This is a travelog. Travelogs are usually presented in chronological order, first day presented firtst. But I am using a blog to make this record of our trip. Blogs are presented in reverse-chronological order, last post presented first. So, I recommend going to the first entry of the blog and reading backwards. Sigh.
This morning when I walked into the Common Ground Coffee House in Beaufort the owner greeted me like I was a regular, which is what we’ve been for the past several days. Unfortunately this morning’s visit was our last (for this year) as we were ready to move on to Charleston. Arriving midday we parked at the visitor’s center and took one of the free (yes free) trolley to the city market where we had lunch and then did the Charleston tourist thing and took a horse drawn carriage tour. Our guide/carriage driver and our horse Sam were a great team skillfully maneuvering the carriage through the busy streets while keeping up a constant narrative about Charleston history, architecture, culture and residents. Afterwards we walked through the city market before getting back on the trolley. We have two more days here to enjoy the sun and the flowering trees before 3 days of driving back to the frozen north.
It’s been one lovely day after another here in South Carolina. Actually most of today was spent in Georgia but was nonetheless lovely. Since we are only about an hour north of Savannah we decided go to Wormsloe (Named for towns Welsh countryside from which the original settler Noble Jones originated) a Georgia State Park there that we had read about. One of the descendants of the original settlers at Wormsloe had the foresight to plant a 500-tree live oak alee in honor of his son’s birth. Today those oaks are covered with Spanish moss and resurrection ferns and form a continuous arch over Wormsloe’s 1 ½ mile entrance road. There is, however, no white columned plantation house at the end of the road. Instead the spell is broken by the state park visitor’s center, but only slightly. There you see their introductory film and a small museum that delves into the history of the site and the people who inhabited it. Then we walked the trails to various sites on the property including the surviving tabby walls of the original structures. There was also a living history interpretation area with a blacksmith working and reconstructions of a typical house from the 1700’s. The real attraction of the place for us was just slowing walking through the woods and along the shore on a 60 + degree-day.
By the time we were ready to leave Wormsloe it was mid afternoon and we had not had lunch. Since we were in the area we drove to Tybee Island and the local favorite The Crab Shack. I guess it’s also become a favorite of ours as this was our third trip there. It’s over the top with hokey decorations, that include silly signs, plastic snakes, live alligators, live birds, and so much more. The tables have a hole in the center with a trash barrel underneath so that all the shells can immediately be disposed of. The food is no nonsense delicious. Boiled shrimp with a dusting of old bay seasoning, fresh corn, slightly spicy cole slaw, smashed potatoes dripping in butter need I go on. And you are surrounded by lots of good folk, all gazing out over the water. Great place.
Now were back in South Carolina and almost ready for bed and listening to the spring peepers who are making quite a racket outside.
The weather forecasts for Boston and environs make the bright blue sky and 60-degree temperatures here more enjoyable. We feel that we are required to go out and savor the day. So this morning we did an audio tour of one part of Historic Beaufort. It was quite well done. The history of Beaufort was interwoven between the descriptions of the houses and their history. There were even sound effects (sea gulls, booming cannons etc.) and musical interludes of civil war songs. After the tour we had lunch outside in a restaurant overlooking the waterfront park. Our favorite features in the park are the wooden park benches that are suspended as swings. Not kiddy swings these are adult swings. And as adults we love them. Especially after a nice lunch it’s the perfect place to sit in the sun and read as Harry did - or stretch out and turn your face toward the sun as I did. To top off the day we drove to Port Royal and walked along the Sands Beach Boardwalk, which stretches out along the marsh. Lovely day.
After yesterday’s rain we were delighted with today’s sunshine and spent most of the day outside. First stop was the Chapel of Ease. The tabby ruins of a 1736 church built by slaves. The entire outside frame of the building still stands among the live oaks dripping with Spanish moss. It is a beautiful and peaceful spot. Stop # 2 was Fort Fremont State Park. It is a Spanish American War era (1898) fortifications along the coast opposite Port Royal, which served as a critical naval base during this period. The fort was built into the hillside and is virtually invisible from the water. It is a fine example of creative military engineering. As the temperature climbed to 60 degrees we drove to Hunting Island State Park. To check out the scene from above we climbed the spiral staircase (168 steps) to the top of the Lighthouse (c. 1857). On the recommendation of the volunteer rangers Marsha then walked the Lagoon Trail through the palmetto and live oak maritime forest. Meanwhile Harry checked out the Nature Center and the Pier. It was a lovely South Carolina day in the sun.
We really couldn’t complain about the rain today as most of the east coast north of us was experiencing cold and snow. But it did means that our choice of activities for the day needed to be of the indoor variety.
The Penn Center was the site of the first school for freed slaves. It later became a center for civil rights activity. Today it offers educational and cultural programs that celebrate the culture of the Sea Island and the Gullah people. The museum on the site offers a short film and exhibits that explain the history of the school.
In the afternoon Harry enjoyed one of his favorite travel pastimes, finding the local coffee shop (preferably with WiFi) and hanging out for the afternoon. Marsha engaged in one of her favorite travel pastimes, a sort of busman’s holiday of visiting other historic houses. This time it was the John Mark Verdier House in Beaufort. Built in 1803 by a newly minted planter and shipper to prove his ascendancy to the upper class. The neo-classical house has extensive moldings and decorative woodwork. John Mark Verdier’s days as a wealthy homeowner were numbered and by 1820 he was in debtors prison in Charleston and he died 7 years later. By 1830 his son who was the Mayor of Beaufort lived in the house. By 1860 the Union Army sold the house to the highest bidder (the fate of many of Beaufort’s grand homes). One of the houses finer moments was in 1825 when Lafayette spoke to the citizens of Beaufort from the second floor balcony. After the tour Marsha had a grand time talking “shop” with the tour guide .
It was difficult to leave the Gray’s wonderful apartment this morning. But after breakfast on the porch we did just that.
First driving Linda and Dan to the Miami airport and then driving the length of Florida and through a bit of Georgia to our destination of St. Helena Island, South Carolina.
For our one full day in Miami we decided on a trip to the Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden. We had visited here several years back and were in need of a refresher course.
They run a guided tram tour of the property introducing visitors to all the various gardens. After the tram tour we walked to the Glass Café for Lunch. The blessedly air-conditioned dining room has a wall of class windows, which afford a view directly into the butterfly house. After lunch we walked through the Rain Forest Garden, past the Palm Garden and around the lagoon where we spied a cormorant drying it’s wings in the sun. After returning to Sunny Isles Beach and attending to laundry we drove to Hollywood Beach with Linda and Dan and strolled on the boardwalk before picking a open air restaurant for dinner.
When we awoke this morning we were at the dock in Ft. Lauderdale. So sadly we followed the instructions for disembarking and by noon were in Richard and Lillian Gray’s apartment in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida. The Gray’s graciously offered the four of us their hospitality although they are currently in Nicaragua. Their comfortable apartment is on the fourth floor overlooking the Intra-coastal waterway and their spacious balcony offers a spectacular view. As does the large and warm swimming pool where you can do your laps while watching the endless parade of boats. It’s a little slice of heaven. We are very thankful to our gracious though absent hosts.
After four days and four different ports, a day at sea and some R&R was needed. So it was back to the books, sun, and soaks in the hot tub. Did I mention that our favorite hot tub on the ship is actually suspended out over the side 11 stories up?
Our final stop was at Labadee, Haiti. Royal Caribbean purchased a Haitian peninsula and converted it into a beach resort for day tripping cruise ships. Despite my innate dislike for such shenanigans it really was a nice place to spend the day. We did walk to the furthest beach to get away from the crowds and avoided the craft marketplace because others who had been there had noted that the sellers were extremely aggressive. So once we were situated on our chaise lounges and had had delightful swims in the Caribbean Sea we loved it. The only down side to the day was that Harry walked into the water with his iPhone in his swimsuit pocket. Not a good move. And when he realized it and quickly removed it his ship ID card fell into the water. An hour or so later I was wading in for a swim when a young man put on a snorkel and dove down when he surfaced he said he found a ship ID card and read the name to his mother saying it belonged to “Harry somebody”.
As amazed as I was I grabbed it, thanked the kid and ran off to give it back to a much-relieved Harry Forsdick who would have found it quite difficult to re-board the ship without it.
As soon as we were away from the hubbub of the streets surrounding the piers we fell in love with San Juan. The old city is beautiful. We walked along wide boulevards with lush plantings and loved the buildings and the massive walls. When we passed the Ministry of Tourism I went in and got copies of a terrific map. The map led us to a wonderful walk – the old city walls on our right and the ocean on our left. We re-entered the city through the last of its original gates and walked toward El Morro (one of two massive forts run by the park service). After a stop at the Art School’s café for a dose of caffeine we headed toward the fort. Mother nature helped set the scene by providing a full rainbow over the fort right on cue. Add to that the superb interpretive displays and careful restoration done by the National Park Service and you have a winner. We then walked back through street after street of colorfully painted buildings pointing out the architectural details to each other. We stopped at a park with a fountain to briefly rest and then all separated to do our own thing. Harry stayed in the park for coffee and some sketching. Marsha got a coffee to go and continued to wander the streets. Linda and Dan did the same without the coffee and in another direction. We all returned to the ship wanting to return to San Juan some day.
We had researched St. Kitts and had brought copies of a self- guided walking tour. We visited the National Museum, the Circus (a round square with a fancy clock), Independence Park, and two churches one of which Harry and Linda climbed to the top of the Bell Tower.
We were all disappointed with the whole scene. All of these places were in disrepair and in general had made no attempt to help the visitor understand the culture or history. The architecture of the entire downtown area was uninspired. St. Kitts and Nevis might be a wonderful place to visit if you are outside the city and get to stay a while.
One Island – two countries. St. Martin is French and Sint Maarten is Dutch. The tour that Linda prearranged was of primarily the French side. There were the four of us and four other people in a van with the driver/guide. There were stops to see the local fauna (Iguana, Monkeys, Snakes), Seashells and the creatures that inhabit them (the conch is really ugly and slimy), the most popular beach (and a glimpse at the nude beach next to it) and several gorgeous views. The most popular spot on Sint Martin is the beach that just happens to be at the end of the airport runway. When large planes land they are seemingly within reach of upraised hands. The real fun is when a departing flight get into position for takeoff and fires its engines. The resulting blast whips up the water and hats, towels, and people get a bit wetter than they had anticipated. This included Linda and Dan. Previous to arriving here almost everyone in the van thought we wouldn’t want to stay more than 10 minutes. We all, however, enjoyed the scene, even though it was stupid.
Day two of cruising toward St Martin
Today we settled in for two days at sea while we sailed toward St. Martin. Which meant that we sat by the pool, or in the pool, or in the hot tub, or in the solarium. To offset the constant availability of food we walked the track or around the ship. And we read and read. Instant relaxation.
Drove from Orlando to Sunny Isles Beach (North Miami) to pick up Linda and Dan Chessman and then proceeded to the Port at Ft. Lauderdale to begin our cruise.
We said goodbye to Apalachicola and arrived in Orlando by mid-afternoon and picked up Diana and Barry Gelston at their hotel and proceeded directly to Epcot. It was time to walk in the sun, talk and laugh with friends, eat a good meal in the open air and be entertained. And then we got to top it all off watching the fireworks with our sweeties.
T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, and William J. (Billy Joe) Rish Recreational Park
Given the state of my stomach we decided to take it extremely easy and opted for a drive along the shore to St. Joseph’s Island where we picked a lovely spot in the state park to spend the afternoon. I read while Harry sketched and we both just enjoyed the scene.
Foggy, thunder and lightening, and rain greeted us upon awakening. Signaling that it was good day to push in the clutch and hang out which is exactly what we have been doing all day. Given the ice in Atlanta and snow approaching Lexington the rain here is quite endurable. We’ve been reading, writing, enjoying a leisurely lunch and just slowly walking around town, plus an afternoon nap.
I’m sure that the other people who were out on the beach today with us were also refugees from the frozen north. Bundled up in fleece jackets we soaked in the sun, walked along the shore, got up close and personal with the shore birds, while listening to the rolling surf. It was great to spend the day outside. Tonight we are a bit blasted by all that fresh air but quite content.
Woke up to sunny skies and decided to go to the St George Island State Park, a barrier isalnd. We'd been here before and knew it would be nice. It was! Beautiful white sand that was hard enough that it made for comfortable walking. It was chilly by Florida standards. Probably in the 60s, which was fine for us. Only a few people on the beach.
This seagull came over looking for food. S/he stuck around so I decided to see how my panorama camera that I can trigger with my iPhone would work. I set it up in the sand and watched as the bird cautiously checked it out.
Soon I got bored of that and thought "I bet if I sprinkled the area around the camera with cracker crumbs, I'll see some action from all of the birds around me. Boy did I! Brids came from all over. I was very surprised at how fast they came in. Some nice closeup shots of birds in flight.
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It was 51 degrees when we left Atlanta this morning and 71 when we arrived in Apalachicola, Florida. We are staying at a small hotel right on the creek. Lovely accommodations just on the edge of this small town where we can walk to the restaurants, shops and museums or just sit on our screened in porch and watch the birds and boats. We just walked back from the “Up the Creek Raw Bar” where I enjoyed a dozen fresh Oysters and Harry enjoyed the Gumbo. We are really going to enjoy our time here.
Here are photos inside our room in the Water Street Hotel and Marina as well as outside showing the view from the screened porch. We paid the minimum special off season rate and they gave us this gorgeous room which is listed as costing twice as much as we paid for it.
John and Karen Clarke, Harry's cousins, graciously invited us to their home for a delicious brunch this morning. It was good to see them and to catch up. Since the weather was again in the 60’s we stopped at the Atlanta Botanical Garden on the way home to enjoy the Orchids in the greenhouses and walk through the grounds on a lovely day. Aaron, Niki and Eli joined us for another of Suzanne’s delicious dinners to put the perfect cap on our Atlanta visit.
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It’s been a very laid back and relaxing day. The weather was in the 60’s so we were able to sit outside by the pool and walk to the nearby town. Niki who is the manager of ensembles and instruction for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra was nice enough to get us tickets for theSaturday night symphony concert, which we all enjoyed immensely. The violin soloist Augustin Hadelich was exceptional and the acoustic fabulous.
We took our time in the morning and didn’t get back on the rode until 11am. But we made it to Atlanta within 15 minutes of our projected 5 pm arrival. Mostly thanks to Google maps which dynamically rerouted us to avoid the rush hour traffic.
This is our first visit to Larry and Suzanne’s new condo. Their building is on a hill with a sweeping view of the Atlanta skylines. We have been very comfortable here. Niki, Aaron and Baby Eli joined us for dinner. So Marsha has been able to indulge in a significant amount of baby holding time.
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