Special Note: I was pleasantly surprised to be notified my blog was selected as one of the Top 100 Luxury Travel Blogs on the web. Thank you to feedspot for the honor and for all the readers who follow me!

A short drive outside frenetic Washington DC you’ll find pastoral Loudoun County, Virginia. The area is a destination for two notable things: the DC Wine Country (with 40+ wineries) and a notable equestrian tradition.

Known as “Hunt Country,” two-lane, hilly rural roads transport you between wineries, expansive private estates, and horse farms interspersed with historic towns and sites.  There is even a museum dedicated to the art, literature, and culture of horse and field sports – The National Sporting Library and Museum in Middleburg.   It’s an area Jackie Kennedy Onassis, an avid horse fan, frequented.

The family of a good friend moved to the area a few years ago, and their two teenage boys have taken up the challenging game of polo. It was from them, that we learned about Twilight Polo.

Spectators enjoy a casual, country-fair atmosphere complete with food trucks. For $30 a car (or $25 in advance online) we were treated to three arena polo matches featuring amateur, former collegiate players, and professionals.

As the last event before Labor Day, the crowd was encouraged to wear white for the last time of the season. Between matches, kids were invited on the field for tug-of-war and to race the perimeter. The weather cooperated perfectly with crisp, cool temps, setting the stage for the featured match, with a barbershop quartet singing the national anthem while a rider circled the field carrying a large American flag. After play is complete (9ish) a DJ plays music for dancing, but with little ones in tow, we didn’t stay.

It was a real treat to watch and such a nice, relaxing juxtaposition to our toddler-inspired (fun but exhausting) activities of visiting DC’s National Zoo Pandas and National Children’s Museum. BTW, our friend’s grandson was a real star, the youngest player on the polo field the entire night, and in the featured match!

Even though I’ve always lived in the South – there is something special about the air when you are away from the coast during the summer’s heat. I know this year is supposed to be the hottest ever, but a Southern summer day seems the same as always to me. Air so thick with humidity you feel like you could spread it on a biscuit, clothes glued to your body, and a sweaty scalp giving a new “lift” to your hair. And let’s not forget the no-see-ums prickling the back of your neck.

In spite of the inhospitable weather, sounds of crickets in trees, scents from fragrant flowers, glorious colors of crepe myrtle trees in full bloom, and the shiny dark leaves of massive magnolia trees somehow convey a sense of comfort to me.

Add in some history, and I’m a happy traveler.

This week, we have landed in the “Hollywood of the South” – Covington, Georgia. A picturesque slice of Americana just outside Atlanta.

To help us get in the mood, we checked into an 1836 antebellum mansion, repurposed as an elegant B&B. Covington has rare pre-Civil War homes because it was one of three towns spared burning during Sherman’s march through Georgia.

In 1939, Margaret Mitchell saw an article in the Atlanta Journal & Constitution featuring the renovated home. She dictated it be used in the movie adaptation of her novel Gone with the Wind as Ashley’s home “Twelve Oaks.” A team working on the movie visited the home, noting every detail, which was painted on glass panels used during filming to depict the manse. In 2018, as a nod to the home’s supporting role in Gone with the Wind, the name was changed from “Whitehall” to “Twelve Oaks.”

There have been dozens of TV series, movies, commercials, and videos filmed here, going back to 1954. They are probably most famous for the 8-season run of The Vampire Diaries, but we go back another generation to the 7-year run of the series In the Heat of the Night, starring the iconic Carroll O’Connor. The series ran from 1988-1995 and is readily found among today’s cable offerings. Both series had some notable scenes filmed at “Twelve Oaks.”

Although set in the fictional Mississippi town of Sparta, a couple of years ago we had researched where the series was filmed while watching a re-run. That’s when we discovered Covington. While visiting, it was fun to spot so many familiar sights, most looking pretty much the same as on TV. We took a 2-hour tour with Main Street Trolleys that moved us around town efficiently and also introduced us to a lot of insights about all the vampires who roamed the region from 2009-2017.

A few other well-known projects filmed in town included Footloose, Halloween II, Sweet Home Alabama, Dukes of Hazzard, Remember the Titans, Hallmark’s Christmas Everlasting, Sweet Magnolias, and another favorite of ours – My Cousin Vinny. Starring Joe Pesci, Marisa Tomei, and Fred Gwynne, this 1992 comedy-drama is a must-see.

Scenes for Vinny were mostly around the Covington Town Square, but about 25 minutes away we found the spot for one of the movie’s most significant scenes – at the Sac-O-Suds (a real place). This was the site of the robbery and murder the entire movie plot revolved around. Apparently, the store was closed for a few years but is now open. We went in to get a soda (machine broken) and were greeted by a large black guard dog (he was behind a gate) and a pistol-packing cashier. Somehow, we came out of there with lottery tickets, something I think we’ve only ever bought once before.

Now has a river rafting concession.

We’ll look for Covington locations on Apple TV’s new show The Big Door Prize produced by David West Read of Schitt’s Creek fame. We heard they filmed some in Covington, although most was filmed in nearby Loganville.

Stay tuned . . .

The very photogenic Covington courthouse is seen in many films and series.

As a resident of Coral Gables, Florida I love our community’s interesting history and the colorful role it may, or may not, have played in the boom years leading up to the Great Depression. You won’t get much argument the city’s founder, George Merrick, was a visionary who created a town celebrating the South Florida lifestyle and sub-tropical climate. Coral Gables has turned out to be a community for the ages and today thrives as an oasis in the middle of urban Miami-Dade County.

In past blogs, I’ve covered the Seven Villages that still exist and some of the beautiful homes in those Villages. Coral Gables Magazine recently published an article I wrote taking a much deeper dive into the background, creation, and outcomes of those planned neighborhoods. If you’re curious for more, check out: Unraveling Merrick’s Villages.

Along rooftops of the Chinese Village. On the left, you will notice a worker up on the roof. These homes have been meticulously restored and updated throughout their history.

However you choose to celebrate our great country this July 4th, I hope it’s fun and festive. Let’s focus on the positives as we join family and friends on this special day. I’m sharing a few shots of our precious grandchildren enjoying Family Fun Day in our wonderful NC mountain community.

Be safe!

To me, nothing is more exuberant than fireworks, these from a past July 4th at Linville Ridge, NC.
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