Saturday, March 19, 2011

Revisiting America

While   preparing my cholesterol breakfast this morning( I allow myself that at least once a week, sausage,biscuit, eggs, jam) the smoke alarm,which is veryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy sensitive, went off and I immediately flashed back to the Extended Stay motel in New Orleans, but thank goodness the only head that came out of the door was Janie's, who, it being Saturday morning, was trying to sleep in;  I expected firemen to come rushing through the door with their pickaxes, but my only consolation is, the fire trucks on the island are white, so the whole episode would have been less conspicuous in the neighborhood.  Small favors are appreciated.
Forgot to mention, since we're on the subject of food, we came  through Savannah and visited "Paula Dean and Sons Restaurant";  she is so very popular with so many people.  Reservations are expected, but we had no way to make one, so we walked up to the booth, asked, and was refused.  I guess the disappointed expressions on our faces, or the fact that we told her about our trip and she was sorry for us, or, wanted the publicity for the restaurant, she said to wait a minute and she would see what she could do for us.  She did, and we ate a wonderful meal, buffet, southern fried chicken, any thing you would want.  So good, and we do recommend it.
Our carriage ride and harbor tour, a good combination because it was cheaper, was excellent.  Our licensed tour guide, Steve, in confederate uniform(really, just a red sash) was pleasant and very knowedgeable, but to be liciensed there are certain rules, regulations, and tests.  At least he was able to control the huge horse, George, and mention all in the script.  Passed many churches and was able to understand why Charleston is called the "Holy City" because there are over 180 steeples in the city.  Beautiful streets, homes of many colors,  the battery, a row of houses on the waterfront, and we did pass athe home of the founder of "Piggly Wiggly," and naturally. iron pigs decorated the front of the house.
In order to do the three most improtant things recommended by the Carriage people, their tour, eat at Hyman's seafood restaurant(voted the most popular sefood restaurant in the Southeast, I don't know by whom) and see the Mangolia plantation and gardens, we went to Hyman's for lunch before the harbor tour.
You meet the most interesting people when you carry extra packs of Sweet and Low in your purse.  Two nicely dressed ladies came in the restaurant, and I overheard one tell the other, "they have no Sweet and Low",so, I chimed in and told her I had some in my purse.  She could not stop thanking me, and when the other lady passed by our table, she thanked me profusely.  Really, I'm expecting to get a "thank-you" note any day now.  The food was delicious, a shrimp po-boy, with at least 20 shrimp, a foot-long bun, slaw, hush-puppies.  Ample food to get us through the harbor tour. 
Did you know that Charleston Harbor (was once the playground of Blackbeard, or that South Carolina became known as the Palmetto State because of a battle fought at Fort Moultrie, or that the Boston Tea Party -because Charleston defied England first-happened here on James Island, or that the Civil War began with a cannon shot fired on Fort Sumter, or did you know when it
was fired?  (All these questions came off a brochure)  But, they were all answered on the 90 minute-narrated boat tour as we cruised past many historic landmarks, the Yorktown, Fort Sumter, Cooper River Bridge, the Battery.  Perfect weather, very pleasant.  ( I didn't answer all the questions, but the answers are available on the internet.)
Another day took us to Magnolia Plantation and gardens.  Beautiful home, not quite the look of the usual plantation home(pictures are forthcoming).  This home has been the ancestral home of the Drayton family since 1676, now the home to the eleventh generation, believed to be the only plantation in the state under the original family ownership from such an  early date.  A piece of  Charleston history, having played a part in the colonial settlement, the Revolutionary War, and the Civil War. Our guided tour gave us a beautiful look at the family, home, and gardens.  The 30 acres of the garden, considered by many to be the most beautiful garden in the world, has the distinction of being the oldest major public garden in America.  I only walked a little bit in the garden, and wondered about all these claims, because it didn't seem all that grand having seen Bellingraph and Victoria Gardens.  Maybe I didn't go far enough into the gardens.  One thing that I liked about the grounds around the plantation was the naturalness-not so manicured that you were afraid to step out of bounds.
All my life I have had the opportunity to go to McIntosh bluff and see an alligator, and here at the Magnolia plantation, I paid to take a nature boat tour, and filmed a dozen alligators.  It just seemed the thing to do.  We did see unusual wild creatures of the refuge.  These canals went through the 150 acre former rice field.
Just one more thing.  The Old City Market downtown, built in 1841, was like many others, but a must see.  Many small booths, vendors, and everything from paintings,  to linens, to jewelry, ceramics, but the most noticable were the hundreds of sweetgrass baskets;  every size, shape, and price, and many being woven as we watched.  This craft is a tradition, passed from one generation to another.  There is no
"Weaving Sweetgrass for Dummies" book.  No secrets of the craft are shared.  They're historic as well as becoming increasingly rare.  The design, hand-stiching, and shapes are a treat to  see, and the fact that a basket can take anywhere from 12 hours to three months to complete makes each basket very unique.
In addition to many family members pursuing other career interests, large-scale land devlopment has overtaken many of the wild marshes and swamps where sweetgrass grows, making the grass harder to find.  This art has changed from a practical tool to a fine art that represents their rich heritage and meticulous skill.  Once sold in the early 1900's for several dollars, can now command a price from less than $100 to $20,000.  There are examples in the Smithsonian.
To close;  we are enjoying the most  beautiful weather, the scenery ever-changing, the beach almost private, and I'm still amazed at the number of people working to keep everything emaculate.  Walking several mornings ago mowers were running before daylight, working with their lights on.  Such a beaautiful place.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Lou and Janie,
    While I've not been roaming the country, I've been roaming the countryside enjoying the blooming dogwood! :) School is in high stakes testing mode this week and next week. Michael has finished teaching the book of Galations on Sunday evening at CBC and is now teaching it to the folks at Laton Hill while their pastor is away! I've been keeping your walking path rolled up at least one day this week. The weather is so wonderful that the turtles are basking in the sun and the white heron is irritated that I'm disturbing his habitat! Can hardly wait to hear what else you'll be doing in Charleston. I check for your posts often. Blessigs! Misses! Eileen O.