Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Happy You-Know-What!

I haven't quite finished the road trip saga but in the meantime, good wishes to all my American friends for this nice, uncomplicated food-and- family fest that is Thanksgiving. (With apologies to the chaps in the photo at the top of the Blog, who are probably not celebrating. So I'd better not say it too loudly.)
  Somehow I associate the T holiday with cold weather, which is more appropriate for a gargantuan meal. But for us in Golden Beach it will be pushing 80 degrees (don't panic, Americans still do Fahrenheit. Good for them.)
  Lately we've had some lovely sunrises - this from our front door -

- though Thursday is expected to be a foggy morning, which is a bit more in keeping with the season.
And then of course it's Black Friday. I've noticed that Britain has adopted Black Friday with a vengeance, which seems a bit odd without the Thanksgiving bit beforehand.
  They might as well start the tradition, though what would be the equivalent? The first shipload of marauding Angles and Saxons getting befriended and feasted by the Ancient Britons? I don't think that's quite how the story went.
  Meanwhile on the beach..

"Call me a party pooper, but I'm with the gobbler lads on this one. I'll be at work as usual".
  For the rest of you, have a happy and relaxing day!

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Road Trip 4: Hot Cheese Danish and Hunting Prints

Over the road trip years, sister-in-law and I have stayed in just about every sort of hotel you can imagine. The shabby old ones, the samey chains, or sometimes, when we're lucky, a memorable one-off place like the Inn on the Square in Greenwood, South Carolina. 
  The Inn appeared to have an  eclectic mix of guests...

  ...cleverly introducing them to some potential customers.

  The undertakers seemed to be keeping themselves to themselves - sharing some grave news perhaps - but a pharmacists' convention was in full swing in the restaurant, so we were sent to eat dinner in the bar, which proved to be charmingly decorated with English-style hunting prints and had a friendly barman who mixed a mean cocktail and chatted to sister-in-law about the exorbitant price of football tickets. I could find common ground there. The hotel looked venerable but was only 60 years old. 
  Breakfast at the Inn was All Included with old-fashioned sit-down service.  Sister-in-law raved about the grits.  I stuck with a South Carolina approximation of a Full English.
  It was raining as we drove into Georgia. Past some near-derelict villages and pretty, peeling houses and a Confederate flag with "Redneck" proudly emblazoned on it, we found a town called Hazlehurst (a moniker that would have been at home in the Home Counties) and another of our interesting cafes.  This one, well-hidden behind two doors in an otherwise empty new building, looked startlingly modern and was called Mocha on Main. Even though it wasn't on Main. Perhaps the name just sounded good. We were the only customers. A young girl with a sweet Southern accent amply punctuated with "Yes Ma'am"s served us lattes and a hot cheese Danish and asked us very politely where we were from. She meant me of course. I could never go undercover here.
  Then we were off again, barreling southwards towards Florida

Along with the great boat migration. It was that time of year.

To be continued

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Road Trip 3: Trains, Shrimps and Grits

Here was another scenic overlook 

To make the most of.

We stayed the night in Blacksburg, home of Virginia Tech, sadly the site of a particularly bad campus mass shooting a few years ago. But today all was sunny, the campus looked cheerful, a new generation of students going about their business - including a bunch of military cadets marching along.
  Then it was on to North Carolina, where, in Yadkinville, we found another good coffee shop, a tiny hole-in-the-wall place called Jarro, apparently the name of a Mexican coffee mug. The coffee was good but even better were the small "cheesecake tarts". They were absolutely delicious and, surprisingly for America, there wasn't even a hint of cinnamon. That made me very happy I can tell you. Along with air-conditioning, cinnamon is one of those things Americans do far too much of.
 We passed landscapes smothered in predatory kudzu vines - you could just see the shapes of swallowed trees and bushes under the green mass - like something from the Day of the Triffids. We passed the Weeping Mary Baptist Church. That intrigued me. Could it find common ground with the Catholic Our Lady of Sorrows?
  Our lunch pitstop was a town called Hickory.

The old railway station had been converted into a restaurant where I indulged in my favourite North Carolina dish, shrimp and grits. The grits were different - crunchy on the outside and laid out in the shape of an anchor. They were pretty good. I used to think of grits as something like the stuff Oliver Twist asked for more of - and in cheapo diners that's exactly what they taste like but served in an interesting way they can be very tasty.

Along with the restaurant there was a liquor store and a deli, where, wonder of wonders, they sold Tomme, a cheese I've only ever seen before in central France, where it's used to make one of hubby's favourite dishes, aligot (ie mashed potatoes and gloopy cheese.) This Tomme had actually come from Georgia but I bought some all the same. (Flash forward: the aligot, when I got round to making it, really  hit the spot). In Hickory they also brew their own beer. It's always unfortunate to come across places like that at lunchtime when you still have to drive.

And wonder of wonders Mark 2, Hickory still had trains!

Well freight trains but they were better than nothing. Not quite such a trainspotting paradise as Folkston, Georgia which we visited a few years ago but good enough.
  And there were other attractions.

Unfortunately we couldn't have time for everything.

To be continued.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Road Trip 2: Country Roads and Sausage Rolls

There's nothing like bowling through West Virginia when the leaves are turning and the sky's a bright blue. 

Especially after we'd munched on the American equivalent of a sausage roll - not quite our flaky, greasy sort but pepperoni and Swiss cheese baked into a bread roll - apparently a West Virginia specialty. A bit like the Cornish pasty idea, miners found it handy to carry to work. We washed it down with some pretty good coffee. The little cafe in Grafton was called Espresso Yourself and I definitely recommend it. They had cookie dough ice cream too, an American delicacy a teenage  relative recently introduced me to. Gorgeously decadent to have it for breakfast.

One thing we've noticed more and more on our backroads trips - small one-off cafes often run by eager young people and with interesting names. It's much more fun seeking them out than lazily heading for Starbucks. Of course with Tripadvisor and such it's got a lot easier to find them.
 Admittedly parts of West Virginia look a little sad.

A lad we talked to in the cafe thought things were slightly better under the current President but wouldn't commit himself. On previous trips we'd met people desperate to keep the mines going. "Without us New York City would go dark", one had said confidently. Certain New York City residents should spend time here - a world away from their pampered lives.
  Later we encountered a mysterious cabin in the woods.

"Mud Duck Cavers". Sorry we didn't have time to check them out.

 We spotted a sculpture.

The sign said "Haywire Flyer Scrap Metal Art."

There were bridges and stony babbling brooks.

 And spectacularly winding mountain roads. Rather a lot of them. "We'll miss this when we're in Florida", I said, "better make the most of it."  Sister-in-law, who was driving, gritted her teeth.

 As usual with gorgeous views you can never find the right place to pull off for a photo stop. You see a likely one, yell "Stop, stop!" but it's invariably too late. This one was a bit of all right though.

Lunch was in Lewisburg,  a little olde English, a little touristy,

And very pretty.

One of those places full of art galleries and loud lunching ladies.It was possibly a destination for people staying at the posh resort of  Greenbrier of blessed memory, not far away. "Let's get a bit of the real West Virginia, what?"  It was a different world. 
To be continued.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Road Trip: The Home of Unspellable Phil

At last (as I take a break from the weeds for a while) some stories from the road trip south. Sister-in-law and I have seen a lot of Pennsylvania but we'd never actually stopped in Punxsutawney, which must be about the most unspellable town in America. You might know it from "Groundhog Day" as the place where a groundhog (or woodchuck, as it's called in western New York) predicts the weather. Each 2nd February, the rodent, or, presumably, a convincing double, is yanked out of its burrow and if it sees its shadow and runs back in, there will be six more weeks of bad weather. If it doesn't, there'll be an early spring. A bit like St Swithun's Day in Blighty, except we don't need a fat, furry animal to tell us it's raining. 
  The actual burrow is out of town and not the one pictured which is, I suspect, something to lure tourists. Likewise the groundhog outside.

The place must be buzzing every 2nd February. But this wasn't 2nd February and it was pretty darned quiet. Most of the townspeople  seemed to be having brunch in a local eatery. So we joined them

The made as much as they could of the groundhog motif. These were the floor tiles.

And there was a big cabinet of cuddly groundhog memorabilia. Breakfast wasn't half bad either - waffles, eggs and bacon. Thanks Phil.
to be continued