#92: Andalusia

Yesterday, the Traveling Literati (Harvin, Ticcoa, and I) along with Michele and Stephen took a trip down to Milledgeville, GA, to visit Andalusia, the farm where Flannery O’Connor lived as an adult. All of her works were published while she lived on this farm with her mother Regina.

It’s about a three and a half hour journey to Milledgeville from Greer, so we were on the road by 7:30. We arrived at the farm a little before 11. What a beautiful place it is! The house is a two-story, white house with a red roof and a huge screened-in porch with rocking chairs, Southern and inviting (of course!).

Because Flannery had lupus and was unable to navigate stairs well, the front parlor was made into her bedroom. Inside, you can see the bed where she slept and some other original furnishings. There’s a desk and typewriter placed where they would have been when she lived there; however, because those original pieces were donated to the college in Milledgeville in the 80s, the desk and typewriter at Andalusia are period pieces and not Flannery’s.

The best part about Andalusia is the grounds. The house sits on over 500 acres of land still (though we didn’t see all of that, obviously!). There’s a pond at the bottom of the hill, and we walked around it, pointing out all the fish inside. We also looked at the outbuildings still there–a storing shed for milk from when Andalusia was a dairy farm in the 50s; an old house where a family named the Hills lived (which is falling apart–the foundation will soon be raising money to rescue the building from collapse); and various other farm-related buildings. Also, because Flannery is known for having raised peafowl when she lived there, the farm has recently build an aviary and acquired three birds: two females and a glorious peacock.

After leaving the farm, we headed into Milledgeville, stopped for lunch, and then drove to the cemetery where Flannery is buried. We found her grave rather quickly (much faster than when we explored for Thomas Wolfe’s grave in Asheville!), and then wandered around the cemetery. I love old, Southern cemeteries. This one had lots of trees, of course, as well as old gravestones of Civil War soldiers, and a meditation garden, with shrubs arranged in a six-pointed star (Jewish folk, perhaps?).

After leaving the cemetery, we headed downtown to find Sacred Heart Catholic Church, where Flannery attended. We first stopped at the visitors’ center, then walked down to the church. We found several antique shops and a comic book store on the way back, which we stopped in, and we also admired the lovely antebellum architecture. Milledgeville was once the capital of Georgia, before the capital was moved to Atlanta, and the town is quite proud of its history, naturally.

We finally dragged ourselves away from the awesomeness of Milledgeville around 3, in order to drive the 20 miles back to Eatonton, which is the birthplace of both Joel Chandler Harris and Alice Walker. One of the most visited places in Eatonton is the Uncle Remus Museum, which is composed of three old slave cabins. The tour guide who was working was named Georgia Smith, and she was as wonderful as Miss Nannie was at The Wren’s Nest. She told us the story of Joel Chandler Harris, writer of the Uncle Remus tales, and she gave us a lot of history of Putnam County, as well. For example, Putnam was the wealthiest county in Georgia pre-Civil War, but when Sherman marched through and burned all the cotton fields, all the wealth was lost seemingly overnight. No one even grows cotton there anymore because, as Miss Georgia told us, all the farmers are scared after the blight of the boll weevil. Understandable.

The museum also has a lot of history on the Turner family, who owned the plantation where J.C. Harris got his first job writing for a newspaper published by the plantation. At Turnwold, the teenaged J.C. Harris met the slaves who would tell him the critter tales that would later become the stories of Brer Rabbit and the rest of the gang.

The best part about yesterday is that it ended up being a continuation of previous trips. Last March, we visited The Wren’s Nest, which is still one of the best experiences we’ve had at a house-museum. The Wren’s Nest is the home where Joel Chandler Harris visited in Atlanta, so visited the Uncle Remus Museum was almost like getting the prequel to the story. And in January, we visited the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home in Savannah. Also, as Flannery’s birthday was just this past Thursday, it was the perfect time to visit!

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#57: Flannery O’Connor & #59: Climb the Tybee Lighthouse

Two goals accomplished in one day! Yay!

Yesterday, Harvin, Ticcoa, Jessie, and I headed to Savannah for the day. Our first stop was the information center and Savannah History Museum. The Museum was just okay. It contained a lot of info about Savannah’s involvement in wars and stuff (and frequent mentions of Casimir Pulaski, for whom Fort Pulaski is named–I visited the fort in March 2008, and it’s my favorite fort, if one can have such a thing). Anyway, the best part about the museum was that the bench from Forsyth Square, where Tom Hanks sat when filming Forrest Gump in Savannah, is on display.

Next we had lunch at the Whistle-Stop Cafe, which is adjacent to the info center and museum, and is housed in an old train passenger car. Of course, I ordered fried green tomatoes (which are the best I’ve ever had–they came with a raspberry-jalepeno sauce–yum!). All the food was magnificent. I ordered smothered chicken, collards, and fries; Jessie ordered citrus BBQ chicken; and Ticcoa and Harvin had pulled pork. We ate until we were stuffed and then finished because we couldn’t bear to leave food on our plates. And our waitress was named Xeular (pronounced ex-ler). She was delightful. After lunch, we set off on our real adventure of the day:

#57: Visit the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home in Savannah

As a girl, O’Connor lived with her parents in downtown Savannah, in a beautiful neighborhood. The house has been restored thanks to the generosity of Jerry & Linda Bruckheimer (yes, the movie guy!). We arrived at the house in time to join the 1:30 tour with a wonderful tour guide named Toby.

The house itself is a long, narrow house, full of some original furniture from the O’Connors (as well as some donated by family friends). Our docent Toby is quite a fan of Flannery, which was wonderful. The best house-museum tours occur when the guides are fans of the work and are completely immersed in the author’s life. When Toby mentioned “Mary Flannery,” it seemed as though he were recounting his own memories of her. Anyway, we saw the parlor of the house, as well as Flannery’s and her parents’ bedrooms. Also, dedicated in Oct. 2007, the Bruckheimer Library contains some first editions of Flannery’s works, as well as some of her own personal books.

The only other people on the tour besides the four of us were a couple from Ohio, who left right after the tour was over. We, of course, stuck around to buy merchandise, and we continued to talk to Toby. He asked if we were teachers (I had commented earlier that I was glad the precocious Flannery wasn’t one of my students), and we talked about being English majors and visiting literary sites. He asked if we’d ever seen Flannery’s drawing. We didn’t even know she was an artist, as well, so he walked back into the library, pulled out one of her old yearbooks, and showed us the drawings she had done while in college. It pays to be curious and passionate. We frequently get extra-long tours and behind-the-scenes info when we stick around asking questions. πŸ™‚

Because someone else on the tour has asked if Toby was the one who lived on the third floor, we also asked him about how he wound up in Savannah. He’d been living and writing in Louisiana when Hurricane Katrina hit and he lost everything. He then moved to Atlanta, with minimal belongings, to stay with a friend, but wasn’t happy there. He felt compelled to visit Savannah at Thanksgiving of 2005, discovered Flannery’s house, remembered reading “A Good Man is Hard to Find” and loving it, and saw a sign in the window that said “For Rent.” He soon moved into the third floor of the house, above the museum, and has lived and worked there ever since.

The Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home now ranks as one of my favorite tours (up there with The Wren’s Nest in Atlanta and The Old Manse and the Wayside in Concord, MA). If you’re ever near Savannah, GO! Also, if you want to take me with you again, that’d be okay, too.

#59: Go back to Tybee and climb the lighthouse

After the tour, we left Savannah and drove the 13 miles or so to Tybee Island. In March 2008, I went to Fort Pulaski and Tybee Island by myself, but I didn’t climb the lighthouse when I was there. Because the line was so long, and because I was newly diabetic and alone and worried about what climbing 178 steps would do to my blood sugar, I merely toured the grounds on that visit. Yesterday, I finally climbed the lighthouse.

It was kinda stupid to pick January 2 as the day to climb the lighthouse. When you’re standing 154 feet in the air, looking far out to the ocean and far down to the ground, and the wind is whipping around a narrow conical tower, and it’s 40 degrees outside, the event just isn’t as pleasant as it could be. It was, however, adventurous. I’m pretty sure we were all afraid for our lives. πŸ™‚

This was my second time climbing a lighthouse. My first climb was at Hunting Island, which is only 108 feet tall. Those 46 feet make a difference. I’m not generally the one who’s afraid of heights, but I was a little nervous, dizzy, and queasy, so I can’t imagine how nervous Harvin and Ticcoa were. Yikes. Thanks, friends, for climbing the lighthouse with me anyway.

After touring the grounds of the lighthouse, we went back into the gift shop, where I found a real treasure: Lighthouse-opoly! Yes, that’s Monopoly with a lighthouse theme. Am I not the coolest person you’ve ever met? πŸ™‚ Anyone want to play with me?

We left Tybee around 5:15, with the intention of hitting the interstate and finding a quick bite to eat on the road. Originally, we’d planned to head back downtown to find a restaurant, but exhaustion one out. Sadly, our plans changed a bit when we merged onto the parking lot that was I-95. For the next 45 miles, the traffic was a headache. It was stop-and-go for a few miles, then we sped up to about 60 for awhile, then we slowed down significantly–I was actually driving around 5 mph for awhile. The problem? A horrendous wreck around mile marker 50–an RV crushed a car, and a pickup truck was also somehow involved. We finally got through and pulled off a few miles later at the Walterboro exit, which was also the first restaurant that featured not-fast-food restaurants.

Sadly, every other traveller had the same idea. The Ruby Tuesday had a 30-35 minute wait, so we crossed the overpass to the Cracker Barrel and waited about 15 minutes for a table (fortunately, there was still room to wait inside the restaurant). We finally left Walterboro around 8:30, with a three hour drive ahead of us. It was almost midnight before we arrived home.

Nonetheless, the day was wonderful. We drove 572.5 miles (of which I drove about 490–crazy!), visited two museums and a lighthouse, ate lunch in an old train car, got stuck in traffic, and had one grand adventure over the course of about 17 hours.

I fell asleep really quickly last night, slept almost 10 hours, and woke up with a beastly headache that only two cups of coffee and a few hours of consciousness could cure. A travel hangover, if you will. πŸ™‚ Nonetheless, I’m already itching for another adventure. Any suggestions on what we should do next?

#88: See Fenway Park

red soxTraveling with Harvin and Ticcoa, who are anti-sports, pretty much meant that my chances of convincing them to catch a game at the stadium was very low. But I was satisfied with merely standing in the presence of Fenway Park, one of the most legendary stadiums in baseball history.

It was pretty fantastic to be standing on the sidewalk outside Fenway. Next time I go, though, I’m catching a game. I wanna see the Green Monster. πŸ™‚

Nonetheless, it’s an accomplishment. Here are some pictures:

fenway

fenway2We were driving away at this point, so because of the angle, I missed the “Park.” But, hey, “Fenway” is the part that really matters, right?

#87: New England Clam Chowder

Bowl of ChowderI love clam chowder. I live in South Carolina. Therefore, I made it a goal to order clam chowder at least once while in Massachusetts.

[Side note: I also ate lobster for the first time that I can remember while there. I ordered a lobster sandwich from Panera. It was divine. And special that I ate lobster for the first time in Massachusetts.]

Back to clam chowder. I managed to enjoy a cup of chowder three times: once in Salem at a restaurant called The Lobster Shanty, once in Concord at Walden Grille, and once in Cambridge at Legal Sea Foods, which Dr. Sepko recommended. Her husband Ken declares that Legal makes the best chowder ever.

I agree. It was superb! So good that I almost had a quart shipped home to Dad in South Carolina. So good that I’m demanding that my family go to Atlanta soon, since that’s the closest Legal Sea Foods to where we live.

While the chowder in Salem and Concord was delicious, they were still no match for the chowder at Legal. That combined with the amazing fish and chips I ordered made that meal the best one we had the whole week. I heartily recommend that if you’re ever in a town where there’s a Legal Sea Foods, GO! It may be the best meal you’ve ever had. πŸ™‚

#45: Boston

Although Harvin, Ticcoa, and I said for weeks that we were “going to Boston,” in reality, we only spent one full day in the city. But what a day it was!

Our activities in Boston included walking the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile long walk that connects 16 stops important in the founding of our nation. We didn’t go to every stop, but there were some cool ones:

1. The trail starts at Boston Common, America’s oldest public park. It’s big and beautiful and right in the heart of Boston. Lots of green grass, the Frog Pond, and expensive parking. We wandered through the park, took a few pictures, and moved on to the first big stop.

revere's tomb2. Granary Burying Ground. Paul Revere is burried here. John Hancock. Samuel Adams. Ben Franklin’s parents. The five victims of the Boston Massacre. It’s really an impressive place, just a few blocks away from Boston Common. Old, crumbling tombstones; dirt paths; steeped in history. I love graveyards, especially when cool people are buried there.

3. Next was King’s Chapel and King’s Chapel Burying Ground. The graveyard actually came first, and the church was built later. In literary history, King’s Chapel is important because it’s where Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale were buried in The Scarlet Letter. Sadly, they’re not real, but it’s another great little, old cemetery.

boston massacre4. We also saw the site of the Boston Massacre, just outside the Old State House. A ring of bricks marks the spot where the five men died.

Near the massacre site is also the visitors’ center for the Boston National Historic Site, which encompasses most of the spots on the Freedom Trail. I bought cool postcards there. πŸ™‚

cheers5. Fanueil Hall was an awesome place, if only for the marketplace near the old building. A replica of the Cheers bar is there; Chris demanded that I stop in and buy him a t-shirt. My dad also appreciated my stopping in, as well.

Fanueil Hall Marketplace is an impressive building. Food vendors sell all sorts of international cuisine. I ate Thai food–delicious! Coa enjoyed a lobster roll and Harvin a seafood wrap. Good, inexpensive food.

paul revere house6. We visited the Paul Revere House, too–the only house museum on the Freedom Trail. It wasn’t that great, really. Just four rooms housing some artifacts from Revere’s life. But it was a self-guided tour with little signs and descriptions on everything. Not the best museum we’ve been to, by far.

north church7. The best stop on the trail, and one of our best of the week, was the Old North Church, where the lanterns were hung to warn the colonists about how the Patriots would be entering Boston: “one if by land, two if by sea.” We arrived at the church in time to hear a great tour guide give a talk about the real history of the hanging of the lanterns. Revere was the one to give the order to hang the lanterns, but he never actually hung them–he headed off in the direction of Lexington and Concord to warn those residents.

newman windowA young man named Robert Newman was one of the two men to hang the lanterns in the church. They climbed up to the belfry to get the lights as high as possible, and when they emerged at the bottom after taking the lamps down, the British had already entered the church. Newman and the other man leaped out of the windows to escape. A replica lantern now hangs in the window known as the “Newman window.” One of the actual lanterns is housed in the Concord Museum, which we saw later in the week, and we also visited the site where Paul Revere was captured just outside of Boston. More about that later, though.

poe birthplacePoe, darling Poe, was also born in Boston. The boardinghouse where he was born is now a coffeeshop or something similar. There is a plaque on the building, though. We stopped to take a picture.

Boston is really a spectacular city. So much history, surrounded by so much urban development. It’s a pedestrian’s city, too–they’re fearless! They’ll just walk out in front of traffic, knowing that they’ll stop. I had to work up the courage to cross, even when the don’t walk sign was lit.

It’s a city I’d very much enjoy living near, but living in the city would be a nightmare, I think. I don’t have the courage–big cities still frighten me a bit. πŸ™‚

There’s one other part of Boston I saw, that I’ll talk about later, since it was a special item on my list. I stood outside Fenway Park. It was a beautiful thing. πŸ™‚

New England Trip Day 3: Salem, Massachusetts

Our first full day in New England, we headed to the great little seaside town of Salem, which is, of course, most famous for the Witch Trials that took place there in 1692. And, boy, do they play it up. There are so many museums dedicated to witch history, but we only visited one–supposedly the best and most visited–the Salem Witch Museum. It was fun, for the most part–not as kitschy as I expected. The first part was a dramatic reading, of sorts, of the history of the witch trials, and then we walked through a section of the museum detailing the portrayal of witches throughout history.

After leaving that museum, we wandered through Salem Common, played on the swingset a bit, and then headed to the Engine House Restaurant for what promised to be the best pizza in Salem. We were not disappointed.

derby street booksThe best part of the day came after lunch. First we visited a half-priced bookstore with books stacked to the ceiling! It was surprisingly well-organized for a store with almost no shelves. And it’s certainly an adventure shopping for books when you’re a clutz maneuvering through narrow aisles with the constant threat of books falling on your head. It was here, however, that I found my copy of The Road, and it’s awesome to have such an adventurous story of buying what’s now one of my favorite books.

After leaving the bookstore, we drove to The House of the Seven Gables, which was one of our best visits of the entire week. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s cousin once lived here, and while he was visiting the house (which only had 3 gables at that point) one day, she told him, “This was once a house of seven gables.” With that remark, his story of the curse of the Pyncheon family was born.

seven gables gardenSeven Gables is a beautiful place. The gardens are marvelous, and it sits right on the Salem waterfront, so one may sit in the garden and look out at the boats in the harbor. Ah…I wish I were there right now. Here we are in the Seven Gables garden, before the tour even started.

And, oh, the tour! The house has a lot of stuff original to the families that lived there. But perhaps the coolest part is that, a hundred or so years ago, when the house was first transformed into a museum, the owners added elements of the fictional Seven Gables in order to attract more guests. So, readers of the novel will note the room where Hepzibah Pyncheon would have sold her baked goods. While not original to the house, it’s still been there about a century, which is seriously cool. But the best part about the whole tour was the tiny, narrow, hidden staircase that was added behind a chimney. In the novel, Clifford maneuvers around the house and appears in the dining room from the story above, seemingly like a ghost. The owners added the staircase to show how Clifford could have been so stealthy. And we got to climb that staircase! It’s steep, dark, narrow, and a little scary. All of that equals awesome, though. Because I was standing closest to the chimney, I got to be the first to climb it, and when I arrived at the top, I burst out of the staircase gasping for breath. It’s confining, but the coolest part was just that I got to climb Clifford’s staircase. Yes, I’m a literary dork. πŸ™‚

nathaniel_hawthorneAlso at Seven Gables is the Hawthorne House, the house where little Nathaniel was born in 1804. He only lived there a few years, but it was just the first of several houses that we got to tour that darling Hawthorne had lived in. Also, in the gift shop, I bought a poster-sized print of the Osgood portrait of the angelic, handsome Hawthorne. Soon, he will grace the walls of my room. Indeed.

custom house stepsBecause Seven Gables is so near Derby Wharf, we walked there after touring the house. First, we stopped by the Custom House, where Hawthorne worked and wrote much of The Scarlet Letter. I sat on the steps of the Custom House. Perhaps in the very spot where Hawthorne’s foot once touched as he walked into work one day.

derby wharfIf one sits on the steps of the Custom House, one will look straight down Derby Wharf, to the adorable lighthouse there. It was my first lighthouse outside of South Carolina or Georgia! So exciting! It’s an adorable little 25-foot-tall lighthouse, one of three small ones used to guide ships into Salem Harbor. Off in the distance, we could see one of the other two. Two lighthouses in Massachusetts in one day. Very awesome.

Salem really is a great little town. I thought it would be much more involved in the witch history, and while they definitely embrace it, the tourist aspect of it doesn’t take over the whole time. Salem is worthy of visiting on its own merit, beyond just its history. It really is a great New England, seaside village where people live everyday lives. However, I would definitely love to see it in October. I hear it transforms into a spooky little place then.

Salem also embraces its literary history. They seem quite proud of their most famous literary icon, Nathaniel Hawthorne. There are two roads there that can be confusing if one knows the history of the name–Hathorne St. and Hawthorne Blvd. Hawthorne added the “w” to his name in order to remove himself from the stigma of the Hathorne name–his great-times-something-grandfather was a judge in the Salem Witch Trials, and Nathaniel wanted to dissociate himself from the name.

Finally, at least, I’ll show you the massive Hawthorne statue on Hawthorne Blvd. It isn’t representative of the young, angelic, heartbreaker Hawthorne, but older Hawthorne was a distinguished-looking fellow.

(We really love Hawthorne, by the way. I love his work, particularly his short stories, but he seemed to be the author that evoked the most giddiness in all of us, as you’ll see in later posts. We even ran into a mother and daughter in Concord on our second day–we had all toured the Wayside together the day before–and she referred to us as the “Hawthorne girls.” I like that title.)

hawthorne statue salem

#78: Quote poetry at Poe’s grave in Baltimore.

poe portraitBesides reaching Maryland, a state that I had never before visited, which put me that much closer to reaching #41: visit all 50 states, visiting Poe’s grave in Baltimore was the first item I was able to mark off my list on this trip.

poe monumentOn Saturday, August 1, the second day of our New England Writers trip, we left Annapolis and stopped in Baltimore at Westminster Burying Ground, where Poe; his wife ,Virginia Clemm Poe; and his mother-in-law, Maria Poe Clemm, are burried.

Edgar A. Poe is one of my favorite authors–he has been since I first read “The Raven” in middle school. To see his grave in such an awesome cemetery was really an exceptional thing for me. The cemetery has this great brick walkways throughout, and the church that’s there was actually built after the burying ground, so a lot of the gravestones are sitting right next to the building, or even beneath the porch of the building. It’s a strange thing to find this, too, in the middle of Baltimore, with huge buildings so nearby.

The goal of this visit to Westminster wasn’t just to visit Poe’s grave, however. I had to quote something, too. And while I have significant portions of “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee” and even “The Bells” memorized, the one poem that is my favorite is “El Dorado“–and at four stanzas, it’s a short one that I’ve had memorized for years.

I do have video evidence of this–the first time I have video proof of accomplishing something from my list. However, it’s stored on my brother’s camera’s memory card, and I won’t be able to access it for awhile. When I do, I’ll try to post it here.Β  It’s fun.

I’ll leave you with more pictures of Poe’s grave at Westminster, but if you’re a fan of Poe, be sure to check out the Edgar A. Poe Calendar, an incredible blog with great posts about important events in Poe’s life and literary history. It’s fabulous!

poe's grave

Harvin, me, and Ticcoa sitting at the monument. Note our two Poe dolls, given to us by Becky, and my Threadless shirt, Poetic Irony, which I bought specifically for this trip. πŸ™‚

poe

Poe’s side of the monument. His wife and mother-in-law are on either side, and his image and name are on the front of the monument.

westminster

Westminster Hall

Additionally, on the trip back home, we stopped in Baltimore on Saturday, August 8, for dinner at Annabel Lee Tavern, one of the best restaurants I’ve ever dined at, and entirely Poe-themed. I had bison sliders (delicious!), with their fantastic sweet potato fries and bleu cheese cole slaw. Additionally, if you drink, they have cocktails named for Poe stories and poems–Harvin enjoyed the Annabel Lee.

annabel lee

The entrance to Annabel Lee Tavern in Baltimore.