keitheats southern road trip

So, here we go in our Kia Sole named Kermit for a four day drive from Naples Florida to Charleston, SC. It’s a 10 hour drive if you’re crazy enough to do it in one day. But this is a meandering trip including great eating and many art museums. We leave Naples on Rt.75 north to St.Petersburg by way of Rt.275. It’s about a three hour trip.
We arrive at the Salvador Dali Museum and are instantly overwhelmed by its beauty both outside and inside.

We enter the building into a vast museum store filled with hundreds of interesting items. Realizing we are ready for something to eat after the drive we instantly see Cafe Gala and by pure luck there are two seats available at the counter.

We start talking to a local woman who is eating a cheese plate with a poached pear. It’s a piece of art and a shame to disturb its beauty by eating the food.
We take the elevator to the top floor to see the Frida Kahlo exhibit.

Last year we went to the museum of fine arts in Boston to see a Kahlo exhibit. Unfortunately there was only one painting.
Well, sorry Boston, Frida’s work filled four large rooms here.
As for Dali’s work, as much as I like his craftsmanship what was exhibited was his early work that was not remarkable.
The museum is a photographer’s dream.

We leave the museum, take a short walk around the beautiful gardens and then follow a path along the river to our car.
We stop along the way to St.Augustine continuing on Rt. 75 for Margaret to check the map looking for local roads.
We continue driving on Rt.75 until Ocala and merge onto Rt.301 to Gainesville where we take Rt.20 east to St.Augustine.
It’s a lovely town if you like very touristy things such as horse drawn carriages and Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth. But the town is loaded with many beautiful old Spanish style buildings. We stay overnight and the next morning we were off to Savannah, a two and a half hour drive.
We have spent some time in Savannah in the past and never were very thrilled by it. This time we were careful to find a hotel in the historic district, Springhill Suites which was surrounded by four museums. It was perfection.
We made a reservation at one of the oldest restaurants in Savannah, Belfords Seafood and Steak at the Savannah city market.
Completed in 1902 and designed by Hyman Witcover, the architect of Savannah’s gold-domed City Hall, the 2-story structure originally belonged to the Savannah Hebrew Congregation. Twenty-one years later, the Congregation sold the building to the Belford family to house its wholesale food company. The painted signs on the building’s west and north walls are remnants of this early business. Belford’s Savannah restaurant arrived in 1996

If you were to imagine the steakhouse of your dreams in an early hollywood movie this would be it watching Clark Gable sipping on a Bombay Sapphire martini straight up with olives.
I was tempted by the steak but I ordered the crab cakes which are renowned here. I was not disappointed. The second best I’ve ever had other than at the defunct boathouse restaurant in New York off of Lexington and 52nd.

The next morning we walk only a few blocks past one of many town squares to the Jepson museum. If I was overwhelmed by the Dali museum how could I possibly describe the Jepson designed by Moshe Safdie.

There were two outstanding exhibitions running. First a wonderful series of paintings by a black folk artist Cedric Smith.

In another room a most unusual exhibit by Nick Cave. No, not the Australian singer. Nick Cave from Chicago. There is no way to describe this artist except by showing his work.

After walking many miles past at least four more town squares we were ready for a short nap.
Well, what to do about dinner. You’re in the South. What else are you supposed to eat? Shrimp and Grits.
And where do you get the best shrimp and grits? Of course Vic’s on the river.
The only reservation available is basically the dreaded 5PM. We’re hungry. We have to suck it up. It’s worth it. We consider ourselves pretty knowledgeable shrimp and grits aficionados having tasted it in many venues in the South, especially Charleston. Vic’s was damn good. Very cheesy grits unlike The Glass Onion in Charleston. But love them both.

As we left Savannah we couldn’t resist breakfast at Back in the Day bakery and later Leopolds for ice cream.

Cheryl and Griffith Day are self-taught bakers who founded Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah, Georgia, in 2002. They are semi-finalists for this year’s James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Baker. And outstanding is not a strong enough description for their products.

Never have I eaten a blueberry muffin the likes of this one. I tried to take a nice photo of it but my hunger took over and I devoured the muffin.

We drove around Savannah for a couple of hours visiting the home of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and Johnny Mercer’s grave and then finally to Leopolds, the ice cream parlor of the Gods. The line was a block long but we had to persevere.
It was worth the wait for the best butter pecan cone loaded with Georgia pecans.
Leopold’s Ice Cream was founded in 1919 by three brothers from Greece. They learned the art of candy and dessert making from an uncle who had already settled in America. George, Peter and Basil Leopold perfected their secret formulas and created the now world famous Leopold’s Ice Cream.
The brothers opened their ice cream parlor on the corner of Gwinnett and Habersham streets in Savannah, where two streetcar lines intersected. Many a rider would jump off the streetcar and entreat the motorman to wait as they got a frozen delight!
Finally off to our last stop, Charleston, meet for a large family get together. Instead of boring Rt.95 we took Rt.17 a local road. We passed through Beufort SC a most beautiful historic town on Port Royal Island loaded with antebellum architecture. Beufort was the home of the great author Pat Conroy, the writer of The Great Santini.
We arrived in Charleston a couple of hours later and immediately took a nap at our hotel The Meeting Street Inn.

While lying in this bed I conjured up a vision of Rhett Butler having been thrown out of the mansion by Scarlett and awaiting a willing substitute to arrive.

We got up and took a small walk to the Gibbes Museum to see an exhibition of one of our favorite outsider artists, Jacob Lawrence. What an incredible display of his work filling many rooms.

After a few meals with our children, many grandchildren and a cousin we said no more food. That lasted for a day.
We had to go to Husk, the restaurant owned by Sean Brock, the famous James Beard award winning chef.

Our appetizer was a southern standard, pimento cheese on some sort of crispy thing. I wanted dozens of them.

Margaret had gone there last year with her high school friends. She said we had to have his burger. With a wall full of choices who would expect a burger at this fine restaurant.

After one bite the word etherial was the best description. We asked the waiter what was the secret ingredient that made this burger so delicious. Smoked bacon was all he would disclose.

We said our goodbyes to the family and didn’t look forward to the ten hour drive home. We vowed never to eat again or drive anywhere again more than an hour away.

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