Day 3 – North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia
We both seemed to sleep better with fewer bouts of waking at odd times. We were properly awake just before 7:00 am when the alarm I had set on my phone went off. We rose, showered, had juice, coffee, and bagel with cream cheese from the “grab and go” breakfast provided by the motel and were on the road shortly after 8:00 am.
We knew that we had a good deal of driving to do and some sightseeing along the way so it was set to be a long day and an early start was needed. On the way out of Wilmington we stopped so that I could get some photographs of some of the splendid old houses that abound around the downtown area. I walked a hundred meters or so around the car while Majella waited. My camera was colder than the outside air from being in the air conditioned room overnight and with the high humidity it was only a few moments before the lens fogged. Once I cleared that I got my photographs and we were on our way.
Our planned destination for the day was Savannah in Georgia, via Charleston in South Carolina, but we set the first destination in the GPS as Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and reached it a bit before 10:00 am. The Lonely Planet guide described Myrtle Beach as “summer vacation, American-style” with mention of helmet less motor cyclists (helmets are ‘encouraged’) and innumerable mini-golf courses. Our immediate reaction was that it resembled the Gold Coast with lots of high rise apartments and the associated glitz. We saw plenty of riders without helmets and on some stretches of the road along the beach front it seemed that every intersection had at least one mini-golf course with a jungle or other adventure theme. Competition must be fierce for the latest novelty whether that be mountains or waterfalls.
We parked and walked across a couple of blocks to a pier where we paid a dollar each for the privilege of walking on it. Once we had our photographs we walked back from the beach to a T-shirt shop, another of the features noted by Lonely Planet, where Majella bought a 2 for 1 special that she thought might be cooler than some of the clothes she brought with her. The temperature was already soaring into the 30s by that time of day. We grabbed take away coffees from a pancake shop and had those by the car with some of the blueberries we had bought yesterday.
From Myrtle Beach we drove toward Charleston with me at the wheel. For the first time on this trip I managed to takeover driving without bringing on a rain storm. Driving conditions were good and we made better time than predicted by the GPS. We stopped just once by a roadside stall on the strip known as the Sweetgrass Basket Makers Highway in the Mount Pleasant area not far north of Charleston. Although there were many stalls visible along that stretch of road only a few were active and we stopped to see what it was about. The baskets are of widely varying designs and are made by African American women. Majella bought a small basket. They were not cheap but, considering the labour involved in making them, the prices seemed fair.
We entered Charleston from the north and crossed the river via the large and impressive suspension bridge that I had seen on my visit to Charleston for SITE in 2009. It had seemed impressive then but was even more so when seen from the deck of the bridge itself. I managed to follow the GPS directions and negotiate the traffic into the downtown area. After a bit of driving around in tight streets we found a metered parking space and inserted coins to cover an hour while we found lunch. We first looked briefly at the waterfront area and then walked toward downtown where we found Normandy Farm Artisan Bakery which appeared to offer real bread sandwiches (so much bread in the USA seems too sweet to our taste and lacks real texture) and decent coffee. Majella had roast beef on Tuscan with cappuccino and I had prosciutto and Brie on Tuscan with Americano. The bread was good and there was free WiFi so we lingered and caught up online with our phones over lunch. That left us just enough time for a walk along a different street on the way back to the car. We could have spent much more time walking the tree lined streets and enjoying the historic buildings (I knew that from my previous visit) but we were short of time and had places to go.
Our Lonely Planet guide to the USA South listed a few historic plantations that were available for visits. We opted to visit Magnolia Plantation on the way out of town toward Savannah. Magnolia Plantation has been in the same family since its foundation more than 300 years ago. The major plantation crop was rice and the plantation has a fascinating history from inception, through the War of Independence and the Civil War until the present day. It is famous for its gardens, which were one of the original tourist attractions and open only in Spring. Over the past half century the variety of plantings has been extended so that there are plants blooming year round and the gardens are open all year. We spent a bit more than an hour to walk the path through the gardens enjoying a wide variety of plants in natural and more formal settings. I took more than 100 photographs and hope that some of them might be worth keeping when I find time to work through them.
From Magnolia Plantation we headed toward Savannah with the GPS estimating 2.5 hours and a 6:50 pm arrival. That was a bit later than we would prefer but still daylight and acceptable given what we had managed to see along the way. In any case we expected to do better than the GPS prediction as we usually do and be checking in by 6:30 pm. The heavy weather predicted by the weather channel had not eventuated yet but we did strike a couple of heavy showers as we headed south on the I-95 to Savannah.
We reached Savannah, crossing the river on a bridge every bit as impressive as the one in Charleston (similar, perhaps identical, design), and found our hotel without difficulty. The Inn at Ellis Square is located in the downtown area, on Bay Street, which runs parallel to the river front. We checked in, arranged parking, dropped our bags, and headed out to explore the city in what remained of the day. We walked around a few blocks with Majella regretting there were no shops open to sell the thread that she is running out of for her “patchwork on the go” project. We discovered that the city is laid out as a series of squares that provide open space among the historic buildings. Most spaces had buskers providing musical entertainment and the bars along one street that we walked also had live music.
After a few blocks we took a turn toward the waterfront and then walked along there taking in the sights and checking out the shops, bars, and restaurants. We found a candy store where Majella bought some of the salt water taffy that is a regional specialty. A little further on we found Fiddlers Crab House and decided to eat there. We had a table on the second level balcony with a view of the river and within earshot of a saxophone player busking in the street below. Majella had a mint julep drink with fried Atlantic shrimp accompanied by hush puppies and fries. I had local beer with shrimp on grits. The shrimp were cooked with onion and sausage and topped with Parmesan cheese on the grits. We both finished up pleasantly full of food and ready to retire for the night.
At about 480 km the distance was shorter today but it took longer in total because of time spent along the way. It was an interesting and rewarding day.