How to be a Southern Belle

Trip Start Dec 07, 2009
Trip End Dec 15, 2009

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Where I stayed
Hampton Inn Fayettville

Flag of United States  , North Carolina
Friday, December 11, 2009

The hotel alarm clock awoke me with all its fury at 6am.  This is not the time I set it for - I did not set the alarm clock at all actually.  The kind soul who stayed in the room before me did.  Evil.  The ambitious road tripper would have likely started their day, but I shut it off and slept for two more hours.  With my free newspaper in hand, I found a local cafe (City Market Cafe, I think) and enjoyed a hot mocha and cup of homemade yogurt, granola and bananas (not home grown, ha). The cold weather had definitely caught up with the east coast and even the locals were cold.  I was the only one in town wearing a hat and gloves though.  Native Chicagoans are always prepared for plummeting temperatures.  I walked around the city for a few hours, checking out the streets I'd missed the night before.  As I was heading towards the Battery hoards of people were filing out onto the street.  This was unusual since the town was pretty dead in general.  The police were closing down the street and asking people to stand at the far end of the sidewalk.  I kept on my way,  but as I headed back to the hotel I was rerouted over and over.  The courthouse next to my hotel had a bomb threat called in and the bomb squad was still combing the building.  Weeee...I schlepped my bags down the block to my car (by this point in the trip I've turned into a bad lady) and stashed them for an hour so I could check out King St shopping.  I didn't really plan on going into any stores...several purchases later.  So many sales...can't pass up a good deal, it's in my genes.  

Leaving Charleston to go to Boone Hall Plantation had me driving north out of the downtown area. I quickly realized that, while downtown was well maintained, just beyond the main area was pretty dilapidated (not that I went exploring those streets).  Boone Hall Plantation is one of the most photographed places in the US due to the parallel oak trees lining the driveway and to get a glimpse of this will cost you an arm and a leg.  I paid the $17.50 because I wanted to see the trees and I wanted to see a working plantation.  The trees were definitely the best part about the plantation.  The house was built in the 1900s to represent an old plantation-type house and only the first floor was open to visitors (owners use the 2nd/3rd floor occasionally).  I snapped a few photos inside before learning photos are not allowed...lalala.  The trees were probably worth $7.50...where the other $10 went I'm not sure.  

I drove 45-60 min farther north to Hampton Plantation.  Archibold Rutledge sold it to the government before he died and now the park service runs it...which probably explains its current condition.  This plantation house was at least the original from the 1730-ish time period and legend has it Washington was once a guest.  Interior walls are exposed so construction techniques are visible.  My favorite room was the great hall with a barrel had a fantastic echo and I could visualize the dancing that would have taken place.  I also enjoyed the over-sized white porch with huge columns.  A giant white house with columns is my epitome of a southern plantation home.  In general though, this place takes a lot of imagination since there are no furnishing and a lot of walls are exposed.  For $4, though, it was worth it...a steal compared to the $17.50 I paid earlier!

Another hour north and I reached Brookgreen Gardens in Murrell Inlet.  When I was researching this trip this place randomly came up as something not to miss.  My visit happen to fall upon their special Night of a Thousand Candles and already at dusk it was packed.  I had no idea what to expect except some gardens and sculptures.  It was this, but was also gobs of lights everywhere.  There were lights strung down from giant oaks and all the walkways were lined with tea candles in bags.  The circular and rectangular ponds w/sculptures (a lot from the 19th&20th centuries) in the middle had floating candles on top - in one pond a man was wading in there relighting candles as the wind blew them out (he seemed pretty cold and disgruntled).  They also had a live choir and a hand bell performance, as well as bag-pipe players.  I don't know if all the lights were making me loops or what, but I actually was incredibly moved by some of the sculptures and lighting exhibits, combined with the Christmas music.  I would highly recommend this place during the holiday season - probably one of the coolest events/places I've been to in the US and totally unexpected.

Two more hours on the road was all I could muster up the will power for after the gardens.  I noticed as I passed several small towns with quaint main streets that all the shops were occupied - the opposite of Kansas small towns.  At the end of every town was usually a Dollar Store, though.  They've apparently taken over America.  When I finally joined a major interstate I enjoyed the 10 mini-billboards in a row advertising wigs with such catchy descriptions as "sassy"...'you need a sassy wig'.  Hell yeah I do!  I also must mention that as soon as I reached the Savannah area I encountered numerous holiday music stations.  On this leg of my trip I actually let the radio settle one such station for 2 songs in a row.  I know...a record...BUT it was the Transiberian Orchestra and then Mariah Carey...doesn't count :).   The car ride finished off with karaoke to Phil Collins and Journey.  Good day, good day.
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