31 October 2014

Across the U.S., Day 25 - Savannah (GA)

In order to prevent parking or driving hassles in a tight city like Savannah, I took the "Old Town Trolley Tour" which also does pickups from the hotel. Normally, I'm not a big fan of such tours. I prefer to explore by myself and am not afraid of walking, but for Savannah it seamed to be a good idea.

While Atlanta was burned by General Sherman's Union troops during their "March to the Sea", Savannah was spared from destruction. It was instead given to President Lincoln as a Christmas gift including several hundred cotton bales. Lincoln accepted; the cotton bales probably tipped the scales.

Savannah is Georgia's oldest city and was established in 1733 to create a protective territory for the Carolinas, located between Florida (Spanish) and Louisiana (French). It became a flourishing port with shipping cotton, tobacco and other goods. Thanks to the Historic Savannah Foundation - launched by seven women in 1955 -, Savannah's charm now attracts several million visitors each year. My favorite part of downtown is the Victorian Historic District:





Savannah is also setting for novels (for example "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" by John Berendt) and many movies, such as "Something to talk about" with Julia Roberts and "Forrest Gump". Tom Hanks' "park bench" scene, which opens the film was produced on Chippewa Square. According to the tour guide, the original bench got vandalized 15 years ago and removed.


Savannah's Historic District is one of the largest - or as claimed by the tour guide - "the" largest of its kind in the U.S.


Temple Mickve Israel, third-oldest synagogue in America


Break time

Sometimes, my sneaky picture taking does not remain unrecognized.



On my way back to the hotel I talked to a black gentleman who grew up in Savannah. In his opinion, the city has not necessarily developed to its best the last couple of years. People have become crazier and a lot more selfish. Isn't this the typical process of our urban society? He was one of the many who could not quite believe that I am doing this journey just by myself. We both agreed that the most important is to follow ones gut feeling when it comes to shady situations.

Happy Halloween to y'all!




More to come.

30 October 2014

Across the U.S., Day 24 - Charleston (SC) to Savannah (GA)


Ya gotta do what ya gotta do, right? Not that I received another 'low tire pressure' warning from my car, but my beloved husband recommended that I better get that tire issue checked out. And as so often, hubby was right. Not only did the repair patch from the other shop leak (which had made me suspicious in the first place), but I must have also cleaned up the road some more and collected another nail with the front right tire. ... Now it should be fixed. They also reduced the cost by the amount I had paid at the other Goodyear shop.

While waiting for the repair to get done, I talked to one of the locals who had his car in for a regular check. He is originally from Washington, D.C. and had met his wife there. She is from South Carolina, works as an attorney and after only a few months up north she wanted to return back home. They live in Mount Pleasant, near Charleston. The coastal area, including Sullivans Island where I reached the coast on Monday, is very pretty and laid back. BTW, prices are comparable to where we live in CA + ocean view. In case anyone wonders: no, I prefer the climate in CA!

Following a recommendation of a former boss of mine, I stopped by the Citadel, the military college of South Carolina.



They educate in various areas: business, science, engineering etc. and also Criminal Justice, like the junior student I briefly spoke to. I happened to arrive there when they practiced for their big parade each Friday.


Halloween pumpkins in honor of their academy and
their mascot Spike. Yes, except for the color
it looks quite like him.

I love these small roadside stores which sell mainly homemade and/or local stuff. Their cider - made from local fruit, except for the cherries - is very good!

Carolina Cider Company - in the heart of the Low country

Driving past centuries-old, moss-draped live oak trees and swampland brought me into Georgia, the good ole Peach State and named after King George II of Great Britain. (Hey Scotty, I made it to your home state!) Its capital is Atlanta, but I'm not planning to go that far north.


Browsing through wikipedia, some data caught my attention: in 1829, gold was found in Georgia and led to the Georgia Gold Rush and white settlers claiming territory from the Native Americans. The Indian Removal Act was signed by President Andrew Jackson in 1830.

On my way to Savannah, I came through the Savannah Wild Life Refugee.

Savannah Wild Life Refugee

And because I missed the turn to the hotel, I found the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens at the Historic Bamboo Farm, which does not only host lots of Bamboo species but also flower beds attracting many butterflies ... and me.

This looks like a Gulf Fritillary to me.
Does anyone know for sure?

To finally celebrate my coastal arrival this week, with Merlot from ... California:


More to come.

29 October 2014

Across the U.S., Day 23 - Another day in Charleston (SC)

Throughout the 1700s, rice production played an important role for South Carolina, mainly in the inland valley swamps of the Low Country. This labor intense crop cultivation however required cheap labor to be most profitable. The answer was: Africans captured as slaves and brought to the Americas. Those with expertise in rice cultivation were especially valuable.

Drayton Hall, built in 1738 by John Drayton, served as representative headquarter for his multiple rice plantations in the area. Between 45-50 enslaved Africans worked at Drayton Hall, either in the household or to maintain the property. I took at tour at this plantation house today. It's the oldest unrestored plantation house in the country, never modernized with electric lightning, plumbing or central heating.

Drayton Hall, plantation house on the Ashley River

The 2nd half of the day, I spent some more time on the history of slavery in the United States. Slavery was established in America by the Dutch when the first African slaves were brought to Virginia in 1619 to help in the production of tobacco and was legalized in 1641. In 1660, King Charles II founded the Royal African Company to import the "black gold". An estimated 12 million men, women and children were transported to the Americas by this slave trade, the majority to the Caribbean and South America. In 1807, slave trade was abolished in the British Empire. This led to the creation of an inter-state slave trading system. The Old Slave Mart in Charleston served for slave auctions where slaves were displayed and sold until 1863.


Slaves were divided into different classes, depending on age, gender, health status and skill set. An "extra man" (first class slave) was sold for $1,500 - 1,600, which equals $36,000 - 38,000 in 2007. By 1860, 57% of South Carolina residents were enslaved blacks. After the Civil War in 1865, the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished slavery.

The day ended with some more exploring of Charleston.



St. Michael's Episcopal Church

And where is the Scarlett O'Hara Road? 


More to come.

28 October 2014

Across the U.S., Day 22 - Charleston (SC)

The day started with thick fog, but quickly cleared up and turned into another nice, unusually warm day in the mid 80s F (~ 30 C).

The very first thing I hear people say about Charleston (SC) is "Oh, it's really beautiful." And beautiful it is. It felt like stepping back in time, into a long-forgotten era. The city has the ordinance that nothing older than 75 years may be torn down and this definitely pays off!

East Battery Street

Church Street at the corner of Water Street

Calhoun Mansion (24,000 square feet, 35 rooms, ...)

Originally founded as Charles Town (named for King Charles II of England) in 1670, the city settled a few miles north of its current site. It was moved to its present location in 1680 "where the Copper and Ashley Rivers come together to form the Atlantic Ocean" as the locals say, and adopted its present name in 1783. Charleston sits on the Woodstock Fault and in 1886 a devastating earthquake destroyed most of the brick houses. To save those with large cracks, "earthquake bolts" were inserted through the floorboards to hold the brickwork back together.

Earthquake bolts, now as historic markers
in buildings constructed before 1886

On Church Street


Local folks strolling through Stolls Alley

At East Battery along the Charleston Harbor, I stopped for a chat with this young gentleman. He was making roses out of palm tree leafs. He hopes to raise enough money for a trip out of town this Thursday, so that he and his team could attend a basketball game. The others in his group were selling cookies and such. He was born and raised in Charleston but finds the city "awkward". Currently, he does not have a permanent job. If he gets the chance, he would like to leave for Florida or some other place.


Out of curiosity, I looked up some numbers on www.city-data.com, year 2012: estimated median household income in Charleston, SC was $49,266; estimated median house value: $251,600. Sunnyvale in comparison for the same year: $101,611 median household income, median house value $702,700.

He told me that as far as he knows, annual taxes for those large houses on East Battery are around $5,000. Wow. When I mentioned what we pay for our 1,100 square-foot home in Sunnyvale, he simply looked puzzled. I guess that might have taken California off his mental list of place to move. ...

He actually was very successful in selling his roses and I bought one, too:


What did I read about the Rainbow Market along Market Street: They sell anything and everything? Indeed!


Some Lowcountry cuisine before I continued my stroll:

Crab melt sandwich with southern potato salad

There is a high risk of beauty-fatigue in Charleston.

East Battery Street

Corner of Tradd & Meeting Street



Sweetgrass baskets, usually sold by "basket ladies"

Sneak peak onto someone's patio
More to come.

27 October 2014

Across the U.S., Day 21 - Columbia (SC) to Charleston (SC)

Like in Asheville a few days ago, it was a good idea also in Columbia to head for the Visitor Center, park the car for free and pick up some information and maps. They offer the Historic Capital City Walk, a self-guided walking tour with either 10 or 5 km of length, which allows the visitor to dive into ~ 230 years of history. Columbia is one of the few planned cities in the U.S. When the state legislature was seeking for a central location for its capital in 1786, they decided to create Columbia (named after Christopher Columbus) and designed the city as a grid. In Feb 1865, near the end of the Civil War, most of the city was destroyed by fire when General Sherman and his Union troops occupied the city.

There were multiple school classes exploring the grounds around the South Carolina State House this morning.

School kids' history lesson in front
of the South Carolina State House

Class is getting ready for a group picture

When walking by the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, consecrated in 1847, I decided to take a brief tour inside. This church was beautifully renovated in 2010 and one of the stained-glass windows is from Germany (Munich). The tour turned into a longer visit, including an interesting conversation with one of the guides, about American history, my trip and traveling in general and the health benefits of red wine. We certainly could have continued our chat for ever, but after 2 hours I decided to move on. Thank you, Joe and Lee, for your time.


It surprised me how quiet Columbia was today, which seemed fairly unusual for a Monday. I noticed many attorneys' offices and a noticeably high number of churches. Well, if one can't help you any longer, the other is your last resort?

On my walking tour, I also came by the Wilson house. It was the boyhood home of Woodrow Wilson, who became the 28th president of the United States (1913-21).


"Humbled' housing on Richland Street

Some art project in the garden of Robert Mills' house: (Robert Mill was the first Federal Architect and designer of the Washington Monument.)



Before getting on the road for Charleston, I stopped by the South Carolina State Farmers' Market, south-west of Columbia. This is not simply a small market square with a few booths. It's a full campus with multiple huge sheds and is open year round. A web side provided by the South Carolina Department of Agriculture gives good guidance on where to buy local produce etc. in the region.



Ernest sells his products from Lexington, ~ 25 km West of Columbia. He has mainly vegetables and fruits, but also homemade jam, cane sugar syrup, pickles and boiled peanuts. He prepares the peanuts himself by boiling fully matured but not yet fully dried peanuts in salty water. It gave him a good chuckle when he heard that I had never tasted boiled peanuts before. I bought some and also a few tomatoes and cucumbers. We also talked about my trip and when he learned that I am traveling by myself, I had to promise him not to pick up anyone from the road nor to sleep at the roadside. Agreed. Done deal, man!


And less than 2 hours later: Here I am, at the Atlantic coast near Charleston! Yeah, I made it - from one coast to the other!!!!


My little travel companion

Some peaceful scene at the ocean

More to come!