Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sights and Sounds of Charleston South Carolina

The east coast time zone is a mystery to both me and Alex, and every chance we get we try to strike out to see places in this region of the country. We have really explored Florida so now we venture further and further away from home. Our latest adventure was Charleston, South Carolina. Click each photo for an enlarged view and be sure to play the videos near the end. It is a special treat.

I just liked this street scene with the trolley and the driver at twilight. The hustle and bustle of tourists is over and there is a calmness that has overtaken the street.

Lately I find myself drawn to churches. Generally the huge old structures with loads of stain glass that is ornate and ever so beautiful. The church below has none of that but it's construction caught my eye. It resembles something out of medieval times in an odd sort of way and is very prominent in downtown Charleston.

The most striking feature of this church is it's dome, which is really not a dome at all. But, for my purposes I will call it a dome.

A side view illustrates just how massive the dome structure is in relation to the whole of the church.

If you enlarge the photo you will get a close up view of what appeared to be small metal plates that cover the structure of the dome. But closer inspection revealed not metal but cedar chips or plates that cover just the dome in a very intricate design.

After churches I am increasingly, in this region, drawn to cemetaries. The South seems to have made an art of creating interesting cemetaries. Impermanent, permanent structures that tell stories about the dead. The headstone above has survived over two hundred years of story telling and despite some damage intends to keep right on talking. It and the tombs below sit in the front of the domed church. A spooky place indeed.
And below, a view from the rear of the domed church. Several guides offer ghost tours at night but I prefer my cemetary viewing during the day, thank you very much!

One of the highlights of our visit was talking with and viewing some of the amazing baskets made by local weavers. Below is a very creative weaver by the name of Loretta that we ran into in the market near downtown. To watch them work is like viewing magic...

Each weaver has their own style and that fact is reflected in the baskets above and below.

Horse drawn multiple tourist carriages are everywhere in Charleston (unlike St. Augustine and Savannah) and few of them are very interesting or pleasing to the eye. This one was one of the few that really had character.

These red brick homes are also a fixture throughout the historic district. The red bricks and the shuttered windows instantly signal you are near the tropics while also taking you back in time.

And, while there is not that continual splash of pastel coloring you find in St. Augustine, Charleston is definitely not color challenged.

South Carolina's role in the Civil War is always highlighted during history lessons, but I was also amazed to learn that delegates from South Carolina played a major role in writing the United States Constitution and the forming of the nation. The Pinckney Museum is a wonderful history lesson that is also free.

No visit to a location in the old South would be complete without visiting one of the working plantations in the area. Boone Hall Plantation gives a splendid view of the wealth and culture of rice plantation owners of the era while also highlighting the lives of slaves who provided the backbone of that culture.

I don't know about you but I had never seen cotton up close and personal. I don't know what I expected but it felt just like the cotton ball you buy at the drug store only hanging from a twig.

The slave quarters stand in marked contrast to the "house" that is Boone Plantation. The company that owns the plantation has allowed in archaeologists who are excavating possessions to learn about the day to day lives of the slaves who worked the land.
The highlight of the plantation tour is a show that explains the culture and language of the Gullah people who worked the land during slavery and still reside in the area. We were particularly taken by the Gulla historian named Frank who gave a vivid history of slavery and the Gullah language. I've provided a video clip below that cannot begin to do justice to his entire presentation, complete with audience participation. But, if you are in the area it is well worth the drive and the cost of admission. Just a tip, go to the Pinckney Museum first. It is down the road from Boone Hall plantation and they provide discount coupons.

The Gullah culture and language are fascinating to say the least and I have included these small videos to illustrate just how enchanting the local historian Frank was.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Random Shots...

I decided to do a slideshow of random pictures from various places just for fun.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas at the Beach

Sometimes in taking photos you wonder if you are just an unfeeling observer. And then, there are those special moments when you capture a scene that is full of emotion and you are more than glad you had your camera to save the moment.

We went to the beach a couple of weeks ago and just sat there enjoying the fact that the crowds of tourists from the summer had now gone further south... and then I saw this father and daughter playing near the water. There is such a sense of love that is captured in each of the following photos...

You literally feel the sense of playfulness in the Father as he gently urges the little girl to trust him and come forward.

I purposely wanted to get in that little bucket, because previously the little girl was more than happy to remain with it and safety. And now, she has grabbed the hand of her father and is willing to take the adventure of the sea.

And there they stand... facing future with the little girl holding on tight to her father and the safety he provides.

And the final photo. Those eyes... they make you wonder what is going on behind them...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas in St Augustine and a Salute to Paula

Alex recently bought a new digital camera (a Canon SLR) and of course we jumped at the chance to go on an adventure to test it out. My dear pal Paula recently viewed the gallery and emailed that she would love to see future pictures (taken with my trusty Sony Cybershot I might add). And so Paula, this gallery is dedicated to you...

I always regard St Augustine as a cross between Florence, Italy for the history and colors, Disneyworld because of all the tourists, and New Orleans/Savannah for the southern feel of the place. We decided to take a different tack on this holiday trip to the area and stop off at the local winery we have passed so many times.

Once we arrived we discovered the winery is a fun place to stop, tour, and just hang out because they have daily tours, wine tastings, and open air jazz with light refreshments at the appropriately named "Cellar upstairs."

We did not take pictures during the tour but the wine tasting was great, accompanied by a detailed history of wine making in the area and wine in general. Alex was driving so we made the decision for him to simply sip and I would do the actual tasting. BIG MISTAKE!!

Alex being the business analyst and software developer that he is, kept an ongoing record passing his glass to me as I slowly melted under the bar... small taste by small taste. Keep in mind I was now drinking for two in that he was giving me his glass.

I was doing ok as we went through the list until we got to the Sherry and the port. I think it was the Sherry more than the port as the tour guide indicated it had an alcohol content of 32%. Suddenly I began to feel warm and then my knees began to give way. We beat a path to the outside of the winery to let the fresh air, a little cheese, and a walk around the grounds give me a chance to clear my head...

Alex patiently waiting near the front door while I walked around the flowers, cheese in hand.

Never one to let a shot pass, while walking I noticed the different types of Hibiscus located on the grounds. I'm pretty proud of the level of detail for all three. Be sure to click on each photo for a clearer view of the veins and stems of each flower.

The walk around the grounds seemed to do the trick and we were once again off to the center of St Augustine, after Alex bought of all things... a couple of bottles of sherry.

Flagler College, across the street from City Hall always makes me think of Morocco as it seems as if an entire city with all it's mazes has been transported to the area. These two pictures give an indication of how massive the place actually is.

Remember I mentioned Florence, Italy and Disneyworld coming up when I mention St Augustine. Well, this is the City Hall for the City of St. Augustine AND, it is also the Lightner Museum.

The Government House Museum directly across the street from City Hall. If you didn't know you were in St. Augustine it could easily be pre-Katrina New Orleans or Savannah, there is just that kind of southern feel to the place.

In keeping with the Florence, Italy theme there are loads of beautiful pastels on all the buildings that evoke that feel.

Of course horse drawn carriages are everywhere, which is to be expected.

But, what really caught my eye was the young boy who decided to go up and pet the horse.

And, boys being boys... a crowd formed.

The major draw of St Augustine is "The Fort." It looms in the distance and you begin to understand the advantage it gave the Spanish to protect the early settled area.

A lovely view indeed...

Not a bad place to be on a lazy Sunday afternoon...

A study in contrast...

A view around the massive walls of the fort. As one of the oldest structures in America you feel the ghosts of the former inhabitants in addition to the work and toil that went into erecting such a structure.

Back to the Mall and a stroll around the bric a brac shops that line the place. I was particularly struck by the sign "Matisse's Garden" and a look inside the garden to see what looks like a million wind chimes and hanging ornaments.

Night is falling and the lights have started to come on all over the city.

The City Hall takes on a new glow...

And a tourist takes a picture of a tourist taking a picture. The family dog seems more than ready for his close up.

And now... the final shot of the day. Alex could not resist jumping into the shot to get his shot.