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Has a stranger in another city or country ever shown you a kindness? This was the question on NPR today. It didn’t take me long to come up with an instance. I’m sure there are more, but this is a favorite.

My husband, two small granddaughters, daughter-in-law, and I were cutting it close. My niece’s reception dinner somewhere in the wilds of Texas back roads was starting five minutes ago. We spied a country bar and pulled our purple rental car over. A patron staggered out. Jerry rolled down the window and asked where the VFW Hall was. The short, boney man straightened his posture and his Stetson. Strenuous effort to widen his eyes seemed to signal his body to slump. He held onto the car and puffed his chest out, widening his eyes again.

“Yessir, be glad to help you.”

His face rearranged itself into a wide smile, deepening the lines in his ruddy cheeks. He pointed first one way, then the other, finally settling on a direction.

“Go straight on down the road a piece till you see the Lone Star sign, take a right—no left—cross over the railroad tracks, go about five more miles down the dirt road to your left and it’ll be on your right.”

“Much obliged,” my husband said with a smile. He’d learned Texas lingo years ago.

We pulled out of the bar parking lot and Jerry immediately turned right.

“What are you doing?” I said.

Jerry made a quick left into the parking lot across the street from the bar, into the crowded VFW parking lot.

My daughter-in-law loves to tell people that Texans really are friendly and helpful—even when they have no idea what they are talking about.

Have you been shown kindness from a stranger while on vacation or just away from home? I’d love to hear about it.

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Each visit to Savannah I explore a little bit more, but will never be done with Savannah.  It is a city  shaded by history and centuries-old oaks.  Our first day on the trolley tour we got a good overview and picked up interesting facts from two separate drivers.

Forest Gump

Forest Gump boarded our trolley at the Chippawa Square, apologized for having eaten all the chocolates, said he was looking for Capt. Dan. When he thought he spotted him, he jumped off and ran down the street with arms flailing. Nice touch.

Square (Wright, I think)

This square is know as the wedding square for all the weddings performed there. Savannah is the only city in the U.S. with unchanged original plans. Thank God. They were brilliant –green space everwhere.

I must give kudos to SCAD (Savannah College of Art & Design) for a city more beautiful than when I last saw it about fifteen years ago. Their campuses are historic buildings they have restored, but they didn’t stop there. They lend expertise to private restorations. I may not be exact, but close when I say SCAD is responsible for restoration of between 75-95 buildings in the city. Imagine what that means!

Statue in squareI hope you’ll excuse me for not remembering the names of all the squares. Oh, to live in a city with so many beautiful open space that such a thing could happen.

It was worth taking the trolley tour the first day. They even picked us up at the Azalea Inn &  Gardens http://www.azaleainn.com/index.html://door, so a vehicle was totally unnecessary. Having done my homework, though, there were places I wanted to see that weren’t on the trolley agenda, so the second day we called a pedicab. Great decision. Brett, fabulous young SCAD student with calves like cantalopes, pedaled us from the B&B to the Pirate House, where we would eat and photograph ghosts. The orbs I was promised by my granddaughter and hairdresser didn’t appear on mine, unfortunately, but we had a great seafood meal, then cruised the Riverfront before calling Brett to take us to my “must see,” the Flannery O’Conner home. It was four blocks from our B&B and an easy walk “home.”

Pat with Brett in Pedicab, the way to go

I got a chill walking in one of my favorite author’s childhood home. O’Conner lived there until age thirteen. I took gobs of pictures, but will post only the most startling one, the “cage” Mary Flanner (her given name) was placed in as an infant to protect her from malaria. Some have wondered if that early experience gave rise to the dark themes in her writings.

Wood and screening "crib"Pat and I scheduled time for both our interests. Art overlapped, and we spent a lot of time in galleries. At City Market we bought birthday and Christmas gifts from unique shops (Pat’s favorite sport). I called O’Conners’s house and E. Shaver’s book store, a twelve-room, charming place for bibliophiles . When you have a friend like Pat everything goes smoothly. I enjoyed her choices and I think she enjoyed mine.

Paula Deen's

It was in the cards for Pat to eat at Paula Deen’s Lady & Sons. We were five minutes past cut off time to show up for reservations, yet were given a table right away. Collards, sweet potato, fried chicken, blackeyed peas, green beans, biscuits, etc. all cooked Southern. We were in heaven.

Joey

In the wee hours of Sunday morning we said goodbye to Azalea Inn & Gardens to catch an early train. We said our goodbyes to the B&B greeter the night before, because Joey, an adorable Yorkie, had not yet come to work. Oh yes, he is deposited in the door in the morning and picked up when his workday is finished after wine and nibbles time.

I didn’t mean this to be so long, but as you might expect, left out so much. If you are thinking of a relaxing, Southern vacation, don’t overlook Savannah. It is a jewel of a city.

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Casa Monica

Casa Monica

Lookout Hole just my size (5')

 
My favorite in the Lightner Museum

My favorite in the Lightner Museum

From rustic to pure opulence at Lightner Museum

From rustic to pure opulence at Lightner Museum

Be sure to look up at the Lightner

Be sure to look up at the Lightner

Beauty at the Lightner

Beauty at the Lightner

If you don’t know the meaning of coquina you have not been to St. Augustine, Florida. Take a trolley and you will hear the word until you giggle (or maybe that’s just us) – but with good reason. Coquina, made from tiny shells and cement was the building material of choice for many of the historic buildings and structures. How creative and “green” was that? Castillo de San Marcos, the fort dominating the Ancient City, is made of coquina. The material is so strong, yet soft, that cannon balls just made dents, leaving the structure intact.

 

Walls around the Fountain of Youth were made from coquina, with razon-like oyster shells added to discourage climbing. Even our favorite inn, The St. Francis, was built of coquina in 1791. We would have felt safer there than at home had Hurricane Gustav hit before we left.

 

Other buildings, such as what is now Flagler College and the Casa Monica Hotel were built in horizontal strips, so to speak. Long boxes were stacked on the dried cement below, filled, and allowed to dry before the next layer went up.

 

I would think the city is a shrine for creative builders, but we ordinary folks are mostly engrossed in another time, with surprises around every corner. Travelers interested in a rich slice of our nation’s past will find it here, layered by inhabitants from England, France, Spain, and of course, Native Americans. Those with an artistic eye will find beauty in the architecture, views and beautiful collection in the Lightner Museum.  And tourists who just want to be treated like welcome guests where ever they go, will feel pampered almost everywhere in the city.

 

I will post a few pictures over the next few weeks of objects and buildings that caught my eye on our recent trip. We did the rather frenetic MTV version that we tend to do on vacation, but you may savor tastes of the Ancient City in leisure. Enjoy.

 (Below I caught a boat sailing by the lookout hole at an opportune moment.)

 

 

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Fifty Years

staugustine-0431.jpgstaugustine-0311.jpgstaugustine-0461.jpgAugust 16th was our 50th anniversary. We thought that happened only to old people, but we were obviously wrong. I kid. Of course, we are old and that’s a good thing. I will write more on that subject later. Today is for reveling in celebration of a milestone.

I’m experiencing jet lag, having just arrived back in the 21st century from the 17th.  That’s what spending a few days in St. Augustine, FL will do to you. Our bed and breakfast, St. Francis Inn, is the oldest inn (built in 1791) in the oldest city in America. We were a few houses down from the oldest house, occupied since the 1600’s. Quaint, charming, comfortable—it was all that with a staff of truly hospitable hosts. With breakfasts, happy hours and deserts all complimentary and rooms decorated like a home, I have to wonder why we ever stayed at hotels. Bikes were there for guests’ use, and the Inn even provides a beach house complete with towels and all you needed for a day on the ocean. With the trolley stop just up the street, Jerry and I had transportation all over the city without parking problems. Parking is severely lacking in a city built for another time, so that was the way to go. The St. Francis Inn is unique in that it has a parking lot, too. Oh, I can’t forget the Inn Cat, Zeke. How perfect was that? (Courtyard & St. Francis Inn pictured above)

On arrival the desk clerk slid a note across the desk. It said: Happy 50th Anniversary from your loving kids – We have paid for your room, breakfast in bed and a carriage ride. There was more—champagne, snacks and a big bouquet. We aren’t easily shocked, but that did it. The staff told us several times what wonderful children we have. Can’t argue with that.

We took the full trolley ride while waiting for our room to be prepared and learned a lot of history while choosing places to return. If you go, you’ll want the Old Town Trolley Tours (called Green trolley). You can get special prices online and print out your ticket ahead of time. You’ll really be glad you chose this one when others wait and wait for their pickup and yours arrives every twenty minutes at all locations. Seats are hard, of course, and entrances are rather slim, but this is still the way to go.

When we struck out the following day first stop was—what else?—The Fountain of Youth. After a lecture in the spring house I asked the whereabouts of the fountain. “Oh, would you like a cup?” the docent asked? Was she kidding? Jerry and I each got a cup, some I drank, poured some on me. “Anyone else?” she asked. Not a one. We were a little dumbstruck. Were we the only old people? Is this the same crowd that emptied the trolley at the winery the day before? Some questions don’t get answered.

St. George Street is the only place we had spent time before and we were very disappointed. It seemed more like a flea market with designer sunglass knockoffs and Hawaiian goods.

This trip we did get off at San Sebastian Winery. We learned quite a bit about wine and enjoyed the first tasting. Subsequent ones were too sweet for our palate. We had laughed when told we could dump what we didn’t like into the bucket in front of us, but made liberal use of it. Perhaps we just didn’t get to try the right wines, but it was a good experience nevertheless.

Our getting off stop was the oldest house, just doors down from our B&B and it was the highlight of the tour I would have to say. The docent was knowledgeable and interested in what she was saying. We could imagine the hard life they lived here, though the house was probably a place to covet during its time. There was still a rustic beauty inside and in the gardens. Not to be missed. (Middle photo above shows the painting-like quality of downstairs room.)

We waited till night for our carriage ride. It was far too hot to take horses out in the sun. Driving the carriage is a full time job with the added chore of entertaining guests. We could have done without our driver telling us as he pulled from the curb how dangerous it was and that passengers had been killed. We just put our trust in Benjamin the horse and enjoyed the ride.

Dinners at the A1A Ale House and Columbia were great, though we still want to try Raintree Restaurant next trip. And there will be a next trip.

Now if you aren’t my husband you may talk among yourselves while I end with just one private message. 

Jerry, you’re still the one.

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