Archives for posts with tag: Savannah

All travel is enhanced by the people you meet along the way. You can look at photos, read books, study history, but it’s the people who bring it to life and give you a real sense of a region or country. I could write about the waitresses and waiters I’ve met along the way or the tour guides and just the people I’ve encountered through the years. Some of my favorites, some of the people who have made my trips the most memorable are the artists…performers, musicians, actors, painters, sculptors, photographers, and writers…the ones who stick in my mind because they bring places to life.

In Memphis, I met David Bowen while he was singing at the King’s Palace Cafe on Beale Street. He’s been playing there, or elsewhere in the area, for years, a backup player, whatever it took to keep playing the music. These guys are everywhere, playing for the love of the music whether they get rich or mildly successful or not. He just has Memphis written all over him and his playing.

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I watched plein air artists in Great Smoky Mountain National Park, but they weren’t selling.

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When you’re in Charleston, you see the ladies (and gentlemen) with their sweetgrass baskets everywhere. Our tour guide warned us that the prices sound expensive, but not so much when you know how much work goes into the weaving and sewing of this traditional art, brought from Africa and seen in the Carolinas since the 17th century. I stopped by the tables of this sweet lady, Neantha Ford, just off the corner of Broad and Meeting to admire her work. She was all smiles, which made her a winner. She signed my basket, as all artists should…

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I don’t blame the ones who were so solemn because I’ve worked a booth and it’s not always fun to sit all day waiting for some tourist to purchase your work. I love the basket I purchased, which is a nice usable size or easy to hang on a wall. I stuck the sweetgrass flowers, called Confederate Roses, that I purchased in the handle for this picture. I bought several from a vendor in the market and then bought one from a young man standing in an alley making them and another from an elderly man who approached me in Savannah. Making these roses must be one of the first things learned in this area.

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Fairhope, Alabama is an artists’ haven, fueled by the creativity encouraged in the Organic School (similar to Montessori) that flourished there in the 20th century and still is active. I met several artists and it seemed they had all emerged from that background. It is a charming place to live along the Gulf across the bay from Mobile. I was enchanted with these bricks made by a local potter, John Rezek, that made up a walk in front of the Organic School and another one by the Fairhope Museum of History, a delightful small, well run and interesting museum of the area.

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John was working on one of the walks when I met him and I asked our hostess to take me to his studio, where I purchased a coffee mug…

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She then took me to the studio of Tom Jones, a studio made of bricks from the area, known as Clay City.

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He had a kiln from Clay City that most of my potter friends would covet…

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Karen with Tom Jones, potter - Version 2

Tom was another product of the Organic School. He was off to Italy so I was lucky to meet him…such a genuinely nice person. I would love to have one of his Halloween jack-o-lanterns, but they are sold out for the year. I’ll need to get an order in early. I did purchase one of his platters, which also celebrates Jubilee, an event that takes place annually or more often when shrimp, crabs and other fish swarm into Mobile Bay. When the call goes out, “Jubilee!,” people rush to harvest a seafood feast. Sounds crazy and fun!

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No surprise that New Orleans is teeming with artists. There are musicians on the streets from the man who plays for Jesus outside of Cafe DuMonde and starts your morning off with a smile…

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…to the three kids who looked like they were skipping school to play…and could they ever play!
That little girl on guitar was incredible…

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There are always performance artists by Jackson Square. I saw this guy change positions once during the day and saw several wannabes nearby who couldn’t begin to freeze in position like he did.

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Street Performer - NOLA

Of all the street painters, Sean Friloux was the best on that particular day. I walked by and came back, loving his images. He was working on a painting of the corner by Cafe DuMonde and I loved it. I came back to get it and he kind of posed for me. He was a quiet guy. Love my painting…

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You can find Sean’s work at https://www.facebook.com/sean.friloux. Enjoy!

You can see why I always stop for artists. I thank my mother who taught me to buy art when I traveled. Way back, you didn’t have to pay duty on it, so it was a good deal, another bonus for her. I’ve met artists all around the world, including in my own hometown, and love supporting them. They are entwined with my memories wherever I’ve been. I encourage you to make it a habit yourself to bring any trip to life!

I’m not a food editor, but it’s hard to come back from driving through the southern states of our country without acknowledging the food. I’m trying to think of another trip I’ve taken where what I ate played such an important place in the travel. Most of the time, I don’t think about it and am happy to have a good meal here and there while I take my pictures and read up on the history. In the South, the food is so tied to the history and the geography that you can’t ignore it. Besides, it’s so yummy!

Bear in mind that my friend and I weren’t looking for anything in particular, but did try to sample each place’s best. We started with our first meal on the road, looking for a catfish restaurant that had been a wow on another trip, a place off the beaten path. We looked it up on my iPad while we traveled and found that it wasn’t open for lunch, so we settled for another one that was mentioned. Nick’s was right beside the interstate, which made us a little doubtful, but there were cars and trucks and locals, which is always a good sign. Best catfish ever! And our first taste of the hushpuppies and cole slaw that were the staples of the menus from then on…

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That night in Memphis, we cruised Beale Street, looking for some of the famous barbecue. I’d asked friends, but we were so tired, we just wanted to stop. We peeked into King’s Palace Cafe, loved the music, liked the menu and tried it out. We were early and it was quiet…nice after a day of driving.

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The music was great, not so loud as to drown us out, and we visited with the singer. The fried green tomatoes were divine, the pork was melt in your mouth and the sauce was great. I forget what else was there, but it was all good. I had asked the policemen on duty which was their favorite and they diplomatically didn’t pick a favorite.

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We drove to Kentucky the next day and stopped at this little gem in Silver Point, Tennessee along the way. I’m not kidding when I say this meal was scrumptious. Absolutely perfect. I love the columns in front. Once again, there were workmen parked all over the place. I should have bought the t-shirt.

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On Sunday, we were in Owensboro, Kentucky, having slipped off the highway to find breakfast. Again, there was a group of policemen talking in the downtown and we stopped to ask them. It was Sunday morning and the whole town looked shut down, so we were very grateful to them. They sent us to Ole South Barbecue, which was stuck in the middle of a bunch of chains and near the highway and across from a mall…nothing that would have caught our eye. When we got in there, we knew it was the right place…a buffet with everything and lots of old people and large families, all local. I can’t even tell you how good the ham was, but it WAS Kentucky. The fried chicken was great because it is the South after all. And I can’t begin to tell you how many biscuits I ate on this trip. They also had Burgoo on their deli menu and I’m intrigued by Kentucky Burgoo, a soup made of whatever meats all the guests throw in. Here was my breakfast, which ended up filling me up for the whole day!

Ole South Cafe - Owensboro, KY

Before I go any further, let me tell you that I don’t eat like this at home, not every day, not even very often. But I felt a deep obligation to taste every biscuit I saw…my duty to my blog readers, I’m sure. I also don’t think there is anything the people of the South can’t do with a pig…bacon, ham, pork. All delicious. Maybe it’s my Kentucky roots speaking to me. I also didn’t gain any weight on the trip because I was walking all the time.

When we got to Nashville, we couldn’t find a local restaurant in the Broadway area. Everything was some kind of chain and they charged a cover if there was music. We were just passing through and finally settled for some great homemade ice cream! There was one barbeque place that would have been perfect, but they closed at 6 on Sunday. Too bad. Oh! We did get Goo Goo Clusters, which are from Tennessee. So are Moon Pies. Junk cuisine.

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The next day we drove to Gatlinsburg, Tennessee, doorway to Great Smokey Mountain National Park. We ended up walking the main street and having corn dogs. Did I ever claim to be a gourmet? It seemed right at the time.

The next day, we left the interstate in North Carolina and traveled a back road that took us through Saluda, a tiny town that actually has a thriving artist community. One of their local festivals is Coon Dog Day. We stopped at this place and had terrific barbecue because we were still in that mode and delicious Vidalia onion slaw. I think I could make that – marinated Vidalia onions with a slaw dressing.

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In Columbia, South Carolina, we ate at the only chain on our trip, and it’s local. The country breakfast was great and the southern drawls of the friendly waitresses started our morning nicely. I guess local chains aren’t too much of a compromise, really. The name was intriguing.

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By the time we got to Charleston, it was time to start looking for seafood. Our first meal was actually in a French restaurant on Broad Street that had been recommended by a friend. I bet it’s a local favorite with familiar atmosphere and a tasty Croque Monsieur, everything at reasonable prices.

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Later, after walking around the beautiful city, we stopped for seafood at Hyman’s, a few doors from our hotel. The hype was deserved. I imagine that the lines of people were tourists, but that’s ok. I think any restaurant or business that is 5th generation family owned must have something to offer.

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After the complimentary boiled peanuts, a Southern favorite that I was tasting for the first time, I ordered one of their signature dishes, Carolina Delight, which is fried grit cakes topped with crab cakes (there were other options) and covered in sauce.

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My friend had soft shell blue crabs. Along with the ever present hush puppies were some sides to die for. I even bought their little cookbook to get the recipes. There was the red rice, a special cole slaw, and a sweet potato soufflĂ© that made us both stop and go YUM! I’ve already made it since I got home. It involves walnuts, raisins, butter, cinnamon… Suffice it to say we had a very rich meal.

Oddly, the next day, I was walking around town alone and stopped at a hot dog vendor on the street. Very friendly owners who asked where I was from. When I said Oklahoma, they immediately said, “Oklahoma State football,” which warmed this OSU grad’s heart. They were fun to talk to on the street. Very cool guys. Nothing fancy this day other than some more homemade ice cream along the way.

Oh, I didn’t mention the homemade popsicles that I saw in a couple of places. King of Pops. Look at the flavors…

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The last day in Charleston we ate breakfast at Toast. Don’t you love that name for a restaurant? It can be used so many ways. I had the special French toast that had been written up in the New York Times and it was unlike any French toast I’ve ever had – in a good way. I also snuck a bite of biscuit because, well, it was a biscuit. Delicious food and very friendly staff. Reminded me of one of my favorite places at home. I went by later and there was a line outside.

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By the time we got to Savannah, I had to eat something that wasn’t fried, even though there are hush puppies with every meal. We were invited to dinner on the river front at a place that was just casual and fun. I had very delicious and huge boiled shrimp, fresh from the sea. Of course, they were good! I’m sure all the places along there were similar, unless they were fancier.

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My next stop is just for atmosphere. This is where the local boaters from the islands around Savannah come to hang out. There was a band setting up for later. I guess there was a way to get there by car – we just boated in.

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Before we left Savannah, we grabbed just a bite at The Pirate’s House. Great place to take kids because they have a shop with every pirate thing you can imagine and there are pirates walking around to tell you the history of the place. Who doesn’t love a pirate every once in awhile?

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Turning west, we headed towards home. Driving along the Gulf coast was heartbreaking from Biloxi to Gulfport where Katrina devastated the area and I don’t know if it will ever recover. We wanted someplace by the water to eat and, after driving miles along empty beach with only driveways where homes used to be, we found this oasis in Pass Christian, Mississippi. Perfect in every way. We ate just before sunset, overlooking the boats, with a great seafood dinner. The blackened redfish was yummy, one of the night’s specials. Of course, there were the staples of hush puppies and slaw. Grits, hush puppies and slaw. You find them everywhere with lots of variations. Very, very southern.

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A walk on the beach followed dinner so I could sink my feet in the warm Gulf waters at last! The next night we had dinner on the causeway across Mobile Bay and the special was fried mullet. I hadn’t tried mullet yet, so of course…it deserved to be the all you can eat for Monday night.

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I’m starting to think I really did just eat my way across the South, but there were complimentary breakfasts in motels and snacks instead of meals and one or two meals a day sometimes. I just can’t believe how much good food we DID eat. And, just wait…

The next stop was New Orleans and what else do you need to say? We started the day at Cafe DuMonde with beignets and coffee and moved along from there. I’m familiar with New Orleans, but didn’t go to all my favorite places this time. How can you? There are so many.

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For lunch I had what may have been my favorite meal of the trip. We stopped at Pere Antoine Restaurant on Royal and had Barbeque shrimp with a special sauce and seafood gumbo. I usually go to the Gumbo Shop, but this was just incredible. The shrimp were…I’m running out of adjectives for all this food…look at them!

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We finished the day taking Muffelatas from Cafe Maspero with us. This was my father-in-law’s favorite place when he lived here and it became one of my husband’s favorites also. An Italian New Orleans sandwich, created at Central Grocery, is a true sign of the jambalaya of cultures in this city!

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After New Orleans, we were in Cajun country and ended up for breakfast at this unlikely place, recommended by our swamp guide.

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It was clean, homey, and the food was delicious. Drop biscuits instead of rolled, served by the cook herself. It was a combination gas station, convenience store, cafe near Gibson, Louisiana. The ladies were so sweet.

We still hadn’t tasted alligator. My son used to go to a place in the French Quarter, but I’m not sure if it was still there and I hadn’t looked for it. What do you do when you pass this sign outside of Lafayette, Louisiana?

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You turn in the drive and see this…

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You head further and go through these doors…

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and enjoy a delicious dinner of fried and blackened alligator and awesome boiled shrimp. I’m sure there were hushpuppies and slaw involved, but we got other vegetables and homemade rolls, too. Since it was the last night, we had key lime cheesecake that was beyond good.

So, we headed home after two weeks of eating the food of the south…ham, biscuits and more biscuits, corn bread, fried chicken, fried catfish, all styles of barbeque, hushpuppies out our ears, all kinds of slaw, shrimp every way we could, crab, grits, cheese grits, grits, okra in all forms, tomatoes fried green or fresh, barbecue, sweet potatoes, boiled peanuts, mullet, gumbo, beignets, muffalettas, alligator and homemade peach ice cream, homemade popcicles, bread pudding, and I forgot to mention that I tried boudin, a Cajun sausage, at a stand at the Tabasco store on Avery Island, Louisiana. And there was more homemade ice cream and the Goo Goo Clusters and Moon Pies. You can’t imagine how much more there was to try.

See what I mean? The South is rich in rich foods, plain foods, and plain good foods. My trip diary wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t take you on this tour. And I pay homage to the original cooks, many of them slaves, who brought these recipes with them and perfected them through the years until the food is part of the culture, part of the history, part of this beautiful region of our country. I can’t think of the South without thinking of something yummy to eat. It’s one of the unique things that keeps us coming back.

What was the first thing I ate when I got home? A hamburger! A famous Goldie’s hamburger from right here in Tulsa. Because this is definitely beef country! Try it when you pass this way…

My trip through the South a couple of weeks ago led me through several of the most important cities of the region, all of them located by water. Friends have asked me which one I liked best…it’s hard to say because they’re all so unique. There is definitely something about these places, something shaped by the flow of the rivers, the people who first settled on the banks or shores and all the stories that have flowed through history until now. My impressions are quick, not based on long stays, postcard impressions of cities, some seen for the first time, one of them much loved already. I had the advantage of seeing them all in two weeks, so my thoughts are fresh for each of them.

The first day, we drove to Memphis, crossing the mighty Mississippi to enter the city. I’d been there a couple of times before, but just passing through, not long enough to even have an impression. This time, we started at Mud Island, a peninsula with an incredibly creative scale model of the Mississippi River that you can walk along or in, seeing all the twists and turns, changing depths, and cities along its banks. There is also a museum with a history of the river that gives a good overview. Mud Island is a nice way to spend a few hours in a beautiful river park. You can think of Tom Cruise running through the tram in “The Firm” as you cross over to the park.

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I had seen the ducks at The Peabody, so we headed down to Beale Street, famous for barbecue and blues. We lucked into the last two days of Elvis Week, where fans come from around the world to pay homage on the anniversary of his death, the 36th this year. I don’t know how crowded it is normally, but it was a festive mood on this Friday night. Beale is bright lights and music in the air from the restaurants. Two small boys danced in the streets, then asked for money. We found a place to eat with delicious barbecue and a great guitar player, one who had worked this street for many years. He smiled and did his thing while we ate fried green tomatoes, ribs and pulled pork. It was nice and easy. When we left, the streets were lighting up and the action was just beginning. There was a party going on and I want to come again…

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This was my favorite neon sign of the night.

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Our travels took us to some smaller river cities with their own charm. Paducah, Kentucky is an important stop on the Mississippi and is working to populate their historic district. Owensboro, Kentucky is on the Green River and has one of the most beautiful river parks I’ve seen next to their historic district. We found it by accident while off the highway looking for breakfast on a Sunday morning.

Our next city stop was Nashville. This was really a stopover, partially due to curiosity after watching the views shown in the television show. It was Sunday night and there was definitely a party atmosphere on Broadway.

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We had driven around, very impressed by the city, and stopped to walk and find a place to eat. There were restaurants everywhere, mostly chains which we wanted to avoid. There was also a cover charge to eat when there was music. We found the Ryman Auditorium, the original home of the Grand Ole Opry.

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and walked up and down the street taking in the music coming from every bar along the way. My impression was that this really is music city with the happening street backed by the skyscrapers indicating the industries that thrive there.

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Nashville is cool, a fun place to visit and a beautiful city. We never did find a place to eat, settling for homemade ice cream at an old parlor on the edge of Broadway.

The next major city was Charleston, historic Charleston on the Atlantic coast. It was as beautiful as I imagined with a far larger historic area that is alive and thriving. There were the homes on Rainbow Row…

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…and elegant mansions in Battery Park…

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You can easily picture life in this city from Revolutionary times through the Civil War to now. Their historic preservation efforts are exceptional and well rewarded.

The City Market was fun to browse through the classy souvenirs…regional food, beautiful books, paintings, the ladies of the islands with their sweetgrass baskets, along with t-shirts and other fun things to remember your stay.

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We took the carriage ride around the historic area, a great way to get an overview of the history and the city. In the evening we walked to the pier, where there were porch swings and benches to watch the ships come in and the sailboats go by.

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Walking back to the hotel through the twilight streets, there was a quiet calm. Any parties in this city must have been private and inside on this particular evening. Charleston seems the most gentile of the cities we visited. It wasn’t formal particularly, as ladies wore cool cottons and linens with hats to shade their faces from the sun and heat. It wasn’t as hot or as humid as it could have been, lucky for us.

The next day, I toured the last remaining Slave Market Museum, a small but sobering visit. Among the others there was an older African American woman and her daughter. She was just sitting in front of one of the displays. I had great respect for what her thoughts may have been. The man at the desk had told me it was pretty brutal, as it was.

Slave Market

My memories of Charleston as a city are lovely. The food we ate was great, although we didn’t try any of the fancier restaurants. We took the trip around the bay, toured the city and I went to one of the plantations outside of town. Our two days leave me with visions of beautiful gardens, flowers and well-kept homes.

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I love the Charleston Hat Man, a painting that was uncovered and said to be painted in 1892 to advertise the haberdashery inside. There are 16 hats that make up the man.

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I love the steeples…

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and the alleys…

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Dueler's Alley

Broad Street and Meeting Street…

Broad Street

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Charleston is everything you ever imagined about Southern charm.

Our next stop was Savannah and we arrived late in the afternoon, in time to find a hotel and meet people for dinner by the river. This was a change from Charleston. The riverfront was busy with tourists and partygoers. I noticed that one of the popular t-shirts for sale was of all the pubs in town. There were batchelor party and batchelorette party groups one night. This was an old port town and the riverfront area is where they goods were purchased by brokers. Although you have to walk down steep ancient stairs and walk on cobblestone and old brick streets, it is a city that introduced itself to us as a fun place to be.

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Savannah

The next day, we were treated to a trip to Tybee Island, a stop at Ft. Pulaski, a boat ride along the coastal waterways with lunch at a small Jimmy Buffet-like restaurant, and a return visit to Bonaventure Cemetery before it closed. The cemetery was made famous by the novel and movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” and it lived up to its mysteriously beautiful reputation.

Bonaventure Cemetery

We visited the graves of Johnny Mercer and his family and left before we got locked in for the night. Our hosts said they picnic and ride bikes there and have been to a Halloween event. I was beginning to see why the tour companies offered ghost tours of Savannah. With the pirates and specters of the cemetery, there was an edginess to the city.

Our tour of the city showed us the lovely homes built around 22 squares. Historic Preservation finally came in the 1950s or much would have been lost. There were homes from all eras with a large Victorian area.

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I left Savannah with mixed thoughts. I had thought it would be more like Charleston, but it has its own flavor and vibes. It’s a little darker, a little more mysterious when you see them both together. It’s a place to keep exploring, for sure!

Our final city was New Orleans. I have been to New Orleans many times. My in-laws lived there for a long time and we visited in different seasons, went to the World’s Fair, Mardi Gras, and always loved it. My kids grew up knowing this city. I hadn’t returned since Hurricane Katrina, so I was anxious to see how it looked.

I have found out since I had been there that my great-great-great-grandfather brought his family to live in New Orleans. He was a physician and died while treating people during a Yellow Fever plague. Maybe there is some DNA in me that makes me love this place. There is nothing like New Orleans. I loved all the other cities we’d visited, but New Orleans is just its own self. Some people don’t like the smell, but it’s just part of the place to me.

When we hit Jackson Square on a perfect day,

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and headed for Cafe du Monde for beignets and coffee, I felt like I’d come home.

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I like the musicians, the artists, and the street performers.

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I like the architecture,

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the home where Tennessee Williams wrote “Streetcar Named Desire,”

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Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo on Bourbon Street, a place that intrigued my son from the time he was about eight years old,

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and I like the mixture of all the exotic cultures, French, Spanish, Italian, Creole, Cajun, American Indian and European Americans, that blend to make this city and influence its food, its music, and its vibe.

I guess I have a favorite city of the South. New Orleans won my heart a long time ago as the most unique of all our cities. But, I’m so glad to welcome Memphis, Nashville, Charleston and Savannah into my places of the heart. They are all unique and interesting and are important parts of what makes this country such an incredible mix of regional voices and tastes. I have more to say about my trip to the South and all the beautiful things I experienced. I hope you get to head in that direction in your lifetime…

Some of my fondest memories of my trip through the southern states will always be the people. I loved to sit still to hear their sweet southern drawls, which varied from region to region. Here are a few of my favorites…DSC_0304

 

Bonita was our first guide at The Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s home outside of Nashville. All the guides dressed in period costume and this was her appropriate garb. I wondered how she felt about having to be the slave, but she was a gracious and wonderful guide, even posing when she saw me lift my camera. One of our other guides was asked if Jackson was a good slave owner and she answered that there was no such thing as a good slave owner. Bonita was a tribute to new attitudes in the south.GalleryToys

 

In Charleston, I saw an interesting antique shop while walking one evening and returned the next day on a whim. The sign said not to ring unless you were a serious buyer, which I always am. What a treat! The owner was Fred Le Clercq, who turned out to be a true southern gentleman. He is a retired law professor who has collected art and antiques for many, many years. The shop was actually his home, on the third floor at least, and it was filled from floor to ceiling with beautiful objects. I walked around taking it all in for awhile, tempted by so many things, and then started asking questions. He told me about many of the artists of the area and graciously took me around. He has another gallery at his lake home and I regretted not meeting his wife, who is the daughter of the famous Mrs. Whaley and has written garden books and other books. I decided on a small book plate by Alice Ravenel Huger Smith, one of the Charleston Renaissance artists of the early 20th century. I realized I had no checks with me, but Fred told me to just send a check when I got home. After he wrapped my purchase, he took me to their living quarters and showed me the original painting they own by this artist, as well as others. I glanced around their home, which was furnished in beautiful antiques and art. When I left, Fred took my hand, leaned down and blew gently across it, speaking in French. He asked me if I knew what that meant. I was so charmed that all my French lessons left me. He translated it as “until your return” or something close to that. Who wouldn’t love that? A lovely hour that reflected all you would dream of in Charleston.DSC_0656

 

In Savannah, we met Captain Dan and Penny. Dan was the old friend of an old friend of my friend, which is how we were introduced. They met us for dinner on the riverfront in Savannah soon after we arrived. It’s always such a treat when you have no idea what to expect, kind of like a blind date, and then it turns out to be something special. Dan is a musician and actor and had lived in Hollywood and Nashville before returning to his hometown near Scarboro, Georgia. Penny is a true Georgia girl with the best drawl in the world and loving, open arms for all. They live in Dan’s family home, a house built in the 1700s on 5,000 acres along the Ogeechee River. Penny works in Statesboro and they spend their weekends at their apartment on Middleton Island, close to Savannah and their boats docked at Thunderbolt Marina. On the weekends, Cap’n Dan takes charters for visitors from Tybee Island to fish or tour the islands. I told them at dinner that I was very interested in the islands and they invited us to join them the next day. They picked us up and drove us to Fort Pulanski for a great historical tour, complete with a cannon demonstration, out to Tybee Island, where I could have kicked back all day at the beach, back for a boat ride around the islands and to lunch at their favorite place on the water, a yacht club with a Jimmy Buffett atmosphere (Cap’n Dan’s description), and then for a tour of Bonaventure Cemetery. It was one of those days where you feel like you’ve been with friends you’ve known all your life and you know you will remain friends because the more you know about them, the more you like them.DSC_0794 - Version 2

 

In Fairhope, Alabama, across the bay from Mobile, we stayed with my traveling buddy’s friend, Graham. Fairhope is a beautiful town, full of artists and creative people of all sorts with an interesting and unique history. Graham attended the local Organic School as a child and his wife, Maggi, is now the director of the school’s museum. I knew Graham, but it was my first time to meet Maggi and she was a delight. We met for breakfast in the oldest cafe in the county, which didn’t disappoint. We walked over to her museum for a tour and she gifted us with books about the school’s founder, a book about Fairhope, and a novel, the last two written by Graham’s sister. We toured the very impressive museum of Fairhope History and met the director, another graduate of the Organic School. Maggi and I took a driving tour of the town and went to two pottery artists’ studios, since I expressed interest, especially since there is much history of pottery in the area. Again, I have a new friend, a lovely woman, I hope to see again very soon.DSC_0981

 

My last person I’ll tell you about is L’il John, our guide on a tour of the swamps in southern Louisiana, near Gibson, which is near Houma. I picked this tour because it was on private property and there would be no other boats. It turned out that the property had not been hunted or fished in 30 years, so the swamp was pretty pure. L’il John was Cajun and I loved listening to him talk about dem and dat, dropping any hard consonants at the end of words. I love listening to Cajuns talking anytime, but it was very appropriate while cruising through a swamp. L’il John has traveled a lot, but he was born in the area and told us he’s done everything legal and illegal back in those swamps. I believe him. There were only the two of us with him on the boat, so he didn’t have to fill the time with stories for the tourists. He said that most people don’t understand the lifestyle down there, haven’t had to live off the land. This was a man at home in this environment, which is so beautiful and so threatening. He tried to get us close to a 13′ and 16′ alligator, wanting them to come to the boat, but they swam off into their dens and hid under the water. I was fine with all the smaller ones that did get close. Alligators are not to be messed with, in my opinion. I held out meat for a smaller one, who jumped up to get it, making the pole I was holding snap. That’s close enough. He obviously knows every inch of the tour area and every critter living there. He told us that he usually shoots an alligator, showing us the hook that is used on the popular television shows. He said that using a hook to bring them in causes great pain to the alligators as it twists inside them, deeming it a stunt for the cameras. In a conversation a few states back, someone had told us that only the tail of the alligator was used for food. I asked L’il John about that and he said that the whole gator was good. I knew he’d tell me that. People who depend upon hunting for food don’t usually waste any of it. We had a good morning in the swamps and I’d like to think he was as sorry to see it end as we were.

Those are some of the people I met in the southern states that I bring back as special memories and special friends. You can tour and read and take pictures, but you can’t really understand an area until you meet the people who love it as much as you love your own place on earth. One of the joys of travel…