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Published: June 21st 2017
Geo: 32.7812, -79.9316
Our drive south from New Canaan was surprisingly trouble free. We got mobile phone coverage back in the first hour, the bridges at New York were free, probably because a lot of people stayed home, the only thing that was causing others problems was the shortage of gas/petrol. Queues at the service stations on the New Jersey Turnpike were over a mile to get into them to fill up but our hire car started full so it didn't bother us. A phone call to US Airways and they confirmed the flight from Washington to Charleston the next morning was good, so we even had a couple lof hours to go to the Lincoln Memorial and the various War Memorials before returning the car and getting our heads down for an early start next morning at Ronald Reagain airport - though we spent some time watching the news coverage and were as shocked as anyone at the damage. Of course the start was earlier than necessary in the morning because the flight was delayed, but only by 40 minutes or so and lo we landed in Sunny Charleston.
Actually in the morning Charleston turned out to be sunny, and cold...but
warmed up pretty quickly. We drove into town, parked at the visitor centre (pretty well set up for visitors this place) and then proceeded to walk through the town up and down back and forth admiring the antebellum architecture and the genteel feel of the place (though arguably a bit over-precious in the oldest best-preserved part of town, so well preserved they don't even allow cafes and restaurants!)After several hours of that we jumped back in the car and headed out the 10 or so miles to our hotel, the Inn at Middleton Place is a hotel/Inn on the banks of the Ashley River in the grounds of the former Middleton Plantation. (These are rice plantations here, not cotton) The Inn itself is a group of modern buildings about 10 minutes walk from the plantation house itself (though what is there now is a pale imitation of the former house that was burnt down by the Yankees in the Civil War. It's all Scarlett O'Hara stuff around here! But the grounds are stunning, huge oaks and cypresses and lots of other trees all festooned with Spanish Moss (not Spanish, not a Moss, but an epiphyte - gets its sustenance from
the air - whose closest relative is the pineapple.)
The other really interesting things are the alligators that live in the decorative ponds and the former rice ponds and which haul onto the banks to soak up the sun. Mostly quite small, no bigger than six feet, but we are assured there are 13 foot monsters here to be seen!
The place also has a great restaurant with southern influenced food (Shrimp and grits with ham gravy would be a good example).
Friday we spent most of our time on the estate with the house tour, our own self-guided tour and a Wildlife tour and in the late afternoon headed back to Charleston to tour one of the old houses there, to eat, then to a concert - The History of Charleston Through Music - which was great with good performers doing classical, civil war, gospel and jazz. Then we went on to the theatre - November by David Mammet, a political comedy. But it wasn't possible to tell if the script was any good because the acting was awful (amateur - hadn't spotted that in advance) so we ducked out at the interval and wandered around South Carolina in the dark
for a while trying to find the way back to our Hotel.
Today, Saturday, we visited two more plantations up and down the Ashley River, Drayton Hall which still has the original house (the owner fooled the Yankees into thinking it was a smallpox hospital) and Magnolia Estates which, like the one we are staying at, lost the house but has extensive and beautiful gardens and swamps and more alligators.
This time of year with cloudless skies and a warm sun is perfect for a visit, and colour is coming to the gardens with camelias about to bloom and the cnfederate rose - with flowers that start white and turn a light then dark pink as their blooms mature and then fade, as if the blood of dead conferate (southern) soldiers fertilises them. Egrets and the blue Heron hover close and the swamps are nisy at times with ducks, butterflies, birds and activity. Quite a paradise without the insects and heat of summer.
Tomorrow to Savannah!
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