By: Sandra B. Wilkins
Senior Agent, AffordableTours.com
I’ve just returned from a delightful and delicious tour of the most popular destinations in the U.S. south…Insight Vacations’ “Gold” Tour, Southern Elegance.
• Atlanta, Georgia
• Asheville, North Carolina
• Charleston, South Carolina
• Jekyll Island, Georgia
• Savannah, Georgia
The five star plus hotels used for this tour were a wonderful surprise and the buffet breakfasts and 5 included dinners were outstanding culinary affairs.
Arriving into Atlanta, a taxi transfer is included to the Intercontinental Hotel where we enjoyed a welcome reception with our tour director and fellow travelers. Next morning we had a brief tour of Atlanta from our coach as we made our way to Asheville, N.C.
Next, a special day savoring the magnificence of the historic Biltmore Estate during a guided tour. George Vanderbilt opened the doors of his 250 room chateau in 1895, and the home was truly one of the most technologically advanced structures of its time. It was fully electric and centrally heated throughout. The architect was famed Richard Morris Hunt, and the gardens and grounds were designed Frederick Law Olmstead, creator of New York City’s Central Park.
Biltmore Estate Gardens
Leaving the grounds of the Biltmore Estate we drove ten minutes over to our hotel for the night, the Inn on Biltmore Estate. This was an exquisite property, with views overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains and spacious rooms luxuriously outfitted. What a treat for dinner tonight: Insight gave each of us a $60 Biltmore gift card to be used at any of the 4 fine dining establishments on the property. I had a terrific meal at the Bistro and had money left on the card for a bottle of wine from The Winery!
Here we go on day 3 to Charleston, rich in history and charm. Our introduction was by horse drawn carriage through the downtown area, to the Battery, and along the fine, stately homes of historic Charleston. Our digs tonight were in the Mills House Hotel, terrific location and a nice dinner meal was included here as well…check out the crabcakes! Next morning we did a hour long harbor cruise before embarking for our ride down to Jekyll Island.
Downtown Historic Charleston
Outdoor Market in Charleston
Carriage Ride through Charleston
I was totally unprepared for the beauty and elegance of the legendary Jekyll Island Club Hotel. Like the Biltmore Estate, this club was another monument to America’s 19th century wealthy and influential citizens. Original members of the club included J.P. Morgan, Marshall Field, Joseph Pulitzer and William Vanderbilt, among others.
An enormous hotel was built around the club and a fine grand dining room offered elegant meals and expensive wines to the members and their wives. The hotel has been totally refurbished and is a delightful respite from modern life. We enjoyed a beautiful 2 room suite with a veranda overlooking the pool area. After getting settled we enjoyed a tram ride and walking tour around the extensive grounds and visited some of the member’s “cottages” often comprising 10 or more bedrooms!
Our Suite at Jekyll Island Club
Our evening dining experience in the Grand Dining Room was by far the most impressive and delicious of the entire tour. I started with Island Crab Cakes, followed by an Angus filet mignon with caramelized onions and peppercorn demi glace. This highlight meal was punctuated with excellent, complimentary wines.
Thinking it can’t get any better, imagine my jaw drop when we pulled into our next hotel, The Mansion at Forsyth Park in Savannah, Georgia. My friends, I’ve stayed at some of the world’s best hotels, but this one ranks right up at the top of my list. Owner and creator, Richard Kessler, visionary, and hotelier par excellence, operates 10 fantastic hotels across the country in his “Kessler Collection.” Kessler is an avid art collector, and the walls, hallways, alcoves and public areas of the Mansion boast original artworks at every turn.
Service from all staff was exceptional and genuinely friendly and warm. Food was terrific, the bar a joyous area, punctuated by more wonderful art, and the courtyard and poolside delightful.
Our room was huge and beautifully decorated, and the bathroom, equally large, sported a garden tub with shutters that open out to the bedroom, as well as a walk in shower and separate potty room, again with more delightful art on the wall.
Mansion at Forsyth Park
What about Savannah itself? A completely iconic city that feels like a small town, and reeks southern charm and civility at every corner. Savannah’s downtown area is one of the largest National Historic Landmark Districts in the United States. Savannah’s physical layout was the subject of an elaborate plan by the Georgia colony’s founders. Oglethorpe’s Savannah Plan consisted of a series of wards built around central squares, with trust lots on the east and west sides of the squares for public buildings and churches, and tithing lots for the colonists’ private homes on the north and south sites. This historic district leads all the way down to the Savannah River, where River Street is lined with shops and restaurants galore. It’s a joy to just stroll leisurely through this district, admiring the fine 18th and 19th century architecture and the unique qualities of each of the historic squares.
During the Savannah visit, the best meal enjoyed was lunch at The Chart House on the patio, overlooking the river. Located in 18th century stone warehouse, it’s constructed of ballast rock sometime prior to 1790, a former sugar and cotton warehouse, and is said to be the oldest masonry building in Georgia.
Savannah is a place I can return to again and again.
What makes Insight Vacations Gold Tours special? From their brochure: Insight Gold is a luxury collection of leisurely escorted journeys on which you’ll travel effortlessly in absolute comfort, elegance and style. You’ll visit the most sought after destinations, take part in amazing activities, stay in the finest hotels at the best addresses and delight in epicurean dining in renowned restaurants.
We know your time is precious and you want to spend it wisely, doing the things that interest you, so we listen to your preferences, treating you as an individual while we unobtrusively make all the arrangements. We’ll show you each country, its sights and its people as if through the eyes of a local. We’ll make your personal reservations, secure priority access and provide door to door service.
You may want to travel as a single, as a couple, or with friends—it’s up to you, but rest assured that you’ll be with like-minded people who share a taste for discovery, enjoy fine living and have a sense of fun.
For 32 years Insight has been a company you can trust and depend on. This heritage guarantees that each Insight Gold itinerary to Europe, North America, North Africa and the Indian sub-continent will be the experience of a lifetime.
© Sandra B. Wilkins
About the Author
Sandra Wilkins is a Tour Specialist at AffordableTours.com
Tel: 800.935.2620 Ext 115
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