Friday, May 03, 2013

Sea Islands...

So in a fit of insanity, I agreed to get on a Mayflower bus with my mom and take a week-long trip to the Sea Islands. Of course, in the meantime, my sister decides to get married and my nephew + wife have their twins... But anyway, I'm getting on a bus with my mom.

Man O War
Here's a quick recap of the trip. First rule: NEVER SHARE A ROOM!!! Seriously, that was a bad idea. I'm very low-maintenance (at least I think so...Hubby might have other thoughts), and I can get ready in a flash. She can't. And we have opposite sleeping habits. And I overdosed on HGTV(only because that was the only decent thing on the hotel televisions...).

Icelandic horse
Our first stop was the Kentucky Horse Park, at which, because I'm a horse nut, I could've spent a couple of days.  We got to see 2 former Derby winners, Funny Cide and Go for Gin. And I got up close with an Icelandic horse. I'm making the pictures small, because there were a lot of them! This fella was really friendly and I got a sniff and was allowed to cuddle his head for a while before he went back to grazing. They also had a barn full of draft horses, and I think that I impressed our tour guide because I really am a horse nut. I know breeds and I know enough about the Derby to be somewhat intelligent in a conversation. The horse museum was interesting, though it was disconcerting to see that the "models" were donated horses that were taxidermied. There were numerous artifacts and I was also amazed at the sculptures everywhere. Did you know that Man O War is the only horse buried there, intact? Usually, they bury the head, heart and hooves (ick). But because Man O War was "such a horse" -- he's there in his entirety.

Cotton Exchange
So then we went through the south, including Savannah, Charleston, and then the Sea Islands. I'll spare you the 300+ photos I took (!) and show you some of my favorites. The building here is the Cotton Exchange in Savannah. Beautiful town. Parks all over the place. Spanish Moss hanging from trees like crazy. We took a short space of time on their River Street, and then did a trolley tour. The tour gave you a "3,000 feet" overview - just highlights, and a taste of what you might want to do at another visit.

Waving Girl
Saw the Waving Girl statue on the seawall. The Waving Girl is a local legend: she was the sweetheart of a sailor. He left and she went, every day, for ages, to wave at the boats, thinking that one day her beau would come back. He never did, but she continued, for nearly 40 years, to wave. A statue was erected on the spot where she waved and they dedicated it to her on her 90th birthday. Ships coming from all over the world into the port knew to look for her. Lots of old buildings. Lots of azalea. Funky restaurants and a lot of "tourist" things, but also some nice inns that, if we wanted to, we could stay at for a longer visit to this city. I can see why Gen. Sherman didn't want to burn this city.

Next was my favorite area: the islands and Charleston. I lived in VA for quite a while, and while Carolinians will tell you that VA isn't "really" the south, if you live NORTH of the Mason-Dixon line, Virginia really is quite southern, though not as much as the Carolinas. The large military presence lends a more cosmopolitan air to the area and in Charleston there was much more "southern charm" than I came to know in VA.
Carriage rides available
We were lucky enough that there wasn't a lot of heat and humidity. People were complaining of the chill, but I've lived in that - so no thanks!  We had several hours to look at the Charleston Market (tourist trap) and we had lunch in a little bistro called "Henry's" where I was able to sit at an open window and smell the sea, the horses, and my she-crab soup! What else could you want? Oh, a sweetgrass basket, which I did buy at the plantation (see pics below). I don't have a shot of the basket, but I had already forewarned Hubby that I was going to buy one. I didn't take a lot of pictures in Charleston because we did take a bus tour. "Here's Rainbow Row" on a bus really isn't effective because half the time you either have a light pole in your view or you're on the wrong side of the bus!

Boone Plantation

I have to say, I got my fill of seafood - REAL seafood. But the only "green" was the resurrection fern on the live oaks and the iceberg lettuce. I was overly exposed to fried and rich foods. I have to detox!!

Back yard tenant
After Charleston, we headed to Boone Plantation. Beautiful and sobering.  Saw the slave quarters: The ones for the "house slaves" were of brick. The "field slaves" lived in wooden shacks which have long since disappeared. The plantation is occupied, and the family lives in the top 2 floors. There is a quick tour of the downstairs, and then you have run of the grounds. Well, you're also sharing it with fire ants and this critter, who occupied part of one of the lakes on the property! The tour guide said that "we'll occasionally feed him a tourist" just to make a point when one idiot asked if she could get off the wagon to feed it something.  Really. I can't make this stuff up. "Why don't alligators eat divorced people?"  (wait for it...)

"Because they're bitter." ba-dum-dum

Hunting Island Light
The Sea Islands were beautiful. Again, chilly, but that's ok. We climbed to the top of the Hunting Island lighthouse. I had to. There was no way I was going to let my 75-year-old mother beat me!!! Took some great pictures, and enjoyed being in a lovely area. The Hunting Island light has been moved 3 times. It was burned down during the Civil War (or "the late unpleasantness" as they call it down there...). They're thinking they'll have to move it again soon because of erosion. It's modular (ahead of its time again!) and so it'll be easily moved when it's time. The park we drove through was not meant for 40-foot tour buses, and the roads were quite narrow. But that's ok. The landscape was gorgeous. Almost as lovely as the mountains!

Resurrection fern on live oak
Here's a shot of that resurrection fern I was talking about. It lives on the live oaks, as does Spanish Moss. Resurrection fern is on the trees. It comes out when it rains, and then when it gets dry, the fern disappears.  Spanish Moss, for those who are interested, is NOT a parasite. It's like an orchid where there's a symbiotic relationship between the moss and the host tree. And in another bit of trivia which will win you a contest, do you know where the phrase "don't let the bedbugs bite" came from?

Well, those early settlers used the Spanish Moss to fill their mattresses. In itself, there's nothing wrong with it. In clumps? Chiggers. Chiggers bite... My mom went around scratching her head because she was convinced they were dropping down out of the trees onto her head!

Single House
We spent a couple of days in Beaufort, SC. Now, I was going around pronouncing it "Bow-fort" like the French "beau." Wrong.... There is a "Bow-fort." It's in North Carolina, which I was told kindly from a tour guide. This one in South Carolina is "Beew-frt" (that's the phonetic pronunciation). Another charming city, if you don't mind that when it's 100% humidity, it's not necessarily raining. The air's just so damp that you chew on it. This picture is of a particular type of house called a "single." It's a house where it's one room wide and 2 rooms tall. I wish we could've gone into one.  
Doc the wonder horse

The hero of the tour was "Doc" the carriage horse. He has beautiful blue eyes and is a real character. When he was younger, Doc was silly enough to get himself into trouble in the marshes and he nearly drowned. After a heroic rescue effort, he was rushed over 100 miles to the closest equine hospital and they didn't think he would make it. He's nearly 30 years old now... What a trouper! He is very smart; knows his traffic lights, and knows to avoid potholes. And he will totally ignore you if his driver is holding a carrot!

Appalachian Trail
We went to Pidgeon Forge. A total tourist trap. But...there were the Smoky Mountains! We got up a little over 5,000 feet, stood on the state line, and I did a short stint on the Appalachian Trail. I want to do more, and this is certainly a trip we'll make sometime soon.

Oh, I forgot -- we did take a boat trip in Beaufort -- on the Prince of Tides. Yes, this is Pat Conroy territory. I know I took a picture of his house, but I can't figure out which one it is!!

The boat captain was very funny and knew his stuff. He was the one who corrected my pronunciation.

Fresh oysters!
Here's a shot of oysters as fresh as you'll ever see them. And the bird is the endangered Oystercatcher. We also saw bottlenose dolphins - a mom and baby. And we enjoyed fresh seafood for dinner. Then came the Heimlich... True story. But for now, let's stick with the pictures. The oyster bed is on the right, and the bird is on the left. There were lots of boats out, we saw the huge new bridge, and it was odd to me that people on the tour boat were all bundled up. Honestly, the breeze off the water was very bracing. I loved it. I realized how much I missed it, but again -- thoughts of 90-100*+ temps and 100% humidity? That sobered me up a lot!

Pied Oystercatcher

The Heimlich: One of our dinners on the tour involved a lovely restaurant and we had a fixed menu. Choice of shrimp, prime rib or grouper. Why anyone would eat beef in seafood country was always a question for me... Anyway, one of our table-mates had the prime rib; a lovely elderly lady. She was very careful in cutting up her dinner and careful in her eating habits. But somehow, a chunk of prime rib got down the wrong pipe. My mom whapped me on the arm and said, "Do something!" Her daughter, who was with her, was patting her on the back. You shouldn't do that, obviously. I got up and ran around the table, hauled her up onto her feet and gave her a couple of good squeezes. She fought back!! Luckily, one of the servers there has a "day job" in the local ER as a nurse. She took over, and the elderly lady fought her, too!! Eventually, though, we got her fixed up. I was afraid we'd broken a rib, and she was sore for a couple of days, but like her daughter said: "Better sore than dead."

Needless to say, I had a lovely filet of grouper there and lost my appetite...

Before and After Scarf
What did I do on those long bus rides? I worked on the Before and After scarf. Here's what it looks like now. It's coming along. It was a sanity-saver on this trip! The bag is one I borrowed from a friend - she'd used it on a similar kind of trip and it's a great knitting accessory - nicely squishable and pretty impervious to tears, spills or any kind of destruction except perhaps fire! I will be ordering one of them for shoving in the purse. It's the nylon rip-stop stuff. I have fabric bags, but this is also less bulky.

Again, the scarf looks like "nothing much" now, but it'll be gorgeous after blocking.

Live oak outside Penn School
So we headed home. I was glad to have been there, but even more glad to be home. But I'll leave you with this parting photo of an ancient live oak. This was taken at Penn School - a historic school which educated the black population on the island. It was a museum and they asked that we refrain from taking pictures inside. It was an interesting place and a great history on the Gullah people. The education was very practical: the morning was all academic and the afternoon was what they called "industrial" in that they were taught the 3 Rs and then a trade. It was ahead of its time for not only educating blacks but in the format of the education. Started by a woman. Of course!

Don't scratch. The bugs won't fall on your head.

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