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Saturday, June 2, 2018

SOLO ROADTRIP: CHARLESTON [SC]

i know i say this every time, but this post is going to be long. the next day i made my way to south carolina. i was a bit nervous because a storm was a brewin'. the local news made a big deal of it. apparently they were expecting big winds, especially along the coast. also there was a slight tornado warning. because of this, i left earlier than planned so i could reach charleston before the storm would. spoiler alert: it really was not that bad, just so damn humid. also there was a ton of organ church music on the radio. i guess that's a typical sunday in the south.

the first stop was congaree national park. to get there, you have to take a long green road, which was lovely. also, freeway exits are far and few between. i remember being so excited to find a starbucks. the park is a swampy coastal forest. in city girl terms, there are a whole bunch of trees in a big giant puddle. i was nervous for the storm, so asked the ranger and he said to not to wait too long to get back on the road. i also asked what to do during a tornado, he said go underground, i asked but what if you are in a car, he said drive in the other direction. it was not very helpful.






i felt like i should at least take a little walk for driving all the way over here. i did not realize how long the trail was. i thought maybe a mile, but it was 2.5. i ran a lot of it because i really needed to get back on the road. it was a very humid and sweaty work out, but there were beautiful flowers blooming.



the boardwalk trail.



my national geographic moment.



so many pretty little wildflowers.


i then made my way to charleston. the wind was picking up and that was a little scary in my little little nissan versa. my first stop was charles towne landing, a state park. it is in charleston but across the river from the main section of the city. here was the location of the first permanent settlement of the carolinas. the historic site has a reconstructed fort, a replica cargo vessel, a historic home (which was closed for an event), and a zoo (super random). it's a nice walk and a good way to be introduced to the city. the site really lets you learn the city's roots, but it was incredibly humid and cloudy. there is also a decent sized museum in the visitor's center. here, i asked the state ranger about the storm. he looked at me like i was silly and said it was just a little rain storm.







another national geographic moment.



it was so hot, i spoiled myself by eating an ice cream. i also discovered a gator outside the window. i thought the ranger was just joking.


i was supposed to go to the mcleod plantation, but was running late. i decided to not stress about it and pass (i did end up going 2 days later). instead, i went to find some food. i decided on panera (i just wanted a good ol' salad). i also had the most embarrassing experience. i went to a gas station and could not figure out how to pump. i had to go inside 2 times until a worker came out in his little highlighter yellow vest and an annoyed look on his face to help me. i had no idea that at old gas stations you have to pull a lever on the stand before you can push the trigger on the nozzle. i felt like an idiot. funny enough i never saw this type again and i went to some pretty small towns.

i then made my way to the hostel. it was very confusing. street blocks are so small and i ended up missing my street and drove on a bridge to an island. oops. i figured out my way back. unfortunately, the south does not have many hostels. atlanta had one but you had to stay a minimum of 3 nights and in savannah you have to have a minimum of 3 people, so charleston was my only hostel stay. more about that later. i stayed at the not-so hostel.

it was only about 5 when i arrived, but i stayed in for the rest of the night. the storm finally arrived and it really was not so bad. like i said before it was just very humid with a bit of wind and it never rained hard, it just never stopped. i stayed up and talked with a few of the workers and hostel goers for quite a few hours. it got quite awkward at times. people got right into politics and religion. i have to admit, there were quite a few bougie snow flakes, but i did have a really good conversation with a guy from pittsburgh who travels around the country and picks up a job wherever he's at. he was really nice and had the most infectious smile.

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the next morning i woke up pretty early and walked to the closest starbucks, which was still a mile away. it was a cold and windy day. funny how it could cool down at least 25 degrees from the day before. after coffee, i stopped at one of the city's visitors center, which was in an old train depot (it was the only thing open that early). i then walked another 1.5 miles to the nps' fort sumpter visitor education center. i did not actually go to fort sumpter. it is an island and therefore you have to take a ferry. i only had one full day in charleston. the first shots of the civil war were fired here.



nps' liberty square. this used to be gadsden's gate, which is one of the areas where slaves were imported from africa. also, the ironwork was done by philip simmons.



the aquarium was across the way. i saw his twin in the antlanta botanical garden.


i then walked to the aiken-rhett house, which is in a residential neighborhood. this was one of my favorite historical sites of my trip and was unlike anything i saw. you take an audio guide (my favorite) throughout the property. instead of restoring the home to it's original grandeur, the museum's approach is to conserve what is left and 'as found.' much of the furniture is original to the family. the home actually stayed in the family until a historical foundation bought it. in person, it looks like a family packed up their belongings before a hurricane and this is what's left. it was so interesting to photograph and learn about how people lived here. prepare for tons of pictures.

the home was built in 1820 and designed to be a plantation home in an urban setting. therefore, there is a courtyard in the backyard. the complex includes slave quarters, a kitchen, a carriage block, and privies. the family consisted of a state governor and owner of a railroad company. 


this portion of the complex was the slave quarters. the original fixtures, paint, and floors are inside. also, unlike a lot of slave quarters, there are doors that can be locked from the inside.





this picture turned out creepy but i like it.







this was the ballroom. the audio guide took a wonderful creepy turn when it started playing ballroom music. i love stuff like this.


after visiting the house, i took a long stroll and visited some outdoor attractions, including king st. (the old commercial area) and chalmers st. (an old cobblestone street).



king st.



french hugguenot church (c.1844), gothic revival



church st.


i also stopped at the old historical courthouse. most of it was closed because court was in session and there was a special event going on, so i only looked at the first floor. the security officer was nice. he told me this part of the courthouse was only used for the same court litigation i work for and i could see his eyes light up. he started giving me the history and said i could go to the second story if i was quiet. it was a kind gesture from a stranger. he also told me to visit the post office across the street and i did. it is still a functioning post office that is connected to a federal courthouse. the building was built in 1896 and the inside is restored to that time period. lots of mahogany, brass, and marble. very cool.





the old slave mart was used as a slave auction gallery after it was outlawed to use the exchange house. today it is a museum. 


next was the exchange house and provost (recommended to me by a ranger at fort sumpter). this building served many civil functions, including a slave auction house until it was outlawed from public buildings. the guide was dressed gimicky, but the tour was very good especially learning abut the early city planning. interestingly, this building was near the harbor, but over time the area was landfilled two blocks out. i also had no idea that most of boston is landfilled, and i was there. during the revolutionary war, the provost (or dungeon) was used to store confiscated tea, as a prison, and barracks. 



entrance to the provost.


i then walked along the shore and through residential neighborhoods. here is where i was able to see much more of the architecture of charleston. charleston has it's own style and is a combo of architecture found in the caribbean and new england.



one of the most photographed homes are the pastel ones found on rainbow row. enjoy my mug.





this house was epic 



i walked down the street and happened to find a house that is supposedly haunted.








i also visited the city market (c.1790).




after i walked a couple miles and built up my appetite, i went to a comfort food restaurant called virginia's. it was good but i then forgot my bag of souvenirs after i walked 5 blocks. oops. luckily they were still in the restaurant.



delicious chicken & dumplings (and already eaten corn bread)



 i knew this theater was here, but did not know i was going to pass it. this was the infamous theater from the notebook.


i then walked back to the hostel, grabbed my travel journal (how do you think i can remember all my trip info when its been months), and sat out on the veranda. i ended up talking to this finance guy from new york that i met the night before. a freelance techy guy from south carolina joined us. they invited me to eat. i did not plan to go, but the ny guy asked me nicely and i did not get bad vibes. so we walked to a bbq place. i'm glad i went. it was the only time i got bbq (a bbq pork taco to be specific).




besides the good food, there was good conversation. honestly it was one of the best hostel experiences i have ever had. i also went to a beer garden with them. there was a bad singer, but he did sing the most popular song from the wedding singer to a future bride (i was entertained). unlike the night before, no one hit on me or made me feel uncomfortable. we just had some good old fashion conversation and did not exchange contact information. i don't even remember their names, but hanging out was one of the highlights of my trip. i also met a british guy who works for the airlines and knows of my little town because he is in la so much and takes our metro system.

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i really loved my hostel. i know in other parts of the world there is such a hype about hostels, but this was probably my top 2 hostel experiences. the workers were great and i was surrounded by a great group of people. american hostel goers are always the nicest.

the hostel is in an old 19th century house (all the homes on this street are this old). it was a typical charleston building. it was 2 stories, had a front porch, and a 2nd story veranda. the set-up was kind of funny. there are 2 front doors and if you cut the house in half they would be mirror images, so there are 2 sets of staircases and back doors. it was interesting. because it was old there were some minor issues including a leaky roof and creaky floors, but i did not mind. also, this hostel has free parking! out of my whole trip, i slept the best during this stay. i think thats because i am much more a hostel than hotel person.

i stayed in the victoria room. they transferred me to a female dorm when i cancelled my dad's reservations. every room is named and themed after an important person to the owner or hostel. victoria is the owner and the room was decorated with cute little items and female literature (like austen).



my room.


the veranda/balcony.



one of the kitchens. there was one on the other side of the stairs too. like i said, it's a mirror imaged home.


now for a song! i'm going to go along with the last post and pick a song about south carolina. i had to google to find a song and i settled with dean martin and 'just a little bit south of north carolina' (side note, he also sings another song about the carolinas). it has a classic sound just like how charleston has a classic feel. enjoy!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

SOLO ROADTRIP: GREENSBORO, WINSTON-SALEM, & CHARLOTTE (SC+NC)

the next day i packed up and made my way towards greensboro, which is only an hour away. about ten minutes through my drive i realized my side door open, oops. just another reason to pull over at the nearest starbucks (wowza they keep raising their prices).

once reaching greensboro, the first stop was guilford courthouse national military park. in 1781, the largest revolutionary war battle of the southern campaign was fought here. the battle contributed to the surrender in yorktown (a quickie synopsis of the battle can be heard in the musical hamilton).




this was the first time i did a driving tour at a national park. it was pleasant. i really can't get over the sound of birds chirping even thought i get them outside my own window back home.




the carolinas have soooo many flowered trees. more are to come.




next, i drove to downtown greensboro (it's itty bitty) to see the historic woolworths. the old department store is now the international civil rights center and museum. in 1960 a series of nonviolent sit-ins were organized and executed. it eventually led to the removal of the segregation policy implemented by the department stores. 




unfortunately you can't take pictures in the museum. also, nobody told me i was supposed to go with the tour so i ended up walking aimlessly. i think the worker thought i was one of the many school kids that were there and assumed i would just tag along with them. i did get to see the counter, that was pretty cool.



 a a cute little memorial of the woolworths sit-in.


the last stop of the day was old salem in winston-salem. this was probably the biggest disappointment when it comes to attractions. you have to buy a $20+ ticket to go inside almost all the building in this area (which i could not justify paying), so i only looked inside a few little shops. other than that, there really isn't anything to do. there aren't even any informational signs explaining the buildings or people.

the settlement was founded in the mid 1700s by morovians, protestants from the kingdom of bohemia (now the czech republic). they were exiled, settled in other colonies, and then came to salem. the site shows the way of life of the moravian (reminiscent to how i would imagine amish life, but what do i know).



to get to the historic area from the parking lot, you have to cross over this cool wooden bridge.




i thought i would spend a couple hours, but instead just took a stroll, bought a cookie, and walked back to the car,







strangely enough there is an all girls liberal arts college in the historic area. i walked through the college and there were tons of flowers...



...and more.


i then made my way to the hotel which ended up being the most secluded accommodation during my trip. i was going to go to a steak n' shake, but since this one going to be my one good meal of the day i did not want fast food. there was not many options to eat, so i ended up eating at an applebees. i'm not complaining. i love me a good applebees. i was also called darling. i love how it is normal to call strangers sweet names without being condescending.




i had a blackberry iced tea with shrimp, salmon, mashed taters, and broccoli.



for this night, i stayed in a days inn. room was pretty raunchy, but i am pretty easy to please.

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the next morning i left for south carolina (even though later that day i would be returning to north carolina). the destination was brattonsville, an unicoroporated community and open air museum. the buildings on the 700+ acre site are from the 18 & 19th century. the museum prides itself for being the location of the revolutionary war battle known as huck's defeat.

really this is a museum showcasing a family who lived in the carolina back country and i found that interesting. it was unlike anywhere i visited during my trip. i would say for having a decent expectation, this turned out to be one of my favorite sites during my entire trip. to add, you had to take a long lone road for 14 miles.

on a side note, the museum forgot to mention that the inspiration for birth of a nation was a descendent of bratton and a resident of the site.



i went a little crazy with the photos. the rooms had such nice colors and light.






i remember lots of wasps in this room.

i also learned about bumble bees (unlike the standard bee you see in la). to get to the different buildings, you have to walk through a field of bumble bees. i was so paranoid and squeeling, but a local told me they don't sting unless you really upset them. she also told me to beware of red ant mounds. besides bees and ants there were wasps. what fun. people probably thought i was crazy.



i made a flower crown. i had not made one of these since elementary. i ended up giving it to a tree branch.



there were also farm animals.



besides pigs and sheep, there were horses and chickens.




on my way back to the car, i met the two older ladies that warned me about the red ant mounds. i had a nice chat with them about history and my trip. we said good bye and they told me, 'keep history alive.' that was nice.



south carolina is known for their palm trees (it's on their flag)


the next and last stop was back in north carolina, charlotte to be exact. i visited the levine museum of the new south, the most extensive museum about the reconstruction period. it was interesting to learn about the transformation of the south after the civil war. i had never though about how the south had to create a new identity after the war. slavery was so integral to the culture and economy. the south changed from slaves picking cotton to people from all walks of life working in the cotton mills.




the museum was fun and i loved how they interpreted history. the museum was set up so you could touch objects. in one section, was storefronts of a early 20th century downtown. you could go inside a department store and a barber shop. i love things like that.
also, who knew charlotte is the location where the orange barrel was created (but the traffic cone was created in los angeles, suck it). now a lovely quote:

'charlottes official city flower! the orange and white plastic traffic barrel...it's every bit as plentiful as the dogwood - and blooms a lot longer.'
- allen norwood, charlotte observer, 1988


i walked a few blocks away to a little soul food place i read about in one of my travel books. this was one of the few instances where i ate at one of the places recommended (as i have said before, i tend to eat at places out of convenience).



merts.



blackened salmon, macaroni and cheese, stewed tomatoes and okra, and warm cornbread.


i then made my way to the hotel, which was a doozy. here is where i experienced some crazy drivers. it did not help that my hotel was located near an airport and driving near airports is confusing. i stayed in a quality inn. this was probably the nicest room during my trip.




i had already eaten, but since i had called it an early night decided to walk across the lot to a cracker barrel. i had heard about them, but had never gone and man was it wonderful. i am smitten towards cracker barrel. i love the gift shop, the customer service, the food, the music, and the decor. i also discovered the witchcraft known as the goo goo cluster latte. 




besides the latte, the lady let me order off the lunch menu so i could get smaller portions. i had chicken fingers, broccoli, fries, and 2 biscuits i saved for breakfast the next day. i also bought from their general store earrings, a scarf, a coffee sign, and a box of goo goo clusters. i love how when people compliment my earrings at work i tell them i bought them at a cracker barrel. i'm classy like that.



i also got caught up with my travel journal.


now for a song! i should have done this in the last post, but i am going to pick a song that talks about north carolina. funny enough, i first discovered this song during my trip and did not realize until i returned to la that it even mentioned nc, raleigh to be exact. darius rucker (and hootie and the blowfish) is from the state and the song is actually a cover. it was based off a portion of a bob dylan ditty, which makes it even cooler. it is about a guy in new england who travels to raleigh to meet a gal. here is 'wagon wheel,' by darius rucker. enjoy!