Rather worryingly on the second day of our trip I found myself looking forward to not having to be the driver for the day. We visited Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s house. The house and garden provided an insight into the quirks and personality of the man and how he must have lived his life. I was especially intrigued by the great clock in the front hall, designed by him. It kept time using a mechanism of two sets of weights that sunk through holes in the floor into the cellar over the space a week. He also had an alcove bed – a bed set in the wall between his study and bedchamber – while his wife and six children slept upstairs.
|Monty (and family) at Monticello|
Apart from the impressive trees at the entrance and the loveliness of the gardens, the whole place felt a bit shabby, small and in need of a coat of paint. It was also difficult to reconcile the man who was a great innovator and the principle author of the Declaration of Independence with the owner of slaves.
After the obligatory trip to a local winery we headed for Charlottesville for dinner, following recommendations given at the vineyard. The boy and I were dropped off in front of recommended joint and we happily bagged a table outside so we could watch the world go past and enjoy the warmth of the evening. It was only when Garnet and the Grannies turned up with perplexed expressions that we found out that we were in the wrong place. As I was enjoying a wonderful and welcome cocktail, I sat my ground and refused to move. It turned out to be a serendipitous move, as the popular consensus was that it was the best meal (not to mention one of the best cocktails) on the whole trip.
|Almost at the Parkway|
The next morning our party was depleted to the core four of us – me, the boy and the two Grannies. After a wander round Charlottesville, in which the Grannies happily discovered several shops to their tastes, we were off on the hunt for the Blue Ridge Parkway.
To get onto the parkway, we ended up driving through a very pretty small town and having to ask one of the local ladies for directions. She was so delightfully coiffured and helpful that it almost felt wrong not to get out of the car and hug her for helping us. For such a lovely and well known scenic route, it did feel strange to have to drive through such a small town to get to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Whether or not we went the best way I don’t know, but we did happen on a local farm cafe/general store/plant nursery with very tasty and welcome ice-cream and coffee. The woman in the shop was single-handedly trying to manage the orders of a hoard of us hungry, thirsty and demanding travellers.
We finally got to the parkway two hours later than planned. After an initial drive through wooded mountains breaking into their bright, spring finery we descended into flatter, rolling countryside reminiscent of English farmland – I had to keep reminding myself what side of the road to drive on. We eventually made it to the main highway and pressed on to find somewhere to stay that night. Garnet who was becoming increasingly more frantic at the end of the phone tried to get us to book a place in advance, I eventually caved in and booked us a place outside Charlotte. The diner we ate at that night is memorable by the Grannies less than positive reaction to the introduction of southern food to their diet, namely hush puppies and fried catfish.
The next day was another long drive through the back roads South Carolina – I was determined not to go on the I95, in fact we only went on it for about 20 minutes before I had to come off it – it just felt so dull after driving through the small communities of that area.
The overwhelming impression of South Carolina, apart from the flatness and space, was the evident poverty in that area.
We finally arrived in Savannah that evening, crossing the bridge into the city with relief to be off the road. We were met with the heat and confusion that a new city brings and the chance for the boy to cool off and let off steam playing in the fountains in Ellis Square. After he fell exhausted into bed, Scotty Granny and I let of steam in the local bar with excellent buffalo wings and several cocktails, invented on the spot by the talented bar tender.
To be continued in part 3…