Sanibel Island Again

Sanibel Island is one of my favourite places in the world. We arrived towards the end of our road trip, after a long drive from St. Petersburg (see my last blog). Husband had splashed out, and paid for a condo facing the sea, so I opened the curtains and there were palm trees blowing in the breeze, and sand, and blue, blue, sea. Perfect.

At 6.30am the following day, I suggested we went for a run. Husband made unkeen sleepy noises, so I went without him. There were about a million people on the beach, so it wasn’t as secluded as I had hoped. Everyone else was searching for shells, wandering up and down, many holding special little nets on sticks so they didn’t have to bend down when they found a pretty shell. (I have lots of comments, which I am holding in, about whether it might have been good for some of those people to have had the exercise of bending down to pick up shells. . . but it’s easy to judge people who you don’t know, so I will remain silent. Ish.)

The weather was warm but not too hot, and as I ran beside the sea I saw a dolphin, and dinner-plate spheres of transparent jellyfish, and lots of shells.

Back at the condo, I was having a coffee and reading my Bible, when I heard a shuffling noise coming from my dirty washing bag. I opened it, and a lizard jumped out! Tried to catch it. Failed. Spent the rest of the day with a lizard under the chest of drawers in the bedroom, which was not a very satisfactory outcome.

We went to Sanibel Cafe for brunch. I ate banana and pecan pancakes, lightly sprinkled with cinnamon and drizzled with honey. I love this country!

Later I did some washing, and as I was hanging it on the balcony, I saw Husband wandering around the garden taking photos. I wolf-whistled at him. Husband didn’t hear, and continued taking photos, but a gang of workmen all looked up and grinned. Embarrassing.

Our other days at Sanibel meandered past. We went for long walks on the beach, crunching shells underfoot, searching the waves for dolphins. One afternoon we hired bikes, and zoomed around the island. One day we drove to a manatee park, hoping to see manatees. We saw statues of them, and read a lot of information boards, but no actual manatees were visiting that day. Maybe next time.

Another day we swam, and a flock of white egrets flew overhead, inches from our heads, near enough to touch as they glided over the water. Then three pelicans floated above us, looking for food, diving down like fighter planes when they saw something. One pelican stayed, bobbing on the surface really close to us, and I thought about trying to touch it (but the sharp beak put me off!)

We had some lovely meals, and enjoyed simply being alive in such a beautiful place. Then, all too soon, it was time to pack up and head back to Atlanta, and the end of our road trip. We had such a wonderful time, I really did not want to come home. Thank you for sharing it with me.

I hope you have a lovely week. Take care.

Love, Anne xx

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Salvador Dali in St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg

We left Amelia Island, watching a storm brewing in the sky above us. The weather channel had given tornado warnings before we left, and although we weren’t really sure what we were supposed to do, the roads were comfortably full of other cars, so we figured we would just copy everyone else. As we drove, I tried to Google what we should do if there was a tornado, and abandoning the car and flinging ourselves into a ditch seemed to be the main advice, so I hoped we wouldn’t need it (especially as we might end up sharing a ditch with an alligator!)

We had a couple of stops en route, for bagels and a Mc Donald’s ice-cream. The weather was windy and rainy and as we approached Tampa there was a very tornado-like storm cloud—big and black with wisps coming down. I kept my eye on the possible weather danger while Husband drove (and mostly ignored all my helpful advice about ditches).

We checked into a hotel in downtown St. Petersburg and went for a walk. It was windy, but dry, and we set off for the water front. As we crossed a small square (with fountain and white egrets) a woman passed us at a jog, and shouted: “I just felt 2 drops of rain!”

So what? We thought, and continued on our walk. Within the minute, it was raining—raining as in a deluge of water from the sky! We ran to an awning over some tables, and watched. The wind was blowing the palm trees, the water was coming in torrents, everyone was running for cover. It was amazing!

After a few minutes, it stopped raining, and we continued our walk. The water front was pretty, with boats and docks, but before we could enjoy it properly, we felt a couple of spots of rain. This time we knew what to expect, so began to run for cover! We dodged between awnings and over-hanging porches, until we came to a bar, all the time avoiding great fat drops of rain that the wind flung at us. We went into the bar.

The bar was fabulous. We sat up at the bar, looking at the room in the mirrors behind the bottles of drink. Everyone was damp and laughing, and having a nice time. There were huge televisions showing sport, and people eating, and a babble of conversation. I suggested we have some shots (it seemed appropriate). We didn’t.

When the rain stopped, we went back to the hotel.

Dinner was at The Ford Garage. The restaurant was set up like a garage, complete with a car hanging from the ceiling. Our napkins were like grease-cloths, and the walls were full of car paraphernalia. The food was really nice, and I had funnel cake for dessert (like donuts).

The following morning we went for our early run. The weather was warm and muggy, so running wasn’t very easy, but there was a small lake near the hotel, so we ran round that.

After breakfast (banana French toast and coffee) we walked to the Salvador Dali museum. This is now my favourite art gallery in the whole world. It was obviously designed by someone who loved Dali’s work, as even the building was very much in keeping with his style. There was a staircase that went up to the ceiling, and drippy benches in the garden.

Dali’s work is wonderful—though some needs explaining to be properly understood. It is also very clever. Some of his paintings are pictures within pictures, and the museum had little films next to the paintings, showing how the images combine. For example, his painting of a bull-fighter looks like statues of goddesses, but within that there is a bull dying, and a bull-fighter crying because he feels trapped by his life-style. In a painting of a slave market, as you walk further from the picture, you become aware of a huge skull, which is formed from the bodies of the slaves being sold. It’s all very clever. Plus, I really like Dali’s use of colour, and the way he challenges how we think about things (like time—have you seen his drippy clocks? Is time rigid?)

The museum also has a fabulous shop, and after enjoying Dali’s pictures, we could browse the same works made into notebooks and magnets and jigsaw puzzles. Great place for gifts. There was also a car, which Dali had filled with water, and was driven by a deep-sea diver—playing with the idea that people get taxis to stay dry in the rain. I think that’s what I like about Dali’s work, he plays with ideas. And he is a skilful artist.

Can you see the bull-fighter? (He is wearing a green tie, and has a multi-coloured jacket, and he’s crying…

The Slave Market…can you see the skull image entangled with the slaves?




We had lunch back at the bar we’d sheltered in the day before.

Then we packed our things, and set off for our next stop: Sanibel Island. I absolutely loved St. Petersburg, with its pretty waterfront, and fabulous museum, and amazing weather. I’m so glad we came, even though our visit lasted less than 24 hours. It was all so much fun!

I’ll tell you about Sanibel in another post. Thanks for reading.

Have a great day and take care.

Love, Anne x

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Amelia Island

Amelia Island

We left Savannah, and drove to Amelia Island in Florida. We crossed a large river/swamp to reach the island, so I guess strictly speaking it’s an island, but it didn’t feel like one! The guide book said it had an historical town, with strong links to pirates in times gone by, so I hoped it would be interesting. In actual fact, it had some deeply naff elements.

We passed The Beach Diner on our way to the motel, so after we’d checked in, we went back for dinner (because diners are usually excellent places to eat). We started with clam chowder, which arrived with warm corn bread (not as sweet as yesterday) and was delicious. While we were still eating the chowder, our main courses arrived, which felt a bit rushed. We watched them getting cold on their plastic plates (what is it with this country and plastic plates!) while we finished our soup. I had meatloaf (huge—enough for a family of four) with mashed potato (very tasty) and some indefinable green/grey vegetable that tasted as bad as it looked. My dinner looked barely started by the time I had finished, so I asked for a box. This has become a tradition—after every meal, I ask for the remains to be boxed (which saves embarrassing questions about why I have eaten so little) and then I dispose of it later.

We walked to the beach. Everyone else had driven, right onto the beach, parked their cars, set up a chair less than a foot away, and was relaxing. Maybe they were too full of dinner.

The town is called Fernandina Beach, and it was full of pirate stuff—statues and toys and fridge magnets and books. . . However, I could find no evidence that the island had ever actually been used by pirates. There was no ancient prison, or gallows, or look-out tower. I began to wonder how true the pirate link was. The next day, I asked in the Tourist Office, and we were directed to the Maritime Museum. The Maritime Museum was certainly an experience.

We arrived at the modern building, which is shared with a wine museum, and we went to the counter to ask how much it cost for entry. I was trying to peer round the man, to try and assess what was there, but I could only see one room. We said we were interested in the pirate theme of the town. The man (who to be honest, looked a little like a pirate himself) beamed, and told us he was a ‘treasure hunter’. Unfortunately, Husband misheard, and thought he said ‘treasurer’ and then launched into a conversation about accountancy and was it easy to make the museum financially viable; while I got the giggles and pretended to be very interested in a map of shipwrecks. We paid and went inside—except there wasn’t really an ‘inside’ as the whole museum was the single room that I could see.

We walked along, looking at the displays, while the treasure-hunter-not treasurer watched us from his desk. It felt a little uncomfortable. The museum was basically a room crammed full with stuff the man had collected during his many diving expeditions around the island. The highlight was a canon, from an original pirate ship, which had to be kept in a tank of water (don’t ask me why). The tank of water (looked like a chest-freezer to me) was full of very murky water, due to all the minerals (again, don’t ask me why). It looked to me as if it was full of bath-oil to me, and all we could see was slick grey liquid. It was impossible to tell if anything was in the bottom, let alone a canon.

There were many maps on the walls, and display cases of ‘treasure’ which might, I suppose, have been genuine but they did look suspiciously like they might have been won at the fair. We left the museum, and I felt the whole pirate thing was something of a scam/tourist attraction (though I do think Mr Treasure-Hunter genuinely believed that one day he might discover a hoard of sunken gold).

I’m not sure I particularly like Amelia Island, though it did have some pelicans resting on the jetty. It is also the starting point for the first cross-state railway, built by David Yulee, and his name appears a lot around the island—should you be interested in railways.

We had dinner at Artes Pizza, which advertised as having real wood-burning pizza ovens. We had a view of the kitchen and the only ovens I could see were definitely gas-powered, but maybe I missed something. I was feeling I had had enough of Amelia Island. To be fair, the town was pretty, and at night they decorate all the trees with fairy-lights, and people seemed friendly. But it didn’t feel very ‘real’ to me, and I had no desire to stay.

We left the following morning, and set off for St. Petersburg. Before we left, we checked the weather, which had tornado warnings for the region. Not really sure what we were meant to do with that information—should we cancel our 4-hour drive to St Petersburg? We didn’t, and I’m so glad we didn’t, because our time in St Petersburg was the best 24 hours of the whole trip. But I’ll tell you about it in my next blog.

Thank you for reading. Have a great day, and take care.
Love, Anne x

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I loved Savannah! It was one of the places the guidebook recommended, so we went down the coast from Charleston. Even the journey was an adventure, as part-way there, we decided to stop at an IHOP (pancake house) for lunch, so came off the highway at a service area. We parked the car, and walked to the restaurant, ate our food (including a rather delicious ice-cream sundae) then returned to the car to continue our journey. As we backed away from the space, I pointed to a sign warning us to ‘Beware of Gators’ and said how stupid it was! There we were, at a service station, where 2 major roads crossed, surrounded on all sides by major roads, and there was a beware of gators sign–so obviously just for tourists. Except, as we backed away, I noticed a large pool of water, fed by a river, a few yards from where we parked. . . and there, sunning itself, was a rather large alligator! At first I thought it must be plastic, but then it walked forwards a few steps. Nope, not plastic, very alive, very near where we had parked. I decided the signs were a good idea.

We checked into another Springfield Suites, and put our stuff in all the same places as in the motel in Charleston, before going for a walk. We headed towards the river.

Savannah has a large river, which is lower than the rest of the city, so we walked down some steep steps. The river is lined with old red brick buildings, once part of the docks, many of which are now gift shops or restaurants or bars. It was a fun place to walk, especially when large boats, weighed down with massive cargo, edged past us.

There were several statues, including one to commemorate the slaves, who would have been unloaded onto the docks, and sold. A sad reminder. The street was cobbled, with the remains of old tram lines.  When the slaves were unloaded, they would have been auctioned immediately, and sold, individually, to the highest bidder. This meant that even if families had been captured together, and survived the journey in a slave ship, they may then have been separated, never to meet again. Husbands and wives sold separately, children taken from their parents. I cannot understand how people ever thought that this was okay.

We ate at Huey’s, a restaurant in the docks, so we could watch the boats while we ate. I had fish roulade, with mash and green beans—it’s not always easy to find somewhere that serves vegetables here. It arrived with a salad and cornbread. The cornbread was nice, but sweet, like syrup sponge without the syrup.

The following day we got up early and went for a run. We walked down the stairs, and there, squashed, was a dead snake. . . except Husband helpfully pointed out that it wasn’t a dead snake, it was a discarded snake-skin, and the snake (a rattle snake) was still lurking somewhere. Not a great start.

The air outside was crisp and cool. It was the best run ever, watching Savannah wake up. Originally, Savannah was built during unsettled times, by a general, and he built it defensively, on a grid system with forts at every junction. Those forts have now been replaced with parks, so at every block, there is a pretty square with trees and fountains and benches. We ran through them. There were lots of roads to cross, but most had crossings where pedestrians had priority, so we rarely had to stop. The only thing to be careful of was the uneven paths, where tree roots had pushed the brick paths up into mounds and gullies. The streets have old, 3-storey brick houses, with flat roofs and painted shutters. It’s very pretty, and early in the morning you see real people doing real things: coffee shops full of workers collecting their take-out coffees, firemen sorting out their fire trucks, workmen on building sites, street cleaners and homeless people.

Back at the hotel, as we went down for breakfast, a woman joined in our conversation. This is normal here—everyone is very chatty. Even the lift talks! I took my china mug into breakfast, and had waffles and fruit and coffee–it all tastes better when it’s not in disposable cups.

We spent the day wandering around, admiring the squares. The weather was warm in October, but pleasant enough in the shade, and there is a lot of shade. All the trees are covered with Spanish moss, and there are trees everywhere. If you have watched the Forest Gump movie, you might remember a scene where he sits on a bench chatting while waiting for a bus. This was filmed in Savannah, and the square behind him is typical of all the squares here.

We returned to the river in the evening. There are lots of plaques, describing the slave trade, and one mentioned a book, written by a slave: Olaudah Equino. I bought a copy, and will tell you about it another time. Savannah was one of the main ports that traded slaves.

We ate at Huey’s again, and finished with pecan pie—another traditional dish. It has sorghum in it, a cereal grain, which looks like corn and is made into a syrup. It was probably introduced from Africa, as it grows well in drought conditions. . . another whisper from the past about what the slave ships carried.

We walked back to our hotel. All the crossings have very bossy lights (honestly, Savannah is a very chatty place!) The lights speak to you, as soon as you press the button, they start to shout: ‘WAIT! WAIT!’ In my other ear I have husband, saying: ‘Right, get ready, we can make a dash for it after the next car…’ So hard to know which one to obey.

I hope you stay safe today. Thank you for sharing our adventures, our next stop is Amelia Island and all things pirate. . . Take care.

Love, Anne x

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Charleston. . . and Friendly Fred


We drove to Springfield Suites in Charleston. We’ve stayed at a few Springfield Suites, so it felt nicely familiar. They are all very close to a motorway, very clean, and the room layout is almost identical. This one, near Charleston, overlooked an area of swamp, so that was a little different (usually the view is of several major roads converging!)

There was a hotel shuttle bus, costing $6, to the centre of Charleston. Fred the driver was very chatty, and gave us recommendations for places to visit. His favourite place to eat (apparently) was Mason’s Lobster Rolls. We arrived at lunch time, so followed Fred’s directions, and found Mason’s. The lobster rolls were delicious—freshly baked bread, filled to almost overflowing with lobster. However, at $15 each, they were rather over-priced, and I highly doubt if friendly Fred ate there as often as he said, and I wondered if he was related to Mason or had shares in the business.

We walked around Charleston. There were lots of pretty colonial houses, tree-lined streets, markets, and estate agents, art galleries and bridal shops. (Honestly, there were a LOT of bridal shops!) Most of the buildings had plaques on them, telling you who had lived there in the past. To be honest, they would only interest someone who was really, really, interested in American history.

We found the old slave market, which is now a museum, and gives lectures on the history of the slave trade. I peeked through the door, but it seemed to be mainly old photographs, which I assumed would be talked about by the tour-guide, and I wanted to see actual places, to ‘feel’ how a slave market would have been, so we didn’t go in. This was, I feel, a mistake. I later read the guide book, and realised I had missed an ideal opportunity to learn more about slavery, and to see one of the busiest market places in the area.

We walked to the waterfront, and looked across the river to a big naval ship. There were water birds and seagulls, and people wandering aimlessly, and big swings where you could sit and watch the water.

I bought a fridge magnet in Central Market (which has always sold produce, not slaves, despite what we were told by friendly Fred). Then we walked to a coffee shop, and drank coffee (which was horrid) and ate muffins (which were nice). All served in disposable plates and cups.

We ate dinner at California Dreaming, because it was walking distance from our motel. It was a round bar, right next to the water, but as it was dark we couldn’t see the view. The inside was dark too, so I couldn’t see my food properly, which rather put me off eating—how can you check the chicken is properly cooked if everything is dark? I worry about things like that, but then, I worry about a lot of things! We survived, all was fine, we slept well.

Charleston was one of the cities highly recommended by the guide books, but it wasn’t a place I need to return to. It was very pretty, with all the painted houses, and flowers, and horse and carriage rides—but I couldn’t really get a feel for it as a real place. There was something a little twee about it. Plus, although the houses were very pretty, I kept wondering how many were only possible due to the busy slave trade, and whether it was okay to admire things that were only possible because other people had suffered terribly. It didn’t feel honest, somehow–but maybe I was simply in the wrong mood, and I’m sure a single day is not long enough to do justice to a city.

The next day we headed for Savannah, I’ll tell you about it in my next blog (it was one of the places I absolutely loved!)

Thank you for sharing our adventures. Take care.

Love, Anne x


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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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First Day on Edisto Beach

First Day in Edisto:

Husband made coffee and I drank it watching deer and white egrets and squirrels out of the window. The Airbnb we’ve rented for a few days is built on stilts, with parking below and all the living space on the first floor, so it feels like we’re living in the tree tops. After so much travelling, it’s wonderful to simply stop for a few days, and to do nothing. No rushing off to see something before we check-out of the hotel, no long drive to the next place, a chance to catch our breath and relax.

We went for a run, detouring over the golf course and climbing over a gate so that we could reach the beach. Beautiful, but very warm. There were several ‘beware of gator’ signs, but we didn’t see any.

Breakfast of granola and yogurt in the condo. Listened to a sermon online (because it’s Sunday, but I couldn’t face going to church!) We stood at the window, watching turtles swimming in the pool below. I did a load of laundry, down in the little laundry room below the condo. It’s a tiny room, with a locked door and a light switch. There were no windows, and inside there’s just room for a washer and drier. It was the sort of place where snakes or poisonous spiders might lurk, so I was cautious, and only touched what I could see. It wasn’t a nice place to be—but very nice to be able to wash our clothes after weeks of travel.

We’re staying at Edisto Beach, and one of the recommended restaurants was Sea Cow Café, so we went there for lunch. It was small and crowded, with a lady sitting outside on the veranda, taking the money and directing people to seats. We were offered seats at the bar or a long wait, so we sat at the bar. I ate a BLT with coleslaw and fries. I didn’t want beer or a fizzy drink full of sugar, and they didn’t have sparkling water (very few places here seem to). I decided to try ‘iced tea’. Big mistake. It tasted like the dregs from Granny’s teapot served cold, with ice. Pretty disgusting. I’m not sure what I was expecting—I guess it was as described—but it seems to be popular so I thought it might be nice. Maybe it’s an acquired taste.

At 4pm, we walked back to the beach. There were dolphins, loads of them, leaping from the water. It was brilliant! They were impossible to photograph on my iPhone, and I have lots of pictures of blank sea with the occasional splash, but I don’t think I will forget the sight of them: a glimpse of a nose, then a black curved back with a fin, flowing down to a tail, all raised in one smooth curve above the waves before disappearing in a splash. Such a wonderful sight.

I am really enjoying Edisto. The only down-side is the number of bugs—though our condo has good screens at the doors and windows, so it’s only when we’re outside that I need to be smothered in repellent.

Thank you for sharing our adventures. Take care.

Love, Anne x

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Driving from Atlanta to Edisto Beach

We left Atlanta and drove all day. We had decided to book an Airbnb, and were feeling a little nervous, as although our children (and most of the world) have used Airbnb, we never have ourselves, and we were a little unsure as to what, exactly, we had booked. We had found a location, Edisto Beach, which was a nice distance from Charleston, and had vacant properties. However, we discovered that the website we were using had generic photos, a selection of shots from several properties, and not specific photos of the actual condo we would be renting. So actually, we had no idea whether we were heading for a shack or somewhere nice! Husband assured me that if was terrible, we could sleep in the car and head for a hotel the following day. I wasn’t sure a night in the car would be quite as much fun as he was suggesting.

We drove along major roads, where there were many signs for places to eat. When you check on Google maps, some of these are a fair distance from the actual road. One eatery that was often advertised, and was near to the main road, was Waffle House, so we decided to stop and try it. I like pancakes, and waffles are similar, and we had eaten several times at IHOP (International House of Pancakes) and liked it. We thought Waffle House might be similar. It wasn’t—or at least, the one we stopped at wasn’t.

The local area and car park seemed distinctly dodgy, so we parked within sight of the restaurant. I popped to the washroom while Husband asked for a table. The washroom had rusty appliances, dirty floors, and broken locks on the doors. I decided to use my ‘in dirty place’ rules, and only eat hot food that was freshly cooked.

Joined Husband, and warned him not to order anything too fancy. The table was in the restaurant, right next to the open kitchen, so we could watch them while they worked, which was interesting, but not reassuring. The kitchen had possibly been cleaned. . . maybe some time in the mid-nineties. We ordered coffee and plain waffles. Neither could really be messed up, though I wasn’t sure how the batter was prepared. The waitress was very friendly, and gave us the check (bill) with the food. The amounts didn’t quite add up to the total. The waitress saw Husband checking the bill against the prices on the menu and told us, with a smile, that oops! she seemed to have given us the wrong check. She rewrote another one, which tallied with the prices on the menu. We paid and left, neither of us was ill. It was a learning experience. To be fair, other waffle houses might be clean and efficient—if you’ve ever eaten in one, do add a comment at the end. But we weren’t enticed back.

Leaving Atlanta seemed to take ages, but eventually the roads began to run through countryside. At one point we followed a long road, mile after mile, through a forest. There were ‘no stopping’ signs at regular intervals, and when I looked on Google maps—to see what was beyond the trees on either side—it was all fuzzed out. It was clearly some kind of military or government installation.

We bought petrol in tiny places which were in the middle of nowhere (with very dirty washrooms!) and passed seemingly random mailboxes at the edge of roads that had no obvious inhabitants.

We stopped in Allendale for a burger at Hardees. Most people (everyone other than us) was black. Allendale looked like an interesting small town, with remnants of previous affluence, though looked like it was struggling a bit today.

We drove past fields of cotton, fluffy white puffs bursting from crunchy pods on dead-looking plants. Some had already been harvested, and was waiting in round bales, like giant swiss-rolls, waiting to be collected. The weather was hot (at last) and the air was full of tiny flies.

Gradually, the places we drove through became poorer. We passed burnt out cars, and people living in trailers, and uncollected rubbish. We began to worry about what kind of ‘condo’ the Airbnb would be—would it be a dirty shack? On a main road? In a swamp? We had the address of an office, and we had to collect the key before 5pm, so we were feeling tense as we drove along increasingly slow roads (the last 100 miles was on 2-lane roads, through towns with stop lights and railway crossings).

We arrived at the Airbnb office at 4pm. The outside looked fairly basic (like a shed) but inside seemed organised, and the people working there were friendly and efficient, which inspired confidence. They gave us a bag of clean linen (we had agreed that we could make up the beds ourselves) and the keys and directions. I asked if there was anything we should be wary of, and they said no. ‘Oh good,’ I said. ‘I thought there might be alligators!’ ‘Ah, well yes, you might see a gator,’ they said. ‘But no poisonous snakes, or anything like that?’ I asked, hoping for reassurance. ‘Well, it is snake season,’ they said. I didn’t ask any more questions—they were not giving the right answers.

We followed the directions to the condo, which is on Edisto Island. It is amazing! It is in a swamp, but it has been drained, and a golf-course and holiday homes have been built. The essence of the swamp remains, so there are trees dripping with Spanish moss, and pools of water (with ‘beware of the gators’ signs) and the houses are all on stilts. Our condo is up in the trees, and we look down on pools of turtles sunning themselves, and deer wandering around the golf course, and great white birds swooping overhead. I love it, it’s so much nicer than a hotel in a city.

I will tell you more in my next post.

Thank you for sharing our adventures. Take care.

Love, Anne x

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The Grand Ole Opry. . . and a few old men

The Grand Ole Opry

The absolute centre of country music is the Ole Opry, which used to be in Nashville and has now moved to just outside of the city. We felt it would be remiss to not visit, so after visiting the Belle Meade Plantation (see my last post) we drove to the Inn at the Opry. Our room was a motel-style entrance, with an exterior door which actually opened into their convention space (a huge hall with swimming pools and conference spaces and a restaurant, all open-plan under the same roof). It was a little odd, as we had no outside window.

We had an early dinner, then caught the shuttle bus to The Ole Opry. The bus went via a few hotels, picking up excited middle-aged people on the way. The Opry was clearly a ‘thing’. We were met at the drop-off place by a man with a buggy for people who couldn’t walk, and there were giant guitars for photos, and a line of people waiting to go through security. Loud speakers were telling people to leave their guns and knives in their cars (not quite England then).

The Grand Ole Opry is actually a huge auditorium with padded pews. This would be comfortable unless someone big shares your pew, as the seats are numbered but not segregated, so you all have to squash together. Everyone was very excited, and I wondered what exactly we had come to—I am not really a fan of country music. There were lots of cowboy boots on feet, and chequered shirts, and friendly chatter.

The compere appeared on stage, telling jokes and encouraging the audience to shout and clap. The audience didn’t need much encouragement. All the veterans were asked to stand, and we clapped them (being a veteran is a thing in the U.S.) It was very bright, overly loud, with smells of popcorn and Tide washing powder and a soup of perfume and deodorant drifting past us. Lots of “Y’all” and “Yee-Ha!” It was so not my kind of place.


The curtain lifted, and there on stage were four old men with guitars and cowboy hats. They must have been nearly 90 years old. I gave Husband a hard stare, but he was avoiding eye-contact. I wondered how long the show would last. And then, the old men started to speak, and they were actually very funny, joking in a depreciating way about their age compared to the young and famous. They played and sang, and it was tuneful and clever and entertaining, and I decided that I did like some country music after all.

One of the acts was Hank William’s grandson, Sam, who was giving his debut performance at the Ole Opry. He’s 22 years old, and I enjoyed his singing immensely.

I have to admit, I don’t entirely ‘get’ the whole glitzy, cowboy, country singing, thing. But the songs seem to encourage wholesome ideals, and some of the music I enjoyed. Sometimes it’s just fun to be with hundreds of enthusiasts, and you catch a little of their excitement. I would say that even if you’re not a fan of country music, if you’re in Nashville, visit The Ole Opry for an evening—you might find that you enjoy it.

Thank you for reading my blog. Our next stop was Atlanta (see previous posts) and then we wanted to see the Carolinas. We discussed where to stay, and decided that after two weeks of hotels, it would be nice to stay somewhere that we could get up late and eat cereal for breakfast, so we booked an Airbnb. Although our children use Airbnb frequently, we’ve never booked one, so we were a little nervous. Especially as the photos on the website didn’t seem to relate to the actual house we would be hiring. . .but that’s for another blog. Why don’t you sign up to follow my blog so you don’t miss it?

Take care.

Love, Anne x

We spent October on a road trip, driving through the Eastern States of America. We had a fabulous time!
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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

Thank you for reading
Why not sign up to follow my blog?

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.  (A great Christmas gift idea!)

UK Link: Here


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