Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel
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On the way to the airport, my shuttle driver pulled over to the curb in downtown Atlanta. In the pre-dawn dimness, the blood red bulbs of the historic Fox Theater blinked slowly off and on. Directly beneath the marquis, purple balloons and flowers lay in a huge heap on the sidewalk. Just a week earlier, Prince had sat before his purple Steinway piano on the Fox stage, wowing the audience with a solo performance. By all accounts, it was pure genius. No one could have guessed that a week later Prince would be dead and the Fox Theater would be the last place he ever played.

All the previous week, I’d been exploring the rich history of Georgia music with a group of travel writers, hosted by the Georgia Convention and Visitors Bureau. We began in Augusta, where we hopped aboard the James Brown Family Historical Tour Bus for a fascinating retrospective of the “Godfather of Soul” provided by Brown’s daughter, Deanna Brown-Thomas. Although Brown was born in South Carolina, his family moved to Augusta when he was four or five, and it was there that he began singing. “Downtown Augusta in the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s was vibrant,” said Brown-Thomas. “In those days it was called “The Territory” – “The Terry” for short.”

Elvis got the idea for his unique wardrobe from outfits like this one, worn by the late James Brown and now on display at the Augusta Museum

Elvis got the idea for his unique wardrobe from outfits like this one, worn by the late James Brown and now on display at the Augusta Museum

Many of the places that played such an important part in Brown’s formative years still exist in Augusta: the Imperial Theater, where he performed his first paying gig; Bell Auditorium, where fans could hear him perform for 88 cents; and Brown’s former WRDW radio station, the first ever to be owned by a black man. Read More

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Deanna Brown-Thomas poses in downtown Augusta with the statue of James Brown, her father

Click on title to view photo in large format: Deanna Thomas-Brown stepped up to the James Brown statue in Augusta, Georgia, and rested her head on its bronze shoulder. “Standing behind my father, rolling his hair, I learned everything I ever needed to know,” she said. It was just one of many fascinating statements we would hear during our three-hour James Brown Family Tour. From our initial stop at the bronze of the famous soul artist to the permanent James Brown exhibit at the Augusta Museum, Deanna provided a glimpse into the the life of the famous soul artist. Stops included Read More

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Pine Knoll Farms in Columbia County, Georgia, is a popular venue for weddings and special events

Click on title to view photo in large format: In the heart of Columbia County, Georgia, just a short drive from Augusta, lies Pine Knoll Farms. Though still a working farm with horses, pigs, goats, and chickens, the 100-acre site is today better known as the perfect venue for corporate events and weddings. A quaint wooden chapel seats up to 190, and two barns (the smaller Sweetdaddy’s and larger Magnolia Barn) provide spaces for events of all sizes. But best of all are the views over exquisite green pastures where blonde-maned ponies peacefully graze; step up to the fence and at least one will stroll over to be scratched.

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Headgates of the Augusta Canal in Columbia County, Georgia

Click on title to view photo in large format: Built in 1845 to facilitate shipping between the Piedmont plateau and the city of Augusta, Georgia, the Headgates of the Augusta Canal were the starting point for a seven-mile waterway that bypassed rapids on the Savannah River. Lured by the cheap power, water, and transportation provided by the canal, textile mills and factories began building along its banks. As a result, the city of Augusta, Georgia, which stands at its terminus, became one of the few industrial powerhouses of the South. Read More

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I have always disliked my teeth. As a child my mouth was so crammed with teeth that three of them could not descend. Two years of braces and three pulled teeth later, my smile was better, but braces had done nothing to fix a front tooth that was naturally discolored. Even worse, I suffered a broken jaw during a car accident at the age of 18 and my two front teeth went from being perfectly aligned to overlapping.

In my thirties, I finally got tired of looking at my crooked yellow front tooth and had it replaced with a crown. Unfortunately, the dentist did not do a good job. He remedied the crookedness, but the color was off. Instead of yellow, my front tooth was now grayish – not a good match for my existing teeth. For the next 30 years I was so self-conscious that I avoided having my photo taken. On occasions when I couldn’t avoid being photographed, I edited the color of the tooth with Photoshop. And then, this past February, I spent a month in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

I had been to Playa before and knew that many Americans take advantage of cheaper medical and dental services south of the border, but I’d never before investigated what is commonly called dental tourism in Mexico. Fortunately, an American woman staying at my B&B told me about a local dentist, Dr. Millan Valdivia of Dental Art Center, who is highly regarded by the expat community. On a whim, I scheduled an appointment to see what could be done to fix my teeth.

Before and after shots - the result of my dental tourism in Mexico. What a difference!

Before and after shots – the result of my dental tourism in Mexico. What a difference!

Dr. Millan’s office was spotless and his equipment state-of-the-art. After looking at my teeth, he suggested either porcelain veneers or composites. In both cases, because all eight of my upper front teeth would be made at the same time (two crowns and six veneers), they would be identical in color. He explained that composites would be a bit stronger, but would stain over time with the consumption of coffee or strongly colored foods like blueberries. Porcelains, although they were a bit less sturdy, would never stain. Both would last 10-15 years at a minimum and would cost a total of $2,300, rather than the $17,000 to $20,000 I would pay in the States. Without doing any further research, I decided upon porcelain veneers and began the process immediately. Read More

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Strolling along Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Click on title to view photo in large format: Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Once a sleepy little village on the Caribbean side of the Yucatan, Playa is now a thriving cruise ship port. The beaches, wide and blessed with deep, soft, white sand, are some of the most stunning in the world. As the town grew in popularity, restaurants and shops opened along Fifth Avenue, just one Read More