Some of my fondest memories of my trip through the southern states will always be the people. I loved to sit still to hear their sweet southern drawls, which varied from region to region. Here are a few of my favorites…DSC_0304


Bonita was our first guide at The Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s home outside of Nashville. All the guides dressed in period costume and this was her appropriate garb. I wondered how she felt about having to be the slave, but she was a gracious and wonderful guide, even posing when she saw me lift my camera. One of our other guides was asked if Jackson was a good slave owner and she answered that there was no such thing as a good slave owner. Bonita was a tribute to new attitudes in the south.GalleryToys


In Charleston, I saw an interesting antique shop while walking one evening and returned the next day on a whim. The sign said not to ring unless you were a serious buyer, which I always am. What a treat! The owner was Fred Le Clercq, who turned out to be a true southern gentleman. He is a retired law professor who has collected art and antiques for many, many years. The shop was actually his home, on the third floor at least, and it was filled from floor to ceiling with beautiful objects. I walked around taking it all in for awhile, tempted by so many things, and then started asking questions. He told me about many of the artists of the area and graciously took me around. He has another gallery at his lake home and I regretted not meeting his wife, who is the daughter of the famous Mrs. Whaley and has written garden books and other books. I decided on a small book plate by Alice Ravenel Huger Smith, one of the Charleston Renaissance artists of the early 20th century. I realized I had no checks with me, but Fred told me to just send a check when I got home. After he wrapped my purchase, he took me to their living quarters and showed me the original painting they own by this artist, as well as others. I glanced around their home, which was furnished in beautiful antiques and art. When I left, Fred took my hand, leaned down and blew gently across it, speaking in French. He asked me if I knew what that meant. I was so charmed that all my French lessons left me. He translated it as “until your return” or something close to that. Who wouldn’t love that? A lovely hour that reflected all you would dream of in Charleston.DSC_0656


In Savannah, we met Captain Dan and Penny. Dan was the old friend of an old friend of my friend, which is how we were introduced. They met us for dinner on the riverfront in Savannah soon after we arrived. It’s always such a treat when you have no idea what to expect, kind of like a blind date, and then it turns out to be something special. Dan is a musician and actor and had lived in Hollywood and Nashville before returning to his hometown near Scarboro, Georgia. Penny is a true Georgia girl with the best drawl in the world and loving, open arms for all. They live in Dan’s family home, a house built in the 1700s on 5,000 acres along the Ogeechee River. Penny works in Statesboro and they spend their weekends at their apartment on Middleton Island, close to Savannah and their boats docked at Thunderbolt Marina. On the weekends, Cap’n Dan takes charters for visitors from Tybee Island to fish or tour the islands. I told them at dinner that I was very interested in the islands and they invited us to join them the next day. They picked us up and drove us to Fort Pulanski for a great historical tour, complete with a cannon demonstration, out to Tybee Island, where I could have kicked back all day at the beach, back for a boat ride around the islands and to lunch at their favorite place on the water, a yacht club with a Jimmy Buffett atmosphere (Cap’n Dan’s description), and then for a tour of Bonaventure Cemetery. It was one of those days where you feel like you’ve been with friends you’ve known all your life and you know you will remain friends because the more you know about them, the more you like them.DSC_0794 - Version 2


In Fairhope, Alabama, across the bay from Mobile, we stayed with my traveling buddy’s friend, Graham. Fairhope is a beautiful town, full of artists and creative people of all sorts with an interesting and unique history. Graham attended the local Organic School as a child and his wife, Maggi, is now the director of the school’s museum. I knew Graham, but it was my first time to meet Maggi and she was a delight. We met for breakfast in the oldest cafe in the county, which didn’t disappoint. We walked over to her museum for a tour and she gifted us with books about the school’s founder, a book about Fairhope, and a novel, the last two written by Graham’s sister. We toured the very impressive museum of Fairhope History and met the director, another graduate of the Organic School. Maggi and I took a driving tour of the town and went to two pottery artists’ studios, since I expressed interest, especially since there is much history of pottery in the area. Again, I have a new friend, a lovely woman, I hope to see again very soon.DSC_0981


My last person I’ll tell you about is L’il John, our guide on a tour of the swamps in southern Louisiana, near Gibson, which is near Houma. I picked this tour because it was on private property and there would be no other boats. It turned out that the property had not been hunted or fished in 30 years, so the swamp was pretty pure. L’il John was Cajun and I loved listening to him talk about dem and dat, dropping any hard consonants at the end of words. I love listening to Cajuns talking anytime, but it was very appropriate while cruising through a swamp. L’il John has traveled a lot, but he was born in the area and told us he’s done everything legal and illegal back in those swamps. I believe him. There were only the two of us with him on the boat, so he didn’t have to fill the time with stories for the tourists. He said that most people don’t understand the lifestyle down there, haven’t had to live off the land. This was a man at home in this environment, which is so beautiful and so threatening. He tried to get us close to a 13′ and 16′ alligator, wanting them to come to the boat, but they swam off into their dens and hid under the water. I was fine with all the smaller ones that did get close. Alligators are not to be messed with, in my opinion. I held out meat for a smaller one, who jumped up to get it, making the pole I was holding snap. That’s close enough. He obviously knows every inch of the tour area and every critter living there. He told us that he usually shoots an alligator, showing us the hook that is used on the popular television shows. He said that using a hook to bring them in causes great pain to the alligators as it twists inside them, deeming it a stunt for the cameras. In a conversation a few states back, someone had told us that only the tail of the alligator was used for food. I asked L’il John about that and he said that the whole gator was good. I knew he’d tell me that. People who depend upon hunting for food don’t usually waste any of it. We had a good morning in the swamps and I’d like to think he was as sorry to see it end as we were.

Those are some of the people I met in the southern states that I bring back as special memories and special friends. You can tour and read and take pictures, but you can’t really understand an area until you meet the people who love it as much as you love your own place on earth. One of the joys of travel…