08 January 2013

2013 SOUTH & EAST COAST to Georgia 14 - Historica

Miles traveled today 184. Driving time 3'10". Savannah elevation also zero. Temp ranged between 73 down to 64 degrees as we moved north. Caught a few rain squalls that lasted less than 10 minutes each.

Checked out of the hotel about 9am (passing on the freebie breakie). Found a hip place called the Bunnery CafĂ© instead. I had an egg, spinach, feta bagel sammy and Mike had biscuits and gravy with a pecan (PEE-can, they say here) sweet bun. Really good coffee.

Trying to walk off our many just eaten calories, we continued for 2-hours around the historic district of St. A. What tales to tell in this area! Five-hundred years ago this year, in 1513, Juan Ponce de Leon discovered North America (in spite of what Columbus said) and 450 years ago this year St. Augustine was founded by Spaniard Pedro Menendez de Aviles, making it the first European settlement in the US (more than 50 years before the English founded Jamestown).

This is a town of towers, many styles but mostly Spanish. They are everywhere and really make the cityscape interesting. We saw the oldest house in the US; Flagler College (resides in the former, luxurious Ponce de Leon Hotel built by Henry Flagler in 1888); Fort Castillo de San Marco (constructed in 1672); some old military housing and graveyards; the Mother House for the Sisters of St. Joseph (who have a big presence in Kazoo); and then wandered the shops of St. George St., which are located in more OLD buildings in the downtown historic district.

We met Sean, a fellow who just bought a big old house on the water front through a court sale. He is putting the rooms together for winter rentals next year. He gave us a tour of the place, showing us work he has done and has ahead of him. It is potentially so nice we will consider renting it for a month next winter. We've been to Key West so many times now and know it by heart. We need some new territory to explore. And St. A seems perfect and not so many miles away.

Sean mentioned a ghost hanging out in one of the rooms. Across the street is an historic Civil War cemetery and it is believed this was used as a military hospital during that period. He heard of a ghost in the house and didn't think much of it. But one day as he approached to do some work, he saw lights inside inexplicably flickering, and in one room and a staircase he felt cold chills that made the hair on his arms stand up. The room we would rent was not affected though ... that he knew of.

Next we stopped at the Fountain of Youth Park, a short way down the road. We got a senior discount and wondered would we get a refund to a kids discount on our way out. The ticket seller laughed ... slightly. Probably heard THAT a million times.

Historians do not all honor the story of Ponce de Leon seeking the Fountain of Youth. But it is a romantic story that everyone would love to be true. Anyway, we had a taste of the waters and so far things feel pretty much the same. Old and achy.

We also saw a replica of an old cannon being fired and toured a native Indian village reproduction. Learned how to say thank you in Chippewa (Mike's ancestory). Don't know how to spell it, but sounds something like "megwich," we were told by the guide.

Lovely gardens and shade fill most of the park, with beautiful hibiscus and other tropical plants. Also, peacocks (or pea hens) roam free -- some traditional blue in color and some pure white (are these called albinos?).

About noon we continued our journey north on Highway A1A to Ponte Vedra. This route along the Atlantic coast highway reminded us so much of our Pacific coast Highway 1 at our previous seaside home in Half Moon Bay CA. Little beach cottages wedged in with huge out-of-place beach mansions on a narrow strip of land between the 2-lane road and the ocean. Oceanside plants (use to the salty sea air), sea gulls, Deb's fave pelicans, breeze, sand, mist, and high FOG. We loved it and reminisced and envied.

Near Jacksonville FL, we hopped onto the Interstate. We were unimpressed by that town, however, as it seems air pollution is a big problem. There are two energy generating plants that look like nuclear towers, but operate with coal, coke, and petroleum. In any case, spewing a lot of STUFF into the air. On the plus side, they have a nice harbor with lots of big hardware for loading freighters. Had to laugh when we saw the "Bridge ices before road" signs.

Stopped at the Georgia Welcome Center and give it a 3 on our rating system--no recycle, no decor or personality, washrooms clean, but so-so.

Once we got to Georgia the landscape changed. Savannah means grassy plain in a subtropical area with few trees. So, much more flatland mixed with areas of water and some kind of reedy plant. Pretty country but not very diverse around here. Also, their is no road along the shore. Although there is one small stretch off the freeway, it is mostly just many islands which are not connected by bridge. So you are basically forced to use the freeway.

Arrived at our hotel in Savannah about 4p. Room was clean, so-so, but in a good location. We've been splurging a bit on room quality, so trying to save where we can. This Best Western accepts pets, so lots of dogs of every size running around pooping and peeing on the lawn. Owners not always courteous enough to clean up after.

Talked to Miss Mary, the concierge, about tour and restaurant reservations for tomorrow. (See bottom.) We discovered that the Peeks that John from Doc Ford's had mentioned was really The Olde Pink House or Pinks. She agreed with the great review and said we would love it. I asked what the dress code was. She looked me up and down in my sweatshirt and jeans and said, "Well, I wouldn't wear that!"

Hungry, so started our wandering along the popular river front where there are many shops and eateries. You must maneuver a steep-sloped cobblestone walkway or uneven stairs down to the river level. A bit tough for those with bad knees. Not busy at this time of year, even seemed "deserted."

Ended up in a place called Bernie's. I got a shrimp po' boy and Mike got crab cakes. No dessert here but we picked up six PEE-can pralines at another shop down the street (a mere $18). Jeez, we talk a lot about food!! But we're betting you don't mind.

Wandered back to the hotel and caught re-runs of last night's Daily Show and Colbert. Soooo glad they are back from holiday. We missed 'em.

Miss Mary was not the best. Started her spiel and when I tried to ask questions (as we pretty much knew what we wanted, just needed details), she just couldn't quit the spiel. She did not answer our questions directly and we had to dig the answers out of her. She was a Southern, hi-brow, high-faluting' "lady." I'm thinking we were a bit below her station in her mind. When I asked her to repeat some directions that were not clear to me, she harrumphed. Not pleasant. Not the best position for her. Not an ambassador for Savannah.

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