Weather – steamy, 91FWind E 5mph
Continuing on the Coastal Highway we head north along the Georgia coast weaving around the vast salt marshes that nurture a multitude of wildlife. We are heading for the Golden Isles, across the marsh to Georgia’s barrier islands. This has been the winter retreat for wealthy northerners since the 1800’s. Several old resorts mix with the new and still draw a crowd. We pull in to the Jekyll Island Club for a look. This once exclusive club welcomed the big wigs of the day. The roster included Vanderbilt, Pulitzer, J.P. Morgan, and Marshall Field in the original 53 members/investors. The sprawling property also has “cottages” built for the members who needed more space.
The next island is Saint Simon’s Island, flanked by the smaller Little Saint Simons and Sea Island. Frankly it’s sometimes hard to tell where one island ends and another begins. The complicated history of this area includes Native American inhabitants who were “civilized” by Spanish missionaries, battles between the French, Spanish and British, lucrative plantations worked by thousands of African slaves, and German U-boat attacks off the island’s coast. Today this is primarily a resort area.
Our destination is the Cloister on Sea Island. The original hotel, built in 1928, has since been replaced by a huge, five star and completely over the top hotel. As we pull in we are stopped at a gate – this is still a private island. We proceed toward the hotel and are intercepted by a gentleman in a golf cart who escorts us to our reserved parking space. Everyone already knows our name, humm, what else do they know? Our room is gargantuan and the bathroom could sleep 8. The view overlooks the Black river and salt marsh. Birds sing, an Olive tree outside the window dangles its wares and every blade of grass is manicured better than the Queen’s nails. This is a coat and tie only after 6 venue. The ladies sport gold stilettos and designer dresses. We rummage through our bags to come up with something that might pass inspection. After wandering the maze of passageways trying not to sweat and ruin our “look” we find the bar. The upper crust still exists and gathers here in groups that span 3 generations. The food was excellent, the service unbelievable, and the staff couldn’t be nicer. After dinner we hear it’s bingo night. We locate the ballroom and glance through the door. It was like going back in time – everyone, including toddlers had to wear coat and tie to be allowed to play bingo! We settled for an evening stroll. Activities for tomorrow could include hitting the beach, spa or island cruise.
We cruise and come across another fort. Fort Fredrica was the British military headquarters in the 1700’s. This is where the soldiers came from when they attacked Fort Mose in St Augustine (previous blog). The connections continue on our DNA X adventure.
We drive north heading for Wilmington NC. , a place we have not been before. Jay has made a reservation at a “luxury” inn. Usually we research a location before descending upon it. As the resident travel agent I was glad to take a break from my duties but as we pull in to the city it is clear things are not as advertised. We check the GPS and confirm we are near to the inn, but the neighborhood looks more like a war zone. The inn’s website sported a horse-drawn carriage, gaslights and romantic ambiance. We pull up and we see what looks like the House on Haunted Hill. There is no parking – on the street if you dare, no carriage, the horse probably ran away. We quickly scan Trip Advisor, something I do in advance especially with these “inns”. Previous guests complain of being locked out at night (not advisable in this neighborhood) cranky innkeepers who don’t allow you to touch anything – I guess you have to sleep levitated above the bed – No wine in the room – you’d need plenty of it to pass out in this place. I call to cancel the reservation, no one answers, how convenient. We scramble to find a hotel for the night. The “inn keeper”, who sounded like Lurch on the Adam’s Family, calls eventually to inform us we get no refund and no sympathy. That was a 600$ plus mistake I recommend you don’t make. See if you can find the haunted inn but don’t stay there – the skeletons in the closet will keep you up at night.