Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Way Down Yonder In New Orleans!

We arrived in New Orleans at lunchtime which gave us the whole afternoon to explore. It was immediately obvious that it was a totally different kind of city to Savannah with a much faster pace of life. To begin with we weren't sure that we were going to like it but New Orleans is a city that grows on you. Above is St Louis Cathedral which is of course in the French Quarter. A Roman Catholic church has stood on this site since 1718 but the present building dates from 1850. The church became a cathedral in 1793 and is the oldest continuously operating cathedral in the United States.

New Orleans is full of street performers so we stopped to watch one group from the plaza which overlooks Jackson Square and Decateur Street. As we watched them we heard the sound of a brass band in the distance playing 'When The Saints Go Marching In'. It got closer and closer and then we saw that it was leading a wedding party down the street - I just managed to get a couple of quick photos before they passed out of sight. If you click on the photo you'll be able to see the bride more clearly. I love her parasol. Later in the afternoon we walked down the famous Bourbon Street just so that we could say we'd been there - and what a letdown that was! It was dirty, squalid and smelt to high heaven. We'd already decided that our night time excursions would be to Frenchman Street and it was immediately obvious that we'd got that one right!

Frenchman Street is filled with clubs all with live music, in some you just had to buy a drink in others you had to buy tickets for performances. Snug Harbour was one of the latter and we saw this great jazz band there. Some of the other clubs we went in were D.B.A., The Spotted Cat (great name!) and The Three Muses. If you are ever in New Orleans go and eat at The Three Muses, the food is fabulous and its always crowded.

Since we only had three full days in New Orleans we decided that we needed to have a plan rather than just ambling around. Both of us came up with things we wanted to do and one of mine was to sail on a paddle steamer on the Mississipi River. This the Natchez, she is one of only two steam-powered stern wheelers still sailing on the Mississipi so on Tuesday morning we made our way down to Toulouse St Wharf and bought our tickets for the 2 hour Jazz Cruise.

This is the paddle wheel churning away, it was quite exciting to be able to get so close to it.

As we sailed down the river we were given a commentary about the places we were passing, this obelisk marks the scene of the Battle of New Orleans where I regret to say that the British were soundly beaten by the Americans led by General Andrew Jackson in the final battle of the Revolutionary War! I believe that the site is about 6 miles out of New Orleans at a place called Chalmette.

Sadly the sail down the Mississipi while interesting is definitely not filled with pretty scenery, it's a heavily industrial landscape as this photo shows.This is an oil refinery I think and we also passed the Domino Sugar Refinery which has been there for over 100 years but isn't an especially inspiring subject for a photograph! The Port of New Orleans and The Port of South Louisiana combine to make one of the largest port systems in the world handling both cargo and passenger traffic.
The Mississipi is 2,320 miles long, the fourth longest and the tenth widest river in the world. The river's name is a derivation of Misiziibi the name given to the river by the First Nations people who lived alongside it. Misiziibi means Great River.

This is the engine room of the Natchez - not being of a mechanical turn of mind I don't find this all that exciting but possibly some of my readers will find it interesting:)

As we approached the Wharf at the end of our trip we got a good view of the Jax Brewery buildings which now contains shops and restaurants.

Our next stop was Juliette's choice, we spent an enjoyable couple of hours in the Aquarium. Inside was a good place to be and we were glad we'd been on the river in the morning as the temperature really started to drop later in the day and it was cold for the rest of our stay.

I think these jellyfish are beautiful though I've no idea what kind they are.

I liked this albino alligator, I think he looks rather sweet and friendly but I wouldn't be volunteering to join him in his enclosure to test my theory:)

This was the best bit of all - we were there when they fed the stingrays and you could pay extra and go and feed them if you felt brave. We did! You had to pick up a small fish and put it flat on your hand in the water and the stingrays just kind of vacuumed it up. It was a really fun experience.

Our final visit of the day was also Juliette's choice and I wasn't that bothered beforehand but the Mardi Gras Museum turned out to be fascinating. It's in a huge warehouse and they give you a guided tour beginning with dressing up in distinctly unflattering costumes and, even less flattering in my case, hats. They were one size fits all and 'all' obviously included some very large people! We were shown a 15 minute video explaining the history of Mardi Gras and showing past parades and were then taken through into the area where floats and figures from past Mardi Gras parades are kept. Even more interesting was that this is where they were working on the floats for 2014. The whole thing is a year round process, as soon as one Mardi Gras is over preparations begin for the next year.

This head of Medusa destined for a 2014 float was waiting its turn to be painted.

Designs for some of the floats for 2014. Something that I didn't realise is that Mardi Gras isn't just one big parade on one day. It lasts over two weeks and there are parades in many different areas of New Orleans often four or five on any one day.

Floats from last year, components of floats are often re-used, some of them are absolutely enormous. It must be fun to see one of the parades for real.

I was quite surprised to find this gentleman in the Mardi Gras Museum! It wasn't the first time I'd seen Winston Churchill in New Orleans either. Every night when we walked to the trolley stop to go down to Frenchman Street we passed a statue of him in the middle of the traffic circle on Poydras Street.

This is one of the areas where they are making the figures for the floats, some are carved out of blocks of styrofoam, some made from fibreglass and others from papier mache. It's quite incredible really.

There are artists working on the painting of the completed items - here a huge crown which looks as though it's been left to dry and some urns which are awaiting their turn.

Not sure whether these are past or future but it does give an idea of the scale of some of the pieces. It was the end of a busy but really enjoyable day. Next we're off on a Voodoo Tour!

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Comment about Tideswell

I have received a comment via email about a post I did on the village of Tideswell in May 2010. I have added it to the comments but thought I would also put it here with a link to the original post for anyone who is interested. The photo above is of a carving in the church done by Advent Hunstone the great great uncle of Mr Bagshawe.

" Hello Rowan, What a wonderful demonstration and wonderful photos on your website. My name is Mark
Hunstone Bagshaw b Buxton. I lived in Tideswell for 16 years at Velvet Mill. We ran a family business - Chapmans - so called under our ownership because Chapmans had previously run the business going back over 100 years. 

 Brenda lived in Tideswell [ Tidza } for two years and always said that it had an atmosphere not many places have. The depth of history you portray previously unknown to us, little wonder!! Thanks for your lovely comments and research. I am the great great nephew of Advent Hunstone - his brother Robert m Mary Lyon and one of their daughters Janet m William Bagshaw - my grandparents. 

 Would love my comments to go on your Blog/website - most enjoyable. 

 Kind regards Mark"

I found it really interesting to be contacted by a descendent of one of the people from the past that I've written about. Thank you Mark:)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Savannah - Part Two

Savannah is close to the Georgia coast and we discovered that we could catch a little local bus to Tybee Island so on Wednesday that's what we did. It was an interesting ride as all the other passengers were locals and obviously knew both each other and the bus driver. They were very friendly and we were soon chatting away. The friendliness of the people in the South was one of the most memorable aspects of our stay, everyone was so pleasant and helpful. The photo shows the beach at Tybee Island, the sky looks grey here but it was warm and gradually became sunny as well. The beach stretches for miles and we were able to walk and paddle in the sea for a couple of hours and then we had a lovely picnic lunch. We did very little but it was one of the most relaxing and enjoyable days of our holiday.

The beach was full of birds who were quite tame and allowed us to get quite close to them. Not sure what these are - knot maybe?

We booked ourselves onto a bus tour to Bon Aventure cemetery on Thursday and it proved to be very interesting. It's a beautiful place covering about 100 acres and filled with tree lined avenues. Many of the trees are live oaks positively dripping with Spanish Moss - this does not mean live oaks as opposed to dead oaks! It's a term for a group of related evergreen oaks:) The cemetery was originally the Bonaventure Plantation which was owned by John Mullryne and his descendents. The plantation was sold in 1846 and became a private cemetery. The City of Savannah purchased it in 1907 and it then became a public cemetery which is still in use today.

I found taking photos here very difficult as the trees cast so much shadow.We had an enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide but there wasn't much time for lingering and taking several shots as I usually do:) It's one of the disadvantages of being in a tour group. I've included this photo because of the iron cross that stands at the foot of the grave. These stand in front of many of the graves and signify that one of the occupants was a Confederate soldier who served during the American Civil War. The letters C S A stand for Confederate States of America.

This is probably the most well known grave in Bon Aventure, it is that of a little girl called Gracie Watson.

This is her story - you will need to click on the photo to read it.

A close up of the statue - such a sad story.

I mentioned in the previous post that the famous songwriter Johnny Mercer was a native of Savannah and he and several members of his family are buried in this grave plot in Bon Aventure - the two graves at the back right are those of Johnny and his wife.

This memorial bench in the front corner of the plot has a caricature of Johhny Mercer's head in the centre and the titles of some of his most famous songs engraved around the edges.

Bon Aventure is built on a bluff of the Wilmington River which eventually flows into the Savannah River. I'm sure we were told about this impressive arched memorial but I can't remember anything about it - I should have taken notes!
 There is one statue that used to be in Bon Aventure which, like the Mercer-Williams House, became famous through the film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

The bronze Bird Girl was removed to the Telfair Museum of Art in Savannah in 1997 because of the amount of attention it was attracting. We saw it earlier in the week when we spent a couple of hours exploring the Museum.

We had to move back to the Embassy Suites at the airport for the weekend as the Rock'n'Roll Marathon was on in the city and Marshall House was already fully booked when we made our reservations. As a result we needed our own transport so over the weekend we rented a car - a brand new Chrysler 300C. Juliette had never driven an automatic before nor had she ever driven anywhere but the UK, not to mention that it was dark when we left Savannah and her own car is a little VW Polo! How she managed the 45 minute drive to the airport I shall never know and I don't think she does either:) We would still be driving round Georgia and possibly several other states as well without the satnav - we certainly would never have found the hotel. However it was a good thing in a way because the next day driving in daylight was a breeze. I gather that the car was lovely to drive and it was certainly very comfortable.

On Saturday we drove out to the ruined plantation at Wormsloe. It was a fortified house built in 1736 by Noble Jones, one of the founders of the colonial state of Georgia. The fortifications were there because of possible attacks by the Spanish who had colonized what is now the state of Florida and also claimed the coastal areas of Georgia.

The house was built of wood and tabby which is a sort of cement made from oyster shells and lime. You can see the oyster shells quite clearly in the photo. In 1828 a new plantation house was built and the original gradually fell into ruin.

There are walking trails around the estate so we decided to do the long one which took us a couple of hours. Wormsloe is built on the tip of the Isle of Hope - actually it's sometimes an island and sometimes a peninsular depending on the marsh water levels. It's a lovely and tranquil place to walk in and we had it entirely to ourselves although there were plenty of people at the site - apparently nobody else was prepared to walk very far:)

This for you Diane:) I spotted this heart-shaped hole in the old tree trunk and couldn't resist taking a photo.

There is a very small colonial life demonstration area which included this blacksmith's forge

There were only two reenactors on the site - I suppose it was late in the season and there's probably more going on in the summertime.

I think this was a replica of the area where the slaves lived but I could be wrong about this. There was really very little information about the site as a whole, just a little leaflet with a map - no guide book because I asked.

This is Jones Marsh formerly called the Skiddaway Narrows. The thing I found really strange about this walk is that there were no birds of any description on the marsh or in the trees and the only animal we saw was a single deer. I wouldn't have been surprised to see snakes or alligators but not a sign of either - probably just as well really:)

Wormsloe is famous for the mile and a half long avenue of oaks draped with the ever present Spanish Moss. This was taken late in the afternoon when the light was beginning to fade.

On Sunday we ventured further afield and crossed the Savannah River into South Carolina and drove up to Hilton Head for a relaxing day on the beach. It's a really pleasant place though I imagine that it gets very busy indeed in the summer. It's quite a historic place I think and it would have been interesting to spend more time there.

Here I am paddling in the ocean and looking as though I have the beach to myself.

There were plenty of other people there enjoying the sunshine as well though. It was a lovely relaxing day and set us up nicely for the next part of our trip - New Orleans!

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Savannah - Part One

On our first day after a little wander round and a spot of lunch we decided the best thing to do would be to take the Historic Savannah Trolley Tour so that we could get an idea of what there was to see and the layout of the city. We got on at the Visitor's Centre and stayed on for the whole 90 minute tour which had a running commentary of what we were seeing and whetted our appetite to explore more thoroughly. Afterwards we decided to walk down towards the river passing through some of the squares on the way. Above is the Gordon Monument in Wright Square which is one of the four original squares in Savannah and dates from 1733. The public market was held here until it was relocated in 1763.

I think this was my favourite of all the squares and I certainly found it the most interesting largely because of its association with the Yamacraw Indian chief Tomo Chi Chi who was buried here in 1739 on the site which now lies beneath the Gordon Monument. Clicking on the photo to enlarge it will enable you to learn more about Tomo Chi Chi who was a much greater man than the one whose monument now covers his grave.

Factor's Walk stands between BayStreet and River Street on the Savannah River and is now home to all kinds of businesses from investment bankers to really tacky souvenir stores. It originates from the days when "cotton was king" and Savannah was one of the busiest ports in the US. The buildings are 5 or 6 storeys high, the upper part above the walkways served as offices to the cotton factors and the lower part served as warehouses. I think that the central elevation with the pediment was the original Cotton Exchange where the cotton factors set cotton prices worldwide. The decisions taken in this distant place affected the lives of many of my ancestors who worked in the cotton mills of Manchester in England.

The Georgia Queen is one of the paddle boats that does cruises along the Savannah River though we didn't get round to doing this. The Savannah River forms a good portion of the border between the states of Georgia and South Carolina.

I really liked the African American Monument which stands on River Street. It's a poignant reminder of the slave trade upon which the wealth of the South and also the mill owners and slave traders of England was built. It depicts a family of slaves embracing after emancipation with the slave chains representing slavery still lying round their feet. There is a very touching inscription written by the poet Maya Angelou which reads:

" We were stolen, sold and bought together from the African continent. We got on the slave ships together. We lay back to belly in the holds of the slave ships in each others excrement and urine together, sometimes died together, and our lifeless bodies thrown overboard together. Today, we are standing up together, with faith and even some joy."

The following morning we were back on River Street to meet up with the lovely Janet of MacQue Blogspot and her husband Mac. We'd arranged to meet in Huey's for beignets and coffee and spent a very enjoyable couple of hours chatting with them. It was lovely to actually meet up with one of my transatlantic blogging friends. The afternoon was spent exploring more of Savannah's streets and squares. I wish I'd had the foresight to make a note of where this lovely house was but sadly I didn't! Judging from the photo before it it may be on or near York Street though.

This is Madison Square where a rare statue honouring an enlisted soldier stands. Sergeant William Jasper was a Revolutionary hero from South Carolina who rallied the American soldiers after rescuing the American battle flag after it had been shot down during the Battle of Sullivan's Island in Charleston and they went on to defeat the British.

Savannah is filled with lovely old houses, again I've no idea where this is but I'd be happy to live in it!

I do know where this is though! It's the Mercer-Williams house at 429 Bull Street overlooking Monterey Square. It was built by the grandfather of the famous songwriter Johnny Mercer who wrote so many wonderful songs including 'Moon River', 'Days of Wine and Roses' and the wonderfully named 'On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe' - which was a railway in case you're wondering. Here's Johnny Mercer's own version recorded in 1944. None of the Mercer family ever lived here, it fell into a state of disrepair and in 1969 was bought and restored by the Savannah preservationist Jim Williams. It became famous as a result of the book and film 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil'. Not a story for the faint of heart!

From Monterey Square we walked up to Forsyth Park where the first thing you see as you walk into the park under an avenue of trees dripping with Spanish Moss is the Forsyth Fountain.

This beautiful cast iron fountain was installed in 1858 and is well worth standing and looking at. All the photographs will enlarge if you click on them by the way.

The park is a lovely place to walk and was obviously well used by the local people as well as by tourists. This photo really shows the Spanish Moss which is everywhere in Savannah.

In the centre of the park stands the Confederate Monument - it was erected in 1874 to honour the confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. It was made in Canada and transported to Savannah by sea so that it would never touch 'Yankee' soil and the Confederate soldier on top of the monument faces towards the enemy in the North. In the cornerstone lies a piece of the flag from Fort Sumter in South Carolina where the first shots of the Civil War were fired in 1861. It's estimated that 750,000 soldiers died in the American Civil War.

On the Wednesday our day ended with a visit to the historic Savannah Theatre on Bull Street/Chippewa Square. The theatre has been here in various guises since 1818 and is one of the United States' oldest continually operating theatres. We went to see 'Jukebox Journey' a live show with music from the 1940s through to the 1970s. It was very good but the audience was definitely on the elderly side, Juliette was the youngest by a country mile! It was actually her idea to go as Trip Advisor said we should:)