Friday, August 7, 2015

Tour of the Carolinas

This year's summer vacation was a little different for us.  Instead of picking one place and staying there for the week, we decided to tour a state.  Two states actually.  Well, more like we picked several cities and visited some pretty cool sites.

We started our trip in Franklin, North Carolina for the Kelley Family Reunion.  As usual, it's always fun seeing relatives.  I love Craig's family and am so very thankful they have always accepted me and made me feel like one of them. 

Franklin is nestled in the mountains and is just gorgeous!  I could wake up to the sun rising above the mountains every day.  The summer evenings were cool enough that I actually had to put on a jacket.

Saturday was spent with part of the family going antiquing, part of the family staying at the lodge (a lot of the out of town guests stayed in one lodge together-it was perfect!), and the rest of the family exploring some waterfalls.  After seeing Laurel Falls in the Great Smokey Mountains during Spring Break, we couldn't wait to see some more.  It never gets old. 

That evening we all took family pictures and enjoyed a delicious BBQ dinner on a screened in porch with a soft rain coming down. 

 Just a small portion of the Wes Kelley clan
The three Kelley siblings (seated) and their spouses.  There is so much A/G history in this family, thanks to them!

We got up early and headed to Asheville, NC to visit the famous Biltmore Estate.  I was so excited to see this gigantic house.  You are not allowed to take pictures inside the house, but believe me, we were in awe of all the rooms.  It took about an hour to tour the inside.  However, we will spend a little more money and do the audio tour next time we visit.  We toured the beautiful gardens, took in the magnificent acreage, and then had lunch in one of the little cafes. 

After lunch, we headed to Winston-Salem, NC.  We saw an old Shell Station shaped like a giant shell. 

Then, we drove through Old Salem and checked out all the old Moravian style buildings.  We finally settled in Greensborough, NC for the night. 

Monday morning started off at the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park.  It's a tour by car that tells the history of the largest Revolutionary War battle.  It was pretty surreal to think that where we were standing was a battle fought so many years ago for our freedom. 

We drove on to Kill Devil Hills, NC.  The drive there was pretty scenic.  You are nestled in the trees and mountains and then it gives way to flat lands and ocean. 

We were able to stop at the Wright Brothers National Memorial 30 minutes before it closed.  It was a pretty cool place.

We checked into our hotel located on the beach and then headed to dinner.  We were actually able to walk a mile on the beach right to the great pizza place we had found. 

I absolutely love the ocean-the sound, the smell, the sights.  However, I had one firm rule for this trip:  Look, Don't Touch!  There have been so many shark attacks this summer right along the Outer Banks of North Carolina (where we were!) so we were not going to push our luck by going into the ocean.  In fact, we didn't see too many people that were brave enough to go in the water.

"Pretend" laughter

"Real" laughter.  This is how I get to experience every day with this guy-lots of love and lots of laughter.  And sometimes it's on a beach. ;)

Most of Tuesday was actually spent in the ocean, or rather traveling through it.  We drove down the Outer Banks, with dunes on both sides (and gorgeous beach houses), and got on our first ferry.  It was a pretty cool experience.  Once on the ferry, you were able to move along the boat, stay in your car, or hang out in the ferry lounge.  We spent the hour long trip watching for dolphins, but sadly, didn't see any. 


We got off on Ocracoke Island and drove to Ocracoke Lighthouse.  We were disappointed that we didn't actually get to go inside, but it was still pretty neat to see. 

After driving through the island town, which was so crowded with buildings and people that you will feel claustrophobic, we had lunch on the marina.  Then, got on our second ferry. 

This ferry was bigger, lasted longer, and got me feeling a little queasy.  I think it was a combination of having just had lunch, killer humidity, and the smell of fumes that made me feel like that.  I sat in the big, air conditioned lounge with a cold drink, and it helped immensely.  Once we arrived back on land, it was time for another drive to Wilmington, NC for the evening.

Wednesday's adventure started at Poplar Grove Plantation.  The house was full of history and we were given a personal tour.  We also learned a lot about the history of basket making that is so popular in that area. 

After a fabulous deli lunch, we visited the USS North Carolina

We toured the USS Mobile last summer and this battleship was similar in a lot of ways.  Of course, it's always important to learn more history.

Back in the car and onto Charleston, SC.  As we got closer to Charleston, we saw all the little basket stands along the road selling homemade seagrass baskets.  This area is part of the Gullah Geechee Corridor (anyone remember the kids show "Gullah Gullah Island"?) and part of the culture is making these gorgeous baskets out of seagrass.  When you look at the baskets up close, it's amazing the craftsmanship that goes into each one.  Plus, they are all for different uses.  I really wanted to buy a basket, but most of the stands were already closed for the day.  However, we found one across the highway from where we had dinner and we stopped to buy one.  The baskets are incredibly expensive and I can understand why.  We talked to the lady that made all of them and she told us her family history of making the baskets.  I bought a little one for $20 (a regular sized basket was hundreds of dollars) and I just love it.

We stayed in a fabulous hotel in the historic district of Charleston.  We were able to walk to all the places we wanted to check out.  We started Thursday morning with a shuttle tour of the entire historic district and then got on a boat to Ft. Sumter

Ft. Sumter was the location of the first shot fired of the Civil War. Just about everything was left as is on the little island.  It's not a huge place, but definitely worth checking out.

All of those poles are supposed to have replicas of the flags that were flown during the Civil War.  However, due to the recent controversy of the Confederate flag, they had to be taken down.

Surprisingly, we actually saw dolphins as we were getting off the boat and heading into Ft. Sumter.

That evening was spent at Waterfront Park where we saw even more dolphins!  Plus, we took tons of pictures of the beautiful scenery all around us. 

We got up early on Friday and started the long drive home.  We stopped outside Jackson, MS to spend the night and arrived home Saturday afternoon.  Phew!

It was a very busy week with details planned down to the hour.  We wanted to get in as many things as we could.  The best part was that I did not plan any of it except for the restaurants.  One afternoon, Craig took it upon himself to plan the itinerary including all the hotels.  He booked everything, purchased tickets, etc.  It was great!  I think the kids even liked all the many unique things we saw and experienced.  Time to plan for next year!

We ate at some fabulous places on our trip.  We always try to find places that are locally owned and have great reviews.  Check them out if you are ever in that area!

American Pie Pizza
This pizza was worth walking a mile down the beach.  Then, we were able to burn off some of the calories walking the mile back to our hotel. 

Duck Donuts
Hot, fresh, and made to your specifications.  It gets super busy but the line goes fast!

Located on the marina, all seating is outside on the covered deck.

Chop's Deli
Fabulous deli.  Craig and I shared the Jackson and it was sooo good!

Jack's Cosmic Dogs
As seen on Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives, it doesn't look like much of a restaurant.  However, step inside and it's full of diners.  There are a variety of hot dogs to choose from and it's very inexpensive.

Jim 'N Nick's BBQ
This is fabulous BBQ!  North Carolina BBQ has a sweeter flavor than Texas BBQ, but it is still so yummy.  Share a plate or bring a huge appetite!

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