It was an early start for us in Lynchburg, up at 6am with the outside temperature at -6 C, and after dropping the key at the aptly named “Country Inn”, we hit the road towards Atlanta, our first pit stop on the near 7 hour journey back to the coast.
Of course, we had to add an hour to that due to changing from Central to Eastern time, which was announced by a small sign on the side of the highway as we crossed from Tennessee into Georgia.
A brief stop in Atlanta saw us take in our first Walmart of the trip, which is a lot like a K-mart, but with a far wider range of products, including a full supermarket (with seemingly very high quality produce!).
From there it was off to Savannah, the first stop of our three port-city tour (the others being Charleston, SC and Wilmington, NC).
Savannah is truly a southern belle, with picturesque tree-lined streets and an abundance of Spanish moss hanging from the mature oaks. They have a network of beautiful squares in the city, like smaller versions of Latimer and Cranmer squares (in Christchurch), but more densely forested, some with monuments, others with grassy centres where the locals can enjoy their lunch!
We enjoyed a few beers at a local pub in the centre of the historic part of town, before ambling to a great restaurant where I enjoyed a burger made half with bacon, and Sara tried a rabbit and sausage parpadalle – both were delicious! We also tried some Californian pinot noir, which was OK (not quite up to central Otago standards!).
The motel (a Best Western – you gotta stay in at least one in the states, right?) we were staying at was a little out of downtown (free parking though!), so we had used Uber to get into and from town, and had great conversations with the drivers!
The next morning we decided to do some laundry, so went to a nearby laundromat, which was quite a novel experience for us. The locals could definitely tell we “weren’t from around here,” but were very welcoming and hospitable, which has been true throughout the south.
After that, we had a crack at Starbucks, and almost nailed it – we need triple shot latte’s, tall, ¾ full. So far that is the best approximation of NZ coffee (which we are missing!).
While we waited for the coffee to cool, we took a drive to the Bonaventure cemetery, which is on the edge of the Wilmington river in Savannah. The best way to describe this is with some pictures, as it is unlike any we have back home. (It was quite creepy in daylight, cannot imagine it at night!)
From there, we strolled the riverfront in downtown, and enjoyed our first not-available-in-NZ fast casual – Five Guys. Surprisingly, outrageously good! Very similar to a homemade burger, including onions, mushrooms and all the normal salads. The fries were great, freshly made in store – and according to all the media coverage on the walls of the store, they are (justifiably) famous for them.
Our next stop was in Beaufort, SC, on the way through to Charleston. Beaufort is very flash resort-like town, with numerous historic homes and a cute main street area near the waterfront. We enjoyed a Corona at a bar next to the waterfront park, before continuing to Charleston.
Charleston was the first place where “The Bitch” (google maps) led us astray – the hotel (motel Holiday Inn!) wasn’t in the most convenient place due to the construction of a new hotel right next door, which saw us enjoy a tiki tour onto the bridge on the other side of the peninsula! I just had to laugh, as it had been bound to happen eventually.
We made it to the hotel just as it was getting dark, checked in and wandered off to a nearby restaurant, Xiao Bao Biscuit (look it up), which was incredible. The lamb (not commonly available over here) rendang was to die for, the cocktails were good too. The restaurant was in an old gas station!
After dinner we checked out a bar in an old warehouse, where I surprised the waitstaff with my request for black pepper and cucumber in my Hendricks and tonic – something that isn’t common in these parts. The bartender nailed it though.
Next morning, we drove down to Liberty square and wandered through the historic homesteads, to the old markets, and the waterfront area, before heading out of the city to check out Boone Plantation.
It is a must to visit a plantation when in the south, and driving towards the main house through the oak-lined driveway was straight out of the movies. Funnily enough, a number of movies actually have used the grounds and house, including The Notebook.
We enjoyed the (crowded) tour of the house, which was decked out to the nines with Christmas decorations – one reason it was so busy – but we weren’t allowed to take any photos inside unfortunately because it is still a private residence, so y’all will just have to go yourselves!
Charleston and Savannah are said to be similar, but we found them quite different. We probably preferred Savannah of the two, to us it is more picturesque.
After Boone, we headed up to Myrtle Beach to check out the popular party spot, but it was a bit cold and foggy, so we got back on the road to our friends, Stephen and Angelica’s beautiful house in Lumberton, North Carolina.