The Mouth of the South: Road-Tripping!
So the United States of America is a big country; not only are the 50 states incredibly diverse geographically, they can be so varying in their beliefs and laws, that they could actually be different countries. To truly experience The US of A you need to see the different sights and meet the people who call different states home, and the best way of doing this is by deciding what state or states you want to see, rent a car and travel the distances. Home to historically American architecture, 'old' era charm and hospitality, Spanish Moss, and a whole lot of butter, the South has a lot to offer in a vacation. And what better way to experience it than road-tripping? So here it is, our journey and more specifically, my 'Mouth to the South'.
So choose your route and the main places you want stay along your way. We were starting off in Orlando after a week in Florida (Disney Done Right is to come), then driving up the East Coast stopping in Savannah, Charleston, and finishing off in Atlanta. Now these were the cities that we were going to spend at least 3 or 4 days exploring, as in all road trips you don’t want to spend the entire time actually on the road! After working out the length of our stay in each city, we searched and booked those hotels. This is essential with places you intend on spending a few days in as you don’t want to be worrying about finding hotels in big cities after driving miles to reach the destination. Also planning a trip is half the fun, so do the research beforehand, and figure out where in the city you actually want to stay. It's always about location, location, location. I always like to be in the thick of it, as to truly experience the heart of a city and having driven for hours, it is nice to leave your car for a few days as to use public transportation or better yet, walk.
Tayah's Take for best spontaneous decision: Now my point previously is true for a main destination of your travels, however it is nice to have one or two nights of spontaneity when traveling between your key cities. It is easy to find a hotel room for a night along main routes in the States. Driving until you get tired, looking on the map and seeing what towns are near for you to explore is a must of any road trip. Just take the chance!
Tayah's Tip for roading tripping the USA: Triple A TripTik (http://www.aaa.com/travelinfo/maps-directions.htm).
If you are a member of AAA, a service that provides emergency road side assistance, then you can go pick up free road maps of the entire country. Each map also gives you information on the cities and towns along your route with a quick list of things to see. This is very helpful when making that spontaneous decision.
So we left Orlando after having an action packed few days of park hopping and a return to feeling like my five year old self on Xmas day or indeed back at Dinseyworld! On to the more historical and cultured part of our trip. Our next main city would be Savannah and we had time to get there as our hotel room was not booked until the day after. This was going to be the unknown part of our trip. The plan was to stop for lunch and an afternoon stroll somewhere in the northern part of Florida and then we hoped to rest out heads once in Georgia.
St Augustine was immediately decided as our afternoon destination. It is the oldest European-established settlement in the United Sates having been founded in 1565 by the Spanish. What's amazing about this little city, is the architecture.
Driving off the 95 there is suddenly a real sense of being somewhere else- it certainly doesn’t' have your standard Floridian architecture. It feels more like a costal Spanish village, warm terracotta reds and oranges splash the buildings. The oldest school house in the States is in the centre of town, it's basically a log cabin and a pretty garden but for the small fee it is worth a visit just to get a feel of what school life used to be like, particularly if with kids.
There is a fab popsicle shop called The Hyppo, all natural ingredients and perfect to have a slurp and a lick while wandering down St George Street. Exploring the Castillo de San Marcos Fort would be a great activity if one has longer time in this pretty city.
After our little stroll, we decided it was time to get on our way. We purchased some candy, blasted the show tunes, and had our list of car games on the ready (check out: A Game To While Away the Time).
Driving out of Florida, swampy trees towered over a very straight freeway. As the sun was starting to set we thought it was time to find a spot to rest our heads and have a yummy meal and perhaps a couple of cheeky cocktails. We noticed that there was a section of interconnected islands on the coast and our TripTik told us there were some lovely little towns doted throughout. Off we went onto a smaller road to the coast and the terrain started to change to marsh land with rivers flowing through an expansive space.
We started getting excited as we reached a harbor and then some very beautiful houses doted between oaks with Spanish Moss. Saint Simons Island was where we were headed and when we got there, oh how we desperately wanted to stay. We drove down the lovely high street full of beautiful shops and crowded restaurants hearing sounds of laughter and deep notes of southern jazz. All American-quaint, yet tons of fun. We drove around and found quite a few hotels and B&B's, booked one with vacancies and were set!
We wandered down Mallery St. and headed to Mullet Bay Seafood Restaurant(http://mulletbayrestaurant.com/#_=_) to sip Mint Julips and eat Fried Shrimp Po-Boys, which is a southern classic submarine sandwich that hails from Louisiana. Sitting on the veranda listening to the sounds of Cicadas, Florida, though only an hour south, truly felt like a world away. Florida is not considered part of the deep south and once you enter Georgia you realize there truly is a different feeling. All my visions and expectations of the deep south were met at St. Simons, quaint and charming with an undercurrent of energy and fun.
The next morning before heading onwards, we strolled along the seafront, visited some lovely antique shops and stopped off at the Lighthouse. I could have easily spent days in this little seaside town. Saint Simons is one of 4 islands that make up the Golden Isles and I plan to explore the rest of them and the port city of Brunswick some day but at this moment it was time to head off to the 'big city'.
This is the end of Part 1. Look out for the next parts as I dive further into the Deep South discovering Savannah and Charleston. Please note, I truly ate my way through the South so many restaurants, bars, and southern dishes, are to come along with some very pretty homes!