"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Jekyll, Charleston, Savannah, Beaufort

We went on another Southern trip.  Not a Cracker Trip, because those were explorations of the rural South, this was a vacation to warm weather, beaches, and Southern cooking.
Incomparable! We stayed at the Jekyll Island Club, a resort and winter watering hole for the captains of industry of the 20s – Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Crane, etc. They came by train from New York, ship from Brunswick GA to the island and spent time hunting and wintering in warm weather. 
The entire complex – main hall, Annex, and separate family cottages were used until about 1925, then abandoned until serious and meticulous restoration in the 1980s.  The result is magnificent (check out www.jekyllclub.com) and there is nothing like this spacious, gracious complex – large, sunny rooms with sunporches; classic Victorian dining room, croquet lawn, handcrafted cottages with meticulous detail, walks along the River, live oaks, manicured lawns.   The beach is not far, a State Park so no one on it, miles of white sand, perfect ocean beach.
The Sunday buffet is expansive and good.  Food at the restaurant on the pier excellent, nice bar, super view of the river.
Prices for large rooms overlooking the lawns around $250.
A big disappointment.  I am not sure what I was expecting – perhaps something grand, old, charming Southern plus modern restaurants, cafes; upscale waterfront; arts and culture…something special.
What we found was: a) a tacky waterfront, tourists-laden, T-shirt shops and cheap beer; b) an interesting working river and port, great to walk along the quais in the early morning before tourist action; c) a New Orleans style garden district with great houses and gardens and the famous Savannah squares; d) great beaches nearby – Hilton Head and Tysbee….great for us, because of the above expectations we stayed four nights, too much for the city alone.  Beaches super.
Food was mediocre – another disappointment.  We based our choices on the NYT reviews, usually reliable, came to the conclusion that reviews are not comparing Savannah restaurants to NYC, San Fran, or DC, but within a local context.  So, restaurants are trying hard to meet these standards, but falling far short.
A lovely city, the best (and perhaps only) part to see is the residential area with old 18th century houses, both English and Huguenot.  An area on two rivers (Charleston is a peninsula), you can spend hours roaming the streets.  The waterfront promenades are fabulous.
The food, as above, was very ordinary.
Wonderful small town, the best part of which are the OYSTERS!!! from Eding Creek – sweet, succulent, a bit briny, superb! and those of Bluffton nearby, same delicious incomparable quality.
p.s. We have always stayed at Inns and historic B&Bs on our Cracker Trips – great to talk to owners, managers; read local history, enjoy plantation settings.  A mistake to stay in cities – expensive, none of the local history,.

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