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Savannah/Charleston or Boston/Maine: Trips that combine history and literature

By Carol Sottili
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, June 20, 2010; F03

Who: Rosanne "Scotty" Scott, 57, and her husband, Jack Crawford, 66, of Alexandria

Where: A coastal cruise or visit to a historic city

Why: To celebrate their 25th anniversary

When: A week to 10 days in fall

Budget: Up to $4,500

"Our interests have to do with things nautical, historical and literary. A cruise could be nice -- something smallish or medium-size . . . . So could a trip to some notable home or site (Biltmore? Winterthur?), or to a city with some history, such as Savannah or Charleston. We could incorporate more than one stop and it could be by both land and water. We were thinking of something along the Eastern Seaboard."

Jack Crawford, of Alexandria, is getting ready to retire from the U.S. Coast Guard, where he has been involved in the gulf oil spill cleanup. His wife, Rosanne Scott, is a writer and editor interested in authors such as John Updike and Flannery O'Connor. Both enjoy visiting historic estates. To celebrate their silver wedding anniversary, they'd like to visit a historic city or take a cruise. We've come up with three possible itineraries: one on land, one by sea and one that combines the two.

Option 1: Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga.

These two cities, about two hours apart, will satisfy the couple's love of history and literature. Although Scott said that the couple prefers driving to flying, getting to the South Carolina/Georgia coast is a chore: The trip to Charleston takes about 8 1/2 hours. Instead, hop a nonstop flight from Reagan National to Charleston (expect to pay about $230 round trip with a sale fare on US Airways) and rent a car (about $300 for an eight-day rental).

In Charleston, stay at the John Rutledge House Inn (800-476-9741, http://www.johnrutledgehouseinn.com), built in 1763 by Rutledge, one of the signers of the Constitution. The inn has 19 guest rooms; a four-night stay in early October will cost about $1,205 for two including tax.

Charleston is known for its historic houses, many of which are open for tours. Among those worth visiting are the Aiken-Rhett House (843-723-1159, http://www.historiccharleston.org), an urban townhouse built in 1818, and Drayton Hall (843-769-2600, http://www.draytonhall.org), one of the few pre-Revolutionary plantation houses that remain in close-to-original condition. Military history is preserved at Fort Sumter (843-883-3123, http://www.nps.gov/fosu), where the first shots of the Civil War were fired, and at Patriots Point (866-831-1720, http://www.patriotspoint.org), home of the USS Yorktown. Historic plantations and gardens are also a big draw: Check out Magnolia Plantation and Gardens (800-367-3517, http://www.magnoliaplantation.com) and Middleton Place (800-782-3608, http://www.middletonplace.org). For a nautical fix, take a two-hour sail on the 84-foot Schooner Pride (800-344-4483, http://www.schoonerpride.com). Contact the Charleston Convention & Visitors Bureau (800-774-0006, http://www.charlestoncvb.com) for more details.

Explore the historic towns of Beaufort and Bluffton on the drive to and from Savannah.

Savannah also offers historic estates and gardens, but concentrate on the literary side of the trip. Historic bed and breakfast inns include Amethyst Inn at Sarah's Garden (912-234-7716, http://www.amethystinnsavannah.com), where rooms start at $175 a night including tax.

Flannery O'Connor, Conrad Aiken and more recently John Berendt, author of "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," are some of the best-known writers with connections to the city. Associated sites include O'Connor's childhood home (912-233-6014, http://www.flanneryoconnorhome.org); O'Connor's church, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (912-233-4709, http://www.savannahcathedral.org); Bonaventure Cemetery (http://www.bonaventurehistorical.org), Aiken's grave, made famous in Berendt's book; and Telfair Academy (912-790-8800, http://www.telfair.org), where the "Bird Girl" statue that appeared on the cover of Berendt's book is now located. For more information: Savannah Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, 877-728-2662, http://www.savannahvisit.com.

Option 2: Maine and Massachusetts

Start by flying to Boston; a round-trip nonstop flight from Reagan National will cost about $260. Spend a couple of nights in the city visiting historic sites such as Fanueil Hall, the Freedom Trail, King's Chapel and the Old State House. Details: 888-733-2678, http://www.bostonusa.com. In nearby Cambridge, walk the Harvard grounds and visit Longfellow Historic Site (617-876-4491, http://www.nps.gov/long), home of 19th-century poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Splurge with a stay at the Charles Street Inn (617-314-8900, http://www.charlesstreetinn.com), where rooms will run about $360 a night including taxes.

Then rent a car (expect to pay about $350 for eight days) and drive four hours to the Maine coast. Time the trip to arrive for a Sept. 12 cruise departure on one of several schooners. The special six-night sailings are timed to gather in front of WoodenBoat Magazine's headquarters in Brooklin, Maine, for a celebration of wooden boats. Tall ships offering the cruise include the Mary Day (800-992-2218, http://www.schoonermaryday.com), the Heritage (800-648-4544, http://www.schoonerheritage.com), the Stephen Taber (800-999-7352, http://www.stephentaber.com) and the Victory Chimes (800-745-5651, http://www.victorychimes.com). Rates range from $850 to $950 per person double.

On the way back to Boston, stop in Ipswich and Beverly Farms, where John Updike lived for much of his adult life.

Option 3: Out to Sea

A final option is to just do a cruise. Two lines that specialize in history-rich itineraries along the Eastern Seaboard are currently too expensive for the couple's budget. But both occasionally run discounts on select cruises, so the couple could get lucky by signing up on the lines' e-mail lists.

In October, Blount Small Ship Adventures (800-556-7450, http://www.blountsmallshipadventures.com) offers a 12-night fall cruise between Warren, R.I., and Quebec City starting at $3,435 per person double. American Cruise Lines (800-460-4518, http://www.americancruiselines.com) has Chesapeake Bay and Hudson River itineraries, starting at $3,010 per person double for six nights, and a seven-night itinerary in November and December between Charleston, S.C., and Jacksonville, Fla., starting at $3,495 per person double.

Total cost: For Option 1, an eight-night trip with airfare, hotels, car rental and gas will come to about $3,700, leaving $800 for entrance fees, which range from free to $31 per adult, and food. Option 2 will cost about $3,500 for an eight-night trip including airfare, two nights in Boston, six-night cruise and car rental and gas, leaving $1,000 for sightseeing and food (meals are included during the cruise). Option 3 is currently over budget by at least $1,500.

Interested in having us help plan your trip? Go to http://washingtonpost.com/goingourway.

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