Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Road Trip 3: Darien and a Daring Actress

Onwards and upwards...

.....to Darien, Georgia, an interesting small town on the coast. The little church is called St Cyprian's. I would have thought that would be an odd name to find in the Bible Belt South.

Turns out the little Episcopal church was built for former slaves and named for St Cyprian of Carthage, an early African martyr. The structure is built of tabby, a type of concrete made with oyster shells, which we were to see more of. I had never thought beyond tabby cats - you learn something new every day!
  And here were more of the old live oaks  festooned with Spanish moss, some of my favourite features of the South.

The town's tourist information centre was housed in an old jail.

Yes, complete with cells. I wonder if the bars were that pretty blue colour before it was repurposed.

The little museum was full of the unexpected. There was a surprising connection to Fanny Kemble, the 19th century British actress.

She was married to an American for a while, in the 1830s, a chap called Butler (any relation to Rhett?) whose family owned some plantations near Darien, with all that that entailed. When Fanny finally got to visit them, she was shocked by the conditions in which the slaves were kept. Like a lot of modern actresses she became an activist, had some full and frank conversations with hubby, who was also having a few bits on the side and got shot of him, possibly a wise move.
  Another museum artefact was this vintage soda fountain.

Interestingly, a century or so before Fanny's bad experience, the citizens of Darien had petitioned the British colonial governor against slavery. Their reasons weren't all honourable - for one thing they thought hanging onto the slaves and guarding them would be too expensive - but they're proud of it all the same.

And here was a Nativa-Gloo (their words). It was for sale, 200 dollars or best offer. Unfortunately sister-in-law's car was too full already.

Nearby was Fort King George, where the Brits first tried to establish a garrison in 1721, Unfortunately the guide in the gift shop told us all the soldiers died of disease before ever seeing action. Perhaps the local flying citizenry had something to do with it.

Though the gift shop was doing well out of the British connection. (Is that Basil Brush? Remember him?)

Unfortunately we didn't have time to do a tour of the fort but hope to be back. That's the trouble with road trips - you're always having to get on the road again.

To be continued.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Road Trip Part 2: Whisky Galore!

Our first stop was St Augustine, Florida, the oldest town, allegedly, in the United States.

Yes, contrary to popular opinion, the first Thanksgiving was actually here, in 1565. Except that the intrepid colonists were Catholics and spoke Spanish. History favoured the Pilgrim Fathers, some 60 years later and up north in Massachusetts. They spoke English so they're the ones most people learn about. At least they were the ones we learned about when I was at school in Britain. They did make for a good story though.

 St Augustine's fort of Castillo de San Marcos..

..came a little later, in the 17th century. It was attacked by the English (not technically British for another 5 years) in 1702. They were repulsed.  Not such a good story.
  I'd been to St Augustine before and found the old parts fascinating but saturated with tourists. Just like the Cotswolds. I did have my first taste of key lime pie there, though and it's still the best one I've ever had.
  This time sister-in-law and I were after a different kind of refreshment.

St Augustine has a distillery and you can do the tour. It's a co-operative, using local ingredients like sugar cane and citrus and based in an old ice plant. I liked the instructions on the packing boxes.

Sensible for people with bad backs. Don't try shifting those barrels though.

Our guide mixed up samples of various cocktails

Using their own whisky, gin and vodka and special mixes.

First you need to crush your ice


And copper is the best thing to drink it out of to make sure it stays nice and cold.

And then it was tasting time!

Sadly the downside of visiting a distillery on a road trip is that one of you has to drive.

More to follow.....

Monday, May 13, 2019

WNY Spring - Better Late Than Never!

 Dateline: Cattaraugus County, western New York State

  Apologies for such a long absence, due to travels and a bad cold. But let's get on with it and before I tell you more about the road trip, here's a taste of spring in western New York. It seems a long time since I've been here but the lake at the top of the lane is still there.

 Somebody, though, has been through a traumatic experience.

I do hope the disfigurement is only temporary.

 Meanwhile we have had rain, rain and more rain. The garden is a squelchy swamp. It must have been a very hard winter. The deer have eaten all the rhododendrons, the bits of the sumac tree the lightning didn't get fell down in a storm, but a few daffodils (yes, British friends, daffodils in mid-May!) are hanging in there. 

 And the tulips, if you don't look too closely at the dandelions around them, (it seems to be a sensational spring for dandelions - I'd love to know what they're on..)

are glorious.

More to follow soon!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Road Trip Part 1: Hitting the Road North

As sister-in-law and I headed out of Venice (stopping at Black Gold, our favourite coffee place first) we had the usual springtime accompaniment of snowbirds going north. On they ploughed in great hordes up Interstates 75 and 95, with their caravans and cars and canoes, all tenuously held together.

I realised how much I was going to miss the flat country and felt some trepidation about heading to where winter was probably still in progress and spring barely a hint in the woods. "We're expecting two inches on Saturday" said hubby, who was flying north before me. And he didn't mean rain. But there was always the prospect of new little towns and artisan coffee shops and the challenge of avoiding the chain restaurants. Our first stop claimed to be the oldest city in the United States. More on that shortly. The blog has further travels to fit in in the next few days but watch this space.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Farewell Blustery Beach

Dateline: Golden Beach, Venice, Florida (but sadly not for long)

On Easter weekend the surf was up and the beach was blustery.

 The clouds scudded

And the sea churned

 An ominous grey colour. A couple appeared, hopefully, with rolled up towels but soon changed their minds. It wasn't a day for swimming.

The tide was rushing and roiling, devouring half the beach. A buffeted great egret flew overhead. Still it hasn't made it easier to say goodbye as the blog heads north on another road trip. As always, who knows what the next few days will bring.
See you in a week or so, in very different spring surroundings. Until then, watch this space...

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Look Who's Here!


Frankie Comes Through for Easter

I had been on tenterhooks. Would Frankie the Frangipani flower before I left?  A few weeks ago, things started getting hopeful.

 Slowly, slowly I was seeing some progress.

And then just in time ..

The blooms sprouted as if by magic from what in the winter looked like dead deer antlers. Another of Nature's Easter messages. They are so exotic it's ridiculous, the waxy blooms that make up those Hawaian garlands and grace the ears of countless B movie stars. To top it all, they're suffused with a heady, almost artificial perfume that would belong at the Walmart cheap air freshener counter if it didn't come straight from the flower and thus be, well, just glorious.

Happy Easter!