After an impressive storm, the day dawned hot and steamy on the Middleton Plantation where we spent the night. This was a rice plantation where seven generations were subjected to slavery. Today, the beautiful landscaped gardens are a tourist attraction, and the Middleton house is a national historic sight, since Mr. Middleton was a signatory to the Declaration of Independence. The site has been restored with evident care, and includes interesting interactive activities (milking a cow!), costumed interpreters, period-correct farm animals, and enthusiastic volunteer guides. We enjoyed our visit, but we did leave feeling as though the telling of the history of the plantation was a bit too simple and lacked a full accounting of slavery that, after all, is the only thing that allowed the plantation to exist at all.
Next up was a visit to historic Charleston. Charming doesn't even begin to cover it. The beautiful cobblestone streets, gorgeous antebellum mansions and the amazing food are all as advertised, yet peppered with reminders of the south's darker past – the old slave mart, where men, women and children were sold; or the plaques telling the fascinating story of an enslaved sea captain who stole a ship and delivered it beyond Union lines to win his freedom. In the end, we wished we had more time for this gorgeous town.
We left Charleston's hospitality for Folly Beach's long stretch of sand, sea and sun and a quick dip in the ocean. The chain of marshy islands to the east of Charleston are packed with lazy beach towns and oyster shacks, and we found one tin-roofed dive bar at the end of sandy road that will definitely require a return trip.
And then we were off to Georgia's Savannah – another southern belle, with an insatiable appetite for fun, which we indulged in by getting spiked frosties and walking River Street to the sound of buskers belting out the Delta blues.
All in all, a great – and thought-provoking – day, and a reminder that the South has a complicated and evolving relationship with its past.
Hardworking water buffalo at the plantation.
Carriage approaching the plantation.
Milking a cow dry. Not bad for a city boy.
The blacksmith at the Middleton place. No, there is no A/C.
Some of the beautiful formal gardens at Middleton, as they were in the early 1800s.
Confederate currency accepted. Errr…
Beautiful homes. Is “gentleman pirate” still a viable occupation?
Now a museum about slavery.
Our home in Savannah tonight.
Savannah city hall
Georgia wins my heart for the fact that it has stores whose only product is slushy drinks. And you can get it to-go.
Savannah by the river. Party!