We couldn’t leave Augusta without at least doing a drive-by of Augusta National Golf Club, the home of the US Masters. I had heard there was no chance of getting into the actual golf course, but wanted to at least have a look from the road.
If you blinked, you would miss the main entrance, as all that can be seen from the road is the security guard’s hut and a very discrete sign for the Augusta National Golf Club, with a clear “Members Only” directive. From the road, we were only able to peer down Magnolia Lane, the tree lined entrance to the club, with the clubhouse in the distance.
We drove around the perimeter of the course, but all fences were protected by dense foliage, and all entrance gates are shielded by green tarpaulins. I guess if I am ever to see the course, it will have to be as a paying guest during the Masters.
Right throughout our drive across America, the discrepancy between the poor areas and the wealthy suburbs has been obvious. Nowhere has this been more stark than in Augusta. In one block, there are literally crumbling houses, whilst a couple of blocks on are the most beautiful, well kept houses. It constantly feels like there are some suburbs that are either conveniently forgotten or steadfastly ignored.
It also constantly makes me wonder just how relevant the incessant Republican primary, and the topics being debated by those potential Presidential candidates, must seem to the struggling slice of society that occupy these ramshackle parts of America. To these people, the world being debated by Romney and Gingritch et al must seem like another planet, because where they live, definitely looks like one.
Leaving Augusta, we again took B-roads heading for Charleston on the South Carolina coast, some 150 miles away. Our only stop on the way was to be at one of the few surviving plantation houses along the Ashley River, just outside Charleston.
We pulled into the Middleton Place plantation in the early afternoon, just in time for a late lunch prior to joining a walking tour of plantation gardens. Middleton Place boasts Amercia’s oldest landscape gardens, dating back to the 1740’s.
Our tour guide took us through the gardens, describing the design and the history of the plantation in a droll monotone. All the guides are volunteers, but judging by the enthusiasm ours put into the tour, I wondered whether she was performing the duty as part of some court ordered volunteer requirement as a result of unpaid parking tickets.
Like most plantations in the region, nothing remains of the original plantation house, as they were looted then burned by the marauding Union troops during the Civil War. Middleton Place, did however, have one of the adjoining houses rebuilt after the war, and it remains standing as a museum to the plantation era. Things improved with the tour inside the house, with a lovely Carolina lady taking us through with a more welcome level of interest and passion for the subject matter. She actually seemed to enjoy the task.
We arrived in Charleston in the late afternoon and found a hotel by the harbour. After taking advantage of the complimentary wine and cheese (very civilised), we followed the concierge’s recommendation and went to a restaurant called “High Cotton”, just around the corner from the hotel.
High Cotton specialises in “Low Country” fare, which is how the regional food of South Carolina seems to be described. I was encouraged by the waitress to try the special, which was a carved sirloin served with “mac n’ cheese”, which isn’t something you expect to find in a restaurant with white linen tablecloths.
I think everyone is meant to say that their mother’s macaroni and cheese is the best, but (sorry Mum) this was as good a “mac n’ cheese” as I’ve ever tasted.
One of the catalysts to coming to Charleston was a recommendation of one of Jane’s friends. Jane has since sent her an email letting her know we had made it to Charleston, and coincidentally, Jane’s friend had been to the same restaurant and had an equally good meal.
So if you ever find yourself in Charleston, seek out “High Cotton” on East Bay Street. You’ve got two recommendations from two separate visits, and neither of us charge commission …