“Mama always said "Life was like a box of chocolates,
you never know what you're gonna get."
Forest Gump (Tom Hanks)
State 31: Georgia February 17, 2018
Occasionally our cross country trip requires us to briefly cross over to adjacent states we are not yet scheduled to visit, or have already visited, to see points of interest not included in our path through a specific state. Since our path through Georgia will not take us through the Southeastern part of the state, we briefly crossed into Georgia while on route to South Carolina.
We woke up at a Walmart in Jacksonville, Florida having had a restful night sleep. Today we drive North to enter the 31st state on our cross country journey to discover America and find a new state to call home; Georgia: "Georgia on my mind". Wow! What a great state motto! Georgia could have had a slogan about peaches, pecans, or vidalia onions all of which are grown in abundance and already well known. Instead, Georgia chose an insightful and haunting motto, which essentially says, “Once you experience Georgia, it is a place you will never forget”. The state’s motto, “Georgia on my mind” may sound familiar, since it is also the title of the official state song written by native Georgian, Ray Charles. Will our experiences in Georgia long linger in the minds of the Cross Country Couple enough to call the state our new home? We cannot wait to begin our week long exploration of Georgia!
The first task of the day is a 37 mile drive North to St. Marys to visit the National Park depicted on the reverse of the Georgia state quarter; “Cumberland Island”. At 17.5 miles long, 56.25 square miles, and home to over 9,800 acres of congressionally protected wilderness area, Cumberland Island is the largest of the Barrier Sea Islands of the Southeastern US. Native Americans, enslaved Africans Americans, wealthy industrialists, and even JFK Jr. once walked the islands shores. Today, people venture to Cumberland Island to experience pristine forests, undeveloped beaches, wild armadillos, roving packs of feral horses running wild and free, and to experience the solitude and serenity of the island's undisturbed existence. Cumberland Island is inherently remote with no stores, no potable water, no utilities, no services, and the National Park Service limits the number of visitors to 300 per day to ensure Cumberland Island stays that way. There is no bridge to Cumberland Island, and the only way to access the island is via a ferry from the town of St. Marys.
The unpredictable nature of our cross country journey does not permit us the luxury of planning were we will be in advance. Most days we don’t even know where we will be sleeping that night. The evening prior to our arrival at St. Marys, we logged into the ferry’s website to reserve our tickets, and learned they were sold out for the next two days. Major dissapointment!!! Nevertheless, we decided to stop by the ferry ticket office in St. Marys hoping for a last minute cancellation! No such luck! So we stood by the dock watching the ferry depart without us on it! Not only were the reviews for Cumberland Island phenomenal, armadillos are adorable, and I would have loved to have seen the feral horses. As you can see from the picture below, we were so depressed about missing out on Georgia's National Park!
After departing St. Marys, we drove 113 miles Northeast up Georgia’s shoreline enroute to the state’s oldest city of Savannah. Each year, an average of 13.5 million visitors venture to Savannah to experience the cities' cobblestone streets, 22 park squares, historical buildings, southern charm, and a downtown which has largely remained the same as when the city was founded in 1733. Savannah's downtown area is one of the largest National Historic Landmarks in the US, and Travel + Leisure consistently names Savannah as one of "America's Favorite Cities". If you have ever visited Savannah you already know why the city is loved by millions both in America and throughout the world. If you have never visited Savannah, do yourself a favor and add it to your bucket list. Go ahead and add it now! I’ll wait until you come back!
While there is much to love about Savannah, there is one very unique aspect of the city I would like to highlight called the Squares of Savannah. For all intents and purposes, it is best to think of a square as the size of a city block. When Savannah was designed in 1733, it was constructed around four open squares each serving as a park. Surrounding each open square were 8 city blocks. Four of the surrounding blocks were residential, and the other 4 blocks were commercial. The square and the surrounding 8 blocks are collectively called a “ward”. The purpose of the design was to maintain a natural, residential and commercial balance within the city. As Savannah grew, additional wards were constructed, and by 1851 Savannah contained 24 squares. During the 20th century, three of the squares were demolished and developed, but in 2010, one of the lost squares were restored bringing the total square count to 22! Got all that? Lol!! I included the picture above, which hopefully makes my confusing explanation more understandable.
The landscaping of the squares was unlike anything I had previously seen. Each square was its own unique little patch of the world offering a reprieve from the concrete and commotion of the city. Savannah's squares are named in honor of people, places, historical events, and contain monuments, markers, memorials, statues, and plaques. The most famous of the 22 squares is Chippewa Square, which is where most of the park bench scenes of the Academy Award winning movie “Forest Gump” were filmed. The Savannah History Museum has the exact park bench from the movie on display, but I was not about to pay $8.00 per person to see a bench! I wished I had time to visit all 22 squares, because the ones we visited were so amazing. Please see the pictures below of the squares we were able to visit.
I was so enamored with Savannah, I almost forgot to share the reason we came to the city in the first place! The Cross Country Couple had come to partake in the famous food for Georgia, and dessert is on the menu! Since Georgia is well known for peaches and pecans, the Cross Country Couple's Famous Food for Georgia is a 2 for 1 special; Peach Cobbler, and Pecan Pie. I found it impossible to choose between these two delectable desserts, and figured why not partake in both?
The first famous food on the agenda was pecan pie from a bakery called Pie Society LOL!!! (play on words of high society). The google reviews revealed their pie was as sweet as a Georgia peach, but the reviews of their customer service revealed they seriously lacked in Southern hospitality. However, I could tolerate poor service if it meant tasting the best pecan pie Georgia had to offer. I called ahead to ensure their pecan pie was available by the slice, and the woman I spoke with stated they don’t reveal their pie selection over the phone. OK… I then asked if they would make a pecan pie for us, and to which the lady replied, “We don’t take special orders.” They really are high society with their pies, aren't they? Perhaps, I was profiled and deemed not worthy for one of their pies. Mind you, if the reviews were not as good as they were, I most certainly would have gone elsewhere. Ok… I guess I would just have to stop in and hope for the best! After finding a place to park Rosie, we made our way to Pie Society in search of a slice of pecan pie, and there was none in stock. The lady behind the counter said they were not making any more pecan pie today, and did not know if more would be made tomorrow. I was having flashbacks to the Seinfeld episode about the Soup Nazi! NO PIE FOR YOU!!!
I departed Pie Society pecan pieless, and was in desperate need of a suitable replacement. Google to the rescue! Soon thereafter, I read a review about a newlywed couple who had honeymooned in Savannah 10 years prior. While visiting the city, the newlyweds shared the most delicious slice of pecan pie either had eaten at a restaurant called River House Seafood. To celebrate their 10-year wedding anniversary, they returned to same Savannah restaurant for another slice of pecan pie, and it was just as delectable as the decade prior. Although this time around, each got their own slice as the pie was so good they did not wish to share. WOW! What a story! This must be damn good pecan pie! We walked 4 blocks across downtown, descended a very old and very steep curved cobblestone stairway, and set along Savannah’s historic riverbank, we found River House Seafood. Locally owned and operated since 1982, River House Seafood is housed in an 18th century restored cotton warehouse situated on the banks of a river with cargo and river boats periodically rolling by. Please see the pictures below.
River House Seafood certainly had all the appearance of a fine dining experience, which was reflective in the price of $8.00 per slice of pie. Shortly after placing our order, our server presented the most beautiful slices of pie I had ever had the pleasure of beholding. I grabbed my fork, pierced the encrusted pecan topping granting access to the pies gooey center. I closed my eyes and brought the first bite to my mouth! As soon as the pie touched my palate, my eyes rolled back, and felt a shiver permeate throughout my entire body. I am pretty certain I just publicly had a foodgasm! I do not even like pecan pie as it is typically far too sweet for my liking! However, every aspect of this pie was perfection. The pecan encrusted topping of the pie featured the freshest, most tender, and flavorful pecans I have ever tasted. The interior of the pie contained the most magnificent caramel filling which possessed just enough sweetness as not to overpower the flavor of the pecans. Then there was the crust! Oh the glorious crust! Fresh, flavorful, flaky and evidently homemade by someone who clearly knew what the hell they were doing! The River House Seafood Pecan Pie was not just a dessert; it was a mind blowing experience! Please see the pictures below of a slice of pie I will remember for the rest of my life!
We still had one more famous food to go! We walked 8 blocks back across Savannah to Crystal Beer Parlor to partake in our next Georgian delicacy: Peach Cobbler! Opened as an eatery in 1933, Crystal Beer Parlor has the coveted distinction of being Savannah’s 2nd oldest restaurant. From the outside, The Crystal Beer Parlor lacked curb appeal, and appeared to be a tad divey. I actually double checked the address to make sure I was at the right place and sure enough I was! The menu posted outside of the entrance stated, “Best in the State Gawgia Peach Cobbler Served Hot with Vanilla Ice Cream”, and that sounded just peachy keen to me! We entered the front door, and were shocked by what we saw! Compared to the exterior, the restaurant’s interior was deceptively humongous, and filled to capacity with a 45-minute wait for a table. Mind you, we were dining in between lunch and dinner! Fortunately, we were able to bypass the long lines by finding two stools along a packed 40-foot-long bar! I proceeded to place my order with the bartender for two of their “Gawgia Peach Cobblers”. In the Southern states, a cobbler is a pie typically consisting of fruit filling and both a top and bottom crumb crust. If you order cobbler in the deep South, it comes topped with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream. Fresh sweet juicy peaches! Crumbly crumb topping! Rich and creamy vanilla ice cream! No wonder Georgia is constantly ranked as the best place in the US to partake in peach cobbler, and that is exactly what I was about to do! I am so excited I can barely contain myself.
After a 30-minute wait, the bartender returned to present us with our “Gawgia peach cobblers”. If the sweet aroma given off by this dessert was any indication of its flavor, well then I was about to have another “experience”. The cobbler was served in a shallow metal baking dish.The top of the dessert featured a crispy crumb layer topped with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream with a sprig of fresh mint lovingly placed at the desserts apex! OH BABY! I immediately grabbed my fork, bypassed the ice-cream for the moment, and went straight for the cobbler. Buried beneath the crumb topping I discovered a multitude of warm fresh tender peaches lovingly suspended within a compote. As I pulled the first spoonful of warm peach cobbler to my mouth, I swiped the peachy goodness alongside of the ice cream before taking my first bite. The warmth of the perfectly constructed cobbler contrasting with the coldness of the ice cream was…well… wow! Wow!! and WOW!!! In the words of Forest Gump, “That is all I have to say about that”.
Please see additional pictures below of our visit to Savannah.
After departing the Crystal Beer House, we found a Walmart in Savannah, and after our sugar high wore off, we had a restful night sleep.