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Tuesday, October 31, 2006


I'm changing the format a little this month since we just got back from a week at North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I wrote in diary form, and that way I could give more of an overview. South Carolina has beautiful beaches, interesting and historical cities and towns, a climate that tantalizes Northerners (and judging from license plates, mid-westerners and Canadians), and a friendliness and graciousness that cannot be expressed in words.

Monday, October 30, 2006


Day 1 Oct. 21, 2006

With a twelve hour drive down to Myrtle Beach, Rob and I are up at 4AM and out of the house shortly after 5, full travel mugs in their places in the console. Five o’clock is hardly to my liking, but being retired, I hardly ever get up before the sun anymore.

Over the mountains (goodbye mountains, we’re heading toward flat, flat lowlands), down Rt. 287, New Jersey Turnpike and Rt. 95 past some places we’d like to see on the way back, past Smithfields, North Carolina where we stopped last year at the Ava Gardner Museum (the billboards along 95 make me marvel at her exquisite beauty), and we turn off 95 to Rt. 40 and head toward Wilmington, NC, a city we plan to visit before returning home, and then down Rt. 17 South (there must be a Rt. 17 everywhere we go) to North Myrtle Beach.

We stop at the South Carolina Welcome Center filled with every kind of brochure imaginable, but more importantly, a woman well-versed in everything South Carolinian who answers our questions about a place for dancing and some day trips (as the forecast is not 100% in our favor). We leave with plenty of “reading material.”

Check in at A Place at the Beach—Windy Hill is easy. More on this site in a separate post since I want to review it for you. First impressions are good.

Rob and I plan our evening—dining out at a seafood buffet (they proliferate in this area), shopping for the week at Food Lion, unpacking (so all chores are completed by Sunday morning), and, if our eyes are still open, some time on the balcony listening to the night surf tuck in the shore.

Just a point about these seafood buffets. They each have a name, for instance Bennetts where we went tonight, and then “Calabash Seafood.” Here’s our question. What does Calabash mean? I found an answer in some of the literature we picked up. Calabash, North Carolina is just north of here. People cooked (mostly fried) the fresh seafood on the pier as it came off the fishing boats. Everyone joined in and ate, thus creating a buffet of sorts. Create a place for tourists, and just spread the culture. They love it!

DAY 2 OCTOBER 22, 2006

Day 2 Sunday, Oct. 22

I thought we’d left a light on in the hallway, but it was the light coming through the balcony door. Guess we needed some catch-up after the long drive. We enjoyed some leisurely coffee and breakfast and watched the walkers on the beach. Time to get up and go.

Over at Barefoot Landing, on the Intracoastal Waterway, a place of shops, restaurants, entertainment venues, and local attractions including the Alabama Theatre where we saw the show One last year and Alligator Adventure Outpost, we remember seeing a wild alligator from one of the wooden walkway bridges. Today we see a swan and other birds, probably gloomy at the threatening weather. We pop in and out of a few shops, and we meet some interesting people. One is a retired soldier and one is a retired Air Force officer. The flyer, now 75, suffered cancer as a result of being in Bimini during hydrogen bomb tests. He spoke through a voice box, but he did not speak of his problems; we spoke of politics, South Carolina weather, and a fellow he flew with from Newburgh, New York. With him we also met two young, handsome and identically attired identical twins from Mexico. When the airman asked what they did, they each gave a different answer. Hmmmmm…. Rob and I love to engage in these conversations with strangers. It’s one of the joys of travel.

We want tickets to two shows this week, Le Grande Cirque and Legends. Myrtle Beach has great entertainment possibilities, but more on these later, and we bought two hoodies just in case it remains damp and cool.

So how cool is it? Too cool for the ocean although we do sit on the beach.

We raise our eyes, and just offshore are dolphins (we know the difference since our shark encounter in the Bahamas in February). First three or four, then another group following and then another and another. We watch the groups frolic by, leaping and struttin’ their stuff for about twenty-five minutes. Fascinating! How nice of them to make our day.

OK, travel sometimes involves adventure. Try this one. We return from a great rib dinner at Logan’s Roadhouse about 8:15 PM to find Rob has no key and I haven’t taken my pocketbook—no key, no cell. The office is closed. We ride down in the elevator and spot a notice warning guests NOT to leave without a key—especially after 8 PM and all day Sunday because the office is closed and even if we call the emergency number, a locksmith must be called and paid for. Hmmmm It’s night time; it’s Sunday. Pay phones are anachronisms in 2006. We walk around the building to see if there are lights so we can ask someone to lend us a phone. Hmmmm Then Rob, that cagey alien, says he has one possibility. Obviously he didn’t lock the dead bolt…perhaps with a credit card…hmmmm Ten seconds and we’re inside! After 35 years, you’d think I would have witnessed all his talents. But breaking and entering????

It’s time for a toast to Rob with some celebratory bourbon in plastic cups which are taken down to the Jacuzzi.

DAY 3 OCTOBER 23, 2006

Day 3 October 23, 2006

How great to wake up, look off the balcony and see sunlight sparkling like jewels on the ocean’s surface. To hear the gentle surf lapping at the shore and to see early morning walkers in everything from shorts and t-shirts to sweatsuits bring a smile that starts the day off perfectly. None of those early-morning grumps.

At every timeshare we’ve visited, there’s always an “owner’s breakfast.” We opt to skip ours and head over to one for Sheraton Time Sales. They bribed us with tickets to two shows we want to see while we are down here (more on that under Travel Tips).

We get back to A Place at the Beach about 11:30, have an early lunch of doggy-bagged ribs from last night at Logan’s Roadhouse, change into bathing suits, grab the beach gear—including hoodies, and figure if it is too cold to sit on the beach, we’ll leave the chairs and walk. We’re trying to do 10,000 steps a day—about five miles.

Unfortunately it is unseasonably cold here this week, so only boogie boarding kids are in the water. Fortunately the air temperature is perfect, and Rob and I walk past bushes of butterflies along our dune path to the beach where we settle into our beach chairs and begin soaking in the wonderfully warm rays. The beach—virtually empty. Especially NO KIDS! Some fishermen and other sun seekers and walkers make up the population. There’s something magnificent about a beach after Labor Day. It’s a place of peace.

Later I pick up my book, Isabel Allende’s Zorro which I know I’ll recommend next month, and I get back into Don Diego’s childhood—trying not to picture a young Guy Williams.

Between our books and people watching, we share a warm, restful early afternoon, and then we join the walkers. We find the water, at ankle depth, pleasantly warm, and we head up the beach. Post Labor Day beaches are friendly places, and people say hello as we pass. There’s always a smile. Everyone is happy to be here, even if it is unseasonably cool.

When we return from our walk and pick up our books again, we’re both overwhelmed with contentment, and when we leave the beach, we stop for half an hour in the Jacuzzi, as if we need additional relaxation!

Dinner is a snafu. When we arrive all set for a lovely, romantic dinner at The Melting Pot, and our waiter, Steven, describes the menu, he adds that enjoying the different courses takes a leisurely hour and a half or more. Oops, then we’ll miss the theater. We re-schedule our reservations for Wednesday and find a Chilis for frajitas. Talk about a comedown, and a chain restaurant at that.

The show as beyond great! Called The Grande Cirque, it played at the beautiful Palace Theater in Broadway at the Beach, a big, glitzy complex of clubs, restaurants, and shops. It’s neon bright, loud, and I bet in summer jam-packed. But tonight, a cool night, the folks at the Palace are treated to a troupe of forty Chinese acrobats whose dexterity, flexibility, balance, and death-defying acts fill the theater with oohs, ahhs, and enthusiastic applause. This is an integrated show where the spectacular lighting and music combine with the human element to leave the audience in awed breathlessness.

The tumbling performances mesmerize. The balancing acts make us marvel at the way a trained and tuned human body can contort. The Chinese YoYo and Plates acts take the breath away. All the while we are entertained by a mime and then by a troupe of acrobatic dogs—no kidding!

After the performance, two young Chinese YoYo artists came out to demonstrate. They practice three to four hours daily to hone their skills. That number is so exhausting, Rob and I retire to the Jacuzzi to relax!


Day 4 Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Inland there was a frost last night. Here at the beach, it’s just COLD! You can’t fight the temperatures which won’t get back to the 70s until the weekend. (After we’ve gone) But there’s plenty to do here. Gotta travel with a Plan B.

First a walk on the beach. We wear shorts and hoodies, but boy are the Southerners bundled up. The surf fishermen are layered, booted, and woolen-capped. South Carolina surf fishing in 50˚ weather must be analogous to New York ice fishing!

It really is too cold for the beach, so we hop in the car and head to The Belle Amie Winery where Belle, the dog, is reputed to play catch with visitors (get that Robyn and Pam and Anne?). This photo is about as ambitious as Belle got!

This is a great little winery, its vines a mere eight years old having had the first two plantings decimated by hurricanes. We did a tasting of ten very nice wines, and I picked some special tea towels for myself and Mike.

Then we head a bit further north to Calabash, North Carolina to check out real Calabash seafood since we now know the origin of the term. We drive through several areas along the Calabash River. Sometimes we stop to shop, and then we dine along the river at Captain Nance’s where the fishing boats moored outside bring in some of the day’s menu selections. We aren’t sure whether to eat there or at a neighboring restaurant, so we ask some people with NC tags on their car, and they tell us they frequent Captain Nance’s everytime they’re passing through. How right they are! Unpretentious, full of warm, southern hospitality, serving good, simple food. In Calabash it’s fried, and Captain Nance’s is full of people. Don't forget to use their homemade cocktail sauce. While they don’t have a website, if you google Captain Nance’s, you will get a NYTimes review that backs up my own feelings about the restaurant!

By the time we stop at Barefoot Landing for some Maggie Moo’s ice cream and a look around a shop we found last year, The Peace Frog, we are ready for A Place at the Beach where, braving the 46˚ temperatures, we head for the Jacuzzi, bourbon in hand.

DAY 5 OCTOBER 25, 2006

Day 5 Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The temperatures dipped to 36˚ overnight, and the morning people walk the beach in ski parkas! We walk in knit pants and hoodies. We do our half hour and end up in a sweat—meaning perspiration. Rob begins picking up shells. Wonder what he has in mind. The walk is good. People greet us as we pass, and we stop so Rob and a stranger can discuss the nature and type of birds flying overhead although neither has his binoculars with him.

A lazy afternoon and then to The Melting Pot, the fondue restaurant we left on Monday evening. I will write this up separately because it is so excellent and so worth going back to when we have enough time. (2 ⅓ hours) It is also soooo different from La Buena Mesa, a restaurant in Gramercy Park we used to frequent in the 70s when fondue was very in.

Then on to another terrific show—Legends—where we are treated to five enthusiastic performances of star impersonators including an Elvis Presley who perspired profusely enough to toss out those famous, sweaty scarves. And the ladies loved getting them! In addition to Elvis, Rod Stewart—who looked and sounded so much like the real thing it was hard to tell the difference—did a “Maggie” that was absolutely first rate. Whitney Houston appeared, and a shimmering Donna Summer mesmerized us with “Last Dance” on heels so high it was hard to believe she could walk. Tom Jones, who couldn’t quite perspire enough to flick sweat off his face, could sing and gyrate in very familiar ways.

The accompanying band was great as were the “GoGo” dancers. Two big screens were filled with images displaying a mixture of the real star and the impersonator, in case the appreciative audience had any doubt (or was too young) about the talent of the performers.

Legends is thoroughly entertaining. There is a revolving list of stars, so the show, supposedly, is never the same.

Surprisingly, when we got home, we were too tired for the Jacuzzi. Too bad.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


Day 6 Thursday, Oct. 26, 2006

Nice day today even if we did get up to the alarm clock. We are heading down to Georgetown, the third oldest city in South Carolina, and there are some interesting places along the way. Depending on how things progress, we want to leave as much time as possible to see as much as possible.

Georgetown, named after George, Prince of Wales to become King George II, is a pretty place and reputed to be the possible site of the first European settlement in North America in 1526. We went to the Visitor’s Center and then took The Swamp Fox Tour around the historic district, and that was most informative. (Remember, my contemporaries, the Swamp Fox, Francis Marion of Walt Disney fame?) In the historic district, markers in blue or beige indicate whether the homes were built before the Revolution or before the Civil War. Some of these homes are still owned by descendants of the original builders—planters who used this area to relax after the hectic social season in Charleston.

Two stories:

1. The planters, in their moments of relaxation where they drank Planter’s Punch (really), would get so drunk they had to be tied on their horses to get home. Hence the expression “to tie one on.” I love that.

2. The kitchens of these houses were detached for fire safety, and when the tantalizing aromas of the food being carried to the main house began to attract dogs that yelped and begged to be fed, the servants began carrying balls of fried dough to throw at the hungry animals—to hush them up. Hence, hush puppies! Cool!

After the tour, Rob and I had a great lunch at the River Room Restaurant on the Harbor Walk, which we walked end to end. Notice the sign we passed. I’ll write about the River Room separately because it was so spectacular.

Before we left Georgetown, we drove all over the small city. We even met this witch! Guess she was sightseeing too.

On the way home, we drove to Pawley’s Island of hammock fame. Beautiful. Long piers jut out through the marshes where birds wing in and out. The island seems crowded with beach houses, but it has a very tropical air with palms and hibiscus-type plants abounding. Birdsong fills the air. It’s a lovely place.

We also drove through Murrill’s Inlet, another waterfront community with homes and docks lining the shore. Lots of tempting restaurants too. We’ll have to do some research and return.

Dinner tonight is subs from Jersey Mike’s. We’re both tired, and not going out tonight gives us time to hit that blessed Jacuzzi. Trust me—the Jacuzzi in the dark of the night against the background music of the invisible, rhythmic pounding of the surf is just grand.

DAY 7 OCTOBER 27, 2006

Day 7-- October 27, 2006

It’s pouring. It’s a great day to continue with Zorro.

In the afternoon we decide to go to the movies. Flags of our Fathers is playing, and we want to see it. Wonderful! Clint Eastwood does it again. He has a way of looking beyond the superficial and getting to the way people really are. He sure is a long way from Rowdy Yates.

We’d planned to take two days to get back to Warwick so we could make some stops along the way, but it’s supposed to continue raining tomorrow. Better to get up early and head home. It has been a nice week. We’ll be back. We really like South Carolina, Sybil.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Country Grill & Smokehouse
1215 George Washington Memorial Parkway
Yorktown, Virginia 23693

Whenever Rob and I cross the Mason Dixon Line, we’re looking for ribs and barbecue. Without hesitation, Michael suggests The Country Grill and Smokehouse, a frequent stop of his in Virginia.

Here’s another big, roomy restaurant with ample outside and inside seating. We choose to go inside. It’s frequented by noisy and happy people. We love the atmosphere, and we’re ready to join the fun.

We are seated at a bare, wooden table, and our cheerful waiter, Ricky, greets us with a smile and a big, white, shiny sheet of butcher paper which he jauntily flips before us as if it were fine table linen. Then he sets our table. Smack in the middle of the table he places a basket of warm corn muffins and butter. Nice beginning, don’t ya think?

Each of us chooses a BBQ Platter, big meaty portions accompanied by two sides.

Michael orders the Smoked Beef Brisket, “slow cooked and grilled for 14 hours in the pit, hand sliced and tender as a grandma’s hug.” It’s a mouth watering description, and its arrival does not belie it. Michael's platter includes mashed potatoes and gravy, and Pit Roasted Vegetables. I taste his brisket, and we both roll our eyes and agree it is delicious. Not too dry, and extraordinarily tender. It’s not the brisket from a New York deli. It’s BARBECUE.

Rob chooses the Pulled Pork Shoulder,” hickory smoked and slow cooked, pulled off the bone and heaped on a plate”. His sides, barbecue beans and grilled vegetables, please him mightily. The pork, shredded into thin strips, gets Rob’s usual bath of barbecue sauce. The restaurant has many barbecue sauce selections, and Rob uses ALL of them, but mostly the Southwest Texas—“assorted dried chili peppers, cumin, coriander, Mexican oregano and tomato.” (How’d you like that mix, Iris?) Timid as always with that hot stuff, I try the pork sans sauce and love the taste.

Neither Rob’s nor Michael’s choices make me think I have selected incorrectly by ordering ½ rack of The Grill’s Famous Pork Ribs. I chose traditional St. Louis style ribs. Wonderful. Meaty. Delicious. They have a nice, spicy flavor and enough sauce for me to keep my hands off those bottles on the table.

The barbecue beans come in a thick, rich, tangy sauce loaded with chunks of meat. My red potato salad, pleasingly light on the mayo but made even more tasty with pieces of chopped celery, is special. Rob and Michael agreed that the ribs are excellent.

Ricky had warned us to leave room for dessert, but, frankly, that is impossible.

If you’re in the area, but not in Yorktown, there are Country Grill & Smokehouses in Hampton, VA and in Newport News, VA.


Great old books are like old best friends, and I just had an opportunity to reacquaint myself with a best friend, Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage. Forget that Crane wrote the book in ten days when he was 21 years old. Forget he had never been to war. Forget Europeans immediately compared him to Tolstoy, Zola, and Kipling. Forget that Hemingway called this the first modern war novel. Forget that you probably read the book as a high school student where, I’ve always contended, it is chosen for its brevity and non-threatening vocabulary. Read it now as an adult in a very troubled world. What an eye-opener into genius of authorship! It is spare, tight, filled with vivid images and memorable characters interacting in a world gone to hell!

The Red Badge of Courage occupies two scant but tense, bloody, relentless and exhausting days in the life of a youth gone to war for imagined glory who learns how to rely on himself and to be a man. On his journey he meets some interesting people who impact his life and thinking. He learns about fear, and he learns about passion. He is guided to an insight into human nature, and he does something he finds hard to forgive in himself. Small in scope but monumental in meaning, the tightly woven fabric of interaction between War, the blood-soaked animal, Nature, the religion of peace, and Man with all his variety, makes for adult reading and pondering.

All characters in this novel become symbols. Enjoy unraveling the puzzles. Take the time to close your eyes and visualize the magnificent word pictures Crane creates with his vivid, clear language. Some of them are beautiful. Some of them are horrific! Travel the journey from youth to manhood that Henry and his friend, Wilson, take—perhaps by following different paths but each coming to a place in life’s road where he understands himself.

And when you’re done with this remarkable journey, get on the web and google the words The Veteran Stephen Crane, and read the short story Crane wrote a year later which takes Henry to old age. Find out what becomes of this Civil War Veteran.