A Guide to Savannah, Georgia

It was news to me that Savannah is only two hours away from my home in Jacksonville. My lack of geographical sense was made transparent when I admitted that I thought Atlanta was actually closer. As always, you’re wrong, Tiffany. Atlanta is really about 5 hours away. I will buy a map one day, I promise. Armed with this new knowledge, I suggested a weekend trip to my boyfriend. The plan was set…

img_0771I have always wanted to visit “The Hostess City of the South”. My imagination took me to a place that was a combination of St. Augustine and New Orleans. After walking those wobbly streets myself,  I can say that I was not far off in my assumptions. The rounded corners of the architecture reminded me of the those standing in The French Quarter. The grey beards of Spanish moss hanging off the haunting branches of Savannah’s trees resemble those planted on St. George Street. It made me happy to see pieces of these two places I love waiting for me in a new location.

But do not me wrong, readers! Savannah is in a league all her own.
Keep reading if you are interested in seeing how we spent our weekend in the good ol’ south!


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In my opinion, the best way to see this city is on foot. Parking isn’t as bad as other places I have been before. But to make it easier on yourself (especially for those who cannot parallel park – *raises hand*), I say to either stay somewhere in the heart of downtown or Uber from your hotel in Midtown. You also have the option of hailing a pedicab, who I have heard have great personalities and unique local insight, or hopping on a trolley to enjoy a day-long tour. But I still stand by my recommendation of going about it all on foot. Each street and square has a personality of its own. After doing some research, I learned that Savannah’s buildings canvas different styles of architecture: Gothic (my favorite), French, Italianate, Grecian, and, of course, Georgian. I found that to be surprising and beautiful! No two buildings look exactly alike.

The picture above is the route we took on foot! Did you know TripAdvisor can track your movements like that in a Travel Timeline?! Kind of creepy, but kind of awesome!

 CHECK OUT MY MAP OF MUST-SEES IN SAVANNAH 

What We Saw:

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  1) Forsyth Park
(Drayton St & East Park Ave, Savannah, GA 31401)

Who doesn’t love a good fountain? You can find this one on the perimeter of Forsyth Park. We actually made this the starting point of our journey. We parked in a neighborhood near by and began walking from there. This park is big! It is the site of many couples having picnics on the grass, families going for a weekend stroll along the moss-canopied sidewalks, and tourists coming to take the typical fountain picture. Here I am in this picture trying my hardest not to look like one those tourists…But it’s not working with that blue backpack on, is it?

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2) Historic Downtown

As stated before, the architecture of Savannah is a mixing pot of different cultural influences. As you can see from the picture above, each house takes on their own character. It is like a free museum of houses for the curious passerbys. I can only imagine the interesting people who live in them too! Because of course only the most sophisticated, artistic, and compelling people can inhabit them, right? Or, you know, it could just be your Grandpa Joe…but he is cool too.

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3) Squares

Chippewa. Wright. Pulaski. Madison. Chatham. All interesting names for five out of 22 (there used to be 24!) squares you can mosey upon. They all have similar feels with the looming trees and park benches to rest on. But they all have a different focal point. It could be a statue of a famous historical figure (don’t ask me their names!) or the site of a classic movie (does Run! Forrest! Run! ring any bells?). They make for great meeting spots! “See you at Franklin Square at 4?!”

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Lean with it, rock with it.

4) Colonial Park Cemetery
(201 Abercorn St., Savannah, GA 31401)

Ignore that huge wedgie in the picture. Did I just bring attention to something I shouldn’t have? Yeahhhh, let’s bring our attention to the headstones. Eyes up! This is a famous cemetery that is usually a pit stop on most Savannah ghost tours. It is closed at night, so I would make a visit when the sun is out. Its inhabitants include some famous historical figures (who are you, Nathanael Greene?) and victims of the Yellow Fever outbreak in the 1800’s. On any tour you take, you will learn that Yellow Fever has a lot to do with Savannah’s deadly history. Stupid mosquitoes!

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5) River Street

It is a collection of touristy gift shops, bars, and restaurants – all with a view of the Savannah River. I liked the rustic architecture that surprisingly homed all these commercial stores! This was my favorite part to walk around during the day. Lots to see and find. I honestly do not know if there are people who live in those upstairs quarters or not, but it appears to have habitable balconies (someone let me know if you have the answer!). Fair warning that it gets a little rowdy at night. I would keep this in mind if you are traveling with the youngsters. Open container policy + belligerence do not equal an attractive outcome.

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6) Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
(222 E Harris St, Savannah, GA 31401)

Awestruck! This is THE most beautiful Catholic church I have ever been in. It is adorned with masterful works of art. Even if you are not a religious person, you cannot help but be moved by the sheer magnificence of it all. Feel free to take pictures of the architecture, but just be respectful of those adorning the sacrament. I attended Sunday mass at 11:30am – there were lots of people in attendance.

7) Boneventure Cemetery
(330 Bonaventure Rd, Savannah, GA 31404)

Have you ever been to a cemetery and gotten lost trying to find a specific grave? You might think any cemetery is big, but I have one for you that will trump the rest. Boneventure Cemetery is located about 20 minutes away from the historic district, adjacent to the Wilmington River. I recommend first stopping at the visitor center to get yourself a map! Yes, a map of the cemetery. It is so big that they even have an electronic registry  that documents every single plot in this location! The place is huge, to say the least.

Although picturesque, the statues and monuments can only be inspiration for any frightening nightmare. They may be pleasant in the morning, but I can only imagine the sinister glances they give you when the sun sets. It is so inspiring that the classic book The Garden of Good and Evil used this cemetery as a setting for its story. But if you are looking for the famous “bird girl” statue from the book’s cover, you will not find her here. She is located in a art museum now!

Where We Ate:

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Zunzi’s – 108 E York St, Savannah, GA 31401

My coworker, who is originally from Savannah, suggested this one. She mentioned that there are two separate locations: a sit-down version and a take-out one. The update, which we quickly discovered, is that the sit-down restaurant is officially closed. Located near Oglethorpe Square is this self-proclaimed “eclectic takeaway” food joint. The long line outside snakes into a tiny room where there are workers taking your order deli-style. They are famous for their sandwiches here. So I suggest giving that a try! I got “The Conquistador” with smoked sausage and was really happy with my choice. Some advice would be to get the special sauce on the side. It is a big sandwich so it might take you a while to finish it. If you get the sauce on the side, you decrease your risk of a soggy sandwich. Learn from me!

There is a covered, outdoor seating area around back.

Side note: Cover your kid’s ears, parents! Shouts of “Shit yeah!” fill the air. What’s a motto with you?!

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Treylor Park – 115 E Bay St, Savannah, GA 31401 

We attempted to eat at this place twice! I was trusting the TripAdvisor reviews and very eager to eat somewhere trendy and new. The first time was on Saturday night, after fighting our way through drunken patrons of the various River St. bars. The wait was 45 minutes and we could barely fit through the door. You know what that means? “You want to go to McDonald’s?”. We tried again the next afternoon around noon.

When my order of “Treylor Park Nachos Grande” came out, my eyes went big! If you see the picture, you can easily tell that this is a small order of fries for a giant! It was a mountain of french fries topped with sprinkles of eternal happiness (and carbs). Oh, and I freakin’ love truffle sauce… I ate it by myself because I am a glutton, but I highly recommend sharing that with a friend. Other suggestions would be to get the Grilled Cheddar Cheese with a spicy coleslaw or the Ahi Tuna pizza!

Is a Ghost Tour worth it?

No.

 

 

 

*silence*

 

 

 

 

Still here? Not enough of an explanation? Haha! Alright, alright, I’ll explain…

Let me start out by saying that I am an avid believer in the paranormal! I am no skeptic and will gladly entertain any ghost stories you have to tell (everyone has one, right?!). Despite my enthusiasm, I was disappointed with the tour I went on. Don’t get me wrong, this is not because of the tour guide or his efforts. I just … wasn’t scared. I knew we wouldn’t be going inside any of these haunted locations, so I don’t know what I was really expecting. If you are a follower of shows like Ghost Adventures or Celebrity Ghost Stories, you are already familiar with terms like “EVP” and “anomaly” and “voice box”. You’ve been creeped out enough by their stories! I guess what I need is just to do my own investigations of known local haunts…but God knows, I am too chicken to do that!

At places like the Colonial Park Cemetery, there is a possibility you will run into other ghost tours trying to see the same thing your group is. I can imagine the competition felt by all the tours offered in town! It is a bit annoying when two tours are trying to talk over the other one. If you still want to experience it for yourself, I would recommend Afterlife Tours over all the other ones. No costumes. Just a normal (as normal as a paranormal investigator can be haha) guy, his iPad filled with paranormal evidence, and knowledge that you might not have about Savannah and its ghostly past. He said that soon his tour will offer the chance to spend a night at the haunted brewery! So that sounds like a cool option for future visitors!

Download the Savannah ePass to get some $$$ off this tour!

What I Wish I Had Done:

  1. Wormsloe Historic Site: I am a huge fan of picturesque areas with borderline creepy trees. Wormsloe fits the bill on this front. Unfortunately, we didn’t make this place a priority because 1) it was a bit too far out to fit into our schedule and 2) there is an entrance fee. We went to Boneventure Cemetery instead.
  2. Stayed in Historic Savannah: Our hotel was in Midtown, about 10 minutes away from historic downtown. This is very convenient (and cheaper, I’m sure)! But
  3. Taken a Pedicab ride: I’m the first to admit it: I’m lazy. Walking around Savannah takes it toll on you, alright? Taking a pedicab would have been a nice relief on the soles. I heard the drivers are incredibly entertaining too.
  4. Tried Huey’s On The River: I love seafood. Love it! But my boyfriend? Nope. “It tastes like the sea,” he says. *shake my head* Huey’s has amazing reviews, as it mixes New Orleans style cooking with the delicacies from the ocean. I wish I could have indulged!
  5. SCAD Museum of Art: Art is an important part of Savannah’s culture. You see SCAD’s name plastered on almost every street downtown! But I never got to visit the actual museum. Maybe next time!

Sincerely,

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New Orleans: It’s called ‘The Big Easy’, but is it easy to see?

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We have all heard of “The Crescent City”.  It’s “The Big Easy”. The land of bayous, gumbo, and jazz. Simply said, it’s New Orleans, Louisiana. This is a city surrounded in mystery, culture, and grandeur. I have physically walked those cobblestone streets only once, but in my imagination I have been there far more times. I, too, have enjoyed the sensual sounds of Dixieland on a late night stroll. I, too, have ventured among the crowded halls of Cafe du Monde and devoured a powdery beignet . I, too, have braved Bourbon Street and “earned” myself some beads (it is as easy as screaming, “Hey! Over here!” surprisingly).

Are you considering making a trip? Do you have questions about where to eat? What sites to see? I cannot give you the “Official-Certified-5 Star-NOLA-Resident Tour/Expert Guide” summary, but I can tell you what I have personally seen and experienced on my short stay there. I can tell you exactly where I stayed, ate, ventured.

Keep on reading until the end and you’ll see my Top 5 Favorite Things About New Orleans.

→ WHERE DID WE STAY?

Feast your eyes on “The Gentry House“. How about you shut down the idea that you need to stay in a fancy hotel on Royal Street? Why don’t you rest your head on a pillow at this quaint bed and breakfast instead? Nestled between Rampart St. and Burgandy St., The Gentry House is a sight!

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My favorite part? The courtyard! The only time I saw one of the owners was when he was tending to his garden. And what a great job he does! The fountain and wrought iron furnishings really add to the antiquated feel of the place. The house is 150+ years old with, I’m sure, lots of history. Makes me wonder who else had chosen to make their stay there within the last century.

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True to their statement of “Come stay with us and live like a local!”, The Gentry House is a home away from home. It was like having our own apartment in New Orleans: it had a living room, bedroom, and kitchen with a fridge stocked with fruits, drink, and various breakfast options. My most favorite option were fresh, warm croissants – delivered daily and left on our door. We read about these in the reviews and were very excited to try them. They did not disappoint! I was surprised to find that there were different options: regular, chocolate-filled, and eclairs. I had the regular croissant and I was overwhelmed with it’s buttery goodness. On our last day, the group was ready to leave before we ran into Mr. Brian donning a bag of those delicious croissants. He insisted we prolong checking out and enjoy the baked goods before heading off. We HAD to stay and have a bite before turning in the keys, of course! It was worth it too.

Overall, it was a comfortable stay. It wasn’t a 5 Star hotel, you mostly pick up after yourself, but it was an experience I thoroughly enjoyed. It has great reviews on tripadvisor, as well. I would definitely book with them again.

Warning: From the moment we got there, we were told to stay away from Rampart St. come night time. Don’t park your car there and do not stumble upon those streets alone. But don’t worry, be courteous, mind yourself, and keep your wits about you always. Never be afraid of travelling. There is danger just stepping outside your own house everyday. Remember to have streets smarts.


→WHERE DID WE EAT?

Eat New Orleans

In my personal opinion, the most important part of a trip (besides a roof over your head) is how you fill your belly. What does the area have to offer when it comes to cuisine? As you can probably tell, I am not looking for anything fancy. I am always willing to try ‘hole-the-wall’/’mom-and-pop’ type restaurants and have been happier for it.

The first place we tried for dinner was “Eat New Orleans” located right on the corner of Dumaine St. Sliding into the little door with my cohorts wasn’t an easy task because we were all fighting each other to get a seat by the window (I like to people watch). From the outside, looking in, the restaurant gives off an air of humble trendiness. It beckons outsiders to try their cooking. Their name says it all we were there to EAT, NOLA style.

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It seemed like a lot of the patrons were regulars, as the waiter seemed to be extremely all-knowing about their orders. The crowd was a little older, which is probably why we got eyeballed when we came in with our “grenades” and valor having survived Bourbon St. I try not to reek “tourist”, but I don’t think we fooled anyone that night.

Check out their menu! I highlighted what my dinner party tried.

I couldn’t decide between the “Crawfish Boil Stew” and the “Chicken and Dumplings” for dinner. The temperature that night in January was probably in the 50s, so it was on the chilly side. When I revealed my uncertainty with a food choice, the waiter pronounced that it was a “chicken and dumplings kind of night”. So I got chicken and dumplings. I don’t think I need to say more.

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Delicious.


 Cafe du Monde

Have you ever seen Disney’s Princess and the Frog (2009)? Do you remember her “man-catching beignets”? Even though it was only a cartoon, this delicacy just looked way too tempting to not have in real life! I wanted to try some immediately! And what better place to have your first, powdery beignet than the famous Cafe du Monde ?

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There are two locations in New Orleans, but we visited the original one near Jackson Square. Beware! This place is INCREDIBLY popular! Pretty much anytime of the day – being open 24 hours.  So much so that the line was around the block! Surprisingly, it was only a 15-20 minute wait. My friend Manat was kind enough to wrestle some older ladies for a spot in line… She was very territorial about our table! (kidding)

The set-up was like a big parish hall. An open space with dozens and dozens of small, round tables. It’s pretty cramped in there, but the smell of coffee and baked goods were a sumptuous distraction. Tip: If you go around back, past where the to-go lines are, you can see the employees cutting and deep frying the dough! They have it down to a science. The guy I saw didn’t even have to turn around – he just tossed those buggers right in. Watch out for splashing oil!

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Willie Mae’s

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If you’re looking for good southern cooking, look no further than Willie Mae’s Scotch House down St. Ann Street. If you didn’t know where or what this place was, you could easily drive right past it! The only way you would know it’s purpose is by seeing the sign outside and trying to push past the growing crowd lining up. It’s located in the middle of a (truthfully) grungy neighborhood and, just like the name entails, is inside of a tiny little house! It adds to the charm of “home cooked” meals and feels like you’re eating with the owner’s huge (and widely diverse) family of tourists. According to an article on nola.com, the original location is left in shambles from the destructive Hurricane Katrina. But don’t expect to come here for dinner because they close their doors at…wait for it…5 pm. It was the boys’ idea to eat here and I am glad they made this decision! I come from a land, though also in the south, whose best example of fried chicken is KFC. So…you can tell that anything could beat that! Take a gander at these:

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I have never had fried-anything melt in my mouth the way these did! I don’t know what the batter was made out of, but I do know that it came from heaven. I paired them with some green beans, but there are so many other options to get. Do butter beans, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, sweet potatoes, or beans catch your attention? It should because they are great matches for the “America’s Best Fried Chicken”.

I will warn you that the wait was pretty long. It is not a huge facility, so there aren’t that many tables to work with. The service took a bit longer than we would have liked too, but it was around 3 pm, so I am sure they were preparing to close up. Regardless of these things, the food was marvelous! Best fried chicken I have ever had (don’t tell my Dad). I would recommend Willie Mae’s to anyone in the mood for some great southern, home-cooked meals.


→WHAT SITES WOULD WE RECOMMEND?

Drive along Lake Pontchartrain

No, this isn’t Lake “Pocahontas” (if you’re like me, that’s what you thought it said too). It is actually pronounced “pawn-sha-trun” (fancy, I know) and is known as the body of water that hosts the world’s longest bridge of its kind. Ready to ditch the typical “I spy” road trip gaming options of “tree, tree, stick, green highway sign”? How about imagining you are driving through water? Obviously the bridge is not sitting tire-deep! But, if you use your imagination as often as I do, it may totally seem that way. You are driving parallel to opposite traffic and the bridge seems like it is never going to end! That might sound terrible (and a bit scary – Twilight Zone: The Never Ending Bridge!?), but it is actually quite exciting. The Causeway Bridge was approximately 40 miles of anticipation for me. Once you reach the ending point, you can see the skyline of New Orleans getting more and more prominent. It was honestly breathtaking!

Go to Google Maps and use the street view. You won’t regret it.

Warning: Don’t drive on it during a storm. The water levels get extremely high and rocky – it’s not worth the terror, in my opinion!


Finding Marie Laveau’s Tomb in St. Louis Cemetery #1

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R.I.P. Rest in peace to these old souls who are “buried” in this alluring New Orleans cemetery. Take the term “buried” lightly because they are actually above ground. The walk to the cemetery was what you would think: it was musty, dark, and smelled a bit like the waste from the buggies that pass by. Rows and rows of tombs encompass your eye frame. Entering the iron-gate protected property was like voluntarily entering into a maze. Would you have the courage to venture into it independently? I suggest you and your friends do what we did. Have you ever heard of the famous Marie Laveau? If you haven’t, you absolutely have to look up her history (she is even introduced as a featured character on the popular TV show American Horror Story). Being dubbed the “Voodoo Queen”, you can imagine what she was known for! St. Louis Cemetery #1

Here is what I wrote about finding her tomb in a letter of mine to a pen pal:

Before we left on Sunday, we visited the old cemetery. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but because of the water levels in New Orleans, they had to “bury” their dead above ground. So there are these huge tombs and mausoleums (spelling) that house people’s loved ones. It’s supposed that the famous voodoo queen Marie Laveau was buried there, so Hayley, Manat, and I split up to see if we could find it. The old cemetery was a big maze! I got lost amidst all the tombs, but I was the one to actually find her grave. You tell because it has a bunch of red X’s all over it and tons of “offerings” (which looked more like junk – old gum wrappers, bus passes, some lady even left her license from New Jersey). The story goes, you can go to her grave and ask for a favor, marking 3 x’s. If she grants your request, then you have to go back to the grave, circle your x, and leave an offering of thanks. Frankly, I think those are lies told by tourist guides … but, whatever, people still do it. I still payed my respects.”  -Letter from March 9, 2015

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Supposed tomb of Marie Laveau


Bourbon Street…I guess

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I feel it is unfortunate to say that when a good number of people think of New Orleans, they immediately picture Mardi Gras, boobs, and drunkenness. This is true on many counts on the rambunctious streets of Bourbon. How can it not be with a name like that? My friends and I ventured out both of our nights there. If it were up to me, I would’ve skipped the party and taken a different turn down a jazzier street. But we all went for the experience. I guess I can say I left there “having partied on Bourbon Street”. I don’t know if that is something to be proud of, to be honest.

It’s funny how the atmosphere changes once night life emerges. The street that was once filled with families and street performers turned into a totally different world. Guys holding signs pronouncing their bars have BIG ASS BEERS. Drag queens luring you in to see their burlesque show (we did see a non-drag queen version that night though). A tour group of old people dressed in devil costumes double-fisting grenades. Grenades are the drink to get there. They are in long cps, filled to the brim with alcohol. Once you get to the bottom, you find a little plastic grenade. I got the frozen kind and it was pretty strong. I like partying as much as the next person, but I don’t ever go out to get ridiculously drunk to the point of belligerence. A lot of people did that out there.

As you can read from my letter, I was not a big fan of the whole thing. I am all for having fun, drinking alcohol, dancing, etc – we did all that. But there is a LIMIT. I do not care if you are on vacation, there is no excuse for belligerent behavior. I was honestly over the scene after the first hour. I had been bumped into, hit on, offered drinks one too many times. One guy came up to me and said he “wanted the d”. Uh, what? Okay, dude.

I say, by all means, venture out on Bourbon Street at night. It was, indeed, an experience. But I can’t tell you that I enjoyed it all too much.

Check out my fun run-in in the bathroom:

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The Sounds of the Streets

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Every turn you made, there was an artist sharing their skills. I highly suggest taking time out of your day to search for streets musicians. Just follow the musical notes…

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→WHAT I WISH I HAD DONE

  1. Popped more tags: I wish I had gone into more thrift stores. We only visited two, including one that had a studio setting that carried vintage clothing and jewelry all the way from the 20’s. I want to find more treasures! I spent too much time in the touristy shops 😦
  2. Visited more artsy places: Jackson Square is filled with artists displaying their canvases (and psychic skills) in the morning. But I wish I had looked up museums or some local art galleries! I am sure they were bustling with creativity I missed out on.
  3. Seen the plantations: Even though they have dark histories, I would love to see the statuesque yards and old houses. They make for the best settings for pictures and I regret not making time to go out there. A good option would be Oak Alley Plantation!
  4. Gone on an American Horror Story hunt: Our first stop was actually at the Buckner Mansion, where the fictional “Miss Robicheaux’s Academy” was set in American Horror Story: Coven. It was surprisingly not busy at all! There were maybe 3 other people outside the gates snapping fan pictures. Plus, the neighborhood it is in is beautiful!

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I just wish I had gone to other places where they filmed. If you look it up online, you can see all of them!


That’s all for now! Did you enjoy my suggestions? Do you have dreams to visit Louisiana as well? Feel free to ask me anything in the comments.

Sincerely,

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