I See Georgia: Terrapin Brewery

We’ve visited a lot of cities so far on our “I See Georgia” tour. As we’ve traveled around the state, we have seen and experienced so much: architecture; history; food. We’ve also tasted quite a few beers; most of which were local, either to the city we were in, or the state at large.

In Rome, we sampled Downtown Brown and Big Mama Peach at Rome Brewing Company. While touring our home city of Athens, we downed several glasses of Creature Comforts Tropicalia and Bibo. During our vacation in Savannah, we tried brews by Sweetwater Brewing Company, Jeckyll Brewing Company, and Tybee Island’s Coastal Brewing Company.

I enjoy sipping local beer. So you can imagine my excitement when we received invitations to attend a release party for Terrapin Brewing Company’s new offering: Blueberry Thyme Saison.

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If you’ve never visited a brewery, why the hell not? Seriously though, you should check it out! A cover charge at the door gives the visitor access to the entire lineup of beers. The Terrapin release party was open to the public for a reasonable $12 cover. Of course, due to the fact that Dena would be photographing the event in exchange for our admission, we entered free of charge.

The release party was scheduled to last from 5:30-7:30pm. We arrived just at 5:15 and were given plastic cups, along with six tickets good for 6 ounces of beer each. Not bad, you might say. I agree that 36 ounces of beer for free is a good thing. But it gets even better! When I approached the bar, and asked to try the new blueberry release, I was handed a full 16oz cup in exchange for one ticket. You can already see where this is going!

Over the next 2 hours, I sampled six of Terrapin’s offerings. I’m no beer expert, so this review will not be one of those with a lot of talk about hops and malts. It will also not feature a bunch of abbreviations like ABV and IBU. Instead, I’ll merely give my impressions of each beer I tried.

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First up was the star of the show, the Blueberry Thyme Saison. The first thing I noticed was the combination of tart and sweet from the blueberries. By definition, a Saison is generally highly carbonated with a 7-8% alcohol content. The Blueberry Thyme was no exception, and after just a few sips, I could feel it. In addition to the fruit flavor, there was also the herb taste of the thyme. A very refreshing brew!

After polishing off the Blueberry, I returned to the bar and came away with a Maggie’s Peach Farmhouse Ale. I could immediately taste the peach, along with the somewhat stout flavor of the ale. Being from Georgia, I can’t help but like just about anything involving peaches. But Maggie’s featured a bit too much of a good thing for my taste. Good, but not one of my favorites.

After a pair of fruit-tinged beers, I decided to take a break from flavored brews and go with an old standby, Hopsecutioner. A light-colored IPA with an aroma of pine, this one has long been a go-to option when ordering at a bar or restaurant. I took a seat and sipped it while people-watching.

Next up was Watermelon Gose. I don’t have much experience with Gose style beers, but the main things I noticed were the tartness and the saltiness. It seemed like the type of beer you might bring along to a picnic; the type where kids run around and play while the adults kick back and take it easy. A perfect companion to a hot summer day.

By this point, I was more than a little buzzed. I’d used four of my six tickets, and found myself wondering if I could handle redeeming the last two. Fortunately, about halfway through my Watermelon Gose, a man walked through the crowd of drinkers. He was holding a sign stating that a tour of the brewery would begin in five minutes.

Dena was still hard at work, so I decided that at least one of us should take the tour. I followed the sign-carrier across the room and into a small foyer where, along with about 10 others, I received safety glasses and tips on what to expect on the floor.

Now, over the years, I’ve spent my fair share of time in warehouses. From books to furniture to pharmacy items, I’ve been in the fray as goods were distributed to retail stores. But never before had I entered a workplace as cool as the Terrapin warehouse.

First and foremost, tourists were allowed to take their beers into the warehouse! Yes, you heard that correctly. As we walked along, learning more about the beer-making process with every stop, we sipped from our cups and gave thanks to anyone who might be listening for our good fortune. We passed people who were making, packaging, storing, and stacking cases of beer; all while sampling the wares. Where else can you get a deal like that?

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Back in the main room, Dena handed me her current beer, a Tart Cherry Wake-N-Bake, which was still about half full. I sipped this newest concoction and was immediately struck by the strong flavor. Terrapin’s normal Wake-N-Bake is a coffee oatmeal stout, featuring coffee brewed by local favorite Jittery Joe’s. But this particular brew added a tart cherry flavor on top of the coffee taste. Unique, though a bit strange.

Just as I was finishing the Tart Cherry came an announcement that the brewery would stop serving in ten minutes. Oh, the horror! I immediately got in line to try one more beer. Though I didn’t set out to do so, I ended up saving the best for last. I stepped to the front of the line and ordered a Walking Dead Blood Orange IPA.

Oh, how we here at the Bear Team love The Walking Dead! This show has everything: violence, sex, drama, violence, gore, confrontation, violence, weapons, loyalty, survival, and violence. Plus, it is filmed right here in Georgia! Sundays when new episodes debut are events; days planned entirely around 9:00pm.

I know what some of you are saying: “I don’t watch that show. I don’t like shows about zombies.” To you unfortunate souls, I would say: just try it. Just try it and tell me that you don’t like it. I was once like you, resisting being caught up in the mania. But this show is so much more than a zombie/horror show. In fact, after a while, the zombies almost fade into the background; a minor nuisance to take our minds off the human drama that unfolds in an apocalyptic world.

So, given our affinity for the show, it was only natural that I try a beer named for it. I took a sip and was immediately taken in. The citrus flavor reminded me of Tropicalia, a favorite that regular readers will be familiar with. As I sipped on my beer, I met up with Dena, and we headed outside to check out the patio area.

We stepped into the warm evening, joining a throng of others who were enjoying their beverages. For reasons I’m not sure of (perhaps a nod to the previously mentioned Hopsecutioner), there was a guillotine outside. We took turns taking our pictures with our heads beneath the blade, though by then, I’m not sure I’d have cared even if the thing had been operational.

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Soon, the time had come to end our visit, so I finished my beer and tossed my cup into the recycling bin. I’d used five of my six tickets, but had actually tried six beers. I’m counting it as a 100% success rate!

We headed home, still buzzing from all the beer we’d consumed. While the Terrapin Brewery is not a city or town, it is as Georgia as can be, and we are proud to offer it as a destination on our tour.

That’s all for now. As always, thanks for reading. We certainly appreciate it. For more information on Terrapin, and a run down on all of the beers I sampled, visit the official website at http://terrapinbeer.com/.

Until later…

Next time: We’ll dive head first into our favorite summer festival. It’s the annual musical smorgasbord, Athfest!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I See Georgia: Dahlonega

When most people think of Dahlonega, one thought comes to mind: gold. After all, this small town nestled in the mountains of North Georgia was the sight of the first major gold rush in the United States. Even the town’s name is derived from a Cherokee word which means “golden.” We’d always been aware of Dahlonega, but had never visited. Now, on a hot and muggy Saturday, we found ourselves cruising North along highway 129 to find out if, like the often misquoted saying goes, there actually was “gold in them thar hills.”

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Dahlonega lies just 67 miles from Athens, so we were able to take our time getting there. We left home just after noon, and passed through Jefferson and Gainesville before crossing into Lumpkin County just after 1:00pm. We climbed steadily, then drove parallel to a river covered with kayaks until we reached the town proper.

Our first stop was Bratzeit, a must-try on every top 10 must-see list we could find. We pulled into the tiny parking lot and entered the restaurant, which specializes in German cuisine. The interior was colorful and inviting, blue and white which German decour hanging all over the walls. After studying the menu for a few minutes, we approached the counter and ordered Jaegerschnitzel, Currywurst, and Koenig Ludwig Weissbier beer.

We retired to the patio which was adorned with umbrellas and blue and white checkered table cloths, where we sipped our beer as we waited for the food. The beer was cold and refreshing on a warm day, with subtle hints of fruit and cloves. We finished it off and leaned back to enjoy the laid-back atmosphere.

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Soon, the food arrived, and we dug in, taking turns sampling each entrée. The Jaegarschnitzel, thin, breaded chicken covered with mushroom gravy, was nothing short of delicious. So were the potato pancakes with sour cream that accompanied it. The Currywurst, bratwurst with home-made curry ketchup, was spicy and juicy, and the house fries were hot and crispy.

By the time we’d polished off our entrees, we were just about full. Still, there was room for one more thing. What would a visit to a German restaurant be without trying the strudel? After the first bite, we were glad we did. The flaky pastry was stuffed with apple filling and covered with a vanilla sauce. Pure decadence!

After lunch, we headed for Cane Creek Falls. Following posted signs, we turned on Camp Glisson Road, which was narrow and lined with trees. A few steep hills and sharp curves later, and we found ourselves at the entrance to Camp Glisson, where visitors could access the trail leading to the falls.

The falls are a natural wonder, cascading over dark rocks before collecting in a picturesque pool at the base. They are beautiful. Probably. We can’t say for sure because we never saw them. There was a chain across the road leading to the falls stating that the area was closed to visitors. That’s right, they actually closed a waterfall. As we turned around, we couldn’t help but remember the scene in My Cousin Vinny where Joe Pesci is forced to buy a ridiculous suit from a second-hand store since the only place in town to buy a new one “got the flu. The whole store got the flu!”

Next up was a visit to the downtown area. Much like Helen, Dahlonega is full of shops, boutiques, and traffic. We moved slowly along Chestatee Street, looking for a place to park. We circled the public square, then turned onto a side street which promised  parking. We stopped in a public lot and made our way back toward the square on foot.

We walked along the street, which was teeming with shops. We visited several of them, including Cranberry Corners, which features everything from souvenirs to clothing. We purchased Father’s Day cards and stamps to mail them with, then took the cards to a post office box and dropped them in. Would our fathers notice the Dahlonega postmark? With all of our recent travels around the state, we thought it likely that they would.

After walking around a little more, we stopped at Dahlonega Fudge Factory, which specializes in handmade chocolates and fudge. We checked out the various candies and treats before eventually purchasing a small piece of chocolate fudge with pecans, which we ate before going back outside.

Across the street from the fudge shop lies the public square, in which stands the old Lumpkin County courthouse. It was from the steps of this building that, in 1849, Dahlonega Mint Assayer Dr. M.F. Stephenson tried to persuade miners to stay in Dahlonega rather than joining the California gold rush, saying “There’s millions in it.” It is this statement that is often famously misquoted as “There’s gold in them thar hills,” a line that was never actually uttered at the time.

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Today the courthouse houses the Dahlonega Gold Museum. We crossed the street and entered the square, which featured a bluegrass band performing beneath a tent. We worked our way through the crowd on onlookers and approached the museum, which holds a wealth of information. Inside, visitors can find out all there is to know about the history of the Dahlonega gold rush. Probably. We can’t say for sure because we didn’t go in.

Instead, we skirted the courthouse and made our way to Shenanigans, an Irish pub and restaurant located on Warwick Street. We walked around to the back of the building and entered. The day had become obnoxiously hot, but the inside was blessedly cool. We got a table and sat looking at the walls, which were covered by $1 bills with messages written on them.

When the waitress came, we ordered an Angry Orchard cider and a seasonal draft beer whose name, regrettably, we can’t seem to remember. We spent an hour or so in the bar, cooling off and watching huge plates of food leave the kitchen and head for hungry patrons.

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Sufficiently refreshed, we left the pub and checked out a few more stores, eventually winding up at the Dahlonega General Store. If ever there was a place that had a little bit of everything, it has to be this wooden structure near the square. We browsed through the store, which overflows with food, candy, clothes, novelties, toys, and outdoor goods.  A scavenger’s dream.

Eventually we returned to the front of the store, where a giant wooden bear held court. It was a fitting way to end our visit to Dahlonega, sanding side by side, gazing up at our namesake. If there is one thing The Bear Team enjoys, it’s anything bear related.

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We headed back to the car and drove around the square one last time. Minutes later, we were headed South, back toward the lower ground of home. Dahlonega is a beautiful place, though a bit on the touristy side for our taste. Still, we’d enjoyed our visit. Certainly, we’d be back in the future. But for now, we were Athens bound.

That wraps it up for now. As always, thanks for reading. We certainly appreciate it. For more information on Dahlonega, visit the official tourism site at http://dahlonega.org/. We’ll be back soon with further ramblings around our great state.

Until later…

Next time: something a bit different, as we check out a true Georgia institution: the Terrapin Beer Company.

By Keith and Dena Maxwell

 

 

 

 

 

I See Georgia: Savannah-Day 3

I See Georgia: Savannah-Day 3

The last full day of our trip found us headed East toward Tybee Island. It was a beautiful day, and what better way to enjoy it then with some sun and surf? An online search for rental opportunities had pointed us toward a surf and kayak shop on Lazaretto Creek. But first we needed a little sustenance, so we headed for Tybee’s most well-known eatery: The Crab Shack.

Since our last visit to Savannah, more than ten years ago, we’d regretted not trying the Crab Shack. Anytime the subject of Savannah or Tybee Island came up, someone would mention how much they enjoyed eating there. We’d heard it was one of the best places to get seafood in the area, now we would find out for ourselves.

We parked in the gravel lot and walked under the giant red crab which guards the entrance. We were seated outside on the patio, which offers great views of Chimney Creek and the marsh upon which the place is built. We ordered a Tybee Island Blonde beer (it doesn’t get more local than that!) and a pina colada and sipped our drinks while we waited for our food to arrive.

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At a restaurant called the crab shack, it’s really a no-brainer when it comes to deciding what to have. We ordered the dungeness crab, and when it arrived, hot and steaming, we were immediately glad we did. The great thing about eating crab is that you have to work for it. Cracking the shell takes time, which forces you to eat slowly. Good thing, because wolfing down such a delicious meal too fast might have sent us into sensory overload.

Full and happy, we made the short drive to North Island Surf and Kayak. We’ll let Dena take it from here:

We bumped along a gravel driveway and passed dry-docked boats sitting way up high in racks. You could tell someone had made good use of something heavy-duty like a crane to get them up so high.

We parked in the midst of a small community; a kayak and surfboard rental shop, a place for boat storage, a restaurant and a bait shop. The kind gentleman at the bait shop only charged a dollar apiece for 16 oz. bottles of Dasani water. Old school awesomeness!

We walked into a brightly painted little sea shanty with an inviting front porch. The place was cozy. You could tell this was a family affair. Surfboards and paddle boards in a variety of colors and styles lined the walls in neat rows.

The woman we spoke to was new, but she was a darn good salesperson. By the time she was done with us, we had agreed to a kayak tour. What?! We never take tours! This tour, however, turned out to be a good decision on our part.

As always, we had to be different, so instead of renting kayaks we opted for stand-up paddle boards. Paddle boards are about 11 feet long and thirty-plus inches across. They are heavy and don’t tip over- as long as you know what you’re doing, that is. Which we didn’t.

As we were about to leave for the kayak trip, our tour guide Shane burst out and exclaimed: “Alright, alright, alriiiight!” like Matthew McConaughey in Dazed and Confused. Alright, indeed! It was going to be a good day.

The trip took us up Lazaretto Creek to Cockspur Beacon, a lighthouse on a tiny island completely encrusted with oysters. I was told to wear shoes, as these oysters would “cut you up!” They were indeed sharp, attached to the earth by their hinges and pointing straight up.

When it was time to leave Cockspur Beacon, I struggled to keep up with the kayakers. I’ve kayaked before, and paddle boards are a bit trickier; it’s a lot harder to maintain your balance and paddle while standing.

All of a sudden, I found myself falling into the water, sucking salty water up my nose and wondering how I was going to get back on my board. I was feeling pretty bummed out when, suddenly, a school of dolphins came leaping through the water right next to me. This was the closest I’d ever been to a dolphin, and the first time I’d ever seen them outside of captivity. I decided I wasn’t so bummed after all; in fact, I felt downright ecstatic. It’s almost as if the dolphins were checking up on me to make sure I was alright. “Alright, alright, alriiiight!”

As we were bringing up the rear, the other guides went on ahead with the kayakers and Shane hung back with me and Keith. Shane told me that he was a former history teacher who came out to Tybee and got into the kayak and board business so he wouldn’t have to be in such a hurry anymore. I also learned that he was a bagpipe player in a Keltic band.

I learned that you should use your stomach muscles to paddle rather than just your arms. Shane likened riding a paddle board to riding a horse; the horse knows which way to go, and the rider should go with the flow and move in tandem with the horse. I told him I used to ride horses until I discovered cars and realized how much I love to drive. We went on to talk about cars and motorcycles. He told me his wife would only drive a stick and preferred all-wheel drive, and I said I understood why… because off-roading and driving a manual transmission are fun!

Once the trip was over we were sad to leave. We thanked our hosts for the excellent adventure and hospitality. This whole experience made me want to move to Tybee Island. Did I mention it was destined to be a good day? Well, it was a good day; no doubt about it.

By the time we made it back to the car, we were exhausted. Paddle boarding is a workout! We went back to the hotel to catch our breath before heading to downtown Savannah to sample yet another must-try restaurant on our list: Vinnie Van Go-Go’s Pizza.

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This New York style pizzeria was on every top 10 must-try list we came across while planning our trip, from Trip Advisor to Yelp to Urban Spoon. We parked beside Franklin Square and entered the City Market; a pedestrian friendly, four-block area teeming with restaurants, bars and shops.

There were quite a few people waiting for tables, so we put our name on the list. One of the great things about Savannah is the lack of an open container restriction, which allows pedestrians to walk around the historic district with drinks. We got beers from the bar inside the restaurant and checked out the area.

Once we were seated, we ordered a 14” pie with pepperoni, mushrooms and black olives. Vinnie’s pizza is thin crust, neapolitan style with plenty of sauce. When it arrived, we dug in. We’ve had good pizza from lots of places, but we’d put the one we had that night on Bryan Street high on the list.

After dinner, we put our leftovers in the car and headed for Reynolds Square, where we’d engage in that most Savannah of activities, a ghost tour. What would a trip to Savannah be without a ghost tour? With a reputation as “America’s most haunted city,” we simply had to try it.

Earlier in the day, we’d booked a walking tour with an outfit called Ghost Talk Ghost Walk, which promised to clue us in on many of Savannah’s hauntings and other strange phenomena. We arrived at the square and stood looking up at the statue of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, backlit against the night sky.

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The tour began at The Olde Pink House, a Savannah landmark located on the edge of the square. Over the next 90 minutes, our guide took us from one location to another, filling us in on the various ghost stories and odd happenings from the city’s long history.

-At the Kehoe House B&B, he told us about the ghostly children who implore guests to “come play with me.”

-At Colonial Park Cemetery, we learned about Rene Rondolier, a seven foot tall behemoth who was lynched after being accused of killing two young girls in the cemetery and has haunted the area ever since.

-At the 17hundred90 Inn we were regaled with the tale of Anne, who threw herself out of a second story window and haunts room 204 to this day.

-At the Marshall House Hotel, we got chills while hearing about the structure’s past as a Civil War hospital, where guests have reported being harassed, bitten and choked by unseen forces.

At last we arrived back at the car, still looking over our shoulders for any of the spirits which inhabit the city. We returned to the hotel, tired but happy, and settled in. Sleep came quickly and was undisturbed. If any of the specters we’d heard about had followed us, we were completely unaware.

The next morning, it was time to prepare for the drive home. We’d had a wonderful few days in Savannah, but there was still one more place we had to see. We checked out of the hotel and headed East, passing through residential neighborhoods until we reached Bonaventure Cemetery.

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Established in 1846, this 160-acre resting place achieved notoriety with the 1994 publication of John Berendt’s novel “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” The movie version, directed by Clint Eastwood, made it famous. We parked and took a walk along the paved driveways, stopping to check out tombstones and mausoleums.

Though there were many intriguing things about the cemetery, the most memorable part was the holocaust memorial. This area of the cemetery holds the remains of many Jewish people who died at the hands of the Nazis. It is a sobering reminder of how easily humankind can slip into genocide, when racial and national pride go too far.

Hot and tired after exploring the cemetery, we needed a rest stop, and one last chance to sample Savannah’s local cuisine, before heading home. We returned to the City Market, where we got a table at Belford’s Seafood and Steaks.

Belford’s, located in a historic two-story structure that was once a wholesale food company, is consistently ranked among Savannah’s best restaurants. We chose an indoor table to get out of the heat, and were seated in the main dining room.

Belford’s is a nice place, with a menu chock full of southern favorites. We ordered two of the house specialties, shrimp and grits and mac and cheese. When the food arrived, we found out why everyone from locals to visitors to celebrities frequent the place.

You can get shrimp and grits almost anywhere in the south; but only at Belford’s can you get shrimp with a smoked gouda grit cake, Applewood smoked bacon, collard greens, Chardonnay butter sauce, heirloom tomatoes, green onions and parmesan. Incredible! And the mac and cheese! Andouille sausage, peppers, onions, cilantro and three-cheese sauce. You could add chicken or shrimp, but why would you? Absolutely delicious!

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After stuffing our faces one last time, we were forced to say goodbye to Savannah. We got into the car and headed West. Soon, we were on I-16, headed home.

The end of a vacation is always bittersweet. You’re happy to get home, but a little sad that the trip is over. That’s the great thing about our “I See Georgia” tour; the trip is never really over. There is always another destination lying just over the horizon, ready to be discovered.

That’s all for now. As always, thanks for reading. We always appreciate it! For more information about Savannah, visit the official Savannah tourism page at http://www.savannah.com/

Until later…

Next time: We’ll head North for a visit to the sight of the first Gold Rush in the United States: Dahlonega

By Keith and Dena Maxwell

 

 

 

 

 

I See Georgia: Savannah-Day 2

Our first full day in Savannah dawned cloudy and cool. The shuttle to the historic district, which our hotel provided free of charge, was supposed to leave at 9am. Unfortunately, we were unaware of this fact until approximately 8:25am. Undeterred, we sprang into action. A flurry of showers, getting dressed, and grabbing any items we could ever possibly need later, we were out in front of the hotel at 8:55.

9:00 came and went. No shuttle. We went back inside to check with the clerk and were assured we were in the right place. We sat on a bench and waited as the quarter hour approached. Other hotel guests continually poured out of the lobby, hopped into their cars, and disappeared. The idea became more and more appealing as 9:20 came and went.

Finally, the shuttle arrived. We boarded along with one other couple and, a few minutes later, were dropped off downtown, ready to begin a self-guided tour of the historic district. Did we mention that it was cool outside? With the wind whipping between the buildings it was downright cold. On top of that, a light rain began to fall. Huddling together to stay warm, we trudged along, ice cold on an early June day!

Eventually we began our tour, though not before we’d purchased coffee, long sleeve shirts, and an umbrella. Of course, it wasn’t long until the sun came out and the day warmed considerably, which left us carrying the things we purchased. Oh well, what are you going to do?

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We began our tour with a visit to River Street, the oldest area of Savannah. We walked along the cobblestone street, below bridges where cotton was once sold to the hordes below, as huge barges loaded with containers cruised by on the river.

After a while, we veered off River Street and headed deeper into the historic district. Everyone who visits Savannah returns with stories of how beautiful the city is. After just a few minutes, you can see why. Everywhere we looked were stately 19th century homes, ancient brick buildings, and streets lined with live oaks covered with hanging Spanish moss.

Savannah is laid out around a series of squares, so every few streets we came to a grassy park filled with trees, benches and monuments. We set out on a walking tour outlined on a map we obtained from the visitor’s center; a path we followed for approximately two blocks before freelancing.

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After a couple of hours exploring, it was time for lunch. We headed for the Savannah Seafood Shack, a place we’d read had good seafood. We entered the long, narrow space and ordered at the counter, choosing one order of low country boil and a shrimp po’ boy. While we waited for our food, we checked out the interior, which was decorated with fishing and sailing paraphernalia.

When the food came, it was every bit as good as we’d hoped. The boil came in a bag, and when poured into a bowl, it produced a wonderful aroma. For the unfortunate among you who’ve never had this coastal favorite, low country boil consists of shrimp, andouille sausage, red potatoes, corn and a generous amount Old Bay seasoning. We tore into the food, relishing every bite. Both dishes were excellent, and we polished off every bite.

After lunch, we resumed our tour of Savannah. There is much to see in Georgia’s oldest city; too much, in fact, to recount it all here. Therefore, in an effort to keep this blog from becoming epically long, we now present a few highlights from our day in the historic district:

-Wright Square: This open space is the burial place of Yamacraw Chief Tomo-Chi-Chi, who was instrumental in the founding of the colony of Georgia. A friend of the English who negotiated the treaty which allowed for the settlement of Savannah, Tomo-Chi-Chi was buried in the square in 1739. Today, a boulder rests near his burial site, adorned with a plaque which reads:

In Memory of Tomo-Chi-Chi
The Mico of the Yamacraws
The Companion of Oglethorpe
And the friend and ally of the
Colony of Georgia.
This stone has been here placed
By the Georgia Society of the
Colonial Dames of America
1739-1899

-Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Originally dedicated in 1876, this gothic cathedral has undergone multiple renovations over the years. Now complete, and open to the public, the inside of the cathedral is breathtaking, with vaulted ceilings, ornate pillars and beautiful stained-glass windows. We sat in a pew for a while, taking it all in, before approaching the sanctuary. There, we lit candles and said a few words for all those we’ve lost. Peaceful, as well as sobering.

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-Historic Stairs. All along River Street, which is well below the bluff upon which the rest of the downtown area sits, lie stairways that were built in the 1700s. Each stairway has a sign which informs pedestrians to use at their “own risk.” We climbed a number of different flights, many of which were steep, with little or no handrails. Despite the warnings, we were able to successfully navigate these “steps of death.”

-Colonial Park Cemetery. Established in the middle of the eighteenth century, this cemetery was the primary burial ground for the city until 1853, when it was closed to new interments. During the Civil War, Union soldiers reportedly desecrated many of the graves, changing dates on headstones. Many of these headstones now line the back wall of the cemetery. Colonial Park is the final resting place of many who died during the yellow fever epidemic of 1820, as well as a number of victims of Savannah’s dueling era.

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-Chippewa Square. Forest Gump once sat on a bench in this square, telling anyone who would listen about his life. While that bench is now in a museum, hordes of tourists still flock to Chippewa to see the famous area. For us, it was all about the statue of James Oglethorpe, the founder of the colony of Georgia, that looms over the center of the square. Looking up at the stature, we were struck by the history (which we fully acknowledge was often less than worthy of praise) of our state. Without Oglethorpe, tours like ours wouldn’t be possible. So despite anything that may or may not have happened back then, we gave our grudging respect for the man who gave us Georgia!

At last, hot and tired from walking around town, we elected to retire to the hotel. We called the designated phone number for the shuttle, and were informed that the next pickup would occur at 4:15pm. Since it was currently 2:00pm, we made the only rational decision on how to spend our downtime.

Ten minutes later we were sitting on the patio at Tubby’s on River Street, sipping Tybee Island Blonde beers as the afternoon crawled by. Two hours later, we were still sipping beer on River Street when we realized that our shuttle would arrive in five minutes.

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We hastily paid our tab and hurried to the Hyatt Regency, the drop off/pickup point. We made it to the stop just in time to catch our ride. On the way back to the hotel, we stuck up a conversation with the driver, a chef who spent his mornings preparing breakfast at one of Savannah’s premiere bed and breakfast inns.

As we cruised across the city, we spoke with the driver about his other job. At some point, he mentioned his impending wedding. We congratulated him on the upcoming nuptials. Eventually he mentioned that he was originally from Columbus, a city that the Bear Team will be visiting in the near future. After speaking with him, we can’t wait to experience the second largest city in Georgia!

Back at the hotel, we prepared to meet our friend Alison, who lives in Savannah, and her daughter Lily for dinner at one of Savannah’s most well-known restaurants: The Pirates’ House.

The Pirates’ House, which is built around the Herb House, thought to be the oldest building in the state, has a long and infamous history. Legend has it that ships’ captains in need of crew members would wait until sailors became drunk at the bar, then knock them unconscious before dragging them through tunnels to the river. The sailors would later awaken on a ship, doomed to serve against their will forever. Who’s hungry?!

Seated at a table in the Captain’s Room, we ordered a Seafood Harvest Platter and a Shrimp Athens. As we waited, we caught up with our friend and discussed our visit. When the food arrived, we dug in. The Shrimp Athens was the highlight, with fresh shrimp and a delicious sauce over pasta. The Seafood Platter was also good, but a little too big to finish. We packed up the leftovers to enjoy later.

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Eventually, the hour grew late, and we said goodbye to Alison and Lily. We left the restaurant and walked back to our car. It had been an awesome day, touring Savannah and enjoying good food. Still, there was one thing we still wanted to do before calling it a night.

We hadn’t seen the Atlantic Ocean since a 2010 visit to Charleston, South Carolina. During our time on the West coast, we’d visited the Pacific quite a bit, but we’d missed the Atlantic over the years. So we headed for Tybee Island, which is 20 miles East of Savannah.

We crossed the causeway and pulled into a parking lot just before 10pm. Under the watchful eye of the Tybee Lighthouse, we crossed the street and walked along a long bridge which crossed the sand dunes. Suddenly, the ocean appeared, shimmering in the moonlight. We stood on the beach, watching waves lap the shore as a cool breeze brought with it the salty smell of the Atlantic. Not a bad way to end our night!

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That’s all for now! We’ll be back soon with the conclusion of our Savannah trip. As always, thanks for reading. We certainly appreciate it.

Until later…

-By Keith and Dena Maxwell

 

 

 

 

 

I See Georgia: Savannah-Day 1

Savannah has always held a special place in Georgia lore. It is unlike any other place in the state, combining historic homes, ancient buildings, a busy shipping port, a river, and beachfront communities, as well as all the restaurants, nightlife, and other attractions we enjoy about the stops on our tour.

Once, while in New York for a friend’s wedding, we found ourselves talking to a relative of the bride who lived on Long Island. We spoke about how we knew the groom, who is from Georgia. Then the talk turned to our home state. At some point, the guy mentioned a city he’d visited in Georgia; a city on a river with historic buildings and cobblestone streets.

“Savannah!” we both said in unison.

“Savannah,” the man said, with longing in this voice. “I left a piece of my heart there.”

Not that his reaction was a surprise. Many people we’ve encountered who’ve visited the city have felt the same way. Something about the vibe, the history, and the beauty of Savannah has led more than a few people to visit again and again. Now, in the midst of our “I See Georgia” tour, the time had come for the Bear Team to experience all that the oldest city in the state had to offer.

Our visit would be more than another stop on the tour; it would double as our yearly anniversary vacation. Unlike the other cities we’d visited so far, we would spend several days in Savannah, both checking out the city and taking time to celebrate 14 years of marriage.

Savannah lies in Southeastern Georgia, approximately 220 miles from our home in Athens. We cruised along Highway 15, passing through Greensboro, Sandersville, and Wrightsville (home of the legendary Herschel Walker!) as “Ganstabilly” by the Drive By Truckers blared from the stereo speakers. We merged onto I-16 just South of Stillmore and headed East.

We drove for half an hour until, in need of a pit stop, we took an exit ramp near Metter. We pulled into a gas station and got out of the car to go inside, but then our attention was drawn to a sign which read “Mosley’s World Famous Animal Exit Farm.”

Intrigued, we paid $1 apiece and entered through the gate. Inside we found a smorgasbord of animals, including goats, emus, ducks, and exotic birds. We spent a few minutes petting goats that reared up on their hind legs to get to us before heading to an indoor facility containing parrots which responded to our calls of “hello” and a baby calf that, while shy, eventually approached and ate grass out of our hands.

Back on the interstate, we hurtled through intermittent rain toward our destination as the Piedmont region gave way to the coastal plain. The rain fell harder as we crossed into Chatham County. By the time we pulled into the Baymont Inn and Suites just outside downtown Savannah, it had become a downpour.

We checked into the hotel while pondering our options for the night. Once we had all our bags in the room, we headed for the city. We parked and walked around, looking for a restaurant from beneath an old umbrella. Eventually, we ended up at Ruan Thai on Broughton Street.

We ducked in out of the rain and were seated at a booth. The first thing we noticed about Ruan was the interior, which was dim, but still warm and inviting. There was a statue guarding the doorway and the walls were a soft red. The second thing we noticed was the menu, which combined Thai favorites and sushi.

Here at the Bear Team, we love sushi. During our time living in San Diego, we subsisted primarily on a variety of sushi rolls, along with an assortment of Mexican food. We went with a California roll and a tempura shrimp roll along with Thai coconut soup. We also ordered Sweetwater 420 beers, which we sipped while waiting for our food.

The soup arrived, and was even better than we’d hoped; every bit as good as what we’d once loved at the long-gone Thai of Athens. We polished off the soup and dug into our sushi. We’d been looking forward to some fresh seafood, and we got it, though in a bit of a non-traditional way. Everything was delicious, and a fine meal for our 14th anniversary!

Full and happy, we stepped back out into the intermittent rain, in a quandary over what to do next. It was too wet to do any sightseeing, but we didn’t really want to go back to the hotel. So we decided to drink a little!

We ducked out of the rain and into a place called “Totally Awesome Bar.” We walked down the stairs and immediately realized the name wasn’t accurate; it was freaking perfect! The walls were covered with posters of bands like Foo Fighters and. There were pinball machines and 1980’s era video games. Best of all, there were pool tables.

We put $5 in the slot and were rewarded with six games of pool. After the first game, we went in search of beverages. We approached the bar, which became infinitely cooler when we saw that the entire surface was covered with cassette tapes! We always try to sample local brew, so we ordered a Service Compass Rose IPA (Savannah) and a Jeckyll Brewing Company Big Creek (Jeckyll Island). Both were very good, though the Big Creek was definitely the highlight.

We shot pool while 80’s and 90’s music drifted from overhead speakers. At 9pm, open mic comedy night began. Dena signed up for a slot, and killed with story about the “Viking funeral” her dad once gave an old sofa on the beach at Lake Hartwell. As the night wore on, more than a few Big Creeks (which come with a slice of lemon on the rim of the glass) were ordered and consumed. It was a good night.

Eventually we left the bar, dodging raindrops until we made it back to the car. As we headed back to the hotel, we reflected on life, love, and beer. What else could you possibly need?

That does it for now. We’ll be back soon with more of our Savannah trip. What adventures waited in store for day two of our visit? Stay tuned to find out!

Until next time…

By Keith and Dena Maxwell

 

 

I See Georgia: Athens

I See Georgia: Athens

 

The thing about Georgia is it never leaves you, no matter where you go in life. Athens…the Arch…the history of Georgia- it’s just part of the fiber that is me. Growing up in Athens and being a Bulldog is special. It is part of your soul.”

 

NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton, who played collegiately at the University of Georgia, once spoke these words about Athens. While neither of us ever played a sport at UGA, we definitely agree with the sentiment. Athens is a place that sticks with you, no matter where you go or what you do.

We live in Athens, and have for years. We both attended UGA. This is our town; our home. While we’ve been spending our days in the city for such a long time (on and off since birth for at least one of us!), we were about to embark on a mission unlike any other on our “I See Georgia” tour. We were about to spend a day visiting our own hometown.

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Like Rome, a previous destination on our tour, Athens is named for its European counterpart. Known as “The Classic City,” Athens is home to the University of Georgia, as well as a thriving music scene that has spawned such bands as REM, The B-52s, and Of Montreal. In 1991, Athens merged its government with Clarke County’s, resulting in the city becoming the sixth largest in the state with over 120,000 residents.

We began our exploration with a Saturday night visit to Clocked! The retro burger joint, located in the heart of downtown, has long been one of our favorites on those days when we need some comfort food. We entered the diner, located just steps from the legendary 40 Watt Club. It was pleasant outside, so we chose a patio table.

Clocked’s menu features a variety of specialty burgers, offering everything from the Ring of Fire, with pepper jack cheese and jalapeno peppers, to the Peanut Butter Bacon. We spent a few minutes looking over the menu before deciding on a Meteor Burger, a Pimento Cheese Burger, and fries.

When our waitress brought the burgers, they were as good as they’d always been. The patties were juicy and delicious, and the fries were hot and crispy. The Meteor Burger featured melted feta cheese and bacon, while the pimento cheese was reminiscent of the “Wicked Pimina” we sampled on a burger in Rome. We polished off the food, and then leaned back, content to watch people pass by on the way to a night out in Athens.

The next morning, taking advantage of a day in our hometown, we slept in; rising only when we awoke of our own accord. We sat around for a bit, sipping coffee and discussing where to go first. When we finally got going, it was past time for some food. In Athens, Sunday is the day to grab some brunch. So we parked on Prince Avenue and headed to our favorite late morning/early afternoon haunt: The Grit.

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This vegetarian restaurant, located in an old brick building just outside downtown, is a favorite, among both the vegan/vegetarian crowd and the omnivore set. The walls are covered with paintings by local artists, and the specials are listed on a chalkboard behind the counter. We settled in for a satisfying meal of comfort food, and that is exactly what we got.

Between the Cowboy Omelette with cheese, sour cream and salsa, the Special Omelette with pureed sweet potato and avocado, the breakfast potatoes, and the biscuits with yeast gravy, we more than satisfied our cravings. Our stomachs full, we leaned back as we planned the rest of our day.

Eventually, summoning all our will power, we left The Grit and headed out to explore Athens. Our first stop was Oconee Hill Cemetery, founded in 1855. We’d long planned a visit to this historic burial place, but for some reason we never got around to it. Now, on a hot day in late May, we parked just inside the cemetery gates and got out of the car.

Oconee Hill Cemetery is located directly across East Campus Road from Sanford Stadium. We’d spent more than a few Saturdays inside the stadium, cheering on our beloved Georgia Bulldogs. Now and then, during breaks in the action, we’d glance down at the cemetery, remembering our plan to tour it, before returning to full-on fan mode.

Now, here we were, ducking under a scuppernong vine and gazing at a tombstone dedicated to a dog named Prince who was interred in 1932. We left the arbor and walked through the old cemetery, passing tombstones for both civilians and confederate soldiers.

We walked on, crossing the Oconee River at one point as we headed deeper and deeper into the cemetery. Though we’d known about the place for so many years, we had no idea it was so big. Row after row of tombstones jutted from the earth, memorializing people who’d left the mortal coil over the last 150 or more years. The cemetery is a powerful place, both historical and haunting at the same time. So much to see and so little time.

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While we could have spent the entire day at Oconee Hill, there were other destinations to visit. So we said goodbye to the cemetery and headed for our next stop, the Georgia Museum of Art. The museum was another place we’d always meant to visit. Originally opened in 1948 in the in the basement of the old library on UGA’s North Campus, it now occupies a contemporary 79,000 square foot building on East Campus.

We parked in the parking deck and entered the blissfully cool structure which offers free admission. We walked up the stairs and found ourselves in a quiet hallway lined on both sides by galleries chock full of paintings, sculptures and the like. With just an hour left before closing time, we chose a room featuring the works of Kristin Casaletto.

Casaletto, who is from the Midwest, moved to Mississippi to accept a teaching position. Her new environment led to a series of paintings that focus on the history of racial violence in the region. There were also self-portraits and various other pieces. We immediately fell in love with her work, especially Apocalypse, a piece that depicts a skeleton being pulled into whatever hell might await.

We were so absorbed by the Casaletto exhibition that we barely had time to see anything else. We took a quick walk through a few more rooms filled with paintings, baskets, furniture and sculptures. Way too soon, it was time to go. The museum will definitely be on our agenda for a future visit.

Next up on our agenda was a visit to one of the more unusual landmarks you’ll find anywhere. We followed Broad Street, then turned on Finley, where we bounced up old cobblestones, passing through a quiet residential neighborhood, until we reached “The Tree That Owns Itself.”

Legend has it that, sometime in the late 1800s, Colonel William Jackson, in an effort to protect a white oak that grew on his property, deeded to the tree the land on which it stood. Today, no one knows if this deed actually exists, or ever existed, but nevertheless, the tree remains.

Well, not exactly. The original tree fell over and died in 1946, but a new one, grown from an acorn dropped by the original, was planted in its place. So the legend continues.

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We parked on Finley and walked over to the large oak, which is surrounded by posts and a chain. At the base of the tree lies a plaque, which reads as follows:
FOR AND IN CONSIDERATION
OF THE GREAT LOVE I BEAR
THIS TREE AND THE GREAT DESIRE
I HAVE FOR ITS PROTECTION
FOR ALL TIME, I CONVEY ENTIRE
POSSESSION OF ITSELF AND
ALL LAND WITHIN EIGHT FEET
OF THE TREE ON ALL SIDES

WILLIAM H. JACKSON
We spent a few more minutes walking around the neighborhood, then got back in the car. Following Finley Street, which actually makes a bend to go around the tree, we headed downtown.

Downtown Athens is an eclectic place; an area chock full of restaurants, music venues and (especially) bars, located directly across the street from the University of Georgia. For years people have chided UGA for the significant number of athletes who run into trouble with the law. But honestly, what chance does an eighteen-year-old from a one-stoplight town in South Georgia have when faced with such an active nightlife scene?

We parked and walked around town, enjoying a beautiful (if slightly warm!) May day. Athens is known for its music scene, and if any place is emblematic of the musical history of the city, it has to be Wuxtry Records on Clayton Street.

We ducked inside the record store and browsed through the large collection of CDs and Vinyl. Wuxtry is famous for past employees Peter Buck of REM and Danger Mouse, and was named by Rolling Stone as one of the best record stores in the USA in 2010. Virtually everyone who has ever worked at Wuxtry is, was, or will be in a band. So it was no surprise that the guy behind the counter, with whom we ended up talking for half an hour, plays guitar in a band called Nate and the Nightmares.

After leaving Wuxtry we walked around, passing such Athens landmarks as the 40 Watt Club and the Georgia Theatre, where we’d seen everyone from Sevendust to Arlo Guthrie, until the heat drove us in search of something cold to drink. Luckily, even though it was Sunday, a number of establishments were open for business. We ended up at 5, a bar on Hull Street.

The walls inside 5 are adorned with paintings of famous local bands, and the menu offers both food and drinks. Since it was the middle of the afternoon, we bellied up to the bar and ordered our personal favorite beer, Creature Comforts Tropicalia.

Have we mentioned how much we love Tropicalia? We order it nearly everywhere we go. An IPA with a hint of citrus, this local brew is always in demand; so much so that people drive into town from miles away to make sure they get some. We sat outside, sipping our beers as a late afternoon crawled by. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday!

With only an hour or so of daylight left, it was time to do something that we’d avoided doing for our entire lives; an act that was so touristy, so cliché, that no self-respecting Athens native would even think of engaging in it. We made our way to the corner of College Avenue and Broad Street, to have our pictures made in front of the UGA Arch.

The Arch, installed in 1864, is the official icon for the university. Over the years, nearly everyone who has ever visited Athens, from students to football fans to tourists, has posed for a photo there. Now, it was time to join the club!

We approached the steps leading to the Arch and stood gazing up at it. Legend has it that if an underclassman walks under it, he or she will never graduate. Since we weren’t students (at least not anymore!) we risked angering whatever spirits enforce such rules and took turns standing under the iron structure, taking pictures in various poses.

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Fresh off of our blatant disregard for superstitious nonsense, we chose to push our luck further by walking around the campus. North campus, which is the oldest part of the University, is a beautiful place, featuring grand halls, flowing fountains, and green quads. We paused beside such iconic landmarks as Herty Field, where the first Georgia football games took place, and the chapel bell, which fans ring following Bulldog football victories.

By now, darkness was fast approaching, so we headed for the final stop on our tour, Gyro Wrap. This hole-in-the-wall local favorite has some of the best comfort food in town. Neither of us has ever ordered anything there other than the place’s namesake, and tonight was no exception.

We ordered wraps, curly fries, and another Creature Comforts creation, the pilsner, hops-intensive Bibo. We sat at the counter, sipping our beer until the food arrived, hot and delicious. As we gorged on the wraps and fries, we found ourselves in a conversation with the staff concerning Darren Aronofsky films, especially his 2000 masterpiece Requiem for a Dream, a harrowing tale of addiction and its consequences. If you’ve never seen this one, do yourself a favor and check it out. But beware; it’s not for the faint of heart.

By the time we left the restaurant, night had fallen on the Classic City, and the time had come to head home. Somewhere between the restaurant and the car, a line from The Probability of Miracles by author Wendy Wunder came to mind:

The magic thing about home is that it feels good to leave, and it feels even better to come back.

As we left downtown and headed for our house in Five Points, the quote rang true. For the last two months, we’d spent nearly every weekend visiting a city with which we had virtually no experience. While the visits were and continue to be fun, there is nothing quite like being at home. And as we cruised along Lumpkin Street, we knew that we were exactly where we belonged.

 

That does it for now. As always, thanks for reading. We certainly appreciate it. For more information about Athens, visit the official tourism website here (or better yet, just ask one of us!):

https://www.visitathensga.com/

Until later…

Next time: We’ll head Southeast to visit “America’s Most Haunted City.” It’s the oldest city in Georgia: Savannah!

By Keith and Dena Maxwell

 

 

I See Georgia: Madison

I See Georgia: Madison

You know that town? The one you are aware of, but never spend any time in? The one you pass through on the way to some distant destination? Of course you do! We all have a town like that. For the Bear Team, that town is Madison. What hidden treasures lay in this place? We were determined to find out.

Madison is known for its historic homes. It is overflowing with historic homes. You can’t take a step in any direction without bumping into an historic home. Above all else, it is recognized as a town filled with civil war era houses, reportedly spared General Sherman’s torches due to the sheer beauty of the structures within. Whether or not Sherman decided to let Madison stand because it was “too beautiful to burn” is a matter for historians to decide. Either way, no one questions the aesthetics of the place.

For quite a few years, we lived in Madison County. This led to quite a bit of confusion when the topic of our place of residence arose in conversation. Our fellow Georgians can probably guess where this is going. For those of you who aren’t familiar with our geography, let us explain.

The city of Madison is not located in Madison County. We know it doesn’t make since, but that’s just the way it is. Madison is located in Morgan County, which, while in the same general part of the state, is several counties away from Madison County. This led to more than a few versions of this conversation:

Some guy: “So where do you live.”

Us: “Madison County.”

Some girl: “The place with all the big houses!”

Us: “No, the place with all the cows.”

Despite the constant misunderstandings, we knew about Madison, having passed through the town quite a few times, though always on the way to other places. For many years, there was no bypass. So if you wanted to go anywhere South of Madison, you were required to drive through much of the historic district.

As kids, we didn’t give a damn about historic homes, districts, or anything else. We just wanted to get to wherever the hell our parents were taking us already! But years later, as adults, we’ve developed an appreciation for history. We’d even spent a little time in Madison, though not enough to really see much of anything. But now the time had come to finally check out this antebellum treasure.

Unlike the previous destinations on our tour, Madison is close, lying just 26 miles south of Athens. Therefore, we were able to sleep in before heading out. We left Athens just after noon on a mid-May Saturday, entering Madison well before 1:00pm.

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We cruised down Main Street, passing restaurants and businesses as we headed for the middle of town. We reached downtown and pulled into the parking lot of Big Kev’s BBQ. We always look for potential eateries online before visiting a town, and all of the reviews for this BBQ joint were very positive, so we’d decided to give it a try.

Big Kev’s is located in an old train car, with meat smoking just outside. We climbed the steps and entered through a side door. Inside, the walls were adorned with UGA and Atlanta Falcons memorabilia and vintage concert posters from legendary acts like Jimi Hendrix. Our kind of place!

We were seated and ordered pulled pork sandwiches, stew, and collards. We waited for our order as blues drifted from overhead speakers. When the food arrived, we dug in. To say that we enjoyed it would be an incredible understatement. The BBQ was awesome, with a perfect tangy/sweet sauce. The stew was just like the best of what we’d grown up eating, and the collards were beyond words.

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After gorging on so much delicious food, we were in desperate need of a walk. We were also in desperate need of a restroom, so we walked into the visitors’ center hoping for help with both. The young woman behind the counter was very helpful, and pointed us in the direction of the historic district.

Refreshed and ready to check out the town, we walked along Main Street before cutting across to Old Post Road. In various publications, Madison has been named both the #1 small town in America and one of the world’s 16 most picturesque villages. It only took a few minutes of exploring to see why.

Everywhere we looked was a house straight out of Gone With the Wind. Huge mansions with perfectly maintained lawns surrounded by white picket fences lined both sides of the street. We strolled along, pausing every few seconds to gaze at yet another impossibly beautiful home.

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Eventually we came upon an undeveloped, grassy area dotted with trees. An historical marker dubbed the expanse “The Town Commons.” According to the marker, in the early 1800’s the Georgia Legislature set aside parcels of land for Madison’s establishment. The Inferior Court (bet those justices take a lot of crap from Superior and Supreme Court justices at judge parties!) then subdivided the land to create a “Publick Square.” We did not misspell this. The sign actually reads that way. Maybe that’s why the court was inferior!

We circled the block and headed back the way we’d come. Walking down Central Avenue, we came upon the Madison City Cemetery. The cemetery is divided into sections, one of which was labeled “Old Cemetery.” We walked through this portion, stopping to read inscriptions on tombstones that dated back nearly two centuries.

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After a hundred yards of so, the land began to slope downward. We continued along the path, as the well-kept plots gave way to ones that were less maintained. Some of the older graves in the cemetery are located in this area, which is a bit sad, given the manicured state of the rest of the cemetery.

At the bottom of the hill, we entered a small park adjacent to the cemetery. We walked along a shaded path which crossed a creek and led back uphill. By the time we made it to the end and re-entered the downtown area, we were tired. In need of a little pick-me-up, we headed for Perk Avenue Coffee.

This coffee shop, located on Main Street, was one of the coolest places we visited in Madison. In addition to coffee, Perk Avenue offers food, ice cream, and live entertainment. We ordered coffees and sat at a table to enjoy our caffeine fix. The coffee was delicious, and more than served its intended purpose.

We sipped our drinks while we pondered our next move. By now, it was late afternoon, and still so much left to see. We left Perk Avenue and walked around downtown. We took in the Morgan County Courthouse, which includes bricks containing the names of every county citizen who died in battle while the U.S. was at war.

We then spent some time strolling around the area, stopping to check out the Madison Produce Company on Washington Street. This hidden gem offers not only fresh fruits and vegetables, but soups and sandwiches, including something called the “Burning Sherman.” Since it wasn’t dinner time, we bought a Mexican coke, featuring pure cane sugar, and enjoyed it at an outdoor table.

After leaving the Produce Company, we visited the Town Park; a green space in the middle of the downtown area. We walked around the park, taking time to visit the James Madison Inn, which is across the street. The entire area is memorable, and emblematic of the idyllic southern town.

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As sunset approached, we found ourselves ready for dinner. After scouting several locations, we ended up at the Madison Chophouse Grill. We put our name down, expecting a long wait. But within 15 minutes, we found ourselves seated, reviewing the menu. There was a Braves game on television, and we checked out the score while waiting.

The interior of the Chophouse is reminiscent of your standard bar and grill, but the menu options are quite a bit more varied. We ordered chopped steak and meatloaf with various sides. When the food came, we dug in. Both of our entrees were delicious, and we made short work of our plates. The atmosphere inside was laid back, and we enjoyed everything about our visit to this Madison landmark.

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After dinner, the time had come to head home. We drove across town, passing more places we’d more than likely visit on subsequent trips. Soon we were on Macon Highway, cruising toward Athens. Soon we would be home, but in the meantime, we reflected on all we’d experienced.

Madison is a great place; one of the best small towns we’ve ever visited. Given the proximity to our hometown, it will definitely maintain a place on our go-to list. Until then, we’ll hold a place in our hearts for it. After all, who wouldn’t enjoy a visit to a place to beautiful to burn; or a place too nice to forget.

That does it for now. For more information about Madison, visit the official tourism page here:

http://visitmadisonga.com/

As usual, thanks for reading. We always appreciate it. We’ll be back soon with the next installment in our tour of Georgia. Until later…

Next time: We’ll be tourists in our own town! It’s a day out in the home of the Bear Team, Athens!

By Keith and Dena Maxwell