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Hidden Gems By Jasmine Ford
  • I think love is being with someone who has always seen the best in you. The vulnerability of growing with your partner in life is powerful. It’s a safe place and it feels refreshing. That’s exactly how it feels when I visit Columbus, Georgia. More than anything, it gives me this familiarity of being at home on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. It’s a thriving city and they sure live by Southern Hospitality. I first fell in love with this amazing place back in 2016 when traveling for work. At the time I was a project manager overseeing fiscal payer programs for Georgia and Maryland. I traveled throughout the State of Georgia and on one glorious weekday I made my way from Atlanta to Columbus for a work presentation. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I arrived a day early and decided to work from my hotel. By the end of the business day I grabbed my hotel brochure and realized I was close to historic Broadway Street and the Chattahoochee Riverwalk. I drove my car downtown and parked my car. I spent the next hour exploring the Chattahoochee Riverwalk and eventually made my way back into the downtown space for dinner. I discovered Smoke Bourbon & BBQ for an evening cocktail. I found myself chatting with the bartender and a local native stationed at Fort Benning military based for the next couple of hours. Before leaving, I went downstairs to order brisket to go—and the rest would be history as they say.

    I was instantly won over by the hospitality and friendly people, but the amazing sense of small city pride was captivating. Having grown up in Cambridge, Maryland, I know all about that sense of tiny community that feels authentic—like the things you would only see in movies. One high school and a whole lot of football pride on a Friday night. Even Keith felt it the first time that I took him there. He’s always been a fan of the scenic beauty they have to offer and the laid back vibe of the city. Columbus is the place that I go to feel recharged because each time that I am there I know what to expect and it always feels good. It’s not a fancy place, but the gorgeous views of the Riverwalk and delicious food make it just the place you need to be. As we made our way into the entrance of the Riverwalk I immediately noticed the Do Good Fund Public Art Project plastered across the barrier in front of the forthcoming luxury hotel that will grace the landmark. I believe in the beauty of storytelling, and there is nothing more enchanting than a story told through varying types of art. From performance, to painting, and even photography – there is a story to be shared and a lesson to be learned.

    By lunchtime we decided to eat at Momma Goldberg’s Deli. COVID was the least of our worries in Columbus, and not because we aren’t health conscious, but there is simply no shortage of outdoor seating on Broadway Street. The city has done a wonderful job of displaying signs to encourage social distancing measures. I ordered a simple turkey sub with the usual deli works and Keith opted for roast beef and French onion dip – I jokingly told him this is why Arby’s exists. It’s always been one of my favorite places to grab a roast beef sandwich, but Momma Goldberg’s sure put the wow factor in our usual favorites. Being able to enjoy beer right outside of the deli was even better. There was a gentleman quietly drinking a pitcher of beer and reading his newspaper. Then we met an older gentleman enjoying the sights while he took water break with his dog. It was quite obvious that he was a local and well known by the employees of Momma Goldberg’s. He hurried back outside with a plastic lid of water for his dog and eventually took delight in our sweet Aiden. He was exploring all the outdoor seating (you know that curious toddler phase) and the local jokingly said, “I’ve got plenty of kids and grandkids. They get so curious at that age. You just let them explore and keep a close eye on ‘em as best as you can.” He got such a kick out of watching Aiden take off running from Keith and then went on to tell us how he makes canes for a living. He showed off his latest piece to us with such glory. I take pride in seeing people use their skills for the greater good of humanity. It honestly felt as if we had known him for years and although we never exchanged names, it felt like we had all been there before.

    When the next morning came we found an IHOP right outside of downtown Columbus that had impeccable COVID measures in place. You could tell that this location went above and beyond to protect the safety of the patrons, employees, and delivery drivers. Their service was outstanding and I recall several staff members stopping to check on us and asking if our food was served to our liking. As a girl who grew up in Maryland, I didn’t always see this hospitality and it’s no secret that true northerners aren’t overly hospitable. I don’t think harm is meant - everyone is just moving along and minding their business. I struggled with this hospitality in Columbus on my first trip. Keith and I jokingly laughed about that over cocktails. He said, “You are a little mean, but I think you just get to the point and that’s your heart. I can’t be mad at that.” Despite all of this being true, I have to admit it was refreshing to receive this kind of hospitality I wasn’t accustomed to. With so much going on the world we forget that there are kind human beings with genuine spirits. We could all be connected if we took the time to share our stories and just be a listening ear when appropriate. These are the connections that spark my soul and I spent much of that morning reflecting on those intimate exchanges. As the morning progressed we made our way back to the Riverwalk and encountered a woman asking us if we knew how much the “The Rapids” were listed for. Keith and I laughed at each other because we had both asked one another the same question. It truly doesn’t take much to see that Columbus is a beautiful place. I think it could attract different walks of life from all over the world. One might even consider making it their getaway home location. Columbus is just that kind of place. It sees the light in you and keeps you enticed. And each time you return, Columbus will always have a way to remind you why you fell in love.