It’s what Europeans would consider to be the classic US tone, along with the more aggressive, nasally New Yoik way of hailing a taxi cab. My Muvver has a story about American GIs giving her cocoa powder during WWII and whenever she recounts what they said, it’s in a Southern accent.
So getting to yomp across the Deep South on a road trip was terribly exciting for me. On the plus side I ate the oysters and key lime pie of my LIFE, saw some beautiful beaches and discovered magical, incomparable Savannah.
On the minus side I realised I don’t like iced tea and didn’t hear anyone say: “Well, I do declare!” But it worked out well overall.
And I mean white – this sand was the brightest I’ve ever seen anywhere in the world.
While in our Ocean Springs hotel, just one of those available through the excellent Country Inns and Suites chain, we were advised by the manager to visit the Half Shell Oyster House, a joint in Biloxi. This turned out to be a brilliant bit of advice, as they were the oysters of my LIFE.
This is the platter that Adventurous Kate and I fought ove… I mean, shared lovingly.
One of the most beautiful parts of this trip was one we visited at the very start, at the Oak Alley plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana. The main house, built in 1837 through slave labour, famously appears through the tunnel of oaks that you can see in this post’s top image and which were planted in the early 18th Century.
It is unclear who planted the oaks, and they were rooted in the earth long before a house was there to complete the picture, but they do so magnificently now. Here’s another look at them.
However, the beauty of the Deep South is always tainted by the horrors of slavery and it was reassuring to see that this plantation does face its horrible past head on and with dignity for those who suffered here.
This charming spot was built and its fields tended by slaves, humans who were dehumanised by – at best – uncaring owners and quite likely violent ones. A museum area reminds everyone of this and shows the names of those who worked here. Names are important, it points out, because they show that each of these individuals was a human being after all.
To further demonstrate the point, some of the chains and shackles used to restrict the slaves are on show. These were used to restrict a child when they were being transported to or from a plantation.
This item was inside the house, and caught my eye. It’s a courting candle, and when a young man wanted to spend time with a young lady from the household, her father would twirl the candle to a certain height.
When it burned down to the top level the courting period was over, so the higher Big Daddy wound the candle, the longer he wanted the two spending time together. And if he wasn’t particularly keen on the young man in question, the candle wouldn’t get wound up much at all.
Elsewhere on the trip we stopped off for a couple of hours on Jekyll Island, once the playground of the uber-rich of America. JP Morgan, Rockefeller, Pulitzer and their like were members of this exclusive club, the main house of which can be seen here.
It was at this spot that the first transcontinental phone call took place in North America, in 1915, organised by AT&T. Ironically my AT&T sim card didn’t have a signal on the island, but picked one up just as we drove off it.
Elsewhere on this little island are some lovely stretches of sand, and while leaving footprints in one of them Kate and I spotted a dolphin gambolling among the waves. This is actually the second time we’ve seen wild dolphins, having spotted some in the Bosphorus in Istanbul.
This one in Florida was much closer, and with my long lens I got a bit of a look at him. Or her, I was too polite to ask.
Elsewhere in Florida we found Seaside, a gorgeous if manufactured little town which looks idyllic, because it fairly is. There’s not a leaf out of place and its eerily perfect looks are perhaps the reasons why it was used for the Jim Carey film, The Truman Show.
Incidentally this blog post claims that TV executives are developing the film for a TV series. Wonder if they’ll return to Seaside for the filming, should it get off the ground?
And this is the key lime pie of my LIFE, available in one of the town’s many eateries. So many reasons to visit Seaside, and Kate and I later decided that one day we’d like to come back for a holiday, with a hired car, to stay and enjoy the beach and explore the areas nearby.
It was at this Very Important Moment in our lives that Kate and I decided we were Florida People.
There are many squares in a particular area, all within walking distance. These are a most splendid way of spending many an afternoon, because they’re covered in beauty, dripping with Spanish Moss, drizzled in sunlight and awash with history.
The history of Savannah is remarkable. Sadly a lot of it involves them fighting the British, marked by many monuments dedicated to heroes from the American War of Independence, who were eventually shot by the British (sorry about that, chaps).
There’s so many remarkable events to recount in this city, not least about witches and murders and ghost hauntings, but let me just give you this snippet.
This is Savannah’s Unitarian church, and was once where a certain John Pierpont Jr was organist and musical director in the 19th Century. Among his accomplishments was a composition (possibly before he came to this church) of a little tune you might have heard of, at least during certain times of the year. It’s called Jingle Bells.
This building is one of those in the film Forrest Gump from which a feather is seen to fall. That film was partly shot here.
A tour guide told us that there really did used to be a bench here, where there’s now just earth and a low wall, but then people used to turn up with trucks and power tools and try to nick it. So eventually the city authorities removed it, and it’s now at the Savannah History Museum.
Waitress: “The pizzas here are pretty big. You sure you want a large one?”
Me, confidently: “Oh we’re hungry, we’ll be OK with a large.”
This is what happened next (Adventurous Kate supplied for scale).
Finally on our trip, we had a sunny afternoon round Charlestown. It wasn’t quite as captivating as Savannah, but still quite charming.
Next time, a roundup of my journey up the east coast of America, which included a reunion with old friends, meeting new ones and realising a life-long dream to visit Rocky Balboa’s stomping ground in Philadelphia.