Onions and Fruitcake

When we head into a state we have a pretty good idea of where we are going and what we want to do – but make sure to stop at a state welcome facility to see if there are things we did not know of. We left St. Augustine about a week ago with the plan of staying outside of Savannah and spending a few days seeing the area.

When we crossed the border into Georgia we stopped at the state welcome facility and spent a little while looking around. We discovered that there was an Onion Festival this weekend in Vidalia Georgia. Never been to an Onion Festival so we decided to take a detour and head to Vidalia.  Onions are big business in Vidalia they ship out about 200 million pounds of sweet onions a year.

Friday we left Savannah and drove to Mt. Vernon, Georgia which is right down the road from Vidalia and has a nice little 12 site RV park on the edge of the Brewton-Parker College. After we got set up we headed into Vidalia to find some dinner and then went by what was part of the festival. It was a little site with a few kids type rides and some festival food vendors. We wandered around a little while and got an Italian Ice.  

The Vidalia Onion Festival has a number of events starting on Thursday  and going thru Sunday. They have a 5K run, car show, a well-respected air show, arts and crafts festival, motorcycle rally, carnival, rodeo, and this year Kelly Pickler in concert. Today we wandered thru the arts and craft area. There were a good number of vendors there, some with interesting wares. We purchased some jams and of course a 5 pound bag of sweet Vidalia onions.  

Vidalia Onion Festival

Vidalia Onion Festival

Since we were in Vidalia we looked to see what else might be around the area. About 25 miles down the road is Claxton, Georgia. Claxton is a small town that has a big reputation – it is the fruitcake capital of the world. In 1910 an Italian immigrant opened the Claxton Bakery. The bakery sold all kinds of baked goods and ice cream and during the holiday seasons made fruit cakes. In 1945 the bakery was sold to Albert Parker, a longtime employee.  Parker recognized that many traditional bakery items were being marketed in business other than bakeries and decided to focus on fruit cakes.  We actually did not get to visit the bakery – it was closed even though the website said it is open on Saturdays until 5 pm. I guess I will have to wait so sample some fruitcake  :)

Claxton Fruitcake Capital

Claxton Fruitcake Capital

From Castles to Forts

We spent last week in St. Augustine Florida and visited the Castillo de San Marcos. This week we moved north and are spending most of a week outside of Savannah Georgia and visited Fort Pulaski. Both of these encampments were originally built to protect their respective cities from invasion.  There are a number of similarities and differences between the two and it was interesting to be able to compare them in a short period of time.

The building of Castillo de San Marcos was started by the Spanish in 1672 and was for many years the northernmost outpost of the Spanish in the new world. The Castillo is the oldest masonry fort in the United States and is built out of coquina. Coquina is stone much like coral this is formed with many small shells. The Castillo is a star fort in which the triangle at each end can cover the two to the side. 

In 1720 during the War of Spanish Succession the English occupied St. Augustine the Castillo was besieged for 50 days. The English burned down the town but could not take over the Castillo and the citizens of St. Augustine were safe to rebuild after the English left.  In 1740 England again laid siege to the Castillo and again the citizens of St. Augustine were safe within the walls of the fortress. In 1763 after the Seven Years’ War Spain ceded Florida to Great Britain and the British took control of the Castillo. The Spanish regained control of the fort in 1784. Control then was turned over to the United States in 1819.

The Castillo’s armaments were cannons on the roof of the complex.  The courtroom or Plaza de Armas had two purposes drill space for the soldiers and during periods of siege a campground for the residents of St. Augustine. The rooms around the central court yard (or Plaza) were for storage, powder magazines, chapels and guard rooms.

Castillo de San Marcos

Castillo de San Marcos

We left St. Augustine and moved north to Savannah Ga. We visited Fort Pulaski on Cuckspur Island down river from Savannah.  Following the war of 1812 the United States started building set of costal fortifications to protect the United States from foreign invasion.  In 1829 the United States started construction of Fort Pulaski.  A recent graduate of West Point Second Lieutenant Robert E. Lee was assigned to assist with the construction.  It took 18 years to build the fort with an estimated 25 million bricks.  The walls were 11 feet thick and thought to be impenetrable to the canons of the time. Wooden pilings were sunk up to 70 feet to support the weight of the structure.

The structure of this fort is very different than the Castillo. Fort Pulaski is a miss-shaped pentagon. It has one long side and the other 4 are of various lengths.  Most likely this was done to focus as many cannons on the river as possible on the 4 short sides.

Unlike the Castillo there were many cannon on the roof and within the walls of the fort. They were mounted on tracks that allowed them to swivel as needed. Only a small portion of the interior rooms of the fort were used for storage and bunk rooms.  Fort Pulaski is also much larger than the Castillo – we estimate about twice the size.

The fort was completed in 1847 and in 1860 South Carolina seceded from the Union the governor of Georgia ordered the fort taken by the state of Georgia. In February of 1861 Georgia joined the Confederacy and the fort was occupied by Confederate troops.  

In late 1861 Union Troops started amassing a stronghold on Tybee Island. In April 1862 Union forces asked the commanding officer of the fort to surrender to prevent the needless loss of life.  The Union forces started the bombardment of the fort.  In addition to the standard cannons the Union forces were testing the new rifled cannons which have groves in the barrel which makes the projectile spin which in turn provides stability and better accuracy.  After a day and half of bombardment the wall of the fort was breached by the rifled cannons. The commanding officer of the fort surrendered to prevent the loss of life that would occur is a shell hit the powder magazine within the walls of the fort.

Unlike the Castillo citizens of nearby cities never camped on the field within the fort. However one of the earliest known photos of  a baseball game was taken in the fort.

Fort Pulaski

Fort Pulaski

Deliciously Adventurous Dinner and more

Had a beautiful day today, which was nice considering it started out rainy. We were determined that we would go out for our Old Town Trolley Tour whether it was raining or not so I was happy to see it cleared up. We headed out early afternoon and jumped on the Trolley. We got a good driver with a fun sense of humor. We rode around the city for about an hour and hopped off at the Market area.  The tour was a lot of fun and we got a good history of the area and got to see the Victorian district and the Colonial district. The Historical Preservation Society in Savannah does an amazing job of making sure things are kept to the standards. The buildings are so beautiful and beautifully painted. We loved walking through a few of the squares and the city market.

Savannah Houses

Savannah Houses

 

Gingerbread House Savannah, Ga

Gingerbread House Savannah, Ga

After the tour we decided to hop over to Fort Pulaski. It was a Fort built in the 1800s to help protect Savannah from whoever may be attacking it.  Bill wanted to write about it so I will just leave that part to him.

After the Fort we stopped at a local fruit market and grabbed some peaches, peas, and strawberries. Peach season in Georgia is WAY earlier than Washington so I apparently missed it. The peaches I picked up were from South Carolina. Will have to see if I can get some peaches next spring. In Washington peach season starts around 4th of July, quite a bit of difference.

Once I was done at the market it was time to find dinner. We had heard about the Pirate House Restaurant on our tour and so we drove over to have dinner. We walked in and were greeted by none other than Jack Sparrow. The host took us to our table, which was in the part of the building that is said to be the oldest standing house in Georgia. The room was small with only 3 tables in it so we had a nice quiet dinner. There are half dozen or more rooms with dining tables of all shapes and sizes we discovered after our meal. Bill had a Shrimp Creole that was fabulous. On the recommendation of our waiter, the famous Elijah, I chose the lightly battered shrimp with baked potato. Bill also order a cup of their “She de Crab” soup that we shared. Phenomenal!  Elijah regaled us with ghost stories and was overall the best server we have had in a LONG time. He loves his job at the Haunted Pirate House. While we ate and Elijah told stories Jack Sparrow visited with us and I have to say he was quite good. Considering we saw the professional Jack Sparrow at Disney not too long ago I can say that with some experience.

Pirate House Savannah, Ga

After dinner we were encouraged to walk around the restaurant. The story goes that in the bar pirates would get people drunk and drop them down a shaft to haul them off on their boats to be extra crew. Needless to say it was a deliciously adventurous dinner.

New Home Savannah, Georgia

Got up early today, funny how early changes when you don’t have to work on other people’s schedules. Packed up and headed out for Georgia. Many years ago I visited Savannah, Georgia and fell in love with the city. It is absolutely a beautiful area. The city is built on the riverfront and has all these shops and restaurants right along the water. It reminds me a lot of New Orleans without the drunk people and stripper joints every 10 feet. There is a lot of local seafood and pecans galore.

In the city there are parks and grassy squares everywhere, by design. The houses are all kinds of architecture and many have beautiful wrought iron balconies and big beautiful lawns with brightly (no not Florida bright) painted houses.

We got into Savannah mid-afternoon and headed into town for dinner. We were a little too late to visit Paula Dean’s “Lady and Sons” restaurant and were too under dressed for “The Ole Pink House” so we wandered and found a nice little pizza joint. We shared a luscious Spinach Salad with apples and pecans with a zesty vinaigrette and a pizza with meat and lots of olives. We then walked down to the waterfront and burned off some of the calories.

Savannah River4-24

Savannah Riverfront

We will be in Savannah for a few days and then continuing to head north.

St. Augustine

Bill and I have spent the last week in St. Augustine. St. Augustine is one of the prettiest places in Florida and the place with the most history. I find Florida pretty lacking in historically interesting things. In Orlando if it is not Disney there is no history of it. Luckily St. Augustine makes up for all the others.

St. Augustine is the oldest continuously active European settlement in the United States of America. The natives, the Timucuans, lived here for 3,000 to 4,000 years before the settlers moved in. The history of this area is quite fascinating.

We visited the “Fountain of Youth” park where they discovered the remains of one of the first European built communities and the site where Ponce de Leon landed back nearly 500 years ago. We stopped by the 2 National Parks in the area (National Parks week brings out all kinds of people). The Castillo, which is a big semi-castle, and the Fort that is a small structure that warded off ships that would try to attack the area.

Castillo de San Marcos

Castillo de San Marcos

 

Fort Matanzas

Fort Matanzas

We walked the 219 steps up the St. Augustine Lighthouse to see a beautiful view. Did you know lighthouses are painted differently so ships will be able to identify where they are just by looking at them? I didn’t know that. You learn something new everyday.

St. Augustine Lighthouse

St. Augustine Lighthouse

Spent a couple days on the beach enjoying the warm ocean waters and soft salty sand. We have seen dozens of different kinds of birds osprey, eagles, cardinals, seagulls, pelicans, etc. Wandered through historic St. Augustine through the little stores and ice cream shops. Yum

Time to move further north. It has been a little warm here and with 30 Amp power that acts like 20 Amp means no A/C this week. Time to move somewhere with better power.