After the seemingly endless rain of Saturday, Sunday dawned bright and sunny. Our morning was relatively unexciting since it was spent sleeping and explaining to Alamo that we (I) had crashed the rental car… Luckily, the insurance that Lizzie had chosen on the car meant that everything was covered and we had no excesses to pay, which was a massive relief. Since it was such a beautiful day we decided to take advantage of that and visit a tea plantation, America’s ONLY tea plantation (or so it claimed). It was about a 40 minute drive out to the plantation, but with the sunroof open we finally felt like we were starting to leave winter behind. As we arrived we joined the free factory tour where a succession of videos talked us through the process of growing, picking and manufacturing the tea. It is not currently tea picking season, so the machines were all silent, but the videos gave us a pretty good idea of the process, and the smell of fresh tea leaves was incredible. Finishing the tour, we found ourselves back in the gift shop at the entrance, right next to the stand with complimentary tea. Flavour of the day appeared to be Merrimint (slightly sweetened with sugar) and we both helped ourselves to a glass over ice (the ONLY way to drink tea in the south!). We had decided that even though it cost a bit more, we wanted to take the trolley tour around the plantation, so having bought our tickets, we topped up our iced tea and raced outside to join the tour. Before it started the driver handed round several different types of loose leaf tea, explaining how they make the different flavours and also passed around hand cream made with tea for us to sample. Although some of the information was repeated from the factory tour, we learnt about the history of the plantation and how their “Green Giant” automated tea picker is the only one of its kind in the world since, designed specially for use on the flat fields of the plantation (most tea is grown on hills and mountainsides). We were also shown the irrigation system (tea is apparently needs a very specific amount of water) and told about all the wildlife that live on or visit the plantation (including deer – who helpfully eat all the weeds but not the tea, and a pair of Golden Eagles).

Charleston Tea Plantation

After the tour, it was time for a relaxing picnic lunch in the sun, followed by lots of photographs, before headed back into the gift shop. After even more free tea we spent rather more than we intended on gifts and on tea for ourselves as well as being highly amused to find a St Andrews branded tea infuser.

... of all places to find a St Andrews reference

At the plantation we had been told about “Angel Oak”, the oldest tree on the East Coast, just ten miles down the road, so naturally we had to visit. It was pretty big, I have never seen a tree that has random bits of wood and scaffolding supporting its limbs. Unfortunately, climbing the tree was strictly forbidden, which was a shame because it looked very easy (several of the limbs ran along the ground). After the obligatory photos, we headed back towards Charleston in search of the campground that we had attempted to stay at the night before. With the office open, check in was much easier and having found tent site #25 we pitched our tent for the first time. I need to say at this point that our tent is RUBBISH, half of each side is made of mesh and although the outer canopy bit keeps the rain out, there is a constant breeze blowing THROUGH the tent… not cool. With our time in Florida looming, our next stop was Walmart for some more summer clothes and a proper camping lantern. We also discovered that they sell Ben & Jerry’s for only $3.25!!! By the time we left Walmart it was dark and starting to get pretty cold, we also knew that it was forecast to rain overnight… a great night to camp. Back at the campsite we climbed into our sleeping bags and had a very healthy dinner of a pint of ice cream (we had to eat it first because it was melting and then we were full). We then spent some time on the computer (Wireless in a tent!!!) and Lizzie spent almost an hour sitting outside to charge the computer back up. The night was both cold and rainy, and we woke up to several pools of water on the inside of the tent. I returned after my shower to find that Liz had almost completely packed up all the stuff in the tent and then together we took the tent down and put it away. We then took advantage of the warm and dry games room to have breakfast and FINALLY book our stay at Disney. We headed into Charleston for the day and parking at the visitor center, looked at our options for the day. Although there were lots of museums and historic buildings to visit, these all cost about $10 per person so we decided that our first port of call would be the market and we would decide from there what to do. The market was lovely and we wandered through looking at the various stalls and buying presents for ourselves and for others.

My new ring

A necessary stop was made at the Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop before heading back into the rain. We caught the free shuttle back to the visitor center to check the exact location of some of the places we wanted to visit, then caught it back out towards the waterfront. It was still pouring with rain and I have very few photos because of this (grey sea, grey sky and grey shapes on the horizon make for very boring pictures) but it was good to see it all anyway. By now we were completely drenched and bored of wandering in the rain, so headed back to the car and on to Savannah.

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