By Jennifer Perren
It's rare that I get to play tourist here in Georgia and I haven't spent much time in Helen. I have vague memories of a drive through when I was small on a trip to visit a friend of Mama's actually named "Helen" I thought that was funny. Anyhow, it's our own little "alpine village" but it's oh, so much more. I won't even begin to fully relay the experience, of this mountain gem, but I will let you in on a couple of the highlights from my latest and more memorable trip.
Anna Ruby Falls - The drive up - to the hike - up to the falls is just as beautiful as the hike and falls. You twist and curve around through Unicoi State Park and right now in the Spring, all I could think was a little poem I came up with for the season
"bianco, viola e verde"
Purple, white and green,
that's Georgia in Spring
The morning that I went up was crisp and sunny. There is a 1/2 mile paved trail up the the falls, easily navigated. I didn't need even need my walking stick, well, not for hiking - daddy would have a fit if I was alone and unarmed in the woods, even if it is a paved trail. The falls are great and one of many beautiful waterfalls that we have here in our great state. I can now check this one off of my list.
I'm here in the mountains for a purpose, my little neice, Avery, has a birthday on this day and since I am the President of the Procrastinator's Club International, Georgia Chapter (meeting tomorrow) I need to buy her a gift. I'm basically wasting time until her party later today so, I'll stop in at the Nora Mill General Store.
Nora Mill General Store - I walk in and this place is just so *pretty*!!! I adore it. I'm thinking, no way I can afford any of this darling stuff. All kinds of handmade, home grown, just beaufiful items that appeal perfectly to an old soul like me. I'm peeping price tags and whattayaknow? I'm able to get my neice a tin full of sea animals that she can toss rings onto their noses while she's in the bathtub AND my sister an apron (her birthday was last week) that says "You're doing it Wrong". I know her husband will thank me for this. It will save her from actually saying this to him. She will only have to point to her apron now. All of this, and the lovely shopkeeper giftwraps both things for me, for under $25.00. I will reserve my rantings about any large retailers for a later date and just say, that when you are in Helen. Stop in at Nora Mill. All this hiking and shopping and I'm starved. Downstairs is pizza.
Nacoochee Village Tavern and Pizzeria - I think Nacoochee means "great bourbon selection" in the Cherokee. I kid, it actually means "bear", but they do have a great selection here. I knew that I was gonna love this place when the first thing I noticed was a big ole' bottle of Virgil Kaine out front and center on the bar - and the Fireball was buried somewhere down below. My kind of tavern. I only had water, as I'm a lady and we don't show up to 3 year old's birthday parties smelling of bourbon. At least not on Sunday, but I thought I'd make note.
Yes, the is a pizzeria, and yes, I am part Sicilian, and I have a deep emotional bond with pizza - don't judge me. It is not often that I have found a great slice here in The South. Something that I will say, the north is just much better at - forgive me, but I'll call a spade a spade. BUT I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the menu and saw that the bear Tavern has my all time favorite topping, green, yes people, green olives. I'm thrilled when I get my slice and it's the best I've had since I was in Mystic, CT last year at the world and cinema famous Mystic Pizza. Yes, I'm in love.
What made my experience here even better though was, of course, the people. Marcus and Andrew the bartenders and the other beautiful lady with the lavender hair, (I didn't catch her name!). They made me and everyone at the bar feel welcome. I gathered from conversation that a few there were tourists here in Georgia, it made me proud to see our Southern hospitality at work. Everyone happy and laughing and "at home". Everything a neighborhood tavern should be.
Shop small. Tour your home state. Make a friend at the bar. Even if you have stuff to do later in the day, you can still take a hike.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire