A Fabulous Get-away Just Two Hours South
Occasionally, life deals you the perfect hand. That is how I would describe the four days I recently spent on St. Simons Island, Ga., spending time both there and in Brunswick. I arrived on a Friday afternoon alone. It was a short two-hour drive from Hilton Head. I had only seen my accommodations online, however, Debi Fry, manager of SSI Fun Property Rentals, had set everything up, so I knew I had nothing to worry about. I have rented from SSI Fun for years and haven’t been disappointed yet.
When I made the turn onto Beachview Drive, the Holly Hudson House was in sight. I kept turning my head from the house to the wide-open view of the great Atlantic right across the street. Quite frankly, they both were stunning. I got out of my car, took in a deep, soul filling, salt-air breath and started making myself at home. This was an easy task because the grandness of this house was exactly what I needed. After filling the elevator with my bags and sending it upstairs to wait on me, I meandered up to find myself in awe. I was like a princess who had found her castle. The covered porch, which sprawled across the entire front of the house, beckoned me. The view was expansive and I was mesmerized.
The next morning, I watched the sunrise from the porch and waited on my friends. Alison Meeks, Michelle Casey and Mike Casavant all arrived just in time to catch the trolley for a historic tour of the Island with St. Simons Trolley Island Tours. Kevin was our guide and he was a master at mixing fun with facts, covering 400 years of fascinating history and folklore.
I have been visiting St. Simons on a fairly regular basis since I started Paisley Magazine, Pink’s sister magazine, there in 2008. However, on the trolley tour, I learned a lot. Being a history buff, I was enthralled in the stories about the old working plantations, the Wesley brothers of Methodist fame, the Battle of Bloody Marsh between the Spanish and Brits, the lighthouse and Ft. Frederica, which dates back to 1734. There were many Kodak moments along the tour and even a chance to get out and tour Christ Church, where Charles Wesley preached under the oaks in the 1740s. This is the trolley tour endorsed by the beloved author, Eugenia Price, famous for her St. Simons Trilogy.
After the trolley tour we cruised down to the Pier Village in our six-seater golf cart, provided to us, along with bikes, by Island Carts. One unique thing about St. Simons is golf carts are allowed on most roads, so it’s easy to scoot all over town, while staying in an island state-of-mind. The Pier Village is St. Simons’ downtown. It is a short, two-block long road leading straight to the beach and public pier. Along the way it is lined with eclectic, charming, independent shops and restaurants. We grabbed some lunch before heading to Uncle Don’s Local Market to prepare for our dinner party.
Uncle Don’s is well known for providing Georgia grown produce to the locals. As cozy as it was fresh, the small store was chock-full of organic produce, honey, plants, herbs and Southern gift items. Our picks of the day were broccoli, chard and a fresh, moist loaf of blueberry bread, baked by Debi Fry (yes, our property manager). Of course while we were there we had to stop in at 1610 Antiques—one of our favorite shopping spots!
One would be remiss not to cook in the kitchen at the Holly Hudson House. The kitchen is large and well stocked—a gourmet’s paradise—with wine cooler, professional chef’s gas stove and all! The menu for the evening was chicken Marsala, chard and artichoke salad, linguini, broccoli and wine…lots of wine!
On Sunday, our big adventure took the four of us to Downtown Historic Brunswick, where we had brunch and a cooking class at The Farmer and The Larder. Owned by Chef Matthew Raiford (CheFarmer) and Jovan Sage, The Farmer and The Larder is touted as an educational adventure in taste. CheFarmer is a sixth generation farmer and first generation chef, although he comes from a long line of Southern cooks. With three tours in Desert Storm and a stint patrolling the East/West German border, CheFarmer left the military and decided to study at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY.
With the love of food—specifically farm-to-table foods— coursing through his veins, CheFarmer creates dishes melding the cultural influences that have “touched this area of coast” throughout history—Native American, Spanish, British, African-American. I ordered the double loin, bacon-wrapped, pork tenderloin, served with goat cheese mac and cheese, collards and purple-corn corn bread. As CheFarmer joined us, he brought over a carafe of fresh-squeezed orange juice and a little bubbly. We spent three hours together listening to his wonderful stories, laughing, noshing and cackling over the love of food.
During one of those hours we managed to move to the open kitchen, where CheFarmer taught us to make a Brie en croute stuffed with poached pears. We all had a hand in the preparation and got to indulge in our efforts. Delicious! Our afternoon at The Farmer and Larder was connective and nothing short of a delightful culinary romp through the history of South Coastal Georgia.
When Monday rolled around, we all drudgingly packed up. I didn’t want to leave my temporary palace. The weekend had flown by and I still had books to read, memoirs to write, thoughts to process and I wanted more porch-sitting time. I was spoiled by the view, the stately marble columns, my four-poster bed and most of all the down-stuffed chaise in the master bedroom, which I sank into each night before bed to wind down. But, there was one more stop I was looking forward to—a visit with Melissa Bagby Ramsey at The Market on Newcastle. It’s easy to spend hours in her store, but this time we got a personal tour with Melissa as our guide. She gave us tips and pointers on how easy it is to freshen up your home. We bought books, journals and greeting cards. We could have stayed all day.
Alison, Michelle, Mike and I have already booked the Holly Hudson House for the same long weekend next year. We had so much fun, we want to relive it every year. The address of the house is 911 Beachview Drive. As we were leaving, Michelle said, “It’s not a coincidence that the address is nine-one-one. We all needed rescuing from our busy daily grind and this was perfect.”
If you go (and you really should!):
SSI Fun Rental Properties, Debi Fry
St. Simons Trolley Island Tours
Business: 912-638-8954 or Cell: 912-223-9559
Island Carts, Golf cart and bike rentals
Address: 1725 Airport Rd., SSI | Business: (912) 602-2711
Uncle Don’s Local Market
Address: 1610 Frederica Rd, SSI | Business: (404) 695-4000
Facebook: Uncle Don’s Local Market
The Farmer and The Larder
CheFarmer Matthew Raiford and Jovan Sage
Address: 1523 Newcastle St., Brunswick, GA | Business: (912)342-7700
The Market on Newcastle
Address: 1624 Newcastle St., Brunswick, GA | Business: (912)554-7909
A special thanks to Meredith Deal, Paisley Magazine’s Regional Director and Debi Fry with SSI Fun for making this adventure extra special. It was truly fabulous.