While we had an early morning on Monday, our surprise at breakfast made the 7 AM wake up call more than worthwhile. The Ritz Carlton Reynolds staff prepared a special breakfast on the beach, complete with an omelet station where the chefs flipped and sautéed fluffy omelets with their feet in the waters of Lake Oconee.
After a breakfast of incredible cheese grits, a spread of fresh fruits, and brioche french toast, we split up into teams for the BBQ Sauce challenge. Considering how great the food has been at Reynolds Plantation, we had some big shoes to fill trying to play chef for the hour. Since I was late (oops!), I was chosen as one of the team captains. My team consisted of me, Tiffany, Cassie, and her friend Shelly. Tiffany and I had discussed doing a honey BBQ sauce (maybe because we were Googling recipes beforehand and that’s why I was late…) but Cassie had other plans. I had witnessed Cassie’s competitive culinary side when we made samosas in Africa, so I gladly let her take the reigns when she announced, “You have a Cajun in the kitchen now – we’re going spicy!”.
While the hodgepodge of uber spicy ingredients would not have been my first choice (especially at 10 in the morning), Cassie’s vinegar-based BBQ sauce landed team Smoky & Sassy in second place. Pretty proud of our little Cajun!
Because we hadn’t already eaten enough less than two hours prior, the BBQ sauce challenge ended with lunch at Gaby’s, the Ritz’s waterfront restaurant. Cassie carried our BBQ sauce in its beautiful bell-pepper bowl to eat on her lunch, but the food definitely did not need anything extra. I know I haven’t stopped talking about all we ate, but it really was some of the best food I’ve had in the South! My favorite part of lunch, amongst the 7 different plates they brought for us to try, were the pulled BBQ pork nachos. Not something I would usually order off of a menu, but they were addicting and wonderful. Lunch ended with ice cream sandwiches of all combinations squished between two homemade chocolate chip cookies. Delicious.
I ate so much that I was almost not able to roll myself up the hill to the spa, but when there’s a massage on the line, anything is possible. The Ritz’s award winning spa has made top 10 in the US for years now. With such an esteemed title, I had to try it out for myself…right? Let’s just say that ranking is well-deserved.
After an hour of indulging in the Summer Surrender treatment, I met back up with Tiff to hang out by the pool. The Lodge’s infiniti-edge pool is gorgeous – it looks just like it’s spilling over into Lake Oconee. We also took the time to enjoy the property with an impromptu photo shoot (one of our favorite activities in college) on the property’s rope swings & hammocks:
Once we were done lounging around and resting, it was time to get into competition mode (a mode that I don’t do very well). We teamed up with Laura and Jonathan in a scavenger hunt across the property. Luckily, it wasn’t as intense as the Viceroy Anguilla’s Hunger-Games -meets-Amazing-Race Scavenger Hunt, but we did manage to steal a golf cart…again. If ever you find yourself on a resort scavenger hunt, my best advice is to find and utilize their golf carts. Even if you don’t win, at least you aren’t exhausted from running around in flip-flops afterwards.
Our scavenger hunt took us to a unique presentation in the Ritz Kids Club. Since the Lodge is built on Creek Indian land, the entire children’s program is Native American themed. This cute little kids area is home to Jerry the 5 pound bullfrog and two huge rabbits named Hershey and Marshmallow. Apparently there is something in the water here because all of the animals are huge. Tonight the kids club was also home to several out-of-breath travel agents and Chief Winterhawk, who, along with his wife, told us stories of how a spider captured the sun and the moon and led us to a traditional fire lighting ceremony (my advice for ancient fire lighting ceremonies in 100 degree July weather: don’t sit near the front. HOT). It was a cute demonstration and really showed some of the activities that kids can enjoy on property. I’ve seen tons of children running around, so Reynolds Plantation is a great getaway for the entire family (but still an awesome place with or without kids – it really has something for everyone).
Tonight’s dinner was served at the Linger Longer Steakhouse. While the restaurant itself was closed, we had a private meal on the back terrace. We indulged in the best bread I’ve ever had, amuse-bouches of tuna tartare and bourbon-soaked raspberry sorbet and lobster bisque, all before the main course was even served. Tiffany and I made our own surf-n-turf with lobster and a petite filet. It was perfection.
The rest of the night was filled with a movie under the stars and just spending time with one another, which was my favorite activity all weekend. This group of agents (although we’re missing a couple this weekend!) have really become such great friends and I’m very fortunate to have so many opportunities to travel with them this year.
The next morning, I spent time blogging from our lake view balcony – it was still early enough for a slight breeze and just the right amount of warmth from the sun. I felt the familiar pang in my stomach of not being ready to leave. That’s how you know it’s been a great trip.
I met my companions at Georgia’s Bistro for breakfast, where they served s’mores waffles, which is really worth noting how true to the s’mores theme the lodge is (if you hadn’t already picked up on that by the rabbits mentioned at the kids program).
After saying my goodbyes to everyone on property – most of whom I’ll be seeing in a couple of weeks at Travel Week – I took my time to enjoy the nostalgic sounds of Death Cab for Cutie’s Plans on my way home (bringing back my high school days). Sometimes a road trip is just what you need.
Cause in my head there’s a greyhound station
Where I send my thoughts to far off destinations
So they may have a chance of finding a place
where they’re far more suited than here.