Buffalo Trace

Buffalo Trace
From a few years ago, me mugging with the bronze buffalo sculpture at Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Survival Guide to Amelia Island in Winter



I am on a discovery tour of my roots. Not really, but I am in Florida where I lived for nearly 25 years. In this case, though, I am in North Florida on Amelia Island -- Fernandina Beach to be exact.

When AAA beckons, I answer the call. I'm here researching a travel piece for AAA of the Carolinas Go Magazine.


Never having been here, I am taken with the town's quaintness, history and small-town appeal. I'd like to have the fiberglass/wood-pirate concession here. There seems to be a pirate statue of one sort or another in front of about half the downtown businesses.

At one point I looked down the street and was surprised to see statues of pirates riding camels. As I grew closer, I discovered what I was seeing was part of a church's outdoor nativity scene. The three were the Wise Men bearing frankincense, myrrh and gold doubloons, perhaps.

The weather is miserable. Thanks to an overcast sky, the temperature is in the mid 50s. This is not particularly chilly for a Carolinian, but it is playing havoc with locals who think it signals a new Ice Age.

As I write this, I am supposed to be out on a boat sightseeing. The morning's cruise, however, was canceled because the dozen or so seniors who were booked apparently aren't sturdy enough to set sail on such a crappy day. I'm on the list for this afternoon's outing, but that is in doubt as well.



I did battle the elements to visit Fort Clinch. It's a War of Northern Aggression-era fort built by the Union after the Confederate armies left Florida. It is in remarkably good shape, hosting reenactments with some regularity.

Never one to let a little nasty weather ruin a trip, I have been sampling the town's many watering holes in lieu of outdoor activities. There are an abundance of them.

My Palm Beach County friend Amy has to visit Jacksonville every week for her work. We arranged to have dinner together while I was here and accomplished that last evening. Prior to that, we darkened a few doors.


Our first stop was The Palace Saloon. Billing itself as the oldest bar in Florida, it has a colorful history and is decorated in 19th century funk. At 4 in the afternoon it was full of smoke -- it's easy to take the no-smoking rule of most areas for granted -- so we had a quick beer and struck out for O'Kane's Irish Pub. The Murphy's Stout was cold and creamy.

We were hungry for some chips and salsa, and adjourned to Peppers -- a Mexican cantina --  for that and a margarita.

Now under a full head of steam, we went to Lulu's at the Thompson House for dinner and the obligatory bottle of wine. Our host was Brian Grimley. He and his wife opened Lulu's about 3 years ago. Specializing in Southern dishes with a Cajun influence, Lulu's was a spectacular treat.


It doesn't look like much on the outside, but the food was outstanding. For an appetizer we both had the $11 Jumbo Lump Crab Cake. We then shared what the specials menu described at Mac and Cheese with shrimp, but was really Alfredo sauce tossed with pasta and jumbo shrimp. It was truly exceptional and I'm not much of a seafood eater. It rang the register at $23.

As dinner was winding down, Brian came out of the kitchen to chat; two hours and another bottle of wine later, we were still talking.



Taking his role of host seriously, Brian kept Amy's glass full.


I'm staying at the Williams House, a B&B about five blocks from the center of town. The innkeepers are Byron and Deborah McCutchen. Operating with no shortage of enthusiasm, they do a great job. I am staying in the Princess Amelia Anniversary Suite. I agree that the Smugglers Cove suite would have been more Butch, but the room is tasteful, comfortable and quiet. The nightly rates range this time of year from $185 to $250. The Princess suite is $200.


I even have my own full-size Christmas tree in the corner. In fact the entire house is decorated inside and out like a Macy's holiday window.

And the adventure continues.

1 comment:

  1. Gee, I one saw a great piece on Amelia Island in, of all places, a magazine called "AMI Autoworld."

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