Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tourin' the South Part 4! Days 13-16

Day 13 - Sunday, July 11th - Asheville, NC
I really wanted to see the Blue Ridge Parkway, which was coneniently celebrating its 75th anniversary. As part of FDR's work corps program, the Blue Ridge Parkway was built as a scenic route through Virginia and North Carolina's sections of the Appalachian mountains. It is a really nice drive - windy, slow, scenic. We also stopped at the Folk Art Center, which was really neat - a celebration of Art from the Appalachias. There we saw a guy out front with an interesting instrument that looked like a little harp or autoharp, but was played with a bow.

But, we got our fill of that, and went and got lunch. Later on we ventured down the parkway to the "Cradle of Forestry" center, to catch a bluegrass concert. It was a nice, comfortable, down home sort of thing - you could tell most of the people were local - only about 100 in the crowd. It was a nice way to relax, until it started raining. On the way home we drove through downtown Asheville, just to look around, and tried to drive to see Biltmore Castle, but at 55 dollars a pop, I think we decided it wasn't worth it. 55 dollars to see a house! No thanks. That's almost as much as Disneyland!

Day 14 - Monday, July 12th - Asheville, NC to Kodak, TN
We woke up to a rainy morning in Asheville, and hit the road to head over the Smoky Mountains to Tennessee. We stopped at a few little places along the way - a shop to buy some snacks, a homemade museum to look around, a store in the Cherokee Indian Reservation, and so forth. It was sort of a gloomy morning, but it made those Smoky Mountain extra smoky, and it was a beautiful drive anyway.

As we headed into Tennessee, we got into Pigeon Forge and consumer mania took over as the whole main street is just packed with tourists. Pigeon Forge is home to Dollywood and as many kinds of musical dinner theater establishments as you can think of. We walked around a little bit. I found a craft store, of course, and a jewelry store. We got some candy. We headed back up the road to find our hotel - through the insane amount of traffic in Pigeon Forge. Wow!

That night we had a wonderful dinner at the Chop House, a steak house right there. It was really, really good.

Day 15 - Tuesday, July 13th - Kodak, TN to Nashville, TN
I can't believe we made it this far in the trip without Mom stopping at a thrift store, but you knew it was going to happen some time, and Kodak is where it happened. We started off our day with a trip to the thrift store. It was right across the street from our hotel, so she couldn't miss it.

We drove up to Clinton, TN, north of Knoxville to visit the Museum of Appalachia, a work of heart from a local man who began to compile artifacts, treasures, and stories of the people and neighbors in his community. The museum itself would have been enough - it was jam packed with all sorts of information, but it included a barn, various outbuildings (cabins, sheds, church, school), and pastures. And peacocks. It was a very informative and interesting stop. At one house, on the porch, there was a guitar player who we talked with and played and sang some gospel songs for us. We began talking, and I talked about how I wanted to learn the banjo, and he mentioned that he teaches banjo and has lessons online. Nice guy.

We drove on, after our visit, to our hotel in Nashville, and the Cracker Barrel.

Day 16 - Wednesday, July 14th - Nashville, TN
Our last day!! We headed over to the Hermitage - Andrew Jackson's home, which has been carefully preserved. In fact, you hear so many stories of old plantation houses being sold to different families in the first half of the twentieth century, but a preservation society actually bought Andrew Jackson's house in the late 19th century! We had a tour of the home, the grounds, and the outbuildings. It really was a warm day in Nashville.

One more stop before the airport - we made it back to Franklin to the Daily Dish to once again have their delicious food. I had to have the Greek salad again, and it was just as good as the first time. After stuffing ourselves, we hopped in the car, got gas, and headed to the airport, ready to fly back to San Diego.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Touring the South Part 3! (Days 10-12)

Day 10 - Thursday, July 8th - Savannah, GA
As I stated before, Savannah was absolutely gorgeous. A wonderful downtown that has been preserved (or restored) and is in wonderful shape. It's a cute town for walking around, lots of history, wonderful stories. I think I said a few times "I think I could live there".

Nevermind that it was 100 degrees on the day that we were there. We'll skip that part.

We took a trolley tour around the historical district, which was informative and a nice way to see the town. The city is split into sort of quadrants with a square (park) in the middle of each area. For lunch we were told time and again to go to Ms. Wilke's Boarding House for her family style meal, and we stood outside for an hour and 15 minutes (remember - we are skipping the part about the heat), and finally sat down to a delicious meal of fried chicken, biscuits, mashed potatoes, black eyed peas, lima beans, creamed corn, greens, macaroni and cheese, macaroni salad and more that I can't even remember what else. Ohhh it was good. So that was a highlight :)

We went over to the river and took a riverboat cruise, but I'll be honest and say that the Savannah riverfront is... not very exciting. We were pretty exhausted so we rested a while in the AC at the hotel, and then got some ice cream at the marketplace.

Day 11 - Friday, July 9th - Savannah, GA to Charleston, SC
We still had some tickets to go see the Savannah history museum, so we set off for that in the morning. It was nice... small, but nice. I'm sure my mom would also like to point out that I forgot my sandals at the hotel, so we went back for those before heading out of town. It was another hot day (skip that part!!) but we got to Charleston, checked into our hotel (which was crummy and not worth mentioning), and headed to downtown Charleston. It was nice to see Savannah and Charleston back to back to see the similarities and differences. Charleston seems a much more hodge podge city, and so we were glad to take a carriage ride around to get the lay of the land.

The carriage ride was entertaining - our guide did a good job of casually showing us around, but giving good information. Unfortunately, we found that because you're being led by a slow horse, the carriages have to take different routes around town and so you don't really see all of it. BUT, like I said - our guide was good, and our horse, Kevin, had a funny personality. It was good.

We walked around Charleston a bit, down by Battery Park, and it was nice evening for checking out the homes in the area. I was mostly amazed at these OLD, OLD homes surrounded by palm trees!! Something new to me.

Day 12 - Saturday, July 10th - Charleston, SC to Asheville, NC
We woke up, ready to leave Charleston behind, but we didn't travel far - we headed to Boone Hall Plantation, which we really enjoyed. The plantation is hundreds of years old, and supplied most of the brick that was used to build Charleston. In fact, the brick making was such a profitable business for them that they made the slave cabins of the house workers out of brick, and they are still standing! They were built from 1790-1810. That was really amazing, to stand in original slave cabins.

The best part of that visit was the presentation by Joe, about the Gullah culture, the African American culture that sprang up in that area as a result of learning English, and combining African traditions with American ways of life. It was entertaining, fun, and informative.

We drove from Boone Hall all the way to Asheville, NC. We were going to stay somewhere south of there, but decided to just go for it. They call the Charleston area the "low country", and once you get up into the Appalachias, it becomes the "high country". Makes sense, doesn't it? The weather cooled off, and the skies got cloudier, and the green hills were wonderful to see :) We settled down in Asheville for the night.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Touring the South Part 2! (Days 6-9)

Wow - I waited to long to make another blog, so here is some more about our trip (just for you, Amanda!)

Day 6 - Sunday, July 4th - Montgomery, AL
We had stayed in Selma, Alabama, and decided to drive into Montgomery to see what we could see. Two points against us - it was a national holiday AND a Sunday, so the chances of seeing very much were slim. However, we did some research online and found a Church of God in Montgomery, and off we went to the Rosa L Parks Avenue Church of God. It was a great time. It was a small congregation, but they were so welcoming and warm to us. The pastor's wife invited us to sit in front with her, and it was really just a great time. We left feeling very blessed. We ate lunch at a place called O'Charleys, much like an Applebee's or Chili's.

We wandered into Montgomery, still a little unsure of what we were doing. We found the church that Martin Luther King, Jr. pastored, which is right across the street from the capitol building, with its confederate flag still waving, and a statue of Jefferson Davis (elected President of the confederacy).

Since the Civil Rights Memorial wasn't open, we decided to drive around and found the riverfront walk, where they were setting up for the Fourth of July bash. You know what? We found a patch of grass in the shade and sat for hours - people watching, listening to music, eating treats, and watching fireworks. It was a really nice time.

Day 7 - Monday, July 5th - Selma to Monroeville, AL
We had stayed overnight in Selma again, and took off in the morning to find the site of old Cahawba, one of the first (the first?) capital of Alabama. It was settled, flooded a lot, and so the capital soon moved, but business remained there for quite some time, until after the Civil War. The businesses started to leave, and later in the mid-twentieth century became abandoned. Homeowners sold off their bricks, so really there are no buildings left standing. There were some columns left, from a mansion, but they were left because the shape of the bricks was too hard to sell. And the cemetery is still there. Definitely CREEPY, especially considering we were 2 of about 6 people wandering all over about 20 acres.... and there were little run down old houses (that were newer) scattered here and there. Super creepy.

We left Cahawba and headed to Monroeville, Alabama, a town I definitely needed to see. I couldn't imagine visiting Alabama without getting a chance to see the town where Harper Lee (author of To Kill a Mockingbird) grew up. Unfortunately, being the national holiday, nothing was open. We killed an afternoon and evening in our hotel room, watching hours of TLC :) We stopped at the Winn-Dixie for snacks, since the only things open were fast food.

Day 8 - Tuesday, July 6th - Monroeville, AL to Auburn, AL
What a day! We woke up early to get to the City courthouse in Monroeville, site of the historical museum and gift shop. Whew. What a time for both of us. Harper Lee grew up in this town, her father was a lawyer, and if you know the story of To Kill a Mockingbird, you know the story is about a lawyer fighting for justice in a small Alabama town. While her story is made up of composite sketches of characters, it's all based around her own small town experiences. Harper Lee grew up around the courthouse, her father being a lawyer, and when they made the movie of To Kill a Mockingbird, the set designer came to Monroeville and went back to Hollywood and duplicated the courthouse almost exactly. It was a real moment to stand in that courtroom. Don't worry - I have my kleenex handy for whenever I think about it. This year celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first printing of the book.

(By the way - I met a really nice lady in the gift shop who was from around there, who said, upon finding out that we were from so far away, "Well I wish I would've known y'all were comin', I would've had my house ready!").

In the afternoon we made it to Tuskegee, Alabama (which I continue to have difficulty saying), and the Tuskegee Institute - the university that Booker T. Washington started. I was mostly taken with George Washington Carver. I had never really known anything about him, but as a scientist and naturalist, he continued to experiment and teach his entire life. That night we stayed in Auburn, Alabama.

Day 9 - Wednesday, July 7th - Auburn, AL to Savannah, GA
We skedaddled out of town, on our way to Georgia. We were beginning to think we kinda liked Alabama- we were there so long! Our next stop was Plains, Georgia, home of Jimmy Carter. We visited his old school, which they've turned into a little museum. What a breath of fresh air Jimmy Carter is! A homegrown boy from tiny little Plains, Georgia, who goes on to become President of the United States, and when he retires: moves right back to Plains! He and his wife live right there in town, and he still teaches Sunday School at their church. My kinda guy.

We continued on through Georgia and made it to Savannah! What a gorgeous city. So beautiful, so well kept. In fact, Savannah was (and is) so beautiful, that Sherman decided to spare it during the Civil War. I learned during fifth grade social studies this year that during the Civil War they used the "total war" tactic - basically destroying what they came across, so having a whole city spared was quite uncommon. Sherman then gave Savannah as a Christmas present to President Lincoln :) Lincoln should have been overjoyed because Savannah is gorgeous.

And hot. Incredibly hot. But we'll talk about that tomorrow. We settled in at our great hotel right in downtown Savannah, on the river, excited about the next day.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Touring the South Part 1! (Days 1-5)

Mom and I have been planning this trip since last Fall, and by "planning" I mean buying plane tickets, draw an imaginary circle, and mentally taking notes of places we'd like to visit. I've never been to the South, and Mom has been to one or two of these states, so this seemed like a great opportunity. Both of us love history and this of course is a great place to study. We only had a few certain things on our itinerary. Instead, we are winging most of this trip!

Day 1 - Tuesday, June 29th - Our town to San Diego
Mom doesn't want to consider this part of our trip, but since it involved getting up early and traveling, I will consider it. We stopped at David's Bridal in San Diego so I could order a bridesmaid's dress for a September wedding, and made a couple of stops at some stores (where I found shoes for the wedding for $15!), and picked up Nick and Linda at the airport and went out to dinner.

Day 2 - Wednesday, June 30th - San Diego to Nashville, TN
Nick and Linda got up early to take us to the airport. After dropping us off they headed back to Mexico to be the wonderful people they are and help hold down the fort while Mom is away with me :) Our flight was from San Diego to Denver, then Denver to Nashville. It was nice because each flight was only about 2 1/2 hours, and our layover was only an hour. I'm so used to flying Alaska, that it was a little weird to fly a different airline (Frontier), but of course it was fine.

We arrived in Nashville and got our rental car and were on the road by about 6:30. Our hotel was south of town, but flipping through a tour guide for the month of June showed that they were showing "The Wizard of Oz" at a park in Nashville for free, so we headed over there, thinking it started at 7pm. Well, it didn't start at 7, but waiting around for the movie gave us enough time to get some popcorn, strawberry lemonade, and cupcakes bought from a bus. We didn't end up staying for the movie, but we got in plenty of people watching. For me, it was so nice to sit outside on a warm summer evening and not be cold! Mexico can be warm during the day, but at night it gets so chilly - I never sit outside at night without a big sweatshirt and jeans!

We made our way to the hotel, and settled in.

Day 3 - Thursday, July 1st - Nashville, TN
We had scoped out our day to include plantations and music. We stopped first at the Belle Meade Plantation, a plantation built around their thoroughbred horses, one of which is the ancestor of many champion racing horses in America. A beautiful place, we were the first ones there and got our own tour guide through the mansion.

After that we headed into downtown to visit Jack's BBQ on Broadway. We seemed to hit the restaurant just as the Presbyterian convention liberated its people for lunch, so we had to wait a while. When you are waiting for something like this, you always wonder if it's worth the wait. It was. I had a pork shoulder plate with green beans and mac and cheese. Delicious. One thing I enjoyed was the ability to choose your own side of bbq sauce. The highlight of the meal was when Mom got up the courage to pass her cards to a group of Presbyterian pastors. Networking!

Jack's was a recommendation from a friend, as was Hatch Show Print, the famous printing house known for its distinct style. Still in business, Hatch Show Print creates many show posters and announcements that you continue to see around town. They had fun posters to see, and fun souvenirs.

We headed over to the Ryman Auditorium, home to the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 - 1974. We took the tour, which was a nice precursor to the show we were going to see later on in the evening. I knew the Ryman was an important building, but gaining all of the information about the start of country music and the community it influenced was great. They had a small, special exhibit about Johnny and June at the Ryman. It was amazing to know that this was the very stage where so many influential country stars got their start.

After the tour, we meandered around downtown, looking at boots, checking out the river, getting some ice cream.

We were scheduled to see a concert at the Ryman, so we walked back over and were surprised to find that there was a pre-concert concert on the plaza in front of the auditorium. It was a great distraction while we waiting for the doors to open. At 7:30 we got to see Ricky Skaggs and the Kentucky Thunder, a wonderful show included in their Bluegrass Grass Nights at the Ryman series. Seriously, wonderful musicians. It was such a fun show, a great environment, and very inspiring. Ricky's band were so talented, it was just amazing to watch, it (mostly) distracted me from those hard wooden pews!

Day 4 - Friday, July 2nd - Franklin, TN - Decatur, AL
We slept in and started down to Franklin, south of Nashville. They have a really cute downtown, and we walked around the shops for a while. After that we went to tour the Carnton Plantation, a private home that was turned into a field hospital during the Civil War's Battle of Franklin. After the war, they donated part of their land for a Confederate cemetery, where all of the soldiers' graves remain to this day. Even more haunting were the blood stains in the upstairs bedrooms where the surgeons did their work for six months.

Mom had bought a Groupon for a restaurant in Franklin called the Daily Dish. In this restaurant I ate the best Greek Salad of my life. End of story.

We decided to continue South to Alabama, where we sought out a hotel room for the night, and ate at Five Guys, a burger joint that I've heard all sorts of things about. It lived up to its reputation.

Day 5 - Saturday, July 3rd - Decatur, AL - Selma, AL
We planned to head down the Interstate to Selma, to take in some of the Civil Rights points of interest. Unfortunately (or fortunately) we ran into some serious traffic, and got off the interstate and got to figure out some back county roads. Before this we had managed to avoid the interstate anyway, so we had already been enjoying great scenery, especially of rolling hills and wonderful houses.

On our way to Selma we stopped for lunch at the Brierfield Cafe. Of course this place has no website, because ... you know.. it's the kind of place your teenager next door works after school. The place was empty, but I enjoyed my sandwich AND the fried green tomatoes we tried out. We're going for broke with trying Southern food. This probably should be "eating our way to through the South" instead. I'd never had fried green tomatoes before, and I really liked them. Yum.

We finally found Selma, and the tourist welcome center, where two nice ladies gave us all sorts of pamphlets and pointed us in the right direction. It was much warmer this afternoon, and after we started walking away from the tourist center, the lady followed us outside to make sure we weren't walking to the starting point of the tour. We reassured her that we were just stepping away to figure things out. They also told us where we could get some good dinner :)

We decided to do a driving tour of Selma, which focused on architectural influences of important landmarks and houses. Right up my alley. The most interesting fact to us was that many old houses were moved from nearby Cahawba, AL. Looking online, we see that Cahawba was the state's first capital, from 1820-1826, but was abandoned after the Civil War. We're thinking about visiting there later on. At the end of the tour we came to Brown A.M.E Church, site of many speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1965.

So on the recommendation of the ladies at the welcome center, we headed to Lannie's BBQ (again, no website, of course). While we felt a little out of place, the food was worth it. Oh. My. Word. I got fried chicken, mac and cheese, and collared greens. Now, I've never had collared greens before, so I didn't quite enjoy them, but the mac and cheese and fried chicken were WONDERFUL. I'm on my way to gaining ten pounds.

So here we are, in Selma, and going to visit Montgomery tomorrow!