Saturday, 31 May 2014

American Road Trip - Richmond and what a small street has to offer! -Part 16

The facade - every ticket here $1.99

 

Cary Street is the street.  Richmond is the City, Virginia is the state.  Cary Street is the kind of place you want to spend a week's holiday/vacation on.  So many restaurants, cafes, bars.  Shops of the kind that you don't find in a mall.  The Byrd.  Ah, the Byrd!  That's an old theatre and cinema, still original, the box office faces the street.  Every Saturday night a Wurlitzer rises from the floor and gets played.  It is so big that several rooms in the basement house the working parts that give you the instruments you will hear (although of course it's all controlled and played via the keyboard).  And no, it isn't like an electric organ!  We are travelling home, so we are leaving in the morning, and the organ gets played at 5.30pm.  But if we ever get back, boy are we going to be there!  Find out more, here

The Box Office... if I lived near I'd hire a body to polish those lovely brass doors!



On Friday, we have lunch out, visit a fab bookshop which has books for $1 outside, and old and new books inside.  Also a famous cat who sleeps in the window called Dim Sum. "Do not tap the window" says the sign!  This cat likes undisturbed sleep. We also visit a newly opened kitchen supplies shop, buy a couple of small novelty items, and buy ourselves a tea-towel that tells us Y'all is an adverb in "the south"..... of course it is. We decide that our last night in the US will be spent in our little apartment, over food and a nice bottle of wine - and that is exactly what happens.  We call at a supermarket, get fried chicken and a bottle of Merlot, switch on the TV for a while, and enjoy, talking about leaving tomorrow, wanting to come back straight away, and generally deciding that for us, this was the holiday of a lifetime.

Just one more episode to go.  And by the way, if your name is Tammy Shmitt who commented on Google + - it cut your message off at "This is Tammy from ......"  so I never did get the name of our your town- comment again!

Oh yes, Tide!  My Mum used this throughout her life.  Once found, she never used another washing powder, and I have to say, it did clean the laundry well.  But I should have been out selling the remainder of the bottle on the street, because.... look at this!


Friday, 30 May 2014

American Road Trip - Fayetteville to Richmond to our last stop - Part 15


source: midwesternbelle.com
 Up in the morning, and our host is gone; his wife returns from a run before nipping off to work and telling us to help ourself to bacon an biscuits from the freezer.  No, I won't do that, not fair if the food is not left out for us, but how lovely it is to be really trusted. We decide to re-visit the old part of town, and find a fab. cafe called Rude Awakening (pic above) where we have a lovely cup of Java coffee and sit outside with our breakfast croissants.  Pleasant start to the day. Before it starts to rain we spot this garbage truck/dustbin collector.  And when we "get" what it says on the side, we start to laugh!  After all, if you have to dig big holes in the ground for rubbish to be dumped into it, surely it was wildlife habitat before you dug the holes?  Wasn't it?  Anyway - doing their best!

     


 Doug had told us about the Airborne and Special Ops Museum in town and as it was grey and rainy, we decided to poke our heads in.  Tableaux plus sound effects tell you everything you want to know really, and they have great information boards each side of each set.  We spent about twenty minutes in the WW2 France section and by that time I knew why people come home from a Theatre of War with Post Traumatic Stress.  Each area has it's own sound effects, and it's incredible how that noise gets into your brain.  A really interesting museum, and worth a couple of hours if you are near Fayetteville.

On we go, getting ever nearer to Washington and the plane home (sigh).  We are headed now for Richmond where we have booked 2 nights in an apartment, rather than B and B.  No more "real" stops on this part of the journey - only at a rest station for a comfort break, a little walk around, and a look in the information centre for other places to go when we come back (and we are going to!).  We find ourselves approaching Richmond, where we stayed a night at the beginning of our trip, but this time in a different part - the old part of town, and we have to navigate a road system that would make Spaghetti Junction in Birmingham UK cry.  Phew!  And again we give thanks for our sweet-voiced GPS who eventually says those magic words "you have reached your destination".  We phone Raine, the owner of what we hope is a lovely little apartment.  She is on her way, and we stretch our legs, have a slug of water, and wait......

When she arrives, and shows us in - I can't stop saying "Oh!"  This is a tiny, tiny apartment.  It was the storage area for a corner store (which is now an office) and our entrance is at the side.  Inside is a double bed, a full size wardrobe, two nice chairs to sit with a beer or watch TV; a working kitchen, a laundry area with washer and dryer, full size; and one and a half bathrooms as they say in the US.  One is basin, shower and toilet, and the little one is toilet and...... the smallest basin I have ever seen in my life!  And it is just beautiful!  It's about 15 minutes walk from Carey Street in the "Fan" area of Richmond - full of restaurants, quirky shops, and lively people day and night.



front of building - was a corner shop
what you see as you step through the door
from bedroom to sitting area



 Raine, our host is lovely and chatty, and over an hour later we are still talking!  When she's gone, I load up the washer - this is the chance to go home with suitcases full of clean clothes.  We settle in, and decide we'll go out for dinner.  Because it's raining hard now, we take the car and park just off the the main street.  And we are confronted with so many different eating places we don't know where to go.  Ask a couple of college types in knitted beanie hats to recommend a place.  They then recommend at least three!  Well that's no good, how to choose from three in the pouring rain?  We find one that looks fun, and ask for a table for two.  The tiny blonde who shows us to our table says, "Plenty of room, but Karioke starts at 10.00pm", thus marking us as old biddies who who not be joining in!  Actually she was right, as we were knackered again, but we finished before they started, so we missed it.  Walk to the nearest 7 11 in the rain and get a small bottle of Tide for the washing.  On the way, a young lady with a big unbrella stops and asks us if she can walk us to our car as it is so wet!  Flabbergasted!  We thank her and say we are fine, but what a nice thought.  What we find out about Tide at a later date came as a surprise - and we'll tell you all about it. 


Thursday, 29 May 2014

American Road Trip - sadly leaving Charleston, but finding a Piggly Wiggly! - Part 14


We need to get on the road today - our next stop is 218 miles up country.  But as most of this will be on Highway 95 - a straight, straight, straight road the driver thinks it's no bother.  So we take a walk down to King Street so that we can have a look at the shops.  Got to be done - holidays are not all about scenery and visits to historic places!  We find an ATM inside a corner shop with it's own resident cat, and the owner doesn't seem to mind at all that we don't want to buy anything.  This is the morning I get to have a little treat - here is Pottery Barn, it's lovely windows beckoning!  We enter and the air conditioning is cold enough for a sweater - which all staff are wearing - but very refreshing for us.  If redecorating your home, this place with give you enough inspiration for every room (at a price!).  But as I may never be in another branch, I buy 8 new linen napkins, reduced in the sale, and very beautiful indeed.  At the counter, I bemoan the fact that we have no branches at home, and the haughty guy who's serving me says "but Madam, you can buy our goods on the internet... just open our page, click on the Union Jack, and all shipping prices are in £s".   Oh Dear.   I tell him I will be bankrupt shortly, now that I have access, but he just smiles and passes me the goodies.


                       
Walking back to the house, at a crossroads, I manage to get the camera out of it's case quickly and catch this guy and his gorgeous old car and he gives us smile and the horn a "beep! as he spots us.  Back to retrieve our car now, already packed and ready to go, with a quick but heartfelt goodbye to Kathleen who I'd like to know better.

We take the road, promising a stop for lunch, even if it's only a chain restaurant. We shout "bridge" and this is another biggie.  It crosses Lake Marion, in South Carolina, which is so big that each side of the bridge is water up to the horizon.  Lovely.  When I spot a sign that says "Antiques Mall, 70 miles"  I decide that will do as a stopping place, and as the word antiques in the US covers everything from seriously old to mid-20th century stuff, I just might find a little gem to take home.  We couldn't find it at all!  Small town, so not far to go looking for it, but either it was gone, or it was hidden. At least we find somewhere for lunch.  It is a chain, but what a chain!  Route 55 is a 1950's style diner, and everything that goes with it.  Hot dogs, Burgers, Coca Cola, Fries, the usual suspects.  But like most chains, it's a franchise, and the staff here are really proud of their venture.  The black and white tile floors shine like mirrors, the toilets are spotless (in fact I never found a dirty one the whole trip) and smell fresh and clean, and the staff are attentive.  The chrome gleams, and there is great rock and roll playing.  I would not have been surprised if the staff had not leapt onto the counter and burst into an acapella version of "Will you still love me tomorrow?" or some other hit of the past.  Maccers has a hot dog, and me?  I have frozen custard. Never had it before, but given the chance will have it again.  Who knew that custard makes such a lovely cold treat when I can't eat icecream?  Heaven!

We could do with bottled water, so a quick half mile from the diner we find a Piggly Wiggly!  It's a supermarket chain and if you like American films set in the south, you may be familiar with the name.  Certainly I have seen it mentioned in novels and by stand-up comedians.  And here we are attempting to understand the cashier, who not only talks quietly, but has the strongest accent I have ever heard in my life.  I caught "y'all", and got the money right, but I'm ashamed to say that I really did not hear what she said, although "have a nice day" might have been in there somewhere.   Now we are non-stop until Fayetteville, North Carolina where we are staying the night.  We have no idea what this town offers, but it is a good distance to break the journey back to Washington Airport.  What we don't know is that it services Fort Bragg.  Fort Bragg is H U G E ..... 50,000 military personnel at any one time.  The town is easy to find with the GPS (just come off the 95 and listen to her - "take the next left") and  we find ourself (hurrah!) at the correct address.
probably our only ever 'Selfie', but here we are - made it to our next bed for the night!
Arrangements have been made for us to let ourselves in if we beat our hosts home and so we let ourselves in from a red hot afternoon to a cool and dark house.  Our room is easy to find, downstairs, and just like the photo on AirBnB, so we dump the bags, and get back on the internet, to check on friends, answer emails again, and generally slob around.  John puts a few beers in the fridge to get cold, and I make a cup of tea.  We relax and chat and eventually the back door opens and in comes Doug home from work.  We are fascinated by his deep voice - remember the bald eagle in "The Muppets"?  He could make a fortune in voice-overs!  Over a beer we discuss British politics, American Politics, the House of Commons which he watches avidly!  "Say, who's that guy in the big chair?"  We explain about Mr Speaker.  He loves Prime Minister's Question Time and wishes they had it in America - there are some Presidents he would like to have seen in the hot seat.  He asks us about the Scottish question - which John is against, and we discuss other world problems and politics.

He recommends us to the best burger in town "hand made, and I know the cook" - he's right, John says it's like an old fashioned home made job.  I have a little taco as I am not really hungry, and ask for red wine.  Remember Buckfastleigh?  Or Sanatogen?  Fortified wines of the past... not my taste, and probably not anyone else's in Fayetteville, because it is served from a bottle into a wine glass right next to the till, so they obviously don't sell much of it.  John has  a beer, sensible boy!  When we return, Doug's wife is back from work, and we spend another hour talking this, that and the other before they need to go to bed and we go too.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

American Road Trip - Lunch at the Whistle Stop Cafe, and Supper out in Charleston - Part 13


 

Well, of course, it isn't the real Whistle Stop Cafe.... but the brew pub has Fried Green Tomatoes on the menu as a starter.  What can I do?  They also have hush puppies - what are they then?  We ask our absolutely charming waiter what they are, and if you already know, you will be laughing by now.  Deep fried dough balls made with corn meal.  Have to try them so that's starter number two; and then John chooses Spicy Shrimp for starter number three.  So there we sit, on a table outside watching the world go by and sharing our starters.  Fried Green Tomatoes?  Just that.  Sliced and dipped in a very thin batter and then fried.  Served on a cheesy sort of sauce with a pale green chutney/pickle made, I think from a vegetable called chow chow.  I loved them!  Going to try to cook them myself.  The hush puppies are good too, crispy on the outside, bready on the inside, and served on a bed of salad.  Finally the Spicy Shrimp, which of course are prawns.  They are delicious too.  So what a nice little "southern" lunch!  We get talking to a couple on the next table who are having a treat of a few days away - their youngest child just off to college, they have not had a solo break for seventeen years - I  truly cannot imagine that.  They are from Concord, near Charlotte, North Carolina, and have accents so strong that even I have to bend forward.  "Moose, that's ma kinda nickname"  he tells us.  They too are charming, concerned for our welfare ("doncha go goin' off the main highways without a full tank of gas y'all!") and we spend a lovely half an hour talking to them.  Then a slow stroll up another couple of blocks to the market where Maccers gets a plain black Tshirt (his souvenir), and I get a present for my sister. It is an air conditioned building and when we open the door at the far end I'm finished!  I can't walk home.  Sorry, but there it is.  We call the Tom, Pedicab "driver" who picked us up and delivered us for our walking tour this morning, and he says "Wow!  On my way!"  and, like a knight errant, here he comes!  We clamber aboard in 90+ (f) with matching humidity, and he still manages to get up speed, taking us through the university buildings instead of the direct route because it's cool.  Is that cool as in hip or cool as in not so hot?  I'll never know, I didn't ask him.

But here he is  complete with a fashionable (or so we hear) beard, and all he wants to do really is write music and play in his band...  Another southern charmer.  It's tonight that we are taking Kathleen, our host, out to supper to repay her kindness of yesterday.   So alighting daintily from the pedicab (haha!), I get myself inside and upstairs for yet another shower.  Later on we walk a few blocks to the Loaves and Fishes, a local restaurant where she has been coming for family celebrations for years.  Nice little place, too, and a quiet gossipy walk home, to be met by Captain Stump;  a tortoiseshell cat of indeterminate years who only has half a tail (hence the name) and is definitely a female.
Idea of scale?  The ceilings in this house are 18 ft high, and you can see that there is another 2 ft above the wallpaper.

And for the last time, we climb into that huge bed because tomorrow we are heading back North on the 95 highway on our way home.  But still, a few adventures to come yet!
           

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

American Road Trip - What Charleston has to offer! - Part 12


Cobblestones.  Catfish Row. The start of the Civil War.  wonderful food.  Friendly folk. Gardens of houses behind wrought iron gates.  On the water but not sea-side. Bill Murray.  Exceedingly good manners  - oh, and pedicycles!  That's just a smidge of what we found in this lovely city. 
Here is a picture that could have come from an old street anywhere in the UK, brick wall and old cobbles.  So how on earth would old cobblestones like this appear in a small lane leading up from the port in Charleston?  Cobblestones were used as balast in ships going over to Charleston.... and of course, left behind because the hold was full of goodies going back to Bristol, London, Southampton, etc.  Well, who knew?!  Certainly not us, and it's such a surprise to see something so familiar a long way from home.  These cobbled lanes lead up from the port to a terraced row (now all houses) which formerly had shops on the ground floor.  This row is now called "Rainbow Row". 


    
                            
The  whole row of 18th century buildings are a great tourist attraction in Charleston, and have an interesting history.  Wikipedia has a great entry.

We had booked a 2 hour walking tour on the internet, and we meet a wonderful guide, Mary Helen, a retired lawyer, one of the two sisters of Two Sisters Tours.  She was born and brought up in Charleston, and loves her town.  She knows as much about it as any guide book will tell you times 10!  She also knows all the back alleyways, so will walk you places you might never find on your own, or as part of a bigger tour.  It is very hot, very humid, and just me, Maccers and a couple of very quietly spoken Texans, so we can ask any question and it gets an immediate answer.  We find ourselves up an alleyway looking at a little house that is so pretty I want to move in.  But once upon a time it was the outside kitchen and living space for the "help", black slaves who worked for the big house.  The outside kitchens were very common in the Carolinas - for safety reasons (wooden houses in a lot of cases) and the risk of fire, but also because for several months of the year it is so hot that cooking inside in a confined space would finish you off altogether.  We find out that Catfish Row from the opera Porgy and Bess really existed - although not under that name..... It was originally a slum area where black and poor whites lived together.  The negro people grew cabbages and sold them to other poor families, and it was originally known as Cabbage Row. The author of the book, Porgy, on which the libretto of the opera was based, used it as inspiration and called his version Catfish Row.

                        

 


























































We walk and walk - houses, churches, history - we are actually on this tour for two and a half hours which includes 20 minutes when Mary Helen gave John a personal lesson on the Civil War, on the Battery, with Fort Sumpter right across the bay.  It's a town of wonderment.  Pretty old houses, old houses that trick you, new houses amongst the old, little alleys that lead to pretty gardens - it's hard to stop looking round!  The last picture below is a new one, squeezed in between two older houses.  I'd like that one myself!!  We say goodbye to our lovely guide, and see an Italian Gelato cart - just right for the heat.  We have a couple of free tasters, and I decide on "Pango" - Pineapple and Mango, and John has Lemon.  Just right for sitting under the trees in a nearby park to collect our thoughts and decide where to go for lunch.  We walk (slowly, it's very hot indeed!) round the corner and a couple of blocks towards "home".   When we find a brew pub it's time to place an order - especially as John isn't driving today!
      
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Monday, 26 May 2014

My (early) challenge to you for JUNE!



So sorry about May.  I was on holiday from 1st -18th May, and somehow, my challenge got lost.  However, we can always catch up, so a little early, here's the challenge for June.  Good Luck!

A book with some kind of reference to time in the title 

For example:  
The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson
In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

American Road Trip - coasting into Charleston - Part 11



Here we are then, coming down the last few miles before Charleston South Carolina On Highway 17 and looking out at the side of the road for Gullah people's stalls.  Here's what Wiki tells you about these descendants of slaves in this coastal region of the Carolinas.  These littles stalls are full of basketware, some large, some small, and made of sweetgrass (now a protected species so that this skill can continue) and woven by hand in a style that came with them from Africa.  I want to buy something that I can't find anywhere else, so I'm glad to see several stalls, and we stop at one when the traffic is easy.  I have a chat with the stallholder, and ask her is she not hot, out there all day?  She shows me a garden marquee, under the trees and surrounded by fly screening, and assures me that she and her man are very comfortable all day in the little room.  I make my purchase, and we drive on.  Coming down Highway 17 takes you into Charleston from the East, the coastal end.  And it takes you over a magnificent bridge.  "bridge!" we shout, and then we say "wow!" because the bridge is huge, and beautiful.

 So, this is Charleston.  We come into the old part of the city and are immediately charmed.  Now we only have to find our accommodation and have a quick lay down.  It's only two blocks back from King Street, a lovely street with shops, cafes, restaurants, corner shops and - OH JOY! a Pottery Barn.  If you roam the internet like me, you may have seen this chain mentioned a couple of hundred times or so. Especially if you seek out other people's blogs looking at at their homes!  Remember how Habitat struck everyone when it first began?  Nothing like it anywhere?  Pottery Barn does that to me!

Finding the right adress - "you have reached your destination" - with the GPS is easy this time.  No running down the road to find a street name, and we turn into the space at the side of the house. KER-UNCH!  "Stop!" I shout and he does.  I get out and find we have a lovely scrape on the passenger side of the bumper/fender and a bit of the wing.  No other damage but he is so upset that we have made it all this way and he has to do this getting the car off the road.  A quick reverse and another attempt sees us safely in.  I tell him to sit in the car whilst I unload, meet the host and get the bags upstairs, for having suffered three nosebleeds in the last couple of days, I don't want him to have another.  I meet the lovely Kathleen, who seems as excited that we have arrived as we are to be here.  The bed in our little suite here is 7 feet wide.  You could live on it!  I go back down and get John, and we both get upstairs and collapse, tired, hot but happy to be here. Our host gives us loads of info about the city, the mantlepeice is loaded with books about it, and this afternoon being a total rest, we may not even make it to a restaurant.  She tells us about a couple of places within a few blocks - one, Dave's, is a fish and chip shop.  Really?  in Charleston?  She explains that he gets today's catch from the harbour and cooks up whatever he has with fries.  So, sort of similar to our chippies, I guess.  Anyway, before we can stop her she is off, cycling the two blocks to get details of what's frying tonight.  We have a shower, and lay down in our nightwear.  Soon Kathleen is back, disappointed that Dave will not, in fact, be frying tonight.  But there are other places we can go, and she produces a list.  It's no good, too hot and too tired to be bothered, I am just going to say we'll make up our minds later, when this angel says "or I could cook for you?  I'm making fish tacos tonight".  If I knew her well, I'd fall upon her neck with gratitude, but a deeply felt thank you is all she gets, and she's off!  [You should note that evening meals are not on offer here, I think she was just sorry for two weary Brits - bless that woman.]

"home" for 2 nights, and our host, Kathleen out front
We prop ourselves up on the huge bed and switch the TV on.  And we find ourselves watching an episode of Golden Girls with smiles on our faces.  That was a great show.  The comic timing was perfection, and all four characters too.  We've not seen any TV since we started this holiday, so a great chance for himself to channel-hop (why do men do that?), whilst I catch up on emails.  Then, at just the right time, there is a knock on the door, and here's the lovely woman with a tray, on which sit three plates.  Two plates of fish taccos - all made from scratch, with Tallapio fish, kale, green peppers and mushrooms; and the third plate a pile of home made potato "fritters" as my mother used to call them, where you just slice the potatoes into thin circles and fry them in a shallow pan (I haven't had these since my Mum died in 1973, and John hasn't had them since he was a child either.  If I say that the food didn't touch the sides, you'll know we enjoyed it - a lot!)  So now, back on the giant bed, me dozing whilst he channel-hops again.  We need to be up and out early, as we have booked a walking tour of the old part of town and we need to be at the start by 10.30.


Sunday, 25 May 2014

American Road Trip - Things heat up on the way to Charleston! - Part 10




  





 Every day we see something that makes us laugh.  Before we get on the road to Charleston, John spots this in the car park whilst we are loading the car.  It's advertising something called "Chief Namu's Fire and Hula Shack".  What the hell is that??  the ladies with the Hawiain headresses are photographs, not paintings, so our guess is that they are waitresses in some kind of BBQ restaurant.  And possibly there is a hula hula floor show?  This is Myrtle Beach, after all!

      And then, on the road out when traffic lights are red, I get a gap in the traffic, and spot this li'l ol' brown truck - centre of picture - on a used car lot.I expect that, before too long, that will be cleaned up, laquered, and on show on the streets of New Bern one Saturday afternoon.



Before we leave Myrtle Beach, our hosts tell us to call in at Polly's Island.  Look at the map but 1) cannot see any islands on this part of the coast, and 2) Can't see anything called Polly's Island.  No!  Wait!  There it is - not Polly's but Pawleys Island, South Carolina - a little township just on the coast that once was a great place for growing rice.  And early farmers made a lot of money here.  It was just right for rice, and no-one in this area was eating potato at the time (more about that when we reach Charleston).  The little houses are, in fact, private sitting-out areas, with their own boardwalks leading out to them.  So, you have to have a house here to be able to sit out on the creek.  And the grey areas in those two pictures are actually reeds which are covered when the water comes into the creek, left grey when the muddy water recedes.  It's Hot, Hot, Hot here. The car soon tells us that the temperature outside is in the high 80s (f).  I have experienced this before, but not with high humidity.  It's enough to lay you low! The a.c. in the car works fine though, so we can stay cool as long as we don't get out - and that would be silly, wouldn't it?   Maccers wants to photograph the Police Department and Town Hall and I warn him to be out and back in quickly because it's hot and he has no sun blocker on his skin.  You can see, though, why he wants to take a pic.  It's tiny!  And as small as it looks, too, only one room deep.  I surmise from this that town meetings are quiet affairs, and that the police are not too busy here. 

 Suddenly, he's back in the car!  Nose bleed again!  I pack one side of his nose and we try out the roll of paper under the top lip trick and it works.  But now he's worried.  He has to drive a fair way yet, and maybe it will continue to bleed;  although it doesn't, and after a few slugs of water and my reasurance that he is going to be fine, we are on our way.  We pull away from the coast again, and very soon shout "bridge"!  We do love bridges as much as ferries over here.  They cross large expanses of water  to save the long route around.  We have crossed loads, and this afternoon we drive over three more, crossing wide, wide rivers.  Then comes one of those magic minutes when you see a sign and decide to turn off.  The sign says McLenanville South Carolina and off we go.  Another tiny township with not much happening, but it's a lovely day, John's nose has stopped bleeding, there is Spanish Moss everywhere in the trees, and it's quiet enough to stand in the road and get the perfect shot! 
                         

I hope you can see the Spanish Moss clearly in this picture.  And now's the time to tell you it isn't moss, and it isn't a parasite either.  It's a kind of air plant.  When you look at it, it's pale sage green, although it looks grey up in the trees and would surely look good used as something to cover up the soil round houseplants - but DON'T DO THAT!  There is a little mite that lives on the Spanish Moss, which may burrow under your skin and make you itch (but someone told me that she dabs nail varnish on if she gets one under her skin..... soon dies that way)   Also we spot the first US mail office that is easily accessible so that I can post a card to my sister - the only postcard that is going to get sent, as I don't do them anymore. This mail office is easily one of the bigger buildings in this little township.  Built of red brick; built to last a hundred years, quiet, cool, and with one only member of staff!  I send it airmail, but my guess is it will be weeks till it arrives at number 9.  With the best of intentions I send a picture of the Wright Brothers on the beach with Kitty Hawk on it's way.

We drive on now through the Francis Marion National Forest which is huge, phoning our next host on the way to make sure she is in, and to tell her approximately what time she should expect us.  And now we are on our way to our most southerly point of the holiday, the glorious city of Charleston, a town where manners are a fine art, ladies never sweat (and I doubt they ever perspire, either), and where the American Civil War started.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

American Road Trip - Myrtle Beach and a gorilla - part 9

Sea Mist Oceanfront Resort (Owner's Units), Myrtle Beach
from this.......



to this - and everything in between!
Myrtle Beach  Wax Museum
including a huge King Kong, who's the front man for a new wax museum.  (Don't ask!)  "The Great Ape of Myrtle Beach" can be found on the corner of US 17 bypass and 21st Avenue North - he is big!

We're going to stay at Myrtle Beach.  Not on the beach you understand, but with hosts Ariel and Mark.  The GPS takes us to an apartment block in one of those suburban communities that we have found very common near big towns.  Not a huge block, just a 4 apartment block.  Get it right though, should be calling them condos!  So now we know where we will sleep, we take the road for the beach. We'd been told that Myrtle Beach was a must-see, a cross between Blackpool and Southend.  Well, there's no Blackpool Tower.  But there are miles of holiday homes, hotels, bars are eating places.  We can't see the water, but like the Outer Banks, the shoreline has been built on, so you know that the water is just behind the hotels and eateries.  Perhaps it's a bit like Benidorm, in Spain - not that we have ever been, although we've seen plenty of pictures.  What is the same as all the holiday spots mentioned, is the number of bare arms, backs and bellies with that lovely red glow that means it will hurt for days afterwards!  What we did see were Harley Davidsons in their hundreds, polished to within an inch of their lives, gleaming chrome and leather.  And with the exception of I think 2 riders, everyone of them mounted by people in Tshirts and shorts!  What, no leathers?  no spine protectors? no helmets?  Nope!  Just cruisin' and meeting - in groups, singly, in ones and twos - for it is Bike Week at Myrtle Beach.  We spot signs saying "Myrtle Beach Welcomes Bikers!", and I am sure they do, the revenue that must be created this one week early in the season just must be enormous.

And just to remind you how big it actually is, From North Myrtle Beach down to Murrell's Inlet, all one enormous strip of holiday good times, is thirty seven miles.  Let me say that again.  37 miles.  Enough.  This is not our kind of holiday, but it had to be seen;  so, leaving it to the bikers we make our way inland a couple of miles and back to our room for the night.  We arrive back to the spot the GPS directed us to.  No answer at the door.  Perhaps they are late home from work?  Using the throwaway phone I ring.  Yes, they are home, and we are obviously not at the right address!  We check the address and the GPS who is still saying "You have arrived at your destination" in that particularly cool, calm English way even though we have not!  With Ariel on the phone giving directions, I get out of the car and run walk as fast as I can to the end of the street, where I find that I am not on Ariel's street at all, and we need to drive a bit further.  Not far though - around 150 yards maximum and when we drive past the right building, there are Ariel and Mark waving from their upstairs porch so that we can find them!  So we go into their lovely condo, cool and calm after the heat outside and the GPS's error and have a chat and a cup of tea.  Soon they are off out for a pizza, and we are left to our own devices, charging up the ultrabook so that we can get in touch with folk, and reading emails etc.  Everyone we meet is so trusting and so gracious, it's a pleasure to travel this way.

American Road Trip - Blackbeard's hideout; throwaway phones and a treat at an icecream parlour! - Part 8


   

  
I'd forgotten that yesterday afternoon, we drove down to a coastal town called Beaumont, North Carolina.  (That's Bowmont.  South Carolina has a Beaumont too - but of course that's Bewmont!)  This is where Blackbeard the pirate hung out. It's just across the sound from the  Cape Lookout National Seashore.  Right at the very end of the Outer Banks is Cape Lookout.  Then, towards the top left is a little hook - which sort of disguises the access.  Between the mainland and this last bit of the Outer Banks is the Shackleford Banks, which lays across the entrance to Core Sound. 
The Bight
You can see from this picture that south of Cape Lookout the sea is shallower, and you'd need to know your way through the rocks here to sail round to the hook.  But once you did, you can also see, at the top of the picture, where the inlet to Core Sound is. It doesn't take much imagination to realise that the pirates had found a great hiding place, because if they knew the seas well, they could sail south up or down this part of the coast, nip round that little hook and into a safe harbour.  A British ship, chasing them down, would find that they had just disappeared.   There are dozens of wrecks off the Banks.  Wonder how many were sunk by Blackbeard? And I wonder if there are any Spanish Dubloons still to be found along the shores here?!   We had a late lunch at a small restaurant and bar right on the docks.  We watched people come along side on their little motor boats, get off, have a meal or a drink, and then get right back on and putter away to home or holiday house.  Great stuff!

Right.  Back to the next part of our trip but what's that noise?  Around this point in the trip my cell/mobile phone gives me a wolf whistle!  What is that?  That is a text from Hazel, around half way through our road trip, hoping that we are having a great trip.  Yes we are!  A little more about that phone.  It's a throwaway, cost $9.99 + a money card.  What a bargain, enough money to keep in touch with all the B and Bs and also to make emergency phones calls too.  Recharged in the car.  I had seen other people say that this was the way to do it and indeed it was.  Although, I must say, that we would have taken a lot longer to find out about one and set it up if it hadn't been for Jarleth, Hazel's OH.  He had taken us to a Target store whilst we were with them, and for fun, set it all up.  He'd never done this before on a throwaway - of course for business he must have a "proper" phone, so he rather enjoyed pressing the keys and saying "yes" and "no" to a computer. 

We are off today to have a look at Myrtle Beach (I remember a song that starred this place), and so as it's a short drive will have a look at anything that takes our fancy.  It's Mother's Day in the US.  The world and his mother is out for lunch.  We pass huge restaurants, with queues outside, car parks full and large family groups wandering around.  We slow down at a little township called Calabash, the last stop before crossing the border into South Carolina.  I spot an icecream parlour but keep quiet - I am sure John would like something more substantial than that!  We turn off the highway and drive down to the water.  Several huge restaurants, all full, but there's a sign that says Coffee and Icecream right on the boardwalk by the water.  Closed.  Bugger.  We wander onto the boardwalk, admire the view and the boats, but a drink would be nice, and there is no way we are going to get into any of the restuarants here!  So, heading up to the main road again, I tell John that there is a an icecream parlour "just over there!".  We pull in at the car park, and even though it's hot and sunny, it's nearly empty.  They must all still be stuffing themselves with Mothers' Day lunches somewhere!  I try not to eat too much dairy because of the gallstones, so look for sorbet, and hey presto!, something lovely is available to me.  John opts for Vanilla with chololate chips, and we sit down in just the right seats to  be confronted with this, and I gasp!  It's a pianola!  In the US it's called a player piano.  You put in rolls of punctured paper and rather like a music box, the roll turns, and the keys of the piano move, and hey presto! music!


    In this case, not only the keys moved, but inside the structure were several different kinds of drums and a very tinny xylophone.  Some whistley stuff too, but could not see what was making that. Anyway, only 25 cents a go.  We ask the (very young) staff if we can play it, as they are listening to the latest stuff on the radio, but they say yes so off we go.  First go, something vaguely recogniseable.  Second go, a crooner's favourite from the 1950s.  But then! oh my lord!  Elvis's "Can't Help Falling Love" followed by "Blue Suede Shoes", all played in rag-time on a pianola!  I am in heaven, and I am in love - and John was amused too!  What if we had not stopped for locally-made icecream here?





Friday, 23 May 2014

American Road Trip - Old New Bern, a magic car show and a trio of rescue dogs - Part 7


I'll take the little one!
Breakfast next morning -"have what you like" says Debra.  We have a small one - riding miles in a car is not exercising!!  Then off on a quick tour of the old part of this lovely little town on a small open tour bus, which we were encouraged several times to get off and walk a few paces so that we could be shown places of interest.  Lots of Civil War history here, and you can see why if you find it on the map.  Here's a very nice house indeed, originally owned by a free black man, the son of someone important in town (white).  The little pink house next door is where the "help" lived.
It's hot and humid, so after the tour, I decide to walk back to the B and B for a cool rest in the sitting room, whist Maccers takes the camera and spends a very happy hour or so looking at vintage cars, parked right down Main Street and round the corner - for free!



This kind of show would cost you in the UK, but here in North Carolina, everyone is so pleased to show and talk about their vehicle.  Lots of great pics, and here are a few that I liked the look of!

      
    
     
  
Next morning, John gets washed and dressed, ready to get on the road.  Oh-oh! Nosebleed again!  Not serious, I plug it and Amy gives us a fabulous tip from her mother.  Put a roll of paper under the top lip.  Well, with the plug in place it worked - and it's a tip I'd use again.  After a quiet hour to ensure that it had stopped, we were off again, again across country to find our next accommodation up above Myrtle Beach.  Glenn had told us we had to see it, a cross between Blackpool and the Costa del Sol.  But we had other places  to  to go first (not that we knew where as we drove away from the doggy trio).