A Travellerspoint blog

Southern Plantations

sunny 25 °C

Today was Plantation Day - one urban plantation and two rural plantations.

Took the car up to the Joseph Manigault house - often considered the finest Adams or Federal house in the USA - another urban plantation in uptown Charleston. The house is quite spare in decorative details but in true adams style it is perfectly proportioned. It looks quite large from the outside but doesn't seem very big on the inside. For example there is only one bedroom on the second floor - most of the houses I had been to had at least 2 bedrooms since it was quite fashionable to entertain (the tea type entertaining - not the other type!!!) in your bedroom and show off your bedroom drapes which was often quite the most expensive item in your house.

The Guide was extremely knowledgeable but she had this habit of going totally totally blank and then stuttering so it was quite a tortuous tour.

After this house I headed up to Boone Plantation which is famous for its Avenue of Oaks - a super straight gravelled road with evergreen oaks and spanish moss growing over the branches. As you drove up the drive you certainly felt like Scarlett O'Hara riding up to Ashley Wilkes' BBQ - it was quite possibly the inspiration for this scene but the owners weren't sure since scouts were sent all over the South and then the scenes were painted on during the production of the movie so there is no actual Wilkes Plantation. However several films have been filmed at this plantation including the mini series North and South (if you can remember back to the 1980's). Unfortunately the house is not the real thing - it was built in 1936 as a mock plantation house but nevertheless it has been carefully made to look like the real thing. The plantation has had an interesting history starting off with cotton, then as a brickworks which kept it going up to the civil war and finally a pecan nut tree farm which kept it going after the civil war when the nut was considered a luxury item.

I didn't realise that the pecan nut tree is the largest nut tree in existence and its quite large. The nuts continually drop all over you since they mature in late October - also did you know that Spanish Moss (Grandfather's Beard) is related to the pineapple - yes, I can't get away from pineapples - all the plantations have Spanish Moss growing all over the trees giving it rather an eerie look.

Next stop was Drayton Hall near the Charleston Airport - in fact there's quite a few plantations out that way - Drayton Hall is an example of a plantation house that never recovered after the civil war but it is remarkable for the fact that it still survives and is virtually in one piece thanks to the owner during the Civil War sticking up yellow flags all over the place signalling the deadly smallpox. Sherman's army kept marching past. There's absolutely no furniture in the house and no restoration has been carried out other than to stabilise the structure. It's a perfect palladian house complete with an English kitchen - an English kitchen is one in the basement instead of separate structure - basements were not generally used in Charleston since it often floods - even the carpark at the hotel warns of flooding - and secondly kitchens often burned down at least annually.

What is fascinating is that no records of the house exists before the civil war - this was true of a lot of Charleston homes - apparently the Charlestonians were paranoid about Sherman's army razing Charleston to the ground for its part in starting the war so they sent all their valuables and records up to Columbia the capital of South Carolina. However, instead Sherman burnt Coumbia down effectively destroying all their records.

Anway gotta go and start packing - Ana is arriving tomorrow so I may be a bit haphazard in my posts from now on..........

Tomorrow is Savannah - take care and see you soon.

Posted by natty176 18:50 Archived in USA Tagged plantations charleston Comments (0)

Uptown Charleston

overcast 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.................

Posted by natty176 19:37 Archived in USA Tagged charleston Comments (0)

Downtown Charleston

sunny 25 °C

Sorry the photos for Mt Vernon didn't upload properly - they're up now but they're out of order........

How y'all going down there!!!! I see Obama has dropped in - its barely made the news here except that he apparently has crocodile insurance for his trip up north - mmmm, the big things matter here.........

Well it's positive balmy here in Charleston - it was 25 degrees yesterday and today possibly 27 degrees - we're approaching all sorts of heat records so that gives you an idea of how hot it is..........

Yesterday I strolled down Meeting St - the main street in Charleston - everything is a bit slower here - no walking, just strolling.........and as you stroll down the street you are greeted with the tinkling sounds of hidden fountains behind the walls of the mansions on streets overhung by huge trees.

The houses are huge on Meeting St - to give you an idea how big, you don't get any old real estate agent to sell your house, you contact Sothebys or Christies - I know because quite a few were up for sale - they're all at least 3 stories high, wooden, extend quite a bit back on the property and have double porches on the side of the house - yes, on the side, not the front or back of the house. If you're lucky you still have a bit a land left over for a garden which is highly manicured. At 10am the streets are filled with gardeners, dog walkers and nannies..........

Firstly I walked down to the Battery a park at the end of the town that overlooks the harbour where two rivers meet the ocean. Unfrotunately it was very foggy so not many photos.

Then headed back up to the first of three houses I visited. This wa Calhoun Mansion that was originally built by a blockade runner after the civil war - but he was no Rhett Butler - this guy didn't drink, smoke, gamble or gossip and the town hated him. After he died he left the house to his daughter who was married to a Calhoun and promptly changed the name of the house. Everything was fine and dandy until 1929 when they lost everything and the house sank into disrepair. After being bought by a lawyer in 1970's it was extensively restored. The Guide I had was OTT gay man who totally reflected the interior of the house. It is now owned by an international lawyer who has a mania (not a passion -it's definitely a mania) for collecting - it was very Victorian but the most amazing artefacts. For example he slept in a bed that was once owned by the Tsar of Russia. The guide and I got on like a house on fire and he stared pointing out all the artwork which he wasn't meant to do for insurance purposes and it was an exquisite collection. What I loved was that the owner had two dogs and a cat and had purchased antique furniture that the dogs and cat were allowed to sleep on in the house.

Next stop was Nathaniel Russell House - this was built before the Revolutionary War and was positively spartan after the Calhoun Mansion. This house is most famous for its cantilevered staircase - an oval staircase that didn't touch the walls of the house. In Charleston offices were often on the ground floor and the main reception rooms were on the 2nd floor to take advantage of the breezes..........

The only issue that I have with this area of Charleston is that there are no coffeeshops or food places. It's a pity these mansions don't open a tea shop or something. Finally I found a pub that looked ok from the outside but when I walked in there were 20 beefy guys staring at me - um...er....don't think this is the place for me - finally found a sandwich shop that sold mediocre sandwiches.

Finally I stopped at the Heyward-Washington House - the name Washington is given because Washington stayed there for a whole week - wow - the guide was hopeless at this house - I could have done a better job after visiting lots of houses on my trip - we weren't helped by one of the visitors who kept pointing out that the walls weren't straight and some of the furniture had buckled - hey dickhead - most of these houses had survived a significant earthquake in 1886 and were over 300 years old - what did you think? The guide was very pissed off by his rude interruptions and eventually gave up............

Last night dinner followed the general food theme of the day and the restaurant I went to was also rather mediocre - prawn linguini which was quite disappointing..........

Since its going to be so hot, I'm heading out to the bay and visiting Fort Sumter - the start of the Civil War..........

Posted by natty176 06:03 Archived in USA Tagged charleston Comments (0)

Charleston

sunny 20 °C

Sorry guys - i didn't take one photo yesterday - after having a rather lazy morning I headed out for a lazy late lunch at Hymans Seafood - apparently a Charlestonian institution - the lunches were huge so opted for a series of appetizers instead washed down with a planter's punch. A much lighter drink after all those ales at the travern!!!

So I had my first Fried Green Tomoatoes and if you haven't ever had them - they're definitely worth trying - absolutely delicious. This was with a side of fried calamari and stuffed mushrooms.

Feeling a bit light headed, I headed over to the famous Charleston Market - these are very long narrow buildings that were originally slave markets and food markets in 18 & 19th century - I expected rows of tacky shops but I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, there were tacky shops but there were lots of normal shops selling good quality material. Now that I have my extra bag (thanks South West) I could do a bit of shopping............

Then headed into the main shopping part of the town - lots of sales on at the moment and had fun rummaging the last vestigious of late summer/autumn clothes. Charleston is a bit like Brisbane - it's filled with heavy cardigans and coats in a town where the temperature doesn't dip below 10 degrees very often.

After shopping decided I'd have an early night - so didn't go out to dinner but headed to the 24 hour supermarket - again a nice supermarket and full of fresh healthy looking food. Just wandered around viewing all the food - bought some light dinner and headed home for tv.

Now, I really should have called the trip the land of the pineapple - everywhere I go they are selling pineapple teatowels, christmas decorations, plates, soaps etc. Finally I asked a shop in Williamsburg - what's with all the pineapples? Apparently they're a symbol of hospitality in the South and since they were extremely expensive they were handed out by the landed gentry to visitors. It was George Washington himself who made this tradition popular. Well, now i'm in the land of pineapples - Charleston even has a pineapple fountain and that's where I'm headed tomorrow.....

OMG - I've got the tv on while i type and the Americans have moved on from the snuggie - and now have the Forever Lazy (bad name) - check them out at https://www.orderforeverlazy.com/ - I guarantee you'll be overwhelmed by the product!!!!

Posted by natty176 05:39 Archived in USA Tagged charleston Comments (0)

Mount Vernon

sunny 15 °C

Left Williamsburg today - sniff - it was such a unique place to stay and Fred and Jane, the Innkeepers were lovely - their breakfasts were absolutely amazing - on the first day I had french toast, 2nd sour cream apple pancakes and the final day french toast with cream cheese. Didn't need a big lunch with all that.......

Was on the road reasonably early with my trusty GPS - it's been fabulous - and its my own so none of those silly miles to calculate......

Headed to Mount Vernon to see Frank Lloyd Wright's - Pope-Leighley House - an example of his Usonian architecture - ok, it's not exactly colonial but if FLW is in the area, I'm there......the usonian house was meant to be a typical house for the middle class with a distinctly upper class price tag, unfortunately. I arrived just before 1pm and managed to sweet talk the lady into giving me a private tour rather than having to wait for the scheduled one much later.

I could easily live here - it blends so well into the landscape - and there's lots of room for lounging and entertaining - the only thing was the kitchen - as with FLW houses, they're small - typical male architect of the era...........no pictures allowed inside unfortunately........

Then headed over to Mt Vernon - it's been literally 20 years since I've been there and what a change - it's now a big highly efficient operation and no sweet talking the lady into an early house tour - so unfortunately I had to give the house a miss but I had been there when you could just wander around at leisure without highly organised guides and tickets.

One great thing is that they have completely restored it to a working farm - its amazing how these farms were mini towns - complete with blacksmiths, shoe makers, weaving and orchards. It was a pleasure just to wander around and get the farm atmosphere - while Thomas Jefferson was by all accounts an incompetent farmer - his farm never made a profit and they ran out of water, George Washington's farm was a successful operation.

After Mount Vernon it was off to Baltimore Airport for the flight to Charleston - if you ever drive the Washington Baltimore Beltway - be prepared to be frustrated - its heaps of stopping and starting but I did make it all on time.

Was horribly embarrassed at the airport - the lady told me I had too much luggage and was overweight - I have never been overweight in my life and pride myself in fitting everything in but the luggage limitations are down to less than 22kg per bag. The only time I was overweight was when I left Amsterdam after studying there and I simply burst into tears and the JAL lady felt sorry for me and let me have it without paying. Anyway after pleading being an international tourist - the South West lady said I could purchase an extra bag and then each piece would be underweight - so there I was repacking my bag in the middle of the terminal - normally I am so contemptuous of people doing that - I'll have to be a bit more tolerant now. So now I have a rather garish South West bag to my collection - for $25 this was so much cheaper than $150 i was going to have to pay...........

So now I'm in Charleston and I'm taking a bit of a break this morning - I have a sumptuous sized room, free parking and a little balcony overlooking Charleston - so far the people here have been super friendly so looking forward to exploring this afternoon...........

Posted by natty176 08:42 Archived in USA Tagged mount washington vernon Comments (0)

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