Well, we just got back from our much-needed vacation! We went to my former home of St. Simons Island, GA, one hour south of Savannah and one hour north of Jacksonville. And we had a great time.
My wife had been getting really burned out at her job and seriously needed some time off and she loves the beach, so I thought, why not? I could show her my old stomping grounds. I’ve been under a great deal of stress myself, so a vacation sounded great. However, we were worried about what to do about our cat, Henry. Fortunately, we hired a great – and inexpensive – pet sitting service to care for him and provide daily updates, so that worked out just fine.
We left early last Wednesday morning. It’s about a seven hour drive from here, so we arrived around 3 PM and found our hotel, St. Simons Inn by the Lighthouse. I had found it on TripAdvisor and it looked pretty good. The rooms were all unique and you could pick yours out online. We picked one that looked roomy with a king size bed. We found parking in their covered ground floor parking area and went to check in. Then we hit the room. It wasn’t outstanding, but it looked good enough. The hotel itself was quite pretty.
After we’d gotten established, we walked over to the lighthouse and took some pictures. Then we walked on the path by the ocean to the pier village, went out on the pier, and then walked down into the village. I tried to tell my wife stories about all of the places we were passing.
By this time, it was about dinner time, so since my wife is originally from Baltimore, she’s a big crab lover. I called around, trying to find a place that offered blue crabs, but everything was soft shell blue crab or snow crab, etc. That was somewhat disappointing. However, we ventured out to a place I had gone to when I lived there called Crab Daddy’s. (It’s right beside the Crab Trap. Heh.) We were seated and greeted immediately by our server, Megan. She told us about an interesting special that was macaroni with three different types of crab, so we got that as an appetizer, as well as mussels. We also ordered drinks. Soon the food was out, followed by a generous salad with several homemade salad dressings and some delicious bread. Next came our entrees. Gretchen got shrimp while I got a filet. She said her shrimp was the best she’d ever had, so that was a big compliment. My filet was cooked to order, was appropriately tender, and tasted pretty good, so I was happy. We then decided to splurge and get crème brulee. It, too, was delicious. The bill was quite large, but it was worth it. And the service was outstanding. Hats off to our server.
After dinner, I decided I wanted to go to my old bar, Marsh Point. It’s a bit of a dive, but is very popular, the drinks are generous and they’re cheap. So we went. We missed the happy hour crowd, which was good because it can get packed. The only downer was it’s still a smoking bar and this bothered my wife a lot. As a former smoker, it doesn’t really bother me, but she didn’t like it. I recognized a couple of my former bartenders, but they didn’t recognize me. We ordered drinks and then Gretchen played Keno. We didn’t stay long, though, so we soon went back to our hotel. However, at our hotel, something happened that was embarrassing and frustrating. Our toilet clogged up. And we couldn’t get it unclogged. We went to bed anyway.
The next morning, we told both housekeeping and the front desk about the clogged toilet and they said they’d take care of it, so we went out for breakfast. The hotel had a continental breakfast, but I wanted something a little more substantial. We ended up at Palmer’s Village Café, which was the number one ranked restaurant on the island according to TripAdvisor. We were the first ones there, so we sat where we liked and were greeted immediately by a friendly server. She took our drink orders and then it was time to eat. My wife had eggs, an English muffin, and potatoes, while I had a huge stack of pancakes and some crispy bacon. My only complaint was, the sides were kind of expensive and I only got two pieces of bacon. For that price, I would have expected at least four. Still, Gretchen enjoyed her breakfast and I loved my pancakes – they were very filling. We paid the bill and went back to the hotel. When we arrived, a housekeeper told us she had fixed the problem. We felt relieved. Then the unthinkable – we used the toilet again and it got clogged again. I mean, it wouldn’t flush at all. How humiliating! And at the price we were paying, we expected better. My wife called the front desk to ask about other rooms and was told there weren’t any. She was told we could use the bathroom in the room across the hall for one night, that night, before people arrived who had reserved the room. That would have left us three more days with a screwed up toilet. My wife complained and was told that maintenance wouldn’t be able to get around to it until sometime the next day. Well, that was unacceptable.
We then decided to go rent bikes and ride around. Well, we did, but not very far. My knees and hips gave out on me, so I stood and waited while Gretchen went on ahead a couple of times. I didn’t think I was going to make it back to the bike shop. It really hurt.
When we returned to the hotel, we decided to go eat lunch and I just wanted something light, so I took us to Brogan’s, which was the first restaurant I ever went to when I went to the island. I have fond memories of the place, but I’m not sure why cause it isn’t that great. The service was average, the food average, the atmosphere average. I had a burger while my wife had a southwestern chicken salad. It was okay.
We decided to go to the beach while the hotel staff searched for another room. When we got there, it was at low tide and there were sand bars and shells and my wife was very impressed. It wasn’t crowded, except with people who had tons of dogs, which my wife loved. It’s a rather plain beach that I find kind of unexciting, but Gretchen loved it cause it was relaxed – just sand and water. Since she had her bathing suit on, she went out into the water. It was 80 degrees out and the water was warm, so she was happy. Meanwhile, I was having a hard time having a good time because I was worried about our hotel room.
So I started looking around for another room somewhere, and let me tell you, there weren’t very many rooms available on the island. Fortunately, there was a cool looking hotel just one block away from us that I decided to walk to when we returned from the beach and ask about. I’m really glad I did. It was called the Ocean Inn and Suites and they had a room for right then through when we needed to leave. It cost more than our present hotel, but on such short notice, I decided it was worth it. Besides, the room was a two room, dual king suite with a great balcony overlooking the lighthouse and the ocean. I felt good about it.
When I returned to the room with a luggage cart in hand, I found two people in the tiny bathroom plunging the toilet and pouring hot, soapy water down it. They were two owners and to their credit, they tried. However, I had no confidence in that toilet and had decided to leave, and that’s what I told them. They were disappointed, but classy about it. They wondered why we were told we couldn’t get it attended to until sometime the next day. They said if they had known about it immediately, they would have called a plumber. They said they would make it up to us. So we loaded up the car and I went to settle the bill. To my surprise, they waived all costs and we were charged nothing. That was nice of them.
We then went to the other hotel and unpacked. Gretchen loved the room, the beds, the TVs, the sofa, the view from the balcony – everything. I was relieved. We relaxed for an hour or so, and then it was dinner time. I took us to Gnat’s Landing, a very popular local spot, especially on the weekends. They had made some changes to the place since I’ve been gone, and the menu was light, but we made do. They had TVs everywhere on sports channels with one huge TV on ESPN. We just kind of sat back and vegged. I got a draft cider while my wife got some whiskey. Heh. Then Gretchen ordered some more shrimp while I ordered a pulled pork barbeque sandwich. The food was decent, the service was okay, but I did have to ask for refills, which was kind of annoying. Also, they never asked us if we wanted more drinks after we finished our adult beverages, which I thought was odd. So we paid up and left.
I wanted a few more cocktails, but not wanting Gretchen to ingest the smoke at Marsh Point, I took her to one of my favorite haunts on the island – the Village Inn and Pub. It’s kind of a hotel/B&B which is just beautiful to look at. Their “pub” is actually a small, full service bar in the lobby, where they have tables and stools and nearby, some easy chairs. You can also take your cocktails outside and enjoy sitting by the pool and relaxing. We ordered some drinks from the friendly bartender and sat in some of the easy chairs. It wasn’t too crowded and I was happy to be back there. I have fond memories of the place. Gretchen seemed to like it too, so I was happy. After a little while, we heard some music, so we moved back into the lobby and got a table. Two men were playing guitars and singing James Taylor and Bob Dylan songs. They weren’t too bad. It was an enjoyable evening, but we decided to go back to the hotel because it had been a long day and since I have insomnia, I don’t sleep well – or much –- and I was beat. Bedtime.
The next morning, we got up and went back to Palmer’s and had another delightful breakfast. Then it was time for a day trip to Savannah, a place I really love and a place my wife was really looking forward to seeing. Savannah is one hour up the road from the island, and we made good time, but for a long while, I had been concerned about driving around in that town and also, finding parking, which is hard to find there. The driving can be a real hassle there. Also, there’s the problem of, if you find parking, just wandering around, never knowing where you are or what you’re missing. Historic Savannah can be confusing. So we decided to take a trolley tour with Old Savannah Tours. They had free parking, were right off the interstate, and for $27 each, would let you on and off at any of 16 stops around town until 4:30. It was a huge relief for me to do that, plus it saved us from getting blisters.
We got off at a square that had a statue of General Oglethorpe, Georgia’s founder. It was surrounded by a beautiful Presbyterian church with a very tall steeple, a huge Baptist church, some places with interesting architecture, and the old Savannah Theater. After we had explored and taken some pictures, we got back on. It was really interesting hearing about Savannah’s history interspersed with current events. They were having a big marathon the next day and traffic was getting pretty bad, so I was especially glad I didn’t have to brave that mess.
We next got off at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. It’s a huge building that is very impressive to look at – I’ve seen it a number of times – but we wanted to go in and we did. And let me tell you, that is one stunningly beautiful church! It’s gorgeous! Huge, vaulted ceilings, rows and rows to seat a thousand, lovely stained glass, votive candles one can light, a massive pipe organ. Words can’t do it justice. If you’re ever in town, you’ve got to come to this place. It’s certainly worth it.
We got on the trolley once more and continued our travels. We passed Paula Deen’s restaurant. We passed Clary’s. We went by the City Market. Then we went down to River Street, which is this really cool old cobblestoned street beside some ancient, tall old warehouses that now house numerous restaurants and shops, all beside the Savannah River. It’s a tourist trap, frankly, but it’s still a good place to go. For weeks, I had been wanting to go to my favorite Irish pub, Kevin Barry’s, for some good, authentic fish and chips. Meanwhile my wife wanted crab. What to do? Well, it was late for lunch and both restaurants were far away on opposite ends of River Street. We didn’t feel like walking, so we hit a nearby restaurant called Barracuda Bob’s. They had fish and chips and crab. So we went on in and didn’t have to wait. I ordered a draft cider, which you always have to have with fish and chips. Gretchen then ordered crab chowder and a meatloaf sandwich and I ordered my fish and chips. And was horrified to hear our server say they were out of fish and chips! What the hell??? How is that possible? I was so disappointed. So I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich. It didn’t take too long for the food to arrive. My sandwich was fine, but Gretchen’s bread was too soggy, which annoyed her. Additionally, they never asked if I wanted a cider refill. Shouldn’t that be automatic? We got the check, and I put my credit card down. And then had to wait forever for the server to return to get it. Average place, average food, average service. Will probably go somewhere else next time we’re there.
We had to wait a very long time for another trolley to appear. In fact, I called the company to see if they were still running. I guess it was the bad traffic. Eventually we were picked up, but it took forever to get back to our car and then the traffic on the freeway was terrible, so it took forever to get to I-95, the freeway to take us back to the island.
By the time we got back to our hotel, we were pretty beat. But we had gotten some good pictures and had had a nice time. Since we had a late lunch, we didn’t want a heavy meal, so we decided to just to somewhere for appetizers and a drink or two. We walked to the village and chose Iguanas. I think it looks very different from how it looked when I lived there 10 years ago. It’s very bright and crowded with people of all ages. That wasn’t the case then. Darker inside, younger crowd, more of a bar. This was a restaurant. Well, we were sat in a booth which was uncomfortable. I ordered a cider and my wife ordered a margarita. I ordered a plate of fried cheese sticks and my wife ordered a crab soup. Our waiter seemed a little surly, had kind of an attitude. I didn’t like him. The place was crowded and kind of loud and far too bright. Also, it was cold, because unlike yesterday’s 80 degrees, today’s high had been 62 and it was a lot colder. We got our drinks and then our food and to my surprise, Gretchen announced that this crab soup was the best she’d ever had, which was a shocker to both of us. My cheese sticks were just that – cheese sticks. Gretchen finished her margarita and was trying to figure out what to order next. She was thinking of a cosmopolitan, a whiskey sour, an Irish whiskey, or something different altogether. I wasn’t through with my cider, but planned on ordering a rum and Coke. The waiter asked my wife if she’d like another margarita and she said no. Next thing you know, he plopped the check down in the middle of our table and walked away. Um, excuse me??? Did we say we were done? Did we say we didn’t want anything else to drink? Did he ask me if I wanted anything else? What an ass! We contemplated ordering more drinks, but I think his attitude ruined it for us, so we paid and left. He didn’t get the biggest tip in the world.
That night we got to bed at a decent hour, but as often is the case for me, I was up at 2:30 the next morning for the rest of the morning. That really tires me out. I hate insomnia. It’s very frustrating. However, we were excited about the day because we had some big plans. First though, we had to have breakfast. This time we walked to the Mallery Street Café. It was packed! We had to wait and then basically share a table with some other folks, who moved away a little bit. It was a good breakfast, though, and reasonably priced, so we were happy.
After breakfast, I drove us across the island until we reached Christ Church, a very old Episcopal church that Charles Wesley founded. It’s beautiful and it has a huge cemetery, which is fascinating to go through. We found many old gravestones, including a number of Confederate soldiers. We found burial plots for entire generations of families. It was really cool.
After Christ Church, we drove off the island to Brunswick and then took the big, scary bridge to Jekyll Island, which is now one giant park, but once was the playground of the rich and famous. You have to pay $6 to get onto the island, which is kind of annoying, but I guess it’s worth it, so there you have it. We immediately drove to the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, which is beautiful. We parked and started walking, because it’s there that you find Millionaire’s Row. Millionaire’s Row is a group of mansions (called “cottages”) built at the turn of the 20th century by people like JP Morgan, the Vanderbuilts, the Rockefellers, the Goodyears, and others like them. The houses are absolutely huge and very stunning. It’s amazing to think about the luxury these people lived in (during the winter months) back then. We had a good time walking around and then went into the hotel to ask for directions to Driftwood Beach, a beach Gretchen wanted to visit. The person who helped us noticed my Pittsburgh Penguins shirt and showed us her Steelers and Penguins stickers on her computer. In fact, we met several Steeler/Penguin fans while there. That was really cool. We got a map to the beach, which was helpful since there are no signs, and we parked. It was near high tide and there was virtually no beach to speak of, but we saw some cool driftwood and walked around for a bit before returning to St Simons Island.
When we got back to our hotel, we decided to get some lunch, so we walked down to the village. This time we wanted something a little different, so we went to a little place called Palm Coast Coffee, Café, & Pub. It was tiny inside, although they had a big courtyard out back. It was too cold to sit outside for very long though, so we were fortunate to get a table inside. Several employees passed us before one was kind enough to seat us, but this girl then took pretty good care of us. She brought us some iced tea and then Gretchen also ordered a latte to warm up, and she brought that right out. They had an interesting menu. It wasn’t your average burger joint. I ordered a chicken club sandwich, which came with kettle chips, while Gretchen ordered Brunswick Stew and a veggie sandwich. She loved both and my meal was delicious too. I can see why the restaurant is rated so highly on TripAdvisor.
That afternoon, we returned to East Beach, even though it was overcast and chilly. It was just good to be in the sand beside the water. There were a surprising number of people there, as well as many dogs.
Saturday night, we wanted something different to eat, so we went to the #2 restaurant on the island – Jonesy’s Pizza and Pub. It had rave reviews and was within walking distance. The pizza was good. The crust was hand tossed and just right and the toppings were good. We didn’t finish it, but we took the rest back to the hotel room to have for breakfast the next morning. We also had some of their half baked chocolate chip cookies, which were wonderful! We then retreated to our hotel room and watched a little football before going to bed.
We wanted to get an early start Sunday morning, so we checked out and left the island around 7 AM. Traffic was light, which was good, and after an hour, we were on 16 up to Macon. However, I was really, really tired due to my insomnia, so after awhile, I pulled over and Gretchen drove. She did a good job and drove the rest of the way home. On the way, we had to stop for gas and we were in the sticks. We stopped at an exit that had a BP, but it was a mile and a half away from the freeway. When we got there, we saw plenty of rusted pickups and one pump. It didn’t even have a credit card slot. I had to go in and prepay. While I was paying, I was behind people in line buying crickets and worms to go fishing with. People out in the parking lot were talking about the bucks they had shot. We were in hillbilly heaven. There was nothing around for miles. It was creepy. We headed back to the freeway and soon hit 75 to Atlanta and then Chattanooga.
When we got home, Henry was glad to see us and we had a lot of mail. The pet sitter had left us a nice note and we unpacked, before collapsing. Gretchen watched football and I took a nap. It was a great vacation, but it was good to be home again. Whatever the case, we’ll always have fond memories of this trip.