Kentucky to Charleston.

Trip Start May 30, 2013
Trip End Nov 25, 2013

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Where I stayed
Days Inn, Goose Creek

Flag of United States  , South Carolina
Thursday, August 1, 2013

KENTUCKY TO ASHEVILLE (North Carolina) and on to CHARLESTON.(South Carolina.)
Another farewell after a very full 5 days with Ken & Barb in Lexington,  and we (David & Erin & Garry & I) were on our way South, leaving Kentucky ; travelling through the State of Tennessee, into North Carolina.
Our 5 hour  journey finished in Asheville and home of the Biltmore Estate.
 A  famous French Renaissance  Chateau style home - the brain child of George Vanderbilt - in his time, a member of one of the wealthiest families in the world. In 1889 George purchased 125,000 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains , building this elegant, opulent mansion…..
  taking 6 years to build and opened on Christmas Eve 1895.
 Some facts on this magnificent building - 250 rooms, 34 bedrooms for guests , ( more for the servants), 65 fireplaces  43 bathrooms.…a basement with a 70,000 gallon indoor heated  pool with its original underwater lighting, gym, kitchen, servant quarters ,bowling alley ,all set in 125,000 acres of  Forest. ( The first managed forest in America,) & gardens and parklands. Creating what is considered the first managed forest in the USA. The home generated its own electricity and had lighting long before any other homes , is 4 acres in total under roof area and the biggest privately owned home in the USA.

I had emailed a home exchange couple from Roanoake with whom we keep in touch ,
( Glenna & Gerry- we had stayed in their Myrtle Beach property last year),   mentioned that we were going to be in Asheville, and they agreed to travel , and meet up with us…. David & Erin were keen to meet them too , and we all shared an enjoyable evening  dining out in Asheville, prior to our day planned for the Biltmore Estate visit. 
Setting out after an early morning start, we 6 were at the Biltmore car park ready for its a 9am opening. An impressive 3 mile drive  in from the main road through a forest of trees, all dripping from heavy overnight rain.Fortunately our purchase of 2 umbrellas the evening before, was enough to scare the forecasted wet weather , and we actually used these umbrellas at times outdoors, to shield us from the hot sun.
The cars were already starting to arrive , as we were  shuttled by bus from one of the car parks midst the forest of trees ,to the magnificent home.  ….
 We inquired later in the afternoon as we were leaving, and by 2 oclock ,there had been 3,000 visitors so far for the day. At $59 per head - YOU DO THE MATH!!!!! This is one huge business. This 118 year old property is doing well, employing 1800 staff and creating a huge employment base for the Asheville community.
The entrance hall has a Grand Staircase, with a  1700lb wrought iron chandelier hanging from a single point 4 stories up . (did NOT stand under that!) We made our way through room after room - a 90 foot long tapestry gallery has 5 huge floor to ceiling 15th century Flemish tapestries. One of the many dining room tables seats 38 people, while the banquet hall , with its 7 storied high ceiling ,was the scene of dinner parties and celebrations in its hey day - complete with an  organ loft that houses a 1916 organ.
After our exploration of the interior of this enormous 118 year old home, we moved outdoors and admired the spectacular country views from the shaded arbor of wisteria and trumpet creeper vines. There is a 4 acre formal garden featuring flower beds and 2 arbors leading down to a beautiful glass roofed conservatory nurturing exotic orchids, ferns and palms.
The original stables, are now a very busy café, and  shop selling all the memorabilia one could wish for from Biltmore. After a wonderful day out , we 6 enjoyed ‘happy hour’ and cheese board at the beautiful winery also on the property (called Antler Hill ) ,  bidding a fond farewell to Glenna & Gerry. Driving away for their 6 hour journey home…..their Harley Davidson type(Suzuki)  motor bike, mounted on  a rack on the tow bar of their truck.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN……… Departing Asheville, after a 2 night stay - feeling totally satisfied with our visit to the Biltmore . What a pleasure to be there on a fine day, after escaping the heavy rain that HAD been forecast.
 South Carolina and Georgia boundaries are defined by the Savannah River, that spills out over the Strom Thurmond lake, crossing over the dam into Georgia river, through Augusta, and out to the coast to Savannah. Our drive through the countryside was very colourful, with red, white, and pink crepe myrtles in full flower.  We stopped at the dam , and of course Erin was ecstatic at the sight of such a huge earth dam with concrete spillways. Our destination for the day being an overnight stop in a little town in Louisville, Georgia, to visit the farm that Erin & David have an interest in at Bartow. A late afternoon visit to the farm and  to watch the cows patiently waiting their turn to be milked, while standing under spray misting to help combat the heat and flies. The herd is split into 2  ….one of 300 and the other of 560 cows for milkings twice daily ; -
 so 1720 cows in total per day in a ‘52 a side’ herring bone shed. Just as well the Manager
 (a young,24 year old American ) not only has great skills with farm management , he also speaks Spanish to his 5 staff. After an enjoyable barbecue with several other NZ farmers farming in the area, we left the lovely countryside on darkness , Erin & David satisfied with their visit.
Next morning crossing back into South Carolina we enjoyed a picnic lunch from our ‘chilly bin’ in a lovely large church grounds under their trees , finally arriving in Charleston to an extremely HOT afternoon with very high humidity. Within an hour it started to rain, and we have had the heaviest thunder and lightning storm - looks like NO dinner for us tonight :”were not going out in this”.
Now, I am a little embarrassed to say, BUT this is the 3rd visit back to Charleston for Garry & I . The area is steeped in history and we wanted Erin & David to see why I have an album of “windows and doors of Charleston” (pics I have taken on previous visits ) on  our coffee table at home in NZ. 
 SOOO  my camera has had a little rest, and  David will “wax lyrical” no doubt, in his next blog on this area. A visit to the downtown harbour area on our first full out day here to see the  Market place and a horse and carriage ride for an hour for D & E, to give them a ‘quiet pace ‘overview of the rich history, well preserved architecture, and graceful antebellum homes. 
 Church steeples, cobblestone streets, historic plaques, wrought iron gates and balconies, hitching posts and gas lanterns - these are the hallmarks of downtown Charleston. 
 In 2012 Charleston was named for the 2nd year in a row, for the Top US city award- and we can see why. Regardless of skin colour, the people are polite and mannerly. Very relaxed and proud of their heritage.
Today a trip planned to the Magnolia Plantation and gardens - setting off with our packed cooler for picnic  lunch, we arrived in the Plantation on the Ashley River and a centre piece of history. 
 It played important roles in the colonial settlement, the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Over 70 acres of gardens grace the estate, being the oldest major public garden in USA, and 500 acres of plantation. A huge Antebellum homestead, and a street of slave cabins on the property.The walking paths and lakes are covered with weeping American Oak trees, dripping with Spanish moss. The grunting noise of the occasional alligator in the murky waters, made us very sure footed on the slippery paths following the water. Our picnic lunch in a large outdoor covered gazebo, was made more pleasant with inquisitive David, finding a switch for the large overhead fans, to help cool us down.
G & I had been here with Barb last year to the Angel Oak tree, and we felt it would be an opportune time to find it again for E & D ,as we were on the same Island. The Angel Oak is estimated to be up to 400 years old, stands 65ft high with a circumference of 25.5 feet around its trunk and an area of shade of 17.000 sq. ft. Nature at her best!!!!
The Charleston Tea Plantation is  nearby on Wadmalaw Island, so we managed to also  fit that into our days outing. Hundreds of thousands of tea plants in the fields, and the entire tea making process is shown and explained on 3 giant TV screens strategically placed in the factory ,along the viewing gallery, observing the actual drying method used from picking to packing of tea.. Iced tea is very popular in these parts, and we enjoyed our Peach tea while sitting  in the Adirondack rocking chairs along the wide veranda looking out over the tea plantation.
Charleston landscape is etched with barrier Islands and bodies of water with  low  lying marshland areas. 4 rivers all flow toward the Peninsula's Historic district ,creating what I think looks like a “Giant’s jigsaw puzzle, needing to be pushed together to be completed”.
 Each day we have headed out in a different direction and today we drove over to the fishing hamlet of Mount Pleasant and Isle of Palms, to explore Fort Moultrie, scene of the first shots fired in the Civil War.. The bunkers below ground were also the sight of command post for WW2.…still in the condition it was operating  in during their preparation for any invasion .
A sobering reminder of the memories of this area.
 Shem Creek is also on the Eastern side of Charleston, so after our  picnic lunch at  the pretty fishing village , we walked the LONG boardwalk that goes right out into the channel (cousin Vicki and Barb will remember this) . Thousands of small crabs scuttling below in the mud - looking like prize fighters , with their one huge fighting claw and one normal one .
 A Shrimp boat entered the channel , moored up and was immediately surrounded by dozens of Pelicans, all hovering over the boat and balancing on the boat. 2 dolphin cruised in , and worked the area between the birds and the boat…kayakers too, drew to a halt in the water. With the pelicans and dolphins , it was a busy sight. 
 Our last challenge for the day , was to walk the  soaring Arthur Ravenel Jr. bridge ,leading back over to the city - however the humidity and the sheer size of the bridge, saw our enthusiasm wane …..we did walk the lower path UNDER the bridge, half a mile out into the harbour and back again, before climbing back into the air conditioned car, and  DRIVE over the bridge, for our journey home to the Northern side of Charleston at Goose Creek
With our departure in the morning,  this is our last evening in Charleston, and what  better way to spend it than with Hannah…another homeexchange friend , we met 3 years ago and have met her twice since for a meal …will host her  some time in NZ. 
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