Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Home Again

Well, we’re back home after a 2,100-mile driving odyssey up the east coast and across the Allegheny Mountains to flat land once again.  It’s good to be back in this sleek city, warm once again after a winter that nearly lured the glaciers into a new southern crawl.

Our trip took us first to St. Augustine, the oldest city in the country with its early Spanish influence in evidence everywhere with a dallop of robber-baron opulence and a huge assortment of charming contemporary bed-and-breakfast inns.

The dome of the Flagler College dormitory, once the Ponce de Leon Hotel in St. Augustine
(JWB Photo, 2014)
Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, where construction began in 1672 . (JWB Photo, 2014)
From there we continued up the coast to Savannah, Georgia, a gentle city with a park every two blocks no matter which way we walked.  History and refinement is part of the air you breathe as you walk the old brick paths on your way to the bars and shops carved out of the old cotton warehouses along the Savannah River. 

But there was also misery here, and you feel that, too.  Before the cotton gin it took one slave a whole day to remove the seeds from a pound of cotton.  Four hundred pounds made up a bale, and those warehouses were piled to the rafters with those bales.

Just one of the many parks that beautify Savannah (JWB Photo, 2014)
The 1858 fountain in Forsyth Park, Savannah (JWB Photo, 2014)
One of hundreds of small gardens and courtyards that separate
many of the homes in Savannah (JWB Photo, 2014)
Great little bar we stopped in for an afternoon thirst-quencher.  There
are plenty from which to choose.  (JWB Photo, 2014)
On to Charlotte to visit old and good friends and from there on to Arlington, Virginia to spend a day or two with my kid sister, a time that included an unbelievable meal at the Capital Grille and a quick Metro trip into the National Mall for a stroll around the National Sculpture Garden.

Harry Weese's unbelievable Metro system, still fresh, vibrant and visually
stunning after more than a half-century (JWB Photo, 2014)
Joan MirĂ³'s Personnage Gothique, Oeseau-Eclai at the National
Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden (JWB Photo, 2014)
And then . . . a stop outside New York City to visit our daughter and son-in-law, who generously allowed us full and complete access to our granddaughters, Maddie, just short of her third birthday, and little Faye who is using her seventh month to experiment with hands-and-knees exploration.

The Highlight of the Trip -- Maddie and her little sister, Faye (JWB Photo, 2014)
It was an 800-plus mile hike from there to home with a stop at the Flossmoor Station Brewery, one of the original brew houses in the area, for a great burger, an unbelievable nacho, and a couple of great tasting Pullman brown ales.

It is an amazing thing to drive into this beautiful city on a clear night in May after a long time spent on the road.  Chicago doesn’t crowd you as you enter it; it’s not a city that insists that you love it.  It stands back, separated from Lake Shore Drive by the expanse of Grant Park, its glittering towers waiting for you to come to them. 

There isn’t a one of those towers that, on a still spring night, doesn’t seem perfectly placed, especially on this night, the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, with 300 East Randolph proclaiming in letters five stories tall, Some Gave All.  Waking up the next morning, with the bikers pushing their way up and down the drive and the boaters just heading out on a nearly windless lake, everything was right with the world.  

We were where we belonged.

Welcome home to a city that allows you to love it with no conditions.
(JWB Photo, 2014)
So we’re back.  I’m home, back home, home to share some more of the amazing stories that make up the history of this improbably beautiful prairie berg, the city I love.

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