have always loved visiting and this trip only made me want to see more of it.
Some random tidbits
*My favourite part of the whole journey was the drive from the US border to Bangor, ME. We crossed the border around 4:30pm; the sun was setting, snow was all around us, the scenery was incredibly beautiful and there was hardly anyone else on the road. I was driving, H. was dozing next to me (pretty much the last time the passenger was able to doze!), we had NPR’s Fresh Air on the radio, and the whole thing was incredibly peaceful.
*We really noticed how craft breweries are taking off! There was local beer everywhere, even in Sarasota. Awesome.
*At least in the south, everything tasted sweet(er) to us. Butter, bread, pesto, even crackers — it seemed like everything had added sugar. Yuck. I could not stomach more than a bite of some of it. We definitely noticed a huge difference between Canada/UK and the US.
*I learned to drive in NS, where a traffic jam is a tractor + 20 cars behind. There’s only one spot in the whole province (that I can think of) where a highway has 3 lanes. And I have not done much driving in the past 10 years — I didn’t drive at all when I lived in Montreal or Germany, and don’t drive now. So I won’t lie, I was intimidated by some of these big highways. But I did it! Some of the drivers though, oh the driving…
*To book hotels I used the apps Priceline, HotelTonight, and Booking.com. We found that Priceline had the best deals, but it was very random.