Gracious Living and Other Things

Aside

Where did May go? This morning I went out sight seeing while my roommate got ready. I went into historic Beuafort, (there’s always a historic district in each town here) and looked at some of the antebellum homes. They aren’t the Biltmore, (but then nothing is quite like that 55 bedroom castle), but they were every bit as stunning. The symbols of gracious living amongst giant oak trees swathed in spanish moss. Broad verandas, sweeping staircases, windows on every level, probably for the breezes, and usually a gate of some sort around it, wrought iron or stone. Most of them with their backyards overlooking the salt marshes and river. I pictured sweet southern women in crinolines and corsets, drinking mint juleps, the men smoking cigars under giant fans.

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Not to be outdone, this house was one I spotted in Georgia

Bits and Pieces

Camo is big here in clothing lines. I actually saw a guy dressed in camo sweat pants and tee shirt. The tee shirt I get, the sweat pants? Complete with elastic at the ankle.

We are still in the Bible belt. Lots of different varieties of Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, and non-denominational churches, probably pentecostal. Little churches tucked away in a glade.

Have I complained about the heat yet? hmmmmm I don’t know how people live here. It’s pretty but I wouldn’t want to  go outside in the summer. And I’m an outdoors kind of girl.

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On Marine Graduations and Cemeteries

We went to the graduation of a few good men (the Marines) at Parris Island in south Carolina, this morning. When I stepped out of the hotel at 7:30 it was like walking into a wall of water. And they it isn’t that bad yet. I wouldn’t want to be there when it is, that’s for sure. To my Washingtonian (state not D.C.) sensibilities it is dang hot. At the graduation It was like having a hot flash the entire time. I can’t remember ever being so hot for so long. I felt for the guys standing at attention on the hot pavement in their long pants and shirts and hats. The little guide book they give you about the marines at Parris Island, it talks about being forged in a furnace etc. and I thought that term was accurate. It’s wonder they don’t have all heatstroke! Yes, it was hot but I was very proud to be an American, watching those young men, knowing how hard basic  training was, all for the job of protecting our nation. I was also very glad for all the support and love that the crowd gave them.

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Cemeteries

I have never seen so many cemeteries in my life. It seems like every town has at least 4-5 and possibly more than that in the backyards. some are very old, you can’t read many of the headstones, others are grand, like the Beaufort National Cemetery.  It is the only National cemetery in the country that has confederate soldiers buried in it. I saw a lot of headstones for men who died in just about every war, including WWl, WWll, Korean, and Vietnam. There were alot of older headstones that jus thad names or their name and usa or me. Not sure what that means but I’m assuming they are for the older wars. Possibly the Civil War. One of the cemeteries that I stopped at was called the Citizen’s Cemetery. Some of the names on the graves made me think that possibly these were for the slaves.

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From the Citizen’s CemeteryImage

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At the National Cemetery, not sure which war this represented.ImageThe National Cemetery

The Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina

This was an all day event for us. After entering the gate, you follow a lush, green winding road through the forest. I tried to imagine how it must have felt dressed in my finery, sitting in a horse drawn carriage, no, riding side saddle on a fine Tennessee Walker, trotting through the glade. It must have been such an honor to receive an invitation to stay with the Vanderbilts at their new country house. I’m sure it was the talk of the town.

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The Vanderbilt’s money came from steam ships among other things. They were one of the, if not the richest, families in the country. When the “house” first came into view, I was stunned with it’s majesty. It seemed so grand. I was unable to imagine that this was a home at one time. Where children grew up and played in the yard. And yet, having been into genteel society, they probably never ever considered that they were living in the lap of luxury. Such things just came naturally. The servants, the ponies, the fishing pond, the reflecting pools. Not a life I can conceive of ever living.

 This house is so large that I could imagine my seeing my husband in the drawing room and greeting him, welcoming him back from his trip only to find out that he’d been home for three weeks already! It is that big. I can’t imagine cleaning the bathrooms.

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If you go, wear good walking shoes. The inside tour takes several hours and I highly recommend taking advantage of the audio tour. You will get a lot more out of it than just walking around. The narration is well done. I especially loved the  winter garden, an inside courtyard filled with plants. High ceilings don’t even begin to convey how large the first hall is. It soars above your head. The grand staircase is off to the left and it is lined with windows and narrow doors that let the servants step out to clean them. 

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A lot of the walls were papered with velvets, fabrics, linens, tapestries and hand tooled leather. We got to tour the upstairs bedrooms and the guest’s living room, the billiard room, dining room (three fireplaces), the kitchen (there was a rotisserie kitchen, a pastry kitchen and the main kitchen.) There was an incredible indoor swimming pool, (you gotta see that one)and a bowling alley. The amenities they had in those days were astonishing.

The bad thing was that you weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the house. I think they want you to buy the postcards or the books. 

 Next on our list to do was the gardens. It is a walled garden filled with perennial and annual beds and rose gardens of which I took many pictures. The scents were incredible, the colors were vibrant. I can’t imagine how many people it takes to keep those gardens tidy. 

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Annual gardens just starting to fill in for summer.

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One of my faves, these look like Globemaster alliums with orange poppies.Image

Into the walled garden.Image

Pink roses with a center spot. None of the roses had names on the tags, just numbers. Maybe they are test roses or there is a brochure with the name sot match the numbers. Anybody know?

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Burgundy and chartreuse coleus in the pattern of diamonds. I was surprised to see them in the full sun.

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Red single roses with a yellow center. Very striking.

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A shot of the walled garden from another angle.

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The rose garden.

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This looks to be a coleus trained as a standard which I have never seen.Image

This is an attractive use of swiss chard in an ornamental basket with flowers.Image

A view of roses through a lattice keyhole.

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A wisteria covered walkway. Nice and cool on that hot day.Image

 

these are some kind of succulent hung in an old frame on the wall. Love it!

Just when we thought we were done (our feet were killing us and my knee was giving me considerable grief, all those stairs inside and out) we looked down onto a building filled with exotic tropicals and orchids. I picked up some design ideas and interesting color combinations.

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The conservatory

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Orchids and other tropicals.

Finally, our legs could do no more and we walked back up to the top to wait for the shuttle. I would have loved to have had a shuttle from the bottom of the gardens! 

 I would suggest that you take two days for the grounds and inside tour. As it were, we missed the azalea gardens, the italian garden, the reflecting pools, and the bass pond. There is only so much that a body could do.

 

Catch Up on Thursday May 30

Whoever said blogging isn’t hard work was wrong! I skipped two days due to sheer exhaustion. Our days were very full and  I was too tired to take up the pen… and upload the pictures and tweak them in photoshop and try to be interesting and informative and… Whew! Right now I am sitting in a Quality Inn in Asheville, North Carolina. This is one beautiful state. Reminds me a lot of the wet side of Washington.

 The man at the next table was wearing a shirt that said “I survived the Dragon”. My friend, who rides motorcycles with her husband had told me about this crazy highway in the area that was really dangerous and had some series curves, most of them being hairpins that everyone wants to test their courage on. So I asked him about it. Apparently it’s a train wreck waiting to happen, or car or motorcycle etc. I went to You Tube and there are lots of videos on this stretch of road. Amazing! It’s only 11 miles long and starts in Tennessee and ends in Deal’s Gap, NC. Hwy 129. There are shots of semi’s trying to navigate and rolling over, jack knifing and motorcyclists with helmet cams racing around corners and motorcyclists going over. I saw one where the woman was wearing shorts and tank top. I know what a floor burn feels like, I can’t imagine what road rash all over my body feels like. This guy said the highway patrol was everywhere up there. I imagine the EMT’s do a good business also.  

 So let’s back peddle. We stayed in Blue ridge, a quaint little town with the most beautiful red rose I’ve ever seen. I stopped someone on the street, she said it was called the “knockout” rose. It comes in red, pink and yellow and is resistant to black spot and japanese beetles. She also said it was very low maintenance and needed very little care. The color was incredible and it was covered with blooms. I might try to get one at a local Home Depot and put it in  my checked baggage.

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 We stopped at Mercier’s Orchard for a quick look around and some fried pies. They had every kind you can imagine. We call them empanadas in my neck of the woods. This is apple country in Georgia, similar to our very own Greenbluff. They had some beautiful views and yummy pies.

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Deb and her husband had found a place by just wandering around called “Field of the Woods”  which is a spectacular side of a hill with the Ten Commandments on it. We set out to find it. On our way there I noticed that the medians between the highway were planted with the most spectacular wildflowers. The NC DOT must have planted them because we saw them almost all the way to Asheville.

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 Through trial and error, we finally found this spot in the woods. It was built by the Church of God and the entire Ten Commandmants were set into the hillside, on the opposite one was a wall with Psalms of Praise and prayer walk. There was even a recreation of the tomb Jesus was in with the stone rolled away. Very pretty. 

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 Getting hungry, we ate in a town called Murphy in NC at a place called Chops. According to the server, the chef had cooked for some of the presidents. This was some of the best food I’ve had in a long time. I had a chicken and ham sandwich and a bacon corn chowder soup that was to die for. I could have licked the bowl clean if it hadn’t been a public place. Who knew that you could find such superb food so far away from everything. It was a billion calories that were worth doing. The server, Dustin, I think, was wonderful and made us feel most welcome.

 The next stretch of the journey involved a very scenic, very windy, very narrow road. We passed several waterfalls, one of which was called Bridal Veil Falls. There was one you could drive behind the water if you wanted but the 15 foot drive had a sign that said the road was closed. At this point it started getting dark so we were trying to get through this stretch of raod pretty quickly. At the top we found a little town called Highlands. It was cute, reminded me of our towns like Winthrop and Leavenworth. Obviously a tourist town, there were more country clubs and golf courses that I have ever seen. I suppose if you don’t qualify for one, you can always start your own. Reminds me of the Andy Griffith episode where he and Barney try to get into one. 

This road was beautiful but I started getting car sick and I never do that. It was probably the tunnel effect of the trees and the winding road and the fact that we were trying to down by dark.

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 We got into Asheville about 10 pm. Deb’s gps is a piece and we had a had time finding the hotel. We decided she deserved a name; Dora, Dumb Dora when she doesn’t make sense. We were exhausted by the time we got there. To be continued…

Oh what a Relief It Is!

Yesterday morning, I about had a stroke! My laptop ws dying, my camera was dying and I couldn’t find my chargers for either of them. I spen ta great part of the morning trying to figure out what to do and going hither and thither looking for a mac store, a Best Buy store and finally ended up at Radio Shack. I wasn’t able to remedy the mac power supply unless I wanted to buy another one for $80 dollars (which I definitely didn’t want to do) but I was able to find a charger for the lithium battery that would work in the car and the house. I had always charged my batteries in the camera before. Who knew? You think you are technologically  with it and then you learn something new. (Stop laughing at me, all of you out there!) So, I’m back on the road. No mac but what can you do? My friend’s son was going to bring it up to Buford for a military graduation ceremony and I”d get it on Friday. Sigh.

This morning I am putting some dirty clothes into a secret pcoket on the inside of my suitcase when lo and behold I feel a lump the size of deck of cards. I got to the outside pockets, search, nothing that resembles a deck of cards, go back into the inside pocket and, you guessed it, both of my chargers. I almost wept for joy. I swear I searched that bag inside and out. (there was no indication from the outside of the pocket that it was in there and they are both big chargers. And it was a nylon pocket. No outline of wires or charger bulging out.) I am going to believe the God somehow transported them for me over night. Hey, it could happen! Yeah God!!!!

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We traveled from Crawford, GA to Blue Ridge where we comfortably ensconced in a Comfort Inn. Third floor, beautiful view. The most amazing smell wafted down to us as we got out of the car. At first, I thought it was a field of clover, although I have never seen that much scent from a patch of clover. Upon further investigation, it turned out to be wild honeysuckle. Absolutely gorgeous. I will take a pic before we leave this morning. I should have known because my honeysuckle, while it is gold and pink, smells the same way.

The wildflowers are very pretty. From the car, it looks like knapweed, The huge  swaths of purple in the center of the highway look like it, but It might be something else. It’s not that tall. There is coreopsis, gaillardia, and roses. From the road, they all seem to be the same pink shrub rose, although I  did happen to sport a white one in front of a church. At some of the homes, I’ve seen magnificent blue hydrangeas, some spiderwort (tradescantia) and daylillies. Note: I spotted htis fabulous purple grass like plant that my friend called wandering jew, (which i knew it wasn’t unless that is a geographical name thing, to me it’s a houseplant with fuzzy purple leaves), anyways, I was looking up the spelling of tradescantia and there it was. I think it is called tradescantia pallid, purple heart. Now that I take a closer look at it, it might be something different. If you know, send my a comment.

I was happy to see some mountains. Granted, they aren’t like our mountains but they are great. Very pastoral in some parts of Georgia. a lot mobile homes too. It’s interesting to see how many houses that look like they have just been abandoned. As we traveled I was trying to imagine the soldiers marching across the landscape during the war.

Speaking of soldiers, we went into Elijay and their was a very moving display of crosses, apparently representing all of the fallen men and boys from this area.

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We stopped to see the Amicalola falls. It was amazing! gastateparks.org/lodges/amicalola/ almost 800 feet tall. Because of my gimpy knee we couldn’t walk up the trail to the base of the falls but we did drive up to the overlook.

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This is looking down  the falls

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Im turning into a tree hugger! Don’t know wha tkind of tree this is but it is huge!

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View of the falls from the bottom. Almost 800 feet tall.steps-down

 

These are the stairs at the top of the falls.

Time to go,we are headed for Asheville today.

The Chicken Coop in Crawford, Georgia Monday, May 27 am

It is absolutely serene right now. I am sitting on their deck in an Adirondack chair listening to the cicadas (I thought they only came out a night) and watching the sunlight stream through the trees. I am enjoying my coffee, thank goodness they have real dairy cream, and their are two black cats wandering around the yard, one of which is rubbing itself on my leg. Makes me miss my own 4 cats. My bed last night was very comfy and I am picky about it, the house was built in the 40’s and is very quaint and furnished with all kinds of chicken things, hence the name. It really does feel like being an honored guest in someone home. Much better than a motel or hotel. Time to take some pictures which I will share later. I highly recommend this place. A big plus for me is that they are christians. Nothing overt, jus the kind of thing you know without being told although their website does talk about God on the bottom of the page. It’s actually how we should all be, known by our demeanor and not just our words. Be bold.

 

Saturday, May 25 Long Day

I went to Crystal River today, It’s up a few miles from Homossassa Springs, the home of the manatees. Actually, manatees live all over the gulf coast but there seems to be a greater proliferation of them there. There is a nice wildlife zoo there.

Everything in Florida, at least on the gulf coast seems to centered around water. A lot of the communities are on the canals which spread out like fingers from the gulf. Seafood is a big deal here, so are boats and fishing. The boats here look different than what we had when we owned one. The cab/console is in the middle of the boat, they use them for fishing. Not sure why that is. It’s called a walk around. My friend says that it is because if you have a fish on the hook, you can walk around the boat to keep it from getting tangled up. Of course they have  bigger fish in the ocean.

Another thing they have is a lot real estate that is probably never going to be developed. Keep in mind that I am referring to the gulf coast. Some of it seems impenetrable, not somewhere I’d like to go for stroll. The spanish moss is pretty when it drapes the trees but is filled with chiggers red mites. A lot of the area seem marshy and wet. Plus, it seems to be over run with kudzu and other vines.ImageYou see miles and miles of this as you go down the freeway. Occasionally there are abandoned houses that are slowing disintegrating. It’s pretty, but very flat and the roads, at least the highways are amazingly straight. And well maintained. Gas is $3.48 for regular.

At Crystal springs there are Indian mounds. Apparently they piled huge mounds of shellfish shells. Some of them are pretty tall. I climbed the stairs to the top of the biggest one, it was supposed to have had a temple on top, which is no longer there. ImageIt was a very nice park. I wish I could have taken the boat tour but they don’t have anything on Saturday for tourists. Sigh.

Tomorrow we set out for Georgia.