Saturday, April 30, 2011

Treasures From The Low Country

Dodging Tornadoes, Dedicating Buildings, and Lunch at The Wilkes House

I'm not sure what it is about the Low Country of South Carolina and Georgia, but it is a drug. Once you visit this place you can't ever really get it out of your system.

Many come annually to wear funny shoes, stay in gated luxury resorts, and play golf. 

Me I come to explore a place infused with history and enjoy a complete sensory overload. 

The first thing I always notice when I get off the plane is the air. This is not wimpy air. It is deliciously humid dense air. It is scented with the earthy fragrance of mud after the tides recede. It is air filled with birds and the sound of insects.

After the air comes the visuals. As you drive you are rewarded with views of tall grass marshlands that undulate with every breeze.

There are trees of every description dripping with spanish moss. Once you reach the ocean, you are rewarded with spectacular beaches with warm waters and turtles that return to nest.

Miss M and Low Country Marshlands

Then there is the food. With its diverse population and embarrassment of riches in fresh seafood, meat and produce, it is too wonderful for words. Whether it is a shrimp boil, a sweet peach, onions or pralines, this is a fine place to eat. 

But perhaps most wonderful are the people. They set a pace that is measured. They talk to each other, not just trade abrupt pleasantries. This is where courtesy is respected.

The main reason for my trip this week was to witness the dedication of a fine new police station for the Town of Bluffton SC. We had the honor of collaborating in the planning of this facility and it turned out to be marvelous. The building is technologically advanced, yet features a deceptively simple open plan that encourages staff to work together. It incorporates the work of local artists and utilizes new ideas in sustainable design.

Bluffton's New Police Station

Lobby Mural

Staff Space

Open Bright Workspaces

Surface Water is Cleaned Naturally Using Bio-Swales 

Bluffton's Seal

After the ceremony there was enough time for me to take a leisurely drive on two lane roads to Savannah. 

The Road to Savannah

My target was lunch at my favorite restaurant in Savannah. The venerable Mrs. Wilkes Boarding House (now simply referred to as The Wilke's House.)

This was not my first time here, nor Lord willing, will it be my last. After an hour or so wait in line chatting with some spirited visitors from Toronto, I was seated with 10-12 new friends at a big table that was already set with dozens of bowls filled with steaming southern cooking. Aside from the famous fried chicken (which is always served,) offerings vary from visit to visit. This time there was red beans and rice, collards, stew, pulled pork, black-eyed peas, flat green beans, okra, rice, mashed potatoes / gravy, marinated cucumbers, potato salad, cornbread, macaroni and cheese, and about a dozen other dishes. Dessert was banana pudding or a blueberry crumble.

Tears. Yes, I'm shedding some tears.

This is one of very few American restaurants to be included in the "1000 Things To Do Before You Die" book.

Just remember a few rules: It is only open weekdays from 11-2 PM. There is no parking lot, so bring lots of quarters for the meters (or take the trolley.) Reservations? Get the heck out of here. There is always a line. So rather than bitch about it enjoy it. Bask in the smell of rolls baking and make some new friends. The price is an incredible bargain at just $16 / person (half price for kids). But bring cash, as they do not accept plastic. There is no menu, but you don't need one. If you feel the need to discuss gluten, butter, lactose issues, your aversion to sweet tea, or any other unique dietary problems you may have - please, do us all a favor, and go someplace else!

It is not uncommon for someone at the table to suggest beginning the meal with a prayer. When the meal is complete tradition requires you bus your own plate, glass and utensils to the kitchen.

Come to the Low Country when you are in no hurry. Pack shorts and loose fitting clothes, a few comfortable cotton tees, toss in a pair of flip-flops.

Then slow down, enjoy the views, the food, the culture, and, most of all, the amazing people who call this magic place home.

PS: If you plan it right, you might be able to catch The Lady Chablis at Club One!

Roadboy's Travels © 2011

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