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From the desk of Dora DePaoli, staff writer: Southern vistin'

May 04, 2001

Thank God my daughter Debbie and her husband, Phil, move regularly. Because of their wandering ways I have gotten to see lots of the country.

For the last two years they have called Greenville, S.C., home. I recently had a great trip both ways. All the flight connections were on time and my luggage made it there with me. I would like to send a bouquet to the folks at Delta Airlines.

An added plus were the interesting seat mates. They included a cute young Filipino nanny returning to her charges in Atlanta, a mechanical engineer from Greenville, a chemical engineer from Texas and a forest ranger from California.

I had a lot of sympathy for the female ranger. A smoker, she was chewing a fresh stick of gum every five minutes near the end of the trip. Another smoker, a man in his 70s, had an unlit ciggie dangling from his mouth the entire trip from Atlanta to San Diego.


The weather was beautiful the whole time I was there. I arrived in Greenville a bit late and the children were already sleeping. The next morning Debbie carried a sleeping Kendall into my room. When the cuddly 3-year-old woke up in my bed, I got the most wonderful hug. A few minutes later 5-year-old Ben kicked off his boots and crawled under the covers, and 7-year-old Bo headed off to school after a hearty breakfast.

Bo called Debbie from school around noon and left this message: "You didn't pack me enough lunch, Mom." There was no hello or good-bye. Another time he said: "Mom, I don't need a meal, I need a feast."

Ben asked for a "blank bagel" for his breakfast. Translation — no raisins or nuts. One day he asked if God was married. When his father said no, Ben asked, "Then who does all the work for him?" When he came across an unpopped kernel of popcorn he said "it didn't hatch." Ben is mechanically inclined and loves taking things apart. He goes about his business quietly. Debbie calls him "Slick."

While there Phil surprised Debbie and me with a three-day vacation to Charleston, S.C., while he took the kids camping. Our reservations were in the 100-year-old Ansonborough Inn. It was a lovely treat. Every afternoon they served sweet tea, lemonade, coffee and wine with cheese, crackers and fruit. We were within a stone's throw of the harbor and in walking distance of lots of wonderful places. The three-hour drive to Charleston was lovely, with lush woods on both sides of the freeway. I knew I was in the South when I saw a sign for Piney Grove Road. At a gas station we met a South Carolina highway patrolman. Senior Trooper Chad A. Williams drove a silver Chevy Camaro. Local folks refer to the snazzy cars as "silver bullets."

With no children along and no schedule to keep, Debbie and I did as we pleased. We had leisurely meals and many happy hours in antique shops and the wonderful old open-air market. Stalls are leased by local artisans and international importers. We watched as local women wove baskets from sweet grass. A favorite spot for us at the market was Judotus's Perfume Oils. Judotus assured us if we wore her oils we were "guaranteed to find some men."

We thoroughly enjoyed just walking around town and looking at the architecture and smelling the fragrant night-blooming jasmine that grows like a weed.

Charleston was a busy place because of The Family Circle Cup. Hotel room rates skyrocketed and a nasty flu bug hit the locals. It was known as The Family Circle Cup Cough. The newspaper noted that it sidelined lots of workers.

On our visit to Fort Sumter, where the first shot was fired in the Civil War, we met Walter and Dolores Coe of San Antonio. Mr. Coe was the maintenance boss of the ground crew with the original Blue Angels in 1946. He was so pleased to hear that I lived in Blue Angel country.

Our last day, after another visit to the market, we went through the outstanding South Carolina Aquarium. The night before we visited the IMAX and saw Cirque du Soleil's "Journey of Man" in 3D. I didn't understand the point of much of it but the special effects were wonderful.

In nearby Summerville they are known for their liver pudding. This low country specialty is stuffed into casings and looks like a sausage. Folks slice it up and spread it on soda crackers or fry it to top off grits. Not a liver fan, I had no desire to taste it.

One place I won't have to visit again is the annual Grits Festival in St. George. They had a huge kiddie pool filled with grits for some kind of local wrestling. It must have gotten quite messy because a man was hosing gobs of grits off the street. Local vendors served something called elephant ears, a donut-like bunch of dough spread out, deep fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar. The most surprising snack offered were deep-fried Oreos. Folks were gobbling them up.

On our way back to Greenville, Debbie pointed out kudzu overgrowth. The ground cover was brought from Asia with good intentions of stopping erosion. It has taken over numerous areas and choked vegetation. The plant has its redeeming qualities. Eating it seems to benefit people trying to stop drinking.

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