Travel is not only about places, but about the senses that make our days. Our tummies, eyes, ears, noses and mouths have been making their waves wanting to share some things too.
Nose: Which scents are everywhere in the south? You guessed it, jasmine, honeysuckle and magnolia. Jasmine and honeysuckle wind around doorways, fences, gardens and rooftops. Magnolia trees are in profusion … everywhere. The breezes are filled with these sweet aromas and also carry the smell of the salt sea air and a touching of faraway places. Finally, the nose perks up when passing a café, ah, food. Be it Cajun, Acadian (originally from Nova Scotia), Southern, all menus shout seafood. Be it along the Gulf Coast, the Emerald Coast or the First Coast of Florida, (which is the beginning coastal area of northeastern Florida), some kind of water born creature is on a plate to enjoy.
Tummy: Mr. Munch-Mouth-Taste-Everything-LOOOves-to-Eat, husband Bill tried alligator for an appetizer. What was it like? You’ve heard this before with other odd treats, “It tastes just like chicken.” He had oysters baked with spinach and cheese another time, as oysters are regular fare everywhere. We both tried a new fish found in the estuaries, Cobia, a white fish, grilled with lemon and butter. Great martinis too This we had at a low-lit roadside café on Santa Rosa Island off of Pensacola, FL. We’ve had shrimp done every which way, but the topper was the Ruby Red Shrimp, big succulent babies served in the shell. Another night on St. Augustine Beach, I ordered crab legs and Bill did all the work of digging out the meat, while I piled it up in the bowl of melted butter and then leisurely ate it. We never ordered Grouper which was on every menu. It’s what we have at restaurants on Roatan where we have an island home.
The moment of ecstasy came included with one of those moments in time. It began with exploring a small road toward the water in Mississippi after spotting a sign reading “Historic District.” We were hungry. The Historic District turned out to be one street with two shops … the rest of the area had been decimated by hurricane Katrina, no waterfront buildings left standing at all. As we drove by a small building on the side street, people sitting out front on a bench waved. This turned out to be Nancy of Nancy’s, a cooperative warren of connected shops, art galleries, gifts and clothes, of owners who had earlier lost their businesses … Nancy’s idea was to do this as her building escaped the damage.
As we asked about the sign outside that said “Food,” but seeing no café, we were told the tables were set in nooks in the shop rooms with different style and size tables. So we ordered at the desk, picked a table in a corner with gifts of all description for sale surrounding us. We were served the yummiest lunches. The big moment came with the dessert. Bill ordered bread pudding lavishly covered with whiskey sauce. It was the best tasting dessert I’d ever had. It turned out that Nancy’s mother makes this pudding. Bill ordered two extra servings “to go.” Some of the whiskey sauce leaked through the paper bag on our journey to Mobile, Alabama. We still remember the deliciousness of this southern memory that we tucked away the next morning in our hotel room. Desserts are sometimes the very best breakfast, forbidden and heady.
Today, in Savannah, Georgia we had a second try with bread pudding … didn’t even touch Nancy’s mother’s perfection. No wonder I’ve always disliked bread pudding. Another try, in Charleston … they should all take a lesson from you know who.
Speaking of desserts, “stressed” spelled backwards spells what? Notice the course of food that’s getting stressed!.
In the south, pecans show up in everything, breakfast, lunch and dinner. We’ve had ‘em all, sweet potatoes too. Sweet potato fries, sweet potato pie, sweet potato pancakes, take your pick. Bill had shrimp, crab and lobster over grits with a lobster butter sauce. Another famous southern dish … wonderful.
Local fresh fish includes Georgia sea bass, Carolina red grouper, and Outer Banks sea scallops fixed a multitude of ways and they are also a road map of the surrounding areas. But along the Gulf of Mexico and Florida, Crayfish ruled! We filled up along the way with sweet, delicious Crayfish, a taste never to be missed and long remembered.
Ears: The river boats blow their horn and you know you’re next to the water. On the beaches, the wind can be strong, competing with the sounds of the breaking waves. Our car, Toothless, has a seat belt ding that is so sweet and polite yet insistent. Gertrude’s voice, our GPS is definitely from outer space. And the many shades of southern accents are a soft delight to the ear.
Which brings up the Mouth: In Savannah and Charleston sugar, y’all hear “Yes sir” and “Yes mam.” The tour guides on a boat or city tour are well worth the money and time. House tours introduce you to a family and empathetically we walk their lives for a time. History unfolds. These dedicated guides give out such a wealth of information and bring the territory alive.
We’ve been stopped and talked to in restaurants and on the streets by strangers, attracted I think by Bill’s Panama hat. He looks so distinguished and stands out with his white hair showing around the brim. We’ve made momentary best friends, learning of other’s lives, their travels, suggestions of what to see, directions to a special spot.
Our favorite in north Florida is Cap’s, I say “is” because it’s a place to which to return. Cap’s is located on Vilano Island, off of St. Augustine, fronting on the Intracoastal Waterway. It’s one of those comfortable wooden waterfront restaurants with a dock, with a big winding deck under huge live oak trees. We stayed as long as we could, watching the small and large boats go by while eating pear stuffed raviolis with cheese and pine nut sauce (Bill) and eggplant slices stacked with goat cheese (Judy) while the soft breezes blew on a perfect temperature and clear blue sky afternoon.
Eyes: Must I repeat myself about the ever-present azalea and camilla gardens, the magnolia and pine trees, the variety of homes/mansions with their antique pine floors, the changing blue colors of the water, the burnished whites of the beaches, and the good looks of my husband? Shall I bore you with the weather? It’s been perfect, so far!
Are you getting the picture yet?
Now y’all behave, ya’ hear?