Edisto Beach. . .squashed snakes and cycling


Second Day in Edisto:

We ran this morning, for 25 minutes, around the Wyndham complex. This is an area in Edisto Beach, where the swamp has been partially drained, and filled with condos and a golf course. The little road meanders around the houses, lined with trees dripping with Spanish moss, and next to pool and rivers filled with turtles and fish leaping, and alligators. We didn’t see any gators. It had rained earlier, so I looked out for snakes, but we only saw one, which was squashed on the road (and one of us—not me—nearly trod on it. Twice!)

After breakfast, we walked to the end of the road and hired bikes. We asked if we needed locks, but were told: “We don’t have much trouble with things like that round here. Y’all just leave them where you want, they’ll be waitin when you return.”

We cycled round the island, enjoying the tree-lined streets, the views of the swamp behind the houses, the little shops. We stopped at a gift shop and I bought a fridge magnet, and a china mug. This trip has been very lacking in china mugs—everywhere serves coffee in disposable cups (so much waste!) and so now I can carry my own cup around with me.

We ate bagels and fruit back at the condo, then cycled to the HiLo supermarket and bought a tub of Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream. We sat on a washed-up log on the beach, and ate the ice-cream (I ate most of it). Then we cycled, quite fast, to the beach by Access 37. The beachfront tends to be blocked by houses and condos, but there are regular access points, which are numbered; some access points have parking areas next to them. I expect in busy times it becomes rather competitive to find a parking space, but it was empty in October.

We arrived at the beach in time to watch the dolphins. Someone had told us that they return at the same point in the tide each day, heading for the creek, where they fish. Apparently, if you’re very lucky, you can see them in the creek fishing—they leap in the water, making a huge wave which washes ashore, causing fish to be stranded on the beach. The dolphins then lurch forwards, and eat the fish, before heaving themselves back into the water. Occasionally they get stranded themselves, and have to be rescued. We didn’t manage to see that, but we did see them heading towards the creek, leaping through the waves. It was wonderful again.

We returned to the bikes, enjoying the warm air, the sea, the sand. There were butterflies in the grass, and crabs scuttling along the sand, and dragonflies floating past. It felt like nature was waking up for the evening.

Dinner was at The Waterfront restaurant again. I had Creole Shrimp (a traditional dish here). It was tasty, and went well with a Bud Light. I was too full of ice-cream for a dessert.

I have loved staying in Edisto Beach. It has a slightly wilder, more natural feel than some of the other islands we have stayed at in the past, so it feels slightly less safe but also has a natural beauty that I rather fell in love with. Next stop is Charleston, I’ll tell you about it in my next blog.

Thank you for sharing our adventures. Take care.

Love, Anne x

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Owning Slaves. . . or maybe just benefitting from them.


 

Belle Mead Plantation

We left Nashville and drove to Belle Mead Plantation. This was an old plantation, where they reared horses, and owned slaves. It was advertised as telling the story of the slaves, rather than simply showing the affluent lifestyle of 1800’s Americans (which is what many plantation tours focus on). We paid for a one-hour tour/lecture.

The tour started in a slave cabin (actually, it was reconstructed as all the original slave cabins had fallen down over the years). From the outside, it looked like a log cabin from a cowboy film. Inside, it was a two-roomed structure, with a central fireplace. We heard that 10 slaves would live in each room. Given the size, we could fit about 10 slaves into our garden shed. Imagine—10 people to do all the work we hate doing, and we wouldn’t have to pay them. . . you can understand the temptation in a society where it was acceptable.

There were 132 slaves living and working on the plantation. It was illegal for slaves to read or write, and they were allowed to have ‘Christian’ services as long as they were quiet and didn’t sing. Our guide was a direct descendent from one of the slaves, and she spoke with passion about their lives, though her talk was more about the politics of the situation, and less about specific details of daily life for the slaves.

Religion was allowed, but only the ‘right’ sort of religion. There was a translation of the Bible aimed specifically at slaves, with certain passages omitted.

White people bought slaves, owned them and could sell them as they pleased. Sometimes they were given as gifts. Family groups could be split up (you could return from your daily work to find your husband had been sold to another plantation and you would never see him again). Any children born to slaves were also owned. Over time, the slaves accepted their role, they considered themselves to be below white people, they lost all self-respect. It wasn’t uncommon for a slave woman to give birth to a white-skinned child. The wife of the plantation owner would know that the baby was her husband’s, but what could she do? She would have huge resentment towards the slave woman. The slave’s husband would also know, but what he could he do? The owner would consider the baby to be his possession, not his child, and the baby would grow up as a slave, possibly owned by their own half-siblings. It made for an unhappy situation. Our guide told us that she was descended from one such child. When she was growing up, if it was sunny, she was warned to stay in the shade, in case she got ‘too black’. Being black, even today, is considered by some people to be less good than being fair-skinned.

The Smoke House

One slave role would have been to smoke the pork. The plantation kept 200 pigs, and these were killed twice a year. They were boiled in a huge vat, salted, and smoked in the smoke-house. The smoke-house was surprisingly near to the house where the family lived—it must have been smelly!

We heard that around the time of the civil war, society began to change, and people started to refer to ‘benevolent owners’ or ‘paternal owners’. They tried to refute the image of the cruel owner who mistreated their slaves. However, the fact was, they thought it was acceptable to own people, to buy and sell people, to keep people captive. Owning slaves enabled plantation owners to grow very rich. This benefitted the population as a whole, including people living in the North, as they would trade with Southern people, selling goods at inflated prices because they knew people could afford to pay. Slavery was good for the economy. It just needed people to not think about the moral issues too deeply.

The civil war resulted in emancipation for the slaves—they were no longer owned. However, they were uneducated, homeless, unemployed. Many had been born into slavery, it was the only life they knew, and they were in affect institutionalised. Although free, they actually had no real choices, and many continued to work for their previous owners, usually for a pittance, because where else would they go?

After the civil war, poor Irish people arrived in the South. They were hated, because unlike poor Americans (who would rather starve or steal than do manual work) the Irish were prepared to do the same work as the freed slaves. There they were, in the fields, working hard doing menial jobs in the hot sun, next to ex-slaves. And because their skin was white, they encouraged the question: “Are blacks and whites the same?” The ex-slaves began to watch the Irish, saw them start at the bottom of society with low-paid work, and gradually rise to better positions, and the black people began to wonder if perhaps they could also aspire to greater things.

When the talk finished, I went to speak to our guide. As I said, she was very passionate about the wrongs of slavery, the injustice of the system, the way that society ‘turned a blind eye’ because everyone was wealthier when slavery was allowed. The abolition of slavery meant a drop in the standard of living of all whites, even those who didn’t own slaves. I asked her what she thought about slavery today.

Today, some countries have people who are slaves. Girls are trafficked for the sex-trade, and poor people are forced to work, for no wage, in factories and on farms. Some of our cheaper brands of clothing are possible only because the workers, often in Asia, have no rights. We hear rumours of child labour, of unsafe factories, of people trapped in poverty. Should therefore, we buy clothes from shops who don’t check where their products are being manufactured? Should we buy cheap jeans and decide we won’t think about the ethics? We don’t see the slaves—they are in Asia—so does that mean that we’re not culpable? I asked our guide if she would avoid buying cheap brands unless she knew they resourced responsibly, or if her anti-slavery passion only applied to the black people of another age. It’s a tough question, but one which perhaps we should all be asking. It’s very easy to judge a by-gone age, and to think we would never do those things. But are we the same?

I challenge you to try and check where your clothing brands were manufactured, and to not buy cheap brands if they are made by slaves.

Take care.

Love, Anne x

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Philadelphia


Philadelphia

I am still waking at 3:30am, which is very annoying. Stayed in bed until I thought I could wake Husband without getting feed-back. We have decided to run every morning, and as it’s a good way to see ‘real life’ we run along the streets near our motels rather than use their fitness rooms. From the Fairfield Inn where we’re staying, we only have to cross one major road before we reach a residential area, and we run up a hill to Veteran’s park, round the park, and back to the hotel. This morning was cold, and less humid than previously, so it was easier to run. (I use the term ‘run’ loosely.)

At breakfast, there was a waffle machine. Several hotels have these. You squirt batter from a vat into a cup, then pour it into the waffle machine. When you close the lid, it starts a timer, which pings when the waffles are cooked. Very easy. Hot waffles, with syrup and a selection of fresh fruit. It’s all very nice, but because it’s served on plastic plates, with plastic cutlery, and the coffee cups are disposable, it doesn’t feel nice. Which is a shame. I have discovered that drinking coffee from a china mug is weirdly important to me.

We catch the hotel shuttle bus to a nearby station, and spend some time trying to understand the automatic ticket machine (which seems to be the only option for tickets to the city). I use the washroom while Husband tackles the machine. There is a large woman in there, washing her private parts (the washroom, not the machine). I pretend I haven’t noticed, and hurry out again.

We caught the train to the city, and looked at the US residential areas that we swooshed past—lots of small, but detached, housing made of wood, all laid out on straight roads. A map of an American town looks like a chess board.

 I had planned a walk around Philadelphia that covered a few of the things we wanted to see: Liberty Bell, Love Park, Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Rodin Museum, and the ‘Rocky Steps’ at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The weather was cold and damp and started to rain.

In brief: The Liberty Bell is big, has a crack in it, and there is a friendly guard standing next to it who will give you a brief potted history about the bell, if you ask.

Love Park is a photo-spot, and not much else, especially in the rain.

Benjamin Franklin Parkway is probably nice in the sunshine. There is a man walking along it shouting obscenities. There are also helpful maps and tourist guides on posts. When we stopped to read one, a passing woman stopped and offered to help, and said that her husband had designed them all. This is possibly true. Or maybe she needs similar help to the obscenities man.

The Rodin Museum has a wonderful garden with some Rodin sculptures in, which you can visit for free. You can pay (an in-theory ‘voluntary’ donation) to go inside, and see some rather boring sculptures by Rodin and other people. I recommend you stay outside. Unless it’s raining.

The ‘Rocky Steps’ are from the ‘Rocky’ film, which I have never seen, but Husband was very excited by. He did not, however, run up them.

We then went to Reading Terminal Market. This was good, because it was dry. It also had delicious smells from all the food stalls. We stopped at The Dutch Eating Place. We sat on high stools at a bar, and ordered coffee and apple dumpling. It was perfect. The coffee was hot and strong, the dumpling was simply delicious. This is probably one of the highlights of my whole trip. We left feeling warm and full and contented.

The weather was still awful, and I decided that actually, I am not very keen on cities. We ordered a cab through Uber. We have never used Uber before, so that was very exciting! When the driver arrived, he was Chinese, and we couldn’t get him to understand our English accents to ask whether he was paid automatically, or whether we paid him directly. After a few attempts, I asked if he spoke Mandarin, and then asked him in Mandarin. As ever, wherever you are in the world, Mandarin is the best language to understand!

 If you like cities, then Philadelphia has lots to offer. There are lots of historical monuments and a plethora of art galleries. But in the rain, it’s just another city—so head for the Dutch Eating Place and treat yourself to something delicious!

I hope you have some excellent food today. Thank you for reading.

Take care.

Love, Anne x

We spent October on a road trip, driving through the Eastern States of America. We had a fabulous time!
Why not sign up to follow my blog, then you can share our adventures…
anneethompson.com

 

Thank you for reading. If you enjoy my travel blogs, you will love my travel book: The Sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary. Available from an Amazon near you.

UK Link: Here

 

US Link: Here

Intercourse (the town)


We drove from New Jersey to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, via The King of Prussia service station. I’m not sure where the name came from, but it’s misleading—it was just a regular, slightly dirty, over-used, service station. We bought bagels and cream cheese. The cream cheese came in a long foil tube and you add it yourself, which I like because you need a fraction of what is provided. We smeared it onto our bagels with the plastic knives provided. America has lots of plastic knives. And plastic plates. And plastic cups. Most places are not big on cutlery and crockery that can be washed and reused.

We parked in Lancaster, and walked to Central Market (mainly because the guidebook told us to). We wandered round aimlessly for a while, looking at the Amish and Mennonite people wearing unusual clothes and selling their produce, and then we decided that we’re not very keen on big towns and cities and people being interesting because they are different—so we left.

The countryside would be more interesting, we decided, and planned a route through agricultural land towards Philadelphia. We saw fields being ploughed by teams of oxen, and pretty houses with window-boxes and pumpkins, and long roads that stretched into the distance. You can breathe in the countryside.

We decided to stop in Intercourse, as I fancied buying a quilted cushion-cover for my collection. There were several shops selling quilts and quilt-related stuff. Some were more touristy than others, all were expensive, but I managed to find a very pretty cover. I also bought a fridge magnet, showing an Amish horse and buggy (they don’t drive cars—in case you don’t know—the Amish people are a sect of people who have decided to shun the modern world and modern inventions, such as cars. And buttons, for some reason. Though not money—they were happy to take our money). By the way, I have absolutely no idea who named the town, or why.

We were staying in a Fairfield Inn by Marriot (the first of many). As we zoomed along the motorway, the Satnav told us we had ‘arrived at your destination’ which worried me slightly. The hotel, and adjoining road was clearly a new build, so Satnav was not far off. The hotel was on a hill, looking down on several major roads. However, the double-glazing did its job, and the inside was quiet and comfortable. Husband looked at local places to eat and asked if I would mind walking to a nearby bar/restaurant for food. There was a hint of something in his voice, so I asked for more details before agreeing.

The distance was short. It wasn’t due to rain. Some of the route had paths.

I asked a follow-up question and was told that a tiny part of the walk was along a major road. (Major as in, 6 lanes.) Plus, as it crossed a bridge, a teeny section would involve running along the actual carriageway as there was no hard-shoulder.

We drove to the restaurant. It was okay.

We planned our day in Philadelphia, and decided what we wanted to see. But that’s for my next blog.

Have a safe day, and don’t walk along any motorways.

Love, Anne x

We spent October on a road trip, driving through the Eastern States of America. We had a fabulous time!
Why not sign up to follow my blog, then you can share our adventures…
anneethompson.com

Thank you for reading. If you enjoy my travel blogs, you will love my travel book: The Sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary. Available from an Amazon near you.

Travel with a family…always unexpected.

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Road Trip!


Road Trip!

I have received feedback from my family about posting my blogs about our October road-trip in the wrong order. I will therefore start at the beginning:

Saturday 28th October

Flew from Heathrow to JFK, New York. We were using airmiles, and as it was a treat, we were in the business section. This was comfortable but fairly boring, as everyone else seemed to be working (hence ‘business section’ I guess). I have no idea who the man in the photo is, my selfies often have random people in them.

  We picked up the hire car (not the one we had actually ordered—are they ever the same?) and drove to Woodcliff Lake in New Jersey. We used to live in New Jersey, when my children were small, and we planned to spend the first few days visiting old friends, looking at places we remembered and generally being nostalgic.

I should tell you first about breakfast. We ate in a diner. Diners are one of the best things about America. They are generally privately owned, and they have booths, and endless coffee refills, and food which is amazingly delicious and arrives in super-huge portions. The service is always friendly and efficient in a sort of laid-back, we have all day, sort of way. There is often a bar, where a group of ‘regulars’ sit each morning, eating their breakfast and chatting, and the waitress knows everyone by name and what their order will be. There is an overhead television, with the sound turned off, showing the news of the day.

We were still on vaguely UK time, so we arrived at The Ridge Diner at about 6:00 am (many diners are open 24 hours). We sat there, in a booth, feeling like we had properly arrived, we were back in the US. I ate banana and pecan pancakes, which arrived with a side of creamed butter and maple syrup. Husband ordered corned beef hash, fried potatoes and eggs. You could have fed a whole family in England with what arrived. It was perfect.

   Another stop was to Ramsey TJ Maxx. This is a shop I visited lots when we lived there, as it was a good place to buy clothes for the children who shared my dislike of shopping and who were not, it should be said, the best-behaved children in the world when it came to shops. In fact, it reminded me of the time when the boys discovered that if they went to Customer Services and said they were lost, it would be announced over the tannoy, and they took great pleasure in hearing: ‘Could the mother of Emm and Jay please go to the service desk. . .’ We would be in a shop, I would look at a product for one second, glance down, and they would be gone. I would sigh with resignation and shut my eyes, waiting for the announcement: ‘Would the mother of. . .’ You get the picture.

Anyhow, this visit was stress-free, and I replaced my ski-jacket, which I had bought there 22 years earlier and the zipper has now broken. (It had a good innings!)

   We also had a quick look, for old-time’s sake, at ShopRite in Ramsey, where I did the weekly shop. They used to have tiny shopping trolleys for the children to push (you can imagine how that went—an idea from someone who did not have children! The shop was full of children filling trolleys with stuff they fancied, or racing up the aisles and bumping into things). They now have much more sensible child trolleys, where they sit in a pretend car in the front of an adult-controlled trolley.

Ah, lots of happy memories.

We visited friends, and went back to look at our old house, and ate way too much food. Then we set off, Pennsylvania next stop. I will tell you about it in my next blog.

Thank you for reading. I hope you have a happy day.

Take care.

Love, Anne x

We spent October on a road trip, driving through the Eastern States of America. We had a fabulous time!
Why not sign up to follow my blog, then you can share our adventures…
anneethompson.com

 

Thank you for reading. If you enjoy my travel blogs, you will love my travel book: The Sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary. Available from an Amazon near you.

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Here

 

US Link:  Here

Stone Mountain


Stone Mountain

During our trip to Atlanta, Georgia, we visited Stone Mountain. I have visited it before. When I was 9 years old, my family visited relatives in Atlanta, and Aunty Pam took us to Stone Mountain. I remember that there were deer (which must have been very tame, as there are photographs of me trying to stroke them) and that we went for a trip in a paddle steamer, the Robert E. Lee, across the lake in Stone Mountain Park. I cannot remember whether or not we walked up the mountain.

This time however, I was travelling with Husband and there were no handy children to accompany him up the mountain, so I decided that I must ignore my general fear of heights and walk up with him. Sort of wifely duty. We arrived in October, so there was an area set out as a children’s pumpkin/Halloween activity. We avoided that, and I could see Husband was wondering why, exactly, I had suggested that we visit the mountain. But it’s a good mountain, a sort of odd one, because it is really a giant pebble just sort of thrown there and completely out of place with the rest of the area. In the park below, as well as a pumpkin trail if you visit during October, there are some 1793 buildings (which might be of more interest).

We parked the car, and began to walk.

   Stone Mountain is the world’s largest piece of exposed granite (like I said, a giant pebble). For the geologists amongst you, it is actually a quartz dome monadnock which rises to 1,686 feet above sea level and is 825 feet high. In 1958 the State of Georgia bought it (not sure who they bought it from, or how much they paid) and the Civil War generals have been etched on one side.

You can still see giant carvings of Robert E. Lee (who the paddle steamer was named after) and Stonewall Jackson, and President Jefferson Davis. They are dirtier than when I visited when I was 9. They also are the source of much controversy, which came to a head after the racial shootings in Charleston in 2017 (when people in a black church were shot). The people etched on the side, as leaders of the Confederates, were also fighting to retain slavery. Many people think that all Confederate monuments should be destroyed (in this case, it would take a year of blasting the images from the mountain). Other people think that it is part of history, and should remain. Plus, of course, it’s a popular tourist attraction. I think, as a tourist from another country, I probably have no right to comment—but I preferred the monument when I was 9 years old, and it was simply an engraving of giant men.

Instead, I shall describe our walk up the mountain, as this is firmly etched into my mind as a never-to-be-repeated experience.

The walk started pleasantly enough. The park has helpfully painted lines on the mountain for hikers to follow, and the slope was gradual, up through pine trees, past some flags. It’s not an overly long walk, and all was fine until the very last section, when there are bars to cling on to, and you sort of haul yourself up to the peak. It was so far out of my comfort zone—a near-scrabble up towards the end, a concentrate on not looking down, or sideways, and don’t think about the stumble-sliding bone-crashing slide that awaits a slip on the shiny rock. Just walk—step, then step, then giant step—right to the top. Ignore the shaking legs, the ‘what if I slip?’ the ‘how will I get down?’ Just keep walking, forwards, to the cafe at the top, to a seat, where I can drink a coke. . .

Husband kept suggesting poses for potential photos, but I was concentrating too hard on not dying. The walk down was, of course, more difficult. I adjusted my cap, so that I could literally only see one foot ahead, and then I followed Husband, very closely, back down to where it was safe. We didn’t die.

There are, I am told, amazing views of the city from the top. There is also a cable-car if you don’t fancy walking/scrabbling to the top.

We then set off to find the paddle-steamer I had been on as a child. Husband reminded me that I am now quite old, and the steamer was probably long gone—so I was delighted when I saw it, hidden behind some trees. It was being refitted, for a Netflix series (Ozark) and there was a film crew building a casino set. But I was glad I had found it.

We spent October on a road trip, driving through America.
It was fabulous!
Why not sign up to follow my blog, then you can share it too…
anneethompson.com

I hope you have a safe day. Thank you for reading.

Take care.

Love, Anne x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for reading. If you enjoy my travel blogs, you will love my travel book: The Sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary. Available from an Amazon near you.

UK Link: Here

 

US Link: Here

 

Pondering the Martin Luther King Jr, Memorial. Atlanta, Georgia, USA.


   Having failed to reach the Martin Luther King Jr. Historical Park due to a fear of being mugged, we decided to approach it via a different route. Husband assured me it would be safe, and we would turn around and abandon the walk if it wasn’t. As we hurried under urine-stinking flyovers and passed a burnt-out house, I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the idea. But we survived.

We were in Atlanta, one of the places we visited on our road-trip through Eastern America. In the Southern States, there are echoes of the slave trade, the plantations, the civil war. I was keen to visit the memorial of Martin Luther King Jr, a voice shouting for freedom and equality.

Ebenezer Baptist Church
Martin Luther King Jr. was baptised here, and later was the pastor. (His father was the pastor here too for 40 years.)

Opposite the memorial is a modern Ebenezer Church (King preached at the smaller, older, church, across the road). Outside is a statue of a slave. It’s the sort of sculpture that you want to spend a long time looking at—it speaks very clearly.

However, my thoughts were interrupted by a more audible voice speaking, booming over the road from the memorial. As we approached, I thought perhaps there was a rally in progress, but only a police woman stood there, guarding the monument. The voice came from speakers, and the voice was, I assume, from the past.

There were steps, with ML King quotations etched into them, a long pool of water flowed through the central area, with the tomb of MLK and his wife, Corrie, in the centre. The crypt is made of Georgia marble, and Dr King’s remains were placed there in 1970 (he was shot in 1968). I wonder what he would have thought about it.

 

To one side is The Eternal Flame—a metal firepit with a plaque explaining that the flame represents the eternal quest for freedom.

Behind the long pool, was an information centre/bookshop.

I was not expecting such a large, sophisticated, monument. I had thought we would happen upon the grave of Martin Luther King in a cemetery, a large stone, perhaps a statue. This memorial was big and flamboyant, certainly costly. If it represents the fight of the people, the hard-won struggle of black people in America to be treated as equals, then I understand. It needs to be significant. But if it is merely a monument to a man, even a great man, then I cannot help but feel that perhaps the money should have been directed towards the living, not the dead.

As we walked away, past the black man (colour matters here) in his wheelchair begging at the corner, past the numerous black men sleeping on the streets, I felt sad. Society has moved to a better place since we thought owning slaves was an okay thing to do. After slavery was abolished, segregation was also a horrible, unfair, system. But whether the changes have improved life for those individuals, whether all races are treated and see themselves as truly equal today is still uncertain in my mind.

We walked back, past the burnt-out house with the boarded-up neighbours, under the smelly fly-over, to our hotel. I was left feeling unsure about what, exactly, I had been to see.

We spent October on a road trip, driving through America.
It was fabulous!
Why not sign up to follow my blog, then you can share it too…
anneethompson.com

I hope your day is interesting too. Thank you for reading.

Take care.

Love, Anne x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for reading. If you enjoy my travel blogs, you will love my travel book: The Sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary. Available from an Amazon near you.

UK Link:

 

US Link: