Carolee Duckworth Continues on a Southerly Route for Our Awesome February Armchair Trip
By Carolee Duckworth, NABBW’s Independent Travel Associate
OUR FEBRUARY ARMCHAIR TRIP:
Southern Beauties…Charleston & Savannah (with Jekyll)
Let’s head back to our comfy armchair for another amazing Armchair Trip. For now, we will travel again in our minds! But we may come back in person someday…
Where to This Time?
Since it’s February, it’s still cold up North. But the temps are mild enough down south. So, let’s choose a place where Spring comes early, and it never gets all that cold anyway… We’re off this time to the Coastal Beauties: Charleston and Savannah, with a brief respite on Jekyll Island, where the Morgans, Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, and such, set up their seaside haven off the coast of Georgia.
Close your eyes, open your “imaginings” and join me on our February trip to the glorious land of moss-draped live oaks, gentle breezes, and outdoor living. Let’s leave winter behind us once again and head towards the colorful blooms and outdoor markets, bike rides and carriage rides, she crab soup, steamed oysters and shrimp and grits along the South Carolina and Georgia coasts.
SATURDAY…Beginning to Unwind
We will board a plane to Jacksonville International Airport in Florida on a Saturday in February. Here we will pick up our rental car and drive a little over an hour north towards Jekyll Island in Georgia, where our journey will begin.
On the island, we will stay at the Jekyll Island Club and decompress for a couple days. As we cross the causeway and bridge to the island, we will leave behind all the commotion of the day and enter a place of peace and retreat. This is the island that was purchased as an exclusive winter retreat for the rich and powerful, including the likes of J.P. Morgan, Joseph Pulitzer, William K. Vanderbilt, and Marshall Field. Jekyll Island soon came to be recognized as “the richest, most inaccessible club in the world,” where members could relax in their luxuriant “cottages” and pursue “a life of elegant leisure” amid a “sense of splendid isolation.”
We already will have booked a room at Jekyll Island Club on the Bayside, where the early residents and club members gathered back in the day.
Stroll, Lunch, Relax, Then Sunset—And B-R-E-A-T-H-E!
Once we check in, all of our initial goals will have to do with entering into the ambience of total relaxation and calm. An initial stroll around the hotel grounds to get oriented. Heading out to the dock on the Bay in front of the Club compound to find a table at The Wharf (Lunch: Tuesday–Sunday, 11:30 AM – 4 PM). Sitting outside in the mellow breezes and savoring a late seafood lunch.
We’ll return to The Wharf in time for sunset to kick back with drinks, appetizers and live music while the sun goes down (live music: Wednesday – Saturday, 6 PM – 9 PM).
SUNDAY… Living Like the Vanderbilts, but with Bicycles
This will be our one full day on Jekyll Island, but we will stay with our very mellow mindset. The day will begin with the famous Sunday Brunch at the Grand Dining Room of the Jekyll Island Club. Patés, smoked seafood and chilled shrimp cocktail. Omelets prepared to order. Bacon, sausage, grits and carved prime rib. Seafood du Jour and vegetable du Jour, followed by the pastry chef’s “Mélange of Delights.” And a complimentary glass of Champagne.
After this sumptuous breakfast, we’ll rent a bike and cruise around the historic district, stopping in shops and checking out the “cottages” of the rich and famous left over from the glory days of the Club.
We’ll make a stop at the museum to learn some surprising stories from earlier times. One such tale is about the first ever transcontinental telephone call that was made successfully in 1915 from this remote spot in the middle of nowhere when Theodore N. Vail, president of AT&T, called Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas A. Watson and President Woodrow Wilson.
Another notable story… It was to this island that US Senator Nelson Aldrich, then chairman of the National Monetary Commission, secretly transported a group of the country’s leading financiers who represented about one fourth the world’s wealth at the time. These power brokers snuck onto private railroad cars in Hoboken, NJ and were deposited here, with the excuse of a duck hunting trip. The Senator then kept the group “locked up at Jekyll Island, out of the rest of the world, until they had evolved and compiled a scientific currency system for the United States.” This was the real birth of the present Federal Reserve System.
We’ll bike over to the ocean side of the island for lunch, stopping off at a waterfront spot on Beachview Drive—Totuga Jack’s or The Beach House. Tonight, we’ll head back to The Wharf for sunset and a light dinner of White Clam Chowder or Blackened Shrimp Salad, and maybe some chilled oysters. If we are extra hungry from our bike ride, we may follow up with Fish & Chips or Shrimp & Grits.
MONDAY… Now, On Towards Savannah
I know that we’re really not ready yet to leave all this peace and tranquility, but we have good times ahead in lovely, hospitable Savannah, the charming southern seaport town on the wide Savannah River where the colony of Georgia had its beginnings.
We’ll be staying in Savannah for 3 nights, at the Olde Harbour Inn, down near the river, just steps from the Waving Girl sculpture next to one of the landings for the River Taxi. Our hotel location will put us within a short walk to all sorts of shops and restaurants, as well as several major parks. As an added benefit, the Inn will provide us with a complimentary breakfast each morning and wine and cheese from 5:30 to 7 PM.
Our mode of transportation will be simple since the free Water Taxi will be docking every half hour near our door. So, we will be able to cover the distance to the general vicinity of wherever we want to go before we begin walking or riding trolleys or calling Ubers.
In Savannah, we will immerse ourselves in this slow, gentle city, feasting on seafood delicacies, strolling River Walk, hopping the free trollies and water taxis. We will take in some of its 22 town squares, with their landscaped parks, and experience its sights and stories of pirates and murders. Within our first few hours here, we already will be in love.
On the day we arrive, we will focus on getting oriented and beginning to enjoy riverfront living. Our first stop will be Joe’s Crab Shack for a seafood feast. After we’ve eaten our fill, we’ll pack up any leftovers and drop them by our room where we will have been provided with a handy fridge. These goodies, added to the complimentary wine and cheese provided by our Inn, will make for a tasty dinner if we don’t want to go back out to eat this evening.
After lunch, we’ll wander through the nearby River Street Market and maybe explore a shop or two before catching the river taxi to the City Hall Landing. Here we will stroll along River Walk and find a perfect perch from which to enjoy sunset.
TUESDAY…Mansions & Shopping
On Tuesday we will again catch the ferry to the City Hall Landing, then walk up to see City Hall, with its golden dome created from gold mined in Dahlonega, a fascinating town nearby. We’ll catch the DOT trolley at Johnson Square and follow the Purple Line loop that will take us up to Forsyth Park and back. As we pass by, we will note the Mercer Williams House on the left, scene of a murder made famous by the movie and book “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”
After the trolley rounds the top of Forsyth Park, we will hop off on Gaston Street and walk through the park to the fountain. Then on to brunch at 700 Drayton Restaurant (11 AM to 3 PM) in “The Mansion,” an impressive 1919 former Italian Renaissance Revival style home, later donated to become Armstrong College and now restored to its former glory as a hotel and restaurant. What is your pleasure? Eggs Benedict? Crab Omelette? Or maybe Chicken and Waffles?
After lunch, we’ll hop back on the trolley and cruise down Drayton Street, back towards the river, hopping off on Broughton Street for some “retail therapy” along the way. We’ll end up back in the familiar territory of River Street, where the shoppers will meet up with the non-shoppers at the Rooftop Bar of the Cotton Sail Hotel to relax and discuss the day. This evening, we’ll watch the sunset from here.
Dinner will be at The Pirates’ House, a 5-minute walk from where we are staying at the Olde Harbour Inn. The Pirate’s House first opened in 1753 as an inn for seafarers, and fast became a rendezvous for blood-thirsty pirates and sailors from the Seven Seas. Depending on how carried away we got at lunch, we may just order a few appetizers to share… Savannah Crab Dip. Low Country Spring Rolls (pulled pork & collard greens), She Crab Soup (with sherry and cream) … Then we’ll check out the Desserts of the Day and finish up with Irish Coffee (with Jameson Irish Whiskey) or Millionaire’s Coffee (with Bailey’s & Frangelico) or Italian Coffee (with Amaretto & Brandy).
We may decide we want a Staff “Pirate” to visit us at our table. If so, we’ll let our server know. And either before or after dinner, depending on our timing, we’ll climb the spiral staircase at the Pirates’ House to wander through the large and intriguing gift shop and pick out some Buccaneer treasure.
WEDNESDAY…Ships, Markets & Music
By now we are pros at catching the Water Taxi at the Waving Girl statue and hopping off at City Hall. When we get to River Walk today, we’ll catch the Blue Line on the far side of Johnson Square to take the loop along Congress Street, then right on Price Street past the barracks, then right on Liberty Street, passing Colonial Park Cemetery.
We may decide to hop off at the cemetery and look around. But our destination today is the Ships of the Sea Museum, housed in the former mansion of William Scarborough, a wealthy early 19th century merchant and one of the principal owners of The Savannah, the first steamship to cross the Atlantic. Here we’ll walk through displays of model ships and exhibits that detail maritime history. And we’ll be sure to visit the walled garden in the courtyard.
From the museum it will be a short walk to the Old City Market, a 4-block open-air market in restored warehouses, with shopping, dining, and artwork (10 AM to 8 PM). By now we’ll be ready for a late lunch at an outdoor table at Belford’s Restaurant or for oysters and gumbo at Sorry Charlie’s.
We’ll do our shopping in the market after lunch and take our time in this interesting and airy outdoor space. There will be lots of places for us to sit and people watch. So, the non-shoppers will be happy too. Later we’ll meet up at Treehouse Savannah (309 W. Saint Julian St.), with views of Old City Market from its outdoor balcony. Depending on our timing, we may hear music coming from the restaurant as we approach it from the street. Fun! We’ll stop-off here for drinks and snacks, or some pub grub and live music. And we’ll plan to Uber home so we can stay as long as we’d like.
THURSDAY: On to Lovely Charleston
From Savannah, we will be just a two-hour drive to Charleston in South Carolina, where we will stay for the next 3 nights at Meeting Street Inn, immediately across the street from City Market. The Inn has a lovely courtyard where we will fully enjoy our complimentary full breakfast each morning and wine and cheese each afternoon. And in the evening, at the end of long days of walking and experiencing, we’ll happily return to the Inn and ease our tired feet in the large, romantically lit hot tub in the courtyard.
Today, after we check in, we’ll cross over to City Market, and shop our way down along the artful booths, maybe purchasing a few treasures along the way. If we didn’t stop for lunch on the drive here from Savannah, we’ll pick up an ice cream cone to tide us over until Happy Hour. Then we’ll take a carriage ride around the city.
For Happy Hour, we’ll head to Pearlz Oyster Bar on East Bay Steet for oysters on the half shell. We’ll go ahead and order a dozen oysters. Why order a half dozen that cost $10 when a dozen cost $15?
This evening we’ll seek out the tranquility and excellent seafood at the Blind Tiger Pub on Broad Street, where we will have made dinner reservations at a courtyard table. We’ll start with the delectable grilled oysters and see where we want to go from there.
FRIDAY we’ll shop the classic antique treasure trove on King Street, and lunch on Poogan’s Porch. Then we’ll take a slow stroll through the rarefied neighborhood “South of Broad,” peeking behind the wrought iron gates into pristine gardens of the historic mansions until the street runs out at the park along the Battery.
As we cross over to the park, we’ll look back at the mega-mansions built here in pre-Civil-War times, with their graceful porches and balconies, some with top floor ballrooms. Since Sherman spared Charleston during his march to the sea, much of old Charleston was preserved like a time capsule, harkening back to the improbable wealth of a different age. We’ll walk along the sea wall, where “the Cooper and the Ashley Rivers come together to form the sea.” From here we’ll look out across the water to Fort Sumpter, the federally controlled target that the Citadel Academy Cadets aimed at when they fired “the shots that started the Civil War.”
Next, we’ll head back in the other direction, along East Bay Street. We may stop to tour the Edmondston-Alston Mansion on East Bay (Tuesday to Saturday, 10 AM to 4 PM; Monday 1–4 PM), and make a visit to the Old Slave Mart Museum at 6 Chalmers Street (Monday to Saturday, 9 AM to 5 PM). This museum thoughtfully and compellingly tells the story of Charleston’s role in the domestic inter-state slave trade from 1856 to 1863.
From the museum, we will walk back towards the Cooper River to the stunning Waterfront Park and claim a shaded porch swing partway out the pier. We’ll walk through the park along the waterfront and pause at the pineapple fountain for a few photos.
Before dinner, we’ll seek out great views of the river from the Vendue Inn Rooftop Bar (Happy Hour 4 – 7 PM, Monday to Thursday). Dinner with a view will be nearby at Fleet’s Landing, a restaurant built out over the water.
SATURDAY… City on Two Rivers
Today we will take to the water. After breakfast at Meeting Street Inn, this time going light on breakfast since we’ll be having Brunch on the other side of the river in a few hours. We’ll walk the full length of City Market to the Waterfront Park dock where we will catch the Water Taxi. Since we will have purchased a $12 All-Day Pass, we’ll be able to use the Water Taxi several times today.
We’ll cruise across the Cooper River, passing the impressive “new” bridge and heading towards the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier and other ships on display at Patriots Point. Here we’ll hop off at the dock. Our destination is Saturday Brunch at The Charleston Harbor Fish House (served Saturday and Sunday: 10 AM – 2 PM). We already will have booked a window-side table with a view of the Yorktown.
While we wait for our reservation time, we’ll have a chance to browse through the wonderful gift shop next to the restaurant. Then, when our table is ready, we’ll have some tough choices to make… Pecan Crusted Stuffed French Toast” Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Waffles? Avocado Toast? She Crab Soup? Fried Catfish Sandwich? Charleston Shrimp and Grits? And certainly, a Bloody Mary, “virgin” or otherwise.
After brunch, it will be back to the Water Taxi dock and across the river, this time hopping off at the Charleston Maritime Center to visit the fascinating SC Aquarium. Then back on the Water Taxi to return to Waterfront Park.
By now, we’ll be ready for a rest and Happy Hour in the courtyard of Meeting Street Inn before we head to dinner at the Swamp Fox Restaurant in the Francis Marion Hotel or at Low Country Bistro (in City Market).
SUNDAY we’ll be flying home from Charleston. But rest assured… We’ll already be making plans to return to these three coastal beauties, next time for real.
So Where to Next Month?
Well, next month will be March. What’s your best guess about where our next trip will take us? See you next month and we’ll be off for more discoveries…
Carolee Duckworth is an avid traveler, an expert trip designer, and co-author (with Brian Lane) of the books Your Great Trip to France, Your Great 5-Day Trip to Paris, and Your Great 5-Day Trip to Loire Chateaux, available on amazon.com. The Great Trip Guide USA Master Trip Series will start coming out in 2022. Visit GreatTripGuide.com for a free copy of our definitive guide to Packing: “How to Pack Like a Pro,” and to receive periodic emails with new trip itineraries and travel tips. Ignite your passion for travel, while preserving your independence, with a Great Trip Guide by your side.