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Charleston, South Carolina in April 2011
From Friday, Apr. 15th, 2011 till Monday, Apr. 25th, 2011
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on Oct. 14th, 2011, modified Saturday, Oct. 15th, 2011 at 4:58 AM
Click on the city names in the calendar to see our blog for the day.

Friday, Apr. 15th, 2011 — Charlottesville, VA
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on Apr. 17th, 2011, modified Saturday, Oct. 15th, 2011 at 4:58 AM
Click on the city names in the calendar to see our blog for the day.



Visited Monticello.

We stayed at the James River Inn. Walt, the proprietor, was a real character. The Inn is super isolated, at the end of a mile long gravel road that took us up hills and valleys and ended in the woods next to the James River. The rooms were clean and rustic. We were the only guests.

We ate dinner at Lumpkin’s Restaurant—locals only. The food was ultra simple but tasty if you choose carefully and avoided items that came out of a can. We both had fried chicken. The “special” of the night was lasagna. We wondered what lasagna from Virginia was like.

We woke up to a raining morning.
Saturday, Apr. 16th, 2011 — Myrtle Beach, SC
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on Apr. 19th, 2011, modified Tuesday, May. 24th, 2011 at 2:41 PM
We woke up to a rainy morning. We had an early breakfast and got on our way. As we drove the rain quickly turned to drizzle and then faded, but the sky remained quite overcast. Then the wind picked up, blowing us around a bit.

We drove from Virginia through North Carolina into South Carolina. While Virginia was soggy, and the James River was overflowing, North Carolina was quite parched. We drove through dust storms as if we were in the Sahara, with the dust blocking our view.

Apparently, some of these dust storms were more violent than they appeared to us. On the Myrtle Beach TV news, at our destination, we heard that dozens of tornadoes had occurred. Some of these had touched down and destroyed homes, a Lowes super store, and killed several people a few hours after we had passed through Raleigh, NC.

Barbara's brother Ronnie has been living and working in Myrtle Beach for the last six years. He fixed us up with a "comp" room at the Sand Dunes Resort where he works. We treated him to dinner at Mango's the hotel restaurant. A super simple menu, the food was still excellently prepared, so we enjoyed our dinner and conversation.
Sunday, Apr. 17th, 2011 — Charleston, SC
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on May. 24th, 2011, modified Tuesday, May. 24th, 2011 at 4:48 PM
For breakfast in Myrtle Beach, we ate at Akel's Family Restaurant, reputed to be the best breakfast place in town. Not too many people were up on Sunday, so the place was quiet. The breakfast was only ‘OK’.

On to Charleston, mostly on State Road 17, along the coast. As we approached Charleston, we saw many stands selling sea grass baskets. We probably should have checked them out as the baskets in town were quite expensive. A lot of labor goes into making them.

We had no problem finding the Kings Courtyard Inn, being on the main street, right in the heart of Charleston—a great location, convenient to everything. Leaving our bags there we ate lunch in the Old Towne Grill and Seafood, actually a Greek diner! It had a painting at each table, one of which was of a Psarra, a Greek fisherman. We believe that is the origin of the Pisarro name, taken up by the Arberesh on their way from Albania to Calabria by way of Greece in the 15th century.

In the afternoon we visited the old market area, seeing lots of stands. We bought a Brazilian agate and a fossil at a mineral store and eyed other items. Then we took a horse drawn carriage tour.

There are four tour “zones”. The zone we took passed by many of the older homes and less touristy places, which was nice. The tour guide, who was probably in his late twenties and well educated in Charleston history, filled us in with anecdotes of the various owners of the old houses. He said, "We used to hate you Yankees until you came down here spending your money and buying and fixing up our houses. Now we love you."

The historic preservation movement has taken Charleston, and Savannah too, by storm. They have an amazing amount of historic architecture. Preserving it not only keeps it for posterity but attracts a very large tourist industry catering to relatively educated people interested in its history. Both cities were more cosmopolitan than redneck.

After a nap, we ate 82 Queen for dinner. I had a barbecued duck, Barbara had soft shell crab—wonderful!
Monday, Apr. 18th, 2011 — Charleston, SC
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on May. 24th, 2011, modified Tuesday, May. 24th, 2011 at 4:49 PM
Today we decided to see Magnolia Plantation, a remnant of the Old South, and a few miles out of town. It was a beautiful day and flowers were in bloom. The house dated back to colonial times. The gardens were extensive and varied from orchids to swamps and walking trails.

On the way back we stopped at Crab House Restaurant in the Charleston suburbs. Given that a restaurant was called Crab House, we ate crab and tanked up on peanuts, which were in plentiful supply. Thanks again to Yelp! for finding it.

That evening we visited Josie and Noah, the parents of Reece, a recent former student of Barbara's who moved to Charleston in March. They traded their small house in Westport for a beautifully constructed foreclosed McMansion on the other side of the Charleston River across the new suspension bridge. We had a delightful dinner and enjoyed Reece’s inquisitive mind before exhaustion set in for all of us.
Tuesday, Apr. 19th, 2011 — Charleston, SC
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on May. 24th, 2011, modified Tuesday, May. 24th, 2011 at 4:53 PM
We visit Fort Sumter. Ferries leave from the dock next to the South Carolina Aquarium. We headed there on foot. It felt like it was going to be a warm day. It is pretty far out in the Charleston harbor, so we got a nice view of the skyline on the way there.

Fort Sumpter was basically a ruin, having been pretty well pummeled by both sides during the Civil War. It was then used as a shore gun emplacement during the World Wars in case of a German attack. The later guns were removed, but there were lots of 19th century cannon and a museum to visit.

Lunch was at Sermet’s Corner, a busy and trendy lunch place with some grand oils on the walls. We both had salads.

The afternoon was spent doing one of the AAA walking tours, by old houses, and visiting churches an cemeteries. Charleston has so many beautiful homes.

That evening we ate at Muse the best restaurant we found in Charleston. We promise ourselves to go back. Nick had sea bass, Barbara had shrimp and polenta. She asked the waiter about differences between polenta and grits. Basically one ground corn is gourmet food while the other ground corn is not.
Wednesday, Apr. 20th, 2011 — Charleston, SC
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on May. 24th, 2011, modified Tuesday, May. 24th, 2011 at 4:54 PM
Today was another walking tour day. In the morning we went on another AAA walking tour that brought us down to the harbor and the really large Charleston homes with views of Fort Sumter in the distance and cannon balls imbedded in their roofs.

We went on two house tours. The first one was of the Calhoun Mansion, in name only as the notable politician, John C. Calhoun had nothing to do with it. The current owner of the mansion still resides there and since the '60s has been filling it up with every curio imaginable—very Victorian. No photographs, inside, alas.

Then we bought a two-fer ticket for two houses. Today's 2nd visit was to the home of a wealthy merchant that had been extensively restored. We saved the other house tour for our last day.

Exhausted from all the walking, we headed back to the Inn to put our feet up. Then it was a low budget dinner at the The Pink Pig Bar & Q for some great southern barbecue. We feed the both of use for less than the cost of an entrée at a fancier place and took a doggy bag back to the Inn to boot.
Thursday, Apr. 21st, 2011 — Charleston, SC
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on May. 24th, 2011, modified Tuesday, May. 24th, 2011 at 4:55 PM
For the last full day in Charleston we decided to go see the South Carolina Aquarium and visit the 2nd home on our two-fer ticket on the way.

The Aiken-Rhett House, circa 1820, was actually the most interesting house we saw. It was preserved but not restored which means it was left in the original state that the last owners had left it in, dust and dirt and all. A fascinating part were the unrestored slave quarters and grounds in the back of the house. You could see how the slaves actually resided. City slaves had a much more comfortable existence than country slaves, being involved with mostly household service rather than working in the fields. Some were quite well treated, though they still lived a modest life at best.

The South Carolina Aquarium was a good change of pace. I got to take some photos of fish and captive seashore wild life including sea birds and pelicans.

We had a repeat dinner at Muse, this time upstairs—a catch of the day for Nick and crab cakes for Barbara. A thunderstorm on the way there presented a rainbow, arching over the sign of the restaurant.
Friday, Apr. 22nd, 2011 — Savannah, GA
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on Tuesday, May. 24th, 2011 at 7:19 AM
A very early start to head off to Savannah Georgia, to give us almost two full touring days there.

We arrived with the temperature in the high '80s. What is summer like here? — A lot more humidity.

Like Charleston, the historic preservation movement has taken Savannah be storm. Many of the homes and buildings were restored by the Savannah College of Art and Design or SCAD for short. With 60 or 70 students in the 70s, it now has a student body of thousands! One of the majors in historic preservation, so it provides funds and labor for much of the restoration work around town.

Savannah, another city with lots of history, has hop on, hop off Jitney tours. We sort of got roped into the biggest one with two house tours and a seafaring museum thrown in. It actually worked out well. The drivers bantered away with Savannah history and one was over-the-top humorous.

The first house on the tour was the Juliet Gordon Low house—the founder of the Girl Scouts. It was a well preserved, early 20th century mansion, with many memento's of her rather colorful life. Second was a merchant's home, much like in Charleston, and third was the Seafarer's Museum which was very well done and contained fantastic models of ships off all eras, scrimshaw and figureheads as well. It had an impressive model of the late, great, Titanic.

The Planter's Inn was spectacular, particular considering our room had been upgraded to a small queen suite, beautifully decorated.

Next door was The Olde Pink House, one of the best restaurants in Savannah. Also in a beautifully restored mansion, we were treated to first class service and definitely the best dinner on the trip. Very busy, we could only get a 5 P.M. reservation.

Afterwards we walked around Savannah, taking in its famous squares and stopping by The Lady & Sons, Paula Deen’s restaurant and gift shop. Paula presence was definitely felt around Savannah as she has done much to give it national attention. Another big Savannah name was songwriter Johnny Mercer. Savannah is a beautiful city to walk around at night after the heat of the day.
Saturday, Apr. 23rd, 2011 — Timmonsville, SC
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on May. 24th, 2011, modified Tuesday, May. 24th, 2011 at 4:56 PM
Before we took off for Timmonsville, we spent the morning visiting some of Savannah’s squares, admiring the trees draped in Spanish moss. We visited the big cemetery to inspect the graves of Savannah’s notable historical figures.

Then a lunch in a trendy luncheon place, in what looked like an old airplane hanger, and it was off to Timmonsville, straight up I-95.

Linda and Jack Milano, 2nd cousins of Barbara’s moved there from Pennsylvania a few years ago. They have a big piece of property that they’ve spent much time making their own. We enjoyed each other’s company and shared stories of mutual relatives. We stayed overnight before starting our return trip.
Sunday, Apr. 24th, 2011 — Baltimore, MA
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on May. 24th, 2011, modified Tuesday, May. 24th, 2011 at 4:57 PM
This was the longest stretch of driving on our trip. We started early, after a full breakfast served by the Milanos, and arrived in Baltimore by early evening.

Our hotel was at one side of the touristy port area, but a bit isolated. Rain had set in and it was Sunday evening, so we didn’t want to venture too far. Coincidently we were right next to Baltimore’s Little Italy. A consultation with Yelp! showed Aldo’s was nearby and had rave reviews. We weren’t psyched up for an upscale restaurant, but we got into the great food and chatty waiter who was winding down from Easter celebrations, without much difficulty. Barbara had Ossobuco, one of here favorites, and Nick had a Tuscan ribeye lubricated by some Prosecco.
Monday, Apr. 25th, 2011 — Home
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on Tuesday, May. 24th, 2011 at 3:58 PM
Before we headed out, we wandered around the renovated dock area, reading up on the history of Baltimore and Maryland. We paid our annoying hotel bill: They lowballed the room rate and made up for it with the parking fee. Anyway, the last stretch of driving was uneventful.

We had a another great trip!

We noted that we ran across fewer potholes in our whole trip south than we encounter on one trip to Stew Leonard’s in Norwalk.