Southeast: Part Two Of My 8,500 Mile U.S. Road Trip
One of the main reasons of why I travel is to get a glimpse at how life is in other parts of the world. People often get caught up in the routine of life, and may never really give much thought to how life may be around the world. This is the main reason of why I explore, and like Part One of my Road Trip, I would now be driving through the Southeast region of the United States... a region that I was completely foreign too.
I have always been fascinated with the allure of the American South, largely because of its rich culture and history. As a Southern Californian living in the suburbs of Los Angeles; it couldn't be more different from the customs, musical styles, and cuisines that than that of the South. Naturally I was excited but I also had some reservations due to its dark past; nevertheless, visiting the South was an experience that I will always remember.
As I made my way out of Texas and into Louisiana, a sense of excitement began to build. The humidity rose, accents began to change, and a sense of "southern charm" filled the air. First on my agenda in Louisiana was to visit one of its many historic and well-preserved Southern plantations. These architectural gems provide a peek into the past and offer those who visit with a glimpse of old Southern ways, while still educating about the region's complicated past. I chose to visit Oak Alley Plantation; located an hour from New Orleans in the community of Vacherie, it's a designated National Historic Landmark known for its architecture and landscaping. The staff did an amazing job explaining the history of the grounds and shedding light on its dark past, which includes the rise and fall of the plantations French owner Jacques Roman and its use of slave labor.
Exploring the grounds of Oak Alley Plantation was an incredibly humbling experience and one that I highly recommend to all who visit Louisiana.
The history of Louisiana runs deep; with the mixing of its Native Americans, the rich colonial influences from France, England and Spain, and the introduction of Africans during the slave trade. This multicultural heritage was very apparent once I visited the city of New Orleans and walked the streets of its famous French Quarter. At just about every corner you can't help but to admire the Creole townhouses and antebellum homes; and its Greek Revival, American Colonial and Victorian style architecture.
No visit to New Orleans is complete without exploring its historic cemeteries, which at first might sound creepy but it's perfectly normal when visiting New Orleans... I promise. Because the city was built on a swamp the deceased had to be buried above ground in elaborate stone crypts and mausoleums, which over time became so elaborate that people often referred to them as small villages. I chose to skip the line and $20 charge for the more famous St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 and instead opted to visit Saint Roch's Cemetery, which in my opinion is nonetheless fascinating.
If New Orleans was any indication of what the rest of the South was going to be like, then I knew I was in for a whole knew world of wonder.
WHEN YOU'RE CURIOUS, YOU FIND LOTS OF INTERESTING THINGS TO DO. - WALT DISNEY
Still in awe over everything that I had seen in Louisiana I was looking forward to spending some time in the Sunshine State of Florida. I had previously visited Miami and Disney World as a young adult, so I had an inkling of what to expect. Nevertheless; I was still excited because this time I would also be driving all the way down to Key West, but before I would partake in the many Key West festivities I would first be visiting my old buddy Walt.
For those who have never visited Walt Disney World, it's huge... it's a city unto itself! It's nothing like Southern California's Disneyland, when you visit Disney World you're doing just that, visiting a whole new world. They have six parks to choose from, one of which is identical to Disneyland and the other five are all uniquely different. I chose to visit Epcot, which is often referred to as a "permanent World's Fair" and as someone who loves to travel it was the perfect choice. Did I mention that they serve beer from all over the world?
I've never been a huge fan of amusement parks, but visiting Epcot was definitely a great experience. I only wish it would've also been great on my wallet.
After spending some time in Disney World I was eager to have some fun in the sun. Up to this point I hadn't had very much sunshine or the beach vibes that I am more familiar with back in California. The drive down to Key West was incredible, it almost felt as if I was somewhere in the Caribbean rather than the United States. I was only going to spend 36 hours in the keys, so it was important for me to maximize my time while getting to know the town. Historic Tours of America provided me with the best way of getting to know Key West. Their trolley tour took me all around the town, showing me the most intriguing points of interest and sharing some fascinating history.
I could have easily just spent the rest of my trip in Key West with my feet in the sand eating a ton of Kermit's Key Lime Pie, but instead I continued my trip up north towards the Everglades.
I finally found myself back in nature since Part One of My Road Trip. Everglades National National Park is the third largest national park and having already visited the other two I was glad to know that I would be able to cross off all three on the list. The thing about national parks, especially the larger ones, is that you can spend days and sometimes even weeks exploring them. I focused my time on its southern portion kayaking the Florida Bay. Being that I'm not the most experienced kayaker I didn't make it too far but I was lucky enough to spot a crocodile.
Canoeing through the Everglades was quite the experience, especially when you have to worry about the mangroves of deadly manchineel trees and waters infested with crocodiles.
Overall Florida is beautiful, and it wasn't what I thought to be typical of the South. The further south I traveled the more Caribbean it felt, which is probably why some of my relatives emigrated from Nicaragua to Miami.
Until we meet again Florida...
The last stop on my road trip through the Southeast was Georgia and I decided on visiting its charming coastal city of Savannah. Once I saw photos of an endless array of live oak trees and Spanish moss on Instagram, I knew I had to visit. Sure enough I would eventually find myself at the exact location that I had seen. Wormsloe Historic Site is Georgia's oldest plantation that is sure to instantly captivate your imagination as you drive through its 1.5 mile long entrance lined with over 400 live oak trees.
Savannah was the most charming city that I have visited and the embodiment of everything that is the South. Now off to the northeast region, stay tuned for part three of my 8,500 mile road trip through the United States.
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About The Author
In 2015, Founder of TMDE Paul Martinez left a career in sales for a life of exploring. In just a matter of months he had visited over 10 countries, 30 cities, 10 states, countless national parks, taken thousands of photographs, and did a ton of soul-searching. His search uncovered a deep passion for exploration; which he now believes to be the essence of the human spirit, and led to the birth of The Modern Day Explorer. You can follow him on his personal journey by visiting his Instagram, and hopefully continue to support TMDE by following us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.