When I realized that I could hardly remember any details of our second trip to South Carolina, I finally brought myself to process those hundreds of pictures (and reassociate them in my memory with the places they had been shot at) and record our story for posterity. So, here we go.
Unlike with most of our earlier trips, when we would cram dozens of sights in a one-to-two-day itinerary, our return to South Carolina commenced at a much more temperate pace. The reason was that we had taken advantage of some lucrative online offer and booked a nicer-than-usual hotel in Myrtle Beach for whole two (!) days. Still, I cannot say that we ever wondered how to kill time, considering the number of places we managed to see during those two days.
Shortly after arriving in Myrtle Beach, we went on to visit an animal park / zoo by the name of Alligator Adventure. As follows from the name, the park’s main feature is alligators, in all their flavors and varieties.
Turns out, there exist albino alligators,
alligators with crooked mouths,
and even tailless alligators (the reptile’s most common birth defect).
Yet the one thing you cannot take from these allegedly vicious predators is their bewitching charisma.
Besides alligators, the park showcases other reptiles, such as turtles,
as well as mammals (mostly skulking out of the view) and birds.
(By the way, ostriches’ feet look as if they just stepped in a puddle of oil.)
Yet it is primarily the alligators that gather bunches of bloodthirsty animal lowers there, especially during the feeding hours.
After Alligator Adventure we proceeded to T.I.G.E.R.S. Preservation Station, but it happened to be close. We decided to come back later in the evening, but, judging by the site (right in the midst of a shopping plaza) and acerbic comments on the Internet we were not very hopeful to see anything worthwhile without paying a fortune.
Then, on the way to our next destination, we spotted a roadside banner advertising twenty-dollar helicopter rides. Since neither of us had ever been on a helicopter ride before, and since it is one of those must-try things in life, we tracked down the site and cashed out for an exciting three-minute (alas) adventure.
The Celebrity Circle area, as seen from the air, suggested a lengthy and entertaining walk, and so that is where we headed to next.
In one of my previous posts I said that the Wildwoods of New Jersey is probably the liveliest and most crowded summer U.S. resort on the Atlantic shore, but, having seen Myrtle Beach, I nominate a new winner. Truly, the amount and diversity of seasonal fun is just colossal in Myrtle Beach. Thematic parks and cafés; all sorts of ground, water, and air rides; museums, aquariums, and zoos; boardwalks and golf courses. Simply endless entertainment for a middle-class family.
Yet since the prosperity our family leaves much to be desired, we confined ourselves to a more humble means of recreation, such as observant walking. And for that purpose one could hardly find a place better than the Celebrity Circle.
Really great decorations.
Most of local design was certainly approached with the purpose of eye appeal and sense of humor.
A funny detail: because of the frequent feeding by good-natured tourists, the local fish seem to have become so spoilt that bunches of them school up at the surface of the water with their mouths wide open. Just look at these ever-expecting snouts.
After the stroll around the Celebrity Circle it was time to check on the T.I.G.E.R.S. Preservation Station again. Our fears were proven well-grounded: long lines, huge prices, and absolutely nothing to see without a pay. What happens beyond the enclosure is that a customer gets to pose for a photo on a bench with a tiger cub on his lap. For about two seconds that is, after which it is next customer’s turn. And all this while the tiger is being fed from a bottle by one of the assistants, whose hand unavoidable ends up on the picture. It costs $80 for a still. I am truly stunned that this sort of experience gathers such big crowds.
To cheer up after this heartless disillusionment, we went to a local Five Guys to grab something for dinner as well as to stock up on peanuts for our little lad, and gave ourselves up to the confinement of our hotel room for the night.
The next morning, following our compulsory repast and ablution, we headed straight to the beach in the hopes of enjoying mild morning sun and avoiding tourists. Upon returning to the hotel, taking showers, and grabbing another quick bite, we set our course to the La Belle Amie Vineyard, which was luckily a short distance away. The main reason for the visit (at least for me) was simply to try the local wines and spend a few morning hours in the delightful state of tipsiness. The lovely interiors and privacy of the place just added to my disposition.
Because we were in no rush, and because it only seemed logical given Myrtle Beach’s self-proclaimed status of the golf capital of the world, next we paid a visit to a nearby minigolf house. It should be noted that the dozens of minigolf courses scattered throughout Myrtle Beach are decorated thematically, and at a very respectable level. For example, we played amongst roaring volcanoes and lava streams, whereas the most common theme has to do with maritime rigging, pirates, and alligators.
Having driven along the Boardwalk the night before, we ruled out any chances of returning there after dark, for it would be nearly impossible to find parking, and it would be too chaotic for nighttime photography. So, the following day we had to acquiesce to the circumstances and bear the burning heat of the afternoon.
Truthfully, the Boardwalk and the adjoining stretch of Ocean Boulevard are not in any way remarkable, but they do feature a few popular attractions, such as the Sky Wheel and Ripley’s Haunted Adventure and Believe It or Not Museum.
No matter how you look at it, it is still a bliss to saunter down an ocean front with so few people in the view.
To crown the serenity and peacefulness of that leisurely day, we once again called at Five Guys on the way back, and indulged in alimentary pleasures, nothing too exciting to report for the remainder of the day.
There lay a long road ahead of us upon our departure from Myrtle Beach. We were supposed to be in Charlotte, North Carolina, in the evening, though we still had Charleston and Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Gardens, Columbia, scheduled before then. It is for that reason we galloped through Charleston in mere two or so hours, refraining from a more thorough and prolonged survey.
What saved us some time—perhaps, not in the most pleasant way—was that the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens turned out to be a large swampy wooded area showing practically nothing on the side of beautiful. We quickly deserted the site for the more noteworthy Citadel Military College.
I was especially amused by the deliberately grotesque architecture and checkered drill grounds because they provided the scene for the By Dawn’s Early Light episode of Columbo.
We then proceeded to the downtown, and Antique District in particular.
Made a stop at the Cathedral of Saint John.
Came be the banks of the Ashley River and circled back to the historic neighborhoods.
Rode down to the Rainbow Row.
And arrived at the Waterfront Park for a brief promenade.
With the last glimpse of Charleston’s amenities, and a slight hesitation to leave, we nonetheless obeyed our premeditated regimen and headed for Columbia.
If you read the first post about South Carolina, you might recall that we had already been to Columbia, and been forced to skip the Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Gardens because of the bad weather. However, the Zoo is said to be so good that we decided to give it another chance. And, as luck would have it, Columbia was due for some rain again,, exactly at the time of our visit. We grudged but went anyway.
Apparently, persistence pays off, for shortly upon our arrival there came a break in the weather, which lasted until the very closing. At the end of the day, despite the somewhat downcast appearance of the terrain, tigers were the only animals we missed over rain.
We started our tour of the zoo with the flamingo aviary and penguin aquarium. Penguins proved too nimble to come out well on a photograph.
Besides these, one can see many other birds, including some very exotic large-billed species and parakeets.
There are also lots of mammals, big and small.
Primates were particularly well disposed towards us, displaying their favor by all available means.
The Riverbanks Zoo being our last South Carolina destination, the above picture makes for a proper conclusion of this post. The last thing remaining is the customary map of the state.