If you like cars, at least older well preserved cars, the Amelia Island Concours De Elegance was the place to be this past weekend. With record cars present and around 18,000 visitors to the show it was a grand event. The Williams House was filled with car enthusiasts including one from Puerto Rico who was showing his car. Discussions at breakfast, wine hour and in betweeen was pretty much non-stop car talk with some showing pictures of their prized cars and others taking in every minute of the activity linked to the show. It was I believe the first time we have ever had a Rolls Royce parked in our driveway courtesy of a guest from Charleston. With all rooms filled we weren’t able to see the show but guests happily shared their pictures as you will see below. It continues to be widely enjoyed by everyone who attends and the weather finally cooperated with sunny but slightly cool days on Saturday and Sunday for the events. On Sunday, all of the cars registered for the show are displayed on the Golf Club of Amelia fairways, a great golf course near the middle of the Island. Some called it a field of dreams for car enthusiasts. As the name says in French, this is a “parade of elegance” when it comes to rare automobiles. If you are in to cars come join us next year at the Williams House for this great show….but book early, the show is very popular!
Posts Tagged ‘local attractions’
People often arrive first as visitors to Fernandina Beach and Amelia Island, but are often charmed by what they find to the point of seeding their future to become permanent residents. Such was the case for the owners of Espana, a Spanish restaurant serving dishes with Portugese and Brazilian influences. Roberto Pestana and his wife Marina visited Fernandina Beach overnight by accident when it became late on their way to Charleston from visiting family in south Florida (with three children) and they made a diversion to Amelia Island for the evening. By the time they left to continue their trip, the charm, lifestyle and ambiance of the historic town began calling them out of the more hectic and crowded lifestyle of south Florida.
Roberto learned the restaurant business from his mother and father who left the Portugese town of Madeira to work as professional chefs in Brazil. Later they opened their own restaurant in Newark, NJ while Roberto was still a child. Their specialty was traditional dishes made simply and well-prepared. His experiences there and the aesthetics and approach to good but simple cooking continue to guide his restaurant strategy. After retiring to Pompano Beach, his parents reversed their vow of no more cooking and opened Brazilian Tropicana. Roberto was studying accounting at Rutgers when his mother called to tell him of his father’s heart attack that would lead to his return to a restaurant career. He attended culinary school to see if practical experience could be enhanced even further.
A few years later, they decided to sell the Tropicana and look for a simpler lifestyle and location to raise their children. The accidental visit to Fernandina had set the seed and soon they were relocating and opening Espana. Offering a Tapas menu, salads and a variety of entrees, homemade desserts, various sangria options, port and other wines, Roberto and his wife provide a unique offering in the area and one that delights both visitors and guests of the Williams House. Only four blocks from the Inn, our guests are frequent visitors and are surprised to find such interesting cuisine in a small town. We had a guest this year who was really into tiramisu and had sampled them around the world. I mentioned that Deborah and I enjoyed the Espana version and thought it compared well to others we had tried. Our guest visited for dinner and informed us the next morning it was the best tiramisu he had any where in the world! When you visit with us at the Williams House, let us make a reservation for you at this unique and acclaimed restaurant.
The annual Amelia Cruisers car show was held last weekend under clear skies and cool temps (that’s 65 degrees) in downtown Fernandina. The streets were closed to traffic and a superb lineup of restored and specialty cars/trucks/fire engines/dragsters, etc. were put on display. Its hard to imagine the total combined hours of work all these owners put into the restoration and make-overs of these historic cars. The collection varied from a Volkswagen beetle to RollsRoyce and everything in between.
Crowds were good and everyone was impressed by the quality of the restorations and the variety of cars represented. Most of our weekend guests visited the display and found it to be enjoyable even if they weren’t hard core car folks. One was tempted to buy one of the cars from his youth but regained control of his wallet with help from a spouse. We definitely relate to the hard work of restoring and maintaining something historical as we do it nearly every day in maintaining a 152 year old house. It’s hard work but rewarding when a part of history is maintained. Attached are a series of pictures from the wonderful cars on display. Enjoy!
The Marina has always had a small center with bath facilities for visitors that come to Fernandina by boat to the Marina. For the last several months a new facility pictured at left has been under construction adjacent to the original bath area. It will add to the hospitality for those arriving by water and provide more support and services. The Fernandina harbor has been an important element in the town’s history and in its heyday often had 300 or more ships anchored or waiting to unload. Today is has primarily pleasure boats since cargo ships would dock at the port facilities rather than the marina. There are still fishing boats ready to take those so inclined out for some fun, boat tours of Cumberland Island and a ferry to St. Mary’s all leaving from the marina.
We have been recording guest carriage rides on our blog for several months, but wanted to share a little more about the carriage company history and what goes on during the rides. Amelia Island Carriages is owned and operated by husband and wife team Cyndi and Jeff Myers. Cyndi’s stepfather Bob Zaleski also drives one of the carriages as well as Nancy Noble who used to drive show carriages.. The company, Amelia Island Carriages, was started in August 2004 when Jeff retired from the marines and they moved to Amelia Island. Cyndi had worked in and around horses most of her life and had her pony Taca with a cart as a child. Candy was her horse when they were married and Jeff got both a bride and a horse. She later drove carriages in Kansas for a wildlife ranch, then in Beaufort, SC and also managed a carriage company in Palm Beach. It was instant love for the history of Amelia Island and especially the historic district of Fernandina Beach and Cyndi did a lot of research on old homes and the history of the Island before offering tours. Where there existed confusing or conflicting stories, she approached homeowners and residents and searched records in an effort to try and get the true story to pass on to visitors. Cyndi began with two carriages and two experienced horses, and Bob joined her on the Island in February 2005. Current horses include Boomer, Jazz and Sarge. Boomer is a Percheron, a French draft horse and is 13 years old. He was logging for the Amish in Ohio when Cyndi purchased him. The Percheron’s were used by the French both as draft, or work horses, and also in war as a sort of early version of tanks. Standing 19 hands at the shoulder, Boomer would definitely be a formidable adversary!Sarge is 11 and is also a Percheron from the Amish in Ohio. He came along in April of 2007. And finally Jazz, a Belgian draft horse is 10 and joined the team in July 2008. They are all young since draft horses tend to live 30-35 years versus 20 or so for regular horses. The Amish raise horses, use them in their own farming and logging and then sell them as newer, younger horses mature.
Compared to the work done on farms or in logging, the carriage tours are light duty. In summertime, they are never brought out until early evening and they are rotated with days off to make sure they stay big, healthy and happy. They are boarded on the Island with lots of room to roam and pasture. The private tours that start at the Williams House are 50 minutes and provide drive by history lessons at all the major historic homes and buildings. It also includes a few ghost stories (some observed by Cyndi and Bob) and of course “snack stops” forthe horses. Boomer is also a big fan of the ice cream store and anyone interested in getting near him with a cone! All the horses have unique personalities but most are gradually influenced by Boomer’s insatiable appetite into eating virtually everything put near the mouth. We have fed Boomer tacos, lasagne, carrots, apples, wedding cake, bananas, cookies, peppermints, …..well you get the picutre! Cyndi also provides carriages for weddings, parties and birthdays. We have used Boomer for numerous weddings and you can see him dressed for the occasion on earlier blogs.
We have had a mini-invasion of three young Armadillos that are searching our garden beds for their favorite food. They apparently were the spring gift from the mother that we saw around the house last fall. It amazes me how unaffected they are by humans, paying no attention to anything done near them including nearly touching them. They don’t seem to really hurt the plants in our beds, just stir up the soil seeking out various bugs they prefer. They are all searching together so I’m guessing they are tripletts since they all seem to be the same size. Susposedly they are nocturnal, but we see them out in the afternoon and early evening, so perhaps their clocks are a bit off, or they are super hungry.
The Koi pond is a favorite place for kids at weddings, and sometimes the fish even surface, or I give them a little extra food to make them appear. There alway seems to be a fascination with ponds and fish for children. The gurgling jug as I call the other fountain in the back courtyard was a replacement for one that was leaking when we arrived. We got it over on 8th street at Well Tavelled Living and then drilled a hole in the bottom for the cord, sealed that with silicone, filled it with rock and started listening to the sound of water.
We’ll be featuring local restaurants from time-to-time, and today it is T Ray’s. Located in the next block over from the Inn on 8th Street, it obviously isn’t the stereotype of a restaurant. In fact, there is virtually no signage and yes, it looks pretty much like an Exxon gas station. Ray Sr. has owned the station since 1969 and it was originally a full service station with two bays for typical car maintenance and repair. After T Ray started working with his father, they realized that it was going to be a challenge providing for all their family needs with the thin margins of pumping gas and car repairs. So they looked at a lot of options including a convenience store, grille, gift shop and finally decided on a restaurant. The goal was a combination burger joint, down home cooking, and fresh local seafood. T-Ray began closing in the bays and over the course of months converted it into a kitchen and seated restaurant. And…that is pretty much how it is today. They always say you can tell a good eating spot by seeing where the locals and construction people eat, and there are plenty of both every day at T Ray’s. However, T Ray says the mix has grown from 98% locals a few years ago to about 50/50 locals and tourists as notariety and referrals have increased.
I can tell you from personal experience the burgers are great, the fried chicken awesome, and the fresh fried local shrimp “to die for”. The catch phrase “Eat here and get Gas” was of course a play on words since you could indeed gas up your vehicle and have lunch at the same place. Unfortunately that ended in August when new rules were enacted that required double walled fiberglass gas storage tanks for gas stations. The installation was a bit too pricey versus the limited sales of fuel in recent years. So..the old tanks came out of the ground in August of last year and now it is just a restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating. You can still get T shirts and hats with the logo and it makes a very unique gift for that favorite person you know back home.
Both breakfast and lunch are served and most days if you arrive at around noon, you’ll be standing in line to order and most of the seats are occupied. A lot of local business and talk goes on here as well as some serious football discussions. Most days there are specials (like chicken and dumplings or barbeque) in addition to the regular menu. It’s always fun to take out of town visitors to T Ray’s, pull in by the gas pumps and watch their faces as you explain that this is indeed the restaurant. Haven’t had anyone yet that didn’t enjoy the food and the uniqueness of the venue!
I can remember when growing up the small local diners and grilles my parents would fequent on Friday nights. T Ray’s brings back a lot of those memories. So when you come stay with us, get ready for a unique and fun eating experience that will truly be different than most others you have here on Amelia Island and probably anywhere else you travel.