Friday, April 06, 2007
The Surprising South
I just wanted to check in and just let y'all know where we are in our travels.
We are in , this morning, staying with friends from many years ago. We are here in the tip-top height of the dogwood and azalea blooming season, and the town is sparkling with color and beauty. The Masters Golf Tournament is happening a few blocks away, and thousands of golf faithful are swarming everywhere like locusts. Weather is cool and sunny (60's), hospitality is fabulous. We've been eating grits, collard greens, sweet potato-pecan pie, and other delicacies of the area. Today we are going out into the countryside where this family has a vacation compound called "Peckerwood Plantation" (no kidding!), where we will lounge about, eat a picnic, and meet the rest of the family, all the Bubba's and Mary Sue's and Miss Debbie's we've been hearing about. Local stories are gothic and full of drama, murders on the front lawn, suicides, lots of divorce and pregnancy dramas.
Throughout the South, the biggest surprise for me has been the absolute abundance of spectacular trees and bird life. Everywhere we've been (and I do mean everywhere) the air is filled with the sound of birdsong. In Florida, my brother lives on a small lake in that was swarming with herons, ibis, bald eagles, many varieties of ducks, and numerous song birds, cardinals, mockingbirds, and who knows what else. I could have spent every day there just staring at the birds coming and going. But of course we did so much more - went to some fabulous tropical gardens, with orchids, banyan trees, ferns, and many exotic plants. Walked on the snowy sands of Siesta Key beach (see photo above). Visited the Ringling family home, Ca d'Zan, and fabulous art museum. Spent precious hours with my adorable brother, Dick, and his wonderful wife, Marnie, catching up on the years and having great family time.
We drove across Florida at racing speed in our clunky Mitsubishi rental car (not a lovely car in any way) so that we could make it up to Savannah for Passover dinner on Monday evening. Daniella had written to the synagogue up there to see if anyone would take us in, and received an invitation from the family of a woman rabbi. As it turns out, we were the guests at a small family dinner, in a spectacular home out in the "lowlands" on Skidaway Island, a place that looked right out into the wetlands with - you guessed it - more gorgeous trees and water birds everywhere. This family was sparkling and delightful. They had out the crystal, silver, best china and linens, and the evening was full of laughter, singing, and fantastic food. It was a very moving and extraordinary Seder - I'll never forget it, especially the two children who were so bright and involved in the ceremony.
The next day we explored Savannah, walking for hours through the city's shady squares, and looking at the amazing old houses. It was hot and humid there, and we decided to try to find a place to stay that was smaller, near the water, and a little less citified. So we headed north to , where we found a motel right on the waterfront ( ). Despite my misgivings (this is Marine training central, a few hops away from Parris Island) this little town was full of charm, more fabulous colonial era homes. It is the spot where "The Big Chill" was filmed. Our favorite part was a walkway along the riverfront where there were dozens of hanging swings (like some people have on porches) where you could sit and swing and watch the river go by. What a wonderful idea!
On Wednesday we explored for a little while (didn't have nearly enough time there) and liked it better than Savannah. It is elegant and has a beautiful light reflecting off the buildings. Every street seems to be steeped in history, the buildings so ante-bellum, Victorian, or neo-classical, white pillars, wrought-iron railings, trailing wisteria (blooming of course), dogwood, huge trees. It is gorgeous and artistic. We'll go back there for sure. We drove out of there on tiny back roads, past old plantations that used to be staffed by slaves (now open to the public as museums, but we didn't have time). Made it to Augusta, and here we are now.
After Peckerwood, we'll leave tomorrow for . I'll try to write again in a few days - sorry this is so long, but it has been a long trip! We feel so lucky to be having this adventure!