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Trip Report Barbara and Jeri's trip to St. Augustine, Charleston, and Savannah

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In preparing for our trip, I had valuable input from many under the thread "Suggestions for St. Augustine, Charleston, and Savannah".
Now that we are back, I'm writing a short report. This was started as a continuation of the above mentioned thread. Just thinking, though, that since it is a trip report, it makes more sense to let it stand alone. So I'm copying here what I've already written, and I'll continue with the rest of the report under this heading.
Any who are visiting the above cities would do well to look at the original thread, however, because the contributions from posters contain very useful information.

TRIP REPORT:

Barbara and Jeri’s trip to St. Augustine, Charleston, and Savannah

WHO WE ARE: Two friends who worked together for over 30 years and who’ve traveled together for the past 10 years. Barbara, a retired high school counselor; Jeri, a retired high school teacher and chairman of the social science department.

OUR TRAVEL HISTORY: Last year at this time, Jeri and I were in Egypt and Jordan. We were fortunate with the timing of that trip because a short time after we returned, turmoil in the area broke out and escalated. Had we waited, who knows when we would be able to satisfy our dreams of experiencing what remains of those ancient cultures.

The year before that, we were in Prague for a few days before flying to Budapest where we boarded a riverboat for a Danube cruise, visiting cities in Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, and Bulgaria along the way, with land segments to Varna, Bulgaria on the Black Sea, Romania, and Transylvania.

And the year before that we were in Kuala Lumpur and the Malaysian part of Borneo, visiting places along the coastal strip from Kuching in the south to Kota Kinabalu in the north, and ending with time on the island of Penang.
And so on. Over the years we’ve had some fantastic and often exotic adventures.

WHY THIS TRIP: This short trip of ours to St. Augustine, Charleston, and Savannah was different from what we usually do in that it was domestic. It was time, though, for me to experience more of my own country. I had never been in this region before. For Jeri, though, it would be a re-visit. She had been in each of these cities before, but since it had been at least 20 years, she was looking forward to the trip as much as I.

PREPARATION: Jeri needed very little regarding the history. She was a history teacher and an excellent one. Totally proficient in her subject. I, on the other hand, was lacking. I hadn’t had a US history class since my freshman year of college, half a century ago. Wow. That makes me sound so old. Let it be known that I’m still on my feet and that at least as of today, I have all my faculties. Tomorrow? Who knows?

Preparation for me consisted of three things—this board (and once again, thank you all for your input), the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (Savannah), and the John Jakes’ historical fiction novel, Charleston. I loved that book. It started with the first settlement in Savannah and detailed the history through the Revolutionary War up until after the Civil War. There was obviously a bias—a northern one. And I was on board with that. So any of you are still reading this….Yes, I know. There is another point of view.

Basically, then, my preparation was scanty. Wish it had been more. As always, though, I travel to see and learn new things-- as does Jeri-- and that’s the way we approached this trip.

BASIC STRUCTURE:
Flight. We did a Kayak search and the best fare ended up with Delta flight from Lax to Memphis connecting with an Atlantic Southeast flight to Jacksonville, Florida. And return, of course. Total: $330.
Car. Hotwire. Hertz came up for $336 for pickup JAX on September 18 through drop off JAX on September 29. Toyota Corolla. Unlimited miles.
Hotels. I’ll specify as the report progresses.

OUR TRIP BEGINS:

OMG!! Our family had company the night before we were to leave. I had my bags packed and all my paperwork with the boarding pass, hotel and car confirmations, etc. in a folder, my carry on things and so on ready for my departure early the next morning. I had wanted to be sure all was basically in order because our departure from LAX was at 7:05 AM and we had to be there by at least 5:30 AM. It was midnight, though, before I got to bed. Had to wash dishes and all after the company left. And evidently I did not set the alarm. Thankfully, I woke up about 4:00 AM, half an hour before I was to pick up Jeri who lives half an hour away. I called my son-in-law Danny, who lives nearby and who was to take us to the airport. He, too, had not set his alarm. But he said he’d be right over. 10 minutes. And I just had time to get my clothes on. Contacts, yes. No make-up. And I never leave the house without it. Not even to go to the market. But, oh well…… “Oh, well” is a wonderful expression. It has served Jeri and me well over the years. It signals that we need to go from Plan A to Plan B without getting fussed up, and if Plan B doesn’t happen, then….Oh Well…..

So there I was with just my clothes and my contacts on, throwing my things into the car before getting our way to pick up Jeri. No time to do any last minutes checks to see that all was packed. About a mile down the road I told Danny, “I’m not sure I have my camera”. And a bit later, “I’m not sure I have my back-up contacts”. And, yikes!!, “ I’m not sure I packed my make-up”. And so on. It was going to be a thrill a minute when I finally got unpacked at our first hotel and saw what was really there. Never before have I left in such a hurry.

Bottom line, thankfully we did somehow make it to the airport about 25 or 30 miles away in time to catch our flight

This is the lead-up. The trip report will follow.


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Bo2642on Oct 4, 11 at 6:47am


Just a small correction re the John Jakes book Charleston. Obviously it began with the first settlement in Charleston, not Savannah.

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    One of my biggest vacation fears is oversleeping and missing the plane or being stuck in traffic as I see the plane fly overhead.

    And I think your motto of "oh well" is one that all travelers should adopt. I know it is how we travel. If you let yourself get upset by things it can just wind up ruining your day.

    Can't wait for the rest of the report. We are going to Savannah and Charleston in 2 weeks and are very excited.
    KathyH

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    Going to Charleston just before Christmas....looking forward to reading the rest of the report!

    BTW, I have been known to leave the house/hotel "ugly" and apply make-up and use the curling iron in the airport bathroom. I figure I'm stuck there waiting, anyway, so why not make good use of the time? ;)

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    palmetto, Barb, Kathy, and ten--thanks for your words of understanding. As I think back on my situation now, it's funny.

    Just finishing the St. Augustine segment now. A little slow because my "real" life has resumed. Spent all day yesterday chaperoning my younger grandson's 3rd/4th grade class during a field trip to the Autry Western Heritage Museum here in LA; took both boys to piano lessons today; and as always, there are the etceteras.

    I may be able to get the St. Augustine segment posted in about an hour.

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    ST. AUGUSTINE
    Our flight arrived at JAX at 5:10 PM, and after picking up our bags and getting our car, we headed directly to our hotel in St. Augustine. We had reservations at the Courtyard St. Augustine I-95. This is out of town, about 10 minutes from St. Augustine itself, but the reviews on Trip Advisor and other sites as for cleanliness and comfort were great. The list of lodgings in and around St. Augustine goes on and on, and some of the B&Bs especially sound inviting, but we just needed a comfortable and clean place for the next two nights. And the Courtyard did not disappoint. What great beds, by the way. And tons of pillows. Crisp bed linens. I’d certainly go there again. Triple A (AAA) rate for two nights on the Courtyard website--$175.98 (taxes included).
    One of the first things I did after checking in was to see what I had actually brought with me. Whew. Yes. I had my camera. And my back-up contact lenses. And, yes, my make-up—everything except lipstick. Whoo Hooo!
    There is a CVS drugstore a couple of miles down the road, and I got the lipstick on the way to dinner that night and also bottles of water, enough for our whole trip…and then some. So all was good.
    Though it wasn’t our main focus, we chose to include St. Augustine in our itinerary for two reasons. First, being the oldest city in America it is of historical interest, but, in addition, and probably the main reason, it would allow us to connect with our friend Gundy and hubby who live a bit to the south in Palm Coast. We were so looking forward to seeing Gundy. I had “met” her about 15 years ago when I responded to a China trip report she had written right here on these boards. And we have been emailing ever since. Actually she has become Jeri’s email friend, too, and we have both had the pleasure of meeting her in person twice when she and hubby have come to California. Now here was another opportunity.
    But let me back up a bit.
    By the time we got from JAX to St. Augustine, it was nearly 7, and by the time we started to think about dinner, it was after that. Jeri was hungry for sea food and had chosen a restaurant which had good reviews. It was closed, however, so we settled on what seemed to be a local favorite—Barnacle Bill’s. There was no ambience, and the food was just ok. My suggestion would be to look elsewhere.

    For any who would like a comprehensive list from a Fodorite of St. Augustine attractions, there’s a wonderful trip report by bachslunch on these boards. An easy way to get to it is to go back to the Florida board under our Suggestions for St. Augustine, Charleston, and Savannah. Then find her reply which is number 2 or so; click on her (his?) name, and look for the St. Augustine trip report. You’ll find that she/he (bachslunch—who are you?) put a lot of energy into experiencing St. Augustine in depth, and the personal reactions to the sites visited give valuable input to potential visitors, especially those who will be there for two or more days.
    Also Orlando_Vic and others on the same board have given good recommendations re restaurants. If St. Augustine is in your plans, check them out.
    Jeri and I, though, had only a few hours to be in St. Augustine. At the end of our one full day in St. Augustine, we were to be at Gundy’s for dinner in Palm Coast at 5:00, so, knowing that we would only be able to scratch the surface of all that was to be seen, we took the pressure off of ourselves by deciding that what we would be able to do would be quality things, few as they might be. Over the years we’ve learned that when traveling you can never see everything in the time allotted, so we pick and choose and enjoy.
    We decided on two “must dos”, the Castillo de San Marcos and a visit to a historical house, possibly the Gonzalez-Alvarez House, the oldest surviving home in the area, leaving the rest to chance, and we resolved that the things we did not have time to see or do….well, the hope of the traveler is always “next time”.
    It was a beautiful morning as we arrived at the parking structure in St. Augustine. The rain of the night before had dissipated, and the sky was deep blue with puffy white clouds though dark clouds were on the horizon and we knew that eventually there’d be more rain.
    Our first destination was the Castillo de San Marcos, which is one of the oldest standing structures in North America. Construction began in 1672 by the Spanish to protect their holdings in the new world. Not only is this fort strategically placed overlooking the entrance to St. Augustine’s harbor, but it has a unique design. As a paragraph in the Self-Guided Walking Tour which you pick up upon entry explains, “Engineer Ignacio Daza incorporated a type of fortress construction called the ‘bastion’ system. The star-like outline of the Castillo is formed by diamond-shaped projections or bastions at each corner of the fort; this design eliminates blind spots for the guards in the garitas or sentry boxes at each bastion point and increases the fort’s firepower by allowing multiple cannons to fire on the same target, creating a crossfire effect.”
    We took our time following the self-guided tour, visiting the rooms where the soldiers were quartered, the kitchen and dining hall, the chapel, storage rooms, the “jail”, and exhibit rooms containing artifacts of the powers the Castillo served beginning with Spain and continuing after it left Spanish hands—Great Britain, the Confederacy, and the United States.
    There was also a very interesting movie showing in detail the drill regimen the Spanish soldiers were put through. It was all about loading and shooting the cannons. I almost had to laugh. I know repetition makes for perfection, but there were so many steps to the drill and the soldiers portrayed were totally decked out with heavy coats and brass, frills and hats and all, that it seemed that by the time they could get themselves together enough to shoot, it would be too late.
    We spent the last half hour at the top of the fort where cannons and cannonballs were strategically placed and where we could see and appreciate how the bastions were indeed advantageous for defense.
    After the Castillo, we walked over to St. George Street, one of the original settlement thoroughfares. It is now lined with shops and restaurants and has become the main tourist walking street in St. Augustine. We did some browsing as we made our way along, and along with the tourist trinkets and t-shirts there were some shops featuring quality jewelry and blown glass. Though I hadn’t really planned to buy anything, I did find a perfect purse for my daughter Susanne at the Bag Lady’s. It is fun and dramatic and suits her.
    Lunch time: I know this didn’t quite make the cut in Orlando-Vic’s list of favorites (see his recommendations on the original thread) but Jeri and I found the Columbia restaurant to be lovely and good. It is located right on St. George Street, very easy to find. How nice it was to step out of the steaming heat into its cool entryway, and how pleasant it was to sit in the dining room filled with palms and beautiful tile work. And the food was just right. I had their 1905 Salad with the house dressing—so yummy if you don’t mind being garlicked up—and a Cuban bean soup. Jeri also had the soup but paired it with a Cuban sandwich. The menu is extensive and we’re not above peeking at what others are having. All looked good. Go to columbiarestaurant.com and click on the St. Augustine location for the menu and photos.
    Upon leaving the Columbia Restaurant, we stopped at the Pena-Peck House. We had planned to tour at least one house, but hadn’t considered this one. This one came to us by accident, and we’re glad it did because it was extremely well preserved and interesting. We almost missed it; it is a very simple black-shuttered white and gray rectangular building sitting right on St. George Street with little to attract our attention except for flags outside the door. At first it looked like the door led only into a little shop on one end of the building, but as we entered—yes, there was the shop to the right of the entry, but as we looked straight ahead we could see that we had stepped right into a house.
    A lady came to greet us and invite us into the shop to see to see an abundance of handicrafts for sale. She said that this was a woman’s exchange which had been operating for over a hundred years, a place where women could bring their work to sell and earn a little money for their efforts.
    Then before we knew it, a docent came and told us she would be glad to start a tour with us. Er….well, OK. And it turned out to be a wonderful tour with just the two of us and our docent Sam. She had passion for the house and the history, and one of the first things she did was put on a pair of white gloves saying with a wink and a twinkle in her eye, “Now we can get into things.”
    Bachslunch put it very well in her St. Augustine trip report: it’s the closest one gets to touring a non-opulent era fancier house in the city. We enjoyed the hour and a half we spent there very much.
    Go to staugustinewomans-exchange.com for information about the exchange and photos and information about the house.
    Upon Sam’s recommendation we continued on St. George Street past the point where it was no longer a pedestrian street and wandered through the older non-commercial section of the area. This gave some balance to the refurbished/restored things we had been passing, and then doubling back we found ourselves at the Flagler College campus. This is a liberal arts college situated on the grounds of the original Ponce de Leon Hotel built in 1888 and renowned for its opulence. We were too late for a tour, but we were able to enter the lobby where we oooed and awed over the warm woods, the murals, and the stained glass. Well, I think there was stained glass. That’s how I remember it. At any rate, the whole interior was extremely beautiful and rich.
    At his point it was time for us to go to Gundy’s. It took us about a half hour to get there, to Palm Coast, from St. Augustine, and we arrived right on time at 5:00. What a great reunion we had. Good company and conversation and a great meal. How nice that we were able to experience a bit of St. Augustine and have the day capped with a celebration of friendship.

    Next segment: Charleston

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    @gailw and KathyH

    Hi, you two. I'll try to get the Charleston segment posted by tonight. In the meantime, though, you will find tons of useful information on the thread Suggestions for St. Augustine, Savannah, and Charleston. The thread is tagged for Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. So many fellow Fodorites posted tips and suggestions as we were preparing for our trip.

    And if you go to that thread, do click on the names of the contributors because they have posted in other places, too, and you will find so much which will serve you well as you prepare.

    Also, I would like to say again how much the John Jakes book Charleston helped me with insights into the historical context of Charleston. It is fiction, yes, as regards the main characters, but the history has been well researched. Begins before the Revolutionary War and goes through the generations past the War Between the States. My enjoyment of Charleston was enhanced for having read it, but history aside (well, I guess I really can't say that...but I will), it's a really good read in and of itself.

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    Dinner was at our friend Gundy's house. It rivaled anything we might have had at a restaurant and then some, but as of now she hasn't hung out her shingle.

    We got lots of suggestions for St. Augustine on this board. Why don't you post and ask if anyone out there has Palm Coast suggestions?

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    CHARLESTON—beginning October 20, 2011

    Since we had to return to JAX for our flight home, we decided to put in a long driving day after leaving St. Augustine, bypassing Savannah and heading directly for Charleston. Leaving Savannah for last would put us closer to the airport as our trip came to an end.

    Rain was with us most of the way, sometimes heavy bands of it, and it became a little monotonous traveling in the green tunnel formed by densely packed trees lining the sides of the highway. We made one stop for gas, but not to eat. Gundy had sent a care package along with us—apples, crackers, cheese, nuts, and cookies, so there was plenty to munch on. She also sent a bottle of good red wine, but…you know. The drinking and driving thing. We would save the wine for something special later on.

    We really needed a break, though, and following the prompt of paulhelmick, soowoo, and others on our thread asking for suggestions regarding our trip, we turned off the main highway sometime after passing Savannah onto a road leading to Sheldon where some interesting ruins of an old church can be found. The following link was supplied in a post by paulhelmick. Click on it to find photos of the church, information regarding the history, and driving directions.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/onasill/4748908122/

    This stop for us was a nice diversion. Instead of being confined to the green tunnel, we were finally able to see the countryside as we turned off the main highway. And the little road leading to the ruins was quite beautiful, all lacy with Spanish moss hanging from tree branches as we approached the site. This was my first experience actually seeing Spanish moss, and it was pretty exciting, every bit as lovely as photos show it to be.

    It had stopped raining by the time we got to the ruins, and we were able to take our time exploring not only what was left of the church, but also the grounds themselves. What I found really interesting was that instead of having a specific burial section, there were graves here, there, and everywhere, some dating back to the early 1800s, and, surprisingly, some dating well into the 1900s.

    Back on the highway again. It was about 3:00 PM when we approached the Charleston city limits, and we were hungry for something other than snacks. As we were looking for some place to stop where we could get in and out of fairly quickly, we saw a barbeque place called Bessingers. We took a chance. Our barbeque sandwiches were OK but nothing to write home about. No problem; we had no expectations. Later we learned that Bessingers is quite an institution and that people often travel distances to enjoy the food there. Is there something wrong with us?

    www.bessingersbbq.com

    Our Charleston Hotel for 3 nights was the Mills House. Booked on hotels.com for $153 a night; total for the three days--$523.17 including taxes. I know other posters have sometimes done better, but this was the best rate we could get at the time. Further, only the first three nights of our Charleston stay were available. We really wanted this hotel, though, for the historical significance as well as the location, so we took the three, and we booked lodgings in Mt. Pleasant across the bridge for the remaining two nights that we had planned to stay in Charleston. During that time we would be visiting Fort Sumpter, and the boat taking tourists across the harbor to the fort can be boarded in Mt. Pleasant as well as downtown Charleston.

    Link to Mills House http://www.millshouse.com

    There is a parking structure directly behind The Mills House with a passageway leading from the structure to the interior of the hotel. Very convenient. Also very expensive. Rates run $21 for 24 hours, no in and out privileges; $24 if handled through the hotel valet service, in and out privileges.

    We parked there for the short time it would take us to check in and get our bags to our room ($2 or $3). Then we drove over to the Visitors Center a couple of miles down Meeting Street, the same street the hotel is located on. We could park our car in the adjacent parking structure there for $10.00 per 24 hours. This worked out very well for us since only once during our stay did we take the car out, and that was to go to Drayton Hall on the Ashley River Road and after that the Middleton Place a bit further down the same highway.

    This is a good time to talk about DASH, a free trolley service offered by the city. You can see the route maps by clicking on http://www.discovercharleston.com/maps (See Maps and Transportation) to help with planning, and, of course, you can also pick up a route map at the Visitors Center, 375 Meeting Street. There is short term parking in front of the center.

    I can’t tell you how many times we used this service as we explored the historic district. There are three routes, but for our purposes, we kept to the Meeting/King Shuttle which had a stop right by our hotel.

    After parking our car in the structure adjacent to the Visitors Center, we walked over to the center itself to gather information which would be useful to us. There was the DASH map, of course, and there were some things with general information. There was also a movie which gave us an overview of the city; I felt it helped us get centered.

    We left the Visitors Center planning to catch a DASH trolley back towards our hotel, but we had just missed it and another wouldn't be by for 15 minutes. It had started to rain, so we began walking rather than just stand in one place waiting, and as we walked along we were thinking about dinner. We had no reservations anywhere, and we were in the same clothes we had been driving in all day, so it had to be someplace casual. We passed Jestine’s and thought we remembered good reviews regarding its traditional local fare, but it was crowded to the point where people were waiting outside, so we moved on. Maybe just as well. Reviews we’ve since looked up indicate hit and miss re the food. After a certain point, though, we were really hungry and began to look for casual dining places as we drew closer to our hotel. It had stopped raining by the time we came upon a huge sea food restaurant—Hymans.

    Please, nobody wince. This does indeed have all the markings of a tourist trap, but there is a window onto the street where you can look through to the kitchen and see the fish being prepared. Fish of all kinds, shapes, and sizes, and it all looked very fresh. You know, clear eyes on the fish and such, so we put our names in and waited about 10 minutes to be seated.

    Click on http://www.hymanseafood.com/

    In truth, there was no sophistication here, but it was a very fun place, and very welcoming. My swordfish was firm and moist and wonderful, and Jeri’s flounder, she said, was great, too. I don’t hesitate to recommend to those who are open to a big restaurant which lacks intimacy but which serves up a quality fish dinner.

    I was hoping to get the full Charleston report up tonight, but I just can’t. I’ll post the above and hope that tomorrow I can get to the rest of it.

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    So glad you enjoyed Sheldon Ruins. It's really worth the time. The light there is beautiful.

    I'm not nuts about Bessinger's either, but I am BBQ snob lol!

    I'm enjoying your report! Thanks for sharing it with us.

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    Right. The circle takes aboutr 26 minutes. We took a full tour early on just to get a handle on the route. Also, if you miss the trolley on Meeting Street, for example, you can cut across and pick it up on King Street which might put you closer to your destination without having to do the whole circuit.

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    Right. The circle takes aboutr 26 minutes. We took a full tour early on just to get a handle on the route. Also, if you miss the trolley on Meeting Street, for example, you can cut across and pick it up on King Street which might put you closer to your destination without having to do the whole circuit.

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    I wish I'd known you were going to stop on Savannah Highway, There's a great restaurant out there called Glass Onion. I just got back from having lunch there- homemade sausage links, braised kale, sweet potato casserole (no marshmellows) and a deviled egg. The BEST.

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    Hey, Sue--We'll file this away. This whole trip was fast, an overview trip. Next time through, and there will be a next time, we'll slow our pace. So many things out there to savor, including restaurant finds and fine dining. Also, we will be looking into theater and cultural events. Always nice to have something to look forward to.

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    CHARLESTON (continued)

    Our first full day in Charleston.

    We loved our room at the Mills House. It looked down on a little courtyard and over the pool, but more, it looked out over rooftops to the steeple of St. Michael’s Church, which steeple, along with the bells, figured so prominently in the Jakes book that I felt I knew it.

    http://www.charlestonharbortours.com/charleston-tours-attractions-details.cfm?EditorialID=30&CategoryID=0

    We were out the door by 9:00 taking photos of the church and the other buildings around the hotel which form the Four Corners of Law (intersection of Broad Street and Meeting Street). The plan dates back to 1680. On the northeast corner is the Charleston City Hall (local/municipal law); on the northwest corner is The County Courthouse (state law); on the southwest corner is the U.S. Courthouse and Post Office (federal law), and on the remaining corner is St. Michaels (God’s law). I may have the compass points mixed up, but you know what I mean.

    Our DASH stop was also at this intersection, and when the trolley came we got on and were on our way back to the Visitors Center. We needed to meet Alfonso Brown at a point across from the Center for our Gullah tour at 11:00, but before that we wanted to stop into the Center to inquire about the Heritage Pass. This is a very good deal in our opinion. For $45 you get a 2 day pass for entrance into nine sites—Drayton Hall, Middleton Place (gardens and stable yards), Heyward- Washington House, Edmondston-Alston House, Nathaniel Russell House, Aiken-Rhett House, Joseph Manigault House, Gibbes Museum of Art, and Charleston Museum.

    Click on http://charlestonheritagefederation.org/passport.html for further information.

    We did go ahead and purchase the passport, and at the end of the day we were happy with it with one exception. Our timing was off, and I’ll explain about that later.
    Getting back to our Gullah tour with Alfonso Brown--this was fantastic, one of the highlights of our trip. (Thank you, Suewoo, for giving us so many suggestions as we were preparing for our trip and especially for making us aware of Alfonso Brown).

    “Gullah” was a term I was unfamiliar with before this trip. I know now that it refers to the language and culture that developed from the earliest days in the slave communities of Coastal South Carolina and Georgia. There are many internet sources regarding Gullah, one of which can be reached by clicking on the following:
    http://www.coastalguide.com/gullah/

    Especially informative, though, is Alfonso Brown’s Gullah Tours website which can be accessed by clicking on www.gullahtours.com. This contains wonderful information, and it will lead to you a booking page should you decide you would like a tour. If you have even the slightest interest in the Gullah culture, do book! You won’t be sorry.

    In the movie we saw on our first day at the Visitors Center, there was special attention given to a blacksmith by the name of Philip Simmons. Blacksmith? Ha! An artist in the fullest sense of the word. World renowned for his iron gates and grilles, but humble and generous. Part of the Gullah tour included a visit to the small house where Phillip Simmons lived most of his adult life, even after he became famous. Alfonso also took us into his workshop in a little building behind the house. Although Simmons became a rich man, he kept next to nothing for himself but contributed heavily to charitable endeavors. Sent lots of kids to college among other things. What an incredible individual.

    We returned from the tour about 1:00 PM, and then is when it hit us that we had bought our Heritage Passports too early. We had purchased them that morning and since they were only 2 day passports, starting from the time they were purchased, it dawned on us that we were getting a late start on those two days, only a day and a half being left to us to use them. We should have waited until the next morning to buy them so we would have two full days to use them, but…..Oh, well……

    We quickly reorganized our plans, got our car out of the parking structure and headed out to the two passport sites which were out of town along the Ashley River Road-- Drayton Hall and Middleton Place.

    We picked up a quick lunch along the way, eating our sandwiches as we drove along, and we arrived at Drayton Hall by about 2:00.

    Drayton Hall. What a beautiful entry road to this old plantation, and what beautiful grounds.

    We arrived just in time for an interactive activity which is offered three times each day—Connections: From Africa to America. This outlines the sad journeys of those who were once free in their own land but who were captured, put on slave ships in deplorable conditions, only to have before them a life of servitude upon arrival at their destination in the new world.

    After the Connections activity, a docent came and gave us a tour of the house. She was exceptional. And, in truth, all our docents were, both in Charleston and in Savannah, and, of course, we can’t forget Sam in St. Augustine.

    Drayton Hall is a preserved house rather than a restored one. There are no furnishings; the concentration is on the architecture.

    Click on www.draytonhall.org for details not only of the house but of the beautiful grounds.

    I wish we had been able to do the self-guided marsh walk or the river walk. I’m sure that either would have been an amazing experience; the grounds were so lovely. But as I mentioned, we had planned poorly regarding the Heritage Passport, and we were pressed for time; we still had Middleton Place to visit down the road and it was getting close to the time when they would be closing their entry gate.

    On the way, I made a call to the Middleton Place Restaurant asking how strict their dress code was (No dress code, I was told, and that was good; we were decently dressed but in casual clothing) and if they were able to take a reservation for us for 6:30 (Yes, there were openings).

    We got to the entry about 4:30, and that gave us two hours to enjoy the grounds before going to the restaurant for dinner. It was still a long summer day, plenty of light despite the hour, and though there wasn’t a riot of color, and how spectacular that must be when plants are in bloom, the greenery was lush. The Spanish moss hanging from large oaks, the pathways along the river, the reflecting ponds, all of that made for a lovely walk, a peaceful respite at the end of a busy day.

    And dinner at the restaurant was amazing. It was hard to make a choice, the menu was so good and varied, but both Jeri and I finally settled on their special—wreckfish, a local fish, we were told, on a bed of baby succotash. Hot crusty bread. She-crab soup. A great bottle of wine. All was good.

    Click on www.middletonplace.org for information. Don’t miss the website’s section on the restaurant. Photos are posted which show the spectacular setting, and a menu can be downloaded.

    Except for having to cut short our time at Drayton Hall, it all added up to a most satisfying day.

    To be continued

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    Wreckfish is one of my absolute favorites. Good on you for choosing it!

    I am so glad you enjoyed Mr. Brown's tour. Mr. Simmons was a lovely human. I got to meet him once. He was charming. We miss him.

    Can't wait for the next installment. Y'all really had fun!

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    Bo2642, love your trip report and am glad the info I provided was useful.

    Just to ease your mind about the walks at Drayton Hall -- I did do the river walk here, which was okay if nothing special, and I avoided the marsh walk because of heavy mosquito likelihood. Choosing to see the grounds at Middleton Place was the right call here, as it has the best of the three plantations (Magnolia Plantation's are good, but Middleton's are better). And if you see only one house, Drayton Hall is the right choice (saw the other two, and while they're good, I liked Drayton's best). I think you did well.

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    I remember reading a way back about a road line with oak trees or something that is worth driving down. It is near the Sheldon church ruins. Am I remembering this correctly and if so, can someone give directions. We will be driving from Savannah to Charleston, stopping at the church ruins, possibly going out to Gullah Cuisine for lunch too.

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    Great trip report!

    I was in Charleston five years ago and did the same Gullah tour with Alfonso Brown. He's an excellent guide, and that tour was a highlight. Phillip Simmons was alive then, and it was really an honor to meet him. Such a talent, and a generous man.

    I was in Savannah just over two weeks ago, so I'm looking forward to reading your installment and comparing notes!

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    KathyH, Gullah Cuisine is north of Charleston on Highway 17. You won't be close if you're in between Charleston and Savannah.

    The road from 17 to the Sheldon Church Ruins is through a grand oak forest.

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    @bachslunch--Thanks so much for "easing my mind" re the Drayton Hall grounds. So glad we made the right call and moved on to Middleton Place. We did enjoy our time there even though flowers were not in season. And, yes, I certainly have found your posts to be helpful. I love that you seem to waste no time as you explore.
    When we were in St. Augustine, based on your trip report I wanted to visit the hospital, the place where you said you were squeemish, and also the pirate museum. We just ran out of time.
    Right now, we have a Florida Keys trip in the offing. My son-in-law Danny's parents, who live near Macon, Georgia, will be celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary, and his mom, Maggie, has wanted to go to Key Largo ever since she saw the movie by the same name. So during the first week in April, our family--Danny, Susanne (my daughter) and their two boys, along with myself--will fly to Miami and drive down there. The house we found on VRBO is not in Key Largo but is a little south in Tavenier. Bottom line, one of the days the womenfolk will drive down to Key West for the day. Which brings me to your Key West report. I've been going over it, and so far I know I want to see the Truman Little White House and, most certainly, the Ernest Hemingway House. I'll go back to your report as our trip draws nearer and finish my "must dos". Thank you
    Oh, and btw, we rented Key Largo. What? This inspired Maggie's desire to go there? It was supposed to be serious, I'm sure, but I found myself laughing several times while it was on.

    @Suewoo--yes, we were indeed having a great time, and we appreciate all the input you gave as we were planning

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    @Suewoo and EspritLibra re Philip Simmons--how fortunate you two were to have met this wonderful man. Treasure that memory. What a legacy and what inspiration he has left.

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    CHARLESTON—2ND Full Day

    It was the Heritage Passport which dictated our activities for our 2nd full day in Charleston. We had just this day left to take advantage of the admissions we had paid for when we purchased the pass.

    We decided to leave the Gibbes Museum of Art , The Charleston Museum, and the Edmondston-Alston House for another visit and concentrate on the Aiken-Rhett House, the Joseph Manigault House, and the Heyward-Washington House.

    If three house tours in one day seems like overkill, for us it really wasn’t. We find that house tours are a great way to gain understanding of the times they represent.

    The Aiken-Rhett House: Had we taken our cue from the Frommer’s travel guide to Charleston, we might have skipped this house. Among other things they wrote, “Now deep into decay, the Aiken-Rhett House is a mere ghost of its former self.”, and “A major restoration is directly needed.” What is the matter with these people? Of course neither Jeri not I has a trained eye, but we thought this house tour was great. The tour is basically self-guided with audio, and we loved that we could go through the rooms at our own pace.

    The narrative on the audio directed our attention to so much detail, not only in the house, but also outside in the slave quarters out back and other outbuildings including the kitchen which, as was the necessary custom in days gone by, was separated from main house because of the threat of fire

    http://www.historiccharleston.org/experience/arh/

    Our second house tour was the Joseph Manigault House. As described in the handout printed by The Charleston Museum—“Built in 1803, the Joseph Manigault House is a premier example of Adam-style, or Federal, architecture which reflected the virtues of elegance and simplicity associated with the new American republic. Well-suited to Charleston’s climate, the planter’s townhouse has high ceilings, abundant windows, and two–story porches, while a curving central stair accentuates the grace of the interior. It was designed for his brother, Joseph, by amateur architect ‘Gabriel Manigault, who is also credited with designing Charleston’s current City Hall.” Once again, a very satisfying tour, enhanced by the enthusiasm and knowledge of the docent.

    Cilick on http://www.charlestonmuseum.org/joseph-manigault-house

    And the third house, the Heyward-Washington House, was also a great choice. Among the most interesting features was its restored kitchen, once again to the back of the structure because of the threat of fire. And among the most interesting facts is that George Washington, and this has been well documented, actually slept here.

    http://www.charlestonmuseum.org/heyward-washington-house

    It doesn’t seem that it would take a whole day to tour three houses, and actually it didn’t. We didn’t hurry and took time out to visit Charleston’s Old City Market and to have lunch.

    Click on http://thecharlestoncitymarket.com/photos.cfm

    Never mind where we had lunch. We enjoyed it, but as we looked up ratings later on, someone who had eaten there had gotten food poisoning.

    The above essentially comprised our day. Whether it seems so or not, it was a full one for us, and after our last tour we were ready to have dinner and go back to our hotel and relax for the evening.

    As you might have discerned, fine dining was not a priority for us this trip. Not that we don’t enjoy a great dining experience, but, living in LA we have lots of opportunities. And we enjoy them most when we feel refreshed, not at the end of a day where we’ve been out in the heat and humidity. So, as for dinner, we just figured that something would present itself. This night it was Sticky Fingers Smokehouse which we passed by as we were walking to the hotel. This doesn’t have a place on any of the great dining experience lists I’ve come across, but both Jeri and I really liked what we ordered—she, chicken and ribs (not sure what kind of marinade), and I, ribs with a dry Memphis rub and smoked turkey breast. The atmosphere was pleasant and the beer was cold. We didn’t feel intimidated by the fact that we were in the same clothes we’d been out touring in all day; it was that casual. We’d go there again.

    http://www.stickyfingers.com/default.aspx

    And for any foodies out there who might be staying at or near the Mills House, Husk, a restaurant which has had consistently high marks from fellow Fodorites, is right around the corner from the hotel. Next time, for sure, for us.

    More later.

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    Bo2642, I agree about the Aiken-Rhett House and think Frommer's description is missing the point here -- it's primarily an architectural house to tour like at Drayton Hall, not a fully restored "period house" like most other Charleston homes. And I found the cobwebbed faded glory of the place and its moldering furnishings eerily evocative, almost spooky in a way, unlike most such places are -- a feel that's only enhanced by the self-guided tour (a live tour guide would dispel the atmosphere here).

    Re the film "Key Largo," it's indeed a worthwhile movie, if primarily an actor showcase tour-de-force for illustrious actors like Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Lauren Bacall, and Lionel Barrymore. Surprisingly, it was the now less well remembered Claire Trevor who won an acting Oscar instead of the other folks in this film. And if Maggie goes there, let's hope there's no massive hurricane that hits, unlike in the movie.

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    I completely agree with you both about the Aiken-Rhett House. It was actually my favorite house, just for the feeling I got when wandering through it, and being able to go at my own pace. Your description, bachslunch, is perfect.

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    CHARLESTON—3rd Full Day

    We started our day without feeling pressed. Our Heritage Passport had expired and we weren’t trying to play Beat the Clock. For those who don’t understand the Beat the Clock allusion….well, you’re probably too young.

    I’d like to pause a moment here, though, to register my opinion regarding the Heritage Passport. Since each of the sites that one is entitled to is crossed off on the ticket as a visit is made so that no site can be visited more than once, why is there a 2 day time frame in which to get it all done? I’m comparing this to a Savannah multiple entry ticket we bought when we were there the next week. On that particular ticket, we paid for entrance to three houses. When you entered a site, it was crossed off. There was no timeline. You could go to one house on one day, and the second on another, and the third a year later if that was in your plan. No expiration.

    I know Fodorite Myer, whose posts I read and enjoyed during the planning phase of our trip, had similar concerns. Myer’s Fodor user name is just that—Myer—should anyone heading for Charleston and/or Savannah want to pull up his posts on the Fodor forums.

    At any rate, the day was ours to organize as we wished except for the need to take care of one consideration. Our three night stay at the Mills House had come to an end, and the check-out time was 11:00 AM. Our next night was going to be in Mount Pleasant. No problem, though. Mills House made provision to hold our luggage upon check-out, and we had as much time as we needed before picking it up on our way out of town.

    We began our day with a visit to a building which was very near our hotel and which had caught our attention from the time we first started exploring. It was the Old Exchange Building and Provost Dungeon. Do click on this link http://oldexchange.org/history/ for information far more than I have the energy to put into this report. (Friday night, babysitting the grandsons, and writing furiously so I can watch Thor with them. No problem, though. Love those boys!)

    Let me just say that while aspects of this tour include a host in period costume and that the history of the dungeon is presented in Disney fashion, with Disneylike figures at times speaking to the guests and so on, it is not necessarily a kids’ tour. It is a quality tour and we learned much. We’re not sorry that this took more than an hour from our day. Time well spent.

    As we exited the Old Exchange Building, we began the walking tour that we had planned for this day. It was based on The Complete Walking Tour of Historic Charleston booklet which we had bought the first day at the Visitors Center (and which we saw a dollar or two cheaper later at our hotel gift shop and other places throughout the city).

    The opening comments of the booklet state that it should take about 2 hours for the main tour and add another hour or so for the two alternate tours. Well, we did it all, main tour and the alternates. And it took us longer than the specified time. We didn’t rush. With 67 homes and other site descriptions in the main tour, there was a lot to take in.

    The night before we had spent time with the itinerary and singled out the homes to which we wanted to give special attention, but there were so many special delights along the way that drew us in…..Yes, it took longer than 2 hours.

    In the planning stage of our trip I got input from cmcfong on the Fodor forum site. She said to please read Mrs. Whaley’s Charleston Garden because it would add enjoyment to our trip. It certainly did. Not only can this book stand alone, but for tourists, among other important things it directs attention to the fact that a garden and all that it entails is an important part in carving out and maintaining beauty in one’s homelife. I agree with her. Do consider reading this book.

    http://books.google.com/books/about/Very_Charleston.html?id=k_5PuyEF_5oC


    Others, evidently, felt the same way, and as we walked along, we could peek through iron gates—some of which had been built by Philip Simmons—and see beautifully attended gardens to the side and rear of the house, I can only imagine what they must look like when flowers are in bloom.

    Along with Mrs. Whaley’s book, I bought and read Very Charleston by Diana Gessler. She is an artist and has a great eye, and she evidently has understanding and deep appreciation for the unique things that pertain to Charleston. With illustrations and simple text, she takes one through the everyday details of Charleston sites as well that in neighboring areas. What a great resource.

    http://books.google.com/books/about/Very_Charleston.html?id=k_5PuyEF_5oC

    The walking tour guide took us past some of the most important historic buildings in Charleston and some of the most prestigious homes with commentary regarding what made each of special interest. We were pretty tired at the end of it, mainly because of the heat and humidity, never mind the occasional bands of rain. So we were ready to quit touring by the time we picked up our car near the Visitors Centers and went to retrieve our bags at the Mills House.

    It should have taken us only about 15 or 20 minutes to go from the hotel across the bridge to Mt. Pleasant where we would check into the Best Western Patriot’s Point for the next two nights, but we missed our turn-off right after the bridge and had to get our bearings and turn back to the lodging.

    The desk personnel were very nice—even when we talked to them about staying only one night instead of the two that we had booked. Why one night? Jeri had decided that the half day it would take to go to Fort Sumpter…well, she was willing to forgo that. She had been there before, and the weather this trip was iffy—heat, humidity, and rain—and she said that if it was OK with me, she would rather just check into our room, go out and have dinner somewhere local, and then the next morning finish up with our plan to go to Boone Hall, after which we could be off to-- maybe Beaufort for the night?-- on our way to Savannah. No problem with me re that plan. At that point Beaufort sounded better to me than a fort.

    Regarding the Best Western Patriot’s Point, is was ok, but for the price not great. $124.26 including taxes for one night and continental breakfast the next morning. Thin walls, lots of goings and comings in the hallways because of people there for some kind of function. Wish we had tried to negotiate another night at the Mills House. Just to see if something had opened up since our three night booking. So here’s another Oh Well. ……Oh. Well.

    More later

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    I am so glad to see you enjoyed Mrs. Whaley! Now, as a lovely way to say thank you to me for that suggestion, please share with me your recommendations for Savannah. I am headed there in ten days. Welcome home and thank you for such an entertaining report, I look forward to the next installments.

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    Are there any good harbor tours in either Savannah or Charleston? My sister mentioned getting out on the water for a tour, but not sure if they are worth doing.

    Thanks, less than a week to go....

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    FROM MT. PLEASANT TO BOONE HALL….and beyond

    Our revised plan: upon leaving Best Western Patriot’s Point we would go out to Boone Hall to see it all-- the house, the plantation, and the gardens. And after that, it would be onward to Beaufort……

    When we had finally decided that we would be in Mt. Pleasant for only the one night, we turned to Jeri’s I-Pad to see what accommodations we could arrange for in Beaufort to take the place of the 2nd night we were to have stayed in Mt. Pleasant.
    It’s sometimes a challenge to book a lodging at a decent rate close to one’s arrival date, but it worked out for us. Hampton Inn-Beaufort had great reviews on several booking sites including Tripadvisor, and when we called them, they were able to accommodate us. Calling the hotel directly, our room turned out to be $108.89, taxes included.

    So our plan would be to go to Boone Hall; drive to Beaufort; check into the hotel; and then see what the rest of the day would bring.

    Our Boone Hall experience was a great one. It was among my favorite activities this trip. It’s located less than 10 miles from Mt. Pleasant proper, 8 miles from Charleston, off Hwy 17 on Long Point Road. The entrance fee is not prohibitive; senior travelers like us--$15 each.

    We got there a little before 10:00 AM. The entry leading to the house was so lovely—a ¾ mile long avenue lined on both sides with beautiful old oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. At the end of the entry, we turned off to the right to a parking area. And we were just in time to get on a tram tour which would give us an overview of the whole plantation.

    It was good timing to get the tram tour first because it gave context to the whole visit. Among other things it clearly showed that Boone Hall is still very much a working plantation. Instead of producing cotton and pecans as it did some 320 years ago, though, it is now producing peaches, strawberries, tomatoes, pumpkins, and other fruits and vegetables, some in “pick-it-yourself” fields.

    Although the house itself is a reproduction (colonial revival) dating back only to 1936, there are nine original slave cabins still standing. Each of these cabins is open for visitation and together they form a self-guided tour detailing a different period in black history. So interesting and informative, as was the live presentation, “Exploring the Gullah Culture”.

    http://boonehallplantation.com/

    It was at Boone Hall that I got the one souvenir I brought home from the trip—a small sweetgrass basket. I became aware of this coiled basketry art, which is unique to this area, when researching the trip. We had several opportunities to see artists sewing ( I’m inclined to say “ weaving”, but somewhere I heard it was “sewing”) their baskets and such at the market in Charleston and on the street in the Four Corners of Law area near the Mills House, and finally at Boone Hall in one of the slave cabins where a lady named Nancy White was busy at her craft. It was from Nancy that I got my basket-- a small one, small but sweet and beautiful. I was able to get it without breaking the bank, but the larger ones, if the craftsmanship is good, can run several hundred dollars. The process is so labor intensive.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NYwOJg7Cu0&feature=related
    Click on the above for insights into this art.

    About 2:00 we were saying good-bye to Charleston and environs and were back on the highway. Destination: Beaufort, South Carolina. About half way between Charleston and Savannah.

    http://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g54135-Beaufort_South_Carolina-Vacations.html

    This was basically just an overnight stop for us, but we could see that if one had time to settle in, there are a number of b&bs as well as conventional hotels/motels, good restaurants, a little historic district to explore, as well as outdoor activities to enjoy on Hunting Island. As I mentioned earlier, we had done a last minute booking at the Hampton Inn and were happy with it.

    It was raining almost continuously from the time we left Boone Hall until we got to the turn-off to Beaufort, the same turn-off, by the way, that we took before on the way to see the Sheldon church ruins. If I remember correctly, Beaufort is about 16 miles beyond the little road leading to those ruins.
    We were generally pretty fortunate with the rain. It had been raining off and on throughout our whole trip, but in general it held off during the time we were actually outside touring. Can you ask for better than that?

    By the time we actually got into town there was a respite in the rain. After checking into our hotel, we got back in the car and did a quick pass through the Beaufort historic district. I have to admit that we didn’t pursue exploring there. We needed a little break from house tours and such. What we did was go directly to Hunting Island State Park to take advantage of the light that remained before dusk. Admission: about $5.00 each person.

    What a nice change of pace. Very tropical in feel. Hiking trails. A beautiful old lighthouse. Great beach which has a very different feel from those we’re used to here in Los Angeles—a bit more wild with tall clumps of grasses here and there, picket type fences which serve---what? As a barrier against shifting sand? At any rate, very picturesque and a great place to breath clean air and stretch our legs and all. Ah, and dog friendly. There was a couple walking 2 dogs. Good to see and pet the dogs. I was missing my own three.

    We were able to spend about an hour and a half there before it began to get dark.

    Dinner. We had had in mind to go to Gullah Grub. We forwent our opportunity to try Gullah food at the well recommended Gullah Cuisine restaurant in Mt. Pleasant when we left there early, but here was an opportunity near Beaufort. But the best laid plans…..and all that. We were there on a Saturday, and it was closed! Closed on Saturdays. Another Oh, Well.

    http://www.gullahgrubs.com/Home.html

    Plums had been recommended on the Fodor boards, so that was a possibility, but in the end we decided to try for someplace close to water. We had picked up some information when we checked into our hotel, and one of the brochures was from 11th Street Dockside Restaurant in Port Royal, a few miles away from Beaufort. The brochure said, “…located on Battery Creek, which provides great views, atmosphere and spectacular sunsets.” Sounds good, but when we got there we found that it was not so atmospheric. It was a huge place, very crowded, and there was a wait time of about 20 minutes….but we were there and decided to stay.

    We were finally seated on the screened porch where supposedly you get a good view, but at the time of night we got there, there was really no view. Not the restaurants fault, except for maybe the advertising. No lights on the water or anything. Everything was black.

    The food wasn’t bad. And our waitress was attentive. And while this was not really the relaxing experience that we had been wanting, it was OK.

    www.11thStreetDockside.com

    To Be Continued with the Savannah segment of the trip report.

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    Looking forward to your Savannah segment.

    We leave Saturday, starting with 3 nights in Savannah, and 4 nights in Charleston. We'll be flying into Myrtle Beach as we got good airfares on Spirit out of Atlantic City.

    Trying to decide which plantation to visit in Charleston. I know they each have their pros. We are not especially into history, but would like a place with beautiful grounds and that gives a fairly good representation of plantation life.

    Now have to decide on what to pack. Looks like a cold front is headed eastward. And depending on what forecast we look at one has temps in the 70's during the day, the other has a high of low to mid 60's with rain. Sheesh, makes it difficult.

    Looking forward to the rest of your report.
    KathyH

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    KathyH,

    Don't feel bad. I'm currently in Germany for work. I had to actually purchase a coat since I don't own one! Just take some layers. You'll be fine.

    You have a limited time in the lowcountry. If you're not really into history a plantation might be a waste of time for you. That's ALL it's about. The time to visit for the gardens is spring. Later in December the camellias will bloom, but nothing now.

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    ON THE WAY FROM BEAUFORT TO SAVANNAH

    It’s only a little over an hour’s drive from Beaufort to Savannah, but we had two stops to make along the way before we would be checking into our Savannah hotel.

    The first stop was Tybee Island. There’s been so much positive coverage on the boards and elsewhere about it that we wanted to see what the attraction is.

    I’m not sure what we expected to find when we arrived there, but we were surprised that, at least on this Sunday at about noon, it was quiet. Not a whole lot going on.

    We did a drive around the area, and we saw very nice houses along with B&Bs in some areas, most in what appeared to be high rent areas. And there were hotels, too. And also a lighthouse. Still not sure, though, what the big attraction is except maybe for the nice beach.
    This must be a place, then, where you come to spend a few days, or maybe even one day, just relaxing on the beach or enjoying the many water activities available—boat tours, kayaking, fishing, even parasailing, that sort of thing. Or maybe Tybee is alive when there are certain festivals or other events. For us, though, as two ladies just passing through, it held no special magic.

    We did have lunch there. Not having a clue, we asked a local, a lady employee of one of the souvenir shops on the main street, where she would recommend, and she said Spankies. She said that everyone in the town loved it.
    We took her advice, looking forward to something local because that’s where good food finds often are. My advice--
    Ooooh. Don’t. Our salads with grilled chicken, weren’t awful, but truly weren’t good.

    The Tripadvisor ratings are interesting. Some people love the place; others think it’s yuck. We’re somewhere near the yuck category.

    http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g35328-d437021-Reviews-or10-Spanky_s_Beachside-Tybee_Island_Georgia.html#REVIEWS


    We did get a very important thing at one of the shops along main street, though. A corkscrew!! We planned to use it later on that afternoon.

    FROM TYBEE ISLAND TO…BONAVENTURE CEMETARY, SAVANNAH

    Ah, yes. This is where our corkscrew, the one we got on Tybee Island, got put to good use. At the Bonaventure Cemetary.

    We had become aware of a sweet tradition when we read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. In one of the first chapters, a longtime Savannah resident, a lady, led the author through a special experience.. She had prepared a picnic basket, as I remember it, the main thing being a shaker of martinis, and directed the author to take them to the Bonaventure Cemetery, just on the outskirts of Savannah.

    There they sat in a tranquil place amid graves, but on a bench where they could take a breath and enjoy looking at the river which was just ahead in their view. There was some give and take between the author and the lady, but it was finally revealed that what they were sitting on was a bench over the grave of Conrad Aiken. And it was his nod to the living that life should go on. Or, somewhere I read that it should be, “Let the Party Go On”.

    Whatever. Jeri and I planned to visit this cemetery and have the traditional drink. Martinis, though? That would have been hard to do. What we did instead was get that corkscrew on Tybee and use it on that good bottle of red wine that Gundy had sent with us as we left Palm Coast. She had also sent wine glasses, so we were in style as we sat on Conrad Aiken’s bench, sipping and sipping and enjoying the river view. It’s said that a bottle of wine is equal to 4 glasses. Did we each have 2 glasses as we sat on the bench and then later, walked among the graves? Evidently we did.

    The other graves? Of course, there were many. And among those there was Johnny Mercer’s (composr of Moon River and more) family plot to visit and so many other graves whose headstones revealed so much history of grief, pride or heartache in just a few words . This was a very interesting experience for us.

    There are many internet sites for the Bonaventure Cemetery. Here’s just one:

    http://www.asylumeclectica.com/asylum/sightseer/us/ga/savannah/bona.htm


    What special memories we had as left the Bonaventure and drove into Savannah proper to begin our adventure there.

    SAVANNAH—Next segment

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    We arrived at our Savannah hotel, The Planters Inn, about 4:30 in the afternoon. For those who might have had concerns that we’d each had two glasses of wine at the Bonaventure Cemetery before driving into Savannah….well, we’d taken our time there at the cemetery, sitting a while on the Aiken bench while enjoying the view, then following a number of paths which separated blocks of graves, reading headstones, all those things, and, of course, all this just after our lunch on Tybee Island-- (plenty of protein because of the big chicken salads we’d each eaten; yes, they were not great, but we did eat them). What? We were hungry.

    At any rate, we didn’t get back on the road until it was clear that there was no impairment.

    Back to the Planters Inn.

    http://www.plantersinnsavannah.com/?gclid=CPKbwNO4-6sCFQxmhwodyCHMnQ

    We felt that our rate was a great bargain--$97.30 a night (Expedia); $440.88 plus tax for 3 nights.

    We loved everything about Planters Inn--the hotel itself for the great location on Reynolds Square, but especially for the room. Four poster very comfortable beds with crisp bed linens; a bright very clean room; very nice, very clean tiled bathroom. Also there was wonderful front desk support and a very good breakfast.

    Several comments on the Fodor boards have indicated disappointment that the windows on many of the rooms look out over a parking structure. Our room’s windows did, too, but the structure is across the street, not in one’s face, and unless you just need a view, there’s no problem.

    As for parking—valet service in connection with the hotel--$14 a day. Very good rate and not worth trying to find anything less expensive in our opinion—especially since Jeri and I were dividing all costs, $7.00 a day for each, not counting tips which didn’t amount to much since we didn’t take our car out until we checked out of the hotel at the end of our stay.

    Once we settled into our room, we took time to figure out what to do for the evening. Bottom line, we were very tired and just wanted to have a good but no hassle dinner Then come back to the room and read or watch TV or just wind down until we went to sleep. It had been a long, though fulfilling, day, but we just needed to recharge.

    Dinner—what to do? Something close to our hotel. We’d been happily having so much sea food that we were both in the mood for meat, but where?

    We decided to just start walking and see what was out there.

    This is going to make the Foodies out there throw up their hands. As we walked down a couple of streets we came upon The Outback. That was quick. And there was meat. And without hesitation we went in. And btw our steaks were very good.

    It was early evening when we returned to our hotel after dinner. And as was our goal we did get a good night’s sleep. That was good because we had something special to look forward to the next morning and wanted to be alert for it—our meeting at 8:00 AM with Dirk Hardison (Savannah Rambles) who would be giving us a 2 hour architectural walking tour through many of the principal sites which make Savannah the wonderfully unique city that it is.

    Reservations@bellsouth.net

    Thank you so much, Starrs and others, for giving us this recommendation for Dirk. He was amazing; we learned so much from him. More about this in the next segment.

    Next segment: SAVANNAH—OUR FIRST FULL DAY

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    Ooops.
    Sorry. The link I just posted for Dirk (Savannah Rambles) was his email address. Please use it if you want to contact him about a booking or any questions you might have. Otherwise, if you want to get to his website, it's: savannahrambles.com

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    We can’t say enough about Dirk Hardison’s Savannah Rambles Walking Tour. It was the best $20/ 2-hour time investment we could have made. And it was good planning that we met Dirk at 8:00 AM on our first full day in Savannah, for the ramble he took us on provided us insight not only into the physical layout of the city but also into the its historical background, all of which enhanced the rest of our stay there.

    Dirk is an amazing person to lead an architectural tour. Not only is he is an architect himself, but he has deep appreciation for the history of this city he calls his own. Because of his love of discovery, he is engaged in ongoing research, intent on uncovering historical or cultural gems regarding the meshing of architecture and history, much of which he shares with his ramblers.

    We were really fortunate, too, to have had Dirk to ourselves; it was just the three of us that morning, and it felt as if we were keeping company with a friend.

    Click on the Savannah Rambles link above for detailed information regarding the tour.

    Along with Dirk’s website, below are two more links which are interesting and helpful in understanding the history and layout of the city.

    http://www.visit-historic-savannah.com/savannah-squares.html

    http://www.asce.org/People-and-Projects/Projects/Landmarks/City-Plan-of-Savannah/

    For those planning, there is also a $6.00 guidebook, The Savannah Walking Tour & Guidebook, which is readily available at souvenir shops and other places throughout the city. Maps, photographs, illustrations, and text make it a very nice little guide.

    In addition to the several squares and the many historic houses our walking tour covered over a distance of 1.2 miles, we visited the very impressive Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, had our attention drawn to one of the oldest fire departments in the city, and passed by the Colonial Park Cemetery which has an extremely rich history.

    http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60814-d104391-Reviews-Colonial_Park_Cemetery-Savannah_Georgia.html

    What a great morning this proved to be. We had a fantastic learning experience with Dirk, and as we said good-bye to him at the end of our tour, we found ourselves just a couple of blocks away from Mrs. Wilkes Boarding House where we planned to have lunch.

    Mrs. Wilkes opens at 11:00 AM, and since there are no reservations taken, people begin lining up well before that. When we got to the line at about 10:40, it was still fairly short, and it was not a miserable wait because we were on a tree-lined street where there was plenty of shade. Further, there was a little bond which began to develop among those who were waiting, especially since we were all curious about the false teeth someone had left on a bench next to our line. Yep. False teeth, There has to be some kind of story behind that.

    At any rate, Jeri and I were close enough to the front of the line to be admitted for the first sitting. Guests are seated at tables of 10 or 12, and what appears on the table family style is amazing. Fried chicken, fresh bread, local vegetables, sweet tea, and I could go on. This was not only a fun experience, but it was our chance to taste great traditional low country cooking.

    http://www.mrswilkes.com

    It had been such a good morning, and the afternoon proved to be likewise. Maggie and Frank, my son-in-law Danny’s mom and dad, drove in from their home near Macon to spend the afternoon with us and most of the next day.

    It was great to see them again, and it was especially nice that even with a late booking they were able to get a room at our same hotel.

    Maggie and Frank know Savannah well, and they gave us their own tour of the city with emphasis on some of their favorite squares one of which was Wright Square where there is a monument to Tomochichi, a Creek Indian who had become a trusted friend to James Oglethorpe, founder of the Savannah colony.

    Below is a Wikipedia link to the squares, this in addition to the 2 city layout links previously cited. Maybe a bit of overkill, but.... See the information on Wright Square regarding Tomochichi’s history.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Squares_of_Savannah,_Georgia#Wright_Square

    After our mini tour with Frank and Maggie, we returned to the hotel to catch a breath and enjoy some wine and cheese which is set out about 5:00 each evening. After that Frank had the car brought around (Let it be known that he had had no wine; just us women did), and he drove us through parts of the city that we hadn’t seen yet, ending up by the River Walk where there are numerous restaurants, souvenir shops, and candy stores.

    We also stopped at a little park beyond the shops and very close to the river to see the statue of the Waving Girl, one of the most recognizable Savannah attractions. It is said by some that this statue of a girl waving as ships pass by is the symbol of Southern Hospitality, but the backstory is that it is in memory of a young woman who had fallen in love with a sailor who had had to ship out, but who told her he would return to her. So….for 44 years she waited, greeting every ship coming into Savannah’s harbor by waving a cloth, hoping that her loved one was aboard. (silly girl!)

    At that point it was time for dinner. Maggie’s choice. The Pirates’ House. Not for the food, necessarily, Maggie said, but for the history. Well, we’d read about the Pirate’s House, and the reviews were all over the chart. The consensus, though, is that it is basically a tourist restaurant, so we weren’t expecting much.

    Actually we were pleasantly surprised. We were seated in one of the smaller rooms so there was some feeling of intimacy. Our waitress gave us good attention, and our meal was really ok. I had the mango glazed chili salmon. Can’t remember what the rest had, but nobody was disappointed.

    http://www.thepirateshouse.com/menus/03.htm --for the history and the menu

    To be continued

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    It sounds like your Savannah experience mirrored mine pretty closely!

    I did the Savannah Rambles tour with Dirk the first evening I was in Savannah. Originally, it was just me signed up for the tour, and he was game for doing the tour with only one, so don't let that stop anyone from making a reservation with him. It turned out that two others joined us, but it's nice that he doesn't have minimum requirements. His tour is very informative, and as you said, it's nice to do it right away as it is a great intro to Savannah. Interestingly, when I went to tour the Davenport House the next day, Dirk was also the guide through that house. He had been one of the preservation architects working on the when the house when it was restored, so he knew the house very well.

    I wonder if we were at Mrs. Wilkes the same morning? I was there on Monday the 26th of September, and there were false teeth sitting on a bench outside! Everyone should have their teeth with them, as Mrs. Wilkes' is a great dining experience, and one I highly recommend. It was fun to sit with people from all over, and every dish tasted homemade and wonderful. And for $16, it's hard to beat!

    I also had dinner one night at the Pirate's House, for the history of it. I thought the food was good, and the Pirate's Pleasure drink was even better!

    One thing I wanted to add for people using this report in prep for a Savannah visit: I had read about the King-Tisdell Cottage, a museum of black history on Huntingdon Street, and had that on my list of houses to tour. I got all the info on where it was, admission cost, etc., from a current website, and then on my Sunday there I hiked over to this place in the rain. When I got there, I couldn't find it, so asked someone on the street where it was. He pointed to a cottage, but said it had been closed for over a year! So just a heads up if anyone else tries to find the place. Maybe ask at a visitors information center before you go, because the website won't tell you that it's closed!

    Great trip report, Barbara. Looking forward to the rest of it.

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    @EspritLibra--Isn't that funny about those false teeth? It kind of looked like a retainer with a few teeth attached, didn't it? I'm wondering if some kid just got tired of wearing it and took it off. If so, the poor parents' pocketbook.

    Regarding the docent at the Davenport House--our lady was wonderful, but it would have been so interesting to see how Dirk handled the tour. Bottom line, though, wasn't the tour a worthwhile experience?

    Also, I hope anyone wanting to visit the King-Tisdel Cottage will read your reference to the fact that it has been closed for over a year. That will save disappointment and time.

    @flygirl--do contact Dirk for your walking tour. You will not be disappointed.

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    SECOND FULL DAY IN CHARLESTON

    Maggie and Frank were still going to be with us for most of the day before starting back for Macon, and we had a lot of exploration planned. Our first activity was to drive down to the visitors’ center where we parked and boarded the Old Town Trolley. This is a comfortable and very well run on-and-off trolley system; friendly drivers; good narration; fifteen stops at strategic points so by the end of the circuit most of the important Savannah tourist points of interest are covered.

    http://www.trolleytours.com/savannah/civic-visitors-center.asp

    Part of our trolley time was spent just sightseeing and listening to the narration, but we did stop several times to visit specific things. One of our first stops was #7 (see trolley map by clicking on the link above) which put us by the Davenport House. This house was built by the wealthy merchant Isaiah Davenport for his family around 1820, and today, through restoration efforts, it is furnished and decorated with items, including wallpaper and flooring, specific to the period. This house is especially significant because it is the first project that the Historic Savannah Foundation undertook in its mission to save buildings of historical importance from the wrecking ball.

    http://www.davenporthousemuseum.org/

    As we entered the house we were able to buy a multi-house entry ticket for $18. This includes admittance not only to the Davenport House, but also to the Andrew Low House and the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace Home. This gave us a savings of $6 each, and the good thing about this pass is that, unlike the Charleston passport, there is no time limit during which all three houses need to be visited.

    After completing our tour of the Davenport House and Gardens, we visited the second of the three homes—The Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace. Juliette Low is probably best known as being the founder of Girl Scouts, but there is so much more to this tour than has to do with Girl Scouts. As is often the case, at least for this trip, I looked at the Trip Advisor review of the tour after our visit rather than before (got to start doing this the other way around!), and I feel the same as many reviewers who were not too excited about visiting what they thought would basically be a Girl Scout shrine. It turned out to be a lovely tour of a beautiful home, and we learned many things about this fascinating woman.

    http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60814-d143956-Reviews-Juliette_Gordon_Low_s_Birthplace-Savannah_Georgia.html

    Regarding CrazyKs Aug. 25 review on Trip Advisor—the very things that she had been disappointed in were the very things that made me love this tour. To each her own…..

    Time for lunch, and we were open to just seeing what was in the neighborhood. We walked a bit and then came upon a couple of locals who pointed us toward Laurie’s Restaurant. The name on the awning outside cracked us up. It read: Debi’s Restaurant, but the “Debi’s” was crossed out and “Laurie’s” was written in front of it. That did it. Whatever the food, we were going in. Who would not want to patronize a place whose owner had such a sense of humor? And it did turn out to be a good choice. Simple fare, but good.

    There was a strange situation which took place just before we entered the restaurant. We were almost at the entrance when we passed a Haagen Dazs ice cream delivery man rolling a pallet of ice cream into a neighboring establishment. Now it was really hot, mind you, and Maggie said, “Oh! I want some of that.” At which time the delivery man reached down to the containers on his pallet and gave her three half gallon containers of raisin rum ice cream. Nothing to do, after thanking him, of course, but to take them with us into the restaurant. Our waitress was very funny and got right to the point.
    It went something like this:

    “Whadda ya’ll have there?”
    “Raisin rum ice cream. Why don’t you take one of these half gallons and put it in the freezer and enjoy it later.”
    “I don’t like raisins, but the rum is probly ok. Did ya’ll pay for it?”
    “No. The delivery man gave it to us”.
    “Good job!”

    So we ate our dessert first while waiting for our order. Rum raisin isn’t exactly our favorite, either, but, hey!, it was Haggen Dazs!

    After lunch we walked over to the Telfair House just a couple of blocks away. What a beautiful little museum. Originally a private home, completed in 1819, it retains some of the original rooms with period furniture and décor, but the remainder of the house has been turned into art galleries. On one of the Telfair brochures, it describes house this way: 125 years/art+history+architecture.

    This was a perfect art museum for me. There were not so many paintings and sculptures that it was overwhelming; I could maintain focus throughout the time I was there. And it’s one of Maggie’s favorite art museums because she never tires of seeing a very moving painting, The Black Prince at Crecy.

    http://telfair.org/visit/telfair-academy/overview/

    The Number 2 stop on the trolley circuit is very close to the Telfair, so upon leaving the museum, we walked over to catch it, and we stayed on to complete the whole circuit, at the end of which we found ourselves back at the visitors center where we had begun our day.

    We had just about an hour to visit the little museum there before it closed, and we made full use of that time looking at transportation exhibits, the bench that Tom Hanks sat on in the movie Forrest Gump, the statue of the Bird Girl pictured on the cover of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil which had been moved to the museum from the Bonaventure Cemetery, crafts, tools, all kinds of things.

    At 5:00 PM, the center closed, and it was time for Maggie and Frank to be on their way back to their home near Macon. We had hoped that they would wait until we all had dinner, but it was going to be a three hour drive, so it was time…. So we all went back to the hotel so they could pick up their bags. Big hugs. Safe trip. Glad we were all able to be together even though it had been for just a short while.

    Dinner that night for Jeri and me was a quickie. Moon River Brewing Company was very close to our hotel, so that was our choice. Not a fan of warm beer, but the food was fine.

    FINAL SEGMENT TO FOLLOW

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    The pace of our final day in Savannah, which was also the final day of our trip, was a leisurely one. We made specific plans for the morning and for the evening, but for the rest, we decided to just see what the day would bring.

    Our morning activity was to visit the Andrew Low House, the home of Juliette Low’s father. This was the third of the three houses for which we had paid admission when we entered the Davenport House the day before, and we put this on our agenda since we had visited only the Davenport House and the Juliette Low Birthplace.

    A nice thing for Maggie and Frank, this admission ticket doesn’t expire, so they can present the unused portion of their ticket to visit this house the next time they visit Savannah.

    As much as I enjoyed our tour of the Birthplace house, I enjoyed the Andrew Low House even more. (I started to write “we” instead of “I”, but I have to remember that this is my report and that I’m not speaking for Jeri. I’m know she enjoyed it, though.)

    Just an aside. I write reports; Jeri does not. But when she reads mine…..well, we’re always on the same trip, but we don’t always take the same trip. If you know what I mean.

    http://andrewlowhouse.com

    When we left the Andrew Low house, we found ourselves right by the dot bus stop, and we decided to board and do a full circuit to see if there were areas of interest we might want to explore.

    The dot bus system is similar to the DASH in Charleston. It is free, and as is expressed in its mission statement, it is “a service of Savannah Mobility Management, Inc., a public/private partnership created to develop and implement Savannah’s Visitor Mobility Plan. A primary purpose of the plan is to enhance the Savannah Experience for both visitors and residents by reducing traffic and parking congestion.”

    http://connectonthedot.com/

    If you don’t take the Old Town Trolley, or even if you do, take advantage of the dot circuit. The circuit is not as extensive, but the drivers are great and they give great narration.

    For lunch we totally immersed ourselves in nostalgia and comfort food. We got off at a dot stop very close to our hotel and went to Leopold’s, which is reminiscent of those soda fountains we used to eat at in our youth. Leopold’s has tables, not a counter, but still it brought back memories of when I used to go with my mom and sit at the counter of Woolworths or wherever and have a tuna sandwiche and potato chips and a malt. Well, this time we had ice cream instead of the malt, but the feelings were the same.

    http://www.leopoldsicecream.com/

    It wasn’t too far from Leopold’s to the Riverfront, and since we had only made a quick pass through with Frank and Maggie, we decided to walk down there to look into some of the shops. This is a very colorful area running along the bank of the Savannah River, very busy with tourist traffic, but I was not especially drawn to the shops, most of which were selling souvenir type things, t-shirts, and such. And as we had just eaten, the restaurants were not a draw for us. It was an interesting historical venue, however.

    The cobblestone streets were made from the rocks that had served as ballast for empty ships returning after delivering their loads of cotton to England. And the buildings housing the shops and restaurants were also those dating back to the days of King Cotton. The stroll along the river was also pleasant, but after an hour down there we had seen enough.

    We returned to the hotel about 3:00 to take respite from the heat and humidity and also to pack, or rather re-pack our bags, in preparation for our departure for JAX early the next morning. Our trip was almost over, but we still had one special thing to look forward to. We had reservations for that evening at one of the Savannah restaurants which consistently receives high marks on the message boards, the Olde Pink House, which btw is located next to the Planters Inn.

    What a way to celebrate this richly textured trip which was now coming to an end. We fully indulged ourselves with an appetizer (fried green tomato with applewood bacon and sweet corn cream), she crab soup, delicious entrees (Jeri, filet mignon; I, red snapper), a great bottle of red wine, and dessert (ice cream in a praline basket). We totally blew out our calorie allotment and our budget, and it was worth it.

    http://www.plantersinnsavannah.com/savannah-dining.htm (This is a Planters Inn site, but contains information on the Olde Pink House. Click on the Olde Pink House’s Menu to see offerings.)

    Well, this does it for the trip report. While it was written in part for me to have a record of things we saw and did, it was also written in the spirit of Pay It Forward. We had so much help from fellow Fodorites as we were planning, it is my hope that some of the things and links in this report will prove helpful to others as they plan their own trips.
    As soon as I can get it together, I will post a few photos.

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    <<We were too late for a tour, but we were able to enter the lobby where we oooed and awed over the warm woods, the murals, and the stained glass. Well, I think there was stained glass. That’s how I remember it.>>

    You remember correctly. The beautiful stained glass at Flagler College is by Louis Comfort Tiffany.

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