We visited the 18th century Moravian village of old Salem, one of the most authentic colonial sites in the US. The Moravians are a group of Eastern European Protestants who first arrived in 1753 and relocated to this area they later named Salem, which means “peace.” These early settlers were skilled cabinet makers, tinsmiths, gunsmiths, gardeners and cooks. A large portion of the town has been preserved, including the original late 17th and early 18th century architecture. There are also costumed interpreters, horse drawn carriage rides, shops with handcrafted items, restaurants, a tea shop and bakery. The late fall colors were in full bloom and the town was so picturesque, that I spent most of my time enjoying it rather than actually taking pictures!
We are staying nearby in High Point, NC at Oak Hollow Campground, a stunningly beautiful lake front location. In fact, we were lucky to get a prime spot with our own private dock. The sunsets have been gorgeous and we are really enjoying the wildlife. Please check out my “Campground Reviews” page for a full review.
We LOVE Charleston!!! The stunning double expansion bridge pictured above is the longest of its kind in the US. We crossed just as the sun was setting and were surprised to find it’s free! After so many toll roads in Florida, this now seems like an anomaly 😕. The bridge crosses Charleston bay right by downtown where we spent the day exploring the stunning architecture (I believe I heard they have over 500 churches), food, shopping (don’t miss the outdoor market), and horse drawn carriage rides. Also, amazing vintage and antique shopping abounds and somehow we are going to have to find more space because we couldn’t resist picking up a few treasures.
There is so much Revolutionary War (our emancipation from the British) and Civil War history here. I swear I am not a history buff, but when you are here you cannot help but be absorbed into the stories of the early years of our nation. I find this to be especially true now that the election is over and there seems to be so much political unrest. South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union. We took a ferry to visit Fort Sumpter, strategically located at the mouth of Charleston bay, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. The weather has cooled down a bit, so be sure to bundle up for the boat ride.
Above are pics of the first submarine created and used in warfare during the Civil War. It was used by the South to sink a Union battleship. The South was desperate to get supply ships through the Union blockade of Charleston harbor and were actually able to sink a warship by jamming a torpedo into the side of the ship using this submarine. Keep in mind the technology was so basic that they had no air supply without surfacing every 2 hours and the whole thing was powered by men turning a large crank that would spin the outside propellor. The sub was mysteriously lost after it successfully targeted a Union ship and was not found again for almost 130 years. There are a lot of fascinating stories about how the Hunley was developed, tested, lost, and finally found at www.hunley.org.
Okay, now for he food – OMG – they seriously know how to cook in the South!!! I am not a fan of the southern classics such as grits, fried okra, collard greens, etc., but they got me to try and like – no love – whatever it is they did to a brussel sprout that made it this charred wonderful decadent treat!! Also, the best friggen’ fried chicken I have ever eaten in my life! Fresh biscuits with local honey, jams, and benigets that are better than Cafe du Monde. I am going into a food coma now – catch up with you later…
One of my favorite books, Savannah Blues, takes place in the historic district of Savannah and Tybee Island, so these two spots were on the top of my list when we arrived in Georgia. For our visit to Tybee Island, our timing was not the best. Hurricane Matthew passed through only a few weeks earlier and they were still in recovery mode. It was also very windy that day, but we persevered and visited the historic lighthouse, the beach, and had lunch at a local seafood joint. None of it was terribly memorable, so we’ll move on quickly.
On our way back we stopped to visit Old Fort Jackson, which was built at the direction of Thomas Jefferson in 1812. The Fort is built of brick, has a moat with a bridge and is really old with a musty smell to it. It has several ancient cannons which Joel seemed to get into, especially since they fire them off daily -boys and big guns – oh brother!
The historic district of Savannah is beautiful and very interesting. We did a trolley tour, I know – super touristy and kind of nerdy – but a lot of fun! We had Arthur as our tour guide and he was very funny, personable and knowledge about the local history. I will not go into a recitation here, but trust me – take the tour! Also, Old Savannah Trolley Tours allows dogs on their tours, which we knew in advance so we brought Belle and Lulu along for the ride. We stopped at Daily Bread for lunch and their sandwiches on freshly baked bread were divine! I seriously fell in love with the historic mansions with their live oak tree shaded cobblestone streets and am planning our move – once I win the lottery 🤑 (pesky little detail).
p.s. We had swans at our KOA campground!
We got into town late on a Saturday afternoon and found that the KOA we planned to stay at was booked for the night. We earlier joined an organization called Harvest Hosts, which allows RVers to stay the night for free at a network of farms, vineyards and agri-tourism locations. This is how we wound up staying in an old hay field in Savannah, GA. Our host, Cherri Keller runs Kellers Flea Market (www.ilovefleas.com) and was such a pleasure with her sweet Southern Georgia charm. Joel and I love flea markets, so that was an added bonus for us to shop at the next day. Unfortunately, (because we have no room!!!), we did not leave empty handed….ughhh!
The old farm was so cute, decorated with antique hit-n-miss engines, old automobiles, tractors and weathered wood shacks topped with tin roofs. I love the two antique teapots and brand new Kenneth Cole boots that I found. They have a mix of old and new items and don’t miss the yummy southern breakfast cooked up fresh at Janie Arkwright’s Kitchen – I am still thinking about the best bacon! Ever!!
We spent 6 days at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground and it is by far our favorite RV campground! There are so many entertainment options (see the Campground Review tab for a run down) and the park is gorgeous, you would swear you really were wilderness camping with all the trees, wetlands, trails, wild animals scampering about and it’s pretty darn quiet. We camped in the 500 loop and found it to be close to most the activities, but far enough that the only outside activity sounds we could hear were the faint whistle of the ferry boat and nightly fireworks around 9 pm.
Even with our extended time in Orlando, we dedicated only one day to a Disney theme park, the Magic Kingdom. We were just here in May, but always enjoy the rides, food (especially the giant Mickey-shaped sugar cookies dipped in chocolate), and getting some exercise in with all the walking. Disney is in full holiday mode and the park is decked out for Christmas with a giant tree, decor and gift shop goodies. It still feels too early for me!! The best part of the day was the Cinderella castle light show and fireworks- a definite “don’t miss!”
While in Orlando, Joel really wanted to go to Gatorland. To be honest, I wasn’t that enthused about it. We had already seen alligators in Louisiana and Florida, I thought that we had our gator fill. Apparently not. I was ready for a ho hum afternoon, but it was way more fun than I expected. The “gator jumping” show was just starting when we arrived and it had more production value than I would have given it credit for and that pretty much sums up the rest of the day. We even got to feed gators some turkey dogs (a food I am sure they enjoy in the wild), and the people who work there were very pleasant and informative. Worth the $26 admission for an entertaining afternoon.
We stayed at Fort Meyers Beach Resort which sounds like it is on the beach – right? Nope. Actually, a ways away from the beach and the day we made the trek, it was cloudy, windy and all around not good beach weather. So Plan B – finding something else to do – lead us to Calusa Nature Center. Calusa is a 105 acre non-profit park that has a museum, miles of nature trails including a raised wooden walk over swamp lands, a Planetarium, and various birds and reptiles.
I have never been to a Planetarium before, so that was an interesting experience. You sit back in chairs and look up to a domed ceiling where the stars, planets and galaxies are projected. We watched a film about space exploration and it was a surprisingly educational experience. However, we enjoyed the nature walk the most. Being able to traverse an actual swamp over a raised walkway was really beautiful, especially all the cypress trees with their “knees” (part of their root system) sticking out (see pics below).
Now, for a swamp joke:
Two alligators are sitting on the edge of a swamp. The small one turns to the big one and says; I don’t understand how you can be so much bigger than me. We’re the same age, we were the same size as kids… I just don’t get it.”
“Well,” says the big alligator, “what have you been eating?”
“Lawyers, same as you,” replies the small alligator.
“Hmm. Well, where do you catch them?”
“Down at that law firm on the edge of the swamp.”
“Same here. How do you catch them?”
“Well, I crawl under a car and wait for someone to unlock the door. Then I jump out, bite’em, shake the s*** out of ’em, and eat’em!”
“Ah!” says the big alligator, “I think I see your problem. See, by the time you get done shakin’ the s*** out of a lawyer, there’s nothing left but lips and a briefcase…” 🐊🐊🐊
We took a break from our Airstream adventures to put Rosie in the shop for some minor repairs. Since we were in Florida, we booked a last minute cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale to the Caribbean. Our cruise stopped in Cozumel and Costa Maya, both were places we have cruised to before.
Given our low budget, we were surprised to receive a balcony cabin on one of Princess’ newest ships, the Royal Princess. Wow, she was gorgeous and huge! Princess really pulled out all the stops on this ship – a huge central piazza with white marble steps that were lit from underneath felt like we were stepping into a Cinderella fairytale. Also, the journey was pretty smooth despite high winds and rough sea conditions.
In keeping with our low-budget theme, we did not do any formal shore excursions, but rather hung out at the beach and enjoyed margaritas and al pastor tacos. We had a great time even though we ended up spending more than we originally planned. If only I could keep Joel away from the blackjack tables!!
Camping with crocodiles! In Florida, there are a plethora of alligators and we had a camp spot right next to a river where they live. This meant keeping a close eye on the pups, especially at night which is when they eat. It’s a myth that alligators hibernate, but they are less active when the weather cools down. We didn’t see any alligators in the few days we have been here, but the RV park personnel say they are here and to beware.
One of the the fun experiences we had in Ft. Meyers was shopping (yesssss!!) and the mall had this great restaurant, Ford’s Garage. Henry Ford had a summer home in Ft. Meyers where he worked on inventions with Thomas Edison (his next door neighbor). They were working on developing a plant based rubber, and both of their homes are now a museum. This restaurant was so fun, the door handles and bathroom faucets were gas pump handles, even the napkins were “shop rags” with hose clamp napkin rings. The food was really good as well, gourmet burgers, pulled pork sliders, and a huge selection of beers. Joel had a local Ft. Meyer brew and really liked it. A fun spot!
We spent a week in New Orleans and were so excited to be joined by our friends from Orange County, Ben and Maureen. It was Ben and Maureen’s first visit to the Big Easy, so we hit up as many tourist spots as possible – so this will be a long post! Instead of chronological order, I am going to start with our most favorite adventures and work our way down.
World War II Museum
Yes, this was top of the list for everyone! Surprising? Yes!! Unfortunately, we had no idea this museum would be so interesting and extensive, and only set aside the afternoon from around 1:00 pm to 5 pm (when it closes). The time went by so quickly, and none of us made it through to see everything.
What was really unique and interesting about this museum, is that the stories are told through first hand accounts and historical footage. The exhibits are very interactive and emersive. This museum does the best job of any museum I have ever visited in emersing visitors into the atmosphere that the exhibits are depicting. In conjunction with current day interviews, historical footage, and historical reproductions of the scene, this museum walks you through two different fronts of the war; first was the battle fought with Japan and second was the battle fought with Germany.
I felt like I learned more about World War II in this one afternoon then I did in any history class throughout high school or college. Am I a history buff? No. But you don’t have to be a history buff to thoroughly enjoy this museum. It will give you a whole new appreciation of the massive suffering and incredible bravery of the soldiers and civilians alike. You cannot go through this museum without a profound gratitude for our present day freedom. Do not miss it !!!
Cafe du Monde
What can I say, this is a classic “don’t miss” of New Orleans. There is nothing like live street musicians and the smell of fresh beignets hot out of the fryer and loaded with powdered sugar. We visited several times, and this is the one thing I always miss most once we are gone.
Creole Queen Paddlewheel Cruise
This is a tour that was made so much better by the amazing narrator, Charles. He was well versed in New Orleans history – right up to the present day to include Hurricane Katrina. The cruise was peaceful and relaxing, we stopped at a battleground site from the War of 1814 when the British attempted to take the port of New Orleans. This cruise has several options, we took a two-hour narrated cruise, but they also offer a dinner jazz or brunch cruise.
We did not take a formal tour of the plantations, but rather drove out to the the Mississippi River where many of the plantations are located. The plantations themselves offer their own narrated tours and each plantation charges around $20 admission per person. My favorite is Oak Alley. This plantation is fronted by two long rows of 300 year old oak trees. The oaks themselves are an amazing sight to see and provide welcome shade and a light breeze from the Louisiana sun and humidity. It is easy to picture yourself as a Southern Belle (or gentleman) rocking on the front porch on a hot day with a cool glass of lemonade. Move over Scarlet O’Hara!
Hurricanes at Pat O’Brien’s
Of course no visit to New Orleans would be complete without a visit to Pat O’Briens bar for an authentic hurricane next to their fire and water fountain. The brick patio so perfectly captures the essence of New Orleans, and the hurricanes are ice cold and tasty. I am not a big fan of rum drinks, but Ben, Maureen, and Joel thoroughly enjoyed them. My favorite picture from the entire week was taken here 😎.
Visiting in mid-October, Halloween was right around the corner. There are a lot of “haunted” cemetery tours, but we opted for a rather tame daytime visit. We took the Charleston Street trolley to the Garden District. There is a large cemetery located there which you can visit without charge (unlike the downtown cemeteries that charge $20 and require an escorted tour guide). Additionally, it was interesting to walk along the beautiful historic homes of the Garden District. Riding the trolley was enjoyable, especially sitting next to a wide open window where you could catch the afternoon breeze.
Lastly, this brings us to the swamp tour. We had an authentic Cajun tour guide and he should have come with subtitles, as it was very difficult to understand most of what he said. I am rating this last, because even though we saw many small alligators, our tour guide’s enthusiasm for trapping and killing them (yes, still allowed for one month every year) was disenchanting. Alligators are not aggressive towards humans and mostly want to be left alone as long as you leave them alone. This was proven by our tour guide’s own admission that he is not aware of a single alligator attack as long as he has lived in the area. I am an animal lover and would rather see them minding their own business in the swamp, rather than on a handbag or a pair of shoes.
Well, this wraps up our week. We are heading to Florida next and the temps in this whole southeast have been unusually high. Hoping things cool off soon!
We landed in Houston, TX for a few days. Top on Joel’s to-do list was a visit to the Houston Space Center. Just 5 months ago we visited Kennedy Space Center in Florida, what a huge difference between these two! At Kennedy the overwhelming feeling was that the space program was dead or dying since the shuttle program stopped – honestly, it was more than a bit depressing. Not so at Houston, while they honored the past achievements, their focus was on the present (international space station) and the future (manned mission to Mars on Orion).
Orion is not expected to take off until 2023 at the earliest, but NASA in Houston is super excited about it. It will take the astronauts 6 months of space travel just to reach Mars. Even radio communications will have a 40 minute delay between time sent and received. Once they are on Mars they will live in an inflatable habitat, which seems a bit flimsy as living space goes. You would have to be an incredibly brave person to be willing to take that journey, definitely not on my bucket list!
One of the other fun things about Houston Space Center is that there are a lot of interactive exhibits. For example, the 747 and space shuttle are all completely accessible on both the exterior and interior. I can now say that I have been in a real space shuttle! While we didn’t go into space, we did get to sit in Mission Control – the actual real Mission Control used to land the first man on the moon, Apollo 13 and most of the space shuttle flights. What I found really fascinating is that the computers used to put a man on the moon in 1969 had less computing capacity than we have on our smart phones today. Amazing!!!