a sweet savannah picnic

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A few weeks ago in Savannah, we had a little picnic in Forsyth Park and, despite the summer bugs, it was quite idyllic. We sat just behind the fountain, underneath a huge live oak on our cozy little Ralph Lauren blanket. I brought some pieces from home to dress it up a little, like a pair of blue milk glass cups, a white porcelain bowl for the fruit, our favorite buffalo plaid napkins from Williams-Sonoma, and the pièce de résistance, the vintage picnic basket we picked up last year from The Church Mouse in Palm Beach.

As for the food, everything was, of course, from Trader Joe’s. We had some pre-made sandwiches, grapes, kettle chips, and sparkling lemonade which was a perfect combination for such a hot day. Later, we had cups of frosé and then, for dessert we went over to Leopold’s to get ice-cream cones but the line was so long, we ended up just going to Ben & Jerry’s for Cherry Garcia which we took with us while we walked along the river (and the set of the show Ozark) back to the hotel.

why the creator of fashion blog 'Magnolia Charles' loves the south

We’re about halfway through July’s all-Southern content on the blog and I’ve shared plenty of reasons why I love my home region. But, it’s always good to get an outside perspective, so I enlisted the help of Sally, creator of the truly swoon-worthy blog Magnolia Charles, who may not be from the South originally but whose passion for the region makes me so happy! I first became acquainted with Sally on Instagram after seeing her featured on the Gal Meets Glam story wearing one of their dresses while on a trip to Winter Park, which is nearby me and somewhere I spend a lot of time.

I was so glad to be able to chat with her about the reasons she loves the South, some of her local favorites, and what’s next for her when it comes to her exploration of the region.

Can you start by telling us where you’re from and where you are currently based now?

I’m originally from a very small town in the North of Germany and grew up in the country. I always wanted to venture out and moved to Hamburg for university and after finishing up to the capital of Germany, Berlin, for my first job. That’s where I’m based now for the last three years working in the fashion industry. Still I do have the feeling this is not where I belong. The big city is too big for me and the life here is hectic - comparable to New York City. My heart is definitely somewhere else.

I relate to that so much after living in New York City and feeling so strongly about coming back home to the South. So, what is it that you love most about the South?

The first thing coming to my mind while thinking about the South are oak trees, the ocean and waterways and the architecture. I have this painting in my head of those serene trees and a colonial style house with of front porch and colored window shutters. Next to the fairytale aesthetics of the South, I love the more relaxed lifestyle and friendly people. They really enjoy life in all its glory. It’s such a different life to one in a big city and much more appealing to me. And the weather is wonderful and sunny year round. It’s its own special world that I’d love to be a part of.

Being from Europe, what is it that sparked your initial interest in the South?

Sadly, I can’t remember what exactly, but it must be at least 6-8 years ago that I saw something, a book or a picture of the Lowcountry that sparked something in me and from that day on, I consumed everything I could find from books, to blogs, to movies, to documentations to fictions. It was as if I have found the place I have dreamed of and only thought would exist in fairytales. Luckily, it’s very easy these days to find inspiration and dream.

Whether it’s restaurants, shopping, or sightseeing, can you share a few of your favorite spots in the region?

I’ve only been in Charleston and Savannah yet.

Restaurants: For me as a vegetarian the Southern kitchen is not the easiest to find something in. That’s the only thing I really don’t like. Luckily, there are wonderful alternative restaurants to the traditional kitchen. Basic Kitchen in Charleston was my favorite and Public Kitchen in Savannah.

Shopping: Lake Pajamas, Beckett Boutique, Candyshop Vintage, Amanda Lindroth, all in Charleston.

Stay: Montage Palmetto Bluff (the most amazing special place that embodies all the Lowcountry has to offer), The Kehoe House in Savannah (an old inn with the friendliest atmosphere and amazing classic interior design), The Inns Charleston (stylish Airbnbs in Downtown Charleston).

Sightseeing: Magnolia Plantation, Boone Hall, Sullivans Beach

You’re so right about it being a bit of a struggle to find good plant-based food here, but thankfully I see that starting to change. Overall, what is your favorite southern city you’ve visited so far and what makes it so special?

As I said I’ve only been to two, but Charleston was my favorite place in the whole world the first time I saw pictures of it. Traveling there has confirmed all of my dreams. It combines the aesthetics of the South and a relaxing Lowcountry lifestyle with a city that has tons of culture, history and a wonderful restaurant scenery to offer. Just walking through the streets around South of Broad at sunset finishing up at the Battery overlooking the ocean and having a glass of wine in a sweet bar is the perfect evening.

The next day you can venture out to the plantations with their wonderful oak trees or the beach within 15 minutes. Everything is really close so even on a normal working day, I imagine myself biking home and sitting on the porch reading a good book. The city is so friendly and really embodies the Southern lifestyle to me.

That all sounds so perfect! What’s up next on your southern travel bucket list?

What’s actually next is hopefully moving to Charleston within the next few years and make my Lowcountry living dream a reality. Sadly, it will be a very long and difficult visa process since I’m from Europe. From that day on I want to explore all that the South has to offer. Returning to Savannah and stopping in Beaufort on the way would be great.

Also I’d love to get to know all the islands on the coast of South Carolina and Georgia: Seabrook Island, Tybee Island, Hilton Head Island, Cumberland Island and so on. Next I’d love to get to know Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana more. I’m sure there are a lot of places I don’t even know of yet and I’m keen to find them.

seven southern cities you must visit

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If you ask me, there’s no better place for a road trip than the South. We have so many great cities, all within a fairly small region, that are worth a visit for the food, culture, and beautiful architecture, not to mention the great weather year-round. If you need some guidance, I’ve got the top seven cities I think you should put on your travel bucket list but there are plenty more in addition to these! So, pack up your car with lots of snacks and a really good playlist because you’ll be on the road for awhile.

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Perhaps my very favorite Southern city, Savannah has it all: historic architecture, great food, charming people, beautiful town squares, all that SCAD has to offer in terms of culture, and it’s on the water. When you visit, I recommend sticking to the center of town, away from the touristy shops on the river (unless of course, you’re taking an evening walk and getting gelato from Peaches & Cream). Explore the squares, the shopping on Broughton Street, and eat your weight in Southern food. A must see is The Paris Market and E. Shaver books, which I’ll talk about more in my upcoming Savannah recap.

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As of right now, Charleston is definitely the most popular destination in the south and has been for a few years now thanks to its colorful architecture, thriving food scene, and proximity to the beach. If you’re going for the first time, may I recommend Julia’s Charleston Guide to help plan your itinerary? At the very least, I definitely recommend staying in a beautiful inn like Zero George or 86 Cannon, having dessert from Sugar Bakeshop, a biscuit from Callie’s, dinner and drinks at Chez Nous, a stop at the Gibbes Museum of Art, and a bike ride around town.

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I’m a bit biased here because I live very close to Winter Park and am there all the time, but for good reason! It’s charming, elegant, and on the water with shopping, lots of good food and has made Southern Living’s best food towns many years in a row. I’ll have a full Winter Park travel guide up for you later this month for the next time you’re in the Orlando area, so I won’t spoil the details now but there are plenty of beautiful gardens, museums, and incredible restaurants for you to try when you’re here.

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Atlanta has so much more to offer than just a layover at Hartsfield-Jackson. Spend the day at Ponce City Market enjoying the food hall and playing games on the roof, then go shopping for cute things at Mashburn, Cover Books, and Little Barn Apothecary. Check out the food market at Star Provisions then grab a green juice from Kale Me Crazy before capping the night with drinks at the Garden & Gun club.

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Another (justified) bias here, as I lived in St. Augustine for several years while I was in school at Flagler College and absolutely adored it. This is a great place to explore on bicycle from the historic Castillo de San Marcos to all of the beautiful back streets in and around Flagler’s campus. Stop in at The Floridian for the best southern food, The Hyppo for their iconic popsicles, and The Kookaburra, either downtown or on the beach, for really good Australian coffee.

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It might seemingly be the bachelorette party capital of the United States, but there’s more to Nashville than bridesmaids and country music. Have a classic southern lunch of collard greens, mac and cheese, and biscuits at the iconic Loveless Cafe then head into Draper James for a sweet tea and some cute new pieces for your wardrobe. Stock your personal library at Parnassus Books, owned by author Ann Patchett, pick up some pastries from Marché Artisan Foods, beautiful pieces for the home from White’s Mercantile, clean skincare from Lemon Laine, then finish off your trip with some live music at Bluebird Cafe.

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If you want to be surrounded by endless food options as well as unique culture and gorgeous architecture, New Orleans is the city for you. Check out Horn’s for the vegan BLT, Herbsaint for small plates and a glass of wine, and Galatoire’s for classic New Orleans dishes. Stop by Willa Jean or Boulangerie for pastries and you can’t leave NOLA without having chicory coffee and beignets at Cafe du Monde. After all the meals, book a class at Romney Pilates then top off the trip by seeing the Preservation Hall Jazz Band if they’re in town.

WHAT TO PACK

how to make the best travel photo album

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Last month, I came back from Europe with literally 11,000 photos on my phone, a quarter of which were probably from the trip alone. I had shared many of them on Instagram, whether on my feed or in stories, but this was such a special trip that I knew I wanted to have a photo album made for each destination. I’m still working on the final edits of each, but going through the process gave me a few insights I wanted to share for anyone out there thinking about making their own travel album.

I’m so excited to get these printed and have them available look through and reminisce about our time in London and Amsterdam, perhaps with the strawberry tea we got at Fortnum & Mason or a jug of Pimm’s and lemonade if things get crazy. 😊

Use a web-based service to create your album.
You can, of course, go it alone with Photoshop but it’s so much easier to use a customizable tool like Mixbook or Shutterfly to create your photo albums. I personally like the options on Mixbooks, where you can select a pre-made template and drop your photos in. However, I do suggest that you play around with the template to make it work best for your travel story.

Decide on a storytelling format.
On that note, the most important first step is to decide what story you’re telling and how you want to tell it. Are you going to organize your photos by day? Or will you order them by activity or theme? For travel albums, I personally like the chronological format because it helps you to mentally relive your trip.

Be selective with your photos.
This is so hard for me! I take a million photos and love so many of them that I have a really hard time narrowing down images to include in the album. But, we all have Instagram and can also store photos on our computers, so there’s really no pressure to include every single shot. Narrow the photos down to your absolute favorite, whether it’s because of the quality or just the memory associated with the photo.

Dedicate a page to special subjects.
In addition to a chronological, day-by-day photo format, you can pepper in a few pages dedicated to special subjects. This could be photos of all the amazing food you ate, the outfits you wore, or even your hotel rooms. One of my favorite ideas, stolen from Caila, is to include a page just for funny photos, kind of like the bloopers at the end of a movie.

Step away, then revisit before locking in your final edit.
One you’ve created your first draft, step away from the computer! Sleep on it, show it to your travel companions to get their feedback, then make any necessary edits before pressing submit. That way, you’ll be confident that you’re getting a well-designed, artfully curated photo album that you’ll always treasure.

hello from amsterdam

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Amsterdam was absolutely amazing. My family was Dutch and we really relate to the culture even living in the States, so going into this trip, I had high expectations but also a little bit of fear that it wouldn’t live up to how I had hyped it up in my head. But truly, I felt so immediately at home in the Netherlands even from the moment we boarded our KLM flight in London and then landed at the airport. As soon as we landed, we were in the middle of beautiful green fields peppered with canals.

Ever since getting home, I’ve really missed Amsterdam. London was tremendous and I can’t wait to go back there, but I really, really miss Amsterdam. Here’s a little overview of the trip:

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The Airport //
Schiphol is one of my favorite airports because it’s so clean and modern and just has a good vibe to it compared to other airports. To make things even better, our “taxi” was a gorgeous Tesla which was a super fund ride to the hotel. AND the driver was playing the new Marina album, so I think it may have been the best airport transfer of all time.

The Hotel //
Our hotel in London was so wonderful, but I have to say the Amsterdam hotel lived up to it as well! We had a huge room with a view of the canal and Leidseplein Square and these fun, gold clogs on the wall. We have wooden clogs at home because we’re obsessed, so this was a happy thing.

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Day 01 //
Our first full day in Amsterdam started at the Anne Frank House. It was really fascinating to actually walk through the annex where the Frank family lived in hiding. I think the most moving part was being face-to-face with a portion of the wall that was used to measure Anne and her sister as they grew. That little, normal detail was just haunting.

After Anne Frank, we hopped across the street and into the boat for our canal tour and prosecco with Flagship Amsterdam. I have a full overview of that from the other day. That night was also the night I finally gave in and bought my Adidas pool slides because no other shoe would fit my swollen feet. 😅

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Day 01 Food //
After the boat, we headed back along the canals toward the hotel to find somewhere to eat. Throughout our entire time in the city, we kept passing this little corner market with all sorts of vegetables on display outside. This corner was seriously one of my favorite places in all of Amsterdam.

We stumbled upon the restaurant Venus & Adonis and I’m so happy we did because this little place had the most beautifully designed dining room and bar. It was all midcentury modern with beautiful warm tones. We had some really good salads, frites, and our favorite Dutch ginger ale.

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Day 02 //
Our second day was primarily made up of our own DIY food tour of Amsterdam. But first, we stopped at Bloemenmarkt for a few minutes. I hate to say it (because I love flowers), but this wasn’t my favorite spot. It just felt very crowded and touristy, so we stopped in at a cute cheese shop then moved on. Up next, we got the most delicious stroopwafel and fritjes cones I’ve ever had!

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Shopping //
We did most of our shopping on this day in addition to most of our eating. We picked up a few Delft pieces for our family collection, stopped at the Adidas store, and spent some time trying makeup in & Other Stories. I love any time I can get into an & Other Stories shop because they always have the cutest pieces and now I know their makeup is really good too. I might order some and do a review sometime!

Sightseeing //
Later, we walked to the Rijksmuseum, Museumplein and through Vondelpark a little bit. I wish I had personally gotten more time to spend in the park because it really was a beautiful spot. Museumplein is also really cool because there’s so many different types of architecture to see.

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More Sights + Food //
This is kind of out of order but before we went to the Museumplein/Vondelpark area, we walked to Winkel 43 to try the famous apple cake. On the way there, we probably stopped 100 times to take photos of all the beautiful things we passed on Herengracht.

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Day 03 //
Our last full day in Amsterdam began with a walk through Museumplein and De Pijp all the way to Coffee + Coconuts. I’d been dying to have brunch here because it’s such a beautiful space in a converted historic theater which is right up my alley. I will say, it wasn’t the best brunch experience I’ve had and I’d probably only go back with a group. I’m used to trying new brunch spots in New York on my own and it’s never weird, but it was just kind of weird here! I sat facing the wall in the back, so I basically didn’t even get to see the restaurant and they didn’t have the menu item that I planned on ordering, which is fine but the menu is rather meat heavy, so I ended up only having a coconut and croissant, but those two things were great.

Afterwards, I met up with my mom and dad and we walked over to Foodhallen. We spontaneously had vanilla ice-cream cones with disco dip and then didn’t end up actually eating at Foodhallen because it was very crowded. We went to Dutch Weed Burger Joint instead and had frites there. This wasn’t my favorite area of town, so we headed back after that.

Okay, so that’s my full thoughts on what we did in Amsterdam. The trip totally exceeded my expectations and next time, I know what’s overhyped and what I want to spend more time doing, plus the areas I absolutely love!