Ever since we left Savannah for milder summer weather and higher pay, we make an annual pilgrimage to our lovely southern home around Saint Patrick’s day, when thousands of pseudo-Irish revelers flock in with a major warrant for drinking and entertainment. This year we decided to extend the reaches of our always-too-short getaway time by also covering the rest of Georgia and South Carolina. Unfortunately, the South-Carolina segment of our trip was cut short due to the bad weather, but more about that later. This post is going to be only about the Peach State, to be followed up by another one exclusively about Savannah.
Saint Simons Island
Despite leaving Savannah out of this post, I will note that it was our base for exploration of ocean-side Georgia for several days, and this is what I want to start with. During that time we visited Saint Simons and Jekyll islands (and also a few places in South Carolina, which are not a part of this story); both are popular beach resorts. There was nothing special at Saint Simons Island, but we did not mind checking it out anyhow. And to reward our curiosity, the very first stop, the Morningstar Marina, turned out to be plain sweet. Perhaps, it was not the sailing season yet, for there was hardly anyone on the docks that quiet morning. Except for the waterfront fauna, that is. The next destination was Fort Frederica, which was, quite frankly, not much to look at. While possibly a ball to roam about to some Civil War buffs, to me the deserted barracks and other military quarters was merely a photographic challenge. Even if disappointed in architectural splendor of Civil War relics, one can always glare satisfactorily at clusters of Spanish moss and occasional orange trees masquerading as ordinary deciduous plants. Next we continued to the lighthouse by the Neptune park, in a lively downtown-like section of the island. Having gone through a few rows of artisans’ stands in a search of a pretty souvenir—without luck—we proceeded to the next of the Golden Isles, Jekyll Island.
The dozens of recumbent withered trees lying around the Driftwood Beach must be the signature view of Jekyll Island. They have been here for decades, and probably will be for many more, without ever changing their looks. The place films so well that it is very often chosen to host wedding ceremonies. However, it is not the only spot on the island that is featured in southern newlyweds’ albums. There is also the Horton House ruins, wealthy-men cottages, and Jekyll Island Club’s properties that all make for a good picture on a clear sunny day. There are, of course, many, many more fine islands scattered across the coastline of Georgia, but we concluded that, given our usual time constraints, we had seen enough to qualify for a brief survey.
When talking about Georgia, Macon always comes up as sort of an important place, though I fail to understand why. Yes, it once was the state’s capital; yes, it sits right in the middle; and yes, it was once a Confederates’ sinecure; but that is hardly enough to attract tourists these days. In all fairness, though, there is the Hay House, the Allman Brothers Museum (and a few other things pertinent to the band), the Rose Hill Cemetery, and a few agreeable mansions. But I doubt we missed out on anything else worth seeing. So, we headed on north.
After a lengthy packing procedure the following morning, we returned back to Atlanta and found ourselves totally underdressed for the weather. Darn, who would know to expect a low-forty temperature in Hotlanta in the middle of March?! We stopped briefly on the way to our first destination of the day, the Atlanta Museum of Design and Art, to enjoy some pretty-looking street art and buildings and proceeded inside the museum to warm up. The exhibition was timed to some competitive artistic venue, where each decorator is given a room to create a unique visual experience. As you may see, most of the exhibits were absolutely bizarre. Every visitor could cast a vote to support up to three favorite artists. Among my three, I favored a hard-rock display that played (literally) on my musical partialities; and a psychedelically convincing piece in the mood of Clockwork Orange decor (which was eventually announced the winner). Since we had a late start, by the time we left the museum, the sun had radiated enough heat for us to consider a stroll in the Piedmont Park a viable idea. Probably owing to the cold weather, as well as the entrance fee (in a public park, really?), the whole area was practically empty that morning, and Piedmont Park is not a small place.
Despite the charge, or, perhaps, because of it, the park turned out to be an ideal family place. Since we did not have much else to do in Atlanta that day, we let our little rogue ride his bike for a while and hang at the playground to his heart’s content.
Our next, and final stop for the day was at Virginia Highlands, a very unique artistic part of town. Firstly, we grabbed a quick cup of coffee at Alon’s bakery, which is said to be one of the finest bakeries around.
Next, we roamed around, sighting attractive views and unusual buildings.
Finally, as we were leaving the area to meet up with our friends—and coincidentally our hosts for the night—we gazed around at the quality graffiti and other wall art.
Although this is as much of Atlanta as we managed to see during the last trip, I would like to take a chronological interlude and include pictures taken at the Stone Mountain Park during our previous visits.
Stone Mountain Park is located in the eponymous suburb of Atlanta, and is famous for the huge monolithic piece of rock (named… you guessed it!) with the world’s largest carving, beautiful river-front scenery, and colonial architecture.
Now, I have been to, and up, the Stone Mountain four times, but I only took pictures on two of those occasions. Out of those two, the last one was in winter, and the mountain was submerged in a thick vault of fog, so only the things in close proximity could be caught on camera. While the little shop village at the foot of the mountain was quite discernible
the things up top started to get blurry a few tens of feet away, and the whole surrounding resembled some extra-terrestrial landscape.
Since it was the only time my wife was “conquering” the mountain, she obviously did not get to see the famous bas-relief of the Confederate leaders. But she did enjoy the climb and the peculiar artifacts scattered along the main trail.
As for the park beside the mountain, in my opinion, it looked even more gorgeous wrapped up in that dense fog.
On a sunny day, though, as it happened to be during my first visit, the slope of the mountain would look something like this:
Sure enough, the visibility is hundreds or thousands times greater without all that milk in the air.
And, obviously, one can see the three men carved tens of feet deep on the side of the rock, and the rifle holster of a questionable shape on one of them.
In all honesty, though, I think that the Stone Mountain Park is one of the best recreational areas to visit in the entire country.
But it is time to restore the order of events and finish the story that started this post.
Athens was the last town in Georgia that we visited. Firstly, we headed for the Botanical Garden of Georgia, for it was free, and keeping our budget to a minimum is one of our main concerns. Besides, the Garden seemed to be well-recognized, and there was not much else planned for Athens.
The Garden’s area covers a decent size and is broken into several pavilions and outdoor beds. The prettiest species all grow indoors.
Although we had selected a few look-see candidates for our prompt acquaintance with the town, none of them turned out well on the picture, owing mostly to the downcast appearance and depressingly gray sky that day. So, the most creative offering (and the only worthy thing to blog about) we could find in Athens is the “We Let the Dawgs Out” sculpture series—a tribute to the local football team and one of the most annoying songs in history.
Although we merely drove by downtown Athens, we did not notice anything beyond a few neat buildings and advertising art.
Minutes later we were crossing the South Carolina borderline, about to start the exploration of a new state. But that is a story for another post.
Here is the map for the Georgia portion of our trip: