Thursday, November 14, 2013

Charleston SC

Charleston is one of our most favorite places to visit; it is so vibrant and busy with tourism as one of its biggest revenue generators, as well it should be - it has such a beautiful setting, lots of history and, we get to visit with our friends Eva and Bernie.

We checked into what was arguably the best RV camp of our three year trip "James Island County Park" – since having had recommended to him last year and now that we are almost finished our odyssey Tom has selected some great parks to stay at. As we drive in – almost a mile to the check-in registration – we pass through Christmas lights all along the roadway. That weekend marked the beginning of the annual "Festival of Lights" what luck? Adele pulls her bike off the back of the RV and heads off for a cycle around the many paths in the park passing workers busy putting the finishing touches to their designs.
The weather forecast for the next day was for 20% rain so we set the alarm to take the 9am (yes 9am!) shuttle bus to the Charleston Visitor Center, as we were walking around town we happened across the "Dixie Supply Bakery and Café” off the beaten track on State Street. There was a long line of people waiting to order but as the weather was getting cold and we were hungry we decided to wait our turn. As we were discussing what we would order the owner Allen Holmes heard our “accents” and came over to chat with us. His family history fascinated us; the Holmes have been in America since the 1600’s, Allen knew that they came in someplace up north and ended up in Charleston in 1698. The Café is situated about 100 feet from the original family business location, first called Holmes & Calder Leadworks, then William E. Holmes Paint Company and eventually Dixie Supply Hardware.  There was a photograph of Allen’s father and his brother outside the hardware store, the back door to the hardware store is now the back door to the café. Allen’s grandfather opened the Holmes & Calder Leadworks. Allen and his wife Kris owned Terrible Tom's Bakery & Café in the historic Charleston's City Market for nine years then in 1993 they sold the bakery and traveled throughout Europe and all around the United States until July 2007. Then it was time to return home to Charleston and the Dixie Supply Bakery & Café was born. Later on in the day Tom was asked by two ladies if he knew where the café was located and he was delighted to assist them; seemingly it’s a famous tourist spot.

Afterwards we toured the Edmondston-Alston House on the Battery which was built in 1825 by Edmondston; after the panic of 1837 (there was a depression in the 1820s and 1830s) he had to sell the house. Charles Alston who hailed from one of the successful rice plantation dynasties bought the house; his descendants still own and live in the house. By the time the tour ended the 20% rain had turned to 100% drizzle accompanied by a bitterly cold wind, so after a long and cold wait for the free bus that transports tourists around Charleston we returned to take the park shuttle back to RamblingRover.
That night we stayed with Eva and Bernie so that we could be up early the following day to start on the very full day they had planned. The sun was shining and it was hot outside as we drove to a bakery where we had the most delicious chocolate croissants for breakfast. Afterwards we walked across the new Arthur Ravenel Jr. suspension bridge and then drove out of town to see the Angel Oak Tree; a 2000 year-old oak tree which is enormous and quite impossible to describe its size, turns and twists of its branches - the trunk tells a story by itself. We then went to the Charleston County Fair where we just walked around trying to keep out of the hot sun. Rabbits and chickens were mostly the animals being shown, there were lots of rides and even more food stalls; we didn't stay long.

That evening James Island County Park was hosting a 2mile run/walk preview through the holiday lights so having earlier secured tickets for the four of us we bought dinner on our way back to the park and dined in the RV. At dusk 6.30 we joined several hundreds of people in the park and walked the 2 miles around the park marveling at the massive Festival of Lights – well over 700 displays and more than 2 million lights - it was spectacular and very enjoyable. From there we went to the cinema to see the Rolling Stones “Sweet Summer Sun” concert filmed in London’s Hyde Park London in the summer; one long enjoyable day for 4 seniors!
When we returned to the park even the Christmas Lights had been turned off!

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