Archive for December, 2011

Charleston 2

A day of walking, eating, and touring historic buildings. Started on King St., the shopping district, all modern chain stores in lovely preserved historic buildings – watch battery died, and got it replaced with a boatload of efficiency and Southern charm at Joint Venture. Stopped to admire the Rutledge House Inn, built by John Rutledge (who signed the Declaration of Independence) in 1763. Walked around back to see the garden, and a staff member invited us inside. Stunning suites, beautifully restored.

Then we headed on to the old synagogue, Kahal Kodesh Beth Elohim, also claiming to be the oldest in the country. Wikipedia has a great discussion on, differentiating between oldest congregation, building, building in continual use, etc. KK Beth Elohim was founded in the 1740s (Sephardic Orthodox) and became the first Reform congregation in the US in 1824. The current Greek Revival building was built in the 1840s, and suffered some damage in the Civil War, earthquake, fires, hurricanes – the usual.

We then toured the Aiken-Rhett House, which has been preserved (i.e. original bits of wallpaper found under layers of paint, furniture, other artifacts found under layers of paint), followed by the Nathaniel Russell house which has been restored (with items similar to those of the period, but not original).

Ended with a lovely dinner at Hank’s Seafood.


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Charleston 1

1st full day in Charleston. Explored on our own, then took a carriage-ride tour with a tour guide as historic as the city. Fred Auld not only gave us the Charleston history, but the history of the Auld clan (including a founder of the freemasons). Followed that with the boat ride through Charleston Harbor to Fort Sumter, the site of the first shots in the Civil War. Poor Charleston – while Savannah was spared by Sherman, Charleston suffered one disaster after another. Many great fires (some churches we saw were the 4th or 5th on that spot), then shelled to smithereens by the Union troops. If it didn’t fall or burn in the war, it collapsed in the 1886 earthquake. They rebuilt, adding iron hurricane bolts you can still see to stabilize most buildings, keeping the historic charm. No building can be taller than the tallest church steeple, hence the nickname “Holy City.”  The view from the harbor is all steeples. Then came Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

For us, ribs for dinner, with 4 different sauces, at Sticky Fingers.

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Hilton Head to Charleston

Visited the Coastal Discovery Museum on Hilton, with salt marsh on one side and camelias in bloom on the other. Then hiked Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, between Hilton Head and the mainland. Followed that with a 1 hour drive north to Charleston – we stayed on Meeting Street, just around the corner from another historic synagogue. Walked to Hyman’s Seafood for a traditional dinner with boiled peanuts(!), shrimp & grits, while sitting at the table that Metallica sat at when they ate at Hyman’s. Celebrity photos on the wall, like at Pier 4, at a shellfish restaurant run for generations by a leading Jewish family, like Legal Seafoods. Hyman’s menu includes a Glatt Kosher dinner that will be prepared offsite by Chabad and brought to you at the restaurant! Followed with a night stroll around town, which couldn’t begin to give us the full flavor of the delights of Charleston.

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Hilton Head – 12/13/11

Strange place, Hilton Head island. It’s mainly a private shopping-malls-golf-courses-resort-condos enclave. With a light house. And if you find one of the 7 public parking lots, you can walk a boardwalk over the dunes to gorgeous beach. But we never found anything like the Cape Cod National Seashore, or any area where the public has an open view of ocean. The roads along the shore are completely overbuilt with hotels, resorts, and gorgeous (and smaller) houses on stilts. They do take pride in their environmental approach to development in the 50s/60s, preserving a lot of inland acreage for natural areas. Plus, the whole island stops for endangered loggerhead turtle nesting season – no streetlights, no houselights visible from the beach, because those little baby loggerheads hatch out of their nests on the beach and run like mad to the brightest horizon (usually the ocean). But that’s in the Spring.

We saw lots of birds – ibis on the golf courses, hawks overhead. And learned about native Indian and Gullah history.



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Savannah to Hilton Head-12/12/11

Rainy day. Drove around the squares we hadn’t seen yet. Toured Temple Mikveh Israel (oldest congregation, 1400s Torah, 1800s building). Toured Jepson Center contemporary art, Telfair Museum (where they’ve got the Midnight in the Garden “bird girl” statue under watchful eye. Headed out to visit Savannah Natural Wildlife Refuge and took the 4-mile nature drive around old rice fields – lots of birds, no gators. Reached Hilton Head in under an hour, stopped for beverages. Stayed at Park Lane Resort.   Dinner at Nick’s, under Steelers’ memorabilia.


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Savannah Sunday

Puritan kind of town. Nothing is open on Sunday morning – no museums, no historic homes. So we went outside. Started at Skidaway Island State Park, where the Park Ranger is from Mansfield, MA! Nice hike through salt marsh, saw palmetto palm trees,woods and the intracoastal waterway. From there, we stopped at the Bonaventure Cemeteray, with Jewish & Christian sections. Some fascinating monuments, including statue of a 6-yr-old named Gracie. Plus Johnny Mercer’s whole family, with some of his song lyrics on various headstones (‘My mama done told me’ on his mother’s grave). And a monument marking ashes of Holocaust victims.

By then Savannah had opened. Toured the Owens-Thomas House, designed by William Jay, with amazing details, like an interior bridge from the front to the back of the house. Then more houses, inside and out, more squares. Dinner at 17hundred90 – delicious, with a side of ghost stories (and flickering lights).

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Savannah 1

Savannah, GA – founded 1733 – laid out on a cliff over the Savannah River in a pattern of squares and street grids. Small plot sizes means foundations are too small to support skyscrapers. Lots of historic preservation. Very walkable. Interesting spin on their history, too. During the American Revolution, the British occupied and held Savannah, for months after the Brits surrendered to George Washington. During Civil War, General Sherman marched/burned his way through Georgia, reached Savannah on Christmas, left the city intact and offered it as a gift to President Lincoln. Locals are plenty proud of their history, and put a positive spin on all these losses.

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