Weekend Travels: Athens and Madison, Georgia

In the COVID-19 era, options are limited when it comes to travel. One tries to avoid public transit which results in day trips by car. We are currently avoiding major cities due to the ongoing protests. Over the past few years, we have been to most of the noteworthy small towns in the region (GA, NC SC). We decided to check out Athens and Madison, Georgia over the Fourth of July weekend. Basically, we grabbed some clothes and set out with no real plan other than visiting the University of Georgia Botanical Gardens.

Athens, Georgia

Athens is a typical Southern college town replete with a Fraternity Row, an amalgamation of campus buildings, old houses, a giant stadium and a bevy of eateries.

UGA Botanical Gardens

For starters, it was blazing hot. We should have went early in the day or later in the evening. The gardens were expansive and seemed to go on forever. It reminded me of the North Carolina Arboretum but with more flowers. I took a million pictures that I will flood Instagram with at a later date. Thankfully, we chanced upon Day Chapel, an event venue on the grounds that was deliciously cool inside. After we cooled down, we checked out the light filled, wood beamed facility before setting out to find food.

Fraternity Row

The fraternity house lined street was impressive. The McMansions blew me away. If I lived there, I might never want to leave college. Some weren’t a nice as others (think peeling paint and crumbling pillars) but most reminded me of Tara in Gone with the Wind.

The Grind House

In the time of coronavirus, eating out is even more stressful than usual. First, you have to pick a place and then hope that it’s open. We almost went to The Varsity, a classic eatery known for its chili dogs and fried delicacies. They were only open for drive thru and the specter of eating messy food in a speeding Mustang didn’t sound very appealing. We pulled an audible and circled back to another burger place called The Grind House. It had an Ed Hardy vibe. Due to social distancing rules, we had to eat upstairs on the open air (i.e. no air condition) patio even though the downstairs was freezing. After being outside at the gardens, we could have used some A/C. The patio was partially covered and there were giant fans which accompanied by copious amounts of sweet tea made it bearable.

I had the Cowboy Burger with pico de gallo. Chris had a standard American double cheeseburger. We both had a side of perfectly cooked crinkle fries with a dash of seasoning. Those fries were the business!

The satisfying meal hit the spot and we headed off to Madison.

Madison, Georgia

Chris couldn’t recall if we had been to this sleep Southern town on a previous trip. We both recognized Chophouse on the corner and burst into laughter after we simultaneously realized we had eaten there before.

After cruising through the small but idyllic downtown, we discovered a lovely green space directly in front of the James Madison Inn. There were three vine covered metal porch swings areas. We took a break from the scorching afternoon heat and enjoyed the view while swinging. There was a large stage with columns used for open area concerts on the grassy lawn.

There was a fountain, a bust of President James Madison, an elevated gazebo and a small children’s garden as well.

Lastly, we did see the Tree That Owns Itself in Athens. An eccentric old man who once lived on the property willed the tree and the land around it to itself. There’s a plaque and everything. It was random but interesting!

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