16.11.2011 - 16.11.2011 21 °C
Well it's official - the weather bureau of South Carolina is hopeless - not only did they miss the maximum by almost 10 degrees but missed a tornado watch to boot. Yes, despite them promising it was going to be 80 degrees at 9am today (fahrenheit that is) it was dinstinctly cool - well too cool for short sleeve shirts and shorts which is what 90% of the tourists turned up wearing on the boat out to Sumter Fort.
And its not just my (very informed) opinion - it was confirmed by the Nationa Parks Service who said that Charlestonians don't both with weather reports since they're so inaccurate......
OK - enough whinging - today was Fort Sumter day - which was built on a sandbar at the mouth of Charleston harbour in 1700's - Charleston is about where Botany Bay is in Sydney - quite a bit up the harbour. It was a breezy ride out to the Fort but the National Park Service is a well oiled operation and there is an extremely informative commentary out to the Fort - once you land there, you have about an hour to explore the Fort and visit the museum. Unfortunately the Fort no longer looks like it did at the start of the Civil War - all it's walls have been reduced by two thirds and there's no barracks anymore - but you do get a sense of the history and the reverence of the place for its part in the war.
After the Fort I decided to head over to the Aitken Rhett House which was onced owned by the Governor of South Carolina and is on the most northern parts of the city - its quite a walk up there and somewhere I took a wrong turn - suddenly I was in a sanitised episode of The Wire - the first indication that I was in the wrong part was all these signs that said No Drugs - the police have this neighbourhood under surveillance. I kept walking slowly realising that I was starting to look very white. The high point of this excursion what when a half naked African American asked me if I wanna to come on in and get some action.....er.....um...as enticing as this offer was I politely declined. By now I just wanted to get the hell outta there. So I just walked briskly and politely said "good afternoon" to everyone sitting on their stoop - that was about twenty odd times.
Finally I reached my destination in one piece - the Aitken Rhett house is what they call an urban plantation and there's not many left - it's like a mini plantation in town - no actual farming but stables, laundries, cows, chicken coop and kitchen garden. It was a huge house but one left to show the decay of these large houses. The house was not damaged during the Civil War but it was looted by Union Armies and the family never recovered its fortunes. Slowly it declined until the last family member lived in only three rooms of the house by the 1970's and still with an outdoor toilet (or "neccesary" as they call it down here).
After this I crossed over to the Charleston Museum - allegedly the oldest museum in USA - while it may be the oldest museum it is housed in a distinctly ugly 1970's mission brown brick building which does not reflect the architecture of the South. But it did show a fascinating history of the area to just after the Civil War - I didn't know that the first boom crop of the South was not cotton but rice and was exported up to the 20th century. The other boom crop was indigo which was used as a dye and to store sugar because the rats would die when they ate the indigo soaked paper that the sugar was wrapped in.
I was buggered by that time and didn't really fell like going out to dinner so I headed back to my favourite supermarket where I was officially declared an incompetent self service operator - everytime i scanned the stupid item it asked me to call the attendant - but the 5th time the attendant just did it all for me including swiping my card and packing my bag. I did get a free salad out of the operation.
So we're on severe weather watch tonight - I'm on the top floor of the hotel (its only 4 stories) so hopefully everything will be ok.........
See you tomorrow.................