We chalked up another long drive, from Charleston, SC to Jacksonville, FL. We arrived in Jacksonville around 8:30 p.m. to find the interstate torn up with construction work right where we needed to get off. We had to get off at the next exit and turn around and get off at the exit before.
We saw a lot more of downtown Jacksonville than either of us had expected. By the time we finally were able to get to the other side of town, we were both tuckered out.
The neighborhood harboring our digs for the night was in a residential area close to a river. We drove around and around looking for the place, but kept coming up empty. It was at least a pleasant drive, even if it was going on 9:00 p.m. and dark.
We were both quite taken with one particular home. In an area of beautiful homes and gracious grounds, this one just stood out. It was a stunning columned home with well kept lawns all around it, surrounded by a wrought iron fence and a beautifully crafted arch gateway that just looked welcoming.
As it turned out, we can testify that the gate was welcoming, that the house was stunning - inside and out - and the owners, although Northern by birth, were steeped in the tradition of Southern hospitality.
That outstanding house turned out to be Plantation Manor, our home for the night.
Oh my, that place was impossible to do justice to - and we would never have known about it if it had not been for a friend for Elsa's, Ray Lipps, who just mentioned it when she was visiting him and his wife, Diana, at their home in Summit, NJ. Ray asked where we were staying in Jacksonville and on being told we had not decided - there were a couple affordable places Elsa had her eye on - he gave a great pitch for the place he stayed at, for weeks on end, whenever he worked out of Prudential's Jacksonville office.
It was an easy choice to make, when the owner agreed to charge us the “corporate” rate, which was well below what regular folk pay. Oh my goodness, all that beauty for under $100 a night!
Plantation Manor caters to long-stay businesspeople, so there was no sense of rush. It was built around the end of the last century, but in looks and tone and graciousness, it is pure ante-bellum. The interior is all warm woods. Pete would have loved it. Our room was at the top of a magnificent flight of steps.
I can still recall the feel of the banister under my hand, the smooth wood somehow warm to my touch.
What a room. It was huge and impeccably decked out. I placed the ceilings at no less than 12' . There were three floor-to-ceiling windows, the white drapes drawn for privacy. The walls were a deep teal green until about 2' from the ceiling, when they turned a lovely shade of light blue, the two colors divided by dark molding. A huge four poster bed took up about 1/4 of the room.
To the right and just before the bathroom door was a long gold gilt mirror and a pink-stripes-with-flowers chintz couch, as comfortable as it was beautiful.
The bathroom was as large as our room at the Heritage Inn. It had a long bay window with window seat and lace curtains.
Back in the bedroom, there was an area for sitting, with a small but not too small round table covered with a very pretty, very feminine cloth, draping down to the ground.
A few moments after we were settled in, the owner arrived with a hot pot of decaf, bone china cups and saucers, and slices of lemon pound cake with an out-of-this-world glazed icing. It was heaven to sit there, in front of drawn brocade curtains, sipping delicious coffee and letting it all soak in.
(Did I mention the bathroom featured a deep, clawed bathtub and a shower that was about the size of our den powder room?)
I haven't mentioned the TV. It will give you an idea of the room when I say that the TV did not dominate at all - unusual because the screen was easily 3' wide. It was right next to the fireplace, which was set into a section of white wood, the fire place flanked by columns that extended up about 8' to where they ended in a shelf. On top of the shelf was a wooden white swan ... and a pink chamber pot. On the other side of the fireplace was an antique secretary desk and chair.
We had our coffee, each wallowed in a hot bath (Elsa made her nightly call to John while I luxuriated in mine), moved the stuffies from the mountain of goose down pillows to the low table at the foot of the bed, then buried ourselves under the warm, soft blankets, said prayers, and floated blissfully off to sleep.
The next morning, we were served the best breakfast of our entire trip, a real honest-to-gosh Southern masterpiece. I can’t remember all that we were served, but I do remember feeling totally pampered and like I expected to see Rhett Butler stroll at any moment.
We took a post-breakfast stroll around the grounds, which included a charming lap pool (it sounds strange to call a lap pool – long and narrow, suitable only for one person swimming back and forth – charming, but it was).
And a classic silver Rolls Royce in the driveway (used for the many wedding that take place at Plantation Manor).
Tall trees, beautiful bushes, lovely lawns – my thanks and blessings to Ray for his brilliant suggestion.
It was a never-to-be-forgotten stay in an unbelievably beautiful house with a genial and generous host.
Both of us were reluctant to leave such beauty and grace, but we had a date with a Mouse.
Good night to all of you, my dear friends and loved ones.
Love - CyberGram