Every year I’m in New York, I swear it gets colder. This morning, it snowed for the third time this week and it’s brutal. So will you allow me to reminisce about a warmer time?

Last week, Ryan and I jumped in the car and headed south. On New Year’s Eve, our friends Gina and Adam were getting married in St Petersburg so, with that as our final destination, we packed snorkels, swimsuits and snacks and got on the road.

I couldn’t wait to get back to the south. For a year when I was 22, I studied in Atlanta and made a pretty good effort of traveling through its bordering states. And this time around, while I was looking forward to seeing some gorgeous spots like Savannah again, I must admit there was one place I wanted to get back to more than anywhere else.

Waffle House.

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I think we found the grottiest one in existence – at a rest stop near Columbus, South Carolina. People were wearing some serious Duck Dynasty-esque camouflage and one guy was actually smoking. And even more ridiculous – he was allowed. It felt like another world… but the waffles and coffee felt very much like home.

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But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before I was reunited with Waffle House, we waved goodbye to Brooklyn and headed 700 miles south. Twelve hours later and we landed in Charlotte, North Carolina for our first night on the road.

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Charlotte was a lovely spot. As soon as we got there, we were blown away with how spick and span the whole place was (or does everywhere outside of New York look like that?)

We quickly realized that December is not the most happening time for a college town (UNC is there, among other campuses), but we got stuck into the local fare at The Dandelion Market, followed by beers and then a snoop around the next day. We weren’t quite in the good weather yet, though.

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It had cute little corners, perfect for grabbing coffees, and snug communities right by the city center, but we didn’t have too long to explore because we were due later that night in Savannah – another 260 miles further south.

All I remembered from previous visits to this Georgia gem was Paula Deen’s restaurant, lots of dangly stuff hanging from trees and that the bench scene in Forrest Gump was filmed there. What I found this time around was more of the dangly stuff (Spanish moss) and blocks and blocks of incredible houses. It’s like nowhere else in the U.S. I’ve ever been. Ryan kept saying: ‘I can’t believe this is in my country!’

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Best of all, we stayed in this AirBnB right on Forsyth Park. Come the evening, we wandered downtown and oohed and ahhed at the place, despite the rain.

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The next morning, after shaking off our headaches from sampling the beer from the World of Beer (and Ryan shaking off his defeat in our corn hole tournament), we had coffee on our balcony, homemade pancakes from the Funky Brunch Cafe, and then got back on the road.

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Another eight hours and we were in St Petersburg, Florida – our final destination for the wedding, hikes and even a dip with some manatees… but as we say in the newsroom, mfl*.

When I went on a roadtrip back in my Atlanta year, I took two months to travel across nearly 30 states, but this time around, we did nine in two days. Not bad, eh?! Of course, I’d have loved longer in every one, but we were amazed that places like Savannah are just a drive away (albeit a pretty long one). The whole trip just reminded me of my love for America’s sheer space and variety.

*more to follow

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