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Priceless Family Memories in Georgia’s Golden Isles

August 15, 2015 by · 4 Comments 

Imagine my surprise when I was informed that I’d won a St. Simons Getaway Contest: a package including four nights in a two-bedroom cottage on St. Simons Island compliments of the Golden Isles Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and Island Cottage Company, plus gift certificates from restaurants and activities. WOW!

The Golden Isles of Georgia

The Golden Isles of Georgia

Since I travel for my work, I don’t usually take a vacation. So, what would I do with this wonderful windfall?

I have four grown children and eight grandchildren, but needless to say, a group that size wouldn’t fit. In talking with them, my son Steve and his extended family decided to rent a house on St. Simons, concurrent with my cottage reservation. My youngest and single daughter, Laura, would share the cottage with me. So, plans were made for a multi-generational family vacation.

St. Simons Island

Stunning Avenue of Oaks, St. Simons Island, Georgia

Stunning Avenue of Oaks, St. Simons Island, Georgia

We all arrived in early June, some driving and some flying. St. Simons is the largest barrier island in the Golden Isles group, situated off the southern Georgia coast. The name comes from the warm reflection of the sun on lowland Spartina or marsh grass.

To get there, I drove about two hours before crossing the 480-foot tall Sidney Lanier Bridge and through the Lowcountry. Once on St. Simons, you pick up a peaceful, family-friendly vibe.

Much of the island is residential, the streets lined with stately old oaks dripping Spanish moss. One of the most beautiful spots, called the Avenue of Oaks, features a double row of huge trees planted in 1826. The island includes a few villages, a small airport, and lovely beaches.

Laura and I checked into the Piper Cottage, a small house full of big delights. We each had a bedroom, plus a living room, dining area, another den or lounge, two bathrooms, a full kitchen and outdoor patio. In addition, a small screened-in front porch and a fenced in yard.  What more could we want?

 

Piper Cottage

Piper Cottage

St. Simons Cottage

St. Simons Cottage

Michele Beveridge, the owner, came over and welcomed us. The Piper Cottage decor blends hues of blue and white in a casual, beachy style that’s totally laid-back and charming. Another bonus was high-speed WiFi. Yes — even when you’re on vacation.

 

 

 

 

The chosen week turned out to be one of the hottest weeks of the summer. Whew! The family over in Steve’s house awaken with the sun, so various adults would get out early and set up a tent for shade and the beach chairs. Sunscreen, sand toys, Boogie boards, snacks and cold water were trekked down along with the kids. Everyone splashed in the ocean, jumped the waves and built sand castles.

When the beach got too hot, we headed to the pool, an extra that came along with Steve’s big house rental. Soon, lunchtime called and the youngest needed naps.

 

Southern Soul BBQ

Southern Soul BBQ

Laura and I decided to use one of the gift certificates and headed off to Southern Soul BBQ for pulled pork sandwiches. This super casual restaurant, in an old gas station, has lip-smacking, tender and juicy BBQ. The meat is slow-cooked, and you choose a choice of sauces. Yummy!

Another afternoon, my son and I took the two oldest girls to the Lighthouse (four tickets were included in my package.) It stands near the village and the pier and is one of only five light towers in Georgia. The 104-foot brick structure dates back to 1872 but was overhauled in 1876. In 1953, it became fully automated.

St. Simons Lighthouse

St. Simons Lighthouse

We began by watching a terrific orientation video. Then, despite the heat, we climbed the cast iron spiral stairway with 129 steps to the top. The view of St. Simons Sound from up high is sublime.

The 1872 keeper’s dwelling is of Victorian design and restored to the period. Compared to others lighthouses I have visited, this house seemed quite grand and spacious. The girls and I enjoyed peeking into the children’s bedroom and guessing at the antique kitchen tools. The gift shop is one of the best with truly lovely items!!

Lighthouse Kitchen

Lighthouse Kitchen

Another afternoon, we visited the Maritime Center housed in the old Coast Guard Station (Tickets to the lighthouse also admit you to the Maritime Center). The station was used up until 1995 and later turned into a museum that includes some hands-on history activities and nature exhibits for children.

Jekyll Island

Jekyll Island, another of the Golden Isles, is a sleepy, secluded place of unspoiled beauty. You pay a $6 entry fee to cross the causeway. It supports the island’s natural and cultural resources.

Jekyll Island Club-

Jekyll Island Club-

Jekyll became the winter escape grounds for America’s richest during the Gilded Age. Legendary families like the Rockefellers, Morgans, and Pulitzers reveled in their luxurious “cottages.” Their homes around the Jekyll Island Club became known as the Millionaires’ Row.

One morning my family group skipped the beach and carpooled to nearby Jekyll to visit the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. This extraordinary facility functions like a top-of-the-line hospital except the patients aren’t humans; they are turtles.

The night before a giant sea turtle had been rescued and we saw him lying on the surgical table being debrided- removing barnacles that had grown on his shell. Blood was drawn and the turtle was taken to the Radiology lab for x-rays.

Sea Turtle on surgical table, Georgia Sea Turtle Center, Jekyll Island, GA

Sea Turtle on surgical table, Georgia Sea Turtle Center, Jekyll Island, GA

Treating an injured sea turtle

Treating an injured sea turtle

Results revealed a boat propeller wound sometime in the past. The resulting crack in his shell became infected. The turtle would receive antibiotics, and his shell would be mended with a laser.

GA Sea Turtle Center Tech administers medications

GA Sea Turtle Center Tech administers medications

Every rescued turtle at the center receives a name, so much nicer than calling one XJ257. Detailed medical records and all treatments are recorded. When a turtle is ready to be released back into the sea, a tracking device is attached so their movements can be monitored.

Sea Turtle in Rehab Tank

Sea Turtle in Rehab Tank

We watched a feeding demonstration with a young turtle in a glass tank placed at children’s eye level.

Inside the Georgia Sea Turtle Center

Inside the Georgia Sea Turtle Center

Earlier, the kids roamed about the museum playing with interactive displays, please touch exhibits and lots of videos. Afterward, we went out back to the Rehabilitation Pavilion, a room filled with tanks that look like small swimming pools. Adults and kids agree, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center ranks as a fun and worthwhile place to visit.

The family returned to Jekyll another day to beat the heat at Summer Waves Water Park. Although a water park seems out of character for this upscale maritime preserve, I give a thumbs up to the attraction. We had a blast slipping down a variety of water slides, hanging out on inner tubes in the lazy river and getting dunked with water in the splash zone. The little ones kept busy in the kiddie area. Summer Waves is clean and well attended by life guards.

Summer Waves Water Park

Summer Waves Water Park

Lastly, I took Laura over to Jekyll early one morning to let her experience Driftwood Beach, one of my favorite spots for photography. An array of petrified trees lying on their sides framed the beach, something like a tree graveyard. The place feels magical, a picturesque spot for wedding photos or family portraits. Every time I go I encounter different conditions: low tide, high tide, sunrise, wind and rain. Laura fell under its spell, too.

Driftwood Beach at Sunrise

Driftwood Beach at Sunrise Photo @ Debi Lander

Relaxation

With so many children and adults, it is easier and more relaxing to cook and dine at home. One night, I had the group to the cottage for a meal. However, dining out is always a treat, and we enjoyed a casual meal of burgers and fried fish at Brogen’s at the Pier. Fast service and reasonable prices.

 

We also couldn’t resist the Moo Cow ice cream shop. The employees were amazingly friendly and efficient. Hot days + cold ice cream = a perfect pair.

 

What We Missed

Walkway to Driftwood Beach

Walkway to Driftwood Beach

I am so sorry I missed a Tree Spirit scavenger hunt on St. Simons. In 1982, local sculptor Keith Jennings started carving faces on trees. He says the wood speaks to him, and he just has to let the tree’s soul out. There are 20 Tree Spirits on the island. Somehow I hadn’t heard about them, but guess I’ll just have to return another time.

Because the grandchildren are young, we didn’t include fishing, kayaking, dolphin tours, golf, guided nature walks and tennis, but they are certainly adventurous options. The Golden Isles provide a wealth of experiences for family vacations, getaway weekends or romantic escapes. Thank you Golden Isles for providing me with priceless family memories.

Fishing at the Pier on St. Simons Island

Fishing at the Pier on St. Simons Island

The Historic Gettysburg Hotel

October 30, 2013 by · Comments Off on The Historic Gettysburg Hotel 

A Hotel Review: Gettysburg Hotel

While visiting Pennsylvania,  my grandchildren and I stayed at the recently renovated Gettysburg Hotel.  Talk about a strategic location, this hotel is the epicenter of downtown and right in the middle of the action.  We could walk all to sites of interest, restaurants, tours or shops.  The only time a car is needed is if you choose to drive to distant battlefields and the National Military Park Headquarters.

The Gettysburg Hotel

The Gettysburg Hotel in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

The Gettysburg Hotel has a delightful new Tavern/restaurant where we ended up grabbing a quick bite before a ghost tour. The food was far above tavern quality, including a hand-made hamburger patty and delicious made from scratch soup. We sat at a high top table in the bar area and received prompt, friendly service.

 

Gettysburg-Hotel-Pancakes

Pancakes at One Lincoln restaurant in the Gettysburg Hotel

Breakfast the next morning at One Lincoln (within the hotel) was worthy of praise.The decor included wallpaper with graphic lettering from the Gettysburg Address and the ceiling is copper penny colored pressed-tin  My grandson’s order of pancakes could have fed a whole battalion. I chose Eggs Benedict and the poached eggs were done to perfection- still gooey in the middle but not undercooked.

 

Eggs Benedict at One Lincoln in the Gettysburg Hotel

Our rooms were airy and spacious, beautifully color coordinated with lots of light blue and grey, and a bathroom that allowed us to spread out. My room had a microwave and mini refrigerator, ideal for the traveler. I appreciated the complimentary high-speed Internet service in my room and throughout the hotel

 

 

 

 

 

The history of this hotel is fascinating; it was established in 1797 as the Scott Tavern. In 1809, William McClellan purchased the inn and changed the name to Indian Queen.

 

During the Civil War, the Tenth New York Calvary wintered in Gettysburg and the Quartermaster took a room at the hotel which he used for the transaction of business. After the battle, the hotel parlors were turned over to the Sisters of Charity who  nursed the wounded soldiers.

 

As the town prepared for the dedication of the Soldier’s National Cemetery  in November 18, 1863, every hotel was filled to capacity. The Gettysburg Hotel was so full that people had to sleep in the lobbies and the bar. President Lincoln stayed in the David Wills House directly across the street from the hotel.

One of the stylish lobbies in the Gettysburg Hotel

Today the Gettysburg Hotel is owned by Gettysburg College and operated by the Waterford Hotel Group.  The facility is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a member of the Historic Hotels of America. I highly recommend this hotel for fine lodging in the town of Gettysburg. More information at: www.hotelgettysburg.com

 

Disclosure:  Thanks to the  Gettysburg Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Gettysburg Hotel for my visit.

Visit the David Wills House while in Gettysburg

October 15, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

Taking Grandchildren to Gettysburg

A visit to Gettysburg tugs on your heart, bewilders the mind and saddens the soul. Yet, it brings forth honor and hope and perhaps, even a sense of peace. At least it did for me.

Canon_

Taking the grandkids to Gettysburg

I took my two oldest grandchildren, ages 9 and 11, the day after we visited Chocolate World in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Nine-year-old Kyra put it astutely, “Mimi, these two places are polar opposites.”  Yes, they are. Hershey was delicious fun, play time and laughter. Gettysburg was a solemn history lesson.

What does the chasing of history achieve? Does it matter where events took place and whether or not we can understand them?

Gettysburg National Military Park

Gettysburg National Military Park

Our first stop was the Gettysburg Military Park Headquarters and Visitors Center where we watched a movie narrated by  Morgan Freeman. The film explained the overwhelming loss of life that happened in this small town 150 years ago, some 57,225 causalities (dead, wounded, captured or missing) from both sides during the three-day campaign. The movie also described how the Union victory helped end the Civil War and bring forth the Emancipation Proclamation.

Detail in one section of the Gettysburg Cyclorama

Detail in one section of the Gettysburg Cyclorama

After the film, we climbed stairs to view the historic and restored Cyclorama, the largest painting in the US.  French artist Paul Philippoteaux and his team painted the 377 foot long (now 359)  by 42 feet high work in 1883, 30 years after the battle.  The 360-degree cylindrical painting depicts  Pickett’s Charge, the climactic Confederate attack on the Union forces during the Battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863.

Children watch the sound and light show.

Children watch the sound and light show.

This type of presentation, popular at the turn-of- the-century, was intended to immerse viewers in the scene with the addition of foreground models and life-sized replicas to enhance the illusion. The grandkids and I were fascinated by the sound and light show effects on articles, like canon, and how they created a realistic intensity to the work of art. (Tip: we visited near the end of the day and practically had the space to ourselves.)

 

David Wills House

David Wills House

But, it was our visit to the David Wills House the next morning that brought the story of Gettysburg together. The old brick home in the center of town was filled with  wounded and dying soldiers after the battle. Leading citizens met there to make plans for proper burials. Wills, an attorney, acquired land for the National Cemetery and sent President Lincoln an invitation by telegram. This led to his coming to Gettysburg and giving the most famous speech in American history.

Lincoln spent the night before the dedication in the Wills House revising his intended remarks. His short speech the next day surprised many, but his words – known as the Gettysburg Address – are long remembered.

Lincoln Bedroom in Gettysburg

Lincoln Bedroom in Gettysburg

While touring the upstairs of the Wills House, including the bedroom as it was during Lincoln’s stay, we saw another film. This one clearly revealed how the freedoms won by the Emancipation Proclamation were not truly fulfilled. The production showed the rise of the Klux Klux Klan and how segregation became a way of life in the South.

The presentation also included footage of Martin Luther King giving his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which had days before celebrated a 50th anniversary and was, therefore, familiar in my grandchildren’s minds. The movie ends with LBJ signing the Civil Rights Bill and more current American scenes.

Cleary, even now, not all men are treated equally; discrimination still occurs and struggles continue.  But, I left the Wills House with a feeling of deeper compassion and hopeful expectation. I think my grandchildren did, too. They are our future and taking them to a place like this is worthwhile. History has meaning, when we try to understand, but that’s not to say fun is frivolous.  On the contrary, both are necessary.

Visitor Center Gift Shop

Visitor Center Gift Shop

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150th Commemoration

Every November 19th, Gettysburg commemorates the cemetery dedication and the delivery of the Gettysburg Address on Dedication Day. This year will mark the 150th commemoration.

Dedication Day will be held at Soldiers’ National Cemetery and will include a Wreath Laying Ceremony at 10 a.m., followed by a formal ceremony. Speaking will be Pulitzer Prize-winning author and noted American Civil War historian James McPherson. The formal ceremony will feature candidates taking the United States Oath of Citizenship and a $5,000 scholarship will be awarded to a Pennsylvania student as part of the “In Lincoln’s Footsteps” speech competition. Music will be provided by the U.S. Marine Corps Band and nationally renowned Lincoln portrayer James Getty will deliver a recitation of the Gettysburg Address.

Coinciding with Dedication Day and the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address is Remembrance Day, to be held this year on Saturday, Nov. 23. Gettysburg residents and visitors annually commemorate the sacrifices made during and after the battle.

Remembrance Day will begin with a Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Service at the Woolson Monument in Zeigler’s Grove in the Gettysburg National Military Park at 11 a.m. The service will be followed by the 57th Annual Remembrance Day Parade, which will step off downtown at 1 p.m. in remembrance of the soldiers who served during the Civil War.

The 11th Annual Remembrance Illumination will take place on Nov. 23 at Soldiers’ National Cemetery from 5:30-9:30 p.m. Luminary candles will be lit on the graves of each of the Civil War soldiers to commemorate the sacrifices made at Gettysburg.

For more information on Dedication Day and Remembrance Day events, visit www.gettysburgcivilwar150.com.

Battlefield Memorials in Gettysburg

Battlefield Memorials in Gettysburg

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