Georgia (Part Three)
It was very exciting to finally be on Saint Simons Island. Following Demere Road we soon arrived at the nexus of the island, the roundabout, and then it was just a couple of turns into the car park of Leslie’s Dad’s office. We hung out there for a bit before heading around to Leigh Anne’s where we would be staying whilst on the island. Their beautiful house sits right by the 13th hole of the Sea Palms golf course and is surrounded by live oaks.
After getting settled in and enjoying a glass of chilled white wine we headed out to dinner, pausing briefly at the edge of the marsh beyond Harrington, the area of the island where freed slaves first settled. It was idyllic as twilight fell; as we watched a small fishing boat came in and was towed ashore and the scent of the marsh mingled in the evening air.
With darkness falling we headed down to Bennie's Red Barn, a lively place on this, the Friday evening before 4th July. Even after 9pm it was crowded and service was a little patchy but in the end we were well fed and I managed to get a Sweetwater IPA to drink.
Day 8 (Happy 4th!)
4th July dawned sunny and hot. We had a lazy start and after breakfast headed through the neighbourhood to the Sea Palms swimming pool and conference centre where the local celebrations were being held. Bob and Leslie had a swim in the busy pool and then we headed out to watch the parade arrive. The St Simons island fire truck was followed by a motley assortment of cars, bikes and golf carts.
With everyone here the ceremony started. There was a prayer, singing of the national anthem and a tribute to veterans represented here by a pair of World War 2 servicemen. Afterwards we were provided with hot dogs, cookies and cold lemonade which we enjoyed in the hot sunshine.
We now had a few hours to kill before the fireworks display in the evening and so we sought out some cool shelter, heading to the cinema to see Terminator: Genysis and then visiting Leigh Anne around at the Simply:Mac store.
After a tasty dinner at the nearby Mexican restaurant Cilantro we drove down to the Village, located at the southern end of the island. We parked the car and then walked the last few blocks, joining in with a big crowd that was making its way to the area around the pier where the fireworks would be. There were numerous house and garden parties going on and the roads were filled with golf carts transporting entire families down to the celebrations.
We made our way through Neptune Park by the front where a good crowd was mingling around, listening to live music and filling up on plenty of barbeque. We got ourselves a place to sit and watch the fireworks which began soon after darkness had fallen.
The finale was amazing with the fireworks mingling with Jimi Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner played by the band behind us.
We didn't wait around too long after the end of the show, threading our way back through the streets and then driving back to Sea Palms.
We headed round to Uncle Jim’s for the afternoon where there was baseball on the TV followed by red wine drank on the porch as a thunderstorm rumbled through and rain fell onto the live oaks.
In the evening we headed across the Causeway to Brunswick. We were hoping to get all-you-can eat crab with Bob’s friend Tully and his partner but the place Leslie had found online was closed. Instead we headed to Millhouse, a busy steakhouse where everyone dug into enormous portions.
Our continuing culinary tour of the island started well on Monday morning where after a quick stop at Uncle Jim’s to pick up my forgotten sunglasses we headed down to the Village.
The previous evening’s rain had brought to life the resurrection fern that fringes the upper side of the branches of the live oak and furls back into green life after a dousing.
We stopped by Nancy’s delightful bookstore right on the main street and then headed down to Iguanas for an amazing lunch of fresh fried shrimp.
After lunch we walked off our food with a stroll out to the pier, watching the fishermen and crab catchers and gazing out across Saint Simons Sound as the thunderclouds started to build off to the west beyond Brunswick.
We then headed across the car park to Brogen’s, a bar that hosts the local chapter of the University of Georgia college football team, the Georgia Bulldogs (Go Dawgs!). Here we had beer and some amazing beer-battered onion rings.
We were now heading for an evening rendezvous with Leslie’s Aunt Sali near her home by East Beach. We drove all the way up to Gould’s Inlet at the northern end of the beach where there is a view up to Sea Island, site of three luxury resorts, which hosted the G8 Summit in 2004. A huge storm cloud was drifting over the island as we stood in the sunshine with fiddler crabs scuttling about in the sand above the inlet.
We headed down the beach to meet up with Aunt Sali and her husband Steve. The sun was out and the beach busy but clouds were rolling in from the west and eventually a sharp shower broke over us sending us running for the car.
After stopping by at Anna’s house for beers in her back garden we headed down to the Village for an open mic night at the Palm Coast cafe. A couple of musicians were down from Atlanta visiting family and so we got to see excellent performances by Barb Carbon and Daniel Hearn under the atmospheric live oaks lit by coloured lights. There was also excellent craft beer on tap and the atmosphere on the patio was great.
By about 11 we realised we hadn’t eaten for a while and so headed for a fun midnight snack at the Waffle House[^1] where we got some crazy combination of hash browns, bacon, eggs and more.
It was an early start on Tuesday, up before the sun to head down to East Beach where we met up with Uncle Jim for a wander down the beach. Amazing crepuscular rays arched up from beyond the northeastern horizon as the light from the hidden sun was broken up by jumbled clouds.
We headed north towards Gould’s Inlet watching as the light changed and finally the red disc of the sun appeared above the ocean.
After enjoying the early start and saying hello to the first dog walkers and runners appearing on the beach we headed down to the Village where we parked below the lighthouse and then wandered along through Neptune Park to have a delicious breakfast at Sandcastle just up from the pier. Coffee, pancakes and syrup were the order of the day for me whilst Leslie and her Dad tucked into biscuits and gravy.
Back at the house we enjoyed a nap, catching up on lost sleep from the late night and early morning combination. Sometime later we emerged and took the bikes out for a ride down the main road to Bob’s office from where it was a quick walk across the car park to Southern Soul Barbeque for lunch.
The food was amazing and whilst Leslie and I had pulled pork sandwiches with fries, Bob tucked into a hearty plate of ribs. We sat outside where the fans were blowing the hot around and admired the decorative use of license plates and signs from across the country.
We popped around to visit Leslie's grandma who lives down near the Village and spent the rest of the day visiting people and places around the island.
We retrieved the bikes from the office and continued our cycle southward heading for the Village. On the way we paused at the site of Battle of Bloody Marsh, a key moment in the island’s early colonial history. We gazed out across the marshes which run towards the East Beach Causeway and read the various plaques and memorials that sit at the edge of the marsh. A tourist trolley bus came and went.
We cycled down into the Village parking the bikes outside the library and then got frozen yoghurts from Yobe, saw a pelican sitting on a post near the pier and then headed along to the Lighthouse.
We paid our entrance fee and headed into the keeper’s cottage, now a very well put together little museum tracing the history of Saint Simon's light and fleshing out details of its construction and subsequent operation.
After looking around the museum we headed up the 129 steps to the top of the lighthouse for a spectacular 360 panoramic view stretching from Jekyll Island to the Sidney Lanier Bridge and over the tree covered expanse of the island. Clouds were building away beyond Brunswick but the sunshine here was wonderful.
We headed back to Brogan’s where we had more delicious fried shrimp and beer sitting up on the terrace.
We called in at a grocery store to get drinks and then cycled up along the marsh and out to East Beach to meet up with Sali and family.
After drinks we pedalled up towards Uncle Jim’s where Wednesday night is music night. With a couple of guitars and a keyboard we were entertained as darkness fell.
My morning started off with a cycle up Frederica Road heading towards Fort Frederica itself. On the way I passed a few of the island’s oldest and prettiest buildings.
The best of these is Christ Church where I parked the bike to have a quick stroll around the grounds which are filled with live oak. The church itself, built in 1884, is beautiful.
I pedalled on and soon reached the entrance to Fort Frederica where I tied up the bike. One of the rangers gave me a map and a quick orientation and then I was free to explore.
Outside the fort a large township had quickly grown up and the fortifications were extended to include this large settlement. Now the foundations of the buildings and depressions of the defensive ditch are all that remain. The size of the place is impressive as you wander down the main street where there would have been various large houses and businesses. Part way down Uncle Jim caught up with me and we wandered down to the fort itself, built right on the bank of the Frederica River with plenty of opportunity to fire at invading ships.
We headed back and Jim gave me (and the bike) a lift back to the house and then down to the Village where we meeting up at Mullet Bay restaurant to celebrate Leslie's Grandma's birthday. On the way we spotted a very pretty nacreous cloud sitting over the island.
Later in the afternoon we took a gift around to Leslie's grandma and spent time by the pool with Savannah and her boyfriend.
That evening we had a Chick-fil-a dinner at the house before heading over to Brunswick to the cinema where we saw Jurassic World.
Friday was a pleasant day spent hanging out with Leigh Anne's two children. After going for a swim in the pool we had a burger lunch at Zuzu's down by the pier followed by frozen yoghurt for dessert. We then swung by the farmer's market to pick up a fresh watermelon.
That evening we took everyone out to Catch 228 for dinner. Service and the meals themselves were sadly a little mixed but my boiled shrimp were the best of the trip!