Friday, November 22, 2013

South Carolina to Georgia to Florida

Whenever I put off writing my blog because it seems too soon since the last, we end up in a place that has no, or unreliable, WiFi. It happened to us when we arrived in St. Augustine, Florida. We left that park, so here I am.

After Asheville, North Carolina, we headed to Charleston, South Carolina, for a week. We stayed at a very nice park, visited a plantation, took a walking tour of Old Charleston, and since it was right up the road, got a modern-day Costco fix, and we met a lot of nice folks. 

The walking tour was very informative as our guide, having been born and raised in Old Charleston, was chock-full of historical facts. This particular tour was called 'Homes and History.' Our guide, Carol, verbally illustrated for us how the old houses were built: narrow on the frontage to the street, long and deep to the back of the lots with two rooms on each floor, which could be two or three levels, and a stairway in the center. An additional structure for the kitchen was built at the rear with several feet of separation between to protect the main house from fire. It wasn't unusual to have to rebuild the kitchen house from time to time. This building usually housed the slaves as well. Balconies to create outdoor living spaces were built along the sides of the houses with false fronts at the street for privacy. All the homes had their balconies on a particular side so that none were ever facing each other, maintaining that privacy. Carol told us that many of the homes have been so modernized inside that their architectural histories are unrecognizable. That lack of historical restoration is no longer allowed and any who wish to purchase a home in Old Charleston with renovation in mind must follow stringent rules. I think this is a good thing.

At the end of the tour we asked Carol where was a good place to eat. She pointed us in the direction of a pub called The Blind Tiger. We went out back to the patio surrounded by centuries old brick and had a marvelous meal. It was mid-afternoon so there weren't many diners and the chef was just hanging around. We ended up talking with him for awhile and when we mentioned what we wanted to try off his menu, he went right to work. He even delivered our appetizer himself. He was an interesting fellow.

I visited the Middleton Place Plantation by myself, which was perfect for me and my camera. Rob would never have been able to walk as much of the 65 acre garden as I, but still I wish he'd seen the beauty of it. Middleton Place is a National Historic Landmark, and has the oldest landscaped gardens in the country, with camellia and azalea plants that are centuries old and still bloom every year. This wasn't a cotton plantation, which is what most people think of when they think 'plantation.' This was a rice plantation and there were many in South Carolina. The original plantation house is nothing but ruins now, but another house (I don't know its age), was built and currently houses the property's museum. I wandered the gardens until late in the day and was too late to peruse the museum's contents, but I don't feel as though I missed a thing.

When we first arrived in Charleston, neighbors arrived shortly after we who were from New Jersey. It turns out that she, Mary Lou I think she said, had been a student teacher in the chorus department at my high school during my freshman year and possibly part of my sophomore year. Neither of us could remember the chorus director's name. What a small world, though, eh? After they left, neighbors arrived who hail from Scotch Creek, British Columbia, and we spent time chatting and having our cocktails together. We truly enjoyed Jim and Irene's company and look forward to seeing them again when we explore British Columbia in the future. There were folks who Rob talked to in the park who hailed from New York. We ended up seeing them again and being their neighbors in St. Augustine. Too bad that stay couldn't and didn't last. It would've been fun getting to know Dave and Suzi—but I will follow their blog as I hope they will follow ours.

I recall a couple from Oregon with whom we stopped to talk while Rob and I were taking a walk. It was just a quick conversation as they sat by their motorhome and we hollered from the roadway. We ended up at the same park with Al and Nancy, on the same row this time, while we were in Savannah. We didn't know this until we decided to take a trolley tour of Savannah and were waiting for the shuttle to come to pick us up at the campground. Nancy decided to take the tour, too, but was doing it without Al, so the three of us toured and lunched together. Nancy is great. I entirely enjoyed her company. There's something about her that reminds me of our friend, Judy, who we will be visiting in Vero Beach, Florida, in less than two weeks. Al is a retired, UCBerkeley professor and being that Rob is a UCBerkeley alumni, they had a starting point for conversation. We'd hoped to catch up with them for dinner in Jacksonville while we were in St. Augustine but, like us, their plans didn't meet their expectations, either, and decided to move on. I was really hoping to take Rob, Al and Nancy to Clark's Fish Camp, which is a most unusually decorated restaurant that my niece, Stacy, and family, took me to while I visited them in Jacksonville nearly two years ago.

Savannah is a very pretty city but, surprisingly, I didn't take very many photos. We ran out of day before we had to be back to catch our shuttle, which I've decided was a mistake to take instead of driving in, because I didn't get to go to the one place I wanted to photograph: Forsyth Park. I thought I'd drive in myself the next day, but the skies were dingy and gray and I decided I didn't want that kind of light. Maybe we'll come back through in the future.

We had another neighbor while in Savannah that had me laughing to myself, although I did eventually say something. Mike and Denise are from Sacramento and, after retiring, moved to Sand Point, Idaho, which is way, way up in the panhandle not far from the Canadian border. Unfortunately, we didn't really get to know Denise because she was ill during their stay there. But, Mike. Oh, Mike! I finally told both Rob and Mike that Rob had met his match in Mike. They both love to talk. Mike laughed because he says Denise always tells him he talks too much. And I always tell Rob that he dominates every conversation. It was fun to watch Rob do more listening than talking for a change but, believe me, they both managed to express their thoughts. At least is was all interesting! Cracked me up.

As I said at the beginning, there was no WiFi in St. Augustine but, besides that, Rob didn't care for the park because it seemed too run down and every campsite was very private with trees, bushes and palmettos separating the spaces. Rob likes to see our neighbors. He likes to go talk to everybody and feel as though, I guess, that we're part of a community. The overly private spaces makes it feel, if not a bit uninviting, then at least that everyone wants to hide. What the park definitely had going for it, though, is that it's sandwiched between the Atlantic, with only a road to cross, and a river where there's a nice dock. We would've liked to kayak that river. The weather was rainy and windy while we were there. I did spend an hour or so out on the beach, but the wind was so fierce that I couldn't leave my stuff, and go take pictures, without fear that it would all blow away. One of the most notable things about the beach in St. Augustine was the endless number of seashells on the beach. It is a seashell collector's paradise.

Now we are in Williston, Florida, at a fantastic park that has doubled in size in the last year and is one of 32 parks in the country that carry the Good Sam distinction of a 10/10*/10 park. Meaning that the facilities and their level of development rate a 10, the restrooms rate a 10 and the asterisk means extra cleanliness, and the park's visual appearance rates a 10. And, being that we are first time guests, we got a deep discount for our first week here. Because we moved from St. Augustine to here, we saved $334. I miss the ocean, but $334 is nothing to sneeze at. Gotta love it.

Now for photos, and there are many:

Spooky, shortly after he came to live with us; and, Louis, covertly keeping an eye on the interloper.

You know me and bugs.

The first path you see after entering the gardens at Middleton Place Plantation

One of the two swans at Middleton Place Plantation.

Beautiful old oak tree, but I loved these brick walls.

White Camellia in bloom in the garden.

A statue found in one of the 'secret' gardens. I think she is lovely.

The reflecting pool where the swans swim.

The Wood Nymph.

Middleton Place is so green and lush.

The oaks are so gorgeous with the Spanish Moss draped all over them. But you know that Spanish Moss is neither spanish nor moss, right?

Cormorants enjoying the sun by the old rice field.

A photo that reflects the sage-green hue of the Spanish Moss.

I love this grass. You can find it with its pink fronds all over Charleston.

The Mill House. Such a serene view.

Found this beautiful Heron looking for dinner.

Can't resist trying to capture a butterfly.

Inside the Mill House.

At the Mill Pond.

So glad they think of the birds.

Yup. I got close to this handsome fellow (or gal), but it was only about 4 feet long. Just a baby.

There was just so much to see at the plantation.

The Mill House from a different angle.

The path leading to the stable yard.

He waited for me to take my shot before dismounting.

Quite bucolic.

I love how they keep the vines at bay.

In the Carriage House.

Mary, the barn cat.

Arthur, the other barn cat.

In the wood shop.

Also in the wood shop.

The giant wheel used to turn the lathe.

An artisan showing how wooden pails were made.

A partially built pail.

A completed pail.

Doesn't he look just like he's from the 18th century!

I don't recall what this room was for. No one was there to talk about it.

The room where crockery was made.

The second plantation house where the museum is located.

Some of the ruins of the original plantation house.

Too bad the peacocks had just molted.

What a sweet face.

The second alligator I encountered.

And the third.

Always busy.

It was surprising to come across this tomb.

Our very knowledgeable, Old Charleston tour guide, Carol.

One of the beautiful buildings in Charleston. It houses either city or county offices and always has.

From inside the oldest episcopal church.

From below the pipe organ.

Some of the beautiful woodwork inside the church.

Above the alter.

One of the standard Old Charleston styled homes. There was once a door where the center window is now located on the street side.

The garden beyond looked at lush as what you see here.

This house was damaged by an earthquake and then restored with a Victorian styled facade about 100 years ago.

Loved the gas lamps found all over Charleston. They remain burning day and night.

Another gas lamp, but I like the ironwork in the gate.

Not a door knocker, but door decor.

I wonder why the owner partially uncovered this fantastic old car, but I'm glad he did.

This is a side of a house that is currently undergoing renovation. I think the exposed old brick is great.

We noticed this super heavy-duty motorhome as we were walking by. Rob had to check it out. The owner had it shipped over from France in order to tour the US. Unlike ours, this fully contained vehicle can go anywhere off road.

I think Carol called this pastel row.

Cool door.

Fried Green Tomatoes and a Bloody Mary for me, White Corn Fritters with Blind Tiger's Secret Sauce and a dark beer for Rob. Yum!

Amazing crab cakes that is made mostly of crab rather than filler.

Rob's Crab Bisque soup.

The patio where we had lunch. Love, love, love the old brick.

Rob makes friends everywhere.

In Savannah at the back of our campground.

I loved the looks of this building and the flower boxes and took the photo before I realized it is Paula Deen's store attached to her restaurant that fronts the street on the other side.

The ironwork outside Paula Deen's store.

From the store looking into the restaurant.

Paula Deen's restaurant. We decided we didn't want to eat there. Too expensive and there was so much more to see before we were ready to eat.

Savannah's City Hall.

An old building of stone and brick.

Colorful River Street Sweets.

Rob watching this fellow ready taffy for cutting and wrapping with waxed paper on this 99 year old machine.

Feeding the machine.

More color.

Got a free sample of pralines. Soooo good!

Fun store to tour. A little early for Christmas decorations but, hey, they're retail.

Love the old lamp.

Betty Boop welcoming us into a fun arts and crafts store.

On the river.

Looking down a grate from street level.

Rob and our friend, Nancy, taking a load off their feet while I watched for the trolley to come by and pick us up.

Spooky taking advantage of the warm sun. You can't feel his ribs anymore when you pet him.

Check out all the shells on the beach in St. Augustine.


Catching dinner. This guy must be used to the wind because the wind was fierce.

Shells, shells and more shells.

Besides the exterior of the buildings, this boat was one of the reasons the park in St. Augustine seemed run down.

The propellers are buried.

The tires are flat and buried.

The boat is full of leaves and has a tree growing in it. Sad.

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