Upon reaching Charleston , we visited the award winning South Carolina Aquarium. The classic sea and freshwater exhibits were ever so good, but the highlight for us was the hands on exhibits of sea urchins, horseshoe crabs, spider crabs and other aquatic creatures. We visited this exhibit twice. The special exhibit called UFO for Unbelievable Floating Objects was also great. It was filled with unusual aquatic organisms such as cuttlefish and leafy sea dragons.
After we exited the aquarium, we sat on the Charleston harbor watching the trans Atlantic freighter Yuguhe from Panama load and get tugged off the loading dock. The ship held 17 rows of truck trailer from end to end. After being loaded, the tugboat, Elizabeth Turncamp, turned the ship and it moved out of the harbor. We also saw dolphins swimming out in the harbor.
As the day turned to night, we went a short distance from the historic district to our motel along the peninsula. The vista from the 10th floor was great. We had an impressive view over the Ashley River , Brittlebank Park , and a minor league baseball ballpark. We watched the boats navigate the river and a baseball game as the sun moved below the horizon.
After a good night at the Charleston Riverside, we picked up some breakfast then ate a breakfast picnic at Aquarium Wharf , a picturesque riverside park. We then walked over to the Fort Sumter visitor’s center and waited for our riverboat tour of the Charleston harbor that included a trip to Fort Sumter . While we waited to board the boat, we were entertained by a fisherman along the wharf catching what looked like a 15-pound redfish.
The sightseeing yacht ride was pleasant. We had a good panoramic view tour of the coastline and the guide described many of the sights. The talk focused on the military places of interest and importance of each site in American history.
Fort Sumter was a great site to visit. After an informative 15-minute introduction to the fort and its place in history by the National Park Service, we were on the grounds there for an hour, but the time passed by very quickly. We could have easily spent twice that amount of time on the site where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. The voyage back took about half an hour and included additional historic district information presented as we traveled along.
Our next stop was lunch at a Charleston mainstay, Jestine’s Kitchen. The food was fantastic. We first discovered this place on the Food network. It was featured on the show “The Best Of.” It specializes in low country favorites and home-style cooking. I highly recommend it.
Next, we took a walking tour of the historic district that had been recommended by AAA. We spent a good half-day taking the walking tour that gave us the ability to explore the city as we wanted. We visited well-preserved Charleston homes, Antebellum mansions, famous churches, museums, municipal buildings, handsome courtyard gardens and lovely views at every turn. Due to the lot sizes of Charleston , the narrow houses are frequently one room wide with a porch running the length of the house. The porch, which faces either south or west to catch the prevailing breeze, is referred to as the piazza.
We visited St. Michael’s Church where George Washington and Robert E. Lee worshipped. Presidents of the Continental Congress (Henry Laurens & Henry Middleton) and a signer of the Declaration of Independence (Thomas Heyward) are buried at this the oldest church in Charleston . The famous 186-foot steeple and bells of this church were matched in beauty by the old fashion pews and pulpit.
At the tip of the peninsula, we strolled along the park-like " Battery at the Harbor” There is a good view of Fort Sumter and Rainbow Row from here. On The Battery and adjoining East Bay Street , we looked upon the restored houses and gardens of the rich eighteenth and nineteenth century planters and shippers. We took time to read the plaques on the walls of celebrated houses that tell their stories. These stories were filled with a wealth of Colonial facts, military exploits, ghosts tales, Gullah narratives, and pirate legends. Stede Bonnet was one of many pirates who were hanged along these former gallows.
Soon after the midpoint of our walking tour, we took a guided tour of the Edmondston-Alston house, a “mansion-house” set in beautiful gardens. It was here that we were introduced to the traditional Charleston “Jogggling” board. The Three story Greek revival house is still lived in by Alston descendents. Furnished with antiques of the period, the house museum was a great walk back in time.
At the end of the Battery and the tip of the peninsula, we took our time at White Point Gardens . This waterfront park is a great place for relaxing on the park benches that overlook beautiful harbor views, impressive statuary, and dramatic fountains.
By the end of our tour, we found that to really appreciate Charleston , you must walk its streets. For the past comes alive as you walk along quaint cobblestone streets lined with antebellum homes and hear the stories of those who founded Charleston . That evening we watched the sun go down on the river and discovered another River Dogs ballgame that night at the “Joe”, Joseph P Riley Jr Park.
After a good breakfast, we set out over the remarkable Cooper river bridges to Mount Pleasant .
During the last half of the past century, the humped, picture-postcard 2.7-mile bridges have become a defining landmark. Generations can remember their horror at driving for the first time over the narrow, rusty, roller coaster Grace Bridge , which opened in 1929.
Some travelers refuse to go near the two-lane roadway, each lane a mere 10 feet wide and offering clear views of the waters below, carries traffic in both directions, as high as 150 feet above the river. It gives motorists an impressive birds-eye view of the city _ at least for those who dare to look. One woman claims that she could get across it only under a blanket in the backseat while her husband carefully navigates its high, roller-coaster spans.
As traffic and growth increased dramatically, the limitations of the bridge became more obvious. In 1966, a new span the three-lane Silas Pearman Bridge , built to higher standards and lacking the dangerous thrills on the initial bridge became the second span over the Cooper River .
Now, nearly 40 years later, work has started on a third bridge, eight lanes, which will eclipse both its predecessors and lead to the dismantling of the old span. When completed the new bridge is going to the longest cable-stayed span in North America. The design incorporates latest earthquake resistant features. Concrete towers 573 feet above the water surface constitute the pylons and the bridge will have eight traffic lanes with a vertical clearance for ships.
This construction will replace the existing U.S. Route 17 John P. Grace Memorial and Silas N. Pearman bridges with a 3.1-mile-long highway bridge linking Charleston and Mount Pleasant, S.C. During our three trips across the older Cooper River bridges, we found the partially completed replacement bridge to be impressive.
Once in Mt Pleasant, we visited Patriot’s Point Naval museum. The exhibits included the carrier USS Yorktown, the Congressional Medal of Honor museum, a navy destroyer, a coast guard cutter, and a submarine. We spent most of our time on the Yorktown. We climbed deck to deck as we toured. We learned much about life on a carrier such as the intricacies of the boiler room and the recipe for 10,000 cookies at the mess hall.
Next we took a short ride to “Savannah beach” also know as Tybee Island. Tybee is a Euchee, Native American, word meaning salt. East of Savannah, Tybee Island is a playground of windswept white sand beaches. The Tybee Lighthouse, dating from 1773, is the oldest and tallest in Georgia. The panoramic view from the top is worth the climb of 178 steps. The museum at adjacent Fort Screven, a coastal artillery battery, features exhibits and photographs detailing Tybee’s past.
Next, we set out to enjoy the sandy beaches of the barrier island. These same beaches were the site of 1996 Olympic Volleyball. When dipping our feet in the Atlantic Ocean, we found it was a little cooler than the gulf waters. The beach experience added a great change of pace to our day at Tybee. After a long walk on the beach, we had a good meal at the Crab Shack. This is a Savannah “must see.” While at the restaurant, we found the seafood fresh and the entertainment value of feeding alligators.
This Savannah morning we began our tour of the largest historic and Victorian districts in America. In 1732 James Oglethorpe founded Georgia in Savannah, he set it up as a second chance utopia for debtors in prison. Today, Oglethorpe still influences Savannah. At the visitors center we discovered that Oglethorpe laid out Savannah around twenty-four cobblestone squares. The tree-shaded squares with their gardens and walkways are fantastic. Do you remember Forrest Gump sitting on the bench in Chippewa Square? Among films with Savannah scenes are “Glory,” “The General’s Daughter,” “The Legend of Baggar Vance” and “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”
The visitors center and Savannah Museum is Located in the 1860 Central of Georgia Railroad Building, this museum chronicles the past of Savannah through exhibits and videos. Walking, driving, or carriage tours are booked here.
Outside of the visitor’s center, we booked a tour of Savannah. The Grey-line tour guided us through the 2.5-square-mile National Historic Landmark District and the Victorian District. Our tour guide drove us around the district's beautiful squares, where they will we viewed many of the district’s 1,700 restored homes. As we traveled, our guide, Clint, told us of famous occurrences, city rumors, notable facts, and Savannaians stories.
In addition to the tree-shaded squares, adorned with banks of azaleas, lawns and monuments, Savannah includes many fine old churches, interesting shops and restaurants, and carefully restored houses on streets lined with huge trees.
In Savannah, “The Book” is often mentioned. The Book is Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, written by John Berendt. It is a chronicle, description and exposé of Savannah. It is an account of the resurrection of historic Savannah after the 1950s, but it also reveals the seamier life of modern Savannah in the shadows. Savannahians seem to love it, for both reasons.
We had listened to The Book and had seen the movie based on it, and we visited some of locales that figured in the story. We saw the restored Mercer House that figures in The Book and to a greater extent in the movie. The Italianate mansion is not open for tours, but the “haunted” home of Jim Williams was a wonderful site to behold.
After the guided tour, we walked the squares and streets of this interesting city. The squares are filled with giant parterre gardens, iron scrollwork, and ancient live oaks bearded with Spanish moss. The center of each square bronze statuary of Colonial heroes or relaxing fountains draw you in. Savannah remains a walker’s city, an aesthetic, unforgettable example of our Colonial past.
We toured the Juliette Gordon Low's Birthplace. This Victorian house once served as the home of the founder of the Girl Scouts and now is a tribute to her life's work. Our tour guide at “the Birthplace” was great. She really took the time to make the house come alive and to relate the stories behind every piece of furniture.
We also toured the Owens-Thomas House, reputedly the best example of English Regency style in the U.S. Built in 1816-1819, it still contains some original furnishings of the Thomas family. Interestingly, there were curved walls inside and out. The dinning room even has doors bowed to the curve of the walls. The upstairs has an arched bridge between the front and back parts of the house. The gardens were really beautiful. Just across the formal garden in front of the house, we visited the Owens-Thomas House Urban Slave Quarters. This unique structure displays items that were made and used by slaves.
Interestingly, there were curved walls inside and out. The dinning room even has doors bowed to the curve of the walls. The upstairs has an arched bridge between the front and back parts of the house.
The gardens were really beautiful. Just across the formal garden in front of the house, we visited the Owens-Thomas House Urban Slave Quarters. This unique structure displays items that were made and used by slaves.
We walked by the Second African Baptist Church, founded in the early nineteenth century. Martin Luther King preached his “I have a dream” sermon here, repeated later in Washington. Almost a century before, General Sherman had read the Emancipation Proclamation to Savannahians on the church steps.
John Wesley, founder of Methodism, preached at Christ Church on Bull Street. Wesley is believed to have established the first Sunday school in America at this home of Georgia’s first congregation. The famous rider Paul Revere cast the church’s bells.
We did not neglect to investigate some of Savannah’s notable eateries. We visited Nita’s place for lunch. The buffet has been featured in Southern Living magazine. Dish after dish of good southern cooking were on the menu: chicken, pot roast, mac & cheese, black-eyed peas, cabbage, etc..overseen by Nita herself. We liked Vinnie Van Go Go’s a local pizzeria cafe. The food was great and the view overlooking a beautiful square was relaxing.
Savannah Candy Kitchen featured on the food networks $40.00 a day was a great place to stop.There were all kinds of candies from everyone’s childhood too – we felt like kids. Candy of all sorts was in store and pralines made before your eyes. In fact, we went back twice for the samples
We stopped on River Street to check out the boats, galleries and gift shops. The road itself was made mostly of cobble stone and "tabby" which is a lime, sand, and oyster shells compound. Not the easiest to walk on.
River Street is filled with shops, restaurants and pubs that are housed in former cotton warehouses. In the storefronts, we saw the work of neighborhood artists and visted some knick-knacky shops.
At one end of the street, we saw the statue of the Waving Girl. The statue depicts Florence Martus, 1869-1943, who for forty-six years waved to ships coming into Savannah Harbor. When the captain of the ship carrying the statue to Savannah learned the identification of his cargo, he refused to accept pay for the passage. He remembered with fondness Florence’s faithful welcomes.
A ghostly rumor claims she still appears today on occasion to welcome ships home. This is one of many hauntings rumored in Savannah.
This morning, we took a morning dip in the pool and whirlpool before setting out for Fort Pulaski. The military stronghold just outside of Savannah was amazing. Fort Pulaski was constructed on Cockspur Island by the United States government in the early nineteenth century, one of a series of forts along the Atlantic seaboard. Robert E Lee was an engineer of this fortification. In 1861, at the outbreak of the Civil War, Confederates seized the fort. Union forces regained the fort the following year after a brutal bombardment. We actually saw some of the Union cannonballs that are still lodged in the fort’s walls. The mullet jumping in the moat adds to the fun at this well-maintained National Park Service site.
Later, we traveled across the state of Georgia to Columbus Ga. This evening we did some shopping. This weekend was TAX FREE weekend in Georgia. This was tailor made for back-to-school shopping. We paid no sales tax on clothes. Cool
This day was spent with family. We took a short drive up to Martin Lake to visit Dad & Mom. They were beginning a week at a house overlooking the lake. We spent all day swimming, relaxing and visiting with rest of the family. That evening we ate heartily at a restaurant on the Lake.