I love it when a journey is sparked by a single sentence. In August, my sister-in-law, Carrie emailed me, primed for adventure but undecided about where to go. Either come with me, or inspire something I must do, she wrote.
I needed little provocation.
Let's drink mint juleps, wander ruins and see the wild horses of Cumberland Island, I suggested.
Yes! She replied. I’m already half there.
Our escape was planned within the week.
We are of similar ilk, Carrie and I—travelers and creatives who glean inspiration from experiencing new things. We enjoy solo travel because we are fond of solace, autonomy and by nature, crave our own, contemplative space. Knowing this about ourselves, the decision to travel together seemed like a no-brainer.
After landing in Jacksonville, we rented a car and headed north. We decided to start in Savannah and slingshot back down through Cumberland Island, ending in St. Augustine, Florida. Giddy over the open road—we listened to 80’s music and talked nonstop as we drove, finally pulling up to a charming rental in Savannah's historic district with elegant bones and an ivy-strewn facade.
We walked slowly through the looming hallways and into the living room, gaping up at the 30-foot ceilings with crown moldings from an era long past. In the kitchen, we flung open a large window and Carrie leaned out, as if she might launch herself into the green expanse of the back garden. Or suddenly fly upward—into a net of Spanish Moss. “I like Savannah,” she said with relish.
The next day, we set off in opposite directions with plans to meet for dinner. Later, we chose a Thai place, stylish and quiet, and traded stories over curry and wine. Carrie had explored the riverfront and Victorian District and delightfully—bought a dress we had admired the night before in the window of a local shop. I had gone on a photo safari and wound up at the Cotton Exchange and Factor’s Walk—a cobblestoned row of historic buildings (now, a lively riverside district of shops and restaurants) named for the men—the factors—who set the price of Savannah cotton throughout the late 1800’s. At Barracuda Bob’s I ordered a fried green tomato sandwich and people-watched. And, thanks to a Russian Mule that kicked me squarely between the teeth, got unintentionally sauced in the process.
While on our separate excursions, both Carrie and I had admired the Georgia Queen riverboat and El Galeon San Pelayo (a Spanish tall ship docked along the Savannah River). We had also strolled around the iconic fountain at Forsyth Park where, street musicians blossomed as colorfully as azaleas—a trumpeter delivering the earnest, plaintive notes of "Hey Jude" and one square over, a guitarist singing and strumming with abandon, eyes closed, head bobbing to the rhythm of the Rolling Stones.
Our dinner ended sweetly with a towering chocolate dessert (the kind that extrudes more chocolate with each press of the spoon) and we chatted with restaurant staff about Savannah’s surprising diversity, lovely mellowness, even its enjoyable spookiness, and how everywhere there is the enigmatic tug of history. On the walk home through Monterey Square we stopped to inhale the scent of some blossoming thing on the breeze.
“I love this,” Carrie whispered, the rasp of insects billowing around us as we stood stock still—ears perked to the sounds of night; noses in the air.
A few blocks away, our apartment was lit like a hurricane lamp from within. We crept about in our adjoining rooms—cavernous chambers, where night leaked in through the tops of tall, shuttered windows. Enfolded in the shadowy creak of ancient timber, we settled in our respective nests, eyes heavy with sleep and the satisfying abundance of new moments—some secret, some shared and those yet to come.
Next stop: Cumberland Island, Georgia ...