Atlanta - Southern belles
Cypress swamps and cotton fields, vast plantations and white mansions, magnolia trees and stately oaks: The Old South, just a couple of hours’ drive from Atlanta, has lost nothing of its romantic charm. Join us on the road from Charleston to Savannah.
Meandering past fields and farms, Long Point Road leads through Mount Pleasant, a suburb of Charleston, South Carolina. Magnolias and azaleas abound as we turn up the driveway to Boone Hall Plantation. Ahead, an avenue of mighty oaks. Spanish moss hangs from the branches and sways gently in the wind. In the distance, the pillars of the big house gleam a brilliant white. Our car advances slowly. Horses gallop on our right, and on our left, we glimpse old slave cabins back between the trees.
Boone Hall dates from 1681 and the first oaks in the avenue were planted in 1743. Cotton brought prosperity to the plantation, one of the oldest in the country. Still in operation today, it now produces mainly strawberries, tomatoes and pumpkins. At the end of the avenue we see the old cotton gin where the cottonseeds were once threshed out of the fluffy white bols, and next to it a rose garden and an old well house.
Guinea fowl run about clucking, and the sweet fragrance of blossom mingles with the musty smell of marsh and swamp. One cannot help think of Gone With the Wind and Tara. Is that Vivien Leigh walking purposefully among the roses in her crinoline skirt?
Boone Hall lies right at the heart of the Old South. The first English settlers ar- rived in 1670 and began eking out a living on a peninsula between two rivers, naming their settlement Charles Town, after King Charles II.
Avenue of Oaks:
Famously featured in movies and on TV, the Avenue of Oaks provided the backdrop for Southern States epics, such as Gone with the Wind and North and South. The avenue, which extends for more than one kilometer long and leads right up to Boone Hall, the big house of the plantation of the same name, was planted almost 260 years ago.
Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens: 1235 Long Point Road, Mount Pleasant, Tel.: +1-843 884 4371. Open: Mon-Sat 9am-5pm, Sun 1-4pm (core time, sometimes open longer). Admission: US$19.50 (reduced US$17, children under 12 US$9.50). http://boonehallplantation.com
Boone Hall Plantation:
Boone Hall is the most frequently photographed plantation in the United States. The street with its nine restored slave cabins are as impressive as they are oppressive. These cabins were the homes of better-situated slaves, such as domestics and craftsmen. Farm laborers’ were even more basic. A villa dating from 1935 today occupies the site of the original mansion. Its ground floor, like the former slave dwellings, are open to visitors.
Drayton Hall and Magnolia Plantation:
Yet more plantations: Drayton Hall is practically a must-see for visitors to the Southern States. It is one of the truly magical places in the old South. Its charming main house looks just the same as it did back in 1742, when it was built. Magnolia Plantation – like Drayton Hall – borders Ashley River Road in Charleston. It has a special attraction for children, a petting zoo, and the magical cypress swamp right on the grounds is well worth a visit.
Drayton Hall: 3380 Ashley River Road, Charleston, Tel.: +1-843 769 2600. Open: Mar-Oct, daily 8:30am-6pm (last admission 5pm), Nov-Feb, daily 9:30am-5:30pm (last admission 4pm). Admission: US$18 (Children/teenagers US$6/8).www.draytonhall.org. Mangnolia Plantation: 3550 Ashley River Road, Charleston, Tel.: +1-800 367 3517. Open: Mar-Oct, daily 9am-4:30pm, Nov-Feb, times vary slightly, available on request. Admission: US$ 15 (children US$10, surcharge for some attractions). www.magnoliaplantation.com
Luxury from a bygone age: Owens-Thomas House in Savannah was completed in 1819 for a wealthy cotton merchant; today it houses a museum. Exhibits include antique furniture, fabrics, jewelry and china, and most pieces date from between 1750 and 1830. The drawing room furnishings have been largely preserved in their original state. The black slave culture is represented by artifacts on display in the former servants’ wing.
Owens-Thomas House: 124 Abercorn Street, Tel.: +1-912 790 8889. Open: Mon 12 noon-5pm, Tue-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 1-5pm (only guided tours available, the last one of the day begins at 4:30pm). Admission: US$20, reduced US$5-18). http://telfair.org/visit/owens-thomas-house/
Old-world charm: Savannah survived the American Civil War unscathed by surrendering without a fight to the Northern troops and its original old South beauty is preserved to this day. Monterey Square is considered the loveliest spot in the entire town with its picturesque houses, like Mercer House, and also one of only a handful of synagogues to have been built in the Gothic style anywhere in the world.
Lady & Sons:
An abundance of seafood, lots of chicken and, of course, the typical fried green tomatoes – this restaurant serves up delicious southern and soul food. It’s not just the delicious food that has diners flocking here, though, owner Paula Deen is also a TV cook of nationwide fame.
Lady & Sons: 102 W Congress Street, Tel.: +1-912 233 2600. Open: Mon-Sat lunch 11am-3pm, dinner 5pm, Son, lunch buffet only, 11am-5pm. Telephone reservations are not accepted, but you can (and would be wise to) call by after 9:30am to book a table for the same day. http://ladyandsons.com
Photos: mauritius images (4), Corbis