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From Belgium to Bliss: Tourist Tales from the Hollywood of the South

Jonathan BorginjonCovington, Georgia was once an unknown, Southern town in rural Georgia. Now, thanks in part to the film industry, Covington has become a tourist destination, hosting visitors from all over the world! It’s incredible to witness just how important our town has become to the fans of shows like The Vampire Diaries and In the Heat of the NightVisitors can tour their favorite filming sets and experience our wonderful and unique Covington traditions. One such visitor came all the way from Belgium just to get a taste of our town. We sat down with our new foreign friend to listen to his tourist tales and discuss how he came to know Covington, Georgia.

Jonathan Borginjon is a bartender from Gistel, Belgium, and was first introduced to The Vampire Diaries through his friends, who thought he might enjoy the show. Little did they know, Borginjon would become obsessed with the hit series! He told us that he’s watched seasons 1-5 two times already, but 6 and 7 only once. “Some nights I couldn’t sleep from staying up all night and watching!” He took to Facebook to share his love of Elena and to connect with other fans. Soon, he stumbled upon the Mystic Grill’s Facebook page and noticed one person checking into the Grill up to four to five times a week. Jonathan said to himself “This guy is either crazy, or it’s a really good place!” The man in question? Covington’s own Jerry “Hollywood” Green, Operations Manager of Fat Boys Golf Carts. The two began messaging through Facebook and eventually developed a friendship. Then, about a year ago, Green proposed an idea. What if Borginjon came to Covington?

“I said to myself, 'Man I've just got to see that place. It keeps me going. Watching The Vampire Diaries actually changed my life, and I had to see everything with my own eyes because it's all so awesome. I started planning my holiday and doing research online about Mystic Grill, Lochwood Mansion, and the filming location tours.” Borginjon says. “All the money I made last year, I kept aside to do this trip. And it was worth every dollar.” Green was able to connect Borginjon with Jessica Lowery, the owner of Vampire Stalkers. She organized tours and was essential in planning the trip. 

But, not everyone was on board with his travel plans. “My friends said to me, “Jonathan, you’re kind of crazy. You're going to travel 4,000 miles just to see where The Vampire Diaries is filmed? And I said heck yeah!” As soon as the details were in place, Borginjon hopped a plane and flew 11 hours in total to reach his destination. But, it didn’t feel quite real until Borginjon saw our famous Clock tower. On his first night in Covington, Borginjon sat at the Mystic Grill. “I met a lot of new people, and it was great.” But, then someone mentioned the Mystic’s rooftop patio. He scurried up the stairs and was met with a wondrous site. Borginjon says he “just sat here looking at the clock tower thinking…just the other day I was dreaming about seeing the clock tower, and now I am actually seeing it! It still amazes me every time. The first thing I've done every day since I have been here is look up at the clock tower.” With Lowery’s help, Borginjon was treated to the Originals tour, a self-guided Vampire Diaries tour around Covington (Borginjon’s first stop was Elena’s house, of course), and a private tour of the Lochwood Mansion. “It was great to walk through the backyard of the mansion and see everything.”

But, Borginjon was in for a surprise. While he may have come to Covington specifically for The Vampire Diaries, Jerry “Hollywood” Green had other ideas in mind. “He works his tail off in Belgium, so I told my wife, let's make his stay worthwhile.” said Hollywood. And, worthwhile it was! When they weren’t drooling over the Diaries, the dynamic duo spent their days touring the World of Coke, the Georgia Aquarium, and taking a trip on the Atlanta Skyview. 

Hollywood was also able to secure a Fast and Furious filming set tour in Norcross. This was particularly special to Borginjon, who has a love of cars and motorcycles. In fact, after the tragic loss of actor Paul Walker, he and a friend single-handedly organized the Paul Walker Memorial Run in Belgium. He said they posted a public event on Facebook and within a few hours, had over a hundred people interested. He went on to tell us that within 5 days, they had 700 cars show up to participate in the memorial! 

But the biggest surprise of all, to Borginjon, was our 4th of July celebration, back in Covington. After enjoying a traditional family supper with all the classical dishes of the South, Borginjon came back to the Mystic Grill with Green and his family, to enjoy the fireworks. “We were here on the rooftop when the fireworks started. Hollywood looked back at me and said ‘What do you think?’ And I was speechless. During the finale I had tears in my eyes. It was very emotional for me.”

As his trip comes to an end, Borginjon took time to reflect on his experiences here in the Hollywood of the South. He says, “I'm so thankful to Hollywood, to Stacy, Angel and her husband, the Vampire Stalkers, and everyone I've met here. I have my cars, my motorcycle, and my friends in Belgium, but if I had my choice…I'd come over here and get myself a little house. This city is so charming. And I really mean that. If I could get a green card and move here, I would. My mom could just come visit me here!” We couldn’t agree more, Jonathan. In fact, we’d love to meet her, the next time you're in town. Safe travels, friend! We'll see you soon!

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