Hello again! The next part of our story starts in Charleston, South Carolina. We went back up a little bit north to see Charleston, and it was charming.
Architecturally very similar to other towns built in the 1830’s and onwards. they have a great little fort there, but it’s never been used in a war, which is unusual.
There is a community of Gullah people who have been there since the days of slavery; thy were primarily imported from Angola, and still have a very strong culture and their language. Beautiful woven baskets and roses made from reeds are common and quite exquisite.
3 hours North to South Carolina to both Charleston and Savannah both full of atmosphere and gorgeous architecture (remember the book “Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil”) . An English architect by the name of Fay built many of the fine home sin the 1830’s, and they all have 4 columns and a portico. Very distinctive and Romanesque.
Surprisingly to us, we found out that Savannah is the 3rd largest container ship port in the US, and it was the centre of cotton export during slavery times. the old port is fascinating, and reflects this booming time in the city. The chains the slaves were tethered to while they they were waiting to be sold, or moved to the home of their new master are all there. A terrible and barbaric reminder of what went on in these places.
We woke to -4 degrees C in the morning and the blanket was frozen to the wall again! Extension ladder frozen in extended position. We stayed at Skidaway State Park south of Charleston city
Off to Neptune Beach Florida to stay with George and Nancy Langstaff. George was one of the family that I stayed with in Kingsport Tennessee when I was at school there.
We had the most wonderful time with them. George taught Ian how to cast a fishing net. The back of their property is on an inlet of the vast water system that covers most of Florida. Caught two crabs in the pot. Such southern hospitality, and Pen really enjoyed catching up with George and more news of all the family, as we visited with his parents in Tennessee.
There is a video on UTube of their dog, some years ago, playing with one of the river otters who had become his friend. It’s just terrific. Called Rio (the dog) and the River Otter.. The video has had over 1 million hits over the years.
Having left the Langstaffs we then had to fill some Medical prescriptions, which required a visit to a Dr.s practice that will accept aliens. With apologies to all other Dr.s in the States, this man was straight out of a horror movie.
The end result was that we had to stay in an RV park for extra days, I got half of my script and we had to leave before Ian’s was ready. The pharmacy is still ringing regularly to see if he is going to pick it up, and the Dr is still asking if we want to continue our care. The whole experience was totally bizarre.
We stayed in an RV park right under the flight path of the airport, having been refused a nights accommodation at an RV city park. We were refused entry as we didn’t “hook up” to water or electricity. We said “WHAT, you mean to say that because we won’t leave a footprint, we can’t come in? We don’t need any of your services because we are as green as green, and we can’t stay here?”
“I can’t let you stay, as security will come in the middle of the night and ask you to leave if they see you have no cords for electricity, and no hose for water, and no big one for waste, connected”. We could pretend to be hooked up we said. “You can’t stay here” was the reply once a gain. Hard to reconcile that one!!
SO, we left and travelled through a really heavy storm coming from the south -west to a little place called Panacea, on the Florida Panhandle.
On the way we stopped in Tallahassee for some veggies (not wine peeps, veggies) and met 6 delightful young people travelling in a Subaru around the States. All Americans and straight out of the 60’s. They had 2 huge dogs, (one half wolf) and a little dog as well..
How they all fitted in the car astonished us.
First well signed park we stopped at in Panacea, a woman appeared from the door of her RV.
“Can I help you?” Says she.
“Any room for us?” say we
“No, ma’am” says she.
“Oh.” Say we, looking at some RV’s (caravans) and about 40 acres of vacant land. We moved on!
It was cold and windy at Panacea with an icy wind coming off the Gulf of Mexico, so we choked off towards Pensacola and St. Joes Peninsula NP, after a lovely gentleman in a gas station suggested we should go there. Still -1.5 C in the morning.
It is on one of the sand islands that run all the way along the Florida panhandle coast and the gulf . There had been the big winds we spoke about, and all along the surf beach were millions of dead star fish, and thousands of beautiful shells. We had a time change here so a glass of wine at 3pm, and bed at 7 pm for Pen! She loves that.
Mary and Jack were a wonderful couple in their 80’s who have been camp hosts (they had their site gratis , in return for 10 hrs work a week helping with cleaning and public relations) for many years here. Fit as fleas and gentle and kind.
From other people in the national park we received apples from their orchard, stringy smoked local cheese, homemade beef jerky and scrummy hot sausages. How will we ever be thin again? Drinks with George and Sandy from Alabama who are off to Alaska!
We left St Joes with no plans of where we would stay. We bought a larger Dutch oven, had pot roast pork that night at Fort Pickens, across the peninsula from a huge naval air base, Which is also home to the National Navy Museum. Lots of really fast jets!
We met a really fabulous younger couple at St Joes. He is American from Alaska, and she is an Australian. They have 3 little children and have been travelling around the world in their 65 foot boat. Having moored the boat at Anchorage they bought an RV and are continuing their travels through the winter with the children. The youngest is about 2? Maybe.? Isn’t that fanbloodytastic! (That’s Oz swearing guys).
February – Mississippi Louisiana Texas
We happened to see St Louis Mardi Gras parade because of our Oz/Alaska connection, and were able to catch up with them there for a lovely street parade in St Louis which was all about community.This town was in the path Katrina, the devastating cyclone that took, and wiped out so much of the coast. The scars are still very prominent with hundreds of bare blocks of land with For Sale signs that have obviously been on the market for years. Because they can’t be insured they don’t sell. All new buildings by have to be 26ft off the ground to get insurance!! Needless to say not many new buildings going up.
New Orleans for the very famous Mardi Gras was our next stop for 6 days. Every musician and band who has a gig in a bar on bourbon street are hugely talented. They play for tips only, so the form is that you can go and listen to some fabulous music, instrumental and vocal, and show your appreciation before you leave the venue.
We took a great walking tour which was all about the history of Jazz, and where things happened in the Old Town, and that was really informative. We met a new friend Kevin, who was an ex drummer and spent an enjoyable time with him, and as he had been many times before, we saw a lot more than we would have otherwise.
Of course we saw one of the big parades, which was great fun, and we collected more beads, which are thrown from the floats,and ate the little fried pastries called Beignets that New Orleans are famous for, all covered in icing sugar- Yum!
Although we loved New Orleans, when we arrived at a small town called Eunice, 5 days later after passing through the historic town of Lafayette, we really saw what regional Mardi Gras is about. It was fantastic ! The history of Mardi Gras is religious, and tied to the Roman Catholic religion. We arrived in Eunice on what’s called Fat Tuesday, which is the end of the Mardi Gras festivities, and the beginning of Lent is always the next day, so it happens on our shrove Tuesday.
All the costumes are handmade at home. The parade starts out in the countryside 24 hours before it hits town. It’s called ‘ doing the run’ .Lots of “mad” men on wild horses and fabulous Zaideco music (fiddle, washboard and accordion ), floats with people lurching around after consuming whatever they consume, very wobbly and exhausted, but very happy. Very much a family affair down to the little babies all dressed up in bright coloured costumes. A wonderful spectacle.
We are so glad it was suggested we go there; it was the essence of the whole thing, we thought. Eunice is considered to be the centre of Cajun and Zaideco music.
On the way in and out of Eunice it is extremely flat, and there are miles and miles of what look like rice paddies (no rice coming up tho). They are in fact crawfish farms; a very large industry here and you can buy fresh , cooked or frozen craws everywhere. Lot of work for a little bit of meat we thought.
Along the main town road were vendors selling traditional pork stew, and pork crackling which was so tasty!!!! Ian thought he’d died and gone to heaven, and said he should have been born in Louisiana.
Along the way we visited an old cotton plantation (Oak Alley Plantation) which has been totally restored. the main house is very traditional and beautiful. The slaves quarters have been rebuilt, and the tour was very good. Very sad.
We kept moving west towards Texas and stayed and both south and north Toledo Bend State parks, both on the Texas and Louisiana sides of the lake. At north Toledo there is a little fascinating shop on the way to the park. Chester’s shop it is called, and Chester is there in his rocking chair, grey beard and in his bib and brace overalls, with with his Choctaw wife Ione. The shop is full of EVERYTHING, and none of it dusted!
Must say the road which leads into the State Park is a disgrace, with miles of rubbish on both sides of the road. Such a shame, because the park is well cared for and beautiful.