My being a big fan of fishing, I have some of my fondest memories with my parents on the creek banks of Middle Georgia. I’ve also had a love affair with Florida since a child; like fishing, Florida holds a great deal of nostalgia for me. Many of our vacations meant trips to St. Augustine or Daytona, eating seafood and BBQ and frolicking in the surf. The now almost-defunct motor court motels were the places we usually stayed. I can’t pass by one of these relics without remembering the smell of Coppertone, the rumblings of an A/C window unit, and that itchy feel of salt-water on sunburned shoulders.
(Astor’s famous drawbridge spanning the St. John’s River)
With an urge to wet a hook again, which I had not done since my Mother died over a year ago, I made a trip to Astor, Florida. Situated on the St. John’s River, I had read this hamlet still holds onto the rare charm which was old Florida. I booked a cottage on their majestic waterway, and caught some of the most beautiful crappie imaginable during my stay.
(The Blackwater Inn, Astor, FL)
Food, as always, is a major part of my excursions, and Astor did not disappoint. Just under their picture-postcard bridge sits The Blackwater Inn, the city’s most famous hostess. Dating to the 50’s, this restaurant does not hide, but rather boasts, the ties of “old Florida”, with brick walls and wood trim, big comfortable tables, and waitresses that call you “honey.” The menu was filled with fresh seafood and wonderful cuts of meat. The prime rib came out as if the chef could read my mind: a thick slice surrounded by a fabulous crusting of spices, it was cooked to dark pink and fork tender perfection. With a fresh baked potato and a large salad, I was in heaven.
(The talented Denny & Dottie)
Gilding this evening, which included cocktails and a carafe of vino, was the music of Denny and Dottie Fish. Both stylishly dressed in silver and white, he played the saxophone and his lovely wife the keyboard. They sang big band and swing music, letting us sway with our Manhattans over the classics of Frank, Tony, and Rosemary. This handsome couple charmed me that night as they performed, letting my mind drift over wonderful memories, some old, some now new. I could see my Mom and Dad as I looked at them, and that, hands down, was the very best part of my trip. Thank you, Dottie, Denny, and Astor, for a really lovely time…….