“What to See and Do and Eat in a Place I Call Home,” column for Sept. 9, 2014

What do you say when someone asks about your home? How can words do justice to a place that’s in your heart? I often hear from readers who are planning a vacation and want my advice on what they should see and do and eat.

I’m no travel writer. But I often write about places I call “home.” And if you want to get to know a place, it helps to ask a local. Unfortunately, this local doesn’t always have time to reply. She’s too busy scrubbing toilets or looking for her phone. But here at least are a few tips on what to see and do and eat in the three places I call “home:”

1. Growing up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North and South Carolina, I could hardly wait to leave. Now folks flock to those mountains like mosquitoes to a midnight swim. And I go back to visit every chance I get. The best time to go is fall when leaves turn crimson and gold. I try to stay on a lake, preferably one with no jet skis or yahoos. Spring is lovely, too, with dogwoods and rhododendron blooming in wild abandon. Actually, you should go in spring. If you go in fall, you might rent all the lake places and I’d have to sleep on my sister’s couch. (It’s a fine couch, but it’s not on a lake.)

Where to eat? I like Stone Soup in Landrum, S.C.; Purple Onion in Saluda, N.C.; and any place with decent biscuits.
What to do? Just be. Talk to the locals. Listen to thunder. Slap at the mosquitoes. And be prepared to lose your heart.

2. California’s Monterey Peninsula is a place of incredible beauty and diversity. It was my home for 35 years, the place where I raised my children, worked for a newspaper and lost my first husband to cancer. It is still home to two of my children and their families. I feel a kinship to the area _ to the beaches where my kids played, to the bay that swallows sunsets and to the sound of the foghorn that lulls me to sleep. It’s a connection as real and as binding as any ties of flesh and blood. I suspect you might feel it, too.

When to go? Soon. What to do? Lots. Walk the beaches. Visit the aquarium. Take a drive down the coast to Big Sur. Get breakfast at Toastie’s, dinner at the Red House, both in Pacific Grove. Lunch at Rosine’s in Monterey. Fried calamari on Fisherman’s Wharf. And as long as you’re in California? Skip Disneyland. Go to Yosemite. You can thank me later.

3. OK, what can I tell you about Las Vegas? We’ve lived here eight years, not far from the famed Neon Strip, with a view of city lights, wide open spaces and distant rugged mountains.

I wish you could see it.

What’s there to do in Vegas? Anything you want, pretty much. That’s what Vegas is about. Try the gardens at the Bellagio; the roller coaster at New York-New York; and any show by Cirque du Soleil, especially “O.”

The real beauty of the desert lies beyond the Strip: Red Rock Canyon. Death Valley. Zion National Park. The Grand Canyon. Millions of people visit Vegas and miss the surrounding splendor. Try your best to see it.

Where to eat? Take your pick. Vegas has countless restaurants all competing to be the best. My favorite Vegas restaurant is my kitchen after my husband gets take-out. My favorite Vegas view is the sunset from our backyard. My favorite Vegas thing to do is to watch that sunset with him.

Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. Blind all his life, my brother has his own way of seeing things. The day of our mother’s funeral, I drove to his place to pick him up for the service.

“Hey, Sister,” he said grinning, “you look mighty pretty.”

I laughed. “How can you tell?”
“I heard your highheels,” he said, “clicking up the walk.”

Best compliment I ever had.

Faces and places look better through the eyes of love.

Happy trails to you, wherever you may roam. Hope you sit back, enjoy the ride and send me a postcard.


  1. Kate Sciacca says

    Beautiful column, as usual…. But, um… Well…. Did you HAVE to tell the folks about Rosine’s? Bad enough that they made “triple D” – now even MORE sweet souls will crowd that lovely place. :-). When we lived in the Bay Area (and when the 3 eldest were of age to watch the 5 youngin’s) we would head to Monterey every year for our anniversary (Dec. 31st – it was the only day we could get the Church) – and Rosine’s for dinner the first night there and breakfast the last morning was always part of the ritual…. At least you did mention them for “lunch.” :-). Now that we are in Carson City it has been a bit tougher to get there…. Hoping to do it this year. 🙂

  2. Dear Sharon: Thanks for the great column today! I’ve tucked away your suggestions. When we accompanied my husband to Vegas on business a few years ago and took our daughters along on spring break….we did spend a day at Red Rock Canyon and loved it! On our way driving out of Vegas to the Canyon I told my daughters, my friend Sharon Randall lives out here somewhere….and we had fun speculating which home might be yours :)! As a long-time reader, it would have been impossible to visit Vegas without thinking of you. They knew you were my friend from the Sunday paper. In our solitude viewing the city from the canyon, I couldn’t imagine why more people didn’t take advantage of its beauty. Keep writing…I’ll keep reading!

  3. Paulette Prince says

    Lived in Landrum all my life. First read your stories when my husband & I were visiting family in (of all places) Santa Cruz, Ca and they loaned me your book to read while we traveled. Reading your stories brought back so many memories, especially about being in Doc Miller’s office & just hoping I wouldn’t get the dreaded “shot”. Keep up the Landrum stories, it is a wonderful place to live. Think Monterey is beautiful too! Haven’t made it to Vegas yet.

  4. Faces and places look better through eyes of love .You wrote it so right . Home is always sweet ,all vacation homes give some rest and peace if we can afford to spend some time .

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