Home Authors Posts by Amanda Heckert

Amanda Heckert

Get away to Santa Rosa

We arrived at WaterColor Inn in late afternoon, racing to drop off our bags before night overtook adjoining Santa Rosa Beach. We ambled by the ebbing saltwater, watching the sunset dance on the peacock-green Gulf. It was November, and the pink-tinged beach was practically deserted. A lone sandpiper ran back and forth over the sand, as mesmerizing as a hypnotist’s watch. The traffic, the jobs, the schedules left behind, all grew hazy, like the condo towers we spied shimmering some twenty miles east along the shore, in Destin.

There was nothing so tall here. The WaterColor Inn, rising just four stories, is the only resort-style hotel along 30A, a ribbon of highway stringing together more than a dozen picturesque vacation communities. In fact, neighboring Seaside is so perfect that its picket fence–lined streets famously served as the set for utopian movie The Truman Show in 1998. WaterColor Resort, with its metal-roofed clapboard cottages, is a more contemporary take on Southern vernacular architecture. Built a decade ago, it spreads over nearly 500 acres between the Gulf and a coastal lake.

In spring and summer, teens on school break and families on vacation swarm the resort’s six pools and winding boardwalks. If that’s the case when you arrive, sink into the quiet arms of the Inn’s “adults-only” pool. There you’ll find no crying babies or cannonballs to distract from tanning or heart-to-hearts in the hot tub. We settled onto its patio our first night there, as waiters from the Gathering Spot sushi bar fetched us the requisite rum drinks and tiger rolls made with fresh-caught Florida hopper shrimp. Strains of guitar from an acoustic set inside floated up to the balconies. Despite its four diamonds, this place feels more like a gracious mansion on Martha’s Vineyard than the tony Cloister at Sea Island, I thought—and thank goodness. Formality has no place at the fire pits that warmed our feet.

In the morning, we devoured toothsome bourbon-vanilla French toast at the resort’s Fish Out of Water restaurant next door. Our deckside perch only furthered my hunch that the Inn’s designers, including famed architect David Rockwell, had conspired to draw attention as often as possible to the pristine oceanside view—a theory confirmed again as the BeachClub Grille’s cabana boy set up our lounge chairs and fetched margaritas so we didn’t have to lift one submerged toe from the sugary depths of Santa Rosa Beach. And you’re a more mature woman than I if you don’t giggle at the peekaboo shower in your guest room, its eye level tiled with clear glass for ogling the waves while shampooing.

The spacious rooms also come with a plush queen bed and queen sleeper sofa, fitting four comfortably. But if your crew is bigger or prefers more privacy, sorbet-colored vacation cottages wind out from the Inn and can be had for about $100 more. Banish the thought of kitschy, paint-peeled hovels: These are the 1 percent’s House Beautiful–worthy vacation homes, some decked out with private pools and two-
story porches.

You might be farther from the beach in a cottage, but most come with bikes, as does the Inn. Nearby, the Boathouse lends kayaks and canoes for exploring the reedy shores of the sprawling coastal dune lake, a geographic anomaly only seen in the U.S. here in Walton County and in Oregon. Cyclists swished past us down 30A, but we stayed close to home, venturing westward only to the mountainous dunes of neighboring Grayton Beach State Park, and eastward to Seaside, where food trucks line the perfectly manicured town square and Sundog Books stocks shelves of beach reads.

Duly tempted at breakfast, we headed back to Fish Out of Water for dinner. Our server, a knowledgeable Luke Wilson doppelganger, steered us to a silky tuna tartare, playfully punched up with soy vinaigrette, and a locally caught grouper, tender and paired well with a creamy corn pudding.

Throughout our stay, there was not much temptation to venture from the resort. We were so relaxed, a set at the Tennis Center seemed too much work. But before we left town, we drove toward Destin to reach the Silver Sands Factory Stores. I had so far resisted adorable sundresses and sandals at the boutiques within the resort, choosing instead to splurge on a tension-relieving Balinese massage at the small but attentive InnSpa. At Silver Sands, I didn’t blink at the likes of Coach Factory and Saks Fifth Avenue’s Off Fifth, but Le Creuset was my waterloo. Who returns from a blissed-out beach trip with an insanely discounted French oven? I do.

We set off on the six-hour road trip home, and as we passed the Dothan, Alabama, National Peanut Festival and the antebellum mansions of Eufaula, the tether to home tightened once more. Chili cooked in my new pot would soon replace dinners at four-diamond Fish Out of Water. If I wanted a drink while on my front-porch swing, I would have to get up and get it myself.

This article originally appeared in our April 2012 issue.

Greenville, SC

While driving through downtown Greenville, South Carolina, after a recent visit to my parents’ house nearby, my husband—who has called New York and L.A. home—turned to me and said, “I wouldn’t mind living here one day.” I was stunned to realize that I agreed with him. In the eight years since I left the Upstate, this stretch has somehow evolved into one of the Southeast’s most vibrant Main Streets.

Once the “textile center of the South,” Greenville’s core dwindled with outsourcing and suburban flight in the seventies. But rather than accept the inevitability of urban decay, prescient city leaders reduced driving lanes, added curbside parking, and planted saplings along the sidewalks to make the area pedestrian friendly. With the addition of a world-class (and lately expanded) Peace Center for the Performing Arts in the nineties, those early efforts finally paid off.

Visiting now, I spy lights twinkling in what has become a mature canopy of oaks and maples. Families, college kids, young professionals, and baby boomers alike throng Main Street’s mile-long corridor, ducking in and out of specialty shops: cute boutiques, a dog bakery, art galleries, the always chaotic Mast General Store, and Dark Corner Distillery, offering the Palmetto State’s first legal moonshine.

A brass quartet plays outside the Westin Poinsett, Greenville. In fact, street performances—from concert series to October zombie walks—often enliven downtown plazas. The once-condemned Poinsett, carefully restored to four-diamond, Prohibition-era elegance, bewitched even George Clooney, who made it his home while filming Leatherheads nearby.

The Reedy—whose currents powered Greenville’s early settlements and mills—buoyed the city again when Falls Park opened by its shoals in 2004. Here visitors can rent Reedy Rides bikes and hop on the Swamp Rabbit Tram Trail, a new thirteen-plus-mile greenway that runs to neighboring Greenville Zoo.

Falls Park also forms a gateway to the revived historic West End, a once-derelict landscape of warehouses and rail yards. A free trolley rolls by, taking sightseers past native “Shoeless” Joe Jackson’s house museum and five-year-old Fluor Field—home to a Red Sox affiliate and a miniature Green Monster.

When hunger calls, I face a dilemma unfathomable a few years ago: too many buzzed-about, chef-driven restaurants. Greenville’s dining revival took off in the late nineties when Carl Sobocinski opened nouveau Southern Soby’s in a renovated cotton exchange. Now Soby’s has its own farm, and its owners have other hits like the Lazy Goat (with tapas such as bisteeya, a savory Moroccan pastry) and the Nose Dive gastropub. I finally settle on American Grocery Restaurant, known for sustainable seafood.

Another marvel: growing global eats. Popular downtown spots like chichi Persian Pomegranate on Main and Belgium-focused the Trappe Door, with its 150-plus beers, are a byproduct of Greenville’s influx of international firms. Michelin and BMW top that list, and the latter’s Performance Driving School draws fast-lane fans from across the nation.

My night ends at West End’s the Velo Fellow, a public house with lovely craft beers—the names of which I struggle to hear over the din of young swains in suspenders and handlebar mustaches. But to me, seeing Greenville thrive is worth a bit of noise.

Photograph courtesy of the Greenville CVB

ATL Tweets of the Day: February 9, 2012

0

Just thought to myself, ‘man, i gotta call the gun range today’… that was a first.

Rep. Joe Heckstall, D, asks Speaker David Ralston, R, to be his valentine, offered him candy, then asked for key appointments. Big laughs

Occupy Atlanta camp at Woodruff during the lunch rush hour. Be sure to try the pigeon chili.

My favorite seatmate: The one screaming into a phone, “I have to go to court or I’ll go to jail! And I CANNOT GO BACK TO JAIL!!”

ATL Tweets of the Day: February 8, 2012

0

The state reptile visits her subjects at the state capitol

BREAKING: worldwide launch of super sports hybrid, Porsche 918 Spyder, will be held in Atlanta.

I feel I was very violated. -If a straight person can walk to store I should be able to. I feel I should have justice. – Brandon White.

Airport is playing mariachi music. This is never okay unless I’m eating chips & salsa and/or drinking a margarita. I’m not.

ATL Tweets of the Day: February 7, 2012

0
 

I’ve been asked to judge a policy competition where the goal is increase MARTA ridership. Will fail anyone who says blanket fare reductions.

 

cruel MT Hottest blogger event #1- 5k run, w 3 min Fox Bros hot wing eating contest at each mile. Photo after used for judging

 

Here’s ‘s resignation letter and the response from

 

sure it’s Georgia but I still shouldn’t be able to comfortably enjoy my front porch in February.

ATL Tweets of the Day: February 6, 2012

0
 

Now that football is over for the year, we can get back to things that matter. Braves Pitchers and Catchers report the 19th

 

What’s worse than finding a bottle of “Zum Bum: Bidet in a Bottle” in the office bathroom cabinet? Finding it HALF EMPTY.

 

Don’t worry. I have already complained to the Atlanta airport about this erotic piece of sculpture.

announces her retirement today. Leaving in July after 37 years. Yes, she is that nice.

ATL Tweets of the Day: February 2, 2012

0
…remembering the Herndon Home & Alonzo Herndon, Atlanta’s 1st Black millionaire

 

Happy groundhog day!!!! Also the namesake of one of the finest Bill Murray films ever. I’m gonna wake up and tweet this again tmrw…

 

Woman in grocery is suggesting I cover everything in tin foil to prevent people “stealing my info.” shows me her foil laden bag & wallet.

 

Senoia Preps for Zombies, Southern Living Idea House

ATL Tweets of the Day: February 1, 2012

0
 

Grown men in front of their computers drooling over high school boys all day. Is it sick deviant behavior or is it day?

 

I use my dog to tell people how I’m really feeling. “Yeah, I’m fine with that! But, my dog doesn’t really like cigarette smoke so…”

 

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” was nearly cut from Gone With the Wind by censors. This letter saved it:

 

Did you know that the propulsion systems for the Seimens streetcar Atlanta has purchased is made in Alpharetta?

ATL Tweets of the Day: January 31, 2012

0
 

I’m slowly hand feeding our bottles into the recycling bin so our neighbors don’t realize the extent of our drinking. Again.

 

I wish MLK was alive today. Maybe he could have a dream about people standing on the right side of the escalator.

 

OH: “No strippers, people. Are we clear?” Tomorrow’s dress up day is brought to us by the letter “S.”

 

92.4 million people can’t be wrong! is world’s busiest airport for 14th year in a row!

ATL Tweets of the Day: January 30, 2012

0
STUDY: Usable buildings & modern transit better for Downtown Atlanta than giant, empty hole in the ground.

Still shaken by the images of Cabbagetown from the 90’s I saw Sat. night. If that sort of thing interests you ->

 

Who was the genius that agreed to 3 construction projects at once on 10th street, within less than a mile, all near a major highway entrance

 

If you use “u” and “ur” in a professional email, there is zero chance I will be able to take you seriously.

Follow Us

61,267FansLike
109,908FollowersFollow
499,713FollowersFollow