After the last few days in cities, we are now moving into country areas with the suburbia of DC making way to masses and masses of trees on the roads to Woodstock, Shenandoah for an overnight prior to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Check in early, dinner at Sal’s Italian in nearby Edinburg – just chosen for the name but, as it turns out, possibly the best meal we have had so far. Mel sends e-mail, her car has a flat battery!
Summer time over and clocks back an hour but winter nowhere to be seen, blue sky all around. HIE we stayed in was very clean with a fully stocked breakfast following a quiet comfortable night. 1st stop after Check out is Walmart for a few goodies but not the guns that they have on sale here although lots of locals had other ideas!
Head for Luray via Fort Road at Edinburg; a wonderful road full of interesting twists, turns, houses and some coloured (although past their best) leaves but with views to die for.
Eventually manage to get onto Skyline Drive at it’s junction with the 211 and follow with even better views south towards Waynesboro. Stop at Skyland “service area” for a wonderful lunch overlooking the valley towards West Virginia. Absolutely wonderful views with trees for miles changing colours although probably past it’s best as they are a bit wind affected.
Get off Skyline Drive and head for Charlottesville and Lynchburg, our next overnight.
Lots of light industry by the side of the road but more undulating hills rather than the mountains.
Lynchburg not a particularly inspiring city from our first viewings but the hotel is comfortable albeit not well populated. Hotel has a Peruvian themed restaurant, dinner good.
Outskirts of Lynchburg better than what we saw yesterday with some nice houses and also a few red leafed trees.
Head for The Natural Bridge, a natural archway that is stated as being taller than Niagara Falls.
Walk up, underneath bridge and on past the Lost River (we saw it but no one knows where it comes from or goes to) to the waterfalls that shed water from the plain above into the James River.
See a couple of wild turkeys grazing by the river completely oblivious to us humans.
Back past another Bedford to stop at a shopping mall, nothing interesting here! Dinner in an Olive Garden with a student waitress (Sarah Lynn from Ohio) who was much more interested in what we had been doing than many others have been, thank you.
Travel day along some interesting roads that get us eventually to the Blue Ridge Parkway at Fancy Gap. The drive along Virginia’s 860 (or 680) for 7 miles was particularly good, showing a few reclusive shacks and virtually no other traffic.
Follow Blue Ridge Parkway for a number of miles, forgoing lunch but stopping for photos in many places. The views from some of the lay-bys (most over 3400 ft) are breathtaking even if the weather is a bit cloudy. Sadly, most of the colour has now gone in the trees and we are left with rusty browns and yellows.
Reach Blowing Rock and find hotel which is amid major roadworks and a bit worrying as to whether we will have a restful night. Meal at a local Outback and it is so noticeable that the twang of the local dialect is more Southern Country rather than E Coast city. We are of course really only about 20 or so miles from Tennessee. Thankfully, no noise overnight from the roadworks.
Foggy!!! Our first inclement weather day so retail therapy is called for. Fog clears mid morning by which time we had reached Boone, a typical American town but now with locals who speak with a Southern twang. Boone is a University town so is quieter in late June to early September but in early November is vibrant and full of youngsters.
Had heard that Hob Nob Cafe was good, but unfortunately it was closed so resorted to Panera Bread for lunch. Clear blue sky now so head for Grandfather Mountain. Entrance to the park includes a CD provided as part of the admission price ($30) which is a neat way of explaining the history, the nature and environment as you drive up the mountain.
Walk over swinging bridge to other side and on upwards another 100 or so ft. to top of mountain.
I have never experienced the top of a mountain so still.
Wonderful panoramic views and fantastic for contemplation at over 5300 ft. The adjacent mountain had cloud intermittently swirling so why there was no wind was quite remarkable. Started chatting to three siblings all in their 50s who were running around like school kids.
Drop down to the animal area and watch a bear mooching around, a couple of bald eagles and an otter doing somersaults. On way down, see a few deer but no “wild” bears.
Dinner at Six Pence Pub in old town Blowing Rock which was good.
The town is quaint and with lots to see by way of shops, statues and museums although we have to move on tomorrow. We will have to be back.
A long drive today from the NW corner of North Carolina to the SE corner of South Carolina, mostly on Interstate but some state roads past typical American non-descript towns most of which have the ubiquitous gun shops and pawn shops.
A dramatic change on the way as we leave the Blue Ridge mountains area at about 45F and head for the lowlands of S Carolina at about 70F.
Some scary driving moments in the 287 miles but arrive in one piece and collapse in the comfy Crowne Plaza just outside Charleston. Dinner in the Sweetgrass restaurant in the hotel.
Drive to the waterfront in Charleston, parking difficult but locate something and walk past many grand waterfront houses, some of which are single occupancy houses and others converted to hotels and guest houses.
Take a tour around the Edmondston-Alston House on the waterfront for half an hour. The artwork and other items inside this, one of the oldest houses in Charleston and one where, supposedly, the first shot fired in the Civil War was watched from, is quite something, especially the piano and the cutlery carrier. To be recommended but no photos allowed inside.
A quick drive over the impressive Mark Clark Expressway bridge to Mt Pleasant for a 2 hour Segway tour. Our guide was very thorough with his safety instructions and after 10 minutes or so we went off around old town Mt Pleasant, just Sal and I and the instructor with the first stop adjacent to some sweetgrass plants.
The old town is oozing character with some expensive housing and hardly anything out of place in the yards. I doubt if many coming to Charleston would know of the existence of this place let alone come here to visit – their loss!
A full history lesson was expertly given detailing many of the events surrounding the early settlers, showing us some of the important houses of the time, the British involvement, the Civil War, the splitting of Carolina into North and South and the seceding of South Carolina from the Union in 1860.
We overrun our two hours and head off to a cafe in Pitt street, Mount Pleasant for a very belated lunch followed by a ride around some of the back streets of Charleston and a sort of tea/dinner at the local Panera Bread.
Some wonderful houses and with lights on we were able to see inside a few from the road. Many houses have a couple of outside gas lamps burning, a quaint sight and not at all what you would expect from any American city.
Drive to Drayton House on our way out of Charleston south towards Savannah. Drayton House is the country’s oldest surviving un-restored plantation house just outside Charleston.
A long drive up to what is akin to a stately home in sumptuous grounds.
After a walk around the river fronted grounds, take tour around the building with a guide who is obviously passionate about preservation.
The house has virtually no furniture but is a preservation work in progress rather than a restoration.
Original paintwork from the late 1700s is still on the walls and there are some original floorboards, banisters and ceiling plaster. An excellent way to spend a morning although how the initial occupants coped with the summer’s soaring heat, the midges and other wildlife, who knows!
Onwards to our last hotel pre Orlando, a Candlewood suites just outside Savannah. Our research had let us down as it had been the Savannah Marathon earlier that day which is why we could not get a hotel in town.
As an additional consequence, everywhere was ultra crowded with nowhere to park. Maybe just a night was, in the circumstances, just about right.
Drive around the downtown squares to see some of the houses which are as good as they were in Charleston, many of which had, as it was now getting towards dusk, gas lamps as outside lights like Charleston yesterday. Very atmospheric.
This city though has a centre, like a British town centre but there was nowhere to park.
Dinner in an out of town Applebee’s, much better than the last one we went in and avoids all the crowds and probable waiting at in-town eateries.
Off tomorrow all the way down the I-95 and I-4 to Orlando.