Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Charleston SC (including detour)

Sunday brought a change of plans. While we were getting rain in VA, Charleston was getting RAIN. That combined with extremely high tides led to road closings (and more serious problems for many residents.)  Our friend Deborah suggested we detour to Chapel Hill NC for a day or two. Chapel Hill is one of the three towns (cities) making up Research Triangle Park an area with many universities/colleges and spin-off research institutions. 

After settling into our room we explored the nearby area and discovered an excellent Turkish restaurant, Talullas. A pide with lamb and eggplant along with a Turkish wine made for a great lunch.   
Turkish Bread with acili ezme (a dip of spicy red peppers, tomatoes, green peppers,
walnuts and Aegean olive oil). Both were Excellent!
Pide (Turkish Pizza) with 3 cheeses and ground lamb 
Patlican Oturtmasi - Layers of fried eggplant topped
with tomato sauce, baked in a stone oven.
Turkish Coffee with K√ľnefe -- Turkish finely shredded wheat wrapped 
around a light cheese, topped with mulberry extract. 
After lunch we checked out some shops. In "Uniquities" Pat found some pieces she really liked...but they were either too big or too small. Monday we checked out more shops and enjoyed an excellent Indian lunch, 4.5 on a heat scale of 5. Pat spent a little time exploring the lovely University of NC campus. Note: Started in 1795, UNC is the nation's oldest state university.
UNC South Building, 1798-1814
(yep, it took that long to get the building fully funded) 
Tuesday following a discussion with Deborah we decided that it was time to move to Charleston. Shortly before crossing the NC/SC border we noticed many billboards for Pedro's Fireworks. Upon crossing the border we saw the sign for Pedro's "South of the Border". We began to wonder if we had gone a little too far south... ;-)  Also in this area we started noticing many billboards, some with an Adult entertainment spin and others with a religious spin. 

We confirmed our route at the South Carolina visitors center near the North Carolina border and indeed we needed to take the I-95 detour that added 1 hour to the trip...but successfully got us to Charleston.  And yes, there were many signs of the heavy rains in South Carolina including the flooded streets in Charleston, still with detours we were able to get to the Isle of Palms (aka IOP)

Several of Deborah’s friends were meeting for happy hour at the Red Drum and we joined the festivities. After the Happy Hour and a burger with fries Deborah took us to a nearby favorite pub. A very fun evening. We enjoyed meeting Diane, Richard, Donna & Greg.
Happy Hour incuded 1/2 price wine by the bottle. Both of these were especially good.
Volver 2012 Tempranillo from La Mancha area (above)
and Tahuan 2013 Malbec from Mendoza (below).

Wednesday, with Deborah acting as tour guide, we explored Charleston starting near the visitors center and moving on to the Aiken-Rhett House. The house is relatively un-restored and maintains many of the original features, including the out-buildings (kitchen, laundry, slave quarters, stables, etc.).  The self-guided audio tour provided lots of detail about life for the owners and for urban "enslaved servants". 
Aiken-Rhett House from the front. No photos allowed inside.
Joggling Board on the piazza of the Aiken-Rhett House. A long board supported by rockers on each end.
A young couple sitting/bouncing on it will shortly find themselves close to one another.=
We stopped for at 82 Queen to sample some Low-Country Cuisine (Fried Green Tomatoes, Flounder with Succotash, She-crab soup, ...).

Next we visited the Nathaniel Russell House which is a complete contrast. It has been fully restored to its 1808 grandeur complete with period colors and furnishings. It was interesting to learn that Nathaniel Russell was from Bristol RI (we stopped in Bristol earlier on in our trip) and was in the import/export business (Carolina Gold rice, indigo, tobacco and cotton, ...including African slaves.) 

Nathaniel Russell House
There was an interesting graphic depicting the slave trade (indicating the source and receiving countries).  Surprisingly (to us), while roughly 400,000 slaves came to the US, closer to 10 million ended up in the Caribbean and South America. 

We continued on down to the Battery (waterfront) where we saw a dolphin playing in the water and then toured along Church Street enjoying the architecture. After a drink at the Rooftop at Vendue we headed home to the Isle of Palms.

Fort Sumter sits protects Charleston from the middle of the Harbor
Fountain at Waterfront Park
On Thursday we went out of town to Middleton Place, a 18C/19C rice plantation. The Plantation, built in 1705 was quite impressive with it's classical gardens a la Versailles and it's main building and two "flankers" used for hosting guests. But in the late days of the Civil War, it was destroyed by General Sherman's troops. Some 60 years later a family member restored the gardens, the farm and the one flanker that had partially survived. 

After a horse-drawn wagon tour of the grounds, we  picnicked under the trees.
Horses pulling a carriage under s Spanish Moss laden tree
The ruler of the farmyard. Love those "pants".
A guided walking tour of the grounds revealed how the plantation was managed, including how rice was grown. The "enslaved Africans" brought the rice-growing expertise. It is very labor intensive and was only profitable while there were still slaves to provide the labor. 

A volunteer demonstrating wood working needed to maintain the farm.
While touring we spotted these critters sunning peacefully together.
Note the gator behind the turtles.
Next we toured the house (guided, no photos allowed) and the gardens (on our own). A highlight of touring the gardens was to see the ancient and massive Middleton Oak (37' around).
As we were heading home and nearing IOP, we noticed the lovely sunset thinking, "darn, the timing is bad to stop for a photo".  Yet once after arriving home, we headed to the beach only to see a brilliant red after-effect.

Later we watched “The Patriot” (starring Mel Gibson) which included many shots of Middleton Plantation. The next day we headed back into Charleston to give Pat a little shopping time (she found a great plaid shirt) and to take advantage of the opportunity to see some private homes along Meeting Street as part of the fall Home & Garden Tour fundraiser for the Preservation Society of Charleston.  

The touristy marketplace.  Pat prefers to seek out speciality boutiques.
San Miguel Shoe knock-offs. The designer worked with San Miguel Shoes and
then created Charleston Shoes. Somehow, that seems to what we expect most
"Americans", ie folks from the US, expect.
Having arranged to have an early dinner at Hank's, we had a light lunch at Sermets (Artichoke Torte, Pistachio Encrusted Scallops, and Sweet Potato Fries). All were great. So was the seafood dinner at Hank's. Roasted Grouper for Bill and a Broiled Grouper, Scallop, and Shrimp platter for Pat. Everything went well with a nice Falanghina from Campagna, Italy.

Pat loved her roasted seafood and was impressed
with the presentation of the shrimp, all curled together.
We took it easy on Saturday, visiting nearby Fort Moultrie. The Fort served in the Revolutionary War, continuing through the Civil War and WWII. Rain was clearly imminent so we toured the grounds before touring the exhibition and viewing the story of the Fort. Good decision! There was a major downpour while we were inside.

Fort Moultrie Guns used for Harbor Defense from 1873 to 1898
For lunch we went to The Obstinate Daughter on nearby Sullivan's Island -- the name refers to a cartoon that depicted a defiant Charleston in 1776 foiling the British fleet’s attempt to capture the city in the Battle of Sullivan’s Island.

Next stop:  Beaufort SC

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